Wednesday, May 23, 2018

With the Antichrist, Iraqi Nationalism is on the Rise

A small vehicle drives past a poster of Shiite leader Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City, east of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on May 14, 2018. AHMAD AL-RUBAYE—AFP/Getty Images
Iraq Just Got Its Own Version of Donald Trump
James Muldoon is a lecturer in political science at the University of Exeter, U.K., and is the editor of 'Trumping the Mainstream: The Conquest of Democratic Politics by the Populist Right'
Alttahir is an Iraqi-born Middle-East expert based in London. She has worked on projects in Baghdad and Kabul.
He has been described as an impulsive, narcissistic egoist who lives in the shadow of his father. He’s also a populist, a political outsider who has hurtled to political power thanks to a surprise election win. This is not a description of U.S. President Donald Trump, but rather of cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr, whose political coalition recently won Iraq’s parliamentary election.
The election on May 12 was the first since the defeat of the Islamic State militant group and the failed Kurdish bid for independence from Iraq last year. These two successes for Baghdad raised expectations among the country’s political establishment of victory at the polls.
The final results announced early Saturday gave Al-Sadr’s bloc 54 seats, more than any other group but still falling short of a majority in the 329-seat Parliament. (Now begins the complex process of building a coalition government.) The success of the militant-turned-populist preacher—who ran on an ‘Iraq First’ style campaign—represents a fundamental shift in Iraqi politics and is cause for grave concern among ordinary citizens who have suffered years of dictatorship, sanctions and consecutive wars. The average Iraqi living outside Baghdad still can’t reliably switch on a light or run a shower, let alone find a job with a living wage paid on time or attend a decent school.
Al-Sadr’s electoral victory is indicative of the Iraqi people’s rejection of self-serving Western intervention in the country. While the West has been preoccupied with gaining political influence, a real opportunity has been squandered to foster a culture of democracy and respect for human rights. The Iraqi people are now fed up with a lack of progress on addressing poverty, corruption and the need for essential services.
The parallels between Trump and Al-Sadr are uncanny. Take the circumstances of their election. Like the American president, Al-Sadr has been elected as a populist, nationalist candidate who ran as an anti-establishment champion of the common man. He framed his political opponents as out-of-touch, Western-influenced elites, removed from the everyday struggles of average Iraqis.
Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate the results of the parliamentary election at the Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 13, 2018.

Supporters of Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr celebrate the results of the parliamentary election at the Tahrir Square, Baghdad, Iraq, on May 13, 2018. Murtadha Sudani—Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
However, in Iraq, the election had record-high abstentions and a voter turnout of just 44.52 percent, the lowest since the first multiparty elections of 2005. The lower than expected turnout is another sign of people’s frustrations with the government and the democratic process.
Al-Sadr has benefited from this rising wave of discontent with Baghdad’s broken political system. Much like Trump’s promise to “drain the swamp,” Al-Sadr vowed to reduce corruption, fight foreign interference and deliver political and economic reforms for ordinary Iraqis. Ironically, both anti-establishment figures embody the characteristics of the “elite” they claim to oppose. Just as Trump is, in fact, a well-connected billionaire, Al-Sadr descends from one of the most influential political families in Iraq and has been a fixture of Iraqi politics for the past decade.
Al-Sadr has also made questionable alliances, embracing the Iraqi Communist Party and Saudi Arabia’s Mohammed bin Salman, angering Iran and the U.S. This reveals an opportunistic mindset similar to that demonstrated by Trump in his foreign policy decisions.

But unlike Trump, Al-Sadr is a confirmed warlord. His Mahdi Army, now revived as the Peace Companies, has been responsible for some of the worst atrocities in recent Iraqi history. Al-Sadr also exists in a far more fragile political system, more vulnerable to instability and collapse. His electoral victory represents a backward slide for democracy in Iraq and the stability of the Middle East.
The past 10 years of Muqtada Al-Sadr’s influence over Sadr City, an administrative district in Baghdad, provide some indication of the possible future direction of Iraqi politics. Most troubling is his willingness to use violence to achieve his goals and his disregard for the democratic process. He opposed the U.S.-backed Interim Governing Council established after Saddam Hussein’s fall and attempted to establish a rival government. He has previously questioned the efficacy of peaceful protest and has urged his followers to terrorize his enemies.

