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Britain and US ‘risk repeating Iraq invasion mistake with Iran’

Peter Oborne, and David Morrison
The Telegraph

It is just over ten years since Britain and the United States launched the invasion of Iraq, now regarded very widely as a terrible mistake which has done huge damage to our reputation across the Muslim world. Today we are on the verge of an eerily similar error, only this time concerning Iran, write Peter Oborne and David Morrison in an article based on a new book.

The same sort of lies and falsehoods are being uttered about Iran as were told about Saddam Hussein’s weapons of mass destruction ten years ago, and in some cases by the same people.

Iran is being painted in the west as an aggressive power, ruled by irrational mullahs, hell-bent on the acquisition of nuclear weapons, and intent on the destruction of Israel.

If this picture were true, the military threats uttered by Israel, the United States and Britain against the Iranian leadership would indeed be justified. But the picture is more complicated, less menacing and not nearly as one-sided as has been widely portrayed.

Certainly Iran has been guilty of very serious human rights abuses (though certainly no worse than many states, such as Saudi Arabia) which are regarded as western allies. But the central claim that Iran is an aggressive and malevolent power is based – to an astonishing extent – on sheer ignorance.

Let us consider, for example, the widely held belief – frequently repeated as fact by British politicians and in the western media – that Iran has an active nuclear weapons programme.

US intelligence thinks it does not. They have been clear on this point ever since they published a National Intelligence Estimate (a formal assessment expressing the consensus view of the 16 US intelligence agencies) on Iran’s nuclear activities in November 2007.

It stated that ‘We judge with high confidence that in fall 2003, Tehran halted its nuclear weapons program’ adding that ‘We assess with moderate confidence Tehran has not restarted its nuclear weapons program as of mid-2007.’ US intelligence has not changed its view since. Israeli intelligence seems to share this opinion. A year ago, the Israeli Chief of Staff, General Benny Gantz told Haaretz that he did not believe that Iran will decide to develop nuclear weapons. And on his recent visit to Israel, President Obama talked about the close cooperation of US and Israeli intelligence and stated that there was “not a lot of daylight” between their assessments of Iran’s nuclear activities.

Nobody can say with certainty that Iran is not developing nuclear weapons in secret. But it would be very hard for them to do so. This is because the country is a fully signed up member of the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT), has for the most part obediently respected its provisions, and continues to do so today.

This means that Iran’s enrichment facilities are open to inspection by the International Atomic Energy Authority (IAEA), as are its other nuclear facilities. Over many years the IAEA has verified that no nuclear material has been diverted from these facilities for possible military purposes.

Most experts consider that it would be impossible for Iran to produce weapons-grade uranium for a bomb without being spotted by IAEA inspectors.

It is certainly true that the IAEA is currently in dispute with Iran over some of its nuclear activities. But it is not in breach of its NPT commitments, and here the contrast with India and Israel, both allies of the west, is so very striking. Their nuclear facilities are almost entirely closed to international inspections, and Israel is in open defiance of UN security council demands to make them available for inspection.

The unfairness (grotesque from an Iranian point of view) is glaring.

Iran, which has no nuclear weapons, is the object of ferocious economic sanctions and threats of military action. By contrast Israel (with perhaps 400 nuclear bombs and the capacity to deliver them anywhere in the Middle East) is the object of more than $3 billion a year of US military aid.

These basic facts about Iran’s nuclear activities are (if you search for them) in the public domain. Yet the British media and political class rarely mentions any of them. As a result, almost all of our public discourse on the Iranian nuclear issue is misleading, and much of it completely false.

Here are just a few examples. Last year the BBC’s flagship Ten O’Clock News began a report with the statement that ‘Iran has announced new developments in its nuclear weapons programme.’ This report simply took it for granted that Iran possessed a nuclear weapons programme.

One Times report wrote of ‘Tehran’s atomic weaponry’, while the Economist casually referred to ‘Iran’s nukes’. The fact that respected, sceptical and authoritative publications talk of Iran as if it already possesses nuclear weapons highlights the extent to which Iran’s presumed guilt is embedded in British (and of course American) public discourse.

