Quakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger Bilham

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

How the First Nuclear War Will Destroy the Sea (Revelation 8:6)

A mushroom cloud erupts during the Castle Bravo nuclear weapon test at Bikini Atoll in 1954. Image via U.S. Department of Energy/ University of Colorado Boulder.

Study was examines effects of nuclear war on Earth’s oceans

You’ve likely heard of nuclear winter, a hypothesis explored by decades of scientific research. It’s the idea that – following the firestorms produced in an all-out nuclear war – the soot lifted into Earth’s stratosphere would cause serious cooling, and subsequent crop failures and famines. Now a new study has looked at how even a relatively contained nuclear conflict – for example, a hypothetical war between India and Pakistan – might shift the chemistry of Earth’s oceans. The reasoning is reminiscent of that behind nuclear winter: soot lifted into the atmosphere would cause cooling. In the new study, the researchers concluded that even a contained conflict would “take a toll” on the oceans and potentially disrupt the human food web.

Nicole Lovenduski of University of Colorado Boulder (CU Boulder) led the study. She commented in a statement:

The impacts are huge.

The journal Geophysical Research Letters published the new study in late January 2020.

These researchers used global climate models to conduct their simulations. They looked at four possible nuclear conflicts, including three in India/Pakistan of differing magnitudes (5 teragrams, 27 teragrams, and 47 teragrams of soot produced, respectively; a teragram is equal to one trillion grams or 1,000 kilotons), and one all-out U.S./Russia case with 150 teragrams of soot produced. Writing at LaboratoryEquipment.com, Michelle Taylor penned a succinct explanation of what would happen in even the “tamest” of the India-Pakistan simulations. She wrote:

… the researchers found that the conflict would likely generate huge amounts of black carbon high in Earth’s atmosphere, causing the globe to cool. Interestingly, the researchers found that the fallout from a nuclear detonation would come in two stages: the first within one year, and the second between three and five years post-bombing.

Soon after denotation and no longer than one year later, global climate models showed the acidity of the world’s oceans would likely dip. Years later, the world’s salt water would begin to suck up more carbon dioxide from the air. Supplies of carbonate in the oceans would shrink, removing the key ingredient that corals use to maintain their reefs and oysters use to sustain their shells.

Lovenduski told Taylor that – beyond taking a toll on crustaceans – a major disruption of the oceanic food web would undoubtedly severely impact the human food chain. Taylor wrote:

That’s because there are more than 3 billion people in the world today who depend on ocean fisheries for protein and/or income.

The shell of an ocean pterapod dissolves when exposed to acidic conditions in a lab. Image via NOAA/ CU Boulder.

Brian Toon, also of CU Boulder, was a co-author on the study. He commented in the team’s statement:

This result is one that no one expected. In fact, few people have previously considered the impact of a nuclear conflict on the ocean.

Lovenduski commented:

A lot of things would change in the oceans once you dim the lights [via soot in the atmosphere]. The way the water moves in the ocean, for example, is sensitive to how much heat it gets from the atmosphere …

It makes me question whether organisms could adapt to such a change. We’re already questioning whether they can adapt to the relatively slower process of man-made ocean acidification, and this would happen much more abruptly.

Lovenduski said it’s too soon to say for sure what the fate of shelled creatures in the oceans would be if nuclear war broke out. She said she hopes that her group’s findings will bring more attention to the wide-ranging devastation that would follow even a limited nuclear exchange. There’s no such thing, she said, as a minor nuclear war, adding:

I hope this study helps us to gain perspective on the fact that even a small-scale nuclear war could have global ramifications.

A U.S. Army nuclear test at Bikini Atoll, Micronesia, on July 25, 1946. The wider, exterior cloud is a condensation cloud, not a classic mushroom cloud. Read more about this image. A new study shows that even a limited nuclear conflict could have damaging effects on Earth’s oceans. The bombs would not have to explode over the ocean for the effects to take place. Image via Wikimedia Commons.

Bottom line: Scientists used global climate models to study various scenarios involving limited nuclear conflicts. The researchers called the impacts “huge.”

