Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating EarthquakeRoger BilhamGiven 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.
The lawmakers demand that Biden answer critical questions on what happens in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward
The lawmakers demand that Biden answer critical questions on what happens in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward
Washington, August 26
A group of US lawmakers has urged President Joe Biden to ensure that the Taliban, which is now the de facto ruler of Afghanistan, do not destabilise Pakistan and acquire nuclear weapons.
The lawmakers demanded that Biden should answer critical questions on what happened in Afghanistan and what are his plans to move forward.
“Are you prepared to support regional allies militarily in the event that the Taliban militarise the Afghanistan border? What is your plan to help to ensure that the Taliban do not destabilise its nuclear neighbour Pakistan?” the group of 68 lawmakers from the Senate and the House of Representatives asked in a letter addressed to Biden on Wednesday.
The lawmakers said that over the past weeks, the world watched with utter shock as the Taliban took over Afghanistan with astonishing speed, “the result of unforced errors made by withdrawing completely the small remaining footprint of our main military force from Afghanistan, and by unnecessarily delaying the evacuation of US personnel and its Afghan partners”.
The situation in Afghanistan has rapidly “metastasized” into Taliban rule with reinstated oppression of women and girls, the repression of civil society, the displacement of countless Afghans from their homes who the Taliban then use force to prevent from fleeing Afghanistan, and a power vacuum that China seeks to fill by increasing its ties to the Taliban, they said.
Observing that the consequences of US withdrawal from Afghanistan are not isolated to that country, or even to the Middle East region, the lawmakers said the action carried geopolitical and strategic consequences that have already begun to unfold and will reverberate for decades.
John GradyAugust 26, 2021 6:01 PM
Artist impression of 3M22 Tsirkon / Zircon hypersonic missile via Naval News
China’s recent full-speed-ahead breakout in nuclear forces, space and cyber efforts, and hypersonic systems adds new urgency to America’s need to ensure its deterrence systems are holding, U.S. Strategic Command’s top officer said Thursday.
Adm. Charles Richard said the United States has never before “faced two peer opponents” with extensive nuclear weapons arsenals and high-technology systems capable of operating across multiple domains.
In his Hudson Institute online forum discussion, Richard concentrated on China rapidly fielding a range of strategic weapons. He listed six new ballistic missile submarines, air-launched cruise missiles, an improved nuclear command and control system, delivery systems for different domains, upgraded missile defense systems and changed doctrine for the use of these weapons as examples of the breakout.
Richard added that China, unlike the United States and Russia, is not constrained by treaties regarding its nuclear forces.
“What I am focused on is totality” that not only changes what the Chinese are capable of doing as it builds new missile silo fields and launches ballistic missile submarines, but “what is the next thing we’re going to find.” He said some of the silos could be a “shell game” to create doubt in analysts’ minds.
At the same time, Richard said “Russia still remains the near-term pacing threat.” Moscow has continued to modernize is strategic forces – especially nuclear weapons that the Kremlin said are not covered by agreements. He mentioned Moscow’s development of nuclear-tipped missile defense systems as fitting in that category.
Earlier, the Kremlin developed and fielded intermediate-range nuclear cruise missiles that it claimed were not covered by a treaty. As a result, Washington withdrew from the Intermediate Range Nuclear Arms Treaty under the Trump administration and began testing longer-ranger cruise missiles.
The fact is: both Russia and China can “go [to] any level of violence” in a crisis, including using nuclear weapons with their “unique destructive capability,” he said.
Richard said the command’s mission is to ensure that a potential adversary does not act.
He added the United States “hasn’t done anything for the last 30 years” in modernizing its nuclear forces before the Obama administration changed course on updating the triad. That policy continued through the Trump administration and is central to the reviews of the National Defense Strategy, nuclear posture and missile defense the Biden administration is conducting.
The goal is to have an integrated defense that is “is influencing the decision-making of someone else” to not risk an attack.