British politicians fuel the myth. Last year Defence Secretary Philip Hammond spoke of how Iran is believed to be working ‘flat out’ to build nuclear weapons. while Foreign Secretary William Hague told The Daily Telegraph last year that Iran was ‘clearly continuing their nuclear weapons programme.’ Remarks like this from cabinet ministers add weight to the powerful narrative that Iran’s nuclear ambitions must be curbed, enhancing the case for ever harsher economic sanctions and, if that fails to do the job, for military actions. Meanwhile the mainstream media is behaving as it did in the run-up to the invasion of Iraq in 2003 when, instead of questioning every aspect of the case for military action, it became the cheerleader for war.

This brings us to the biggest falsehood of all – the claim that Iran is defiantly refusing to engage reasonably with the west. If anything the opposite is the truth. More than once, the Iranians have shown themselves ready to negotiate.

They did so in the immediate aftermath of the 9/11 atrocities, which was met with candlelit vigils in Tehran and denunciations by senior clerics. Iran provided intelligence briefings and help in the war against the Taliban, even going so far as far as to offer to rescue US pilots shot down over Iranian territory. According to James Dobbins, the diplomat who led the US delegation in the negotiations leading up to the 2001 Bonn agreement on Afghanistan, ‘in 2002 and again in 2003 Washington actually spurned offers from Tehran to cooperate on Afghanistan and Iraq and negotiate out other US/Iranian differences, including over its nuclear programme.’ In 2005 Iran floated another deal at a meeting with a European negotiating team at the Quai d’Orsay. It offered to open up all its nuclear facilities to intrusive international inspection, along with a series of other concessions, so long as the west recognised its right to enrich uranium for peaceful purposes, a right to which it is entitled as a signatory of the NPT. This deal was (say foreign office sources) killed off by Tony Blair, acting on behalf of George W Bush.

A deal along the these lines could be struck today. But it would require America and the west to stop treating Iran as a pariah state, and instead as a proud, independent nation with legitimate regional interests.

If we fail to take this course of action, the consequences look bleak.

Within months the world could be plunged into a new round of war and bloodshed, with the added risk of global economic collapse. Such an outcome would not just be terrible. It is wholly unnecessary.


Planet Earth

Giant mountains discovered inside the Earth

Studying the boundary between the Earth’s core and mantle, geophysicists have found that it is not as smooth as previously thought. Surfaces separating the inner layers also have a complex relief. It turns out that our planet is not at all like a set of spheres nested into each other, as is customary to portray it.

Reading the waves. Earth’s crust

The deep bowels of geophysics are judged by seismic waves generated by earthquakes. There are longitudinal P-waves – when elastic mechanical vibrations occur along the propagation direction and transverse S-waves – the vibrations in them are perpendicular.At the boundary of layers with different densities, the wave velocity changes dramatically. In the transition from a solid crust to a more plastic upper mantle, it increases. This border is called the surface of Mokhorovichich. The lower mantle is harder than the upper. The outer core, in which transverse seismic waves do not propagate, is liquid, and the inner core is again solid, but slightly plastic.

While the network of seismographs was rare, the sections between the inner shells with a certain degree of conventionality were depicted as spheres. As the data accumulated, it became clear that each of these boundaries is a complex surface with its relief and internal “mountains” even higher than on the Earth’s surface, and the “troughs” are deeper. From the top of Everest to the bottom of the Mariana Trench about 20 kilometers, and, for example, the differences of the border of Mokhorovichich, dividing the crust and upper mantle, reach 40 kilometers. And all this at a depth of five to 70 kilometers.

This was proved by scientists from China and the United States . They analyzed the results of observations of hundreds of seismic stations obtained from the same events: the earthquakes in Bolivia of 1994 and the Sea of ​​Okhotsk in 2008 and 2012, as well as archival records of seismographs of the National Center for Information on Earthquakes of the US Geological Survey.