Source: The Potential Impact of Nuclear Conflict on Ocean Acidification

Via University of Colorado Boulder

Via LaboratoryEquipment.com

What happens at the Bowls of Wrath (Revelation 16)

What happens in a nuclear apocalypse?

Since the creation of the atom bomb, the threat of nuclear war has loomed.

Endless films and books have dealt with the nuclear apocalypse and its aftermath, but what would a nuclear apocalypse really look like? Rutgers University Professor Alan Robock spoke with Fox News about the Armageddon and his team’s new study regarding a nuclear war’s effects on ocean life.

CITIES WOULD BURN

If you live in a major city when a nuke hits, needless to say, you’re in big trouble.

“A nuclear bomb is like bringing a piece of the sun to the surface of the earth for a fraction of a second, and everything within a certain distance would just flash into fire,” Robock said. “In Hiroshima, there was a bomb that was 15 kilotons of explosive power, and everything within several square miles just burned and produced smoke.”

The bomb that was used then was actually pretty tiny by today’s standards. Current American bombs can range from 50 to 1,200 kilotons, so the explosion would be that much bigger. And with the amount of fuel in cities, the fires produced would burn for a very long time.

According to Robock, “We’ve recently been studying forest fires, like the one in Australia that’s still ongoing. They’re observed to pump smoke into the stratosphere and then get heated from the sun and lasting for a long time, but [with] the smoke from fires in cities and industrial areas, there would be a lot more smoke [because] there are a lot more things to burn.”

THEN IT WOULD GET REALLY COLD

A nuclear war would start fires in cities and industrial areas and pump a lot of smoke into the stratosphere above where we live. In the upper atmosphere, there’s no weather or rain to wash it out, and the smoke enveloping the earth would last for years, sending temperatures plummeting.

“If the United States and Russia had a nuclear war today, there could be so much smoke that it would produce a nuclear winter,” Robock explained. “Temperatures would get below freezing in the summertime over land where we try to grow our food–we discovered that many years ago but our modern climate models still tell us that’s the answer, even after the nuclear arsenals in the U.S. and Russia had been reduced substantially in the 80s.”

There are more countries with nuclear weapons these days–nine total. The computer models used in Robock’s study calculated that a nuclear war between India and Pakistan, whose nukes are believed to be 40 kilotons and way less powerful than those of America or Russia, would cover the earth’s entire atmosphere with smoke that would last for years.

“The temperatures would be colder, there’d be less sunlight, less rain and there’d be excess UV radiation because the ozone would be destroyed,” Robock said.

Such a war between America and Russia would cause a nuclear winter lasting much, much longer.

FOOD WOULD RUN OUT QUICK

As every good survivalist knows, it’s a good idea to stock up on lots of canned goods in case of the nuclear apocalypse.

“Humans have to eat, and so the food supply in the world right now is about 60 days-worth,” Robock said. “You probably don’t have 60 days worth of food at your house, you probably go to the grocery store every week [unless] you’re a farmer. Once the stores ran out of food and the food that was stored disappeared, it’d be very hard to get food.”

A nuclear winter would kill off a lot of crops, but how long would it take for agriculture to bounce back? According to Robock, it would depend on how much smoke went into the air and what time of year the nuclear strikes took place.

“It does get cold in the winter in the mid-latitudes, and plants have time to prepare for that and then grow again the spring,” he said. “If it were the spring that this happened where the plants were not prepared for the winter it might kill a bunch of plants, but seeds would be around, the roots would be around–I don’t think it’s possible to kill all life on earth.”

In other words, some crops may survive, but not enough to keep everyone fed, and many would starve in the years it would take to bounce back to normal.

OCEANS WOULD COOL AND BECOME MORE ACIDIC

Robock and his team have been doing research with climate model computer programs to calculate how the climate would respond to different amounts of smoke.

“Until now, nobody’s ever looked at what would happen to the oceans,” he said. “So if we can’t grow food, can we go fishing?”