The sincerity of Al-Sadr’s attempt to rebrand himself as a nationalist unifier will only be visible with time. As a conservative religious cleric, he has been largely opposed to women’s participation in politics and his followers have been violently intolerant of the LGBT community. The protection of minorities would be in question, since his Mahdi Army has played a key role in fueling Iraq’s sectarian conflicts. His continued success may embolden Shiite factions to oppress Sunni and Christian minorities.
On the international front, Al-Sadr’s victory mirrors the rise of populist and authoritarian leaders across the globe. His surprise win poses a grave danger to the respect for human rights and democratic culture. And it’s a worrying sign for moderates and progressives hoping for a more secular and pluralist Iraq.

Building up the Nuclear Horns in the Middle East (Daniel 7/8)

President Donald Trump’s recent decision to withdraw the United States from the Iran nuclear deal and his offer to help Saudi Arabia build nuclear reactors raise the question of just how wild a nuclearized Middle East might get. The dangers of a regional arms race are real. If Iran resumes its nuclear weapons program, the Saudis will certainly pursue their own — and Algeria, Egypt, and Turkey might well follow.
Fortunately, the worst is hardly inevitable. But avoiding it will require deference to energy economics (which, in the Middle East, favor nonnuclear over nuclear forms of energy) and promoting rules against enriching uranium and reprocessing spent reactor fuel (the keys to nuclear weapons development).
Iran could get a bomb within a year. We already know it worked on a 10-kiloton bomb design. As for enriching weapons-grade uranium, Tehran could likely revamp its existing fleet of centrifuges to produce enough for its first bomb in eight to 10 months.
Then, there is the unspoken option of culling plutonium from spent fuel generated from its power reactor at Bushehr. Assuming Iran currently lacks a small, crude chemical separation plant (which could be hidden within a moderate sized warehouse), Tehran could build one from scratch in as little as six months. (The design for such a plant was made public 40 years ago.) Such a plant could process one bomb’s worth of plutonium in about a week and a bomb’s worth per day after that. Given Tehran’s past work on weapons design, it’s reasonable to assume that Iran would have a working implosion device on the ready and could prepare plutonium or highly enriched uranium to place into the device’s core relatively quickly.
Recent analysis also shows that even if Iran used “reactor-grade plutonium” from its power reactor at Bushehr, it could produce a compact  9- to 12-kiloton weapon, (which would accord with Iran’s earlier effort to perfect a 10-kiloton missile warhead) ) using 1950s weapons technology. If Iran unloaded Bushehr’s fuel before it was fully burned, as it did in 2012, it could build even more powerful weapons still.
Tehran, though, is unlikely to sprint toward such bomb options if for no other reason than that Trump has warned it against doing so; the mullahs know that a rush to build a bomb could lead to U.S. military strikes. Iran also would like to keep China, Russia, Britain, and the European Union on its good side. Getting a bomb or rushing to build one would risk all this.
Iranian nuclear or military provocations could prompt Riyadh to develop a nuclear weapons capability as a hedge.
Iranian nuclear or military provocations could prompt Riyadh to develop a nuclear weapons capability as a hedge.
Indeed, Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman and Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir both are on record saying that if Iran acquires a nuclear weapons capability, Saudi Arabia will do whatever it takes to “do the same.” This could mean a number of things.
Iranian nuclear or military provocations could prompt Riyadh to develop a nuclear weapons capability as a hedge.
Riyadh could call on China, which sold the Saudis nuclear-capable missiles, or Pakistan, whose bomb program the Saudis funded, to base their nuclear weapons on Saudi soil. China and Pakistan could do this legally under the Nuclear Nonproliferation Treaty so long as the nuclear weapons remained under Chinese or Pakistani control.
The Saudis, however, would surely prefer to maintain control themselves, which gives rise to the possibility of China or Pakistan helping Riyadh acquire the means to enrich its own uranium. This could be done by sharing information that would allow the Saudis to get the parts and plans needed to complete a plant of their own.
Based on an analysis of past centrifuge enrichment programs, the Saudis might perfect a plant in one to three years and produce their first bomb’s worth of uranium a year or so later at a cost of only tens of millions of dollars. As for perfecting a nuclear weapons design, this would likely be accomplished in parallel as has been done in nearly every other bomb program.
