Wednesday, November 30, 2016

Trump May Keep Our Nukes Antiquated

Loren Thompson , CONTRIBUTOR
Consider nuclear weapons. Barack Obama began his presidential tenure advocating a world free of nuclear weapons — he gave a big speech on the subject during his first year in office — and the nuclear posture review the administration completed in 2010 proposed “a multilateral effort to limit, reduce and eventually eliminate all nuclear weapons worldwide.” Six years later, Obama has begun an effort to modernize all three legs of the nuclear “triad” — ballistic-missile submarines, land-based missiles, and long-range bombers.
Clearly, Washington has changed the way Obama views nuclear weapons.
Now consider president-elect Donald Trump. When he launched his campaign for the presidency in June of 2015, he told Fox’s Bill O’Reilly that the nation’s nuclear arsenal had grown too old to be reliable, and made it clear he intended to fix that. In his most important foreign-policy speech of the campaign on April 27 of this year, Trump stated, “our nuclear arsenal, our ultimate deterrent, has been allowed to atrophy and is desperately in need of modernization and renewal.” The need to replace aging nuclear weapons has been a consistent theme of Trump’s campaign.
Most of the nuclear-capable bomber fleet consists of Boeing B-52 bombers that are over 50 years old. The planes are rugged and continuously modernized, but trying to penetrate heavily-defended air space would be a suicide mission. The Air Force needs both a new bomber and a new air-launched cruise missile to preserve the bomber component of the nuclear "triad." (Retrieved from Wikimedia)
And yet, because of the baroque way in which Washington operates, Trump’s election is already shaping up to be a setback for nuclear modernization. In fact, it could result in a nuclear arsenal less able to deter aggression a dozen years from now. Here’s why.
Republicans and Democrats have been at loggerheads for so long that Congress hasn’t managed to approve a complete budget in time for the new fiscal year since 1997. The government is kept running with what’s called a “continuing resolution,” which funds federal programs at the previous year’s level until Congress passes a real budget. When the government is operating under a continuing resolution, as it has been since the new fiscal year began October 1, new programs can’t be started and existing programs can’t spend more money than they were allotted in the prior year.
Last week, the Trump transition team signaled that it would like to see the current continuing resolution extended through March 31, so that it has time to shape spending priorities for the year. That means Washington will be functioning under what is known as a stop-gap funding mechanism for at least half of the fiscal year.
Such measures tend to waste money and distort decisions, but it’s understandable a new administration wouldn’t want to be stuck with the priorities of its predecessors. In the case of nuclear modernization, though, even a six-month delay could have serious repercussions because the Obama Administration waited too long to begin replacement of what Trump has correctly characterized as a decrepit strategic arsenal. There simply isn’t any slack in the modernization plan Trump will inherit before aging weapons need to be retired, or become unreliable.
Take the Navy’s Ohio-class submarines, which carry long-range ballistic missiles capable of destroying distant targets after a surprise attack. Ballistic-missile subs are the most survivable part of the nuclear force because enemies can’t find them when they are on undersea patrols. Survivability is crucial to deterrence since it’s the ability to retaliate after an attack that deters an enemy from attacking in the first place.
But the Ohio-class boats in the fleet today were built decades ago, and then their service lives were extended from a planned 30 years to 42 to delay paying the price of replacement. Further life extensions won’t be feasible when they start wearing out ten years from now — they will have to retire. To make matters worse, the Obama Administration delayed construction of the first replacement submarine from 2019 to 2021 so there is no margin of error in the schedule to cope with any problems that might crop up in development.
The existing subs will have to begin retiring in 2029 whether the new ones are available or not. Jason Sherman of explained in a November 22 analysis why extending the continuing resolution to March 31 is dangerous:
In September, the Navy’s top officer warned that delaying FY-17 funding beyond January could imperil the schedule for the service’s top modernization priority — the new ballistic missile submarine program — which needs funding to begin procuring long-lead items for the first boat during the first month of the new year.
In other words, it takes so long to design, develop, produce, commission, test and man a new ballistic missile sub that the Navy can’t tolerate any delays. And delay is precisely what extending the continuing resolution entails.
similar situation prevails in the case of the land-based Minuteman III missiles sitting in underground silos in the upper Midwest. General Robin Rand, head of the Air Force’s Global Strike Command, warned Congress on July 14 that “the Minuteman III flight system experiences propellant/component age out and subsystem attrition issues in the 2030 timeframe.” The Air Force hasn’t even picked a contractor to develop a successor missile, and time is running out to develop, test and deploy hundreds of replacements before the existing missiles become unreliable.
And then there are the long-range bombers. Most of the nuclear-capable bombers in the current fleet are B-52s based on an airframe first conceived in the 1940s that ceased production over 50 years ago. They are rugged planes, but long past the point when they could safely penetrate defended air space. The Air Force recently awarded a contract to develop a successor plane, but past experience suggests that program will encounter delays before being fielded late in the next decade.
Meanwhile, existing bombers must have a new cruise missile to remain credible contributors to nuclear deterrence, because the missiles they carry today are decades past their originally intended retirement date. Unfortunately, the new bombers, the new missiles, and the aerial-refueling tankers that will allow them to reach remote targets will all be delayed by extension of the continuing resolution. Each program required funding increases in the new fiscal year to stay on track that aren’t normally allowed under a stop-gap funding measure.
Secretary of Defense Ashton Carter captured how far gone the nation’s nuclear arsenal is in September remarks at Minot Air Force Base in North Dakota:
President-elect Trump deserves credit for highlighting this problem from the earliest days of his presidential campaign. Nothing matters more to national security than maintaining a credible nuclear deterrent. But for precisely that reason, Trump should urge the Congress to make an exception from the usual rules governing stop-gap funding measures to keep nuclear modernization programs on track. If funding is delayed by even a few months, the U.S. could be saddled with a deficient nuclear deterrent in the near future because new weapons aren’t available and old ones must retire.

