The Antichrist Remembers the Large Horn (Daniel 8:3)

Muqtada Sadr: Iraq never stands against Iran, its interests

(AhlulBayt News Agency) – Leader of a political party, the Sadrist Movement and the leader of Saraya al-Salam Muqtada al-Sadr pointed to historic and stable ties between two countries.
Muqtada al-Sadr made the remarks in an interview recently.Iraq never stands against Iran and its interests, he said.He also denied the fact that his recent regional trips aimed at joining international lobbies. He referred to his trips as aiming at creating full understanding and coordination with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, reinforcing relations with regional countries and putting an end to tensions between Iraq and its neighbors

The Caliphate Under the Antichrist (Revelation 13) the Mahdi state to the Caliphate state!
Al Arabiya
The peoples of the East generally believe in inherited legends which, over time, turn into an unreliable part of faith. The idea of the Caliphate state which was promoted by the Muslim Brotherhood is a set of inherited mythical fantasies that claim that the Prophet (PBUH) promised the Muslims a Caliphate state which will unite the Muslim world under the same flag.
Naturally, this Hadith is challenged by many and is not proven by the authorities and scholars. In fact, the caliphate state is an idea which emerged after the death of the Prophet, and it is improbable that he had recommended it. However, the mixing of some of the Hadiths with fixed historical facts has created a kind of sanctity in the contemporary Islamic mindset.
The caliphate state, which they say will materialize at the end of time, is the basis of most of the Muslim political movements. At the forefront of these movements is the Muslim Brotherhood.
Sowing destruction
Among those who adopted this mythical idea is also ISIS, which shed the blood of many people, sowed destruction in countries and displaced people for the sake of the Caliphate state. In the end, all its efforts failed. They based their entire war and propaganda on a Hadith attributed to the Prophet which promised the emergence of this state at the end of time. In fact, it is believed that this state will conquer (Rome) in Europe, as is repeatedly vowed by its advocates.
By the way, when Juhayman occupied the Grand Mosque, and pledged allegiance to the person who claimed to be the Mahdi under the Kaaba, he also believed in the heritage of another newly inherited prophesy that predicts that when the Mahdi emerges at the end of time, all the Muslims in the Haram will pledge allegiance to him. Consequently, an army will come from the north to fight his supporters.
The defeat of ISIS and the idea of the state of the Caliphate, which some claim will emerge as strong as the Caliphate state in the beginning of Islamic history, requires us to purify our heritage from these myths that are not based on logical context as much as on the logic of miracles.
The story describes how the soil would crack and swallow the army and that the Mahdi and his supporters would conquer all. Yet, the truth was something else, something that is far away from myths and legends.
The question that we should urgently ask within this context is whether the fall of the so-called Caliphate State, along with the horrendous fall of ISIS, would fortify the Islamic mind and keep it from accepting these inherited heritage legends, which invade the law of logical causality under the pretext of the sanctity of the Prophet and make the miraculous supernatural somehow believable.
The defeat of ISIS and the idea of the state of the Caliphate, which some claim will emerge as strong as the Caliphate state in the beginning of Islamic history, requires us to purify our heritage from these myths that are not based on logical context as much as on the logic of miracles.
Just like the Juhayman incident and the myth of the Mahdi cost us human and psychological losses at the beginning of the current Hajri century, history is repeating itself. The same idea of the mythical state of the Caliphate cost the whole world human and material losses, which can be seen on the ground. In the end, it turns out that states are not based on desires or metaphysical reasons, but on rational reasons justified by reality, not by the cosmic law and miracles.
Hence, young people must realize that they were taken for fools. Indeed, some of the inherited heritage texts are only a form of rational abuse and myths.
This article is also available in Arabic.
Mohammed Al Shaikh is a Saudi writer with al-Jazirah newspaper. He tweets @alshaikhmhmd
Last Update: Sunday, 6 August 2017 KSA 16:06 – GMT 13:06
Disclaimer: Views expressed by writers in this section are their own and do not reflect Al Arabiya English’s point-of-view.

