History Says Expect The Sixth Seal In New York (Revelation 6:12)


History Says New York Is Earthquake Prone

If the past is any indication, New York can be hit by an earthquake, claims John Armbruster, a seismologist at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory.Based on historical precedent, Armbruster says the New York City metro area is susceptible to an earthquake of at least a magnitude of 5.0 once a century.According to the New York Daily News, Lynn Skyes, lead author of a recent study by seismologists at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory adds that a magnitude-6 quake hits the area about every 670 years, and magnitude-7 every 3,400 years.A 5.2-magnitude quake shook New York City in 1737 and another of the same severity hit in 1884.Tremors were felt from Maine to Virginia.There are several fault lines in the metro area, including one along Manhattan’s 125th St. – which may have generated two small tremors in 1981 and may have been the source of the major 1737 earthquake, says Armbruster.There’s another fault line on Dyckman St. and one in Dobbs Ferry in nearby Westchester County.“The problem here comes from many subtle faults,” explained Skyes after the study was published.He adds: “We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought.”“Considering population density and the condition of the region’s infrastructure and building stock, it is clear that even a moderate earthquake would have considerable consequences in terms of public safety and economic impact,” says the New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation on its website.Armbruster says a 5.0-magnitude earthquake today likely would result in casualties and hundreds of millions of dollars in damage.“I would expect some people to be killed,” he notes.The scope and scale of damage would multiply exponentially with each additional tick on the Richter scale. (ANI)

Why India and Pakistan will never reconcile: Revelation 8

Terror and talks can’t go together


Ashok Bhan

Pakistani Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa’s statement of advocating peace with India has to be taken with a pinch of salt. Pakistan has not demonstrated a single confidence measure so far to evoke a positive response from India. In fact, Pakistan army is continuing as on date the cross-border firings, supporting terrorist activities in Kashmir and elsewhere and nurturing, protecting and feeding terrorists like Dawood Ibrahim, Hafiz Saeed, Masood Azhar, Zaki Rahman Lakhvi and other terrorists in pursuit of the state policy of terrorism.

Despite Pakistan’s continued tantrums, peace-loving Indian opinion favours peace, amity, live and let live policy with all the neighbouring countries. Therefore, in this context, Indian public opinion welcomes General Bajwa’s statement with a caveat that Dawood, Masood Azhar, Lakhvi and Hafiz Syed should be handed over to India to demonstrate the intent. That will be the first step to bridge the diplomatic trust deficit between the two neighbouring countries.

Even as the Ministry of External Affairs (MEA) is analyzing whether General Bajwa has changed his position, they will need to track if this is a one-off comment or there are other indicators of a possible change as well, given acute trust deficit between the two nuclear neighbouring countries.

Pakistan army chief in a surprise statement recently said his country is committed to the idea of mutual respect and peaceful co-existence and “it is time to extend a hand of peace in all directions”. His remarks are seen in sharp contrast to his strident pitch against India, particularly after New Delhi carried out aerial strikes at terror training camps in Pakistan-occupied Kashmir after the 2019 Pulwama terrorist attack and later scrapped of Jammu and Kashmir’s special status.

General Bajwa, who made the statement at the graduation ceremony of Pakistan air force cadets, emphasised, “Pakistan and India must also resolve the longstanding issue of Jammu and Kashmir in a dignified and peaceful manner.

India has not reacted to the Pakistan army chief’s remarks. The counter-terror analysts say it may be too early to conclude that General Bajwa had changed his position. We will need to track if this is a one-off comment or there are other indicators of a possible change as well, because of acute trust deficit between the two countries.

Either way, it will take a lot more than words to help put bilateral ties between the two arch-rivals back on an even keel. Pakistan, the analysts say, would have to take concrete steps to dismantle the terror infrastructure on its soil and end support to terrorists to convince New Delhi that it was serious about improving ties.

General Bajwa’s move to tone down his rhetoric against India came at a time when he and Prime Minister Imran Khan have been facing fierce attacks from an alliance of opposition parties that joined hands last year trying to put pressure on them to step down.

India could be expected to respond to action rather than words, particularly after Prime Minister Narendra Modi took steps in the early part of his first tenure to mend ties. But his honest attempt to end the animosity by making an unscheduled visit to Pakistan was followed by an attack on the Pathankot airbase in December 2015.

