THE SIXTH SEAL: NEW YORK CITY (REV 6:12)

Earthquake activity in the New York City area

WikipediaAlthough the eastern United States is not as seismically active as regions near plate boundaries, large and damaging earthquakes do occur there. Furthermore, when these rare eastern U.S. earthquakes occur, the areas affected by them are much larger than for western U.S. earthquakes of the same magnitude. Thus, earthquakes represent at least a moderate hazard to East Coast cities, including New York City and adjacent areas of very high population density.Seismicity in the vicinity of New York City. Data are from the U.S. Geological Survey (Top, USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (Bottom, NEIC). In the top figure, closed red circles indicate 1924-2006 epicenters and open black circles indicate locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Green lines indicate the trace of the Ramapo fault.As can be seen in the maps of earthquake activity in this region(shown in the figure), seismicity is scattered throughout most of the New York City area, with some hint of a concentration of earthquakes in the area surrounding Manhattan Island.The largest known earthquake in this region occurred in 1884 and had a magnitude of approximately 5.For this earthquake, observations of fallen bricks and cracked plaster were reported from eastern Pennsylvania to central Connecticut, and the maximum intensity reported was at two sites in western Long Island (Jamaica, New York and Amityville, New York). Two other earthquakes of approximately magnitude 5 occurred in this region in 1737 and 1783. The figure on the right shows maps of the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and greater that occurred in this region from 1924 to 2010, along with locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.

Background

The NYC area is part of the geologically complex structure of the Northern Appalachian Mountains. This complex structure was formed during the past half billion years when the Earth’s crust underlying the Northern Appalachians was the site of two major geological episodes, each of which has left its imprint on the NYC area bedrock. Between about 450 million years ago and about 250 million years ago, the Northern Appalachian region was affected by a continental collision, in which the ancient African continent collided with the ancient North American continent to form the supercontinent Pangaea. Beginning about 200 million years ago, the present-day Atlantic ocean began to form as plate tectonic forces began to rift apart the continent of Pangaea. The last major episode of geological activity to affect the bedrock in the New York area occurred about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, when continental rifting that led to the opening of the present-day Atlantic ocean formed the Hartford and Newark Mesozoic rift basins.Earthquake rates in the northeastern United States are about 50 to 200 times lower than in California, but the earthquakes that do occur in the northeastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of the same magnitude in the western U.S.This means the area of damage from an earthquake in the northeastern U.S. could be larger than the area of damage caused by an earthquake of the same magnitude in the western U.S. The cooler rocks in the northeastern U.S. contribute to the seismic energy propagating as much as ten times further than in the warmer rocks of California. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt as far as 100 km (60 mi) from its epicenter, but it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake, although uncommon, can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from its epicenter, and can cause damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi) from its epicenter. Earthquakes stronger than about magnitude 5.0 generate ground motions that are strong enough to be damaging in the epicentral area.At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, scientists can often make observations that allow them to identify the specific fault on which an earthquake took place. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case.  The NYC area is far from the boundaries of the North American plate, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea, and along the west coast of North America. The seismicity of the northeastern U.S. is generally considered to be due to ancient zones of weakness that are being reactivated in the present-day stress field. In this model, pre-existing faults that were formed during ancient geological episodes persist in the intraplate crust, and the earthquakes occur when the present-day stress is released along these zones of weakness. The stress that causes the earthquakes is generally considered to be derived from present-day rifting at the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Earthquakes and geologically mapped faults in the Northeastern U.S.

The northeastern U.S. has many known faults, but virtually all of the known faults have not been active for perhaps 90 million years or more. Also, the locations of the known faults are not well determined at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few (if any) earthquakes in the region can be unambiguously linked to known faults. Given the current geological and seismological data, it is difficult to determine if a known fault in this region is still active today and could produce a modern earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazard in the northeastern U.S. is probably the locations of the past earthquakes themselves.

The Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region,but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in New YorkNew Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone,which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

The Apocalyptic Reach of the Chinese Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Top military leader says China’s hypersonic missile test ‘went around the world’

By Chandelis Duster, CNN

Top US General issues stark warning on China’s hypersonic missile

(CNN)China’s test of a hypersonic missile over the summer “went around the world,” the second most senior US general said in an interview released Tuesday, shedding new details on the test and warning that China might one day be able to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the United States.”They launched a long-range missile,” General John Hyten, the outgoing vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff told CBS News. “It went around the world, dropped off a hypersonic glide vehicle that glided all the way back to China, that impacted a target in China.”When asked if the missile hit the target, Hyten said, “Close enough.”

