Iraq, Iran and the Antichrist’s Men (Rev 13:18)

After Mosul victory, Iraq mulls future of Shiite militias

 Associated Press

NAJAF, Iraq (AP) — In the wake of victory against the Islamic State group in Mosul, Iraq’s political, religious and military leaders are debating the future of the country’s powerful Shiite militias — the tens of thousands of men who answered a religious call to arms three years ago and played a critical role in beating back the extremists.

Some are demanding the mostly Iranian-backed forces be disbanded but the militias say their sacrifices on the battlefield and the fact they were sanctioned by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi have earned them a permanent place in the hierarchy of Iraq’s security forces.
The Shiite militias stepped into a vacuum when the Iraqi army largely dissolved after IS overran Mosul and pushed within 80 miles (130 kilometers) of the Iraqi capital.
Shiite Sheikh Fadil al-Bidayri was among the clerics at an emergency meeting in the holy city of Najaf in June 2014, when Iraq’s Shiite religious elite — led by the country’s top Shiite cleric, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — issued a call to arms as a last-ditch effort to protect Baghdad.
Tens of thousands of men, many of them members of the long-established Shiite militias with close ties to Iran, answered al-Sistani. In the days that followed, Iraq was flooded with training, money and weapons from Tehran. Billboards praising the groups — depicting Iraqi and Iranian paramilitary leaders side by side — popped up across Baghdad, alongside posters of martyrs honoring the fallen.
The government-sanctioned groups became known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, known as Hashed al-Shaabi in Arabic.
Although the Shiite militias did not play a central role in the battle for the city of Mosul itself, they moved into the deserts held by IS west of the city, massing around the town of Tal Afar and taking a border crossing between Iraq and Syria. They also took control of highways bisecting the Sunni heartland in western Iraq and used as vital military and civilian supply lines.
In past fights against IS, including the operation to retake for the cities of Tikrit and Fallujah, the Shiite militias were accused of sectarian killings and other abuses against minority Sunnis. They acknowledge some abuses may have occurred but say those responsible have been disciplined.
Over the past three years, as the military fight against IS in Iraq pushed the extremists back, Iran’s influence in the country grew.
“We always knew that Iran would use this (call to arms) to increase its own power in Iraq, but we had no other choice,” said al-Bidayri, recounting the meeting in Najaf and the panic-filled days after the 2014 fall of Mosul.
Al-Bidayri says now that Mosul has been retaken and the Iraqi military has been partially rebuilt, he believes the Shiite militias should be disbanded, to curb Iranian influence in Iraq and reduce sectarian tensions. The elderly sheikh, like much of Iraq’s religious establishment in Najaf, is a staunch nationalist and wary of Iran’s growing influence.
“From the very beginning … Iran used every opportunity to get involved in Iraq,” al-Bidayri said. “Each time they used the protection of the Shiite people as an excuse.”
Iraq’s influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also called for the militias to disband during a March anti-government rally that saw thousands of his supporters fill the streets of Baghdad.
According to the 2017 Iraqi budget, the government-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces now number about 122,000 fighters. The umbrella is dominated by Shiite militias but also includes Sunni and Christian groups.
“The Hashed (Shiite militias) will remain . and our relationship with Iran will remain,” said Hadi al-Amiri, a senior leader of the Badr Brigade, one of Iraq’s most powerful Shiite militias.
Al-Amiri said IS’ insurgent capabilities will pose a long-term security threat to Iraq after the military fight against the group is concluded.
Iraq’s prime minister has also repeatedly professed his backing for the Popular Mobilization Forces, telling reporters at a press conference last week that they “must remain at least for years, as the terrorism threat still exists.”
When asked if the Shiite militias would play a role in the fight for Tal Afar or move into Syria, Ahmad Ghanem, a member of the Popular Mobilization Forces training at a camp in Najaf said “we are waiting for instructions … ready to move wherever they order us.”
As the conventional fight against IS winds down, it’s unlikely Iraq’s existing security forces will be able to absorb all the militia factions.
“If you add up all of the demands from all the different factions and militia leaders, and then you look at how much actual power and money Iraq has to distribute to them, their claims are like 250 percent of whatever pie there is to be divided,” said Nathaniel Rabkin, managing editor of Inside Iraqi Politics, a political risk assessment newsletter.
Rabkin said he doubted the groups would be content with patrolling rural areas or hunting so-called IS “sleeper cells.”
“They want to have real power and control,” Rabkin said. “So I think there’s going to be a lot of disappointed people with small to medium-sized militias running around Iraq six months to a year from now.”
On the outskirts of Najaf, graves of militiamen who died battling IS have swelled among the plots in Wadi al-Salam, the well-known Shiite graveyard that is also the world’s largest. Garlands of plastic flowers adorn headstones bearing the crests of the most powerful militia groups: the Badr Brigades, Saraya Salam and Kataib Hezbollah.
Abdullah Abbas, a thin 18-year-old from Najaf, guarded a plot of graves of Katib Imam Ali fighters, a small militia closely tied to Iran and active both in Iraq and Syria.
In 2013, he left school at age 14, to become a fighter. The militia at the time mainly fought in Syria where it propped up President Bashar Assad’s government. Since then, he has bounced between Syria and Iraq.
Abbas said that if the government decides to dissolve the Shiite militias, he could easily find better paying work as a laborer. But he admitted he couldn’t imagine life without the purpose and prestige of being a militia fighter.
“I don’t think a normal life is an option for me now,” he said, shaking his head. “I can’t imagine going back to what it was like before.”
___
Associated Press writers Sinan Salaheddin in Baghdad and Bassam Hatoum in Najaf, Iraq, contributed to this report.

