The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6)

 

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

The Big One Awaits

By MARGO NASH

Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.

MARGO NASH

Photo: Alexander Gates, a Rutgers geologist, is mapping a part of the Ramapo Fault, site of previous earthquakes. (John W. Wheeler for The New York Times)

The Nations Will War Outside the Temple Walls

Most Israeli Jews back large-scale Gaza offensive if ceasefire fails

Survey finds Israelis split on Assad’s recent advances near northern border, but almost all support providing humanitarian aide to Syrian refugees

By TOI staff

31 Jul 2018, 10:23 pm

Nearly two-thirds of Jewish Israelis think Israel should launch a large-scale military offensive in the Gaza Strip if its Hamas rulers do not abide by the latest ceasefire agreement, a poll released Tuesday found.

The results, published by the Israel Democracy Institute as part of its monthly Peace Index, also found that Arab and Jewish Israelis were divided on whether the Syrian regime’s recent military advances were a positive development for the Jewish state.

According to the poll, 61 percent of Jewish Israelis think the IDF should launch a military operation in Gaza if the cross-border arson attacks from the Hamas-run coastal enclave continue.

Support for an extensive military offensive was higher among respondents who identified as right-wing, with 75% supporting the move.

In contrast, 69% of Arab Israelis opposed a large-scale Israeli military response to the recent flare-up in violence in the coastal enclave, with only 16% indicating support for it.

The poll comes amid months of near-weekly violent border protests and ongoing cross-border arson attacks organized by Gaza’s Hamas rulers. The kites and balloons carrying incendiary devices launched into Israeli territory have burned thousands of acres of farmland and caused millions of shekels in damage.

A Palestinian protester displays a kite loaded with an incendiary device before launching it towards Israel, east of Rafah in the southern Gaza Strip, on June 29, 2018. (Abed Rahim Khatib/Flash90)

The confrontations have at times spiraled into military exchanges, with Palestinians firing dozens of rockets at southern Israeli towns and the army launching air strikes on Hamas positions in Gaza.

Israeli politicians and IDF officials have repeatedly warned Hamas that the continued violence could see a large-scale military response. Earlier in July, the IDF was reportedly instructed to prepare for an offensive in Gaza if the cross-border arson attacks continued.

After an IDF solider was killed by sniper fire along the Gaza border earlier this month, Israel unleashed an offensive it says destroyed more than 60 Hamas targets, including three battalion headquarters. Hamas said three of the four people killed in the strikes were their fighters.

The ruling terror group later declared an unofficial ceasefire, though sporadic violence has continued along the border.

Over the weekend, the United Nations envoy for Middle East peace met with Egyptian Foreign Minister Sameh Shoukry and other officials in a bid to calm the violent flare-up.

Nickolay Mladenov is reportedly pushing a ceasefire proposal in cooperation with Egypt and other Arab states, according to the Haaretz daily.

Mladenov’s arrangement would see Israel remove recent restrictions on the Kerem Shalom crossing for goods into Gaza, and the sides agreeing to a ceasefire which would include the cessation of airborne arson attacks, Haaretz said, citing Egyptian media.

A picture taken on July 20, 2018, shows the explosions from an Israeli bombardment in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip. (AFP Photo/Said Khatib)

The Peace Index published Tuesday also found that Jewish and Arab Israelis are divided on whether Syrian President Bashar Assad’s recent military victories were a positive development for the Jewish state.

Some 43.5% of Jewish Israelis said the Russian-backed regime advances against the Islamic State and rebel strongholds aligned with national interests, while 34% said it did not. 38% of Arab Israelis said Assad’s recent successes were a positive development for Israel, while 33.5% said they were not.

On Monday, the Syrian government regained control of southern provinces bordering Israel for the first time in seven years, after Islamic State-linked militants gave up their last pocket of territory in the area.

Israel has largely kept to the sidelines of the Syrian civil war, but has said it will not allow Iran or Hezbollah to establish a permanent military presence near its northern border.

According to the Peace Index, Jewish and Arab Israelis were in agreement that Israel should continue providing victims of the Syrian civil war with humanitarian aid, at 78% and 75% respectively.

