The Iranian horn is still calling the shots in Iraq: Daniel 8:3

Iran’s supreme leader ‘directly ordered Iraqi armed factions to stop attacking US interests after taking UK advice’

It was Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei who last week directly ordered Iraqi armed factions to halt their attacks on US interests after taking advice from the UK, Middle East Eye (MEE) said in an exclusive report on October 22.

Shia armed factions and politicians were cited as saying Khamenei’s orders were “explicit” and demanded the paramilitaries “immediately” cease their attacks.

The US embassy in Baghdad, military bases hosting the US-led coalition forces in Iraq and logistical support convoys were subjected to near daily attacks with Katyusha rockets, explosives and sometimes direct fire over the past three months. In response, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo threatened to close Washington’s embassy in Baghdad unless the attackers were brought to heel. MEE said Iraqi officials informed it that Pompeo also pledged to strike dozens of targets, including secret headquarters and sites belonging to armed factions and Iranian-backed politicians.

Iraqi officials were quoted as saying the US administration was afraid that armed groups linked to Iran would attack the Baghdad embassy to embarrass US President Donald Trump ahead of the November 3 American presidential election.

Avoid provoking Trump”

MEE said it had determined that it was the UK that gave Iran “very important advice”, namely, in the words of a cited politician, “to avoid provoking Trump at this stage as he is serious about his threats and because he is desperate and will not hesitate to do a reckless act that will cost everyone dearly”.

Much on minds in Iran right is how Tehran would respond to Joe Biden’s proposals for bringing the US back into the nuclear deal abandoned by Trump in 2018 should Biden win the White House.

Iran’s reformists and centrists remain badly damaged by the failure of the original agreement, signed by centrist, pragmatic President Hassan Rouhani, to deliver economic benefits to ordinary Iranians. The hardliners were always against signing up to the deal, saying the US could never be trusted.

In a recent interview in Kar Va Kargar, Iran’s foreign minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, insisted the foreign ministry had not been naive to negotiate with the Americans, but said Trump had “blown up the entire negotiating room”.

Rouhani is due to leave office after Iran’s presidential election in early 2021. As reported by the Guardian on October 22, Iran’s weakened government may only have a few months to negotiate a revived nuclear deal before facing its own electoral challenge by hardliners who oppose any engagement with the West.

Biden has pledged that “if Iran returns to strict compliance with the nuclear deal, the US would rejoin the agreement as a starting point for follow-on negotiations”. But even if he does win the US presidency, Biden would not take office until January 20, leaving only a narrow window for reformists to convince Iranians that the path of engagement is worth trying again.

Iran, meanwhile, would be likely to demand compensation for the massive economic losses caused to it by Trump walking out of the nuclear deal and imposing crushing sanctions.

Extremists want Rouhani impeachment

Al-Monitor reported on October 20 that extremists among the opponents of Rouhani are calling for his impeachment and even execution after he suggested rapprochement with the US could happen.

“Mr. Rouhani! Today, the absolute majority of the Iranian public demands nothing less than your dismissal and punishment,” the publication reported Mojtaba Zolnouri, a hardline lawmaker from the Paydari camp as tweeting. Paydari is shaped by the staunchest Rouhani critics known for their intolerance toward engagement with the West. Zolnouri, who also chairs the Iranian parliament’s influential National Security and Foreign Policy Commission, went further: “The supreme leader should issue a ruling on hanging you a thousand times.”

Israeli warplanes attack Hamas positions outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli warplanes attack Hamas positions in Gaza Strip

Palestinian sources said Israeli military hit two agricultural areas in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah.

Flames are seen following an Israeli air attack in the town of Deir al-Balah in the central Gaza Strip [Said Khatib/AFP]

Israeli warplanes have carried out an air raid targeting Hamas positions in the besieged Gaza Strip, according to the Israeli army.

Israeli army spokesman Avichay Adraee said on Twitter that the raids late on Tuesday hit a purported tunnel belonging to the Palestinian group Hamas, adding that the attack had been carried out in response to rocket fire from Gaza.

However, Palestinian witnesses on the ground said two agricultural areas in Khan Younis and Deir al-Balah were hit by three missiles.

