Antichrist Causing Political Shakeup

Radical Iraqi cleric Moqtada Sadr ‚to retire from politics‘

Moqtada Sadr (26 April 2012)
Moqtada Sadr spent several years in self-imposed exile in Iran
Iraq’s radical Shia cleric Moqtada Sadr has announced he is retiring from political life, in a handwritten note posted on his website.
The statement said he would not hold future government positions or have any representatives in parliament.
Mr Sadr and his militia group, the Mehdi Army, gained prominence after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003.
But the 40-year-old lost ground in recent years following a dispute with Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Mr Maliki is seeking re-election in the parliamentary election in April – a move publicly opposed by Mr Sadr’s bloc.
Anti-US sentiment
Mr Sadr’s statement said he was shutting down all his offices except for some charities.
Born into a religious Shia family, the cleric galvanised anti-US sentiment in sermons and public interviews after the overthrow of Saddam Hussein eleven years ago.
Iraqi solder in front of a poster of Moqtada Sadr in Baghdad (11 June 2012)
The cleric became a symbol of resistance to foreign occupation
Mr Sadr’s followers clashed repeatedly with US forces, whose withdrawal the cleric consistently demanded.
An arrest warrant was issued for Mr Sadr in 2004 in connection with the murder of a rival cleric.
His militia was also blamed for the abduction, torture and killing of thousands of Sunnis in the sectarian carnage of 2006 and 2007. Mr Sadr fled to Iran during that period.
In 2008, his Mehdi Army militia clashed with the Iraqi army, commanded by Prime Minister Maliki.
Many were arrested, and Mr Sadr’s group said it was laying down arms and disbanding.
The cleric later made a truce with Prime Minister Maliki and helped him to secure a second term in office in 2010. The Sadr bloc became closely involved in the new government and obtained several ministerial posts following the election.
In 2011, Mr Sadr returned from his self-imposed exile to Iraq, taking a more conciliatory tone and calling for Iraqi unity and peace.

Preparing For The Sixth Seal

NYC Hazards: Earthquakes

Although earthquakes are uncommon in New York City, tremors occasionally occur and residents should be prepared. Identify safe places in each room of your home. A safe place can be under a solid piece of furniture and away from windows, hanging objects or tall furniture that could fall on you. Prepare your home by securing bookcases and other top-heavy objects to the wall, and store large and heavy items on lower shelves. Do not hang large pictures or mirrors above sofas or other places where people may sit or sleep. Note that after an earthquake your utilities may be disrupted. Learn how to shut off the source of natural gas to your home if you smell a leak.

