The science behind the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

The science behind the earthquake that shook Southern New England

Did you feel it? At 9:10 am EST Sunday morning, a Magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck just south of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, which is a census-designated place in Dartmouth. If you felt it, report it!

While minor earthquakes do happen from time to time in New England, tremors that are felt by a large number of people and that cause damage are rare.

Earthquake Report

The earthquake was originally measured as a magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Surgey (USGS) before changing to a 3.6.

Earthquakes in New England and most places east of the Rocky Mountains are much different than the ones that occur along well-known fault lines in California and along the West Coast.

Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fall nearly in the center of the North American Plate, one of 15 (seven primary, eight secondary) that cover the Earth.

Earth’s tectonic plates

Tectonic plates move ever-so-slowly, and as they either push into each other, pull apart, or slide side-by-side, earthquakes are possible within the bedrock, usually miles deep.

Most of New England’s and Long Island’s bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains.

Plate tectonics (Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.

While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.

According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.

The largest known New England earthquakes occurred in 1638 (magnitude 6.5) in Vermont or New Hampshire, and in 1755 (magnitude 5.8) offshore from Cape Ann northeast of Boston.

The most recent New England earthquake to cause moderate damage occurred in 1940 (magnitude 5.6) in central New Hampshire.

Antichrist at the Center of the Chaos in Iraq

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Once more, and ten months after Iraq’s last general election, controversial Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his supporters are at the centre of a politically motivated storm that threatens to degenerate into Shia-on-Shia political violence.

Since ordering his deputies to relinquish their parliamentary presence and cede their position in the Iraqi legislature to their rivals, Sadr has been behind the storming of parliament and its subsequent occupation twice in the space of a single week, paralysing official business in the capital and amping up tensions between rival and heavily armed Shia groups.

The cleric’s moves can be interpreted as his attempt to sow chaos in the country unless his demands of a “national unity” government – with Sadr himself behind the scenes pulling the strings – are met by other pro-Iran factions.

“Sadr and his supporters are at the centre of a politically motivated storm that threatens to degenerate into Shia-on-Shia political violence”

Sadr’s bid for power

But it is not only Sadr’s supporters who have taken to participating in demonstrations, as competing factions also descend on the streetsto oppose them, mostly from the more establishment Shia groups represented by the Coordination Framework.

The Coordination Framework is comprised of parties representing the political interests of a number of Iran-sponsored Shia militant groups, such as Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl ul-Haq, as well as former prime ministers like Nouri al-Maliki, known for his proximity to Tehran and currently embroiled in a scandal of his own where he threatened civil war.

Each of these factions has its own interests in securing ever-increasing numbers of parliamentary positions as well as government and ministerial posts that will give them access to vast budgets in a country renowned for its crippling levels of corruption.

Unusual sweltering summer heat – undoubtedly exacerbated by the climate crisis – has done little to blunt public demonstrations across Iraq from these rival political factions even as it causes tempers to flare.

The Iraqi capital Baghdad has seen almost daily temperatures of 50 degrees Celsius, while the southern oil-rich city of Basra near the Shatt al-Arab waterway has suffered a scorching 53 degrees, with the added humidity intensifying the stifling conditions faced by Iraqis.

Still, the rival camps have squared off against one another in cities and towns across central and southern Iraq in what some fear may lead to an unintentional outbreak of violence that could spiral out of control.

While a senior Sadrist official called on protesters last week to vacate the parliament building, he also added that demonstrations and sit-ins would continue in central Baghdad until the group’s demands were met.

Sadr has been careful to articulate a narrative and discourse of fighting corruption for years, something that he knows is a major gripe amongst the vast majority of the Iraqi electorate.

Since the end of the war against the Islamic State (IS) group in 2017, Sadr has positioned himself and his loyalists as the anti-corruption movement, frequently blasting the political process and its main figures, particularly long-time rival Maliki.Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr storm the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone for the second time in a week on 30 July 2022. [Getty]

His criticisms were of such ferocity that he once even pledged to never commit to trying to secure the position of prime minister as he claimed the system was so corrupt that it first needed reform. However, in what was deemed as a cynical ploy for power, the cleric announced a U-turn in 2020, vying for the role of prime minister at the next election.

While the cleric’s bloc emerged as the nominal winner in 2021’s election, he was still far short of a majority and therefore proceeded to cut deals with both the Sunni Arab Taqaddum party and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), the most dominant party in Iraqi Kurdistan.

Although Taqaddum’s candidate for parliamentary speaker, its leader Mohammed al-Halbousi, was sworn in early this year, the KDP failed to get several of its candidates for the office of president voted in, triggering the latest political crisis.

“Sadr has continued to forge ahead with his ambitions of being the power behind Iraq’s major political institutions without taking an official executive role for himself to remain unscathed should any government fail”

Rather than find a solution for his allies, Sadr has left them to fend for themselves by abandoning his small parliamentary majority and leaving them to forge new alliances – if they can.

Instead, Sadr has continued to forge ahead with his ambitions of being the power behind Iraq’s major political institutions without taking an official executive role for himself to remain unscathed should any government fail.

Effectively Sadr wants to set himself up as the Iraqi version of Iran’s supreme leaders, copying the late Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s model that was achieved via revolution in 1979.

To achieve those ends, Sadr has now officially called for early elections. However, while at face value this may appear to be a democratic way of solving the impasse, it risks much in a country where Iraqis have lost faith in the political process.

But the Sadrists have gone one step further than simply calling for early elections, as they have simultaneously called for the immediate dissolution of parliament in preparation for what they say is necessary to get Iraq’s democracy on track.

