Antichrist Quest To Control Iraq

Shia leaders in two countries struggle for control over Iraqi state

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When Iraq’s prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, failed again this week to replace his corrupt cabinet with a new breed of reformists, the impact reverberated far beyond Baghdad.

A hundred miles south, in Najaf, ayatollah Ali Sistani seethed with anger. The 86-year-old cleric, the most revered figure among Iraq’s majority Shia sect, has staked his name on Abadi establishing some form of control over the country’s political class and the powerful presence of its neighbour Iran.

Across the border, in the Iranian shrine city of Qom, the failure was also noted, though not with the same concern. For more than 13 years, Iran has been an essential stakeholder in Baghdad. But in the past three years in particular, it has had more role shaping political outcomes than many of Iraq’s most influential players.

After Abadi’s second capitulation in a fortnight, senior officials close to Sistani say he is fast losing hope that the leader he helped appoint in late 2014 can deliver reforms he believes are essential to the survival of the state of Iraq. Worse still, perhaps nobody else can either.

In the decade-plus since the ruthless order of Saddam Hussein’s dictatorship was overthrown, Iraq is being torn apart by a convergence of crises that many observers say make it all but ungovernable.

Rampant corruption by a political class, appointed on sectarian lines, has seen the country plundered of enormous wealth that record pumping of oil can’t come close to making up for – especially with oil prices 70% lower than the heady highs of three years ago.

Add to that a withering war with Islamic State, which has shredded Iraq’s military, sacked some of its cities, imperilled its borders and exposed the fragility of post-Saddam authority, and there seems little hope that Iraq can secure a sovereign footing.

This concern is central to Sistani’s angst. Najaf has long been his power base, and a centre of gravity for Shia Iraqi nationalists, whom Sistani overwhelmingly leads. Qom, meanwhile, especially since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, has become a symbol of Iran’s theological and political projection.

Since 2003, the two centres of Shia learning have been rival power bases, but never more so than now. Sistani, apolitical throughout his life, now finds himself pitched against Iran’s Shia leader, ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a tussle to define Iraq’s national character.

“This is something that has underpinned every administration over the last decade or so, but it has become more acute, more pointed since 2010,” said Ali Khedery, a former adviser to US ambassadors to Iraq and military chiefs.

“Sistani is now very aware that the extent of Iranian influence has reached new levels. This is about power and influence. This is about taking control of what remains of the state.”

As Abadi has struggled to impose his will, the leader he replaced in late 2014, Nouri al-Maliki, has been steadily reaccumulating power. The Shia militias, who have been organised under the banner of the Popular Mobilisation Front (PMF), report to him, and he is especially close to Iran

“He has been set up by Iran like a scarecrow for Abadi,” the former vice-president Iyad Allawi told the Guardian earlier this year. “There is not much that he can do about him.”

The PMF continues to play a dominant role in many of the clashes against Isis across much of Iraq, often having primacy over the Iraqi army. Nearly all of the PMF’s factions are led by men who are proxies of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards.

Moqtada al-Sadr, the leader of one of Iraq’s most dominant Shia factions, is a prominent exception. A cleric who was instrumental in the 2005-08 sectarian war and anti-US insurgency, Sadr has been the most forthright voice in the country to call for political reforms.

A picture of Moqtada al-Sadr is held up at a protest against corruption in Sadr City, Baghdad.
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A picture of Moqtada al-Sadr is held up at a protest against corruption in Sadr City, Baghdad. Photograph: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images

Abadi’s latest attempt to appoint a cabinet of technocrats, supposedly at arm’s length from the sectarian quota system that has led to ministries being used as personal fiefdoms, and wealth being hoovered up by a rigid patronage system, came after Sadr set up a protest camp inside Baghdad’s green zone.

Abadi, meanwhile, who Sistani had believed could somehow turn it all around, seems less likely than ever to deliver. Iraq’s political class remains vested in a sectarian system that has enriched it, and Abadi has next to no room to manoeuvre.

“What that means for Sistani is that his command of the street, which has remained unquestioned throughout all this, could be tested for the first time,” said one senior Iraqi official who refused to be named.