The team’s most recent calculations have been done with a climate model at the National Center for Atmospheric Research that includes detailed calculations about the ocean, including ocean chemistry. They discovered that the ocean would get colder at a slower rate than the land. The colder temperatures would lead to lower levels of carbonate for about a decade, which could break down the shells of certain fish.

“It takes a while for the ocean to warm up and cool off,” Robock said. “So after a couple of years, it would get colder and it would absorb more carbon dioxide from the atmosphere, just like if you have coke– it has more fizz when it’s colder than when it’s warmer. And this carbon dioxide would make the oceans more acidic and it would start to dissolve the shells of different shellfish and corals.”

This cooling and chemistry shift of the oceans would take a couple of years, and then last for a decade or so. It remains unknown if sea life could adapt.

“The smoke would last for more than five years,” Robock said. “And after 7 or 8 years it would start to clear out and then it would take a while for the ocean to warm up again.”

So with all of the food gone and the plants dead, we can all go fishing–at least for a while. See you at the fish fry.

The study can be found in the journal Geophysical Research Letters.

Iraqi students flood streets of Najaf in show of resilience against Antichrist’s men

Iraqi university students carry the Iraqi national flag during a strike and protests in central Baghdad, Iraq. EPA

Iraqi students flood streets of Najaf in show of resilience against Sadr supporters

Mina AldroubiFeb 9, 2020

Iraqi students defied populist cleric Moqtada Al Sadr’s calls to end their demonstrations and flooded on to the streets of Baghdad and the country’s southern provinces.

In Najaf, protesters chanted anti-Al Sadr slogans. The cleric’s supporters killed eight demonstrators last week in attacks on protest camps.

“There is no God but God … Sadr is the enemy of God,” protesters shouted in the holy city. “Moqtada Al Sadr is a killer,” they chanted on Sunday.

Last week, the populist cleric called on his supporters to ensure the reopening of schools, roads and government offices that had been shut by months of demonstrations.

Iraqi demonstrators wave the national flag during an anti-government demonstration in the southern city of Basra. AFP

The “Persistence is harder than exams” and “Down with filthy Moqtada” chants began trending on Twitter.

“Our responsibility is to persist for the sake of all the blood that has fallen,” one protester, Ali Emad, said on social media.

At first Mr Al Sadr showed great support for the protest movement in Iraq, mobilising the public to come out and demonstrate.

But since last week, demonstrators said they faced a new threat from supporters of Mr Al Sadr, who initially backed the protest movement but then threw his support behind the nomination of Mohammed Allawi as Iraq’s new prime minister-designate last weekend.

The cleric’s often contradictory orders have exacerbated existing tensions between the anti-government demonstrators and his followers. Some activists claim that Mr Al Sadr’s supporters ordered them to toe the line or leave the protest sites.

Anti-government protests began in October over widespread government corruption, unemployment and a lack of public services. They quickly grew into calls for sweeping changes to the political system that was imposed on Iraq after the 2003 US invasion. The security forces have responded harshly.

More than 500 protesters have been killed since the unrest began and tens of thousands have been injured.

The resilience shown by the younger generations makes it clear that the protests are a force to be reckoned with, said Sajad Jiyad, managing director of Al Bayan Centre, a think tank in Baghdad.

“Ignoring them or attempting to crush them will only have greater repercussions. [There is] much solidarity with them across Iraq,” Mr Jiyad said.

The unity among protesters “cuts across the so-called ‘sectarian divide’ and ‘class boundaries’ as the post-2003 generations from all backgrounds are widely expressing their objections to the ruling system”, he said.

Most of the protesters reject Mr Allawi’s nomination and say he is too close to the political elite they have been demonstrating against for months.

The prime minister-designate has until March 2 to form a new Cabinet and put it to Parliament for a vote of confidence.

Mr Al Sadr’s political aide, Kadhem Issawi, insisted the new Cabinet must not include members of the political elite – particularly Shiite military groups like the Hashed Al Shaabi, which rivals Mr Al Sadr.

“If Sayyed [Lord] Moqtada hears that Allawi has granted a ministry to any side, specifically the Shiite armed factions, Iraq will turn into hell for him and will topple him in just three days,” Mr Issawi told a gathering late on Saturday.

