Antichrist Restructures His Men (Revelation 13)

Iraq’s Shiite cleric promises to dissolve military wing after IS full defeat

BAGHDAD, Sept. 7 (Xinhua) — Iraq’s firebrand Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr on Thursday announced that he will dissolve his military wing after full defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq.

A statement issued by Sadr urged the militants loyal to the Shiite cleric known as Saraya al-Salam, or Peace Companies militia, to join the government security forces and the government-run paramilitary Hashd Shaabi units.

The statement also said Sadr will block many branches of his private offices across Iraq, and maintain only one of his religious offices in the holy Shiite city of Najaf in central Iraq.

Sadr will also keep his loyal demonstrations committees, which have been leading the protests against the wide-spread government corruption in the country.

Moreover, the Shiite cleric decided to activate peaceful protests before Iraq’s general elections in 2018.

Sadr’s militia is a reformation of the previous militia Mahdi Army, which he led during the U.S. occupation of Iraq and the subsequent sectarian strife in the years after 2003.

Sadr announced the formation of Peace Companies to protect Shiite shrines from IS militants following the June 10, 2014 blitzkrieg when the group seized large swathes of territories in predominantly Sunni provinces in northern and western Iraq.

A Closer Look At The Sixth Seal (Rev 6:12)

A Look at the Tri-State’s Active Fault Line

Monday, March 14, 2011

The Ramapo Fault is the longest fault in the Northeast that occasionally makes local headlines when minor tremors cause rock the Tri-State region. It begins in Pennsylvania, crosses the Delaware River and continues through Hunterdon, Somerset, Morris, Passaic and Bergen counties before crossing the Hudson River near Indian Point nuclear facility.
In the past, it has generated occasional activity that generated a 2.6 magnitude quake in New Jersey’s Peakpack/Gladstone area and 3.0 magnitude quake in Mendham.

But the New Jersey-New York region is relatively seismically stable according to Dr. Dave Robinson, Professor of Geography at Rutgers. Although it does have activity.

“There is occasional seismic activity in New Jersey,” said Robinson. “There have been a few quakes locally that have been felt and done a little bit of damage over the time since colonial settlement — some chimneys knocked down in Manhattan with a quake back in the 18th century, but nothing of a significant magnitude.”

Robinson said the Ramapo has on occasion registered a measurable quake but has not caused damage: “The Ramapo fault is associated with geological activities back 200 million years ago, but it’s still a little creaky now and again,” he said.

“More recently, in the 1970s and early 1980s, earthquake risk along the Ramapo Fault received attention because of its proximity to Indian Point,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Historically, critics of the Indian Point Nuclear facility in Westchester County, New York, did cite its proximity to the Ramapo fault line as a significant risk.

In 1884, according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website, the  Rampao Fault was blamed for a 5.5 quake that toppled chimneys in New York City and New Jersey that was felt from Maine to Virginia.

“Subsequent investigations have shown the 1884 Earthquake epicenter was actually located in Brooklyn, New York, at least 25 miles from the Ramapo Fault,” according to the New Jersey Geological Survey website.

Rapprochement of the Islamic Horns

Baghdad-Riyadh Rapprochement?

by Maya Yang

In late July, the Iraqi Shi’ite cleric and leader of the Sadrist movement, Muqtada al-Sadr, paid an official visit to Saudi Arabia for the first time in 11 years. Sadr’s visit was preceded by the visit of Saudi Arabia’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Adel al Jubeir to Iraq back in February, followed by Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s visit to Riyadh in June and eventually the visit of Qasim al-Araji, Iraq’s interior minister, which occurred in the same month as Sadr’s visit. These diplomatic engagements suggest a potential new Arab partnership in the Middle East.

If the two countries are indeed working towards a rapprochement, a key reason is the shifting Shi’ite politics in Iraq that have compelled the country to redirect its foreign policy towards some of its Sunni neighbors at the expense of Iran.

