Antichrist Tries to Unify the Islamic Horns

Sadr visit to Riyadh news, Haider al-Abadi news, Bashar al-Assad news, Saudi Arabia news, Iran news, Iraq news, Middle East politics news, Iran influence in Iraq news, Saudi-Iran conflict news, Shia-Sunni quotas Iraq news, Iraq elections news
Can Muqtada Al-Sadr Defuse Tension Between Riyadh and Tehran?

© Thomas Koch

Seeing Iraq regain stability serves as a source of panic for some in the region.
Iraq’s influential Shia leader, Muqtada al-Sadr, paid an unexpected visit to Saudi Arabia on July 28 and 29, where he met with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman and other senior officials. The meeting took place before the crown prince accedes to the throne, in order to draw up the coming relationship between Iraq and Saudi Arabia. Sadr’s rare visit raised concerns in some Middle Eastern countries, including Iran, which has refrained from commenting on the trip.
The charismatic cleric has recast himself as the upholder of Iraq’s democratic process and a bulwark against the sectarian rift between Sunnis and Shias. The visit comes at a time when tensions between Iran and Saudi Arabia are worsening. Would the visit of the Shia cleric, a member of an influential Shia family and son of the prominent Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, help defuse tension between Baghdad and Riyadh?
The timing of the visit is crucial to Iraqi politics. Sadr has returned as a leader in charge of uniting Iraqis under one umbrella, his office said. However, some Iraqi sources believe the visit to Saudi Arabia shows that Sadr has come on the Iraqi political scene to lead, not to linger in his Najaf office to receive followers.
The visit can be perceived as an attempt to consolidate his support and reap the fruits of his involvement in the coming parliamentary elections in April 2018, as Iraq would not have a government without him. Sadr is crucial for many Iraqi leaders as he heads a political bloc with almost 10% of parliamentary seats and has great influence on both Sunni and Shia Iraqis. His persistence to bring about change by bridging gaps between Iraqis is not welcomed by many in government, who are controlled by Iran.
The cleric and his followers are making deals in an attempt to enter positions in Iraq as mediator between Iraqis, Iranians and Saudis. Sadr is now delegated by Saudis to play a role in Iraq to serve Saudi interests and to return Iraq into its Arab fold by playing a role in bridging the differences and gaps between the three countries. That explains why he received $10 million from Saudi Arabia and the promises the kingdom has given him to build up the consulate in Najaf.
The question that arises is the following: Is Riyadh leaning toward Sadr, or is he leaning toward Riyadh at Tehran’s expense?
Sadr’s appearance as a powerful national leader could have some advantages, as seen by Saudi Arabia, because of his newly-minted nationalist stance that has made him a potential bulwark against Iranian influence. This became clear in his April 2017 statement against Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, calling on him to step down. Right now there is tension between him and rival Shia factions, especially after his militias clashed with the Iranian-backed Hashd al-Shaabi.
For its part, Saudi Arabia, which is concerned with Iran’s influence not only in Iraq but also across the greater Middle East, wanted someone like Sadr to step into the Iraqi field to draw up its relations externally and to organize domestic affairs. This started with the invitation from Prince Mohammad. Saudi Arabia, and mainly its crown prince, views Sadr as a man of the people who is a fervent Iraqi nationalist and federalist, upholding the democratic process by non-violent means. Sadr, who is an advocate of the quota system in parliamentary elections, believes this method can ensure that Iraq’s main ethno-religious constituents — Shias, Sunnis and Kurds — share power.
Some Iranian commentators and political analysts warn that Saudi Arabia is playing games by courting Sadr to influence Iraqi politics — especially after Haider al-Abadi’s visit to Riyadh in June — which could threaten Iranian interests in both Iraq and Syria. The Saudis called on the Iraqi prime minister by giving him a chance to either reconsider his policies toward Iran and bear the consequences that Iranian control of Iraq’s politics and its resources would carry, including the marginalization of Iraqi Sunnis, or to U-turn toward his Arab brethren in order to proceed with regaining stability in Iraq.

