Near New York City, New York
1884 08 10 19:07 UTC
This severe earthquake affected an area roughly extending along the Atlantic Coast from southern Maine to central Virginia and westward to Cleveland, Ohio. Chimneys were knocked down and walls were cracked in several States, including Connecticut, New Jersey, New York, and Pennsylvania. Many towns from Hartford, Connecticut, to West Chester,Pennsylvania.
Property damage was severe at Amityville and Jamaica, New York, where several chimneys were “overturned” and large cracks formed in walls. Two chimneys were thrown down and bricks were shaken from other chimneys at Stratford (Fairfield County), Conn.; water in the Housatonic River was agitated violently. At Bloomfield, N.J., and Chester, Pa., several chimneys were downed and crockery was broken. Chimneys also were damaged at Mount Vernon, N.Y., and Allentown, Easton, and Philadelphia, Pa. Three shocks occurred, the second of which was most violent. This earthquake also was reported felt in Vermont, Virginia, and Washington, D.C. Several slight aftershocks were reported on August 11.
By Anthony Galloway
January 21, 2021 — 3.45pm
The Morrison government has not signed the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which comes into effect on Friday.
North Korea fired two suspected short-range missiles towards the sea in May 2019. KCNA/AP
The treaty, signed by 86 countries, bans signatories from testing, developing, producing, stockpiling or threatening to use nuclear weapons.
Government sources confirmed there was concern about how the treaty would affect Australia’s dealings with the United States, including intelligence sharing through the Pine Gap satellite surveillance base near Alice Springs, because it banned signatories from doing anything to assist a nuclear weapon state in its nuclear plans.
New Zealand, which is part of the Five Eyes intelligence-sharing agreement with the US, Australia, Canada and Britain, has signed the treaty.
As a party to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, signed in 1968, Australia is already prohibited from manufacturing or acquiring nuclear weapons.
A spokesman for the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade said Australia shared the view of many other countries that the treaty “will be ineffective in eliminating nuclear weapons”.
“Australia is committed to the goal of a peaceful, secure world free of nuclear weapons, pursued in an effective, pragmatic and realistic way,” the DFAT spokesman said.
“Our long-held focus is on progressing nuclear non-proliferation and disarmament through a progressive, practical approach that engages all states, especially nuclear weapon states, in the process”.
“We urge Beijing to cease its military, diplomatic, and economic pressure against Taiwan and instead engage in meaningful dialogue.”
Ambassador Kelly Craft accompanied the tweet with a photo of herself in the U.N. General Assembly Hall where the island is banned. She carried a handbag with a stuffed Taiwan bear sticking out of the top, a gift from Taiwan’s representative in New York, Ambassador James Lee.
Taiwan and China separated amid civil war in 1949 and China says it is determined to bring the island under its control by force if necessary. The U.S. switched diplomatic recognition from Taipei to Beijing in 1979, but is legally required to ensure Taiwan can defend itself and the self-governing democratic island enjoys strong bipartisan support in Washington.
Tsai has sought to bolster the island’s defenses with the purchase of billions of dollars in U.S. weapons, including upgraded F-16 fighter jets, armed drones, rocket systems and Harpoon missiles capable of hitting both ships and land targets. She has also boosted support for Taiwan’s indigenous arms industry, including launching a program to build new submarines to counter China’s ever-growing naval capabilities.
China’s increased threats come as economic and political enticements bear little fruit, leading it to stage war games and dispatch fighter jets and reconnaissance planes on an almost daily basis toward the island of 24 million people.
Opinion by Editorial Board
Jan. 23, 2021 at 8:00 a.m. EST
PRESIDENT BIDEN’S opening moves to deal with Russia incorporate valuable lessons from the Cold War: that it is possible to engage Moscow when it’s in the interests of the United States while continuing to unreservedly question and confront behavior that is adversarial and harmful. These multiple tracks promise to bring common sense back into U.S. policy after four years of mystery and incoherence at the highest level.
Mr. Biden announced that the United States will propose to Russia a five-year extension of the New START accord limiting strategic nuclear weapons, which expires Feb. 5 and has a provision for such an extension. This is the last remaining bilateral treaty limiting nuclear weapons after the collapse of the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty under President Donald Trump, whose policies toward Russia veered between his own affinity for President Vladimir Putin and more skeptical approaches in his administration. Extension of the New START accord, which limits both sides to 1,550 nuclear warheads on 700 launchers and has effective verification, is in the interest of both nations. Mr. Trump’s administration dithered on seeking an extension while trying unsuccessfully to lasso China into a multilateral negotiation, a worthwhile long-term goal that can be pursued later.
