Vladimir Putin Photograph:( WION )Oct 15, 2021, 09.13 AM (IST)
Russian President Vladimir Putin has bragged that his country’s new hypersonic nuclear missiles capable of annihilating US cities are “on alert,” raising concerns of a World War 3 outbreak.
The Russian leader revealed his country has developed a weapon that flies more than five times faster than those being developed in the US. While addressing an energy forum, Putin said nowhere is directly under threat.
According to Vladimir Putin, Russia has intercontinental nuclear missiles that are capable of destroying American cities.
President Putin’s boasting that Russia possesses hypersonic weapons that are also intercontinental has heightened worries of a military clash with the US and a future World War III with the West.
Simultaneously, speaking at an energy conference in Moscow, he dismissively denied that they intend to harm anyone and claimed that similar systems are being developed elsewhere.
Weapons with a speed of Mach 3 or more are being developed in the United States. Our systems fly at a speed of over Mach 20. These are not just hypersonic but intercontinental missiles, and these are far more formidable weapons than those you have just mentioned, ” Putin remarked.Such weapon systems are already on combat alert in Russia and similar systems are being developed in other countries, he added.”There is nothing unusual about that. Hi-tech armies of the world will possess such systems soon, ” Putin said
The lasting impact of the latest round of Israeli escalation builds on already existing trauma from previous conflicts and a grueling ongoing blockade on the Gaza Strip, warned the UN Agency for Palestine Refugees (UNRWA).
UNRWA said in a feature published on the World Mental Health Day, that sixty-six children were killed in the latest conflict in Gaza and some 113,000 Palestinians were displaced during the 11 devastating days.
The more than two million Palestinians who call Gaza home have lived through four wars in the last thirteen years and this latest round of hostilities added another layer of psychological distress on an already traumatized population.
An alarming number of the population of Gaza, almost 600,000 of whom are children and youth, display symptoms of severe distress and are at risk of developing mental health conditions and display symptoms of severe distress.
UNRWA has implemented mental health and psychosocial support (MHPSS) programming to mitigate the mental health costs arising from the increased need for mental health support and being born by residents of Gaza. This includes individual and group counselling sessions, hotlines for mental health support, afterschool sessions and the Keeping Kids Cool (KKC) summer camp activities that ran in Gaza throughout July 2021, targeting 150,000 children.
On this World Mental Health Day, UNRWA underscored the importance of a life lived in dignity and free of the violence of war, remembering that the right to health, education and a dignified life are clearly enshrined in international human rights law.
UNRWA also lauded the valiant efforts of mental health care professionals like those who are on the frontlines of service provision in Gaza. Many of them were involved in this year’s Gaza Keeping Kids Cook summer activities, providing vital psychosocial support to tens of thousands of traumatized children.
People in Gaza have already been living on the edge and many families struggle to put food on the table. Their situation has deteriorated even further over the past year due to COVID-19 pandemic restrictions.
According to data by the Norwegian Refugee Council (NRC), Gaza is one of the world’s most densely populated areas, with more than 5,000 inhabitants per square kilometer. The Gaza Strip is smaller than the city of Oslo but is home to three times as many people.
Gaza is described by many Palestinians and humanitarian actors as the world’s largest open-air prison, where nearly 2 million Palestinians live behind a blockade and are refused access to the other occupied Palestinian areas and the rest of the world.
NRC said 7 out of 10 Palestinians in Gaza are registered as refugees, and many of these come from families who were forced to leave their villages in 1948. Many have also been forced to leave their homes due to war, violence, and economic hardship.
All of the Palestinian group Hamas should be listed as a terrorist organisation by the federal government, a parliamentary committee has recommended.
The report by the joint intelligence and security committee found the entirety of Hamas, along with four other groups, should be formally listed as a terrorist organisation.
Previously, only Hamas’ military wing, the Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades, was formally listed.
The committee’s chair Liberal senator James Paterson said the listing of all of Hamas would be in line with measures taken by the US and EU.
“The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz-al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation,” Senator Paterson said.
“Leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people.”
The committee agreed that Hamas operated as one entity and had overlapping members with the military wing.
However, the report warned the listing of all of Hamas may come with problems for government departments.
“Should the Australian government accept this recommendation, the committee acknowledges there will be some practical challenges for various agencies in implementing and adjusting to this decision,” the report said.