Shifting Alliances

Since the Saudis received no positive response from Abadi, they thought of other alternatives, Sadr being one. Some view the cleric’s visit as a concession from the Saudis to Iran, especially as a result of Qatar and the Islamic Republic growing closer at the expense of Riyadh’s influence amid the Gulf Cooperation Council’s (GCC) rift over Doha.
Sadr is known for shifting alliances in order to remain in a position of power and influence. He proved this in February 2016, when 100,000 of his followers demonstrated in the streets of Baghdad, calling for government reform and for building bridges with Sunni tribes and politicians. He is famous for shifting political positions in the past, including stopping militant activity against the United States, turning against the government in Baghdad and speaking out against Assad.
Among Iraqi politicians, reports circulate that Saudi Arabia is attempting to control Sadr. Some journalists suggest the kingdom will be monitoring what he does after returning to Iraq and what his plans would be in the run-up to next year’s parliamentary elections. Some argue that Sadr would serve as a stepping stone for Saudi Arabia into Iraq, where the cleric could help Riyadh put pressure on the Shia-led order in Baghdad to distance Iraq from Iran.
Officials have not, thus far, disclosed details surrounding Sadr’s recent visit to Saudi Arabia. However, among those who are close to the cleric, there are suggestions that Sadr may have gone to the kingdom to seek financial help from Riyadh in preparation for Iraq’s elections in 2018.
Another important Shia cleric on whom Saudis pin high hopes is Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, which was the largest party in the country’s Council of Representatives from 2003 until 2010. He is exiting his bloc to create the National Wisdom Party, an umbrella group of Shia and Sunni political parties — a new political movement in the country. This would be a reason for Sadr to set up his own front, benefiting from his close and strong ties with other Sunni leaders in Iraq and the GCC states.

Serious Dialogue

Sadr’s latest visit to Riyadh was the second since 2006, when he met with the then-Saudi King Abdullah bin Abdulaziz. With Riyadh’s latest invitation, it turned out that Saudi leaders have resorted to dealing with Baghdad in order to either change the political scene in Iraq or to ask Sadr to use his connections and channels of dialogue with Iran to melt the ice between Riyadh and Tehran. Riyadh is seeking to have a stable Saudi Arabia without any external interference from Iran, and it also wants Iraq to be back to its Arab track, away from Iranian influence. Once the seats in the upcoming parliamentary elections are secured by Shia and Sunni moderates or those pro-Saudi Arabia, the war game with Iran will change in favor of Riyadh.
The Saudi government has also extended invitations to other Iraqi Shia leaders, who have not yet made a decision whether or not to visit Riyadh. Iraqi politicians close to these leaders believe that Mohammad bin Salman aims to improve his image among the Shias in the country by inviting the clerics from Iraq to mediate between him and Iran, as Saudi Arabia’s Eastern Province is known for its dissent against the Saud rulers.
The invitation has come after Sadr’s April statement calling on Iran’s ally, President Assad, to step down to avoid further bloodshed in the Syrian conflict. Sadr has also avoided using any hostile rhetoric against Saudi Arabia and other Sunni-majority Arab states. In May, he urged Tehran and Riyadh to start a “serious dialogue to bridge their difference and gaps for regional stability.” He also called on the two to “care for their peoples — regardless of religion, sect or ethnicity — and engage in serious dialogue with a view to restoring regional peace and security.”
Regardless of the outcome of visit, the most important is that it came at a critical moment and would be an inspiration for further sectarian and ethnic conflict in Iraq after the defeat of Daesh (Islamic State) in Mosul. Once the war against terrorism is over in Iraq and Syria, it could pave the way for a potential war between sects in Iraq supported by regional powers, as some countries in the Middle East have started to gain power shortly after the demise of Iraq. Once issues of terrorism are resolved, this might mean that the Iraqis could return to wielding control over neighboring countries, politically and militarily. Seeing Iraq regain stability serves as a source of panic for some in the region.
The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Fair Observer’s editorial policy.