However, such a move will further cause divisions between the cleric and his reluctant allies in Erbil as well as the Sunnis of Taqaddum – after all, they signed up for his political programme only to be abandoned and now even the speaker’s seat will be lost if parliament is dissolved.

This will be unlikely to sit well, particularly with Halbousi who will not be keen to lose his already precarious seat as Iraq’s most influential Sunni politician. This could force Halbousi even closer to the Coordination Framework and cutting a new deal with them so that a new government can be more easily formed without the Sadrists.

The call to dissolve parliament will also show potential allies of the Sadrists how mercurial the Shia cleric’s politicking can be, making Sadr appear to be an unreliable ally who should be avoided at all costs.Iraqis are desperate for security and stability in their political system. [Getty]

Added to this is the fact that almost three out of every five Iraqis boycotted last October’s vote, demonstrating the plummeting levels of trust and faith in a political process deemed only to serve Iraq’s elites rather than the people.

Should another election take place, it is likely that the turnout will be even lower, as voters will simply look at the results of last year’s elections, note that nothing has been achieved in almost a year, and be further dejected from participation.

This could have potentially fatal consequences for Iraq’s highly flawed democracy, already on life support after almost two decades of existence without having attained even a level of security that former dictator Saddam Hussein achieved under crushing international sanctions.

“Almost three out of every five Iraqis boycotted last October’s vote, demonstrating the plummeting levels of trust and faith in a political process deemed only to serve Iraq’s elites rather than the people”

The above is why there has been a growing sentiment of nostalgia for the former strongman’s regime for almost a decade.

This is a complicated issue, as there are now many young voters who never lived under Saddam Hussein or were still young children, yet have a rose-tinted perception of his regime purely because government jobs were available and, generally, there was no violence.

In the hierarchy of needs, Iraqis are desperate for security and stability over which politician is ruling over them, and therefore they are unlikely to lend their legitimacy to a system that has consistently failed to provide either, posing a severe threat to the future of democracy in the war-torn country.

Putin warns of nuclear Holocaust in early 2023: Revelation 16

Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video conference call at the Kremlin. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP)
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a meeting with members of the Security Council via a video conference call at the Kremlin. (Photo by Mikhail Klimentyev / Sputnik / AFP)

Putin could use nuclear weapons in early 2023, British general warns

Henry Holloway – The Sun

Sir Richard Barrons warned the Russian tyrant is “likely” to use tactical nuclear weapons if he faces being driven back in Ukraine.

Vladimir Putin is not afraid to use nukes – and could resort to such a strike as soon as early 2023, a top British general has warned.
Sir Richard Barrons warned the Russian tyrant is “likely” to use tactical nuclear weapons if he faces being driven back in Ukraine, The Sunreported.

The decorated commander – who retired in 2016 – explained that the Russian doctrine accepts the use of small nuclear weapons as a means of “coercion”.

“It would be the first use of nuclear weapons for 77 years, breaking an enormous taboo, but this is not inconceivable to Russians if the ends justify it in their eyes,” he wrote in The Sunday Times.

Sir Richard warned the West needs to consider the fact Putin is now “likely to employ tactical nuclear weapons” if he faces being pushed back in Ukraine.

And with Ukraine expected to begin a new offensive to try to drive out the Russians, the leading general said Russia could put nukes on the table as soon as the early months of 2023.

Sir Richard wrote: “A broader Ukrainian offensive and mobilisation expected as soon as next (European) spring could lead to battlefield successes and the liberation of land seized by Russia.

“This might create other risks.

“If Putin senses defeat, will he be tempted to use tactical nuclear weapons to change reality on the battlefield?”

He explained that a Russian nuclear strike in Ukraine would not be using massive city-killing bombs which could completely level parts of London or New York.

A Russian Iskander-K missile is launched during a training launch as part of the Grom-2022 Strategic Deterrence Force exercise at a location in Russia. (Photo by Handout / Russian Defence Ministry / AFP)
A Russian Iskander-K missile is launched during a training launch as part of the Grom-2022 Strategic Deterrence Force exercise at a location in Russia. (Photo by Handout / Russian Defence Ministry / AFP)

Russian doctrine instead demands smaller weapons for such battlefield use – possibly less powerful than the nukes dropped on Hiroshima and Nagasaki by the Americans to end World War Two.

Even the comparably “small” size of these weapons – the Fat Man and Little Boy – killed more than 200,000 people and wrought unspeakable horrors on the two cities.

Sir Richard suggested a situation where a 10kt warhead could be detonated by the Russians – potentially delivered by an Iskander missile.

“These weapons exist for just the sort of circumstances the war in Ukraine may lead to, so nobody should claim total surprise if they are used,” he said.

The general suggested the use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine could be a breaking point for the West – potentially leading to a wider intervention and an effort to remove Putin.

And he warned of the wider consequences of the nuclear taboo being shattered after three quarters of a century, with nations such as China, India and Pakistan all nuclear armed and often teetering on a knife edge of geopolitical tensions.

Ukraine meanwhile is facing a “long, bitter winter” as the war rolls on.

Kyiv has boasted it hopes to recruit a one million-strong army to drive the Russians back – but all these soldiers have to be equipped and supplied should the offensive be successful.

Putin had hoped his war would be over in a matter of days, with it suggested he could potentially launch a blitzkrieg assault to seize Kyiv.

Sir Richard Barrons. Picture: Estonian Defence Forces
Sir Richard Barrons. Picture: Estonian Defence Forces

But this never happened – and some 164 days on the war continues to be a bloody, brutal and grinding conflict laced with unspeakable atrocities committed by the Russians.

