Obama’s Errant Nuclear Policy (Ezekiel 17)

U.S. President Barack Obama’s commitment to preventing and rolling back the spread of nuclear weapons was clear from the first days of his administration, when he pledged in Prague in April 2009 “to seek the peace and security of a world without nuclear weapons.” The historic vow shattered precedent, seized international attention and helped him win the Nobel Peace Prize later that year. Yet as he prepares to leave office seven years later, it appears that with the exception of a fledgling nuclear deal with Iran, Obama will leave an arms control legacy that is arguably little better than that of his Republican predecessor, George W. Bush.
Indeed, in many ways, Obama’s presidency has served as an object lesson in the limits of a U.S. president’s ability to shape a global nuclear order amid competing tugs from foreign competitors and allies, domestic politics and bureaucratic factions. In the past several years, forces abroad—Russian President Vladimir Putin, North Korea—and at home—congressional Republicans, elements in the Defense and Energy Departments—have all challenged Obama’s vision to the point where his successor is now likely to be pressured to give nuclear weapons a renewed role in U.S. national security policy.
Obama’s Prague speech was born of both strategic and tactical considerations. Strategically, 9/11 and a perception of U.S. conventional dominance over global rivals had generated a strain of thinking that saw the elimination of nuclear weapons as not only a global good, but a means of bolstering U.S. national security. Nuclear weapons, the argument went, gave rogue states like Iran and North Korea, weaker conventional powers like Russia and China, and terrorists a means of leveling the playing the field with mighty U.S. conventional forces.
Those new power dynamics had led a group of four leading Cold Warriors—former Secretaries of State Henry Kissinger and George Shultz, former Defense Secretary William Perry and Sam Nunn, the former chairman of the Senate Armed Services Committee—to sound the call for the global elimination of nuclear weapons. Obama first made this cause his own during the 2008 presidential campaign.
But the Prague speech had a more practical and tactical aspect, as well. Splits between the European Union and the U.S. in particular and the Bush administration and other important global actors more generally had prevented Washington from winning support for imposing punishing sanctions on Iran for its nuclear program. Left essentially unchecked, Iran was proceeding with enriching enough uranium to provide the essential fissile material for a nuclear weapon. Placing efforts to restrict Iranian nuclear developments within a more appealing global vision for the elimination of all nuclear weapons helped Obama win European support for sanctions that pushed Iran into serious negotiations in 2012. In the long term, the success of the nuclear deal is likely to depend on whether Obama’s implicit bet pays off: That Iran will change sufficiently in the next decade that by the time many of the deal’s strictures expire, Tehran won’t feel compelled to race for a bomb.

Obama’s presidency has served as an object lesson in the limits of a U.S. president’s ability to shape a global nuclear order.

Still, the Prague speech was about more than Iran. Obama also sought to use it to advance other nuclear nonproliferation and arms control goals.
In an attempt to slow an escalating arms race between India and Pakistan, he pushed to move forward on two international treaties that had been negotiated by the Clinton administration but had met opposition either at home or abroad. The first was the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty (CTBT), banning all nuclear weapons tests and providing for verification measures to determine if such tests had occurred. In 1999, the Senate had defeated legislation ratifying it. The second was a treaty prohibiting the production of fissile material for nuclear weapons; Pakistan had become the major obstacle to beginning negotiations.
But today, neither the Senate nor Pakistan has budged in their opposition to the pacts. In fact, during Obama’s time in office, North Korea, which has not ratified the CTBT, has conducted three nuclear tests, following its first one in 2006. And Pakistan and India have increased their fissile material production.
One of Obama’s major policy innovations, presaged by his commitment in the Prague speech to launch an international effort to secure all fissile materials in four years, was a series of Nuclear Security Summits. At these meetings, he has brought together around 50 world leaders every two years to make further progress on efforts to prevent nuclear terrorism, which the Bush administration either began or sharply boosted after 9/11. The summits have succeeded in bringing high-level focus to the issue; in advancing the enactment of some important nuclear security treaties; and in clearing some countries and facilities of dangerous materials in civilian hands.
Yet with the last such summit set for this spring, Obama will leave behind a nuclear security regime that still has far too many holes. He failed to enact stronger measures to prevent sabotage of nuclear facilities, including cyberattacks. He also failed to provide sufficient security over the civil sector’s large volumes of highly enriched uranium, plutonium and radioactive sources useful for “dirty bombs,” as well as fissile materials under military supervision.
What’s standing in Obama’s way? A tendency for other countries—especially Russia, the world’s largest possessor of nuclear materials—to discount the danger of nuclear terrorism and/or resent U.S. attempts to lead on the issue. After Vladimir Putin’s return to the presidency in 2012, Moscow bowed out of a longstanding and highly successful bilateral nuclear security effort with the U.S. and has refused to attend this year’s Nuclear Security Summit.
Putin’s recalcitrance has tarnished another one of Obama’s achievements: the negotiation and 2010 approval of the new START treaty, which locked in U.S. and Russian strategic nuclear arsenals at the lowest levels in decades, after steep but unpublicized cuts in both country’s arsenals during the Bush administration. Touted as a moment to “reset” relations, the deal was supposed to be the first in a series of pacts that aimed to drive U.S. and Russian nuclear stockpiles toward zero.
Yet Russia, increasingly worried about U.S conventional and missile defense capabilities, had little interest in further nuclear cuts alone. In 2013 Moscow rebuffed an Obama initiative for a further one-third cut in arsenals, even before the standoff over Ukraine and allegations that Moscow violated the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty had soured the prospects for fresh talks.
To win Senate approval of the new START treaty, moreover, Obama had to swallow a poison pill: the promise of major investments in U.S. nuclear weapons and nuclear delivery systems. With China and Russia modernizing their nuclear and conventional weapons and eroding American military dominance, Washington has been pressed to upgrade its entire nuclear arsenal. That includes gravity bombs, air-launched cruise missiles and strategic intercontinental ballistic missiles launched from submarines and silos—all at an estimated cost of $1 trillion over the next 30 years.
In his Prague speech, Obama acknowledged that his goal of a world without nuclear weapons “will not be reached quickly—perhaps not in my lifetime.” But now the question for Obama’s successor is not how much more to cut America’s nuclear arsenal. Instead, it’s exactly how far he or she should go in building new nuclear weapons or upgrading old ones.
Miles Pomper is a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Washington, D.C.

