Don’t Forget About the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Don’t forget about earthquakes, feds tell city

Although New York’s modern skyscrapers are less likely to be damaged in an earthquake than shorter structures, a new study suggests the East Coast is more vulnerable than previously thought. The new findings will help alter building codes.By Mark FaheyJuly 18, 2014 10:03 a.m.The U.S. Geological Survey had good and bad news for New Yorkers on Thursday. In releasing its latest set of seismic maps the agency said earthquakes are a slightly lower hazard for New York City’s skyscrapers than previously thought, but on the other hand noted that the East Coast may be able to produce larger, more dangerous earthquakes than previous assessments have indicated.The 2014 maps were created with input from hundreds of experts from across the country and are based on much stronger data than the 2008 maps, said Mark Petersen, chief of the USGS National Seismic Hazard Mapping Project. The bottom line for the nation’s largest city is that the area is at a slightly lower risk for the types of slow-shaking earthquakes that are especially damaging to tall spires of which New York has more than most places, but the city is still at high risk due to its population density and aging structures, said Mr. Petersen.“Many of the overall patterns are the same in this map as in previous maps,” said Mr. Petersen. “There are large uncertainties in seismic hazards in the eastern United States. [New York City] has a lot of exposure and some vulnerability, but people forget about earthquakes because you don’t see damage from ground shaking happening very often.”Just because they’re infrequent doesn’t mean that large and potentially disastrous earthquakes can’t occur in the area. The new maps put the largest expected magnitude at 8, significantly higher than the 2008 peak of 7.7 on a logarithmic scale.The scientific understanding of East Coast earthquakes has expanded in recent years thanks to a magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia in 2011 that was felt by tens of millions of people across the eastern U.S. New data compiled by the nuclear power industry has also helped experts understand quakes.“The update shows New York at an intermediate level,” said Arthur Lerner-Lam, deputy director of Columbia’s Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory. “You have to combine that with the exposure of buildings and people and the fragility of buildings and people. In terms of safety and economics, New York has a substantial risk.”Oddly enough, it’s not the modern tall towers that are most at risk. Those buildings become like inverted pendulums in the high frequency shakes that are more common on the East Coast than in the West. But the city’s old eight- and 10-story masonry structures could suffer in a large quake, said Mr. Lerner-Lam. Engineers use maps like those released on Thursday to evaluate the minimum structural requirements at building sites, he said. The risk of an earthquake has to be determined over the building’s life span, not year-to-year.“If a structure is going to exist for 100 years, frankly, it’s more than likely it’s going to see an earthquake over that time,” said Mr. Lerner-Lam. “You have to design for that event.”The new USGS maps will feed into the city’s building-code review process, said a spokesman for the New York City Department of Buildings. Design provisions based on the maps are incorporated into a standard by the American Society of Civil Engineers, which is then adopted by the International Building Code and local jurisdictions like New York City. New York’s current provisions are based on the 2010 standards, but a new edition based on the just-released 2014 maps is due around 2016, he said.“The standards for seismic safety in building codes are directly based upon USGS assessments of potential ground shaking from earthquakes, and have been for years,” said Jim Harris, a member and former chair of the Provisions Update Committee of the Building Seismic Safety Council, in a statement.The seismic hazard model also feeds into risk assessment and insurance policies, according to Nilesh Shome, senior director of Risk Management Solutions, the largest insurance modeler in the industry. The new maps will help the insurance industry as a whole price earthquake insurance and manage catastrophic risk, said Mr. Shome. The industry collects more than $2.5 billion in premiums for earthquake insurance each year and underwrites more than $10 trillion in building risk, he said.“People forget about history, that earthquakes have occurred in these regions in the past, and that they will occur in the future,” said Mr. Petersen. “They don’t occur very often, but the consequences and the costs can be high.”

Babylon the Great Still Has Her Finger on the Nuclear Trigger

We still have our finger on the nuclear trigger

DEC 30, 2021

War spews hell in all directions. Just ask the guys at Talon Anvil, a secret U.S. “strike cell” recently exposed by the New York Times as a unit with a reputation for ignoring the rules of engagement and killing lots and lots of civilians with drone strikes as it plays war with ISIS.

Part of the problem, a source told the Times, is that “the daily demands of overseeing strike after strike seemed to erode operators’ perspective and fray their humanity.

In other words, participating in the endless U.S. war on terror turned them into . . . terrorists, e.g.: Early one morning, as a Predator drone circled over the Syrian farming town of Karama, the operators focused on a particular building that they decided, with virtually no evidence, was an “enemy training center” and dropped a 500-pound bomb through the roof.

