Saturday, December 14, 2019

Global Dangers of the First Nuclear War (Revelation 8 )

Of the two proliferations–vertical and horizontal, the latter is said to be on the strategic agenda of Pakistan. While the first is related to modernisation of nuclear arsenals by the nuclear power states, the second meant spread of nuclear-related base materials, technology and technological knowledge to aspiring nuclear weapon states and to non-state actors. If the nuclear arsenals of countries increase in size and in average weapon yield in the  future, then multiple attacks on cities would become more likely in future war scenarios. This would further increase the risk of firestorms in cities suffering nuclear attack, which would increase the probability of toxic and radioactive debris reaching adjacent countries. It would also pose greater risk of regional climate disturbances arising from nuclear war. The use of weapons of mass destruction is the very worst way for nations to solve international disputes.
In context of Pakistan’s ambitious nuclear agenda is now drawing a not-so-unwilling Sri Lanka into the brewing nuclear whirlwind in south Asia. Evidently, ‘Pakistan is all set to begin consultations with Sri Lanka to help set up a nuclear power plant in Trincomallee’s,Sampur.
A hurt and frustrated Sri Lanka, so rendered by the outcome of the recently concluded United Nations Human Rights Commission (UNHRC) session, in all probability is very enthusiastic about the proposed venture, not so much because of the economic benefits it will bring about as it is because of the opportunity this new partnership presents to avenge the isolation, she suffered at the hands of India at said session.
Added to this impending disaster is the more immediate issue of deviating state capital away from poverty alleviation. It is therefore, imperative for all South Asian states to appreciate that compromising regional solid will amount to compromising the interests of individual states.
Although, the issue of nuclear proliferation remained at alert regionally and globally, the nuclear test by North Korea in October 2006, put renewed focus on the dangers of nuclear proliferation. Following the test, New Delhi swiftly condemned the test and indirectly highlighted Islamabad’s contribution to Pyongyang’s nuclear test.
On the other hand, Islamabad refuted any suggestion that the activities of the A.Q. Khan network had contributed to the said test and stated that North Korea’s nuclear programme is based on plutonium while Pakistan relies on uranium.
In this manner, for time being, both India and Pakistan tried to ensure that proliferation in South Asia was not equated with proliferation in North-east Asia. To a certain extent, the Bush administration obliged the sub-continental nuclear powers, as senior officials dismissed any parallels between North Korea’s path to nuclear weapons to those of India and Pakistan.
In the context, while Pakistan denied any links to the test, it did not help Islamabad’s case when Japanese sources stated that days before Pyongyang’s test, several Pakistani nuclear technicians arrived in North Korea through China. This augmented the suspicions that Pakistani agencies may have had some role in the test, perhaps through data sharing before or after explosion.
Role of Khan’s network
The A.Q. Khan’s network which provided nuclear assistance to North Korea and Iran has represented the most serious proliferation problem in recent years. Since Khan’s public confession in February 2004, Musharraf regime has consistently asserted that this network was the work of a rogue scientist and that the Pakistani government and its military leaders were not involved in these activities.
Analysts and officials in Pakistan as well as in the United States have expressed scepticism over Khan’s confession and the implicit professed innocence of the Pakistani political and military establishment. A highly publicised report released in April 2007 by the London-based International Institute for Strategic Studies, also stated that individuals and entities involved in the network could still be dormant and can conceivably be reactivated in the future.
Moreover, A.Q. Khan claimed in a signed statement that successive army chiefs in the 1990s, Generals MirzaAslam Beg and JehangirKaramat, had authorised the sales of nuclear technology. While this could be taken as Khan’s attempts to remove the burden of guilt, it is true that the military was closely associated with the nuclear and missile programmes.
In fact, in 1990, General Beg warned US government officials that Pakistan would be forced to provide nuclear technology to Tehran if Washington did not offer support to Pakistan. Other circumstantial evidence, such as visits by the Pakistani military leadership to North Korea throughout the nineties, suggests that there was a barter deal between Pyongyang and Islamabad.
Additionally, in August 2005, General Musharraf conceded that Khan had transferred centrifuge machines to North Korea through which uranium hexafluoride can be enriched for eventual processing into civilian reactors fuel or for military purposes.
Shipping out such large centrifuge machines without the military’s knowledge would have been impossible. For a country to acquire a nuclear delivery system, the decision-making process incorporates several factors, as well as the opinions of numerous government agencies to ensure compatibility among the various systems.
Dangers ahead
The issue of the Pakistani military-scientific establishment’s involvement or endorsement in the Khan’s network activities is crucial due to its implications for contemporary proliferation routes and processes. If these elements within and outside Pakistan and their methods and routes remain undiscovered, it has two broad consequences for proliferation in South Asia.
First, it allows Islamabad to potentially procure missile and nuclear technology in the future, in an attempt to catch-up with India. In this regard, a Pakistani national, Mohammed Aslam, working at the Tabani Corporation’s Moscow office, was named by the Russian government in 2006 as having attempted to acquire dual-use technology and other materials for Pakistan’s nuclear and missile development programmes.
Given Islamabad’s need to construct a secure deterrent against India, especially long-range missiles that can reach southern and eastern India, it is possible that the said case is an instance of continuing efforts to exploit non-state networks to procure prohibited equipment.
Author is Head of Department of Political Science, BNMU, West Campus, Saharsa, Bihar

