Why the Antichrist Will Abandon Iran (Daniel 8)

The Iraq Report: Iran implicated in bombing Shia shrines

As Tehran-backed Shia paramilitary units continue to expand their power and influence in Iraq, Iran has been implicated in the bombing of a Shia shrine in Samarra that triggered a sectarian bloodbath more than a decade ago. While this accusation is nothing new, the significance of the allegation’s resurgence is that it comes from a militant Shia Islamist movement that had long been a recipient of Iranian financing, arming and training.

The astonishing about-turn from one of Iran’s Iraqi allies comes as Baghdad continues to be rocked by the interventionist policies of foreign powers. The United States has been implicated in a deadly attack against Shia militants near the Syrian border, while Turkish politicians have threatened that Ankara may intervene in Iraq, based on treaties that are almost a century old. With Iran continuing to play a dominant role across the full spectrum of Iraqi political, economic, cultural and security affairs, sovereignty continues to elude the war-ravaged country.

Iran linked to Shia shrine bombing

A senior leader of the Sadrist Movement, led by firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has directly implicated Iran in the 2006 Askari shrine bombing that triggered a wave of sectarian bloodletting that lasted for years and cost the lives of tens of thousands of Iraqis – mostly Sunni Arabs. The effects of the sectarian slaughter are visible to this day, with continuing examples of torture, murder, sexual violence and other atrocities having their roots in the violence that erupted in the bombing’s aftermath.

Speaking to Dijlah TV on Sunday, Awad al-Awadi said that Iranian operatives had infiltrated Iraq around the time of the Askari bombing, saying “many reports have revealed that there were interests, there were terrorist cells and groups that came in from Iran”. Awadi alleged that Iran had wanted a sectarian war that would pit Iraqis against each other, and ultimately weaken any chance of national reconciliation or future Iraqi sovereignty.

The Askari shrine bombing took place in Samarra, a Sunni Arab-majority city just north of the capital, and was blamed on al-Qaeda extremists – though no group formally took responsibility. Previously, al-Qaeda had been known to claim any attacks against Shia targets in order to boost its propaganda image of being a defender of the Sunnis, but then-leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Abu Mosab al-Zarqawi did not make any of his usual grandiose statements claiming responsibility. He was killed later that year.

However, since the attack, many have suspected Iran of ultimately being behind the bombings, with reports from WikiLeaks purporting to show that Tehran was actively supporting al-Qaeda by supplying them with innovative explosives for carrying out suicide bombings. More recently, the US Treasury sanctioned three senior al-Qaeda operatives in 2016, all of whom reside in Iran with Tehran’s knowledge and consent. This has led to claims that Iran had the most to gain by the sectarian conflagration that followed, and was either directly or indirectly behind the attack.

The shocking allegation comes amid Saudi Arabia’s recalibration of its strategy in Iraq, as Riyadh moves closer to long-time pro-Tehran stalwarts. Riyadh has increased its diplomatic presence in Shia holy cities in its northern neighbour, and has paid millions of dollars towards “legitimising” some Shia leaders over others – seemingly in an attempt to tip the scales more in its favour versus its regional foe, Iran.

That the allegation comes from a Sadrist leader is interesting in itself, as the Sadrist’s militia at the time, the Army of the Mahdi – better known as Jaysh al-Mahdi, or JAM, to counterinsurgency experts in the US military – was heavily involved in the sectarian killing spree. The Sadrists targeted Sunnis in Baghdad and other major Iraqi cities, alongside many Shia militants, including the Badr Organisation that controls the interior ministry to this day.

However, following Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia last week at the invitation of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, the Shia cleric has adopted a more conciliatory stance towards Riyadh, offering to remove anti-Saudi posters in areas under his control. Saudi Arabia also took the step of blessing Sadr’s visit with $10 million to open a Saudi “presence” in the Shia holy city of Najaf, as a way of demonstrating Sadr’s influence and Saudi largesse all at once.

Sadrist statements implicating Iran in one of the most heinous bombings in post-invasion Iraq are therefore likely to be intricately tied to Riyadh’s charm offensive and attempts at prising Shia leaders out of Iran’s grip.

Militia granted further religious authority

Another side-effect of Sadr’s visit to Saudi Arabia was his call last Friday for the Iraqi government to dismantle Shia paramilitary organisations that have been formally absorbed into the armed forces. Sadr called upon Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to dissolve the Popular Mobilisation Forces, saying that “disciplined members” of the Iran-backed militia should instead be “integrated into the army”.