And with every day, week and month that sleeps by, the looming shadow of nuclear war is cast long over Ukraine.

Russia is thought to have around 2,000 nuclear weapons in their arsenal in the form of small yield missiles, torpedoes and artillery shells.

Moscow’s war doctrine is believed to be open to using nuclear weapons in a conventional conflict as an intimidation tactic – and use of such a weapon must be signed off personally by Putin.

The tactic became known as “escalate to de-escalate”.

Moscow has previously practiced such strategies in the field – such as simulating a Nato attack on the Russian enclave of Kaliningrad.

The scenario saw the Russian forces strike back at the invading West by firing nuclear arms at Poland and the US.

And these drills are believed to have taken place in the nineties and noughties, with tactical nukes used for both offence and defence.

The weapons lack the truly terrifying devastating destructive power of the biggest Cold War-era weapons – such as the Tsar Bomba.

A single 58 megaton Tsar Bomba could cause devastation across 50 miles area, kill millions of people, send a shockwave that would circle the globe three times, and cause a mushroom cloud visible for 500 miles.

Such a bomb was deemed far too big to ever be used due to the potentially apocalyptic consequences of such a nuclear exchange.

But that sort of thinking is what has pushed war planners to develop and potentially use tactical – as opposed to strategic – nuclear weapons.

This story originally appeared in The Sun and has been reproduced with permission

30 Palestinians wounded outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Palestinian youths clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus, on August 8, 2022. - AFP pic
Palestinian youths clash with Israeli troops in the West Bank city of Nablus, on August 8, 2022. – AFP pic

30 Palestinians wounded as Israel mounts West Bank raid

NABLUS, Palestinian Territories: At least 30 Palestinians were wounded in heavy clashes Tuesday as Israeli troops raided a house in the occupied West Bank city of Nablus, two days after deadly fighting in Gaza was halted by a truce.

“Israeli army and special forces are surrounding the house of a wanted man in Nablus. There is exchange of fire,” the army said in a statement.

At least 30 Palestinians were wounded and at least one was in serious condition, according to the Red Crescent.

Palestinians traded gunfire with the Israeli army in the old city of Nablus, an AFP correspondent reported.

Clashes with the Israeli army also broke out in other parts of Nablus, as Palestinians hurled stones at the troops.

Heavy gunfire was heard from the ongoing clashes, as dozens of Israeli military vehicles brought traffic in one of the West Bank’s largest cities to a standstill.

Israeli security forces have conducted near-daily operations in the West Bank in recent months, focusing on fighters from the Islamic Jihad group.

 Israeli soldiers take part in a raiding operation in Rummana village near the West Bank city of Jenin, 08 August 2022. Israeli troops raided Rummana village and demolished two houses that belonged to Palestinians Subhi Hamdan and Asad Rifae who allegedly carried attacks at Elad city near Tel Aviv on May 2022 killing three Israelis. - EPA pic
Israeli soldiers take part in a raiding operation in Rummana village near the West Bank city of Jenin, 08 August 2022. Israeli troops raided Rummana village and demolished two houses that belonged to Palestinians Subhi Hamdan and Asad Rifae who allegedly carried attacks at Elad city near Tel Aviv on May 2022 killing three Israelis. – EPA pic

On Friday, Israel launched what it called a “pre-emptive” aerial and artillery bombardment of Islamic Jihad positions in the Gaza Strip, leading fighters in the coastal enclave to fire more than a thousand rockets in retaliation, according to the army.

An Egypt-brokered ceasefire reached Sunday ended three days of intense fighting that killed 46 Palestinians, 16 of them children, and wounded 360, according to Gaza’s health ministry.

Israel insists that some of children and other civilians counted in the Palestinian toll were killed by Islamic Jihad rockets that fell short or misfired.

Prime Minister Yair Lapid said Monday that the bombardment had “landed a devastating blow to the enemy”, and that the “entire senior military command of Islamic Jihad in Gaza was successfully targeted.”

Islamic Jihad said 12 of its members had been killed, including commanders Taysir al-Jabari and Khaled Mansour. — AFP

The German Horn is Finally Nuking Up: Daniel 7

Opinion  Germany is finally acting like Europe’s major power

By Sebastian MallabyContributing columnist

August 8, 2022 at 4:17 p.m. EDT

American statesmen have long regarded Germany with frustration: They wanted Europe’s economic giant to stop being a political dwarf. Today, there is at least a chance that their wish will be granted. In a world of increasingly assertive autocracies, Germany’s potential transformation is a welcome prospect. There are three elements to watch.

The first sign of the new Germany involves defense. Over the past dozen years, German military spending has averaged around $40 billion annually, or a bit over 1 percent of gross domestic product. To put that in perspective, in 2021 the U.S. defense budget was about 14 times bigger. But three days after Russia invaded Ukraine in February, German Chancellor Olaf Scholz announced that his country would henceforth exceed the NATO military spending target of 2 percent of GDP — and that it would do so “year after year.” As a down payment, Scholz committed $107 billion to upgrading Germany’s military capacity, a sum almost equivalent to the annual defense expenditures of Japan and France combined.

Scholz is a workhorse, not a show horse, and he could have delivered faster. But five months into the war, Germany published a detailed list of its arms shipments to Ukraine: some 3,000 antitank weapons, 3,200 portable air-defense systems and much more. Meanwhile, Germany has announced additional deliveries, including 100 howitzers and 16 bridge-layer tanks. Despite the pacifist roots of his Social Democratic Party and his Green coalition partner, the chancellor is making good on his promise to turn Germany into Europe’s leading military power.