Geopolitical analysts opine that Pakistan is using terrorist groups as part of its security and foreign policy. It is repeatedly demonstrating its India centric obsession which it perceives as an existential threat. The ideology of Pakistan is built on twin pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. Pakistan never realized that as a nation-state it should create its own history and move forward but lived with historical appropriation and distortions of the past. Pakistan could acknowledge its Indian heritage. Instead of successive Pakistani leaderships and the intelligentsia preferred to build the idea of Pakistan on pillars of Islam and antagonism towards India. But Pakistan’s paranoia regarding India is unfounded.

The relations with Pakistan have been defined by the Partition in 1947, the Kashmir conundrum and the military conflicts fought between the two South Asian neighbours. The relations have always been plagued by conflicts, hostilities and suspicion even though the two-share common linguistic, cultural, geographical and economic linkages.

Since its independence, Pakistan has followed a path of animosity. It was created as a national homeland for the Muslim-majority areas of the subcontinent, while India proposed to become a secular nation that included about 85 per cent Hindus, but also more than 10 per cent Muslims as well as large numbers of Sikhs, Christians and members of other religions.

Soon after the partition of the sub-continent about 17 million people fled their homes and journeyed to either Pakistan or India. In one of the largest exchanges of populations in history, violence soon broke out with Muslims on one side and Sikhs and Hindus on the other. The resulting bloodshed in the Punjab and West Bengal regions left more than one million people dead in its wake.

During this refugee movement and open violence, the governments of India and Pakistan hastily tried to divide the assets of British India between the two new countries. From weapons and money, down to paper clips and archaeological treasures, all had to be divided.

Pakistan is in deep economic crisis and virulent political turbulence. There are gross Human rights violations of people in Balochistan, Sind, Gilgit and Baltistan. The plight of minorities is in serious jeopardy because of persecution.

India always desires normal neighbourly relations with Pakistan in an environment free of terror, hostility and violence. The onus is on Pakistan to create such an environment.

Pakistan on its side is unwilling to let terrorists derail the peace process, India worked with Islamabad to act against the Jaish-e-Mohammed but found Islamabad unwilling to deliver on its promise.

Time and again Pakistan Prime Minister Imran Khan faced with the serious domestic political turbulence resorts to usual rhetoric- and on so the called Kashmir Solidarity Day. He said that Pakistan reaffirms its resolute support for our Kashmiri brothers and sisters, who continue to be subjected to an inhuman military siege and communications blockade since August 5, 2019. The tragedy of the Kashmiris, however, goes back more than seven decades as they have faced unabated repression and consistent denial of their fundamental rights by India.

Imran Khan flip flops, on the one hand, he makes conciliatory statements and on the other, recently he resorted to high pitch rhetoric ranting the Kashmir issue.

So far it looks Imran Khan and General Bajwa’s strategy of continuing a low-intensity war with India has the following components, (i) intensification of terrorist activities in a wide area extending from J&K to other parts ii) strengthening the strategic alliance between Kashmiri militants and international terrorist groups; (iii) focusing on coordinated attacks by the militant outfits on the security forces in J&K and elsewhere (iv) using the neighbouring countries to the north and east of India for executing terrorist activities in India and (v) Unleashing false propaganda against India, through revamping the clandestine TV channels run by ISI, other media networks. Pakistan and ISI agency has a direct hand in infiltrating Afghans and other mercenaries into J&K State and in creating militant outfits, that have been declared as a terrorist outfit by UN and US. ISI has spread its tentacles in communally sensitive areas of India, for creating a nexus between various Pan-Islamic outfits. Indo-Pak border vulnerability to drug trafficking is being used by ISI. The menace of drug trafficking along the Indo-Pak border has assumed alarming proportions.

So the moot question is, are Imran Khan and his Army Chief General Qamar Javed Bajwa playing a good cop -bad cop game in diplomacy with India? Be it as may Pakistan will never match India competence and skilled diplomacy.

Terror and peace talks don’t go together. People of India want peace with the neighbouring countries. Indian always believe in the philosophy of Its civilisational ethos -Vasudhaiva Kutumbakam. Let Pakistan realize this and come forward with a genuine hand of peace for the sake of bringing prosperity in South Asia.

(The author is geopolitical analyst, distinguished fellow of United Services Institute (USI) and chairman of Kashmir Policy & Strategy Group)


A US-Pakistan reset is impossible

Is a US-Pakistan reset possible?

By Aparna Pande, opinion contributor

February 17, 2021 – 10:00 AM EST

The views expressed by contributors are their own and not the view of The Hill

As the Biden administration starts shaping its foreign policy, it has to deal with some complicated relationships. Few U.S. relationships are as complicated as the one with onetime ally and occasional frenemy, Pakistan, which is now closely aligned with China and is widely blamed for undermining the U.S. war effort in Afghanistan.