Scarlet Woman joins Wisconsin recount lawsuit

Clinton moves to join Wisconsin recount lawsuit
por Curcio Lalama·Noviembre 30, 2016 03:08
The commission had rejected her call for a hand recount, allowing all 72 counties to determine how they wanted to proceed.
Attorneys representing Trump in Michigan's recount effort, Gary Gordon and John Pirich, said any recount of MI ballots should be conducted by machine due to interest of time and the unlikeliness of machine tampering, as the machines aren't connected to the Internet.
US President-elect Donald Trump posted a string of tweets on Monday taking a jibe at American media house CNN, for what he alleges as a pro-Hillary Clinton news coverage. Trump's Sunday tweet-storm, on the other hand, suggests that assuming the mantle of president-elect hasn't stopped him from trafficking in baseless conspiracy theories, even one that undermines the legitimacy of an election he won.
But concerns of machines vulnerable to error or manipulation, a significant increase in voters who cast a ballot but did not vote for a presidential candidate and reports of hacking election-related data throughout the country make a statewide recount worth it, he said. In Michigan, when the margin in a race is more than 0.5%, the candidate must pay $125 per precinct, which adds up to $787,500.
The commission is made up of three Democrats and three Republicans. It adopted the recount plans unanimously.
Donald Trump beat Hillary Clinton by about 22,000 votes in Wisconsin, but Stein has alleged - without evidence - that the results may have been hacked in a cyberattack. Stein had 31,006 votes, and De La Fuente had 1,514 votes.
Still, Stein emphasized the importance of pushing for the recounts, if only for principle. Stein denied this on Monday, saying the funds are "all going into a dedicated recount fund that is not accessible to the campaign". Counties must turn in their estimates by noon. In a hand recount, clerks would individually tally those ballots. Those machines also generate paper records.
Texas Republican Party chairman Tom Mechler said the elector's replacement will be selected by the remaining electors when they meet December 19.
Additionally, if the recount isn't finished by the December 19th electoral vote, it's possible neither candidate will get any of those states' electoral votes.
Stein was in court Tuesday afternoon seeking to force the Wisconsin recount to be done by hand.
Tuesday, November 29: Stein and/or De La Fuente campaign submits payment to WEC.
"As long as the petition is valid...the commission must issue a recount order", Michael Haas, the commission's interim administrator, told The Wall Street Journal.
Thursday, recount begins in every Wisconsin county.
The Board oft State Canvassers has four members.
December 13, Elections Commission staff will prepare the official recount canvass certification by 3 p.m.
Clinton's campaign, which has so far not ordered a recount, said it agrees with Stein's efforts in principle, but has not called for recounts because no evidence has been uncovered of potential voting fraud.
Furthermore, the once far-fetched concern of hacking has loomed large in an unusual election plagued by attacks from Russian-sponsored hackers, including the theft of emails from the Democratic National Committee and the Clinton campaign, as well as intrusions into Arizona and IL statewide voter registrations bases.
Trump was the first Republican presidential nominee to win Wisconsin since 1984.
Chris Thomas, the director of elections for the state, noted that Stein received only 1.07 percent of the vote in MI.
Three weeks after the presidential election, Wisconsin will move forward with a vote recount after some have questioned the integrity of election proceedings in the state.

