New York Earthquake: City of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New York earthquake: City at risk of ‚dangerous shaking from far away‘Joshua NevettPublished 30th April 2018SOME of New York City’s tallest skyscrapers are at risk of being shaken by seismic waves triggered by powerful earthquakes from miles outside the city, a natural disaster expert has warned.Researchers believe that a powerful earthquake, magnitude 5 or greater, could cause significant damage to large swathes of NYC, a densely populated area dominated by tall buildings.A series of large fault lines that run underneath NYC’s five boroughs, Manhattan, Brooklyn, Queens, The Bronx and Staten Island, are capable of triggering large earthquakes.Some experts have suggested that NYC is susceptible to at least a magnitude 5 earthquake once every 100 years.The last major earthquake measuring over magnitude 5.0 struck NYC in 1884 – meaning another one of equal size is “overdue” by 34 years, according their prediction model.Natural disaster researcher Simon Day, of University College London, agrees with the conclusion that NYC may be more at risk from earthquakes than is usually thought.EARTHQUAKE RISK: New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from far-away tremorsBut the idea of NYC being “overdue” for an earthquake is “invalid”, not least because the “very large number of faults” in the city have individually low rates of activity, he said.The model that predicts strong earthquakes based on timescale and stress build-up on a given fault has been “discredited”, he said.What scientists should be focusing on, he said, is the threat of large and potentially destructive earthquakes from “much greater distances”.The dangerous effects of powerful earthquakes from further away should be an “important feature” of any seismic risk assessment of NYC, Dr Day said.

GETTYTHE BIG APPLE: An aerial view of Lower Manhattan at dusk in New York City

USGSRISK: A seismic hazard map of New York produced by USGS“New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances” Dr Simon Day, natural disaster researcherThis is because the bedrock underneath parts of NYC, including Long Island and Staten Island, cannot effectively absorb the seismic waves produced by earthquakes.“An important feature of the central and eastern United States is, because the crust there is old and cold, and contains few recent fractures that can absorb seismic waves, the rate of seismic reduction is low.Central regions of NYC, including Manhattan, are built upon solid granite bedrock; therefore the amplification of seismic waves that can shake buildings is low.But more peripheral areas, such as Staten Island and Long Island, are formed by weak sediments, meaning seismic hazard in these areas is “very likely to be higher”, Dr Day said.“Thus, like other cities in the eastern US, New York is susceptible to seismic shaking from earthquakes at much greater distances than is the case for cities on plate boundaries such as Tokyo or San Francisco, where the crustal rocks are more fractured and absorb seismic waves more efficiently over long distances,” Dr Day said.In the event of a large earthquake, dozens of skyscrapers, including Chrysler Building, the Woolworth Building and 40 Wall Street, could be at risk of shaking.“The felt shaking in New York from the Virginia earthquake in 2011 is one example,” Dr Day said.On that occasion, a magnitude 5.8 earthquake centered 340 miles south of New York sent thousands of people running out of swaying office buildings.

USGSFISSURES: Fault lines in New York City have low rates of activity, Dr Day saidNYC Mayor Michael Bloomberg said the city was “lucky to avoid any major harm” as a result of the quake, whose epicenter was near Louisa, Virginia, about 40 miles from Richmond.“But an even more impressive one is the felt shaking from the 1811-1812 New Madrid earthquakes in the central Mississippi valley, which was felt in many places across a region, including cities as far apart as Detroit, Washington DC and New Orleans, and in a few places even further afield including,” Dr Day added.“So, if one was to attempt to do a proper seismic hazard assessment for NYC, one would have to include potential earthquake sources over a wide region, including at least the Appalachian mountains to the southwest and the St Lawrence valley to the north and east.”Bearbeite”New York Earthquake: City of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)”

The Rising China Horn: Daniel 7

There’s an urgent need to re-evaluate China, CCP over human rights violations, says author

ANI |

Dec 15, 2020 18:55 IST

Beijing [China], December 15 (ANI): Numerous academics, journalists and politicians have been detained or arrested for “anti-patriotic activities” since China imposed a national security law in Hong Kong earlier this year, yet the matter has attracted little comment from the international community so far.

The democratically-minded international community has been too consumed with the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic to express anything more than a “sputtering reprimand”. Instead of being an excuse, the pandemic should be another reason to re-evaluate the way China should be regarded, especially the China Communist Party (CCP), wrote Dr Robert S Spalding for Real Clear World (RCW).