Syrian troops raise the Syrian flag in the border town of Quneitra in the Syrian Golan Heights on July 27, 2018. (AFP Photo/Youssef Karwashan)

Earlier on Tuesday, Channel 10 reported Israel has halted its massive, multi-faceted humanitarian relief operation providing Syrians with life-saving services, closing its border to fleeing civilians seeking medical care, amid the regime offensive in the border area.

The decision marks the first time that the border will be completely closed to any Syrian civilians since Operation Good Neighbor was initiated five years ago. Officials told the TV station the program was not permanently discontinued, and could resume pending the outcome of the Syrian government offensive.

The Peace Index also asked respondents about the controversial new nation-state law that has been criticized as discriminatory against the country’s minorities.

The poll found that 52% of Jewish Israelis said it was necessary to pass the law “at this time.” The legislation for the first time enshrines the country as the nation-state of the Jewish people and downgrades the Arabic language from official to “special” standing.

The majority of Jewish Israelis (60%) further said the legislation that amends Israel’s basic laws should have “addressed the issue of equality.”

Unsurprisingly, the vast majority of Arab Israelis (84%) opposed the law, saying legislating Israel as a Jewish state at this time was unnecessary.

The monthly Peace Index poll compiled the responses of 600 Israeli adults, and had a margin of error of +- 4.1%.

The Chinese Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

3Growing Chinese Nuclear Arsenal: Is China changing its doctrine?

SD Pradhan

A development that deserves serious attention of all but particularly of India is the growing Chinese nuclear weapons and missiles coupled with deterring deployment pattern and indications of changes in the Chinese Nuclear Doctrine of “No First Use”. The qualitative and structural changes in the nuclear forces and possibility of lowering of threshold for use of nuclear weapons have been more significant than the increase in number of nuclear warheads. The modernisation programme has raised concerns over the past several years that China is trying to achieve supremacy in nuclear field. The Global Times, the official Chinese newspaper in its editorial several times has indicated the urgency for upgrading of nuclear war fighting capabilities. Analysing Trumps desire to improve relations with Russia, the editorial pointed out that Trump values strength and attaches importance to military strength especially nuclear strength. Hence, the editorial suggested the urgency to further strengthen Chinese nuclear prowess.

Creation of Rocket Force

During the last few years China has focused on development of its nuclear capabilities. It may be recalled that China had re-organised its armed forces on the 31st December 2015 and a separate Rocket Force was formed. The PLA Rocket Force has taken over the responsibilities of the Second Artillery of PLA to ‘strengthen the trustworthy and reliable nuclear deterrence and nuclear counter-attack capabilities, intensify the construction of medium and long range precision strike power.’ At the inauguration President Xi of China had pointed out that this Force would be the “core force of strategic deterrence, a strategic buttress to the country’s position as a major power, and an important building block in upholding national security.” In essence, the Rocket Force was formed to enhance nuclear deterrence.

Kristensen’s assessment

Hans M. Kristensen, Director of the Nuclear Information Project with the Federation of American Scientists, and Robert S. Norris, a senior fellow with the FAS, who continuously assess the nuclear weapons of various states, have published their research work in June 2018 that contains important information on the developments pertaining to the Chinese nuclear warheads and delivery systems. These are given in the succeeding paragraphs.

Number of nuclear weapons

The study of Kristensen concludes that China’s current nuclear warheads are about 280 increased from 240 in 2012. Thus the annual rate of production is 6-7 warheads per year.

Delivery capabilities

On land based missiles

• A new modification of the existing DF-21 (CSS-5) medium-range ballistic missile (MRBM), designated the CSS-5 Mod 6 by the US military. This is the primary regional two stage, solid fuel, road mobile missile with a range of 2100 kms. [According to Indian and US experts, this missile has been deployed at Delingha to target Indian population centres. That is why it is called India specific deployment. In addition, the Indian experts estimate that China has about 25 nuclear-tipped medium-range ballistic missiles based in Tibet, along with an undisclosed number of nuclear-configured short-range tactical missiles.]