Earlier, the Israeli army said a rocket fired from the Khan Younis area had been “intercepted by the Iron Dome” aerial defence system, without indicating if it had caused any casualties or damage.

No group has claimed responsibility for the rocket, nor has any comment been made about it by Palestinian authorities.

No information on casualties from either attack has been reported so far.

Several hours before the rocket was fired from Khan Younis on Tuesday, the Israeli army announced it had found a tunnel that crossed “dozens of metres into Israel from Gaza”.

Israeli army spokesman Jonathan Conricus said Israel did not know who had dug the tunnel, but said it held Hamas responsible for all activity in the Palestinian enclave.

Palestinians have used underground tunnels to smuggle all manner of commercial goods into Gaza.

The impoverished and densely populated Gaza Strip has been under a crippling Israeli blockade since 2007, after Hamas took over the coastal enclave.

Hamas and Israel reached an agreement at the end of September to cease hostilities, although attacks continued.

Israel has launched three offensives against the Gaza Strip since 2008, and there have been numerous flare-ups.

Israeli warplanes, helicopters launch fresh air strikes outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli warplanes, helicopters launch fresh air strikes on Gaza

Israeli warplanes, helicopters launch fresh air strikes on Gaza


October 21, 2020 – 8:52 AM News


AhlulBayt News Agency (ABNA): Israeli warplanes and helicopters have carried out fresh strikes on the besieged Gaza Strip, targeting farmlands in the coastal enclave.

Palestinian media reported that the Israeli airstrikes targeted farmlands in the Gaza city of Deir al-Balah late on Tuesday.

There were no immediate reports of casualties from the attacks.

The English-language Times of Israel online newspaper and the Jerusalem Post daily paper claimed that the Israeli artillery had targeted an “underground facility” belonging to the Palestinian Hamas resistance movement in the southern Gaza Strip.

Israeli media said the regime’s latest airstrikes came in response to rocket fire from the Gaza Strip.

Rocket sirens were reportedly activated in several towns surrounding the besieged enclave on Tuesday evening.

Israeli forces regularly carry out airstrikes on Gaza, citing Palestinian rocket attacks or flying of incendiary balloons from the blockaded territory.

Gaza has been under Israeli siege since June 2007, which has caused a decline in living standards.

Israel has also launched three major wars against the enclave since 2008, killing thousands of Gazans each time and shattering the impoverished territory’s already poor infrastructure.

The crippling blockade has caused a decline in the standard of living as well as unprecedented levels of unemployment and unrelenting poverty in the Gaza Strip.

Another Wind from God’s Wrath: Jeremiah 23

Caribbean storm system could affect South Florida; Hurricane Epsilon’s winds drop to 85 mph near Bermuda

By ROBIN WEBB, BROOKE BAITINGER, VICTORIA BALLARD and CHRIS PERKINS

SOUTH FLORIDA SUN SENTINEL

OCT 22, 2020 AT 6:04 PM

South Floridians should keep an eye on an area of low pressure in the southwestern Caribbean Sea between Mexico’s Yucatan Peninsula and Cuba.

The system is likely to bring heavy rain to South Florida through early next week. It’s too early to tell if the system will track over the peninsula.

It has a 10% chance of developing in the next two days and a 30% chance of developing in the next five days, the National Hurricane Center said.

The next named storm to form would be called Zeta.

Near Bermuda, Hurricane Epsilon lost a bit more strength Thursday afternoon. Epsilon is still a Category 1 storm, but its winds are down to 85 mph, according to the 5 p.m. advisory from the hurricane center.

The 85 mph reading represents a 15 mph drop in wind speed since the 8 a.m. advisory.

Epsilon, the season’s 10th hurricane, was 200 miles east of Bermuda and moving north-northwest at 9 mph.

Tropical-storm-force winds extend outward up to 240 miles, a 70-mile reduction from Thursday afternoon. Hurricane-force winds extend 15 miles from the center.

“Satellite images indicate that the eye of Epsilon has lost definition over the past several hours,” the hurricane center said.

