Authorities Expecting The Sixth Seal? (Rev 6:12)

US Raises Threat of Quake but Lowers Risk for Towers
New York Times



Here is another reason to buy a mega-million-dollar apartment in a Manhattan high-rise: Earthquake forecast maps for New York City that a federal agency issued on Thursday indicate “a slightly lower hazard for tall buildings than previously thought.”
The agency, the United States Geodetic Survey, tempered its latest quake prediction with a big caveat.
“The eastern U.S. has the potential for larger and more damaging earthquakes than considered in previous maps and assessments,” the agency said, citing the magnitude 5.8 quake that struck Virginia in 2011.
Federal seismologists based their projections of a lower hazard for tall buildings — “but still a hazard nonetheless,” they cautioned — on a lower likelihood of slow shaking from an earthquake occurring near the city, the type of shaking that typically causes more damage to taller structures.
“The tall buildings in Manhattan are not where you should be focusing,” said John Armbruster, a seismologist with the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory of Columbia University. “They resonate with long period waves. They are designed and engineered to ride out an earthquake. Where you should really be worried in New York City is the common brownstone and apartment building and buildings that are poorly maintained.”
Mr. Armbruster was not involved in the federal forecast, but was an author of an earlier study that suggested that “a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed.”
He noted that barely a day goes by without a New York City building’s being declared unsafe, without an earthquake. “If you had 30, 40, 50 at one time, responders would be overloaded,” he said.
The city does have an earthquake building code that went into effect in 1996, and that applies primarily to new construction.
A well-maintained building would probably survive a magnitude 5 earthquake fairly well, he said. The last magnitude 5 earthquake in the city struck in 1884. Another is not necessarily inevitable; faults are more random and move more slowly than they do in, say, California. But he said the latest federal estimate was probably raised because of the magnitude of the Virginia quake.
“Could there be a magnitude 6 in New York?” Mr. Armbruster said. “In Virginia, in a 300 year history, 4.8 was the biggest, and then you have a 5.8. So in New York, I wouldn’t say a 6 is impossible.”
Mr. Armbruster said the Geodetic Survey forecast would not affect his daily lifestyle. “I live in a wood-frame building with a brick chimney and I’m not alarmed sitting up at night worried about it,” he said. “But society’s leaders need to take some responsibility.”

Antichrist Moves Away From Iran (Daniel 8:8)