Richard said the reviews should lead to better definitions of “who’s responsible for what” in the American command system and answer “where I fit into the whole mosaic of deterrence.” He said a guiding principle in future strategic deterrence should be to maintain “the margins and edges” that the nation has achieved in the past.
On active missile defenses, Richard said science and technology, as well as research and development projects, have the potential to make them a more affordable option in the future.
“Strategic deterrence and nuclear deterrence are two different things,” but “credibility is a key component of both.” He said allies like Japan and South Korea, which he has met with recently, understand the United States’ commitment to deterrence, including threats from North Korea.
Richard said STRATCOM has a requirement to provide the nation with conventional prompt strike” in case of attack. The command “is ready to receive on the first day” a hypersonic conventional intercontinental weapon from any service.
New Russian missile-defense radar system is world-first for helping intercept nuclear warheads, military industry chief reveals
26 Aug, 2021 13:39
Russia’s Soviet-era nuclear defense shield has had a major overhaul and has now become one of the world’s most advanced military installations, benefitting from secret technology, one of the businesses behind the project has said.
Speaking to RIA Novosti at the ARMY-2021 conference on Thursday, the general director of RTI systems, one of the country’s largest defense contractors and a supplier of radar hardware and rocket technology, disclosed that the Don-2N station in the Moscow region had been upgraded. “It is now being tested,” Yuri Anoshko said.
“As a result of these works, the functionality has changed,” and the radar station, which underpins Russia’s nuclear defense network, is now said to be unparalleled by any other in use across the globe. While Anoshko refused to reveal the nature of the added functionality, the colossal installation is a key part of the national anti-missile defense grid, and picks up potential threats at long distances in case of nuclear war.Also on rt.com US’ successful ICBM intercept test brings us closer to a nuclear war and proves Moscow’s concerns were well grounded
The construction of the giant dome-shaped structure began in 1978, and took over a decade to come online. Since then, it has been on continuous duty, ushering out the Cold War and acting as the eyes of modern Russia’s nuclear arsenal. Its antennas rise to the height of an 11-storey building, and it is said to be capable of tracking even smaller ballistic missiles that deploy technology to disguise against detection.
Concerns have previously been aired about countries’ growing capacity to identify and intercept incoming nuclear weapons. After the US successfully intercepted a simulated missile attack in 2020, analysts warned that one nuclear state making itself invulnerable to a barrage would shift the delicate balance of atomic power and make conflict more likely, not less.
Israeli forces fire live rounds, tear gas as hundreds of Palestinians demand Israel ease its crippling blockade of Gaza.
Hundreds of Palestinians have demonstrated near the Israeli fence in the besieged Gaza Strip, calling on Israel to ease a crippling blockade days after a similar weekend gathering ended in deadly confrontations with the Israeli army.
The Israeli military, which had beefed up its forces in advance of the demonstration on Wednesday, said it was using tear gas and live fire to disperse the crowd in southern Gaza. Palestinian medics reported at least nine people were wounded.
The Al Aqsa TV television network, which is run by Hamas, the Palestinian group that governs Gaza, showed crowds of people approaching the fence, then running away when an Israeli military vehicle arrived. Tear gas could be seen floating in the wind.
The military said it was using .22 calibre gunfire, a type of weapon that is meant to be less lethal than more powerful firearms but can be deadly.
Al Jazeera’s Youmna El Sayed, reporting from the protests in Gaza, said that dozens of tear gas canisters have been fired at protesters in the southern city of Khan Younis in the Gaza Strip.
“Today, already three Palestinians have been injured by live ammunition and dozens have suffocated from the gas canisters that have been fired on them,” El Sayed said.
Hundreds of Palestinians demonstrated on Saturday, resulting in violent confrontations.
More than 40 Palestinians were wounded by Israeli fire during Saturday’s demonstrations, including a 13-year-old youth who was shot in the head, the health ministry said.
One of the wounded, Osama Dueji, 32, died of a bullet wound in the leg Wednesday.
Hamas identified him as a member of its armed wing and mourned him as a “heroic martyr”.