Epsilon is expected to track northward overnight and continue on that path for the next day or two. It could strengthen slightly as it has a trough interaction and travels over a small warm eddy near the Gulf Stream either Friday or Saturday.

But Epsilon isn’t expected to reach Category 2 status (winds between 96 and 110 mph) again.

Epsilon, the earliest 26th-named storm on record in the Atlantic, is expected to stay well out to sea and doesn’t pose a direct threat to the U.S.

A tropical storm warning remains in effect for Bermuda. Tropical storm conditions are expected intermittently on Bermuda through Thursday night, forecasters said, when Epsilon is expected to make it closest approach east of the island.

Epsilon’s large swells will bring life-threatening surf and rip current conditions to South Florida’s beaches. The large swells will also affect Bermuda, the Bahamas, the Greater Antilles, the Leeward Islands, and Atlantic Canada during the next few days.

The forecast track for Hurricane Epsilon as of 5 p.m. Thursday, Oct. 22, 2020. (National Hurricane Center)

Epsilon is expected to become a non-tropical cyclone over the weekend.

The busy 2020 hurricane season is rivaling the 2005 season, which had a record 27 named storms and a record total of 28 storms.

“One unnamed subtropical storm was found in post-analysis of the 2005 season, thus bringing that season’s record total to 28 storms,” according to The Weather Channel.

This is the second time in recorded history that Epsilon has been used as a storm name — the first was Nov. 29, 2005. That storm, according to AccuWeather, was also “the longest-lived December hurricane on record.”

It also broke the previous record of earliest 26th named storm ever to form. The previous record-holder was a storm called Delta that formed on Nov. 22, 2005, according to Phil Klotzbach, head meteorologist at Colorado State University.

Hurricane Epsilon marks the fifth time in the satellite era (since 1966) the Atlantic basin has had at least 10 hurricanes by Oct. 20, according to Klotzbach, joining 2017, 2005, 1995 and 1969.

Further, Klotzbach said this year’s 90 named storm days is sixth-most in the satellite era after 2017, 2012, 2005, 2004 and 1995.

Because 2020 is a La Niña year, forecasters expect late-season storm activity to increase in October and possibly even carry into November.

Remarkably, none of the storms that have made landfall in the continental U.S. this year have hit Florida. October storms often threaten Florida as they move north and then northeastward.

The official last day of hurricane season is Nov. 30.

Robin Webb

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Robin Webb is the morning news editor for the South Florida Sun Sentinel. Prior to joining the Sun Sentinel in early 2020, Webb was a breaking news editor for The Palm Beach Post, an assistant editor for USA TODAY, and weekend editor for The Washington Post.

Brooke Baitinger

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Brooke Baitinger covers all things South Florida for the Sun Sentinel, her hometown newspaper. That includes criminal justice, coronavirus, plenty of hurricanes and breaking news. She studied journalism at the University of Florida. When she’s not writing stories, she likes running, riding horses or hanging out with her little black cat, Michonne.

Victoria Ballard

South Florida Sun Sentinel

Victoria Ballard is a senior content editor at the Sun Sentinel. A longtime Florida resident, she supervises the government and education teams. She previously worked at two newspapers in Southern California.

Chris Perkins

Chris Perkins is the Sun Sentinel’s weather and wild Florida reporter. Previously, he covered the Miami Dolphins for the Sun Sentinel and was a sports writer for The Athletic. He was born in Chicago and reared in Texas, and has covered the Miami Heat, University of Miami, University of Texas, TCU, MMA, boxing, and a host of other sports.

The Clandestine Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel 8

Iran Regime’s Clandestine Pursuit Of Nuclear Weapons – OpEd

Arab NewsOctober 23, 2020

General area of Tehran with Sorkheh-Hessar Iranian nuclear site. (Supplied)

General area of Tehran with Sorkheh-Hessar Iranian nuclear site. (Supplied)

By Dr. Majid Rafizadeh*

Any policy analysts, scholars or politicians who still advocate for a return to the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, aka the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), must recognize how the Iranian regime used the agreement as cover to further intensify its controversial nuclear projects.

