The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Rev 6:12)

Earthquakes Can Happen in More Places Than You Think

By Simon Worrall


Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.

In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.

When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?

That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”

What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.

One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.

There are other places around the country that are also well overdue for an earthquake. New York City has historically had a moderate earthquake approximately every 100 years. If that is to be trusted, any moment now there will be another one, which will be devastating for that city.

As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.

You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.

Earthquakes 101

Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.

Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?

The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.

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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.

After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?

The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.

Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]

Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.

Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.

The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?

This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.

What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.

Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.

After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?

[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]

What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!

There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?

All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.

One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.

The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.

MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.

You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?

I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.

What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.

We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.

This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Russia’s Growing Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

The addition of tubes for hypersonic missiles aboard the Husky-class submarines would, if true, come as no surprise. In March, Russian President Vladimir Putin demonstrated an affinity for hypersonic weapons as a means to counter current and future American missile defenses. It seems Russia, with its skill in missile design, is pursuing hypersonic technology as an offset.

Naval rearmament has been a key focus of Russian military rearmament for the past decade, with a strong emphasis on rejuvenating the aging nuclear submarine fleet. These efforts have so far focused on completing construction of the Borei-class ballistic missile submarines and Yasen-class multipurpose submarines.

Four Borei-class submarines have been completed, with four more on the way.

Two Yasen-class boats have also been launched, and five more are under construction. Construction of the lead boat in the Husky class, according to TASS, is expected to begin in 2023 in Severodvinsk and be completed by the end of 2027. This is likely an optimistic target.

The Antichrist is a pragmatist, not a nationalist

Al-Sadr is a pragmatist, not an Iraqi nationalist

Tallha Abdulrazaq

Far from being anti-sectarian, al-Sadr’s men were among the most sectarian of all Iraq’s death squads.

Sunday 03/06/2018

In the driver’s seat. Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gives a speech before entering Baghdad’s Green Zone in 2016. (AP)

Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who pulled off a shock election victory in Iraq, has had pundits believing that Iraq is on the verge of casting off the bloody sectarianism that has plagued the country since the US-led invasion in 2003.

Running in an alliance with small secularist parties and the Iraqi Communist Party on an anti-corruption and anti-sectarianism ticket, al-Sadr has painted himself as something of an Iraqi nationalist.

He has railed against corrupt politicians and Iranian interference in Iraqi affairs and attacked parties well known for their ties to Iran. Undoubtedly, to many Iraqis tired of being ruled from Tehran, his campaign is a compelling pitch.

However, it would be wise not to be too quick to jump on the “al-Sadr is an Iraqi nationalist” bandwagon. After all, it was not that long ago that al-Sadr was setting up shop in post-invasion Iraq, bankrolled and armed almost entirely by Iran as he established his notoriously vicious militia, the Mahdi Army. His Shia jihadist fighters attacked invading US and British troops and targeted Iraqi civilians in bloody reprisal campaigns.

Former officials of the toppled Ba’athist regime were hunted and killed, even if they were civil servants and had nothing to do with repressive practices. Many Iraqis were compelled to become members of the Ba’ath Party because that was the way citizens were promoted to better jobs, not because they were ideologically Ba’athist. This would have been known to the Mahdi Army. Nevertheless, membership of the Ba’ath Party was deemed reason enough to kill.

Even worse was the Mahdi Army’s targeting of Sunni Arab civilians in central and southern Iraq, committing a hair-raising sectarian cleansing campaign in Baghdad and the southern port city of Basra that led to thousands of brutal killings.

Far from being anti-sectarian, al-Sadr’s men were among the most sectarian of all Iraq’s death squads, contributing directly to the radicalisation that would spawn the Islamic State (ISIS) terrorist organisation. It is of no surprise that another radical Iran-sponsored Shia jihadist, Qais Khazali, found his roots in the Mahdi Army before splitting off to found the hyper-sectarian Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq group.

Even in terms of his religious credentials, it is not as though al-Sadr was trained in the Iraqi Shia traditional seminaries in Najaf. His scholarly credentials are often mocked, with the cleric often derided as “Sayyid Atari,” for his alleged love of video games over committing himself to scholarship.

It was not until recently that al-Sadr decided to improve his status by studying in the Iranian seminaries in Qom. Hardly the actions of someone supporting his home country’s institutions.

Al-Sadr is inextricably linked to Iran, irrespective of his grandiose speeches and fiery rhetoric aimed at Tehran. Before he became a recurring nightmare in Iraq following the events of 2003, he was hosted by the Iranian regime that provided him with money, shelter and even a basic education. Such bonds are difficult to break.