While the PMF, or Hashd al-Sha’abi in Arabic, is part of the armed forces, it operates as a parallel army to the main national army. The PMF has its own budget, barracks, equipment and most of its recruits come from pro-Iran Shia Islamist militant factions, including some associated directly with Muqtada al-Sadr’s militias.

The PMF is at least nominally under the command of Baghdad, but statements released by the group show that they appear to take their orders from Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Quds Force. Despite claiming to have been established by religious decree to fight Islamic State group militants in Iraq, the PMF has detachments inside Syria and are actively helping Syrian President Bashar al-Assad crush the uprising against decades of Ba’athist rule.

Sadr’s call was almost immediately shot down by the government, as Abadi not only flatly refused to dissolve the PMF, but said that the controversial organisation would stay with government and religious backing. Speaking at an event organised by the PMF on Saturday, the Iraqi leader said the PMF would “never be disbanded, and will remain under the command of the state and the religious authorities”.

Abadi’s remarks have raised concerns that the transformation of Iraq into a theocratic rump state under the influence of ayatollahs both in Iraq and in Iran with a religious armed force to enforce the status quo will kill any chance of Iraqis obtaining the democracy promised to them by the United States when it invaded and toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

By legitimising and strengthening the PMF and other armed factions, Abadi has shown that continuing torture in Iraqi prisons perpetrated by sectarian elements of the Iraqi armed forces primarily against Sunni Arabs is not an issue that concerns him as he struggles ahead of the general elections due next year. The continuing torture – as well as the transformation of homes in Mosul into headquarters for the Iraqi Hizballah – are leading to fears that political failures will lead to a revival of the circumstances that led to the rise of IS in the first place.

US accused of killing dozens of Shia militants

While Saudi Arabia and Iran increasingly have their say in Iraq, other major powers – including the United States – continue to try to secure their interests in the country.

IS has not been the only target of American airstrikes, as the PMF accused the US of bombing its positions in Iraq, leading to the deaths of dozens of fighters as well as Iranians fighting alongside them.

According to Iraqi military sources, as well as the PMF itself, a pair of American air raids killed no fewer than 60 Shia militants in two separate strikes, all on the Syrian border. At least 20 of the casualties came from one group, the Tehran-leaning Sayyid al-Shuhada Brigades militia, one of the many militias under the overall control of the PMF, and under the command of Iranian military leaders. The Brigades vowed they would retaliate against the US, saying they would “not be silent” after the attack.

US Army Colonel Ryan Dillon, the spokesman for the US-led anti-IS coalition, said on Twitter: “Allegations of #Coalition strikes vs. Popular Mobilization Forces near #Iraq – #Syria border are INACCURATE. No coalition strikes there ATT.”

Although the US has denied any involvement, one of the strikes hit the Iraqi side of the border near al-Tanf, the site of several such incidents in Syria, where a US military outpost is positioned. Washington has been quietly concerned that Iraqi Shia extremists to whom they have provided air support in the fight against IS are being quietly sent across the Iraqi-Syrian border on Iranian orders to threaten US interests in Syria.

Antichrist Opposes Iranian Forces

Assessing Sadr and Sistani’s opposition to the Hashd al-Shaabi

By Paul Iddon yesterday at 11:17

Hashd al-Shaabi members at Tal Afar airport late last year. Photo: Achilleas Zavallis/AFP file
Two of Iraq’s most influential Shiite figures are in favour of disbanding the Shiite-majority Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries and placing them under the complete command and control of the regular Iraqi armed forces.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi recently rejected the powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr’s call to dissolve the Hashd, integrate it into the army and place its weapons “in the hands of the state too.”

“Sadr and [Ayatollah Ali al-] Sistani have taken a similar stance towards the future of the Hashd for slightly different reasons, and Sadr has been more out front on this matter,” Iraq analyst Joel Wing told Rudaw English. “Sadr has called for the Hashd to be integrated into the armed forces and the undisciplined ones to be disbanded.”

The “undisciplined ones” Sadr refers to, Wing explained, are the groups closely tied to Iran such as the Badr Organization, Kataib Hezbollah and Asaib Ahl Al-Haq. “Many of these organizations are political rivals of Sadr and contain many ex-Sadrists,” he added, pointing out that in recent memory Sadr’s forces and the Asaib Ahl Al-Haq “were having running gun battles in Baghdad.”

Sadr is worried that these groups will directly challenge him for the Shiite street after the war is over. They are also aligned with Vice President Nouri al-Maliki, another rival of Sadr,” Wing elaborated.

