Monday, April 23, 2018

Indian Point Nuclear Reopens Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)


Indian Point Unit 2 back in service after monthlong outage

Posted: Apr 22, 2018 7:26 AM MDT Updated: Apr 22, 2018 7:26 AM MDT
BUCHANAN (AP) - Indian Point Unit 2 nuclear power plant has returned to service after a month-long scheduled outage for refueling and maintenance.
The refueling outage that ended Saturday was the last before the plant is permanently shut down by April 30, 2020.
Plant operator Entergy says workers completed hundreds of inspections and tests during the shutdown of Indian Point 2 that started March 19.
The power plant and its companion reactor Indian Point 3 will be permanently shut down under a settlement with New York state. Indian Point 3 will be turned off by the end of April 2021.
The Indian Point Energy Center in Buchanan generates the equivalent of a quarter of the power used by New York City and Westchester County.
(Copyright 2018 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

Iran Prepares to Resume Nuclear Program (Daniel 8)

See the source imageIran threatens to ‘vigorously’ resume uranium enrichment if US quits nuclear deal

File photo of the media outside the Bushehr nuclear power plant in southern Iran. Photo: AFP
Iran has warned it is ready to “vigorously” resume nuclear enrichment if the United States ditches the 2015 nuclear deal, and said further “drastic measures” are being considered in response to a US exit.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif told reporters in New York that Iran is not seeking to acquire a nuclear bomb, but that its “probable” response to a US withdrawal would be to restart production of enriched uranium – a key bomb-making ingredient.
“America never should have feared Iran producing a nuclear bomb, but we will pursue vigorously our nuclear enrichment,” added Zarif, who is in the United States to attend a UN meeting on sustaining peace.
US President Donald Trump has set a May 12 deadline for the Europeans to “fix” the 2015 agreement that provides for curbs to Iran’s nuclear programme in exchange for relief from financial sanctions.
Zarif’s comments marked a further hardening of rhetoric following a warning earlier this month from Iranian President Hassan Rowhani that Washington would “regret” withdrawing from the nuclear deal, and that Iran would respond within a week if it did.
The fate of the Iran deal will be a key issue during French President Emmanuel Macron’s state visit to Washington beginning on Monday, followed by talks with German Chancellor Angela Merkel in Washington on Friday.
Zarif said the European leaders must press Trump to stick to the deal if the United States “intends to maintain any credibility in the international community” and to abide by it, “rather than demand more.”
The foreign minister also warned against offering any concessions to Trump.
“To try to appease the president, I think, would be an exercise in futility,” he said.
European leaders are hoping to persuade Trump to save the deal if they, in turn, agree to press Iran to enter into agreement on missile tests and moderating its regional influence in Yemen, Syria and Lebanon.
If the United States buries the deal, Iran is unlikely to stick to the agreement alongside the other signatories – Britain, China, France, Germany and Russia, said the foreign minister.
“That’s highly unlikely,” he said. “It is important for Iran to receive the benefits of the agreement and there is no way that Iran would do a one-sided implementation of the agreement.”
European diplomats have argued that the deal could be salvaged without the United States, with a view to bringing Washington back in the fold at a later time, possibly under a new administration.
“The United States under the Trump administration has done everything it could to prevent Iran from benefiting from this agreement,” Zarif charged.
The foreign minister warned of “drastic measures” under discussion in Iran.
Zarif declined to specify, pointing to “what certain members of our parliament are saying about Iran’s options.”
Despite the threats of a tough response to a US pull-out, Zarif also left open the possibility of diplomatic action during a 45-day period to formally notify the withdrawal.
“Whether other things can be done during those 45 days … is a hypothetical question that needs to be addressed at that time,” said Zarif.
A decision by Trump to walk away, he warned, would send a message to all governments “that you should never come to an agreement with the United States, because at the end of the day, the operating principle for the United States is, what’s mine is mine, what’s yours is negotiable”.
This article appeared in the South China Morning Post print edition as: IRAN WARNS of ramping up nuclear programme

World ignoring signs of Antichrist's Conquest of Iraq ignoring warning signs of Iraq’s relapse into conflict
Baria Alamuddin
Despite complacent “mission accomplished” statements about Daesh having been defeated, glaring indicators of future regional conflict centered on Iraq are all too obvious. Daesh has been pushed out of urban areas, but elsewhere it is staging a comeback, benefiting from strategic depth afforded by the anarchy in neighboring Syria, while capitalizing on the anger felt by ordinary Iraqis about abuses and indignities heaped upon them by their supposed liberators.
Daesh’s rise in 2014 was facilitated by a collapse in trust between Iraqis and their leadership following years of sectarian misrule. Throughout 2013, Daesh discreetly gained strength among a critical mass of disenfranchised groups committed to opposing the state through various means. Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, meanwhile, cultivated Iran-sponsored militias for deployment against political enemies and Sunnis.
Similar factors are in play in 2018, with Shiite militants set to be the strongest performers in the May elections, opening the door for a restoration of governance rooted in paramilitary supremacy. These Iran-backed elements see the elections as their ideal opportunity to consolidate power, having filled the vacuum created by Daesh’s expulsion. In truth, these Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitaries played a marginal role in set-piece battles against Daesh; firstly because they proved ineffective at urban conflict, and secondly because of their proclivity for perpetrating war crimes wherever they went.
The warning signs are most visible in Iraq’s demographically mixed central provinces, where Sunnis historically constituted a majority. These provinces bore the brunt of the violence, with up to three million Iraqis displaced. Al-Hashd militants wield military control in these areas and block the return of Sunni citizens or terrorize returnees back into exile. Provinces like Salahuddin and Diyala lost around half their Sunni residents, thus silencing their voices in the coming elections. Tens of thousands of families whose documents were destroyed under Daesh have faced bureaucratic obstructions, preventing them from receiving ID papers that would allow them to travel, access services and vote.
A new Amnesty International report documents how entire communities have been wrongfully stigmatized as Daesh sympathizers, with campaigns of sexual violence perpetrated by militants against vulnerable displaced women, often after their spouses were rounded up to face an uncertain fate. “Women are being subjected to dehumanizing and discriminatory treatment by armed men operating in the camps for their alleged affiliation with (Daesh)” warns Amnesty. “The very people who are supposed to be protecting them are turning into predators.”
Deep and lasting grievances will ultimately manifest themselves in a furious backlash against Baghdad’s sectarian leadership.
Baria Alamuddin
Meanwhile, hundreds of women experienced summary ten-minute trials before being handed down death sentences, based on tenuous claims of links to Daesh. The New York Times witnessed one two-hour court sitting during which 14 women, one after the other, were sentenced to death, in what it described as “assembly-line” justice.
Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has warned of widespread attempts at electoral fraud. With campaigning just beginning, reports have emerged about tens of thousands of fake voting documents being offered for sale. Salahuddin officials cite examples of deals that would allow communities to return home on condition of voting a certain way. They question why many communities lack polling stations, while elsewhere stations are situated in remote areas vulnerable to voting fraud. The paramilitary intimidation that marred the 2014 elections is repeating itself; with an upsurge in tensions between Basra’s rival militias, terrorized candidates refraining from campaigning, and two assassination attempts in just one day.
In past years, Western states were intimately involved in Iraq’s political process to prevent it from going off the rails. The gutting of the State Department — where senior diplomatic roles mostly lie vacant — exemplifies how effective diplomacy has been substituted for token gestures and empty rhetoric. The strike against Syrian chemical weapons sites is a perfect example; allowing posturing leaders to boast of decisive action, while shirking obligations to exert a meaningful impact on the ground. Not to mention the shameful demise of the UN Security Council as a viable arbitrator for conflict resolution and international justice. Even if US President Donald Trump has temporarily restrained his instincts to immediately withdraw from Syria, permanent damage has already been done to Western prestige among the Kurds and their allies, while Tehran’s proxies lick their lips and await their opportunity to pounce.
If real international leadership existed, it wouldn’t be too late to address Iraq’s problems, including an urgent campaign to assist displaced communities in returning home to participate in the elections. International judicial support could ensure that the butchers of Daesh received stiff punishments, without persecuting thousands of innocent victims of its misrule. Baghdad could be assisted in restoring security to all regions, without franchising responsibility out to Iran-backed militias whose real agenda is a naked power grab.
Iraqi culture is rooted in an intense sense of tribal and personal honor. When families are displaced, womenfolk are raped, thousands are handed death sentences by kangaroo courts, and entire communities are disenfranchised — these deep and lasting grievances will ultimately manifest themselves in a furious backlash against Baghdad’s sectarian leadership. The thousands killed during 2017 airstrikes against Mosul, along with the cover-up of hundreds of summary executions in the battle’s aftermath, will likewise leave a deep mark in this great city’s subconscious.
Terrorism loves a vacuum. Far from eradicating Daesh, we have cultivated the optimum environment for militancy and terrorism to flourish. An Iraqi governing coalition dominated by paramilitary factions would furthermore be the opportunity Iran needs to consolidate its dominance over its western neighbor as a springboard for confronting its international enemies.
God forbid, if Iraq does once again disintegrate, we will ask ourselves why we failed to anticipate this. Can’t we just for once have the foresight and intelligence to act against emerging manifestations of terrorism and militancy before they mutate into an unstoppable global threat?
Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate and has interviewed numerous heads of state.
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not necessarily reflect Arab News' point-of-view

