The Antichrist Nationalizes Iraq

Shiite cleric Sadr calls on Barzani to postpone, cancel referendum

By Rudaw 5 hours ago

Muqtada al-Sadr and President Masoud Barzani differ on the Kurdistan referendum on independence but are united in their opposition to Maliki making a return to Iraqi politics and governance. Photo: Sadr Movement media office

BAGHDAD, Iraq – Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called on President Masoud Barzani to “postpone” and eventually “cancel” the planned Kurdistan referendum on independence scheduled for September 25.

“Iraq is one and is for all,” Sadr said in a written statement on Tuesday in response to a letter sent to his office by a Faili Kurd who complained about the rise of public rhetoric against Kurds, particularly Faili Kurds who are Shiite Muslims residing mainly in the south and center of Iraq.

Sadr said that his movement opposes discrimination between Iraqis based on their religion or ethnicity, adding that those who do discriminate want to get more votes in elections.

“We do not discriminate in between them so long as they love their homeland and do not work for foreign agendas,” Sadr said.

Sabah Zangana, a Faili media professional and former candidate in Iraq’s 2013 provincial elections, wrote to Sadr asking the cleric to clarify his position with regard to calls to alienate Kurds in Iraqi provinces, in particular Faili Kurds who largely live in Baghdad and other central and southern provinces.

Zangana praised Sadr for his national views on a range of issues and his record against sectarianism.

Some Faili Kurds have expressed their concerns that they may become victims of a new dispute between Erbil and Baghdad over the referendum. Some in Baghdad and southern Iraq reported receiving threatening letters and phone calls since the Kurdistan Region announced it will hold the historic vote.

In Baghdad, the Failis have even considered forming their own militia to protect their community.

Ali Akbar, a Faili tribal chief, told Rudaw last week that taking up arms is on the table.

“Of course we are threatened because of the referendum,” Akbar said. “Therefore, we need to come up with a way to defend ourselves and reach an agreement among ourselves to form a military force. We have already declared that the force we are going to form will be secret and we will not reveal the numbers of the force or the commander.”

Last month, Saad Mutalibi, a member of the Baghdad Provincial Council from the State of Law Coalition warned Kurds in Baghdad that if the Kurdistan Region was determined to hold a referendum to build a state of their own, they would strip them of Iraqi citizenship and evict them from the city.

Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, head of the State of Law Coalition, is said to have reassured some Faili Kurds who visited him about this issue, saying that Failis are Iraqis and they are protected.

While Sadr attempted to reassure Faili Kurds about their place in Iraqi society, he also called on Kurdistan to cancel the referendum.

“Hereby I call on my brother Masoud Barzani to postpone the secession referendum, especially as we are on the brink of the liberation of Mosul.”

He said that the postponement would be “the first step to canceling it in the future.”

President Barzani told Iraq’s parliament speaker in late June that “the Kurdish referendum is a decision there will be no turning back from.”

Sadr’s Movement has 34 seats in the Iraqi parliament. It is a member of the Shiite National Alliance but has suspended its membership due to political differences with other members of the alliance, in particular with Maliki’s State of Law Coalition. Maliki is a staunch opponent of the Sadr Movement.

Though they disagree on the referendum, Sadr and President Barzani are united in their opposition to Maliki making a return to Iraqi politics and governance.

THE SIXTH SEAL: NEW YORK CITY (REV 6:12)

Earthquake activity in the New York City area

300px-RamapoFaultSystem

Wikipedia

Although the eastern United States is not as seismically active as regions near plate boundaries, large and damaging earthquakes do occur there. Furthermore, when these rare eastern U.S. earthquakes occur, the areas affected by them are much larger than for western U.S. earthquakes of the same magnitude. Thus, earthquakes represent at least a moderate hazard to East Coast cities, including New York City and adjacent areas of very high population density.

220px-NYC_Seis

Seismicity in the vicinity of New York City. Data are from the U.S. Geological Survey (Top, USGS) and the National Earthquake Information Center (Bottom, NEIC). In the top figure, closed red circles indicate 1924-2006 epicenters and open black circles indicate locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. Green lines indicate the trace of the Ramapo fault.