Hyten, who previously called the pace at which China’s military is developing capabilities “stunning,” warned that one day they could have the capability to launch a surprise nuclear attack on the US.

“Why are they building all of this capability?” Hyten said. “They look like a first-use weapon. That’s what those weapons look like to me.”

The revelations about the test come amid heightened tensions over Taiwan as China seeks to expand its weapons capabilities. The Pentagon warned in a report released earlier this month that China is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal and may have 1,000 nuclear warheads by the end of the decade.The US currently has 3,750 nuclear warheads in its stockpile, according to the latest data from the State Department, dwarfing the size of China’s nuclear stockpile

China has denied it has tested hypersonic weapons.

In October, the Financial Times reported about a Chinese test of a hypersonic glide vehicle launched from a rocket in low-Earth orbit that could theoretically be capable of evading US missile defense systems. The speed with which the Chinese developed the system surprised US national security officials.As China and Russia are developing their own versions of hypersonic missiles, the Pentagon has made developing hypersonic weapons one of its top priorities. A US hypersonic missile test failed last month but the Pentagon insists it remains on track to deliver offensive hypersonic weapons in the early 2020s.

CNN’s Oren Liebermann and Alex Marquardt contributed to this report.

The Dangerous Fallout of Russia’s Latest Nukes

The Dangerous Fallout of Russia’s Anti-Satellite Missile Test

ANKIT PANDA

  • NOVEMBER 17, 2021

Source: GettySummary: Russia’s anti-satellite missile test has heightened the risk of dangerous collisions between objects in space. International norms are urgently needed to prevent future tests like this and to keep Earth’s orbits as safe as possible.

Russia has tested a direct-ascent anti-satellite (ASAT) missile against a live satellite target, the third test of its kind by a country since 2007. The test, and the resulting orbital debris, have focused international attention on the rapidly declining sustainability of near-Earth space and the need to constrain this kind of weapons testing.

On November 15, a Russian PL19 Nudol interceptor missile launched in northern Russia struck the now-defunct Soviet-era COSMOS 1408 satellite at an approximate altitude of 480 kilometers (about 300 miles). The intercept has generated a massive debris field in low-Earth orbit (LEO); according to U.S. Space Command, “more than 1,500 pieces of trackable orbital debris” have already been detected, and “hundreds of thousands of smaller [fragments]” are likely to surface.

The test represents a serious challenge to space sustainability and immediately increases the collision risk that other human-made objects in LEO face, including human-inhabited objects like the International Space Station and China’s Tiangong space station. This test underscores the pressing need to develop new international norms and rules of behavior in space. It should further galvanize international efforts to ban this sort of weapons testing, which has significant negative consequences for the space environment near Earth.

WHAT HAPPENED IN RUSSIA’S TEST?

This test is the first of its kind involving a direct-ascent ASAT missile by Russia against a live satellite target. The Soviet Union carried out destructive anti-satellite tests against live satellite targets but did so using weapons placed in orbit. The kind of direct-ascent weapon that was tested this week features interceptor missiles that travel from the Earth’s surface to strike a satellite target passing roughly above the launcher’s location.

Information regarding the Russian test remains limited. The Russian Ministry of Defense confirmed that the test took place in a statement released on November 16.

Russia has tested the PL19 Nudol multiple times from Plesetsk, but until now it had only done so against simulated targets—where no actual satellite was destroyed. This week’s test against a live satellite target confirms that the Nudol interceptor can destroy satellites. The Russian minister of defense even touted the interceptor’s demonstrated precision as “worthy of a goldsmith.”

Unlike some earlier, similar tests in other countries, the test satellite COSMOS 1408 broke up at a greater altitude. As a result, the debris generated after the intercept could end up significantly dispersed, including to higher orbits—where it may linger for years if not decades.

AFTER THE TEST, SPACE COLLISIONS ARE MORE LIKELY

Debris is already a significant problem in critical Earth orbits, including LEO. More than 23,000 orbital debris objects larger than 10 centimeters (about 4 inches) in diameter exist alongside thousands of untracked smaller fragments; these objects travel at immense speeds, averaging 7–8 kilometers (over 6 miles) per second. Space debris can cause serious structural damage—including catastrophic damage—to satellites.

