Babylon vs Babylon the Great

Iran versus the United States – Raddington Report
It’s war by any other means. The Iranian regime is heightening its efforts to damage US national interests and scuttle Washington’s foreign policy objectives by ramping up its interventions in the Middle East.
The regime’s concerted efforts are being directed by its Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, his Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its many tentacles. Among the actors in this play are the Navy, the Aerospace Force, ground forces, the Ministry of Intelligence, and the elite Qods force, which is led by General Qassem Soleimani and operates outside Iran’s borders to export the regime’s revolutionary ideals
Lately, Iran’s state-owned media outlets, long since the mouthpieces of Khamenei and the IRGC, have been extensively covering the increasing capabilities, power, and influence of Iran’s armed forces in the region. Iran’s leaders enjoy boasting about the leverage that the regime revels in defying the US in various fields.
The regime is accomplishing these objectives by steadfastly extending the core pillar of its foreign policy. In practice, this means the regime is working hard to widen its connections to militia and terrorist groups through different means, including political and military interventions in countries throughout the Middle East, including as Yemen, Syria, Iraq and Lebanon — not countries known for their stability at present.
Over in Iraq, Iranian leaders are delegating a more expansive role to the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a network of Tehran-backed Shi’ite paramilitary groups, which are estimated to have roughly more than 60,000 fighters. With Tehran’s bank balances back in the black thanks to the nuclear agreement, the IRGC provides vital military, financial and advisory assistance to the PMF. The IRGC and Iran’s news outlets do not hide the presence of Iran’s ground forces in Iraq. The IRGC appointed one of its generals, Iraj Masjedi, to be the new ambassador to Iraq.
During the latest visit of the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to Tehran, Khamenei emphasized the expanding role of PMF and how the presence of Shi’ite paramilitary groups on the ground are becoming political realities in Baghdad. One approach is linked to intensifying interference in the upcoming Iraqi elections. Iran’s sophisticated interventions has prompted the Iraqi Vice President Ayad Allawi to point out that “Iran has been interfering even in the decision [making process] of the Iraqi people…We don’t want an election based on sectarianism, we want an inclusive political process … we [hoped] that the Iraqis would choose themselves without any involvement by any foreign power.”
Khamenei warned Haider al-Abadi not to interfere with Iranian foreign policy goals. He made it clear that the objective of expanding the role of Iraqi militia groups is to spread anti-American sentiments and disrupt US regional objectives, telling the Iraqi leader that “We should remain vigilant of the Americans and not trust them.”
In Syria, IRGC has launched ballistic missiles, kicking off fresh phase of military interventions — this is Iran’s first deployment of such weaponry abroad in nearly three decades. It speaks to a transformation in how Iran’s armed forces will escalate its engagement in the region. But it also highlights the fact that Iran is buttressing Assad’s military. The IRGC generals made it evident that the attacks were “a message” and a “warning” not only to ISIS but also to the US and its regional allies.
For Iran, this is just the beginning. As former IRGC Guard chief Gen. Mohsen Rezai warned, darkly, “The bigger slap is yet to come.”
Iran has been busy in Yemen, as well. The Iranian regime is not only stepping up its support for the Tehran-backed Houthis, but is also deploying other proxies, including Hezbollah, in the war-torn state, in an attempt to further damage the country’s infrastructure and spoil US initiatives in Yemen. Although Iranian leaders deny playing any role in Yemen, the IRGC forces and its proxies are present in Yemen fighting alongside Houthi forces. Iran’s rising shipments of arms to Yemen, however, is impossible to deny. Several countries including the US have intercepted Iran’s attempt to deliver weapons to the Houthis. Most recently, the Saudi navy captured three members of the IRGC from a boat approaching Saudi Arabia’s offshore Marjan oilfield. The Saudi information ministry stated: “This was one of three vessels which were intercepted by Saudi forces. It was captured with the three men on board, the other two escaped.”
Hezbollah currently enjoys a presence in “every third or fourth house” in southern Lebanon, according to the IDF Chief of Staff, a clear violation of United Nations Security Council Resolution 1701 — and Iran does not show any signs of wishing to give up on their Lebanese proxy. Hezbollah affects Lebanon decision-making to serve Khamenei’s interest, not that of the Lebanese people. The growing financial and military assistance has also made Hezbollah “more militarily powerful than most North Atlantic Treaty Organization members” according to a former Israeli ambassador to the United Nations.
Iran’s support for terrorist groups across the spectrum, which are sworn to disrupt US foreign policy and damage Washington’s interests, is a core pillar of Tehran’s foreign policy. The 2016 statement by Director of National Intelligence (DNI) James Clapper remains very much accurate: “Iran — the foremost state sponsor of terrorism — continues to exert its influence in regional crises in the Middle East through the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps — Qods Force (IRGC-QF), its terrorist partner Lebanese Hezbollah, and proxy groups.”
There exists a rare opportunity that the US should seize. After eight years of Obama’s administration trying to appease the Iranian regime and after eight years of neglecting the security concerns of other regional governments, the Gulf states and other regional powers long to counter Iran’s support for terrorist groups, increasing use of brute force and regional military adventurism. The Trump administration can capitalize on regional powers’ political and military weight in holding back Iran. Isolating and sanctioning Tehran via establishing a powerful and united front is critical at this moment.
The Iranian regime is rapidly using its militia and terrorist groups to shape political realities across the Middle East. It is penetrating the political, military and security infrastructures of several Middle Eastern nations. The aim is to advance the regime’s Islamist revolutionary ideals, hegemonic ambitions, and to damage US national interests. A swift and proportionate response to the Iranian regime, which is an integration of political pressure and military force, ought to be a top priority.

