Saturday, November 30, 2013

Sadr And Family Blood

Muqtada al-Sadr has a peerless record of opposing Saddam Hussein

Sadrism deeply divides the Iraqi Shia, many of whom see the movement as having a history of sectarian violence

Muqtada al-Sadr comes from a family of martyrs: his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, was the leader of a Shia religious revival in the 1990s which became so threatening to Saddam Hussein that he had the cleric murdered, along with two of his sons. Muqtada’s father-in-law and cousin was Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr, a revolutionary leader and thinker, who once said: “If my little finger was Ba’athist, I would cut it off.” He was executed along with his sister by Saddam in 1980.

It is a measure of the contradictory nature of the US-led occupation of Iraq that within a year of the 2003 invasion, American officers were saying publicly that their orders were “to kill or capture” Muqtada, although he came from a clerical dynasty with a record of opposition to Saddam.
In theory, the US was nation-building in Iraq. In practice, this turned out to mean that only Iraqi nationalists wholly supportive of US policy were deemed politically acceptable. Muqtada was, and is, always hostile to the occupation. He believes it forced on Iraq a leadership which has stayed in power despite toxic levels of corruption and incompetence.
Long before last weekend’s deal on Iran’s nuclear power programme, the Americans and Iranians cooperated uneasily in determining which Iraqis would rule Iraq. Such is the division between Iraqi communities, sects and parties that foreign powers have a measure of control.
Perhaps more surprising than Muqtada’s personal survival is the persistence of the Sadrist movement, despite savage repression by Saddam followed by war with the Americans and conflict with the present Iraqi government of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. It survives because it has a leadership prepared to be martyred and a mass following among the poor.
Nevertheless, Sadrism deeply divides the Iraqi Shia, many of whom see the movement as having a history of sectarian violence that belies its present moderation. It denounces a government of which it somehow remains part while demanding that Mr Maliki be replaced

Friday, November 29, 2013

Antichrist's Word Is Law

‘The near future of Iraq is dark’: Warning from Muqtada al-Sadr - the Shia cleric whose word is law to millions of his countrymen

In a rare interview at his headquarters in Najaf, he tells Patrick Cockburn of his fears for a nation growing ever more divided on sectarian lines

The future of Iraq as a united and independent country is endangered by sectarian Shia-Sunni hostility says Muqtada al-Sadr, the Shia religious leader whose Mehdi Army militia fought the US and British armies and who remains a powerful figure in Iraqi politics. He warns of the danger that “the Iraqi people will disintegrate, its government will disintegrate, and it will be easy for external powers to control the country”.
In an interview with The Independent in the holy city of Najaf, 100 miles south-west of Baghdad – the first interview Mr Sadr has given face-to-face with a Western journalist for almost 10 years – he expressed pessimism about the immediate prospects for Iraq, saying: “The near future is dark.”
Mr Sadr said he is most worried about sectarianism affecting Iraqis at street level, believing that “if it spreads among the people it will be difficult to fight”. He says he believes that standing against sectarianism has made him lose support among his followers.
Mr Sadr’s moderate stance is key at a moment when sectarian strife has been increasing in Iraq – some 200 Shia were killed in the past week alone. For 40 years, Mr Sadr and religious leaders from his family have set the political trend within the Shia community in Iraq. Their long-term resistance to Saddam Hussein and, later, their opposition to the US-led occupation had a crucial impact.
Mr Sadr has remained a leading influence in Iraq after an extraordinary career in which he has often come close to being killed. Several times, it appeared that the political movement he leads, the Sadrist Movement, would be crushed.
He was 25 in 1999 when his father, Mohammed Sadiq al-Sadr, a revered Shia leader, and Mr Sadr’s two brothers were assassinated by Saddam Hussein’s gunmen in Najaf. He just survived sharing a similar fate, remaining under house arrest in Najaf until 2003 when Saddam was overthrown by the US invasion. He and his followers became the most powerful force in many Shia parts of Iraq as enemies of the old regime, but also opposing the occupation. In 2004, his Mehdi Army fought two savage battles against American troops in Najaf, and in Basra it engaged in a prolonged guerrilla war against the British Army which saw the Mehdi Army take control of the city.
The Mehdi Army was seen by the Sunni community as playing a central role in the sectarian murder campaign that reached its height in 2006-7. Mr Sadr says that “people infiltrated the Mehdi Army and carried out these killings”, adding that if his militiamen were involved in the murder of Sunnis he would be the first person to denounce them.
For much of this period, Mr Sadr did not appear to have had full control of forces acting in his name; ultimately he stood them down. At the same time, the Mehdi Army was being driven from its old strongholds in Basra and Sadr City by the US Army and resurgent Iraqi government armed forces. Asked about the status of the Mehdi Army today, Mr Sadr says: “It is still there but it is frozen because the occupation is apparently over. If it comes back, they [the Mehdi Army militiamen] will come back.”
In the past five years, Mr Sadr has rebuilt his movement as one of the main players in Iraqi politics with a programme that is a mixture of Shia religion, populism and Iraqi nationalism. After a strong showing in the general election in 2010, it became part of the present government, with six seats in the cabinet. But Mr Sadr is highly critical of Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s performance during his two terms in office, accusing his administration of being sectarian, corrupt and incompetent.
Speaking of Mr Maliki, with whom his relations are increasingly sour, Mr Sadr said that “maybe he is not the only person responsible for what is happening in Iraq, but he is the person in charge”. Asked if he expected Mr Maliki to continue as Prime Minister, he said: “I expect he is going to run for a third term, but I don’t want him to.”
Mr Sadr said he and other Iraqi leaders had tried to replace him in the past, but Mr Maliki had survived in office because of his support from foreign powers, notably the US and Iran. “What is really surprising is that America and Iran should decide on one person,” he said. “Maliki is strong because he is supported by the United States, Britain and Iran.”
Mr Sadr is particularly critical of the government’s handling of the Sunni minority, which lost power in 2003, implying they had been marginalised and their demands ignored. He thinks that the Iraqi government lost its chance to conciliate Sunni protesters in Iraq who started demonstrating last December, asking for greater civil rights and an end to persecution.
“My personal opinion is that it is too late now to address these [Sunni] demands when the government, which is seen as a Shia government by the demonstrators, failed to meet their demands,” he said. Asked how ordinary Shia, who make up the great majority of the thousand people a month being killed by al-Qa’ida bombs, should react, Mr Sadr said: “They should understand that they are not being attacked by Sunnis. They are being attacked by extremists, they are being attacked by external powers.”
As Mr Sadr sees it, the problem in Iraq is that Iraqis as a whole are traumatised by almost half a century in which there has been a “constant cycle of violence: Saddam, occupation, war after war, first Gulf war, then second Gulf war, then the occupation war, then the resistance – this would lead to a change in the psychology of Iraqis”. He explained that Iraqis make the mistake of trying to solve one problem by creating a worse one, such as getting the Americans to topple Saddam Hussein but then having the problem of the US occupation. He compared Iraqis to “somebody who found a mouse in his house, then he kept a cat, then he wanted to get the cat out of the house so he kept a dog, then to get the dog out of his house he bought an elephant, so he bought a mouse again”.
Asked about the best way for Iraqis to deal with the mouse, Mr Sadr said: “By using neither the cat nor the dog, but instead national unity, rejection of sectarianism, open-mindedness, having open ideas, rejection of extremism.”
A main theme of Mr Sadr’s approach is to bolster Iraq as an independent nation state, able to make decisions in its own interests. Hence his abiding hostility to the American and British occupation, holding this responsible for many of Iraq’s present ills. To this day, neither he nor anybody from his movement will meet American or British officials. But he is equally hostile to intervention by Iran in Iraqi affairs saying: “We refuse all kinds of interventions from external forces, whether such an intervention was in the interests of Iraqis or against their interests. The destiny of Iraqis should be decided by Iraqis themselves.”
This is a change of stance for a man who was once demonised by the US and Britain as a pawn of Iran. The strength of the Sadrist movement under Mr Sadr and his father – and its ability to withstand powerful enemies and shattering defeats – owes much to the fact it that it blends Shia revivalism with social activism and Iraqi nationalism.
Why are Iraqi government members so ineffective and corrupt? Mr Sadr believes that “they compete to take a share of the cake, rather than competing to serve their people”
Asked why the Kurdistan Regional Government had been more successful in terms of security and economic development than the rest of Iraq, Mr Sadr thought there was less stealing and corruption among the Kurds and maybe because “they love their ethnicity and their region”. If the government tried to marginalise them, they might ask for independence: “Mr Massoud Barzani [the KRG President] told me that ‘if Maliki pushes on me harder, we are going to ask for independence’.”
At the end of the interview Mr Sadr asked me if I was not frightened of interviewing him and would not this make the British Government consider me a terrorist? Secondly, he wondered if the British Government still considered that it had liberated the Iraqi people, and wondered if he should sue the Government on behalf of the casualties caused by the British occupation.