Antichrist’s Army Takes Over Fragmented Iraq (Revelation 13)

No Authority: Shiite Militarization in a Fragmented Iraq

Ramzy Mardini Tuesday, Dec. 8, 2015

Over the course of its armed struggle with the self-proclaimed Islamic State, Iraq has devolved into a state captured by militias and foreign powers. The instability caused by a revived insurgency that took over Iraq’s second-largest city of Mosul in June 2014 has facilitated the emergence of new armed actors and deepened the influence of older ones. The level of security engagement Baghdad receives from the West, including cooperation with the 60-nation coalition against the Islamic State, has not strengthened Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s position. His government remains fragile and fragmented, unable to consolidate power and exercise authority over militias that have become necessary in its fight against the Islamic State. In addition, the prime minister is constrained by the inertia of the political system and the vested interests of powerful actors from his own Shiite sect that are averse to reform. Today, his position grows more uncertain as an intra-Shiite Arab power struggle threatens to upend his tenure.

Iraq’s Hodgepodge Government

In early November, Abadi’s efforts to implement a reform agenda that intended to tackle a corrupt and dysfunctional political system were decisively defeated in a unanimous vote in Parliament. From then on, his reform initiatives, which were announced in the summer of 2015 in response to mass demonstrations in Baghdad and southern Iraq, will require Parliament’s approval. This limits any unilateral power the prime minister has to shape Iraq going forward. Opposition to his proposed reforms exposed his vulnerability, which is now visible not only to the public but also to his political rivals. Indeed, despite waging a war focused on reclaiming lost territory on Iraq’s periphery, Baghdad is now preoccupied with a dangerous power struggle within the political establishment that Iran had worked for years to cultivate.

For Abadi, it is not the military threat posed by the Islamic State, per se, that looms over his premiership. Instead, the real threat to his leadership, and perhaps to U.S. interests to maintain an allied government in Baghdad, is an intra-Shiite contest for political authority. This competition is occurring within a fragmented government led by a prime minister who depends for his political survival on the very same forces threatening that survival. Indeed, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, whose autocratic and sectarian leadership the West blames for Iraq’s ills, has leveraged his prior relationships with pro-Iran Shiite militias and managed to make a potential comeback to threaten his successor. Abadi also faces challenges to his authority from other Shiite figures aligned with Iran, who, at best, effectively limit his power, and, at worst, could attempt to unseat him.
This intra-Shiite power struggle is rooted in Shiite militias’ ascent toward becoming the state’s primary security force. Their remobilization into a force comprising over 50 entities has occurred in the context of a revived Sunni insurgency, the unraveling of the state’s formal security institutions and the transition of power from Maliki to Abadi. While the mix of these factors has informed the current crisis in Baghdad, the main culprit is the ill-conceived framework that has characterized Iraq’s post-Saddam political system.

Strong nonstate forces alone do not explain the weak central government in Baghdad, which is plagued by its very political arrangement: consociational democracy. The logic of consociational political systems—or comprehensive power-sharing governments—is grounded in conflict prevention. Within deeply divided societies, particularly those with significant ethnic and religious diversity, such arrangements aim to solidify consensus-driven politics to avoid relapse toward civil war. In Iraq, no party represented in Parliament is excluded from the governing coalition or the executive government. By giving all components of society a share and stake in the state, it becomes more costly for any party to opt out of the political process.

Unfortunately, this power-sharing system, which the U.S. backs and helped install, has proven to be of little value toward stability, unity or democratic development in Iraq. By any standard, the complex arrangement has, rather than representing a functional governing coalition, created a hodgepodge government. Because the parties lack uniformity, the system has been too incoherent and indecisive to confront Iraq’s daunting state-building and nation-building challenges. Its decision-making process was based on a broad consensus model, whereby resolutions were diluted to the lowest common denominator, requiring agreement among all major factions in order for an initiative to proceed. Indeed, the more individual actors added to a collective body, the more diverse and incoherent its interests and constituencies become.

Rather than guaranteeing consensus or facilitating a progressive dialogue in Parliament, the inclusion of all major political factions into the executive government has institutionalized the fault lines of political contestation. Thus far, national elections in post-Saddam Iraq have done little to bring a legitimate central government that acts on behalf of the electorate. Instead, they have elevated and strengthened localized centers of power, which, despite being part of the government, often undermine the prime minister and keep him weak and dependent. This creates strong incentives for any prime minister to attempt to consolidate power or risk losing the capacity to govern autonomously, held hostage by other powerful actors within the coalition. The weak central government in Baghdad is plagued by its very political arrangement: consociational democracy.In effect, the structure of the political system the U.S. helped to put in place has fueled an unstable cycle of contentious politics in Iraq, prone to crises that increase the potential for armed conflict. The transition of power from Maliki to Abadi was bound to be unstable, especially during a time of civil war. Unfortunately, the U.S. incorrectly assumed that authority in Iraq was vested in the office of the prime minister, not with the personalities and the patronage networks the holder of that office, as well as rival political actors, wield.

Abadi’s Weak Hand

Since forming his government in September 2014, Abadi has struggled to shape and advance his initiatives and policies, either regarding military strategy against the Islamic State or political and economic reforms. Unlike when Maliki occupied the premiership, Abadi’s role as prime minister is relatively weak, constrained by his position within his own party and the parliamentary coalition, both of which are led by his predecessor. Abadi’s inability to push through the so-called national guard initiative—a major Sunni demand that aims to establish locally recruited and legal armed forces at the provincial level—convinced the Sunni political class early on that he was a paralyzed premier without the power to deliver on their demands.