Several credible reports and statements from senior Iranian officials have made it clear that Tehran was advancing its nuclear development even after the P5+1 (the US, the UK, France, Russia, China, and Germany) and Iran signed the nuclear deal in 2015.

A report published last week by the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) shows that Tehran was lying to the world when it said it had stopped its nuclear activities under the JCPOA. The report claims that the Iranian regime continued to pursue the development of nuclear weapons, particularly at the Organization of Defensive Innovation and Research, which operates within the Ministry of Defense and is controlled by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).

The NCRI had previously been the first to reveal Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities at two major sites, Natanz and Arak, in 2000. Due to its connections in Iran, its information is said to have a high level of credibility. Frank Pabian, an adviser on nuclear non-proliferation matters at the Los Alamos National Laboratory, told The New York Times in 2010 that the NCRI is “right 90 percent of the time.”

This new revelation should not come as a surprise, since the Tehran regime has a history of hiding its nuclear developments from the international community.

In his 2018 speech to the UN General Assembly, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu broke a story when he stated that Iran had a “secret atomic warehouse for storing massive amounts of equipment and material from (its) secret nuclear weapons program,” at a time when the regime claimed it was complying with the terms of the nuclear deal. Although Iranian leaders insisted that the nuclear warehouse was a carpet cleaning facility, traces of radioactive uranium were later detected at the site by International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) inspectors.

In addition, Israel’s seizure of documents from a nuclear archive in Tehran, also in 2018, answered some questions that the IAEA had failed to address for decades. The Institute for Science and International Security (ISIS) subsequently reported: “Iran intended to build five nuclear warheads, each with an explosive yield of 10 kilotons and able to be delivered by ballistic missile.”

Even the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, Ali Akbar Salehi, openly admitted to quietly purchasing replacement parts for its Arak nuclear reactor while Iran was conducting the negotiations for the JCPOA, under which it was required to destroy the original components. He recalled last year: “The leader (Ayatollah Ali Khamenei) warned us that they (the P5+1) were violators of agreements. We had to act wisely.”

He added of the Arak nuclear reactor core: “There are tubes where the fuel goes. We had bought similar tubes, but I could not declare this at the time. When they told us to pour cement into the tubes… we said: ‘Fine. We will pour.’ But we did not tell them that we had other tubes. Otherwise, they would have told us to pour cement into those tubes as well. Now we have the same tubes.”

Furthermore, IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi in March raised serious concerns about possible clandestine and undeclared nuclear sites in Iran. He said: “The agency identified a number of questions related to possible undeclared nuclear material and nuclear-related activities at three locations in Iran. The agency sought access to two of the locations. Iran has not provided access to these locations and has not engaged in substantive discussions to clarify the agency’s questions.”

These developments demonstrate that the nuclear deal only paved the way for the Iranian regime to intensify its dangerous nuclear activities. The JCPOA provided the regime’s leaders with vast additional funding, most of which was funneled into the treasury of the IRGC for its ballistic missile and nuclear projects.

Now, the Iranian regime’s estimated breakout time — the time required to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for one nuclear weapon — is as short as three and a half months. It is violating all of the restrictions of the JCPOA, including by increasing its stockpile of low-enriched uranium from 1,020.9 kg to 1,571.6 kg as of May 20. That is nearly eight times more than the regime was allowed to maintain under the nuclear deal.

According to an ISIS report released last month: “A new development is that Iran may have enough low-enriched uranium to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for a second nuclear weapon, where the second one could be produced more quickly than the first, requiring in total as little as 5.5 months to produce enough weapons-grade uranium for two nuclear weapons.”

Iran’s clandestine nuclear activities underline the fact that appeasing and providing relief to the regime will only empower and enable it to further pursue its controversial atomic weapon ambitions.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated Iranian-American political scientist. Twitter: @Dr_Rafizadeh

The New Space Wars: Revelation 16

NATO to set up new space center amid China, Russia concerns

By LORNE COOK – 10/22/20 5:57 PM

KESTER, Belgium — To a few of the locals, the top-secret, fenced-off installation on the hill is known as “the radar station.” Some folks claim to have seen mysterious Russians in the area. Over the years, rumors have swirled that it might be a base for U.S. nuclear warheads.