Thursday, November 28, 2013

Uranium Means Heaven

Irony of ironies! Uranium is derived from the Latin root Uranus, and from the Greek root Ouranos which literally means "heaven". And the seven bowls of wrath will come from the heavens. "And huge hailstones , about one hundred pounds each, came* down from heaven upon men; and men blasphemed God because of the plague of the hail, because its plague was extremely severe." (Revelation 16:21)

Wednesday, November 27, 2013

US Protects The Shia Crescent

America as the Protector of Putin, Assad, and Khamenei


When protests broke out in Syria in late 2011, Russia hoped for a short, nasty war as a matter of Russian national interest -- just enough to put the Muslim Brotherhood and assorted Sunnis in their place.  Violence from its own Sunni Muslim population has plagued Russia for decades.  Saudi Arabia took over the defeated nationalist Chechen rebellion in the late 1990s, infusing it with money and Islamist overtones, prompting the second Chechen war.  More recently, there has been open fighting and rioting in Moscow between Muslims and Slavs. 

Iran counted on a short war as well -- something to shore up the Shi'ite crescent from Iran through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon out to the Mediterranean Sea. 

It didn't work.  Turkey and the Gulf States armed and trained various Sunni militias, including the Free Syrian Army, the Muslim Brotherhood, and "foreign" jihadists of many stripes, including al-Qaeda and Chechens.  Keeping Assad armed, fed, and reinforced with Iranian and Hezb'allah troops was an immense drain on the Iranian treasury, already under duress from Western sanctions.  More sanctions were brewing in the U.S. Congress, and Iran needed relief at many levels.  The question for the Islamic Republic was whether it was possible to protect Assad, put money in the bank, and shore up the Shiite axis without giving up its nuclear program.

Enter the United States, seeking and needing a diplomatic success.  According to David Ignatius of The Washington Post -- the administration's favorite reporter -- the U.S.-Iran deal was cooking in secret as far back as March.  

Could that account for the fact that although Secretary Kerry announced in April that the U.S. would "arm and train" Syrian rebels, nothing arrived for them throughout the summer?  The first shipments arrived in September, while the terms for the nuclear deal were being negotiated.  Could that have been to "remind" the Iranians of American leverage?  Ignatius approvingly called Obama "the covert commander in chief," acting "most effectively out of sight."  Maybe, or maybe those whose understanding of intrigue exceeds his used him.  Either way, the president ended up the guarantor of Iranian, Syrian, and Russian interests in the Middle East.  Shi'ite interests.

No wonder the Saudis and the Gulf States, the Israelis, the Egyptians, and the Jordanians are all furious with the administration, and Turkey finds itself having to cozy up to the Iranians -- something anathema to a Sunni internationalist leader.

The White House said it was "outraged" over Syrian chemical weapons use in July, but was the administration being disingenuous when it pleaded with Britain's David Cameron and France's François Hollande to support American military strikes on Syria?  (Cameron became the first British prime minister to be denied a war vote in the Parliament since 1782.  Hollande won his vote, but it was tough.)  The White House also asked American Jewish organizations, which had determinedly stayed out of the Syrian civil war, for support on Capitol Hill, and they agreed.  Did the president pull the rug out from under them and legislators of both parties by urging support for a military option when there would be none as long as the Iranian negotiations were the top priority?

Russia was holding a poor hand at that point.  The U.S. had for months roundly criticized Putin for supporting Assad and for obstructionism in the U.N.  Saudi Prince Faisal al-Turki, asked in an interview in the Washington Post whether Russia could fill the gap left by the apparent American withdrawal from the region, replied, "I don't think Russia will ever fill the gap. [Russia's support of Syria] is costing the Russians the rest of the Muslim world. They are fighting on the wrong side."

What was meant to be steadfastness that would impress Arab countries worried about American withdrawal had begun to look like sole superpower support of a homicidal maniac.  Putin needed American help to make Assad look legitimate and so proposed a deal on Syrian chemical weapons.  The White House quickly deferred to the Russian-sponsored proposal that allowed Assad to morph from an "illegitimate" ruler to a partner in the management of his chemical weapons arsenal.  Elements of the deal ensure that Assad will be working with the United States, the Russians, and the U.N. until at least the middle of 2014.

Thus did the U.S. save Russia from superpower isolation in support of Assad.  And thus has the United States become the guarantor of Assad's continued rule, allowing Damascus to concentrate on the rebels and perhaps win the war -- later than Assad's patrons (Russia and Iran) had hoped, but win it nonetheless.

But there was still the question of money.  Iran was increasingly desperate throughout the fall -- not only was Syria draining the coffers at an increasing rate, but international sanctions were collapsing the economy at home.  The mullahs were not happy with the thought of a civil uprising.

The outlines of a deal emerged: Assad would stay, Iran's coffers would be refilled and its nuclear project continued in most of its important aspects, and Russia would have a partner.  And President Obama would get his deal.  Not a perfect deal.  Not a "this justifies the Nobel Peace Prize" deal.  But a deal. 

Oh, yes, and the Iranian regime would be safe from military action as long as the conversation continues.  Indeed, at least one report indicates that the White House made clear to Israel and Saudi Arabia, who have been huddling in the corner a lot of late, that military action against Iran will not be tolerated. 

Thus has the United States become the guarantor of the Iranian and Syrian regimes, and of Russian interests in the Middle East.  How far we've fallen.

Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Islamic Nuclear Republic

Iran victorious: "The Islamic nuclear republic"

Iran is in full celebration mode over the West's capitulation to its nuclear program. Phillip Smyth says of the above image: "This was *just* posted on some Shi'a militia pages. 'The Islamic nuclear republic'"

Monday, November 25, 2013

Netanyahu Right: It Will Be History

Israel calls Iran nuclear deal a 'historic mistake'

JERUSALEM — The Israeli government called the deal reached with Iran over its nuclear program a "historic mistake," saying it only slows a nuclear program that will still be capable of producing a bomb.
Speaking to his Cabinet on Sunday, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said the agreement endangered Israel, adding the nation is not bound by the international community's nuclear deal and reserves the right to defend itself.
"What was reached last night in Geneva is not a historic agreement, it is a historic mistake," Netanyahu said. "Today the world became a much more dangerous place because the most dangerous regime in the world made a significant step in obtaining the most dangerous weapons in the world."
"We're worried about the agreement but our job is to keep up the warnings," said Yair Lapid, Israel's Minister of Finance and part of Netanyahu's coalition government. "We're not comfortable but this warning needs to be done. We have six months until there is (hopefully) a better agreement.Voicing what he called Israel's right to self-defense, he said, "I want to clarify that Israel will not let Iran develop nuclear military capability."
"We may be the only child in the room saying the king has no clothes but that's what we must do."
An official in the Prime Minister's office said the agreement "gives Iran exactly what it wants: a significant easing of sanctions and allows Iran to keep the most significant parts of its nuclear program. The agreement allows Iran to continue enriching uranium and leaves it the centrifuges that enables it create (fissile) material to create nuclear weapons. Likewise, the agreement doesn't lead to dismantling the Arak reactor. The economic pressure on Iran would have led to a much better agreement that would have dismantled Iran's nuclear capability."
The White House said the interim deal limits Iran's existing stockpiles of enriched uranium, which can be turned into the fissile core of nuclear arms. The accord curbs the number and capabilities of the centrifuges used to enrich and limits Iran's ability to "produce weapons-grade plutonium" from a reactor in the advanced stages of construction.

Iran's nuclear program will also be subject to "increased transparency and intrusive monitoring." In return, the White House said economic sanctions on Iran imposed to get it to curtail its nuclear activity will be eased.
Uri Savir, a former Israeli ambassador and president of the The Peres Center for Peace, called the deal an "historic agreement," saying it will go a long way to limit Iran's nuclear program for six months and could also jump start progress on Syria and the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. He lauded Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry, "who despite opposition advanced global peace diplomacy."
Nafatali Bennett, the Minister of Economy and Commerce, said on Army Radio that world powers could have used the talks in Geneva that led to the deal to force Iran to give up its nuclear program rather than freeze it at a point where it can resume work at any time.
"Iran was on the mat because of the sanctions, but then the West picked it up and gave it something to drink. Israel does not have to be a party to this agreement and has the right to defend its security," he said, alluding to possible military action. "The whole Middle East is affected but the danger to Israel is unique."
In early-morning Facebook posts, Israelis compared the deal to the one made by former British prime minister Neville Chamberlain, who brokered an agreement with Nazi Germany in 1938 that did nothing to prevent a world war as promised.
Josh Hasten, who hosts a political radio show, told USA TODAY that, "There is no doubt that the leaders in Iran are smiling this morning as they have been given a pass by the world community to maintain the option of building a nuclear weapon."
He described the deal as an appeasement that will leave the entire world and not just Israel at risk of a nuclear Iran.
"It's truly a major step in the wrong direction," he said.

Sunday, November 24, 2013

Middle East Disaster Looms

Dangerous Times: A Looming Strategic Disaster in the Middle East.

If you think ObamaCare is bad, just wait till you hear the new "peace" agreement that is due to be imposed on the Middle East over the coming weeks. Even if it works, a giant if, it will make the world much more dangerous:

1. Iran will have nuclear weapons, or it will be balanced right on the edge -- within one month or less to make nukes.
2. Saudi Arabia and Egypt will go nuclear, to balance Iran.
3. America's role as a guarantor of peace will be blown, crushed by Obama's betrayal of Israel and the Arabs. America's nuclear umbrella, which has kept world from major war since 1949, was always based on trust. Once you blow that trust, the umbrella disappears.
4. The coming victory of Bashar Assad in Syria, supported by Hizb'allah and Iran, will forge the much-feared Shii'ite Crescent that surrounds Israel and directly threatens Arab nations like Egypt, Iraq and the Arabian Peninsula (Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states).
5. Russia will replace America as a more trustworthy major power in the region, including the Eastern Mediterranean.
This is not a framework for peace. It is an unstable Rube Goldberg contraption that could lead to total war in a matter of weeks. It will never have the long-term stability of the Egypt-Israel peace treaty of the last forty years. On top of all those balancing acts, Israel will be driven back to borders that are much more vulnerable to Muslim terrorism. World conquest is a basic premise of Islam, and it includes Europe, Russia, and America.
The emerging agreement, which will be greeted by the Euro-American socialist media as peace on earth, will be much more like Munich, 1938 -- a temporary truce on the way to much more dangerous times.
Here is a reasonable guess about the Obama-Putin proposal that is now being circulated around the major participants:
1. The U.S. and Russia will agree to cut back drastically on nuclear weapons. That has been the major aim of the Russians, because they can defend against a small nuclear attack, but more attacking nukes and missiles will overwhelm any existing defense. This has its own pros and cons, depending on Russian intentions. It is a major draw for Putin, because it reinstates Russia as a superpower on an equal basis with the United States.
2. American power will be deliberately set back around the world, which is Obama's announced policy. The U.S. will no longer be the guarantor of peace, because (a) Obama has decided to cut down our armed forces to divert money to the new massive welfare state, and (b) nobody trusts us to provide a nuclear umbrella any more.
Within that U.S.-Russian umbrella agreement, the Obama fantasy will be that:
1. The Iranian nuclear danger will be reduced by a treaty, to be monitored by a great power inspection regime, aided by the UN. Because Russia will be one of the guarantor powers, and because Russia fears and hates the prospect of a radical Muslim nuclear power near its borders, it will want to restrain Iranian weapons development. However, Iran will be able to get real nukes in a month. Other WMD programs (like dirty bombs) are not controlled, especially from rogue forces like the 60,000 Al Qaida gangsters in Syria.
Obama and the Europeans will celebrate this as a great victory. But it will be a huge gamble with the security of the world. In the foreseeable future Iran will have ICBM's that can reach our shores.
Hamas and Hizb'allah terrorism will be increased rather than stopped, because that is the routine of every Muslim power in history. For example, Pakistan and India are nominally not at war, but Pakistan has never stopped terrorist attacks on India. That is the standard strategy for Muslim powers, and having nuclear weapons will make terrorism even more attractive.
2. The Europeans will lose the American nuclear umbrella, and will appeal to Russia for nuclear protection. They must also modernize the nuclear capacity of France and Britain, because this will not be a one- or two-superpower world, but an ongoing arms race between multiple powers, all possessing weapons of mass destruction. The UN will pretend to conduct inspections, just as it did in Iraq and Iran, a laughable failure.
In other words, this will be a fantasy peace, just as ObamaCare is a fantasy healthcare program. Obama craves the appearance of success, but in truth he never bothers to find out if his fantasies actually work. He is hooked on personal celebrity.
Obama is likely to run for UN SecGen after 2016, a major reason for this dreadfully unstable, phony solution to nuclear and missile proliferation. Obama's personal ambition is a big ingredient in anything he does. The Russians have figured that out, and saw it as an opportunity to reverse their decline as a superpower. Domestically we no longer have a functioning opposition, so that there is no critical thinking about absurd policies any more. That is why ObamaCare is likely to fail over and over again. A number of O'Care "architects" have come forward in the last week to confess that yes, of course they were lying to Americans about their future healthcare. But they were lying for a good cause, naturally. In fact, they were making wild guesses and now have Americans in a trap. They won't allow us to escape their fantasy trap no matter how bad it gets.
The same mad illogic governs this Middle East "peace" process. It's just as phony and destructive as Obama's medical takeover. The top goal is more power for the socialists. Healthcare and peace are strictly secondary.