• A new IRBM known as the DF-26. [Range about 4,000 kms]

• A new ICBM launcher, the DF-31AG. [Range about 7,000 kms]

Developing the road-mobile DF-41 capable of carrying multiple warheads. [This missile is capable of carrying MIRVs. It has arrange of 12000 kms]

On sea based missiles

China currently operates a fleet of four Jin-class (Type 094) nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines (SSBNs). All are based at the Longposan naval base near Yulin on Hainan Island.

• Each Jin SSBN is designed to carry up to 12 JL-2s (CSS-N-14), a submarine-launched ballistic missile (SLBM) that is a modified version of the DF-31. The range is 7200-7400 kms.

• The next SSBN is expected to carry a new missile, the JL-3 –an improved version of JL-2. [The 2017 Annual Report to the US Congress on China’s military power by the US Defense Department claims that China’s next-generation nuclear submarine, Type 096, will likely begin construction in the early 2020s, and will reportedly be armed with the JL-3, a submarine-based ballistic missile. This submarine would be equipped with high performance silencer tiles to address the problem of noise.]

     Bombers 

• While noting that currently H 6 Bombers do not have any nuclear mission now, in the past they were used during the nuclear tests.

• Quoting Defence Intelligence Agency, it mentions H-6 (Tu-16) and H-5 (Tu- 28) medium-range bombers and A-5 fighter-bombers are “all capable of delivering nuclear weapons”.

• The strategic role of the bomber force appears to be increasing. The PLA Air Force was assigned a “strategic deterrence” mission in 2012, which includes long-range strikes with conventional cruise missiles.

Deployment pattern

For the Chinese neighbours, the deployment pattern of regional nuclear missiles becomes very significant. The information is available on this aspect in the open sources. For India, the Chinese ability to deploy sea based missiles in the Indian Ocean and land based missiles in the border in Tibet is worrisome. The sea based missiles are now given importance as China realises that ballistic missiles based on land would be more vulnerable to pre-emptive attack than those based under the sea.  China has a naval base that runs along the Yalong Bay in the South China Sea which has tunnels for submarines. In Chinese perception the bases in the South China Sea can help in managing its interests in the Indian Ocean. China has established bases in Sri Lanka, Pakistan, Djibouti and Maldives. The Chinese submarines in the past had been noticed in the Indian Ocean. This ability assumes a serious proportion when seen in the backdrop of the Chinese plan to have three life-lines in the Indian Ocean. [One is the North Indian Ocean supply line which includes bases in Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Myanmar; the second is the Western Indian Ocean supply line which includes bases in Djibouti, Yemen, Oman, Kenya, Tanzania and Mozambique; the last one is the Central-South Indian Ocean supply line which includes bases in Seychelles and Madagascar.] The usual tactics of China is to identify areas that are useful for strategic and economic purposes and then deploy its assets to establish its dominance.

In Tibet, China had been since long creating launch pads. In 2006, it was learnt that 58 launch pads had been established for nuclear ballistic missiles scattered across a 2,000 square kilometers (772 square miles) area of central China. The satellite imageries reflected the deployment area, covering the northern parts of Qinghai Province around Delingha and Da Qaidam. At Delingha it was learnt as that DF-21 was deployed. In addition China has built road-rail network which allows missiles to be brought closer to the Indian border on TEL. China has 14 major air bases in the Tibet plateau and 13 air strips. These bases and air strips give China control over the air space.

China is also reported to have deployed HQ-9 air defence missiles to Hetian airfield in the south of the Xinjiang Uyghur autonomous region in the country’s northwest. Hetian is only 260 kilometres from J&K. The HQ-9 system is designed to track and destroy aircraft, cruise missiles, air-to-surface missiles, and tactical ballistic missiles. The HQ-9 is a medium-to-long range air defence missile is armed with a 180 kg warhead, has a maximum speed of Mach 4.2 and has a maximum range of 200 km up to an altitude of 30 kms.

Indications of changes in the Chinese Nuclear Doctrine

Notwithstanding the Chinese official projections to abide by the policy of “No First Use”, there are indications that the Chinese security analysts are pressing for a change in the nuclear doctrine by lowering the threshold for use of nuclear weapons. They are of the view that ‘under certain circumstances – such as an all-out attack against the country by conventional forces – China should use nuclear weapons’. The Chinese strategists have been viewing “No First Use” (NFU) as an unnecessary self-imposed strategic constraint. Such views are expressed in media and academic seminars. Earliest indication of this pressure from the Chinese experts was noticed at the time of India’s nuclear tests.