Mr. Biden should not fail to take advantage of the five-year extension to take stock of future threats, both nuclear and conventional, from Russia, China and elsewhere. Where it is in the interests of the United States, he ought to look for new arms control opportunities.
The president also ordered an intelligence assessment on four nettlesome aspects of Russian behavior: the recent SolarWinds cyber breach, interference in the 2020 election, the use of chemical weapons against opposition leader Alexei Navalny and reports that Russia placed bounties on U.S. soldiers in Afghanistan. The intelligence assessment will give Mr. Biden a chance to hold Mr. Putin and his government to account where necessary, and to protest in the strongest terms where appropriate. Each of these episodes demands a stronger U.S. response than Mr. Trump provided. In the case of Mr. Navalny, the question is not only the fate of the leading opposition figure who was target of an assassination attempt, but also Russia’s blatant disregard for an international treaty prohibiting the use of chemical weapons.
During the Cold War, President Ronald Reagan managed to negotiate arms control agreements with the Soviet Union while also maintaining pressure in other areas, such as regional conflicts and human rights. Mr. Biden, who knows those years well, is right to adopt the multitask template for today. Russia has been repeatedly testing the West. The president’s order to the intelligence community also ought to include a report on the “Havana syndrome” harassment that injured and sickened U.S. officials abroad.
Mr. Trump’s overly personal approach to Mr. Putin was as simplistic as it was shadowy. Mr. Biden is starting on the right foot, announcing from the outset that he is prepared to engage on important business but also that he will not flinch at Mr. Putin’s unpleasant and dark arts.
By Post Editorial Board
President Biden is eager to reengage with Iran and return to the nuclear deal. Yet the murderous regime has no interest in changing its ways. It is boosting its nuclear-weapon development and its network of deadly militias across the Middle East in its continued drive for hegemony.
Biden said during the campaign he’d rejoin the nuclear deal “as a starting point for follow-on negotiations” if “Iran returns to strict compliance,” working “to strengthen and extend the nuclear deal’s provisions, while also addressing other issues of concern,” such as Iran’s ballistic-missile program, human-rights abuses and “destabilizing activity.”
That was always naïve, and Javad Zarif, Iran’s foreign minister, confirmed it Friday: “There cannot be any renegotiations,” he wrote in Foreign Affairs. “Iran’s defense and regional policies were not up for discussion,” since the West won’t withdraw from the region and stop selling arms to its allies.
Zarif proudly declared, “Iran has significantly increased its nuclear capabilities,” and indeed, the International Atomic Energy Agency revealed this month in a confidential report that Iran took a crucial step in December, starting an assembly line to make uranium metal, a key nuclear-weapon component prohibited by the nuclear deal. France, Germany and Britain jointly warned of the “grave military implications,” noting that the metal “has no credible civilian use.”
Earlier this month, Tehran said it was producing 20 percent enriched uranium, far above the 3.67 percent agreed to in the nuclear deal, crossing what even the appeasing Europeans have considered a red line. The IAEA said in November that Iran had accrued a low-enriched uranium stockpile 12 times that allowed under the accord. Iran kept the agency from visiting for months last year and promises to bar inspectors permanently if US sanctions aren’t lifted by Feb. 21.
Nor is the problem just nukes. Tehran’s multiday military exercises this month included tests of ballistic missiles and bomber drones aimed at, Iranian state TV said, a “hypothetical enemy missile shield” and “hypothetical enemy bases.” Some missiles landed just 100 miles from the USS Nimitz, their debris flying after they exploded. One missile touched the water 20 miles from a commercial vessel.
Newsweek recently reported that Iran is delivering “suicide drones” (advanced unmanned aerial vehicles) to its Houthi proxies in Yemen. With a 2,000-kilometer range, they can hit Israel, Saudi Arabia, even American targets in the region.
All this should be a wake-up call for the new president, but Biden looks to be sticking to appeasement. His choice for CIA director, William Burns, played a key role in the Obama administration’s 2013 secret talks with Tehran that led to the 2015 nuclear deal. And Biden is reportedly looking to make Robert Malley his special envoy to Iran.
Malley was pushed out of the 2008 Obama campaign after news broke that he’d met with members of the terrorist group Hamas, but he became the Middle East director for President Barack Obama’s National Security Council. Last year, he actually condemned the killing of top Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh.