Muqtada al-Sadr has historically been one of the few Shi’ite clerics known to maintain an “Iraq-first” policy. He was the first Shi’ite cleric in the country to call for the resignation of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, voicing his opposition towards Iran and its support for certain Shi’ite militias in Iraq. In addition to Sadr’s anti-Iranian sentiments, other Iraqi clerics such as Ammar Hakim and Jalal al-Saghir left their posts in the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, a pro-Iranian faction. Such moves away from Iran come amid growing speculation over the successor of Iraq’s aging Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Clerics such as Sadr oppose the notion of Iran’s decision-making role in selecting Iraq’s next spiritual leader.

Similarly, with Iraq’s upcoming provincial and national elections next year, many parties, such as Sadr’s, are trying to present themselves as nationalist and able to rise above the sectarian identities that have fragmented the country. By repeatedly calling for Iraq’s pivot away from Iran, Sadr is able to resonate with the Shi’ite communities in Iraq that oppose Iran’s ubiquitous Shi’ite presence in the country. At the same time, by visiting Sunni countries such as Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Sadr and Prime Minister Abadi seek to convey the impression that they can help improve the conditions of the Sunnis, all of whom have been marginalized since the second Iraq war. In fact, after Sadr’s meeting in Saudi Arabia, the latter promised the Iraqi cleric $10 million to set up a new Saudi consulate in the country, a symbolic nod towards the disenfranchised Sunni communities. Furthermore, by securing such a deal from the Gulf, which can be used to finance reparations in destroyed cities such as Mosul, Sadr is able to further advance his political image as someone who can improve all aspects of the nation.

Emerging Complications

Nonetheless, certain political figures in the country still see Iran as a more reliable ally than Saudi Arabia. In mid-August, Majid al-Nasrawi, the Iraqi governor of Basra, fled to Iran after facing corruption charges and resigning from his post. The Shi’ite politician justified his resignation by explaining that he has been unfairly pressured by those “associated with political factions,” likely referring to parties such as Sadr’s that largely operate independently from the Iranian-dominated Shia sphere.

Unsurprisingly, the Sadrist community has criticized Nasrawi’s escape, with one Sadrist spokesperson even accusing other government officials of colluding with Iranians to facilitate his escape. Mazin al-Mazini stated, “Nasrawi did not flee, he was smuggled to Iran. His escape came after he was tipped off by his accomplices in both Basra and Baghdad.” Nasrawi’s escape is only one of many examples of Iraqi Shiite politicians who are still partial towards Iran and its policies, thus driving a wedge between themselves and the more independent and nationalistic parties in the country. Hence, their inclination towards Iran complicates the growing relations between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, as many of them would oppose such development. Furthermore, since these politicians remain Iranian loyalists, they can easily allow Iran to continue extending its influence over the country by serving as mouthpieces or directly carrying out its policies in the country.

Another factor drives Iraq to largely turn towards its Sunni neighbors for potential re-alliances: the changing dynamics in US foreign policy in the region. As the Trump administration adopts an increasingly confrontational stance towards Iran, Iraq is strategically distancing itself from its eastern hegemonic neighbor and investigating other political options. Such examples include Iraq’s most recent implication of Iran in the 2006 bombing of a Shi’ite shrine in Samarra, a Sunni-majority city just north of Baghdad. Awad al-Awadi, an Iraqi MP stated on Diljah TV this month, “Take for example what happened in Samarra, many reports have revealed that there were interests, there were terrorist cells and groups that came in from Iran.” Since the attacks, numerous WikiLeaks reports have pointed to Iran’s involvement in the bombing as it supplied al-Qaeda members with various explosives at that time.

As for Saudi Arabia, the kingdom’s outreach to Shiite communities that do not necessarily endorse Iranian projects in their countries is a way of isolating the eastern hegemon. By appealing to groups such as Sadr’s, Saudi Arabia is able to offer itself as a politically viable option to these Shi’ite communities and nations that seek to detach themselves from the Iranian Shiite identity. Mohammed bin Salman, who recently became the kingdom’s crown prince, has been supporting a potential rapprochement with Shia in Iraq, if only for geostrategic reasons. Since the 2003 war, major Shi’ite militias in Iraq have been carrying out murderous rampages on the displaced Sunni populations, often times under the blind eye of the Saudi government. According to Sadr’s spokesperson, Salah al-Obeidi, Mohamed bin Salman admitted during Sadr’s visit that “mistakes were made in the former Saudi administration” which ultimately “helped Iran dominate Iraq,” and thus expressed his interest in rectifying the status quo.