Antichrist Stops Restrictions on Protesting


Riot police stand in front of demonstrators during a protest demanding an overhaul of the electionsÕ supervision commission ahead of provincial elections due in September, in Baghdad,Iraq February 11, 2017. REUTERS/Alaa Al-Marjani

Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) The Iraqi parliament failed Monday to vote on a bill that imposes jail terms and fines for peaceful protests unapproved by authorities, deferring the process to a later time.
The draft law, submitted by the Shia-led Iraqi National Alliance, imposes a jail term between 6-12 months, or a fine of 10-25 million dinars, for peaceful protests and gatherings whose organizers fail to approach authorities in a written form.
Sputnik agency quoted Iraqi activist Hamid Gahgih saying the reversal of the planned vote was the result of pressures of activists who attended the session.
“The draft was written by police-minded authors; it seeks to restrict the right for peaceful protests and gatherings,” Gahgih told the agency.
Shamkhi Gabr, another civil society activist, told the agency that activists had voiced reservations about some aspects of the bill, especially the one that requires a prior permission, rather than notification, for holding protests.
Iraqi provinces, topped by Baghdad, have seen recurrent mass protests over the past few years voicing several political, security and economic demands. The most recent protests were led by supporters of the influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, which decried the formation of a panel intended to oversee the country’s upcoming parliamentary and municipal elections.

The Shia Crescent Forms (Daniel 8:8)