The Fate of the World Rests on the Fate of the Nuclear Deal

Analysis Conflict Between Iran and Israel Will Rest on Fate of the Nuclear Deal
Zvi Bar'el22.04.2018 | 14:11
With Trump expected to announce if he is nixing the deal by May 12, Tehran is contending with a sluggish economy, the worst drought in 50 years and growing public discontent – making Russia ties ever more important
Iranian President Hassan Rohani is holding a hot potato: the Iranian rial. Last week, in a desperate move, his government banned money changers from selling dollars and euros.
At Iran’s international airport, passengers traveling to “nearby” countries can buy just 500 euros ($615), while those going to “distant” countries can buy 1,000 euros. Iranians may not hold more than $10,000 or 10,000 euros, and the official exchange rate was set at 42,000 rials to the dollar – about 20,000 rials less than the black-market rate.
The currency has plummeted by more than 35 percent since Rohani was elected to a second term in May 2017. This isn’t exactly the good news he hoped for.
It’s no longer clear who his harshest critics are: the conservatives who seek his downfall; his reformist supporters, who are disappointed and frustrated with him after five years in office; the general public, which has seen his promises of a higher standard of living go unfulfilled; or the millions of unemployed living on welfare.
The demonstrations that began last December in cities throughout Iran still reverberate. Dozens of protesters arrested then are still awaiting trial, and others have already received heavy sentences.
That same month, workers at the Haft Tapeh sugar plant in Khuzestan Province – where some 5,500 people are employed – went on strike because they hadn’t been paid in months. Some even committed suicide because they couldn’t pay their debts.
This was not an isolated case. Strikes have occurred at dozens of factories, especially those that were privatized and sold to businessmen. The results of privatization haven’t been encouraging.

Iranians standing in front of a bank, hoping to buy U.S. dollars at the new official exchange rate announced by the government, in downtown Tehran, April 10, 2018. Vahid Salemi/AP
At the end of last year, the World Bank predicted that Iran’s economy would grow by 4 percent in 2018 and 2019 – about half the government’s desired pace. Industrial growth hit 18 percent during the second half of 2017, but has been just 4 percent so far this year. Production has flatlined. And the economic reforms Rohani promised to include in this year’s budget disappeared almost completely due to protests over the planned increase in prices and cuts in subsidies.
In March, farmers began demonstrating in Isfahan Province over water shortages caused by the mismanaged water economy. Even the heavens seem to be battling Rohani: This year’s drought has been the worst in half a century. The drought has also reduced the water flowing over Iran’s dams, which is expected to slash electricity production by more than 40 percent.
The regime’s woes don’t end at Rohani’s office. Demonstrators have cursed the supreme religious leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and wished him dead. They have also wondered why Iran continues to finance wars in Syria and Yemen. These complaints have reached the offices of Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, and Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds force.
In media outlets that support the regime, one can read loyalists’ responses. They have been entertaining the idea of putting a military man in as president instead of a civilian. It’s not clear whether their intent is to run such a man in the next presidential election – which is scheduled for 2021 – or to try to oust Rohani during his current term.
Iran’s political tradition has thus far been to let presidents serve out the two terms they are permitted under the constitution. But if the civic protests spiral out of control, changes at the top would be one possible solution.
However, other countries in the region have tried this method of appeasing the public, and their experience shows that the effect of such change is brief.
Under Russia’s protection
Iran is also tensely awaiting May 12 – the date by which U.S. President Donald Trump must decide whether his country is quitting the 2015 nuclear agreement with Tehran. For Iran, this decision is critical. The waiting period has already had a tangible effect, resulting in a dearth of foreign investment; a freeze on projects already agreed upon with several different countries; and heavy pressure to reduce government expenditure.
Officially, Rohani has said Iran will continue to abide by the agreement even if the United States withdraws. He has held marathon talks with European leaders, as well as the leaders of Turkey, Russia and China – and most have reportedly said they plan to defend the agreement.

Iranian President Hassan Rohani listening to explanations on new nuclear achievements at a ceremony to mark "National Nuclear Day," in Tehran, April 9, 2018. /AP
Germany, France and Britain have tried without success to persuade the European Union to impose additional sanctions on Iran – even if only symbolic ones – in order to persuade Trump to stick to the agreement. But the talks held in Brussels last week ended in failure. And if the EU and the United States don’t manage to reach an agreement by May 12, America’s unilateral withdrawal from the agreement is liable to harm not just Iran but also its business partners.
Patrick Pouyanne, CEO of the French energy giant Total, said last month his company is committed to its agreement to develop the South Pars oil field, and that he will seek an exemption from new sanctions if a decision is made to impose any. Russia and China will also continue their investments, as will many European countries. But without the U.S. banking system (which is boycotting Iran), European companies will have trouble investing in the country.
An outbreak of hostilities between Iran and Israel – something New York Times columnist Thomas Friedman and Israeli officials themselves have warned of – will apparently have to wait until at least mid-May.
Paradoxically, the battle between Washington and European capitals has seemingly contributed greatly to Iran’s restraint in the face of airstrikes on Syria attributed to Israel. Iran believes it can’t afford to start a new Mideast war, because that would play into Trump’s and Israel’s hands by releasing the European brakes.
The combination of the nuclear agreement and the economic crisis has backed Iran into a corner in which it is not only barred from developing its nuclear program, but also can’t risk a conventional war.
At most, it could return to the agreements in force prior to the nuclear deal – like the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty without the Additional Protocol, which mandated less stringent oversight than the nuclear deal did – and scrap the nuclear deal’s detailed timetables. But if it takes those steps, it is liable to clog the pipeline of cooperation with Europe and put even Russia in a difficult position.
Its domestic constraints will also force Iran to make decisions in other arenas, especially Syria. The recent exchanges of aerial and verbal blows with Israel, and the possibility that Israel will increase its attacks on Iranian targets in Syria, require Iran to accelerate the diplomatic process Russia is spearheading.
The Israeli airstrikes will actually result in closer cooperation between Iran and Russia in an effort to reach a comprehensive agreement that will consolidate Syrian President Bashar Assad’s regime, demarcate both countries’ spheres of influence in Syria, set up de-escalation zones, restore control of the entire country to Assad and constrain Israel’s freedom of action in Syria.
To neutralize the danger of Israeli strikes on its bases in Syria, Iran can employ the strategy it successfully used in Iraq: embedding the militias which operate under its control into the Syrian army. In this way, it eventually forced Iraq to add the Popular Mobilization Forces to the army, which now pays the militiamen’s salaries.
Joint Syrian-Iranian army units and bases would make it harder for Israel to claim it is trying to keep Iran from consolidating its position in Syria, and every strike on a joint base would be considered a hostile act against the Assad regime.
Another way Iran could consolidate its position in Syria without hindrance is by removing parts of the Syrian population and replacing them with hundreds of thousands of Afghani and Pakistani refugees, some of whom are already fighting in Syria on Iran’s payroll and under its auspices. Both businessmen and militiamen are already buying land and houses in Syria, and are expected to be granted Syrian citizenship – which would give them the right to vote in parliamentary and presidential elections.
Any missile factories and heavy weapons plants Iran set up in Syria would also become part of Syria’s legitimate arsenal, making it difficult to distinguish between Syrian and Iranian arms.
As in Iraq, Lebanon and Yemen, regular Iranian forces wouldn’t need to be present on the ground in order to ensure the consolidation of Tehran’s influence. Under this strategy, Iran wouldn’t even need to set up a separate, pro-Iranian organization like Hezbollah in Syria. Instead, this role would be filled by the Syrian army, which would receive protection from the Kremlin against foreign attacks.
These steps, if they actually happen, could help the Iranian regime cope not only with the Israeli threat, but also with the domestic pressures it is likely to face if the United States decides to quit the nuclear deal.
Sure, the public protests against Iran’s continued participation in the wars in Syria and Yemen have been forcibly suppressed, but they haven’t completely disappeared. The regime is prepared for them to break out again.
Tehran’s need to reconcile the consolidation of its influence in Syria with assuaging public anger over the financial bloodletting the war in Syria has caused to its economy is ultimately what will determine how it acts toward Israel.

