Unwrapping Armageddon (Revelation 16)

Unwrapping Armageddon: The Erosion of Nuclear Arms Control

Conn Hallinan11.10.18

World News /10 Nov 2018

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement (INF) appears to be part of a broader strategy aimed at unwinding over 50 years of agreements to control and limit nuclear weapons, returning to an era characterized by the unbridled development weapons of mass destruction.

Terminating the INF treaty—which bans land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 300 and 3,400 miles— is not, in and of itself, a fatal blow to the network of treaties and agreements dating back to the 1963 treaty that ended atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. But coupled with other actions—George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002 and the Obama administration’s program to upgrade the nuclear weapons infrastructure— the tapestry of agreements that has, at least in part, limited these terrifying creations, is looking increasingly frayed.

“Leaving the INF,” says Sergey Rogov of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies, “could bring the whole structure of arms control crashing down.”

Lynn Rusten, the former senior director for arms control in the National Security Agency Council warns, “This is opening the door to an all-out arms race.”

Washington’s rationale for exiting the INF Treaty is that the Russians deployed the 9M729 cruise missile that the US claims violates the agreement, although Moscow denies it and the evidence has not been made public. Russia countercharges that the US ABM system—Aegis Ashore—deployed in Romania and planned for Poland could be used to launch similar medium range missiles.

If this were a disagreement over weapon capability, inspections would settle the matter. But the White House—in particular National Security Advisor John Bolton—is less concerned with inspections than extracting the US from agreements that in any way restrain the use of American power, be it military or economic. Thus, Trump dumped the Iran nuclear agreement, not because Iran is building nuclear weapons or violating the agreement, but because the administration wants to use economic sanctions to pursue regime change in Teheran.

In some ways, the INF agreement is low hanging fruit. The 1987 treaty banned only land-based medium range missiles, not those launched by sea or air —where the Americans hold a strong edge—and it only covered the U.S. and Russia. Other nuclear-armed countries, particularly China, India, North Korea, Israel and Pakistan have deployed a number of medium range nuclear-armed missiles. One of the arguments Bolton makes for exiting the INF is that it would allow the US to counter China’s medium range missiles.

But if the concern was controlling intermediate range missiles, the obvious path would be to expand the treaty to other nations and include air and sea launched weapons. Not that that would be easy. China has lots of intermediate range missiles, because most its potential antagonists, like Japan or US bases in Asia, are within the range of such missiles. The same goes for Pakistan, India, and Israel.

Intermediate range weapons—sometimes called “theater” missiles—do not threaten the US mainland the way that similar US missiles threaten China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow can be destroyed by long-range intercontinental missiles, but also by theater missiles launched from ships or aircraft. One of the reasons that Europeans are so opposed to withdrawing from the INF is that, in the advent of nuclear war, medium-range missiles on their soil will make them a target.

But supposed violations of the treaty is not why Bolton and the people around him oppose the agreement. Bolton called for withdrawing from the INF Treaty three years before the Obama administration charged the Russians with cheating. Indeed, Bolton has opposed every effort to constrain nuclear weapons and has already announced that the Trump administration will not extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expires in 2021.

START caps the number of US and Russian deployed nuclear weapons at 1,550, no small number.

The Bush administration’s withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty in 2002 was the first major blow to the treaty framework. Anti-ballistic missiles are inherently destabilizing, because the easiest way to defeat such systems is to overwhelm them by expanding the number of launchers and warheads. Bolton—a longtime foe of the ABM agreement—recently bragged that dumping the treaty had no effect on arms control.

But the treaty’s demise has shelved START talks, and it was the ABM’s deployment in Eastern Europe—along with NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders—that led to Moscow deploying the cruise missile now in dispute.

While Bolton and Trump are more aggressive about terminating agreements, it was the Obama administration’s decision to spend $1.6 trillion to upgrade and modernize US nuclear weapons that now endangers one of the central pillars of the nuclear treaty framework, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

That agreement ended the testing of nuclear weapons, slowing the development of new weapons, particularly miniaturization and warheads with minimal yields. The former would allow more warheads on each missile, the latter could increase the possibility of using nuclear weapons without setting off a full-scale nuclear exchange.

Nukes are tricky to design, so you don’t want to deploy one without testing it. The Americans have bypassed some of the obstacles created by the CTBT by using computers like the National Ignition Facility. The B-61 Mod 11 warhead, soon-to-be-deployed in Europe, was originally a city killer, but labs at Livermore, CA and Los Alamos and Sandia, NM turned it into a bunker buster, capable of taking out command and control centers buried deep in the ground.

