The Antichrist Decides On New Prime Minister

Iraqi Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr visits his father’s grave after parliamentary election results were announced in Najaf. (Photo: Reuters)

Muqtada al-Sadr sets out 40 conditions for electing new Iraqi PM

Baxtiyar Goran

July 31-2018     11:16 PM

ERBIL (Kurdistan 24) – Iraqi election winner and influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has set out dozens of conditions for the next Iraqi prime minister that include a wide range of issues the country is experiencing.

Sadr, the leader of Sairoon, released a document on the coalition’s website on Tuesday, listing his conditions for Iraq’s next PM.

Independence, non-affiliation to any political party coming from outside of the Council of Representatives, and not holding a dual citizenship top’s Sadr’s list of conditions for the next prime minister.

Another requirement is that he or she must not run in the next elections and should avoid sectarianism.

Additionally, Sadr said political parties could nominate five technocrat persons for a ministerial position with the prime minister having the right to accept one nominee or reject them all.

According to Sadr, the new prime minister must prevent parties’ involvement in government affairs, emphasizing that the government should not always be in the hands of one party or ethnic group.

The new prime minister should be healthy, active, transparent, multi-lingual, and respect the rule of law, he continued.

They should not exploit their power for personal gains and should not resign from the position unless a strong alternative is found, he added.

Based on Sadr’s conditions, the next prime minister should firmly deal with security violations in a way that protects the security and safety of the Iraqi people; he or she should only use force to resolve issues if dialogue fails.

Another condition Sadr demanded from the new prime minister is to avoid interfering in ministries’ affairs or creating obstacles for other departments.

Sadr’s conditions were also related to the incoming prime minister’s vision for the new government, maintaining good relations with the Parliament, and preventing foreign interference in the country’s affairs.

Editing by Karzan Sulaivany

How Pharma Has Funded the Next War

AstraZeneca is one of five companies named in a lawsuit filed last year on behalf of members of the American military who were injured or killed in attacks in Iraq from 2005 to 2009.Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

Justice Dept. Investigating Claims That Drug Companies Funded Terrorism in Iraq

July 31, 2018

WASHINGTON — The Justice Department is investigating claims that major drug and medical device companies doing business in Iraq knew that the free medicines and supplies they gave the government to win business there would be used to underwrite terrorist attacks on American troops.

In a regulatory filing last week, AstraZeneca, a drugmaker based in Britain, disclosed that it had “received an inquiry from the U.S. Department of Justice in connection with an anti-corruption investigation relating to activities in Iraq.”

The filing said the inquiry was related to a lawsuit filed last year in federal court that accused five companies of winning contracts to sell their products to the Iraqi Ministry of Health with the understanding that they also provide additional medical supplies and medicines for free. The five companies are General Electric, Johnson & Johnson, Pfizer, Roche Holding A.G. and AstraZeneca.

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of members of the American military who were injured or killed in attacks from 2005 to 2009, at the height of the Iraq war.

US Joins the Trampling Outside the Temple (Revelation 11:2)

At St. John Eye Hospital in Gaza, a Palestinian surgeon removes a woman’s cataract using surgery equipment branded with a sticker that says, in Arabic, “From The American People.” U.S. funding subsidizes these surgeries for Palestinians who could not otherwise afford them, but funding cuts means subsidies will not continue, hospital administrators say.

U.S. Palestinian Aid Cuts Hit Programs Providing Food And Health For Gaza’s Poorest

Daniel Estrin

Updated at 12:11 p.m. ET

The United States has long boasted of giving more money to help the Palestinian people in recent decades, in development and humanitarian aid, than any other country has.

But not this year.

The Trump administration is withholding millions of dollars in aid for the Palestinians, even money that seeks to address a deepening humanitarian crisis in the Gaza Strip.

Food vouchers for needy families. Doctors sent to Gaza to perform complex surgeries. Money has run out for these projects and more, say U.S.-funded aid groups working in Gaza.

“Nothing is more frustrating as a humanitarian aid worker to see a crisis unfolding in front of you that you can’t do anything about,” said Hilary DuBose of Catholic Relief Services, an American group that runs aid projects in Gaza.