Alternatively, Riyadh might buy a 1,000-megawatt reactor from one of the major nuclear suppliers — the Korea Electric Power Corporation, Westinghouse, EDF, Rosatom, or China — bring it online; build a crude, small reprocessing plant; and separate plutonium from the reactor’s spent fuel. Judging from the recent nuclear experience of the United Arab Emirates, completing a large power reactor might take roughly a decade. If the Saudis made good on their promise to build a smaller South Korean-designed 100-megawatt electrical power reactor and decided to construct a small reprocessing plant, Riyadh could conceivably have its first batch of plutonium for use in weapons in as little as five years.
The worry, then, would be that others might follow. Egypt has long operated a large Argentine-designed research reactor capable of producing more than a bomb’s worth of plutonium each year and has tinkered with reprocessing. Both Turkey and Egypt have begun construction of several large, Russian-built VVER pressurized-water reactors. Turkey is also developing a series of indigenous nuclear-capable ballistic missiles.
If Egypt develops a weapons option, some fear that its traditional rival, Algeria, would then play catch-up. For decades, Algiers has operated a large research reactor that has generated tons of spent reactor fuel containing what could potentially be many bombs’ worth of plutonium. It also has hot cells — small labs that allow the safe handling of radioactive materials, which can be used to separate plutonium from the other hot spent reactor fuel waste products.
Finally, there’s Israel, which already has an estimated nuclear arsenal of 100 to more than 300 warheads. Its production reactor near Dimona has been operated to produce tritium to keep the yield of Israel’s weapons boosted (tritium has a half-life of 12.3 years, so the weapons periodically must be “topped off”) and plutonium to fuel its nuclear weapons. It also operates centrifuges to enrich uranium for its nuclear weapons program. The Dimona reactor is more than a half-century old, but Israel hopes to operate it for another two decades.
The Middle East is a darkening nuclear neighborhood. Nonetheless, any pitched regional nuclear rivalry is several years away and can be avoided.
The Middle East is a darkening nuclear neighborhood. Nonetheless, any pitched regional nuclear rivalry is several years away and can be avoided.
The Middle East is a darkening nuclear neighborhood. Nonetheless, any pitched regional nuclear rivalry is several years away and can be avoided.
First, apart from Iran’s Bushehr plant, there are no power reactors yet operating in the Middle East, and without them, it’s difficult to justify enriching or reprocessing. Turkey’s massive Russian project is slouching ahead but just lost 49 percent of its financing. Japan financially pulled out of Turkey’s other planned nuclear project.
Meanwhile, Egypt’s planned Russian plant near Dabaa won’t be cheap: Cairo will have to shell out many billions of dollars to repay the Russians. Given Egypt’s economic woes, the plant may never be built. Finally, there’s Saudi Arabia, which optimistically announced it might spend more than $80 billion building reactors by 2040. Riyadh, however, will have difficulty balancing its current budget unless the price of oil reaches and stays at or above $85 to $87 a barrel. It has already drawn heavily from its financial reserves and is having difficulty selling shares of its key asset, the state-owned oil giant Saudi Aramco. The pace of Saudi nuclearization may be slow.
Second, nuclear power in the region is increasingly uneconomic. All of these countries have access to growing reserves of cheap natural gas and renewable energy sources, the costs of which are declining dramatically in the region.
All of these countries have access to growing reserves of cheap natural gas and renewable energy sources, the costs of which are declining dramatically in the region.
These include wind and solar power, which, along with other renewables, provide power 24/7 at rates lower than nuclear. Meanwhile, as poor as the economic case for nuclear power may be in the Middle East, the financial case for enriching uranium or reprocessing spent fuel is weaker still.
All of these countries have access to growing reserves of cheap natural gas and renewable energy sources, the costs of which are declining dramatically in the region.
Fears that these dangerous nuclear activities could be used to make nuclear weapons is why Washington initially refused the UAE civilian nuclear assistance in 2009 until it abandoned enriching and reprocessing. Trump officials have wisely intimated that similar demands may be holding up Riyadh’s signature on a U.S.-Saudi nuclear cooperation deal. The White House and Congress should hold firm on these demands, as well as the renewal of U.S. civilian nuclear cooperation with Egypt (up for renewal in 2021) and Turkey (up for renewal in 2023).
These demands also should feature, as Secretary Pompeo has made clear, in any future deal with Iran — getting Tehran to forswear enriching and reprocessing as the UAE did. Israel ought to be encouraged to adopt them as well. Finally, Washington needs to work with others to promote nonnuclear energy cooperation wherever it makes economic sense rather than continue to push nuclear energy in countries where it doesn’t.
This may seem ambitious — but the stark alternative in the Middle East is chaos.