Moreover, as the amount of debris grows and as orbits become more congested, the probability of new collisions increases too. As collisions create new debris, the probability of new collisions further compounds. Over time, the costs of safely and predictably operating in orbit grow considerably, rendering access to space more expensive and eventually infeasible at tolerable costs.

Ankit Panda

Ankit Panda is the Stanton Senior Fellow in the Nuclear Policy Program at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

While unintentional on-orbit collisions contribute to the accumulation of debris, intentional debris-creating actions like ASAT tests are particularly egregious sources of orbital pollution. Russia’s direct-ascent ASAT test has significantly contributed to a degraded environment in LEO.

Debris generated by the test will be catalogued by the Eighteenth Space Control Squadron, which is a U.S. Space Force surveillance unit, and other international providers of situational awareness in space, including those in the private sector. Satellites operators will then be able to undertake maneuvers based on this data to mitigate collision risk (provided that their satellites are maneuverable).

STRENGTHENING INTERNATIONAL NORMS IN RESPONSE

The United States and other like-minded states should propose and pursue a ban on any intentional debris-creating actions in space, including ASAT tests. Destructive ASAT tests undermine the sustainability of Earth’s great commons and pollute already-congested orbits that support human welfare across multiple domains.

Given its overwhelming reliance on access to space for civilian welfare and military operations alike, the United States has a significant interest in leading the norm development process and proscribing certain impermissible acts with legally binding tools. But more broadly, as the number of space-faring states grows in the twenty-first century and as the private sector comes to operate the vast majority of satellites, most actors have a shared interest in secure and sustainable Earth orbits.

The pursuit of multilateral agreements on debris-generating ASAT testing has become bogged down over the divergent approaches by the United States, on the one hand, and Russia and China on the other. The U.S. Department of Defense has indicated that it seeks to develop new norms in space, but events like Russia’s latest test emphasize the urgency with which President Joe Biden and his administration need to treat these issues. In the near term, the administration should explore a ban on these tests among the four countries with demonstrated capabilities in this area: China, India, Russia, and the United States.

Finally, while the pursuit of new norms in space is laudable, norm building benefits from consistency. Just hours after Russia’s destructive ASAT test, various elements of the U.S. government, including the U.S. Space Command and the U.S. Department of State, criticized Moscow’s behavior. The commander of U.S. Space Command described the action as “simply irresponsible,” and the State Department spokesperson has called it “dangerous” and a threat to the “long term sustainability of . . . outer space.”

These statements echo the sharp response of former president George W. Bush’s administration to China’s 2007 ASAT test. But former president Donald Trump’s administration largely overlooked India’s 2019 ASAT test, even though the debris it generated long outlasted New Delhi’s optimistic estimates. India is a U.S. partner; China and Russia are U.S. adversaries. And of course, the United States cited terrestrial safety as essential to its own 2008 ASAT demonstration using a modified missile defense interceptor. (The U.S. government did not consider this to be an ASAT test, although it exhibited a new capability for the interceptor missile that was used.)

However, these distinctions undercut norm setting. The United States should make clear that no ASAT testing against live satellites can be considered responsible—regardless of the mass of the target satellite or the altitude of the intercept. The U.S. government should further support a legally binding ban on these kinds of tests and should address concerns in Russia and China about the further weaponization of space.

To ensure that space remains easily accessible to future generations, it is incumbent on the current generation of leaders in the United States and elsewhere to lead the way on setting new norms and rules to bar further tests of this sort, which could irreversibly and irrecoverably pollute critical orbits around Earth.End of document

Carnegie does not take institutional positions on public policy issues; the views represented herein are those of the author(s) and do not necessarily reflect the views of Carnegie, its staff, or its trustees.

Hamas hails alleged stabbing attack outside the Temple Walls as ‘heroic’: Revelation 11

An ambulance drives through as Israeli police gather at the scene of an alleged stabbing attack in Jerusalem's Old City on November 17, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

Hamas hails alleged stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City as ‘heroic’

By AARON BOXERMAN17 November 2021, 7:50 pm  

An ambulance drives through as Israeli police gather at the scene of an alleged stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City on November 17, 2021. (Ahmad Gharabli/AFP)

The Hamas terror group praises the perpetrator of an alleged stabbing attack in Jerusalem’s Old City that left two Border Police officers injured, calling it “a heroic commando operation.”