The United States has frozen most of the $251 million earmarked for the Palestinians this year, after the Palestinian Authority said it would boycott the Trump administration — and its Israeli-Palestinian peace efforts — because President Trump recognized the contested city of Jerusalem as Israel’s capital. The administration hasn’t said when it began the freeze, but U.S.-funded aid groups believe it began in January.

The U.S. has also withheld $300 million to the United Nations agency that cares for Palestinian refugees.

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

· 2 Jan

It’s not only Pakistan that we pay billions of dollars to for nothing, but also many other countries, and others. As an example, we pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect. They don’t even want to negotiate a long overdue…

Donald J. Trump

@realDonaldTrump

…peace treaty with Israel. We have taken Jerusalem, the toughest part of the negotiation, off the table, but Israel, for that, would have had to pay more. But with the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?

4:37 PM – Jan 2, 2018

“We pay the Palestinians HUNDRED OF MILLIONS OF DOLLARS a year and get no appreciation or respect,” Trump tweeted in January. “With the Palestinians no longer willing to talk peace, why should we make any of these massive future payments to them?

Top Trump administration officials have talked up America’s years of assistance to Palestinians — even as the administration has taken steps to curtail its own contributions.

“The United States has given billions of dollars in aid to the Palestinians. We’ve done nothing but help,” a senior administration official told NPR. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the topic. “Anybody who thinks that the United States has to engender more goodwill with them after all this country has done for them is not necessarily looking at the full picture.”

Under both the Obama and Trump administrations, the White House and Congress frequently held up and limited aid to the Palestinians to protest Palestinian actions deemed as undermining Israel. A new law passed by Congress forbids aid directly benefitting the Palestinian Authority government until it stops the practice of paying stipends to Palestinians in Israeli prison convicted for violence.

What money the U.S. has given to the Palestinians is but a small sliver of what it gives to its neighbor Israel. Israel has received more U.S. aid than any other country since World War II.

The U.S. quietly released funding a few weeks ago to the Palestinian Authority security forces. The money supports them working with Israel to maintain security in the West Bank, the State Department said.

Now the administration is deciding which other Palestinian aid projects it might unfreeze, based on whether the projects meet national security interests and policy goals and provide “value to U.S. taxpayers,” a State Department official said, without specifying.

The deadline is approaching soon: Action must be taken before the fiscal year finishes at the end of next month and funding disappears for good.

The U.S. has asked other countries to step up their contributions to the Palestinians. Some have, pledging money to U.N. Relief and Works Agency, which handles programs serving Palestinian refugees. The U.K. recently announced it would double its aid to the West Bank and Gaza.

But aid agencies say they struggle to raise money to help Palestinians, with international donors spread thin combatting other crises in the region. These groups say the U.S. funding freeze means they must wind down programs developed with — and funded entirely by — the U.S. Agency for International Development, USAID.

Here’s a quick glance at how the U.S. funding freeze is affecting Gaza.

Eye surgeries

At St. John Eye Hospital in Gaza, surgeons remove cataracts using state-of-the-art eye surgery equipment branded with a sticker that says, in Arabic, “From The American People.” U.S. money bought the equipment and subsidized the surgeries for Palestinians who could not otherwise afford them, hospital administrators say.

“After the surgery she can see fingers!” said Abdel Rahman al-Hams about his mother Shafika, from the recovery room at St. John after cataract surgery.

International Medical Corps, a U.S.-funded aid group, says because of the funding freeze, by late August it will no longer be able to bring doctors to Gaza to perform complex eye surgeries. It will also not be able to continue training a local surgeon to operate on eyelids — training that is unavailable in Gaza. And it will no longer subsidize the surgeries.

Food for the needy

In Gaza, about half of the population lives under the poverty line. Catholic Relief Services says the U.S. funding freeze means it can no longer provide food vouchers to Palestinians like Manal Fasih.

She lists the food she used to buy with U.S.-funded vouchers: white cheese, yellow cheese, halva, spices, tomatoes, pasta, noodles, sugar, rice. “Everything we needed for the home they gave us. May God bless them,” 51-year-old Fasih said.