An Israeli soldier who was critically wounded when a Palestinian shot him in the head through a hole in the wall at point-blank range remained in hospital on Wednesday.
After the shooting, Israel’s military bombed Hamas weapons sites in the Gaza Strip early on Sunday.
Hamas has organised the protests in an attempt to put pressure on Israel to ease its blockade of Gaza.
Israel and Egypt have maintained the blockade since Hamas took control of Gaza in 2007, a year after winning the Palestinian election.
The blockade has devastated Gaza’s economy and fuelled an unemployment rate hovering around 50 percent. Israel has said the blockade, which tightly restricts the movement of goods and people in and out of Gaza, is intended to prevent Hamas from building up its military capabilities.
Israel and Hamas have fought four wars and numerous skirmishes since 2007, most recently an 11-day escalation in violence in May that killed 260 Palestinians and 13 people in Israel.
Hamas has accused Israel of violating the ceasefire that ended the fighting by tightening the blockade. In particular, it has restricted the entry of materials needed for reconstruction.
Israel has demanded the return of the remains of two soldiers killed in a 2014 war, as well as the return of two Israeli civilians believed to be in Hamas captivity.
Last week, Israel reached an agreement with Qatar to allow the Gulf country to resume aid payments to thousands of impoverished Gaza families.
Under the new system, the payments will be delivered by the United Nations directly to families that have been vetted by Israel. In the past, the aid was delivered as cash straight to Hamas.
The payments are expected to begin in the coming weeks, providing some relief in Gaza.
But tensions remain high. In addition to the demonstrations, Hamas has allowed its supporters to launch incendiary balloons across the border, setting off several wildfires in southern Israel. Israel has launched a series of air raids on Hamas targets in Gaza.
Egypt, which serves as a mediator between Israel and Hamas, has been working to broker a longer-term truce between the bitter enemies.
This week, Egypt closed its border crossing with Gaza, the main exit point for the territory’s people to travel abroad, in a show of frustration with Hamas.
Satellite pictures have revealed what appears to be an ongoing Chinese project to prepare vast new fields of missile silos that could possibly be used to launch nuclear weapons at China’s adversaries, including the United States and India. Why is China digging these silos?
Satellite images have revealed that China is building at least three missile silo fields in Yumen in Gansu province, near Hami in Xinjiang province, and at Hanggin Banner, Ordos City, in Inner Mongolia.
It appears that China is constructing around 120 missile silos at Yumen, around 110 silos in Hami, and 29 in the Hanggin Banner field. Earlier this year, 16 missile silos were detected in the People’s Liberation Army Rocket Force’s (PLARF) Jilantai training area, also in Inner Mongolia.
The Yumen field was discovered by commercial satellite images obtained by researchers at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, California; the Hami field was identified by nuclear experts at the Federation of American Scientists (FAS) using Planet Labs satellite images; the Hanggin Banner field was discovered by researchers at the China Aerospace Studies Institute, Washington DC.
The Yumen and Hami fields are identical, and the silos are positioned in a perfect grid pattern, roughly 3 km apart. Some of the silos have dome shelters. The fields are supported by nearby PLARF facilities.This image shows four different ICBM silos in different stages of construction. (Credit: Planet Labs Inc)
For several decades before these discoveries in 2021, China operated only 20 missile silos for its DF-5 liquid-fuel intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM). On completion of the ongoing work, China could have 250-270 new missile silos, more than 10 times the number it had maintained for several decades.The Expert
Suyash Desai is a research associate working on China’s defence and foreign policies at The Takshashila Institution, Bengaluru. He also writes a weekly newsletter on the Chinese People’s Liberation Army called ‘The PLA Insight’.
Why is China building missile silos?
There could be three explanations.
FIRST, some Chinese political scientists believe this could be China’s attempt to move towards a launch-on-warning (LOW) nuclear posture. LOW refers to a launch at an adversary on detection of an incoming missile before the adversary’s missile hits its target.