Sadr is “more open” to groups like his own Saray al-Salam and the Al-Abbas Division, which is loyal to the Shiite establishment headed by Sistani in Najaf. The commander of the Al-Abbas Division, Maitham al-Zaidi, recently said he is under instructions not to meet any figures who aren’t part of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF), a clear indication that Sistani and Najaf oppose the continued existence of a Hashd fighting-force not under complete state command and control. Al-Abbas has also worked closely with the ISF.

Sadr’s position is rather ironic because he wants to be the rebellious one of the Shiite establishment, but now is threatened with being usurped and losing his base along with other parties to the pro-Iran groups,” Wing pointed out.

While Sistani has a similar position he is “less driven by the partisan machinations of Sadr.”

Wing concluded by pointing out that Sistani “does not want the pro-Iran Hashd to increase Tehran’s influence within Iraq,” and recalled that from the beginning, with his 2014 fatwa, the ayatollah never endorsed the creation of such a paramilitary force.

When Islamic State (ISIS) captured Mosul in June 2014 Sistani, the leading Shiite religious authority in Iraq, released a fatwa calling on Iraqis to join the country’s regular armed forces to defend Iraq against that threat, not to form paramilitaries in order to do so.

Nevertheless, the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitaries were formed to fight ISIS while the regular army got back on its feet after its infamous retreat from Mosul. Many Shiite leaders defend the continued existence of the Hashd, especially those whose groups have close ties with Iran.

An Iraqi parliament vote in November passed a bill that was signed into law recognizing the paramilitaries as a legal and a “permanent stand-alone component of the Iraqi armed forces, under the Ministry of Defense.”

They haven’t, however, been fully demobilized and integrated into the armed forces. As the defense journal Jane’s 360 noted last year, the law “will not increase government oversight or influence” over the Hashd.

Kyle Orton, a Middle East analyst at the Henry Jackson Society think-tank, believes that the Sadr and Sistani “components of the Hashd are somewhat helpful in diluting Iran’s power in the paramilitaries.”

“Unfortunately, Tehran is also able to use them to legitimize the Hashd by presenting the involvement of these professed nationalist factions as if they represent the overall aims of the organization,” Orton told Rudaw English.

In “an ideal world”, he added, forces loyal to Sistani and Sadr will integrate into the regular army. “But there doesn’t seem to be a way to detach these elements of the Hashd now, and even if there were, the effect would be to strengthen Iran’s hold over this paramilitary formation.”

Orton points to “an ideological distinction between Sistani and Sadr, who conceive of political order within an Iraqi framework, and the most powerful Hashd battalions that are loyal to Iran’s Supreme Leader” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

“There is also the more prosaic aspect of the power-struggle: for both Sistani and Sadr, the Iranians and their proxies are the main competitors for influence,” he concluded.

For now, the Hashd is a very formidable force in Iraq with an estimated 110,000 fighters. When driving ISIS out of Mosul the Iraqis used their best soldiers, the elite Golden Division, as shock troops backed by US-led coalition airpower. The Hashd sat out of that battle as the United States feared their participation would inflame sectarian tensions. They suffered fewer casualties than the regular forces as a result, which has left it in a position of significant strength.

While the Hashd also continues to have powerful supporters like former Prime Minister Nouri Maliki and other Iranian-supported leaders in Iraq, it also has influential opponents in both Sadr and Sistani.

Antichrist Moves Away From Iran (Daniel 8:8)

Addressing Iranian Influence in Iraq

by Giorgio Cafiero

As Iraqis celebrate Mosul’s liberation from the Islamic State (ISIS or IS), their country’s future is anything but certain. Although it is premature to conclude that the fight against IS in Iraq is over, the Trump administration’s approach to Iraq is likely to focus more on countering Iran’s influence in the Shi’ite-majority Arab country. Saudi Arabia will support Trump in this. Until recently, Riyadh avoided engaging the Shi’ite leadership in Baghdad based on the view that the post-2003 political order in Iraq has been entirely under Tehran’s thumb. Last month’s rare visit to Riyadh of Muqtada al-Sadr, a prominent Iraqi Shi’ite cleric who has called for the disbanding of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, signaled how the kingdom too has a heightened interest in attempting to bring Iraq farther away from the Islamic Republic’s orbit of influence.