Nevertheless, the military and the nuclear establishment—ranging from companies such as Lockheed Martin and Honeywell International to university research centers—have long felt hindered by the CTBT. Add the Trump administration’s hostility to anything that constrains US power and the CTBT may be next on the list.

Restarting nuclear testing will end any controls on weapons of mass destruction. And since Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear-armed powers to eventually disarm their weapons of mass destruction, that agreement may go as well. In a very short time countries like South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia will join the nuclear club, with South Africa and Brazil in the wings. The latter two countries researched producing nuclear weapons in the 1980s, and South Africa actually tested one.

The demise of the INF agreement will edge the world closer to nuclear war. Since medium range missiles shorten the warning time for a nuclear attack from 30 minutes to 10 minutes or less, countries will keep their weapons on a hair trigger. “Use them or lose them” is the philosophy that impels the tactics of nuclear war.

In the past year, Russia and NATO held very large military exercises on one another’s borders. Russian, US and Chinese fighter planes routinely play games of chicken. What happens when one of those “games” goes wrong?

The US and the Soviet Union came within minutes of an accidental war on at least two occasions, and, with so many actors and so many weapons, it will be only a matter of time before some country interprets a radar image incorrectly and goes to DEFCON 1—imminent nuclear war.

The INF Treaty came about because of strong opposition and huge demonstrations in Europe and the United States. That kind of pressure, coupled with a pledge by countries not to deploy such weapons, will be required again, lest the entire tapestry of agreements that kept the horror of nuclear war at bay vanish.

USA’s Fukushima At The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6)

Recent series of Indian Point shutdowns worst in years

Ernie Garcia, elgarcia@lohud.com

BUCHANAN — Four unplanned reactor shutdowns over a two-month period at Indian Point are the most setbacks the nuclear power plant has experienced in years.

A review of unplanned shutdowns from January 2012 to the present showed this year’s events happened within a short time frame, between May 7 and July 8, in contrast with events from other years that were more spread out, according to data released by Indian Point.

So many mishaps at the Entergy-owned plant haven’t occurred since 2009, when one of two units at the Buchanan site experienced a similar series, said plant spokesman Jerry Nappi.

Besides a May 9 transformer failure that spilled some 3,000 gallons of oil into the Hudson River, this year’s shutdowns were prompted by a May 7 steam leak, a July 8 pump motor failure and a June 15 switch yard breaker failure offsite in a Consolidated Edison substation.

If a nuclear plant has more than three unplanned shutdowns in a nine-month period, its performance indicator could be changed by the federal Nuclear Regulatory Commission, which results in additional oversight. That’s what happened with Entergy’s Pilgrim Nuclear Power Station in Plymouth, Mass., after four unplanned shutdowns in 2013.

So far, Entergy said there doesn’t appear to be a pattern to the Indian Point shutdowns.

“You do want to look at these events holistically to see if there is something in common, but you also look individually to see what the causes were,” Nappi said. “A plant shutdown in and of itself is not a safety issue.”

One of the four recent Buchanan shutdowns triggered a special inspection by the NRC and calls to close the nuclear plant by environmental groups and elected officials. Gov. Andrew Cuomo has said in the past Indian Point should close, but his office did not respond to a request for comment about whether the recent shutdowns have prompted any state scrutiny.

The NRC is expected to release a quarterly report on Indian Point this month that will address the transformer failure and, by year’s end, is planning an inspection of the transformer and an analysis of transformer issues since 2007.

Besides its transformer-related inquiries, the other three shutdowns have not raised “any immediate safety concerns or crossed any thresholds that would result in additional NRC oversight,” agency spokesman Neil Sheehan wrote in an email.

The unplanned shutdowns at Indian Point and Pilgrim in Massachusetts were mostly preventable, said Paul Blanch, a former Indian Point employee with 45 years of nuclear power experience.

“For this to happen this frequently indicates a deeper problem,” he said. “I believe it’s management oversight in the maintenance of these plants.”

Nappi said the transformer that failed May 9 and caused a fire and oil spill into the Hudson was regularly monitored. Investigators determined the failure was due to faulty insulation.

“The transformer inspection and reviews were in accordance with our standards and industry expectations, yet there was no indication the transformer was going to fail,” Nappi said.