It is arguable that he is only indulging in anti-Iranian rhetoric because Tehran decided to favour other radicals, including Vice-President Nuri al-Maliki and his Shia Islamist Dawa Party, over al-Sadr.

With his history of dalliances with Iran, it is clear al-Sadr is less a nationalist than a pragmatist. His fickle nature can easily put him back into bed with Tehran’s mullahs once again. Iran will ultimately want to maintain its influence in Iraq and, if it has to rehabilitate al-Sadr into its circle of friends and allies again, it will and al-Sadr will be a willing partner.

Tallha Abdulrazaq is a researcher at the University of Exeter’s Strategy and Security Institute in England.

The Antichrist Triumphs in Baghdad

Emerging from the chaos of ISIS, Baghdad’s bad boy triumphsEmerging from the chaos of ISIS, Baghdad’s bad boy triumphs

Once thought a failed state, Iraq has emerged from the chaos of ISIS to hold successful elections.

By Seth J. Frantzman
June 2, 2018 13:46

Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr speaks in Najaf, Iraq May 17, 2018. (photo credit: REUTERS/ALAA AL-MARJANI)

In November 2015 I drove into the low hills that separate the city of Kirkuk from Hawija in northern Iraq. We stopped at a village inhabited by a small religious minority called Kakei. A man in olive-drab camouflage and a massive mustache had pulled over our SUV.

The driver, a Kurdish Peshmerga or soldier, said we were on the way to the local general’s headquarters. The checkpoint guard waved us on, and the SUV bobbed along the badly paved road.

The battle against ISIS that November had gone on for more than a year in Iraq and showed no signs of ending. Around eight million people were living under ISIS control in 2015, according to UN estimates, and more than 20,000 foreign fighters from 80 countries were manning its front lines, which stretched for thousands of miles across Iraq and Syria. In April 2015 the Iraqi Army and Shi’ite militias had liberated Tikrit from the extremists. The Iraqi security forces were also battling to retake Ramadi, next to Baghdad.

“There is no Iraq, it’s finished,” was the refrain in the Kurdish region of northern Iraq that year.

Driving up to the front line, passing the ruined villages from the fighting, the parched canals that once flooded the plains around Kirkuk, the oil fires in the distance, it was hard to imagine how Iraq’s central government would return to control these areas.

John Bolton, who is now the US national security adviser, wrote in November 2015 in The New York Times that “Iraq and Syria as we have known them are gone.” He argued that “the best alternative to the Islamic State in northeastern Syria and western Iraq is a new, independent Sunni state.”

Two and a half years after Bolton presented his “Sunnistan” to readers, and after I huddled in trenches near Hawija, Iraq has returned. There is no “Sunnistan,” and ISIS is defeated.

According to the US-led coalition, ISIS has lost 98% of its territory. In Iraq that means it has been driven from the cities and back into the rural caves and farms it came from. Every week brings new clashes with the remnants of ISIS. But concerns that it was bubbling up a new insurgency have not been borne out.

Emblematic of the failure of ISIS to reemerge after being driven from Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in June 2017 is the fact that it was not able to intimidate voters during Iraq’s May 12 elections.

THE IRAQI elections this year were a sign of hope in a country that has not really known peace for the last four decades. It is often forgotten that Iraqis have been at war since the 1980s.

The war that began in September 1980 between Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and Islamic revolutionary Iran still underpins Iraq’s politics today. Before launching his assault on Iran, Saddam ordered the execution of the Shi’ite Islamic Dawa Party leader Ayatollah Sayyid Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr. He was the father-in-law of Muqtada al-Sadr, whose party came in first in the elections this year.

The war years of the 1980s were formative for other reasons. Young Iraqi officers who fought in them or grew up during them remember the years of Iraqi military power and scientific progress. Some of them also engaged in massive human rights abuses, such as the genocide against Kurds in the Anfal campaign of the 1980s. It was this genocide that made many Kurds feel they could not be part of Iraq.

For Shi’ites in Iraq, the war years were traumatizing, yet some of the current Shi’ite leaders of Iraq today fought alongside the Iranians in the war. Hadi al-Amiri, whose “Fateh” coalition came in second in the May elections, had lived in Iran for two decades, where his Badr Brigade had helped Iran against Saddam.

When US forces arrived in Baghdad in 2003, they pulled down the Saddam statue and waited to see what would arise in its place. Over subsequent elections in 2005, 2010, 2014 and 2018, Iraqi politics has become increasingly sectarian, divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The top six vote-getters this year were Sadr’s Sairoon, Amiri’s Fateh, Haider al-Abadi’s Victory Alliance, Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, Nechirvan Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party and Ayad Allawi’s Wataniya list. Except for Allawi, who espouses a kind of secular politics, all the other parties are basically sectarian.

