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Brace Yourselves for the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

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Brace Yourselves, New Yorkers, You’re Due for a Major Quake

A couple of hundred thousand years ago, an M 7.2 earthquake shook what is now New Hampshire. Just a few thousand years ago, an M 7.5 quake ruptured just off the coast of Massachusetts. And then there’s New York.

Since the first western settlers arrived there, the state has witnessed 200 quakes of magnitude 2.0 or greater, making it the third most seismically active state east of the Mississippi (Tennessee and South Carolina are ranked numbers one and two, respectively). About once a century, New York has also experienced an M 5.0 quake capable of doing real damage.

The most recent one near New York City occurred in August of 1884. Centered off Long Island’s Rockaway Beach, it was felt over 70,000 square miles. It also opened enormous crevices near the Brooklyn reservoir and knocked down chimneys and cracked walls in Pennsylvania and Connecticut. Police on the Brooklyn Bridge said it swayed “as if struck by a hurricane” and worried the bridge’s towers would collapse. Meanwhile, residents throughout New York and New Jersey reported sounds that varied from explosions to loud rumblings, sometimes to comic effect. At the funeral of Lewis Ingler, a small group of mourners were watching as the priest began to pray. The quake cracked an enormous mirror behind the casket and knocked off a display of flowers that had been resting on top of it. When it began to shake the casket’s silver handles, the mourners decided the unholy return of Lewis Ingler was more than they could take and began flinging themselves out windows and doors.

Not all stories were so light. Two people died during the quake, both allegedly of fright. Out at sea, the captain of the brig Alice felt a heavy lurch that threw him and his crew, followed by a shaking that lasted nearly a minute. He was certain he had hit a wreck and was taking on water.

A day after the quake, the editors of The New York Times sought to allay readers’ fear. The quake, they said, was an unexpected fluke never to be repeated and not worth anyone’s attention: “History and the researches of scientific men indicate that great seismic disturbances occur only within geographical limits that are now well defined,” they wrote in an editorial. “The northeastern portion of the United States . . . is not within those limits.” The editors then went on to scoff at the histrionics displayed by New York residents when confronted by the quake: “They do not stop to reason or to recall the fact that earthquakes here are harmless phenomena. They only know that the solid earth, to whose immovability they have always turned with confidence when everything else seemed transitory, uncertain, and deceptive, is trembling and in motion, and the tremor ceases long before their disturbed minds become tranquil.”
That’s the kind of thing that drives Columbia’s Heather Savage nuts.

New York, she says, is positively vivisected by faults. Most of them fall into two groups—those running northeast and those running northwest. Combined they create a brittle grid underlying much of Manhattan.

Across town, Charles Merguerian has been studying these faults the old‐fashioned way: by getting down and dirty underground. He’s spent the past forty years sloshing through some of the city’s muckiest places: basements and foundations, sewers and tunnels, sometimes as deep as 750 feet belowground. His tools down there consist primarily of a pair of muck boots, a bright blue hard hat, and a pickax. In public presentations, he claims he is also ably abetted by an assistant hamster named Hammie, who maintains his own website, which includes, among other things, photos of the rodent taking down Godzilla.

That’s just one example why, if you were going to cast a sitcom starring two geophysicists, you’d want Savage and Merguerian to play the leading roles. Merguerian is as eccentric and flamboyant as Savage is earnest and understated. In his press materials, the former promises to arrive at lectures “fully clothed.” Photos of his “lab” depict a dingy porta‐john in an abandoned subway tunnel. He actively maintains an archive of vintage Chinese fireworks labels at least as extensive as his list of publications, and his professional website includes a discography of blues tunes particularly suitable for earthquakes. He calls female science writers “sweetheart” and somehow manages to do so in a way that kind of makes them like it (although they remain nevertheless somewhat embarrassed to admit it).

It’s Merguerian’s boots‐on‐the‐ground approach that has provided much of the information we need to understand just what’s going on underneath Gotham. By his count, Merguerian has walked the entire island of Manhattan: every street, every alley. He’s been in most of the tunnels there, too. His favorite one by far is the newest water tunnel in western Queens. Over the course of 150 days, Merguerian mapped all five miles of it. And that mapping has done much to inform what we know about seismicity in New York.

Most importantly, he says, it provided the first definitive proof of just how many faults really lie below the surface there. And as the city continues to excavate its subterranean limits, Merguerian is committed to following closely behind. It’s a messy business.

Down below the city, Merguerian encounters muck of every flavor and variety. He power‐washes what he can and relies upon a diver’s halogen flashlight and a digital camera with a very, very good flash to make up the difference. And through this process, Merguerian has found thousands of faults, some of which were big enough to alter the course of the Bronx River after the last ice age.
His is a tricky kind of detective work. The center of a fault is primarily pulverized rock. For these New York faults, that gouge was the very first thing to be swept away by passing glaciers. To do his work, then, he’s primarily looking for what geologists call “offsets”—places where the types of rock don’t line up with one another. That kind of irregularity shows signs of movement over time—clear evidence of a fault.

Merguerian has found a lot of them underneath New York City.

These faults, he says, do a lot to explain the geological history of Manhattan and the surrounding area. They were created millions of years ago, when what is now the East Coast was the site of a violent subduction zone not unlike those present now in the Pacific’s Ring of Fire.

Each time that occurred, the land currently known as the Mid‐Atlantic underwent an accordion effect as it was violently folded into itself again and again. The process created immense mountains that have eroded over time and been further scoured by glaciers. What remains is a hodgepodge of geological conditions ranging from solid bedrock to glacial till to brittle rock still bearing the cracks of the collision. And, says Merguerian, any one of them could cause an earthquake.