Saudi Arabia Will Go Nuclear

Saudi Arabia May Go Nuclear Because of Obama’s Iran Deal


President Obama wants an agreement with Iran to prevent a Middle Eastern nuclear arms race, but it’s pushing Saudi Arabia toward its own nuke program.
Last month, America’s top Iran negotiator Wendy Sherman had some bad news for ambassadors from America’s Arab allies. In a meeting with envoys from Saudi Arabia, the United Arab Emirates, and other Gulf states, Sherman said that any bargain with Iran would likely leave Tehran, the Gulf states long-time enemy, with the capacity to enrich uranium, according to U.S. officials briefed on the encounter. Sherman regularly briefs these allies after diplomatic talks with Iran, but in recent weeks those conversations have been different. While most of America’s Middle East allies—with the exception of Israel—have publicly supported the current Iran negotiations, behind the scenes, envoys from the region have expressed grave concerns that Iran could be left with a break out capacity to make the fuel for a nuclear weapon at a time of their choosing.
And now, one of the countries in the region without a full-blown nuclear programs—Saudi Arabia—may be changing its mind. Riyadh has a long-standing interest in nuclear power. But Western and Israeli intelligence services are starting to see signs that this interest is growing more serious, and extends into nuclear enrichment. Until recently, the pursuit of nuclear enrichment—or the fuel cycle—was considered by arms control experts as a tell-tale sign of a clandestine weapons program. Nuclear fuel is sold to all members of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, but it’s far more costly to build the infrastructure and produce it indigenously. Saudi Arabia appears to be getting more serious about going down that path.
If Saudi Arabia pursue nuclear enrichment even if there is an Iran deal, then the victory to curb atomic weapons that Obama has tried to achieve will be at least partially undone by his own diplomacy.
“They view the developments in Iran very negatively. They have money, they can buy talent, they can buy training,” said David Albright, the president of the Institute for Science and International Security and a former weapons inspector. “The Saudis are thinking through how do you create a deterrent through capability.”
Albright said in this particular case, an indigenous Saudi program is in the very early stages. In 2012, the Saudi government announced plans to build 16 commercial reactors by 2030 and signed a technology agreement with China. But Albright said he has heard concerns expressed by a European intelligence agency that Saudi Arabia in recent years has quietly been developing the engineering and scientific knowledge base to one day master the nuclear fuel cycle, or produce the fuel indigenously for the reactors it’s trying to build. He said Saudi Arabia was hiring the scientists and engineers needed to build the cascades of centrifuges needed to produce nuclear fuel. “We don’t worry about the Saudis learning to operate a reactor,” he said. “I worry that they will learn the skills needed to master the fuel cycle.”

“The Saudis are thinking through how do you create a deterrent through capability. They have money, they can buy talent, they can buy training.”

Late last year, the BBC reported that Saudi Arabia invested heavily in the Pakistani nuclear weapons program and could easily acquire nuclear technology or even weaponry if the Iranians cross a threshold. Albright, however, said he did not think Saudi Arabia would likely try to acquire a weapon from Pakistan.
A senior administration official told The Daily Beast that the U.S. was working to avoid enrichment proliferation in the Arab world and arguing to Gulf leaders that the Iranian nuclear deal is a net benefit for their own security.
“The logical response by any of Iran’s neighbors to an agreement that severely restricted Iran’s program to the point that we have confidence they would never pursue nuclear weapons, the logical response is not to build up a protomilitary capability in enrichment, it’s rather to go in the opposite direction,” said the official.
This prospect of the Saudis beginning an enrichment program was broached earlier this month at the Munich Security Conference. Sen. Lindsey Graham asked Saudi Prince Turki al Faisal, the kingdom’s powerful former intelligence chief, if any final agreement that allowed Iran to maintain an enrichment capability would cause Saudi Arabia and other Arab states to invoke their own right to enrich uranium.
“I think we should insist on having equal rights for everybody, this is part of the (Non-Proliferation Treaty) arrangement,” the prince said.
Saudi Arabia is not alone in this regard. Last month, Turkey and Japan began re-negotiating a pact whereby Japan would provide Turkey with nuclear technology, but the deal could be modified later to give the Turks its own enrichment capability if Japan agreed.
The State Department has been working towards the longstanding U.S.-stated goal of a nuclear free Middle East. There have been three meetings of Arab countries and Israel in an attempt to set up a conference in Helsinki how to pursue a Middle East without WMD. But there’s no agreement on an agenda and no expectation the conference will commence any time soon.
Whether or not the rest of the Middle East begins to acquire nuclear weapons after Iran depends a great deal for now on the Iran negotiations. Marie Harf, the deputy spokeswoman for the State Department, acknowledged that the United States is prepared to consider allowing Iran to keep a limited enrichment program.
“We are prepared to consider a strictly limited enrichment program in the end state, but only if the Iranians address all of our concerns about their capacity to get a nuclear weapon and accept rigorous limits and transparent monitoring of the on level, scope, capacity, and stockpiles,” said Harf. “If we can reach an understanding with Iran on strict constraints, then we can contemplate an arrangement that includes a very modest amount of enrichment that eliminates Iran’s capacity to obtain a nuclear weapon in any reasonable way. If we can’t, then there will be no agreement, and we will increase even further the pressure on Iran.”