Updated: February 10, 2020 07:53 PM

Israeli warplanes pound sites outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

Israeli warplanes pound sites in Gaza

GAZA, Monday, February 10, 2020 (WAFA) – Israeli warplanes early Monday pounded sites in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah cities in the southern besieged Gaza Strip, according to WAFA correspondent.

He said that Israeli warplanes fired some ten missiles towards a site to the northwest of Khan Younis, completely destroying it and causing fires to break out.

Warplanes also targeted a site to the west of Deir al Balah with three missiles, completely destroying it and causing damages to nearby civilian properties.

Meanwhile, Israeli artillery fired three shells towards a site to the east of the Gaza Strip, destroying it totally and causing damages to close properties and agricultural lands.

No human casualties were reported, however.

Israel claimed that the attack on the war-battered strip came in retaliation to a rocket fire from the coastal enclave.

Fourteen years following the Israeli “disengagement” from Gaza, Israel has not actually disengaged from Gaza; it still maintains control of its land borders, access to the sea and airspace.

Two million Palestinians live the Gaza Strip, which has been subjected to a punishing and crippling Israeli blockade for 12 years and repeated onslaughts that have heavily damaged much of the enclave’s infrastructure.

Gaza’s 2-million population remains under “remote control” occupation and a strict siege, which has destroyed the local economy, strangled Palestinian livelihoods, plunged them into unprecedented rates of unemployment and poverty, and cut off from the rest of the occupied Palestinian territories and the wider world.

Gaza remains occupied territory, having no control over its borders, territorial waters or airspace. Meanwhile, Israel upholds very few of its responsibilities as the occupying power, failing to provide for the basic needs of Palestinian civilians living in the territory.

Every two in three Palestinians in Gaza is a refugee from lands inside what is now Israel. That government forbids them from exercising their right to return as enshrined in international law because they are not Jews.

K.T./ K.F.

Babylon the Great Nukes Up

Scoop: Trump’s budget calls for major boost to nukes

Jonathan Swan

President Trump will request a major increase to the budget for America’s nuclear weapons arsenal, according to people familiar with the budget request the administration will unveil on Monday.

By the numbers: Trump’s 2021 budget calls for $28.9 billion for the Pentagon to modernize nuclear delivery systems and $19.8 billion to the National Nuclear Security Administration — a nearly 20% increase over his previous budget request — for “modernizing the nuclear weapons stockpile,” according to people familiar with the budget request.

• “This includes a range of warhead life extension programs, investments in new scientific tools we need to maintain a safe, effective and reliable nuclear stockpile into the future,” said a source familiar, “a major increase for maintenance and upgrade to a long-neglected and aging infrastructure, and funding to restore the nation’s capability to develop new nuclear warheads.”

Why it matters: Political leaders in America have kept delaying modernizing the three legs of the nuclear triad — land-launched nuclear missiles, nuclear submarines and strategic aircraft. These systems have now aged to the “end of their service lives,” said Mackenzie Eaglen, defense budget expert at the American Enterprise Institute.

• “We keep putting bandaids over bandaids and now new systems are required,” Eaglen added.

Between the lines: There’s a lot of bipartisan agreement in defense policy. But Republicans and Democrats tend to diverge when it comes to nuclear forces and arms control agreements.

• Democrats tend to instinctively support international arms control agreements, with a goal to set a path to zero nuclear weapons, whereas Republicans tend to be reflexively skeptical of such agreements and supportive of modernizing the U.S. arsenal.

• Democrats and liberals often argue that improvements to the U.S. arsenal will make nuclear war more likely. Republicans and conservatives tend to argue that the way to prevent nuclear war is to have a stronger arsenal.

Behind the scenes: President Trump is firmly in the latter camp and has often told his aides that the U.S. needs to have the best nuclear weapons program in the world. He has even privately mused about his desire for the U.S. to grow its arsenal, though that does not appear to be the point of this budget request.