Then there is Germany’s energy U-turn. In 2011, when a tsunami hit Japan’s nuclear facilities in Fukushima, the government of then-Chancellor Angela Merkel experienced the policy equivalent of a breakdown. Merkel immediately decommissioned about half of Germany’s nuclear generation capacity and declared that the rest would be shuttered by December 2022.In 2017, Merkel’s government passed a law that more or less banned fracking, even though Germany had been safely using this technique for years to exploit its considerable natural gas reserves.

The outcome has been a dangerous dependence on gas imports from Russia, which accounted for 55 percent of German gas consumption on the eve of the Ukraine invasion. A long Cold War tradition of “Ostpolitik” — the policy of softening the Communist East by trading with it — made this folly feel acceptable. But Russia’s assault on Ukraine served as a wake-up call. For the past five months, Scholz has been scrambling to develop alternative energy sources. Russian gas now represents just 27 percent of German consumption.Scholz has begun talking about extending the life of Germany’s three remaining nuclear plants.

Germany’s third transformation relates to its neighbors. A decade ago, Berlin’s rigidity during the euro crisis exasperated the Obama administration, which wanted a stable commercial and geopolitical partner in Europe. Germany fanned populism in the weaker Southern European economies by forcing too much austerity on them. It sniped at the European Central Bank’s efforts to assist them with monetary easing. It rejected the idea of common European bonds, closing off another channel of crisis-fighting aid. It refused even to invest adequately in its own economy, depriving German industry of digital infrastructure and the rest of Europe of a useful fillip to demand.

Today, Germany is thinking differently. As part of its response to the covid-19 pandemic, Berlin approved more than $800 billion worth of jointly guaranteed euro-zone bonds. Meanwhile, confronted by the latest financial tremors on Europe’s periphery, this time in too-big-to-fail Italy, Germany has gone along with a prompt ECB pledge to backstop the debt of governments that get into trouble. And domestic austerity has gone out the window. Germany’s budget deficit stands at 3.7 percent of GDP, a big shift from the consistent surpluses before the covid pandemic.

Of course, Germany has stirred before — and then fallen asleep again. In 1999, it summoned the fortitude to back a military response to ethnic cleansing in Kosovo; over the next decade, however, its defense spending actually fell. But today’s German awakening is less about a war of choice and more about self-preservation. Russia has proved itself to be far more dangerous than the Germans had imagined. Thanks to the once and possibly future presidency of Donald Trump, the United States has shown itself to be a far less reliable ally. China, shaking its fist at Taiwan, looks like an increasingly poor candidate to be Germany’s main trading partner, though that is what it has become.

Scholz has recognized these shifts and is responding, demonstrating the value of a leader with a plodding, empirical style. Peoplein the former East Germany are nervous about antagonizing Russia, but a majority of the country backs the chancellor’s stand. So do Scholz’s fellow Social Democrats. As Lars Klingbeil, the co-leader of the party, put it recently, “Germany must lay claim to be a leading power.”

Antichrist’s Protests Exacerbate Risky Political Impasse in Iraq

Pro-Sadr Protests Exacerbate Risky Political Impasse in Iraq

Iraq’s Parliament, where a sit-in of Sadr supporters continues, has become the epicenter of the intra-Shia power struggle, perpetuating the country’s political crisis.

Yerevan SaeedAug 8, 2022

Research Associate, AGSIW

The ongoing intra-Shia conflict is among the most acute political crises in Iraq since 2014. At the heart of the dispute stands Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and the rival Coordination Framework, comprised of six Shia factions. After Sadr had 73 of his allied members of parliament resign in June, the Coordination Framework took advantage and filled their seats. It put forward Mohammed al-Sudani, former human rights minister and a member of the Shia Islamic Dawa Party, for the post of prime minister and sought on July 30 to elect the president to begin government formation. However, Sadr thwarted the effort, ordering his supporters to storm the Iraqi Parliament twice. The Iraqi Parliament, where a sit-in of Sadr supporters continues, has become the epicenter of the intra-Shia power struggle, perpetuating the country’s political crisis.

Countermeasures

The Coordination Framework mobilized thousands of its supporters to mount counterprotests, framing those by Sadr’s supporters as a coup. Coordination Framework supporters headed to the Green Zone, but Iraqi security forces prevented them from getting inside. Fearing to be cast as pro-Sadr, the government and the army put out statements reaffirming their “equal distance” from all Iraqi political groups. Despite the double standard by security forces – allowing Sadr supporters to enter the Green Zone and occupy the Parliament twice – their function as an arbiter or last resort between the rival camps probably averted major bloodshed.

Although the Coordination Framework asked its supporters to withdraw from the Green Zone, the gridlock continues mostly because Sadr refuses to back off from maximalist demands and hold talks with the Coordination Framework unless it subscribes to his ostensibly reformist agenda and expels his old foe, former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, from the bloc. So, in addition to a power struggle, at the heart of this conflict is a personal rivalry between Sadr and Maliki. This was exacerbated by a series of leaked recordings of Maliki allegedly bashing Sadr and threatening that he would confront him and his party. Maliki also allegedly lambasted his own allies, such as the Popular Mobilization Forces and its commanders, as “cowards.” Thus far, the bloc has retained unity despite the consternation the recordings caused.

