Wednesday, May 22, 2019

The Impending Risk of Nuclear War (Revelation 16)

Dwan said the world should not ignore the danger of nuclear weapons [File: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo]
Dwan said the world should not ignore the danger of nuclear weapons [File: Kirsty Wigglesworth/AP Photo]

Nuclear war risk highest since WWII, UN arms research chief warns

Senior UN security expert says all states with nuclear weapons have nuclear modernisation programmes under way.

Al Jazeera
A top security expert at the United Nationshas warned that the risk that nuclear weapons could be used is at its highest since World War II, calling it an „urgent“ issue that the world should take more seriously.
Speaking to reporters in the Swiss city of Geneva on Tuesday, Renata Dwan, director of the UN Institute for Disarmament Research (UNIDIR), said the arms-control landscape was changing – partly due to strategic competition between the United States and China – and noted that all states with nuclear weapons have nuclear modernisation programmes under way.
Traditional arms-control arrangements were also being eroded by the emergence of new types of war, with an increasing prevalence of armed groups and private sector forces and new technologies that blurred the line between offence and defence, Dwan said.
With disarmament talks at a stalemate for the past two decades, 122 countries have signed a treaty to ban nuclear weapons, partly out of frustration and partly out of a recognition of the risks, she said.
„I think that it’s genuinely a call to recognise – and this has been somewhat missing in the media coverage of the issues – that the risks of nuclear war are particularly high now, and the risks of the use of nuclear weapons, for some of the factors I pointed out, are higher now than at any time since World War II“.
The nuclear ban treaty, officially called the Treaty for the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, was backed by the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN), which won the Nobel Peace Prize in 2017.
The treaty has so far gathered 23 of the 50 ratifications that it needs to come into force, including from South Africa, Austria, Thailand, Vietnam and Mexico. It is strongly opposed by the US, Russia and other states with nuclear arms.
Cuba also ratified the treaty in 2018, 56 years after the Cuban missile crisis, a 13-day Cold War face-off between Moscow and Washington that marked the closest the world had ever come to nuclear war.
Dwan said the world should not ignore the danger of nuclear weapons.
„How we think about that, and how we act on that risk and the management of that risk, seems to me a pretty significant and urgent question that isn’t reflected fully in the (UN) Security Council,“ she said.

The Alliance of the Pakistan and Iranian Horns (Daniel 8:8)

Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (Photo: AP)

 Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan (Photo: AP)

Brewing Gulf tensions worry for Pakistan as Iran a key ally

Published : May 21, 2019, 7:09 am IST
Updated : May 21, 2019, 7:09 am IST
Pakistan has already stated that it will not take sides in the current confrontation, and called for US restraint.
Brewing tensions in the Persian Gulf should be a cause for alarm in Pakistan. The US deployment of an aircraft-carrier and bombers, alleged proxy attacks, Saudi Arabia’s calls for surgical strikes against Iran, and Iranian threats about resuming its nuclear programme are setting the stage for conflict.
But US and Iranian officials are simultaneously softening their stances, calling for talks and downplaying prospects of direct conflict.
Tweeting on Friday, US President Donald Trump summed up the situation quite well: “With all the Fake and Made Up News out there, Iran can have no idea what is actually going on!”And neither can anyone else. What is clear, however, is that the Trump administration’s ham-fisted efforts to install a better nuclear deal with Iran will increase the precariousness of regional dynamics, with uncertain outcomes, and implications for Pakistan’s stability.
Pakistan has already stated that it will not take sides in the current confrontation, and called for US restraint.
These are the right noises to make. The need for Pakistan to remain neutral in any stand-off between the US and Saudi Arabia on one side and Iran on the other is clear.
The Pakistani Parliament’s decision in 2015 not to send troops to support the Saudi-led intervention in Yemen set an excellent precedent for this neutrality. However, that position could be tested under the latest circumstances. Following the Yemen snub to the kingdom, Pakistan showered Saudi Arabia with assurances that it would defend Saudi Arabia’s interests.
Recent developments, such as the Houthi drone strikes against Saudi oil infrastructure, for which Riyadh has blamed Tehran, could lead to renewed pressure on Pakistan to provide support to the kingdom.
Given Saudi Arabia’s recent largesse towards Pakistan — last year’s $6 billion emergency loan, promises of up to $20bn in investments, and even offers of LNG — Riyadh may be tempted to test the strength of Islamabad’s allegiance and, given its indebtedness, our government would struggle to push back.
Some analysts have argued that given Saudi Arabia’s growing engagement with India, it can hardly object to Pakistan balancing ties and continuing to engage with Iran. But we should have no delusions that this is an equal partnership. Riyadh would expect to count on Pakistan if the regional situation deteriorated significantly; for example, if it came to direct conflict, or if the resumption of Iran’s nuclear weapons programme sparked an arms race in which Saudi Arabia would rely on Pakistani cooperation.
The timing of the US-Iran flare-up could not be worse in terms of Pakistan-Iran relations, following Imran Khan’s overdue and productive trip to Iran — including his symbolically important visit to Mashhad — last month. Given recent, audacious attacks by Baloch militant groups within Pakistan, the need to secure Iranian cooperation to stamp out militant sanctuaries across the western border is essential. Indeed, the key outcome from Khan’s visit was the rapid reaction force to combat militancy along the border, which must be sustained.
The recent tensions are another reminder that Pakistan must entrench its ties with Iran, so that each regional conflagration does not throw bilateral ties into question.
Beyond counterterrorism cooperation, there are many ways for Pakistan to do this.  One is to build awareness among the public that the Pakistan-Iran relationship is a long, substantive one.
How many know that Iran was the first nation to recognise Pakistan?
Pakistan should also develop strategies to increase bilateral trade to the agreed target of $5bn. Plans to improve connectivity between Gwadar and Chabahar ports, and between the two countries more generally, should be fast-tracked. Pakistan should also import electricity from Iran and initiate diplomatic efforts to increase the feasibility of completing the Iran-Pakistan pipeline.
Arts and culture remain underdeveloped areas for bilateral engagement. The recent revival of Pakistani cinema has led our artists to turn to Bollywood for inspiration, lessons, and new opportunities. But budding Pakistani filmmakers could learn as much from the cinematic genius of Iranians.
A diplomatic balancing act as complex as the one Pakistan must pull off between Iran, Saudi Arabia and the US will no doubt require the deployment of both hard and soft power. Let’s hope Pakistan’s foreign ministry is up to the task.