Although Washington and Tehran have fought IS in parallel, no mutual interest in defeating it has resulted in any substantial or official cooperation. The Obama administration was far more accommodating of Iran in the fight against IS than Trump’s administration. For example, last year then-Secretary of State John Kerry asserted that, despite all the problems in Washington-Tehran relations, “Iran in Iraq has been in certain ways helpful, and they clearly are focused on ISIL-Daesh, and so we have a common interest, actually.” Trump and his team, nonetheless, are determined to distinguish themselves from Obama by conducting a foreign policy that is more hawkish and aggressive toward Iran in areas where they believe the previous president was “weak” or willing to concede too much to Tehran for the purpose of peacefully resolving the nuclear standoff.

Despite reluctantly certifying Tehran’s compliance with the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the White House is imposing new sanctions on Iran, signaling its intention to sabotage the accord, and even talking of regime change against the Islamic Republic. Additionally, Trump recently praised Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri’s government for fighting on the “front lines in the fight against ISIS, al-Qaeda and Hezbollah.” Since he became president earlier this year, the United States has intentionally conducted direct military strikes on Syrian government military infrastructure and Washington has increased support for the Saudi-led campaign against Iranian-backed rebels in Yemen.

Odds are good that Iraq will become more of a flashpoint in tension between the United States and Iran as the post-IS chapter begins in Mosul, leaving the two countries with even less common interest in the city and Iraq at large. In May, while speaking at the Arab Islamic American Summit, Trump said that in Iraq Iran “funds, arms, and trains terrorists, militias, and other extremist groups that spread destruction and chaos.” In turn, Tehran maintains that the US military presence in Iraq is a root cause of much of the country’s chaotic tumult.

Iraq’s position in the Middle East’s geopolitical order will also largely depend on the extent to which Baghdad and Riyadh can overcome their tensions that prompted officials in the latter to avoid engaging with the Shi’ite leadership in the former. In light of the recent visits of the Iraqi prime minister, minister of interior, and al-Sadr, the kingdom is clearly set on reaching out to elements in Baghdad with which Saudi Arabia seeks to work, rather than Nouri al-Maliki, whom Riyadh views as an Iranian puppet. Underlying Saudi Arabia’s new approach toward Iraq is pressure from the White House and a desire to counter Tehran’s expanded clout in the Arab country.

By bringing Iraq further from the Iranian-led “resistance axis” and closer to the Sunni Arab fold, Saudi Arabia hopes to cultivate ties with Shi’ite politicians in Baghdad who advocate a foreign policy that restores Iraqi’s leadership role in the Arab world. Ultimately, in a battle for geopolitical leverage in the region, Saudi Arabia and Iran will compete when it comes to the reconstruction of parts of Iraq destroyed by the campaign to defeat IS.

On July 23, Iran and Iraq signed a military cooperation agreement to combat “terrorism and extremism,” marking yet another blow to Washington’s efforts to counter Tehran’s consolidated influence in the Middle East. The memorandum of understanding, according to Iranian state-owned media, “includes expansion of cooperation and exchange of experiences on combating terrorism and extremism, security of borders, as well as educational, logistic, technical and military support.” The following day, Iran’s Foreign Ministry declared that Iranian-Iraqi relations were a bilateral matter of no business to any other government. The message was directed toward both Washington and Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) members, chiefly Saudi Arabia.

Tehran opposes America’s military presence in post-IS Iraq. Iran’s security apparatus has maintained the same view of America’s military intervention in nearby countries, which has endured through all the changes in Washington-Tehran relations since 1979. The regime’s perception of the existential threat of the US military in Iraq did not fade even when the Obama administration made diplomatic overtures to Iran.

Iran’s regime sees militant Salafist-jihadist groups in Iraq as an existential threat too. The leaders of the Islamic Republic maintain a popular narrative based on the premise that the world has plotted against Iran. It believes that extremists near its borders, such as the Taliban in Afghanistan in the 1990s and 2000s and IS in Iraq today, are not outcomes of the dissolution of authoritarian secular regimes, failed states, wars, and other multifaceted problems. Instead, according to the narrative, these violent forces have conspired to topple the Islamic Republic after spreading chaos to other Muslim countries with support from Saudi Arabia and other GCC states at every step.

Although Iranian officials affirm that their country’s military action in Iraq and Syria is not geared toward expanding Tehran’s regional clout but instead toward promoting regional security and protecting Iran and its neighbors from global terrorists, there are undeniable geopolitical interests driving the country’s foreign policy vis-à-vis Iraq. Based on Tehran’s pursuit of logistical links between Iran’s capital city and Lebanon’s Mediterranean coast via a host of its Shi’ite proxies, chiefly the Popular Mobilization Units that work closely with the Iraqi army and Lebanese Hezbollah, Mosul’s future matters immensely for the Islamic Republic and its strategies for countering security threats as well as asserting greater leverage throughout the Levant and greater Middle East.