As can be seen in the maps of earthquake activity in this region(shown in the figure), seismicity is scattered throughout most of the New York City area, with some hint of a concentration of earthquakes in the area surrounding Manhattan Island. The largest known earthquake in this region occurred in 1884 and had a magnitude of approximately 5. For this earthquake, observations of fallen bricks and cracked plaster were reported from eastern Pennsylvania to central Connecticut, and the maximum intensity reported was at two sites in western Long Island (Jamaica, New York and Amityville, New York). Two other earthquakes of approximately magnitude 5 occurred in this region in 1737 and 1783. The figure on the right shows maps of the distribution of earthquakes of magnitude 3 and greater that occurred in this region from 1924 to 2010, along with locations of the larger earthquakes that occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884.

Background

The NYC area is part of the geologically complex structure of the Northern Appalachian Mountains. This complex structure was formed during the past half billion years when the Earth’s crust underlying the Northern Appalachians was the site of two major geological episodes, each of which has left its imprint on the NYC area bedrock. Between about 450 million years ago and about 250 million years ago, the Northern Appalachian region was affected by a continental collision, in which the ancient African continent collided with the ancient North American continent to form the supercontinent Pangaea. Beginning about 200 million years ago, the present-day Atlantic ocean began to form as plate tectonic forces began to rift apart the continent of Pangaea. The last major episode of geological activity to affect the bedrock in the New York area occurred about 100 million years ago, during the Mesozoic era, when continental rifting that led to the opening of the present-day Atlantic ocean formed the Hartford and Newark Mesozoic rift basins.

Earthquake rates in the northeastern United States are about 50 to 200 times lower than in California, but the earthquakes that do occur in the northeastern U.S. are typically felt over a much broader region than earthquakes of the same magnitude in the western U.S.This means the area of damage from an earthquake in the northeastern U.S. could be larger than the area of damage caused by an earthquake of the same magnitude in the western U.S. The cooler rocks in the northeastern U.S. contribute to the seismic energy propagating as much as ten times further than in the warmer rocks of California. A magnitude 4.0 eastern U.S. earthquake typically can be felt as far as 100 km (60 mi) from its epicenter, but it infrequently causes damage near its source. A magnitude 5.5 eastern U.S. earthquake, although uncommon, can be felt as far as 500 km (300 mi) from its epicenter, and can cause damage as far away as 40 km (25 mi) from its epicenter. Earthquakes stronger than about magnitude 5.0 generate ground motions that are strong enough to be damaging in the epicentral area.

At well-studied plate boundaries like the San Andreas fault system in California, scientists can often make observations that allow them to identify the specific fault on which an earthquake took place. In contrast, east of the Rocky Mountains this is rarely the case.  The NYC area is far from the boundaries of the North American plate, which are in the center of the Atlantic Ocean, in the Caribbean Sea, and along the west coast of North America. The seismicity of the northeastern U.S. is generally considered to be due to ancient zones of weakness that are being reactivated in the present-day stress field. In this model, pre-existing faults that were formed during ancient geological episodes persist in the intraplate crust, and the earthquakes occur when the present-day stress is released along these zones of weakness. The stress that causes the earthquakes is generally considered to be derived from present-day rifting at the Mid-Atlantic ridge.

Earthquakes and geologically mapped faults in the Northeastern U.S.

The northeastern U.S. has many known faults, but virtually all of the known faults have not been active for perhaps 90 million years or more. Also, the locations of the known faults are not well determined at earthquake depths. Accordingly, few (if any) earthquakes in the region can be unambiguously linked to known faults. Given the current geological and seismological data, it is difficult to determine if a known fault in this region is still active today and could produce a modern earthquake. As in most other areas east of the Rocky Mountains, the best guide to earthquake hazard in the northeastern U.S. is probably the locations of the past earthquakes themselves.