A dozen former Iranian hostages and human-rights activists sent a letter to Biden’s secretary of state designate urging him not to put Malley in the administration, as it “would send a chilling signal to the dictatorship in Iran that the United States is solely focused on re-entering the Iran nuclear deal, and ignoring its regional terror and domestic crimes against humanity.”
That was exactly the Obama-era approach, and Biden seems bent on repeating that deadly mistake.
Fatima Ahmed and Tajjalla Munir*
The South Asian sub-continent had remained turbulent since two nation-states Pakistan and India had been carved out by the British in 1947. Since partition, the relations of Pakistan and India had been contentious mainly because of the disputed region of Kashmir. Both archrivals have fought three wars over Kashmir and their relations have been mired with hostility and distrust ever since. The relations between the two states grew more sensitive when both acquired nuclear weapons. With nuclear weapons, nuclear deterrence was achieved and it led to strategic stability in South Asia. This strategic stability doesn’t rule out the occurrence of conflicts between the two archrivals. The small clashes can easily get out of hand and can disturb strategic stability. The recent example of the Pulwama attack in February 2019, illustrates this point of view. The world saw that due to the attack on Pulwama, the blame game started by India, and in few days tensions escalated and Pakistan and India were standing at the brink of nuclear war.
Nuclear deterrence is the only factor that provides strategic stability in the region but the presence of nuclear deterrence is not always helpful in ensuring peace. It somehow retains space for small conflicts and the threat of escalation of these conflicts is always present. The best example of this was a crisis between both states that happened in the second month of 2019.
In February 2019, Indian paramilitary forces were targeted by a terrorist attack. More than 40 soldiers died in the attack and the Indian authorities were quick to blame Pakistan on this incident. Prime Minister of Pakistan openly stated that, if Indians could provide any actionable evidence that terrorists are linked with Pakistan they will utilize all necessary resources to bring the perpetrators to justice. But Indian authorities did not provide any evidence and they were adamant to Punish Pakistan for what they call support of terrorism in Indian occupied Kashmir. On the night of February 26, Indian fighter jets intruded Pakistan’s air space and claimed to destroy a terrorist camp. But later it was revealed that there was no causality in Pakistan. Pakistan responded the next day by engaging a target inside Indian occupied Kashmir next and in a subsequent dog fight, India lost one of its fighter planes and the pilot was captured by Pakistan. After this India planned to hit the target with conventional missiles and Pakistan also promised to do the same. This readiness by both states to strike the target with missiles in each other’s territory brought the region to the brink of nuclear war. However, Pakistan released Indian pilot Abhinandan Varthaman as a “peace gesture” which played an important role in diffusing tension. Although the nuclear war was averted by taking some rational decisions from both sides this crisis demonstrated the fact of the fragility of peace between India and Pakistan. It also created fear in the minds of the international community that any upcoming crisis, maybe our luck will be not sufficient enough to avert nuclear war in South Asia.
When two nuclear-armed neighbors are involved in continuous rivalry or they have longstanding disputes between them, there is always a fear that any crisis between them could escalate and soon get out of control. The main threat that is associated with escalation is that the crisis could turn into a conflict that could bring nuclear weapons into the theater of war. There are two major types of strategic thinkers about this issue, one is those who are optimistic about the effectiveness of nuclear deterrence while others are pessimists. Both these groups brought their research from cold war times. But it is not necessary that theories that were successful during the cold war may also succeed in the South Asian context because of many structural and technical differences. Leaders of both states have adopted the policy of brinkmanship, during many crises that occurred in the subcontinent. This policy brought with it dangers of escalation during the time of crisis. As Thomas C Schelling said, “Brinksmanship involves getting onto the slope where one may fall in spite of his own best efforts to save himself, dragging his adversary with him”.
