Antichrist’s Men Extend Their Reach (Rev 13:18)

Iraqi militia fighters from Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigade), pose during heavy clashes heavy clashes ISIS fighters.

Al-Hashd al-Sha’abi Are a Direct Threat to Saudi Arabia and the GCC

Majalla: London

The Popular Mobilization Forces or al-Hashd al-Shaabi is an Iraqi state-sponsored umbrella organization created on the 15th of June 2014. It is composed of around 50 battalions that were deployed to fight ISIS in Iraq. The battalions have carried out operatives in major cities and provinces in the country from Baghdad to Mosul, ISIS’ stronghold in Iraq. The higher commander of the organization is the Iraqi prime minister Haider al Abadi, and its head is none other than his National Security Advisor Faleh Fayyad. Fayyad’s deputy is military commander Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis. Other high ranking officers in the organization are military spokesmen Karim Nouri and Ahmad al-Asadi, and Chief of Staff Sadeq al-Saadawi.

Their arsenal is comprised of weaponry provided by the Iraqi Government and includes small arms, artillery, artillery rockets, tanks, armoured vehicles, armoured personnel carriers, and other light trucks. They also get air support and other forms of armed support from the Iraqi military and internal security forces.

Al-Hashd is a huge organization estimated to have around 140,000 fighters who receive monthly salaries of around 600 USD along with pocket money allowances.

Even though the organization’s battalions have Christian and Sunni fighters, it is predominantly composed of Shia militia men who make up the majority of the fighting and administrative personnel. Its most prominent battalions include “Asaeb Ahl al-Haq”, “Al Nujabaa” Movement, “Saraya al-Khurasani”, “Hezbollah”, “Badr” Organization – military wing, “Saraya al-Salam” and “Saraya Ashouraa”.

As ISIS’ strength on the ground has been diminishing, their demise in Iraq has become a near reality. However, this poses many question marks on the new role al-Hashd will assume after their goal is met. Will the organisation live on? And who will be the next target?

ISIS AFTER MOSUL

“There are numerous internal political problems these groups pose within Iraq,” says Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shi’ite militias at the University of Maryland. “These groups are all jockeying for more power, including positions in government, both on the local and national level,” he elaborates. Smyth, also a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, reveals to Majalla the ideological cleavages within al-Hashd; “Khomeinist groups backed by Iran have serious differences with Muqtada al-Sadr, Grand Ayatollah Sistani, and other clerics and their militia apparatuses. However, the issues are not just intra-Shi’ite; many Iraqi Shia Islamist militias, especially those backed by Iran, have had increasing tensions with certain Kurdish groups (namely the Kurdish Democratic Party and at times, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan). Issues involving Iran’s utilization of Iraqi Shi’ite as foreign fighters in Syria may also impact Iraqi internal issues and their relations with regional and overseas states.”

Relevant to his statement is a report released by Human Rights Watch on June 4th revealing that dozens of bodies were found handcuffed and executed in and around Mosul. The report stated that “at least 26 bodies of blindfolded and handcuffed men have been found in government held areas in and around Mosul since the operation to retake the city began in October 2016. In 15 of the cases, local armed forces told a foreign journalist that the men were extrajudicially killed by government security forces who had them in custody under suspicion of ISIS affiliation.”

In the remaining cases, reported by local and international sources, the sites of the apparent executions – all in government held territory – raise concerns about government responsibility for the killings. A foreign journalist also said that a government official told them that a Popular Mobilization Forces unit, which is part of the government forces working to retake Mosul, was responsible for the extrajudicial killing of 25 men in their custody and dumping the bodies in the Tigris River, the report noted.

Human Rights Watch has accordingly flagged concerns about detainees’ treatment, including possible executions; a breach of universal human rights and a distinct war crime.

IRAN.. AL-HASHD’S LIFELINE

A report released by Amnesty on the January 5th concluded that supplying armed militias with arsenal and logistical support has resulted in great damage to the countries they operate in, and in this equation civilians are the biggest losers. The report further relates this key observation to the support provided to al-Hashd al- Shaabi in Iraq.


