The Shi’a Horns of Iran and Iraq

Iran Builds Closer Ties With Iraq, Just as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo Leaves Iraq to Continue Anti-Iran Tour

By Tom O’Connor On 1/10/19 at 5:28 PM

Iran and Iraq held a meeting designed to boost their bilateral ties just one day after Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Iraqi officials as part of a broader Middle Eastern tour aimed at curbing Tehran’s influence in the region.

Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh met Thursday with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, whose office said he “confirmed the deep relations between the two countries, the two neighboring peoples and the importance of strengthening them in areas that serve the interests of the two peoples, foremost of which is cooperation in the fields of oil and gas.”

The Iraqi premier’s office also said Zangeneh “expressed his country’s pride in the level of relations with Iraq and the aspiration to develop them, and hoped to achieve more cooperation and to meet the needs of Iraq’s gas.”

The meeting followed Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with Abdul-Madhi on Wednesday, where the two discussed “U.S. support for Iraq’s energy independence,” among other things.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (R) receives Iranian Petroleum Minister Bijan Zangeneh in Baghdad, Iraq, January 10. The U.S. has struggled to pry apart the majority-Shiite Muslim neighbors. Office of the Iraqi Prime Minister

Iran and Iraq, two majority Shiite Muslim neighbors, have a tumultuous history that grew violent after the outbreak of a bloody, eight-year war in which the U.S. quietly backed both sides, despite considering both to be foes. Relations only began to take hold after the 2003 U.S. invasion that overthrew Iraqi President Saddam Hussein, replacing the secular Sunni Muslim leader with a Shiite Muslim-dominated leadership that brought Baghdad closer to the revolutionary clerical government in Tehran.

Iraq has attempted to balance its ties between the U.S. and Iran ever since. Both foreign powers contributed extensively to efforts to defeat the Islamic State militant group (ISIS), which spawned out of the Al-Qaeda-led insurgency that took hold after the U.S. intervention. Though united against these jihadist groups, the U.S. has accused Iran of sponsoring terrorism via support for various Shiite Muslim movements across the region. Meanwhile, Tehran has charged Washington with destabilizing the Middle East through its 17-year “war on terror” and ongoing support for Israel.

Ties between the U.S. and Iran have only deteriorated since President Donald Trump pulled out of a landmark 2015 nuclear deal signed alongside Iran as well as China, France, Germany, Russia and the United Kingdom. Sanctions once waived due to Iran’s compliance with nuclear restrictions have again been imposed the U.S., further damaging Iran’s already crisis-ridden economy.

Last month, the U.S. gave Iraq—which relies on Iran for electricity and natural gas—an additional 30 days to comply with the restrictions. But Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari told journalists last week that Baghdad was “not obliged” to follow Washington’s measures, as online news outlet Middle East Eye reported. Zangeneh called the sanctions “illegal” on Thursday, according to Reuters. Still, Iraqi Oil Minister Thamer al-Ghadhban said Thursday that no deal to jointly develop oil fields with Iran was reached.

The official Islamic Republic News Agency reported that Iranian gas exports to Iran were at about 15 million cubic meters day, with a planned increase to about 40 million cubic meters daily.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo (L) talks with Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi (R) in Baghdad, during a Middle East tour, January 9. The eight-day tour comes weeks after the President Donald Trump announced that the United States would quickly pull its 2,000 soldiers out of Syria, declaring that ISIS had been defeated there as it was earlier in Iraq. ANDREW CABALLERO-REYNOLDS/AFP/Getty Images

Pompeo’s trip to Iraq, which followed a controversial visit by Trump late last month, was notable in that Iran was not mentioned in any official readouts, despite Pompeo referencing the “counter-Iran revolution” between the U.S. and its Mideast allies during a press conference Tuesday in Jordan. He did say, during a visit to Washington’s consulate in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, that the two countries had “a common understanding that the battle against Daesh [the Arabic-language acronym for ISIS], to counter Daesh, and the fight to counter Iran is real and important and something each of us needs to be active participants in.”