Antichrist Seeks Reforms For His Men (Revelation 13:18)

Al Arabiya
In step 24 hours after Iraqi Parliament passed a bill recognizing Popular Mobilization militias as a government entity, Muqtada al Sadr, head of al Sadrist movement, proposed reforms to regulate and organize the Shiite militia fighters.
A delegation from al Sadrist movement handed over the reform manuscript to Iraqi president, Fuad Masum and the Speaker of the Parliament, Salem al Jabouri, on Sunday.
On the other hand, Al Jabouri emphasized the magnitude of unification of all Iraqi parties in order to accomplish a comprehensive national reconciliation that will contribute to the stabilization of their country.
On Saturday, the Iraqi parliament has passed the bill recognizing the Popular Mobilization Forces as a government body operation alongside the military, amid the opposition of some Sunni lawmakers, who said the law would intensify the division and the rift within the Iraqi society particularly following the violations attributed to these militias in some areas of Iraq.
*This article can also be viewed in Arabic on
Last Update: Monday, 28 November 2016 KSA 14:16 - GMT 11:16

New York … We Have A Problem (Revelation 6:12)

Minor quake centered in Powhatan was felt as far north as N.Y.
The Big One: The Sixth Seal
The Big One: The Sixth Seal
The Big One: The Sixth Seal
Posted: Thursday, May 22, 2014 10:30 pm | Updated: 11:40 pm, Fri May 23, 2014.
BY MARK BOWES Richmond Times-Dispatch
A relatively minor earthquake centered in Powhatan County was felt as far north as New York, but aside from jarred nerves and shaking buildings, the tremors caused no major problems, emergencies, damage or injuries in central Virginia, authorities said.
The magnitude-3.2 quake that occurred at 9:47 p.m. Wednesday was too small to cause any serious damage, said Don Blakeman, a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s Earthquake Center in Golden, Colo.
“The only kind of damage that would happen with something like this would be if there was something in someone’s house that was very precariously located — like something on the edge of a shelf,” Blakeman said. “You would not get structural damage or window breakage or anything like that.”
The quake’s epicenter was near the 1800 block of Nichols Road (state Route 650), just south of Deep Creek in Powhatan, according to latitude and longitude coordinates calculated by the agency.
“We can get these kind of quakes almost anywhere in the U.S.,” Blakeman said. “And they can happen every year or two, easily.”
Earthquakes of such magnitude can alarm residents who rarely experience them, Blakeman said, “but in terms of effects, it’s not a big deal.”
As of 5:30 p.m. Thursday, more than 1,900 people had posted responses about the quake on the agency’s website, which offers a “Did you feel it?” section. The large majority were Virginia residents, the most coming from Powhatan with 240 responses.
But three dozen people reported experiencing the quake in New York, New Jersey, Maryland, Pennsylvania, Ohio, Delaware, West Virginia, the District of Columbia and North Carolina.
Several central Virginia residents said what made Wednesday’s quake a little different than ones they previously experienced was the loud booming noise at the end of it. Residents said they felt tremors or rumbling lasting from a few seconds up to 20 seconds.
“Things started shaking like you’d think it was an earthquake or a heavy truck going down the road,” said Powhatan Undersheriff Chris DeHart. “But right at the end of it, there was kind of like a loud boom.”
Dehart said he initially believed something had exploded. But when he contacted Powhatan emergency communications he learned that residents from all over the county had called. That, he said, “pretty much” confirmed it was an earthquake.
“It was a little unnerving … (but) a little exciting,” said Tracy Cifers, manager of the County Seat restaurant across from the Powhatan Court House.
Cifers said she heard and felt a rumbling noise that lasted about five seconds.
Catherine Callis said she was home when she noticed a collection of dolls shaking on a shelf, and then her children ran from their rooms. Her boyfriend, James Garrigan, said the tremor lasted about 20 seconds and sounded like “heavy thunder or a freight train rolling by.”
“I definitely knew what it was,” Garrigan said.
Lindsay Tharp, an employee of the Four Seasons restaurant across from the Powhatan Courthouse, said she was closing the business with other workers when the quake rumbled. At first she thought the sound was a co-worker rolling a mop bucket across the floor, and then noticed that the bucket was bouncing.
“What did you do,” Tharp said she asked her co-worker. He said, “I didn’t do anything. Did we just have an earthquake?”
“Maybe,” Tharp replied. “Or your mop bucket is just really, really loud.”
Tharp said she didn’t think it was an earthquake until after the shaking stopped.
Powhatan Sheriff’s Investigator Jason Tackett said he heard a loud roar as his house shook for 15 to 18 seconds. “That’s about the fourth or fifth time we’ve had that out here in the last five or ten years,” he noted.
Melissa Jones, a clerk at KB’s Pit Stop on Clementon Road in Amelia, said she was home with her three children when she heard a loud boom and the house began to shake. “I thought somebody ran off the road and hit the house,” she said.
Jones said it wasn’t until she called her husband that she realized an earthquake had struck.
Blakeman said central Virginia could experience a few aftershocks in coming days or weeks, but it’s not a given.
“We very often see quakes this size that are individual (events) — they are just single quakes and that’s all you see for a while,” he said. “But it is certainly possible that there could be a couple of aftershocks after this … that are smaller in magnitude than the main quake.”
Blakeman said it’s also possible that a larger quake could occur, “but that chance isn’t necessarily increased by (Wednesday’s) quake.”
“But that’s not something that I would worry about,” he added. “The fact that this one happened doesn’t mean that something else is imminent.”