“He gave the fatwa to raise the militias in June 2014 and in doing so, he gave Iran cover. He now knows what that meant. It was an invitation for them to take over in many ways. If Abadi stays, it is bad for Sistani and for Iraq, but if he goes, it could be much worse.”

Questionable Motives Of The Antichrist In Lebanon

PSP chief questions Iraq’s Sadr visit to Beirut

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Sadr later took up the demand for a technocratic government, organizing a two-week sit-in, putting Abadi under pressure to act, but also supporting the course of action he wanted to take.

Sadr relented after Abadi presented his first list of nominees at the end of March, but has yet to react to the most recent developments in efforts to replace the cabinet.

The Antichrist and the Shia Horn (Daniel 8)


Prominent Iraqi Shia cleric visits Hezbollah

Thursday, 14 April 2016 14:26

Prominent Iraqi Shia Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr arrived in Lebanon on Tuesday evening to visit Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, Arabi21 reported yesterday. Al-Mayadeen TV channel reported sources saying that Al-Sadr left Iraq and arrived in Lebanon in a sudden visit.

Iraqi websites said that Al-Sadr arrived in the Lebanese capital Beirut as part of an official visit.
Al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Movement, ended his party’s protest around the Green Zone in Baghdad on 31 March after parliament agreed to vote for a new government.

Speaking to his supporters, Al-Sadr said: “Every thief and corrupt person will be sent to court.”

The Antichrist’s Sectarian Politics (Revelation 13)

Haider Al Abadi has many supporters, but very few friends. Increasingly isolated, even within the wider Shia movement he is part of, Iraq’s prime minister can still rely on some public support – and a few key allies.

Those allies include Muqtada Al Sadr, a powerful Shia cleric, and the United States – which is why America’s secretary of state, John Kerry, flew in for a surprise visit last week.

Still, none of that may save his reforms or lead to the approval of his cabinet. Today is the last day for Iraq’s parliament to approve the list of technocrats he has put forward.

Mr Al Abadi’s crime – which may yet cost him his role as prime minister – is not that he has failed to move quickly enough on reforms, nor that Iraq’s political class is widely seen as corrupt, nor even that ISIL has occupied major Iraqi cities and enslaved Iraqi citizens. Rather, his crime is that he is seeking to go beyond Iraq’s sectarian political system.

The list of proposed cabinet members that he has submitted to parliament does not conform to the sectarian system put in by the Americans after the 2003 invasion, whereby each grouping – Sunnis, Shia and Kurds – is given representation. For seeking to go beyond this, he has been accused of plotting a coup.

But even in seeking to surpass the sectarian system, he is exposing how powerful it is. For the current dispute over Mr Al Abadi’s latest cabinet is almost entirely an intra-Shia dispute.

Sunnis and Kurds have dissented, but their concerns are not paramount to Baghdad’s politicians.
The Shia alliance holds the majority of seats in the Iraqi parliament. Despite differences, the group has united due to fear of Iraqi Sunnis. As long as Mr Al Abadi can keep the Kurdish bloc on side – they, too, are united by their fear of Sunnis – there is simply no need to court Sunni opinion.

Yet the Iraqi National Alliance, an overarching bloc under which rival Shia parties are organised, is almost fracturing under the weight of the differences, and they are only interested in the opinions of each other.

Nouri Al Maliki, the former prime minister who hopes to return, Muqtada Al Sadr, the firebrand cleric who commands a military wing, and Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani – it is between these individuals and their supporters that Mr Al Abadi’s fate will be decided. Yes, there is disagreement in a previously united Shia bloc. But the decisions that determine the fate of Iraq’s prime ministers are still decided by only one political grouping.

All of this points to the wider malaise of Iraqi politics, the sectarian system. That has been the fundamental reason for the dysfunction of the Iraqi state since the end of the US occupation.
A sectarian system undermines genuine cross-sectarian policies and locks people into sectarian boxes. Sunnis, Shia and Kurds remain in those categories, irrespective of social class, gender or politics.