China’s nuclear strategy has remained largely unchanged since 1964, when it first exploded a nuclear device. It is based on achieving deterrence through assured retaliation. The crucial requirement for this is the survivability of China’s nuclear arsenal following the first strike — conventional or nuclear — by an adversary. In order to move to the LOW posture, China would have to mate a few warheads with missiles, and keep them in alert status for a quick response. Currently, China stores its warheads and missiles in a de-alerted status separately under different commands.It appears that China is constructing around 110 silos in Hami. (Credit: Planet Labs Inc)
The 2013 Science of Military Strategy document of the PLA Academy of Military Science noted that China “can” LOW, and the Defence White Paper published by China in 2015 mentioned “rapid response”. Admiral Charles A Richard, Commander of the US Strategic Command (Stratcom) said in his testimony to Senate in April 2021 that “a portion of China’s force has already moved to a LOW posture”.
However, silos alone, at such an early stage of construction, are not conclusive evidence of China’s move to LOW.
SECOND, it enables China to achieve its goal of increasing its nuclear warhead stockpile.
China currently has around 350 nuclear warheads. Hans M Kristensen and Matt Korda of the Nuclear Information Project of the nonprofit FAS have estimated that 272 of these 350 warheads are assigned to operational forces; the remaining 78 have been produced for China’s new DF-41 solid-fuel road-mobile ICBM.
China has around 150 land-based missiles that can deliver between 180-190 nuclear warheads to some parts of the United States. If all the new silos are loaded with a single-warhead missile, the count would increase to 410-440. If the silos on completion are loaded with the DF-41s, which can carry up to two-three warheads per missile, this count would rise to 930-940 warheads.
For this, China would have to increase the number of DF-41s in its inventory, and almost triple its nuclear warheads — unlikely in the immediate future. However, the construction of the silos does indicate an increasing trend in China’s nuclear warheads and DF-41 missiles going forward.
The THIRD guess is that China could use these silos as decoys.
Chinese scholar Tong Zhao of the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Beijing has argued that China worries about the improvement in US missile defence systems and conventional precision strike weapons, which could undermine China’s nuclear deterrence. He has claimed that at the National People’s Congress in March 2021, President Xi Jinping directed the military to “accelerate the creation of advanced strategic deterrent” capabilities.
The recently discovered silos could be an initiative to enhance deterrence by keeping the adversary guessing. This could be China’s shell game — where one, some, or all silos could have missiles, forcing the aggressor to target all of them during an escalation. The aggressor would have to waste more warheads or precision-guided weapons to destroy only a few missiles, or perhaps target empty silos.
This would be a cost-effective strategy for China, and could also bolster its image as serious nuclear power and an equal to the US.Source for map and all information: Missile Defense Project, Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS).
How has the US reacted to the discovery of the silos?
On July 28, Stratcom retweeted a report on the silos in The New York Times, saying: “This is the second time in two months the public has discovered what we have been saying all along about the growing threat the world faces and the veil of secrecy that surrounds it.”
In his April Senate testimony, Adm Richard had said China is deploying ICBM silos on a large scale. It is likely Stratcom knew about China’s construction of the silos before they were discovered last month by scholars using satellite pictures.
After the discovery of the Yumen field in the first week of July, a State Department spokesperson had said: “The PRC’s nuclear arsenal will grow more quickly, and to a higher level than perhaps previously anticipated. This buildup is concerning. It raises questions about the PRC’s intent.” A Pentagon spokesperson told The Washington Post at the end of June that “Defense Department leaders have testified and publicly spoken about China’s growing nuclear capabilities, which we expect to double or more over the next decade.” The US Department of Defense’s 2020 China Military Power Report projected China’s nuclear warhead stockpile, currently estimated in the low 200s, to at least double over the next decade.Images of Yumen Silo Field, where China may be constructing 120 missile silos. (Credit: Planet Labs Inc)
And what has China said?
Neither the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs nor the Ministry of National Defence has reacted. Some Chinese media have said the silos are wind farms, and accused American academics and journalists of spreading a “China threat theory”.
So should India be concerned?
Seen in isolation, these silos appear to be built specifically to enhance deterrence against the US.