However, mass demonstrations emerged last summer on the streets of Baghdad and southern Iraq, with participants protesting rampant corruption and the lack of basic services, notably power shortages during a devastating heat wave. Recognizing Iraqis’ growing dissatisfaction and frustration, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the most revered religious figure within Shiite Islam, signaled the need for the new government to implement reforms to fight corruption. But instead of carefully adapting his efforts and recognizing his political vulnerability, Abadi unwisely chose to utilize his newfound clout to undermine his rivals. In August 2015, he announced that he would abolish Iraq’s three vice presidencies, thereby cutting off a critical source of patronage power and immunity for the current holders of the office.

In order to save face and avoid being perceived as opposed to fighting corruption by undermining Sistani’s position, Iraq’s political class expressed public support for Abadi’s agenda. However, in private, they were concerned, and many wondered who it was backing Abadi to give him the confidence and bravado to ignore his constraints and cut against the grain of Iraqi politics. After all, his reform package came as a surprise, since he announced it without consulting a single coalition partner. But over time, the answer became clear: Abadi was not acting on behalf of a foreign power, but taking advantage of the situation to empower himself vis-a-vis his rivals. That led his rivals, who are typically divided among themselves, to unify against the prime minister’s misplaced confidence.
Instead of generating authority from his political position, Abadi largely borrowed his legitimacy from Najaf, Iraq’s Shiite religious establishment. Iraq is, more or less, a soft theocracy: Although political decision-making may not be concentrated in the hands of clerics, there are direct and indirect consequences of attaining or exercising power without their tacit support. Maliki was forced to leave office not only because he had lost Najaf’s support, but because his missteps were so grave that they prompted the clerical leadership to intervene politically to prevent him from securing a third term. Similarly, it was only Sistani’s public blessing that gave Abadi the political clout necessary to announce an ambitious reform package that directly clashed with the interests of his rivals. But Sistani’s endorsement, though powerful, cannot by itself empower Abadi to overcome the inertia inherent to the system, an inertia rooted in the deep-seated interests of Iraq’s political class.
The prime minster’s dilemma is defined by his practical weakness and political vulnerability. He neither has the credibility to make concessions nor the capability to carry out his will. Indeed, despite being head of government, Abadi is far from holding a monopoly over executive authority. Whenever he has tried to exercise authority out of line with the interests of his Shiite backers, his initiatives were not implemented. That is because Abadi did not come to power out of any legitimacy he had previously accumulated. He had no real constituency on the ground, did not lead any party or coalition, and most importantly missed the strategic opportunities required to broker necessary alliances with other political leaders.

As was the case when Maliki came to power in 2006, Abadi was awarded the premiership as a compromise choice among Shiite powerbrokers. He was chosen not because of any eagerness to see him become the new prime minister, but simply to replace the previous one. But unlike Abadi, Maliki had the presence of the U.S. military to serve as a safety net and pave his way toward consolidating and centralizing power at the expense of his rivals.

In 2008, knowing well that the American military would bail him out, Maliki took unilateral action—against U.S. advice—to militarily confront the firebrand Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Jaysh al-Mahdi militia. The Washington establishment subsequently hailed Maliki’s bold actions to tackle his own sect’s militias, painting him as an Iraqi nationalist. But this attribution mistook the structural incentives shaped by Maliki’s political environment for a personal sense of duty. The military offensive against the most feared and powerful Shiite militia was never about nationalism. It was about survival and consolidating authority against other centers of power. Maliki wasn’t building a nation; he was building a regime.

Unequipped with Maliki’s U.S. security blanket, Abadi has attempted to consolidate power through reform. In other words, he has masked his goal to consolidate power behind the idealist cosmetics of fighting corruption, in so doing generating a degree of political and international support from the West. Abadi’s purge of many Iraqi security officials in late 2014 was not as much about “fighting corruption” and “nepotism,” as he suggested at the time, as it was about building a regime loyal to him rather than to Maliki. Indeed, despite the fact that both individuals come from the same Shiite Islamist party, the new premier was never going to let his predecessor’s security architecture remain intact. To do so would jeopardize his political survival.

Shiite Militias and Cyclic Strategy

As the government battles the Islamic State, another threat has emerged in Iraq: Shiite militarization. The re-emergence of Shiite militias is a product of the Iraqi armed forces’ dismal performance against Sunni insurgents in 2013 and early 2014. That experience, combined with the effectiveness of Shiite militias—most notably Hezbollah—fighting in Syria’s civil war on behalf of the regime of Bashar al-Assad, led Maliki to believe that countering Sunni militants in Iraq would similarly require employing Shiite militias. Today, a symbiotic relationship has formed between the irregular combatants, whereby the existence of Sunni insurgents perpetuates the need for Shiite militias and vice versa.

When the U.S. military had completed its withdrawal from Iraq in December 2011, Iran-backed Shiite militias began turning toward politics to maintain their organizational survival. But as the civil war in Syria evolved into a sectarian and regional proxy war, its convergence with Iraq’s insurgency grew, thereby creating a venue for Shiite militias to enhance their membership, renew their militarized cause and fill their coffers. Indeed, even before Mosul fell to the Islamic State in June 2014, Iraq’s Shiite militias had already fought in Syria against Sunni insurgents.

However, once Mosul fell amid mass desertion by multiple divisions of Iraq’s army, a radically new strategic environment emerged for militia formation in Iraq. Indeed, despite the Iraqi armed forces’ overall poor performance in battling insurgents, it was their unraveling that created an institutional void in the state security apparatus. With the need for heightened security, Sistani issued an unprecedented fatwa calling for Iraqis to volunteer and defend the state. Tens of thousands of Shiite Iraqis would soon be recruited, enhancing the power of well-established Iran-backed militias such as the Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataib Hezbollah, but also leading to the emergence of new ones.

Unlike the Islamic State, which is deemed an outright enemy of the state, Iraq’s Shiite militias have never fit neatly into any category. In their current iteration, they are an extension of the Iraqi state. From their formal representation in Parliament to their direct relations with foreign governments, the new institutional demand for security has functionally integrated Shiite militias into the Iraqi security apparatus, to the point that U.S. military assistance empowers them as well. Indeed, Mohammed al-Ghabban, a senior member of the Badr Organization, Iraq’s most powerful militia, is also the minister of the interior.