Sunday, April 22, 2018

New York Subways at the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6) vulnerable are NYC’s underwater subway tunnels to flooding?
Ashley Fetters
New York City is full of peculiar phenomena—rickety fire escapes; 100-year-old subway tunnels; air conditioners propped perilously into window frames—that can strike fear into the heart of even the toughest city denizen. But should they? Every month, writer Ashley Fetters will be exploring—and debunking—these New York-specific fears, letting you know what you should actually worry about, and what anxieties you can simply let slip away.
The 25-minute subway commute from Crown Heights to the Financial District on the 2/3 line is, in my experience, a surprisingly peaceful start to the workday—save for one 3,100-foot stretch between the Clark Street and Wall Street stations, where for three minutes I sit wondering what the probability is that I will soon die a torturous, claustrophobic drowning death right here in this subway car.
The Clark Street Tunnel, opened in 1916, is one of approximately a dozen tunnels that escort MTA passengers from one borough to the next underwater—and just about all of them, with the exception of the 1989 addition of the 63rd Street F train tunnel, were constructed between 1900 and 1936.
Each day, thousands of New Yorkers venture across the East River and back again through these tubes buried deep in the riverbed, some of which are nearing or even past their 100th birthdays. Are they wrong to ponder their own mortality while picturing one of these watery catacombs suddenly springing a leak?
Mostly yes, they are, says Michael Horodniceanu, the former president of MTA Capital Construction and current principal of Urban Advisory Group. First, it’s important to remember that the subway tunnel is built under the riverbed, not just in the river—so what immediately surrounds the tunnel isn’t water but some 25 feet of soil. “There's a lot of dirt on top of it,” Horodniceanu says. “It's well into the bed of the bottom of the channel.”
And second, as Angus Kress Gillespie, author of Crossing Under the Hudson: The Story of the Holland and Lincoln Tunnels, points out, New York’s underwater subway tunnels are designed to withstand some leaking. And withstand it they do: Pumps placed below the floor of the tunnel, he says, are always running, always diverting water seepage into the sewers. (Horodniceanu says the amount of water these pumps divert into the sewer system each day numbers in the thousands of gallons.)
Additionally, MTA crews routinely repair the grouting and caulking, and often inject a substance into the walls that creates a waterproof membrane outside the tunnel—which keeps water out of the tunnel and relieves any water pressure acting on its walls. New tunnels, Horodniceanu points out, are even built with an outside waterproofing membrane that works like an umbrella: Water goes around it, it falls to the sides, and then it gets channeled into a pumping station and pumped out.
Of course, the classic New York nightmare scenario isn’t just a cute little trickle finding its way in. The anxiety daydream usually involves something sinister, or seismic. The good news, however, is that while an earthquake or explosion would indeed be bad for many reasons, it likely wouldn’t result in the frantic flooding horror scene that plays out in some commuters’ imaginations.

<img src="" alt="">
The Montague Tube, which sustained severe damage during Hurricane Sandy.
MTA New York City Transit / Marc A. Hermann
Horodniceanu assures me that tunnels built more recently are “built to withstand a seismic event.” The older tunnels, however—like, um, the Clark Street Tunnel—“were not seismically retrofitted, let me put it that way,” Horodniceanu says. “But the way they were built is in such a way that I do not believe an earthquake would affect them.” They aren’t deep enough in the ground, anyway, he says, to be too intensely affected by a seismic event. (The MTA did not respond to a request for comment.)
One of the only real threats to tunnel infrastructure, Horodniceanu adds, is extreme weather. Hurricane Sandy, for example, caused flooding in the tunnels, which “created problems with the infrastructure.” He continues, “The tunnels have to be rebuilt as a result of saltwater corroding the infrastructure.”
Still, he points out, hurricanes don’t exactly happen with no warning. So while Hurricane Sandy did cause major trauma to the tunnels, train traffic could be stopped with ample time to keep passengers out of harm’s way. In 2012, Governor Andrew Cuomo directed all the MTA’s mass transit services to shut down at 7 p.m. the night before Hurricane Sandy was expected to hit New York City.
And Gillespie, for his part, doubts even an explosion would result in sudden, dangerous flooding. A subway tunnel is not a closed system, he points out; it’s like a pipe that’s open at both ends. “The force of a blast would go forwards and backwards out the exit,” he says.
So the subway-train version of that terrifying Holland Tunnel flood scene in Sylvester Stallone’s Daylight is … unrealistic, right?
“Yeah,” Gillespie laughs. “Yeah. It is.”
Got a weird New York anxiety that you want explored? E-mail, and we may include it in a future column.

Iran Threatens to Bring Back Its Nukes

Baku, Azerbaijan, April 21
By Farhad Daneshvar – Trend:
Iran’s top nuclear official has once again repeated that his organization is ready to resume enriching uranium to 20 percent purity, if the US walks away from the 2015 nuclear deal.
“Whenever the system [the Islamic Republic] decides, we are ready to move like an army. However, I hope that the other side [the US] will be wise and it will not get itself and others into trouble,” ISNA quoted Ali Akbar Salehi, the head of Atomic Energy Organization of Iran, as saying on Saturday.
He made the remarks ahead of the May 12 deadline, on which US President Donald Trump must sign a presidential waiver on sanctions on the Islamic Republic.
On the same day, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani pledged that the nation will suffer no serious problems if the US walks away from the nuclear pact.
“Of course I assume that it will not be difficult for us to cause inconvenience to them [the US] if it becomes necessary … The Atomic Energy Organization of Iran is fully prepared from months ago for both, plans they think of and for plans they even have not thought of,” Rouhani said.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif who is in the US on a six-day visit to attend a United Nations General Assembly meeting over sustaining peace in an interview with CNBC news has also said that the country is ready to restart its controversial nuclear program if the Trump administration resumes sanctions.
Trump earlier told the Europeans that they must agree to “fix the terrible flaws of the Iran nuclear deal” or he would re-impose the sanctions that Washington lifted as part of the pact.
Reuters citing a senior administration official reported on Friday that French President Emmanuel Macron is expected to discuss the Iran nuclear agreement at the White House on Tuesday, although discussions with European countries on addressing US concerns about the 2015 deal were “not quite done yet”.