You don’t have to follow him belowground to find these fractures. Even with all the development in our most built‐up metropolis, evidence of these faults can be found everywhere—from 42nd Street to Greenwich Village. But if you want the starkest example of all, hop the 1 train at Times Square and head uptown to Harlem. Not far from where the Columbia University bus collects people for the trip to the Lamont‐Doherty Earth Observatory, the subway tracks seem to pop out of the ground onto a trestle bridge before dropping back down to earth. That, however, is just an illusion. What actually happens there is that the ground drops out below the train at the site of one of New York’s largest faults. It’s known by geologists in the region as the Manhattanville or 125th Street Fault, and it runs all the way across the top of Central Park and, eventually, underneath Long Island City. Geologists have known about the fault since 1939, when the city undertook a massive subway mapping project, but it wasn’t until recently that they confirmed its potential for a significant quake.

In our lifetimes, a series of small earthquakes have been recorded on the Manhattanville Fault including, most recently, one on October 27, 2001. Its epicenter was located around 55th and 8th—directly beneath the original Original Soupman restaurant, owned by restaurateur Ali Yeganeh, the inspiration for Seinfeld’s Soup Nazi. That fact delighted sitcom fans across the country, though few Manhattanites were in any mood to appreciate it.

The October 2001 quake itself was small—about M 2.6—but the effect on residents there was significant. Just six weeks prior, the city had been rocked by the 9/11 terrorist attacks that brought down the World Trade Center towers. The team at Lamont‐Doherty has maintained a seismic network in the region since the ’70s. They registered the collapse of the first tower at M 2.1. Half an hour later, the second tower crumbled with even more force and registered M 2.3. In a city still shocked by that catastrophe, the early‐morning October quake—several times greater than the collapse of either tower—jolted millions of residents awake with both reminders of the tragedy and fear of yet another attack. 9‐1‐1 calls overwhelmed dispatchers and first responders with reports of shaking buildings and questions about safety in the city. For seismologists, though, that little quake was less about foreign threats to our soil and more about the possibility of larger tremors to come.

Remember: The Big Apple has experienced an M 5.0 quake about every hundred years. The last one was that 1884 event. And that, says Merguerian, means the city is overdue. Just how overdue?

“Gee whiz!” He laughs when I pose this question. “That’s the holy grail of seismicity, isn’t it?”

He says all we can do to answer that question is “take the pulse of what’s gone on in recorded history.” To really have an answer, we’d need to have about ten times as much data as we do today. But from what he’s seen, the faults below New York are very much alive.

“These guys are loaded,” he tells me.

He says he is also concerned about new studies of a previously unknown fault zone known as the Ramapo that runs not far from the city. Savage shares his concerns. They both think it’s capable of an M 6.0 quake or even higher—maybe even a 7.0. If and when, though, is really anybody’s guess.

“We literally have no idea what’s happening in our backyard,” says Savage.

What we do know is that these quakes have the potential to do more damage than similar ones out West, mostly because they are occurring on far harder rock capable of propagating waves much farther. And because these quakes occur in places with higher population densities, these eastern events can affect a lot more people. Take the 2011 Virginia quake: Although it was only a moderate one, more Americans felt it than any other one in our nation’s history.

That’s the thing about the East Coast: Its earthquake hazard may be lower than that of the West Coast, but the total effect of any given quake is much higher. Disaster specialists talk about this in terms of risk, and they make sense of it with an equation that multiplies the potential hazard of an event by the cost of damage and the number of people harmed. When you take all of those factors into account, the earthquake risk in New York is much greater than, say, that in Alaska or Hawaii or even a lot of the area around the San Andreas Fault.

Merguerian has been sounding the alarm about earthquake risk in the city since the ’90s. He admits he hasn’t gotten much of a response. He says that when he first proposed the idea of seismic risk in New York City, his fellow scientists “booed and threw vegetables” at him. He volunteered his services to the city’s Office of Emergency Management but says his original offer also fell on deaf ears.

“So I backed away gently and went back to academia.”

Today, he says, the city isn’t much more responsive, but he’s getting a much better response from his peers.

He’s glad for that, he says, but it’s not enough. If anything, the events of 9/11, along with the devastation caused in 2012 by Superstorm Sandy, should tell us just how bad it could be there.

He and Savage agree that what makes the risk most troubling is just how little we know about it. When it comes right down to it, intraplate faults are the least understood. Some scientists think they might be caused by mantle flow deep below the earth’s crust. Others think they might be related to gravitational energy. Still others think quakes occurring there might be caused by the force of the Atlantic ridge as it pushes outward. Then again, it could be because the land is springing back after being compressed thousands of years ago by glaciers (a phenomenon geologists refer to as seismic rebound).

“We just have no consciousness towards earthquakes in the eastern United States,” says Merguerian. “And that’s a big mistake.”

Adapted from Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake by Kathryn Miles, published by Dutton, an imprint of Penguin Publishing Group, a division of Penguin Random House, LLC. Copyright © 2017 by Kathryn Miles.

The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Revelation 6:12)

By Simon Worrall

PUBLISHED AUGUST 26, 2017

Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Pakistan conducts another successful nuclear test (Daniel 8 )

Pakistan conducts successful training launch of nuclear-capable ballistic missile

Jan 23, 2020, 04.34 PM IST

BCCL

ISLAMABAD: Pakistan on Thursday conducted a successful training launch of nuclear-capable surface-to-surface ballistic missile ‘Ghaznavi’, which can strike targets up to 290 kilometers.

“The training launch was part of Field Training Exercise of Army Strategic Forces Command aimed at rehearsing operational readiness procedures during day and night,” the Inter-Services Public Relations (ISPR), the media wing of the army, said in a statement.

The ‘Ghaznavi’ missile is capable of delivering multiple types of warheads upto a range of 290 kilometers, the statement said.

The launch was witnessed by Lt Gen Nadeem Zaki Manj, Director General Strategic Plans Division, Commander Army Strategic Forces Command, senior officers from Strategic Plans Division, Army Strategic Forces Command, Scientists and Engineers of the strategic organisations, according to the state-run Radio Pakistan.

“Director General Strategic Plans Division appreciated the operational preparedness of Army Strategic Forces Command for displaying a very high standard of proficiency in handling and operating the weapon system,” the statement said.