Antichrist Will Be The Next Prime Minister of Iraq

How will Iraqis choose their next PM?
There are three “most likely” scenarios as politicians are jockeying for position, partnership while analysts try to predict outcome.
Middle East Online
By Mustafa Habib – BAGHDAD
Iraq’s next round of elections, scheduled for April 2014, will be a tough test of democracy in the country. They’ll be the first elections held in Iraq without major US presence while the country is also facing numerous challenges in political, security-related and economic areas.
Looking ahead, there are around 39 major coalitions planning to run and around 244 different political entities taking part in the elections; around three dozen parties, mostly from the provinces of Anbar and Ninawa, have decided not to take part in elections because of security issues.
And as one might expect, the wrangling over coalitions, partnerships and power balancing has already started behind the scenes.
The ultimate goal for almost all parties competing in the elections, due to be held at the end of April, is clear though: the Prime Minister’s chair. After eight years of leadership from current prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki it is clear to most ordinary Iraqis, and therefore also to their politicians, that this is the most powerful position in the country. Over the past decade the executive branch of Iraq’s government has shown that it seems to have more power over what goes on in the country than Iraq’s parliament.
And how will the next Iraqi Prime Minister be chosen? Doubtless the person will be chosen by the members of political alliances that form after the upcoming federal elections. Right now the shape of those alliances are far from clear cut. Additionally the fact that Iraq’s current Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki is so deeply unpopular and that his mostly Shiite Muslim political alliance has been crumbling, alongside the differences in opinion among Iraq’s Sunni Muslim politicians, means that voters will definitely see some new alliances formed.
Analysts inside and outside the country are already coming up with a number of scenarios they believe may occur.
Scenario One:
The first involves what has become the “traditional” political scenario in Iraq with three main forces holding sway: Sunni Muslims, Shiite Muslims and the Iraqi Kurdish. This scenario is based on the idea that the country will never be able to rid itself of sectarian and ethnic polarization that was encouraged under the regime of former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein and used by the US-led administration of the country after the 2003 invasion that toppled Hussein.
This system – which is basically an unofficial quota system – was used to put together an interim government after 2003. The religious and ethnic background of would-be politicians in the interim leadership was based on demographics and the quota system was used to keep the peace and to maintain a balance between all the different, and often competing and conflicted, ethnic and religious factions. Although the quota system was never based in law, it has continued to be used in Iraqi politics today. What often happens is that this quota principle leads to supposedly independent institutions being hamstrung, or dead locked.
The latter scenario – where the three major groups continue to run the country based on the ethnic and sectarian quota system – presupposes the Shiite Muslim alliance sticking together. That is the State of Law coalition, headed by al-Maliki, which currently runs the country, which also includes the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI, led by Ammar al-Hakim and the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr.
“Realities on the ground mean that no prime minister can be chosen without the approval of the Shiite Muslim parties,” says one senior Shiite Muslim politician Jamal Al-Wakil. “So it’s highly likely the future Prime Minister will be Shiite,” he concludes.
However there are deep splits in the Shiite Muslim alliance so coming to some kind of agreement will be tough.
Even more divided at the moment are the country’s Sunni Muslim politicians. In previous elections they gathered together under former Prime Minister Ayad Allawi. Scenario One imagines that, when it comes to the formation of the next government, these parties will unite to back their candidate for Prime Minister.
The same is expected of the Iraqi Kurdish parties in Parliament – this group is fairly stable in Baghdad despite any disagreements the constituent parties might have back home up north, in the semi-autonomous region of Iraqi Kurdistan.
Scenario Two:
In this scenario analysts envisage al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition winning a simple majority.
Given al-Maliki’s unpopularity, the coalition would find it difficult to win a majority all by itself. In this case it would need to seek allies from among the smaller Shiite Muslim and Sunni Muslim parties.
Al-Maliki is expected to try and cosy up to the National Reform Trend headed by former Prime Minister, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, and the Islamic Virtue Party, or Fadhila, headed by controversial Najaf-based cleric, Mohammed Musa al-Yaqoubi. He will most likely also approach the Shiite Muslim militia, League of the Righteous.
The League of the Righteous is an armed group, led by another Shiite cleric Qais al-Ghazali, a high ranking, former aide to Muqtada al-Sadr until 2004, that split from the Sadrists when they disarmed in 2007; the League did not want to disarm and over recent years the two groups have become more and more estranged. In these elections, the League of Righteous is running for political office for the first time.
It also seems likely that al-Maliki will approach smaller Sunni Muslim groups like the White Iraqiya and Free Iraqiya parties, which have broken away from the main Iraqiya opposition bloc over the past few years.
There have been recent occasions when these Sunni Muslim politicians have supported moves by the Shiite Muslim Prime Minister.
“The coalition governments that formed over the past eight years have proved ineffective and incapable,” says Abdul-Hadi al-Hassani, a former member of the State of Law bloc. “Any new government should be formed according to a political majority.”
If al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc succeeds in cobbling together a ruling coalition like this, then it is also likely that other big parties will need to be more open to negotiating with the Prime Minister. If other Shiite Muslim, Sunni Muslim or Iraqi Kurdish parties want to see members in high ministerial positions or if they want to make any political gains, then they won’t have a choice but to do this. Otherwise they will simply need to form an opposition front.
Scenario Three:
The third scenario focuses on the past few years’ of disintegration and disagreement inside the various political blocs and alliances and suggests that new alliances will be formed on the basis of common political objectives, rather than on ethnic or sectarian grounds.
If this happens it will do away with the unofficial ethnic and sectarian quota system that Iraqi politics often labour under.
And this step towards democracy is not as unlikely as it sounds. The Shiite Muslim alliance has been disintegrating and two major components of it are competing in national elections separately from their former running mate, al-Maliki. The Sunni Muslim parties are riven by antipathies and argument and have been for some time.
It is only Iraq’s Kurds that will continue to stick together. Although Iraqi Kurdish parties saw the balance of power change in their own region, it is more than likely they will continue to present a united front in Baghdad, probably mainly because of Arab versus Kurdish issues such as oil revenues, the federal budget and the disputed territories.
Last year’s provincial elections saw several non-sectarian political alliances formed around Iraq.
One need only look at Baghdad’s local authority to see how this scenario could work out. In this area al-Maliki’s State of Law bloc won 20 seats, which made them the overall winners in the capital province. However two other major Shiite Muslim groups – the Sadrists and the Supreme Islamic Council – formed alliances with two Sunni Muslim blocs – the United party and Iraqiya – to form a majority under the title “Alliance For Baghdad”. As a result this non-sectarian alliance also holds the top two jobs in Baghdad’s local government.
No matter which scenario does eventually play out in Iraq, there is one thing that most analysts would agree upon and that most Iraqi voters probably expect: that no matter who leads the next government, it will take some time before it can be formed. Negotiations will probably take months, as they did after the last federal elections.
Another thing that is clear: whoever ends up sitting in the Prime Minister’s seat will not necessarily be the politician who got the most votes, It will be the politician who is best able to negotiate, who can persuade Shiite Muslim parties that he is competent to hold the job, convince Iraq’s Kurds that they will be given their due and that their outstanding issues will be resolved and assure Iraq’s Sunni Muslims that they will not be marginalized.