Push for De-escalation

Recognizing the delicacy of the situation, accentuated by international scrutiny and reactions, elements from both Shia and non-Shia factions in Iraq have largely focused on de-escalation and for the most part refrained from making statements that might aggravate the situation. This neutral stance aims to mitigate the risks that could plunge the country into intracommunal civil conflict with serious implications for stability and security in the broader region. Any violent conflict in Iraq could provide breathing space for the Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant and other jihadist factions to regroup and destabilize the country and spark a new wave of refugees. Therefore, Iran, the United Arab Emirates, the United States, and the United Kingdom, in various inflections, urged dialogue and called for peaceful conflict resolution. A spokesperson for Iran’s Foreign Ministry, Nasser Kanaani, called on Iraqis to “work peacefully and respectfully within the country’s constitution and legal mechanisms.” And Anwar Gargash, a diplomatic advisor to the UAE’s president, stated that Iraq’s stability is tantamount to the stability of the region. The United States, the U.K., and other Western countries also emphasized the importance of stability while reaffirming support for peaceful demonstrations.

Shia parties, including members of the Coordination Framework, also called for a peaceful resolution. The leader of the Fatah Coalition, Hadi al-Amiri, who commands the Popular Mobilization Forces, asked his supporters not to join the counterprotest against Sadr, a call likely informed by equal measures of goodwill and calculation. Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Wisdom Movement, did take part in the protests aimed at countering the sit-in by Sadr’s supporters but urged restraint. Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi warned of dire consequences for Iraq if the political tensions persist.

Sunni parties from the Sovereignty bloc that had aligned with Sadr also urged dialogue to ease tensions. But, like Sadr, they indicated that it is time for a change of the political system through a new national compact. Although this stance underscored the political alliance they have maintained with Sadr since the run-up to the 2021 elections, the Sunni parties are advocating for an inclusive, evolutionary process rather than Sadr’s more revolutionary stance. Speaker of the Parliament Mohammed Halbousi, leader of the Sunni Sovereignty bloc who in large part owes his position to the alliance with Sadr, in a move both necessary and expedient, postponed additional parliamentary sessions until the sit-in is concluded and a political solution is found between Sadr and the Coordination Framework.

Despite a contentious relationship with Baghdad, Kurdistan Regional Government President Nechirvan Barzani offered Erbil as a mediator for negotiations between rival Shia groups. The Kurds are worried the political conflict in Baghdad could turn violent. An estimated 2 million internally displaced people and refugees from Iraq and Syria have put Iraq’s Kurdish region under significant financial and social strain, and violence could displace more people. In addition, Sadr’s demand to change the constitution and dissolve the post-2003 political system it enshrined is viewed as a threat to the future of the Kurdistan Regional Government as a federal entity.

A New Political System?

As much as Sadr’s demands to change the political system resonate with people, they have not come out of a contemplative and inclusive discourse among Shias, Sunnis, and Kurds to determine the best governance system to help Iraq to overcome political and economic turmoil. And Sadr has also yet to articulate his vision for governance and how to improve Iraq’s economy. If successful in establishing a new political system, critics worry it would be an imposition of authoritarian rule in a gambit to control state coffers.

Sadr’s authoritarian tendency has already spooked his former ally, the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which rejected changing the constitution without an inclusive consultative process. For Kurds, the nightmare is a strong centralized Baghdad that could deprive them of their constitutional rights.

Even though Sadr claims he will restore legitimacy to state institutions, his actions and those of his followers have in effect debased the institutions he is allegedly seeking to protect. For example, at the protests at the Parliament building, Sadr’s followers have replaced the national flag with sectarian symbols, slaughtered cows, and trashed the premises. Even if these actions have been sanctioned at a higher level, they demean the very institution that is supposed to represent all Iraqis and legislate. Instead, he is using this critical institution to promote himself as the source of ultimate legitimacy.

Sadr’s rhetoric for a sovereign and independent Iraq has some appeal in the West, although his recent moves are prompting the political equivalent of buyers’ remorse. Some analysts have drawn comfort from describing him as anti-Iranian. But, like many other Shia leaders, it’s complicated. Taking his entire political career into account, Sadr has for the most part enjoyed a good – often beneficial – relationship with Tehran. When Maliki took on Sadr’s Mehdi Army and tried to kill him in 2008, Sadr fled to Iran. He has subsequently visited and studied in the country. Facile claims that Sadr could be a bulwark against Iranian influence in Iraq are problematic, given his extensive past ties and political debts. Some Western analysts are encouraged by what they see as some evolution in Sadr’s political thinking. They also tend to highlight his efforts and rhetoric in recent years aimed at countering what he has criticized as overbearing Iranian political influence in Iraq. His rhetoric for reform also has a degree of appeal, although most analysts discount its credibility to a significant degree because of Sadr’s often erratic leadership and reliance on nondemocratic rhetoric and exercises of power. Skeptics both in Iraq and in the West worry about the political and security turbulence that a precipitate change in constitutional regime could unleash in Iraq.

Pathways Forward

The persistence of political gridlock has put Iraq on the verge of violent conflict. The fluidity of Sadr’s demands – in tandem with his fixed demand ruling out any Maliki leadership role – has made finding a political solution difficult. As it stands now, Sadr is calling for dissolving the Parliament and holding early elections. But he also continues to call on people to join his “revolution.” Some analysts see this as politics disguised as brinksmanship and believe Sadr will eventually settle for a deal, but the risks of his political approach are significant in the volatile political landscape that constitutes Iraq.