The first step to curb the influence of the CCP would be to recognise and address the differences of the nation with its Western counterparts, as the world cannot afford to underestimate the CCP by championing false equivalencies.

“Until the day real stability–not oppression–is restored to Hong Kong, business with China should never be business as usual,” remarked Dr Spalding.

As the pandemic continues to rampage across the world, the fact that Beijing has emerged unscathed is a worrying sign that the influence of authoritarian regimes like the CCP is being accepted across the world.

This includes the activities of the regime to silence whistleblowing doctors and citizen journalists in Wuhan, which allowed the coronavirus to spread unhindered during the initial months.

Though the actions undertaken by the US government like banning Chinese apps, blacklisting companies and restricting Chinese media access have been termed as hypocritical, the criticism misunderstands, or purposely ignores, key fundamental differences such as the unaccountability of Chinese media, business and government, which do not comply with the rule of law essential to their Western counterparts.

RCW further wrote that the communist nation does not have a higher law or an enforceable social contract with the CCP. The party considers all mainland corporations and those operated by the Chinese abroad as extensions of the CCP.

“When Jack Ma, founder of Alibaba, criticized Chinese regulatory law, President Xi Jinping personally halted the multibillion-dollar public listing of the Ant Group, an affiliate of the private financial giant,” wrote Dr Spalding.

Furthermore, Chinese media, which operates primarily for the CCP, are better classified as propaganda networks, while foreign media is banned in order to enforce CCP’s control to censor information and produce self-serving narratives.

The article argued that it would be a mistake to treat Chinese organisations as independent entities and an even bigger mistake to believe they can be held accountable to a system, which does not exist in the country.

According to RCW, the Chinese market provides a powerful incentive to normalise interactions with Chinese entities, which leads to other companies and governments being involved in grave human rights violations like the suppression of freedom in Hong Kong, and the mass genocide of Uyghurs in Xinjiang.

This comes after a number of former pro-democracy lawmakers were arrested in the month of October over protests after the draconian national security law was imposed on the city by Beijing. The law criminalises secession, subversion and collusion with foreign forces and carries with it strict prison terms, and came into effect from July 1.

Several countries have criticised China over the matter, with the European Council saying the move to disqualify opposition lawmakers constituted a “further severe blow” to freedom of opinion in the city and “significantly undermines Hong Kong’s autonomy.” (ANI)

The danger of the Russian nuclear horn: Daniel 7

Moscow has maintained a nuclear triad and has spent a lot of money and effort on upgrading those weapons.

by Kris Osborn

Russian submarines have fired off nuclear-weapons-capable ballistic missiles out to ranges as far as 5,500 km in the Sea of Okhotsk, a development that increases the range and scope with which Russia can hold Japan and even the continental U.S. at risk of a nuclear attack. 

“The Pacific Fleet’s strategic missile-carrying underwater cruiser Vladimir Monomakh made a salvo launch of four Bulava ballistic missiles from its submerged position at a distance of more than 5,500 kilometers from the Sea of Okhotsk,” the Russian Defense Ministry said, according to a report from the Russian News Agency TASS

All the missile’s warheads successfully arrived at the designated area of the Chizha combat field, the TASS report said. 

While there is nothing particularly surprising or unusual about these drills, however, it does again raise worries over Russia’s alleged “escalate to de-escalate” strategic nuclear posture, an possible approach that has raised concern in the United States.

For instance, some U.S. lawmakers and military weapons developers are of the view that Russia’s more aggressive nuclear posture has, to a large extent, provided the motivation for the Trump administration’s Nuclear Posture Reviewwhich, among other things, calls for the addition of several new nuclear weapons. Along these lines, the Pentagon has already made enormous progress with early development of a new low-yield submarine-launched nuclear weapon. The new U.S. weapon, which involves a modification to the existing Trident II D5 nuclear missile, brings new tactical options to strategic nuclear deterrence. This, former Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis told Congress several years ago, is exactly why the U.S. strategy has in recent years favored the addition of several new, low-yield nuclear weapons. The goal, Mattis explained at the time, was to bring Russia back to the negotiating table regarding nuclear weapons by, at least in part, adding several new tactical, lower-yield nuclear weapons to the arsenal. 