Nuclear Horns Continue to Grow (Daniel 7)

Nuclear Powers Cut Weapons Numbers But Increase Modernization: Study
July 03, 2017 00:02 GMT
The number of nuclear weapons in the world is continuing to decline, but nations possessing such arsenals are modernizing their stockpile and are not likely to give them up for the foreseeable future, a new study says.
Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) on July 3 said nine countries possessed about 4,150 operationally deployed nuclear weapons.
If all nuclear weapons are counted, the figure comes to 14,935, down from 15,395 a year earlier, it said.
It listed the countries with nuclear weapons as the United States, Russia, the United Kingdom, France, China, India, Pakistan, Israel, and North Korea.
At the top of the list is Russia, with 1,950 deployed warheads and 5,050 other warheads. At the bottom was North Korea, which SIPRI listed as having 10-20 other warheads.
The United States has 1,800 deployed warheads and 5,000 other warheads.
The other countries were listed with total warheads of below 300 each.
The report said “deployed warheads” refers to those placed on missiles or located on bases with operational forces.
“Other warheads” are those held in reserve or out of service and awaiting dismantlement.
“The decrease in the overall number of nuclear weapons in the world is due mainly to Russia and the USA — which together still account for nearly 93 per cent of all nuclear weapons—further reducing their inventories of strategic nuclear weapons,” the report said.
It said, though, that both countries have “expensive nuclear modernization programs under way.”
For example, it said, the United States “plans to spend $400 billion in 2017–26 on maintaining and comprehensively updating its nuclear forces.”
‘Despite the recent progress in international talks on a treaty banning nuclear weapons, long-term modernization programs are under way in all nine states,’ SIPRI Senior Researcher Shannon Kile said.
“This suggests that none of these states will be prepared to give up their nuclear arsenals for the foreseeable future,” he added.