It’s easy to see how the rumors start. The site is visually striking. Four huge white Kevlar balls sit like giant spherical spacecraft in a compound in the middle of open farm country 25 kilometers (16 miles) west of Belgium’s capital, Brussels.

But the Kester Satellite Ground Station is both safer and more sophisticated than local lore might suggest. It’s central to space communications at NATO — the biggest and most modern of four such stations the military alliance runs.

Around 2,000 satellites orbit the earth, over half operated by NATO countries, ensuring everything from mobile phone and banking services to weather forecasts. NATO commanders in places like Afghanistan or Kosovo rely on some of them to navigate, communicate, share intelligence and detect missile launches.

This week, the site at Kester is set to fall under a new orbit, when NATO announces that it is creating a space center to help manage satellite communications and key parts of its military operations around the world.

In December, NATO leaders declared space to be the alliance’s “fifth domain” of operations, after land, sea, air and cyberspace. Over two days of talks starting Thursday, NATO defense ministers will greenlight a new space center at the alliance’s Air Command in Ramstein, Germany.

“This will be a focal point for ensuring space support to NATO operations, sharing information and coordinating our activities,” NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said before the meeting.

It’s part of the alliance’s efforts to keep ahead in a fast moving and hi-tech sector, particularly amid concern about what member countries say is increasingly aggressive behavior in space by China and Russia.

Around 80 countries have satellites and private companies are moving in too. In the 1980s, just a fraction of NATO’s communications was via satellite. Today, it’s at least 40%. During the Cold War, NATO had more than 20 stations, but new technologies mean the world’s biggest security organization can double its coverage with a fifth of that number.

At Kester, behind a double security fence, massive steel gates and bulletproof glass in a facility that can withstand a terror attack or any attempt to jam communications, four satellite dishes ensconced in Kevlar domes connect NATO’s civilian and military headquarters in Belgium to their operations around the world.

From their elevated position, the dishes — two of them 16 meters (52 feet) in diameter — beam information and imagery down across Europe and over Africa into space above the equator where satellites owned by allies like the United States, Britain, France and Italy orbit. NATO itself doesn’t own any satellites.

Around the globe, commanders in ships, aircraft and mobile or static headquarters decrypt the data to gather orders, pictures and intelligence, prepare missions, or move troops and military equipment. From Kester, new lines of communication can be set up for NATO within a half-hour.

Much of the facility is encased in thick steel plates, including the ducts where cables run, to withstand any attack by electromagnetic pulses — high bursts of energy that can knock out electrical power grids or destroy electronic circuit boards and components.

But NATO allies are increasingly concerned about other kinds of attacks using anti-satellite weapons miles above the earth which could wreak havoc below and leave dangerous debris adrift in space.

“Some nations – including Russia and China – are developing anti-satellite systems which could blind, disable or shoot down satellites and create dangerous debris in orbit. We must increase our understanding of the challenges in space and our ability to address them,” Stoltenberg said.

For the moment, the military alliance insists that its “approach will remain defensive and fully in line with international law.” And despite the strides being made in the “fifth domain,” Stoltenberg has repeatedly said over the last year that “NATO has no intention to put weapons in space.”

This bombshell US-Russia nuclear deal is a diversionary tactic

A bombshell US-Russia nuclear deal? Or a diversionary tactic?

By Tara D. Sonenshine, Opinion Contributor

October 21, 2020 – 07:00 PM EDT

Through enterprising reporting by Michael Gordon in The Wall Street Journal, we first learned that the U.S. and Russia were on the verge of an arms-control deal that would freeze the number of nuclear warheads on each side and extend the New START agreement for a year. That’s a pretty big deal a few weeks before a presidential election at a time when we are concerned about Russian interference in the election.

The landmark New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty, set to expire on February 5, is the last treaty between the U.S. and Russia placing limits on the growth of the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals. It put a limit on the number of warheads deployed by each side to 1,550. But the follow-on was left unclear. What seemed like a frozen issue regarding an extension of that nuclear agreement suddenly appears to have thawed with the release of statements from Moscow and Washington:

The United States is prepared to meet immediately to finalize a verifiable agreement. We expect Russia to empower its diplomats to do the same,” said a State Department statement. The Russian Foreign Ministry said in a statement that the country “proposes extending New START for one year, and at the same time, it stands ready, together with the U.S., to assume a political obligation on freezing a number of the nuclear warheads possessed by the parties for this period.”