Unless new and creative methods are found to lower tensions and manage the conflict, the situation will remain ripe for violence and instability. One avenue is for Sadr to abandon his maximalist stance and participate in an inclusive evolutionary model to address grievances and work to come to an acceptable political settlement with the Coordination Framework. Alternatively, the Coordination Framework could look for a way to give seats back to Sadr’s allies who resigned from Parliament. Though this would be legally questionable, it could provide a way to invite Sadr back into the formal political process. The third option would be to allow the current caretaker government to function with a closed Parliament for the time being, since Sadr will likely continue to obstruct activity without a political agreement. Finally, the caretaker government could amend the election law in preparation for snap elections (as demanded by Sadr) as a pathway to surmount the current political impasse. But there is no guarantee that new elections will produce a different political map to overcome the difficulties of government formation amid low turnout and intra-communal political fragmentation. Given those unappetizing options, the one involving the legally dubious but politically astute compromise allowing his forces back into Parliament (and a restart on government formation negotiations) might have the most to argue in its favor. But it is unclear if the contending parties in Iraq are able to get out of the corners they have painted themselves into and cut one of these political deals to end the current high-risk political jockeying.

is a research associate at the Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington and a political analyst who researches and writes on security, political, and energy issues in the Middle East, focusing on Iraq, Turkey, Iran, the Gulf, and the Levant. He received his PhD from the Carter School for Peace and Conflict Resolution at George Mason University.

The Antichrist remains a force to be reckoned with – opinion

 SUPPORTERS OF Iraqi Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr hold up a banner depicting former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki, during a protest against corruption, inside the Parliament in Baghdad, on July 30.  (photo credit: AHMED SAAD/REUTERS)

Iraq’s Sadr remains a force to be reckoned with – opinion

Sixty protesters were injured in clashes with security forces. Three days earlier a mass protest outside parliament by Sadr supporters ended only after Sadr tweeted a request to them to disperse.

On July 30, hundreds of supporters of Moqtada al-Sadr, one of Iraq’s leading political figures, breached the parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, forced their way inside, and started a coordinated sit-in to protest the recent nomination of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the premiership.

Sixty protesters were injured in clashes with security forces. Three days earlier a mass protest outside parliament by Sadr supporters ended only after Sadr tweeted a request to them to disperse.

Iraq has been in a political crisis ever since the general election last October. Months of discussion and negotiation between the various political groupings have failed to result in the election of a president or prime minister, the essential precursors under the Iraqi system for the formation of a government.

Constitutionally, the president, whose duty is to task the future prime minister with forming the new government, must be elected within 30 days of the election of the speaker of parliament. Sunni lawyer Mohammed al-Halbousi was elected speaker on January 9, but the required election of a president within 30 days never happened. Having a newly elected speaker and no president violates the constitution, but that seems a minor matter, given the political deadlock.

On July 17, the febrile political atmosphere was rendered even more critical when an Iraqi journalist named Ali Fadel released on social media a set of secret recordings. In them, a onetime prime minister of Iraq, Nouri al-Maliki, apparently gives vent to a succession of insults and accusations against Sadr.

As background, it is useful to know that Sadr, although a Shi’ite, leads a popular movement opposed to Iran’s excessive control of Iraqi affairs, while Maliki is a leading figure in a major Shia parliamentary grouping called the Coordination Framework, which is very much beholden to Iran.

The venom of Maliki’s apparent verbal onslaught against Sadr shook the nation. The percentage of voters who believed Maliki’s rapid denial of ever saying the words attributed to him, and his assertion that the recordings were fake, is not known. What is certain, however, is that the recordings, genuine or false, removed Maliki’s chance of a return as prime minister Sadr himself dismissed them as of no consequence.

In the recordings Maliki, Iraq’s prime minister from 2006 to 2014, apparently reveals a British plot to use Sadr as a disposable puppet in a scheme designed to hand Iraq over to Sunni control.

“That project exists,” Maliki seemingly says, “but I am fighting it, and it is to be fought politically and militarily.”

He apparently proceeds to cut Sadr to ribbons. “Moqtada is a murderer… the kidnappings, the car bombs… he is a coward, a traitor, an ignoramus who knows nothing.”

Sadr’s history in government 

In Iraq’s October 2021 general election the bloc led by Sadr won 74 seats, making it the largest grouping in the 329-seat parliament. But on June 13, following months of ineffective negotiations and a total failure to nominate people to fill the high offices of state or to form a government, Sadr ordered the members of his bloc to resign from parliament.

Under Iraqi law, if an MP resigns, the second-placed candidate in the election takes the empty seat. The process of filling the vacated seats led to a new wave of intense debate and protests, but finally the pro-Iran Coordination Framework became the majority bloc in parliament. It then nominated Sudani as prime minister.

A succession of Iran-backed groups and militias welcomed the nomination; the Sadrist reaction was posted on a Facebook site. Dubbing Sudani as nothing more than a facade for Maliki, Sadr was virtually declaring that as prime minister he would be Maliki’s puppet. Two days later, on July 27, the country’s political crisis reached a boiling point, and Sadr supporters stormed the Iraqi parliament, protesting against Sudani’s nomination – a riot instantly quelled by a tweet from Sadr.

In the run-up to the election, Sadr had committed himself to forming a “national majority government” representing different sects and ethnicities, including Sunni and Kurdish groups but sidelining the pro-Iran Coordination Framework. This commitment put Sadr at odds with the Fatah alliance, the political wing of the pro-Iran Popular Mobilization Forces militia. Some pro-Iran militia groups warned of intensified violence if Sunni and Kurdish groups joined a Sadr government.

What if he had succeeded?

If Sadr’s “national majority government” had succeeded, it would finally have put paid to Iraq’s so-called muhasasa political system, imposed on the country after the US-led invasion in 2003. Akin in some respects to Lebanon’s sectarian power-sharing structure – itself a continual source of political instability – muhasasa is an attempt to provide proportional representation in public office among Iraq’s various ethno-sectarian groups, including Shia, Sunni and Kurdish. Many Iraqis believed from the start that the system was deeply flawed. It was soon widely perceived as underpinning the corruption, collusion and patronage networks that characterized public life in Iraq, and became the target of popular protests. Overturning muhasasa would have markedly reduced Iran’s political influence in Iraq. If Sadr ever achieves political power, it may yet come to pass.