“This is the latest confirmation that our people’s revolution against the occupation will continue until the occupier is swept away,” terror group spokesperson Hazim Qasim says in a statement.

The alleged stabber, 16-year-old Amr Abu Asab from East Jerusalem’s Issawiya neighborhood, was shot and killed by officers on the scene during the terror attack, according to police.

The New Antichrist Government in Iraq

Iraq's Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Photo Credit: Iraq PM Office/TwitterIraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi. Photo Credit: Iraq PM Office/Twitter

The New Government In Iraq: Challenges Ahead – Analysis

 Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses (MP-IDSA)  0 Comments

By Nagapushpa Devendra*

In 2019, disillusioned with their political system, thousands of Iraqis protested and called for an end to rampant corruption siphoning their country’s oil wealth, for better public services and change in the government. The protest triggered a new election in October 2021, the result of which has given a new picture, unlike in the past. The Iraqi nationalist parties have emerged as the main gainers. This has generated hope that the new government will try to address the issues of political instability, economic crisis, inflation, unemployment, among others. The government will also have to maintain a balance between the US, the Arab allies, Iran and Turkey, the main external actors active in Iraq. Given the number and intensity of the challenges, the new government will have to show some extraordinary diplomatic skills to manage them.

Since the fall of the Saddam regime in 2003, political stability in Iraq has been marred by ethnic strife, insurgencies and frequent violent conflicts. In such a chaotic environment, efforts to restore legitimacy and development of the country have proved to be ineffective. Due to weak state institutions and their lack of authority to impose decision in the country, even basic governance has been a challenge. For example, the government could not bring stability in areas previously controlled by the Islamic groups. Kirkuk does not have a governor till date. The rise in corruption is another concern being raised by the common people as it is affecting them the most. A recent study by Enabling Peace in Iraq Centre shows that about 80 per cent of Iraqis view corruption as one of the biggest problems faced by Iraq. This is nearly 10 times more than the number of people who mention the Islamic State (8.8 per cent) or healthcare/Covid-19 (5.9 per cent) as more serious issues.1

The people of Iraq have been protesting against the abysmal conditions in the country to force the government to provide better governance, security and other services. The Sadr protests of 2016 and the Basra protests of 2018 were aimed at asking the government to deliver on these aspects. One of the prominent protests was the October revolution in 2019,2

The growing unrest in the country forced President Barham Salih to appoint an outsider Mustafa Al-Kadhimi as the Prime Minister, who managed to conduct the parliamentary election in Iraq in October 2021.3 The outcome of the election has weakened pro-Iranian groups, as it gave out a clear message that the Iraqis don’t want Tehran’s interference in Iraq’s internal affairs.4 The newly introduced electoral law made it easier for smaller parties and independent candidates to canvas in smaller constituency with minimum budget. The new law changes each of the Iraq’s 18 provinces into several electoral districts and allocate one parliamentary seat per 1,00,000 people. The law also prevents the traditional parties from running on unified lists, which in past helped them to retain their seats and political powers. Instead, the seats would go to whoever gets most of the votes in the electoral districts.5

October 2021 Election Results

Another Iran-backed group—Kataib Hezbollah or Hezbollah Brigades—also entered Iraqi politics by forming its own political bloc called the Huqooq Movement under the leadership of Hussein Muanis.9 The group secured one seat. The loss of the pro-Iran parties was a message that Iraqis are not willing to tolerate proxy groups that undermine the government.10

Surprisingly, former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki’s party, State of Law Coalition benefitted from anti-Iranian sentiments among the Iraqis. The party secured 37 seats, despite facing strong opposition from the local, regional and international parties which blamed Maliki for Iraq losing about a third of its land to the IS group.11 In 2018 election, his party had secured 25 seats.

Showing some signs of overcoming the divisions among Iraqi Sunni political factions, the Sunnis have emerged as a more cohesive political force this time. Progress Party or the Taqadom Party, an umbrella body for several Sunni parties, headed by current parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi won 37 seats, making it the second largest in parliament. Azem Iraq Alliance, another major Sunni group, headed by businessman Khamis al-Khanjar won 12 seats.  The alliance includes eight parties and prominent Sunni figures such as former speakers Mahmoud al-Mashhadani and Salim al-Jubouri, and some former ministers and lawmakers.