The Ramapo fault and other New York City area faults

The Ramapo Fault, which marks the western boundary of the Newark rift basin, has been argued to be a major seismically active feature of this region,but it is difficult to discern the extent to which the Ramapo fault (or any other specific mapped fault in the area) might be any more of a source of future earthquakes than any other parts of the region. The Ramapo Fault zone spans more than 185 miles (300 kilometers) in New York, New Jersey, and Pennsylvania. It is a system of faults between the northern Appalachian Mountains and Piedmont areas to the east. This fault is perhaps the best known fault zone in the Mid-Atlantic region, and some small earthquakes have been known to occur in its vicinity. Recently, public knowledge about the fault has increased – especially after the 1970s, when the fault’s proximity to the Indian Point nuclear plant in New York was noticed.

There is insufficient evidence to unequivocally demonstrate any strong correlation of earthquakes in the New York City area with specific faults or other geologic structures in this region. The damaging earthquake affecting New York City in 1884 was probably not associated with the Ramapo fault because the strongest shaking from that earthquake occurred on Long Island (quite far from the trace of the Ramapo fault). The relationship between faults and earthquakes in the New York City area is currently understood to be more complex than any simple association of a specific earthquake with a specific mapped fault.

A 2008 study argued that a magnitude 6 or 7 earthquake might originate from the Ramapo fault zone, which would almost definitely spawn hundreds or even thousands of fatalities and billions of dollars in damage. Studying around 400 earthquakes over the past 300 years, the study also argued that there was an additional fault zone extending from the Ramapo Fault zone into southwestern Connecticut. As can be seen in the above figure of seismicity, earthquakes are scattered throughout this region, with no particular concentration of activity along the Ramapo fault, or along the hypothesized fault zone extending into southwestern Connecticut.

Just off the northern terminus of the Ramapo fault is the Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant, built between 1956 and 1960 by Consolidated Edison Company. The plant began operating in 1963, and it has been the subject of a controversy over concerns that an earthquake from the Ramapo fault will affect the power plant. Whether or not the Ramapo fault actually does pose a threat to this nuclear power plant remains an open question.

Antichrist Ready to “Fix” Iraq (Revelation 13)

After eight centuries, the hunchback finally fell over. Having withstood wars and sieges, the Grand Mosque of Al Nuri in Mosul was finally blown apart from within the city. That may prove to be a metaphor for Iraq itself.

As the war against ISIL enters its final stretch in Mosul, attention must turn to the aftermath and how Mosul, and Iraq itself, will be rebuilt. The day after Mosul is retaken, a low-level battle will begin, as Sunni and Shia elements across the country – and their supporters beyond Iraq’s borders – restart their jockeying for supremacy. The divisions and rivalries between Iraqis are not readily apparent, but they are there. Under the cover of the battle against ISIL, all sides are preparing for the day after.

Iraq’s Shia-dominated and Iran-backed Popular Mobilisation Units, having gained legitimacy in the battle for Mosul, will want an outsize role in Iraq’s army, and maybe even in Mosul itself. The Kurdish forces, moving towards independence, will not want their fight against ISIL to have been in vain; they will see any attempt to push them out of the towns they have liberated as a betrayal. The US will want to see Mosul under the control of the Iraqi army that liberated it, but the PMU and Kurdish groups want to carve out more influence inside the city.

Yet both groups have a chequered history when it comes to dealings with the Sunni majority city of Mosul. Human rights groups have noted that both Kurdish forces and Shia militias have detained Sunni men and boys fleeing Mosul. Kurdish groups have conducted revenge killings and house demolitions against Sunnis inside the disputed city of Kirkuk. Any temporary trust between the groups could evaporate if the rebuilding of and relocation to Mosul is not carried out with sensitivity.

What Mosul needs – what Iraq needs – is radical nationalism, a nationalism that can bridge the divide between Sunnis and Shia, and bring the Kurds, even if temporarily, into the fold. That will mean offering Sunnis a real stake in the political process and including many more Iraqi Sunnis in the army – something that will, inevitably, be at the expense of the Shia who now form a majority inside the army.