Pakistan Prepares for Nuclear War

Satellite images analysed by ThePrint show unprecedented security arrangements at the Bholari airbase, inaugurated in December.
New Delhi: Pakistan’s newest airbase at Bholari in Sindh — inaugurated in December last year — is suspected of storing nuclear weapons and has an F-16 fighter jet squadron.
Satellite images analysed by ThePrint show unprecedented security arrangements at the airbase, which has been described as having “strategic significance” for land and sea operations.
As many as six separate hardened shelters are visible on the southwestern end of the runway. There are high wire-fences with access controlled gates on the sprawling compound.
The northeastern end of the runway also has a similar offshoot, probably to create another six hardened aircraft shelters for additional nuclear warhead-rigged fighters in future.
The Pakistan Air Force (PAF) has been upgrading its fighter aircraft fleet and bases for the past decade. It has been able to persuade China to sell technology to produce JF-17s Thunder, nicknamed Xiaolong (Fierce Dragon), at Kamra.
It has purchased F-16s from the US and Jordan to create at least three squadrons and is vying for another squadron. PAF has also purchased mid-life upgrade of F-16s as well as laser guidance kits for its bombs to hit its targets more accurately.
The aim is to enhance its strategic reach and capability to ensure a strong nuclear triad to counter India and its conventional superiority.

Strategic significance

Pakistan’s air chief, while inaugurating this base in December last year, said, “PAF’s Bholari airbase is a project of strategic significance for capacity enhancement of Pakistan Air Force in operational domain both over the land as well as at sea.”
“With the establishment of this base, PAF would be able to support the land operations of the Pakistani Army more efficiently and would also augment and supplement maritime operations carried out by Pakistani Navy,” he added.
Operational domain is one of the three domains of Pakistan’s unofficial nuclear doctrine. Pakistan seems to confuse the rest of the world by projecting these domains as tactical, operational and strategic. However, this should not be confused with the nuclear triad.

The airbase

The main operating airbase (MOB) is still under construction although it was inaugurated almost four months ago. Spread over almost 3,500 hectares of land, the airbase is located adjacent to the new highway, connecting Hyderabad in Sindh and Karachi, which is also under construction.
Runway: It has a runway of 4,000 m in length and 90 m in width. There is a taxiway of similar length on the north side of the runway.
Apron: There is an apron of 700 m X 125 m with two temporary helipad markings. This will probably be used by naval surveillance aircraft in future.
Hardened shelters: There are 10 hardened aircraft shelters constructed at the base for fighter aircraft. These are located on either side of the southwestern Bezier curve taxiway loop. There is enough space for future construction of another 20-30 hardened shelters on other taxiway/runway loops.

Special hardened shelters: There are six separate hardened shelters on the southwestern end of the runway shielded by high wire-fences. These are probably meant for nuclear weapons carrying aircraft.
Ammunition point: An ammunition point has been constructed to the east of the runway covered by high wire-fences. Until March 2018, only two hardened bunkers with automated doors and revetments have been constructed at this ammunition point.
A large space has been left vacant to create at least 28 more such bunkers.
The entire ammunition point has been provided with a double-fence security shield. There is also a layer of trees to avoid direct visual observation.
The security arrangements observed at this ammunition suggest that it could be used for deployment of air deliverable nuclear weapons.

Fuel point: A small depot is observed there to cater to fuel, oil and lubricants (FOL) requirement at the airbase. It has eight semi-underground FOL tanks.
Administrative block: There are a few administrative and support facilities such as six buildings for staff quarters and a masjid at the base.


The Bholari airbase has been provided with a triple layered security perimeter fence. The outermost layer is a revetment-type perimeter. There is a solid wall in the middle with watch towers and the innermost one is a wire fence.

The ammunition bunkers are probably provided with automated gates.

Antichrist’s Road To The Premiership

Exclusive - Iraqi Elections: The Long Road to the Premiership
Since the collapse of Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, Iraq has held three rounds of parliamentary elections that produced four governments. Prime Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari headed the 2005 cabinet. He remained in his post for a few months and was succeeded by Nouri al-Maliki for two terms between 2006 and 2014. He was followed by the current government of PM Haidar al-Abadi.
Iraq’s 36 million people are now bracing for the fourth parliamentary elections, set for May 12, amid an intense battle, threat of arms and heated political rhetoric and what observers said was one of the closest races in years.
The elections are shaping up to not only elect new lawmakers, but also a new prime minister, who will likely be chosen from the bloc that enjoys a majority at the parliament.
The positions of the president, prime minister and parliament speaker are occupied by a Kurdish, Shi’ite and Sunni candidate respectively. The prime minister, however, acts as the country’s executive power and therefore much attention has been directed to who will win the parliamentary majority.
So far, it appears that this majority will be won by any one of the main Shi’ite blocs. They are the al-Nasr party, headed by Abadi, Rule of Law, headed by Maliki, al-Fatah, headed by Haidar al-Amiri, Sairoun Alliance, headed by Moqtada al-Sadr and al-Hikma, headed by Ammar al-Hakim. The door has, however, been left open for surprises, which appear likely now more than ever.
Dawa Party: Where to?
During the previous three elections, the position of prime minister was not only limited to Shi’ites, but to the Rule of Law and Dawa parties. Many observers believe that this reality will change on May 12.
This probability was raised after a major dispute erupted between the parties’ respective leaders, Abadi and Maliki. The Dawa party has emerged the weaker of the two in the equation, with the current premier favorite to win a second term in office.
Currently, 7,000 candidates, representing over 200 bodies have presented their electoral platforms in campaigns that will end on May 11.
A new government is expected to be formed no more than two months after the polls. Foreign meddling in the shape of influential powers, the United States and Iran, has not been ruled out. Furthermore, observers suspect that they will play a major role in forming the new cabinet.
Iran has not shied away from flaunting its influence in Iraq, with its officials making open and secret visits to the neighboring country. It is driven by the need to see the Shi’ite ranks preserve their unity. This goal, however, appears to have failed due to the emergence of the above mentioned Shi’ite parties, which has led to this year’s elections being the most competitive since 2003.
The US, meanwhile, announced last week that it was ready to cooperate with any candidate who wins the polls. The administration of President Donald Trump has not outwardly voiced its support to any specific candidate.
Given the above, the shape of the elections has not emerged yet, even though man predictions have been made about their outcomes and sizes of blocs that will be produced.
MP Salah al-Jabouri, of the Diyala province, told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The available factors are still very vague, but all predictions indicate that there will be very few seats separating each bloc.”
The national alliance, which is expected to win the majority, is not expected to obtain no more than 45 seats.
He also did not rule out the possibility of each bloc going back to their old habits after the elections are complete. He explained that Shi’ite powers will most likely form the largest parliamentary bloc and control who becomes prime minister. The Sunni Arabs will once again return to forming a united Sunni front.
Kurdish MP Sarwa Abdul Wahed told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The electoral programs have not changed much from others proposed during previous polls. Everyone speaks of combating corruption, but no one has specified how. No one is talking about how to build a state and its institutions.”
These programs will remain empty words until they are implemented in the post-elections phase, she added.
Civil movements
In contrast to previous years, civil rhetoric has emerged during this year’s electoral campaign, while the religious one has waned.
Secretary General of the Iraqi Communist Party Raed Fahmy told Asharq Al-Awsat: “The civilian movements have not formed a united front for the upcoming elections.”
“The surprise however lies in the alliance with the Sairoun party,” he added, noting that even though it is an Islamic movement, it chose to side with a civil one.
“The general belief is that civil speech will impose itself on the Iraqi scene because we cannot reproduce the same status quo that was previously present in the country,” he continued.
The question now is, to what extent can civil rhetoric play a role in Iraq? Fahmy asked.
There are many positive indications that favor civil speech, including the easing of sectarian incitement. “Those who tried to push for a sectarian agenda have failed completely,” he stressed.
Return to old habits
Despite this optimism, Iraqi politician and academic Dr. Nadim al-Jaberi told Asharq Al-Awsat that political blocs may return to sectarian lines once the elections are over.
He added that forming a new government was attached to more than just winning a parliamentary majority. The process is linked to unavoidable difficult balances with various blocs.
Moreover, he said that a return to old sectarian alliances has become a habit that is difficult to give up.