The Sunni's Concern About The Antichrist's Men (Revelation 13:18)

Legalizing Iraq’s Shiite mobilization forces

The Popular Mobilization - and without any exaggerations or intimidation - is a structure that's deeply into Khomeini ideals, sectarianism and financial corruption. It wants to follow the example of its counterpart, the Revolutionary Guard, or the guards of Khomeini revolution in Iran. Iran's revolutionary guards are in control of the state as they're in control of arms, money, media outlets, hawza programs, ayatollahs, banks, ports, oil, gas, foreign policy and everything else.
Iraq is not like Iran despite attempts by former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his comrades among the leaders of Iraqi Shiite parties to transform it. There is the independent Kurdish bloc, the Peshmerga, with its government, region and army. There are also Arab Sunni powers and although they're dispersed now, this will not last forever as it's only due to current circumstances and this will end once the circumstances change. Finally, there is a big percentage of Iraqi civil nationalists who reject the governance of fundamental groups, whether Sunnis or Shiites, and they are the spirit of the awaited Iraq.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi would have gained glory and won the Iraqis' support and love if he had rejected this law legalizing the Popular Mobilization Units.
Unfortunately, he did not reject it but only minded it a little bit requesting them to be patient before approving it and transfering the law to the cabinet. However Shiite parties did not listen to him and the law was passed amid Sunni MPs and other MPs' boycotted the session. The law passed support from the MPs of Maliki's, Ammar al-Hakim's, Muqtada al-Sadr's and other Shiite leaders' blocs, and Abadi therefore giving their blessing for the move.
Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi would have gained glory and won the Iraqis' support and love if he had rejected this law legalizing the Popular Mobilization Units
Mshari Al Thaydi
All proposals to postpone passing the law were rejected and all suggestions to amend it were prohibited. Some Sunni MPs' suggestions proposed allotting 40 percent of the units' fighters to Sunni tribes.
Relentless attempts
Saleh al-Mutlaq, former deputy prime minister and leader of Al-Arabiya Coalition, said passing the law "ends the dream of the civil state which the Iraqis dream of." The law is dangerous and it seriously tampers with the structure of the Iraqi state and paves way for continuous strife that may conclude with dividing Iraq or sustaining tensions and civil war as it creates a perfect atmosphere for sectarianism and transform Iraq into a Shiite state where others, mainly Sunni Arabs live under mercy and tutelage of others - that is if they live at all.
There are relentless attempts to fortify the criminal sectarian mobilization forces from being legally pursued after its involvement in bloodshed and violent practices which resemble ISIS' has been proven. The approved law's fourth article allows the Popular Mobilization to militarily act to confront any armed practices and to protect the government and the regime.
Shiite Al-Fadila bloc MP Hassan al-Shammari had requested providing legal immunity to the Popular Mobilization forces if they fight against ISIS and liberate areas occupied by the latter.
This law "destroys national partnership" like Sunni powers and other powers in Iraq said. By the way, I do not know how "brother" Salim al-Jabouri, the Brotherhood Islamist figure who is the speaker of parliament, explains passing this poisonous law.
Peace be upon Iraq.
This article was first published in Asharq al-Awsat on November 28, 2016.
Saudi journalist Mshari Al Thaydi presents Al Arabiya News Channel’s “views on the news” daily show “Maraya.” He has previously held the position of a managing senior editor for Saudi Arabia & Gulf region at pan-Arab newspaper Asharq al-Awsat. Al Thaydi has published several papers on political Islam and social history of Saudi Arabia. He appears as a guest on several radio and television programs to discuss the ideologies of extremist groups and terrorists.
Last Update: Saturday, 19 November 2016 KSA 13:14 - GMT 10:14

The Antichrist and the Hashd al-Shaabi (Revelation 13:18)

Move comes 2 days after parliament votes to incorporate Hashd al-Shaabi into Iraqi armed forces
By Ali Shekhu
According to al-Jabouri’s office, al-Sadr’s raft of recommendations included suggestions for streamlining the Hashd al-Shaabi’s operations, financially and administratively.
Al-Sadr had also emphasized that group members "should not be affiliated with any political faction", al-Jabouri’s office said in the statement.
The State Department said Monday that the decision was an "internal Iraqi matter" but expressed concerns and wanted things to be settled in a way that "doesn't further inflame sectarian tensions".
The Hashd al-Shaabi has stirred controversy, however, with some of its members having been accused of committing abuses against Sunni civilians in areas they had "liberated" from Daesh.
Iraq’s security situation has deteriorated markedly since mid-2014, when Daesh captured the city of Mosul -- now the target of a wide-ranging military campaign -- and overran vast swathes of territory in northern and western Iraq.
Anadolu Agency website contains only a portion of the news stories offered to subscribers in the AA News Broadcasting System (HAS), and in summarized form. Please contact us for subscription options.