This Russian test firing in the Sea of Okhotsk is clearly within striking range of Japan and, should the submarines travel slightly to the East, Hawaii could be at risk. The development, while somewhat routine in that it aligns with Russia’s steady posture, does add to the Pentagon’s urgency to build its first several new Columbia-class ballistic missile submarines. It is also why the Navy has for many years now been extending the viability of its fleet of Ohio-class submarines which are already operating years beyond their expected service life. 

In a manner somewhat analogous to the United States, Russia is also emphasizing a sea-air-land nuclear triad, yet with an arsenal that has been upgraded to a very large degree in recent years. Russian nuclear weapons maintenance and modernization, coupled with its more aggressive strategic approach to deterrence, has raised some alarm bells in the West that Russia maybe thinks there could, in theory, be a place for some kind of tactical, or limited nuclear weapons attacks. 

The missile firings were part of a broader Russian combat preparation drill involving the entire triad, including submarine and land-based launchers as well as weapons firings from Tu-160 and Tu-95MS bombers. 

Kris Osborn is the defense editor for the National Interest. Osborn previously served at the Pentagon as a Highly Qualified Expert with the Office of the Assistant Secretary of the Army—Acquisition, Logistics & Technology. Osborn has also worked as an anchor and on-air military specialist at national TV networks. He has appeared as a guest military expert on Fox News, MSNBC, The Military Channel, and The History Channel. He also has a Masters Degree in Comparative Literature from Columbia University.  

India, Pakistan repeat war of words before the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

India, Pakistan repeat war of words over ‘cross-border terrorism’

Pakistan rejects statements by India’s foreign minister as New Delhi marked anniversary of the 2001 parliament attack on Sunday.

Asad Hashim14 Dec 2020

Pakistani Rangers (wearing black uniforms) and Indian forces lower their national flags during a parade on Pakistan’s 72nd Independence Day, at the Pakistan-India check-point at Wagah border near Lahore [File: Mohsin Raza/Reuters]

Islamabad – Pakistan has “categorically reject[ed]” statements by India’s foreign minister regarding “cross-border terrorism”, in which he appeared to be making a thinly veiled dig at India’s western neighbour.

In a statement issued late on Sunday, Pakistan’s foreign ministry termed the remarks by Indian Foreign Minister Subrahmanyam Jaishankar as “baseless allegations”.

“Pakistan categorically rejects terrorism-related insinuations by the Indian External Affairs Minister and other political figures today,” read the Pakistani statement. “Regurgitating of baseless allegations does not turn them into truth.”

Jaishankar made the remarks while delivering a lecture in New Delhi on Sunday, which marked the 19th anniversary of the 2001 attack on the Indian parliament that killed nine people and led to a tense military standoff between the nuclear-armed neighbours.

“At one level, some of the more perennial problems associated with our national consolidation and development will continue,” said Jaishankar. “In particular, a longstanding political rivalry is today expressed as sustained cross-border terrorism by a neighbour.”

Relations between the South Asian neighbours have been tense in recent years, with the two coming to the brink of war during a military standoff following an attack on Indian security forces in the disputed region of Kashmir’s Pulwama town in February 2019.

The countries have fought two of their three wars since gaining independence in 1947 over Kashmir, which both claim in full but administer separate portions of.

In his lecture, Jaishankar warned that future conflicts may not remain in the military domain.

“We are an increasingly inter-dependent world, with many of the accompanying constraints. The era of unconstrained military conflicts may be behind us. But the reality of limited wars and coercive diplomacy is still very much a fact of life.”

Last month, Pakistan’s government released details from a dossier prepared by its intelligence agencies on what it termed India’s “state-sponsored terrorism”.

The dossier included audio recordings purporting to be of conversations between Indian intelligence agents, saboteurs and armed group members in Pakistan, planning attacks on Pakistani soil.

It also included documentation of what Pakistan claimed were meetings at Indian consulates in Afghanistan and bank transfers to armed groups that target Pakistan.

India has categorically denied those allegations, and days later, Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi linked a foiled attack on Indian security forces to “Pakistan-based terrorist organisation Jaish-e-Mohammed”.

Pakistan’s foreign ministry denied those allegations in a statement.

Greater role of security

In his lecture in New Delhi, Jaishankar called for increased integration in his country’s foreign policymaking processes.

“Overall, in an era where foreign policy has got more securitised and defence policy has got more strategised, the integrated outlook that he [PM Modi] promoted has certainly introduced changes in our working style,” he said.