Saturday, November 23, 2013

Antichrist Deceives Followers

Iraqi Shiite cleric and political leader Muqtada al-Sadr takes part in Friday prayers at the Kufa mosque near Najaf, 160 kilometers (100 miles) south of Baghdad, May 10, 2013. (photo by REUTERS/Ahmad Mousa)

Sadr blends religion, populism in Iraqi politics

Unlike most Iraqi political forces, Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement is characterized by its strong grass roots and interaction with the public. It is a populist movement, which has its own particular social and cultural aspects. Sadr acts as a religious reference, political chief and social leader all at once. His answers to the questions of his followers express this spirit.
Summary The populist Shiite Sadrist Movement demonstrates its leader’s ability to bring a new dynamic to the political scene in Iraq, which is too often marked by polarization and extremism.
Author Harith Hasan Posted November 22, 2013
Translator(s)Pascale Menassa
On Sadr's website and social media sites, the Sadrist Movement leader tackles religious, political and moral issues posed by followers. Some ask him about spending the khums, a Shiite religious tax that has been the center of discussion on Shiite jurisprudence. Others raise questions about his stance vis-a-vis Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki's bid to win a third term. (Sadr insinuated his lack of support for such an endeavor.) Another commented on the reluctance of Sunni clerics to condemn al-Qaeda attacks against Shiite civilians to which Sadr expressed his disappointment and hope that Sunni clerics will do better in condemning extremism.
On other occasions, Sadr gives moral recommendations, even related to the importance of cleanliness and humility. In all his replies, Sadr's public language is marked by simplicity, sometimes even with flawed grammar or spelling mistakes.
These practices reflect Sadr’s distinct religious, social and cultural movement, in addition to the nature of his special relationship with his followers. On the one hand, Sadr’s ways constitute an effective interaction method between the head of a movement and its broad masses, clearly communicating the instructions and recommendations of the leader to his partisans. On the other hand, they show an ambiguity — even a confusion — about Sadr’s identity and nature of his leadership. After all, a religious leader's code of behavior is completely different than that of a political leader, given the disparity of both activities. Sadr has tried to deal with this dilemma by publicly delegating the Sadrist Movement’s political committee to supervise and conduct political relations. Nevertheless, the nature of this separation between religion and politics remains unclear, and it seems that Sadr is still reserving the right to take the important political decisions.
Obviously, drawing a clear line between Sadr’s religious and political roles is not currently possible. Such a separation could make the movement lose an important part of its political power that stems from religious loyalty to Sadr’s family. Therefore, the movement will keep acting as a political-religious organization that maintains a distinct sociocultural identity.
The paradox lies in the fact that this organization, due to its wide and cohesive constituency in the poor and crowded districts of Shiite cities, acts more dynamically than others and has successfully undergone gradual self-renewal. In fact, the Sadrist Movement has witnessed change and circulation in its leadership (except for Sadr himself) more than any other Shiite political movement.
Significantly, most leaders in the political organization are relatively young university graduates and are chosen based on competence and loyalty. This is the case, for example, with its current secretary-general, Dhiaa al-Asadi, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Birmingham. The organization holds regular elections to choose new candidates. Moreover, compared to other parties, it relies on more accurate mechanisms to hold whoever fails or lags behind in their delegated tasks accountable. In parallel, older leaders, most of whom were in exile and do not enjoy wide local support, govern the other parties. For that reason, they focus on patronage to attract followers, and they often do not have the same dynamism and ability to tolerate political changes.
However, this growing dependence on young professionals needs to be translated into more sophistication in political behavior. While increasingly opposing Maliki, and trying to reach out to secular, Sunni and Kurdish forces, the movement tends to prioritize local interests. In its public behavior, the Sadrists are inclined to populism and do very little to present a clear alternative vision about key political, security and economic challenges in the country. This populism might mitigate the elitism of other major forces, but it's far from presenting a clear road map for Iraq’s future.

Friday, November 22, 2013

Khamanei: Says "Death To America and Israel"

Khamenei anti-Israel speech shows danger of Iran

Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu on Thursday warned world powers negotiating with Iran that an anti-Israel speech by Iran's supreme leader gave fresh proof over why Tehran must not acquire a nuclear weapon.
Speaking to leaders of Russia's Jewish community on the second day of a visit to Moscow to campaign against an emerging world power deal with Iran, Netanyahu accused Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei of using the lexicon of the Nazi Holocaust.
"Yesterday, Iran's supreme leader, Khamenei, said 'death to America, death to Israel', he said that Jews are not human beings."
"Sounds familiar?" Netanyahu asked.
Khamenei told militia commanders in Tehran on Wednesday that Israel, Iran's arch-foe, was "doomed to collapse", "the rabid dog" of the Middle East, and with leaders "not worthy" of being called "human".
"Such an Iran must not get a nuclear weapon," Netanyahu said.
After talks with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Wednesday, Netanyahu on Wednesday insisted on the need for a "real" solution to the Iranian nuclear crisis.
Netanyahu's speech in Moscow came as Iran and world powers were set Thursday to begin hammering out a landmark deal freezing parts of Tehran's atomic programme to ease fears of the Islamic republic obtaining nuclear weapons.

Thursday, November 21, 2013

Pakistan (The Third Horn) A Nuclear Threat

Washington: Nuclear weapons of Pakistan poses more danger to the global security than "over-exaggerating" threat from Iran, a former US official has said. "Are we endangering our own safety and that of Israel by over-exaggerating the nuclear threat posed by Iran while drastically under-estimating the growing threat posed by Pakistan? Someone in authority had better answer that question before it's too late," said Douglas MacKinnon, a former White House and Pentagon official and author of the memoir 'Rolling Pennies In The Dark' in an op-ed on the Fox News on Tuesday.
"Day after day, week after week, and now literally year after year, we hear constantly about soon to be unleashed nuclear threat from Iran," he said.
MacKinnon said, in a somewhat bizarre moment of candour from President Barack Obama - as related by actor George Clooney - when Clooney asked Obama several years ago what kept him awake at night, President Obama eventually answered "Pakistan."
Pak N-weapons' threat under-estimated: US ex-official

According to Douglas MacKinnon a journalist in Israel recently sought to remind his nation of the dangers posed by Pakistan.