Antichrist Unifies Iraq (Revelation 13)

New political alliance unites Iraqi religious and secular parties
Al Monitor
BAGHDAD — Amid the search for suitable alliances among political parties, the Sadrist movement surprised its popular base June 22 by announcing an agreement with the Al-Wataniya coalition (National Coalition) led by Ayad Allawi. The two parties will form a new political bilateral alliance by unifying political stances regarding pending issues, expediting the legislation of suspended laws and finding solutions to the country’s problems before the 2018 parliamentary elections.
The Sadrists traditionally have been led by activist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, while Al-Wataniya has generally been seen as a secular party.
The Sadrist Political Committee issued a statement, saying, “The two parties have agreed on forming a parliamentary front that includes members from the movement and coalition. The members are to reach understandings that are in line with the post-Mosul liberation phase [from the Islamic State (IS)] and expedite the rectification of the electoral process by changing the members of the electoral commission and choosing independent figures who live up to people’s expectations. The Sadrist-Allawi alliance also is to approve a new electoral law that guarantees voter opinion and contributes to a political process that respects Iraqis’ will.”
Al-Wataniya coalition member of parliament Jamila al-Obeidi said that the Sadrist movement is the group closest to having a unified national identity, making it easier to reach a political agreement with the Sadrists to serve the country.
Obeidi said sectarian and political bickering as well as regional interventions have torn Iraq apart, scattered its wealth and ruined its economy. Therefore, citizens must look at what remains. She told Al-Monitor, “The new alliance does not mind uniting with other political parties that believe in a national project to build an Iraqi state based on unity and sovereignty and shunning any meddling in its affairs.”
When asked about the new alliance and whether it breaks the rule of alliances based on political sectarianism, Obeidi said, “The alliance will indeed help overcome this hurdle, given its sectarian variety. It will open the door to pure national alliances that only care about reform, banking on the political process and willing to end the marginalization and dismissal of others.”
She added, “We will revisit all laws passed in parliament such as the terrorism law and the de-Baathification law, and we will reform the judiciary and achieve real national reconciliation.”
Some claimed that the new alliance reflects Allawi’s aspirations to become prime minister, but Obeidi denied this. She said, “Whether Allawi gets the premiership or not depends on people’s will. We are trying to take a firm stance that protects us from foreign intervention, be it from Iran or other countries. We want to build a balanced relationship with all countries based on respect and nonintervention in others’ affairs.”
This new alliance surprised the Sadrist base, as the Sadrist movement and Al-Wataniya Coalition were at odds in the wake of the Najaf incidents in 2004, when the Iraqi army and the Sadr-led Mahdi Army fought after Allawi became interim prime minister.
The new parliamentary alliance bothered some Iraqi political parties, especially the National Alliance — the largest in parliament. Member of parliament Abdul Hadi Saadawi of the State of Law Coalition, which is part of the National Alliance, said, “Sadrists do not have the say in the political arena they did before. They are outside the dialogue circle of the alliance they left.”
Saadawi belittled the new alliance’s prospects of success. He said Allawi’s National Coalition has lost its popularity and credibility in Sunni circles and has strayed too far. As a result, two Sunni alliances were born. The first is the Arab Project led by Sunni businessman Khamis al-Khanjar, and the second is closer to the political majority and consists of an alliance of parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri, the Islamic Party and the National Movement for Reform and Development (Solution party), among others.
Saadawi told Al-Monitor, “These alliances are just a political tempest in a teapot. They will not affect the program of the State of Law Coalition, which seeks to achieve a political majority government and rule the country once again.”
In the 2014 election, the State of Law Coalition won 92 of 328 seats, the Sadrist movement 34 and Al-Wataniyah 21; the Sadrists have been in the national spotlight due to protests they have been holding since 2015.
Saadawi added, “Allawi and the liberals are after the premiership. But they will fail because they do not have a political project in parliament serving people and aiming to build the country.”
He denied any outside Arab and other international intervention in choosing the prime minister and considered it “strictly an Iraqi affair.”
As per the provisions of the political agreement between the Sadrists and Allawi, the two parties will work to unite the political stances in parliament during the next stage. This step would serve the country’s best interests, Sadrist leader Amir al-Kanani said. The agreement will also engage both parties in a united electoral list in Baghdad, Maysan and Anbar provinces.
Kanani said, “Regarding the person who is most likely to occupy the premiership, we are open to all possibilities, including the National Alliance, which we hope will not hide away in Shiite regions. The new alliance mainly wants to end any foreign intervention in the political decision-making process and build clear and honest ties with the Iraqi Kurdistan Region’s government, in addition to finding a clear vision in our domestic and foreign affairs.”
He added, “We will try to reform the judicial, legislative and executive authorities and reach noncentralized administration in unstable areas in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region. We will also dismiss the electoral commission and form a new UN-compliant commission.”
Iraqi political forces are currently busy uniting political stances and seeking new electoral coalitions to participate in the upcoming parliamentary elections in 2018. The electoral race is expected to be heated.