Jaishankar calling for a greater role of security considerations in India’s foreign policy may be received with concern in Islamabad.

“To my mind, adequately securitising foreign policy is for me absolute imperative,” he said.

“And the primary reason for that is quite obvious: there are really very few major states that still have unsettled borders to the extent that we do. Of equal relevance is the unique challenge we face of years of intense terrorism inflicted on us by a neighbour.”

Asad Hashim is Al Jazeera’s digital correspondent in Pakistan. He tweets @AsadHashim.

Palestine Hamas prepares for war outside the temple walls: Revelation 11

Palestine Hamas: Armed struggle only way to confront ‘Zionist enemy’

News Code : 1095453

A top official of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, says the movement believes that armed struggle is still the sole way of confronting the “Zionist enemy” while condemning recent moves by certain Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel.

Ahlulbayt News Agency: A top official of the Palestinian resistance movement, Hamas, says the movement believes that armed struggle is still the sole way of confronting the “Zionist enemy” while condemning recent moves by certain Arab countries to normalize ties with Israel.

The announcement was made by Naseem Yassin in a Sunday event during which the movement announced that it was canceling a ceremony planned to mark its 33rd establishment anniversary in the light of the ongoing pandemic of the deadly new coronavirus.

“Today, we recall the founder [of Hamas] martyr Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, who despite his suffering presented a patriotic model in sacrifice and working for the unity of Palestinians and armed struggle for Palestine,” he added, as quoted by the Palestinian Information Center.

Sheikh Ahmed Yassin, the founder of Hamas, was assassinated along with a number of his guards on March 22, 2004, when an Israeli aircraft targeted them with Hellfire missiles as the 67-year-old leader was being wheeled out of an early morning prayer session held at a mosque close to his house in Gaza City.

The Hamas official further stated that the 33rd anniversary of Hamas comes at a time that the Palestinian cause is going through great challenges and the COVID-19 pandemic has also compounded the problems facing Palestinians in the Gaza Strip, which has been suffering from an immoral Israeli-imposed blockade from land, air, and sea since 2007.

The crippling blockade has caused a sharp decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the densely-populated enclave.

Yassin added that Hamas still believes that armed struggle is the only feasible means of confronting the “Zionist enemy,” while negotiations, normalization, and security coordination [with Israel] are mere illusions.

His remarks come as four Arab countries – namely the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, Sudan, and quite recently Morocco – reached much-condemned US-brokered agreements with Israel on the normalization of relations.

Yassin also called on all Palestinians to strengthen the sense of solidarity throughout the Palestinian nation and to launch charitable initiatives to enhance the steadfastness of Palestinians in the face of all challenges and threats posed by the Tel Aviv regime.

Morocco, Israel normalization “poisonous stab” to Palestinian cause: Hamas

Separately on Sunday, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder of Hamas and a member of the group’s leadership in the Gaza Strip, said the recent declaration of normalization of relations between Morocco and Israel is a “poisonous stab” to the Palestinian cause and the entire Muslim nation.

The top Hamas official, who is also the head of Hamas’ parliamentary Change and Reform Bloc, made the comments during a speech he delivered at the Palestinian Legislative Council in Gaza City, the Palestinian Information Center reported.

US President Donald Trump announced on Thursday that Morocco had reached an agreement with Israel on the normalization of relations. Morocco, thus, became the fourth Arab country — after the United Arab Emirates (UAE), Bahrain, and Sudan — to reach such an agreement with the Tel Aviv regime since August.

The US secured the deal by agreeing to recognize Moroccan “sovereignty” over disputed areas in Western Sahara.

Morocco annexed the vast Western Sahara region, a former Spanish colony, in 1975 and has since been in conflict with the Algeria-backed Polisario Front, a movement that seeks to establish an independent state in the territory and end Morocco’s presence there.

Al-Zahar described normalization of relations with the Israel as “a complete deviation by the normalizing regimes with the (Israeli) occupation from the values and constants of the Arab and Islamic nation.”

The senior Hamas official also said that the so-called normalization is also a betrayal of the Moroccan martyrs who defended the land of the Holy City and who built it until one of the Jerusalem al-Quds neighborhoods and one of the gates of the al-Aqsa Mosque were named after them. 