The Caliphate Under the Antichrist (Revelation 13)

https://i2.wp.com/andrewtheprophet.com/blog/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/mehdi_army.jpgFrom the Mahdi state to the Caliphate state!
Al Arabiya
The peoples of the East generally believe in inherited legends which, over time, turn into an unreliable part of faith. The idea of the Caliphate state which was promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood is a set of inherited mythical fantasies that claim that the Prophet (PBUH) promised the Muslims a Caliphate state which will unite the Muslim world under the same flag.
Naturally, this Hadith is challenged by many and is not proven by the authorities and scholars. In fact, the caliphate state is an idea which emerged after the death of the Prophet, and it is improbable that he had recommended it. However, the mixing of some of the Hadiths with fixed historical facts has created a kind of sanctity in the contemporary Islamic mindset.
The caliphate state, which they say will materialize at the end of time, is the basis of most of the Muslim political movements. At the forefront of these movements is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sowing destruction
Among those who adopted this mythical idea is also ISIS, which shed the blood of many people, sowed destruction in countries and displaced people for the sake of the Caliphate state. In the end, all its efforts failed. They based their entire war and propaganda on a Hadith attributed to the Prophet which promised the emergence of this state at the end of time. In fact, it is believed that this state will conquer (Rome) in Europe, as is repeatedly vowed by its advocates.
By the way, when Juhayman occupied the Grand Mosque, and pledged allegiance to the person who claimed to be the Mahdi under the Kaaba, he also believed in the heritage of another newly inherited prophesy that predicts that when the Mahdi emerges at the end of time, all the Muslims in the Haram will pledge allegiance to him. Consequently, an army will come from the north to fight his supporters.
The defeat of ISIS and the idea of the state of the Caliphate, which some claim will emerge as strong as the Caliphate state in the beginning of Islamic history, requires us to purify our heritage from these myths that are not based on logical context as much as on the logic of miracles.
The story describes how the soil would crack and swallow the army and that the Mahdi and his supporters would conquer all. Yet, the truth was something else, something that is far away from myths and legends.
The question that we should urgently ask within this context is whether the fall of the so-called Caliphate State, along with the horrendous fall of ISIS, would fortify the Islamic mind and keep it from accepting these inherited heritage legends, which invade the law of logical causality under the pretext of the sanctity of the Prophet and make the miraculous supernatural somehow believable.
The defeat of ISIS and the idea of the state of the Caliphate, which some claim will emerge as strong as the Caliphate state in the beginning of Islamic history, requires us to purify our heritage from these myths that are not based on logical context as much as on the logic of miracles.
Just like the Juhayman incident and the myth of the Mahdi cost us human and psychological losses at the beginning of the current Hajri century, history is repeating itself. The same idea of the mythical state of the Caliphate cost the whole world human and material losses, which can be seen on the ground. In the end, it turns out that states are not based on desires or metaphysical reasons, but on rational reasons justified by reality, not by the cosmic law and miracles.
Hence, young people must realize that they were taken for fools. Indeed, some of the inherited heritage texts are only a form of rational abuse and myths.
This article is also available in Arabic.
_________________________
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd
Last Update: Sunday, 6 August 2017 KSA 16:06 – GMT 13:06
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English’s point-of-view.

Antichrist Opposes the Separation of Iraq

A man sews an Iraqi Kurdish flag bearing a portrait of Iraqi Kurdish leader Massoud Barzani, Erbil, Iraq, Feb. 3, 2016. (photo by SAFIN HAMED/AFP/Getty Images)
Author: Ibrahim Malazada
ERBIL, Iraq — Objections to the Iraqi Kurdistan’s referendum scheduled for Sept. 25 have gone beyond the political arena. Mosques are now involved, and religion is being inserted into the equation of supporting or opposing the calls for an independent state.