He also “expressed full confidence in the robust Strategic Command and Control System and the capability of Strategic Forces”, it added.

Pakistan test-fired ‘Ghaznavi’ on August 29, 2019 also, days after India revoked Jammu and Kashmir’s special status on August 5.

India and Pakistan have been at odds after New Delhi abrogated the provisions of Article 370 of the Constitution to revoke Jammu and Kashmir’s special status and bifurcated it into two union territories.

Pakistan reacted strongly to India’s decision and downgraded bilateral ties and expelled the Indian envoy.

India has categorically told the international community that the scrapping of Article 370 was an internal matter. It has also advised Pakistan to accept the reality and stop all anti-India propaganda.

Antichrist, Shi’ite Militia Leaders Ramp Up Calls For Anti-U.S. March

Muqtada Al-Sadr, Shi’ite Militia Leaders Ramp Up Calls For Anti-U.S. March

On January 23, 2020, Shi’ite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr issued a new statement aimed at mobilizing more people to participate in Friday’s planned one-million-man march to end the presence of U.S. troops in Iraq. Under the title “A Thought,” Al-Sadr’s message asked Iraqi men, women and children to answer “the call of the homeland… the time to reform Iraq’s system and to evict invaders is now… Hasten to support the beloved [homeland], as it is calling to you, and do not renege on your vow.”

Al-Sadr’s tweeted message

The previous day, January 22, Al-Sadr’s spokesman Salah Al-Obaidi told the state-run Al-Iraqyia TV[1] that “the instructions given by Al-Sadr last week regarding his proposed march underline that the participation of militias, including those who targeted the U.S. Embassy, is not wanted.”[2]

On January 23, Saleh Mohammad Al-Iraqi, an affiliate of Al-Sadr, tweeted a poster titled “It has to be a million,” in reference to the number of participants the organizers aim to mobilize.

The tweeted poster.

The previous day, the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), whose leaders had met with Al-Sadr in Qom earlier this month,[3] issued statements and messages to ramp up calls for a unified position against the U.S. presence in Iraq.

On January 22, Qais Al-Khazali, the secretary-general of the PMU group Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq, appeared in a video message in which he called on Iraqis from all religions and sects to join the anti-U.S. demonstration. Referring to the Iraqi parliament’s decision to expel the U.S. forces, he said: “In Iraq, the fighters of the Popular Mobilization Units are the ones who defeated the American terrorist takfiri scheme of ISIS. These same fighters are the now the heroes of the resistance [movement]. They are at the highest levels of readiness should the U.S. continue to reject the political and public decision.”

Al-Khazali in his video message (Source: Youtube.com/watch?v=jipoqYbXS4MYouTube, January 22, 2020)

He further explained that this decision “will be evidenced by the millions who will come out Friday to show the world that the Iraqi youth and resistance are capable of forcing all occupation forces to withdraw.”

The video message signals Al-Khazali’s first media appearance since the funerals of IRGC Qods Force commander Khazali and PMU deputy commander Abu Mahdi Al- Muhandis.

Earlier, on January 22, the Hizbullah Brigades in Iraq issued a statement calling on Sunnis and Shi’ites to join the demonstration.[4] The statement described Friday’s march as “the second 1920 revolution,” referring to a revolt by Iraqi tribes against the British occupation.

The Hizbullah Brigades statement (Source: Kataibhezbollah.com)

“For those whose grandparents did not have the honor of fighting the British occupation in the first revolution of 1920, you have the chance to write your name in letters of gold on this page of the struggle, to be a source of pride for your children and grandchildren and a beacon for future generations,” the statement said.

A statement by the Al-Nujaba Movement in Iraq called on Iraqis to join the march to “reject the powers of the global arrogance” – a term for the U.S. used by the Iranian regime.

The Al-Nujaba statement (Source: Alsumaria.tv)

The statement went on to remind Iraqis: “The Great Satan [the U.S.], with its supporters, want to intimidate you, yet they are weak… The world is awaiting an historic stance from Iraq – a stance that will reject humiliation and honor Iraq and determine its future.”

[1] Nasnews.com, January 22, 2020.

[2] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8496, After Meeting In Iran, Shi’ite Militia Leaders And Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr Call For One Million Man March To End U.S. Military Presence, January 14, 2020.

[3] See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 8491, Commanders Of Shi’ite Militias In Iraq Continue To Threaten U.S. Forces While Seeking To Mend Internal Rifts, January 13, 2020.

[4] Kataibhezbollah.com/news/3063?__cf_chl_jschl_tk__=4c5db14f2d7eb2546a0fd655e0e5de4a334e4165-1579790459-0-AZ3ne2rLXiglxXgVJB2sf895VTyrubetUwakfMGan9bmzAn_bLzitkZ9Jj72jssklxZ_4s3rJpGxznEjsnl4k8YWwcrL4VtRd9snZrVj

136gu_8rLxC_SZ14u5InwCGD5LfCRi_0Ak6Pj-hFDqo6Cgdexc2DU8GtNkBFVuo3gOoUzg8sk2NtPmA4kQ-I6tjLwZzbSP-D2Mog0Ys1XuD3QSzLSzOthJJX20MIN3r4KeVN2ltOwEorh4uka2ZCj_g18Yra1Q0THKyRAyrY7pvmvH8,January 22, 2020.

IDF Eliminates Three Palestinian Teenagers Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

WATCH IT: IDF Eliminates Three Palestinian Teenage Terrorists Who Infiltrated From Gaza

January 22, 2020 11:30 am

IDF soldiers spotted three suspects on Tuesday night who had crossed the Gaza border fence and entered Israel near Kibbutz Kissufim. The soldiers immediately surrounded the area and began searching for the suspects who began throwing grenades at them. The soldiers opened fire and killed the terrorists.q

Following the incident, IDF forces carried out extensive searches of the area, including the use of aerial surveillance, to ensure that no other active terrorists were in the area.

The incident follows numerous incidents of terror balloons launched from the Gaza Strip into Israel in the past week as well as four mortar shells that were reportedly launched by Islamic Jihad last Wednesday.