First Horn Threatens US

Iran escalates military threats against United States

IRGC navy commander warns that country can sink US aircraft carriers, while defense minister promises response to military attack

By Lazar Berman February 10, 2014, 1:53 am
Iranian Revolutionary Guards (photo credit: @MidEastNews_Eng via Twitter/File)

Illustrative photo of Iranian Revolutionary Guards (photo credit: @MidEastNews_Eng via Twitter/File)

Despite the signing of a landmark nuclear deal in November with the P5+1 world powers, and a moderate tone coming from President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Javad Zarif, Iranian defense officials escalated sharply their rhetoric against the United States over the weekend.

On Sunday, Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Navy Commander Ali Fadavi said that the US knows that its aircraft carriers in the Persian Gulf would be sunk if it launched a military strike on Iran.
“The Americans can sense by all means how their warships will be sunk with 5,000 crews and forces in combat against Iran and how they should find its hulk in the depths of the sea,” said Fadavi, according to Fars news agency.
“They cannot hide themselves in the sea since the entire Middle East region, western Europe, the Persian Gulf, the Sea of Oman and the Straits of Hormuz are monitored by us and there is no place for them to hide.”
Also Sunday, Iran’s Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan touted the Iranian military’s ability to respond to an American attack, Fars reported.
“The Iranian Armed Forces are an intertwined and coherent complex that can give a decisive response to any threat at any level and any place under the command of the Commander-in-Chief,” Dehqan said in a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the revolution that brought the current Islamic regime to power.
“The enemy can never assess and think of the range of the response given by the powerful and mighty Armed Forces of the Islamic Iran,” he added.
An Iranian warship in the Strait of Hormuz (illustrative photo: Alex Hicks, Wikimedia Commons)
The bellicose rhetoric follows Saturday’s announcement by an Iranian admiral that Iran had dispatched warships to the North Atlantic, while Iran’s spiritual leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei denounced the Americans as liars who, while professing to be friends of Iran, would bring down his regime if they could. He also said it was “amusing” that the US thought Iran would reduce its “defensive capabilities.”
On Friday, Iranian state TV ran a documentary featuring a computerized video of Iran’s drones and missiles bombing Tel Aviv, Haifa, Ben Gurion Airport and the Dimona nuclear reactor in a hypothetical retaliation for an Israeli or American strike on the Islamic Republic.
Iranian drones and missiles are also shown in the film carrying out simulated strikes on the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln, downing American aircraft and striking American military targets in the Persian Gulf.
The film, entitled “The Nightmare of Vultures,” opens with Supreme Leader Khamenei addressing military academy graduates in 2011, warning: “Anybody who thinks of attacking the Islamic Republic of Iran should be prepared to receive strong slaps and iron fists from the Armed Forces.”
“And America, its regional puppets and its guard dog – the Zionist regime – should know that the response of the Iranian nation to any kind of aggression, attacks or even threats will be a response that will make them collapse from within,” the film shows him saying.
Set to dramatic music, the video shows Iranian drones and missiles carrying out strikes against Tel Aviv’s Kikar Hamedina square, the Azrieli Towers skyscrapers, and the IDF’s Kirya central command complex, as well as Ben Gurion International Airport, Haifa’s Technion, several army and air force bases, and the nuclear reactor in Dimona.
The strike on the Israel’s central command building is shown taking place while former prime minister Ehud Olmert and former defense minister Amir Peretz — who served in that capacity during the 2006 Second Lebanon War — are inside convening a meeting.
Iranian TV aired a program showing computerized shots of Ben Gurion Airport being bombed by Iran in retaliation for an American or Israeli strike on Iran. (screen capture: YouTube)
A barrage of missiles brings down Tel Aviv’s skyscrapers in a final blow.
Iranian TV aired a program showing computerized shots of Tel Aviv being bombed by Iran in retaliation for an American or Israeli strike on Iran. (screen capture: YouTube)
Afterwards, Iranian drones and missiles are show attacking the American aircraft carrier USS Abraham Lincoln on its way through the Strait of Hormuz into the Persian Gulf. Iranian drones are shown downing several American aircraft before sinking the US capital ship. Zooming out to a map of the Middle East marked with US military bases, Iranian missiles are then shown striking American military targets across the Persian Gulf.
In November, Iranian state television aired a shorter animated clip showing Iranian missiles targeting Israeli cities.
Iranian leaders have made repeated threats to wipe Israel off the map, and have threatened to annihilate Tel Aviv should Iran’s nuclear facilities be attacked by the West.