After the advent of nuclear weapons, cyber weapons are the most destructive thing that we can imagine in this contemporary world. Nuclear weapons can lead to tangible damage. In the age when the world has become a global village, cyber weapons pose a threat to international peace. Cyberspace provided the fifth domain in the area of armed conflict. Previously, they were air, land, sea, and space. Nuclear weapons are generally used for deterrence purposes and they are mostly used or considered as last option weapons, cyber-attack on the other hand can be materialized when there is no apparent conflict between two states. Due to the deep enmity between Indian and Pakistan, it will always a threat that both countries can target each other in cyberspace. When a cyber-attack is launched against India and Pakistan, they will blame each other but the perpetrators of this attack could be the third party. That could be state-sponsored cyber-attack or even non-state actors and individuals could carry out such endeavors. This has already happened, when a cyber-attack targeted some websites in India. Initially, Pakistan was made responsible for these attacks but later it was revealed that the offensive was done by a third party. It was due to insecurity and doubt present in both states about each other’s intentions or capabilities. While initially cyber-attacks can be very limited in scope but there are fair chances that it could escalate which could result in a conflict with the use of conventional weapons. Therefore in modern times, cyber weapons pose a great threat to the peaceful relations between India and Pakistan. That will ultimately lead to regional instability.
*Fatima Ahmed and Tajjalla Munir are Research Scholar at COMSATS University Islamabad.
Gaza blast injures more than 20 peopleA blast in a residential area of Hamas-ruled Gaza strip injured more than 20 people, said Palestinian officials. The explosion took place inside home of a member of Gaza’s armed groups.“An explosion occurred in a house in Beit Hanoun this morning, resulting in a number of injuries,” the interior ministry said.An investigation had been launched into the cause of the blast but it is understood to be accidental. AFP cited medical sources who said that 20 people were injured and condition of 2 of them is serious.Witnesses said several homes were damaged as a result of the explosion in the home of an “activist”. Police cordoned off the area.There was no immediate official explanation of the explosion, but the Israeli military said it was the result of militants “storing weapons in residential homes”.Houses “have been turned into warehouses for weapons… and missiles for terrorist organisations, and those who pay the price in the end are innocent civilians,” the military’s Arabic-language spokesman, Avichay Adraee, said on Twitter.Islamist group Hamas seized control of Gaza from rival Palestinian movement Fatah in a near civil war in 2007.Since then, Hamas has fought three devastating wars with Israel, which has maintained a crippling blockade on the territory of some two million people.
Associated PressJanuary 21, 2021
BEIJING (AP) — As a new U.S. president takes office, he faces a determined Chinese leadership that could be further emboldened by America’s troubles at home.
The disarray in America, from the rampant COVID-19 pandemic to the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol, gives China’s ruling Communist Party a boost as it pursues its long-running quest for national “rejuvenation” — a bid to return the country to what it sees as its rightful place as a major nation.
For Joe Biden, sworn in Wednesday as the 46th president, that could make one of his major foreign policy challenges even more difficult as he tries to manage an increasingly contentious relationship between the world’s rising power and its established one.
The stakes are high for both countries and the rest of the world. A misstep could spark an accidental conflict in the Western Pacific, where China’s growing naval presence is bumping up against America’s. The trade war under President Donald Trump hurt workers and farmers in both countries, though some in Vietnam and elsewhere benefited as companies moved production outside China. On global issues such as climate, it is difficult to make progress if the world’s two largest economies aren’t talking.
The Chinese government expressed hope Thursday that Biden would return to dialogue and cooperation after the divisiveness under Trump.
“It is normal for China and the United States to have some differences,” Foreign Ministry spokesperson Hua Chunying said. “Countries with different social systems, cultural backgrounds and ideologies should and can coexist … and work together to achieve peace and stability and development in the world.”
But Kurt Tong, a former U.S. diplomat in Asia, sees a stalemate in the coming few years in which China keeps doing what it has been doing and the U.S. is not happy about it.
“I think it’s going to be a tough patch, it’s just going to be more disagreements than agreements and not a lot of breakthroughs,” said Tong, now a partner with The Asia Group consultancy in Washington, D.C.
A more confident China may push back harder on issues such as technology, territory and human rights. Analysts draw parallels to the 2008 global financial crisis, from which China emerged relatively unscathed. The country’s foreign policy has grown increasingly assertive since then, from staking out territory in disputed waters in the South China Sea to its more recent use of Twitter to hit back at critics. China’s relative success in controlling the pandemic could fuel that trend.
The U.S. has also shifted, with wide support among both Republicans and Democrats for treating China as a competitor, and embracing the need for a tougher approach to China, if not always agreeing with how Trump carried it out. Biden needs to be wary of opening himself up to attacks that he is soft on China if he rolls back import tariffs and other steps taken by his predecessor.
His pressing need to prioritize domestic challenges could give China breathing room to push forward its agenda, whether it be technological advancement or territorial issues from Taiwan to its border with India.