Voices sympathetic to Pakistan in Washington are advocating a reset of U.S.-Pakistan relations, setting aside the bitterness of the past. Their essential argument is that as a nuclear weapons power with a large army, which has been a friend of the United States in the past, Pakistan simply cannot be ignored.

The U.S. should, of course, not ignore Pakistan. But Americans should be wary of plans that draw the U.S. back into embracing Pakistan or depending on it. Pakistan is now China’s closest ally and its overtures to the U.S. are designed only to evade the consequences of its anti-American conduct.

The idea that there should be a new basis for U.S.-Pakistan relations is not new, but the latest calls for a ‘reset’ are based on that notion that it can somehow be achieved without a turnaround in Pakistan.

Hudson Institute’s Husain Haqqani, a former Pakistani ambassador, had first called for abandoning the idea of a U.S.-Pakistan alliance, and a bilateral relationship based on “greater humility” and an awareness of for each side of “what it can and cannot get” in a 2013 Foreign Affairs article titled “Breaking up is not hard to do.”

The recent proposals for revisiting relations with Pakistan have come from three former officials who served during the Obama administration at a time when the United States poured billions of dollars into Pakistan in an attempt to wean it off its own strategic priorities. That effort ended only after Americans located Osama bin Laden in a Pakistani garrison town and killed him without first informing the Pakistanis out of fear that they might tip off the arch-terrorist.

This time, Richard Olson (who served as U.S. Ambassador from 2012 to 2015 and as Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan from 2015 to 2016), advocates a “right-sized” relationship with Pakistan in a paper published by the United States Institute for Peace.

Mr. Olson proposes moving away from emphasis on “military and intelligence aspects of cooperation” and a focus on “genuinely overlapping interests, especially economic and cultural ones.” He recognizes that “It is hard to imagine an Islamabad increasingly aligned with Beijing and still being close to Washington.”

The idea that the U.S. needs a new policy towards Pakistan has been repeated in an Atlantic Council paper co-authored by Shamila Chaudhary, former director for Pakistan and Afghanistan at the Obama National Security Council and S. Vali Nasr, former Senior Advisor to U.S. Special Representative for Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke (2009-2011).

Ms. Chaudhary and Mr. Nasr also emphasize economic and people-to-people relations, without acknowledging that these cannot be created by a U.S. administration. Businesses in Pakistan would have to buy more from the U.S. while finding enough American buyers for Pakistani products for trade volumes to expand.

The cultural and economic overlap between Pakistan and the United States is very limited. The right-sized U.S. relationship with Pakistan, shorn of military and intelligence ties, would be a rather minimalist one. 

It is unlikely that — based on economics alone — Pakistan would deserve more attention from the U.S. than is given to, say, Morocco or Bangladesh. Even as an ally and major aid recipient, U.S. trade with Pakistan in goods and services never exceeded the current figure of $6.6 billion in a year. This level of bilateral trade is comparable to U.S.-Morocco trade in goods and services in 2020 and is hardly a trickle in the annual U.S. trade volume of $5 trillion.

Moreover, Morocco’s population is just 36 million compared to Pakistan’s population of 210 million. Bangladesh, which was once part of Pakistan, trades with the United States to the tune of $9 billion annually.

If the future Pakistan-relationship is to be determined by economic factors, Pakistan would have to up its game in being able to trade with the U.S. at levels much higher than what it has managed for 72 odd-years.

As for cultural relations, the Pakistani diaspora in the United States is smaller than many other diaspora communities and would have to find its own place in America’s melting pot. The State Department cannot advance Pakistani-Americans’ role within the U.S. nor can it create a market for Pakistan’s cultural products — movies, television shows, music, or books.

It is unlikely that most Americans will easily ignore Pakistan’s sponsorship of terrorism, without so much as an acknowledgement or apology from Islamabad of complicity in supporting the Taliban and Al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and a slew of attacks in India. Some of these Pakistan-backed acts of terror, including the 2008 Mumbai attacks resulted in the death of Americans.

The realization that Pakistan is no longer a U.S. ally seems now to be accepted wisdom in Washington. But those advocating a “reset” in relations under President Biden seem to be suggesting that a reset is possible without dealing with Pakistan’s own dysfunction — or consequences for past Pakistani conduct.

That suggestion might be good for policy papers, but it will not make for good policy.