Nations Clash Outside the Temple Walls (Revelation 11)

By TOI staffToday, 6:22 pm
Several thousand Palestinians protested on the Gaza border Friday, with several hundred rioting and clashing with Israeli forces, as the coastal enclave’s Hamas rulers marked 32 years since the founding of the terror group.
The Hamas-run Gaza health ministry said five Palestinians were hurt in the clashes, which included the hurling of molotov cocktails and other objects at IDF soldiers.
Video shot near the southern city of Khan Younis showed a fire breaking out on the hood of an Israel Defense Forces vehicle after it was apparently struck by a fire bomb.
No soldiers were injured.
Around 2,000 people took part in protests at various spots along the Gaza border, according to Hebrew media reports.
In addition to the border clashes, thousands took part in a pair of rallies in the Gaza Strip to mark the 1987 anniversary of Hamas’s establishment.
Fathi Hammad, a member of the Islamist terror group’s politburo, thanked Hamas fighters who fired rockets at Israel, Channel 13 news reported.
“[Prime Minister Benjamin] Netanyahu’s time is over,” he was quoted saying, in apparent reference to the Israeli premier’s political and legal woes.
Hammad also commented on Israeli captives held by Hamas, following recent reports of efforts to broker a prisoner exchange between Israel and the terror group.
“The Israeli soldiers won’t see the light until our prisoners see the light,” Channel 12 quoted him as saying.
Hamas is believed to be holding captive two Israeli citizens — Avraham Abera Mengistu and Hisham al-Sayed — who are said to have entered the Gaza Strip of their own accord in 2014-2015.
It also holds the bodies of Hadar Goldin and Oron Shaul, IDF soldiers killed in the 2014 Gaza war.
“On the issue of prisoners, the enemy’s dawdling won’t help it,” Hammad said.
He warned the armed wing of Hamas would soon unveil a “new chapter in the battle” against Israel, without elaborating.
“Hamas will cut off the hand of anyone who tries to undermine the stability of security in Gaza,” he said. “Hamas will remain a torch of glory and pride for the Palestinians.”
Palestinians attend a rally marking the 32nd anniversary of the founding of the Hamas terror group, in Khan Younis in the southern Gaza Strip, December 13, 2019. (Said Khatib/AFP)
Friday’s border demonstrations were part of the weekly March of Return protests that began last March and resumed last week after a three-week hiatus following a large-scale battle in November between the IDF and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, the second largest terror group in Gaza.
Ahead of last week’s protests, IDF Chief of Staff Aviv Kohavi said Israel had a “special opportunity” to reach a long-term ceasefire with terror groups in the Gaza Strip.
Meeting with mayors of Gaza-adjacent communities, Kohavi indicated that Israel believed it could negotiate an oft-discussed long-term ceasefire agreement with Hamas, which has been the de facto ruler of Gaza since violently overthrowing the internationally recognized Palestinian Authority in 2007.
The army chief said this is due to the success of the IDF’s recent two-day battle with the Islamic Jihad, an operation that was dubbed “Black Belt.” Unlike in previous rounds of fighting, the Izz ad-Din al-Qassam Brigades, Hamas’s armed wing, stayed on the sidelines.
For more than the past year, Hamas has negotiated a series of unofficial ceasefire understandings with Israel.
The understandings have largely entailed Israel lifting restrictions on the movement of goods and people into and out of Gaza in exchange for Hamas and other terror groups in the coastal enclave maintaining relative quiet in the border region.
However, the informal agreements have not put an end to cross-border violence, as both Israel and terror groups in Gaza have recently participated in several short flareups.