The Chinese experts suggest that the “NFU” is not applicable in the areas belonging to China as it could use nuclear weapons to re-capture its own areas. China has territorial disputes with multiple neighbours and claims those areas. In a hypothetical scenario, China can use tactical nuclear weapons in Arunachal Pradesh or in the South China Sea in war with India or other disputants in the South China Sea. The Chinese experts also recommend that in case of attack on the Chinese nuclear assets by conventional means, China should use nuclear weapons. The Pentagon’s 2010 annual report on the Chinese military noted ambiguity on the conditions in which the Chinese ‘No First Use’ Doctrine would apply.  Significantly, the NFU was not mentioned in the White Paper released in 2013. China is creating new options to deal with attacks in future.

Conclusion

In view of Chinese efforts to strengthen the nuclear deterrence, nuclear strike capabilities and the indications of changing Chinese Nuclear Doctrine, the Indian nuclear experts are pushing for suitable amendments in the Indian Nuclear Doctrine. They point out that India now faces a collaborative threat from Pakistan and China and both of them have lowered the threshold for the use of nuclear weapons and have acquired tactical nuclear weapons. Under these circumstances the Indian experts including former Commander-in-Chiefs of Strategic Forces Command suggest that India should make changes in the NFU to sharpen its deterrence. They consider that NFU dilutes the deterrence by removing the advantages of ambiguity or the threat of first use.

While India assesses the developments in its nuclear environment on continuing basis and takes necessary steps to meet the emerging challenges, the need to modify the NFU is pressed by experts to ensure that it does not prove to be a liability. The arguments for change cannot be easily discarded. Deterrence depends on the credibility of nuclear strike capabilities and intent to use the nuclear weapons. The latter is reflected in the publicised doctrine. The need for well-informed debates on this issue can hardly be under-estimated for addressing the issue of sharpening the deterrence. An effective deterrence is essential for securing our national interests.

Ensuring national security transcends strategic, military, diplomatic, economic, social and technological factors. The internal security situation remains grim with insurgencies, terrorism and Maoists acquiring dangerous proportions. The external security environment too reflects growing threats. Chanakya was a great security thinker of ancient India, who provided pragmatic solutions to protect the State. These concepts are extremely relevant in today’s security environment. Like Chanakya’s thinking, this blog covers all the national security aspects – not only politico-military but also non-military dimensions that contribute to the strengthening of national power.

The Antichrist’s Men (Revelation 13:18)

© Reuters

Iraq’s Shia militias: capturing the state

The Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Units were created to defeat Isis but now they are forming political alliances and taking control of parts of the economy

Militiamen in pick-up trucks kitted out with weapons speed through Iraq’s western desert on a mission to Al-Qaim, a border town that was one of the last Isis strongholds to be liberated. In the video members of the paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Units, known in Arabic as the Hashd al-Shaabi, clamber up a rocky hill in the town, some brandishing US-made M16 rifles, others with Kalashnikovs. A voiceover describes the “bravery” of the PMU and the “fierce war” it fought with Isis in Iraq.

But this time, the battle-hardened men are not hankering for a fight. Instead, the video boasts of their role helping rebuild a local hospital after the jihadis were driven out of Al-Qaim in November, just a month before Iraq declared victory over Isis.

The video was posted on the PMU’s website, days before the paramilitaries’ recently formed political alliance — Fatah, or Conquest — stormed to second place in Iraq’s parliamentary elections in May. Now, as politicians jockey over the composition of the next government, both the video and Fatah’s strong electoral performance point to one of the most polarising questions in Iraq: will the estimated 120,000-strong PMU force have a constructive or destabilising role in the post-Isis era?

To supporters, PMU fighters are saviours who defended their nation in its darkest hour as Isis seized roughly a third of the country — about 8,000 of its members died in the three-year battle, officials say.

Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, left, and leader of the Popular Mobilisation Units, Hadi al-Ameri, have formed a ‘national alliance’ as coalition talks get under way © Getty

But to detractors the PMU has become a powerful Iranian proxy and a potentially subversive force in a country that has endured appalling violence over the past 15 years — much of it at the hands of militias that exploited the state’s weakness to stoke sectarian tensions after the 2003 US-led invasion toppled Saddam Hussein.

Some Iraqi and western officials fear the predominantly Shia paramilitary groups could become a shadow force, modelled on Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or Hizbollah, the Lebanese movement that has political and military wings.

“It’s an Iranian creation led by people who follow Iran: Iran has the guards, Iraq has the PMU,” says an Iraqi general.

Hadi al-Ameri, a veteran paramilitary leader-cum-politician who led the PMU into battle, bristles at such suggestions. “We [do] not accept this. This is the wrong mentality,” says Mr Ameri, who ditched his camouflage uniforms for sober suits to lead Fatah. “This is the same thing as the National Guards in America . . . this is an internal affair.”

The truth lies somewhere in between. Unlike the IRGC and Hizbollah, the PMU, which includes several dozen factions, is not a homogenous movement. And neither Washington nor Tehran want Iraq to become a theatre of conflict, analysts say.

Political and economic grievances: protests in Baghdad in mid-July © Reuters

As regional tensions mount, with the US, Israel and Saudi Arabia intensifying pressure on Iran following President Donald Trump’s decision to withdraw from the nuclear deal with Tehran, the future role of the PMU is garnering more scrutiny. Some elements of the more pro-Iran militias in the PMU have dispatched forces to Syria to fight alongside the regime of Bashar al-Assad and have issued threats against US interests in Iraq.

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state, has accused Tehran of sponsoring “Shia militia groups and terrorists to infiltrate and undermine the Iraqi security forces and jeopardise Iraq’s sovereignty”.

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the PMU’s deputy leader, was designated for sanctions by the US Treasury in 2009 “for threatening the peace and stability of Iraq and the government of Iraq”, and his Hizbollah Brigades militia is designated a terrorist organisation. The Treasury said he was an adviser to Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, and as recently as October a state department spokesman described Mr Muhandis as a “terrorist”.

The most important pressure Iran has created after Hizbollah [the Lebanese Shia movement] is the Popular Mobilisation Units

Last week, Mr Soleimani warned the US against threatening Iran: “We are near you, where you can’t even imagine,” he said, according to Iranian news agencies. It was a line that seemed to imply that Iran is prepared to use its troops and proxies outside the Islamic republic to fight the US.

Yet for three years, the US, the PMU and, indirectly, Iran, were in effect partners in Iraq with the shared goal of defeating Isis. It is what happens to the PMU next that has a “huge question mark” hanging over it, says a western diplomat in Baghdad.

Robert Ford, who was briefly kidnapped by a Shia militia in 2003 during the first of his three stints in Iraq as a US diplomat, believes Mr Ameri would prefer not to take sides between Iran and the US. But if hostilities between the foes “escalate sharply”, his loyalty would be to Tehran.

“Ameri and nearly all the Iraqi Shia understand that the American influence in the region sooner or later will diminish, but Iran will always be their neighbour,” says Mr Ford, a fellow at Washington’s Middle East Institute.

Iraq locator map

The PMU militias were born after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, Iraq’s top Shia cleric, issued a call to arms in June 2014 following the humiliating collapse of the Iraqi security forces that the US had spent more than $20bn equipping in the face of Isis’s onslaught. As the jihadis blitzed across northern and western Iraq, advancing towards Baghdad, young men lined up behind pick-up trucks and outside military bases to be ferried to the front lines.

Some were volunteers. Most were members of Shia militias that had been keeping low profiles, such as Mr Ameri’s Badr movement, formed in Iran during the 1980s to fight Saddam’s regime; Asaib Ahl al-Haq, a radical offshoot of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia, which attacked US troops after Saddam was ousted; and the Hizbollah Brigades.

The PMU gradually drew in fighters from other communities, including Sunnis, Christians and Yazidis, taking on a less sectarian profile. They supported offensives led by the rebuilt Iraqi security forces and the US-led coalition that finally defeated the jihadis.