The Increaseing Risk Of Nuclear War

What factors make nuclear war more likely?

We know that the risk of nuclear war is not zero. Humans are not capable of creating foolproof systems. Nuclear weapons systems are particularly problematic since the possession of nuclear weapons carries an implicit threat of use under certain circumstances. In accord with nuclear deterrence theory, a country threatens to use nuclear weapons, believing that it will prevent the use of nuclear weapons against it.
Nearly 15,000 nuclear weapons are currently under the control of nine countries. Each has a complex system of command and control with many possibilities for error, accident or intentional use.
Error could be the result of human or technological factors, or some combination of human and technological interaction. During the more than seven decades of the Nuclear Age, there have been many accidents and close calls that could have resulted in nuclear disaster. The world narrowly escaped a nuclear war between the United States and Soviet Union during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis.
Human factors include miscommunications, misinterpretations and psychological issues. Some leaders believe that threatening behavior makes nuclear deterrence more effective, but it could also result in a preventive first-strike launch by the side being threatened. Psychological pathologies among those in control of nuclear weapons could also play a role. Hubris, or extreme arrogance, is another factor of concern.
Technological factors include computer errors that wrongfully show a country is under nuclear attack. Such false warnings have occurred on numerous occasions but, fortunately, human interactions (often against policy and/or orders) have so far kept a false warning from resulting in a mistaken “retaliatory” attack. In times of severe tensions, a technological error could compound the risks, and human actors might decide to initiate a first strike.
There are many other factors that affect the risk of nuclear war. These include an increase in the number of countries possessing nuclear weapons and a greater number of nuclear weapons in each country’s nuclear arsenal. Both of these factors increase complexity and make the risk greater. Additionally, the higher the alert status of a country’s nuclear arsenal, the shorter the decision time to launch and the greater the risk of nuclear war. The risks are compounded when tension levels increase between nuclear-armed countries, increasing the likelihood of false assumptions and precipitous action.
Nuclear policies of the nuclear-armed countries can also raise the risk level of nuclear war. Policies of first use of nuclear weapons may make an opponent more likely to initiate a first strike and thus make a nuclear war more likely. First use is generally a default policy, if a country does not specifically pledge a policy of no first use, as have China and India. Policies of launch-on-warning cut into decision time for leaders to decide whether or not to launch a “retaliatory” strike to what may be a false warning The deployment of land-based missiles also raises the risk level due to the “use them or lose them” nature of these stationary targets.
In addition to identifiable risks of nuclear war, there are also unknown risks — those that cannot be identified in advance. Unknown risks include little-understood possibilities for cyber-attacks on nuclear weapons systems, attacks that could potentially either activate or deactivate nuclear-armed missile launches.
Given the catastrophic consequences of nuclear war, including destruction of civilization and human extinction, identifying and eliminating the factors making nuclear war likely or even possible is imperative. There are simply too many possibilities for failure in such a complex system of interactions.
This leads to the conclusion that the risks are untenable, and all nations should move rapidly to negotiate the elimination of all nuclear arms. While doing so, nations would be well served to adopt and declare policies of no first use and no launch-on-warning, and to eliminate vulnerable land-based missiles from their arsenals.
David Krieger is president of the Nuclear Age Peace Foundation. He is the author of Zero: The Case for Nuclear Weapons Abolition.
The views expressed by contributors are their own and are not the views of The Hill.