Iraqi suicide bomber kills Antichrist’s Men

Staff Writer
SAMARRA, Iraq (AFP) – Eleven Iraqi fighters of were killed north of Baghdad on Thursday, December 12 when two suicide bombers attacked a base of Saraya al-Salam, an armed group led by Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, the Iraqi army said.
The attack, which also wounded three fighters, was carried out by “a suicide terrorist,” the army said, using its standard term for Islamic State fighters.
Later, a second attacker blew up a car packed with explosives at the same site, killing another four fighters, the army said.
No group immediately claimed responsibility.
The attack took place late in the day near Tharthar lake southwest of Samarra, a longtime stronghold of Sunni jihadist groups around 100 km (65 miles) north of Baghdad.
Iraq declared victory over Islamic State in late 2017, but its sleeper cells continue to carry out attacks across the country.

Antichrist’s Men form ‘mini-state’ in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square (Revelation 13:18)

Iraqis form ‘mini-state’ in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square

With border guards, cleanup crews and hospitals, Iraqi protesters have created a mini-state in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, offering the kinds of services they say their government has failed to provide.
“We’ve done more in two months than the state has done in 16 years,” said Haydar Chaker, a construction worker from Babylon Province, south of the capital.
Everyone has their role, from cooking bread to painting murals, with a division of labor and scheduled shifts.
Chaker traveled to Baghdad with his friends after the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage to the Shiite holy city of Karbalah. His pilgrim’s tent and cooking equipment were also useful at a protest encampment.
Installed in the iconic square whose name means “liberation,” he provides three meals a day to hundreds of protesters, cooking with donated food.
The self-reliant encampment is the heart of a protest movement that seeks the radical overhaul of Iraq’s political system, and despite frequent power cuts, it never stops beating.
At the entrances to the square, dozens of guards like Abou al-Hassan oversee makeshift barricades, where men and women search incoming visitors.
“We Iraqis rub shoulders with the military from a young age, so we pick up a thing or two,” said al-Hassan, dressed in camouflage fatigues. “We don’t need special training to detect saboteurs and keep them out … or to be able to defend our state.”
However on Friday last week, their “state” came under attack, when gunmen Iraqi authorities have failed to identify stormed a parking building occupied by protesters.
After the massacre that left 24 dead, protesters installed new checkpoints and closed an 18-story building overlooking the square. Infiltrated by intelligence agents, and at the mercy of gunmen able to cross police and military roadblocks at will, protesters insist their mini-state remains committed to non-violence.
Yet in a country where the influence and arsenals of pro-Iran armed groups continue to increase, the protest enclave has forged an alliance with another of Iraq’s states within a state.
In front of the field clinics, as tuk-tuks zoom between clusters of protesters, dozens of volunteers sweep the pavement. Tahrir has never been so clean, protesters say, in contrast to its previous neglect by municipal workers.
With border guards, cleanup crews and hospitals, Iraqi protesters have created a mini-state in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, offering the kinds of services they say their government has failed to provide.
“We’ve done more in two months than the state has done in 16 years,” said Haydar Chaker, a construction worker from Babylon Province, south of the capital.
Everyone has their role, from cooking bread to painting murals, with a division of labor and scheduled shifts.
Chaker traveled to Baghdad with his friends after the annual Arbaeen pilgrimage to the Shiite holy city of Karbalah. His pilgrim’s tent and cooking equipment were also useful at a protest encampment.
Installed in the iconic square whose name means “liberation,” he provides three meals a day to hundreds of protesters, cooking with donated food.
The self-reliant encampment is the heart of a protest movement that seeks the radical overhaul of Iraq’s political system, and despite frequent power cuts, it never stops beating.
At the entrances to the square, dozens of guards like Abou al-Hassan oversee makeshift barricades, where men and women search incoming visitors.
“We Iraqis rub shoulders with the military from a young age, so we pick up a thing or two,” said al-Hassan, dressed in camouflage fatigues. “We don’t need special training to detect saboteurs and keep them out … or to be able to defend our state.”
However on Friday last week, their “state” came under attack, when gunmen Iraqi authorities have failed to identify stormed a parking building occupied by protesters.
After the massacre that left 24 dead, protesters installed new checkpoints and closed an 18-story building overlooking the square. Infiltrated by intelligence agents, and at the mercy of gunmen able to cross police and military roadblocks at will, protesters insist their mini-state remains committed to non-violence.
Yet in a country where the influence and arsenals of pro-Iran armed groups continue to increase, the protest enclave has forged an alliance with another of Iraq’s states within a state.
In front of the field clinics, as tuk-tuks zoom between clusters of protesters, dozens of volunteers sweep the pavement. Tahrir has never been so clean, protesters say, in contrast to its previous neglect by municipal workers.