shiacrescentBaghdad and Tehran sign a deal to boost military cooperation

Mina Aldroubi
Iraq and Iran signed an agreement on Sunday to boost military cooperation days after the US imposed new sanctions against Tehran for its “malign” activity in the region.
The agreement to help “combat terrorism” was signed a day after the Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi said Shiite militias backed by Iran would remain an integral part of the state.
Iranian military advisers have played a key role in the campaign to drive ISIL from territory seized by the extremist group in 2014 and the militias, known as Hashed Al Shaabi, have also fought against the extremists along with Iraq’s regular military and police.
But the militias have been accused of abuses against Sunni populations in areas recaptured by government forces and there are fears over their future role in the country.
The agreement between Iran and Iraq, which extends “cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism” was signed in Tehran by the Iranian defence minister Hossein Dehghan and his Iraqi counterpart, Erfan Al Hiyali.
The agreement also covered border security, logistics and training, the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported.
Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Iran’s influence in the country has increased, empowering Shiite leaders and leaving Sunni populations neglected and resentful of the central government, which contributed to the rise of ISIL.
With the extremists defeated in Mosul, the last major city under its control, many Sunnis are fearful of a sectarian backlash as the country tries to rebuild.
The role of the Hashed Al Shaabi in Iraq has been an issue of widespread contention and will be a key issue in elections next year.
The government passed a bill in November that made the Hashed a legitimate entity of Iraq’s security forces and on Saturday Mr Al Abadi declared after meeting militias commanders that “the forces are an essential and neutral security entity and will remain within the structure of the Iraqi state”.
While maintaining that “the state is the main leader” of the security structure in the country, he said the Hashed “is a neutral security establishment, and it is here to stay”.
“It is our duty to protect it, because we are one,” Mr Al Abadi added.
The announcement is the clearest sign of support from the prime minister for the Hashed’s continued role in Iraq after ISIL’s defeat. While his predecessor, Nouri Al Malaki, was widely condemned for his sectarian policies, Mr Al Abadi has been more conciliatory.
He has condemned sectarian violence carried out by the militias and tried to build ties with Sunni countries in the region. Last month, he travelled to Jeddah and met King Salman after the Saudi foreign minister visited Baghdad in February.
But the Hashed endorsement will raise concerns among Sunni leaders in Iraq.
Sarah Allawi, advisor to Iraqi vice president Ayad Allawi, said: “We thank the security forces for their efforts in liberating Mosul from ISIL – however we now are entering a new phase rebuilding Iraq post ISIL, which is aiming to achieve national reconciliation between political forces.”
The Hashed are an amalgamation of various subgroups with allegiances to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iraq’s top Shiite clerics Ali Al Sistani and Muqtada Al Sadr, according to a report on the militias by the Carnegie Middle East Center.
“Some subgroups have assumed political roles and will seek to leverage their roles in combatting ISIL to win votes in Iraq’s 2018 elections,” said the report.
For militia members, the legitimacy of their struggle against ISIL is a direct result of a fatwa issued by Ali Al Sistani in response to the fall of Mosul in 2014 in which he called the fight a “sacred defence”.
“As of November 2016 and the passing of the Hashed Al Shaabi law, the Hashed has become a formally institutionalised part of Iraq’s security apparatus tied to the office of the commander-in-chief,” said Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow in the National University of Singapore.
“However, unlike other security units, disbanding the Hashed would not be a straightforward administrative procedure given their immense popularity and legitimacy amongst many Iraqis and given the Hashed’s powerful backers in Iraq and Iran”.
The Hashed’s role in defeating ISIL has also given them support from other sections of Iraq and not just Shiites.
“The fact is that the Hashed will be a permanent feature of Iraq’s social, political and military landscapes for the foreseeable future,” Mr Haddad added.

There WILL Be a Nuclear Winter (Rev 16:10)

