The Antichrist Competes for Power in Iraq

Shiite trio competes for power in Iraq

BAGHDAD — On Feb. 28, hundreds of pro-Sadrist university students in Kut attacked Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s procession with stones and water bottles. Abadi’s security forces fired tear gas and live bullets at the protesters, injuring three. Subsequently, Sadrist leader Muqtada al-Sadr apologized to Abadi for the breaches. Though he called on his followers to stop the protests in Kut until further notice, he accused former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki of being behind the breaches to try to distort the Sadrist movement’s image.

The incident reflects the intense competition among Iraq’s Shiite leaders. There are currently three main Shiite figures competing for power: head of the Islamic Supreme Council Ammar al-Hakim, head of the State of Law Coalition Maliki, and Sadr himself. Each has his own plan to remain in power and remove the others or limit their influence.

On Feb. 20, Sadr announced a 29-point initiative: Initial Solutions — his vision for the future of Iraq once the Islamic State (IS) is forced out. Holding local primary elections was among the points. Sadr’s keenness on holding elections is likely to further deepen the Shiite split as the leaders fight for a majority position.

About a month ago, the Sadrist movement started calling for electoral reforms, seeking to reduce Maliki’s strong chances of winning the election as long as no radical changes are made to the electoral law and commission.

Sadr has often called for massive demonstrations, which have resulted in many deaths and injuries. Jasem al-Halafi, a leader in the civil movement allied with Sadrists who participated in the demonstrations, said the movement is calling upon the UN to supervise formation of a new electoral commission and a new electoral law with the cooperation of Iraqi experts. However, UN Envoy to Iraq Jan Kubis, who is in favor of the current electoral commission, responded negatively Feb. 13 to such demands.

Maliki is banking on his alliance with main groups within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in the framework of the Shiite leadership competition.

The State of Law Coalition includes the Badr Organization, which is seen as the PMU’s main political and combat force. Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the organization, previously stated that Maliki founded the PMU, further cementing relations between the two parties.

It’s also been reported that Maliki is close to some other main PMU components, namely the ones that are close to Iran.

However, there was no rapprochement between Maliki and the volunteer fighters affiliated with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who answered the call of the fatwa for jihad after IS took control of Mosul in June 2014.

Perhaps the most critical point for the PMU now is to preserve the momentum of the popularity it gained after defeating IS, which would guarantee Maliki a wide electoral base, secure him a majority and block his opponents’ calls for him to be held accountable for accusations of corruption and negligence in Mosul in 2014.

In light of this tense situation, Hakim drew up his own initiative, which he named the “Historical Settlement,” away from the other two Shiite leaderships.

The initiative is inspired by the classic discourse of the Islamic Supreme Council, led by Hakim himself, based on flexible political solutions that he believes could align some camps and secure him a place at the forefront of events. Some see Hakim’s initiative as merely an attempt not to lose his spot in a muscle-flexing parade.

Although his initiative is ambiguous at many levels, his strategy is based on lenient rhetoric and good relations abroad. Hakim’s positive relations with neighboring countries are an extension of his predecessors’ relations in the Islamic Council, since the days of the opposition to the former Iraqi regime. However, Hakim’s traditional alliance with Iran did not prevent him from visiting Gulf countries whose policies are hostile toward Iran.

Hakim and Maliki are unable to rally the Iraqi public’s support in political battles. Sadr is keen on stripping his two opponents of their strategic tools and adopting them. For example, it is true that Hakim’s initiative is aimed at reconciliation, but Sadr’s is more comprehensive and has been welcomed by some Sunni leaders, such as Osama al-Nujaifi and Khamis al-Khanjar.

The reconciliation between Sadr and the predominately Shiite PMU leaders, when they appeared in a joint press conference in October 2016, helped bring Sadr closer to Maliki. The rapprochement with the PMU also helped Sadr build bridges, albeit in a limited way, with the pro-Iranian side, which has expressed reservations about Sadr’s latest moves.

However, Sadrists still lack the trust of other political components, which is needed to forge future alliances, especially in light of the escalatory positions of all parties since the storming of parliament incident. Therefore, the Sadrist movement has been making overtures to the Islamic Dawa Party and the Supreme Islamic Council, more than ever before.

There are no signs of rapprochement between the Sadrists and the Kurds, whether at the level of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, which is close to Maliki and a friend to the Iranians, or the Kurdistan Democratic Party, which is close to Turkey and has escalated its rhetoric against both Maliki and Sadr.