The Kurds, squeezed between Baghdad and Ankara, will need a grand bargain if they are to stay within the Iraqi family – and the only thing they seek is more autonomy. Sunni Arabs in mixed villages and towns that the Kurds have taken over have complained of being pushed, or forced, out. If Baghdad lets the Kurds keep those towns, the Sunnis will be outraged. If they are forced to give them back, calls for Kurdish independence will rise.

These are tricky political problems and Iraq’s prime minister Haider Al Abadi has so far shown no hint of knowing how to deal with them. He will, when it comes, be quick to claim victory against ISIL. But the hardline rhetoric he has employed against the militant group will need to be tempered when he speaks of the Sunnis and the Kurds. And if he doesn’t know how to be conciliatory, he has a rival who does.

Because, of all people in Iraq, Mr Al Abadi’s rival for moving beyond sectarian lines is a man who once embodied sectarianism and aggression: the firebrand cleric Muqtada Al Sadr.

Mr Al Sadr hasn’t gone away. Although the battle for Mosul has focused the political debate on the city and the battle against ISIL, Mr Al Sadr is still clearly in contention and has Mr Al Abadi in his sights. Piece by piece, he has been sending signals that he, not Mr Al Abadi, is the only person who can heal Iraq’s wounds. And it may be working.

Mr Al Sadr has widespread support among Iraqi Shias, although whenever his supporters take to the streets – which is regularly – they wave the national flag of Iraq. In that, Mr Al Sadr is being canny, seeking support from Sunnis as well. Well aware that the sectarian politics of the Nouri Al Maliki government did not work, Mr Al Sadr is looking to separate himself from other Shia leaders.

In February this year, he expressed sympathy with those inside Mosul who had at first sought refuge with ISIL. He suggested Sunnis across Iraq had reasons to be disaffected. These are powerful words from a man whose Mahdi Army once targeted Americans, Iraqi Sunnis and Christians. Indeed, many of the seeds of fear and discontent among Sunnis can be traced to the actions of the Mahdi Army.

He went further. His call in April this year for Bashar Al Assad to step down was not widely noticed in the West – but it made waves in the Middle East. His intervention mattered not merely because Mr Al Abadi has tried to tread a careful line on Syria and Mr Al Assad, but because here was a Shia leader calling on Mr Al Assad, himself an Alawite Shia, to step down. Many Sunnis in Iraq will have heard those as the words of a man willing to put a country before a sect, even if the country were not his own.

That is a powerful message and it will be needed after Mosul is liberated, more than ever. Whether or not Mr Al Sadr is merely remaking his image to take power, or whether he has seen the outcome of sectarianism and had a genuine shift in political thinking, his statements point to the best, perhaps only, way out of Iraq’s sectarian impasse. But many Sunnis will find to hard to accept that Mr Al Sadr is the man to lead them.

Faisal Al Yafai is a frequent contributor to The National

The Australian Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Australia for many reasons is an exceptional country, including in the nuclear policy area: Nuclear weapons were tested on Australian territory, Australia owns intellectual property for enriching uranium, and uranium mined in the outback today fuels the world’s peaceful nuclear applications, but Australia has no nuclear weapons and it produces no nuclear electricity. And so far, Australia has no nuclear submarines.

This morning in Berlin the Frankfurter Allgemeine Zeitung brought to my breakfast table a tempest in a teapot that was brewed down under last week. Tony Abbott, a member of the Australian Parliament who served as Prime Minister for a Liberal government from 2013 through 2015, on June 29 and thereafter told anyone willing to listen that Australia should think hard about building nuclear-driven submarines in its ongoing effort to upgrade its naval defenses. That probably won’t happen anytime soon, but Australia’s discussion about its submarines including last week should remind anyone who has forgotten it that nuclear fission reactors fueled with uranium are “strategic” technology, and that a changing geostrategic environment will put time-honored non-proliferation policies under pressure.