retro-nuclear-winter-videoSixteenByNine1050CU Boulder researcher seeks to extend understanding of nuclear winter
By Charlie Brennan Staff Writer
POSTED: Friday, July 21, 2017 – 6:25 p.m.
UPDATED: TODAY
CU Boulder researcher seeks to extend understanding of nuclear winter
President-elect Donald Trump in December grabbed the attention of nuclear weapons experts and others across the world by commenting in a television interview, “Let it be an arms race.”
Speaking to MSNBC “Morning Joe” co-host Mika Brzezinski — at a time before talk of Brzezinski’s supposed face-lift took over their dialogue — Trump said to her, “We will outmatch them at every pass and outlast them all.”
White House spokesman Sean Spicer the next day tempered those remarks, saying, “There’s not going to be (an arms race) because he’s going to ensure that other countries get the message that he’s not going to sit back and allow that.”
The idea of an arms race conjures in some minds a heightened possibility that a nuclear power might actually unleash the most devastating weaponry known to humanity. Those fears have not been quieted by North Korea’s successful test earlier this month of an intercontinental ballistic missile that appeared capable of hitting Alaska and Hawaii. The test was framed by the United States as a “dangerous escalation” of serious tensions between the two countries.
Against that backdrop, researchers and students at the University of Colorado and Rutgers University are studying the human and environmental impacts of a potential nuclear war, using the most advanced scientific tools available
CU Professor Brian Toon and Rutgers Professor Alan Robock are hardly new to their subject matter, having been among those involved in the initial research that revealed the potential for nuclear winter, showing that the effects would last more than a decade, with smoke from nuclear conflagrations rising as high as 25 miles into the atmosphere.
Toon, at CU’s Laboratory for Atmospheric and Space Physics, said their new study is intended to calculate for the first time the impacts of nuclear war on agriculture, on the oceanic food chain and on humans, as well as migration activity and food availability.
Toon, 70, had taken note of Trump’s comments in December, but said they were not without precedent for the president.
“I think it’s a great concern. There’s no evidence that the administration knows about the consequences of nuclear conflict,” Toon said. Referencing an exchange reported in August 2016 by Brzezinski’s partner, Joe Scarborough, Toon added, “Trump has made a number of comments, (such as) why couldn’t he just bomb ISIS with nuclear weapons? What good are nuclear weapons if you can’t use them?”
Ice age temperatures’
Toon was a co-author — along with Carl Sagan and others — in 1983 on “Nuclear Winter: Global Consequences of Multiple Nuclear Explosions.”
Termed the TTAPS study — an acronym taken from the authors’ last names — it coined the term “nuclear winter,” advancing the theory that uncontrolled fires would send hundreds of millions of tons of smoke and soot into the atmosphere, ultimately blocking out the sun and plunging surface temperatures by 20 to 40 degrees Celsius for a prolonged period of time.
While noting that he doesn’t believe Trump has given the issue a lot of thought, Toon said, “To be fair, I don’t think Obama gave it very much thought, either. I think he was aware of the problems. But there is no indication that the Department of Defense wants the American public to think about this kind of thing.”
He is well into his fourth decade of doing just that.
“A full-scale war between Russia and the U.S. would cause basically ice age temperatures on the planet,” said Toon, a professor in CU’s Department of Atmospheric and Oceanic Sciences and a recognized contributor to the 2007 Nobel Peace Prize that went to former Vice President Al Gore and the International Panel on Climate Change.
“It would be below freezing at our latitude for several years — even in the middle of the summer. It would stop all agriculture at mid latitude. This would lead to starvation. … There would be nothing to eat, basically, and people would starve to death.”
Alluding to the Book of Genesis and its reference to Joseph laying away a seven-year supply of grain, Toon said mankind is not nearly so well prepared.
“The reality is there is grain on hand for 60 days, and after 60 days, there is nothing left to eat,” he said. Citing one of three critical global flash points for potential nuclear war, he added, “Mass starvation is going to occur if India and Pakistan get into a war. …We’ve predicted a billion or two billion people could die of starvation in a war induced by India and Pakistan.”
The other two areas of global concern — in terms of potential nuclear conflict — that he discussed were North Korea and Russia’s possibly testing its influence beyond Ukraine in eastern Europe.
The role of scientists
The researchers are using supercomputers and sophisticated climate models developed by Boulder’s National Center for Atmospheric Research to calculate the amount of fuel fires in urban centers and how much smoke might be produced by nuclear blasts. They are also using world food trade and agricultural models to project the impact on crops and potential widespread famine from a nuclear war.
His years of work in this field leave him convinced he knows the bottom line.
“The surviving population on Earth would be hundreds of millions,” as opposed to the 7.5 billion who currently inhabit Earth. “The vast majority of the people would starve to death.”
And bringing the issue to Coloradans’ front door, Toon pointed out that about 450 of the United States’ deployed nuclear warheads are situated in silos ranging from Colorado’s northeastern plains through Wyoming, Montana and Nebraska.
“So, that’s a central target of a first strike, and those missiles are sitting there with launch-on-warning status, which is extremely dangerous because that means that if the president senses a launch by the Russians or someone else, then those missiles are meant to be launched within 10s of minutes,” he said.
“This is an invitation to error. There are many examples of us coming close to nuclear war because of mistaken indications of launch, or something else.”
Ball Aerospace, IBM, the National Institute of Standards and Technology, Lockheed Martin and even the University of Colorado, he said, all help make the Boulder-Denver area an inviting target, he said.
But the focus of the new project — funded by a three-year, $3 million grant from the Open Philanthropy Project headquartered in San Francisco and including numerous additional partners — is global, not local.
Asked about the political implications of his work, Toon pointed out that President Ronald Reagan acknowledged the research concerning nuclear winter in 1985 and that concern shared by Reagan and Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev helped push the eventual reduction in a onetime global nuclear arsenal of 77,000 weapons down to its present-day inventory of about 15,000 held by nine countries.
“That is the role of scientists — if they find something of importance, to tell the United States, to tell the government about it. It’s the role of the government to do something,” Toon said.
“That’s why we keep pursuing this. This is an important problem. It could have a huge impact on human civilization, and it is the government’s job to understand it and to do something about it.”