Antichrist is a Major Shi’a Player
Frenemies forever: Iraqi Shi’a after Mosul
With the liberation of Mosul a certainty, if not an imminent one, international attention on Iraq is largely focused on rebuilding the war-torn city and fostering intra-communal reconciliation.
The former is understandable as the immediate needs of Mosul are great and tangible. The latter also fits into western conceptualizations of Iraq, two decades after intervention, which views the country as comprised of three distinct and uniform communities: Sunni, Shi’a, and Kurd.
Meanwhile, back in Baghdad Iraqi Shi’a political parties and elites have long shifted focus away from defeating the Islamic State. Instead, they are returning to patterns of infighting habituated by decades of coalition- and relation-building in both the pre- and post-Saddam Iraq.
No such thing as structural political unity
While Iraqi Shi’a parties and elites did circle the wagons as the Islamic State bore down on Baghdad, once the Hashd al-Shaabi militias (Popular Mobilization Units) emerged, at the behest of Ayatollah Sistani’s fatwa calling Iraqis to arms, and American-led airstrikes began the existential nature of the threat of the so-called Islamic State was effectively nullified.
Political unity of Iraq’s Shi’a parties and elite [nearly] only occurs in response to a common enemy, which most recently took the form of the Islamic State and in previous periods had been Saddam Hussein and the United States.
Contrary to popular discourse, Iraq is not three cohesive ethno-religious blocks that act in unison. In fact there has been no such thing as structural political unity for Iraqi Shi’a for at least the past two and a half decades. When such unity does materialize it quickly disappears and is replaced by vicious competition.
Drain the Baghdad swamp
A contemporary example of the unscrupulous nature of Iraqi Shi’a coalition- and -relation building is Moqtada al-Sadr, who has rather opportunistically seized upon the pro-reform, anti-corruption protests that have been taking place in Baghdad since the summer of 2015 by throwing his and his movements weight behind the protests.
The protests were in support of a reform drive that was primarily the work of another Shi’a politician Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi, which on its surface would suggest either support from a fellow Shi’a, Sadr, or at least disagreements kept behind closed doors.
Al-Abadi, however, has little political base within his Dawa party of State of Law coalition and as a result has seen his efforts at reform stymied. Instead of supporting, Abadi Sadr took the public position that the reforms do not go far enough, creating headaches for Abadi who struggled to elicit any support for the reforms from fellow Shi’a inside and outside his own party.
Many see Sadr’s calls for reforms as disingenuous since members of his movement are integral partners in the political process. Sadrists representatives sit on the Electoral Commission, for example, which was recently the target for reform by Sadr and his followers. Sadr is likely supporting the protests calling for reform, and not necessarily the reforms themselves, to energize his political base and attract new supporters in the run-up to next year’s parliamentary elections.
Moqtada al-Sadr and his movement are deeply enmeshed in the political system that he currently rails against and the protests are a tool employed to try and hammer his opponents with.
Preserving a kleptocratic pie
In this environment of renewed competition Iraqi Shi’a political elites do not share common views on much. Deep divides persist between Iraqi Shi’a parties over what role clerics should have, whether Iraq should move towards a federal structure, and the desirability of Iranian influence in the country. These fundamental positions of the major Iraqi Shi’a parties make long-term alliances an impossibility.
Perhaps the sole thing they can agree on today is the preservation of a political system that permits state capture for the sake of perpetuating patronage networks. This system was consolidated after intra-Shi’a violence abetted in 2009 with the defeat of Moqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army.
Although violence throughout the country raged on, the fighting between Shi’a groups was replaced by competition over resources of the Iraqi state, a trend that accelerated under the premiership of Nouri al-Maliki (2006-2014).
Today, corruption is a deeply entrenched feature of the Baghdad political terrain. Iraqi Shi’a political groups and elites shifted away from violence to competing over revenue from oil sales and control over ministries and parliamentary committees in order to employ family members and supporters.
In addition, Iraqi political elites continue to favor the status quo of a centralized state, despite the promises of devolution to Iraq’s provinces. The reason for this being that a centralized state in Baghdad is one that is easier to steal from.
Plus ça change aux Baghdad…
While these elites have so far managed to fight off attempts at reform, popular grievances against poor governance, insecurity, poverty and inadequate service delivery remain unaddressed. Even the storming of the Iraqi parliament in Baghdad’s Green Zone in May of 2016, jarring as it was, proved unable to move the needle on the substantive reforms so desperately needed. So then what becomes of Iraq if the status quo is maintained?
The last 25 years of Iraqi history shows that despite violence and acrimonious political rhetoric, Iraqi Shi’a parties are still likely to form alliances to contest upcoming elections with their ostensible rivals. If the sustained pressure of the reform protests can continue to be contained, Iraq’s political elite will likely manage to cobble together a government after the 2018 parliamentary elections that is no more responsive to its constituents than before.
Steps forward
Mosul will require substantial bandwidth and resources from external actors for the near to medium term, deservedly so. The next crisis, however, will almost certainly involve the upcoming parliamentary elections, scheduled for January 2018.
External stakeholders should look to ways to support more productive competition between Shi’a parties that results in parties and leaders that are more receptive to the needs and wishes of their constituencies. This can be accomplished at least in part by facilitating confidence building and reconciliation between existing Iraqi Shi’a political groups.
In the spirit of more productive competition, external stakeholders can provide long-term support to Shi’a social movements, civil society advocacy groups and even nascent parties. Fostering a counter weight to the stagnant Iraqi Shi’a political class external stakeholders can help to challenge the complacency of the established elite. This could take the form of long-term core funding to these groups or discrete training courses held outside the country.
Ultimately, an additional focus on promoting the quality, legitimacy and diversity of Iraqi Shi’a political representation will translate in strengthening cross-ethno-sectarian reconciliation efforts in Iraq.

The Antichrist Liberates Mosul (Revelation 13)