Seoul: N. Korean Leader Prepares to Denuclearize

Seoul: N. Korean leader removes major nuclear sticking point
The Associated Press
In this Wednesday, April 11, 2018, photo, South Korean army soldiers stand guard at the border villages of Panmunjom in Paju, South Korea. U.S. President Donald Trump on Tuesday, April 17, has given his "blessing" for North and South Korea to discuss the end of the Korean War at their summit next week amid a diplomatic push to end the North Korean nuclear standoff. (AP Photo/Ahn Young-joon)more +
South Korean President Moon Jae-in said Thursday that his rival, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, isn't asking for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula as a precondition for abandoning his nuclear weapons. If true, this would seem to remove a major sticking point to a potential nuclear disarmament deal.
North Korea, a small, authoritarian nation surrounded by bigger and richer neighbors, has always linked its pursuit of nuclear weapons to what it calls a "hostile" U.S. policy that is embodied by the 28,500 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, the 50,000 stationed in Japan, and the "nuclear umbrella" security guarantee that Washington offers allies Seoul and Tokyo.
Although Moon reported that North Korea isn't asking for the U.S. troops to leave, he said the North still wants the United States to end its "hostile" policy and offer security guarantees. When North Korea has previously talked about "hostility" it has been linked to the U.S. troops in South Korea.
It won't be until Moon and Kim meet next week, and then when Kim is to meet U.S. President Donald Trump sometime in May or June, that outsiders might know just what North Korea intends. Until then, caution is needed over the statements the various leaders are using to set up their high-stakes negotiations.
Moon and Kim's summit on April 27 will be only the third such meeting between the countries' leaders. Moon, a liberal who is committed to engaging the North despite being forced to take a hard line in the face of repeated North Korean weapons tests last year, is eager to make the summit a success and pave the way for Kim and Trump to settle the deep differences they have over the North's decades-long pursuit of nuclear weapons.
Many analysts believe that Kim sees the meeting with Trump as a way to bestow legitimacy on his own leadership and on a rogue nuclear program that he has built in the face of international criticism and crippling sanctions. Many say it is unlikely that the North will trade away its hard-won nuclear weapons without getting what it wants in return.
"North Korea is expressing a commitment to a complete denuclearization," Moon said during a meeting with the heads of media organizations in South Korea on Thursday. "They are not presenting a condition that the U.S. cannot accept, such as the withdrawal of the American troops in South Korea. ... North Korea is only talking about the end of a hostile policy against it and then a security guarantee for the country."
Trump revealed Tuesday that the U.S. and North Korea had been holding direct talks at "extremely high levels" in preparation for their summit. Trump also said that North and South Korea are negotiating an end to hostilities before next week's summit.
North Korea has long sought a peace treaty with the United States to formally end the 1950-53 Korean War. Some South Koreans fear the North could use such a treaty as a pretext for demanding the withdrawal of the American troops in the South. Some worry that potential discussions on formally ending the war may distract from already difficult efforts to rid the North of nuclear weapons and apply robust verification of that process.
The armistice that halted fighting in the war was signed by the U.S.-led United Nations Command, North Korea and China. South Korea was a member of the U.N. Command but was not a direct signatory.
In their previous summit in 2007, the Koreas declared a commitment toward ending the war and vowed to pursue discussions with others. But the efforts faltered and relations between the rivals worsened after a conservative government took office in Seoul in February 2008.

Saturday, April 21, 2018

Earthquake Assessment For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12) Risk in New Jersey

by Daniel R. Dombroski, Jr.
by Daniel R. Dombroski, Jr.

A 10–fold increase in amplitude represents about a 32–fold increase in energy released for the same duration of shaking. The best known magnitude scale is one designed by C.F. Richter in 1935 for
west coast earthquakes.

An earthquake’s intensity is determined by observing its effects at a particular place on the Earth’s surface. Intensity depends on the earthquake’s magnitude, the distance from the epicenter, and local geology. These scales are based on reports of people awakening, felt movements, sounds, and visible effects on structures and landscapes. The most commonly used scale in the United States is the Modified Mercalli Intensity Scale, and its values are usually reported in Roman numerals to distinguish them from magnitudes.

Past damage in New Jersey

New Jersey doesn’t get many earthquakes, but it does get some. Fortunately most are small. A few New Jersey earthquakes, as well as a few originating outside the state, have produced enough damage to warrant the concern of planners and emergency managers.

Damage in New Jersey from earthquakes has been minor: items knocked off shelves, cracked plaster and masonry, and fallen chimneys. Perhaps because no one was standing under a chimney when it fell, there are no recorded earthquake–related deaths in New Jersey. We will probably not be so fortunate in the future.

Area Affected by Eastern Earthquakes

Although the United States east of the Rocky Mountains has fewer and generally smaller earthquakes than the West, at least two factors  increase the earthquake risk in New Jersey and the East. Due to geologic differences, eastern earthquakes effect areas ten times larger than western ones of the same magnitude. Also, the eastern United States is more densely populated, and New Jersey is the most densely populated state in the nation.

Geologic Faults and Earthquakes in New Jersey

Although there are many faults in New Jersey, the Ramapo Fault, which separates the Piedmont and Highlands Physiographic Provinces, is the best known. In 1884 it was blamed for a damaging New York City earthquake simply because it was the only large fault mapped at the time. Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault.

More recently, in the 1970’s and early 1980’s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to the Indian Point, New York, Nuclear Power Generating Station. East of the Rocky Mountains (including New Jersey), earthquakes do not break the ground surface. Their focuses lie at least a few miles below the Earth’s surface, and their locations are determined by interpreting seismographic records. Geologic fault lines seen on the surface today are evidence of ancient events. The presence or absence of mapped faults (fault lines) does not denote either a seismic hazard or the lack of one, and earthquakes can occur anywhere in New Jersey.

Frequency of Damaging Earthquakes in New Jersey

Records for the New York City area, which have been kept for 300 years, provide good information
for estimating the frequency of earthquakes in New Jersey.

Earthquakes with a maximum intensity of VII (see table DamagingEarthquakes Felt in New Jersey )have occurred in the New York City area in 1737, 1783, and 1884. One intensity VI, four intensity V’s, and at least three intensity III shocks have also occurred in the New York area over the last 300 years.

Buildings and Earthquakes

The 1995 earthquake in Kobe, Japan, is an example of what might happen in New Jersey in a similar quake. It registered a magnitude 7.2 on the Richter scale and produced widespread destruction. But it was the age of construction, soil and foundation condition, proximity to the fault, and type of structure that were the major determining factors in the performance of each building. Newer structures, built to the latest construction standards, appeared to perform relatively well, generally ensuring the life safety of occupants.

Structures have collapsed in New Jersey without earthquakes; an earthquake would trigger many more. Building and housing codes need to be updated and strictly enforced to properly prepare for inevitable future earthquakes.

India-Pakistan Border Dispute WILL Lead To A Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

CPEC-ProjectIndia-Pakistan Border Dispute May Lead To A Nuclear War

India-Pakistan border dispute and tensions are only augmenting from time to time. With India-Pakistan border violations, terrorism, Kashmir crisis and many other reasons brewing mistrust between the two, it seems that conflict is never-ending. India-Pakistan border conflicts are entirely based on accusing one another and yet proudly claiming countermeasures. Will the India-Pakistan border experience peace? How is the South Asian peace disrupted by the India-Pakistan border conflict?
The number of India-Pakistan border ceasefire violations is ever increasing, crossing 400 violations in just the first two months of this new year. In fact, with countermeasures being taken to initiate peace at the India-Pakistan border, the mistrust has only increased.
India-Pakistan Border Conflict is Politically Motivated
The fact remains that the mistrust and conflict between India and Pakistan are rooted in political relations. Both the countries need to take serious efforts to clear the political environment to control and cease the border tensions.
For the two nations, there are numerous reasons that are creating the tensions. Ceasefire violations, terrorism, and the Kashmir dispute are only the most obvious reasons for the disputes. However, there are many more underlying forces that contribute to the growing conflicts. There have been several cases of insurgents operating on both sides of the border, followed by the blatant denial by both nations of any such activities. The crucial point of conflict and mistrust is the lack of understanding of these operations- are they operated by the military or terrorists? This constant back and forth of violence and violations on either side of the India-Pakistan border has resulted in an overall disruption of peace for South Asia.