Instead, the U.S. needs to figure out how to deal with a nuclear-armed Pakistan closely aligned with China, providing safe haven to myriad Islamist terrorist groups, and bent on causing mischief for U.S. allies Afghanistan and India.

Aparna Pande, PhD, is director of the Initiative on the Future of India and South Asia at the Hudson Institute.

Israel arrests Hamas officials outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israel arrests Hamas officials in occupied West Bank

Adnan Asfour, member of Hamas. with his family at their home in the West Bank city of Nablus on 16 July 2012 [Nedal Eshtayah/Apaimages]

February 17, 2021 at 10:15 am

As the Palestinians get ready for elections later this year, the Israeli occupation forces have arrested several Hamas officials in the occupied West Bank, Arabs48.com reported on Tuesday. Sheikh Adnan Asfour and Hassan Mansour MP were among those arrested on Monday night in Nablus.

Altogether, 12 Palestinians were arrested by the Israelis across the occupied West Bank. Individuals were attacked by the Israeli forces and their homes were ransacked, causing a lot of damage to furniture and household items.

In Jenin, meanwhile, the Israelis also arrested Hamas officials Sheikh Khaled Al-Hajj and Sheikh Abdul Baset Al-Hajj. As happened elsewhere, their homes were ransacked and they were beaten by the Israeli forces.

It is believed that the detention campaign is an effort by Israel to deter and undermine Hamas participation in the upcoming elections.

Babylon the Great Will Respond to Iraqi Attack

US says it will ‘respond’ to Iraq missile attack that injured Americans at ‘time and place of our choosing’

ABC News

Five Americans were injured and the U.S. says it’s assessing who’s responsible.

February 16, 2021, 2:46 PM

Attack on American-led coalition in Iraq kills

One person died and at least eight other…

Azad Lashkari/Reuters

The Biden administration said it is still assessing who is responsible for a rocket attack that injured five Americans and killed one foreign contractor working for the U.S. in Iraq.

But it reserves “the right to respond at the time and place of our choosing,” according to the White House and State Department, amid questions about Iran’s role in another attack on U.S. forces in its neighboring country.

Similar attacks during former President Donald Trump’s term led to him ordering the strike that killed Iran’s top military commander and pushed the region to the brink of war a little over one year ago — making the attack another key foreign policy test in President Joe Biden’s earliest days in office.

Fourteen rockets were fired toward Erbil Air Base in Iraq’s Kurdistan region late Monday night, with three hitting the facilities where U.S. troops are based, according to Col. Wayne Marotto, U.S. spokesperson for the U.S.-led coalition to defeat the Islamic State.

One civilian contractor, who was not American, was killed, and nine others were injured, including one U.S. service member and four U.S. civilian contractors, Marotto said Tuesday.

“The administration reserves the right to respond in the time and manner of our choosing, but we’ll wait for the attribution to be concluded first before we take any additional steps,” White House press secretary Jen Psaki said.

A little-known Iraqi militia group that calls itself the Guardians of the Blood Brigade claimed credit for the attack. Such Shiite militias have ties to Iran, the region’s major Shiite power, although it’s at times unclear how much control the Iranian government has over their actions.

State Department spokesperson Ned Price said the administration was aware of the claim, but would not “base our conclusions solely and exclusively on the claims of a particular group.” Instead, U.S. intelligence is investigating the attack and U.S. officials are working with their Iraqi and Kurdish counterparts, he said.

Secretary of State Antony Blinken spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi on Tuesday and Masrour Barzani on Monday night, the prime minister of the Kurds’ regional government.

Notably, Price said Tuesday any U.S. response would be “in coordination with our Iraqi partners,” calling it a “matter of Iraqi sovereignty” — a break from the Trump administration.

In retaliation for an Iranian-backed militia killing a U.S. contractor in December 2019, Trump ordered the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s top general, and an Iraqi militia leader just outside Baghdad airport. His administration did not consult the Iraqi government in advance, amid concerns it would leak to Soleimani, sparking protests and culminating in the non-binding vote by a majority of the Iraqi parliament last year to expel U.S. troops.

Biden and Blinken seem intent on repairing U.S. ties with the Iraqi government. Asked about responses for Monday’s attack, Psaki said diplomacy would be “front and center to our engagement with our global partners around the world.” Similarly, Price dismissed questions about a red line or retaliatory strikes by saying it was “premature to speak in specific terms about retaliation.”