The Sadrist movement still has a chance to make overtures to Ayad Allawi, a former Iraqi vice president and an interim prime minister, and some Sunni leaders. There could be other opportunities as well that haven’t revealed themselves yet.

However, Maliki’s major influence in parliament and his success in sacking several ministers and the Sadrist-affiliated governor of Baghdad make it difficult for the Sadrist movement to advance its proposed legal changes.

In sum, there’s no end in sight for the Shiite rivalry to determine the strongest leader in the Iraqi arena.

America Overdue For The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New Study: America Overdue For Major Earthquake … In States You Didn’t Suspect

New York Destroyed

Written by: Daniel Jennings Current Events

Most Americans have a reasonable chance of experiencing a destructive earthquake within the next 50 years, the US Geological Survey (USGS) has concluded.

The survey’s new National Seismic Hazard Map show that the risk of earthquakes in parts of the country — such as the Midwest, Oregon and the Rocky Mountains — is far higher than previously thought. All total, Americans in one-third of the country saw their risk for an earthquake increase.

“I worry that we will wake up one morning and see earthquake damage in our country that is as bad as that has occurred in some developing nations that have experienced large earthquakes,” Carl Hedde, a risk management expert at insurer Munich Reinsurance America, said of the map in The Wall Street Journal. “Beyond building collapse, a large amount of our infrastructure could be immediately damaged. Our roads, bridges and energy transmission systems can be severely impacted.”

Among the findings:

  • The earthquake danger in parts of Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois and South Carolina is as high as that in Los Angeles.
  • 42 of the 50 states have a reasonable chance of experiencing a damaging earthquake in the next 50 years.
  • Parts of 16 states have the highest risk of a quake: Alaska, Hawaii, California, Oregon, Washington, Nevada, Utah, Idaho, Montana, Wyoming, Missouri, Arkansas, Tennessee, Illinois, Kentucky and South Carolina

“We know the hazard has increased for small and moderate size earthquakes,” USGS scientist William Ellsworth told The Journal. “We don’t know as well how much the hazard has increased for large earthquakes. Our suspicion is it has but we are working on understanding this.”

Frightening Results From New Study

The USGS used new computer modeling technology and data collected from recent quakes such as the one that struck Washington, D.C. in 2011 to produce the new maps. The maps show that many Americans who thought they were safe from earthquakes are not.

New Relocation Manual Helps Average Americans Get Out Of Harms Way Before The Coming Crisis

Some of the survey’s other disturbing findings include:

    • The earthquake danger in Oklahoma, Alabama, Colorado, Georgia, Indiana, Michigan, Virginia, New York and parts of New England is higher than previously thought.
    • Some major metropolitan areas, including Memphis, Salt Lake City, Seattle, St. Louis and Charleston, have a higher risk of earthquakes than previously thought. One of the nation’s most dangerous faults, the New Madrid fault, runs right through St. Louis and Missouri. It is the nation’s second most active fault. On Dec. 16, 1811, the New Madrid Fault was the site of the most powerful series of earthquakes in American history.

Geological Tectonic Survey

Geological Tectonic Survey

“Obviously the building codes throughout the central U.S. do not generally take earthquake risk or the risk of a large earthquake into account,” USGS Seismologist Elizabeth Cochran told The Journal. Her take: Earthquake damage in the central US could be far greater than in places like California, because structures in some locations are not built to withstand quakes.

Others agree.

“Earthquakes are quite rare in many places but when they happen they cause very intense damage because people have not prepared,” Mark Petersen, the project chief for the USGS’s National Seismic Hazard Map, told The Journal.

This new map should be a wakeup call for Americans.

Creating The Horns Of Prophecy (Daniel)

 Middle Eastern Reactions To The U.S. Travel Ban

As the Trump administration prepares to revise its controversial entry restrictions, a sampling of quotes from officials around the region indicates that certain provisions will be a hard sell abroad.

President Trump’s January 27 executive order on “Protecting the Nation from Foreign Terrorist Entry into the United States” drew much ire at home and around the world. The order’s provisions — which bar entry by all refugees for four months, by all visitors from Iran, Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Sudan, and Yemen for three months, and by all applicants from Syria indefinitely — spurred massive protests at airports where people were being detained. Following a Seattle federal court decision halting implementation, the president stated that he will issue a revised order targeting the same seven countries; the new text will reportedly try to sidestep further legal challenges by permitting entry to nationals from those countries who already have permanent green cards or visas.