Iran Will Soon Go Nuclear (Daniel 8:4)
Iran Says Europe’s Support For Nuclear Deal Isn’t Enough After America’s Withdrawal
“We have to preserve this agreement so we don’t have to negotiate a new agreement,” the EU’s energy chief said.
TEHRAN (Reuters) - The European Union is not doing enough to preserve the benefits for Iran from the 2015 international nuclear pact following the withdrawal of the United States, Iran’s foreign minister told the EU’s energy chief on Sunday.
Miguel Arias Canete, European Commissioner for energy and climate, said Tehran wanted the 28-nation bloc to act fast to preserve its oil trade with Iran, and to consider making direct euro-denominated payments for Iranian oil to Iran’s central bank, bypassing the U.S. financial system.
“With the withdrawal of America .... the European political support for the accord is not sufficient,” Mohammad Javad Zarif told Arias Canete in Tehran, Iran’s state news agency IRNA reported.
Since President Donald Trump announced on May 8 that he would pull the United States out of the deal, the U.S. Treasury said Washington would reimpose a wide array of Iran-related sanctions after the expiry of 90- and 180-day wind-down periods, including sanctions aimed at Iran’s oil sector and transactions with its central bank.
The EU leaders have pledged to try to keep Iran’s oil trade and investment flowing, but conceded that would not be easy.
“We have to preserve this agreement so we don’t have to negotiate a new agreement,” Arias Canete told Western journalists after two days of meetings with Iranian officials in Tehran.
“Our message is very clear. This is a nuclear agreement that works.”
Under the deal, Tehran agreed to curb its nuclear work in return for the lifting of most Western sanctions. With the threat of new U.S. sanctions looming over them, some foreign firms have already started signaling their intention to pull back from Iran.
The announcement of the possible withdrawal by major European companies from their cooperation with Iran is not consistent with the European Union’s commitment to implementing (the nuclear deal),” Zarif was quoted as saying.
He appeared to be referring to announcements by several large European companies last week suggesting their activities in Iran would end or be curtailed because of the reimposition of U.S. sanctions.
A top adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Sunday cast doubt on whether European nations could be trusted to save the agreement.
“The contradictions in the words of European authorities are suspicious. We hope that our government officials will be able to secure the necessary guarantees in their negotiations, as one cannot rely on those who vacillate and speak contradictory words,” IRNA quoted Ali Akbar Velayati as saying.
Following the withdrawal of Washington, Iran said it would remain in the deal only if Tehran achieved its goals - namely being protected from sanctions on key sectors of its economy such as oil - in cooperation with other signatories of the pact.
EU investment in Iran, mainly from Germany, France and Italy, has jumped to more than 20 billion euros since the lifting of sanctions in 2016, in projects ranging from aerospace to energy.
But to improve its oil-reliant economy, Tehran needs to attract $100 billion in foreign investment to boost its oil industry and major western investors have stayed away from Iran, partly because of the remaining U.S. sanctions on Iran.
“The announcement, in cascade, of European companies that will not keep investing in Iran are making the things much more complicated at the moment,” Arias Canete said.
“So what he (Zarif) is asking the European Union is that we have to have concrete solutions in order to implement the European Union commitments, which is something that we fully recognize.”
The options being considered by the EU to keep Tehran in the nuclear deal include new credit lines for Tehran, increased energy cooperation and implementing EU laws to block European companies from caving in to U.S. sanctions.
Arias Canete said Iranian officials were keen to mitigate the impact of U.S. sanctions under a proposal for EU governments to make direct euro-denominated payments for Iranian oil to Iran’s central bank, bypassing the U.S. financial system.
“The EU will consider it,” he said, adding that the EU needed to deliver fast on preserving oil trade with Iran.
(Writing by Parisa Hafezi; Editing by Mark Potter, William Maclean)

Tuesday, May 22, 2018

Continuing Despair Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11:2)