Soldiers of Iraqi Army and Hashd al-Shaabi militias arrive at Saleh Village after retaking of Khalid, Saleh and Zanawer Villages of Qayyarah Town from Daesh terrorists during the operation to retake Iraq’s Mosul from Daesh terrorists, in Mosul, Iraq on October 20, 2016. (Getty)

Human rights group Amnesty International noted that Shi’ite militias are committing war crimes using weapons provided by the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS.

The report further revealed that it has evidence that al-Hashd al-Shaabi, have been given everything from tanks and combat vehicles to grenade launchers and a large number of small arms. “International arms suppliers, including Russia and Iran, must wake up to the fact that all arms transfers to Iraq carry a real risk of ending up in the hands of militia groups with long histories of human rights violations,” said Patrick Wilcken, an Amnesty researcher.

Iran is indeed the lifeline of al-Hashd. On this topic Smyth notes that “many of the most powerful militia elements within al-Hashd al-Sha’abi trace their histories back to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Iran has directly supplied its militia proxies with small arms, artillery rockets, drones, training, and advisors. Lebanese Hezbollah forces have also been sent to Iraq in order to act as armed combat advisors.” However, according to the expert, Iran’s connections extends beyond the mere supply of weaponry; “take the Badr Organization, which began as the Badr Brigades, the armed-section for the group formerly known as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI),” he explains. “Badr has and continues to essentially function as an Iraqi section of the IRGC and is ideologically linked (as with many Shia militia groups).”

A THREAT TO THE WIDER REGION

In an unsettling statement on the June 4th, deputy chief of al-Hashd, Mahdi Al Mohandes, said that the paramilitary troops fighting ISIS could fight the extremist group beyond Iraqi borders “if the country’s national security is at stake.”

His remarks revived a controversy around the legitimacy of such a move if it happens, and the sovereignty of countries in the region which will stand in the face of al-Hashd’s attempt at hegemony which hides under the cause of fighting extremism.

“The organization is an Iraqi umbrella group recognized by Baghdad. However, the groups that make up parts of it are expanding and have already spread outside of Iraq,” Smyth believes. “Some of the most powerful elements have branches or have sent fighters to Syria, work hand-in-hand with Lebanese Hezbollah, have offered their support for Ansar Allah (the Houthi rebels) in Yemen, or have assisted with the creation of Bahraini Shia extremist groups,” he reveals.
Symth notes that the phenomenon isn’t specifically al-Hashd al-Sha’abi per say, but the issue of a wide variety of Iranian-backed and controlled groups gaining further political and military power within these types of apparatuses and using them as cover to execute Iran’s, not the host country’s (in this case, Iraq) policies abroad.

So how will this affect the security of the region? And does al-Hashd pose any threat to Gulf Cooperation Council states? “Elements within al-Hashd al-Sha’abi certainly do”, Smyth answers without hesitation. “Kata’ib Hezbollah has directly threatened Saudi Arabia on multiple occasions. Other front groups that are within the al-Hashd umbrella, like Jaysh al-Mukhtar, have launched mortar and rocket attacks against Kuwait and Saudi Arabia,” he argues. “Iraqi Shi’ite extremist fighters within a-Hashd have also been involved in training and aiding Shi’ite militants from the Gulf,” he further explains.

Concerns surrounding the organization’s long-term intentions in Iraq are compounded by recent statements by its leaders hinting towards extending operations beyond the country. With Iran’s continued support, the rapid widening of al-Hashd’s umbrella, and the exacerbation of sectarian cleavages, the future, if the present is not scrutinized and revised, will be bleak.

Korea and Iran’s Joint Nuclear Program

Iranian opposition group says North Korea helps Iran grow ballistic missile program.

Iran hosts long term living quarters for North Korean missile engineers and likewise, North Korea does the same with Iranian nuclear scientists.

There are 42 above and below ground locations in Iran.

Under the terms of the nuclear deal with Iran, formally known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA), key restrictions would expire if  the IAEA formally reaches a “broader conclusion” that Tehran’s nuclear program is entirely peaceful. Such a conclusion would result in the lifting of the UN’s remaining non-nuclear sanctions, including the ban on ballistic missile testing and the conventional arms embargo.  Furthermore, the U.S. and EU would delist additional entities from their sanctions lists.  Notably, the EU would delist all entities affiliated with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the organization responsible for both terrorist activities abroad as well as key aspects of the nuclear program.