Improving India-Pakistan Border relations will benefit both Nations

Apart from the fact that innocents will stop losing their life and peace, there are many more reasons that support India-Pakistan border peace. Both India and Pakistan can greatly cut on their military expenses and divert those finances for supporting their nation’s growth. Pakistan is already facing a failing economy, and it does not have the finances or the resources to be at par with India. Both the nations cannot afford the increasing spending on military equipment and weaponry.
Additionally, the potential of Pakistan turning to a nuclear war is also being tested with the fragility of the nuclear power in South Asia already reaching the brim. Experts already recognise South Asia as the most susceptible to a nuclear war.
Thus, the India-Pakistan border peace is not just vital and worrisome for the two nations but for the entire South Asian region. It is time that both countries turn to mutual points of interest rather than focusing on disparities and points of contradiction, such as Kashmir. India-Pakistan border ties need to start mending to regain peace for both and South Asia. Initiatives need to be made at both ends to normalise life and stop spreading terror and unrest.

Ending the Korean Nuclear Threat

See the source imageNorth Korea says it will stop nuclear tests, abolish test site
Cynthia Kim
SEOUL (Reuters) - North Korea will suspend nuclear and missile tests effective immediately and abolish a nuclear test site in a bid to pursue economic growth and peace on the Korean peninsula, the North’s state media said on Saturday, ahead of planned summits with South Korea and the United States.
North Korea leader Kim Jong Un said his country no longer needed to conduct nuclear tests or intercontinental ballistic missile tests because it has completed its goal of developing nuclear weapons, state media Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) said.
North Korea said that to create an “international environment favorable” for its economy, it would “facilitate close contact and active dialogue” with neighboring countries and the international community.
It marked the first time North Korea directly addressed its nuclear weapons programs, ahead of leader Kim’s planned summit with South Korean President Moon Jae-in next week and a meeting with U.S. President Donald Trump in late May or early June.
“The northern nuclear test ground of the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) will be dismantled to transparently guarantee the discontinuance of the nuclear test,” the KCNA said after Kim convened this year’s first plenary session of the Central Committee of the ruling Worker’s Party on Friday.
“We will concentrate all efforts on building a powerful socialist economy and markedly improving the standard of people’s living through the mobilization of all human and material resources of the country,” the KCNA said.
Trump welcomed the statement and said he looked forward to a summit with Kim. “North Korea has agreed to suspend all Nuclear Tests and close up a major test site. This is very good news for North Korea and the World - big progress! Look forward to our Summit,” Trump said on Twitter.
South Korea said the North’s decision signified “meaningful” progress toward denuclearization of the Korean peninsula and would create favorable conditions for successful meetings with it and the United States.
North Korea has defended its nuclear and missile programs as necessary deterrents against perceived U.S. hostility. It has conducted numerous missile tests, and last year it detonated its most powerful nuclear bomb.
The tests and escalating rhetoric between Trump and Kim raised fears of war until, in a New Year’s speech, the North Korean leader called for reduced military tensions and improved ties with South Korea and sent a delegation to the Winter Olympics in the South in February.
Nam Sung-wook, professor of North Korean Studies at Korea University in Seoul, said it could be considered “sensational” that Kim Jong Un personally declared plans to suspend nuclear development, but his remarks left a number of questions.
“It still does not seem clear if it means whether the North will just not pursue further development of its nuclear programs in the future, or whether they will completely shut down ‘all’ nuclear facilities. And what are they going to do with their existing nuclear weapons,” Nam said.
North Korea has expressed its commitment to “complete denuclearization” of the Korean peninsula and has not attached conditions, South Korea’s Moon said on Thursday, but Washington has remained wary and vowed to maintain “maximum pressure” on Pyongyang.
The United States said on Thursday that in the run-up to Trump’s planned summit with Kim countries should continue to put financial and diplomatic pressure on Pyongyang to surrender its banned nuclear weapons.
U.N. Security Council sanctions imposed on North Korea after its first nuclear test in 2006 and extended over the past decade have aimed to deny North Korea a considerable amount of international trade.
The ruling party’s plenary meeting on Friday was convened to discuss “policy issues of a new stage” to meet the demands of the current “important historic period,” the KCNA said.
Reporting by Cynthia Kim and Soyoung Kim; Additional reporting by Heekyong Yang and Ju-min Park; Editing by Toni Reinhold

What to do during a Nuclear Attack: Pray (Revelation 15)

PREPARING FOR WAR How to prepare for World War 3 and what you should do if there is a WW3 nuclear strike
By Jon Lockett
20th April 2018, 2:30 pm
RISING tensions between the US and Russia following a chemical weapons attack in civil war-ravaged Syria have sparked fears a nuclear war could be on the horizon.
This comes after Kim Jong-un and Donald Trump have been engaged in a war of words ever since the brash billionaire came to power. Here is what you need to do if the worst happens and World War 3 breaks out

What to do before a nuclear blast?
Experts recommend you follow the guidelines below to protect yourself, your family and your home – if you believe an attack is imminent.
Build an Emergency Supply Kit, which includes items like non-perishable food, water, a battery-powered or hand-crank radio, extra flashlights and batteries. You may want to prepare a kit for your workplace and a portable kit to keep in your car in case you are told to evacuate.
Make a Family Emergency Plan. Your family may not be together when disaster strikes, so it is important to know how you will contact one another, how you will get back together and what you will do in case of an emergency.
Find out from officials if any public buildings in your community have been designated as fallout shelters. If none have been designated, make your own list of potential shelters. These places would include basements or the windowless central area of middle floors in high-rise buildings.
What to do during a nuclear blast?
The following are guidelines for what to do in the event of a nuclear explosion.
Listen for official information via online, radio or TV and follow the instructions provided by emergency response personnel.
If an attack warning is issued, take cover as quickly as you can, below ground if possible, and stay there until instructed to do otherwise.
Find the nearest building, preferably built of brick or concrete, and go inside to avoid any radioactive material outside.
If better shelter, such as a multi-storey building or basement can be reached within a few minutes, go there immediately.
Go as far below ground as possible or in the centre of a tall building. The goal is to put as many walls and as much concrete, brick and soil between you and the radioactive material outside.
Expect to stay inside for at least 24 hours unless told otherwise by authorities.

People are advised to research where their nearest nuclear bunker is
What to do if you are caught outside?
Do not look at the flash or fireball – it can blind you.
Take cover behind anything that might offer protection.
Lie flat on the ground and cover your head. If the explosion is some distance away, it could take 30 seconds or more for the blast wave to hit.
Take shelter as soon as you can, even if you are many miles from ground zero where the attack occurred – radioactive fallout can be carried by the winds for hundreds of miles.
If you were outside during or after the blast, get clean as soon as possible, to remove radioactive material that may have settled on your body.
Remove your clothing to keep radioactive material from spreading. Removing the outer layer of clothing can remove up to 90% of radioactive material.
If practical, place your contaminated clothing in a plastic bag and seal or tie the bag.
When possible, take a shower with lots of soap and water to help remove radioactive contamination. Do not scrub or scratch the skin.
Wash your hair with shampoo or soap and water. Do not use conditioner in your hair because it will bind radioactive material to your hair, keeping it from rinsing out easily.
What to do after a nuclear blast?
With the tensions showing no signs of letting up it’s been reported the UK Government is now working on a new alert system to prepare Brits for the horror of a nuclear war.
Back in the dark days of the Cold War, the British government developed a “four-minute warning” system to alert the public that the country had come under attack.
The warning system, which was in place from 1953-1992, used air raid sirens, TV bulletins and radio broadcasts to spread the terrifying news but, thankfully, it was never used.
In 2003, the National Attack Warning System (NAWS) was developed, allowing the government to warn the population by phone, radio and TV if we ever come under attack.
Nowadays nuclear bomb alert text messages and social media are the preferred method.
Decay rates of the radioactive fallout are the same for any size nuclear device.
However, the amount of fallout will vary based on the size of the device and its proximity to the ground. Therefore, it might be necessary for those in the areas with highest radiation levels to shelter for up to a month.
The heaviest fallout would be limited to the area at or downwind from the explosion and 80 per cent of the fallout would occur during the first 24 hours.
People in most of the areas that would be affected could be allowed to come out of shelter within a few days and, if necessary, evacuate to unaffected areas.
Keep listening to the radio and television for news about what to do, where to go and places to avoid.
Stay away from damaged areas. Stay away from areas marked “radiation hazard” or “HAZMAT”.
Remember that radiation cannot be seen, smelled or otherwise detected by human senses.