Although ostensibly about maintaining a balance of power, it actually makes weak central government the only plausible outcome.

This has serious repercussions across the country. It means the Kurds think only in terms of being Kurds, constantly looking for advantage against the Sunnis and Shia; it means the Sunnis will always identify by sect, supporting policies that may work for one part of society but not others. Above all, it means that a Shia majority can marginalise many parts of Iraqi society.

It is precisely this privileging of one sect over another that has led to widespread corruption, a narrow view of what counts as the national interest in Iraq, and has even damaged the ability of the army to fight battles – as many Iraqis have learnt to great cost against ISIL.

Worse, this sectarian balance actually undermines Iraq’s fledgling democracy. It is one thing for Mr Al Abadi to have to listen to Iraqi public opinion, as expressed by people taking to the streets in anger. It is quite another for him to have to take orders from an unelected cleric.

When he points out “it was Sadr who demanded a government of independents”, he is either playing clever politics, putting the rationale for his own actions into the mouth of an important Shia player, or he is exposing the fundamentally undemocratic way Iraq’s politics is conducted.

In either case, this is short- term politics. A fledgling democracy needs confidence in the institutions of government. If the decisions of the government can be swayed by street protests too often, then politicians are at the mercy of the best organised group.

Mr Al Abadi may well survive this round, even if his cabinet doesn’t go through exactly as drafted. But there is a fundamental imbalance created in Iraqi politics by the sectarian system. Until it is addressed, politicians will never be able to govern in the genuine national interest. Indeed, with sectarian politics, it will never be clear where Iraq’s true national interests even lie.

falyafai@thenational.ae

How Obama Betrayed Democracy In Iran (Ezekiel 17)

green movementWSJ: White House Rebuffed Request to Assist Iran’s 2009 Pro-Democracy Protesters

The Obama administration ignored leaders of Iran’s pro-democracy Green Movement when they requested support from the United States in 2009The Wall Street Journalreported (Google link) on Friday. According to current and past U.S. officials, the decision was influenced by President Barack Obama’s reluctance to jeopardize future nuclear talks with the Iranian regime.
The Journal, which documented how hardliners backed by Ayatollah Ali Khamenei have become stronger since Tehran reached a nuclear deal with world powers in July, wrote that the number of reformists in Iran has conversely diminished. “Many activists are angry at the Obama administration for failing to support them six years ago in a rebuff that hasn’t been previously reported,” it added.
Current and former U.S. officials who worked with the Obama administration on Iranian issues said that the pro-democracy protests “caught the White House off guard.” While some tried to convince Obama to publicly support the uprising, calling it the “most important democratic opening since the 1979 Islamic revolution,” the president preferred to “give it a few days.” According to one senior American official, the message was, “We should monitor, but do nothing.
In addition to maintaining silence about the Green Movement, the administration directed the CIA not to take any action that could help it.
“If you were working on the nuclear deal, you were saying, ‘Don’t do too much,’” said Michael McFaul, the current U.S. ambassador to Russia who served as a National Security Council official at the time.
Both current and past Obama administration officials said that the decision not to support the protesters was influenced by “the potential for talks with Iran.” In 2009, Obama was already “heavily invested” his outreach to Khamenei, having sent the Supreme Leader two letters prior to the controversial presidential election.

Politics as usual from Obama (Ezekiel 17)

Updated: Jan 6, 2016 – 1:00 AM
North Korea said it has conducted a hydrogen bomb test — a move that would put the country a step closer to improving its still-limited nuclear arsenal.
National Security Council spokesman Ned Price said late Tuesday that the U.S. is monitoring the situation “in close coordination with our regional partners.”
“While we cannot confirm these claims at this time, we condemn any violation of UN Security Council resolutions and again call on North Korea to abide by its international obligations and commitments,” he said,
North Korea conducted its first nuclear test in 2006 and, until today has done so twice since, Price said, “but we have consistently made clear that we will not accept it as a nuclear state.”
“We will continue to protect and defend our allies in the region, including the Republic of Korea,” he said, “and will respond appropriately to any and all North Korean provocations.”