“Normalization is a reward to the Zionist occupation for its crimes against the Palestinian people and its aggression against the [Palestinian] nation. Israel exploits these deals to escalate its persistent aggression against Jerusalem and al-Aqsa, confiscate land, establish settlements, arrest women and children, demolish homes and besiege the defenseless Palestinian people”, al-Zahar stressed.

He also appealed to all Moroccans to strongly protest against the crime of normalization and not accept the cheap bargain that Trump forged at the expense of the rights, constants, and sanctities of the Muslim nation.

“Normalization with the occupier in exchange for forfeiting one of the Muslim nation’s sanctities is high treason and a crime against our religion and a political, human and moral crime aimed at liquidating the Palestinian cause and giving false legitimacy to the Zionist occupation of Jerusalem, Al-Aqsa, and Palestine,” al-Zahar concluded.

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Biden WILL repeat Trump and Obama’s mistakes in Iraq

Biden should not repeat Trump and Obama’s mistakes in Iraq

Biden can undo the disastrous legacy of his predecessors by using nuclear talks with Iran to strike a deal on Iraq.

Zeidon Alkinani

Biden can undo the disastrous legacy of his predecessors by using nuclear talks with Iran to strike a deal on Iraq.

For more than 17 years since its invasion of Iraq, the United States has failed to present itself as a partner interested in supporting Iraqi efforts for democratic and economic development. It has continued to pursue its military and geopolitical interests at the expense of the Iraqi people, their security and wellbeing.

This became clear once again at the beginning of this year when, amid a popular uprising against rampant corruption, sectarian politics, political violence, unemployment, and Iranian interference in Iraq, the Trump administration decided to assassinate in Baghdad top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. Instead of backing the Iraqi people’s democratic aspirations, Washington once again propped up the dysfunctional political status quo by escalating its confrontation with Iran and in this way, undermining the movement for reform and political change.

In this context, the fact that US President Donald Trump is pursuing his own narrow political interests in Iraq in the last months of his presidency is hardly surprising to Iraqis. His decision to withdraw more US troops from the country is another attempt to present himself as fulfilling his election promises while setting yet another foreign policy trap for the incoming administration of Joe Biden.

In his pursuit of disastrous policies in Iraq, however, Trump is no different from his predecessors. And many Iraqis fear that his successor may bring more of the same.

US-Iran confrontation

Since President George W Bush’s “mission accomplished” speech in May 2003, he and his successors have repeatedly talked about the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq, but have never fully or permanently carried it out.

This has been the case with Trump as well. In fact, despite his domestic rhetoric about ending the “forever wars” started by past administrations, the US president rejected the Iraqi parliament’s resolution calling for full US military withdrawal from the country.

The latest announcement of a “withdrawal” concerns just 500 of the 3,000 US troops currently deployed in Iraq. Like his predecessors, Trump is held back by certain considerations, particularly that the US needs a military presence in Iraq in order to defend its own economic and geopolitical interests. This is especially the case amid the escalating confrontation with Iran.

It is for the same reason that Trump had to backtrack on his decision in 2019 to pull out of Syria and leave 200 troops to “secure the oil”. Today, US military personnel in Syria are close to 1,000 by some estimates and serve as a foothold to counter Russian and Iranian influence in the area.

Thus, Trump has continued the policies of his predecessors of sending mixed messages on US military presence in Iraq, which has caused much uncertainty among Iraqi officials and the general public. But he has also made the situation worse by escalating tensions with Iran without having a clear-cut plan for containing it.

Trump’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal with Tehran and his “maximum pressure” policy of expanding sanctions and stifling Iranian oil and trade revenues have provoked an aggressive response. Iran has sought to hit back against regional US allies as well as US positions in its immediate neighbourhood – i.e. Iraq.

Over the past two years, Tehran has mobilised its full Iraqi capabilities – from its loyal militias to its infiltrators in the Iraqi intelligence, security and governance structures – to confront the US. This has greatly destabilised Iraq, worsening security and undermining efforts for political reforms.

The response of the Trump administration has been completely incoherent. It has blamed Iraqis for Iranian attacks on US military and diplomatic assets and has threatened the Iraqi government with sanctions. It has effectively transformed Iraq into a battleground, with devastating consequences for the Iraqi population and its political movement for change.

The Trump administration’s behaviour has made it clear that it was after short-term strategic gains for domestic consumption rather than an actual long-term strategy to contain Iranian influence in Iraq, disempower its militias, and help Iraqi military and civilian institutions regain sovereign decision-making.