Addressing Iranian Influence in Iraq

by Giorgio Cafiero
As Iraqis celebrate Mosul’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), their country’s future is anything but certain. Although it is premature to conclude that the fight against IS in Iraq is over, the Trump administration’s approach to Iraq is likely to focus more on countering Iran’s influence in the Shi’ite-majority Arab country. Saudi Arabia will support Trump in this. Until recently, Riyadh avoided engaging the Shi’ite leadership in Baghdad based on the view that the post-2003 political order in Iraq has been entirely under Tehran’s thumb. Last month’s rare visit to Riyadh of Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shi’ite cleric who has called for the disbanding of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, signaled how the kingdom too has a heightened interest in attempting to bring Iraq farther away from the Islamic Republic’s orbit of influence.
Although Washington and Tehran have fought IS in parallel, no mutual interest in defeating it has resulted in any substantial or official cooperation. The Obama administration was far more accommodating of Iran in the fight against IS than Trump’s administration. For example, last year then-Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that, despite all the problems in Washington-Tehran relations, “Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually.” Trump and his team, nonetheless, are determined to distinguish themselves from Obama by conducting a foreign policy that is more hawkish and aggressive toward Iran in areas where they believe the previous president was “weak” or willing to concede too much to Tehran for the purpose of peacefully resolving the nuclear standoff.
Despite reluctantly certifying Tehran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the White House is imposing new sanctions on Iran, signaling its intention to sabotage the accord, and even talking of regime change against the Islamic Republic. Additionally, Trump recently praised Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government for fighting on the “front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.” Since he became president earlier this year, the United States has intentionally conducted direct military strikes on Syrian government military infrastructure and Washington has increased support for the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.
Odds are good that Iraq will become more of a flashpoint in tension between the United States and Iran as the post-IS chapter begins in Mosul, leaving the two countries with even less common interest in the city and Iraq at large. In May, while speaking at the Arab Islamic American Summit, Trump said that in Iraq Iran “funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos.” In turn, Tehran maintains that the US military presence in Iraq is a root cause of much of the country’s chaotic tumult.
Iraq’s position in the Middle East’s geopolitical order will also largely depend on the extent to which Baghdad and Riyadh can overcome their tensions that prompted officials in the latter to avoid engaging with the Shi’ite leadership in the former. In light of the recent visits of the Iraqi prime minister, minister of interior, and al-Sadr, the kingdom is clearly set on reaching out to elements in Baghdad with which Saudi Arabia seeks to work, rather than Nouri al-Maliki, whom Riyadh views as an Iranian puppet. Underlying Saudi Arabia’s new approach toward Iraq is pressure from the White House and a desire to counter Tehran’s expanded clout in the Arab country.
By bringing Iraq further from the Iranian-led “resistance axis” and closer to the Sunni Arab fold, Saudi Arabia hopes to cultivate ties with Shi’ite politicians in Baghdad who advocate a foreign policy that restores Iraqi’s leadership role in the Arab world. Ultimately, in a battle for geopolitical leverage in the region, Saudi Arabia and Iran will compete when it comes to the reconstruction of parts of Iraq destroyed by the campaign to defeat IS.
On July 23, Iran and Iraq signed a military cooperation agreement to combat “terrorism and extremism,” marking yet another blow to Washington’s efforts to counter Tehran’s consolidated influence in the Middle East. The memorandum of understanding, according to Iranian state-owned media, “includes expansion of cooperation and exchange of experiences on combating terrorism and extremism, security of borders, as well as educational, logistic, technical and military support.” The following day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry declared that Iranian-Iraqi relations were a bilateral matter of no business to any other government. The message was directed toward both Washington and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, chiefly Saudi Arabia.
Tehran opposes America’s military presence in post-IS Iraq. Iran’s security apparatus has maintained the same view of America’s military intervention in nearby countries, which has endured through all the changes in Washington-Tehran relations since 1979. The regime’s perception of the existential threat of the US military in Iraq did not fade even when the Obama administration made diplomatic overtures to Iran.
Iran’s regime sees militant Salafist-jihadist groups in Iraq as an existential threat too. The leaders of the Islamic Republic maintain a popular narrative based on the premise that the world has plotted against Iran. It believes that extremists near its borders, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s and 2000s and IS in Iraq today, are not outcomes of the dissolution of authoritarian secular regimes, failed states, wars, and other multifaceted problems. Instead, according to the narrative, these violent forces have conspired to topple the Islamic Republic after spreading chaos to other Muslim countries with support from Saudi Arabia and other GCC states at every step.
Although Iranian officials affirm that their country’s military action in Iraq and Syria is not geared toward expanding Tehran’s regional clout but instead toward promoting regional security and protecting Iran and its neighbors from global terrorists, there are undeniable geopolitical interests driving the country’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Iraq. Based on Tehran’s pursuit of logistical links between Iran’s capital city and Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast via a host of its Shi’ite proxies, chiefly the Popular Mobilization Units that work closely with the Iraqi army and Lebanese Hezbollah, Mosul’s future matters immensely for the Islamic Republic and its strategies for countering security threats as well as asserting greater leverage throughout the Levant and greater Middle East.
An important factor shaping Iraq’s future will be the extent to which the central government in Baghdad can improve its relationship with Iraq’s Sunni minority in al-Anbar province and build trust that was entirely absent at the time of the caliphate’s meteoric ascension to power just over three years ago. Doubtless, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias’ human rights violations waged in their fight against IS bode poorly for the prospects of national Iraqi unity under the Shi’ite-led government’s authority in the future. Failure to hold such militias accountable may well create the breeding grounds for an IS 2.0 to regain territory in Iraq’s Sunni-majority western territory in the future.
Facing new pressures from its neighbors and the Trump administration, the Iraqi government must not only take on the domestic challenges of resolving the issues in Mosul that enabled IS to seize control of the city and other swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, but also navigate the region’s volatile geopolitical order as outsiders compete for influence over the country’s future now that attention is shifting away from the fight against the caliphate. In reality, Iran essentially has free rein in much of Iraq now that many of Tehran’s militant proxies have consolidated their positions of power. It remains unclear how Washington and Riyadh will be able to meaningfully change this reality.
Photo: Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