The entirety of Hamas has been previously listed as a terrorist organisation in 2014, but was removed shortly after.
Set aside Rubin’s claim that the Afghan denouement wrought irreparable harm to America’s standing vis-à-vis allies. He could be right, but I personally doubt it. The United States gave Afghanistan—a secondary cause by any standard—twenty years, substantial resources, and many military lives. That’s a commitment of serious heft, and one that gave Afghans a chance to come together as a society. That they failed reflects more on them than the United States. I suspect Taiwan would be grateful for a commitment of that magnitude and duration.
Yet Rubin’s larger point stands. One nation depends on another for salvation at its peril. Wise statesmen welcome allies . . . without betting everything on them. Taiwan should found its diplomacy and military strategy on deterring Chinese aggression if possible—alone if need be—and on stymieing a cross-strait assault if forced to it. This is bleak advice to be sure, but who will stand by Taiwan if the United States fails to? Japan or Australia might intercede alongside America, but not without it. Nor can Taipei look for succor to the UN Security Council or any other international body where Beijing wields serious clout. These are feeble bulwarks against aggression.
Deterrence, then, is elemental. But does a deterrent strategy demand atomicdeterrence? Not necessarily. It’s far from clear that nuclear weapons deter much apart from nuclear bombardment—the type of aggression least likely to befall Taiwan. After all, the mainland longs to possess the island, with all the strategic value it commands. The Chinese Communist Party (CCP) has little use for a radioactive wasteland.
CCP overseers are vastly more likely to resort to military measures short of nuclear arms. China’s People’s Liberation Army (PLA) could launch a naval blockade or a conventional air campaign against Taiwan in a bid to starve out the populace or bludgeon them into submission. And even a direct cross-strait amphibious offensive—the PLA’s surest way to seize prime real estate on a tight timetable—would preserve most of Taiwan’s value to China.
So, it seems, a nonnuclear onslaught is what Taipei mainly needs to deter. History has shown that nuclear weapons stand little chance of deterring nonnuclear aggression. A threat to visit a Hiroshima or Nagasaki on, say, Shanghai in retaliation for low-level aggression would be implausible. Breaching the nuclear threshold would do little good strategically while painting the islanders as amoral—and hurting their prospects of winning international support in a cross-strait war.
An implausible threat stands little chance of deterring. Think about Henry Kissinger’s classic formula for deterrence, namely that it’s a product of multiplying three variables: capability, resolve, and belief. Capability and resolve are the components of strength. Capability means physical power, chiefly usable military might. Resolve means the willpower to use the capabilities on hand to carry out a deterrent threat. A deterrent threat generally involves denying a hostile contender what it wants or meting out punishment afterward should the contender defy the threat.
Statesmen essaying deterrence are in charge of capability and resolution. They can amass formidable martial power and steel themselves to use it. That doesn’t mean their efforts at deterrence will automatically succeed, though. Belief is Kissinger’s other crucial determinant. It’s up to the antagonist whether it believes in their combined capability and willpower.
Taiwan could field a nuclear arsenal, that is, and its leadership could summon the determination to use the arsenal under specific circumstances such as a nuclear or conventional attack on the island. In other words, it could accumulate the capacity to thwart acts the leadership deems unacceptable or punish them should they occur. But would Chinese Communist magnates find the island’s atomic arsenal and displays of willpower convincing?
Against a nuclear attack, maybe. If Taipei maintained an armory that could inflict damage on China that CCP leaders found unbearable, then Beijing ought to desist from a nuclear attack under the familiar Cold War logic of mutual assured destruction. The two opponents would reach a nuclear impasse.
Kissinger appends a coda to his formula for deterrence, namely that deterrence is a product of multiplication, not a sum. If any one variable is zero, so is deterrence. What that means is that Taiwan could muster all the military might and fortitude in the world and fail anyway if China disbelieved in its capability, resolve, or both. And it might: Chinese Communist leaders have a history of making statements breezily disparaging the impact of the ultimate weapon if used against China. Founding CCP chairman Mao Zedong once derided nukes as a “paper tiger.” A quarter-century ago a PLA general (apparently) joked that Washington would never trade Los Angeles for Taipei.