Germany’s leading serious newspaper today reported on Abbott’s comments because back in April 2016 Thyssen Krupp Marine Services (TKMS) had lost out in a competition to Naval Group  a.k.a. DCNS of France; the Australian government picked the French firm to build 18 submarines for the price of 50 billion dollars. Australia chose the French to build conventional submarines. But, according to the FAZ, “the order could be redefined at any time” to specify nuclear-powered craft. When the German firm dropped out of the race to build Australian boats, it asserted darkly, “behind the scenes it was suspected that that had happened because the Germans offer no nuclear option.” (The above-linked article from 15 months ago in fact mentioned the French vendor’s atomic advantage over TKMS.)

Instead, Abbott said in a statement flavored with skepticism, Australia will “take a French nuclear submarine and completely redesign it to work with conventional propulsion.” He urged Australia to reconsider the case for nuclear-propelled vessels in the country’s long-term interest, especially given Australia’s marine security environment and naval technology developments in China, India, Japan, Russia, and the United States.

Discussion of a possible Australian nuclear navy follows upon previous protracted debate in Australia about whether to generate electricity with nuclear reactors. Abbott has elsewhere elaborated on this theme, regretting that Australia, including under his tenure as Prime Minister, has repeatedly brushed off nuclear power, and asserting that “Australia could develop a nuclear servicing industry from scratch within about 15 years,” in time to commission nuclear-propelled submarines that could be built by French or U.S. firms. That of course would beg the hypothetical question whether Australia would finally dust off its nearly half-century-old gas centrifuge blueprints, or instead use laser technology it more recently pioneered, to enrich Australian uranium needed to fuel future fission-powered vessels. It also would raise the (still more-hypothetical) question whether the fuel for such submarines would be under IAEA safeguards 24/7 (it was Australia that in 1978 prompted the IAEA Director General to establish for the record that a state with safeguards obligations couldn’t decide that sensitive matter by itself).

In recent years Australian federal and state governments have carried out very transparent and visible investigations of the country’s various nuclear “options,” including nuclear power generation, commercial uranium enrichment, and disposal of highly-active nuclear waste and spent fuel.  Australia has the world’s largest reserves of uranium, and is the world’s third leading uranium producer after Kazakhstan and Canada, but Australians appear to remain profoundly disinclined to use the uranium they produce on their territory–to say nothing about ships patrolling international waters in the Pacific and Indian oceans.

The question raised by Abbott last week re-litigates a debate that got underway over a decade ago even before Australia prepared to upgrade its naval defenses. The above-linked 2006 government report on nuclear energy included a submission from the Submarine Institute of Australia. When Australia began preparing to beef up its naval might, in 2013, predictably, nuclear nonproliferators warned of the governance perils an Australian nuclear navy would unleash, while defense strategists countered that nuclear-propelled submarines would protect Australia best. In fact Abbott’s own government in 2015 was itself not prepared to champion the case for a nuclear navy–a point that Abbott’s critics now raise in the wake of his remarks.

Abbott said on June 29 that while “conventional subs need to surface frequently to recharge their batteries, need to refuel every 70 days, and can only briefly maintain a top speed of about 20 knots, nuclear powered submarines can stay submerged as long as the crew can endure, never have to refuel, and can travel at nearly 40 knots.” Even if Australian military leaders beset with the future consequences of China’s naval buildup were to conclude that these were decisive advantages, Abbott’s previous lack of enthusiasm would suggest that the road toward a nuclear navy might be paved with political risks including for Australia’s strategic community; what’s in print suggests there may be no internal consensus on this issue. Following from Canberra’s firm and longstanding nuclear non-proliferation commitment, as the above-cited 1978 interaction with the IAEA bears witness, Australia today would not welcome the emergence of navies powered by uranium withdrawn from IAEA safeguards. Ultimately, it is hard to believe that Australians who until now have been wary of deploying climate change-mitigating power reactors at home would in the near term favor using the same technology to propel their country’s navy on the high seas.