‘Nearly all the Iraqi Shia understand that the [US] influence in the region . . . will diminish, but Iran will always be their neighbour’

Robert Ford, former US diplomat in Baghdad

Since then, the paramilitaries have reduced their presence on Baghdad’s streets. But PMU leaders have resisted prime minister Haider al-Abadi’s  efforts to integrate them into the armed forces. In November 2016, parliament passed a law making the PMU an independent force, which now has its own $1.6bn budget and ostensibly answers to the prime minister’s office rather than the interior or defence ministries.

Yet when Mr Abadi tried to obtain an independent audit of their numbers, PMU leaders pushed back, says one Iraqi politician. Today, the paramilitaries patrol areas liberated from Isis, including the strategic border with Syria around Al-Qaim, and operate checkpoints across the country.

Renad Mansour, an analyst at the Chatham House think-tank who has researched the PMU, says Mr Ameri “plays the game of the state when it suits him”. He adds: “The PMU’s endgame is either to take control of the state, or, if they can’t, [to at least] be part of the state.

“But they also have a plan B. If the state one day decides it needs to integrate or disband the PMU, they can gain power or influence through contesting the state economically and politically.”

Hadi al-Ameri on the campaign trail in the southern city of Basra before Iraqi elections in May © AFP

Experts say it is unrealistic to expect tens of thousands of armed men to simply pack up and go home. Indeed, such a move in a country awash with weapons and blighted by widespread joblessness would only risk exacerbating instability: Iraqis point to the chaos that erupted after the US’s decision to disband security forces in 2003. The vacuum allowed militias to flourish, including the rival Shia and Sunni groups that fought coalition forces and sectarian battles, and Peshmerga fighters loyal to the two main political groups in autonomous Iraqi Kurdistan.

“Armed groups linked to political parties or individuals is a problem throughout the whole country; the PMU may be the biggest example of it now,” Mr Mansour says. “This is part of the bigger issue of how to end the monopoly of legitimate violence throughout Iraq.”

Elements of the PMU were accused of committing abuses against Sunnis in the war with Isis. Amnesty International last year alleged the paramilitaries “executed or otherwise unlawfully killed, tortured and abducted thousands of men and boys”. US equipment supplied to the Iraqi army, including Humvees, M113 armoured personnel carriers and small arms, was being deployed by the militias, the report said.

Recommended

Some Iraqis and analysts say PMU groups are also expanding their business interests and allegedly engaging in similar smuggling rackets that Isis once operated, from sheep to grain and oil. “Where Isis controlled territory, PMU groups have emerged manning checkpoints so smugglers taking stuff through Turkey or Syria must go through them,” says an Iraqi analyst. “Each of these groups are gangsters involved in looting this county,” says a rival politician.

The PMU’s website offers an alternative narrative. Statements highlight its work providing medical services, reconciling tribes and repairing mosques, roads, bridges and schools in liberated areas. Its leaders speak of their desire to establish a “martyrs university”.

Nathaniel Rabkin, a security analyst, says the attempted push into academia is an example of how the PMU wants to have an ideological role in “shaping the way Iraq goes forward”.

Part of that is curbing western influence, he says. “They are smart enough to understand it would be a mistake to make it exactly like the IRGC,” he says. “But you watch interviews with Ameri and he’s talking about how the PMUs are an ideological army and Iraq is in an ideological war and . . . it becomes clear he sees this project as about something much grander and longer-term.”

Mike Pompeo, US secretary of state © AFP

Much will depend on where power lies in the next government. Mr Sadr, the Shia cleric whose Sairoon political alliance is leading talks to form a coalition after winning the largest share of the vote at May’s election, has previously called for the PMU to be disbanded and has railed against Iran’s influence. But he also has his own militia, the Mahdi Army. It retreated from the streets after a crackdown by the Iraqi and coalition forces in the late 2000s, and has since been rebranded the “Peace Companies”.

Last month, Mr Sadr and Mr Ameri said their blocs were creating a “national alliance” to lead talks on forming a government.

“Some PMU commanders are becoming politicians, but they are serving Iraq to protect the state,” says Karim al-Nouri, a Fatah politician, as pictures of him in uniform on the front lines of the battle against Isis hang outside his office. “We are going to enter parliament in civilian clothes, not uniforms.”