Again, though, nuclear deterrence ought to be a peripheral concern for Taipei. Beijing is unlikely to order doomsday strikes against real estate it prizes, regardless of whether the occupants of that real estate brandish nuclear arms or not. Far better for the island’s leadership to refuse to pay the opportunity costs of going nuclear and instead concentrate finite militarily relevant resources to girding for more probable contingencies.
Contingencies such as repulsing a conventional cross-strait assault.
Wiser investment will go to armaments that make the island a prickly “porcupine” bristling with “quills” in the form of shore-based anti-ship and anti-air missiles along with sea-based systems such as minefields, surface patrol craft armed to the teeth with missiles, and, once Taiwan’s shipbuilding industry gears up, silent diesel-electric submarines prowling the island’s environs. These are armaments that could make Taiwan indigestible for the PLA. And Beijing could harbor little doubt Taipei would use them.
Capability, resolve, belief. Deterrence through denial.
So Michael Rubin is correct to urge Taiwan not to entrust its national survival to outsiders. But it can take a pass on nuclear weapons—and husband defenses better suited to the strategic surroundings.
Dr. James Holmes, a 1945 Contributing Editor, is J. C. Wylie Chair of Maritime Strategy at the Naval War College and a Nonresident Fellow at the University of Georgia School of Public and International Affairs. The views voiced here are his alone
Committee Chair Senator James Paterson, said that it was clear from evidence received during this review that the whole organisation of Hamas met the definition of a terrorist organisation under the Criminal Code.
‘Currently, the US, Canada and the EU list the whole organisation of Hamas as a terrorist organisation under their respective proscription regimes.
‘The expert evidence provided to the committee overwhelmingly rejected the idea that Hamas’ Izz al-Din al-Qassam Brigades operates independently from the rest of the organisation. There was agreement that Hamas operates as a singular entity with overlapping personnel, finances and structure. In addition, leaders of Hamas have repeatedly made statements which meet the advocacy test for terrorist listing, including direct incitement of acts of violence against Jewish people,’ Senator Paterson said.
Further information on the inquiry as well as a copy of the report can be obtained from the Committee’s website.
For more information about this Committee, you can visit its website. On the site, you can make a submission to an inquiry, read other submissions, and get details for upcoming public hearings. You can also track the Committee and receive email updates by clicking on the blue ‘Track Committee’ button in the bottom right hand corner of the page.
Earth Matters: Indian Point’s Final Days – Nyack News and Viewsby Barbara PuffIndian Point has been the crown jewel of the nuclear industrialist complex and closing it is a big step to a sustainable energy future. — Susan Shapiro, environmental lawyer.When scientists began exploring nuclear power in the 1950s, pollsters didn’t ask the public their opinion as support was almost unanimous. By the ’60s, there had been a few protests and opposition increased to 25%. So when Indian Point opened on September 16, 1962, it was greeted with enthusiasm, fanfare, and, in hindsight, naivete.Within a few years, increased pollution, loss of wildlife, and accidents at the plant elicited concern. In response, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Riverkeeper were formed in 1966. After incidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, public opinion began to turn against the use of nuclear power.In 1984, her first year as a legislator, Harriet Cornell formed the Citizens Commission to Close Indian Plant. A glance at her press releases over the years shows her convictions regarding closing the plant. In a recent speech she noted: “Were it not for the superhuman efforts of concerned individuals and dedicated scientific and environmental organizations focusing attention on the dangers posed by Indian Point, who knows what might have happened during the last 40+ years.”Simultaneously Riverkeeper began documenting incidents, including:1 An antiquated water-cooling system killed over a billion fish and fish larvae annually.2 Pools holding spent nuclear fuel leaked toxic, radioactive water into the ground, soil, and Hudson River.3 Recurring emergency shut-downs.4 27% of the baffle bolts in Unit 2 and 31% in Unit 3, holding the reactor core together, were damaged.5 The plant was vulnerable to terrorist attack.6 Evacuation plans were implausible.7 No solution for spent nuclear fuel, posing the risk of radioactive release and contamination of land.8 The plant was near two seismic zones, suggesting an earthquake over 6.2 could devastate the area.9 Asbestos exposure.These and other issues led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rate Indian Point in 2000 as the most trouble-plagued plant in the country. Lamont-Doherty Observatory agreed, calling it the most dangerous plant in the nation.As individuals realized the seriousness of the situation, urgency for a solution grew and Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition was formed in 2001. Comprised of public interest, health advocates, environmental and citizen groups, their goals were to educate the public, pass legislation, and form a grassroots campaign with hundreds of local, state, and federal officials.Clearwater also began monitoring the plant around that time. Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director, recalls, “We were concerned when one of the planes that struck the WTC flew over the plant, including several buildings that hold huge fuel pools, filled with spent fuel rods and radioactive waste.” Had anything happened, the nuclear power industry had provided protection for themselves while neglecting surrounding communities. Powerful lobbyists, backed by considerable financing, induced Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957. This legislation protected nuclear power plant companies from full liability in the event of an accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack.With such warnings, it’s hard to believe as late as 2010, The New York Times stated, “No one should be hoping for a too hasty shutdown.” Over time, the cost of litigation by New York State proved more fatal to the continuance of plant operations than protests, though they were a crucial factor and led to initial filings. Attorney General Schneiderman was very active in filing contentions, legal reasons the plant shouldn’t be relicensed, and won several important court cases on high-level radioactive storage.In 2016, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a discharge permit for hot water into the Hudson River, part of their once-through cooling system. This permit was necessary for continued operation of the plant and a requirement for relicensing. The New York State Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management, denied Entergy a water quality certificate the same year, which it also needed to relicense. After more than four decades of danger to the environment and residents, Governor Cuomo announced in January 2017 the plant would finally be closing. Unit 2 would cease production on April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 would end productivity on April 30, 2021.Later that year, in March 2017, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allowed Entergy to renew the plant’s licenses until 2021, dismissing final points of contention between the company, New York State, and Riverkeeper. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino attempted to sue the state and reopen the plant in April 2017 but failed.Ellen Jaffee, NYS Assemblywoman, stated, “After 46 years of operation, I am glad to finally see the closure of Indian Point. Since joining the Assembly, I have long fought for its closure. I would not have been able to pursue these efforts if not for the environmental advocates, like the Riverkeeper, who fought long and hard beside myself to close the plant. The plant’s closure must be conducted in a safe manner, where all radioactive materials will be properly disposed of, without inflicting further harm on our environment. The closure of Indian Point shows that we can reduce our impact on the environment.”Harriet Cornell said, “We have waited years for this to happen and frankly, it can’t happen soon enough. The facts have long shown there is no future for this dangerous plant.”“The closure of Indian Point marks the shutdown of dirty polluting energy,” noted Susan Shapiro.Holtec, the company chosen to oversee decommissioning of the plant, has a horrific track record. New York State Attorney General Tish James released a statement in January expressing multiple grave concerns about them. According to Riverkeeper, they have a scandalous corporate past, little experience in decommissioning, dubious skills in spent fuel management, workplace safety infractions, and health violations. Another fear is the cost will exceed a decommissioning fund set aside by Entergy, Holtec will declare bankruptcy, and the public will absorb the difference.“Entergy made huge profits from Indian Point,” said Manna Jo Greene. “They’ve hired Holtec, a company with a poor record of decommissioning, to complete the work. Entergy plans to declare bankruptcy, thereby having taxpayers foot the bill. We are not out of danger. It is a different danger.”Richard Webster, Legal Program Director at Riverkeeper, adds, “Decommissioning must be done promptly, safely and reliably. Selling to Holtec is the worst possible option, because it has a dubious history of bribes, lies, and risk taking, very limited experience in decommissioning, is proposing to raid the decommissioning fund for its own benefit, and is proposing leaving contaminated groundwater to run into the Hudson River.”State Senator David Carlucci warned, “The NRC Inspector General Report shows there is much to be done by the NRC to gain the confidence of myself and the public, as the commission is charged with overseeing the decommissioning of Indian Point and ensuring the health and safety of Hudson Valley Communities. We demand answers from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki. The Chairman needs to come to the Hudson Valley immediately and outline the steps being taken to address our safety and explain how the commission will properly inspect and guard the pipeline near Indian Point moving forward.”One of the gravest dangers in decommissioning is the storage of spent fuel rods. A fuel rod is a long, zirconium tube containing pellets of uranium, a fissionable material which provides fuel for nuclear reactors. Fuel rods are assembled into bundles called fuel assemblies, which are loaded individually into a reactor core. Fuel rods last about six years. When they’re spent and removed they are placed in wet storage, or pools of water, which is circulated to reduce temperature and provide shielding from radiation. They remain in these pools for 10 years, as they are too hot to be placed in dry storage, or canisters. Even in dry storage, though, they remain extremely radioactive, with high levels of plutonium, which is toxic, and continue to generate heat for decades and remain radioactive for 10,000 years.