Arab News
After months of grinding progress in Mosu  it looks as if Daesh is preparing to flee, heralding the end of the “Islamic State” project in Iraq — in its current form. Good riddance to one of the worst scourges of modern times!
For three years Daesh has been a unifying force. Sunni tribes, Shiite militias, Peshmerga and even Iran and the US could all claim to be fighting on the same side against this menace. What happens when they wake up and realize that this shared threat is gone?
It had been convenient to ignore the issue of Kurdistan’s status, and whether the Kurds are simply looking after Kirkuk. What happens when the government demands its share of Kurdish oil reserves? Northern Iraq hosts minorities with demands for guaranteeing their security and interests, after their government failed to protect them from extermination, mass rape and many other horrors. And what about Turkey’s assertion of its military rights in the area?
Such issues pale in comparison with the potential for conflict between Sunni and Shiite factions. Sectarian Shiite leaders accuse Sunnis of facilitating Daesh. Meanwhile Sunnis have records of thousands of young men detained or summarily executed by militias — systematic war crimes amounting to sectarian cleansing. There are even tensions between Shiite factions over conflicting visions for post-Daesh Iraq.
A new Human Rights Watch report documents mass deportations of hundreds of Sunni families in Salahuddin province in acts of collective punishment, which allow for the expulsion of even distant family members of individuals accused of collaborating with Daesh. In a single incident in Sharqat last year, an entire district of over 1,000 people was evicted after five Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi paramilitary fighters were killed by Daesh.
With provincial and parliamentary elections coming up, Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi militants have exploited their role against Daesh to consolidate political power, by preventing displaced Sunnis from voting and relentless propaganda through well-funded media outlets.
Public frustration at massive levels of corruption and sectarianism was a major factor in why Mosul fell so easily to insurgents. In June 2014, Mosul’s security was managed by Gen. Mahdi Al-Gharrawi, who instead of facing charges for torturing inmates in secret prisons prior to 2008, was forgiven and promoted by former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki. The corruption of his administration in Mosul so demoralized his troops that they fled when confronted by Daesh’s tiny force.
Purges by Al-Maliki forced out his rivals and left Sunni tribal forces, who risked their lives against Al-Qaeda, with nothing. Communities have seen young men rounded up like cattle and disappeared. It will take a miracle to convince Sunni communities to re-engage with a leadership unwilling to offer anything more than accusations of collaboration with the enemy.
Daesh has offered a convenient distraction to other disputes in the region — but what happens when this shared threat is gone?
Meanwhile, the insurgent movement will go underground, regain its strength and reappear under new guises. Its strategy again will be reaching out to disenfranchised youth — and Iraq is overflowing with such people, just as it is overflowing with arms, militias and all the ingredients necessary for renewed conflict.
Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi and Shiite cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr talk about demobilizing paramilitary groups, but militants could not be clearer. Militia leader Qais Al-Khazali said last week: “Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi will remain, will continue to expand and never will be dissolved. Just as the Hashd has been present on the battlefield, it will take its place in politics… Just as we smashed the heads of Daesh fighters, we will smash the heads of politicians who fell short and sold out their nation. We will purge them from Iraq.”
If after 2018 pro-Iran militias guilty of ethnic cleansing are in government, we can say goodbye to any notion that Iraq is a democratic, inclusive and sovereign state. In 2005, 2010 and 2014 there were intense US efforts to prevent pro-Iran figures monopolizing the government. In recent US Senate hearings on Mosul’s future, experts warned of the dangers of losing interest in Iraq and allowing Iran to consolidate the Hashd as a Hezbollah equivalent.
The visit to Iraq by Saudi Foreign Minister Adel Al-Jubeir drew a response from Hashd media outlets, because they know exactly what this visit means. Tehran installed its puppets in Baghdad because of a lack of GCC engagement. Sectarian thugs even forced the Saudi ambassador out of his post. A strong GCC role would help compensate for a bullying Iran and a negligent US — ensuring a power-sharing formula that puts the interests of Iraqi citizens as its priority.
There has been no serious preparation for the post-Mosul phase. This is not a moment to trust the good faith of the Iraqis themselves — those with a hostile agenda are too powerful. Iraq after Mosul will require even more muscular international support than Iraq prior to Mosul, including Western and GCC states working hand-in-hand.
Only such intervention can prevent the implosion of Iraq, the emergence of new and reinvigorated extremist groups, and Iran as the sole dominant power.
Does this scenario not sound frightening enough to deserve urgent action?
• Baria Alamuddin is an award-winning journalist and broadcaster in the Middle East and the UK. She is editor of the Media Services Syndicate, a foreign editor at Al-Hayat, and has interviewed numerous heads of state.

Beware of the Antichrist (Revelation 13)

moqtada-al-sadr-264x300Beware of Muqtada al-Sadr

Also available in العربية
October 19, 2016
Whether the popular Shiite cleric’s motivations are ideological or political, Washington should make sure that neither his loyal militias nor any rogue splinter groups are tempted into further acts of violence against American personnel and interests.
This September, a McClatchy article outlined the kidnapping of three American defense contractors in Iraq, noting how they were held for thirty-one days and tortured after being snatched in January. Yet they were not taken by the Islamic State, nor by Iranian-backed stalwarts such as Kataib Hezbollah or Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), as many analysts and columnists speculated at the time. The true culprits belonged to Saraya al-Salam (the Peace Companies, or SAS), a Shiite militia headed by influential Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. It is still unknown if this was a warning to the United States from Sadr himself, a rogue move by a splinter group, or a sign of a larger Sadrist effort against American forces in Iraq. Yet the news likely came as a surprise to many observers given Sadr’s high-profile focus on nonviolent political action in recent months, not to mention Washington’s repeated attempts to engage him. U.S. officials have been mum on the incident thus far — whether or not they remain so, they should keep a close eye on Sadr’s camp as the battle for Mosul and other important developments unfold.


Sadr has a strong ideological heritage of anti-Americanism. His late father, Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, was known for his fiery rhetoric against the United States. And after the younger Sadr declared the existence of Jaish al-Mahdi (the Mahdi Army, or JAM) following the 2003 invasion and occupation of Iraq, the group was involved in numerous bloody clashes with coalition forces, as was its partial successor Liwa al-Youm al-Mawud (the Promised Day Brigades, or LYM).
Since 2014, Sadr has rebuffed numerous U.S. attempts to engage him, according to Iraq-based contacts from the State Department. He has also issued sporadic threats against U.S. forces. On July 21, Alaa Aboud — the spokesman for SAS, the latest successor to JAM — stated there was no need for American participation in the battle for Mosul, and that Sadr’s forces were “thirsty for American blood.”
Despite such rhetoric, the decision to target Americans in January (and perhaps down the road) may have more to do with internal Iraqi politics than anti-Western ideology. Most notably, Sadr’s hostile posture could be a means of gaining leverage in his complex and often tumultuous relationship with Iran.