The IDF announced on Wednesday afternoon that the three Palestinian teenagers who were shot dead after they crossed the Gaza border fence into Israel were planning to carry out a terror attack.

(YWN Israel Desk – Jerusalem)

Europe is Sleep-Walking Into A Nuclear Disaster With Iran

Flags of Iran and European Union. Photo Credit: Tasnim News Agency

Is Europe Sleep-Walking Into A Diplomatic Disaster With Iran? – Analysis

Dan SteinbockJanuary 22, 2020

Iran charges Brussels for serving US interests in the Middle East. The accusations are the net effect of Europe’s failure to protect the nuclear deal, amid Trump’s auto tariff threat. US credibility in the region has plunged. Brussels should avoid following in the footprints.

During remarks at a GOP fundraising event on the weekend, President Trump bragged he assassinated “two for the price of one.” The reference was to the January 3 drone assassination of Iran’s top commander, Major General Qasem Soleiman, and the Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

In turn, Iran’s Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif says Europeans “sold out” the nuclear deal under Trump’s auto tariff threat. Unfortunately, Zarif has a point.

Decades of foreign interventions

Iran’s struggle for existential survival intensified in the early 1950s, when the country’s democratically-elected liberal prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown in a coup by US and British secret services. Mossadegh wanted to use Iran’s oil for country’s economic development, whereas Washington and London wanted to control oil and geopolitics in the region.

What followed was quarter of a century of Shah’s “modernization,” which benefited the royal family, its brutal security apparatus Savak, a circle of oligarchs, and a small urban middle class, but not the overwhelming majority of Iranian people.

The economic polarization and brutal terror led to the Shah’s escape and the Islamic Revolution in 1979. In an effort to weaken Iran and replace its leadership, the West supported Saddam Hussein’s Iraq in the subsequent Iran-Iraq War that cost Iran an estimated $627 billion and Iraq more than $560 billion, respectively. Some 500,000 Iraqi and Iranian soldiers lost their lives, in addition to tens of thousands of civilians.

That paved way to the Persian Gulf War in the early ‘90s, and the misdirected Iraq War in the early 2000s. Meanwhile, several rounds of economic sanctions, which devastated Iran’s economy, were enacted by Washington and its allies against Tehran between 1979 and 2015.

After years of diplomacy, a comprehensive nuclear accord (JCPOA, July 2015) was achieved between Iran and the five permanent members of the UN Security Council -China, France, Russia, UK, and the US – plus Germany and the European Union (EU). Under the deal, Iran agreed to eliminate its stockpile of medium-enriched uranium. In return, it finally got relief from US, UN and multilateral sanctions.

After stabilization, Iran’s oil exports returned to pre-sanctions levels, boosting 7% growth in 2016. Broadening to the non-oil sector, real GDP growth was projected to rise toward 4.5% over the medium-term.

But then came the Trump U-turn. In May 2018, the White House had the US withdraw from the JCPOA deal setting an illicit precedent. Brussels was shocked, but the White House’s actions did not come out of the blue.

How JCPOA and EU firms in Iran were undermined

Before the US exit from the JCPOA, EU leaders still stressed the importance of the full implementation of the nuclear deal. As the Trump administration began its exit, French President Emmanuel Macron warned that “the nuclear non-proliferation regime is at stake.” Germany’s Foreign Minister Heiko Maas argued that the JCPOA “makes the world safer.” UK Foreign Minister Boris Johnson pledged the “UK remains strongly committed to the JCPOA.” And the top EU diplomat Federica Mogherini promised the EU will remain committed to the deal.

But as the Trump administration proved unlikely to change its stance, a subtle shift ensued. Now Macron said that “we will work collectively on a broader framework, covering nuclear activity, the post-2025 period, ballistic activity, and stability in the Middle East, notably Syria, Yemen and Iraq.” The idea became to “redefine” the EU approach by leaving the JCPOA intact, but coupling the deal with new and broader conditions, which would undermine the deal, however.

Brussels hoped to reason with the Democratic Congress but that proved naive. After the 2016 US election, it was the Congress with its Democratic majority – not Trump – that paved the way for a U-turn. Following the House of Representatives, the Senate unanimously extended the Iran Sanctions Act for a decade. President Obama’s legacy deal was shot down fast as most Democrats reversed their Iran stances.

To neutralize European opposition, the Trump administration targeted European businesses that had done business in and with Iran since the Iran deal. It also pledged to extend sanctions over to companies that represented other JCPOA parties – China, France, Russia, UK, Germany and the EU – thus raising risks to their US access. As Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin put it at the time, European-Iran business agreements will be voided as “the existing licenses will be revoked.”

Along with Renault, PSA Peugeot Citroen and Sanofi, French companies had huge stakes in the Iran deal, thanks to the Airbus contract to provide Iran Air 100 airplanes for $21 billion and the oil giant Total’s $2 billion deal to develop the South Pars oil field. Some 120 German companies, including Volkswagen and Siemens, operated in Iran and another 10,000 did business with Iran. Royal Dutch Shell discovered it, too, would be adversely affected. In particular, economic pressure threatened Iran’s largest oil importers, such as China, South Korea, Turkey, Japan, Italy and India.

US pressure outweighed efforts to sustain European credibility.  

JCPOA under the Trump attack

Russia and China were expected to stay behind the Iran nuclear deal. The real question was whether the EU Big Three – Germany, France, the UK – would defend it. In January 2019, after lingering talks, the three did create INSTEX, a special mechanism to salvage the JCPOA by helping EU companies do business with Iran and facilitate non-dollar transactions to bypass and avoid breaking US sanctions.

In late 2019, six European countries -both neutral states, such as Finland and Sweden, and NATO countries like Belgium, Denmark, Netherlands, and Norway -joined the INSTEX attaching “the utmost importance to the preservation and full implementation of the JCPOA by all parties involved.” In Brussels, the chatter was that other European countries had expressed interest in joining the mechanism.