Spurring the IAEA to reach a broader conclusion as quickly as possible appears to be Iran’s goal. In a televised speech in the middle of May, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani expressed his intention to engage in “lifting all the non-nuclear sanctions during the coming four years” – at least two years earlier than the JCPOA would otherwise allow.  Unless additional steps are taken to redress the International Atomic Energy Agency’s (IAEA) closing of Iran’s possible military dimension (PMD) file in December 2015,  it is technically possible for the IAEA to reach a broader conclusion within four years.

What is Required for the IAEA to Reach a Broader Conclusion?

To reach a broader conclusion, the IAEA needs to be able to conclude – based on extensive verification and analysis of all information available to it – that all nuclear material has remained in peaceful activities, which means that there are no indications of diversion of nuclear material from peaceful activities and no indications of undeclared nuclear material or activities in Iran as a whole.

Despite the IAEA’s previous conclusion that Iran had, in fact, carried out a wide range of activities ‘relevant to the development of a nuclear explosive device,’ the IAEA Board of Governors reached a political decision in December 2015 to “close” the investigation into the possible military dimensions (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program, a decision necessary to ensure the implementation of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA). This decision has amplified the IAEA’s shortcoming in its ability to form a composite picture of, and thereby fully monitor, proscribed nuclear weapons development activities in Iran.  Such monitoring and verification is essential to determine the nature of Iran’s nuclear program.

Image result for iran above and below missile sites

*** Further, is Saudi Arabia, Israel, the United States or other countries prepared? Was this a threat?

NCRI – Cleric Alamal-Hoda, Khamenei’s representative and Friday prayer leader in Northeastern city of Mashhad, while confessing to low participation of people in Qods Day march, threatened to launch rocket attack into Riyadh, Saudi Arabia. He said: “Those who did not really participate in the ceremony without excuse, they are those, who were not present at the battlefield against infidels”.

This Mullah added: “Today, after 38 years, our ballistic missile are shaking the world and makes the world upside down.” We have reached to such power. This precise pointing of missile deployment to Deiralzor is not much more difficult, than, the pointing of the Saudi Arabian palace in Riyadh, that is, if the missile flowing from the Gulf to the heart of Al-Saud’s palace, it will have the same targeting spot, and will remove this unclean descent spot,  Al-Ain from the page of Islam”.

Khamenei’s representative in Mashhad called on rival factions in the government and parliament to stop compromising with the enemy and accept the failure of JCPOA. At the same time, he argued that JCPOA pursuit was under Khamenei’s control. Almal-Hoda stated: Our policy makers in the executive branch, in the legislature and the parliament are not so eager to compromise with the enemy. You wanted it, your policy was implemented, you saw it failed. We brought the core of nuclear activities to brink of none, as sanctions were not lifted (Astan Qods Razavi TV, March 24, 2017).

Korea Closes In On Thermonuclear Bomb

North Korea is nearing its goal: a thermonuclear bomb that can hit the US

FILE PHOTO – North Korean leader Kim Jong Un inspects the long-range strategic ballistic rocket Hwasong-12 (Mars-12) in this undated photo released by North Korea’s Korean Central News Agency (KCNA) on May 15, 2017. KCNA via REUTERS/File photoKim Jong Un is creeping closer to his goal.Thomson Reuters

North Korea has spent decades developing nuclear devices and the missiles to launch them while threatening to flatten cities in the US, Australia, and Asia.

Though experts in the past could credibly dismiss those threats as fantasy, North Korea has recently made swift progress toward that end.

“I wouldn’t be incredibly surprised if it happened in the next few months,” Mike Elleman, the senior fellow for missile defense at the International Institute for Strategic Studies, told Business Insider in May of the potential for a North Korean intercontinental ballistic missile test.

“They have a higher tolerance for risk. If it fails, it fails. I don’t think that greatly concerns them. They’re more interested in trying to demonstrate what they’re trying to do. [There’s] a lot of political messaging going on with these tests.”

North Korea first tested a nuclear device in 2006, and it has tested missiles since 1984. The missiles started with limited capacity and could be fired only at short ranges. Initial nuclear tests were weak and ineffective.