In general, militias form within weak states facing insurgent threats. But as the state builds its capacity to reassert its sovereignty and monopoly over force, the question emerges of how to disarm, demobilize and reintegrate these unofficial forces into an official framework. During the counterinsurgency years under the U.S. military occupation, Shiite militias were integrated into Iraq’s armed forces. Once integrated, however, they failed to transcend their own informal networks, corruption and sectarianism, which in turn infested the country’s security apparatus.

The re-emergence of militias is remaking the character and arrangement of Iraq’s security institutions and beyond. Political leaders and parties are leveraging the mobilization of militias in an attempt to translate hard power into electoral outcomes in hopes of shifting the political landscape in their favor. This structural incentive could lead to armed electoral politics, which is not unprecedented in post-Saddam Iraq, notably by the armed counterparts of Shiite political parties in 2005-2007. In addition, when the Islamic State is eventually neutralized in Iraq, militias could establish their own political entities to ensure their survival.

While these scenarios would destabilize Iraqi politics, the relationship between Sunni insurgency and Shiite militarization, both of which diminish state sovereignty, is particularly dangerous. The former aims to chip away at the state from the outside, but the growth of the latter is rotting it from within. In this dual, mutually reinforcing process, Abadi will likely continue losing authority over the security sector and remain a weak partner for the United States.

Today, there are well over 50 militias in Iraq under an umbrella organization—Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization—that, in theory, is supposed to report to the prime minister. But in practice, the real authority does not appear to be with Abadi, but rather with the leaders of that organization, who are closely aligned with Iran. In fact, the military campaign against the Islamic State in Tikrit that took place in March commenced without the involvement, or even the knowledge, of either the minister of defense or the prime minister.

Despite the fact that it controls roughly a third of Iraq’s territory, the Islamic State is not the major threat to Abadi’s regime. Rather, it is those closest to his political base. If concentric circles were used to depict the various threats that Iraq’s leader faces, the innermost would be his own party, while subsequent ones would include a diverse array of Shiite powerbrokers. The Islamic State would be the outermost circle—for Abadi, a distant threat. However, he is keen to defeat the Islamic State under his supervision and at the hands of armed forces under his control because it would buy him political prestige and power.

Contestation Under Abadi

Since Maliki was forced to relinquish the premiership in 2014, power and authority have become diffused across Iraq. Various players, both internal and external, are now exercising unchecked control over the use of force. This could potentially create conditions leading to a wider, armed contestation among the country’s political factions. The growing inability to monopolize the legitimate use of violence is the primary criteria for a failed state. Thus, Abadi’s state is much less of an autonomous regime than Maliki’s was, and is more accurately characterized as an arena of contestation among various forces.

Even beyond the many actors exercising power over the use of force, the elements of authority and legitimacy among the political classes of Kurds, Shiites and Sunnis are becoming fragmented. Not too many years ago, a simplified schemata of political authority in Iraq would more or less have included two Kurds: Masoud Barzani and Jalal Talabani; four Sunnis: Tariq al-Hashimi, Osama al-Nujaifi, Saleh al-Mutlaq and Rafi al-Issawi; and three Shiites: Ammar al-Hakim, Nouri al-Maliki and Muqtada al-Sadr. Today, there are far more players emerging within each ethno-sectarian community, complicating any U.S. engagement strategy in Iraq. A mixture of failing older political forces and rising new ones has devolved and redistributed power, fueling intra-sectarian contestation in the reconfiguration of political order.

The U.S. decision to reboot its security relationship with Iraq had multiple objectives: to help strengthen an allied government that was growing more fragile, to cultivate influence in Iraq at the expense of Iran, and to give Iraq the resources to counter the Islamic State. However, this diplomatic and military assistance has occurred as the Iraqi government faces an authority crisis. This means that Washington cannot effectively utilize coercive diplomacy and pressure toward Baghdad, making it unable to control either where its arms end up or the objective for which they are used.

It is uncertain if a consolidated government can emerge in Baghdad, either under Abadi or any future leadership. The Iraqi state is unraveling, having lost its monopoly over force and its grip on centralized authority. However, Washington continues to misdiagnose the Islamic State as the source rather than symptom of Iraq’s deeper ills. This fixation on defeating the militant organization has led to shortsighted policies with dangerous consequences. Today, U.S. policymakers are threatening to bypass Iraq’s government and directly arm the Kurds and Sunni Arabs. Although this is driven by frustration with the politics in Baghdad, it is a policy that lacks strategic consideration and foresight. If pursued, its backers must accept the risk that arming these groups could exacerbate the fragmentation of Iraq, undermine the government’s authority and further strengthen the logic sustaining militias.

Ramzy Mardini is a nonresident fellow at the Atlantic Council’s Rafik Hariri Center for the Middle East. He can be followed on Twitter at @RamzyMardini.

India Points to the Real Issue with Pakistan (Daniel 8)

India Rejects Pakistan Peace Plan, Calls for Revival of Terrorism Talks

WASHINGTON — India on Thursday rejected a four-point peace plan for Kashmir proposed by Pakistan but said talks among officials of both countries on terrorism that collapsed in August should be revived.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced his proposal at the annual United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, saying the two nuclear-armed countries should formalize a cease-fire in Kashmir and take steps to demilitarize the divided region.

India issued a swift rebuttal, accusing Pakistan of claiming to be the primary victim of terrorism while “in truth, it is actually a victim of its own policy of breeding and sponsoring terrorists.”
On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the General Assembly that India remained open to dialogue, “but talks and terror cannot go together.”

“We don’t need four points, we need just one: Give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk,” she said.

Swaraj said the talks between national security advisers on all issues related to terrorism should be held, as well as an early meeting of senior military officials to address the situation on the border.
“If the response is serious and credible, India is prepared to address all outstanding issues through a bilateral dialogue,” she said.