Why now? How serious are these statements?

On the one hand, the news throws a bit of a public diplomacy curve ball to Vice President Biden just days before a presidential debate. Should he embrace this idea or express skepticism? 

First, it is worth underscoring that arms control is always in the national interest, and reducing the dangers of a nuclear conflagration is part of what all Americans should want from their leaders. In the case of Russia, where, together with the United States, 90 percent of the world’s nuclear weapons exist, it is critical that we make progress on reigning in the numbers of weapons with agreements that can be monitored and verified. So, we should all welcome any progress on that front in the sense of a big picture. 

Given its timing, this announcement seems more political in nature than anything else. The details have not been fleshed out or likely negotiated, and with these kinds of treaties, the devil is always in the details. Yes, this is a good step, but we should have a lot of questions about how these goals could actually be met, legally and legislatively. 

We know very little about how the United States and Russia would actually monitor and inspect each other’s nuclear warhead production sites – a new twist, and what legally binding agreements could be reached to see one another’s highly sensitive warhead locations.

Second, noticeably absent from the American and Russian statements are any mention of the inclusion of the Chinese or Europeans – both of whom are critical to long-term arms control success. 

Another big sticking point will be Senate ratification of any upcoming agreement that might flow from this framework agreement. With the Senate potentially about to change in complexion, it seems highly unlikely that hearings will be scheduled immediately to examine the intentions of both sides. With U.S.-Russia relations at a low point, this is not going to be an easy road.

Nobody wants a nuclear war. That’s the easy part. The rest is very complex. America and Russia have been negotiating treaties to limit nuclear weapons since the now-famous SALT negotiations in the early 1970s. The Strategic Arms Limitation Talks were aimed at curtailing the manufacture of strategic missiles capable of carrying nuclear weapons.

Subsequent agreements were reached in the early 1990s and then the major milestone in a New Start Treaty signed in February 2011 – the one due to expire in February.

But so much has happened between the United States and Russia with investigations of hacking, charges of cyber intrusions in Western elections, alleged poisoning of Russians and the minefield of issues around Russia and Ukraine that culminated in impeachment hearings. It is fair to be skeptical about whether or not this is really an arms control announcement or just a diversion from COVID-19 and other global unpleasantness. 

My advice would be to embrace the big picture goal of arms control but not get backed into a corner on the details. Where we can all agree is on the need to put restraints on nuclear weapons. In a time of massive disagreement, that’s a useful place to begin. 

Tara D. Sonenshine is former U.S. under secretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs.

Iraqi leader battles pressure from the Antichrist

Iraqi leader battles pressure from friends and foes in security crackdown

Syndicated ContentOct 21, 2020 6:18 AM

Oct 21, 2020 6:18 AM

BAGHDAD (Reuters) – It was a series of intercepted phone calls on a tense night in June that made Iraq’s new prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi fully realise how few friends he had.

During one call, a senior Iraqi leader with strong ties to Iran instructed the security chief for Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, which hosts government buildings and foreign embassies, not to stand in the way of militiamen who were storming the area, two Iraqi security officials said.

The militiamen were angry at the arrest of comrades accused of firing anti-U.S. rockets. During the hours-long standoff, the militia detained several members of a U.S.-trained counter-terrorism force, according to the security officials and two militia sources.

On the June 25 call, the leader with ties to Iran warned the Green Zone security chief, Shihab al-Khiqani, that “a clash would open the gates of hell” between the militias and the forces guarding the area, according to one of the security officials, who viewed a transcript of the call. The second security official and the two militia sources corroborated that call and said Khiqani was told by militia commanders in other phone conversations that night to avoid any standoff with the paramilitaries.

Kadhimi, a former intelligence chief and U.S. ally who had been in the Green Zone that night, learned of the conversations around a week later, after launching an investigation into the events, the two security officials said. They said it shook him, serving as a stark lesson about his enemies’ power.