The Kurdish parties won 61 seats. The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), headed by Masoud Barzani, which dominates the government of the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq secured 32 seats and its rival, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party headed by the former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani won 15 seats. 

Lastly, the implementation of new electoral law allowed new hopefuls such as tribal leaders, business people and civil society activists to join the political race and challenge the traditional political parties. The two such new political blocs which managed to secure nine seats each are the New Generation and the new Imtidad Movement, which promised to tackle corruption. They are likely to become part of the winning political blocs, rather than forming coalition of their own. However, they could still act as a watchdog for the government to effectively function.

Possible Coalition

The 2021 parliamentary election suggests that Sadrists have gained popularity while Fateh’s support has declined. However, Fateh still maintains powerful coercive capital and is likely to play a major role in the formation of the new government. In fact, a coalition between Fateh and PUK is expected.12 PUK has recently announced its support for President Barham Salih, arguably the candidate with the most political leverage in Iraq.13 Another possible coalition that is likely to emerge is between Fateh and State of Law Coalition. Maliki is eyeing on the premiership, however, without the backing of Fateh, he may not be able to fulfil his political aspirations. On the other side, Iraqi armed groups do not want Maliki as their prime minister, but they do see him as an important ally after the election.14

The most interesting change could be Sunni and Kurdish parties aligning with Fateh’s main rival—Sadrist Movement—to form the next government. Sadrist Movement is expected to form coalition with Kurdistan Democratic Party and Progress Party. All three parties have secured majority votes in the elections. In other words, they will play a major role in electing the prime minister and the speaker of the parliament. It is already estimated that Progress Party leader Halbousi is well-placed to return as a speaker.15 Also, Sadr has nominated four names for the Iraqi premiership—Mustafa Al-Khadhimi, Iraq’s ambassador to the UK, Jaafar al-Sadr, Deputy Parliament speaker, Hasan al-Kaabi and the Sadrist leader Nassar al-Rubai.16

Among the prime ministerial candidates, Kadhimi has better chances to retain his premiership, as he is not associated with any political party and is not driven by any political ideology. Thus, he may not face much resentment from the nationalists. More importantly, during his one-year premiership, Kadhimi has performed moderately well when compared to others. On the economic front, Kadhimi introduced the “White Paper for Economic Reforms” in November 2020 which mentioned potential ideas to recover Iraqi economy.17 However, given the nature of Iraq’s economic crisis, it would be unrealistic to expect any government reforms to yield positive results in just a year or two. Also, economic development doesn’t necessarily end the institutionalised corruption. On the political front, Kadhimi had launched an anti-corruption campaign.18 Regionally, he has also emerged as a significant figure for foreign actors like the US, Iran and Saudi Arabia which see him as an acceptable leader for a complicated country.19

Challenges

Despite the smooth process of the Prime Minister nominations, a number of future challenges lie in wait for the formation of a new government at both domestic and regional fronts.

Domestic Challenges

The next government is likely to face formidable challenges in introducing short-term as well as long-term economic reforms, fighting corruption, improving basic services and addressing unemployment, inflation and poverty in Iraq. The government will also have to deal with problems accumulated over the years that forced Mahdi to resign as well as the crisis that emerged thereafter, especially prosecuting killers of protesters who revolted against the government in 2019.20 The country is also plagued with health and public crisis as a result of worldwide Covid-19 outbreak. Iraq has the lowest vaccination rate in the region. Till date, about one million people have been fully vaccinated, representing less than 2 per cent of the population.21

The government will also have to be very careful in allotting oil-rich states to political parties. Baghdad draws 94 per cent of its budget from the revenue generated from oil.22 The 2021 Iraqi budget was US$ 89 billion, with an estimated deficit of US$ 19 billion which was calculated on the basis of its oil-selling price of US$ 45 per barrel.23 The challenge is to use this revenue to improve lives of Iraqis, rather than coming under pressure and dividing it within the networks of ruling political parties.

Another challenge would be the reconstruction of the country. From 2003 to 2014, more than US$ 220 billion were spent on rebuilding the country. In the post-ISIS period, Iraq held a reconstruction conference in Kuwait where key international donors pledged US$ 30 billion. Till date, many of the promised funds have not been transferred due to the corruption and mismanagement of funds by the previous government.24 Without greater accountability and transparency in the government, it would be extremely difficult to break the cycle of corruption and inefficiency and gain trust of the donors.