Iraqi supporters of Sairun list celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018 (Reuters)Iraqi supporters of Sairun list celebrate after the closing of ballot boxes during the parliamentary election in Sadr city district of Baghdad, Iraq May 12, 2018 (Reuters)

Maliki and Abadi are both members of the Shi’ite Dawa Party and both lived in exile until 2003. Sadr is a religious Shi’ite cleric. Amiri, as discussed above, earned his spurs in Iran, opposing Saddam. So one could conclude that the top-four winners of the Iraqi election this year all share a similar background, even if their current positions are more complex. The last person on the list in the top parties in Iraq is the Kurdish party of Barzani. Like the Shi’ites, it also earned its reputation opposing Saddam.

Although Iraqi democracy is divided so deeply along sectarian lines, it is a very vibrant democracy. In Mosul, scene of some of the most brutal fighting against ISIS, where much of the western part of the city lies in ruins, election flags festooned highways, cafés, the university and the shells of houses in the city.

Six thousand seven hundred candidates ran for 329 seats from 87 parties. A quarter of the seats were reserved for women, so even Shi’ite religious parties had to field numerous women candidates, and it was not unusual in Iraq to see women’s faces on election posters. One woman even had two posters printed up, one in a hijab, one with her hair flowing, for different voting sectors. Nine seats in parliament were reserved for minorities, including Christians and Yazidis, both of whose groups had been targeted for genocide and ethnic cleansing by ISIS.

On election day, around 44% of the 18 million eligible voters came to the polls. This low turnout showed that even though it was a vibrant election, many didn’t see much to vote for.

Oddly, considering that the war on ISIS was led by a Shi’ite prime minister and Baghdad had been saved by the calling up of 100,000 Shi’ite militias in 2014, Shi’ite areas suffered the largest percentage drops in turnout in 2018 compared to 2014. In Najaf and Karbala, the Shi’ite holy heartland, 30% fewer turned out.

In Baghdad almost a million fewer voters went to the polls. In Sunni areas, devastated by four years of occupation and war with ISIS, the turnout was similar to 2014. In Anbar province 30,000 more people went to the polls, and in Nineveh, where Mosul is located, the decline was only 4%.

MOQTADA AL-SADR won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliament (Reuters)MOQTADA AL-SADR won the largest number of seats in Iraq’s parliament (Reuters)

Some of the figures seem almost impossible to understand, considering that large parts of Nineveh were devastated by war. For instance, in the Sinjar region, more than 300,000 Yazidis who once lived there are now in IDP camps in Dohuk, and many of them were unable to vote. In West Mosul, where bodies are still being pulled from the rubble – 2,838 since Mosul was retaken – the voters waltzed to the polls seemingly without problems.

Iraq also experimented with new voter machines in its recent elections. This led to accusations of fraud, especially in the Kurdish region.

In Sulaymaniyah, the Kurdish region’s second largest city, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan is the political party that has run the city for decades. The Talabani family, which plays a leading role in the PUK, are the main players in elections. In the 1990s the Kurdish region was so divided that the PUK and KDP fought a brief civil war. The Barzani and Talabani families patched things up and ran on a joint list in the 2005 elections. But they drifted apart afterward.

The war on ISIS united the Kurds against a common enemy, but 2017 brought more controversy, as the KDP encouraged the region to hold an independence referendum. The PUK and most other smaller Kurdish parties signed on for the referendum, and 2.8 million voted for independence in September 2017.

But the referendum brought instability. The Americans and the other Western powers opposed the Kurds breaking off from Iraq. Instead, the Kurds were expected to toe the line and be part of unified Iraq. Western policy-makers saw the Kurds as a pro-Western element in Iraq as a counterbalance to the increasing Iranification of political parties in Baghdad. If the Kurds were to leave Iraq, it would truly become Sunnistan and Shiastan, breaking apart as Bolton once thought it would.

So, in order for Iraq to be strong, the Kurds have to be a bit weaker, and their autonomous government should not rock the boat. At least that’s what the old policy elites in Washington thought.

For average Kurds the problems were not just about independence and Baghdad’s issues, but about receiving salaries. During the war on ISIS the Kurdistan Regional Government paid salaries late to the hundreds of thousands of state employees because it claimed the war was stretching the budget. With the war over, the civil servants wanted to get back to a normal life. There was also anger at other issues, such as corruption and nepotism. Strikes and protests rocked the Kurdish region in December and into January.