• “The president very much believes in nuclear modernization, as reflected by these generous budget increases,” said a person familiar with this budget.

The big picture: China has turned the old nuclear calculation upside down. The Cold War-era arms control debate was framed around the U.S. versus the Soviet Union. That bilateral conception of arms control continues to the present day, with the New START Treaty struck between the U.S. and Russia under the Obama administration.

• Trump needs to decide, this year, whether to negotiate with Russia to extend the New START agreement, which expires in 2021.

• But complicating this picture is a new major power, China, whose officials have said they have no interest in participating in arms control agreements.

Not only that, the Russians and the Chinese are modernizing their nuclear arsenals, while the U.S. is not, Eaglen said. Pakistan and India are growing their arsenals. “The trend lines are moving in opposite directions from the U.S.,” she added.

The bottom line: America’s nuclear infrastructure is aging, but the project of modernizing the warheads and the missiles is enormously expensive and will take many years. Congress has not shown a capacity to support the spending required so far.

Iran and the Antichrist’s Alliance Against the Revolution in Iraq

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Muqtada al-Sadr during Ashura in Tehran, September 10, 2019.

SalamPix/ABACA/ABACA/PA Images. All rights reserved.

Iran and Muqtada al-Sadr’s alliance against the revolution in Iraq

Iraq’s uprising is unmasking all the sectarian leaders attempting to ride the revolutionary wave.

In order to understand the recent and sudden alliance that was established by Iran and the Iraqi cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr, we must first investigate the origins and the nature of the relationship, and how the recent popular protests altered the approach between Sadr and Iran.

Muqtada al-Sadr is the son of one of Iraq’s most prominent Shia clerics, Mohamed al-Sadr, who was assassinated by Saddam Hussein’s regime in 1999. Muqtada was revived in Iraq following the US-led invasion in 2003, to become one of the most influential figures to benefit from the power vacuum caused by the toppling of Hussein’s decades-old Ba’athist regime.

Sadr’s first prominent appearance began in 2003 as a leader of the paramilitary Mahdi Army which denounced and challenged the US military occupation in Iraq, particularly in Baghdad, Basra and the Shia holy city of Najaf. These events fed into the nationalist label he always pushed for. Iran took advantage of the Shia and anti-US ally.

However, Sadr’s popularity and networks gradually started failing, when the Mahdi Army got heavily involved in Iraq’s sectarian conflict in 2006-08. The militia was accused by many international NGOs and human rights agencies of leading targeted assassinations against Sunni Iraqis which led to their displacement from many areas in Baghdad and other provinces.

It is believed that his targeting of Sunnis was a reactionary sprout following the bombing of Al-Askari Mosque, a prominent Shia tomb in Samarra. Sadr’s alliance with Iran later on turned into a rivalry as various break ups from his own organization were separately empowered by Iran. A noticeable example is Asa’eb ahlul Haq, led by prominent pro-Iran Iraqi militia leader and politician Qais al-Khazali. Many Sadrists claim that this breakup was a result of Sadr’s lost patience with Iranian interference and its continuing prioritizing of its own interests over those of Iraq.

As Sadr allied and rivaled with various Iraqi governmental and parliamentary leaders such as Prime Ministers Nouri al-Malki (2008-14) and Haider al-Abadi (2014-18), and many more, he ensured that he was portrayed as a reformer, cross-sectarian, and anti-Iran.

The Iraqi protests

The Iraqi protests or the October Revolution kicked off in October in 2019 against the poor living standards, high rates of unemployment, corruption, sectarianism, and many other failures of the post-2003 Iraqi political regime. Sadr was very hesitant to join the protests for several reasons. For the first time, the Sadrist movement failed to take a leading role in the protests, and protesters made it very clear that they will reject any attempts by any religious or political figure belonging to the ethnic-sectarian political class to take advantage of the protest movement in order to guarantee themselves a presence in any transitionary period.