Strange that he would admit that to Clooney and not the American people, but no matter, how right the president was and is to fear the multiple threats emanating from that nation, he wrote.
"Going back to the media and politician hype regarding Iran, it is almost always coupled with a mention of the State of Israel. During my time in the Pentagon, I had the opportunity to work with the Israeli Defence forces. Today, I fear President Obama is moving further and further away from supporting our best ally and friend in the Middle East for reasons known only to him," he said.
"As that reality is upon us, some of the leaders and people of Israel seem to be getting caught up in the same "Iran hype" which floods our media and losing sight of the more lethal threat to their safety," he said.
According to MacKinnon, addressing that real threat, a journalist in Israel recently sought to remind his nation of the dangers posed by Pakistan.
In his piece, he quoted Tarek Fatah, founder of the Muslim Canadian Congress who has said: "The nuclear threat from Iran is a real one, but the nuclear threat from its neighbour Pakistan is just as dangerous if not more so. Pakistan has emerged as the world s number one source of jihadi suicide bombers and ground zero for the training of Islamic terrorists around the world."
A few months earlier, Dr Rafael Ofek, a former senior researcher and analyst in Israeli Intelligence and an expert in the technology of nuclear power, warned of the same threat, the former White House official said.

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Khamanei: Iran Has Nuclear "Rights"

Iran's supreme leader says will not step back from its nuclear rights

(Reuters) - Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said on Wednesday Tehran would not take one step back "one iota" from its nuclear rights, on the day Iran begins a new round of talks with world powers on its disputed nuclear program.
He said he would not intervene directly in the talks in Geneva, though he had set "red lines" for his negotiators.
He also said French officials were "not only succumbing to the United States, but they are kneeling before the Israeli regime" and said Iran would "slap aggressors in the face in such a way they will never forget it" without mentioning any specific country.
(Reporting by Marcus George; Writing by Jon Hemming; Editing by Andrew Heavens)

Tuesday, November 19, 2013

New York Is The Sixth Seal

Earthquakes May Endanger New York More Than Thought, Says Study

Indian Point Nuclear Power Plant Seen As Particular Risk

New York City and a few other parts of the eastern United States stand out on US Geological Survey seismic hazard
New York City and a few other parts of the eastern United States stand out on US Geological Survey seismic hazard maps

Courtesy USGS Earthquake Hazards Program
A study by a group of prominent seismologists suggests that a pattern of subtle but active faults makes the risk of earthquakes to the New York City area substantially greater than formerly believed. Among other things, they say that the controversial Indian Point nuclear power plants, 24 miles north of the city, sit astride the previously unidentified intersection of two active seismic zones. The paper appears in the current issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.
Many faults and a few mostly modest quakes have long been known around New York City, but the research casts them in a new light. The scientists say the insight comes from sophisticated analysis of past quakes, plus 34 years of new data on tremors, most of them perceptible only by modern seismic instruments. The evidence charts unseen but potentially powerful structures whose layout and dynamics are only now coming clearer, say the scientists. All are based at Columbia University’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, which runs the network of seismometers that monitors most of the northeastern United States.
Lead author Lynn R. Sykes said the data show that large quakes are infrequent around New York compared to more active areas like California and Japan, but that the risk is high, because of the overwhelming concentration of people and infrastructure. “The research raises the perception both of how common these events are, and, specifically, where they may occur,” he said. “It’s an extremely populated area with very large assets.”  Sykes, who has studied the region for four decades, is known for his early role in establishing the global theory of plate tectonics.
The authors compiled a catalog of all 383 known earthquakes from 1677 to 2007 in a 15,000-square-mile area around New York City. Coauthor John Armbruster estimated sizes and locations of dozens of events before 1930 by combing newspaper accounts and other records. The researchers say magnitude 5 quakes—strong enough to cause damage--occurred in 1737, 1783 and 1884. There was little settlement around to be hurt by the first two quakes, whose locations are vague due to a lack of good accounts; but the last, thought to be centered under the seabed somewhere between Brooklyn and Sandy Hook, toppled chimneys across the city and New Jersey, and panicked bathers at Coney Island. Based on this, the researchers say such quakes should be routinely expected, on average, about every 100 years. “Today, with so many more buildings and people, a magnitude 5 centered below the city would be extremely attention-getting,” said Armbruster. “We’d see billions in damage, with some brick buildings falling. People would probably be killed.”
Starting in the early 1970s Lamont began collecting data on quakes from dozens of newly deployed seismometers; these have revealed further potential, including distinct zones where earthquakes concentrate, and where larger ones could come. The Lamont network, now led by coauthor Won-Young Kim, has located hundreds of small events, including a magnitude 3 every few years, which can be felt by people at the surface, but is unlikely to cause damage. These small quakes tend to cluster along a series of small, old faults in harder rocks across the region. Many of the faults were discovered decades ago when subways, water tunnels and other excavations intersected them, but conventional wisdom said they were inactive remnants of continental collisions and rifting hundreds of millions of years ago. The results clearly show that they are active, and quite capable of generating damaging quakes, said Sykes.
All known quakes, greater New York-Philadelphia area, 1677-2004, graded by magnitude (M). Peekskill, N.Y., near Indian Point nuclear power plant, is denoted as Pe.
All known quakes, greater New York-Philadelphia area, 1677-2004, graded by magnitude (M). Peekskill, N.Y., near Indian Point nuclear power plant, is denoted as Pe.