Religious authority Mohammad Taqi al-Madrasi reiterated his previously stated opposition to independence in a July 28 sermon and advised the Kurds “to limit their demands to the confines of sense and reason and to the constitution.” Mohammad Mahdi al-Khalsi, the religious authority in al-Kazimiya, called on all Iraqis July 7 to stand up against “divisive projects” and asked to put a nail in the coffin of this “suspicious” project. He also warned the Islamic world against forming a new Zionist entity that is Kurdistan.
Ammar al-Hakim, who heads the Shiite alliance, the largest political Shiite coalition in Iraq, said on TV in Egypt April 19, “I personally do not know any country that might recognize a Kurdish state — if announced — other than Israel. The Arab countries have Iraq’s unity at heart.”
Remarkably, linking Israel to a Kurdish state goes as far back as the Baathists, when the Kurdish movement was described as “Israel’s spy.”
Another cleric defending the secularism of the state, Iyad Jamal al-Din, attacked Iraqi Kurdistan President Massoud Barzani during an interview on Kurdish NRT television June 26. He said that there will not be a Kurdish state because there are vetoes against it from Iraq, Iran, Turkey, Syria and the world and that Barzani is building castles in the sand to cover up the constitutional void and instability in the Kurdistan Region. Jamal al-Din said, “There will not be a Kurdish state, not now, and not in 1,000 years.”
Sadrist movement leader Muqtada al-Sadr was the first to object to Kurdish independence and said, “I wish they wouldn’t implement this independence. The Kurds are our partners in this country.” He said in a statement released by his media office July 4, “I ask Barzani to postpone the separation as a first step to completely eliminating it in the future, because we are on the verge of liberating Mosul.”
Ayatollah Qasim al-Tai said in a statement on Jan. 25, 2015, that he firmly refuses the independence project. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most influential religious figure in Iraq, has remained silent on the topic.
Arab Sunni clerics also had a say. Sheikh Ahmad al-Kubeisi who is well-known in Iraq reiterated that he supports Kurdish stances in a post published July 19. He said, “Iraq will be divided. The strong Sunni area will be Kurdistan, and it will not be restricted to the Kurds, but all Arab Sunnis are insistent on joining it.” Arab Sunnis, especially in disputed areas, support the referendum and want to join the Kurdish region.
Kurdish clerics are also voicing their support for the referendum. The Ministry of Endowment will give instructions to preachers in mosques, according to Nabez Ismail, the spokesperson for the Ministry of Endowment and Religious Affairs. Ismail said July 8, “Clerics will participate in the referendum by voting ‘yes’ with all their power. They believe this is a national duty.”
In an indirect response to the Shiite statements, the Central Council for the Kurdistan Islamic Scholars’ Union noted July 12 that it supports the referendum in the Kurdistan Region and the areas disputed between Baghdad and Erbil. The Kurdish Islamic body called on Kurdish forces “to unite, declare national reconciliation and overcome their differences to make the referendum successful.”
Ihsan al-Rikani, the head of the Dahuk branch for the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Clerics made a fiery speech on July 4 and said, “Anyone objecting to the referendum is a traitor and must leave the country.”
Abdul Latif Salafi, a Salafist preacher in Iraqi Kurdistan, said, “I fully support the referendum. Anyone opposing it is not a true Kurd.”
Fateh Sharestini, a well-known Kurdish preacher in Erbil, said June 18, “As Muslims, we should support Iraqi Kurdistan’s independence to the end. When we get the chance and the international stage is set — God willing and according to Sharia — we should be independent. If a person does not have an independent government and if their flag does not flutter above other countries’ flags, God will not accept their prayers.”
Al-Monitor contacted Abdullah al-Waissi, the head of the Iraqi Kurdistan Region Scholars, and asked him about the reasons behind the firm refusal of some Shiite clerics and the support or silence of the Sunni clerics. He said, “Most Sunnis have realized that coexistence among Iraqi components is long gone, unlike their Shiite counterparts who believe dividing Iraq would undermine its influence and strength in the region. For this reason, Shiites oppose the referendum.”
Historian and expert on Iraqi affairs Jabbar Qader told Al-Monitor that Shiite clerics are getting involved in this dangerous issue for specific reasons. He said, “Shiite ruling circles want to impose their control on a large stretch of Iraq because the gains they made have seduced them into holding on to Iraq’s unity. They appealed against the referendum and accused the Kurds of trying to divide the country, with Israel’s cheering.”
With the nearing referendum, Iraq might witness tenser religious interventions in addition to fatwas and different religious stances. Meanwhile, there are no tangible guarantees that armed militias will not dive right into the conflict.