This power vacuum within Iran’s influential front in Iraq, was an opportunity for Sadr to become Iran’s new man

However, the Sadrist movement eventually broke through the uprising under the justification that they were providing aid and protection for the protesters against the pro-Iran militias. Many Iraqi activists remained vocal about their suspicion towards Sadrist involvement, and a clash of opinions about the legitimacy of Sadr’s participation was present within the protest movement especially that Sadr had ministers and members of parliament in almost every single post-2003 Iraqi government.

After all, the Sadrist presence in the Iraqi protests did not last for long and both Iran and Muqtada al-Sadr re-established their relationship based on one common interest: the American enemy. The US assassination of Iran’s general, Qassem Soleimani and Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes on January 3, 2020, broke the Islamic Republic’s strongest hand in the Iraqi arena. This power vacuum within Iran’s influential front in Iraq, was an opportunity for Sadr to become Iran’s new man as he was faced by major popular backlash, which rejected his attempts to portray himself as the leader of the popular uprising.

Anti-US rhetoric

The anti-US rhetoric presented by the protests and the Iraqi parliament’s vote calling for the US military withdrawal out of Iraq, was an attempt by Iran and its Iraqi governmental ally to overshadow the protest movement, since it directly targeted them. Military clashes and political threats between the US and Iran allowed for news on Iraq to transform from being about a war-torn country witnessing a youth-led uprising to a playground for a US-Iran proxy war.

Sadr had not yet fully partnered with Iran when the pro-Iran militias led a protest against the US embassy in Baghdad and when the Iraqi parliament voted on the US military withdrawal following Iranian pressures. However,Sadr’s first public and formal admission to Iran’s sphere of influence in Iraq was when he led the anti-US march,portrayed by many western media outlets as a protest organized by ordinary Iraqi citizens who had been protesting against the corrupt political regime since October 2019. The Sadrist-led anti-US protest further complicated the stance of the Iraqi protests in the eyes of the western and in particular, US media. Nevertheless, the international community is witnessing a gradual progress in differentiating between the Iraqi protests against corruption and sectarianism, and the protests led by pro-Iran groups to divert attention away from the former.

A Sadrist-Iranian alliance against the Iraqi protest movement

Sadrists claimed that the Iraqi protests will lack logistical support, protection and decrease in numbers. The lack of protection was certainly evident as pro-Iranian militias committed bloody massacres against peaceful protesters in Baghdad, Nasriyah, Basra and Najaf, following the withdrawal of the Sadrist movement. It was as if the militias took the Sadrist withdrawal as a green light to attack the protesters. However, the Sadrist withdrawal allowed for the protest movement to clear any confusion and hesitation within its own ranks regarding its struggle against the corrupt and sectarian regime, and the violence committed against the protesters motivated a return of families and students to the streets, and revived the uprising following the distraction caused by the US-Iranian dispute, and it outnumbered any of the protests the Sadrists were in.

However, the Sadrist withdrawal allowed for the protest movement to clear any confusion in its own ranks

The Iraqi protest movement succeeded in obtaining the resignations of President Barham Salih, Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi who was replaced by another politician accused of corruption, Mohammed Tawfiq Allawi. The protests are also the loudest post-2003 anti-Iran discourse against its interference in Iraqi domestic affairs. The government is now buying time with high-profile resignations and promises of economic reforms, while armed militias belonging to political parties in the Council of Representatives are openly killing and kidnapping protesters and students across the country.

Even Iran’s new ally, Muqtada al-Sadr is using his ‘Blue Hats’ organization, which emerged during their first appearance in the protests as supporters and defenders of the peaceful demonstrators, toevacuate the tents of civilian protesters through violence and intimidation. This change of attitude by the Sadrists is an approach adopted from the leader, who is known for easily and quickly changing his political positions. The Sadrists, or the ‘Blue Hats’ as they refer to themselves nowadays, were involved in sectarian-driven killings between 2006-08 under the Mahdi Army, then re-emerged as Saraya al-Salam during the war against ISIS, and now as blue topped ‘humanitarian volunteers’ with sticks and knives.

We can now say that this is not just an uprising against the political class, militias and regional interferences, but also an uprising to unmask and expose all public figures attempting to ride the wave of any popular momentum.