Besides, security challenges represent a vital concern since militias affiliated to ISIS continue to carry out sporadic attacks across the country, leading to a number of casualties and financial losses.25 As compared to the 2014 ISIS uprising, the terrorist groups are down to 5 per cent. However, experts state that capturing or killing small groups is much more difficult than killing militants in open battles. Surgical counter-terrorism raids will need to be undertaken for at least 5–10 years to eliminate the remaining terrorists.26 Counter-terrorism operations would also mean that the new government will have to collaborate with Iran-backed PMU, which was established to help Iraq defeat the ISIS in 2014.

Regional Challenges

Since the 2003 US-led invasion, every government in Iraq has needed a go-ahead from Tehran and Washington. For instance, in 2018, Iran and the US compromised on the appointment of Al-Kadhimi as the prime minister. It is crucial for the new government to maintain good relations with Iran as well the US for two reasons. First, for negotiating the Status of Force Agreement (SOFA) with the US, to remove its combat troops from Iraq by end of 2021.27 Second, to continue signaling to the new Raisi Ebrahim government that Iraq wants strong ties with Iran based on the “principle of non-interference in the internal affairs” of the country.28 It would also build trust among Iraqi population who demanded removal of foreign influence in the country in October 2019 protest. However, it is not going to be easy for the new government.

While the demand of US withdrawal is strongest among the PMU, especially after the January 2020 US drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s expeditionary Quds force, and PMU Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, it is resisted by others, especially the Kurdish parties.29 Also, there is a growing demand from the Kurds30 and Sunnis for normalising relations with the US’ closet ally, Israel—another unwelcome development to Iran and its affiliate groups in Iraq.31

Along with the Kurds, the Gulf countries that remain deeply concerned about Iranian influence in the region, will certainly look for ways to make sure the new government stays close to the US and its allies.32 In fact, the two dominant Gulf powers Saudi Arabia and UAE view Israel as a formidable partner that is willing to act forcibly to counter its regional adversary—Iran.

While Russia, along with Iran views Iraq as another theatre in which it can work to end the US-led world order and re-establish itself as a dominant power, but in doing so damages Iraqi stability. Russia exploits and exacerbates tensions in the US–Iraqi ties to accelerate the US withdrawal from the region. Kremlin’s increasing ties with Iran’s proxy militia network in Iraq could threaten not only Iraqi stability but also US forces and interests in Iraq and Syria. 

Another challenge for Baghdad is to deal with Turkey which is increasingly disregarding Iraqi stability. In 2018, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan launched a formal operation against the Kurds in Iraq.33 The Baghdad administration as well as the Iran-backed paramilitary groups condemned Turkish attack as an infringement upon its country’s sovereignty. Iraq has also filed a formal complaint against Turkey.34 On the other side, Erdogan claims that it is an act of self-defense since Iraqi government failed to prevent its land being used as a base to attack Turkish border.35

With the October 2021 election, Ankara is looking for a new government in Baghdad with which it can coordinate and in particular, not block Turkish soldiers from carrying out continuous attacks on PKK (Kurdistan Workers’ Party) and its hideouts on the northern border. However, given the majority of seats Kurdish parties secured in the 2021 election, it is clear that they will not only play a major role in the formation of government but will also influence Iraq’s regional policies. The new government will have to be very careful in negotiating these issues, keeping the interests of the state, political parties and the people into consideration. Any miscalculation could lead to the downfall of the government.

Conclusion

Since the fall of the Saddam regime in 2003, Iraq has not been able to gain political stability or made any economic progress. The removal of the Saddam regime exposed the ethnic fault-lines within the country and various ethnic groups started fighting to gain power and exercise it to their own benefit. Since the Shi’ite constitute the majority of Iraqi population, they were able to gain the most powerful posts due to the electoral political calculations. However, their ways of undermining the interests of other groups have only deteriorated the political crisis further. The gulf between the various ethnic groups has also led to rampant corruption and poor governance. Also, increasing disentitlement of the Sunnis led to the rise of ISIS.