In this regard, again, Trump has only followed in the footsteps of his predecessors. This apparent American indifference towards the fate of the country has left many Iraqis feeling equally hostile to both Tehran and Washington.

Biden’s policies in Iraq

Having gone through the same failed policies of three consecutive US presidents since 2003, many Iraqis are cautious about expecting much from the upcoming Biden administration.

The Iraqi Kurds are probably the most optimistic about his presidency. They hope he could be “America’s most pro-Kurdish president”, given his past statements on Kurdish statehood and ties with Erbil’s leadership.

Iraq’s Sunni Arabs, who once denounced the US occupation because of their marginalisation on the political scene, are now in favour of a US military presence against the enormous Iranian influence. Biden’s willingness to expand the deployment of US troops will probably be welcomed by Sunni Arab political circles.

The Shia Arabs are ambivalent at best.  The elites – the majority of whom adopt a pro-Iran discourse – will probably evaluate Biden’s administration based on its approach to de-escalation with Iran. But there are also many among the ordinary Shia population who are frustrated by both Tehran and Washington. They would like to see the Iranian grip on Iraq relax and a strong Iraqi national state emerge, but their bitter experience with Trump during the protests of 2019-2020 has dampened their hopes that the US can be an effective anti-Iran influence.

Biden himself has a mixed record on Iraq as a senator and vice president. In June 2006, he proposed a soft partition of Iraq to allow for federal autonomy for the Shia Arab, Sunni Arab, and Kurdish communities, which was welcomed by the Kurds, but rejected by many Arabs.

He continued to promote his plan even amid the war against ISIL (ISIS), calling in a 2014 Washington Post article for “functioning federalism… which would ensure equitable revenue-sharing for all provinces and establish locally rooted security structures”.

Biden would do well to drop this proposal from his foreign policy objectives in Iraq. Solidifying political divisions between the different communities would encourage more political fragmentation and provide even more ground for the expansion of Iranian influence. A semi-autonomous Shia region would most likely fall completely under the control of Tehran.

Biden has also voiced his support for maintaining a US military presence in Iraq and Syria, but it would be challenging for him to redeploy troops to Iraq, as American public opinion is generally against it. If the security situation remains the same, his administration will likely keep the same number of troops in Iraq.

At the same time, some observers believe that he will follow Obama’s policy on Iraq – i.e. look for an opportunity for a full withdrawal and de-escalation with Iran. On the campaign trail, Biden has made it clear that he wants to re-enter the nuclear deal with Iran, but on what terms, it is still unclear.

Trump has put on the table a new set of conditions for renegotiating the agreement, including a halt on Iran’s ballistic missile programme. It remains to be seen whether Biden will backtrack on those, but he is under pressure from US allies not to ignore Iran’s destabilising activities in the Middle East as Obama did. Saudi Foreign Minister Faisal bin Farhan Al Saud recently stated that Saudi should be a “partner” to any future agreement.

From an Iraqi perspective, a new round of negotiations could be a perfect opportunity for the US to strike a deal with Iran on Iraq. Tehran will always remain a factor in Iraq politics by virtue of its neighbouring location, its sheer size, and the close cultural, religious and economic ties between the two countries. But that does not mean that Iranian interference cannot be curbed. A deal with the West may be able to achieve that, at least to a certain extent, but enough to give Iraqis the chance to pursue reform and meaningful political change.

After decades of disastrous policies on Iraq, it is time for the US to learn from its mistakes. The Biden administration must side with the Iraqi people and help clear the rubble the US’s war and occupation have left behind. It must do its part – take care of the pervasive Iranian interference it let into the country with the 2003 invasion – and allow Iraqis to rebuild their country.

The views expressed in this article are the author’s own and do not necessarily reflect Al Jazeera’s editorial stance.

The Shi’a Horns of Prophecy: Daniel 8

Battleground Iraq: The Power of Iran’s Coalition Rests on Its Influence in Iraq

The end of the War on Terror, as suggested by the near-simultaneous resignations of ISIS coordinators at the State Department and Defense Department, is something of the end of an era.  For nearly two decades the United States has been at war with various shades of Sunni militants from Al Qaeda to the Afghan Taliban. During most of this time the heart of the fight, per the Bush administration, was in Iraq, and particularly the sprawling, 104-acre U.S. Embassy compound that served as the political face of an occupying army. With that army gone, it is no less critical.