Kadhimi fired Khiqani immediately after the investigation and embarked on a wide-ranging purge of top state security posts that he presses on with – now under renewed U.S. pressure.

The communications intercepted by Iraqi security services on the night of June 25 brought home the stark reality for Kadhimi that despite being backed by Washington, he could not even trust Iraqi government forces to stop Iran-backed militias running rampant outside his offices.

It set the tone for Kadhimi’s premiership, which has been marked by attempts to exert control over a fractious Iraqi state while placating both an unpredictable White House and the anti-U.S., Iran-aligned groups that want him to fail.

Since taking office in May after being Iraq’s third prime minister-designate in 10 weeks, a key part of Kadhimi’s policy is to reduce the stranglehold Iran-backed militias have developed on large parts of Iraq’s security forces since the U.S.-led ouster of Saddam Hussein in 2003.

But he operates in a complicated political reality that limits his ability to make changes, say security officials, militia leaders, senior politicians and Western diplomats.

They say Kadhimi’s approach might work but question whether his interim cabinet can make a difference before a general election expected as early as June.

The prime minister has recently had to contend with a threat from Washington to close its embassy if he cannot stop anti-U.S. rocket attacks by pro-Iran militias, and demands from the militias that he boot out American troops or they will escalate attacks on Western targets.

“The Americans want Kadhimi to go further and faster. He’s saying I can’t without toppling my government or starting a civil war,” one Western diplomat said.

Iraqi government spokesman Ahmed Mulla Talal said the prime minister had implemented many changes in the leadership of the security forces but that it was unrealistic to expect total reform within five months. “You can’t describe the big changes Kadhimi has made as being slow” because of the mismanagement of the security system by previous governments over the past 17 years, he said.

He described the U.S. talk of closing its embassy as “a worrying step for the Iraqi government” but said “there is no pressure from any side to move faster on any step.”

The spokesman didn’t respond to specific questions about the June 25 call or Kadhimi’s response to it.

Kadhimi, a former journalist who regularly removes his tie to jump into helicopters and tour different provinces, has talked candidly about many challenges facing his government but has avoided mentioning specific militias that stand in his way. “I will not tolerate rogue groups hijacking our homeland to create chaos,” he tweeted days before the Green Zone incident.

In response to questions about U.S. pressure and Kadhimi’s record, a U.S. embassy official said Iraq had a “duty to protect diplomatic premises … but overall we are pleased that Iraq is taking steps to strengthen security for diplomatic missions in Baghdad.”

BOLD MOVE

Iraqi lawmakers chose Kadhimi as prime minister, with nods from both Iran and the United States – two countries that have repeatedly clashed in Iraq. His predecessor resigned last year as anti-government protesters took to the streets in their thousands, demanding jobs and the departure of Iraq’s ruling elite. Protesters blame many of Iraq’s ills on Iran-aligned militias and parties.

Kadhimi’s team, through frequent social media messaging, portray him as an uncompromising leader who will stop at nothing to wipe out rogue groups.

It was his first bold move against the militias that triggered that tense night in June. He ordered the U.S.-trained Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS) to detain 14 members of the most powerful Iran-aligned faction, Kataib Hezbollah, in response to rocket attacks on U.S. targets.

Militiamen led by Kataib Hezbollah’s top commander circled the Green Zone with guns in pick-up trucks and detained the CTS members. To pull the paramilitaries off, Kadhimi had to turn to his rivals, calling the same commanders and senior Iraqi leader tied to Iran who he later learned had told Khiqani to stand down that night.

The militiamen left, but not before getting guarantees their comrades would be let go. Over the coming days, they were.

The sources, who spoke on condition of anonymity, asked Reuters not to name the senior Iraqi leader and commanders because it would also identify them. Their accounts were corroborated by the five militia sources and political insiders with knowledge of the incident.

A Kataib Hezbollah spokesman denied involvement in any recent rocket attacks against Western targets. He said the group was not directly involved in the Green Zone storming, and that it was carried out by supporters of Iraq’s state paramilitary forces.