Since the Gulf crisis emerged in June, Saudi Arabia and its allies have been crafting a clear us-versus-them narrative between themselves and any country they see invested heavily in the Iranian camp and cause. Thus, Riyadh imposed an economic and political blockade on Qatar, which the kingdom accuses of currying favors with Iran. Saudi Arabia’s outreach to clerics such as Sadr, who are highly vocal opponents of Iranian influence in their own country, works conveniently for the kingdom’s own aims. By extending itself to foreign figures whom it sees as potential forces to successfully challenge Iranian influence, Saudi Arabia is able to effectively exploit the anti-Iranian Shi’ite communities in Iraq. At the same time, it can play the heroic role of a much-needed mediator between the long-divided Shi’ite and Sunni communities of Iraq.

Economic Motivations

During a visit to Jeddah by Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi last month, both sides discussed potential Saudi and Iraqi cooperation on tapping into Iraq’s massive mineral reserves, swaths of fertile land, and oil fields. One of the major projects both countries have been discussing is the reopening of an Iraqi-Saudi pipeline previously been used to export Iraqi oil into the kingdom. This may prove to be very useful for either country, should Iran one day decide to live up to its 2011 threat of blocking the Strait of Hormuz through which 40 percent of the world’s oil exports passes.

Luaibi predicted that bilateral investments may exceed “tens of billions of dollars,” thus increasing cash flow into a country that has had its major cities devastated by wars and more recently, by the battles of the Iraqi military against Islamic State strongholds. Iraq fully understands that it is in dire need of financial assistance. Hence, it is only logical for Baghdad to turn towards wealthy Sunni Gulf countries with which it shares an Arab identity.

Additionally, 27 years after Iraq’s invasion of Kuwait, Riyadh and Baghdad agreed to reopen crossings along their 505-mile border. As Iraq’s security situation intensified this summer with the fight against the Islamic State, Saudi Arabia ramped up its own security, sending over 30,000 of its own soldiers to the border. Despite the heavy presence of military troops on either side, trade activities could grow due to the border’s reopening. Citizens will be permitted to cross over for visits, and joint coordination centers will be established to prevent smuggling and facilitate smooth exchanges of information between both countries. Iraqi Minister of Transportation Kadhim al-Hamami also predicted the possibility of rail links being reopened, stating that this “would unleash economic activity between the two countries… and improve the movement of goods between the two countries.”

Nonetheless, this recent rapprochement faces multiple challenges, including the need to convince skeptical conservative groups on either side the benefits of such warming relations. In addition, Saudi Arabia should show caution especially when engaging with Iraqi Shi’ite clerics such as Sadr who are known for their nationalist stances and opposition towards foreign influence in their countries. At the same time, Iraq must be mindful of the Shi’ite communities that make up the majority of the country’s religious demographics.

The question remains whether Saudi Arabia’s attempt to bring Iraq back into the Arab fold will bridge divides in the region—or simply intensify them.

Maya Yang is a contributor to Gulf State Analytics, a Washington, DC-based geopolitical risk consultancy. Photo: Iraqi Oil Minister Jabar al-Luaibi meets with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman

Nuclear Armageddon Draws Near (Revelation 15) trust that kept nuclear armageddon at bay has eroded

Alan Philps
September 7, 2017

On Sunday, North Korea exploded its biggest nuclear bomb, opening the possibility that it could soon target cities in the United States with a missile carrying a warhead 10 times more destructive than the one dropped on Hiroshima in 1945. Since then diplomats have failed to find a way to defuse the crisis, with Washington demanding crippling sanctions on the North Korean regime, and China and Russia calling for talks.

The stand-off seems beyond resolution, and the next North Korean provocation could potentially lead to nuclear catastrophe.

The international community was not always so hamstrung. It is worth remembering that from the 1950s to the 1970s many countries were actively developing nuclear weapons. The list makes surprising reading today. It included Argentina and Brazil, Sweden and Switzerland, as well as Taiwan and South Korea.