A senior Defense Department official also dodged questions about a U.S. response, telling reporters that “folks are studying hard the events that have happened in Iraq over the last 24 hours” and “are looking closely at the situation and what makes sense from a U.S. policy perspective.”

But some critics say any soft lines will only embolden Iran to use its proxy forces against the U.S., especially ahead of possible negotiations over its nuclear program and more.

“Iran and its proxies are testing the seriousness of the new Biden administration while making other regional gains,” said Behnam Ben Taleblu, a senior fellow at the Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, a more hawkish Washington think tank. “Cross-domain escalation has always been the name of the game for Tehran, whether it’s by the Houthis, militias in Iraq, or on the nuclear file at home.”

ABC News’ Molly Nagle contributed to this report from the White House and Matt Seyler from the Pentagon.

Biden and Babylon the Great’s Mess

Biden’s Middle East woes are already piling up

Ishaan Tharoor

At home, the Biden administration has its hands full already. It’s battling the coronavirus pandemic, attempting to pass a major stimulus bill and reckoning with the latest spasm of climate change, as bitterly cold weather in Texas buckled the state’s power grid and left millions without electricity.

But troubles are mounting elsewhere, especially in the Middle East, where President Biden seeks something of a reset in U.S. policy. On the campaign trail, Biden and his allies decried his predecessor’s bludgeoning “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran and coddling of human rights-abusing Arab autocrats. It was always going to prove trickier when in power, but events in recent days suggest that whatever grace period the White House hoped to have has already ended.

On Monday night, a barrage of rocket fire landed near a U.S. facility in the city of Irbil, capital of Iraq’s autonomous Kurdish region. The attack, which was claimed by an Iraqi Shiite militia linked to Iran, killed at least one non-American contractor and wounded five American contractors. Tehran distanced itself from the strike, while Biden officials said Tuesday that they were still working with Iraqi colleagues to determine the origins of the attack. The president, said White House press secretary Jen Psaki, “reserves the right to respond in the time and manner of our choosing.”

Iraqi Shiite militias seen as proxies for Iran have a long, grisly record of violence within their own country, allegedly targeting opposing politicians and activists. They have also served as leverage in the Islamic Republic’s shadow game against regional adversaries. Their actions now make Biden’s already tricky diplomatic effort to salvage the nuclear deal with Iran all the more fraught. As it is, time appears to be running out: The Iranians notified the U.N.’s atomic energy agency that it would restrict the access of international inspectors to Iranian nuclear sites by next week if major U.S. sanctions were not lifted.

Biden’s hawkish critics in Washington are already recycling their Obama-era attacks of appeasement and weakness. The Biden administration scrapped the 11th-hour Trump administration designation of Yemen’s Houthi rebels as a terrorist organization on the grounds that the listing made humanitarian efforts in the country all the more fraught. Biden also announced the end of U.S. support for offensive operations in the Saudi-led war against the Houthis.

But the Houthis responded last week with a rocket strike into Saudi territory that saw a civilian passenger airliner catch fire, according to Saudi state TV. And U.N. officials warned Tuesday that an ongoing Houthi offensive on the gas-rich region of Marib risked displacing as many as two million people already traumatized by half a decade of war.

“The Houthis’ assault on Marib is the action of a group not committed to peace or to ending the war afflicting the people of Yemen,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. In the same briefing, the United States’ special envoy to Yemen, Timothy Lenderking, told reporters that the United States does “have ways of getting messages to the Houthis, and we are using those channels very aggressively.”

International negotiators have failed to broker a lasting cease-fire in Yemen, where multiple spiraling conflicts fought by a complex web of factions still rage. For all the damage wrought by the Saudi-led campaign, the Houthis, who are linked to Iran, also need to be convinced that it’s in their interest to cease hostilities.

Biden faces a challenge when dealing with the country’s traditional allies in the region, too. He has been accused of “snubbing” both Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman — both conspicuously close to the Trump administration — in his itinerary of phone calls to world leaders since taking office. Psaki dismissed the charge and said Tuesday that Biden will be speaking to Netanyahu soon.

But there’s no mistaking the ill will felt by many Democrats toward the Israeli leader, who embraced President Donald Trump and bitterly opposed the Obama administration’s attempts at diplomacy with Iran.

“If Netanyahu tries to undermine the President’s efforts to reengage Iran — as he did with Obama — or force his hand with major settlement expansion, let alone annexation, Biden will surely push back,” veteran American diplomat Aaron David Miller wrote in a CNN opinion piece. “The president is a believer in a strong US-Israel relationship and understands that mutual respect and reciprocity are key to seeing it thrive. But his support is for Israel, not Netanyahu, and that may become painfully clear if Israel’s Prime Minister can’t or won’t accept those two critically important rules of the road.”