Tuesday, November 29, 2016

1884 A Forewarning Of The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

The Coney Island earthquake of 1884

Seismograph of New York Earthquake 1884
Seismograph of New York Earthquake 1884
January 20, 2010
New York City isn’t immune to earthquakes; a couple of small tremors measuring about 2.5 on the Richter scale even struck back in 2001 and 2002.
The quake was subsequently thought to have been centered off Far Rockaway or Coney Island.
Translation: We’re about 30 years overdue. Lucky for us the city adopted earthquake-resistant building codes in 1995.

Iranian Horn Loses Nuclear Material

A device containing Iridium-192 has been reported stolen from Iran’s Bushehr nuclear power plant, could be used to construct a dirty bomb.
Gary Willig | Yesterday, 5:20 PM
Nuclear power plant (illustration), Thinkstock
A device containing the nuclear material Iridium-192 has gone missing from Iran’s Bushehr Nuclear Power Plant and may have been stolen, according to a report by the Saudi newspaper Asharq Al-Aawsaat.
It is feared that the material could be used to construct a dirty bomb, a conventional weapon equipped with nuclear material which is used to spread nuclear material and deadly radiation around the area where it explodes.
Asharq Al-Aawsaat reported that a vehicle carrying the device was stolen as it was being transported from the Bushehr facility. The vehicle was later found, but the device was gone.
The identity of the thief is unknown, as is the purpose for which the device was stolen or whether the thief is aware of what he stole.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA defines) Iridium-192, a highly unstable isotope which emits both electrons and gamma-rays, as a category-2 radioactive substance. It is used primarily to locate structural flaws in metals. Substances with a category-2 classification can permanently injure or even kill a human being exposed to the material within hours or days.
The theft was reported to the IAEA earlier this month. The IAEA then warned neighboring Gulf States of the danger the isotope poses.

Can The Apprentice Handle The Middle East?

Trump's Big Test in the Middle East
The president-elect will encounter a region convulsed by change.
NOV 25, 2016 GLOBAL
After decades of global stability, anxiety and unpredictability are now ubiquitous. A vacuum of American leadership is eroding long-standing alliances and emboldening challengers to the international order. Nowhere is this trend more evident than in the Middle East. The region’s conflagrations, its array of power-brokers, old alliances, and new coalitions, will test Donald Trump, and demand that his administration clearly define America’s priorities and interests there. Europe and Asia will be watching.
Trump has criticized the Iraq War, and forswore repeating such costly interventions—hinting that he will continue the Obama administration’s pivot away from the region—but his posture toward the Islamic State and Iran could put the United States on the same path that led to that conflict. Trump promises closer collaboration with traditional Arab allies, who want the United States to help end the regime of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. Yet that conflicts with the priorities of Russian President Vladimir Putin, who has thrown his support behind the Assad regime, but with whom Trump would like to make common cause. Nor can the United States defeat ISIS in Iraq and Syria—Trump’s top priority—while also confronting Russia and Iran, which backs some of the most powerful militias fighting the Islamic State. It cannot, in other words, choose both its Arab allies and Russia in Syria, nor both fight ISIS in Iraq while picking a fight with Iran.
While defeating ISIS in its strongholds of Mosul and Raqqa is a key step, it is only a first step. For Trump, preventing the rise of a successor to ISIS will require a diplomatic effort aimed at reaching political settlements in both Iraq and Syria. That means taking stock of the region’s changing needs.
Since Republicans last held the White House, the long-standing regional order that Washington relied on for decades has disappeared. In its place: a contagion of conflict fueled by popular protest against sclerotic authoritarian regimes, and sectarian and tribal fighting over scraps of broken states. All this, as Iran, Saudi Arabia, and Turkey jockey for influence to protect their interests where they must, and further them where they can.
Obama largely sidestepped dealing with any of this, focusing instead on defeating ISIS. What would happen after ISIS was his successor’s concern. Trump cannot afford such insouciance. The Middle East overshadowed Obama’s pivot to Asia, and it could do the same to the president-elect’s foreign and domestic priorities. The task for Trump is to arrive at a new regional order, one that would repair the frayed map of the Middle East and shore up its governments.
For decades, the United States relied on dictatorships to ensure regional stability. That bedrock is no more. The so-called Arab Spring popular uprisings buffeted state institutions, first provoking social strife, and in the worst instances, civil war. Sects and tribes—filial identities long hidden behind the edifice of dictatorship—saw threat and opportunity in the ensuing chaos, igniting paroxysms of violence that led to more disorder.