Another Iraqi analyst says that if the PMU’s gains are not threatened it could be a “good force”. “But they will have many demands and they will put their nose into everything, just like [Iran’s] IRGC,” the analyst says. “The most important pressure Iran has created after Hizbollah [the Lebanese Shia movement] is the PMU.”

Mr Ameri, a stocky man in his 60s, is having none of it. “Get rid of your Iran complex,” he says. “Go and disband the National Guard in America and Saudi Arabia and come back to me.

“If you disband the Peshmerga we will disband the PMU, but you accept the Peshmerga and cheer for them. This is double standards.”

Additional reporting by Asser Khattab in Beirut

Politics Water and fuel protests expose rising anger

A wave of protests across southern Iraq have exposed the weakness of the state and the mounting resentment many Iraqis feel towards their leaders.

Demonstrators have in recent weeks targeted government buildings and political party offices, including those belonging to the Badr movement and other groups on Hadi al-Ameri’s Fatah list. The protests began over electricity and water shortages in Basra, the country’s oil hub. But they are also symptomatic of growing anger over the dire state of public services and the economy.

The predominantly Shia southern provinces avoided the worst of the violence from the three-year battle with Isis in Iraq’s north and west. But families from the south provided the majority of sons, fathers and husbands who filled the ranks of the Popular Mobilisation Units from 2014. Now there is a sense that despite the sacrifices made by the south, it has been neglected by Baghdad.

There is also widespread anger about rampant poverty and unemployment in a region that is the country’s economic lifeline — oil exports from Basra account for more than 95 per cent of state revenues. Some protests have targeted oil and gasfields as people demand that companies provide more jobs.

The anger felt by many Iraqis towards their leaders was reflected in a record low turnout of 44.5 per cent at the May 12 elections. That worked in the favour of the Sairoon alliance, led by Moqtada al-Sadr, the Shia cleric, and the Fatah bloc, which came first and second in terms of seats won in parliament, according to initial results.

They, and other groups, are now in talks to form the next coalition government, a process that typically takes months given Iraq’s fragmented political system. But the continuing unrest underscores the challenges the next administration will face.

Warfare for the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8)

India’s hybrid warfare against Pakistan

July 30, 2018

Yasir Malik |

War has been a recurring feature of international politics since the very emergence of the nation-state system in the 17th century. However, the nature of warfare apparatus and techniques varies at different times in different terrains. Over the years, this realization has been deeply witnessed within the military and strategic circles that waging war solely with the conventional military apparatus is not only costly but also puts a heavy human toll along with unquantifiable collateral damage on the aggressor itself.

Although, transformations in military technologies emphasize more on conventional and nuclear capabilities to ensure security and pursue national interests but strategically, this is less tactful in many cases, not enough to subservient an enemy’s relative capabilities. The induction of lethal and invincible nuclear weapons in the inventory is something which provides a sense of superiority over the adversary but, largely, it employs for deterrent purposes against any type of aggressive designs. Thus, to gain long-term and significant accomplishments against the adversary, hybrid strategy enters as a pragmatic shift in the strategic thinking of warfare.

Political community, particularly, needs to be a part of the inclusive patterns of engagement setting aside partisan politics to combat the intricate effects of hybrid warfare.

Hybrid warfare is a blend of conventional and irregular war fighting techniques along with employing other non-kinetic means to undermine an enemy’s strength. This type of warfare is more catastrophic in essence as it pervades into multifaceted frontiers of enemy’s territory; psychologically undermining its decision making capabilities, systematically crippling its financial and information networks using cyber technology, economic strangulation via coercive economic diplomacy and leveraging its influence over international actors and institutions and meanwhile, developing and maintaining a robust defence posture.

When non-kinetic options of this hybrid strategy come into play, it cripples state’s ability to take decisions in adverse circumstances and to perform in vulnerable conditions. Since India’s consistent failures in the successful materialization of its warfighting strategy “Cold Start Doctrine” with Pakistan’s development of tactical nuclear weapons and other counter-measures, India has been actively pursuing its hybrid warfare strategy, the manifestation of which is evident in a series of events between India and Pakistan over the years.