But by the time elections came around in May, things seemed to have returned to normal. Baghdad, which had attempted to punish the KRG by closing its international airports, walked back its sanctions. In the end, around 2.2 million Kurds voted in Iraq’s elections, fewer than had voted for independence. The lower turnout illustrated that they, too, were disillusioned. But they chose traditional parties, the KDP and PUK. This led the smaller Kurdish parties to scream “fraud” and even seek a meeting with the US anti- ISIS envoy, Brett McGurk, after the elections.

In Kirkuk, too, there were allegations of fraud by the Arab and Turkmans in the city. Kirkuk saw a 15% decline in turnout, but its Turkman vote was similar to 2014. The main Kurdish party in Kirkuk lost almost 30,000 votes, while the Arab party gained votes.

In the end the Iraqi government didn’t seem interested in recounts in Sulaymaniyah or Kirkuk. Once you start doing recounts, it never ends, as the US found out during the George W. Bush election.

And Iraq didn’t want controversies or fighting in the streets over voting machines. If just one station was found to have a discrepancy between what the hi-tech machines said the vote was, versus who voted for what, it might call into question the vote throughout the country.

THE PROBLEM Iraq faced after the elections was that the man who was supposed to win did not win. That is probably the greatest evidence that there could not be fraud in the elections, because when there is fraud the people who are supposed to win, win. The man who was supposed to win was Abadi, the great hope of Iraq, the defeater of ISIS, slayer of dragons.

Abadi was plucked from relative obscurity to lead Iraq in the dark days of August 2014, when ISIS was at the gates of Baghdad. Short, stocky, his feet seem to barely reach the floor in meetings, and the large chairs that Iraqi politicians like to sit in seem about to swallow his small stature. He became the West’s favorite Iraqi leader.

Abadi reached out to the Saudis at the behest of the Americans, and when his army had defeated ISIS, he did a victory lap of neighboring countries. He also engineered a tacit alliance with both Turkey and Iran to oppose Kurdish independence moves. Having stymied the Kurdish ambitions, he also attracted billions in investment from the international community to rebuild Iraq. He posed with members of his numerous army units, the Federal Police, the elite Counter Terrorism Service, and others. He worked closely with the US-led coalition and inaugurated a new training program for air-force cadets in Iraq in 2018.

On the eve of the elections Abadi went up to Mosul Dam, which ISIS once held, and he traveled around Iraq, meeting local Sunni sheikhs and posing with masses of barrel-chested advisers, as though he were destined for greatness.

But on election night Abadi must have had a moment like Carlos Salinas, Mexico’s former president, had in 1988. In that year a computer system tabulating votes mysteriously crashed when it showed the opposition might win. The ballots were bundled up, hidden away, and burned several years later. On election night, Abadi must have been apoplectic, seeing his rival Sadr riding to victory.

Abadi had named his own list in the elections “Victory,” and he had left behind Maliki, whose party he had once been a member of, to run on his own. But the night brought failure. His “Victory” list came in third. The Shi’ite militia list led by Amiri came in second. And Sadr, the bad boy of Iraq’s politics for the last 15 years, came in first.

Sadr, whose father and relatives were murdered by Saddam, had bedeviled Iraq since the Americans arrived in 2003. A leader of the Shi’ite poor, he became a militia leader and sent his acolytes to fight the Americans in 2004. Over the years he grew apart from his initial Iranian backers and became a fierce nationalist. In April 2016 he sent his followers to take over the Green Zone in Baghdad in massive protests.

He’s never been keen on major foreign policy decisions. He doesn’t think the Americans should be in Iraq, and wants Iran’s tentacles pulled off Baghdad. US diplomats once called his voters a “rabble” and his followers “gangs.” But the gangs and the rabble came out to vote on May 12, perhaps sensing that Sadr’s time had come, after Iraq had tried so many other things.

Abadi lost in May perhaps because he wasn’t much of a leader, or because countries that have fought wars for years sometimes ditch the captain. Winston Churchill was thrown out by voters in 1945. Abadi is no Churchill, so it’s understandable.

However, Abadi may remain in power in Iraq as part of a coalition agreement, with some combination of Sadr, Amiri and the Kurds. He will be weakened. The Kurds will not be greatly strengthened by the chaotic election. The Sunni Arabs, who Bolton once thought would form their own state, have very few seats in the parliament.

So the future of Iraq after the elections will be mundane, as the country plods along and tries to craft itself in a post-ISIS era. For foreign diplomats the results of the elections were unexpected. But for Iraq they are a sign that democracy can work, despite wars and extremism, Iranian influence, sectarian divides and everything else.

George W. Bush, who ordered the Iraq invasion, was widely condemned for it years later, with some arguing he brought disaster not only on Iraq but instability to the whole of the Middle East.