Biden has pointed to potential areas of cooperation, from climate change to curbing North Korea’s nuclear weapons development, but even in those areas, the two countries don’t always agree.
The pandemic, first viewed as a potential threat to President Xi Jinping’s leadership as it spiraled out of control in the city of Wuhan in early 2020, has been transformed into a story of hardship followed by triumph.
The Communist Party has sought to use the pandemic to justify its continued control of the one-party, authoritarian state it has led for more than 70 years, while rounding up citizen-journalists and others to quash any criticism of its handling of the outbreak.
That effort has been aided by the failure of many other nations to stop the spread of COVID-19. Biden takes over a country where deaths continue to mount and virus-related restrictions keep it in recession. China is battling small outbreaks, but life has largely returned to normal and economic growth is accelerating.
“It would have been more difficult for them to push that narrative around the world if the United States had not done such a poor job,” said Bonnie Glaser, director of the China Power Project at the Center for Strategic & International Studies in Washington, D.C. “That’s a theme that runs through many issues, that China’s just able to point to the United States and democracy in general as not delivering good governance.”
It’s impossible to gauge support for the Communist Party in a country where many would be unwilling to criticize it publicly, for fear of repercussions. But Niu Jun, an international relations professor at Peking University, said that objectively, public trust should rise given China’s faster recovery from the outbreak.
“To ordinary people, the logic is very simple,” he said, predicting the pandemic would spark public thinking and discussion about which system of governance is more effective.
“The party’s policies are good, our policies are not like the ones in foreign countries, ours are good,” said Liu Shixiu, strolling with her daughter in Wuhan, the city that bore the brunt of the pandemic in China. “We listen to the party.”
It is unclear whether the Communist Party foresees exporting its way of governance as an alternative to the democratic model. For now, Chinese officials note that countries choose different systems and stress the need for others to respect those differences.
“As China becomes more and more confident, maybe they’ll try to shape the internal operations or ways of thinking of other countries,” Tong said. “But to me, it feels more like they don’t want anyone to be able to say that China is bad and get away with it.”
The leadership wants China to be seen and treated as an equal and has shown a willingness to use its growing economic and military might to try to get its way.
Associated Press video journalist Emily Wang Fujiyama contributed to this report.
Moritsugu, The Associated Press’ news director for Greater China, has reported in Asia for more than 15 years.
1/23/2021 | 12:47 PM CST
Mikhail Ulyanov, the Russian ambassador at the international organizations in Vienna, also hailed Biden’s proposal as an “encouraging step.”
“The extension will give the two sides more time to consider possible additional measures aimed at strengthening strategic stability and global security,” he tweeted.
The Russian Foreign Ministry’s spokeswoman, Maria Zakharova, noted in a statement that Russia always has called for maintaining the treaty and said Russian diplomats are ready to quickly engage in contacts with the U.S. to formalize its extension for five years “without any delay.”
U.N. Secretary-General Antonio Guterres welcomed the U.S. decision and Russia’s reiteration. He encouraged both countries “to work quickly to complete the necessary procedure for the New START’s extension before the Feb. 5 expiration and move as soon as possible to negotiations on new arms control measures,” U.N. spokesman Stephane Dujarric said.
“A five-year extension would not only maintain verifiable caps on the world’s two largest nuclear arsenals but will also provide time to negotiate new nuclear arms control agreements to grapple with our increasingly complex international environment,” Dujarric said.
Biden indicated during the campaign that he favored the preservation of the New START treaty, which was negotiated during his tenure as U.S. vice president.
The talks on the treaty’s extension also were clouded by tensions between Russia and the United States, which have been fueled by the Ukrainian crisis, Moscow’s meddling in the 2016 U.S. presidential election and other irritants.
Despite the extension proposal, White House press secretary Jen Psaki said Biden remains committed to holding Russia “to account for its reckless and adversarial actions,” such as its alleged involvement in the Solar Winds hacking event, 2020 election interference, the chemical poisoning of opposition figure Alexei Navalny and the widely reported allegations that Russia may have offered bounties to the Taliban to kill American soldiers in Afghanistan.
Asked to comment on Psaki’s statement, Peskov has reaffirmed Russia’s denial of involvement in any such activities.
After both Moscow and Washington withdrew from the 1987 Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019, New START is the only remaining nuclear arms control deal between the two countries.
Arms control advocates have strongly called for New START’s preservation, warning that its lapse would remove any checks on U.S. and Russian nuclear forces.