In the Iraqi political arena, Sadr has continually used forces under his control to demonstrate that he can project power anytime he likes. This includes the anticorruption protests he fomented earlier this year against Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s government, during which his supporters took over Baghdad’s Green Zone. Sadr has also criticized the government’s cooperation with the United States.
Other protests this year have seen his supporters allegedly ripping down the banners of Iranian-backed Shiite militias, raiding their offices, and yelling anti-Iranian slogans. Further highlighting Sadr’s rupture with Tehran and Baghdad, SAS has been acting independently of the government-recognized umbrella network for Shiite militias, al-Hashd al-Shabi (aka the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMUs). Sadr himself has called the dominant Iranian-backed elements in the PMUs “brazen militias.”
To be sure, Sadr has publicly apologized for the anti-Iranian chants heard during this year’s demonstrations, and Tehran continues to provide direct military support to his forces. Sadr even attended an October 18 reconciliation event with leading Iranian proxy commanders, including two who split from his camp: AAH chief Qais al-Khazali and Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba leader Akram Kaabi. There, he expressed support for Iraqi operations in Mosul and rejected Turkey’s involvement in the battle. Yet the divisions with Tehran are still deep, and more reports are emerging of assassination campaigns pitting Sadr loyalists against Iranian-controlled splinter groups, particularly AAH.
As Iran and Sadr compete to build loyalty within Iraq’s Shiite community, taking a stronger line against the United States plays to the widespread anti-Americanism among the general population. Going up against the world’s foremost military power could also help them demonstrate strength to domestic constituents and each other.
In the near term, if Sadr feels he is being pushed into a corner by Tehran or Baghdad, taking violent action against U.S. forces may give him an easy way to gain attention and bolster his claims that he is the only true Iraqi “nationalist” willing to oppose foreign “occupiers.” Such attacks could also be used to demonstrate the impotence of the Abadi government and sow divisions between Baghdad and Washington.


For over a decade, splinter groups and individual defectors have continually plagued Sadr’s ranks. Indeed, the potential for more such splinters to form — including some that claim to carry Sadr’s banner — makes it uniquely difficult to assess threats arising from the cleric’s camp.
While autonomous cells within SAS and LYM could cause their own problems, groups sponsored by Tehran seem to pose the greatest challenge. As tensions rise, such groups could take action against American forces and then blame the attacks on Sadr. In that scenario, he might have to face the repercussions of the attacks, which could in turn spur him to adopt an even more hostile position toward the United States.
Following Sadr’s restructuring of JAM in 2008 and the creation of LYM, he often (correctly) asserted that splinter groups, not his own fighters, were the ones targeting U.S. forces. Some of these groups were disparate cells linked to the then-developing Iranian proxy AAH, while others were localized JAM factions that disagreed with halting their armed activities.
When SAS was announced in mid-2014, Sadr stated that it would be the only militia to represent his name and cause. Yet LYM was allowed to continue, showing that Sadr still had to deal with powerful and at times autonomous elements within his militia apparatuses. Accordingly, the cleric has often used a tactic he honed during JAM’s heyday: freezing his militias and monitoring which factions adhere to his orders. In February-March 2015, for example, he froze both SAS and LYM, claiming it was a gesture to encourage political interactions rather than violence between different Iraqi parties. In November 2015, he ordered a freeze on SAS elements in Diyala, claiming they were engaged in criminal activities. And this May, he called for his cadres to withdraw their armed presence from sections of Baghdad hit by Islamic State bombings. While this was likely meant to show the government that it needed him and demonstrate its impotence in protecting the capital, particularly those neighborhoods guarded by Iranian-backed forces, it may also have been another loyalty test for Sadr’s forces.
Whatever the case, more splinters emerged following the Islamic State’s 2014 advance in Iraq, this time with multiple new formalized groups declaring their presence. When the Iranian proxy Kataib al-Imam Ali (the Imam Ali Battalions, or KIA) was announced in late June of that year, former JAM commander Shebl al-Zaidi recorded video of himself and his fighters holding the severed heads of what they claimed were their Islamic State enemies. He then stated that KIA was aligned with SAS and was an integral element of JAM. Three months later, Sadr countered these claims and the attempted smearing of his campaign in a public address, declaring that his militias had a more cleaned-up reputation. Yet as of late 2015, some KIA-linked elements were still putting up martyrdom posters for fallen commanders that featured photos of Sadr.
Other splinter groups fighting in Syria have similarly claimed loyalty to Sadr even though he publicly opposed any armed Shiite intervention next door. On closer inspection, it is clear that these groups are no longer loyal to him — for many of them, Syria still serves as a good tool for recruiting fighters and further weakening his control.
Another major Sadrist splinter commander, Ahmed Hajji al-Saadi, announced on social media in 2014 that he was operating with SAS in Iraq — a curious assertion given his close relations with numerous Iranian-backed Shiite jihadist organizations and his claim to fame as cofounder of Syria’s first major transnational Shiite jihadist group, Liwa Abu Fadl al-Abbas (LAFA). The LAFA offshoot Liwa al-Imam al-Hussein has also claimed to be Sadrist despite its open loyalties to Bashar al-Assad and Tehran. Other Iran-backed groups fighting in Iraq and Syria, such as Qaeda Quwat Abu Fadl al-Abbas and the newer Jaish al-Muwamal (Army of the Hopeful), have banked on their respective JAM and SAS legacies to recruit and craft militant networks.