Economic Consequences of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Scenario Earthquakes for Urban Areas Along the Atlantic Seaboard of the United States

NYCEM.org

New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation

New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation

If today a magnitude 6 earthquake were to occur centered on New York City, what would its effects be? Will the loss be 10 or 100 billion dollars? Will there be 10 or 10,000 fatalities? Will there be 1,000 or 100,000 homeless needing shelter? Can government function, provide assistance, and maintain order? At this time, no satisfactory answers to these questions are available. A few years ago, rudimentary scenario studies were made for Boston and New York with limited scope and uncertain results. For most eastern cities, including Washington D.C., we know even less about the economic, societal and political impacts from significant earthquakes, whatever their rate of occurrence.
Why do we know so little about such vital public issues? Because the public has been lulled into believing that seriously damaging quakes are so unlikely in the east that in essence we do not need to consider them. We shall examine the validity of this widely held opinion.
Is the public’s earthquake awareness (or lack thereof) controlled by perceived low Seismicity, Seismic Hazard, or Seismic Risk? How do these three seismic features differ from, and relate to each other? In many portions of California, earthquake awareness is refreshed in a major way about once every decade (and in some places even more often) by virtually every person experiencing a damaging event. The occurrence of earthquakes of given magnitudes in time and space, not withstanding their effects, are the manifestations of seismicity. Ground shaking, faulting, landslides or soil liquefaction are the manifestations of seismic hazard. Damage to structures, and loss of life, limb, material assets, business and services are the manifestations of seismic risk. By sheer experience, California’s public understands fairly well these three interconnected manifestations of the earthquake phenomenon. This awareness is reflected in public policy, enforcement of seismic regulations, and preparedness in both the public and private sector. In the eastern U.S., the public and its decision makers generally do not understand them because of inexperience. Judging seismic risk by rates of seismicity alone (which are low in the east but high in the west) has undoubtedly contributed to the public’s tendency to belittle the seismic loss potential for eastern urban regions.
Let us compare two hypothetical locations, one in California and one in New York City. Assume the location in California does experience, on average, one M = 6 every 10 years, compared to New York once every 1,000 years. This implies a ratio of rates of seismicity of 100:1. Does that mean the ratio of expected losses (when annualized per year) is also 100:1? Most likely not. That ratio may be closer to 10:1, which seems to imply that taking our clues from seismicity alone may lead to an underestimation of the potential seismic risks in the east. Why should this be so?
To check the assertion, let us make a back-of-the-envelope estimate. The expected seismic risk for a given area is defined as the area-integrated product of: seismic hazard (expected shaking level), assets ($ and people), and the assets’ vulnerabilities (that is, their expected fractional loss given a certain hazard – say, shaking level). Thus, if we have a 100 times lower seismicity rate in New York compared to California, which at any given point from a given quake may yield a 2 times higher shaking level in New York compared to California because ground motions in the east are known to differ from those in the west; and if we have a 2 times higher asset density (a modest assumption for Manhattan!), and a 2 times higher vulnerability (again a modest assumption when considering the large stock of unreinforced masonry buildings and aged infrastructure in New York), then our California/New York ratio for annualized loss potential may be on the order of (100/(2x2x2)):1. That implies about a 12:1 risk ratio between the California and New York location, compared to a 100:1 ratio in seismicity rates.
From this example it appears that seismic awareness in the east may be more controlled by the rate of seismicity than by the less well understood risk potential. This misunderstanding is one of the reasons why earthquake awareness and preparedness in the densely populated east is so disproportionally low relative to its seismic loss potential. Rare but potentially catastrophic losses in the east compete in attention with more frequent moderate losses in the west. New York City is the paramount example of a low-probability, high-impact seismic risk, the sort of risk that is hard to insure against, or mobilize public action to reduce the risks.
There are basically two ways to respond. One is to do little and wait until one or more disastrous events occur. Then react to these – albeit disastrous – “windows of opportunity.” That is, pay after the unmitigated facts, rather than attempt to control their outcome. This is a high-stakes approach, considering the evolved state of the economy. The other approach is to invest in mitigation ahead of time, and use scientific knowledge and inference, education, technology transfer, and combine it with a mixture of regulatory and/or economic incentives to implement earthquake preparedness. The National Earthquake Hazard Reduction Program (NEHRP) has attempted the latter while much of the public tends to cling to the former of the two options. Realistic and reliable quantitative loss estimation techniques are essential to evaluate the relative merits of the two approaches.
This paper tries to bring into focus some of the seismological factors which are but one set of variables one needs for quantifying the earthquake loss potential in eastern U.S. urban regions. We use local and global analogs for illustrating possible scenario events in terms of risk. We also highlight some of the few local steps that have been undertaken towards mitigating against the eastern earthquake threat; and discuss priorities for future actions.