“Elected officials and government groups became involved once they understood the fatal environmental dangers nuclear energy creates for millenium,” said Susan Shapiro. “It is the only energy that produces waste so dangerous that governments must own and dispose of it.”Robert Kennedy, Jr., of Waterkeeper, explained “If those spent fuel rods caught on fire, if the water dropped, the zirconium coatings of the spent fuel rods would combust. You would release 37 times the amount of radiation that was released at Chernobyl. Around Chernobyl there are 100 miles that are permanently uninhabitable. I would include the workplaces, homes of 20 million Americans, including the Financial District. There’s no evacuation plan. And it’s sitting on two of the biggest earthquake faults in the northeast.”On April 24, 2020, Beyond Indian Point Campaign was launched to advocate for a safe transition during decommissioning. Sponsored by AGREE, Frack Action, Riverkeeper, NIRS and Food and Water Watch, they’re demanding Cuomo hire another company, opposing a license transfer before the State Public Service Commission and NRC and pushing state legislation to establish a board to supervise the decommissioning fund. When decommissioning is finished Beyond Indian Point hopes to further assist the community in the transition to renewable energy. These include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydrothermal power. Sign an online petition on their website to support their work, future generations and earth at BeyondIndianPoint.com, Facebook, or Twitter.“Bravo to everyone involved in making this historic day come to pass,” said Susan Shapiro.Raised in the Midwest, Barbara Puff is a writer who lives in Nyack, NY.
In fact, the alliance is in trouble — pulled apart by powerful geopolitical forces. The only way to save it might be for South Korea to move in a direction that much of Washington considers unthinkable: to develop an independent nuclear arsenal.
The Trump years certainly damaged the relationship; President Donald Trump made clear that he thought South Korea was taking advantage of the United States. But the true root of the problem lies in two long-term trends. First, the rise of China is creating a rift between American and South Korean foreign policy priorities. Managing the growth of China’s power has become America’s primary national security goal. As the costs and dangers of countering China rise, Washington increasingly expects its allies to join in this effort.
But the South Koreans never signed up for that deal. Their alliance with the United States has always been about North Korea. A counterbalancing effort against China would poison South Korea’s relations with its No. 1 trading partner — which is also the most powerful country in the region. Fear of offending China partly explains South Korea’s reluctance to join “the Quad,” a U.S.-led alignment that includes India, Australia and Japan. The United States is an important player in East Asia right now; China, Koreans know, will be their neighbor forever.
The situation is made worse by a second trend: the growing sophistication of North Korea’s nuclear capabilities. Pyongyang has made major strides toward developing high-yield thermonuclear weapons and missiles that can carry them to the continental United States. This development fundamentally changes the alliance’s risk-reward calculus. For decades, American leaders accepted that defending South Korea could be very costly, possibly claiming the lives of thousands of U.♠S. soldiers. But now the costs of a conflict in Korea could be truly catastrophic for the United States.
In the event of war, leaders in Pyongyang would have powerful incentives to use nuclear weapons to stalemate South Korea’s conventional military superiority. Should the United States retaliate, the American homeland would become a target. War on the Korean Peninsula could thus lead to the destruction of multiple American cities — and the political, economic and social chaos that would follow. The American people never signed up for that deal.
As a result the alliance faces credibility problems. South Korea can’t be sure it can depend on its U.S. ally for protection. At the very moment that the two countries’ strategic priorities are diverging, the risks that the United States must bear to defend South Korea are growing a thousand-fold. North Korea, too, may question whether Washington would rush to Seoul’s aid during a war when doing so would threaten the survival of the United States.
Washington and its allies faced a similar credibility problem during the Cold War. In the early 1950s, NATO members wondered whether the emerging Soviet nuclear threat to the U.S. homeland meant they could no longer rely on the United States. Would the Americans really sacrifice Boston to protect Bonn? The allies addressed this credibility problem with three partial solutions. Britain and France acquired their own nuclear arsenals. For others, NATO implemented nuclear sharing: storing some U.S. weapons on allied bases in Europe, to be transferred to the allies if war erupted. And the U.S. military stationed large ground and air forces on the continent, deploying troops with their families, to intertwine the United States in any major war from the outset.