The NRC conducted a separate, but related special inspection into the May 9 incident that focused on a half-inch of water that collected in an electrical switchgear room floor. Inspectors determined a fire suppression system’s valve failed to close properly.

Inspectors noted in their report that Entergy knew about that problem since April 2011 and replaced the valve but didn’t discover the actual cause — a dysfunctional switch — until after the fire.

Indian Point’s Unit 3 was down 19 days May through July, with the transformer failure accounting for 16 days. The shutdowns didn’t cause the public any supply problems because New York’s grid can import electricity from other states and New York has an energy plan to maintain reliability, according to the U.S. Energy Information Administration.

The nuclear energy industry judges a power plant on how continuously it produces energy, which is called a capacity factor.

There were 100 nuclear plants in the United States in 2014, a record year in terms of efficiency. In January, the Nuclear Energy Institute announced the U.S. average capacity factor was 91.9 percent.

Indian Point has an above-average efficiency rate. The plant’s Unit 2 and 3 reactors were each online more than 99 percent of the time during their most recent two-year operating cycles. They are currently in the middle of other cycles.

Iran Prepares for War Against Israel

Iran signals readiness to defend against Israeli strike

[Notice: The Critical Threats Project frequently cites sources from foreign domains. All such links are identified with an asterisk(*) for the reader’s awareness.]

Key takeaway: Iran likely signalled its readiness to defend against a potential Israeli strike on its nuclear facilities.

The Artesh Air Force, Artesh Khatam ol Anbia Air Defense Base, and the IRGC Aerospace Force conducted the Defenders of the Velayat Sky 97 air defense military exercises throughout Iran from November 5 – 6. The exercises follow the annually celebrated November 4 anniversary of the 1979 U.S. embassy hostage crisis in Iran as well as the November 5 reimposition of U.S. sanctions against Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei threatened to restart “nuclear activities cancelled [under the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)]” on August 13 if Europe cannot guarantee Iran the economic benefits of the nuclear deal. Khamenei called on Europe to continue importing Iranian oil and doing business in Iran. Europe has failed thus far to implement the special purpose vehicle (SPV) which would allow European buyers to continue importing Iranian oil despite U.S. sanctions.

Israel perceives Iran’s nuclear program as an immediate security threat and may take preemptive military action against Iranian nuclear sites. Israel has raised issue with Iran’s nuclear program and claimed that Iran has continued to pursue a nuclear weapons program since the JCPOA’s 2016 implementation. Israel launched strikes against nuclear facilities in Iraq and Syria, in 1981 and 2006 respectively.

Children Shot Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Link to video and photo content here

Save the Children urge for an end to violence at border which has seen 948 children hit by live ammunition and for support for those who have been wounded.

While early signs are that an agreement could bring relative calm to Gaza, months of violence leave behind almost 1,000 Palestinian children shot and maimed by live ammunition. As they struggle in a crippled health system, it is vital to support these children in recovering from their physical and mental wounds and ensure no further children are injured, Save the Children warns.

To date more than 5,100 Palestinian children have been injured since the protests began, according to the UN. In total, it says 24,362 Palestinians have been injured and 228 killed since 30th March. In the same period 40 Israelis have been injured and one soldier killed.

Even for the most seriously injured, there is little chance they can leave Gaza to get the treatment that could, in some cases, save their limbs. The WHO reports that less than a quarter of people injured in the protests have been permitted to leave Gaza for treatment.

Rami*, 13, was with a group of children at the protests when he was shot with what appeared to be an exploding bullet.

The bullet carved a hole in his leg and he was rushed to a field hospital where the doctors wanted to amputate before his father intervened.

Rami has now had surgery 11 times and doctors don’t know if he will ever walk again.

Rami said, “They started to shoot at us, and then there was (tear) gas. I ran away, I found my brother. We were about to leave to go home… they shot me. I fell, my brother started to cry and say: ‘I can’t rescue you’.”

“They bandaged both legs, and I was bleeding. They took me to hospital and the doctor said to sign for my leg to be amputated. My father argued with the doctor until the head of the department came and said that there’s a chance to save the leg.

“I want to walk, to be able to go to school, to play football and play with my friends. I always wanted to be a football player and I still want to.”

Rami’s family explained how they tried to get him medical care in Israel but their requests have been refused so far. They cannot afford the basic medication to prevent further infection. Save the Children and its partners are providing Rami with mental health support to help him deal with the traumatic experiences and are ensuring he gets the antibiotics he needs.