The Difference Between Iraq and Syria: Bush, Cheney, and Oil

Syria in 2018 is not Iraq in 2003
Muhammad Idrees Ahmad
Children, affected by a gas attack, breathe through oxygen masks in the Damascus suburb of Saqba on August 21, 2013 [Reuters/Bassam Khabieh]
Last Saturday, when the United States, the UK and France launched strikes on three chemical facilities in Syria, the move was met with disapproval in some quarters. The pre-announced spectacle blew up three buildings and took no lives, but some pronounced it a "dangerous escalation". Some spoke of its "illegality". All complained about its disregard for the OPCW investigation.
The action, which lasted less than an hour, was an escalation only if everything that preceded it was normal. By this reckoning, Syria has now returned to its status quo of genocide by the Assad regime.
The action was illegal only if by legality we mean approval by the UN Security Council. But the Security Council is not a neutral adjudicating authority like a court. Its decisions are constrained by the interests of its permanent members. To say an action is "legal", in this case, would be to say: "Vladimir Putin approved".
What then of the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) investigation?
This depends on what answer is being sought. Because the OPCW's remit does not include apportioning blame. Untrammelled access for the OPCW would have merely proved what was already known: that a chemical attack took place. It would not have resolved the manufactured controversy over who was responsible (manufactured, because there is only one party in Syria with the means, intention and history of deploying chemical weapons by air).
But had the OPCW confirmed Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad's responsibility, what consequences should have followed?
Last year, after the Khan Sheikhoun chemical attack, the UN did respond to the calls for an investigation by creating the UN-OPCW Joint Investigation Mechanism (JIM) with the authority to identify perpetrators. But once the JIM concluded that al-Assad was responsible for the attack, Russia revoked its authority. And the fact that the UN confirmed the regime's responsibility for the attack didn't provoke any calls for accountability from the crowd currently insisting on the sanctity of the legal process.
All calls for "more investigation" sputter into platitudes about a "negotiated settlement" or "UN authorised action" (which, is another way of saying "never", since Putin is unlikely to grant western powers the authority to act against his interests).
Fetishising a dubious legal process thus becomes a temporising measure that grants the perpetrators of mass crime impunity against the palpable illegality of using chemical weapons. That the case is not made in good faith is obvious from the analogy that often accompanies it.
Should we be trusting the same governments and agencies that lied to us about Iraq's weapons of mass destruction (WMDs)?
Is Syria like Iraq?
Considering the ubiquity of the Iraq analogy, it would seem that the old cliche that generals are always fighting the last war also applies to their critics. Syria is Iraq only if facile juxtapositions replace substantive comparisons. Beyond the fact that both countries have been led by Baathist regimes that brought immense misery upon their people, there is no concrete detail in which Syria and Iraq are similar.
In 2003, Iraq was invaded even though there was no imminent humanitarian catastrophe demanding action; in Syria, the regime has been on a rampage since 2011, yet only on two occasions has it been subjected to limited and rather ineffective military strikes on "humanitarian grounds".
Where in Iraq, the US and Britain had used false pretexts for action, in Syria real and frequent violations have only twice shaken the west out of inaction. Where in Iraq, the alleged possession of WMDs was deemed sufficient grounds for an invasion, their confirmed use in Syria has only belatedly occasioned a response, largely symbolic, lacking shock or awe.
The analogy also seems ignorant of the knowns and unknowns in the case against Iraq. In 2003, despite intense US pressure, international bodies like the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the United Nations Monitoring, Verification and Inspection Commission (UNMOVIC) and OPCW declined to endorse the administration's case against Iraq. In Syria, the regime hasn't denied its possession of chemical weapons and the UN has confirmed their use on at least 34 occasions.
The 'deep state' argument
But what of the claim that a "deep state" is trying to mislead us into war, as it did in Iraq?
In 2002, the CIA resisted administration pressure to provide a defensible rationale for invading Iraq. Then Vice President Dick Cheney had to personally visit the CIA's headquarters in Langley several times to pressure analysts to produce an assessment favourable to the administration's case. But, in spite of the bullying, the "deep state" (including the CIA, Defense Intelligence Agency, the Department of Energy and the State Department) delivered their combined judgment in a caveat-laden National Intelligence Estimate that would only confirm that if left unchecked, Iraq may develop nuclear weapons in a decade.
The Bush administration recognised the inadequacy of the assessment and, in the end, had to rely on two ad hoc operations based in the Pentagon to produce its own politicised intelligence, outside the recalcitrant channels of the "deep state". French, German and British intelligence also failed to oblige Bush (leading the UK's then-PM Tony Blair to produce his own politicised "dodgy" dossier).
In Syria, by contrast, US, British, and French intelligence agencies have been unanimous in delivering confident judgments on the regime's responsibility for the chemical attack. These judgments have been corroborated by Open Source Intelligence (OSINT), journalistic investigations, witness testimonies, human rights organisations, and, of course, the UN Commission of Inquiry on Syria (which confirmed at least 34 instances of the regime's use of chemical weapons even before Douma).
The case for Iraq never came close to achieving this kind of consensus.
The Halabja massacre
There is, however, an Iraq analogy that is relevant to Syria: It is not 2003, but 1988, when, during Saddam Hussein's military campaign in the north, nearly 5,000 civilians were killed in a chemical attack on the Kurdish town of Halabja.
The attack followed the town's capture by the Iranian army, and Iraq immediately blamed it on Iran as a "false flag" operation. US intelligence, which at the time was allied to the Iraqi regime, amplified the claim. But in an ironic twist, once Hussein fell out of western favour after annexing Kuwait, "anti-imperialists" (including, sadly, the late Edward Said) felt obliged to use the "false flag" theory to absolve Hussein in their misguided attempt to forestall an intervention.
Therein lies the lesson: Facile contrarianism is an intellectual dead end that contributes to moral atrophy and reactionary politics. We live in a time of great danger and, due to its scope and consequences, Syria may become the defining conflict of this century.
We can differ on our views about the best course for achieving peace, but we must not allow our conclusions to determine which facts we acknowledge and which we don't. Let us certainly not distort or bend the truth to satisfy our preconceptions. In these times of universal deceit, it must become a moral duty for all citizens to confront misuses of language and history.

The views expressed in this article are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera's editorial stance.