Perhaps, though, Iraq’s democracy is a good sign after ISIS. Whatever the country’s myriad problems, it held a successful vote without civil strife and has a chance to keep building its institutions. The question is if that will come under the prying eyes of Sadr, and whether he will take on a patrician-like role or return to his old ways.

What do Iraq’s elections mean for Israel?

Iraq’s May 2018 elections shocked some by bringing to the fore Muqtada al-Sadr, the passionate cleric who once fought the US in 2004. Sadr has been a critic of Israel, but he has been no more critical than other members of Iraq’s leading Shi’ite parties. Sadr is not as close to Iran as Hadi al-Amiri’s Fateh list or Nuri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition.

It was clear to Jerusalem that no matter who would win in the Iraqi elections, the country would be run by some Shi’ite party, and Iran would have its influence. The Hashd al-Shaabi coalition of Shi’ite militias that helped defeat ISIS is not a permanent part of the Iraqi Security Forces. For Israel, the concern is much larger than the elections; it is the degree to which official parts of the Iraqi government work directly with Tehran and help Iran form a land corridor via Iraq to Syria and Lebanon. That corridor passes next to the Golan and threatens Israel.

The problem for Israel is that whoever wins in Baghdad will end up working with the US, which has sunk billions into Iraq, and whose coalition is training the Iraqi Army and Iraqi Air Force. The US doesn’t want to leave Iraq again, as it did in 2011, and it wants to use Iraq to continue to supply its forces in Syria.

For Israel, the ideal would be to see the US working more closely with the Kurdish region in Iraq and see Kurds playing more of a role in Baghdad.

There is another added twist that shows Sadr might provide stability in the region and aid the anti-Iran camp. Evidence for this comes from Sadr’s trip to Saudi Arabia last year. If Sadr and the Saudis and Kurds confront Iran’s influence in Iraq, that would be welcomed by Jerusalem, because it views Iran as the major threat to the region.

Iraq’s politics is never a simple story. There may be anti-Iran elements, but they work closely with elements that are close to Iran. Iran doesn’t “control” Iraq, it uses its influence quietly and wisely. So any notion that the elections represent some game changer is mistaken. The elections basically are another seal of approval for widespread Shi’ite power in Iraq.

A stable post-election Iraq would be welcomed by Israel, as long as Iran does not gain in influence. Until the final coalition is known, it will not be clear whether Iran’s allies have pulled something off, or Sadr has.

Israel Helps the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Is Saudi Arabia the next aspirant of Nuclear Weapons? Why is Saudi Arabia seeking Israeli expertise in developing Nuclear Weapons over traditional ally Pakistan? According to various Middle East media reports, Israel is selling data to Riyadh that would allow Saudi Arabia to produce nuclear weapons and counter regional rival Iran. But the question remains, why did Saudi Arabian regime prefer Israel over Pakistan? 

Ami Dor-On, a senior nuclear commentator with the Israeli military organization iHLS, stated that improved Israel- Saudi Relations have been possible due to broadening ties between Mohammad bin Salman (MBS) and Israeli PM Benjamin Netanyahu.

“This news should alarm us as we see the world is changing for the worse, following the race for nuclear weapons that fly right over our heads in the Middle East,” the Middle East Monitor quoted Arabi21.Why Saudi Arabia Opted for Israel over Pakistan?

According to the report, the Israeli government is well aware that Saudi Arabia would work towards developing nuclear weapons and wanted to ensure that no other regional rival like Pakistan is in the fray for helping the Saudi regime.

According to Dor-On, Pakistan has already indicated that it is ready to share “nuclear expertise” with Saudi Arabia “within a month” should the arms race intensify in the Middle East.

Saudi Arabia was the principal financier of Pakistan’s nuclear program. It is believed that Saudi royals took the initiative in the 1970s after finding out that Israel and India had already started to develop their own nuclear weapons.

According to various defence experts, the close proximity between Mohammad bin Salman and PM Benjamin Netanyahu, a common regional rival in Iran, Israel’s advanced technology & dominant position in the global arena with strong backing from the United States were key factors why Saudi would have preferred Israel over Pakistan.

Earlier, Saudi Arabia’s foreign minister clearly stated that Riyadh would build their own nuclear weapons if Iran was permitted to restarts its nuclear weapons program.

Asked what his country will do if Iran restarts its nuclear program, Adel Al-Jubeir in an interview to CNN stated “we will do whatever it takes to protect our people. We have made it amply clear that if Tehran acquires nuclear capability, Riyadh will we will do everything possible to do the same.”