She opens an empty jar in her kitchen: She’s run out of za’atar, a local spice as basic as salt and pepper. She’s run out of rice and oil and cheese. She begins to cry silently over the sink.

Fasih’s husband, an unemployed fisherman named Fathi, thinks the U.S. is cutting aid to pressure Palestinians to get on board with the Trump administration’s peace efforts with the Israelis. “This is humanitarian aid, for people who need it. It shouldn’t have anything to do with politics,” he said.

Job cuts

Almost half of Gaza’s workforce is without jobs. Now without U.S. funds, some Gazans who work for aid projects are themselves out of a job.

Bassam Nasser, who runs the Catholic Relief Services’ programs in Gaza, said he has had to lay off about half his staff over the last three months. Several of his offices are dark.

“It takes five minutes for a staff member to start crying,” Nasser said. “The majority of the staff members will have serious financial problems as they get their termination letters.”

Trump administration blames Hamas

After a recent wave of violence on the Gaza border, White House officials said it’s impossible to make a lasting investment in Gaza because the militant group Hamas rules there.

“For far too long, Gaza has lurched from crisis to crisis, sustained by emergency appeals and one-time caravans of aid, without dealing with the root cause: Hamas leadership is holding the Palestinians of Gaza captive. This problem must be recognized and resolved or we will witness yet another disastrous cycle,” White House senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top administration officials wrote last month in The Washington Post.

This week, 70 Democratic Congress members wrote to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and National Security Adviser John Bolton requesting the administration immediately restore U.S. funding for humanitarian aid in Gaza, noting recent Israeli military officials’ statements expressing concern about the effects of Gaza’s humanitarian crisis on Israel’s security.

“We all recognize the serious security and political challenges in Gaza. However, U.S. support for the basic human rights of Palestinians living in Gaza must not be conditioned on progress on those fronts,” their letter said.

Dave Harden, the former director of USAID’s West Bank and Gaza mission under the Obama administration, warns that shutting down U.S. aid projects could empower Hamas.

“I can tell you who will fill the vacuum: Hamas and Hezbollah and Iran and Islamic Jihad. And we will have ceded this space,” said Harden, who is now the managing director of the Georgetown Strategy Group, a private consulting firm in Washington. “We will be continuing to devolve power from the business community and civil society and professional class to the most extreme elements.”

The Rising of the Pakistani Horn (Daniel 8)

Imran Khan gestures as he delivers a speech during a political campaign rally in Islamabad on Saturday.WAKIL KOHSAR / AFP – Getty Images

Imran Khan claims victory after Pakistan election, poised to become new prime minister

Over the past two decades, the cricket icon has made a public transformation from international playboy to devout Muslim and anti-Western campaigner.

by F. Brinley Bruton / Jul.26.2018 / 2:19 PM ET / Updated Jul.26.2018 / 2:22 PM ET

Cricket icon turned anti-corruption crusader Imran Khan declared victory in Pakistan’s election Thursday. As he stood on the brink of becoming prime minister, his apparent victory raised new questions about the nuclear-armed country’s rocky relationship with the U.S.

While no final result had been announced, Khan’s promises to crack down on crippling corruption and transform a political scene long dominated by entrenched family dynasties appear to have won over voters in the militancy-plagued nation.

Over the past two decades, Khan has also made a public transformation from international playboy to observant Muslim and anti-Western campaigner.

Imran Khan holds cricket’s World Cup aloft in 1992.Fairfax Media via Getty Images file

But his support for Pakistan’s controversial blasphemy laws, outreach to militant groups and apparent closeness to the country’s military have worried some at home and abroad.

While he has been scathing of U.S. policies, such as the drone campaign against militants on the border with Afghanistan, Khan, 65, also said he would like to see ties “that will improve the situation” between Washington and Islamabad.

He will have to manage a tense relationship with the Trump administration, which has accused Pakistan of not doing enough to root out Taliban militants. Claims that Pakistan harbors and supports extremists fighting and killing Americans have long plagued relations between the two countries. In January, President Donald Trump suggested that he could withdraw annual support to Pakistan.

Khan also opposes the United States’ open-ended presence in Afghanistan.