Despair haunts Gaza as blockade remains after bloody protests
With crossings closed, some travellers have been waiting months for exit permits
Oliver Holmes in Gaza
Sun 20 May 2018 02.00 EDT
Last modified on Sun 20 May 2018 03.09 EDT
In a stuffy basketball stadium in southern Gaza, the stands are packed. Young people, the elderly and families sit on blue and yellow plastic seats, their eyes fixed on the court.
But there is no game, and these people are not fans but hopeful travellers. The crowds carry suitcases with them and have been waiting to leave, some of them for months.
In the middle of the cavernous room, an official sits at a wooden table with a list of people who have been approved that day to exit into Egypt. When he calls a name, that person can join a bus heading across the border.
A 60-year-old woman said she had been attempting to get permission to leave from the Egyptian authorities for a year and four months. Although a Palestinian, she has lived for the past three decades in Germany, where she has citizenship, but came back for what she hoped would be a short visit to her parents.
“I registered to travel [out of Gaza] a week after I arrived. This is the first time I’m on the list,” said Mufida, holding up her German passport. “No one’s name has been called out today,” she added.
Mufida, who asked to give only her first name, received a call last week that she had a permit to leave but would need to wait for her name to be called. For four days she has waited at the stadium. Rumours swirl that several thousand dollars in bribes will get you across, but Mufida smiled and said she did not have the cash. “Nobody should come back here,” she said. Her seven children are waiting for her in Germany.
A decade-long blockade on Gaza, the tiny strip of land surrounded by Israel, Egypt and the Mediterranean, has led to the collapse of its economy and the enclave is regularly referred to as an open-air prison. It had been hoped that close to two months of protests, sparked by anger and desperation, would lessen this crisis for two million Palestinians. Since late March, tens of thousands have gathered weekly along the frontier with Israel to demonstrate against the conditions they live under.
Amid an international outcry and calls for investigations, Israeli fire has killed more than 110 people and thousands of others have been shot, mostly in the legs, according to health officials.
The movement peaked on Monday, when an estimated 40,000 descended on the frontier, many throwing stones towards Israeli forces stationed on sandbanks behind the fence. There were attempts to breach the perimeter, although none succeeded, and many more of the wounded were shot dozens of metres back from the fortified fence, including paramedics.
Monday’s gatherings were focused on dismay over the opening of the US embassy in Jerusalem on the same day. And the protest organisers have called the movement the “Great March of Return”, demanding refugees and their descendants – two-thirds of Gaza’s residents – be allowed to return to homes lost in the 1948 war surrounding Israel’s creation.
But the primary goal was ending the blockade, according to Mkhaimar Abusada, a political scientist at Gaza’s Al-Azhar University. “That is the number-one aim of the protest, even if the slogan is the Great March of Return,” he said. “The most important thing for the protest was to break the siege, to live in freedom and dignity, to live a better life.”
Israel says it is forced to control access to the territory for security reasons, although the UN sees the blockade as collective punishment.

A Palestinian protester in clouds of tear gas. Photograph: Mohammed Saber/EPA
Egypt, which accuses Gaza’s rulers, Hamas, of smuggling out fighters and weapons, only periodically opens the strip’s southern Rafah crossing. Trucks carrying cement and wood were seen there last week, and Cairo said the exit would remain open for the month of Ramadan – the longest uninterrupted period since 2013.
The past few days have seen roughly 500 people cross per day, although thousands remain on lists. Travel is mostly restricted to patients and students enrolled in universities abroad, as well as dual citizens.
Israel, however, has not significantly changed access at its crossings. It says Palestinians ransacked one crossing, although it later sent some medical supplies into Gaza through it. Hamas rejected the truckloads of aid, calling it a propaganda stunt. Another four trucks filled with medical supplies from Jordan were allowed to cross on Friday, the UN said, although access remains severely restricted.
The protests have failed to elicit much support in Israel, where the bloodshed has been framed in large part as a response to a potential security threat to Israelis. One Israeli soldier has been injured since protests began. A poll conducted this month found 83% of Jewish Israelis believed the army’s open-fire policy was justified.
Israel’s government blames Hamas for the deaths of people killed by Israeli forces, saying it has pushed civilians into the line of fire. Defence Minister Avigdor Liberman called Hamas a “bunch of cannibals”.
Yehuda Shaul, one of the founders of Breaking the Silence, an anti-occupation Israeli human rights group run by military veterans, said most of Israeli Jewish society had “sadly enough, bought into the talking points of the government”.
“It was really devastating to see the response of mainstream Israel, so to speak, on this,” he said.
Voices of outrage have been largely muted and sidelined. Small protests across the country condemning the army’s use of live fire have barely reached the low hundreds. “There was a voice of dissent. It’s a minority, but it’s there,” Shaul said. “There is a voice and we are proud of it, but we are a minority.”