Whatever the case, foreign leaders overwhelmingly condemned the original order, including some stinging comments from officials in the targeted countries. Yet certain leaders responded with passive acceptance, while major authorities in Somalia declined to comment.

IRAQ

“We will not do anything of the sort [referring to the possibility of a reciprocal ban]. We are studying decisions but we are in a battle and we don’t want to harm the national interest.” (Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, Al Jazeera, January 31, 2017)
“It would be arrogance for you to freely enter Iraq and other countries while barring them from entering your country…Therefore you should get your nationals out.” (Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, Jawabna.com, January 29)

IRAN

“We thank this new guy in the White House, since he largely did the job we had been trying to do in the past decades: to divulge the true face of the United States. We had been working to show the world the depth of corruption in the U.S. government and…the ruling elite; Trump did it in a few days after coming to the White House. Their claims to human rights are no longer tenable.” (Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Mehr News, February 7)

“[Trump] is new to politics. He has been in a different world…It will take him a long time and will cost the United States a lot, until he learns what is happening in the world. Today is not a time for separating nations by walls.” (President Hassan Rouhani, Reuters, February 1)

The Muslim ban will be recorded in history as a great gift to extremists and their supporters. Collective discrimination aids terrorist recruitment by deepening fault lines exploited by extremist demagogues…The Muslim ban shows the baselessness of Washington’s claim that it wants friendship with the Iranian people and that it only has issues with the government. While respecting Americans and differentiating between them and hostile U.S. policies, Iran will take reciprocal measures to protect its citizens. (Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif, Twitter, January 29)

SUDAN

“The Ministry of Foreign Affairs…regrets the inclusion of Sudanese citizens in the executive order…Recently, economic and financial institutions, bankers, and workers from the two countries have initiated communication, launching investment and trade projects to harness the tremendous human, natural, and economic resources of both countries…The [recent] decision to lift U.S. sanctions on Sudan…is the result of extensive bilateral engagement between the two countries, particularly in the area of combating terrorism…Sudan calls for the immediate removal of its name from the U.S. list of State Sponsors of Terrorism and its designation as a Country of Particular Concern…The Ministry of Foreign Affairs…affirms Sudan’s policy of constructive bilateral relations and will continue its dialogue with the U.S. government and cooperation with relevant official bodies. (Foreign Ministry website, January 28)

YEMEN

“The Foreign Ministry said that attempts to classify Yemen or its citizens as a possible source of terrorism are illegal and illegitimate…The ministry…is aware that such action is a sovereign right of the United States…[but] it needs more assessment and revision. The ministry called on the United States to deal with Yemeni citizens in accordance with the standard process adopted with all…friendly countries, and not to consider them as a source of concern or risk or affect their interests or legal status inside or outside U.S. territories.” (Summary of Foreign Ministry statement, Yemen News Agency, January 30)

“The ban…should be lifted for dual nationals, Yemenis with business interests or family ties, and for students in the United States…Yemen is suffering, like other countries, from terrorism and making efforts to confront and eradicate terrorism.” (President Abdu Rabu Mansour al-Hadi, direct and indirect remarks during a meeting with U.S. ambassador Matthew Tueller, as reported by al-Monitor, February 2)

LIBYA

“[This is] an unjust decision [that should be reviewed]…These actions represent racial discrimination on the basis of religion and are incompatible with human rights.” (Government of National Accord foreign minister Mohamed Siala, Libya’s Channel, February 1)
SYRIA

“It’s against the terrorists that would infiltrate some of the immigrants to the West. And that happened…in Europe, mainly in Germany. I think the aim of Trump is to prevent those people from coming. It is not against the Syrian people.” (President Bashar al-Assad, Europe 1 radio, February 16)

This compendium was prepared by Yousif Kalian.

Originally Posted on February 22, 2017

©2017 The Washington Institute for Near East Policy. Reprinted with permission.

Unfortunately Trump Is Not Bluffing

Iran believes Trump is bluffing

When President Donald Trump assumed office, Iranian leaders were cautious about issuing critical announcements against the new American administration or the US. Even Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is known for his inflammatory speeches against the US or the “Great Satan,” did not mention the new administration for a few weeks after Trump’s inauguration.