To help prevent or prepare for potential troubles with Sadr and his splinters, U.S. policymakers should consider renewing their focus on the shifting moves made within his often opaque camp. This includes assessing which figures and networks Iran is using to foster more splinter groups. In the event American personnel are attacked again, such information could be beneficial in planning an appropriate, targeted response.
While Washington has remained publicly silent about Saraya al-Salam’s kidnapping of American contractors in January, seemingly preferring to work behind the scenes, it may not have the luxury of doing so in the future. If Sadr is truly embarking on a path of further conflict, U.S. forces will need to respond in a measured way — not only to discourage escalation, but also to send a strong signal of American power and resolve.
Phillip Smyth is a researcher at the University of Maryland and author of the Washington Institute report The Shiite Jihad in Syria and Its Regional Effects.

Who Is The Antichrist? (Revelation 13)

By Jon Lee Anderson
Beyond the gruesome military showdown with ISIS, politics in Iraq, such as it exists, revolves around a small cabal of former insurgents. All of them were political players long before the U.S. invasion of 2003, and they variously endured imprisonment, torture, exile, assassination attempts, and all-out warfare for their opposition to Saddam Hussein, and then survived to compete for the spoils of power. Some gained control of vast resources through their authority over lucrative government ministries. Some command their own militias as well as portions of the country’s security forces. The original list of players included the Kurdish leaders Jalal Talabani and Mustafa Barzani, the secular Shiite politicians Iyad Allawi and the late Ahmad Chalabi, the Shiite Islamists Ibrahim al-Jaafari and Nuri al-Maliki, and the late clerical Shiite brothers Muhammad Bakr and Abdulaziz al-Hakim. One of the most intriguing additions to this group is the radical Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, an arriviste of forty-two who has never held elected office but who now commands thousands and has established himself as a key power broker in the country.
A chunky, black-garbed, bearded man with a perpetually baleful countenance, “Moqtada,” as his followers call him, is a remarkable character. The son of a revered cleric who was murdered on Saddam’s orders, in 1999, Sadr forced his way into the political scene, when he was still in his twenties, with a calculated act of violence. On April 10, 2003, three weeks into the U.S. invasion, Abdel Majid al-Khoei, a moderate Shiite cleric, whom the Americans had brought into the holy city of Najaf, crucial to the country’s majority Shiites, in the hopes that he would somehow help manage the city’s influential religious community, was stabbed to death. The word went out quickly that the assassination, which occurred in broad daylight in front of numerous witnesses, had been carried out by one of Sadr’s lieutenants, on his orders. The murder coincided with the appearance, on the streets of Najaf and Baghdad, of an armed rabble who called Sadr their leader and themselves his Mahdi Army. Within days, they had taken over the vast Shiite slum of Saddam City, which was renamed Sadr City.
As the blundering American occupation got under way, in the spring and summer of 2003, Sadr built up his power base. Then, in April 2004, coinciding with the Sunni rebellion that began in Fallujah, Sadr’s Mahdi Army rose up and attacked coalition soldiers in Najaf, Baghdad, and across southern and central Iraq and inside Baghdad, as well. The uprising had been sparked by the American arrest of one of Sadr’s aides, who was accused of Khoei’s assassination. As coalition troops and Sadr’s followers clashed, the Americans said that Sadr himself was wanted for the murder, and sent a large number of troops to surround Najaf. Sadr threatened to launch a full-fledged jihad if they entered the city. A standoff ensued. In the face of spreading violence, the Americans eventually backed off.
Coalition forces fought the Mahdi Army several more times, always without resolution. Sadr’s soldiers were heavily implicated in the brutal sectarian violence of 2006 to 2008, but he has since renamed his army the Saraya al-Salam—the Peace Brigades—and now controls a big bloc in parliament as well as his own political party. When two of his government ministers were accused of corruption, he ordered them to resign from their offices and to present themselves to the Iraqi courts. He is Shiite but has taken pains to show himself to be non-sectarian, embracing the Sunni-led “Arab Spring” demonstrations of several years ago, and more recently forming a committee, made up of secular Shiite, Sunni, and Kurdish intellectuals, to come up with a “national plan” for Iraq.
Sadr knows how to choose his moments, and earlier this year he was back in the news, after a long and unexplained hiatus. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s failure to go through with promised reforms, including an overhaul of the government and new approach to tackling rampant official corruption, had been the focus of growing public discontent for some time when, in late February, Sadr resurfaced to demand action, and a hundred thousand of his followers joined him in one of Iraq’s biggest public demonstrations ever.
Sadr gave the government forty-five days to come clean, and as the clock ticked down thousands of Sadrists, a boisterous crew made up mainly of Shiites, camped noisily outside the Green Zone. Sadr threatened to storm the enclave with his followers if their demands were not met, but, in the end, he and the government agreed on a Solomonic denouement: Sadr alone stormed the Green Zone, allowed in by guards, who greeted him affectionately. Last Thursday, the Abadi government came up with an eleventh-hour planned government proposal, and the crisis ended. Sadr and his retinue departed, crowing victory, in a long convoy of S.U.V.s, which headed back to his stronghold in Najaf. Iraq’s parliament must vote on the proposal before next week. Depending on the outcome, Sadr, clearly, will keep his own counsel or hit the streets again.
Abadi, who acquiesced to Sadr’s latest show of force, is a more inclusive figure than his predecessor, Nuri al-Maliki, who was hated by Sunnis and forced out in 2014, after the ISIS takeover of most of Sunni Iraq. How long Abadi survives, however, remains to be seen. At the least, he knows he will have to contend with Sadr in order to retain stability on Iraq’s streets, and power for himself. In the rumbustious mosh pit of Iraqi politics, knowing how to survive is everything. At the rate he is going, Moqtada al-Sadr could well end up as the last man standing.