Antichrist Influencing Iraqi Politics (Revelation 13)

al-sadr_jpg_475x310_q85
Fighting Over Who Heads Important Political Alliance Threatens to Split Shiite MPs
Ibrahim Saleh
At a time when the country badly needs stability, infighting about who will lead the country’s biggest political alliance is a sign of local MPs’ badly timed power games.
6.08.2015  |  Baghdad
In September 2014, senior Shiite Muslim politician Ibrahim al-Jaafari was named the leader of the Iraqi Parliament’s largest bloc of Shiite Muslim parties. The bloc is known as the National Iraqi Alliance and members include all the major political parties made up of mostly Shiite Muslim interests, such as the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the Sadrist movement and the State of Law alliance. The country’s current Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, is a member of the Dawa party, which in turn is the cornerstone of the State of Law bloc, and therefore also of the National Iraqi Alliance, or NIA; so was the country’s last Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki.
The problem is that al-Jaafari is also Iraq’s Minister of Foreign Affairs and he must be replaced as leader of the National Iraqi Alliance.
But this has become a problem: Just because most of the Shiite Muslim-majority parties are in the NIA doesn’t mean they always agree. During the last elections, at the end of 2014, as MPS wrangled to form a government there were major divisions within the NIA. Alliance members had to try and decide on a new Prime Minister for the country and al-Maliki, of the State of Law bloc, insisted he should retain the job despite what many saw as his poor performance over the past few years. Other Alliance members insisted that he didn’t stay in the job and threatened to withdraw their support from the bloc if he did. In the end, another member of the State of Law coalition, the far more conciliatory Haider al-Abadi, was nominated Prime Minister and things settled down again.
But now the same parties within the NIA are fighting once again – only this time their argument is not about the Prime Minister-ship, but about who leads the NIA. Some analysts have suggested that leadership of the NIA is a purely symbolic position but the infighting seems to indicate that it is actually considered more important than that.
Once again it is the State of Law bloc that is in conflict with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, or ISCI.
The State of Law bloc apparently considers that the removal of al-Maliki from the country’s top job has diminished its influence within the NIA. That is despite the fact that Prime Minister al-Abadi is also a member of the bloc. Currently the State of Law bloc are wanting to give the job to another of their senior members, Ali al-Adib.
Meanwhile the ISCI believes that their party’s leader, Ammar al-Hakim, should be heading the NIA. They say that the job is rightly his because the Alliance was actually created by al-Hakim’s father, Abdul Aziz al-Hakim. Additionally it would only be a fair way of splitting Iraq’s top political jobs, they say – the State of Law bloc already has the prime minister’s chair, why shouldn’t the ISCI then get the leadership of the NIA?, they argue.
Al-Hakim hasn’t officially nominated himself for the job but he has said a few things that indicate that if the issue isn’t resolved to his satisfaction, certain steps would be taken. Reading between the lines of al-Hakim’s various comments, observers say that this might mean that the ISCI could withdraw from the National Iraqi Alliance, or that the Alliance could be reformed to leave the State of Law bloc out of it.
An MP affiliated with the ISCI, Salim al-Muslimawi, told NIQASH that in fact, the ISCI prefers to keep the National Iraqi Alliance united, and that stability is especially important in the face of the challenges that Iraq currently faces.
“Any suggestions the ISCI makes aim to maintain the Alliance’s unity and strengthen it,” al-Muslimawi stated. “But if a certain bloc wants to nominate a member for leadership of the Alliance but they are not necessarily qualified to lead, then the ISCI must take appropriate steps by itself.”
Al-Muslimawi also hinted that, as they did when the issue of the new Prime Minister was being debated, that the Sadrist movement would support the ISCI.
The State of Law coalition believes that another way of resolving the issue might be to organise an election process to choose the head of the Alliance. Several other parties within the Alliance have agreed that this may be the best way forward.
The other option might be to try and find some sort of consensus internally, within the Alliance,” suggests Abbas al-Bayati, a senior member of the State of Law bloc; al-Bayati also added that he didn’t think this issue should be a problem for the Alliance

The Korean Nuclear Horn Extends Its Arms (Daniel 7:7)

S. Korea claims Pyongyang has nuclear missiles that could reach US

South Korea says its northern neighbor has developed compact nuclear warheads that could reach mainland America. Seoul also alleges Pyongyang shows no signs of stopping its nuclear program and has gained access to tons of weapons-grade plutonium.