Monday, November 28, 2016

Mosul And The Antichrist's Rise To Power (Revelation 13)

Iraqi Special Forces with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) entered Mosul two years after the city was turned into a Daesh stronghold in Iraq overrun by its brutal militants. The anti-Daesh troops are gaining ground on multiple fronts and advancing toward the center of the Daesh-held city of Mosul from the West. They are clearing buildings in eastern Mosul to wipe out Daesh from occupied neighborhoods in the city. According to the U.S. Special Presidential Envoy for the Global Coalition to Counter Daesh Brett McGurk, the Mosul operation, which began on November 16, is ahead of schedule and the success of the operations is obvious in terms of military gains. Since the operation was launched, experts have raged over the future of Mosul with a specific emphasis on the number of fighters on the ground in visual and written media. However, the future of Mosul is based on more than the numerical superiority of 300,000 Iraqi armed forces vis-a-vis the estimated number of 3,500 to 5,000 Daesh militants. Moreover, should the operation to expel Daesh militants from Mosul be complete, still the future of the city is premised on more than the impending military success hoped for. Although there will be overwhelming attention paid to the current military gains on the battlefield, Iraq obviously needs an urgent reconstruction of its state mechanism.
Mosul, as the second biggest city in Iraq, symbolizes a failed state structure rooted from a political, financial and judicial legitimacy crisis following the defeat of the Saddam Hussein regime. The detonator of the crisis is primarily based on the adverse interests of various political actors holding multiple sectarian and ethnic identities. The abundance of political actors causes people to succumb to strategic rift and political intrigue in Iraqi politics. To put it more explicitly, each actor is struggling to foment political clout to mar the interests of the other actors. While each actor is bearing down on the positions of others, civilians are calling on them to reach a permanent solution for better governance. A rather exclusionist agenda will hinder any attempt to spawn a reconstructive state where the rule of law is paramount.
The crisis in Iraq has made great strides currently when the most prominent Shiite cleric figure Muqtada Al-Sadr and his young followers occupied Green Zone motivated by a direct critique of corruption and institutionalization of sectarian political system a couple of months ago. The protestors indicated entrenched sectarian meltdown in Iraqi politics resulting in widespread discontent especially among those out of power. Iraqi people are not pleased with newly emerging circumstances which ignites new intra ethnic and intra sectarian fissures because competition between domestic actors is plunging the country into deeper instability. In addition, fueled sectarian conflicts are sweeping government's incapability of providing essential services such as water, electricity and security under a carpet in a consistent manner. These are the vital issues for the agenda of ordinary Iraqi people; so the chaos could not be explained by just fragmented sectarian politics. Not only has intra sectarian and ethnic rift mounted instability but also lack of legitimacy has sparked off aggravation of state crisis in Iraq. Establishment of rule of law is a prerequisite for government legitimacy; nevertheless, the Abadi government is incapable of instilling confidence. This is largely due to the lack of basic services which should be provided by the state apparatus. Apart from simmering discontent among the Iraqi people over the failure of Iraq's governing institutions, the federal court of Iraq has found decisions held in key sessions of the Council of Representatives (CoR) unconstitutional several times (such as abolishment of ceremonial posts of the country's vice president and deputy prime minister and selection of five technocratic ministers). Nullification of the sessions is damaging the credibility, reliability and legitimacy of the Abadi government. Furthermore, the Iraqi Council of Representatives withdrew confidence in the minister of defense and minister of interior on the eve of the uphill Mosul operation to wipe out Daesh militants. In short, Iraq currently has neither a minister of defense nor a minister of interior. Dismissing ministers once again reduced the legitimacy of the government while Abadi aimed to snuffing out opposite voices to appeal for public support and consolidate his power.
Finally, another issue to be underscored: If we are talking about state crisis in Iraq, it should be an extensive corruption embedded in Iraq's political culture. Recently, a case of corruption was reported at the Karbala Real Estate Registration Directorate which is about the illegal extortion of real estate properties owned specifically by the Christian community. Virtually, sociological roots of corruption phenomenon in Iraq intrinsically hinges on informal networks, namely tribal and religious communities. Therefore, crippling the chain of corruption thrived in Iraq could not be handled by the current Abadi government due to the massive lack of governmental legitimacy and rule of law.
Based on the brief glimpse into political impasse in Iraq, a military victory in Mosul is not sufficient to build up Iraq state apparatus. Currently, all ethnic and sectarian groups have coalesced under a single roof to drive out Daesh from Iraq. Nevertheless, nobody knows how regional dynamics will change after a much-awaited Mosul victory. Having been lining up against a common enemy will definitely precipitate to pave the way for a military success on the battlefield but still there are some questions that should be answered about political stabilization of Mosul. Keeping remarks solely on Sunni-Shiite dimension is not enough to explain the root causes of political instability because Mosul is more than a Muslim society. Iraq has many Shiite, Sunni, Kurdish, Yazidi, Shabak and Turkmen communities, all having different priorities s in a competing political agenda. What is striking is that intra group struggles are also widespread, namely, the Shiites are protesting against Shiite leaders and Kurds are protesting against Kurdish leaders or some tribes are protesting Daesh - some of them are propping up Daesh militants on the ground. Apart from the complicated group dynamics, Iraq faces a major political crisis rooted from lack of governmental legitimacy that suspends quelling tensions. Due to the high level of corruption, lack of rule of law and growing budget crisis, the Iraqi government is having difficulty running Iraq's economic activities which exacerbates socio-political unrest ahead of provincial and parliamentary elections. Briefly stated, the presence of intertwined relations between political and economic actors holding the ground, Mosul is symbolizing more than an oncoming military success against Daesh, but also a representative sample to interpret the course of evolving local and regional dynamics in the Middle East. Steps to be taken to ensure stabilization of Mosul will have long-term repercussions for the future of the Kurdish region, Baghdad, the Sunni areas and region in a broader sense.
* Middle East studies research master's degree at METU