Planned talks between national security advisers from India and Pakistan were canceled in August hours before they were due to start, dashing hopes the two might tackle the violence that many fear could one day spark a nuclear showdown.

In the talks, India had wanted only to discuss terrorism-related issues. Pakistan sought a wider agenda, including the status of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since becoming independent countries in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.

Sharif, elected in 2013, promised to improve relations with India. But since then domestic troubles have forced him to cede more control over foreign and security policy to Pakistan’s more hawkish military.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a hard line with Pakistan, insisting he is unwilling to discuss other issues unless Pakistan admits its role in terror attacks in India.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs made it clear that Sharif’s proposal was a non-starter. “To de-militarize Kashmir is not the answer,” ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a tweet. “To de-terrorize Pakistan is.”

India Points to the Real Issue with Pakistan (Daniel 8)

India Rejects Pakistan Peace Plan, Calls for Revival of Terrorism Talks


WASHINGTON — India on Thursday rejected a four-point peace plan for Kashmir proposed by Pakistan but said talks among officials of both countries on terrorism that collapsed in August should be revived.

Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif announced his proposal at the annual United Nations General Assembly on Wednesday, saying the two nuclear-armed countries should formalize a cease-fire in Kashmir and take steps to demilitarize the divided region.

India issued a swift rebuttal, accusing Pakistan of claiming to be the primary victim of terrorism while “in truth, it is actually a victim of its own policy of breeding and sponsoring terrorists.”
On Thursday, Indian Foreign Minister Sushma Swaraj told the General Assembly that India remained open to dialogue, “but talks and terror cannot go together.”

“We don’t need four points, we need just one: Give up terrorism and let us sit down and talk,” she said.

Swaraj said the talks between national security advisers on all issues related to terrorism should be held, as well as an early meeting of senior military officials to address the situation on the border.
“If the response is serious and credible, India is prepared to address all outstanding issues through a bilateral dialogue,” she said.

Planned talks between national security advisers from India and Pakistan were canceled in August hours before they were due to start, dashing hopes the two might tackle the violence that many fear could one day spark a nuclear showdown.

In the talks, India had wanted only to discuss terrorism-related issues. Pakistan sought a wider agenda, including the status of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan have fought three wars since becoming independent countries in 1947, two of them over the Himalayan region of Kashmir, which both claim in full but rule in part.

Sharif, elected in 2013, promised to improve relations with India. But since then domestic troubles have forced him to cede more control over foreign and security policy to Pakistan’s more hawkish military.

Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi has taken a hard line with Pakistan, insisting he is unwilling to discuss other issues unless Pakistan admits its role in terror attacks in India.

India’s Ministry of External Affairs made it clear that Sharif’s proposal was a non-starter. “To de-militarize Kashmir is not the answer,” ministry spokesman Vikas Swarup said in a tweet. “To de-terrorize Pakistan is.”

Hopefully Obama Didn’t Make The Deal To Justify His Nobel Peace Prize

Iran deal is not worthy of Nobel recognition

By Jeff Jacoby

MOMENTS AFTER IT was announced that the United States and its allies had reached a nuclear deal with Iran, the drums began beating for a Nobel Peace Prize. Carl Bildt, the former Swedish prime minister, tweeted happily:

I think the work of the Nobel Committee of the Norwegian Parliament this year just got much easier.
On Wednesday, a director of the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute, an influential think tank with ties to the Nobel organization, recommended that the 2016 prize be awarded to Secretary of State John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

The Vienna deal is a capitulation to one of the worst regimes on earth. Far from requiring the Iranians to dismantle their illicit nuclear program, the accord leaves almost all of it intact. In exchange for little more than a promise to delay its development of nuclear warheads, Tehran is rewarded with $150 billion in sanctions relief and, within a few years, the lifting of the UN embargo on conventional weapons and missile sales. The Islamic Republic is the world’s foremost state sponsor of terrorism, yet nothing in the agreement requires any change in its notorious behavior. And despite the regime’s long record of treaty violations and deceit, the deal enables it to stall for almost a month before complying with a demand for access by inspectors — hardly the “anytime, anywhere, 24/7” inspections that the Obama administration had claimed it would insist on.

The White House wanted to sign a deal; Iran’s rulers wanted to ensure their path to the bomb and nuclear legitimacy. Both got what they wanted. The consequences will be a nuclear arms race in the Middle East, more Iranian terrorism and subversion, and a greater likelihood of war.

A Nobel Peace Prize — for that?

It wouldn’t be the first time.

The Obama/Kerry willingness to concede anything for a nuclear deal with Iran has been likened to Neville Chamberlain’s infamous Munich agreement with Adolf Hitler in 1938. Then, too, shameless capitulation was hailed as a triumph of peacemaking and diplomacy. Chamberlain was cheered as a hero in the press and on the street, and he won a resounding vote of confidence in Parliament. He was widely nominated for the Nobel Peace Prize, including by a dozen members of the Swedish parliament. Who knows — he might have received it, had Hitler waited just a little longer before invading Czechoslovakia.

All too often the Nobel Committee has seen fit to bestow its prestigious honor on men who negotiated “peace” accords that ended up undermining peace. In 1973, the prize was awarded to Secretary of State Henry Kissinger and North Vietnam’s Le Duc Tho, lead negotiators of the Paris Peace Accords that purported to end the Vietnam War. In reality, the accords paved the way for US withdrawal, effectively abandoning South Vietnam to defeat and brutal occupation by the communist North.

The Locarno Treaties of 1925, now largely forgotten, settled Germany’s borders with Western Europe, and were extravagantly portrayed as guaranteeing that Germany would never again violate the peace. “France and Germany Ban War Forever,” cheered The New York Times, and the Nobel Committee, intoxicated with the “spirit of Locarno,” awarded peace prizes to the French, British, and German foreign ministers who negotiated the deal. Yet the treaties deliberately left Germany’s eastern borders open to “revision.” In essence, one Polish leader remarked bitterly, “Germany was officially asked to attack the east, in return for peace in the west.” The promised peace was a mere bubble. The war Locarno facilitated would prove all too bloodily real.