Did Sadr shoot himself in the foot by ordering the resignation of his 74 parliamentary followers in June? Many of his vacated seats were filled by members of the Coordination Framework, and it might seem as though he had handed his political opponents the power to form a government.

However, the recent mass political protests by Sadrists clearly demonstrate that Sadr is far from a spent force. It is obvious that with or without his parliamentary majority, Sadr, with his vast supporter-base, remains a force to be reckoned with, and will have to be take into account if Iraq’s political turmoil is ever to be resolved.

The writer is Middle East correspondent forEurasia Review. His latest book is Trump and the Holy Land: 2016-2020. Follow him at: http://www.a-mid-east-journal.blogspot.com

A Lack Of Vigilance Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

          

Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant GuardStory by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment
Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009
This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.
TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.
When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults.
The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said.
“In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said.
This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday.
Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director.
“A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault.
Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added.
Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage.
“It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi.
The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added.
“You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said.
Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents.
Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.”
“I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said.
Training concluded Thursday.

The Russian Horn Nukes Up For War: Revelation 16

Russia halts U.S. inspections of its nuclear arsenals

By VLADIMIR ISACHENKOVyesterday

MOSCOW (AP) — Russia on Monday announced a freeze on U.S. inspections of its nuclear arsenals under a pivotal arms control treaty, claiming that Western sanctions have hampered similar tours of U.S. facilities by Russian monitors.

The move reflects soaring tensions between Moscow and Washington over Russia’s military action in Ukraine and marks the first time the Kremlin halted U.S. inspections under the New START nuclear arms control treaty.

In declaring the freeze on U.S. inspections, the Russian Foreign Ministry said the sanctions on Russian flights imposed by the U.S. and its allies, visa restrictions and other obstacles effectively have made it impossible for Russian military experts to visit U.S. nuclear weapons sites, giving the U.S. “unilateral advantages.”

The Biden administration had no immediate public response to the move. Ankit Panda, an expert on nuclear policy at the Carnegie Endowment for IXAnternational Peace, called Russia’s action “a cynical attempt to pressure the United States” over penalties the West has imposed on Russia over its invasion of Ukraine.

“They basically are using New START inspections — something the U.S. cares about — to force Washington’s hands,” Panda said.

Russia claimed that U.S. inspectors have not faced such difficulties, even though Moscow has closed its skies to the European Union’s 27 nations, the U.K. and Canada — though not the U.S. — after the start of the conflict in Ukraine in late February. Russia said at the time that exceptions would be made for diplomatic missions and deliveries of humanitarian aid.

The Russian Foreign Ministry claimed that the freeze is temporary and allowed by the pact “in exceptional cases.”

It noted that Russia “highly values” the New START, adding that inspections could resume after the problems hampering them are solved.

“Russia is fully committed to abiding by all of the provisions of New START, which we see as a crucial tool for maintaining international security and stability,” the ministry said, urging a “thorough study of all existing problems in this area, the successful settlement of which would allow a return to full-scale application as soon as possible of all verification mechanisms of the Treaty.”

“After the problems regarding the resumption of inspection activities under the Treaty are resolved, we will immediately lift the exemptions from inspection activities that we have announced,” the ministry said.

The New START treaty, signed in 2010 by President Barack Obama and Russian President Dmitry Medvedev, limits each country to no more than 1,550 deployed nuclear warheads and 700 deployed missiles and bombers, and envisages sweeping on-site inspections to verify compliance.

Just days before the New START was due to expire in February 2021, Russia and the United States agreed to extend it for another five years.

“At a time when nuclear risks between the two sides are far from waning, it’s essential that the inspection protocols in the Treaty are fully restored,” he said. “The pandemic had its toll on New START inspection activity and Moscow’s unfortunate decision stands to further jeopardize things.”

___

Joanna Kozlowska in London and Ellen Knickmeyer in Washington contributed to this report.

Another Gaza Conflict, but Hamas sat Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

A child looks out of a building in Gaza City, heavily damaged by recent Israeli strikes.

In the weekend battle with Israel, Hamas left the fighting to Islamic Jihad, another militant group, highlighting differences between them over how best to combat Israel.

By Patrick Kingsley

Aug. 8, 2022

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The brief weekend conflict over Gaza had a grimly familiar outcome: dozens of Palestinians killed, including militant leaders as well as children, and scores of homes damaged or destroyed, most by Israeli airstrikes but some from Palestinian misfires.

But one thing was different from the usual fighting: Hamas, the de facto civilian government in Gaza, remained on the sidelines. A smaller Islamist group, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, took the lead in firing rockets — more than 1,000 of them — and bore the brunt of Israeli airstrikes, which began on Friday to pre-empt what Israel said was an imminent Islamic Jihad attack.

Though not unprecedented, Hamas’s decision confirmed the complex and shifting role that the movement has assumed since seizing control of the Gaza Strip in 2007. It also showcased the frictions among Palestinian Islamist militants about how best to fight Israel, and highlighted both the influence of Iran — which backs both Hamas and Islamic Jihad — and the limits of that support.

Hamas is still a military force that opposes Israel’s existence, and is considered a terrorist group by Israel and the United States. But unlike Islamic Jihad, it is also a ruling administration and a social movement. Though authoritarian, Hamas is sensitive to public opinion in the enclave and must also deal, if only indirectly, with Israel to assuage the most restrictive aspects of a 15-year Israeli-Egyptian blockade that was enforced after the group took power and has decimated living conditions in Gaza.