Last week, Russia also declared that it would follow the U.S. to pull out of the Open Skies Treaty allowing surveillance flights over military facilities to help build trust and transparency between Russia and the West.
While Russia always offered to extend New START for five years — a possibility envisaged by the pact — Trump asserted that it put the U.S. at a disadvantage and initially insisted that China be added to the treaty, an idea that Beijing flatly rejected. Trump’s administration then proposed to extend New START for just one year and also sought to expand it to include limits on battlefield nuclear weapons.
Moscow has said it remains open for new nuclear arms talks with the U.S. to negotiate future limits on prospective weapons, but emphasized that preserving New START is essential for global stability.
Russian diplomats have said that Russia’s prospective Sarmat heavy intercontinental ballistic missile and the Avangard hypersonic glide vehicle could be counted along with other Russian nuclear weapons under the treaty.
The Sarmat is still under development, while the first missile unit armed with the Avangard became operational in December 2019.
The Russian military has said the Avangard is capable of flying 27 times faster than the speed of sound and could make sharp maneuvers on its way to a target to bypass missile defense systems. It has been fitted to the existing Soviet-built intercontinental ballistic missiles instead of older type warheads, and in the future could be fitted to the more powerful Sarmat.
Militias need war to legitimise them. That is how the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and elsewhere in the region justify their existence. Iraq has seen plenty of war for 40 years, but the latest threat, from ISIS, has been seen off with American help, and the US will soon withdraw its troops. If there ever was a need for the militias – which is doubtful – it is no longer there. But despite all entreaties, the Iraqi militias refuse to go.
In the words of Abdul-Aziz Al Muhammadawi, also known as Abu-Fadak or Al Khal (meaning “uncle”), the armed militia he leads, the Popular Mobilisation Unit (PMU), is “more legitimate than all other armies” and will remain in existence “until God wills otherwise”.
Until then, “Uncle” will refuse the options offered by Baghdad of either disarming all militias and transforming them into political parties, or of being absorbed into Iraq’s regular military and security forces. Abu-Fadak, of course, ultimately takes his orders from another capital, and Tehran says the militias must retain their arms in order to “liberate” Iraq from “American military occupation”.
As an argument, this is extremely tenuous. The number of US troops in Iraq now is down to only 2,500. They are mostly engaged in training high-level Iraqi military personnel and no one in Washington regards their presence in Iraq as open-ended. The days of highly visible US patrols are long gone. To describe such a low-key presence as an “occupation” strains credulity.
The majority of Iraqis are heartily sick of the pro-Iran troublemakers. Conscious of public opinion and with an eye on the forthcoming elections, the prime minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, has called for the militias to disband. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shias, has publicly stated that it is time for them to go.
So have some of the most influential Iraqi Shias, such as Muqtada Al Sadr (cleric, politician and head of his own militia), Ammar Al Hakim (cleric and former head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) and even former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who began his career as a Shia dissident during the time of Saddam Hussein.
The elections due to be held in June are another factor concentrating Shia minds. No Shia seeking political office stands a chance against a rival who has the backing of an armed group.
Yet the PMU’s Abu-Fadak continues to insist that Iraq’s pro-Iran militias answer only to divine command and exhorts the political class and the people of Iraq to learn to live with them, just as in Tehran the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its leader, Ali Khamenei, hold the true reins of power, while the president, Hassan Rouhani, is a mere figurehead with a weak army.
Militias are all too often no more than bands of thugs. In the absence of war, they are apt to turn their sights on civilians and to organised crime, leading to civil war. Certainly, that has been the experience of other countries in the region. Consider the years of carnage wreaked by the Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen.
It is also true that when regular armies are pitted against militias, it is the regulars who come off worse. The only options in such situations seem to be either wholesale destruction of territory – as in Iraq – or precision airstrikes that only curtail the power of the militias but do not quash it completely, as in Yemen.
But this does not mean all hope is lost for Iraq. Many of the militiamen currently loyal to Iran are mostly young and malleable. If the Iraqi leadership acts wisely and harnesses the support of Al Sistani, Baghdad can outmanoeuvre, out-fund and out-gun the militias.
The task facing Iraq’s political class now is to act together against the tools of Tehran’s incessant meddling in the affairs of others. If they fail to do this and instead continue bickering and jockeying among themselves for power, they will surrender true power to the puppet-masters across the border in Iran.
— Syndication Bureau
Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily Al Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London.