The United States has shown no interest in creating a Korean nuclear sharing agreement — for good reason. An agreement premised on plans to give nuclear weapons in a time of war to nonnuclear allies is legally questionable, given that the Non-Proliferation Treaty (NPT) prohibits their transfer. (Indeed, NATO’s nuclear sharing exists in a legal gray area.)
Additionally, with modern locks, such weapons would still be firmly in the control of American leaders, and hence no more credible than other elements of the U.S. nuclear arsenal. Nor does the United States seem likely to increase the size of its conventional deployments on the Korean Peninsula or intertwine them with the Korean forces on the border. In fact, the number of American troops there has declined, with the forces positioned farther from the demilitarized zone.
That leaves the first option, however distasteful it may seem: South Korea may choose to acquire its own nuclear arsenal. Such a move would protect South Korea against the North Korean threat — more securely than today’s arrangement — and help the country manage its other long-term security problem: how to retain political independence in a region where China wields ever-greater power and influence.
Some analysts see nuclearization as a nonstarter, fearing it would make South Korea — an NPT member — a pariah like the North. But North Korea’s development of nuclear weapons was illegal, violating multiple United Nations Security Council resolutions. South Korea’s would be legal and justified. The NPT’s Article X was written for precisely the circumstances that South Korea faces today. It offers a withdrawal option if a member faces “extraordinary events” that “have jeopardized the supreme interests of its country.” North Korea’s illegal development of nuclear weapons and its threats against the South certainly qualify as extraordinary circumstances. South Korea’s development of nuclear weapons would be a proportional response to North Korea’s actions.
Seoul may already be heading in this direction. Former foreign minister Song Min-soon has said that South Korea “taking its own measures to create a nuclear balance on the peninsula” is an idea “widely touted” by leaders and analysts. Seventy percent of the South Korean public endorses the move. And Seoul’s new fleet of ballistic missile submarines is an unusual acquisition: a vastly expensive way to deliver a handful of conventional missiles. Those subs, however, would make an ideal platform for a future nuclear deterrent.
A South Korean nuclear arsenal is not what Washington prefers — indeed, it goes against a core U.S. policy of preventing nuclear spread. But it might be the best course given the weakened foundation of the alliance. If Seoul decides to take this step, the United States should focus blame where it belongs — on Pyongyang’s illegal nuclear program — and render political support to a valued ally.
New report states that Gaza-based terrorist group behind series of rocket attacks since May from Lebanon
Hamas is gaining a foothold in southern Lebanon, establishing a military infrastructure in the past year-and-a-half, according to a new report from the ALMA Research Center, an Israeli think tank that specializes in security threats on the northern border.
The report states that Hamas was likely behind a series of five rocket attacks aimed at northern Israel in May, July and August.
The Gaza-based terrorist group has an active “Construction Bureau,” headed by Majed Qader Mahmoud Qader, who recently moved to Lebanon from Istanbul. Two units of the Construction Bureau contain hundreds of operatives — Al-Shimali and Khaled Ali.
The Al-Shimali unit is headed by William Abu Shanab and the Khaled Ali unit is commanded by Muhammed Hamed Jabara.
The two units are responsible for recruitment and training and also operating drones and rockets.
According to the report, many if not all of the rockets fired since May were launched without the knowledge of Hezbollah, which could indicate a rift between the two terrorist organizations.
The Construction Bureau is covertly based out of Palestinian refugee camps in Lebanon. The activities are kept hidden from the Lebanese authorities and Hezbollah, which the report states “has the potential of creating a severely difficult challenge for Hezbollah.”
However, the Iranian Quds force ultimately manages the activities of the two groups as the Islamic Republic’s proxies on Israel’s borders, security analysts suggest.
The recent rocket attacks on northern Israel launched by Palestinian militants in Lebanon include three rockets fired toward the town of Nahariya on May 13; two rockets fired toward Central Galilee on May 17; four rockets fired toward Acre and Haifa on May 19; two rockets fired toward Western Galilee on July 19; and most recently three rockets fired toward Kiryat Shmona on August 4.