By holding fire over the weekend, Hamas showed sensitivity to Palestinian fatigue at the prospect of yet another confrontation with Israel, at least the sixth during Hamas’s tenure. It also suggested that Hamas was wary of losing several small but significant economic measures that Israel has offered Gaza since the last major confrontation in May 2021, including 14,000 Israeli work permits that boosted the strip’s economy.

Members of Palestinian Islamic Jihad at a house in Rafah, in the southern Gaza Strip, on Monday to mourn Palestinians killed in the recent conflict.

In a briefing for reporters on Monday, a senior Israeli official, speaking anonymously in order to discuss the issue more freely, said that the Israeli policy of offering more work permits over the past year had played a significant role in keeping Hamas away from this round of fighting. The official said this would encourage Israel to step up the approach in the future.

While no one expects the fundamental dynamics in Gaza to change, let alone the wider Israeli-Palestinian conflict, some analysts, diplomats and officials hope that the perceived success of this trade-off will encourage Israel to ease more restrictions in the future, further reducing the likelihood of violence.

“Hamas doesn’t want war at this moment,” said Hugh Lovatt, an expert on Palestinian politics at the European Council on Foreign Relations, a research group. “There is a more pragmatic relationship between Hamas and Israel that has developed. To a certain extent, it might be mutual.”

Publicly, Hamas and Islamic Jihad have expressed solidarity with each other during and after the weekend conflict, and promised to join forces again in the future, much as they did during earlier rounds of fighting in 2008, 2014 and 2021.

Fundamentally, both groups have a similar goal and ideology. They have roots in the Muslim Brotherhood, the global Islamist movement, and seek an end to Israel and its replacement by an Islamic Palestinian state.

Muhammad al-Hindi, an Islamic Jihad official, told a Turkish broadcaster on Sunday that there was no rift between the two groups. “Our relationship with Hamas has gotten stronger and more solid,” Mr. al-Hindi said. “We entered battles together and we will enter battles side by side, together.”

In a statement posted on its website on Saturday, Hamas said it remained “united” with Islamic Jihad, adding that “the fighters of all factions are confronting this aggression as one.”

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But the two groups’ divergent behavior during the conflict reflects their differing current priorities as well as historical back stories.

Founded more than four decades ago, Islamic Jihad is older, smaller, and predominantly concerned with violent opposition to Israel. It has little interest even in participating in Palestinian political structures.

Hamas, formed in 1987, is comparatively more pragmatic — a social and political movement as well as a militant one.

On Sunday, Hamas police officers inspected a house destroyed in Israeli strikes in Rafah.

It opposed efforts led by the Palestine Liberation Organization, the internationally recognized representative of the Palestinians, to seek a peace deal with Israel in the 1990s, mounting a lethal terrorism campaign to derail that process.

But Hamas nevertheless participates in Palestinian elections, winning the last legislative election, in 2006. It worked within unity governments in the Palestinian Authority, even after wresting Gaza from the authority’s control. And in recent years, it indicated a willingness to negotiate a long-term truce with Israel, while stopping short of recognizing its legitimacy.

“Ideologically they are not really much different — they both believe Israel has no right to exist in Palestine,” said Azzam Tamimi, an expert on political Islam and an academic affiliated with the Muslim Brotherhood. “But Hamas sees itself as a leader of society, not just a resistance movement.”

Both Hamas and Islamic Jihad receive financial and logistical support from Iran. But their different approaches in recent days highlight how Islamic Jihad — whose leader, Ziad al-Nakhala, was visiting Tehran during the conflict — is more susceptible to Iranian influence than Hamas.

During the Syrian civil war, Islamic Jihad never broke with Iran’s close ally, Syria, despite the Syrian government’s war against rebels who were, like Islamic Jihad and Hamas, Sunni Islamists. Hamas, however, severed ties with Damascus a decade ago, in solidarity with the Syrian Muslim Brotherhood, and only recently restored them.

“Islamic Jihad decided from the beginning that the Iranian revolution was a model, a beacon of some sort,” said Mr. Tamimi. Hamas, he added, “has always insisted that the relationship with Iran should be on the basis of cooperation not tied to any strings.”

Islamic Jihad’s battle with Israel could bolster its popularity among some Palestinians, but past polling suggests it could have the opposite effect in Gaza itself — particularly after some of the group’s rockets appeared to misfire and fell on civilian areas in the strip, video seemed to show. After a similar round of fighting in 2019, in which Hamas also stayed outside the fray, nearly half of Gazans felt Hamas was right to do so, and only a third disagreed.

Palestinians celebrating the cease-fire agreement in Gaza City early on Monday morning.

Some Israelis hope that Hamas, trying to maintain favor in Gaza, will continue to stay out of future conflicts if given more economic incentives to do so.

“I want to speak directly to the residents of the Gaza Strip and tell them: There is another way,” the Israeli prime minister, Yair Lapid, said in a speech Monday evening. “We know how to protect ourselves from anyone who threatens us, but we also know how to provide employment, a livelihood and a life of dignity to those who wish to live by our side in peace.”

Yonatan Touval, an analyst at Mitvim, an Israeli research group, said the situation even presented “an opportunity for advancing far-reaching arrangements between the two sides — first and foremost those involving the rebuilding of Gaza.”

But few expect small economic gestures to fundamentally change Hamas’s broader outlook, particularly while the blockade remains in place. Israel’s granting of 14,000 work permits has boosted the incomes of thousands of families, but doesn’t alter the lives of the majority. In the crowded enclave of 2 million, nearly half of working age adults are unemployed and only one in 10 Gazans has access to clean water.