The Nobel Peace Prize for the Oslo Accords — presented in 1994 to Yasser Arafat, Yitzhak Rabin, and Shimon Peres — was another blunder that looks even worse in retrospect. A peace prize for Arafat, an arch-terrorist and hatemonger who devoted his life to the destruction of peace? It was as contemptible a choice as the Nobel Committee has ever made. Of course, there’s always next year.
Jeff Jacoby can be reached at jacoby@globe.com. Follow him on Twitter @jeff_jacoby.

The Power Of The Antichrist’s Men (Rev 13:18)

Assessing Shi’ite Militias in Iraq

Zarif, of course, either lied or was powerless to prevent the IRGC from acting autonomously (it is ironic, therefore, that President Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry are so willing to trust Zarif despite his previous refusal to uphold diplomatic agreements). Even Iranian journalists remarked about how quickly the IRGC inserted itself and militias like the Badr Corps into Iraq. Meanwhile, for all the chatter about why Washington policymakers erred by working with Iraqi politicians who had spent some time in exile, the most powerful insider, firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, sought power by leveraging a militia equally anti-American, violent toward other Iraqis, and engaged in criminal enterprise.

During the initial stages of Operation Iraqi Freedom, U.S. forces just as often found themselves in conflict with Shi‘ite militias as with Sunni insurgents. Hassan Kazemi Qomi, a Qods Force operative who worked as Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, oversaw the smuggling into Iraq of explosively-formed projectiles used to kill hundreds of Americans. Then, in 2007, Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, an Iranian-sponsored militia, kidnaped five American soldiers, and then tortured and executed them. They and Kata’ib Hezbollah still undermine rule-of-law and government authority in Iraq.

In the wake of the rise of the Islamic State (ISIS, ISIL, Daesh)and the collapse of several units of the Iraqi army, Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani called for volunteers to help defend Iraqi Shi‘ites (and non-Shi’ite Iraqis) and protect both the shrine cities and the capital from ISIS’ advance. The resulting Popular Mobilization Forces (alHashd al-Shaabi) are often treated almost cartoonishly among many Western commentators. They describe them as uniformly Shi‘ite (they are not, even if Shi’ites make up the vast majority) and Iranian proxies (certainly, Iranian officials would like to co-opt them and perhaps do some but most are at heart Iraqi nationalists). Contrary to some reports, there was no widespread abuse, looting, or burning of homes in Tikrit when the volunteers defeated ISIS.

At any rate, if the goal is to fight and defeat ISIS and if Iraqis cannot rely on outside powers to help with any consistency, then they would be foolish to sit around and wait to conduct full military training, nor do many ordinary Iraqis have any wish to make a three-year commitment to the Iraqi army. The training program announced by President Obama for Syrians to fight ISIS has gone nowhere, but perhaps that was the point, and so the Hashd has become an Iraqi solution to an Iraqi problem. Does that mean the United States, Iraqis, or others should be sanguine about the Hashd? No. They are a short-term solution which will pose a long-term threat to Iraq, as many will expect a reward or patronage position for their service.

Norman Cigar, perhaps the most skilled and precise linguist and military analyst of the Middle East (whose work I have previously cited here) is out with a new publication through the United States Army War College Press entitled “Iraqi Shi’a Warlords and Their Militias,” which is a free .pdf here. It’s probably the most complete, nuanced, and realistic take to date on both the various militias and the issues raised by their existence, especially in the post-ISIS order. He addresses key questions such as how the militias are mobilized, and the breakdown between those used to fight versus those deemed unfit and perhaps instead relegated to guard duty. He breaks down the numbers in each militia and, for all the talk about leveraging tribes, he discusses how various tribes delivered volunteers for the militias. He also addresses training, equipping, maintaining, and feeding the militias, the logistical elements seldom discussed.

Looking to the future, Cigar is realistic. Iraqis will continue to embrace the militias unless there is a significant foreign military force that can supplant them to counter the Islamic State challenge. Americans like to condemn the militias, but at the same time there is no appetite in the White House or Congress for a significant military deployment back into Iraq. That means the militias are here to stay. The Kurds provide no substitute. Not only is Cigar realistic about the capabilities of the Peshmerga, but he also recognizes the political limitations given Kurdish disunity and disinterest in combatting ISIS in territories in which the Kurds have no interest. Then the question turns into how the militia reality might impact future organization. Will, he ponders, the militias be folded into an organization much like Iran’s Basij? Indeed, for better or worse, this might be the model that most Iraqis are familiar. And if, alternately, there is demobilization, how will that occur?

A decade ago, no one foresaw the rise of the Islamic State or, conversely, of the Hashd. And while the Islamic State needn’t be a fact-of-life if the United States and regional powers were serious about defeating it, the Hashd are now here to stay. Simply condemning them all as Iranian agents is neither accurate nor productive. Rather, it’s time to confront the new reality and craft policies to accommodate or perhaps alter it. Either way, Cigar’s monograph is unique, essential, and a great place to start.

Who Is The Antichrist? (Rev 13:17)

Muqtada al- Sadr

Muqtada al- Sadr Biography

Military Leader (c. 1974–)

Muqtada al- Sadr

Military Leader

c. 1974

Al-Najaf, Iraq

Muqtada al-Sadr led the Shi’ite militia known as the Mahdi Army, which committed acts of retribution against Sunnis in Iraq during the U.S. occupation.


Born c.1974, Muqtada al-Sadr was the son of Grand Ayatolla Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr. After the fall of Saddam Hussein in 2003, Sadr began to organize the Iraqi Shi’ite majority, forming a militia called the Mahdi Army to police the “Sadr City” neighborhood of Baghdad and enact retribution on Sunni Muslims. Sadr’s militia also engaged coalition troops, calling for their complete removal.

Cite This Page

APA Style
Muqtada al- Sadr. (2015). The Biography.com website. Retrieved 01:45, Jun 14, 2015, from http://www.biography.com/people/muqtada-al-sadr-507305.