An important factor shaping Iraq’s future will be the extent to which the central government in Baghdad can improve its relationship with Iraq’s Sunni minority in al-Anbar province and build trust that was entirely absent at the time of the caliphate’s meteoric ascension to power just over three years ago. Doubtless, the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias’ human rights violations waged in their fight against IS bode poorly for the prospects of national Iraqi unity under the Shi’ite-led government’s authority in the future. Failure to hold such militias accountable may well create the breeding grounds for an IS 2.0 to regain territory in Iraq’s Sunni-majority western territory in the future.

Facing new pressures from its neighbors and the Trump administration, the Iraqi government must not only take on the domestic challenges of resolving the issues in Mosul that enabled IS to seize control of the city and other swathes of Iraqi territory in 2014, but also navigate the region’s volatile geopolitical order as outsiders compete for influence over the country’s future now that attention is shifting away from the fight against the caliphate. In reality, Iran essentially has free rein in much of Iraq now that many of Tehran’s militant proxies have consolidated their positions of power. It remains unclear how Washington and Riyadh will be able to meaningfully change this reality.

Photo: Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman

Iran Versus the Saudi Nuclear Horn

shia-vs-sunni1-300x224Iranian Foreign Minister: Saudis Support Our Enemies

By Patrick Goodenough | July 18, 2017 | 4:16 AM EDT


(CNSNews.com) – Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif on Monday accused Saudi Arabia of sponsoring Iran’s enemies, ranging from the exiled opposition movement to the perpetrators of a terrorist attack targeting parliament in Tehran last month.

The kingdom did so, he said at the Council on Foreign Relations in New York, because it hates the fact that Iran enjoys what it does not – democracy.

Zarif characterized Shi’ite Iran as the victim of Sunni-sponsored terrorism. In fact, the U.S. government has long maintained that Iran is the world’s leading state-sponsor of terrorism.

In conversation with CFR president Richard Haass, Zarif attributed extremism in the region both to a history of foreign intervention and to frustration of people living in countries where they have no ability to vote for their leaders.

He made it clear he was referring in the latter instance to Arab Gulf states. They and other Sunni countries made common cause against Iran with President Trump during last May’s U.S.-Arab-Islamic summit in Riyadh.

The Iranian minister said Iran has become the “enemy of choice,” because that appeals both to the Arab states and to the U.S.

Haass then asked Zarif about a comment last May by Mohammed bin Salman – then Saudi deputy crown prince, now crown prince – who said he would work to ensure that the fight for regional influence takes place “inside Iran, not in Saudi Arabia.”

Asked what he made of that, Zarif said the comment amounted to a threat – “and a threat they have been trying to make real for some time, by helping terrorist organizations.”

“You saw them participating in person in the rallies in Paris of terrorist organizations, who are chanting outside this hall too. They were there. They support various terrorist organizations who are operating from Pakistan, and finally they were able to bring some of them to our parliament – the place they hate the most because that reflects something that we have that they don’t and that is a type of democracy.”

“They brought terrorism to Iran,” he said.

He accused the regime of pursuing “expansionist ambitions, criminal practices, interferences in the internal affairs of other countries, flagrant violations of the international law, and violations of the principles of good-neighborliness, coexistence and mutual respect.”

Iran rejects claims of support for terrorism, charging that it is the West and its Sunni Arab allies that are sponsoring terrorists like ISIS, while insisting that it supports only legitimate “resistance” groups – its label for terrorist groups like Hezbollah and Hamas.

Zarif’s claim that Iran’s foes do not enjoy democracy points to the fact that Saudi Arabia, ruled by a royal family, does not hold national elections. Until 2015 it did not even allow women to stand or to vote in municipal elections.

Iran does hold elections, of a sort. In the most recent presidential election, in May, a small body appointed by supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei disqualified more than 1,600 aspiring candidates, allowing just six to run. Two dropped out shortly before election day and President Hasan Rouhani won a second term. Khamenei wields overall power.

The Washington-based democracy watchdog Freedom House ranks both countries as “not free,” although its current annual evaluation of political rights and civil liberties gives Iran marginally better scores than Saudi Arabia.

The Sunni and Shia Horns

The head of Iran’s atomic energy organisation, one of the architects of the 2015 landmark nuclear deal, has warned the US to stop upsetting the regional balance of power by siding with Saudi Arabia.