However, Brussels urged Iran to return to full compliance with the terms of the JCPOA. It also expressed readiness to consider the JCPOA’s dispute resolution clause, which allows previous UN sanctions to be re-imposed on Iran without a vote in the UN Security Council (to neutralize opposition by Russia and China).

Iran and its supporters argued the trigger mechanism was illegal as long as Europe failed to fulfill its obligations under the nuclear deal. Yet, while European powers pledged to continue to trade with and in Iran, large corporations began to exit the country. More recently, from January to the end of October 2019, the volume of trade between the EU and Iran has plunged 75% year-on year. In the period, European exports to Iran fell by 53% compared with the same period in 2018, while Iranian exports to Europe slumped by 94%.

Worse, there have been reportedly “no transactions” through the INSTEX so far. And as Washington is effectively threatening to sanction anyone using the mechanism, Brussels is not seen to defend the JCPOA. That’s why Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has expressed mistrust of European powers charging them for acting as if they are “lowly and US servants.”

Khameini is pushing Iran to rely more on its domestic capacities and to look to the East to defend its economy.

Toward diplomatic disaster

Iran has proved right about Trump’s trade threat to Europe over Iran policy. In mid-January, German defense minister Annegret Kramp-Karrenbauer was asked about an article in the Washington Post that claimed Trump had secretly warned France, Germany and the UK the US would impose a “25% tariffs on European cars” if the EU Big Three did not activate the JCPOA’s dispute mechanism.

The net effect is a huge double standard that now threatens to erode Europe’s credibility as a presumably independent international actor. Compliance with the Trump tariffs will only encourage more misguided trade policies.

Reportedly, the Trump assassination of Soleimani had nothing to do with the alleged “imminent attacks.” Rather, according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, Soleimani was on a peace mission. Abdul-Mahdi was to meet the Iranian commander to discuss a diplomatic rapprochement Iraq was brokering between Iran and Saudi Arabia.

Such de-escalation would have been very much in line with European hopes in the region, whereas the US reportedly has its own long-term interests in Iran and Iraq. The two countries hold some of the world’s largest deposits of proved oil and natural gas reserves. Combined, those reserves are bigger than those of Venezuela, which has the world’s largest proved reserves.

Iranians feel strongly that oil and geopolitics are the real reasons for decades of foreign interventions. As the conflict in Libya shows, such efforts tend to result in regime change, institutional fragmentation and proxy wars in which “Europe stands to lose the most,” as Italy’s Foreign Minister Luigi Di Maio recently put it.

As a result of US offensives and EU’s reluctant compliance, the Middle East is coping with the most dangerous escalation in decades. The international implications could prove even worse. If the status quo is permitted to still deteriorate, a global contraction could ensue in the coming months.

The original commentary was published by The European Financial Review on Jan 21, 2020; the print version will follow soon

Babylon the Great Prepares for War

ENC military ‘ready to deploy’ if called upon – News – The Daily News – Jacksonville, NC

Tensions between the United States and several middle eastern countries have teetered since President Trump ordered a missile strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassam Soleimani on Jan. 3.

With some military assignments being rerouted and so much of the future unknown, military members in Eastern North Carolina stand ready to deploy — they are trained on the importance of being ready to deploy on a moment’s notice.

Marines and sailors are constantly engaged in combat and job-specific training, and units make sure their military members and their families are always prepared for deployments, said Lt. Col. Rob Shuford of the II Marine Expeditionary Force, Camp Lejeune.

The unit maintains a high level of readiness at all levels to ensure that we are ready to deploy if called upon,” Shuford said.

Recently, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Trump have taken verbal shots at one another. Khamenei called the U.S. government “villainous” and said if the United States is standing with the Iranian people, “it is only to stab them in the heart with their venomous daggers,” USA Today reported.

Iraq has also requested the removal of American troops from their soil, stating the missile strike was an unacceptable breach of Iraqi sovereignty and violation of security agreements, the Associated Press reported. However, on Friday the U.S. State Department rejected the request and instead asked for Iraq and the United States to talk about how to recommit to their partnership.

In January, Fort Bragg deployed approximately 3,500 paratroopers from the 82nd Airborne Division to the Middle East, the Fayetteville Observer reported, and Camp Lejeune and New River redirected 2,500 Marines to the Mediterranean Sea, according to previous reports by The Daily News.

Shuford said units are constantly training at facilities aboard Camp Lejeune, Marine Corps Air Stations Cherry Point, New River and Beaufort, but training is not limited to these locations only.

Climate training plays a tremendous role in a military member’s readiness to be deployed and the Marine Corps also sends units to various locations around the United States and overseas in order to acclimate themselves, according to Shuford.

Shuford also stressed the importance of sending supplies, like fuel, replacement parts for vehicles and aircraft, along with food and ammunition required for the units to operate.

In addition to supplies that are ready to deploy from Camp Lejeune, Shuford said the U.S. Department of Defense maintains prepositioned equipment and supplies all over the world that can be used when needed.

However, taking care of the homefront is something Shuford explained is a critical part of the military’s overall readiness.

Ultimately, service members and unit leaders are responsible for items such as power of attorney, financial matters, housing for families, etc.; however many units have established liaisons between the families and the commands.

“Aside from unit leadership, many units have assigned Deployment Readiness Coordinators to help address any challenges that families may have preparing for a deployment, or to help during a deployment,” said Shuford.

More Headlines

N.C. Gov. Roy Cooper recently shared a long list of state government support resources for military members and their families in light of the recent deployments.

The list includes tax assistance with deadline extensions and combat zone pay provided at NCDOR.gov; rental and leasing resources like the Servicememebers Relief Act and the N.C. Servicesmembers Civil Relief Act, which provides protection for service men and women and their families, including determining eligibility for lease termination or eviction protection at NCDOJ.gov; and behavioral health services provided through the Department of Health and Human Services. To view the full list of available services visit Governor.NC.gov.