Harvard Style
Muqtada al- Sadr. [Internet]. 2015. The Biography.com website. Available from: http://www.biography.com/people/muqtada-al-sadr-507305 [Accessed 14 Jun 2015].

MLA Style
“Muqtada al- Sadr.” Bio. A&E Television Networks, 2015. Web. 14 June 2015.

The antichrist and his men (Revelation 13:18)

Moqtada al-Sadr and the self-delusion of Europeans and Arabs

by Bernardo Cervellera

Interview with Saywan Barzani, European representative of the Kurdistan regional government.
Paris (AsiaNews) – Europe and the Arab world have turned Moqtada al-Sadr into some kind of resistance hero. For most Iraqis, even Shiites, he is just someone “unstable” for whom one may feel sorry but someone who must be stopped.

Saywan Barzani, European representative of the Kurdistan regional government, accuses the West and the Arab world of ulterior motives when they portray Moqtada al-Sadr in a positive light. In his opinion, Iraq has become a convenient backdrop in which Western countries “settle scores” because of knee-jerk hatred of the US, economic competition, and political divisions. Not even Italy is spared. When Saddam was in power Italy sold him weapons. Today the Italian left is “against the new Iraq because it wants to defeat Berlusconi”. On the other hand, Arabs are just afraid the new Iraq might actually become a rich democratic country.

According to the latest report Moqtada al Sadr surrendered the Imam Ali shrine to local Shiite religious leaders with the blessing of grand ayatollah al-Sistani, who is in London for heart treatment. Given al-Sadr’s record of changing positions it is not clear whether he will comply with the government’s repeated demands that his militia disarm.

What are Moqtada al-Sadr’s intentions and what support does he have among Iraqis?

Moqtada al-Sadr’s father –the ayatollah Mohammed Sadeq al-Sadr– was known throughout the country but was murdered by Saddam’s agents. He represented an Islamist trend within the Shia world that is in favour of a more political Islam. Unlike him the young son has little charisma. His speeches are often too convoluted to understand. He belongs to a generation –the twenty-something– that wants to imitate Hezbollah. These people are underprivileged, lost, and without points of reference, not resistance fighters.

Everyone in Najaf is against them: the population, the Council of ayatollahs, and most marjah, those with highest authority on religion and law in Shiism. And most of these people have actually left the city so as not to be associated with these bandits, who clearly have foreign backing.

From a political and a military point of view, even from a psychological point of view, they are Saddam’s children. In schools students did not get too many books but underwent military training. From morning till night people sang the glory of Saddam and prepared for future wars. Arabic poetry extolled the virtues of violence and war: kill! Cut someone’s head off! School text books were drafted to disseminate a culture of death and violence

For 30 years people endured this type. Inevitably, it left enormous psychological scars. This is why al-Sadr’s men are not normal; they need treatment.

Iraq has many obstacles to overcome but the resistance these men claim to offer is not what it needs. These people are unstable and penniless patsies, sometimes drug addicts.
It seems clear that Mr al-Sadr wants to be another ayatollah Nasrallah, head of Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement. It is also clear that he wants to follow in his father’s footsteps. Unfortunately, his father’s shoes are too big him.
The new government laid down conditions and proposed solutions several times, but al-Sadr seems to waver between accepting and not accepting . . .

As I said mental illness is a widespread problem in Iraq and Mr al-Sadr is part of it. If one listens carefully to his speeches, one can see how . . . unhinged he is. His father was murdered; he grew in a hate-filled environment . . .

Najaf seems to have become the testing ground of the new Iraq. What will happen?

Najaf is the capital of Shia Islam. Ali’s tomb is there, revered by 100 million Shiites. What the city needs is security. What it does not need are paramilitary groups. Because of them people left the city. Unfortunately, many Shiite politicians are afraid to bite the bullet but they should. The Mahdi army must be disbanded

Imagine! Al-Sadr’s madness is such that he claims the army is not his, but that of the real Mahdi, the hidden imam who will soon reappear. However, the hidden imam is supposed to have given him stewardship over it. We truly live in strange times!

If one listens to what he says and looks at what he does, one can see an impulsive boy, not a grown man. By contrast Arab media tend to portray him as a resistance leader fighting the Americans.

Why do you think so much attention is given to Moqtada al-Sadr’s “resistance” in the West?

There are three reasons for Europe’s stance. First of all, there is a knee-jerk anti-Americanism that makes people think that whatever the US does must be wrong. Secondly, there is jealousy. Saddam’s regime was very lucrative to Europe and his demise, sadly for the countries that backed him, ended juicy contracts worth billions. Finally, there is the position of Europe’s Left. In a country like Italy for example, the Left opposes Italian involvement in building the new Iraq in a bid to defeat [incumbent conservative Prime Minister] Berlusconi. Iraq has become a surrogate for everyone’s desire to settle scores with the US. And this is done on the backs of the people of Iraq.

For 30 years no one cared: Kurds were victims of genocide; 1.3 millions people disappeared mostly buried in desert sands; more than 2 million died in the regime’s wars. But the West made money in such wars: land mines “Made in Italy” buried across Kurdistan, chemical arms sold by Germany, bombers from France . . . and no one saying anything. But of course arms sales were good for the balance sheets.

Now that Iraqis are trying to build a small democratic state, everyone is against. Our Arab neighbours, who are mostly one-man dictatorships, find our process of democratisation too close for comfort.

Have relations with neighbouring Arab countries and some Western countries improved since the fall of Saddam?

Nothing has changed! Our neighbours remain suspicious of our democratic system. In the Middle East the press is not free but in Iraq there are now 400 newspapers. We have dozens of television stations and political parties. Salaries have risen in some cases up to US$ 400 (it used to be around 2-14 dollars under Saddam). Our neighbours don’t like it because it is different from how they live: permanent state of emergency, poverty, dictatorship, meekness.

Most suicide bombers come from the surrounding countries as do most of the bombs that blow up in our cities. God willing the Iraqi government has taken over security functions and is better able to protect our borders.