Jerusalem Has Been Given to the Nations (Revelation 11:2)

The terrorist who killed four Israelis in Jerusalem Jan. 8 by mowing them over with his truck expressed agitation after hearing a sermon at a local mosque criticizing Trump’s embassy relocation promise.
The Palestinian Authority (PA) leadership reportedly instructed the mosques it controls to focus their religious sermons on the embassy relocation. Worse still, the PA promised the terrorist’s widow a lifetime, $760-per-month stipend for her husband’s “martyrdom for Allah.”
Arab reactions to Trump’s embassy plans are more heated than they were to those of candidates Bush and Clinton perhaps because of Trump’s pledge to recognize Jerusalem as Israel’s capital and relocate the embassy there from Tel Aviv, not only as a candidate (including during his address at last year’s AIPAC Policy Conference) but also as president-elect, issuing public reassurances on the issue. Trump even planned to visit the Temple Mount as a candidate, although the visit never materialized and – as president – he said a few weeks ago that it was “too early” to discuss moving the U.S. Embassy.

Declarations by political and religious leaders give a green light to Palestinians to react violently, as the Jerusalem terrorist truck attack shows.
Nevertheless, Palestinian and Arab leaders have warned that moving the embassy could lead to unrest and violence. Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr called the idea “a declaration of war against Islam.” PA President Mahmoud Abbas said he could revoke the PLO’s recognition of Israel, while his Fatah party warned the move “would open the gates of hell.”
Such declarations by political and religious leaders give a green light to Palestinians to react violently, as the Jerusalem terrorist truck attack shows.
Palestinian leaders, including the “more moderate” Palestinian Authority, regularly deny that Jews have any historical or religious connection to the Temple Mount. PA Jerusalem Affairs Minister Adnan al-Husseini demanded an apology last month after United Nations Secretary-General Antonio Guterres said it was “completely clear that the Temple that the Romans destroyed in Jerusalem was a Jewish temple.” The statement “violated all legal, diplomatic and humanitarian customs and overstepped his role as secretary general,” al-Husseini said.
This is not the first time that the Palestinians, including the “more moderate” Palestinian Authority, have manipulated Jerusalem into an incendiary trigger for terror.
As Palestinian Media Watch reported, Abbas led calls in 2015 for Palestinians to act violently to “defend” Muslim holy sites. He blessed “every drop of blood that has been spilled for Jerusalem” and presented violence in “defense” of holy sites and against the Jews’ “filthy feet” as a religious imperative.
Indeed, the “stabbing intifidah” was launched in 2015 by false rumors that Israel was trying to change the status quo on the Temple Mount.
“Arabs are convinced that Israel is set on destroying, desecrating or ‘Judaizing’ Haram al-Sharif, the Jerusalem compound that includes al-Aqsa, Islam’s third-holiest site,” Benny Avni wrote in the New York Post. Such incitement persists, Avni noted, even though “Israel points out that the arrangements that have existed since 1967, when it seized control of the Temple Mount, Judaism’s holiest site, are intact, and will remain so: A Jordanian trust, the Waqf, maintains the Mount. Jews can visit, but not pray there.”
Even worse, President Obama’s State Department reinforced the dangerously false incitement about Jerusalem promoted by Palestinians.
Writing about the 2015 “Stabbing Intifida,” journalist Jeffrey Goldberg rightly pointed out that it was “prompted in good part by the same set of manipulated emotions that sparked the anti-Jewish riots of the 1920s: a deeply felt desire on the part of Palestinians to ‘protect’ the Temple Mount from Jews.”
In the 1929 Arab riots, Arabs killed more than 130 Jews, and nearly as many Arabs died when British police responded. Among the findings of a subsequent investigation by the Shaw Commission was that “the Mufti was influenced by the twofold desire to confront the Jews and to mobilise Moslem opinion on the issue of the Wailing Wall” (in Jerusalem) and that one of the chief causes of the riots was “Propaganda among the less-educated Arab people of a character calculated to incite them.”
Arab incitement against Jews happens regularly, often without the explosive element of Jerusalem. In a sermon broadcast on Hamas’s Al-Aqsa TV in early January, a Hamas leader name Marwan Abu Ras, accused Jews of sending “AIDS-infected girls to fornicate with Muslim youths.” He also claimed that Israel was allowing drugs to be smuggled through tunnels into Gaza, while blocking the entry of essential goods. “Their state is about to disappear,” Abu Ras said. “…My brothers, know that people, stones, and trees all hate [the Jews]. Everyone on Earth hates this filthy nation, a nation extrinsic to Mankind. This fact was elucidated by the Quran and the Sunna.”
But adding Jerusalem to Arab incitement against Israelis can make the resulting violence even more explosive.
Qanta Ahmed, a pro-Israel Muslim reformer who visited both the Jewish and Muslim holy sites at the Temple Mount, eloquently noted the Islamist thinking that enables the weaponization of Jerusalem: “Forbidding worshippers from entering holy sites in Islam, including non-conforming or pluralist Muslims who reject both the ideology and accouterments of Islamism is an impassioned pastime of fervent Islamists who foolishly believe only they are the keepers of our Maker…”
Unfortunately, Jerusalem has a long and bloody history of being manipulated by Muslim leaders into an explosive tool of incitement. But if Islam truly is a religion of peace, its leading practitioners should stop turning religious holy sites into weapons of war, and instead embrace Doctor Ahmed’s tolerance.
Noah Beck is the author of The Last Israelis, an apocalyptic novel about Iranian nukes and other geopolitical issues in the Middle East. Article sent to Arutz Sheva by the author, written for the Investigative Project on Terrorism.y