New York Quake Overdue (The Sixth Seal) (Revelation 6:12)

Won-Young Kim, who runs the seismographic network for the Northeast at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, said the city is well overdue for a big earthquake.
The last big quake to hit New York City was a 5.3-magnitude tremor in 1884 that happened at sea in between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook. While no one was killed, buildings were damaged.
Kim said the city is likely to experience a big earthquake every 100 years or so.
“It can happen anytime soon,” Kim said. “We can expect it any minute, we just don’t know when and where.”
New York has never experienced a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake, which are the most dangerous. But magnitude 5 quakes could topple brick buildings and chimneys.
Seismologist John Armbruster said a magnitude 5 quake that happened now would be more devastating than the one that happened in 1884.


Image result for israeli apache helicopter

According to the sources who spoke to the ‚Al Quds‘ newspaper, the terrorists tried to use an air-to-air missile to shoot down an Apache helicopter near Nahal Oz.
Terrorist organizations in the Gaza Strip have claimed that during the last round of fighting in Gaza, an attempt was made to fire a missile at an IDF helicopter. An Israeli Air Force jet thwarted the attempt and hit the terrorist squad that organized the rocket fire, the Al Quds newspaper reported on Monday. 
According to sources who spoke to the newspaper, the terrorists tried to use an air-to-air missile to shoot down an Apache helicopter near Nahal Oz, east of Gaza City. An IAF plane preempted the attack and surprised them by firing a missile at the terrorists, as they organized to shoot down the helicopter from the Shuja’iyya neighborhood.
The sources also told Al Quds that the operation would have been carried out had it not been for the arrival of the Israeli jet to the area, a short time before the launch.
According to the sources quoted in Al Quds, the decision to carry out the operation was made after Israel bombed several civilian residential buildings.

Tensions Rise Before the War with Iran

The Newest: Saudi TV says Yemeni rebels fired 2 missiles

The Newest on traits within the Persian Gulf assert and in other locations within the Mideast amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran (all cases local):
12:40 p.m.
Two influential Shiite figures in Iraq are warning from pulling their nation correct into a battle between the US and Iran, announcing it will most likely maybe well flip Iraq correct into a battlefield and inflict vital ruin.
Their feedback came few hours after a rocket was fired into the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Inexperienced Zone, landing decrease than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy. No injuries were reported.
Iraq’s populist Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr acknowledged in a press open on Monday that any political birthday party that would earn Iraq in a U.S.-Iran battle “would be the enemy of the Iraqi people.”
Qais al-Khazali, the chief of an Iranian-backed team of workers, acknowledged he is in opposition to operations that “give pretexts for battle.”
As U.S.-Iran tensions escalate, there’ve been considerations that Baghdad would possibly perhaps maybe well once more glean caught within the center.
12:10 p.m.
A Saudi-owned satellite tv for pc news channel says Yemen’s Houthi rebels receive fired two missiles into the dominion that later were intercepted.
Al-Arabiya reported on Monday that the two missiles were intercepted over the city of Taif and the Crimson Sea port city of Jiddah.
The channel cited witnesses for the sure wager. The Saudi executive has but to acknowledge the missile fire, which assorted Saudi media also reported.
The Houthis made no legitimate claims to the missile fire.
Between the two cities is Mecca, residence to the cube-formed Kaaba that Muslims pray toward 5 cases a day. Many non secular pilgrims are now within the city amid the holy month of Ramadan when Muslims swiftly from morning time to dusk.
11:00 a.m.
President Donald Trump has warned Iran not to threaten the U.S. again or it will most likely maybe well face its “legitimate quit,” almost as we reveal after a rocket landed shut to the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad in a single day.
The tweet comes amid heightened tensions between the U.S. and Iran, the culmination of Trump’s resolution a year ago to pull The US out of Tehran’s nuclear tackle world powers.
Trump’s tweeted early Monday: “If Iran desires to fight, that would be the legitimate quit of Iran. Undoubtedly not threaten the US again!”
Trump didn’t account for, nor did the White Home. Nonetheless, the tweet came after a rocket landed decrease than a mile from the sprawling U.S. Embassy in Baghdad within the Iraqi capital’s heavily fortified Inexperienced Zone Sunday evening.
No team of workers straight away claimed responsibility for the rocket open.