Born to a prosperous family in cosmopolitan Lahore and educated at Britain’s Oxford University, Khan became a national hero when he led his country’s cricket team to World Cup victory in 1992 — the only time the Pakistan has won the tournament.

His early years in the spotlight saw him linked, and sometimes married, to glamorous women.

Princess Diana is given a tour of Imran Khan’s charity cancer hospital with the cricket icon and his then-wife Jemima in May 1997.Getty file

But his jet-setting ways have given way to a more devout figure who says he’s driven to fight for the common man.

“We will adhere to austerity. We will be simple,” Khan said in his first televised address to the country after the election. “We will strive for good governance. We will not live in palaces. We will build actual state institutions.”

However, Khan has raised eyebrows for his views on role of Islam in society. He has publicly supported Pakistan’s laws that make insulting Islam a capital offense. Rights activists say these laws are used to persecute minorities.

In addition, his willingness to engage in dialogue with extremist groups has worried critics and more moderate Pakistanis.

“It is clear that he has decided to go all the way in seeking to, as it were, court the Islamist vote,” said Farzana Shaikh, an associate fellow at Britain’s Chatham House think tank who has written widely about Pakistan. “Having said that, he is himself known to be of a deeply conservative nature… since he abandoned his playboy nature.”

Shaikh added: “What is more troubling is the way he conducted his election campaign and [called for] the need to preserve Pakistan blasphemy laws … and active courting of groups that are designated as terrorist organizations by the United Nations and indeed the state of Pakistan.”

Imran Khan.Anjum Naveed / AP

With almost half of the vote counted, election officials said Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf party was leading in 113 of 272 contested National Assembly constituencies. Main rival Shahbaz Sharif, the head of the party of jailed ex-prime minister Nawaz Sharif, rejected the results.

The election marks only the second civilian transfer of power since impoverished Pakistan was founded 71 years ago.

For months there have been allegations the Pakistan’s powerful armed forces have fought to tilt the race in Khan’s favor. Some 370,000 soldiers were stationed at polling stations across the Pakistan — around five times the number deployed at during 2013 election.

Khan campaigned on promises to oust political clans such as slain former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s family. Bhutto’s son also ran in the election.

Deadly blast rocks polling station as Pakistan votes in general election

“He is presented as this face of an anti-corruption,” Aaditya Dave, an analyst with British think tank the Royal United Services Institute. “He is not one of the establishment, and technically doesn’t come from one of these families.”

While his conservative social message won over many voters in this largely religious country, his promises about corruption and government services also spoke to millions.

Aside from pervasive official graft, most of the country of 200 million have to grapple with a crumbling public services, such as shortages in drinkable water and electricity blackouts, as well as a woefully inadequate schooling system. Illiteracy is over 40 percent.

Iraq’s Parliament Aligns with the Antichrist

Iraqi men protest against corruption in central Baghdad…

After Sistani’s Warning, Iraqi Blocs Seek Forming Largest Parliamentary Alliance

Tuesday, 31 July, 2018 – 08:45 –

Baghdad- Hamza Mustafa

Iraqi political blocs that were victorious in the parliamentary elections stepped up efforts to form the largest parliamentary alliance in wake of the eruption of unprecedented demonstrations and protests and warnings from religious authorities.

The move to form a bloc came after influential Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani strongly warned last week that failure to meet the people’s demands would have bad consequences. Sistani’s representative indicated that demonstrators have the “green light” to diversify their protest methods, provided they remain peaceful.

Meanwhile, head of Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr called for halting the negotiations over the largest coalition until people’s demands are met.

Shiite leaders did not comment on their efforts to form the largest union. A source close to the negotiations told Asharq Al-Awsat that the Fatih bloc, led by Hadi al-Amiri, and State of Law Coalition, headed by Nouri al-Maliki, have made important progress on the formation of the largest alliance.

They moved in two directions. They negotiated with three Shiite blocs: Sairoon, al-Nasr, and al-Hikma and then they held talks with Sunnis and Kurds to include them in this coalition, according to the source.

The source, who preferred to remain anonymous, explained that the Fatih bloc insists on including Sairoon in the large alliance, which is against the State of Law’s wishes.