New Policy Could Lead to Nuclear Terrorism

Rep warns Obama’s Iran policy could lead to ‘shadow of nuclear terrorism’

Published February 10, 2014

A member of the House Armed Services Committee slammed President Obama’s handling of Iran, saying his policies could lead to an era of nuclear terrorism.
Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., sat down with Fox News contributor Mallory Factor on Monday to discuss foreign policy.
“I don’t try to examine the president’s motivations, but I am here to tell you that if his policies prevail here, my children and yours could very easily walk in the shadow of nuclear terrorism in this world. And that is something I just feel like somehow we have to do everything possible now to make sure that doesn’t happen,” Franks said.
Franks further criticized Obama for refusing to support a bill which would lock in new sanctions if Iran fails to live up to its end of the interim nuclear deal.
“We’ve sanctioned North Korea, for example, into starvation for nearly half a century and they’ve tested three times,” Franks said. “I think it’s outrageous that the president has backed off on those sanctions.”
Franks said allowing Iran to obtain nuclear weapons or to develop uranium enrichment would be devastating. “We’ll need a new calendar if Iran gets nuclear weapons. It will change the geo-political equation that much,” Franks said.
Though an interim deal with Iran to curb its uranium enrichment program is currently in place, Franks cited only two ways to keep Iran from ever obtaining nuclear weapons. “I think only two things ultimately [stop] Iran from gaining that capability — that is either a direct military intervention, or the conviction in their minds that that absolutely will occur if they continue to pursue a nuclear weapons capability,” Franks said.
The administration argues that the six-month interim deal makes historic progress in reining in Iran’s nuclear program. Further, the administration claims that if Iran violates the agreement, new sanctions could easily be implemented.

The Suitcase Nuke


(Newser) – The US kept quite an arsenal of nuclear bombs and missiles during the Cold War, but not everyone knows about its plans to use “backpack nukes,” reports the Smithsonian via Foreign Policy. Elite troops learned to use the bombs—called B54 Special Atomic Demolition Munitions (SADMs)—in case Communists attacked US-friendly countries like former West Germany. Although heavy, SADMs could fit in a backpack and be transported by parachute-drop, scuba mission, or even on skis. The trick was setting the timer (which was unreliable) and getting far enough away before they went off (although some commanders wanted men to stay behind and protect them).
Luckily they were never used, and units trained in SADMs kept a grim sense of humor about it. “Those who were to conduct the mission were sure that whomever thought this up was using bad hemp,” said an SADM team commander. But backpack nukes served a strategic need: to destroy bridges, roads, and mountain passes in case Russian forces invaded countries where they could easily overwhelm US troops. The only downside: utter devastation. As Cold War tensions faded, the US recalled SADMs from storage depots around the world and eventually retired the project in 1989. “The idea that the world came this close to the use of nuclear weapons on battlefields across the world is entirely unreal,” says Business Insider. “At least we can all be thankful that cooler heads prevailed.”