Friday, December 13, 2019

The Sixth Seal Will be in New York (Rev 6:12)



By Simon Worrall
PUBLISHED AUGUST 26, 2017
Half a million earthquakes occur worldwide each year, according to an estimate by the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS). Most are too small to rattle your teacup. But some, like the 2011 quake off the coast of Japan or last year’s disaster in Italy, can level high-rise buildings, knock out power, water and communications, and leave a lifelong legacy of trauma for those unlucky enough to be caught in them.
In the U.S., the focus is on California’s San Andreas fault, which geologists suggest has a nearly one-in-five chance of causing a major earthquake in the next three decades. But it’s not just the faults we know about that should concern us, says Kathryn Miles, author of Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake. As she explained when National Geographic caught up with her at her home in Portland, Maine, there’s a much larger number of faults we don’t know about—and fracking is only adding to the risks.
When it comes to earthquakes, there is really only one question everyone wants to know: When will the big one hit California?
That’s the question seismologists wish they could answer, too! One of the most shocking and surprising things for me is just how little is actually known about this natural phenomenon. The geophysicists, seismologists, and emergency managers that I spoke with are the first to say, “We just don’t know!”
What we can say is that it is relatively certain that a major earthquake will happen in California in our lifetime. We don’t know where or when. An earthquake happening east of San Diego out in the desert is going to have hugely different effects than that same earthquake happening in, say, Los Angeles. They’re both possible, both likely, but we just don’t know.
One of the things that’s important to understand about San Andreas is that it’s a fault zone. As laypeople we tend to think about it as this single crack that runs through California and if it cracks enough it’s going to dump the state into the ocean. But that’s not what’s happening here. San Andreas is a huge fault zone, which goes through very different types of geological features. As a result, very different types of earthquakes can happen in different places.
As Charles Richter, inventor of the Richter Scale, famously said, “Only fools, liars and charlatans predict earthquakes.” Why are earthquakes so hard to predict? After all, we have sent rockets into space and plumbed the depths of the ocean.
You’re right: We know far more about distant galaxies than we do about the inner workings of our planet. The problem is that seismologists can’t study an earthquake because they don’t know when or where it’s going to happen. It could happen six miles underground or six miles under the ocean, in which case they can’t even witness it. They can go back and do forensic, post-mortem work. But we still don’t know where most faults lie. We only know where a fault is after an earthquake has occurred. If you look at the last 100 years of major earthquakes in the U.S., they’ve all happened on faults we didn’t even know existed.
Earthquakes 101
Earthquakes are unpredictable and can strike with enough force to bring buildings down. Find out what causes earthquakes, why they’re so deadly, and what’s being done to help buildings sustain their hits.
Fracking is a relatively new industry. Many people believe that it can cause what are known as induced earthquakes. What’s the scientific consensus?
The scientific consensus is that a practice known as wastewater injection undeniably causes earthquakes when the geological features are conducive. In the fracking process, water and lubricants are injected into the earth to split open the rock, so oil and natural gas can be retrieved. As this happens, wastewater is also retrieved and brought back to the surface.
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Different states deal with this in different ways. Some states, like Pennsylvania, favor letting the wastewater settle in aboveground pools, which can cause run-off contamination of drinking supplies. Other states, like Oklahoma, have chosen to re-inject the water into the ground. And what we’re seeing in Oklahoma is that this injection is enough to shift the pressure inside the earth’s core, so that daily earthquakes are happening in communities like Stillwater. As our technology improves, and both our ability and need to extract more resources from the earth increases, our risk of causing earthquakes will also rise exponentially.
After Fukushima, the idea of storing nuclear waste underground cannot be guaranteed to be safe. Yet President Trump has recently green-lighted new funds for the Yucca Mountain site in Nevada. Is that wise?
The issue with Fukushima was not about underground nuclear storage but it is relevant. The Tohoku earthquake, off the coast of Japan, was a massive, 9.0 earthquake—so big that it shifted the axis of the earth and moved the entire island of Japan some eight centimeters! It also created a series of tsunamis, which swamped the Fukushima nuclear power plant to a degree the designers did not believe was possible.
Here in the U.S., we have nuclear plants that are also potentially vulnerable to earthquakes and tsunamis, above all on the East Coast, like Pilgrim Nuclear, south of Boston, or Indian Point, north of New York City. Both of these have been deemed by the USGS to have an unacceptable level of seismic risk. [Both are scheduled to close in the next few years.]
Yucca Mountain is meant to address our need to store the huge amounts of nuclear waste that have been accumulating for more than 40 years. Problem number one is getting it out of these plants. We are going to have to somehow truck or train these spent fuel rods from, say, Boston, to a place like Yucca Mountain, in Nevada. On the way it will have to go through multiple earthquake zones, including New Madrid, which is widely considered to be one of the country’s most dangerous earthquake zones.