Adapted from Sykes et al.
One major previously known feature, the Ramapo Seismic Zone, runs from eastern Pennsylvania to the mid-Hudson Valley, passing within a mile or two northwest of Indian Point. The researchers found that this system is not so much a single fracture as a braid of smaller ones, where quakes emanate from a set of still ill-defined faults. East and south of the Ramapo zone—and possibly more significant in terms of hazard--is a set of nearly parallel northwest-southeast faults. These include Manhattan’s 125th Street fault, which seems to have generated two small 1981 quakes, and could have been the source of the big 1737 quake; the Dyckman Street fault, which carried a magnitude 2 in 1989; the Mosholu Parkway fault; and the Dobbs Ferry fault in suburban Westchester, which generated the largest recent shock, a surprising magnitude 4.1, in 1985. Fortunately, it did no damage. Given the pattern, Sykes says the big 1884 quake may have hit on a yet-undetected member of this parallel family further south.
The researchers say that frequent small quakes occur in predictable ratios to larger ones, and so can be used to project a rough time scale for damaging events. Based on the lengths of the faults, the detected tremors, and calculations of how stresses build in the crust, the researchers say that magnitude 6 quakes, or even 7—respectively 10 and 100 times bigger than magnitude 5--are quite possible on the active faults they describe. They calculate that magnitude 6 quakes take place in the area about every 670 years, and sevens, every 3,400 years. The corresponding probabilities of occurrence in any 50-year period would be 7% and 1.5%. After less specific hints of these possibilities appeared in previous research, a 2003 analysis by The New York City Area Consortium for Earthquake Loss Mitigation put the cost of quakes this size in the metro New York area at $39 billion to $197 billion. A separate 2001 analysis for northern New Jersey’s Bergen County estimates that a magnitude 7 would destroy 14,000 buildings and damage 180,000 in that area alone. The researchers point out that no one knows when the last such events occurred, and say no one can predict when they next might come.
“We need to step backward from the simple old model, where you worry about one large, obvious fault, like they do in California,” said coauthor Leonardo Seeber. “The problem here comes from many subtle faults. We now see there is earthquake activity on them. Each one is small, but when you add them up, they are probably more dangerous than we thought. We need to take a very close look.” Seeber says that because the faults are mostly invisible at the surface and move infrequently, a big quake could easily hit one not yet identified. “The probability is not zero, and the damage could be great,” he said. “It could be like something out of a Greek myth.”
The researchers found concrete evidence for one significant previously unknown structure: an active seismic zone running at least 25 miles from Stamford, Conn., to the Hudson Valley town of Peekskill, N.Y., where it passes less than a mile north of the Indian Point nuclear power plant. The Stamford-Peekskill line stands out sharply on the researchers’ earthquake map, with small events clustered along its length, and to its immediate southwest. Just to the north, there are no quakes, indicating that it represents some kind of underground boundary. It is parallel to the other faults beginning at 125th Street, so the researchers believe it is a fault in the same family. Like the others, they say it is probably capable of producing at least a magnitude 6 quake. Furthermore, a mile or so on, it intersects the Ramapo seismic zone.
Sykes said the existence of the Stamford-Peekskill line had been suggested before, because the Hudson takes a sudden unexplained bend just ot the north of Indian Point, and definite traces of an old fault can be along the north side of the bend. The seismic evidence confirms it, he said. “Indian Point is situated at the intersection of the two most striking linear features marking the seismicity and also in the midst of a large population that is at risk in case of an accident,” says the paper. “This is clearly one of the least favorable sites in our study area from an earthquake hazard and risk perspective.”
The findings comes at a time when Entergy, the owner of Indian Point, is trying to relicense the two operating plants for an additional 20 years—a move being fought by surrounding communities and the New York State Attorney General. Last fall the attorney general, alerted to the then-unpublished Lamont data, told a Nuclear Regulatory Commission panel in a filing: “New data developed in the last 20 years disclose a substantially higher likelihood of significant earthquake activity in the vicinity of [Indian Point] that could exceed the earthquake design for the facility.” The state alleges that Entergy has not presented new data on earthquakes past 1979. However, in a little-noticed decision this July 31, the panel rejected the argument on procedural grounds. A source at the attorney general’s office said the state is considering its options.

Quakes located by instruments 1974-2007. Arrows indivcate the Peekskill-Stamford seismic line and Ramapo seismic zone (RSZ), which intersect near Indian Point. Purple numerals indicate distance in kilometers.

Adapted from Sykes et al.
The characteristics of New York’s geology and human footprint may increase the problem. Unlike in California, many New York quakes occur near the surface—in the upper mile or so—and they occur not in the broken-up, more malleable formations common where quakes are frequent, but rather in the extremely hard, rigid rocks underlying Manhattan and much of the lower Hudson Valley. Such rocks can build large stresses, then suddenly and efficiently transmit energy over long distances. “It’s like putting a hard rock in a vise,” said Seeber. “Nothing happens for a while. Then it goes with a bang.” Earthquake-resistant building codes were not introduced to New York City until 1995, and are not in effect at all in many other communities. Sinuous skyscrapers and bridges might get by with minimal damage, said Sykes, but many older, unreinforced three- to six-story brick buildings could crumble.
Art Lerner-Lam, associate director of Lamont for seismology, geology and tectonophysics, pointed out that the region’s major highways including the New York State Thruway, commuter and long-distance rail lines, and the main gas, oil and power transmission lines all cross the parallel active faults, making them particularly vulnerable to being cut. Lerner-Lam, who was not involved in the research, said that the identification of the seismic line near Indian Point “is a major substantiation of a feature that bears on the long-term earthquake risk of the northeastern United States.” He called for policymakers to develop more information on the region’s vulnerability, to take a closer look at land use and development, and to make investments to strengthen critical infrastructure.
“This is a landmark study in many ways,” said Lerner-Lam. “It gives us the best possible evidence that we have an earthquake hazard here that should be a factor in any planning decision. It crystallizes the argument that this hazard is not random. There is a structure to the location and timing of the earthquakes. This enables us to contemplate risk in an entirely different way. And since we are able to do that, we should be required to do that.”

New York Earthquake Briefs and Quotes:

Existing U.S. Geological Survey seismic hazard maps show New York City as facing more hazard than many other eastern U.S. areas. Three areas are somewhat more active—northernmost New York State, New Hampshire and South Carolina—but they have much lower populations and fewer structures. The wider forces at work include pressure exerted from continuing expansion of the mid-Atlantic Ridge thousands of miles to the east; slow westward migration of the North American continent; and the area’s intricate labyrinth of old faults, sutures and zones of weakness caused by past collisions and rifting.
Due to New York’s past history, population density and fragile, interdependent infrastructure, a 2001 analysis by the Federal Emergency Management Agency ranks it the 11th most at-risk U.S. city for earthquake damage. Among those ahead: Los Angeles, San Francisco, Seattle and Portland. Behind: Salt Lake City, Sacramento, Anchorage.
New York’s first seismic station was set up at Fordham University in the 1920s. Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, in Palisades, N.Y., has operated stations since 1949, and now coordinates a network of about 40.
Front page, The New York Times, Aug. 11, 1884.  "Convulsion of the earth which shook buildings and drove people from their homes, and caused much alarm."  New York Times
Front page, The New York Times, Aug. 11, 1884.  "Convulsion of the earth which shook buildings and drove people from their homes, and caused much alarm."

New York Times
Dozens of small quakes have been felt in the New York area. A Jan. 17, 2001 magnitude 2.4, centered in the Upper East Side—the first ever detected in Manhattan itself--may have originated on the 125th Street fault. Some people thought it was an explosion, but no one was harmed.

The most recent felt quake, a magnitude 2.1 on July 28, 2008, was centered near Milford, N.J. Houses shook and a woman at St. Edward’s Church said she felt the building rise up under her feet—but no damage was done.

Questions about the seismic safety of the Indian Point nuclear power plant, which lies amid a metropolitan area of more than 20 million people, were raised in previous scientific papers in 1978 and 1985.

Because the hard rocks under much of New York can build up a lot strain before breaking, researchers believe that modest faults as short as 1 to 10 kilometers can cause magnitude 5 or 6 quakes.

In general, magnitude 3 quakes occur about 10 times more often than magnitude fours; 100 times more than magnitude fives; and so on. This principle is called the Gutenberg-Richter relationship.

Lead Author Lynn Sykes

On the study and earthquake risk: “New York is not as prone to earthquakes as California and Japan, but they do happen. This study takes a more realistic look at the possibility of larger ones, and why earthquakes concentrate in certain places. To understand risk, you have to multiply hazard by assets, and vulnerability. When you factor that in, our risk is high. Too much attention has been paid to the level of hazard, and not enough to the risk.  Earthquake hazard is about the same today as in 1609 when Henry Hudson sailed up the River. But earthquake risk is much, much higher today, since the number of people, assets and their vulnerability are so much greater.”
On faults near Indian Point nuclear plant: “We think that the intersection of these two features being so close to Indian Point makes it a place of greater risk than most other points on the map.”