Writing in the Guardian, Ali Akbar Salehi said “lavish arms purchases” by regional actors – a reference to the Saudi purchase of $100bn of US arms during Donald Trump’s recent visit to Riyadh – would be seen as provocative in Tehran and that it would be unrealistic to expect Iran to remain “indifferent”.

Salehi, an MIT graduate scientist who has also served as foreign minister, was the second most senior Iranian negotiator, dealing with technical aspects, during nearly two years of talks between Tehran and six of the world’s major powers that led to the final nuclear accord in Vienna in July 2015.

Although Trump has promised to “dismantle the disastrous deal with Iran”, he has not so far taken any concrete steps to scrap it. Last month, two days before Iran’s presidential election, his administration announced that it was continuing to waive nuclear-related sanctions under the agreement despite Washington toughening up its overall Iran policy.

Salehi said it was possible to rescue the deal’s engagement if it was met with reciprocal gestures. “Often following hard-won engagement, some western nations, whether distracted by short-sighted political motivations or the lucrative inducements of regional actors, walk away and allow the whole situation to return to the status quo ante,” wrote Salehi, who is also a vice-president of Iran.

Salehi warned of “chaotic behaviour” and “further tension and conflict” if the other side disregarded Iran’s security concerns, failed to adhere to its commitments and insisted on what he called alternative facts including ideas such as the “clash of civilisations”, “Sunni-Shia conflict”, “Persian-Arab enmity” and the “Arab-Israeli axis against Iran”.

His article comes at a time of simmering tensions in the Middle East, where relations between Tehran and Riyadh, which are on opposite sides of many regional conflicts such as the wars in Syria and Yemen, have deteriorated.

Trump’s first post-election foreign trip to Riyadh tilted the regional balance, and contributed in part to the diplomatic isolation of Qatar by Saudi Arabia and its allies, who have accused the tiny emirate of funding terrorists and appeasing Iran. Meanwhile, in Syria, Iran-backed militias and a coalition of forces led by Washington have collided a number of times in recent weeks while fighting Islamic State.

“Stoking Iranophobia” or failure to deliver on promises under the deal would jeopardise engagement, Salehi wrote. “We would all end up back at square one,” he cautioned. “Unfortunately, as things stand at the moment in the region, reaching a new state of equilibrium might simply be beyond reach for the foreseeable future.”

Salehi urged the outside world to take heed of the results of last month’s Iranian presidential election and the message Iranians sent, but he said “engagement is simply not a one-way street and we cannot go it alone”.

The End of the Saudi Nuclear Horn (Daniel 7)

Image result for sunni vs shiaSaudi rulers will perish: Khamenei

ANI | Tehran [Iran] May 28, 2017 03:10 PM IST

On the occasion of the beginning of the holy fasting month of Ramadan, Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei said that “Saudi rulers are going to perish”.

He further added that the Saudi rulers “are too harsh on Muslims, yet kind to the disbelievers. They are giving special handouts to the US. To whom does all this wealth belong? This is the Saudi people’s wealth, which they give away to disbelievers and their people’s enemies.”

“Among the Muslim world, a group of worthless, inept and villainous people are ruling over a community of the Muslim nation, namely the Saudi government. The fools actually think they can gain the friendship of Islam’s enemies by providing them with money and assistance. There is no friendship there; as they say themselves, they are ‘milking them’ like cattle. They oppress their own people in this manner, and oppress the people of Yemen and Bahrain in other ways. But they are going to perish.”IRNA news agency quoted Iran’s supreme leader as saying.

After re-elected for a second term, Iran’s reformist president, Hassan Rouhani asserted that unity and consensus is the solution against the terrorism.

The era of interfering in other countries’ affairs, waging wars and funding terrorism is over and fighting terrorism is the only way ahead, he added.

Iran’s leader also reminded his audience on the experience of the Iranian nation’s victory over the eight-year imposed war; adding that the Iranian nation triumphed during the eight-year war as the ‘underdog.’

Referring to the afflictions of the Islamic world and disputes imposed on the Muslim states, Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called on leaders of the Islamic world to undertake further responsibility regarding unity of the Islamic nations.

An Unprecedented Alliance (Daniel 7:7)

By John Irish and Andrea Shalal | MUNICH

Saudi Arabia and Israel both called on Sunday for a new push against Iran, signaling a growing alignment in their interests, while U.S. lawmakers promised to seek new sanctions on the Shi’ite Muslim power.

Turkey also joined the de facto united front against Tehran as Saudi and Israeli ministers rejected an appeal from Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif for Sunni Gulf Arab states to work with Tehran to reduce violence across the region.