The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6:12)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

The Big One Awaits
Published: March 25, 2001
Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of ”The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,” which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.
Q. What have you found?
A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.
Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?
 A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.
Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?
A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.
Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.
A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.
Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?
A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.
Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?
A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement. There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.
Photo: Alexander Gates, a Rutgers geologist, is mapping a part of the Ramapo Fault, site of previous earthquakes. (John W. Wheeler for The New York Times)

No Man Can Stop the Nuclear War (Revelation 8) the Brink of Nuclear War, Who Will Lead?
Robert Dodge May 21, 2018
Ignoring international partners, world public opinion and action, the U.S. took additional steps these past weeks to renounce another international leadership role, this time in nuclear disarmament. On the same day that Austria became the 9th nation to ratify the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, President Trump pulled the U.S. out of the Iran Nuclear Deal while the US House of Representatives Armed Forces Committee approved funding of the submarine launched ballistic missile (SLBM) "low-yield" nuclear warheads – each action fueling the new arms race and moving us closer to the brink of nuclear war.
The world’s non-nuclear nations have given up on waiting for the United States and other nuclear nations to fulfill our Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty obligation to "work in good faith to eliminate nuclear weapons." They are refusing to be held hostage any longer to the threats of the "nuclear nine" realizing from the 2013 "Nuclear Famine, 2 Billion At Risk" scientific report that there is no such thing as a "limited nuclear war." Any regional nuclear war has the potential to cause climate change potentiating a global famine. The non-nuclear nations have taken their future into their own hands, adopting last year’s "Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons" declaring nuclear weapons illegal to have, develop, use or threaten to use. Once 50 nations have ratified the Treaty, it becomes international law and the nations that continue to possess these weapons will be further stigmatized as pariah states. Vietnam became the 10th nation to ratify the Treaty on Thursday.
Today, the world is in a far more precarious state than it has been in years. US relations with Russia are at their lowest point in decades with tension over Ukraine and Syria bringing our forces into direct conflict. Relations with China have deteriorated with the Trump-initiated trade war harming farmers and American manufacturers as we remove ourselves from much of the international commerce world. The recycled Israeli-provided "intelligence" on Iran used to breech our commitment to the international community and unilaterally walk away is reminiscent of the "intelligence" on Iraq’s nuclear stockpiles that justified our longest war in Iraq. Fake intelligence.
The sophomoric rhetoric toward North Korea puts the entire Korean Peninsula and region at risk and bodes ominously in the event that it does not go well or fails to happen. This is occurring at a time when diplomacy ought to be our greatest effort yet our state department has been decimated and our National Security Advisor John Bolton has both advocated for preemptively striking North Korea and previously for the decimation of the United Nations.
The just completed U.N. NPT PrepCom conference with its lack of consensus and doublespeak by the nuclear states regarding their modernization programs provided little assurance to the non-nuclear weapons states that they were serious in their legal commitment to abolish nuclear weapons.
It is this climate that prompted the Bulletin of Atomic Scientists to move their Doomsday Clock to two minutes ‘til midnight, nuclear apocalypse, this past January – the closest to midnight since the height of the Cold War in 1953. Yet this is a crisis of our making and a reality that does not have to be. We can take a different path and move back from the brink of nuclear war. The invoking of luck that a nuclear war either by intention, error or miscalculation is not a security policy. Ultimately, luck runs out.
The choice is ours. The American people when provided with the facts about nuclear weapons overwhelmingly oppose their use and want to see them eliminated. There are concrete actions that we can take to move back from the brink. Yet few in Congress, as demonstrated by ill-considered support for the Trump Nuclear Doctrine, have the courage to lead. Fortunately the people are taking action invoking the adage that, "When the people lead, the leaders will follow." There is a movement sweeping across the US generated by the medical and scientific communities. This "Back from the Brink" grassroots campaign is being endorsed by cities, towns, medical and other professional organizations, faith communities and others. This call to prevent nuclear war asks the United States to lead a global effort by: 1) Renouncing the option of using nuclear weapons first 2) Ending the sole, unchecked authority of any president to launch a nuclear attack 3) Taking the US nuclear weapons off hair-trigger alert 4) Canceling the plan to replace its entire arsenal with enhanced weapons, and 5) Actively pursuing a verifiable agreement among nuclear-armed states to eliminate their nuclear arsenals. This campaign can be endorsed by all at The people are responding and making their voices heard. Who among our leaders has the understanding and courage to lead us back from the brink?
Robert F. Dodge, M.D., serves on the boards of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation, Beyond War, Physicians for Social Responsibility Los Angeles, and Citizens for Peaceful Resolutions, and writes for PeaceVoice.