Did The Russians Hack The Election?

Photo Credit: Image by Shutterstock, Copyright (c) Julius Kielaitis
By Steven Rosenfeld / AlterNet
November 26, 2016
The recount entered a new phase Saturday, when both the Hillary Clinton campaign and the Donald Trump transition team issued dueling statements about the need to verify votes in the three states that gave Trump an Electoral College majority. But beyond their appearances, with Clinton’s campaign saying it would participate in the effort, was a remarkable development: the prospect that the recount will try to investigate the biggest unanswered question hanging over the election beside who won: did Russia take steps to hack the vote?
Trump called the recount a “ridiculous” effort by the Greens that was fleecing donors of the nearly $6 million raised by midday Saturday. But the statement by the Clinton campaign’s top lawyer, Marc Elias, noted in its opening paragraphs that the election, the Democratic Party, and their campaign was repeatedly targeted by the Russians.
“This election cycle was unique in the degree of foreign interference witnessed throughout the campaign: the U.S. government concluded that Russian state actors were behind the hacks of the Democratic National Committee and the personal email accounts of Hillary for America campaign officials, and just yesterday, the Washington Post reported that the Russian government was behind much of the 'fake news' propaganda that circulated online in the closing weeks of the election,” Elias wrote on, then elaborating about their private investigative efforts to assess the impact of Russian interference in the campaign.
Going even further, the first recount petition filed by the Greens, in Wisconsin, primarily focused on Russian hacking, not on the more easily understood line of inquiry of different voting technologies reporting different margins of victory for Trump despite their locations. The Green's petition opens by stating they believe “an irregularity” has occurred affecting the entire state. It goes on to say that in August, “foreign operators breached voter registration databases in at least two states and stole hundreds of thousands of voter records” at the same time the email systems of the Democratic National Committee and Clinton campaign were hacked and put online. It lists warnings by federal homeland security officials to states to take steps to protect these databases, and then lays out its theories. First, Wisconsin’s voting systems are aging and known to be susceptible to hackers, “including they can be breached without detection and even after certain security measures are put in place.” And that may account for “a significant increase in the number of absentee voters compared to the last general election. This significant increase could be attributed to a breach of the state’s electronic voter database.”
That summation and line of inquiry has been reported by AlterNet before. However, the Green’s petition went further to explain what they are going to be looking for as the recount ensues. The first piece of supporting evidence is an affidavit by J. Alex Halderman, a University of Michigan professor of computer science and engineering, and director of the Center for Computer Security and Society based in Ann Arbor. He was part of the team set up by California’s ex-Secretary of State, Debra Bowen, that reviewed the vulnerability of its electronic voting systems and led to the state banning the same machines used in Wisconsin.
Russia tried to breach voter registration databases in 20 states last summer, Halderman said, citing the Department of Homeland Security as his source. “Russia has sophisticated cyber-offensive capabilities, and it has shown a willingness to use them to hack elections elsewhere. For instance, according to published reports, during the 2014 presidential election in Ukraine, attackers linked to Russia sabotaged Ukraine’s vote-counting infrastructure, and Ukranian officials succeeded only at the last minute in defusing the vote-stealing malware that could have caused the wrong winner to be announced,” he wrote, referencing and submitting a June 2014 Christian Science Monitor article that described the hacks and averted tampering.
Not mentioned in the Green’s filing was Paul Manafort, who came aboard Trump’s campaign last spring and shepherded it through the Republican National Convention until he was forced to resign because of a multi-million-dollar cash payment from consulting in Ukraine, and he was working for the pro-Russian side of the June 2014 Ukranian election, the Washington Post reported last August. “Even with [pro-Russian Viktor] Yanukovych out of the country, the [New York] Times reports Manafort kept working in Ukraine with the president's former chief of staff to help keep the pro-Russian party in the political game. It worked. The party ended up being a significant influence in parliament.”
Halderman’s affidavit continued, saying the same vote tampering that occurred in Ukraine could have occurred in some of 2016’s presidential swing states:
"If a foreign government were to attempt to hack American voting machines to influence the outcome of a presidential election, one might expect the hackers to proceed as follows. First, the attackers might probe election offices well in advance to find ways to break into the computers. Next, closer to the election, when it was clear from polling data which state would have close electoral margin, the attackers might spread malware into voting machines into some of the states, manipulating the machines to shift a few percent of the vote to favor the desired candidate. This malware would likely be designed to remain inactive during pre-election tests, perform its function during the election, and then erase itself after the polls closed. One would expect a skilled attacker’s work to leave no visible signs, other than a surprising electoral outcome in which results in several close states differed from pre-election polling.”
America’s voting machinery is especially vulnerable to that scenario, Halderman said, noting that he personally has installed malware in electronic voting machines to achieve that exact result. Whether voting machines are connected to the internet “is irrelevant,” he said, which is directly applicable to Wisconsin, whose safeguards include keeping its voting machines offline, state election officials have previously told AlterNet. All it takes is one memory card to be inserted into the system at any point, he said, for such malware to be spread.
“This explanation is plausible, in light of other known cyber attacks intended to affect the outcome of the election; the profound vulnerability of American voting machines to cyberattack; and the fact that a skilled attacker would leave no outwardly visible evidence of an attack other than an unexpected result,” Halderman reiterated. “The only way to determine whether a cyber attack affected the outcome of the 2016 presidential election is to examine the available physical evidence—that is, to count the paper ballots and paper audit trail records, and review the voting equipment… Using the electronic equipment to conduct the recount, even after first evaluating the machine through a test deck, is insufficient. Attackers intending to commit a successful cyber attack could, and likely would, create a method to undermine any pre-tests… Voting equipment that might yield forensic evidence of an attack includes the voting machines, removable media, and election management system computers. Paper ballot, paper audit trails, and voting equipment will only be examined in this manner if there is a recount.”
This scenario of examining the entire voting system is not what the state of Wisconsin is envisioning when conducting the recount, according to a statement by the state election administrator, Michael Hass, on Friday, saying that the Green Party has filed for its recount.
“In a recount, all ballots (including those that were originally hand-counted) are examined to determine voter intent before being retabulated. In addition, the county boards of canvassers will examine other documents, including poll lists, written absentee applications, rejected absentee ballots, and provisional ballots before counting the votes.”
Haas said the Wisconsin Election Commission’s role in the recount is “to provide legal guidance to the counties during the recount, and to certify the results.” This is a new state board composed of partisan appointees by Republican Gov. Scott Walker, who disbanded the state’s former Government Accountability Board, which was comprised of retired state judges and was among the most highly respected election oversight panel in the country.
In other words, these preliminary and contradictory statements from the Clinton campaign, Green Party and Wisconsin election administrator show why the upcoming presidential recount is going to be controversial and headed into court at many steps along the way. It also shows that the Greens are taking the lead in advancing the one storyline the Clinton campaign did not get the media to heed—the extent to which Russia may have tampered with America’s voting machinery and tilted the result to a candidate who embraced Vladimir Putin.
“Because we had not uncovered any actionable evidence of hacking or outside attempts to alter the voting technology, we had not planned to exercise this option ourselves, but now that a recount has been initiated in Wisconsin, we intend to participate in order to ensure the process proceeds in a manner that is fair to all sides,” Clinton counsel Marc Elias said on Saturday. “The campaign is grateful to all those who have expended time and effort to investigate various claims of abnormalities and irregularities. While that effort has not, in our view, resulted in evidence of manipulation of results, now that a recount is underway, we believe we have an obligation to the more than 64 million Americans who cast ballots for Hillary Clinton to participate in ongoing proceedings to ensure that an accurate vote count will be reported.”