According to a recent report, 460 Palestinians will be in need of long-term limb reconstruction following the recent mass demonstrations, requiring up to seven surgeries and extensive treatment for up to two years. More than 80 of them may be children. The numbers are expected to increase. Since 30th March there have been 15 amputations on children.

Ibrahim Abu Sobeih, Save the Children’s Program Manager in Gaza, added:

“Many injured children are not only facing physical injuries but also psychological implications for their mental health. They need adequate support to recover from their traumatic experiences. They need to learn to walk again, to move, but also to live.”

“Already before the recent events, we were deeply concerned about the psychological impact of prolonged exposure to extreme violence and the blockade on the children of Gaza. If left untreated, the symptoms of anxiety and depression could have long term physical and psychological damage.”

Yet hospitals in Gaza are overstretched. Some 8,000 pre-scheduled surgeries, including critical cases, have been postponed. Since the start of 2018, 462 health workers have been injured and three killed in violence at the perimeter, putting a further strain on Gaza’s health system. Gaza’s central medical store is already out of 40% of essential medicines, with a further 47% at less than one month’s supply.

Maher

Maher* is 11 years old. He was at a demonstration with friends when he was shot in the arm. He kept the bullet the doctors removed.

“A helicopter dropped (tear) gas all over the place and we got separated. While I was standing there in the gas, I felt something in my arm. I got shot.

“I looked around, then I screamed and felt a lot of pain. No one came to help because they were afraid of being shot and gassed too.”

“Now I cannot play with my friends as before, I can’t hold the ball as they can do, because it hurts.”

“What did I do to the soldiers? I didn’t go there to throw stones, I went to the protest like everyone else, holding my flag. I didn’t think it would be so dangerous.”

Tom Krift, Save the Children’s Regional Director for the Middle East, said:

“The Israeli government must end the use of sniper fire and live ammunition against children in Gaza. The killing and wounding of children is never acceptable, all parties must ensure that children are not targets. We strongly urge all protests to remain peaceful.”

“The long-standing blockade has created a fuel shortage which makes it harder for hospitals to function and for injured children to get the medical care they need. It puts the lives of hundreds of children at risk.”

“There are encouraging signs that the reported agreement may help stop further child casualties. To prevent more of Gaza’s children from having their lives shattered by bullets all sides must redouble their efforts to find a peaceful solution and tackle the long-term causes of this conflict.”

“In line with international humanitarian and human rights law, we are calling for an end to the blockade. Lifting it will be essential to allow health services to re-establish health care that can save lives and prevent long term disability. It will also be a vital step towards achieving durable peace that enables reconstruction and recovery.”

Notes to editors

Save the Children partners conduct emergency field visits to injured children to provide psychosocial support and help ensure children get counselling to start to recover from their experiences.

In a survey carried out before the protests Save the Children found that a generation of children in Gaza are on the brink of a mental health crisis, and that fresh violence could destroy their last vestiges of resilience.

Preparing for Armageddon (Revelation 16)

Untitled-design-11-793x525DISPATCHES FROM THE EDGE: Nuclear Treaties: Unwrapping Armageddon

Conn Hallinan
Friday November 09, 2018 – 02:46:00 PM

The decision by the Trump administration to withdraw from the Intermediate Nuclear Force Agreement (INF) appears to be part of a broader strategy aimed at unwinding over 50 years of agreements to control and limit nuclear weapons, returning to an era characterized by the unbridled development weapons of mass destruction.

Terminating the INF treaty—which bans land-based cruise and ballistic missiles with a range of between 300 and 3400 miles— is not, in and of itself, a fatal blow to the network of treaties and agreements dating back to the 1963 treaty that ended atmospheric testing of nuclear weapons. But coupled with other actions—George W. Bush’s decision to withdraw from the Anti-Ballistic Missile Treaty (ABM) in 2002 and the Obama administration’s program to upgrade the nuclear weapons infrastructure— the tapestry of agreements that has, at least in part, limited these terrifying creations, is looking increasingly frayed.

“Leaving the INF,” says Sergey Rogov of the Institute of U.S. and Canadian Studies, “could bring the whole structure of arms control crashing down.”

Lynn Rusten, the former senior director for arms control in the National Security Agency Council warns, “This is opening the door to an all-out arms race.”