The main American challenge in the Middle East for the foreseeable future will be, as it was under the Trump administration, stabilizing the Gulf States and their allies against Iranian power which in a vacuum would overwhelm them and allow Iran to dominate the Persian Gulf.  The basic strategic problem is that Iran and its allies have become stronger than their primarily Sunni Arab opponents, thanks to a sequence of geopolitical events beginning with the fall of the Taliban. They have more people, more effective combat power, and greater deterrence. The unprecedented introduction of Russian combat power in the region on the side of Iran only made them more formidable. Left alone, this amalgamation of states could gradually induce the Gulf States and particularly Saudi Arabia to quietly accommodate Iranian wishes: in a worst-case scenario, permitting it to dominate the Persian Gulf and thus the price of oil, making Iran a great power.

The power of Iran’s coalition rests on its influence in Iraq. Without Iraq, Iran is effectively isolated, its population and even its military advantages largely scratched. With an allied Iraq, it far outclasses its regional opponents. Critically for the United States, it does not yet have full control of Iraq. It has tactical and operational control of certain outcomes: for example, trafficking missiles through the eastern border westwards towards Syria, and the ability to attack U.S. facilities. The Iraqi political class is also conscious of and reacts to perceived Iranian threats. But at the strategic level, Iran has wanted the United States and its forces out of Iraq for a decade and a half and has not gotten it, militia groups and missiles be damned.

Iraq is thus the main battleground for Iranian political influence. It is contested in a way that Lebanon with Hezbollah is not. It is the only place where the United States is politically on offense against Iranian power, with few advantages, and it is hard. Counter-Iran policy, for the most part, is not hard. Everyone likes announcing new sanctions on Iran. Everyone likes condemning whatever terrible thing the Islamic Republic is doing and conferring with allied monarchs in luxury. But far fewer people actually want to get into the political weeds and fight out America’s interests in the Iraqi parliament: finessing, cajoling, and occasionally threatening political actors, often walking out of a meeting as the Iranians are walking in.

The transfer of mission from counter-Sunni, basically, to counter-Iran in the U.S. government has had a significant impact on the type of military actions and diplomacy that is practiced, making the Embassy even more critical. There is less need for diplomats to travel into the hinterlands to meet village elders. That has been replaced in Iraq and other Shia areas by engaging with politicians who are constantly assessing the costs and benefits of siding with the Iranians versus siding with America. Major Shia politicians may not love the Iranians but they perceive the Iranians provide the certainty of a tactical payoff. They, or their proxies, will bribe you or kill you. America’s tools are less acute and thus its payoffs far less certain, even if, ceteris parabis, the ministers of parliament from Diyala might prefer us at the end of the day.

The U.S. Embassy is a tool in this fight. It is perhaps our best one. It is one of the few remaining symbols in Iraq of America as superpower. The embassy complex was built for a day when the United States had a one-hundred-thousand-strong army in Iraq and functioned as something of a shadow amalgamation of every Iraqi government ministry rolled into one. It can be downsized territorially, but there is a limit to how much manpower the United States will save by slicing off chunks of its land. Reporting staff are already relatively few, and as long as the Embassy needs a security perimeter the manpower reductions that can be achieved by downsizing the facility are minimal. Even the downsizing is restricted by the nature of the competitive environment: as long as Iraq’s fire department is not fully reliable, for example, the embassy will need its own fire department, no matter how many city blocks it takes up.

In any case, Embassy Bagdad is safer now than it has been at any point since the United States invaded Iraq. Its countermeasures and Iraqi commitment to its safety have increased. Critically, the domestic political cost of attacking the embassy has also increased, dramatically. The threat from Shia militants has also declined from the heyday of the Mahdi Army battles in 2007, though it will never go away, not without also taking away this zero-sum quasi-sectarian balance of power that dominates strategic life in the Gulf.

This, then, is the main reason to keep the embassy open and keep it—if not imperial—then perhaps imposingly neoclassical. Not because our diplomats want to serve there, in the fight, though they do. Not because their personal risk is much lower than in the past, though it is. But because it is one of the most valuable chips in the most valuable piece on the board of the region. The Iranians know it and the Iraqis know it. Our leaders should too.

Andrew Peek is a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council. He was previously the Senior Director for European and Russian Affairs at the National Security Council and the Deputy Assistant Secretary for Iran and Iraq at the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Near Eastern Affairs.