Coauthor Leonardo Seeber

On estimating hazard: “Most people underestimate the hazard here. Any conservative approach will look at geologically similar environments. If you do that, we are similar to Bhuj, India [where a 2001 magnitude 7 quake killed over 15,000 people]. There was no obvious sign of strain there. There is a mystery here to be solved, and we better step back and do our homework.”
On preparing:  “Once you accept that one fault in a family is active, you better consider that all the faults in that family could be active. We need to adapt our structures with that in mind.”

Coauthor John Armbruster

On past and future quakes: “You could debate whether a magnitude 6 or 7 is possible, but we’ve already had three magnitude fives, so that is very realistic.
There is no one now alive now to remember that last one, so people tend to forget. And having only a partial 300-year history, we may not have seen everything we could see. There could be surprises—things bigger than we have ever seen.”

Sunday, November 17, 2013

Imam Makes Way For Antichrist

Ayatollah Sistani: Assad and Maliki must go
Ayatollah Sistani: Assad and Maliki must go

Both Iraq and Syria's leaders should be removed immediately to avoid a devastating Shi'ite-Sunni sectarian split, says Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, the Gulf Daily News reported.
According to the report, the Shi'ite spiritual leader has voiced his objection to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad staying in power after more than two-and-a-half years of violence. He also feels that Iraq needs a new prime minister - acceptable to all components of its society - for the government to be able to safeguard the country's interest and unity.
Ayatollah Sistani's remarks came during a meeting with visiting Turkish Foreign Minister Ahmet Davutoglu in the holy city of Najaf in southern Iraq, said a cleric from the movement of Shi'ite strongman Moqtada Al Sadr. The minister also later met Al Sadr.
The cleric pointed out that Ayatollah Sistani's stance may lead to confrontations with Iran's spiritual leader Ali Khamenei, who backs both Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri Al Maliki and Assad, according to Kuwaiti newspaper Al Siyassa.
Davutoglu, the most senior Turkish official to visit Iraq since the end of 2011 when bilateral relations deteriorated following Turkish approval to keep Iraqi former vice-president Tariq Al Hashimi on its soil, described Ayatollah Sistani as the "safety valve" of Iraq. He also called him a "global peace man" who stands against sectarian sedition in Iraq and the region.
The Al Sadr aide pointed out that Tehran supports a third term for Al Maliki and is closely monitoring the Turkish-Iraqi rapprochement. It is thought that Turkey's extending its hand to Iraqi Shi'ites might help lead to its playing a significant role in soothing sectarian crises in the region and garner Ankara the role of mediator, as it already has good relations with Sunni parties in Iraq. The talks to end sectarian rifts came as a bomber wearing a police uniform detonated an explosives belt in a crowd of pilgrims in the eastern Iraqi city of Al Sadiya, killing 35.

Saturday, November 16, 2013

Moqtada al-Sadr: The Antichrist

Profile: Moqtada Sadr

Moqtada Sadr arrives in Najaf (5 January 2011)  
Moqtada Sadr has been studying at a seminary in Iran in the hope of becoming an ayatollah

Moqtada Sadr has been a powerful figure in Iraq since the fall of Saddam Hussein.
Although the situation has changed in the country since the radical Shia cleric went into self-imposed exile in Iran in 2007, he appears to have has lost none of his influence and has maintained his wide support among many of Iraq's impoverished Shia Muslims.
At times he has called for a national rebellion against foreign troops and sent out his Mehdi Army militiamen to confront the "invaders" and Iraqi security forces.
At others he has appeared more compromising, seeking for himself a political role within the new Iraq and helping form the national unity government in December 2010.
He returned to Iraq on 5 January 2011. Weeks before the withdrawal of US troops from the country, as negotiations were ongoing between Baghdad and Washington over a possible extension of their mission, he threatened to reactivate the Mehdi Army in case an extension is agreed.
Prayer leader The youngest son of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq Sadr - who was assassinated in 1999, reportedly by Iraqi agents - Moqtada Sadr was virtually unknown outside Iraq before the March 2003 invasion.
But the collapse of Baathist rule revealed his power base - a network of Shia charitable institutions founded by his father.
Shia chant in support of Moqtada Sadr at the Kazimiya shrine in Baghdad (24 October 2003) Moqtada Sadr was virtually unknown outside Iraq before the invasion, but quickly gained a following
In the first weeks following the US-led invasion, Moqtada Sadr's followers patrolled the streets of Baghdad's Shia suburbs, distributing food, providing healthcare and taking on many of the functions of local government.
They also changed the name of the Saddam City area to Sadr City.
Moqtada Sadr also continued his father's practice of holding Friday prayers to project his voice to a wider audience.
The practice undermined the traditional system of seniority in Iraqi Shia politics and contributed to the development of rivalries with two of Iraq's Grand Ayatollahs, Kazim al-Hairi and Ali Sistani.
Moqtada Sadr drew attention to their links with Iran, whose influence on Iraq's political and religious life his followers resented.
Moqtada Sadr delivers a sermon in Kufa (July 30, 2004) Moqtada Sadr has become a symbol of resistance to foreign occupation
He also called on Shia spiritual leaders to play an active role in shaping Iraq's political future, something most avoided.
Armed force Moqtada Sadr also used his Friday sermons to express vocal opposition to the US-led occupation and the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC).
In June 2003, he established a militia group, the Mehdi Army, pledging to protect the Shia religious authorities in the holy city of Najaf.
He also set up a weekly newspaper, al-Hawzah, which the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) banned in March 2004 for inciting anti-US violence. The move caused fighting to break out between the Mehdi Army and US-led coalition forces in Najaf, Sadr City and Basra.
The following month, the US said an Iraqi judge had issued an arrest warrant for Moqtada Sadr in connection with the murder of the moderate Shia leader, Abdul Majid al-Khoei, in April 2003. Moqtada Sadr strongly denied any role.
Mehdi Army fighters fire towards US troops in Najaf (16 August 2004) The Mehdi Army was involved in fierce fighting with US forces in August 2004 in Najaf
Hostilities between the Mehdi Army and US forces resumed in August 2004 in Najaf and did not stop until Ayatollah Sistani brokered a ceasefire. The fighting left hundreds dead and wounded.
During the negotiations for a truce, the Americans also reportedly agreed to lay aside the warrant for Moqtada Sadr.
The fierce clashes continued in Sadr City, however, and only ended in October after the Mehdi Army had sustained heavy losses.
Political power Though costly, the violence cemented Moqtada Sadr's standing as a force to be reckoned with in Iraq.
Iraqi woman votes in Najaf (January 2009) Supporters of Moqtada Sadr have performed strongly in all elections since the 2003 invasion
He became a symbol of resistance to foreign occupation - a counterpoint to established Shia groups such as the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (Sciri) and the Daawa Party.
Despite this, Moqtada Sadr chose to join his rivals' coalition for the December 2005 elections - the United Iraqi Alliance (UIA).
The alliance had easily won Iraq's first post-invasion election the previous January, and with the Sadr Bloc on board again came out on top.
In the months of government negotiations that followed, Moqtada Sadr used his influence to push for the appointment of Nouri Maliki, then Daawa's deputy leader, as prime minister. In return, his supporters got powerful positions in the cabinet.
At the same time, extremist Sunni Islamist militant groups - increasingly supported by Iraq's marginalised Sunni Arab minority - had begun to target the Shia community, not just foreign troops.
Insurgents attacked Shia Islam's most important shrines and killed many Shia politicians, clerics, soldiers, police and civilians.
Iraqi fire fighters extinguish the fire at the site of a car bomb explosion in the Shiite district of Sadr city, in Baghdad, Iraq, Sunday, March 12, 2006 In 2006 and 2007, thousands of people were killed as the sectarian conflict raged in Iraq
As the sectarian violence worsened, the Mehdi Army was increasingly accused of carrying out reprisal attacks against Sunni Arabs.
In 2006 and 2007, thousands of people were killed as the sectarian conflict raged. The Iraqi security forces seemed unable to stop the violence, though many blamed this on the infiltration of the interior and defence ministries by the Mehdi Army and other Shia militias.
One Pentagon report described the Mehdi Army as the greatest threat to Iraq's security - even more so than al-Qaeda in Iraq. Iran was accused of arming it with sophisticated bombs used in attacks on coalition forces.
Showdown Then in early 2007, after US President George W Bush ordered a troop "surge" in Iraq, it was reported that Moqtada Sadr had left for Iran and told his supporters
In August 2007, heavy fighting broke out between the Mehdi Army and Sciri's Badr Brigade in Karbala, leaving many dead.
Iraqi soldiers walk past a poster of Moqtada Sadr in Basra (April 2008) In March 2008, the Iraqi government ordered a major offensive against the Mehdi Army in Basra
The internecine fighting was condemned by many Shia, and Moqtada Sadr was forced to declare a ceasefire.
In March 2008, Mr Maliki ordered a major offensive against the militia in the southern city.
At first, the Mehdi Army seemed to have fended off the government's attempts to gain control of Basra. But within weeks, it had accepted a truce negotiated by Iran, and the Iraqi army consolidated its hold.
US and Iraqi forces also moved into Sadr City, sparking fierce clashes but also eventually emerging victorious.
In August 2008, Moqtada Sadr ordered a halt to armed operations. He declared that the Mehdi Army would be transformed into a cultural and social organisation, although it would retain a special unit of fighters who would continue armed resistance against occupying forces.
Kingmaker He meanwhile devoted his time to theological studies in the Iranian holy city of Qom, in the hope of eventually becoming an ayatollah.
Supporters of anti-American cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gather outside his home in the Shiite city of Najaf, Iraq, Thursday, Jan. 6, 2011 Moqtada Sadr returned from Iran in January to the holy city of Najaf to scenes of jubilation
Analysts say the title would grant him religious legitimacy and allow him to mount a more serious challenge to the conservative clerical establishment in Iraq.
At the same time, he built on the gains of the Sadr Bloc in the 2005 elections to increase his political influence. His supporters performed strongly in the 2009 local elections and made gains in the March 2010 parliamentary polls as the Iraqi National Alliance (INA), ending up with 40 seats.
The result made Moqtada Sadr the kingmaker in the new parliament. He toyed initially with backing Mr Maliki's rival for the premiership, but in June agreed to a merger between the INA and the prime minister's State of Law coalition.
Then in October, he was finally persuaded by Iran to drop his objection to Mr Maliki's reappointment in return for eight posts in the cabinet.
Secure in his standing, Moqtada Sadr returned from Iran in January to scenes of jubilation.