While Saudi Arabia remains historically at odds with Israel, their ministers demanded at the Munich Security Conference that Tehran be punished for propping up the Syrian government, developing ballistic missiles and funding separatists in Yemen.

International sanctions on Iran were lifted a year ago under a nuclear deal with world powers, but Republican senators said at the conference they would press for new U.S. measures over the missiles issue and Tehran’s actions to “destabilize” the Middle East.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir called Tehran the main sponsor of global terrorism and a destabilizing force in the Middle East.

He sidestepped a question about Israel’s call for concerted action with Sunni Arab states amid growing speculation that the two countries could normalize relations and join forces to oppose Tehran, much as Turkey has done.

The six Arab members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), especially Saudi Arabia, accuse Iran of using sectarianism to interfere in Arab countries and build its own sphere of influence in the Middle East. Iran denies the accusations.

“Iran remains the single main sponsor of terrorism in the world,” Adel al-Jubeir told delegates at the conference. “It’s determined to upend the order in the Middle East … (and) until and unless Iran changes its behavior it would be very difficult to deal with a country like this.”

Al-Jubeir said Iran was propping up the government of President Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian civil war, funding the Houthi movement in Yemen and fomenting violence across the region.

The international community needed to set clear “red lines” to halt Iran’s actions, he said, calling for banking, travel and trade restrictions aimed at changing Tehran’s behavior.

Israeli Defence Minister Avigdor Lieberman said Iran’s ultimate objective was to undermine Riyadh, and called for a dialogue with Sunni Arab countries to defeat “radical” elements in the region.

“The real division is not Jews, Muslims … but moderate people versus radical people,” Lieberman told delegates.

Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu also criticized what he called an Iranian “sectarian policy” aimed at undermining Bahrain and Saudi Arabia.

“Turkey is very much against any kind of division, religious or sectarian,” he said. “It’s good that we are now normalizing our relations with Israel.”

Zarif opened Sunday’s session with the call for dialogue to address “anxieties” in the region. This followed a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani to Oman and Kuwait last week to try to improve ties, his first visit to the Gulf states since taking power in 2013.

Asked if Iran’s envisioned regional dialogue could include Israel, Zarif said Tehran was looking at a more “modest” approach. “I’m focusing on the Persian Gulf. We have enough problems in this region so we want to start a dialogue with countries we call brothers in Islam,” he said.

Zarif dismissed any suggestions his country would ever seek to develop nuclear weapons. When asked about the new U.S. administration’s tough rhetoric on Iran’s role in the region and calls to review the nuclear deal, he said Tehran did not respond well to threats or sanctions.

U.S. Senator Lindsey Graham, a South Carolina Republican, said he and other senators were preparing legislation to further sanction Iran for violating U.N. Security Council resolutions with its missile development program and other actions.

“It is now time for the Congress to take Iran on directly in terms of what they’ve done outside the nuclear program,” he said.

Senator Christopher Murphy, a Democrat and member of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, said Washington needed to decide whether to take a broader role in the regional conflict.

“We have to make a decision whether we are going to get involved in the emerging proxy war in a bigger way than we are today, between Iran and Saudi Arabia,” he said.

(Additional reporting by Vladimir Soldatkin; editing by David Stamp)

The Separation of the Islamic Nations (Daniel 7/8)


sunni shiaIslamic Military Alliance

The Nation 

Defence Minister Khawaja Asif on Friday confirmed that former army chief General (retd) Raheel Sharif has been appointed the commander of the Saudi-led 39-nation military coalition to combat terrorism.

The purpose of the alliance is to “protect the Islamic nation from the evils of all terrorist groups… whatever their sect.

The coalition has stated that it will fight terrorists in “Iraq, Syria, Libya, Egypt and Afghanistan”.
However, the alliance has been criticised for enforcing the same sectarian and regional cleavages that have plagued the Middle East for decades.

For one, it does not include Iran and is “Sunni-only”.
An international alliance that side-lines Iran is bound make the sectarian dimensions of the war in Syria and Yemen more pronounced. Iran, as part of the alliance could have been pressurised to moderate its positions. While the US has welcomed the alliance to combat IS, it has been called “a sectarian coalition” by Hakeem Azameli, a member of the Security and Defense Commission in the Iraqi parliament. German Defense Minister Ursula von der Leyen also stressed that it should be a part of the Vienna process involving all countries fighting against IS like the US, Europe, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and also include Iran and China.

Secondly, Pakistan not joining and heading such a coalition may have been the last straw for Saudi Arabia.

In 2015 the Saudi government asked Islamabad for warplanes, warships and soldiers to assist in the conflict against Houthi forces in Yemen besides joining the Saudi-led military coalition and was refused.