Antichrist Begins “Reforms” In Iraq

Iraq's Al Sadr advances in forming a government free of Iran's influence
Mina Aldroubi
Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr meets with ambassadors from Turkey, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Syria and Kuwait, in Najaf, Iraq, on Saturday. Reuters
Iraq's Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr met with Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi on Saturday, signalling that talks to form a coalition were progressing, hours after the cleric met with ambassadors from neighbouring countries that notably excluded Iran.
The nationalist cleric, who has been highly critical of Iran's role in the country, has ruled out forming an alliance with Tehran's allies in Baghdad.
Iraj Masjedi, Iran's ambassador to Iraq, was not invited to the talks. But the cleric's media office has not clarified whether the pair had held a separate meeting.
Mr Al Sadr has held talks with the ambassadors of Turkey, Saudi, Kuwait, Syria and Jordan to discuss bilateral relations.
He called for the support of neighbouring states in forming a technocratic government but stressed this was not an invitation for "interference".
The final results of Iraq's elections confirmed a breakthrough for the nationalist cleric, who was ahead of the internationally favoured Mr Al Abadi.
But his meeting with Mr Al Abadi indicated that the pair could form an alliance in the new government.
"During our meeting, we agreed to work together and with other parties to expedite the process of forming a new Iraqi government," Mr Abadi said, at a joint press conference.
"It will be a strong government, capable of providing to its citizens' services, security and economic prosperity".

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr, left, and Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi said progress was being made towards a coalition government, at a press conference in Baghdad, Iraq, on May 20, 2018. Reuters
Mr Sadr, who ruled himself out of becoming prime minister, is looking to be the kingmaker and form a technocrat government from a dozen parties.
Although Mr Al Sadr's Marching Towards Reform alliance was the biggest winner in the parliamentary elections, it fell short of a majority in the May 12 vote, which saw record high abstentions with just 44.52 per cent turnout – the lowest since the first multiparty elections in 2005.
"Our door is open to anyone as long as they want to build the nation, and that it be an Iraqi decision," Mr Al Sadr said.
Hussein Al Adely, spokesman of Mr Al Abadi's Victory Alliance, said that the meeting between the two leaders does not mean they would be forming a coalition.
"It’s too early to discuss coalition formation, this was a meeting to discuss the various viewpoints of other political blocs," Mr Al Adely said.
The Fatah bloc led by Hadi Al Amiri, one of the most powerful figures in Iraq, came in second. Mr Amiri, who leads an umbrella of predominantly Shiite paramilitary groups, has maintained close ties with Iran for decades.
The meeting on Saturday demonstrated that Mr Al Sadr would be accepting of Mr Al Abadi as prime minister, but it is likely that he will expect the United States-backed politician to show change to his supporters, Renad Mansour, senior research fellow at London's Chatham House, told The National.
"The immediate and obvious choice would be that Al Abadi and Al Sadr would come together to bring in some of the Sunni Kurdish groups and eventually maybe bring in Fatah to some extent, to sideline line Nouri Al Maliki’s State of Law coalition," Dr Mansour said.
Before the election, Tehran publicly stated it would not allow Mr Al Sadr’s bloc to govern close ally Iraq. Iran has previously influenced the choice of prime minister.
Winning the largest number of seats does not automatically guarantee that Mr Al Sadr will be able to handpick a prime minister.
Parties will have to align themselves to try to form a bloc large enough to achieve the parliamentary majority necessary to nominate a candidate. The government should be formed within 90 days of the official results, but negotiations are expected to drag on for months.
The election dealt a blow to Mr Abadi, but he could still emerge as a compromise candidate palatable to all sides because he has managed the competing interests of the US and Iran – unwitting allies in the war against ISIS – during his term in office.
During his meeting with the five ambassadors, the influential cleric pointed out that “the fundamental principle of our ties with neighboring countries is based on our friendship,” and called for the strengthening of existing relationships “in the interests of the public".
In recent days, Mr Al Sadr also met with Ammar Al Hakim, whose Hikma Movement trailed in seventh place, as well as with ambassadors from Iraq's neighboring countries, including Saudi Arabia, Tehran's major rival in the Middle East.