Those long forgotten nuclear programmes were all abandoned under US pressure. South Korea dropped its plans in exchange for a US guarantee, the so-called “nuclear umbrella”. Taiwan was forced to stop because Washington thought it would provoke China.

All this was possible because of the very specific circumstances of the Cold War. The two superpowers could agree on little apart from one thing: that nuclear weapons should be restricted to a small club. Because of the intense competition between America and the Soviet Union, a US ally at that time could trust that Washington would defend South Korea against attack from the north, as it had done in the 1950s.

South Africa even dismantled its arsenal of six completed nuclear bombs in 1989, It was not all quite so straightforward. One country was allowed to defy the nuclear rule: So long as Israel never publicly confirmed its nuclear capability, it was allowed to maintain a deterrent. In 1981 the Israeli air force destroyed the French-built Osirak reactor in Iraq, dealing a terminal blow to Iraqi nuclear weapons plans.

But in general the Cold War was a time when treaty-based restrictions on the spread of nuclear weapons were effective. This was due to the 1970 nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty, one of the most successful arms control treaties in history. The NPT limited nuclear weapons to the US, the Soviet Union, France, China and Britain in return for these states pursuing nuclear disarmament with the ultimate aim of eliminating their arsenals.

But this condition remained a dead letter, allowing India to accuse nuclear weapons states of being in breach of their obligations. New Delhi became a nuclear weapons power in 1998, closely followed by Pakistan.

The control regime which applied during the Cold War has weakened in other ways. When Washington and Moscow were seconds away from destroying each other, a nuclear guarantee was a serious thing: countries in western Europe trusted the US to keep them safe, as did other allies such as Australia, South Korea and Japan.

Looking back at this time, it seems a bizarrely altruistic promise on the part of the Americans. Why would a US president sacrifice Chicago or New York to save Paris or Hamburg?

Donald Trump blasted a hole in this doctrine during the election campaign, suggesting that South Korea and Japan should have their own nuclear weapons. Once he said that, the belief system that had underpinned the nuclear umbrella began to crumble.

America already appeared weakened, after the economic crisis of 2007 and the failed military interventions in Afghanistan and Iraq. Now Mr Trump was airing opinions that others had only thought about in private. If the guiding principle of the United States was “America First”, then the nuclear umbrella was full of holes.

The effects of this change of perception can be seen in the new South Korean President, Moon Jae-in. Rather than holding Mr Trump close as he might have done in the past, he is openly at odds with the US president’s bellicosity, calling instead for talks with North Korea.

Even more significant is the fact that the site of the nuclear crisis is China’s neighbour and its originator a fellow communist state. Unlike in the Cold War, when two superpowers came to a series of understandings which blunted their rivalry, China is a disruptive rising state. It has no aspirations to global leadership, but it has very clear ideas about the role it sees for itself in north-east Asia, which requires the US to back off.

Beijing is thus unlikely to bow to US demands to cut off oil supplies and thus bring the North Korean regime to its knees. This is not on account of any love for Kim Jong-un: by all accounts he is viewed in Beijing as an unruly neighbour, and despite their formal alliance, relations are chilly.

China seems ready to swallow Kim’s provocations because America is the strategic rival – they fought a war in the 1950s in the Korean peninsula – and the Communist Party cannot afford to lose face by teaming up with an unpredictable US president against an ally.


Regrettably, there is no basis of trust between the US and China to achieve a diplomatic solution. That is not so say that there is no solution possible. If the US backed down from its position that it will not speak to North Korea while it is developing nuclear weapons, accepted the Kim regime as legitimate and ended military exercises in South Korea, one can imagine that the Chinese would step forward to keep their ally under control.

But this would be a huge retreat for America, whose forces would disappear over the horizon into the Pacific. All the countries in the region would understand that China was the rising power and the US was in decline in north-east Asia. And what about restricting the spread of nuclear weapons? Nuclear blackmail would be shown to work. It would mark a return to the free-for-all of the 1960s when even peace-loving countries believed that security depended on a nuclear strike force. That would be the most damaging consequence of this crisis.