The Saudi government was upset and stated, “The Kingdom felt betrayed”. While pledging military support to the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC) heavy alliance feels a betrayal of our sovereign stand to not become part of the Middle Eastern quagmire, continually offending the GCC countries is not pragmatic either.

The combined strength of the alliance presents a formidable force. This strength is further bolstered with the intimidation value of Pakistan’s nuclear weapons and Turkish industrial and military expertise. But the alliance may be unable to intimidate the enemy as most countries in the alliance have deep-rooted problems of terrorism, or supporting terrorism, or are tied to the direction the US or NATO forces want to take in the region.

While it is natural to be sceptical about an Islamic military alliance, at least the right man is in charge.
Pakistan needs to clean up the mess of terrorism at home, before putting its soldiers in Syria or Iraq.
Hopefully General Sharif can make sure Pakistan is not forced to take decisions that would make it a party to one of the bloodiest and most complex humanitarian disasters of our time.

All The Nuclear Horns Are Catching Up (Daniel 8)

Carter says nuclear-armed foes catching up to the US

By JAMIE MCINTYRE • 11/3/16 12:41 PM

Defense Secretary Ash Carter delivered an impassioned defense of the Pentagon’s extensive and expensive program to rebuild all three legs of the U.S. nuclear triad, arguing America’s adversaries have been strengthening their nuclear capabilities, while the U.S. has allowed its arsenal to fall into disrepair.

Speaking at a change of command ceremony at U.S. Strategic Command at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska, Carter called nuclear deterrence the bedrock of U.S. security, and said it would be a mistake to think spending less on nuclear weapons would prompt America’s foes to spend less as well.

“The evidence is to the contrary,” Carter said. “They have consistently invested in nuclear weapons during a quarter-century pause in U.S. investment.”

Carter said while the U.S. made only modest investments in maintaining its aging Cold War nuclear arsenal of land-based missiles, submarines and bombers, other countries were busy amassing formidable nuclear forces.

“While we didn’t build anything new for 25 years, and neither did our allies, others did — including Russia, North Korea, China, Pakistan, India, and for a period of time, Iran,” Carter said. “We can’t wait any longer.”

The Pentagon’s plan to rebuild its strategic forces is estimated to cost $1 trillion over 30 years, and includes replacing nuclear air-launched cruise missiles with long-range standoff weapon that can be delivered by a new stealthy B-21 bomber, a new ballistic submarine fleet to replace the Ohio-class subs, the Ground-Based Strategic Deterrent to replacing aging Minuteman ballistic missiles, and state-of-the-art nuclear command, control and communications systems.

Carter also acknowledged that the U.S. has also failed to properly appreciate and incentivize the people who carry out the nuclear deterrence mission, and Carter promised that underinvestment would be corrected as well.

“You deter large-scale nuclear attack against the United States and our allies,” Carter told the enlisted personnel gathered in a large hangar. “You help convince potential adversaries that they can’t escalate their way out of a failed conventional aggression. You assure our allies that our extended deterrence guarantees are credible.”

The Sunni versus the Shia Horn

 

Imam Khamenei: Saudi Killing of Yemeni People Worst Type of Terrorism

Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Sayyed Ali Khamenei says Saudi Arabia’s killing of Yemenis is “the worst type of terrorism.”

“Terrorism is not defined as terror acts committed by some groups only, but massacres at the hands of certain governments, such as the Saudi attack on people in a mourning procession in Yemen which left hundreds killed and injured, is the worst type of terrorism,” the Leader said in a meeting with visiting Finnish President Sauli Niinistö in Tehran on Wednesday.

Ayatollah Khamenei also described terrorism as one of the “painful” sufferings gripping the human society, and called for a sincere fight against the scourge.

“Countering terrorism needs the serious resolve of all those who have an influence within global powers,” the Leader said, calling on world pundits and governments to take measures to deal with the phenomenon.

Ayatollah Khamenei also said the US and certain Western countries are not sincere in the fight against terrorism.

“These governments calculate all issues based on their own interests, and they do not think about eradicating the malady of terrorism in Iraq or Syria,” the Leader added.

Ayatollah Khamenei further criticized UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon’s failure to end and condemn the Saudi war on Yemen.

“The UN secretary general said explicitly that it is not possible for the body to condemn the killing of Yemeni children as the UN depends on the Saudi government’s money,” the Leader said, stressing this approach is indicative of the “wretched ethical status” of politicians at the helm of international organizations.

Source: Press TV