Yucca Mountain itself has had seismic activity. Ultimately, there’s no great place to put nuclear waste—and there’s no guarantee that where we do put it is going to be safe.
The psychological and emotional effects of an earthquake are especially harrowing. Why is that?
This is a fascinating and newly emerging subfield within psychology, which looks at the effects of natural disasters on both our individual and collective psyches. Whenever you experience significant trauma, you’re going to see a huge increase in PTSD, anxiety, depression, suicide, and even violent behaviors.
What seems to make earthquakes particularly pernicious is the surprise factor. A tornado will usually give people a few minutes, if not longer, to prepare; same thing with hurricanes. But that doesn’t happen with an earthquake. There is nothing but profound surprise. And the idea that the bedrock we walk and sleep upon can somehow become liquid and mobile seems to be really difficult for us to get our heads around.
Psychologists think that there are two things happening. One is a PTSD-type loop where our brain replays the trauma again and again, manifesting itself in dreams or panic attacks during the day. But there also appears to be a physiological effect as well as a psychological one. If your readers have ever been at sea for some time and then get off the ship and try to walk on dry land, they know they will look like drunkards. [Laughs] The reason for this is that the inner ear has habituated itself to the motion of the ship. We think the inner ear does something similar in the case of earthquakes, in an attempt to make sense of this strange, jarring movement.
After the Abruzzo quake in Italy, seven seismologists were actually tried and sentenced to six years in jail for failing to predict the disaster. Wouldn’t a similar threat help improve the prediction skills of American seismologists?
[Laughs] The scientific community was uniform in denouncing that action by the Italian government because, right now, earthquakes are impossible to predict. But the question of culpability is an important one. To what degree do we want to hold anyone responsible? Do we want to hold the local meteorologist responsible if he gets the weather forecast wrong? [Laughs]
What scientists say—and I don’t think this is a dodge on their parts—is, “Predicting earthquakes is the Holy Grail; it’s not going to happen in our lifetime. It may never happen.” What we can do is work on early warning systems, where we can at least give people 30 or 90 seconds to make a few quick decisive moves that could well save your life. We have failed to do that. But Mexico has had one in place for years!
There is some evidence that animals can predict earthquakes. Is there any truth to these theories?
All we know right now is anecdotal information because this is so hard to test for. We don’t know where the next earthquake is going to be so we can’t necessarily set up cameras and observe the animals there. So we have to rely on these anecdotal reports, say, of reptiles coming out of the ground prior to a quake. The one thing that was recorded here in the U.S. recently was that in the seconds before an earthquake in Oklahoma huge flocks of birds took flight. Was that coincidence? Related? We can’t draw that correlation yet.
One of the fascinating new approaches to prediction is the MyQuake app. Tell us how it works—and why it could be an especially good solution for Third World countries.
The USGS desperately wants to have it funded. The reluctance appears to be from Congress. A consortium of universities, in conjunction with the USGS, has been working on some fascinating tools. One is a dense network of seismographs that feed into a mainframe computer, which can take all the information and within nanoseconds understand that an earthquake is starting.
MyQuake is an app where you can get up to date information on what’s happening around the world. What’s fascinating is that our phones can also serve as seismographs. The same technology that knows which way your phone is facing, and whether it should show us an image in portrait or landscape, registers other kinds of movement. Scientists at UC Berkeley are looking to see if they can crowd source that information so that in places where we don’t have a lot of seismographs or measuring instruments, like New York City or Chicago or developing countries like Nepal, we can use smart phones both to record quakes and to send out early warning notices to people.
You traveled all over the U.S. for your research. Did you return home feeling safer?
I do not feel safer in the sense that I had no idea just how much risk regions of this country face on a daily basis when it comes to seismic hazards. We tend to think of this as a West Coast problem but it’s not! It’s a New York, Memphis, Seattle, or Phoenix problem. Nearly every major urban center in this country is at risk of a measurable earthquake.
What I do feel safer about is knowing what I can do as an individual. I hope that is a major take-home message for people who read the book. There are so many things we should be doing as individuals, family members, or communities to minimize this risk: simple things from having a go-bag and an emergency plan amongst the family to larger things like building codes.
We know that a major earthquake is going to happen. It’s probably going to knock out our communications lines. Phones aren’t going to work, Wi-Fi is going to go down, first responders are not going to be able to get to people for quite some time. So it is beholden on all of us to make sure we can survive until help can get to us.
This interview was edited for length and clarity.