“Our brave servicemembers work tirelessly to keep us safe, and they should be able to carry out their service without worrying about loved ones back home,” Cooper is quoted as saying in the recent release. “It is important that we provide resources to servicemen and women and their families to ensure that a sudden deployment does not put them at financial or other risk.”

ENC and its residents are no strangers to the challenges they would face if the military deployed a large number of military members.

“A major deployment would mean a ghost town for the residents living here in Jacksonville,” said retired Naval Petty Officer 2nd Class Erica Nightingale, who served in the U.S. Navy for 10 years.

The area would see the effect not only in the number of military men and women being sent elsewhere, but also with their families. Nightingale said some spouses and families members choose to go home to their own families to seek help while their loved one is deployed.

However, some families choose to stay, or must stay due to the lives they’ve built in ENC.

Victoria Johnson, whose husband is stationed at MCAS Cherry Point and has been through three major deployments, said she wouldn’t move back home.

“Normally, it’s a younger couple going through their first deployment that chooses to go back home because they haven’t built that support system, however the ones that have several deployments under their belts are the ones that stay put,” she said.

Factors such as buying a house, older children, pets, and friends are some of the reasons why Johnson continues her life in ENC during deployment.

Johnson added that in some cases, like her own, she didn’t have that support system back home and it is easier not to drop everything and leave, along with not wanting to constantly move her family during every deployment.

In terms of setting up their affairs, Johnson took advantage of the Readiness Coordinators to ensure her family was set up before deployment with a general power of attorney, along with making sure her family IDs were up to date and house maintenance was taken care of.

Johnson stressed that the biggest assurance was that her family had the address of where her husband was deploying in order to send mail and care packages.

Babylon the Great Meets with the Iraqi Horn (Daniel)

Trump meets Iraqi counterpart, first since Soleimani strike

By SAMYA KULLAB and DARLENE SUPERVILLE

BAGHDAD (AP) — U.S. President Donald Trump hinted that sanctions on Iraq were still a possibility in a bilateral meeting with Iraq’s president Wednesday, the first since a U.S. drone strike on Iraqi soil killed a top Iranian general, straining Washington-Baghdad ties.

Iraq’s President Barham Saleh met with Trump on the sidelines of the annual World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland amid threats from Iran-backed militia groups promising to exact revenge should he sit down with the American president.

It was the first high-level meeting since the Jan. 3 U.S. drone strike that killed Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and senior Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis near Baghdad’s airport. The attack provoked the ire of Iraqi officials across the political spectrum and lead to the passing of a non-binding resolution to oust U.S. troops from Iraq.

In response, Trump threatened sanctions in Iraq, which would have profound and devastating effects on the country’s economy if realized.

Trump said Washington and Baghdad have had “a very good relationship” and that the two countries had a “host of very difficult things to discuss,” in remarks to reporters.

Asked whether the administration was still considering slapping sanctions on Iraq, Trump said: “We’ll see what happens because we have to do things on our terms.”

Saleh interjected here, saying the two countries shared common interests including the fight against extremism, regional stability and an independent Iraq.

“And we’re also involved with them in their oil business, and that’s always been very important from their standpoint and from our standpoint. So we have a lot of very positive things to talk about,” said Trump.

Asked whether there was a plan for U.S. troops to remain in Iraq, Trump said: “We’re down to 5,000. So we’re down to a very low number — historically low. And we’ll see what happens.”

There are approximately 5,200 U.S. troops in Iraq advising and assisting Iraqi security forces in the fight against the Islamic State group.

The bilateral meeting came amid threats from Iraqi militia group Kataeb Hezbollah, backed by Iran, which warned Saleh to avoid meeting Trump or not to return to Baghdad, in statements posted online. The same group threatened lawmakers from voting against the resolution to oust U.S. troops.

A march organized by supporters of influential Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in favor of pushing out American troops was set for Friday in Baghdad. It has the backing of both Hadi al-Ameri, head of the parliamentary Fatah bloc, as well as Iran-backed militia leader Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib al-Haq. Al-Sadr’s party won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s 2018 federal election.

In statements published on YouTube, Khazali said “2020 is the year of ending the U.S. occupation.”

___

Superville reported from Davos, Switzerland. Associated Press writer Qassem Abdul-Zahra contributed from Baghdad.

Americans Know What’s Coming (Revelation 16)

Americans perceive likelihood of nuclear weapons risk as 50/50 tossup

January 22, 2020 , Stevens Institute of Technology

It has been 30 years since the end of the Cold War, yet, on average, Americans still perceive that the odds of a nuclear weapon detonating on U.S. soil is as likely as a coin toss, according to new research from Stevens Institute of Technology.

“That’s exceptionally high,” said Kristyn Karl, a political scientist at Stevens who co-led the work with psychologist Ashley Lytle. “People don’t generally believe that highly rare events are slightly less likely than a 50/50 tossup.”

The finding, reported in the January 2020 issue of International Journal of Communication, represents the end of a decades long gap in the research literature on Americans’ perceptions on nuclear weapons threat. It also provides an initial look at how younger generations, namely Millennials and Gen Z (18-37 years old), think about the topic and what influences their behavior in an era of evolving nuclear threat.

Using their combined expertise in political science and psychology, Karl and Lytle fielded two nationally diverse online surveys totaling more than 3,500 Americans to measure individual characteristics and attitudes, such as perceptions of nuclear risk, apathy toward nuclear topics, media use, and interest in following current events.

They also analyzed how these characteristics and attitudes such as perceptions of nuclear risk influence behaviors, including the likelihood of seeking information and initiating conversations about nuclear topics, as well as preparing emergency kits in the event that the worst were to happen.

The ultimate goal of the work, which is part of the larger Reinventing Civil Defense project supported by the Carnegie Corporation of New York, is to learn more about how to best develop new communication tools to increase awareness among Americans about topics related to nuclear weapons, particularly what to do in the event of a nuclear detonation.