India’s diplomatic manoeuvring against Pakistan at various international foras, continued ceasefire violations at LOC and working boundary, New Delhi’s subversive political moves in Kabul, stoking and financing insurgency inside Pakistani territory as well as using its political clout to put restrictions over Pakistan and branding it as a sponsor of terrorism in the region; these indications vividly elucidate the looming threat of Indian hybrid strategy.

In order to cope up with this gigantic and evolving challenge, there is a need to develop cohesive and imprudent strategies before any escalation of the threat environment. First and foremost, it is imperative to overcome the economic constraints of the country. Since economy is interlinked with security, thus to develop, procure and install sophisticated weaponry in the inventory, you need financial resources in the exchequer. Parallel to this, to modernize and upgrade the arsenals, force mobilization and to develop a robust force posture; it all depends upon a robust economy.

The induction of lethal and invincible nuclear weapons in the inventory is something which provides a sense of superiority over the adversary but, largely, it employs for deterrent purposes against any type of aggressive designs.

Not only on the conventional frontier but also to counter cyber threats and other coercive diplomatic arrangements, economy remains a trump card to combat hybrid warfare. Besides, cyber attacks which is one of the elements of hybrid war strategy need to be intercepted vigilantly. The IT and high tech software professionals should be recruited, inducted and posted aiming to dismantle high profile websites hijacking, prevent the disruption of indispensable services, and to defend financial system of the states against any potential risks.

Side by side, strict legal actions must be implemented to cover all loopholes within the system. Public awareness is quintessential to eradicate the scathing effects of hybrid warfare. Unless the public makes sense to the adversarial designs to their integrity and identity, and the will of the people is not adaptive to resilience, intangible outcomes would not surface.

Further, the role of media should be utilized in the national interest rather a tool for inflicting a myriad of woes within the state. PEMRA, the authorized body, should keep a check on the functioning apparatus of the media industry. The exploitation of information, branding of MNCs products, sensational tactics, use of blockbuster to influence the minds of public and above all, the role of media as a business industry should be curtailed or remoulded into a national weapon.

The projection of events, news stories, and drama industry must be reoriented in a way as to revamp the tarnished image of the country. On the educational frontier, revising and revamping the outdated curriculum of education must be done within no time to oust the remnants of the colonial legacy. Teaching strategies and training mechanisms in the educational institutes ought to be re-designed in such a way that it not only produces prolific human capital but also inculcate a sense of nationalism as well as raise the decency level of the future generations.

The literacy of the country must act as a balm to aching wounds of the country’s polarization. Similarly, deprivation of underprivileged areas and populace need to be complemented by taking certain reformative and compensatory initiatives. This is one of the loopholes where the enemy can easily ingress and exploit its ambitions.

India’s diplomatic manoeuvring against Pakistan at various international foras, continued ceasefire violations at LOC and working boundary, New Delhi’s subversive political moves in Kabul.

At the global front, there is an urgent necessity to revamp our foreign policy and hold an inescapable importance in the emerging global strategic calculus. In pursuit of this desire, we need to re-align our interests with great powers and compensate for the divergence of interests with big economies. The country is also required to exploit its untapped natural resources potential and maximize the advantages from its geo-strategic location.

Last but not the least, a holistic security strategy needs to be devised with a synchronized framework of action from all the relevant stakes. While devising the modus operandi against perceived threats; policy inputs from the intelligentsia, academia, politicians, and strategists must be incorporated along with security and law enforcement arrangements. Enhancing enforcement capacity for achieving efficiency is a sine qua non in this context.

To put in a nutshell, there is a dire need to realize the spectrum of the threat at the earliest and thence, mobilize efforts to counteract against all kinds of perceived challenges. This ultra-security challenge must be on the top policy agenda; casting aside heated political environment and scattered attention in the country. Political community, particularly, needs to be a part of the inclusive patterns of engagement setting aside partisan politics to combat the intricate effects of hybrid warfare.

Yasir Malik is Research Fellow at South Asian Strategic Stability Institute, Islamabad. He writes for various local and international websites regularly. The views expressed in this article are author’s own and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Global Village Space.