The War Drums Beat in The Gulf

The War Drums Beat in The Gulf

The Middle East is in the grip of high and escalating tensions, with observers expecting a fierce war to break out in the not-too-distant future, particularly given the increasing US military buildup in the Arabian Gulf region. Initially, most observers expect a small-scale strike against Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq or against the regime’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)
Recent days have seen angry statements from various senior Iranian regime officials. On Thursday, Heshmatollah Falahatpisheh, the chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, wrote on Twitter: “Increasing US military presence would lead the region to suicide (self-destruction). Thousands of non-Iranian fighters who have lost at least one member of their family by American weapons will welcome the United States and its allies.”
Despite such angry statements, Iranian officials still refuse to tone down their rhetoric, continuing instead to issue fiery statements and to make major threats against the US, Israel and the Arabian Gulf nations, particularly Saudi Arabia and the UAE. In recent remarks on Saudi Arabia, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said: “The Western nations are providing nuclear capabilities to this state, and have announced they will build a nuclear reactor and a center for producing missiles there. There is no problem as Saudi Arabia is a dependent state, and it belongs to the West. If they do this I won’t be annoyed because I know that they will be captured by the mujahideen soon.” It is clear that Khamenei was using the word “mujahideen” to refer to the militias loyal to the clerical regime in Tehran.
The threats that are heard now were first uttered by President Hassan Rouhani during a trip to Switzerland several months ago. His comments were welcomed by Khamenei and the commanders of the IRGC at the time, with various senior regime officials making a number of similar statements since.
As inferred by Khamenei, the Iranian regime continues to pursue its policy of hiding behind its proxy terrorist militias that are spread across the region, all of which implement the directives of the IRGC. Through this strategy, Iran avoids taking direct responsibility for the militias’ crimes, the most recent of which was the Houthis’ drone attack on Saudi oil facilities last week. The aim was to hike oil prices by disrupting supplies to the global market. This was a clear message from the clerical regime that, if Iran is prevented from exporting its oil, other regional countries will face the same problem.
The Iranian regime’s refusal to acknowledge its responsibility for these militias, along with the international community’s inaction toward their operations and inability to take the appropriate and necessary steps to curb their attacks, means Tehran will continue using the same strategy, which has a severely damaging effect on international safety and security. If the international community continues to turn a blind eye to these violations, it will inevitably lead the Middle East down a path toward dangerous options, which could lead to widespread destruction in the entire region, including in Iran. While the region’s countries are still honoring their commitments under global treaties and covenants, as well as pursuing policies of good neighborliness, the international community ignores Iran’s destabilizing actions and refuses to confront the regime.
The question that arises is whether the international community will perform its moral, security and military duty before it is too late? We hope so. The Iranian regime’s strategy of depending on militias requires a global response that is clear and direct, as well as focused on the proxy militias being an integral part of its apparatus and not separate from it. They are established, funded, armed and trained specifically to help Tehran implement its subversive agenda in the region. If the international community does not perform its duty and no global response is forthcoming, regional states could adopt more strident options based on reciprocity in order to force Iran’s leaders to reconsider their calculations. There is no doubt that this will be the first and least risky step, since the other options are more dangerous.
Meanwhile, the US and Israeli press have mentioned the possibility of both Switzerland and Oman mediating between Washington and Tehran to de-escalate tensions between the two countries. If any such mediation efforts are to pay off, it is vital that the resumption of negotiations be tied to practical steps on the ground by the Iranian regime as an expression of goodwill, while the negotiation period must be kept short to thwart any Iranian schemes to play for time.
The Iranian regime’s strategy is clear — it is based on procrastinating until the 2020 US elections in the hope of a more friendly president coming to power. In the meantime, the regime seeks to keep the door open for possible negotiations to ease sanctions and pressures as a tactical maneuver. Any efforts by the Trump administration to reach a better deal with Iran’s regime could result in Washington falling into Tehran’s trap, with Khamenei’s regime offering no substantial concessions.
Dr. Mohammed Al-Sulami is Head of the International Institute for Iranian Studies (Rasanah). Twitter: @mohalsulami
This article has been adapted from its original source.  

Tuesday, May 21, 2019

Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Roger Bilham
Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.
Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.
Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.
She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.
Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.
Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.
In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.
The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.
“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.
Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.
What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses.Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.