Moqtada al-Sadr, the maverick Shia cleric who staged an insurrection after the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, came first in Iraqi general elections on Sunday. This confirmed his position as probably the country’s most powerful and popular figure. Whether this will make it any easier to govern Iraq, a prostrate state contested between the US and Iran, and a frequent arena of Sunni jihadist carnage, is questionable.
In October 2019, young activists launched a civic uprising that brought down the previous government. They were driven from the streets by the Tehran-affiliated militias and security forces, who killed nearly 600 demonstrators. This suppression meant many young Iraqis (two-thirds of the population are under 30) spurned Sunday’s polls, though a dozen candidates from the Tishreen (October) movement that they formed appear to have won seats.
The backlash against the militias and Fatah coalition, and widespread loathing of Iran’s attempt to turn Iraq into a protectorate, even among the majority Shia, is a political setback to Tehran. But the current prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has struggled to bring these private armies under state control. They played a leading role in defeating Isis after it took a third of Iraq into its caliphate in 2014, and remain a power in the land. Seeing the chaotic US withdrawal from Afghanistan, moreover, the militias — which have duelled with US forces for years — may believe the time is ripe to drive out the 2,500 remaining American soldiers.
Moqtada al-Sadr, scion of the clerical aristocracy that opposed the Saddam Hussein dictatorship, toppled in 2003, and formerly champion of the Shia dispossessed, has reinvented himself as an Iraqi nationalist who wants the Americans and Iranians out of Iraq. He has nurtured a populist image by railing against Shia rivals and corruption. As an Islamist he appeals to higher authority and pretends to be above politics, while ruthlessly pursuing power.
Since 2019, Sadr has emulated some of the tactics of Hizbollah and colonised Iraq’s institutions and ministries with his cadres. They all but control departments such as defence, interior and communications, as well as heading the cabinet secretariat that apportions top positions. Although Sadr notionally disbanded his Mahdi Army in 2008, he revived it — under the name of Peace Companies — in 2014 as Isis forces approached Baghdad and the Shia shrine cities of Najaf and Karbala.
Iraq’s next prime minister will either be nominated by him or require his consent.
Kadhimi, the sitting premier and former intelligence chief, who came to power after the protests that toppled his predecessor, is on a bit of a roll. Although his real challenge is to domesticate the lawless Shia militias, he claimed success for the recent capture of Sami Jassim al-Jubouri, the Isis number two and moneyman. Last month Total, the French oil company, committed to investing $27bn in Iraqi energy. Kadhimi also convened a summit in Baghdad on regional de-escalation, attended by arch-rivals Saudi Arabia and Iran, as well as Turkey and Egypt — which won him kudos in the US, Europe and the Gulf, where he is seen as a safe pair of hands.
Kadhimi wants to continue as prime minister. What Sadr thinks about that is unclear. What has been abundantly clear until now, though, is that while ordinary Iraqis are scrabbling to live and demanding decent government, their leaders have been unwilling or unable to share power and resources. In a zero-sum equation they cannot even agree on a national narrative and social compact. If Sadr really is a nationalist his first job is to eschew factional and sectarian advantage and put Iraq and Iraqis first
BAGHDAD—Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, the onetime leader of a rebellion against U.S. forces following the 2003 invasion of Iraq, is poised to become the country’s key political power broker after his movement won the largest share of seats in Sunday’s parliamentary election.
The formation of a new government could be subject to weeks of political horse-trading with no clear leader in view. Mr. Sadr, an independent-minded nationalist, faces fierce competition from Shiite political rivals and pro-Iran hard-liners who wish to pull the country into closer orbit around Tehran.
In Iraq’s political system, the largest bloc in Parliament chooses who becomes prime minister. With a fractured field, it could take some time for Mr. Sadr or other leaders to assemble a majority coalition. After the last vote in 2018, a new government wasn’t installed for eight months.
Initial results released on Monday by Iraq’s election commission showed Mr. Sadr’s movement won 73 seats in the 329-seat Parliament, up from the 54 seats won by a multiparty alliance he led in 2018.