However, holding the elections and formation of governments in Iraq has generated hope, especially since corrupt politicians and leaders were forced to resign by mass protests. The latest election was also an outcome of such protests. The result of the elections had given a new picture, unlike in the past. The Iraqi nationalist parties have emerged as the main gainers. This has generated hope that the new government will try to address the issues of political instability, economic crisis, inflation, unemployment, among others. The government will also have to maintain a balance between the US, the Arab allies and Iran, the main external actors active in Iraq. Given the number and intensity of the challenges, the new government will have to show some extraordinary diplomatic skills to manage them.

Views expressed are of the author and do not necessarily reflect the views of the Manohar Parrikar IDSA or of the Government of India.

*About the author: Nagapushpa Devendra is Research Analyst at Manohar Parrikar Institute for Defence Studies and Analyses

Iran Raises Nuclear Stakes: Daniel 8

UN atomic watchdog: Iran further raising nuclear stockpile

UN atomic watchdog: Iran further raising nuclear stockpile

A technician works at the Uranium Conversion Facility just outside the city of Isfahan, Iran. (AP/File))

  • Iran has an estimated stock of 17.7 kilograms of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity

VIENNA: The United Nations’ atomic watchdog says it believes Iran has further increased its stockpile of highly enriched uranium in breach of a 2015 accord with world powers.
The International Atomic Energy Agency told member nations in its confidential quarterly report Wednesday that Iran has an estimated stock of 17.7 kilograms of uranium enriched to up to 60 percent fissile purity, an increase of almost 8 kilograms since August.
Such highly enriched uranium can be easily refined to make atomic weapons, which is why world powers have sought to contain Tehran’s nuclear program.
The Vienna-based agency told members that it is still not able to verify Iran’s exact stockpile of enriched uranium due to the limitations Tehran imposed on UN inspectors earlier this year.
The IAEA has been unable to access surveillance footage of Iranian nuclear sites or of online enrichment monitors and electronic seals since February. The agency’s chief, Rafael Mariano Grossi, told The Associated Press this month that the situation was like “flying in a heavily clouded sky.”
In a separate report to member states Wednesday about its work in Iran, the agency said Grossi was concerned about inspectors “being subjected to excessively invasive physical searches by security officials at nuclear facilities in Iran.”
“He reiterates the call upon Iran to take immediate steps to remedy the situation, and to implement security procedures at nuclear facilities that are consistent with internationally accepted security practices and Iran’s legal obligations in relation to privileges and immunities of the agency and its inspectors,” the IAEA said, according to the confidential quarterly report seen by The Associated Press.
The agency said it “categorically rejects” the idea its cameras at Iranian nuclear sites played a role in a sabotage attack on the Karaj facility near Tehran in June. Iran accuses Israel of being behind the incident.
A senior diplomat who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity said the searches of the inspectors carried out in Iran were very time-consuming and made some feel intimidated. The diplomat was not authorized to be named while speaking to the media about the visits.
Grossi is expected to travel to Tehran this month for direct talks with Iranian officials on restoring the agency’s ability to know in real-time what the country is doing.

Israel fires at Gaza fishing boats outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israel fires at Gaza fishing boats

August 20, 2021

Bullet holes can be seen following the Israeli attack on a Palestinian fishing boat off the coast of Gaza on 25 February 2018 [Mohammed Asad/Middle East Monitor]November 17, 2021 at 12:44 pm 

Israeli gunboats this morning opened fire at Palestinian fishing boats off the coast of the besieged Gaza Strip.

According to local sources, gunboats fired projectiles into the sea near boats off the shore of as-Sudaniya area, northwest of Gaza.

Gunboats also opened fire at other fishing boats off the Gaza shore. No one was hurt in the attacks.

Under the 1993 Oslo accords, Palestinian fishermen are permitted to fish up to 20 nautical miles off the coast of Gaza, but Israel continuously reduces the fishing area, often limiting it to between three to six nautical miles as part of its blockade on Gaza.

According to the Palestinian Fishermen’s Association in Gaza, there are some 4,000 fishermen working in Gaza’s fishing sector, who are looking after about 50,000 dependents.

The profession has been deemed dangerous by rights organisations due to Israel’s harassment of fishermen at sea.

Last year alone, Israeli occupation forces attacked Palestinian fishermen off the coast of the Gaza Strip on at least 320 occasions, the Union of Agricultural Work Committees (UAWC) reported, 63 more attacks than the previous year. Israel also closed the fishing area altogether for 16 days in August.