The Antichrist Will Unify The Nations (Revelation 13)

Muqtada al-Sadr: The unlikely answer to Iraq’s sectarian problem

If Iraq is to become a stable state then it must overcome sectarianism – but few of the old guard appear to have learnt this lesson
The cleric has been dubbed a “firebrand” in countless newspaper columns, and has held an almost constant presence in the Iraqi political discourse since the fall of the Baath regime in 2003.
Saraya al-Salamthe militias he heads, formerly known as the Mahdi army, were accused of running sectarian death squads and elements from within helped plunge the country into a vicious civil war.
They also boldly took on the forces of the US-led coalition in Sadr city. But now, with half of Mosul liberated and the end of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq in sight, Sadr appears to be emerging as a voice of reason and coexistence.
In an interview last week with Turkish TV station TRT, Sadr advocated outreach to those who had followed IS in Mosul, and to the disaffected Sunnis across Iraq.
He said: “I’m holding up a light looking for the moderates because they are scared to show up. There are still moderates among the people but they are scared, but we have to give them a chance to show up and give their ideas.”

Sunni outreach

This is not the first time Sadr has advocated cross-sectarian action. In 2013 he expressed solidarity with Sunni protests in Anbar province against the Shia-led government, labelling the demonstration’s “Iraq’s Arab Spring”. A year later, in 2014, his parliamentary bloc banded together with Sunnis as part of an effort to oust prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.
Sadr also used the interview to warn against the Shia militias which currently number upwards of 100,000 in Iraq and despite being instrumental in the fight against Islamic State, have the potential to act as spoilers in post-IS Iraq.
Muqtada al-Sadr at joint Sunni-Shia Friday prayers in Baghdad in January 2013 (AFP) 
He warned that “there are some governmental, civil and political fears that the armed groups might take over. Whether they are good or bad ones, their policies will be based on weapons.” And he urged them to stay out of fights abroad, such as Syria and even Yemen, stating that these interventions had already bought Iraq “many troubles”.
Perhaps his most important development has been as a counter to beleaguered Al-Maliki, who has been scheming a return to power in recent months.
In his TRT interview, he described Maliki’s mindset as “militant” and suggested he was consistently spoiling for his next fight, saying: “If Mosul was stable, would Maliki sit and do nothing? No, he will come up with another battle. Car bombings, explosions something else, the new ISIS – a new enemy.”

Nationalism over the establishment

There is much personal animosity between Maliki and Sadr – but the latter’s public rebukes often stem as much from his staunch nationalism as they do any personal dislike. Maliki, and the militias he is closely connected to – notably the Badr organisation, are the embodiment of Iranian influence in Iraq.
If Iraq is to become a stable and prosperous state after the defeat of IS, then it is a given that sectarianism must be overcome. But few of the country’s “old guard” appear to have learnt this lesson after several decades of war and strife.
Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr at a protest calling for government reforms in Baghdad in September 2016 (AFP) 
He is hoping new faces will emerge from every part of the country to lead it away from the corrupt political establishment – something that is believed to cost the treasury as much as $4bn a year.
But an important question remains: is this merely rhetoric or a genuine attempt at outreach?
Power players in Iraq have a distinguished history of saying what needs to be said to win votes in Iraq.
Michael Knights, a Fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, believes Sadr’s track record demonstrates its authenticity. He suggests “it fits into a long-term pattern that reaches back to 2004 in Fallujah when his men fought alongside the Sunnis.”
‘Muqtada is not the establishment, but he is an ally of the Shia political and religious mainstream for now, against Maliki’
– Michael Knights, Washington Institute for Near East Policy
Knights also believes that much of the sectarian violence the Mahdi army was involved in, was orchestrated by Iranian-backed elements of the militias such as Qais Khazali who now leads the Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq militia”. He adds: “Muqtada is a nationalist, unlike Badr, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl al-Haq.”
Recent days have seen Sadr make his trademark fiery statements calling for a ban on Americans in Iraq following Donald Trump’s Muslim ban and for a shutdown of the US embassy in Baghdad.
These will likely continue, if for no other reason than to shore up his base in the face of growing Iranian influence in Iraq.
– Gareth Browne is a journalist with an interest in current affairs, politics and the Middle East. His work has been featured in VICE, The Daily Mirror and Gulf News. @brownegareth
The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.
Photo: Iraqi Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr speaks during a press conference in the holy Shia city of Najaf on 30 April 2016(AFP)