The South Korean Ministry of Defense published the revelations in a white paper, which states that North Korea has achieved significant technological progress in their attempts to create nuclear warheads for ballistic missiles.

The missiles could allegedly reach mainland America. Pyongyang has carried out a series of tests on long-range missiles, but no signs have been detected that Pyongyang has put such missiles into service, Seoul said.

“North Korea’s capabilities of miniaturizing nuclear weapons appear to have reached a significant level,” the ministry said in a statement adding that North Korea has stored 40 kilograms of weapons-grade plutonium by reprocessing spent nuclear fuel rods and that it’s working on a highly enriched uranium program.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on June 30, 2014 shows launching of a tactical rocket during a firing drill by the Korean People's Army Strategic Force at an undisclosed place in North Korea. (AFP/KCNA)

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on June 30, 2014 shows launching of a tactical rocket during a firing drill by the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force at an undisclosed place in North Korea. (AFP/KCNA)

This is not the first time that Seoul has made such statements and it is difficult to confirm the information. North Korea is a closed country and occasionally does like to boast about its missile capabilities. In June, Pyongyang tested what it says were new precision-guided missiles.

Speaking in May 2014, the South Korean Defense Minister, Kim Kwan-jin, told journalists that Pyongyang had reached the final stages of preparations to conduct a nuclear test. However, North Korea has yet to conduct a test, adding to the theory that Pyongyang enjoys keeping its rivals on edge through a series of veiled threats.

This undated picture released from North Korea's official Korean Central News Agency on June 30, 2014 shows launching of a tactical rocket during a firing drill by the Korean People's Army Strategic Force at an undisclosed place in North Korea. (AFP/KCNA)

This undated picture released from North Korea’s official Korean Central News Agency on June 30, 2014 shows launching of a tactical rocket during a firing drill by the Korean People’s Army Strategic Force at an undisclosed place in North Korea. (AFP/KCNA)

After South Korea latest statement, Pyongyang demanded that Washington, who is committed to defending South Korea in the event of aggression from the north, should think carefully if it wishes to further antagonize Pyongyang.

“If Washington does not make the correct choice regarding the Korean question, then there will continue to be a period where Pyongyang will strengthen its war capabilities. If the US decides to stop being hostile and meddling in North Korea’s internal affairs, Pyongyang will look favorably on this decision,” the Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) reported.

Relations between North Korea and the US have become even more strained after Washington introduced further sanctions, designed to impede access to the US financial system in the wake of a cyberattack on Sony Pictures Entertainment, which the Obama Administration has said was supported by the reclusive country.

China has meanwhile urged North Korea and South Korea to improve their relations through dialogue in order to maintain peace and safety in the region.
“As a near neighbor of the Korean peninsula, China has always supported the process of improving relations between North and South Korea through dialogue,” the TASS news agency quoted the Chinese Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Tuesday.

In October 2014, North Korean officials held talks with their South Korean counterparts in Incheon, the first time such a high level meeting has taken place since 2007. Both parties agreed to resume high-level talks, which have been strained by military tensions on the peninsula.

AFP/KCNA via KNS

AFP/KCNA via KNS

During his New Year’s address last week, North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, who was absent from that meeting in Incheon in October, said that there was “no reason” not to hold a high-level summit with neighboring South Korea. This came days after South Korea made a similar offer to resume dialogue with Pyongyang.

“If South Korean authorities sincerely want to improve relations between North and South Korea through talks, we can resume stalled high-level meetings,” he said, as reported by Reuters.