In a surprise setback for Tehran, the Fatah Alliance, broadly aligned with Iran-backed militias demanding the withdrawal of U.S. forces, lost ground in Sunday’s vote, weakening its potential negotiating power in talks toward forming a government. The alliance emerged with 14 seats in the new parliament, down from 48, according to the initial results.ADVERTISEMENT – SCROLL TO CONTINUEhttps://c036c91f67f03561c826fe1bf94d21b6.safeframe.googlesyndication.com/safeframe/1-0-38/html/container.html?n=0
One of Iraq’s largest Iranian-backed militias, the Hezbollah Brigades, rejected the election result. Without citing any evidence, the group’s spokesman called the election “the biggest fraud operation in Iraq’s modern history” in a tweet. The militia vowed to “stand firmly and strongly to bring back things to the correct track and will not allow anyone to humiliate Iraqi people,” he said.
The United Nations, which deployed observers to monitor the election throughout the country, said the vote “proceeded smoothly and featured significant technical and procedural improvements.”
In a televised victory speech on Monday night, Mr. Sadr played up his core themes of Iraqi independence and political reform, vowing to usher in a new government free from the influence of both the U.S. and Iran.
“We thank God for supporting reform through its biggest bloc which is an Iraqi bloc, neither eastern nor western,” he said.
Mr. Sadr’s supporters and analysts credited his movement’s well-organized election campaign, including candidate recruitment and voter mobilization efforts, for helping it appeal to a broad cross-section of Iraqis and pull ahead in the low-turnout election.
“Sadr is an Iraqi loyalist nationalist and does not listen or get influenced by foreign pressure,” said Badr Al Zayadi, a former lawmaker from Mr. Sadr’s movement. “He listens to Iraq only.”
Mr. Sadr’s expanded influence over the government will offer him an opportunity to seek inroads into sections of the Iraqi state where he doesn’t already hold sway. Some Sadrists aspire to take control of the premiership, but doing so would mean taking on the risks of being identified with failing government services. Mr. Sadr, as a cleric, has often avoided being closely associated with day-to-day politics.
“At the end of the day there’s a question if they would want to take on the responsibility and potential accountability of dominating the government completely,” said Lahib Higel, a senior Iraq analyst at International Crisis Group.
Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law coalition won 37 seats in Parliament. Mr. Maliki was widely blamed for corruption and sectarian rule that helped fuel the rise of Islamic State in 2014, when he resigned.
The initial results don’t include votes cast by members of the security forces and others who participated in a separate day of voting. The final vote count could result in a small shift in the allocation of seats but is unlikely to alter the overall balance of power
Pro-Iran militias have stepped up attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and Syria, countered by U.S. airstrikes, and their political supporters attempted to make the issue the centerpiece of the election campaign.
Mr. Sadr kept a sharper focus on the country’s economic crisis during the election campaign, and is regarded as more moderate than some of the Shiite factions that lean toward Iran.
U.S. officials say a government under Mr. Sadr’s sway would be less likely to take steps to accelerate a full American withdrawal, despite his history as one of the U.S. leading adversaries following the invasion that uprooted the regime of Saddam Hussein.
Sunday’s election was held earlier than scheduled as a concession to protesters angered over Iraq’s cratering economy and endemic corruption. It was billed in some quarters as a test for democracy, and while the vote itself went off relatively peacefully despite a handful of shootings, the turnout was low at 41%—down from 44% in 2018’s ballot—pointing to widespread disillusionment with the political system.
Separately on Monday, the current leader, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, said the country’s security forces captured a top Islamic State leader during an operation in Turkey.
Mr. Kadhimi said in a tweet that security forces had captured Sami Jasim, an official in charge of the militant group’s finances and a former deputy of the group’s slain leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
Mr. Jasim was wanted by the U.S. government for organizing Islamic State’s illicit trade in oil, gas, antiquities and minerals. Those sources of revenue helped fuel the group’s rise as it took over a swath of Iraq and Syria in 2014.
Fadhil Abu Radheef, a security analyst close to Iraq’s intelligence services, said Mr. Jasim, a former member of al Qaeda in Iraq, fled the country in 2017 and was arrested last week in cooperation with Turkish authorities. Turkish officials didn’t immediately comment on the arrest.
Islamic State lost its last foothold of territory in Syria in 2019 following years of military operations in both Iraq and Syria backed by the U.S. military and a separate campaign by Iranian-backed forces.
Mr. Kadhimi, who was appointed prime minister last year, didn’t run for reelection but has been positioning himself for possible reappointment in the talks that are expected to follow Sunday’s election.