The Press is Finally Recognizing Obama’s Great Error (Daniel 8)


Iran will soon have ICBMs armed with nukes by way of North Korea. Team Trump must act now

Harry Kazianis
Here’s a prediction by yours truly that you can take to the bank: In just a few years Iran will have intercontinental ballistic missiles, or ICBMs, that can attack targets all over the Middle East, Europe and the United States.
And it might all be thanks to the rogue state the Trump administration has labelled the biggest national security threat of our time: North Korea.
Oh, and to twist the knife in a little deeper, those missiles could be armed with nuclear weapons—once the Iran deal expires. That is, unless America puts a stop to this threat once and for all.
Now wait a second. You’re shocked? You really shouldn’t be.
Before we get to all that, maybe we should take a step back for a moment.
You see, making such predictions isn’t always popular, but they spur action. Foreign policy analysts here in Washington love to hedge their bets with words like “possibly”, “perhaps”, “likely” and so on when trying to predict the next big threat. However, there is always certain trends that are easy to see—and even easier to run away from because they aren’t super solvable.
The American people didn’t vote for such dithering last cycle. To be frank, they voted for the opposite of Barack Obama.
When it comes to matters abroad voters wanted an America that would seek out the challenges of the future and take them on before they were aimed at our collective heads. And that is what President Trump has done by taking on North Korea’s nuclear and missile programs as well as calling out Iran for its own menacing missile plans.
While all of this is great news, the Trump administration is now facing a much bigger problem: the potential for North Korea and Iran to collaborate on long-range missile technology that can be used to strike our allies and the homeland.
In many respects, the evidence is right out in the open of past collaboration, according to some experts.
In an interview with Fox News, Jeffrey Lewis, an expert at the Middlebury Institute of International Studies at Monterey explained that “the very first missiles we saw in Iran were simply copies of North Korean missiles.” He also noted that “over the years, we’ve seen photographs of North Korean and Iranian officials in each other’s countries, and we’ve seen all kinds of common hardware.”
Many experts have been warning for years now that Tehran and Pyongyang have been trading missile technology. If the Trump administration doesn’t act fast it won’t be just the hermit kingdom that has nukes that can strike at targets thousands of miles away—but it will also be the only nation on planet Earth that has turned chanting “death to America” into a national pastime.
Now, to be fair, there are those who downplay the linkages between Iran and North Korea. But if history tells us one thing it is that to never, ever, dismiss the power of a common threat. And both of these countries seek to offset U.S. military might—at any price. Clearly long-range missiles armed with nuclear payloads do that quite nicely.
One could easily imagine a scenario in a decade or so when the Iran nuclear deal has lapsed—something many on the left seem to forget—and Tehran decides that it no longer needs to hide its intentions.
Iran instead takes what it feels is its rightful place as the dominant power of the Middle East and hold on to its arsenal of nuclear weapons and the missiles to carry them into battle. With the nuclear research it already has done in the past, along with careful cooperation with Pyongyang on missile technology— the nuclear deal currently in place never restricted such cooperation—it decides to push ahead unabated.
So what should the Trump administration do about this threat? Thankfully, Washington has considerable options to explore.
First, we should “name and shame” any North Korean, Iranian or outside partners that are helping these rogue regimes collaborate on missile technologies.
Pentagon and intelligence officials have told me on several occasions they have strong leads on who is helping facilitate these exchanges. It’s time to shine a light on these groups or individuals—now. They need to be outed for the whole world to see and publicly shamed.
The Trump administration should declare that if you help Pyongyang or Tehran build long-range missiles you are an enemy of the international community and will be treated accordingly. Such shaming should include those providing material or technical assistance or any banks, financial institutions or front companies passing along funds for such assistance between both nations.
Second, with such entities out in the open, Team Trump should impose sanctions on such groups as soon as possible. The goal should be to drive up the costs for both sides and make them feel the financial pinch as much as possible.
Third, we should get creative in how we try to stamp out such cooperation. In a 2012 report by the National Bureau of Asian Research, author John S. Park offers the idea of using a “a monetary reward program to interdict components or technicians central to ballistic missile development.” He notes that:
“Hiding in the open is a particularly effective tactic employed by North Korea. Contracting private Chinese companies to serve as middlemen to facilitate “cargo laundering”—a creative process of disassembling components and moving them through different logistics routes—enables North Korean state trading companies to utilize commercial shipping containers. Monetary rewards would offer a double payday for some Chinese companies, who could collect the commission fee from a North Korean client as well as the reward for anonymously providing a copy of the freight insurance to local authorities in busy Southeast Asian ports.”
And finally, all of this is the clearest argument yet for Washington to lead a much more robust effort at ensuring more missile defense platforms are brought into the Middle East, Asia and also upgraded for the defense of our homeland.
Stopping an Iranian ICBM armed with a nuclear weapon by way of North Korea is one of the greatest challenges America faces today. The Trump administration must act now before it’s too late.
Harry J. Kazianis (@grecianformula) is director of defense studies at the Center for the National Interest, founded by former President Richard M. Nixon. Click here, for more on Mr. Kazianis.