“The overarching narrative from the Reinventing Civil Defense project is that younger Americans just don’t hear anything about nuclear weapons risk,” said Karl. “Unlike older Americans, Millennials and Gen Z didn’t grow up during the Cold War, so what they know about nuclear risk is what’s in the media, and what’s in the media isn’t necessarily reflective of the true state of affairs.”

And media use matters.

Karl and Lytle find that consuming media has a striking effect on how younger and older adults think about topics related to nuclear weapons, especially as it relates to apathy. Specifically, as younger generations report using more media, they are increasingly likely to report being apathetic about nuclear topics.

But this pattern is different for older adults, as there is no association between their media use and their willingness to think about nuclear threats or how to survive them. In terms of behavior, apathy about nuclear topics is associated with a decrease in seeking information on the issue.

Interestingly, as Americans age, the lower they estimate the likelihood of a nuclear detonation in their lifetime. “Among lots of possibilities, they may be thinking if it didn’t happen during the Cold War, it won’t happen now; or perhaps I have fewer years to live, so it probably won’t happen in my lifetime,” said Lytle. However, older adults and those who tend to more closely follow the news tend to seek more information about nuclear topics.

Broadly, perceptions of nuclear weapons risk prove powerful as they lead Americans and take various actions to prepare in the event of a nuclear attack. On average, city dwellers estimate the risk as 5-7% higher than their rural or suburban peers whereas women estimate nuclear risk as 3-5% higher than men. Since men report significantly higher levels of media use and more closely following current events, this research presents several opportunities for targeting messages based on these varying perceptions.

One pattern is clear: as perception of nuclear weapons risk increases, so too does Americans’ intent to take action and that’s true across multiple measures, whether it putting forward effort to think and plan for it, seeking information about it, communicating with others on the topic, or taking steps to prepare for an attack.

Karl and Lytle explain that many people are fatalistic: if a nuclear weapon were to go off in New York City, then we would all be dead, ‘so why should I put any effort forward in thinking about it?’

Karl explains that the size of the weapon, the location, and even the weather, are important. In cities, for example, many nuclear weapons detonations would be funneled upward by tall buildings and modeling suggests that many people could survive. The most important thing people could do is get inside a building and stay there for three days.

“Our gut reaction is that everybody would die. But not everybody,” said Lytle. “We are trying to figure out how to educate people that this is not always true so that people feel like they have some sort of agency in a situation like this. Many people could survive the initial blast and then their subsequent behavior would determine what happens from there.”

While Lytle and Karl emphasize that they don’t wish to make claims about the actual degree of nuclear weapons risk, they maintain that perceptions of this risk are crucially important. Even if we assume the risk is low in the real world, it could be life-saving for Americans to know just a small amount about what you should do.

Provided by Stevens Institute of Technology

Antichrist’s Armed Groups Condemn Salih-Trump Meeting

A statement from the Iraqi presidency said that the two heads of state discussed reducing foreign troops in the country [Jonathan Ernst/Reuters]

Baghdad, Iraq – Leaders of several Iraqi Shia armed groups have condemned President Barham Salih’s meeting with his United States counterpart President Donald Trump, with some threatening to force Salih to resign.

The meeting between the two presidents took place on the sidelines of the World Economic Forum in Davos, Switzerland on Wednesday.

It came amid rising regional tensions that spilled over in Iraq after the killing of the leader of Iran’s Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, and the simultaneous assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,the deputy leader of the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Forces or PMF) in an airstrike ordered by Trump near Baghdad airport earlier this month.

Al-Muhandis was also the founder of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed armed group that the US targeted in Iraq and Syria on December 30, killing at least 25 fighters and injuring more than 50. The attack was in response to the killing of a US civilian contractor two days earlier.

 

Supporters and members of Kataib Hezbollah and other paramilitary groups within the PMF, an umbrella organisation of mostly Iran-backed Shia armed groups, responded by storming the US embassy in Baghdad.

Mohammad Mohie, a spokesperson for Kataib Hezbollah, told Al Jazeera that the group considered the Salih-Trump meeting “deeply humiliating and inconsiderate of the loss of Iraqi blood”.

“Trump has committed unforgivable crimes against the Iraqi people. How could Salih join hands with someone who has no respect for Iraq’s sovereignty and the blood of its martyrs?” Mohie asked.

“He [Salih] has positioned himself against the Iraqi people. We call on him to step down and not return to Baghdad. He is no longer welcome among us.”

‘Must step down’

Echoing those sentiments, Nasser al-Shammari, deputy secretary-general of the al-Naujabaa Brigades, another Shia armed group in Iraq, told Al Jazeera: “The hands of this man [Trump] are covered in Iraqi blood.

“Most Iraqi people consider this [meeting] treacherous. We no longer accept him [Salih] as our representative and won’t rest until he’s held accountable for going against the will of the Iraqi parliament and disregarding our martyrs’ blood.

“He must step down and be banished from Baghdad,” al-Shammari added.

Following the meeting, Naeem al-Aboudi, a member of the Sadiqoon parliamentary bloc, the political arm of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq armed group, wrote on Twitter: “A statesman should not violate his country’s constitution and sovereignty, or be a reason to infuriate millions of his people.”

The PMF, which was legally integrated into Iraq’s state security forces last year, did not issue a formal statement on the meeting. Its media representative, Mohannad Hussein, told Al Jazeera: “We are part of the Iraqi government. It is within diplomatic protocols for heads of state to meet.”

Critics say some of the armed groups within the umbrella organisation operate independently of Baghdad.

Ahead of the meeting, Kataib Hezbollah had warned that Salih would be “violating the will of the people” if he met Trump.

In a statement ahead of the event, the Shia paramilitary group al-Nujabaa said it hoped Salih “rejects meeting this fool”.

‘Indebted’

In his address in Davos, Salih said: “Iraq is indebted to the US-led coalition for its military and economic support which [it] continues to provide in the fight against ISIL.

“The US-led military coalition was essential in allowing Iraqi forces to defeat ISIL.

“The Iraqi parliament’s vote to expel US troops was not a sign of enmity. It was just a reaction to what many Iraqis saw as a violation to their country’s sovereignty, an issue that will be addressed through dialogue.”