During a speech at his next stop in Cairo, the words “Iran” and “Iranian” were among his most frequently used, as he painted the Tehran as a “common enemy” of the U.S. and other countries in the region, The National reported.

Despite its close relationship with the U.S., Iraq also maintains close ties to Russia and neighboring Syria, whose government has faced a 2011 rebel and jihadi uprising sponsored by Washington and its regional allies. Support from Russia, Iran and (to some degree) Iraq have allowed Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to retake much of the country and begin rebuilding diplomatic ties with fellow Arab states.

Last week, Jaafari called on the Arab League to reinstate Syria after it was suspended due to alleged human rights abuses committed as the government attempted to crack down on the 2011 uprising. The comments came after Iraqi National Security Council adviser Falih al-Fayadh said Assad had granted Baghdad permission to strike ISIS targets on the border, where Shiite Muslim militias supported by Iran were already battling the jihadis.

The Sixth Seal: The Big Apple Shake (Rev 6:12)

Big Apple shake? Potential for earthquake in New York City exists

Posted 11:21 PM, April 2, 2014, by Jeremy Tanner and Mario Diaz

NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) – For the last 43 years John Armbruster has been a seismologist with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.  A veteran of what he describes as “a couple of dozen” quakes, he is interested in the seismic activity throughout the Pacific region in recent weeks.

However, does the amount of plate movements around the world in recent weeks as well as years to translate to New York City being more vulnerable, “These earthquakes are not communicating with each other, they are too far apart,” said Armbruster in an interview with PIX 11 News on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, Armbruster added that there are many faults around the area and a few in Manhattan, including on specific fault capable of producing a magnitude 6.0 earthquake, “The 125th street fault.”

What would a magnitude 6.0 earthquake inflict upon the city?

“I think there would be serious damage and casualties,” said Armbruster.  The reason?  Most of the buildings and infrastructure was not constructed  to withstand earthquakes.  This said, what does Armbruster think of the chances of a major earthquake catching New York City by surprise?

“We know that its unlikely because it hasn’t happened in the last 300 years but the earthquake that struck Fukushima Japan was the 1000 year earthquake and they weren’t ready for the that.

Antichrist Continues to Dispute Remaining Iraq Government Posts

Disputes Persist over Candidates for Remaining Iraq Govt. Posts

Wednesday, 9 January, 2019 – 07:45 –

Iraqi lawmakers attend the first parliament session in …

Baghdad – Hamza Mustafa

Iraq’s parliament postponed a session scheduled for Monday to Thursday due to a lack of quorum, although the session’s agenda lacked any item related to filling the vacant positions for key ministries in the cabinet of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi.

Three months after being tasked to form the government, Abdul Mahdi has still not been able to convince the political blocs with his remaining candidates for three key ministries: justice, interior and defense.

In its last session held in December, parliament failed to vote on completing the 22-minister government lineup as disputes between the Reform and Binaa blocs continued.

While political blocs bickered over the candidates, two documents related to those nominations have been released. The first speaks of a new candidate for the defense portfolio. The document is backed by several blocs from the National Coalition, led by Vice President Ayad Allawi.

The other document is related to the three vacant ministries.

The Reform and Construction Coalition, led by cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, asked the prime minister to dismiss ministers who have a legal history.

In a statement issued on Monday, the Coalition stressed the need to respect the internal regulations of parliament and the need to reconsider the voting mechanism adopted for electing the defense and education ministers.

The Coalition also rejected the distribution of posts for the chairmanship of parliamentary committees based on sectarian foundations.

In this regard, Reform and Construction MP Nada Shaker Jawdat told Asharq Al-Awsat that the bloc had discovered that several ministers, who were appointed during the first round of voting, have a criminal record.

“But, Abdul Mahdi failed to take any measures against them, so we wanted to shed light on the issue because it violates the Constitution,” she said.