But broadly, India should be watchful about China’s nuclear ambiguity and its latest DF-26 intermediate-range road-mobile dual-use missiles — of which 16 launchers were deployed in Korla, Xinjiang, during the ongoing standoff. India could be a potential target given the strike ranges of these missiles and the timing of deployment.
Although both China and India have pledged nuclear ‘no first use’ doctrines, India’s modest ballistic missile defence capabilities and China’s nuclear ambiguity are matters of concern for India.
What should the world do about these developments?
There isn’t an obvious option for the US or anyone else. China has stated that it will not join the NEW START (Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty). Fu Cong, Director-General of the Department of Arms Control of the Chinese Foreign Ministry, recently said that the US and Russia have almost 20 times more nuclear warheads than China, and that “It is unrealistic to expect China to join the two countries in a negotiation aimed at nuclear arms reduction.”
Several American arms control scholars have argued for a renewal of the US government-funded US-China track 1.5 nuclear dialogue that was suspended after 15 years in 2019 due to growing friction, “declining value”, and the failure to launch track 1 dialogue. Some others have said that the US’s newer missile defence capabilities disturb strategic stability and complicate arms control.
ASIA/IRAQ – The movement of Muqtada al Sadr relaunches the campaign to return houses and land illegally stolen from Christians and Mandeans
Baghdad (Agenzia Fides) – Thanks to the campaign of the Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr, more than eighty properties – land and houses – have been returned to their rightful owners, including mostly Christians, citizens and Mandaeans after they have been victims of arbitrary and unlawful appropriation of their property by individuals or in recent years organized groups. Hakim al Zamili, a leading member of the “Sadrists” (supporter of the political group led by Muqtada al Sadr), who also previously chaired the Iraqi Parliamentary Committee on Security and Defense, reported on the results achieved so far thanks to the iniziative inspired by Muqtada al Sadr.
In a statement released by various Iraqi media on Wednesday, August 25, Al-Zamili stated that the last of the properties returned to their rightful Christian and Mandaean owners are in the Baghdad area, and that the committee set up ad hoc on the instructions of Al-Sadr to accompany the return has so far collected more than 140 return requests from Christian and Mandaean citizens who had been the victims of illegal expropriation of their real estate in recent phases of Iraqi history.
At the beginning of the year (see Fides, 4/1/2021), the Iraqi Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr ordered the establishment of an ad hoc committee. This committee was tasked with collecting and reviewing information and complaints about cases of abusive expropriation of real estate by Christian and Mandaean owners in different regions of the country in recent years. The aim of the initiative launched by the Shiite politician was to restore justice and end the violation of the property rights of “Christian brothers and sisters”, even if these violations were committed by members of his own movement. The request to report cases of illegal expropriations has been extended to include Christian families who have left the country in recent years, with a request to submit reports of fraudulent expropriations to the committee by the end of next Ramadan.
The phenomenon of illegal theft of Christian homes was able to spread thanks to connivance and cover-ups of corrupt and dishonest officials, who put themselves at the service of individual impostors and organized groups of fraudsters (See Fides, 23/7/2015). Last but not least, the “legalized” theft of property from Christian families is closely related to the mass exodus of Iraqi Christians, which has intensified since 2003 after the US-led military interventions to overthrow Saddam Hussein’s regime. Houses and properties that were unguarded were seized because it was assumed that none of the owners would return to claim their property.
The controversial Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr is also known to have been the founder of the Mahdi army, the militia – officially disbanded in 2008 – created in 2003 to fight the foreign armed forces present in Iraq after the fall of Saddam Hussein’s regime. Analysts have seen several changes over the past decade by the leader, who dissolved his militia in 2008 and does not appear to be aligned with Iran. In the past, in the Iraqi political scenarios of recent years, Muqtada al Sadr has also tried to profile himself as a potential mediator. His visit to Saudi Arabia in July 2017 to meet Prince Mohammed Bin Salman was also interpreted in this perspective. (GV) (Agenzia Fides, 26/8/2021)