Khiqani could not immediately be reached for comment.

APPOINTMENTS AND APPEASEMENT

Kadhimi has in recent months announced a raft of new military and security appointments.

His pick to succeed Khiqani as chief of Green Zone security, appointed last month, is an officer trained at Britain’s Sandhurst military academy.

Other key appointments by Kadhimi include the reinstated and popular CTS commander Abdul Wahab al-Saidi and Interior Minister Uthman al-Ghanimi, both viewed by the West as competent and free of party political ties.

But some appointments have appeased political parties, including groups Kadhimi needs to counterweight the pro-Iran camp, and even some Iran-aligned figures, Iraqi politicians and Western diplomats say.

Interior Minister Ghanimi’s new deputy, Hussein Dhaif, belongs to the party of populist and unpredictable cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, who generally opposes Iranian influence but acts in his own interest and has sided with Iran when it has suited him.

National Security Adviser Qasim al-Araji, a former interior minister, is a member of the Iran-aligned Badr Organization that has long dominated the interior ministry.

Kadhimi is under enormous pressure from all political blocs which keep insisting on certain jobs. He’s trying to push back but can’t ignore them completely, so he’s had to take on appointments he perhaps wouldn’t have chosen,” the Western diplomat said.

BALANCING ACT

Kadhimi has had to play a similar balancing act abroad.

During his first foreign trip to Tehran in July, Kadhimi pledged not to let Iraq be used as a launch pad for aggression against its neighbour Iran. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei pressed the Iranian demand that U.S. troops leave Iraq.

On a visit to Washington the following month Kadhimi stressed that U.S. troops would long be needed to train Iraqi forces – a response to President Donald Trump’s assertion that America would eventually “obviously … be gone” and that the United States would continue to reduce the presence of its 5,000 remaining troops.

A key U.S. demand is for Kadhimi to force militias out of the Green Zone and stop rockets and roadside bomb attacks against diplomats and troops. Washington’s threat last month to close its embassy in Baghdad if attacks continued was a move Western diplomats said could pave the way for U.S. air strikes. A U.S. strike killed Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad in January pushing the region to the brink of conflict.

Iran-backed militias who are still spoiling for revenge for those deaths have paused attacks for now – partly thanks to the U.S. embassy threat – but are asking Kadhimi to make U.S. forces leave, or they will resume fire.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said last week that Iraq was doing more to protect diplomats in the Green Zone but declined to comment on whether Washington was still considering shutting its embassy.

The Kataib Hezbollah commander who led his men through the Green Zone in June, Abdul Aziz al-Mohammedawi, alias Abu Fadak, still occupies the office inside the zone of his slain superior Muhandis, according to militia officials, creating an uneasy presence of both his fighters and the U.S.-trained CTS counter-terror force.

No successful prosecutions over rocket attacks or killings of pro-democracy activists, a key promise by Kadhimi, have been made since he took office.

(Editing by Cassell Bryan-Low)

Shaking Before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12

2.2 magnitude earthquake in Dutchess County: USGS

By: Corey Crockett

CARMEL HAMLET, N.Y. — An earthquake preliminarily rated as a magnitude 2.2 was registered in Dutchess County Thursday afternoon.

U.S. Geological Survey records show the quake happened about 6 miles southeast of Merrit Park. It’s epicenter was in an area known as Carmel Hamlet and was 8 kilometers underground.

Recent Stories from pix11.com

Top Videos

Bronx job fair focuses on job placement with pandemic…

According to the USGS, an earthquake with a magnitude between 2 and 3 has the energy equivalent to a “moderate lightning bolt.”

They are much more frequent worldwide than larger quakes. Globally, there an average of 1 million magnitude 2 earthquakes per year, while there are only about 10,000 magnitude 4 earthquakes and 150 magnitude 6 earthquakes on average annually.

The Sixth Seal Is Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

Earthquake,Nuclear,Sixth Seal,york,new jersey,revelation 6,nyc,andrewtheprophet,indian point,Andrew the Prophet,

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be WaitingBy MARGO NASH Published: March 25, 2001Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.Q. What have you found?A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault? A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement.There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.MARGO NASH