But now the country seems poised to make a leap toward missiles that could cross the globe with almost unlimited firepower.

Siegfried Hecker, a nuclear scientist at Stanford University, told South Korea’s Yonhap News on Monday that the North Koreans could produce tritium, an element that can turn an already devastating atomic bomb into a hydrogen bomb.

Stephen Schwartz, the author of “Atomic Audit: The Costs and Consequences of US Nuclear Weapons Since 1940,” told Business Insider that while atomic bombs release enormous amounts of energy through fission, hydrogen bombs increase that energy by combining it with fusion, the same reaction that powers the sun.

“There is no theoretical upper limit on the maximum yield of a hydrogen bomb, but as a practical matter, it can’t be too large or heavy to fit on its intended delivery system,” said Schwartz, who noted that the largest hydrogen bomb designed, Russia’s Tsar Bomba, had an explosive yield of 100 megatons.

Such a bomb, if dropped on Washington, DC, would flatten buildings for 20 miles in every direction and leave third-degree burns on humans 45 miles out, or past Baltimore.

The gutted Hiroshima Prefectural Industrial Promotion Hall (R), currently known as the Atomic Bomb Dome or A-Bomb Dome, is seen after the atomic bombing of Hiroshima, Japan, on August 6, 1945, in this handout photo taken by U.S. Army in November, 1945, and distributed by Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum. REUTERS/U.S. Army/Hiroshima Peace Memorial Museum/Handout via ReutersHiroshima after the atomic bomb.Thomson Reuters

“Those possibilities are sufficiently worrisome that I maintain that the crisis is here now,” Hecker said, not when North Korean missiles “are able to reach the US.” He added, however, that it would take more time for North Korea to weaponize hydrogen bombs. US spy satellites have recently seen increased activity around North Korea’s nuclear test site, but no conclusions can yet be drawn. In the past, North Korea has claimed it has built hydrogen bombs, though not credibly.

On the missile front, North Korea has made fast progress, surprising many experts contacted by Business Insider, who now say the country could test an intercontinental ballistic missile as soon as this year.

A recent rocket-engine test from North Korea could serve as a bad omen. In the past, North Korea has tested rocket engines less than a year before testing the missiles that would use them. Experts said North Korea’s latest rocket-engine test could indeed have been in preparation for an ICBM.

Hecker urged the US to diplomatically engage with North Korea to get it to adopt a “no use” policy with its nuclear arsenal, a concession from the total denuclearization the US currently demands.

Denuclearization so far has been a nonstarter with Kim Jong Un, the North Korean leader who has written the possession of nuclear weapons into North Korea’s constitution as a guarantor of its security.

“North Korea wants an ICBM with a thermonuclear weapon,” Jeffrey Lewis, the founding publisher of Arms Control Wonk, previously told Business Insider. “They’re not going to stop ’cause they get bored.”

For now, it seems inevitable that North Korea will get it.

The Sixth Seal: The Big Apple Shake (Rev 6:12)

Big Apple shake? Potential for earthquake in New York City exists

NY bridge

NEW YORK CITY (PIX11) – For the last 43 years John Armbruster has been a seismologist with Columbia University’s Lamont Doherty Earth Observatory.  A veteran of what he describes as “a couple of dozen” quakes, he is interested in the seismic activity throughout the Pacific region in recent weeks.

However, does the amount of plate movements around the world in recent weeks as well as years to translate to New York City being more vulnerable, “These earthquakes are not communicating with each other, they are too far apart,” said Armbruster in an interview with PIX 11 News on Wednesday.

Nonetheless, Armbruster added that there are many faults around the area and a few in Manhattan, including on specific fault capable of producing a magnitude 6.0 earthquake, “The 125th street fault.”

What would a magnitude 6.0 earthquake inflict upon the city?

“I think there would be serious damage and casualties,” said Armbruster.  The reason?  Most of the buildings and infrastructure was not constructed  to withstand earthquakes.  This said, what does Armbruster think of the chances of a major earthquake catching New York City by surprise?

“We know that its unlikely because it hasn’t happened in the last 300 years but the earthquake that struck Fukushima Japan was the 1000 year earthquake and they weren’t ready for the that.