Friday, April 20, 2018

Korean Threat About to End

North Korea has dropped its demand that USA troops be removed from South Korea as a condition for giving up its nuclear weapons, South Korea's President said on Thursday (April 19) in presenting the idea to the United States.
Third, the coming potential summit meeting between President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong-un will not mark the end of diplomacy, but rather the beginning.
When North Korea dominates US news cycles, the headlines are ominous - a new nuclear weapons test, or a ballistic missile flying into space. "(North Korea) is only asking for an end to a hostile policy toward North Korea and for a security guarantee".
"We will be looking at this, in this preparatory committee meeting, to continue to put pressure on North Korea to fulfill its obligations".
But North Korea's willingness to give up its nuclear ambitions without forcing the condition of the American troops' withdrawal makes the rapprochement look all the easier.
The pair plan to meet April 27 on the South Korean side of Panmunjom, a diplomatic outpost inside the heavily fortified border separating the two countries.
Trump also promised to raise the issue of Japanese citizens held captive in North Korea - a key issue for Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe.
Trump has confirmed the visit and he also said that the meeting between Pompeo and Kim Jong-un went off "very well". While the Peace House in Panmunjom, a border village in the demilitarised zone on the Korean Peninsula, is one possibility, the optics of the U.S. president travelling there may not be embraced by the United States. They would rejoice at the humiliation of their president, even though if Trump can pull off this audacious piece of summitry and persuade Kim to ditch his nuclear arsenal, the United States and the rest of the world would be considerably safer.
While North Korea was ramping up its nuclear program, Kazakhstan's President Nursultan Nazarbayev renounced nuclear defense capabilities and closed down the Semipalatinsk nuclear test site, better known as "The Polygon", after the collapse of the USSR in 1991.
Moon's diplomatic drive picked up pace amid increasing talk in Washington about "bloody nose" military strikes on North Korea - strikes that would be potentially devastating for South Korea.
(Xi) doesn't want to see a North Korea, or any Korea that has nuclear weapons either. A world relieved of its deep concern at the threat posed by an unpredictable nuclear-armed North Korea will be fully behind the United States president as he moves to address the challenge posed by Tehran's drive to become a nuclear power.
Moreover, if the summit comes to fruition it would be the first such meeting between a sitting United States President and a North Korean leader.
Robert Wood, the top US envoy to the United Nations -hosted Conference on Disarmament, said the USA believes the ongoing pressure campaign "has had an important impact in the North's decision to return to the table". Political pundits are warning that Trump, who is not well-versed in issues concerning the Korean Peninsula, could make rash, ill-advised decisions or abruptly switch from dialogue to confrontation.
While the two Koreas are technically still at war, there has been an easing of tensions over the past several months, especially since the Olympic Winter Games held in PyeongChang in the south in February.
".for many years they have been talking to North Korea and nothing has happened". "And it is not making demands that the US can not accept, such as the withdrawal of the USA forces in Korea", he said, according to the JoongAng Ilbo, one of South Korea's biggest papers and one that had a representative at the lunch.
Now, let's say the Trump-Kim summit does materialize as planned.
The location for that summit has not yet been disclosed, and may not have been agreed on yet.

The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Updated | An earthquake is long overdue to hit New York and America isn’t prepared, author and environmental theorist Kathryn Miles told Trevor Noah on Tuesday’s Daily Show.
Miles is the author of a new book, Quakeland, which investigates how imminently an earthquake is expected in the U.S. and how well-prepared the country is to handle it. The answer to those questions: Very soon and not very well.
“We know it will, that’s inevitable, but we don’t know when,” said Miles when asked when to expect another earthquake in the U.S.
She warned that New York is in serious danger of being the site of the next one, surprising considering that the West Coast sits along the San Andreas fault line.
“New York is 40 years overdue for a significant earthquake...Memphis, Seattle, Washington D.C.—it’s a national problem,” said Miles.
Miles told Noah that though the U.S. is “really good at responding to natural disasters,” like the rapid response to the hurricanes in Texas and Florida, the country and its government is, in fact, lagging behind in its ability to safeguard citizens before an earthquake hits.
“We’re really bad at the preparedness side,” Miles responded when Noah asked how the infrastructure in the U.S. compares to Mexico’s national warning system, for example.
“Whether it’s the literal infrastructure, like our roads and bridges, or the metaphoric infrastructure, like forecasting, prediction, early warning systems. Historically, we’ve underfunded those and as a result we’re way behind even developing nations on those fronts.”
Part of the problem, Miles says, is that President Donald Trump and his White House are not concerned with warning systems that could prevent the devastation of natural disasters.
“We can invest in an early warning system. That’s one thing we can definitely do. We can invest in better infrastructures, so that when the quake happens, the damage is less,” said the author.
“The scientists, the emergency managers, they have great plans in place. We have the technology for an early warning system, we have the technology for tsunami monitoring. But we don’t have a president that is currently interested in funding that, and that’s a problem.”
This article has been updated to reflect that Miles said New York is the possible site of an upcoming earthquake, and not the likeliest place to be next hit by one.

Sorry Doc, Prophecy is Inevitable (Revelation 15)

Nuclear War: Can Physicians Do Anything to Prevent It?
At twelve o'clock we flew over Hiroshima. We...witnessed a sight totally unlike anything we had ever seen before. The center of the city was a sort of white patch, flattened and smooth like the palm of a hand. Nothing remained. The slightest trace of houses seemed to have disappeared. [1]
Thus began the description of the Hiroshima tragedy provided by Dr Marcel Junod of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC), the first foreign medical doctor to arrive in Hiroshima after the bombing.
His horrified report to the ICRC in 1945 began the tradition of physicians bearing witness to the catastrophic humanitarian impact of nuclear weapons. During the Cold War, physicians played a crucial role in warning the world of the devastating medical consequences that would result from nuclear war and alerting the public to the impossibility of mounting any meaningful response once these weapons were used.
In the United States, Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR), in conjunction with medical schools across the country, organized a series of public symposia laying out in painful detail the destruction that would result from a single nuclear explosion and the devastation that a large-scale nuclear war would cause. The International Physicians for the Prevention of Nuclear War (IPPNW), the global federation of which PSR was the US affiliate, carried out similar work around the world; and for these efforts, IPPNW received the 1985 Nobel Peace Prize.
After the Cold War, the medical community, like much of society, acted as though the danger of nuclear war had ended also. Of course, the nuclear threat did not disappear. There are still nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons in the world, 95% in the arsenals of the United States and Russia.[2] Recent events have made clear the very real danger that these weapons will be used.
After the Cold War, the medical community, like much of society, acted as though the danger of nuclear war had ended. Of course, the nuclear threat did not disappear.
The volatile situation in North Korea is the most visible nuclear flashpoint in the world today, but it is not alone. Relations between the United States and Russia have deteriorated dramatically since the Russian annexation of Crimea, and the new tension between the two has included explicit threats of nuclear war. Relations between the United States and China have also deteriorated. The situation in South Asia is equally worrisome, with fighting nearly every day on the border between India and Pakistan, nations armed with sizeable nuclear arsenals and military doctrines that call for the early use of these weapons in the event that daily skirmishes escalate to full-scale war.[3]
Even a limited war between India and Pakistan, involving the use of just 100 small nuclear weapons detonated over urban targets, would kill 20 million people directly and would loft enough soot into the upper atmosphere to cause world-wide climate disruption. The resulting global famine could put some two billion people at risk.[4]
A more extensive war between the United States and Russia would kill hundreds of millions of people outright and send enough soot into the upper atmosphere to create a nuclear winter, an instant ice age that would end most food production on earth and kill the vast majority of the human race.[5] Along with the other nuclear armed states, the United States and Russia are engaged in an expensive effort to upgrade their nuclear arsenals.
In the face of this existential threat to human survival, IPPNW formed a broad umbrella coalition in 2007—the International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons (ICAN). During the ensuing decade, ICAN worked with a group of nonnuclear weapons states to promote a new treaty to ban nuclear weapons. On July 7, 2017, at the United Nations, 122 nations voted to adopt a new Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW), which prohibits the development, testing, production, possession, use, or threat of use of nuclear weapons. For their work alerting the public to the resurgent nuclear threat and promoting adoption of this treaty, ICAN received this year's Nobel Peace Prize.
At the time of the United Nations vote, the World Medical Association, the International Council of Nurses, the World Federation of Public Health Associations, and IPPNW issued a joint statement welcoming the TPNW as, "a significant forward step toward eliminating the most destructive weapons ever created, and the existential threat nuclear war poses to humanity and to the survival of all life on Earth." But they also cautioned that, "the parties to the TPNW must now work diligently and urgently to bring the nuclear-armed and nuclear-dependent states into compliance."[6]
In the United States, a broad coalition of organizations has now launched a national campaign to promote a new nuclear policy based on an understanding of these medical consequences. "Back From the Brink: A Call to Prevent Nuclear War" calls on the United States to lead a global effort to prevent nuclear war by:
Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first;
Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any President to launch a nuclear attack;
Taking US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert;
Canceling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons; and
Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals.
It is critically important for the medical community to support this effort by educating the public about the medical consequences of nuclear war.
At this very dangerous moment, it is critically important for the medical community to support this effort by educating the public about the medical consequences of nuclear war. We need to speak out in our communities, adding a medical voice to the local campaigns that are forming to promote this fundamental change in US nuclear policy, and we need to mobilize our local, state, and national medical societies to echo the position adopted by the international medical community. In the venerable tradition of Dr Junod, we need to warn our patients of the great danger they face and urge them to support efforts to eliminate nuclear weapons as the only way to guarantee that they are never used.