Washington’s rationale for exiting the INF Treaty is that the Russians deployed the 9M729 cruise missile that the US claims violates the agreement, although Moscow denies it and the evidence has not been made public. Russia countercharges that the US ABM system—Aegis Ashore—deployed in Romania and planned for Poland could be used to launch similar medium range missiles.

If this were a disagreement over weapon capability, inspections would settle the matter. But the White House—in particular National Security Advisor John Bolton—is less concerned with inspections than extracting the US from agreements that in any way restrain the use of American power, be it military or economic. Thus, Trump dumped the Iran nuclear agreement, not because Iran is building nuclear weapons or violating the agreement, but because the administration wants to use economic sanctions to pursue regime change in Teheran.

In some ways, the INF agreement is low hanging fruit. The 1987 treaty banned only land-based medium range missiles, not those launched by sea or air —where the Americans hold a strong edge—and it only covered the U.S. and Russia. Other nuclear-armed countries, particularly China, India, North Korea, Israel and Pakistan have deployed a number of medium range nuclear-armed missiles. One of the arguments Bolton makes for exiting the INF is that it would allow the US to counter China’s medium range missiles.

But if the concern was controlling intermediate range missiles, the obvious path would be to expand the treaty to other nations and include air and sea launched weapons. Not that that would be easy. China has lots of intermediate range missiles, because most its potential antagonists, like Japan or US bases in Asia, are within the range of such missiles. The same goes for Pakistan, India, and Israel.

Intermediate range weapons—sometimes called “theater” missiles—do not threaten the US mainland the way that similar US missiles threaten China and Russia. Beijing and Moscow can be destroyed by long-range intercontinental missiles, but also by theater missiles launched from ships or aircraft. One of the reasons that Europeans are so opposed to withdrawing from the INF is that, in the advent of nuclear war, medium-range missiles on their soil will make them a target.

But supposed violations of the treaty is not why Bolton and the people around him oppose the agreement. Bolton called for withdrawing from the INF Treaty three years before the Obama administration charged the Russians with cheating. Indeed, Bolton has opposed every effort to constrain nuclear weapons and has already announced that the Trump administration will not extend the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty (START) when it expires in 2021.

START caps the number of US and Russian deployed nuclear weapons at 1550, no small number.

The Bush administration’s withdrawal from the 1972 ABM treaty in 2002 was the first major blow to the treaty framework. Anti-ballistic missiles are inherently destabilizing, because the easiest way to defeat such systems is to overwhelm them by expanding the number of launchers and warheads. Bolton—a longtime foe of the ABM agreement—recently bragged that dumping the treaty had no effect on arms control.

But the treaty’s demise has shelved START talks, and it was the ABM’s deployment in Eastern Europe—along with NATO’s expansion up to the Russian borders—that led to Moscow deploying the cruise missile now in dispute.

While Bolton and Trump are more aggressive about terminating agreements, it was the Obama administration’s decision to spend $1.6 trillion to upgrade and modernize US nuclear weapons that now endangers one of the central pillars of the nuclear treaty framework, the 1996 Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT).

That agreement ended the testing of nuclear weapons, slowing the development of new weapons, particularly miniaturization and warheads with minimal yields. The former would allow more warheads on each missile, the latter could increase the possibility of using nuclear weapons without setting off a full-scale nuclear exchange.

Nukes are tricky to design, so you don’t want to deploy one without testing it. The Americans have bypassed some of the obstacles created by the CTBT by using computers like the National Ignition Facility. The B-61 Mod 11 warhead, soon-to-be-deployed in Europe, was originally a city killer, but labs at Livermore, CA and Los Alamos and Sandia, NM turned it into a bunker buster, capable of taking out command and control centers buried deep in the ground.

Nevertheless, the military and the nuclear establishment—ranging from companies such as Lockheed Martin and Honeywell International to university research centers—have long felt hindered by the CTBT. Add the Trump administration’s hostility to anything that constrains US power and the CTBT may be next on the list.

Restarting nuclear testing will end any controls on weapons of mass destruction. And since Article VI of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) requires nuclear-armed powers to eventually disarm their weapons of mass destruction, that agreement may go as well. In a very short time countries like South Korea, Japan and Saudi Arabia will join the nuclear club, with South Africa and Brazil in the wings. The latter two countries researched producing nuclear weapons in the 1980s, and South Africa actually tested one.

The demise of the INF agreement will edge the world closer to nuclear war. Since medium range missiles shorten the warning time for a nuclear attack from 30 minutes to 10 minutes or less, countries will keep their weapons on a hair trigger. “Use them or lose them” is the philosophy that impels the tactics of nuclear war.