The Antichrist Unifies the Islamic Horns

Muqtada al-Sadr ‘bans anti-Saudi slogans from Iraqi streets’
Middle East Eye
Influential Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr have given orders to his followers to remove all anti-Saudi images, slogans and banners from Iraq’s streets, according to claims in Iraqi media.
Anti-Saudi street banners and slogans have been raised after Shia cleric Nimr al-Nimr, who was a driving force of the protests that broke out in 2011 in the Sunni-ruled kingdom’s Eastern Province, was executed by Saudi Arabia in 2016.
The report came in the Baghdad Post earlier this week. The claims could not be independently verified by Middle East Eye.
Meanwhile, the Saudi government has been forcibly relocating residents of Nimr’s hometown of Awamiya as clashes continue between soldiers and militant groups in the old city. Awamiya has long been a flashpoint for protests by Saudi’s Shia minority and demonstrations and unrest have been frequent.
The Sadrist movement also announced in a statement on Tuesday that Sadr – a fierce Iraqi nationalist who has recently been highly critical of the influence of Saudi’s regional rival Iran in Iraq and neighbouring Syria – would adopt a new moderate religious discourse.
The moves came after Sadr met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman on Sunday in a rare trip to the kingdom.
Little information has been publicly given about the reasons for the trip, which Sadr’s office described as his first in 11 years.
But Kurdistan 24 reported that Salman and Sadr discussed the future of Iraq and the impact of the 25 September Kurdistan independence referendum. Both reportedly stressed a need for a unified Iraq while acknowledging increasing tensions between Erbil and Baghdad.
According to the Baghdad Post, Sadr said Saudi Arabia had pledged to allocate $10m to help Iraqi refugees.
Relations between Saudi Arabia and Iraq were severed after Saddam Hussein’s invasion of Kuwait in 1990 and were only re-established in 2015.
Last month, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi met King Salman in Saudi Arabia in a bid to strengthen ties between the two countries.
“The countries agreed to establish a coordination council to upgrade relations to the hoped-for strategic level and open new horizons for cooperation in different fields,” said the statement carried by the official Saudi Press Agency.
It said the two countries had achieved a “quantum leap” in bilateral relations and stressed the importance of further official visits.

We Are Missing the Prelude to the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif

Pakistan democracy at risk after removal of Nawaz Sharif

Nyshka Chandran
The same laws used to dismiss Pakistan’s former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif could effectively be applied to other lawmakers, spelling potential political upheaval and a stronger military — unsavory scenarios for the nuclear power’s fragile democracy.
Last Friday, the Supreme Court dismissed the 67 year-old on a failure to announce income in disclosure papers for 2013’s general election. According to the Supreme Court statement, the former prime minister demonstrated dishonesty by not declaring monthly salary of roughly $2,700 from Dubai-based Capital FZE — a company owned by his son — during 2006 to 2014.
The judicial body based its decision on Article 62 of the Constitution and Section 99 of the Representation of the People Act — little-used legislation that require truthfulness and honesty from elected officials.

Political infighting expected

While Friday’s decision was hailed as a rare example of accountability in a graft-stricken nation, the fact that such vague laws were used to remove Sharif could trigger infighting between political parties, strategists warned.
“Having used these clauses to oust the prime minister, the court may have opened Pandora’s box,” Moeed Yusuf, associate vice president, Asia Center, United States Institute of Peace, said in a recent note. “Sharif’s allies have already started bringing charges against their political opponents under the same article; other such cases are sure to follow.”

“Having used these clauses to oust the prime minister, the court may have opened Pandora’s box.”

Dirty politics, nepotism, and cronyism is rampant in the South Asian economy, ranked 116th in Transparency International’s list of 176 corrupt nations, which means numerous lawmakers could be removed under Article 62.
The court itself has previously referred to the law as a “nightmare” given the difficulty in objectively defining the terms, Yusuf said.
“The fact that Sharif was disqualified on the grounds of Article 62 is potentially very problematic because more than half the current parliament and members of the provincial assemblies could be disqualified on the same grounds,” echoed Rafiullah Kakar, an assistant research officer at the Commonwealth Young Professionals Programme, in a note published by the London School of Economics.
That could spark the purging of an entire political class, which could create a vacuum that would likely be filled by non-democratic forces, he added.

Military to benefit

During the 1990s, friction between Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League and the opposition Pakistan People’s Party eventually paved the way for 1999’s military coup — many now fear a repeat of history. The army, experts said, is a clear winner from Friday’s ruling.
“The army gains by discrediting the civilian government. A weakened and humiliated civilian government ensures that public support for the armed forces will remain high as it emerges, once again, as the more competent institution,” said Shailesh Kumar, senior Asia analyst at consultancy Eurasia Group.
But despite its advantageous position and history of coups, the military isn’t expected to take power anytime soon.
“In decades past, if a civilian leader was abruptly removed, the expectation would be that the army would swoop in to restore order — yet today, no serious observer of Pakistan expects the military to seize power,” Michael Kugelman, South Asia deputy director and senior associate at the Wilson Center, said in a Tuesday note.
“Of course, given the deep clout that the military already enjoys behind the scenes, it has no need to take power directly and likely no desire either, given the arguably unprecedented non-security policy challenges, such as severe water shortages and a serious energy crisis, that afflict present-day Pakistan.”
Eurasia Group also said it expects the powerful army to stay on the sidelines amid the current government turmoil.
Friday’s ruling followed a months-long investigation into the Sharif family’s offshore wealth, which was sparked by allegations of money laundering in 2016’s Panama Papers. The Supreme Court has also ordered a criminal probe into the family based on the Panama Papers’ claims.