Another Rocket Attack Against US Troops (Revelation 6:6)

Radio Farda
Baghdad, Dec 12, 2019 (AFP) –
Two rockets were fired at a military base near Baghdad airport housing US troops, the 10th such attack since late October, the Iraqi army said on Thursday.
There were no casualties in the overnight attack, which follows one on the same base on Monday which wounded six members of Iraq’s elite US-trained counterterrorism force, two of them critically, the army said.
Washington has expressed mounting concern about the flurry of attacks on US bases and diplomatic missions, several of which it has blamed on Shiite militia groups trained by its foe and rival for influence Tehran.
Iran holds vast sway in Iraq, especially among the more hardline elements of the Hashed al-Shaabi, a paramilitary force largely made up of Shiite militias.
A US defense official told AFP the rocket attacks made the Hashed a bigger security threat to American troops in Iraq than the Islamic State group, the jihadist movement which the US has vowed to help Baghdad wipe out.
On Friday, the United States imposed sanctions on three senior Hashed figures.
Baghdad — which is close to both countries and whose many security forces have been trained by either the US or Iran — is worried about being caught in the middle.
US officials say they are considering plans to deploy between 5,000 and 7,000 additional troops to the region to counter Iran.

The Antichrist Defies the Iranian Horn (Revelation 13)