A statement from the Iraqi presidency said that the two heads of state discussed “reducing foreign troops in the country and the importance of respecting the demands of Iraqi people to preserve the country’s sovereignty”.

In a joint news conference with Salih, Trump said the US and Iraq had “a very good relationship” and said the number of US troops in the country was “historically low”.

Trump also met the president of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdish region, Nechirvan Barzani, at the Swiss resort.

‘Every single one’

While Iraq’s populist Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr did not issue a statement about the meeting, the move has amplified support for his calls for a “million-man march” against US troops in the country.

The leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, Qais al-Khazali, issued a video statement condemning the meeting and called on Iraqis to join the march scheduled for Friday morning in Baghdad.

The leader of the Iran-backed group warned that the US will have to face the consequences if it “continues to disregard Iraq’s political and public will to expel US troops”.

Reiterating a similar message, Shammari told Al Jazeera: “We expect an unprecedented number of people to take part on Friday. It will reignite the flame of resistance which won’t die until we expel every single one of them [US troops] from Iraq.

“This is the will of the Iraqi people and the parliament,” he added.

Sadr’s calls for the march came just days after the country’s parliament voted to expel foreign troops and cancel its request for assistance from the US-led coalition that had been working with Baghdad to fight ISIL.

Around 5,000 US troops are left in Iraq – most of them soldiers who came to Iraq in an advisory capacity to help the PMF from 2014 to 2017 in their fight against ISIL.

The parliament vote earlier this month provoked Trump to threaten “sanctions like they’ve never seen before” on Iraq.

Abdullah al-Salam reported from Baghdad. Arwa Ibrahim reported from Doha.

These are the Days of God (Daniel)

‘Days of God’: A look at Iran’s mounting crises

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iran’s supreme leader says his nation is living through “days of God.”

The Islamic Republic has been reeling from one crisis to another, from the targeted killing by the United States of its top general to the Revolutionary Guard’s accidental shootdown of a passenger plane carrying scores of young people, most of them Iranians. U.S. sanctions have crippled its economy as tensions with America have soared.

In a rare Friday sermon in Tehran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stuck to the playbook Iran has relied on since 1979, blaming the country’s woes on the U.S. and other Western powers, and proclaiming that Iranians still support the Islamic Revolution.

He pointed to the outpouring of grief after Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, was killed in a U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians attended funeral services across the country for Soleimani, who was revered by many as a war hero. But the funeral itself was marred by tragedy when 56 people died in a stampede of mourners in Soleimani’s hometown of Kerman.

The moment of national unity was shattered days later, when Iranian forces accidentally shot down a Ukrainian jetliner, killing all 176 people on board, and then concealed their responsibility until they were confronted with mounting evidence from Western leaders.

Here’s a look at the various crises Iran faces:

U.S. SANCTIONS

After unilaterally withdrawing from Iran’s 2015 nuclear agreement with world powers, President Donald Trump began ratcheting up sanctions. The sanctions have exacerbated an economic crisis, sending the local currency into a freefall and wiping away many people’s life savings.

The Institute of International Finance, a global association of financial institutions, estimates that Iran’s economy will contract this fiscal year by more than 7%, mostly because of the drop in crude oil exports due to sanctions. The report found that as a result, Iran’s reserves are expected to dip to $73 billion by March, totaling nearly $40 billion in losses over two years.

———

THE LOSS OF SOLEIMANI

As head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, Soleimani was the architect of Iran’s regional military operations and its support for armed groups in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen. He was blamed for the killing of hundreds of American soldiers by Iran-backed militias in the years after the 2003 U.S.-led invasion of Iraq. He also helped Syrian President Bashar Assad’s forces battle rebels and Islamic extremists. In Iran, he was seen by many as a mythic figure who had defended the nation. Critics and supporters alike say he will be tough to replace.

———

THE PLANE TRAGEDY

In response to the killing of Soleimani, Iran launched a wave of ballistic missiles at U.S. bases in Iraq. No one was seriously wounded, though several soldiers were screened for concussions and sent to Germany for medical treatment. As Iran braced for a counterattack, the Revolutionary Guard shot down a passenger plane shortly after it took off from Tehran’s international airport last week, mistaking it for a U.S. cruise missile. Most of those killed were Iranians.

Iranian authorities concealed their role for three days, initially blaming a technical failure, until Western leaders said they had mounting evidence that a surface-to-air missile had brought the plane down. Iranian officials have apologized and promised to punish those responsible, but have faced widespread criticism and international demands to pay compensation to victims’ families.

———

STREET PROTESTS

As the economic crisis has worsened, Iran has seen wave after wave of sporadic, leaderless protests. The protests are usually sparked by economic grievances but rapidly escalate into calls to overthrow the Islamic Republic. The demonstrations have often turned violent, and security forces have responded with force. Amnesty International says more than 300 people were killed in protests in November over a hike in gasoline prices, when authorities shut down the internet for several days.

The Revolutionary Guard’s announcement on Saturday that it was responsible for shooting down the plane sparked days of protests in the streets and on university campuses. Security forces dispersed some of the crowds with tear gas and live ammunition.

———

THE UNRAVELING NUCLEAR DEAL

Iran continued to comply with the nuclear deal despite U.S. sanctions until last summer, when it said it would no longer fully abide with the agreement if it received no economic benefits. Iran began openly breaching certain limits set by the deal, and after the killing of Soleimani said it was no longer bound by any of the agreement’s restrictions.

Britain, France and Germany, which also signed the deal along with China and Russia, have been trying to salvage it. They have searched for a mechanism that would allow them to keep trading with Iran but have been unable to find one that would protect their companies from U.S. sanctions.

Earlier this week, the European nations triggered a dispute mechanism in the nuclear deal in an attempt to bring Iran back into compliance. They say they are committed to saving the agreement, but the dispute process could potentially result in the snapback of international sanctions, further compounding Iran’s woes.