Nobel Committee Playing Politics Again

With its pick, Nobel Committee draws renewed attention to India-Pakistan conflict

india pakistan border
Griff Witte | Washington Post

LONDON — In a year of rapidly proliferating conflicts, the Swedish Nobel Committee on Friday renewed attention on one of the world’s most durable and dangerous standoffs by splitting its annual peace prize between a teenage Pakistani activist and a graying Indian Gandhian.

The richly symbolic selection brings together individuals who took very different paths to the award, but who hold much in common in their outspoken advocacy for the rights of children.

The pick also reaches across ethnic, religious and political lines to kindle new hopes for peace on the South Asian subcontinent, where one-fifth of the world’s population lives.

The conflict between India and Pakistan — a tense showdown between nuclear-armed neighbors that has featured four major wars over 67 years — has flared again in recent days, with cross-border shelling in the disputed region of Kashmir.

The prime ministers of the two nations may have an important and unusual chance to discuss the conflict in person in December at the Nobel awards ceremony, having been invited by the winners. Although there was no immediate response, the invitation puts pressure on both leaders to translate the warm feelings generated by Friday’s prize into more concrete progress toward a deescalation.

Antichrist and Hakim Form Alliance to Take Over Iraq

Iraq: Sadr and Hakim form new “strategic” alliance

Antichrist and Hakim form political alliance.

Antichrist and Hakim form political alliance.

Baghdad, Asharq Al-Awsat—Sadr Movement leader Moqtada Al-Sadr has announced a new alliance with the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) led by Ammar Al-Hakim, describing it as a “strategic” alliance.
In reply to a question from one of his followers about doubts in the alliance between the Sadrist Al-Ahrar Bloc and the ISCI’s Al-Muwatin Bloc, Sadr said: “Many people have tried to end this alliance and make it a failure in any way they could.”
He added: “This alliance strengthens the Iraqi, national, Islamic Shi’ite alliance,” and “makes the political arena fairer and removes domination and monopoly.”
This alliance brings together the two most important Shi’ite factions in Iraq following an experiment that seems to be somewhat of a success on the local level, namely the sharing of power in a number of Iraq’s governorates, particularly Baghdad. This experiment has seen a Sadrist-ISCI coalition defeat Iraqi prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki’s State of Law (SLC) coalition, which had monopolized the most important posts in the capital, including that of governor and head of the governorate council, for more than eight years.
Al-Ahrar bloc MP Mohammed Ridha Al-Khafaji informed Asharq Al-Awsat that “the new alliance between ISCI and the Sadr Movement also includes the Kurds.” However, the leader of the Kurdistan Alliance in the Iraqi parliament, Fuad Maasoum, denied that the Kurds had joined any alliance.
Khafaji said: “The meeting between the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), Massoud Barzani, and the political bureau of the Sadr Movement, discussed the basis of this alliance.”
He added: “The political bureau of the Sadr Movement has told Barzani that it rejects any extension in the terms of the three leadership posts, including that of the post of prime minister.”
Khafaji stressed: “The new alliance, which includes the Kurds, will not be against any one, including the Sunni front, because everyone knows that the Shi’ite–Kurdish alliance is a historic alliance.”
The leader of the Kurdistan Alliance in the Iraqi parliament, Fuad Maasoum, denied that the Kurds had joined this alliance. Speaking exclusively to Asharq Al-Awsat, Maasoum said: “This issue was not raised by anyone, whether during the visit by Massoud Barzani to Baghdad and his intensive meetings with senior leaders and officials, or at the Kurdish leadership level.”
He stressed, “It is premature to talk about any type of alliances, and therefore, I confirm that there is no truth in any reports about this [alliance].”
Commenting on Barzani’s visit to Baghdad, Maasoum said: “The visit achieved its aims from all angles, and the most important thing about it is that the leaders agreed not to delve into the details and leave them to the joint committees.”
He added, “Barzani was very satisfied with the meetings and the points which were discussed, and what had been achieved by all parties,” adding, “There is agreement between the two main parties in Kurdistan—the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP)—on this visit and what was discussed. Everything takes place with the agreement of both parties, for the interest of the Kurdistan region and Iraq.”