Friday, November 15, 2013

All It Takes Is Yellowcake!

Dumped in the desert ... Gaddafi’s yellowcake stockpile

Sitting in row after row, each 15 long by four high, the blue barrels are as frightening as any remnant of the Gaddafi regime.

Radioactive material found in a Gadaffi military base near Sabah
A rebel fighter among the yellowcake drums in the warehouse near the city of Sabha. The stockpile was abandoned and unguarded Photo: DAVID ROSE
Some are marked radioactive, as were the open plastic bags alongside.
The powder they contain appears to be yellowcake uranium from neighbouring Niger. Yet when they were discovered by advancing rebel forces last week, they were abandoned, in tumbledown warehouses protected only by a low wall.
Niger mines yellowcake under a strict security regime designed to ensure none of it falls into the hands of illicit networks. But post-Gaddafi Libya affords little or no protection to this vast haul of material, which if refined to high levels of purity is the essential element of a nuclear bomb.
Despite the dangers, international atomic agencies and Libya’s rebels say it will take weeks to put safeguards in place.
There are at least 10,000 drums with a total capacity of two million litres, though most have not been opened and checked for their contents. They are being stored not far from the southern desert city of Sabha.
The International Atomic Energy Agency says it knew that Col Muammar Gaddafi had stockpiled yellowcake uranium near Sabha – a relic of the years when he tried to develop nuclear weapons after obtaining blueprints from the Pakistani scientist, AQ Khan.
“We can confirm that there is yellowcake stored in drums at a site near Sabha in central Libya,” a spokesman said. “The IAEA has tentatively scheduled safeguard activities at this location once the situation in the country stabilises.”
After agreeing to dismantle the programme in 2003, Gaddafi was supposed to have given up all his nuclear technology. He was also supposed to have given up chemical weapons, but it is known he still had mustard gas awaiting disposal.
A WikiLeaks cable disclosed that two years ago he was trying to sell 1,000 metric tons of yellowcake on the world market. No one expected such a valuable commodity to have been left dumped in the desert.
Sabha was an important stronghold for Gaddafi, who spent part of his youth here, and many of the locals are from the Gaddafi tribe. Abdullah Senussi, his security chief, right-hand man and brother-in-law, is from a town 50 miles to the north.
But the city was only lightly defended. A total of 12 rebels died in the fighting, with just one or two parts of the town resisting at all.
Having driven out the remnants of the Gaddafi forces towards the Algerian border, the rebel troops said they were ordered to secure former military bases — a standard practice adopted belatedly to stop weapons stockpiles going missing.
They found the storage facility containing the radioactive drums totally unguarded. “I don’t think it’s ever been guarded,” said Musbah al-Mangoush, an agricultural engineer from the town who escaped Gaddafi’s grip three months ago and returned at the head of a brigade of troops from Benghazi.
“This was a military base until the 1990s, but then it was abandoned. There was no one here.”
In neighbouring sheds are rusting trucks, old fuel tanks, and surface-to-air missiles covered in pigeon droppings.
It is not clear how long the material has been there. Mohammed Othman, whose family owns a farm five miles further up the track away from Sabha, says soldiers were seen unloading trucks in the area a year ago. Mr Mangoush, on the other hand, links the find to what he claims is a high level of miscarriage and deformity in babies in the area, suggesting a longer term presence.
Mustafa Abdul Jalil, the president of the provisional government, the National Transitional Council, said at a press conference on Sunday that a second find of illegal material had been made near the town of Waddan — believed to be mustard gas. “There are weapons believed to be internationally forbidden, and they are under our control,” he said.
The United States previously said that Gaddafi’s yellowcake stocks were held at the town of Tajoura east of Tripoli and were “secure”.
The real site is now guarded by half a dozen rebel troops.
Fighting has moved on to the border town of Ghat, leaving virtually all the south of Libya, with its important oilfields, in the hands of the rebels.
Of Gaddafi himself, there is now no sign.
“Tell us if you find him,” is the commonest response to questions concerning his whereabouts.