When asked about the case of Shaima Khalil, who was appointed as education minister but still has not taken the ministerial oath, Shaker Jawdat said, “After the spread of a video related to her brother, Khalil cannot be sworn in under any pretext or excuse.”

Khalil resigned over allegations that her brother has links to ISIS, but Abdul Mahdi has yet to approve it.

Meanwhile, lawmaker Ahmed al-Assadi told Asharq Al-Awsat that until now, Falih Al-Fayadh is still the Binaa bloc’s nominee for defense minister.

“However, there are contacts with other blocs to reach a solution to this crisis,” he said.

Iran Threatens Israel Again (Rev 8:4)

Top Iranian General Says Israel Must Be ‘Annihilated and Destroyed’

Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Naqdi, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Deputy Commander for Cultural and Social Affairs, said in an interview that Iran could easily defeat Saudi Arabia, and threatened to overrun American military bases in the Middle East.

In an interview that was originally conducted on 28 December by the Iraqi television network Al-Nujab, but translated only Wednesday by the Middle East Media Research Institute, Naqdi said that the “Islamic revolution in Iran will not back down” from the goal of bringing defeat to Israel.

Naqdi, a former head of the Basij militia, said that there is no doubt that Israel must be “annihilated and destroyed” while adding that neither Russia nor any other country could intermediate.

“We were, we are, and we will continue to be the soldiers of Imam Khamenei until our last breath and until the last drop of our blood. I myself will hoist the flag of the Islamic Revolution in Jerusalem, Allah willing,” the general said.

He also dismissed the possibility of a US attack in Iran: “America will not launch a war against Iran,” he told the interviewer. “If it does — a possibility that I rule out — we will destroy all its military bases in the region. We currently stand before the gates and barbed wire [surrounding those bases], and if they make a wrong move, we will cross those barbed wire fences.”

General called Arabia’s military capabilities as “very laughable.” “We have a Farsi proverb that goes, ‘You cannot compare an ant to an elephant.’ Saudi Arabia is incapable of controlling even its domestic front. It uses fighter planes to bomb small neighbourhoods in Saudi Arabia. I believe that Saudi Arabia is much weaker than you might think. If we gave the order to a division in any of our 30 provinces, it would be able to defeat and destroy Saudi Arabia. It’s true that Saudi Arabia has many advanced weapons, but it cannot face an army like Iran’s.”

© Sputnik / Alexey Vitvitsky

Iran’s Envoy to the UK Accuses European States of Sheltering Terrorists

Earlier on Wednesday, Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said American sanctions are putting pressure on Iran and its people, yet in comments posted on his website he added that “Iran will overcome sanctions, slap US in face again.” The remarks came as US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo visited Iraq, stating that the US would double down on commercial and diplomatic efforts in the coming weeks to “put real pressure on Iran,” according to the Times of Israel.

The United States withdrew from the 2015 Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), known as the Iran nuclear deal, in May 2018. After the move, Washington opted to re-impose a series of sanctions against Tehran that had been lifted under the agreement. The first package of US trade restrictions came into force in August. Later, in early November, Washington expanded its sanctions, targeting core sectors of Iran’s economy.

Iran to Train Palestinians Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Iran ups rhetoric with talk of training Palestinian fighters

GAZA CITY, Gaza Strip — As Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu was recently blaming Iran’s influence on Palestinians for the lack of progress in peace talks, Iran seemed more than happy to accept responsibility. 

In an interview with Globo TV during his Jan. 1 visit to Brazil, Netanyahu said, “Half of them [Palestinians] are already under the gun of Iran and of radical Islam.” His comments coincided with statements made the same day by Iran’s police chief, Hossein Ashtari, that his forces are ready to train members of the Palestinian factions’ armed wings.

Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) has been unofficially providing this training since 2005, but this was the first time the police force made such an offer publicly. Ashtari made the statement during a meeting with Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) Secretary-General Ziyad al-Nakhalah in Tehran. Nakhalah was accompanied on his trip by all the members of the PIJ political bureau. The delegation met senior leaders of the Iranian regime, most notably Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“[Khamenei] always supports the resistance against the Zionist entity,” Ashtari said during his meeting with Nakhalah. “We follow his footsteps and continue to support the oppressed Palestinian people. … We are ready to provide any possible assistance.”