President Trump’s statements through his campaign, with regard to countering Iran’s ideological and hegemonic ambitions, made the Iranian leaders wary. Iranian leaders began their work to feel out the new administration, to see whether Trump was serious in his promises to hold Iran accountable and to ally with the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

But soon, Iranian leaders made a tactical shift to view the US intentions to counter Iran as trivial and unreal. Based on the latest developments from Iran’s state-owned newspapers and Iranian leaders’ speeches and announcements, the Islamic Republic is increasingly becoming confident that the Trump administration is not serious about countering Iran. Several Iranian officials, including Ali Akbar Velayati, who is a close adviser to Khamenei, have stated that the Trump administration is bluffing with regard to its Iran policy.

Iran has transformed this belief into action. It tested a medium-range ballistic missile, and confirmed that it has conducted missile and radar tests. Following that, the Islamic Republic held a military exercise that took place in the Semnan Province. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) made it clear that these actions are to project Iran’s military power as well as to respond to and dismiss President Trump’s words. Soon after, Iran began a naval drill near the strategic Strait of Hormuz.

A message to the Trump administration

Iranian leaders across the political spectrum believe that it is a tactically and strategically intelligent move to conduct such military operations since the Trump administration is not serious about countering Tehran. Since Tehran does not observe any tangible pressure, Iranian leaders also find it necessary to send a message to the Trump administration and regional powers that Tehran will not alter the core pillars of its foreign and regional policy.

As part of its pursuit of regional hegemonic ambitions, the Islamic Republic is showcasing its military and hard power in an attempt to assert regional preeminence and superiority. Iran’s military believes that its showcasing of military and hard power is working; as a result it is also attempting to push the US and its allies into pursuing appeasement policies with Tehran.

These messages have also been echoed by top IRGC leaders. Maj. Gen. Mohammad Ali Jafari stated previously: “US officials know that threats against Iran are not only useless, but also harmful… The greatest achievement of the Islamic Revolution is (the US) confession of the splendor and greatness of the revolution.”

Tehran is confident the US is not serious in its threats — and if this is not addressed it will become increasingly difficult to counter Iran’s hegemonic ambitions.

Dr. Majid Rafizadeh

The IRGC deputy commander, Brig. Gen. Hossein Salami, shrugged off the previous statements by the Trump administration: “America’s power is declining as a result of its wrong and interventionist policies. Its threats have continued, though, and its economic war against Iran will not end,” he is reported as saying. “As (America’s) political and geopolitical power has declined, its breathing space — especially at strategic points in the Muslim world — has tightened.”

Esmail Kowsari, another leading IRGC officer and former MP, also said: “Based on their consultations with their advisers, American presidents utter slogans but do not have the ability to attack Iran militarily… If Americans had the ability to attack Iran militarily, they would not delay a moment to do so.”

The moderates hold similar views to the hard-liners when it comes to disregarding the US warnings. President Rouhani stated: “(Trump) is new to politics. He has been in a different world. It’s a totally new environment to him… It will take him a long time and will cost the United States a lot, until he learns what is happening in the world.”

For Iranian leaders to take the US seriously or to recalculate their military adventurism, several developments need to occur. Iran views geopolitical, diplomatic, economic and military pressures as signs of determination and seriousness. In addition, Tehran takes broad sanctions, which mainly affect its export of oil and the IRGC’s trades, seriously. These can be carried out by an alliance between regional powers, which are concerned about Iran’s destabilizing behavior, and President Trump.

If the Trump administration and regional powers do not adequately and proportionately respond to Iran’s military adventurism, Tehran will further view this as sign of weakness. Subsequently, Iran will continue to escalate its military adventurism and expansionism to further tip the regional balance of power in its favor.

The later that Iran’s military adventurism is countered by the Trump administration and regional powers, the harder it will be to counter Iran’s regional hegemonic ambitions — and the harder it will be to make Tehran take the US or regional powers seriously.

• Dr. Majid Rafizadeh is a Harvard-educated, Iranian-American political scientist. He is a leading expert on Iran and US foreign policy, a businessman and president of the International American Council. He serves on the boards of the Harvard International Review, the Harvard International Relations Council and the US-Middle East Chamber for Commerce and Business. He can be reached on Twitter @Dr_Rafizadeh.

The Antichrist Tries to Unify Iraq 

Why Iraq’s Shiites are wary of Sadr’sInitial Solutions

BAGHDAD, Iraq — With the fight progressing to retake Mosul from the Islamic State (IS), the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr presented Initial Solutions, a national reconciliation proposal for shaping post-IS Iraq. The initiative, announced Feb. 20, consists of 29 points. Sadr’s various proposals are seemingly incompatible with the orientation of the Shiite parties of the National Alliance, and in direct conflict with the vision of Ammar al-Hakim, head of the alliance, but Sunni blocs, to which the proposal extends bridges of trust, have voiced support.