Sadr refuses to join a bloc that includes the State of Law given that all mediation efforts have failed to bring him and Maliki together.

Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi’s bloc “is the weakest link,” said the source, adding that he remains a strong candidate for a second term. The Fatih bloc, which had nominated Amiri to head a new government, said that Abadi must be one of the candidates, but not the only one.

The source revealed that Maliki had held a meeting two days ago with a delegation, headed by governor Mohamed al-Halbusi, from the Anbar province. The meeting is a renewal of an old alliance between “al-Hall” bloc led by Jamal Karbouli and the State of Law.

Karbouli told Asharq Al-Awsat that the meeting was not political and was not related to alliances, but “focused on the situation in Anbar.”

When asked whether Sunni leaders agreed on a candidate for the position of parliament speaker, Karbouli noted that it was agreed that Halbusi, member of the Hall bloc, would be the candidate, a nomination which is accepted by other political blocs.

Babylon the Great Prepares for the Iranian Horn

U.S. Navy sailors stand watch on the fo'c'sle aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton as it transits the Strait of Hormuz October 22, 2017. Picture taken October 22, 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger/Handout via REUTERS. ATTENTION EDITORS - THIS IMAGE WAS PROVIDED BY A THIRD PARTY.US on alert for major Iranian naval operation in Middle East, officials say

By Barbara Starr and Ryan Browne, CNN 9 hrs ago
© Thomson Reuters U.S. Navy sailors stand watch on the fo’c’sle aboard the guided-missile cruiser USS Princeton as it transits the Strait of Hormuz October 22, 2017. Picture taken October 22, 2017. U.S. Navy/Mass Communication Specialist 3rd Class Kelsey J. Hockenberger/Handout via REUTERS.

ATTENTION… Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard forces are expected to begin a major exercise in the Persian Gulf as soon as within the next 48 hours that could be aimed at demonstrating their ability to shut down the Strait of Hormuz, according to two US officials directly familiar with the latest US assessment of IRGC troop movements.

“We are aware of the increase in Iranian naval operations within the Arabian Gulf, Strait of Hormuz and Gulf of Oman. We are monitoring it closely, and will continue to work with our partners to ensure freedom of navigation and free flow of commerce in international waterways,” Captain William Urban, chief spokesman for US Central Command, told CNN.

The Strait of Hormuz is a strategically critical passageway linking the Persian Gulf to the Arabian Sea that is crucial to international shipping and particularly for global energy supplies.

While the US sees no immediate signs of hostile intent from Iran, the IRGC show of force has US military intelligence deeply concerned for three fundamental reasons according to officials:

  • The exercise comes as rhetoric from the IRGC towards the US has accelerated in recent days.
  • It appears the IRGC is ramping up for a larger exercise this year than similar efforts in the past.
  • The timing is unusual. These types of IRGC exercises typically happen much later in the year.

There is “major concern” because of these factors, one official said.

As of now, the US assesses the IRGC has assembled a fleet of more than 100 boats, many of them small fast moving vessels. It’s expected Iranian air and ground assets including coastal defensive missile batteries could be involved. Hundreds of Iranian troops are expected to participate and some regular Iranian forces could be involved as well.

The IRGC exercise comes as the US has only one major warship, the USS The Sullivans inside the Persian Gulf, several officials say. Other US warships are nearby and there are numerous combat aircraft in the region.

The US military has been trying to encourage other nations in the region, especially Saudi Arabia to take a strong line on keeping the Gulf open in the face of rising Iranian rhetoric. They have also expressed concern about keeping open the waterways off Yemen where Iranian backed rebels have attacked oil tankers.

Defense Secretary James Mattis, responding to rising Iranian rhetoric said on Friday, “Iran has threatened to close the Strait of Hormuz. They’ve done that previously in years past. They saw the international community put — dozens of nations of the international community put their naval forces in for exercises to clear the straits. Clearly, this would be an attack on international shipping, and — and it would have, obviously, an international response to reopen the shipping lanes with whatever that took, because of the world’s economy depends on that energy, those energy supplies flowing out of there.”