The unifying power of the Antichrist

A battered nation, tagged as one of the most volatile countries in the world is not new to war – violence – antagonism – failure or divisive power blocs and has been desperately beseeching a much peaceful countenance even though a ‘façade’, which seems to having being eluding the nation for long. Amidst all this gloom in October, 2016, a meeting between Muqtada al-Sadr, Iraqi Shiite cleric, and several other major Shiite military leaders in the nation yielding atypical statements of unity is a distant light of a hopeful balance at least. Though this bringing together of the Shiite leaders is for the upcoming 2017 elections, and with each participant uniting and supporting the cause for its own ulterior motive is still a better scenario for the beleaguered country.
Shiite rivalries within the country have too been a matter of concern with the already fractioned country growing further apart. But this unusual reunion has caused the Iraqi’s and the world thinking as to how long will this union prosper and to what outcome. The ambiguity lies mostly because of the prominent leader Al-Sadr being a part of the ‘united we stand together’ stance, as has been a divisive figure throughout drastically turning from a rabid warlord to his new avatar of an Iraqi Gandhi. Sadr has vehemently opposed apart from other things foreign – foreign occupation in the region and foreign military influences which finds its supporters among the crowds of the country and surprisingly has other Shiite leaders resonating to similar tunes, bringing the leaders closer on grounds of such issues. Even if they are not at par with each other on levels within, the Shiite rival factions need to present themselves as a much more cohesive unit to make gains from the sceptical voters of Iraq, who are tired of the increasing corruption and blatant politics in the nation.
This is exactly what the October meeting of the Shiite leaders aim to do with its extravagant demonstrations of harmony and camaraderie at the press conference held soon after the meeting. At Al-Sadr’s the press conference saw the likes of other prominent Shiite leaders from – Popular Mobilization Forces – Hadi al-Amiri from Iran backed Badr organisation – Qais al-Khazali, commander of the Iran-backed Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, all singing praises about each other and their new found understanding, stating it to be at “its highest level”. Such demonstrative show of emotions hint towards both a strong political pragmatism of the leaders also of a greater and a grander plan.
However, Al-Sadr’s stance against any foreign occupation or aid from Turkey has been constantly questioned with the cleric accepting military aid from Iran, where he did his clerical studies when required, is highly problematic. What is worse that Iran can very quietly increase its influence in the region with Al-Sadr given his massive following and influence. To make matters worse in the held press conference all leaders together again presented a chorus decrying any sort of foreign occupation and abiding by Baghdad’s leadership on the matter, with no opposition to Al-Sadr’s double-dealing. However, for the new found unity among these Shiite leaders it’s still a long-long journey to cover before reaching a solid unbreakable ground.
As lay dormant among them lingering enmities which are to erupt soon destroying the façade created, of all the one most apparent being the one between the former Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki – an ally of many of the Shiite leaders and Al-Sadr. Both have on occasions condemned each other. Al-Sadr on many occasions has called the former Prime Minister corrupt but his present moves to secure ministerial posts prove him no better. However, for now it seems they are all ‘united’ as ‘one’ and are working together for the municipal election nearby , at least ending the war between one faction among many in the beleaguered nation.
Photo Credit : Shutterstock

The Immense Influence of the Antichrist (Revelation 13)

Tom Rogan
January 4, 2017 7:23 PM
All things are ready, if our minds be so.
— Shakespeare, Henry V
Iraq’s battle for Mosul is not going well.
Hundreds of Iraq’s most elite military personnel have been killed in action and thousands more wounded. Daesh — also known as the Islamic State, or ISIS — retains control over Mosul’s center and its western and northern suburbs. Speaking Wednesday, a U.S. military spokesman acknowledged that operations are “slow going.”
That won’t change any time soon. In the coming days, as Iraqi units approach Mosul’s central Tigris River crossings, Daesh will intensify the vehicle-borne suicide attacks it has employed to deadly effect. The death cult wants to hold out as long as it can in Mosul. Doing so, it rightly believes, will hurt the Iraqi government. Of course, unless Iraqi forces withdraw, they will eventually defeat Daesh. The problem, however, is that politics is the ultimate prize here.
And the longer this fight drags on, the more damage Iraqi and U.S. strategic interests will suffer. That’s because, as casualties mount and doubts over the progress of the liberation grow, Iraqi prime minister Haider al-Abadi faces rising political pressure. And that pressure comes not only from Daesh.
Enter Iran.
Iran’s foreign strategists are the world’s bloodhounds for political weakness. And seeing the human blood in Mosul, they smell political blood in Baghdad. Despising Prime Minister Abadi for his efforts to establish some semblance of multi-sectarian stability in Iraq, Iran wants to weaken him and eventually replace him with a supplicant goon — namely, former Iraqi prime minister and now Iranian puppet Nouri al-Maliki. And Iran is making progress toward that end. Late last year, it scored a major win when the Iraqi parliament legalized the Shia-militia-dominated, Iranian-orchestrated Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). PMF’s leaders, primarily Hadi al-Amiri of the Badr Organization, claim they are patriots supporting Iraqi forces in defeating Daesh. In reality, Mr. Amiri and Co. are puppets for Iranian regional hegemony.
To be clear: The PMF is not a national Iraqi alliance but a proxy for Iran’s Shia-revolutionary sectarian agenda. Iran wants the PMF to be for Iran in Iraq what the Lebanese Hezbollah is for Iran in Lebanon: an armed veto against sovereign democracy and a means to neutralize Iranian political adversaries. And in the last few weeks, Iran and Amiri have been upping the pressure on Abadi. They want Abadi to yield more power.
President Obama bears some responsibility here. Back in October, I explained that the U.S. had capabilities — whether effective intelligence support, accurate airstrikes, or many other enablers of military power — that Iraq needed in Mosul. These capabilities are crucial to boosting Iraqi combat effectiveness to help secure a quick victory. Unfortunately, President Obama refused to allow U.S. military advisers to enter Mosul with frontline Iraqi units. Instead, as American military spokespersons openly admit, U.S and allied ground forces are operating behind the front lines. That restriction limits their ability to support front-line Iraqi units. And on the battlefield, in mounting Iraqi casualties and slow progress, it shows.
Still, there is hope, albeit in an unlikely form. Enter Iraqi Shia-nationalist-populist cleric Muqtadaal-Sadr. Once a thorn in America’s side, Sadr has recently assumed a more constructive role in Iraqi politics. Jockeying for influence, he has decided that supporting Abadi is his best bet. And at least for the moment, Sadr is throwing his support to Abadi instead of to Maliki, Abadi’s main rival for the prime minister’s office. For months, Maliki has been working to undercut Abadi’s administration. He’s Iran’s political prong to Amiri’s sword. Don’t get me wrong: Sadr is no friend of America. But he does represent the power of democratic politics to shape positive coalitions.