In the past year, Russia and NATO held very large military exercises on one another’s borders. Russian, US and Chinese fighter planes routinely play games of chicken. What happens when one of those “games” goes wrong?

The US and the Soviet Union came within minutes of an accidental war on at least two occasions, and, with so many actors and so many weapons, it will be only a matter of time before some country interprets a radar image incorrectly and goes to DEFCON 1—imminent nuclear war.

The INF Treaty came about because of strong opposition and huge demonstrations in Europe and the United States. That kind of pressure, coupled with a pledge by countries not to deploy such weapons, will be required again, lest the entire tapestry of agreements that kept the horror of nuclear war at bay vanish.


Conn Hallinan can be read at dispatchesfromtheedgeblog.wordpress.com and middleempireseries.wordpress.com

The Antichrist: Iraq’s premier political player

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr abandons an alliance in parliament with Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in August 2018. File photo: Haidar Hamdani

Since the announcement of election results in May, Muqtada al-Sadr has emerged as the leading post-election player, taking over from Nuri al-Maliki who had always been at the head of post-election negotiations and political maneuvering.

Muqtada al-Sadr stamped his authority over the process of negotiations from the start and sustained it throughout. He started with holding talks with all the major political parties in June and July, and then formed a new coalition (al-Eslah and al-Emaar).  He lead the coalition from the outset despite the fact that it included some of the biggest names in Iraqi politics, including Ammar al-Hakim, Haider al-Abadi, Ayad Allawi, and Osama al-Nujaifi, among others.

Perhaps the press conference that was held in Babylon Hotel on September 23 by Sadr’s young representative Ahmed al-Sadr who read a statement, with all the leading figures of the coalition standing behind him, was a clear illustration of Sadr‘s authority over the other big guns and coalition partners.

Thereafter he moved on to make sure he is the one who appoints the prime minister.  Al-Eslah squabbled openly and privately with al-Binaa bloc (led by Hadi al-Ameri) for several weeks over who is the largest bloc. Both tried to win the smaller political parties; however, the race ended once Sadr and Ameri agreed on nominating the same person as PM designate, namely Adil Abdul-Mahdi.

This agreement came about after the Basra unrest and burning of the Iranian consulate. The political parties felt the urgency and gravity of the situation, they sensed that matters such as the largest bloc are petty compared to the overall danger they are facing collectively, and realized that if matters get out of hand in Basra and other provinces, they would lose more than just naming the PM.

Additionally Sadr and Ameri aligned because of a desire to stop the Islamic Dawa Party holding the Premiership for another term, their tight grip on that post has gone on for too long and this was their golden opportunity.

Sadr declared his victory in a tweet on October 26. Observers agree he is a completely different political player than what he used to be; he has emerged as a force to be reckoned with and has many more tools at his disposal to stamp his authority.

As examples:

— He used his popularity at the grass root level to put pressure on political parties. They all agreed that they could not ignore Sadr or form a new government without his participation,

— He used savvy maneuvering to make sure he is in the heart of the government formation, his representative, Sheikh Waleed al-Kremawi, was the leading negotiator in AAM’s team, calling most of the shots when it came to ministerial distribution.

— He used his parliamentary block inside the parliament to sway the voting and the proceedings during the voting session. They managed to effectively install Abdul-Mahdi as PM, and prevent opponents from taking their post in the interior minister. Sayirun first used the pretext of lack of information about candidates’ background, yet they were fully involved in the shortlisting process through their candidate in Abdul-Mahdi’s team.  They stopped the proceedings and asked for a 30 minute recess, only to comeback and distribute 14 of 22 ministries. This can only be regarded as a master stroke of parliamentary manipulation.

— He used Twitter to its maximum effect, portraying himself as the person who is calling the shots, and got what he wanted most of the time.  To this end, he prevented any current members of parliament to take ministerial positions or any previous ministers to be re-appointed in Abdul-Mahdi’s cabinet

— He adopted a winning formula to form the new government, his party has no ministers in the cabinet, yet he is seen as the person behind the formation of this new government. If Abdul-Mahdi succeed in his mission, Sadr would take plenty of credit for it; however, if he runs into trouble, Sadr would walk away and become opposition.  Either way he can maneuver into a good position without losing political credit.

Farhad Alaaldin is an advisor to the Iraqi president.

The views expressed in this article are those of the author and do not necessarily reflect the position of Rudaw.