Among the initiative’s proposals are establishing a UN-sponsored fund to support reconstruction and forming a UN-supported entity focusing on human rights and minorities to deal with and prevent sectarian and ethnic conflicts and violations. It also calls for dialogues among politicians, tribal leaders and social elites to ease factional and sectarian tensions.

Sadr, spiritual leader of the al-Ahrar bloc and the Sadrist Movement, proposes that the predominantly Shiite Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), although made an official fighting force in November, be dissolved. He contends that the Iraqi army and security forces alone should be responsible for protection in areas liberated from IS and any disputed territories.

Instead of the PMU standing separately, Sadr called for “striving to integrate disciplined PMU [fighters] into the security forces, in such a way to preserve the independence and sovereignty of the national security forces.” He suggests that the PMU militias, including his Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), turn their headquarters into cultural, civil, social or humanitarian institutions and centers.

Commenting on why Sadr wants to shut down the armed factions’ offices, Ibrahim al-Jabiri, director of Sadr’s office in Baghdad, told Al-Monitor, “The initiative aims to strengthen the official security forces … through their integration into the military and security establishment.”

The most significant item of the initiative is its call for the Iraqi government to expel all “occupying and even friendly forces from Iraqi territory,” to preserve the stature of the state. This means the expulsion of US and Iranian troops and advisers. The Iraqi government, however, has a security agreement with the United States, and US forces will be needed in the long-term to train and assist Iraqi troops. Baghdad is also not ready to shed its Iranian ally, these days represented in Iraq by Qasem Soleimani, the Quds Force commander, who also oversees PMU operations.

Jabiri said, “After the country’s liberation from IS control, the Iraqi government will no longer need any outside help. Therefore, the presence of any foreign forces after the liberation of Mosul will no longer be justified.”

Jabari added, “When he said the ‘occupying’ forces, Sadr meant the American troops and those who cooperated with them in occupying Iraq in 2003. As for the ‘friendly’ forces, he meant all the forces that came to Iraq to provide assistance after IS took over the country’s northern and western areas in 2014.” Concerning so-called friendly forces, Jabiri said, Sadr’s proposal includes the expulsion of Turkish troops deployed to Bashiqa, near Mosul, ostensibly as trainers, as well as non-Iraqi Kurdish peshmerga who entered the country for the battle against IS.

Jabiri said Sadr wants to form a committee to represent him and pursue implementation of his initiative with the government and political parties in the hope of persuading committee members to introduce and approve his proposals. He said that some parties will, of course, oppose the initiative, noting, “It is in direct conflict with their interests and their keenness for preserving the status quo.”

The State of Law Coalition, led by Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, was the first to criticize the initiative. Coalition representative Alia Nassif said in a Feb. 21 statement that internationalizing the initiative, for example, by engaging the United Nations and contracting with foreign companies in reconstruction efforts, would “mean advancing the interests of other countries.” Nassif said, “It is wrong to commit to all its terms.”

Al-Mowaten, the bloc headed by Hakim, said, “All Shiite alliances signed the national reconciliation project [proposed by Hakim and the National Alliance], which represents a road map for post-IS Iraq. Sadr’s initiative falls within this framework.” In short, the bloc’s position is that there is no need for Sadr’s initiative given the National Alliance’s Historical Settlement, the proposal announced Oct. 31. Sadr’s plan, however, addresses more long-standing Sunni demands than the alliance’s.

Meanwhile, Sunni parties have welcomed Sadr’s initiative, namely, the Mutahidoun Bloc, headed by Vice President Osama al-Nujaifi, and the Pan Arab Project, led by Khamis Khanjar, which did not support the Historical Settlement. In a statement Feb. 20, Khanjar said his party supports most of Sadr’s initiative, noting that Iraq has a historic opportunity to carry out comprehensive reforms. The Sunnis also like that its call for dialogue among sect and tribal leaders, including that Shiite leaders visit Sunni leaders in their communities. It also appears that Sadr is considering approaching Sunnis as potential allies in future elections.

Although some of Sadr’s proposals seem practical and attractive, such as dialogues toward reconciliation, ending sectarian tensions and international funding and support, the initiative is unlikely to go anywhere. Other items, such as the expulsion of foreign forces and the abolition of the PMU, are far-fetched. Given the competing forces, the initiative is likely to remain shackled by political conflict.