The authors of the study found that for the boundary between the upper and lower mantle, located at a depth of about 660-670 kilometers, the data of the various stations almost completely coincide. That is, she has a stable relief, which she even managed to map. Signal processing of the Bolivian earthquake made it possible to literally create a “topographic map” of the surface of the lower mantle for an entire region in Southeast Asia .

The most dynamic area. Mantle and core

When talking about the dynamics of the Earth, they usually mean large-scale surface processes associated with the movement of lithospheric plates. In the zones of mid-ocean ridges and rifts, the lithosphere moves apart, and in subduction zones on the outskirts of the continents, oceanic plates sink under the continental.

But no less dynamic processes and surface movements occur inside the Earth – only their reflection. First of all, we are talking about mantle convection, which arises due to the temperature difference in the bowels and on the surface of the planet. 

Upward flows of convection cells stretch the lithosphere, downward flows drag it into the mantle. Moreover, in the upper parts of the cells, the substance flows in a horizontal plane and these flows cause lithospheric plates to move.The most dynamic region of the Earth is located on the border of the core and mantle, at a depth of about 2900 kilometers.

It is believed that its heterogeneity affects many geological processes, in particular, the oscillation of the axis of rotation of the Earth and the characteristics of the geomagnetic field. In addition, convection itself is a consequence of what happens in the D ”layer at the boundary with the core.On its surface, scientists discovered arrays of unusually dense, hot rocks – zones of abnormally low seismic wave velocities (ULVZ – Ultra-low velocity zones). They stretch for hundreds of kilometers, and their “height” – tens of kilometers.Above them are hot spots with volcanoes: Hawaiian, Marquesas, Galapagos Islands and the Samoa archipelago in the Pacific Ocean, Canary Islands and Azores , Iceland in the Atlantic, Kerguelen archipelago in the Indian, Afar volcanism zone in the Great African Rift.

Using the new machine learning algorithm, American scientists at Johns Hopkins University and the University of Maryland at College Park together with their Israeli colleagues from Tel Aviv University performed a parallel analysis of seven thousand seismograms covering hundreds of earthquakes from 1990 to 2018, and for the first time compiled a detailed section map the core and mantle of the Pacific region, on which all ULVZ zones were applied.It turned out that ULVZ are only separate protrusions within the larger, low-shear-velocity provinces (LLSVP) provinces, which are also called superplumes. Their branches penetrate up into the mantle for thousands of kilometers. Now scientists distinguish two such provinces – African and Pacific.

Superplumes (provinces with a low shear rate) at the boundary of the core and mantle look like they look from the North (a) and South (b) poles. The center shows the core of the Earth with the projection onto it of the contours of the continents; outer contour - conditional border of the lower mantle
© Sanne Cottaar, Vedran Lekic / Geophysical Journal International, 2016Superplumes (provinces with a low shear rate) at the boundary of the core and mantle look like they look from the North (a) and South (b) poles. The center shows the core of the Earth with the projection onto it of the contours of the continents; outer contour – conditional border of the lower mantle

The circulation of matter in the mantle

Australian scientists from the University of Curtin suggested that the periods when all the land of the Earth united into single supercontinents – Pangea, Rodinia, Colombia and others, coincided with activity in the deep LLSVP provinces. They built a dynamic model linking the evolution of superplumes to the assembly and decay of supercontinent. According to this model, LLSVP arrays are formed from lithospheric plates, which, as it turned out, sinking, does not dissolve in the mantle, as previously thought, but descend to the very boundary of the core. Here they melt, and giant drops of preheated matter – mantle plumes – coming off from LLSVP, float to the surface, giving rise to a new geodynamic cycle. The lithosphere rises above the plumes, forming a dome, and then cracks and diverges.

Inside the core

Researchers from the US and China have analyzed how seismic waves passing through the boundary between the outer and inner core change. For this, we used signals from doublets – repeated earthquakes with the same epicenter.