Antichrist’s Men Take Up Arms

Shiite Militias in Iraq Appear to Be Growing

By Loveday Morris
The Washington Post
Baghdad — Scores of bodies have been dumped in Iraq’s canals and palm groves in recent months, reminding terrified residents of the worst days of the country’s sectarian conflict and fueling fears that the stage is being set for another civil war.
In the latest sign of the escalating attacks, the heads of three Sunnis were found Sunday in a market in northern Salaheddin province, while six Shiites were shot dead in the province after being questioned about their religious affiliation, officials said.
The carnage has raised concerns that the Shiite militias that stalked members of the minority Sunni population in the dark days of 2006 and 2007 could be remobilizing, in response to attacks by Sunni extremists.
Members of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-backed Shiite group responsible for thousands of attacks on U.S. forces during the Iraq war, admit they have ramped up targeted killings in response to a cascade of bomb attacks on their neighborhoods.
“We’ve had to be much more active,” said an Asaib Ahl al-Haq commander who goes by the nom de guerre Abu Sajad. “Those who are trying to incite sectarianism, we have to deal with them,” he said, drawing his hand over his throat like a knife.
More than 1,000 people were killed in January in Iraq, according to Agence France-Presse. That was the highest death toll since April 2008.
Iraq’s Shiite-led government is struggling to maintain security as the al-Qaida splinter group Islamic State of Iraq and Syria, or ISIS, regularly bombs Shiite neighborhoods in Baghdad. The Sunni-dominated group is also battling the army for control of cities in the western province of Anbar.
But analysts say that the absence of a major militant group on the Shiite side had prevented the violence from escalating into all-out war – until now.
“The big dynamic we are dancing around is this move back into civil war, triggered by the Islamic State,” said Toby Dodge, a professor at the London School of Economics. “For a while there wasn’t the second hand to do the clapping, and now there is, and that’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq.”
Formed in 2006, Asaib Ahl al-Haq was responsible for frequent bombings targeting U.S. forces during the Iraq war. Now members say its priority is ISIS.
“You have this computer system, and this whole system was infected with a virus,” said Abu Sajad, referring to ISIS’s prevalence in Iraq. “You have to import something to deal with that. That’s what we are for.”
But he said his militia is not trying to reignite Iraq’s civil war.
“We realize this is a trap and ⅛ISIS⅜ wants us to make a sectarian war,” Abu Sajad said. “When we go targeting, we target specific people.”
His colleague Abu Aya concurred. “The fight will not be public,” he said.
The militiamen said Asaib al-Haq disguises its role by working with the security forces.
“The army isn’t well-versed in street fights, so we go, we help them clean it up,” Abu Sajad said, adding that his fighters often wear military uniforms on operations outside the capital, including in Anbar.
Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, a Shiite who is accused by Sunnis of oppressing them, has insisted that he is tough on all militias.
“There is no place for Asaib Ahl al-Haq militants within the security forces or armed forces,” government spokesman Ali al-Moussawi said. Any accounts that militias are connected to the security forces are “fabrications,” he said.
However, Michael Knights, an analyst with the Washington Institute, said it was obvious that Shiite militias played a role in the security forces.
“They can bring a very sectarian approach to security, but within the cover of the security forces, which is more worrying than militias that operate openly and illegally,” he said.
The Badr Organization, formed by exiled Iraqis who fought on Iran’s side during the Iran-Iraq war, is particularly active in the security forces’ ranks, Knights said. An Iranian proxy known as Kataib Hezbollah is also increasingly active, he said.
Asaib Ahl al-Haq has been attempting to recast itself as a mainstream political player since the withdrawal of U.S. forces in 2011. It has opened political offices in Baghdad and in Iraq’s predominantly Shiite south.
But it has not abandoned its weapons. Analysts estimate that the number of armed militants in the group ranges from 1,000 to 5,000. Members who were interviewed would not divulge the size of its military wing but said that the group’s active membership — including those involved in community outreach and a burgeoning political wing — is as high as 20,000.

First Horn Sends Warships

Tehran sending ‘message’ as warships approach US

LAST UPDATED: 02/09/2014 01:23

Washington has ‘controlling, meddlesome attitude’ toward us, says supreme leader Ali Khamenei.


Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Photo: REUTERS

Iranian naval fleets were on their way across the Atlantic Ocean and headed toward the US, the Fars news agency reported on Saturday.
“Iran’s military fleet is approaching the United States’ maritime borders, and this move has a message,” Adm. Afshin Rezayee Haddad of Iran’s Northern Navy Fleet was quoted as saying.
According to Fars, Iran had first warned the US of its plans to deploy its naval forces along US marine borders “in the next few years” in September 2012.
Then, Iran’s Navy Commander R.-Adm. Habibollah Sayyari said the move would counter US presence in its waters in the Persian Gulf.
Fars first reported on an Iranian Navy fleet of warships making its way across the Atlantic Ocean in January 2014. At the time, they reported that the ships would sail for at least three months.
Hours earlier, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Saturday the United States would overthrow the Iranian government if it could, adding Washington had a “controlling and meddlesome” attitude towards the Islamic Republic, Iranian media reported.
In a speech to mark the 35th anniversary of the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Khamenei, the most powerful figure in Iran, added that officials seeking to revive the economy should not rely on an eventual lifting of sanctions but rather on homegrown innovation.
“American officials publicly say they do not seek regime change in Iran. That’s a lie. They wouldn’t hesitate a moment if they could do it,” he was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency.
Khamenei made no mention of talks between Iran and world powers intended to settle a decade-old dispute about the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program.
But he reiterated that in dealing with “enemies,” Iran should be prepared to change tactics but not compromise on its main principles.
“The solution to our economic problems is not looking out and having the sanctions lifted,” he added. “My advice to our officials, as ever, is to rely on infinite indigenous potentials.”
He added: “Our [hostile] stance toward the United States is due to its controlling and meddlesome attitude.”
Khamenei’s comments about hostility reflect his long-standing animosity towards the United States, seen as the arch-enemy by Iranian authorities. The US and Iran have had no official ties since 1980 after Iranian students occupied the US embassy in Tehran, taking 52 diplomats hostage in protest against Washington’s admission of the former Shah after he was toppled by the Islamic Revolution.
But Khamenei has given his guarded support to the nuclear negotiations being led by the new reformist government of President Hassan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

Pakistan Taliban Wants Sharia Law

Pakistan government, Taliban begin talks


Afp, Islamabad

Negotiators for Pakistan’s government and Taliban met yesterday for a first round of talks aimed at ending the militants’ bloody seven-year insurgency, sources said.
The two sides gathered in Islamabad for a preliminary meeting likely to chart a “roadmap” for future discussions, amid deep scepticism over whether dialogue can yield a lasting peace deal.
The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, an umbrella grouping of numerous militant factions, has waged a campaign since 2007, killing thousands of people in gun and bomb attacks across the nuclear-armed state.
An official close to Irfan Siddiqui, the chief government negotiator, told AFP the talks had begun yesterday afternoon.
Another official at the talks venue, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa House, confirmed that they had started.
The peace initiative, which Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced just as many were anticipating a major military offensive on TTP strongholds in North Waziristan tribal area, got off to a chaotic start earlier this week.
The government delegation missed the planned opening meeting on Tuesday saying they were unsure of who was representing the TTP at the talks and what powers they had been given.
Underlining the fragile security situation, a suicide bomber on Tuesday killed eight people in a sectarian attack against minority Shiite Muslims in the northwestern city of Peshawar, just hours after the abortive start to the talks.
The main TTP spokesman denied they were behind the blast but a commander for the group in Peshawar told AFP his men were responsible, saying no ceasefire had been announced.
Stability in nuclear-armed Pakistan is seen as important to neighbouring Afghanistan, where US-led NATO troops are pulling out after more than a decade of war.
Washington has said it is watching the talks closely. It has long been pushing Pakistan to take action against militants using the tribal areas as a base to attack NATO forces across the border.
Observers have held out scant hopes for the talks, saying there appears to be little common ground for progress between the two sides, and warning of what the government might be forced to concede.
One of the TTP’s negotiating team, Maulana Abdul Aziz, told AFP on Wednesday there was no chance of peace unless the government agreed to the militants’ demand for Islamic Sharia law to be imposed throughout Pakistan.
The government has insisted that Pakistan’s constitution must remain paramount. Given the gulf between the two sides, there has been scepticism about what the talks could achieve.
Local peace deals with the militants in the past have quickly fallen apart.
Government efforts to start peace talks last year came to an abrupt halt in November with the killing of TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud in a US drone strike.
Published: 12:00 am Friday, February 07, 2014