The relationship of the Hamas and PIJ factions with Tehran had been strained when the two movements stood idly by during the conflicts in Syria and Yemen. Hamas withdrew from Syria in 2012, and announced its support for the Saudi-backed government in Yemen in 2015. Iran, a bitter rival of Saudi Arabia, restricted its financial and military support, including IRGC training, to the factions.

Following the election of a new Hamas leadership in May 2017, and new PIJ leadership in September 2017, the relationship with Iran started improving. The factions intensified their visits to Tehran and repeatedly expressed appreciation for any support Iran offered.

Hussein Sheikh al-Islam, adviser to Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, affirmed Iran will not hesitate to provide any financial or military support requested by the Palestinian factions. He told Al-Monitor that Ashtari’s offer proves Iran is putting all of its capabilities at the factions’ disposal to help them upgrade their military competence.

Iran’s relationship with the Palestinian factions specifically Hamas and [the PIJ] is strong and developing over time,” Islam said. “Iran sees the Palestinian resistance movements as part of the resistance front in the Arab region, which stands united against Israel and the United States.”

Khoder Habib, a PIJ leader, told Al-Monitor that Iran is a key supporter of his movement and other Palestinian resistance factions. He said the PIJ delegation’s recent visit to Tehran yielded positive results.

“Ashtari’s offer attests to the solid relationship between the Palestinian resistance forces and Tehran,” Habib said.

The offer came in tandem with Israeli reports that Khamenei has proposed that the PIJ form a joint operations room in the Gaza Strip with Lebanon’s Hezbollah and some Iraqi militias. Israel believes this would provide a second military front against Israel if it wages a war on Gaza.

US Middle East envoy Jason Greenblatt and Israeli Chief of Staff Lt. Gen. Gadi Eizenkot had revealed early in 2018 that Iran was providing hundreds of millions of dollars a year to Palestinian armed factions in the Gaza Strip.

Further consolidation of relations between Iran and the Palestinian factions are possible, as Hamas and the PIJ recognize that Iran is their main supplier of arms and money. If that happens, it is likely these factions would enter a military battle in a unified front with Iran, Hezbollah and Syria against Israel. Former Israeli Defense Minister Avigdor Liberman had warned of that possibility in October 2017.

Al-Monitor spoke to a senior military commander in the Palestinian Popular Resistance Committees, an alliance of armed factions that opposes reconciliation with Israel. He, too, pointed out that Iran has spared no effort to provide Palestinian factions with military expertise that has significantly improved their capabilities. He noted on condition of anonymity that during the recent military escalation with Israel, the Palestinian factions demonstrated these advanced military capabilities.

Israel’s withdrawal from Gaza in 2005 and the Hamas takeover there in 2007 allowed Palestinian fighters to train at camps in Iran, Syria and Lebanon, until Egypt tightened its grip on the Gaza border in 2013.

Military expert Youssef al-Sharqawi, who retired as a general from the Palestinian Authority security forces in 2006, noted that Israel’s ongoing siege on Gaza, Egypt’s restrictions on the Rafah border crossing and Cairo’s determination to destroy the factions’ tunnels into Egypt have made it more difficult for fighters to travel to Iran to receive training

But he told Al-Monitor he expects the factions’ leadership and Iran to constantly search for alternatives to overcome such obstacles. He attributes the improvement of the Gaza factions’ military skills largely to Iran, but also to several other unspecified countries and parties.

It seems that Iran’s public offer of training aims to send messages to Israel, which continues to target Iranian and Syrian forces and their allies in Syria.

The IRGC’s Quds Force unit commander, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, had used that method to send a message to the United States. In December 2017, he offered comprehensive military support to the Palestinian factions after US President Donald Trump recognized Jerusalem as the capital of Israel.