It turned out that these changes have a certain periodicity, which can be explained by two mechanisms: either the inner core rotates by about 0.05-0.1 degrees per year, or high “mountains” and deep “canyons” appear on its surface. So, a dynamically changing relief can also be at the deepest boundary between the earth’s shells.

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Planet Earth

The Earth’s magnetic field has been quiet lately. Until now!

The Earth’s magnetic field has been quiet lately. Very quiet. The sun is in a deep minimum of activity, which may be the deepest solar minimum in a century. 

Geomagnetic storms simply do not exist. But on June 23, something unusual was recorded. The Earth’s magnetic field swung back and forth by about 1/3 of a degree.

“That’s why I was so surprised on June 23 when my instruments detected a magnetic anomaly,” said Stuart Green, who works with a research-class magnetometer in his home in Preston, UK. 

“For more than 30 minutes, the local magnetic field oscillated like a sine wave.”

Green quickly checked the solar wind data from the NOAA DSCOVR satellite. 

“There was nothing – no surge in solar wind speed or other factors that could explain this disturbance,” he says.

He was not the only one to notice this. In the Lofoten Islands of Norway, Rob Stams found a similar anomaly on his magnetometer. 

“It was amazing,” says Stams. “Our magnetic field swung back and forth by about 1/3 of a degree.” I also discovered ground currents with the same 10 minute period.”

Space physicists call this phenomenon “pulsation.” Imagine that you are blowing on a piece of paper, making it flutter from your breath. Solar wind can have a similar effect on magnetic fields. During the extreme silence of the solar minimum, such waves can be “heard” like a pin falling in a quiet room.

The Earth’s magnetic field was so quiet on June 23 that this ripple was heard all over the world. The INTERMAGNET global network of magnetic observatories recorded wave activity simultaneously from Hawaii to China and the Arctic Circle and even in Antarctica.

PC waves are classified into 5 types depending on their period. The 10-minute wave June 23 falls into the Pc5 category. Slow Pc5 waves were associated with the loss of particles from Van Allen’s radiation belts. Energy electrons beat these waves down into the Earth’s atmosphere, where they scatter.

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Planet Earth

A rare deep-sea fish caught in the net near the island of Imizu, Japan

When Taku Suganuma pulled his fishing net off the coast of Imizu, he caught a catch he had never seen before. The strange fish had an unusual head and a silver body one meter long.

Suganuma, 24, caught fish on a Shintokumaru fishing boat, which sailed from Imizu when the squid fishing season was drawing to a close.

At first, he thought it was the Lowseil river fish, which is often caught on the net this season. However, a younger colleague, who knows about the species of fish, said that it could be a deep-sea North Pacific cuttlefish, aka a unicorn.

Suganuma decided to give the fish to the Wozu aquarium because of its rarity. North Pacific cuttlefish was delivered to a fishing vessel in Toyama Bay off the coast of Imizu.

According to records stored in the aquarium, North Pacific cuttlefish fish have not been seen in Toyama Prefecture for more than 30 years since one of them was found ashore at the mouth of the Katakaigawa River in Ouza in 1988. However, eight of the unicorns were either caught or hit the net from February to April last year.

The North Pacific cuttlefish is characterized by a red dorsal fin and releases black ink from its anus in response to danger.

It is believed that the fish lives in the intermediate layer at depths of 200 to 1000 meters from the coast, but details about its life remain unknown, because it is rarely caught.

Samples usually die quickly due to differences in water temperature and other factors when they are brought to the surface. Only one of the eight fish taken to the aquarium survived for about an hour.

It released a large amount of ink several times as it sailed in a large tank containing 16 tons of sea water, instantly limiting visibility to only 10 centimeters in advance.

Tomoharu Kimura, the owner of the aquarium, said the white flesh of the fish crunches like a flounder when served as sashimi, while it has a soft and simple taste.

A close look at the contents of its stomach gave a hint of life and the ecosystem of the North Pacific cuttlefish fish, as well as a threat to marine life: plastic waste.

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