European public opinion is swayed by the media. When a bomb goes off in one of Baghdad’s 89 neighbourhoods the others are largely unaware of what happened. In Iraqi Kurdistan things are quite. Most Iraqi cities are quite. Moreover, one would be hard pressed to read or hear about the country’s economic and political progress. All the media are interested in are some bomb going off here and there, what Moqtada al-Sadr says, what some Baathist criminal does, nothing about what the other 24 million Iraqis do.

What the media reported, especially what they did not report, played a role in Saddam Hussein’s regime, a regime responsible for the death of 3.5 million people, the most bloodthirsty regime in the world. Now all they can report is complaints about the US presence.

No one wants an American occupation, but for us Iraqis the truly violent occupation was that by Saddam Hussein. Just because he was Iraqi did not make his rule more bearable.

Now that we can rebuild our country, the mass media seem to be bent on denigrating our efforts. One only needs to look at what is written and said in Europe.

Antichrist’s Men Take Baiji (Rev 13:18)


Officials: Iraqi forces in control of Baiji city

By Hamdi Alkhshali, CNN
Updated 8:43 AM ET, Sun June 7, 2015

(CNN)Iraqi forces with the support of the U.S. are now in control of Baiji city, military and militia sources told CNN on Sunday.

“Forces have cleansed and are in control completely of government complex, city center, Fatah mosque (main mosque) and surrounding neighborhoods,” said Brig. Gen. Tahseen Ibrahim, a spokesman for the Iraqi defense ministry.

He credited the U. S. with “a significant role supporting” Iraqi ground forces in the assault. He did not provide specifics on what kind of support the forces received.

“We can announce that Baiji city is completely liberated and the Iraqi flag was raised over the governor building,” said Muhammed al-Eqabi, a spokesman for the Hash al-Shaabi Shia militia.
ISIS forces, who had seized the city, fled back toward Mosul and were under air attack while retreating, according to Ibrahim.

ISIS forces had left booby traps throughout the city, he said, and there are still small pockets of resistance.

Last month, ISIS fighters successfully moved into several refinery areas in the city, keeping Iraqi forces from getting supplies.

Antichrist’s Men Advance On Ramadi (Rev 13:18)

Shiite Fighters Advance on ISIS Millitants in Ramadi, Iraq

May 24, 2015 11:12 AM

Shi’ite Muslim militiamen and Iraqi army forces launched a counter-offensive against the so-called Islamic State insurgents near Ramadi on Saturday, a militia spokesman said, aiming to reverse potentially devastating gains by the fake jihadi militants.

The fall of Ramadi, the Anbar provincial capital, to the so-called Islamic State on May 17 could be a shattering blow to Baghdad’s weak central government. The fake jihadis now control most of Anbar and could threaten the western approaches to Baghdad, or even surge south into Iraq’s Shi’ite heartland.

Anbar provincial council member Azzal Obaid said hundreds of Shi’ite fighters, who had assembled last week at the Habbaniya air base, moved into Khalidiya on Saturday and were nearing Siddiqiya and Madiq, towns in contested territory near Ramadi.

Two police officers later said that the pro-government forces, which they said included locally allied Sunni tribesmen, had advanced past those towns to within one kilometer of Husaiba al-Sharqiya, an ISIS-run town 7 kilometers (4 miles) east of the Ramadi city limits.

One officer said the Shi’ite-led forces exchanged fire with ISIS but there was no immediate word on casualties.

Jaffar Husseini, spokesman for Shi’ite paramilitary group Kataib Hezbollah, said more than 2,000 reinforcements had joined the pro-government advance and they had managed to secure Khalidiya and the road linking it to Habbaniya.

“Today will witness the launch of some tactical operations that pave the way to the eventual liberation of Ramadi,” he told Reuters by telephone.

At the same time, ISIS units have been pushing toward Fallujah to try to absorb more territory between it and Ramadi that would bring them closer to Baghdad, the Iraqi capital, around 80 km (50 miles) to the east.

ISIS has controlled Fallujah for more than a year.

Ramadi’s loss is the most serious setback for Iraqi forces in almost a year and has cast doubt on the effectiveness of the U.S. strategy of air strikes to help Baghdad roll back ISIS, which now holds a third each of Iraq and adjacent Syria.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, a Shi’ite, sent Shi’ite paramilitary groups out to Anbar to try to retake Ramadi despite the risk of inflaming tensions with the province’s aggrieved, predominantly Sunni population.

But he had little choice given the poor morale and cohesion within government security forces.

A U.N. spokesman said on Friday that some 55,000 people have fled Ramadi since it was stormed by ISIS earlier this month, with most taking refuge in other parts of Anbar, a vast desert province that borders on Syria, Jordan and Saudi Arabia.

In Syria, ISIS fighters raised their flag over an ancient citadel in the historic city of Palmyra, pictures posted online overnight by the group’s supporters showed.

The militants seized Palmyra, known as Tadmur in Arabic and strategically significant with nearby natural gas fields and roads leading southwest to Damascus, on Wednesday after days of heavy fighting with the Syrian army.

“Tadmur citadel under the control of the caliphate,” read a caption on one picture posted on social media sites. In another, a smiling fighter is shown carrying the group’s black flag and standing on one of the citadel’s walls.

It was not possible to verify the images’ authenticity.

U.S.-led coalition forces have conducted a further 22 air strikes on ISIS positions in Iraq and Syria since Friday, including near Ramadi and Palmyra, the U.S. military said.

Palmyra is home to a UNESCO World Heritage site, and Syria’s antiquities chief has said the insurgents would destroy its 2,000-year-old ruins, including well-preserved Roman temples, colonnades and a theater, if they took control of them. While hundreds of statues have been taken to safe locations, there are fears for larger monuments that cannot be moved.

The so-called Islamic State destroyed ancient monuments and antiquities they see as idolatrous in areas of Iraq they captured last year.

Supporters have also posted videos they say show the group’s fighters going room to room in government buildings in Palmyra searching for government troops and pulling down pictures of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad and his father.

Some activists have said more than 200 Syrian soldiers died in the battle for the city in the center of Syria.