The Sixth Seal: More Than Just Manhattan (Revelation 6:12)

New York, NY – In a Quake, Brooklyn Would Shake More Than Manhattan

The Sixth Seal

The Sixth Seal

By Brooklyn Eagle
New York, NY – The last big earthquake in the New York City area, centered in New York Harbor just south of Rockaway, took place in 1884 and registered 5.2 on the Richter Scale. Another earthquake of this size can be expected and could be quite damaging, says Dr. Won-Young Kim, senior research scientist at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University.
And Brooklyn, resting on sediment, would shake more than Manhattan, built on solid rock. “There would be more shaking and more damage,” Dr. Kim told the Brooklyn Eagle on Wednesday.
If an earthquake of a similar magnitude were to happen today near Brooklyn, “Many chimneys would topple. Poorly maintained buildings would fall down – some buildings are falling down now even without any shaking. People would not be hit by collapsing buildings, but they would be hit by falling debris. We need to get some of these buildings fixed,” he said.
But a 5.2 is “not comparable to Haiti,” he said. “That was huge.” Haiti’s devastating earthquake measured 7.0.
Brooklyn has a different environment than Haiti, and that makes all the difference, he said. Haiti is situated near tectonic plate boundaries, while Brooklyn is inside the North American plate, far from its boundary.
“The Caribbean plate is moving to the east, while the North American plate is moving towards the west. They move about 20 mm – slightly less than an inch – every year.” The plates are sliding past each other, and the movement is not smooth, leading to jolts, he said.
While we don’t have the opportunity for a large jolt in Brooklyn, we do have small, frequent quakes of a magnitude of 2 or 3 on the Richter Scale. In 2001 alone the city experienced two quakes: one in January, measuring 2.4, and one in October, measuring 2.6. The October quake, occurring soon after Sept. 11 terrorist attacks, “caused a lot of panic,” Dr. Kim said.
“People ask me, ‘Should I get earthquake insurance?’ I tell them no, earthquake insurance is expensive. Instead, use that money to fix chimneys and other things. Rather than panicky preparations, use common sense to make things better.”
Secure bookcases to the wall and make sure hanging furniture does not fall down, Dr. Kim said. “If you have antique porcelains or dishes, make sure they’re safely stored. In California, everything is anchored to the ground.”
While a small earthquake in Brooklyn may cause panic, “In California, a quake of magnitude 2 is called a micro-quake,” he added.