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Zvi Bar’el
The four Katyusha rockets that hit a military base next to Baghdad International Airport this week mark a new trend in the battle Iraq has been waging since early October.
The six soldiers injured in the attack belong to the elite forces of a U.S.-trained anti-terror unit. Inside the base, American forces and diplomats live next to Iraqi forces.
It was the ninth attack in the past six weeks against American facilities within Baghdad’s Green Zone, where government offices and U.S. command headquarters are located. No organization claimed responsibility, butthe American administration attributes them to pro-Iranian forces.
Similarly to the first decade of the second Gulf war, the American enemy is close to home and can be confronted with minimal power. In those days, whoever wanted to hurt the Americans did it through terror attacks and roadside bombs.These days, a new trend is evolving: Attacks via rockets and mortars. The American ability to respond to these attacks is limited. Should Washington decide to launch a violent confrontation on Iraqi soil against pro-Iranian forces, Baghdad might demand that the Americans leave its territory. The White House is concerned that in such a case a public protest will be sparked and potentially inspire the Iraqi government to cancel its defense pacts with the U.S. administration.
Iraqi protester in a Money Heist outfit stands behind a Shiite Muslim cleric during an anti-government demonstration, Basra, November 29, 2019 AFP
Simultaneously, The New York Times quoted U.S. intelligence sources which said that Iran deployed short-range ballistic missiles in Iraq that could hit neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia and Israel. This may not be the first time that Iran has deployed ballistic missiles in Iraq, but it seems that this time Iran is taking advantage of the unrest that has gripped the country for the past two months to bolster its forces and respond to an addition of 14,000 American fighters in the Gulf region.
However, Iran’s ability to expand its military presence in Iraq has faced a public outcry that has led to the deaths of more than 450 people and thousands of injuries. The calls to kick Iran out of Iraqi territory, the temporary closure of the border crossings in southern Iraq, the two incidents of torching of the Iranian consulate in Najaf and the violent confrontations between demonstrators and pro-Iranian Shi’ite militias are only part of the expressions of rage against Iran. Sizeable Iraqi tribes who had previously backed Iran have recently joined the protests. As recently as July, a large delegation of tribal leaders met with the Iranian ambassador in Iraq to express their unqualified support for Iran.
“We are prepared to defend the Islamic Republic because a war against Iran is a war against Iraq,” they declared. “Iran proved that it stands beside the oppressed nations of the world and especially beside the Palestinian people.”
The tribal solidarity has begun to crack and even unravel.Some leaders of the important tribes realized that to preserve their status they must defend their sons being killed and injured by pro-Iranian militias during demonstrations.Some of those tribes had joined the Iraqi army when it was led by the late Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s, and after the fall of his regime in 2003 they supported the Shi’ite government and a close relationship with Iran. Now, they are caught in a dilemma, with some of their sons joining the Shi’ite militias operating under Iran’s directions despite their being part of the Iraqi army, and others demonstrating against the regime. This dilemma threatens Iran’s ability to dictate the way they fight against the popular protests, which have made the anti-Iranian discourse their main focus.
The leader of the caretaker government in Iraq, Adel Abd al-Mahdi, who has resigned as prime minister, is trapped by a combination of internal and external pressures that do not allow the government to implement reforms or make decisions that could calm the rebellion even temporarily. There is a fight over finding a consensus candidate to lead a new government, which would prepare for parliamentary elections.
Rebel leader Muqtada al-Sadr, who this week demanded that a prime minister be named from the ranks of the protest movements, faces down Iran, which seeks to dictate how the new government will look. Iran fears precisely such proposals, as it is liable to find itself facing an anti-Iranian prime minster who enjoys widespread popularity. The problem is that the protest movements have no consensus or recognized leader, and there is no party or other group that these movements are prepared to authorize to represent them.
At the same time, some of the protest movements do not regard al-Sadr as an authentic leader despite the fact that his forces, known as the Peace Companies, joined the protesters to protect them from Shi’ite militia fighters.
“The Iraqi people need leadership” : A poster of Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr wearing military fatigues, Baghdad, October 24, 2019 AFP
The bitter confrontation between al-Sadr and his rival, Qais al-Khazali, who established the pro-Iranian Asaib Ahl al-Haqq militias and strives to establish an Iraqi regime similar to that in Iran, expand the political struggle and turn it into a fight between Iran’s opponents and supporters. Iran has always tried to prevent such a development in an effort to shirt the image of a country pulling the strings in Iraq and working against the interests of the Iraqi people.
After the Iraqi chief-of-staff informed protesters on Tuesday that “Iraq’s army and security forces stand by you and to defend you until your constitutionally-protected demands are achieved,” Iran realized it faces a much harder challenge than suppressing demonstrators. If Iran decides to send more forces to Iraq to suppress the demonstrations it is liable to find itself facing the Iraqi army and not just civilian demonstrators.
Iran will have to decide soon whether it is prepared to risk the establishment of a government of technocrats, which would significantly erode its political influence in Iraq and be tantamount to admitting that Shi’ite militias have failed to preserve its interests in Iraq, or to intervene more aggressively as it did against the Iranian protesters.
Past experience may indicate that Iran also knows when to pull back when circumstances are unfavorable, but when it is in a fight to save its position in Lebanon and Syria and its own streets are restless, it may actually be liable to flex its muscles more violently to defend that position.