The Saudis are further out in the cold. “We’ve made clear from the beginning that we are going to recalibrate our relationship with Saudi Arabia,” Psaki said Tuesday, before indicating that Biden’s communications would be conducted with King Salman rather than the influential crown prince, who the CIA has connected to the assassination of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi.

Concerns over human rights and rule of law animated Biden’s foreign policy talking points before he took office. And they are being tested immediately by U.S. allies in the region, chiefly Egypt. On Sunday, Egyptian security forces raided the homes of relatives of Egyptian American dissident Mohamed Soltan, who is an outspoken critic of the repressive rule of President Abdel Fatah al-Sissi.

On Tuesday, the State Department authorized a sale of $200 million worth of missiles to Egypt, already one of the biggest recipients of U.S. military aid.

“By going after Soltan’s relatives again, as well as the relatives of other foreign-based critics in recent days, the Sissi government appears to be challenging the Biden administration and its efforts to make human rights a foreign policy priority once again for the United States,” wrote my colleague Sudarsan Raghavan. “It also underscores the uncomfortable relationship that is emerging between Sissi and the new White House.”

Antichrist making every effort to ensure papal visit takes place

Iraq making every effort to ensure papal visit takes place

Despite security concerns and a new curfew to contain the spread of COVID-19, Iraq’s government says Pope Francis can safely make his March 5-8 visit to the country

Church and government officials in Iraq are doing all they can to make sure that the first papal visit ever to their Middle Eastern country can take place next month as scheduled, despite the continuing coronavirus pandemic and calls to cancel the trip. 

Pope Francis is set to go to Iraq from March 5-8. And one of the most anticipated events of the brief visit is a private meeting between him and the Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

Moqtada Al-Sadr, leader of Iraq’s Shia nationalist movement, tweeted on February 12 that Francis “is welcome as a peace-loving man”.

The Muslim cleric’s message on Twitter was meant to counter fringe groups in the country that have come out against the papal visit.

“A strong signal”

The opposition “is not structured and concerns the most rigid elements”, according to Loys de Pampelonne, who recently completed a two-year mission in Iraq as regional director of the Catholic aid agency, Oeuvre d’Orient.

He pointed that “it is rare for Al-Sadr to take a position”. 

“His tweet is a strong signal in the Shia community,” the French humanitarian said.

Al-Sadr is an important religious figure in the country and has stressed the importance of “openness to religions”.

Francis is scheduled to visit Najaf, a city Al-Sadr has called the “capital of religions”.

And de Pampelonne said that his willingness to welcome the pope also reflects a certain “desire to show that the Shia faith remains the center of the religion”.

The former head of Oeuvre d’Orient in Iraq said the pope’s scheduled visit to the city of Ur should be another highlight of the upcoming visit.

“It is a high point because the three monotheistic religions of the book claim filiation with Abraham. The city of Ur is a common place for the Bible and the Quran,” he said.

Francis’ visit to Iraq is a “strong message of inter-religious dialogue in a country where Daech (ISIS) has created gaping chasms between communities,” de Pampelonne said.

The country is majority Shia and is governed by Prime Minister Mohammed Tawfik Allawi.

Shia parties dominate his governing coalition, but the government is divided between three personalities that represent different communities.

While the Prime Minister is a Shia, President Barham Saleh is of Kurdish origin and the speaker of parliament, Mohamed al-Halbousi, is a Sunni.

Establishment of a curfew

The government announced strict new measures on February 14 to fight the COVID-19 pandemic, including curfews, the wearing of masks in public, the closing of schools and shopping malls and other measures.

The announcement came a day after Iraq reported that there were approximately 641,000 cases of infection in the country (according to the “Quand partir” website of the daily newspaper Ouest-France).

On that same day, the papal nuncio in Iraq, Slovenian Archbishop Mitja Leskovar, met with the country’s prime minister to finalize details of the pope’s arrival ceremony. 

“The pope’s trip has been very well prepared by the Chaldean Church,” de Pampelonne said.

“The government is now taking everything in hand to ensure the security for the event,” he pointed out. 

And there are many good reasons for this. But one in particular stands out.

“The international media coverage that will arrive in two weeks will be a real window on the world for Iraq,” de Pampelonne said.

“It’s a message of openness to the world beyond the religious divides,” he added.