“As the smoke cleared,” a former officer told the Times, “his team stared at their screens in dismay. The infrared cameras showed women and children staggering out of the partly collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead.

“The intelligence analysts began taking screen shots and tallying the casualties. They sent an initial battle damage assessment to Talon Anvil: 23 dead or severely wounded, 30 lightly wounded, very likely civilians. Talon Anvil paused only long enough to acknowledge the message, the former officer said, then pressed on to the next target.”

Oh, the frayed humanity! Here’s what did not occur: the operators looking at what they had just done from the viewpoint of the victims. That would have amounted to more than simply “dismay,” Doing so is almost incomprehensible. Imagine a bomb suddenly piercing your roof in the middle of the night. Imagine your children suddenly dead, your arm or leg missing . . .


My point here is that war is a collective enterprise. Multiply this incident by the size of the U.S. military budget — virtually half the country’s discretionary spending, around a trillion dollars annually, all told. And the money is always there, ready and waiting for the security state to consume. The unending lie is that it keeps us safe. Imagine, once again, “women and children staggering out of the partly collapsed building, some missing limbs, some dragging the dead,” and savor the safety you now have.

William Astore, pondering the defense budget’s endless growth despite the collapse of our official Cold War enemy, the Soviet Union, three decades ago, asks: “Why, then, does each year’s (National Defense Authorization Act) rise ever higher into the troposphere, drifting on the wind and poisoning our culture with militarism? Because, to state the obvious, Congress would rather engage in pork-barrel spending than exercise the slightest real oversight when it comes to the national security state.”

The key words may well be these: poisoning our culture with militarism.

When we wage war, we dehumanize — then kill — a specific segment of humanity. In the process, we “fray” our own humanity . . . we become less human ourselves, and thus more in sync with the evil we claim to be obliterating This is what’s happening to us right now. How is our culture being poisoned?

One obvious way is the rate of vet suicides: around 60,000 in the last decade. And of course there is the pretend militarism of lost — and armed — souls, who have made mass murder a recurring aspect of the daily news flow. Add in hate crimes. Add in the prison-industrial complex:

“The prison industry in the United States is massive and growing,” according to the American Friends Service Committee. “Since 1970, the number of incarcerated people in the U.S. has increased by 700 percent, to the point that the U.S. prison population is the largest in the world both per capita and in total numbers. As of 2019, there are an estimated 2.3 million people behind bars and 4.5 million people on probation or parole. The estimated cost of the U.S. mass incarceration system is $182 billion a year, with hundreds of private companies competing for government contracts.”

Our enemies are everywhere! They’re in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria. They’re massing at our southern border. And they’re here at home, packed into ghettos and poverty zones. As we wage war, we dehumanize the world, in the process shattering its complex interconnectedness. This does not make us safer.

Even the “good war” didn’t make us safer, though it’s the trophy cup that defenders of present-day militarism always hold up. Consider this observation by Paul Tritschler on just one of our late-in-the-game World War II bombing campaigns:

In March of 1945, he writes, “seemingly endless waves of B-29s roared across Tokyo, dropping one million bombs containing 2,000 tons of incendiaries. In under three hours, over 100,000 people lay dead and one million were homeless. The firebombing of 67 cities over the following five months resulted in the further deaths of at least half a million people — a deliberate policy of wiping out civilians living in the densely populated poorer districts. With no remorse, U.S. Air Force General Curtis LeMay openly declared, ‘They were scorched and boiled and baked to death.’ Although it didn’t dampen their enthusiasm, bomber crews said that the stench of burning flesh rose high into the air, forcing them to use oxygen masks to keep from vomiting. At the end of that five month period came atomic destruction.”

This is not about blame. This is not about shame. This is about change. We still have our finger on the nuclear trigger.

The Antichrist Divides and Conquers

At a lunch in Najaf, Muqtada al-Sadr tries to divide and conquer

The winner of Iraq’s elections wants to form a majority government, and is trying to win over Shia rivals to do so

Children play next to a poster of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City, Baghdad (AFP)By Suadad al-Salhy in BaghdadPublished date: 31 December 2021 16:51 UTC 

Two days ago, four men gathered for lunch in Najaf, at the house of Muqtada al-Sadr’s father.

The influential Shia cleric, riding high after his parliamentary election victory was confirmed this week, had invited Hadi al-Amiri, head of the Fatah bloc, Qais al-Khazali, commander of the powerful Shia armed faction Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and Faleh al-Fayyadh, head of the Popular Mobilisation Authority (PMA) paramilitary umbrella group.

They were there for negotiations, and to “discuss their visions about forming the next government”, a source close to one of the four leaders told Middle East Eye.

It was here that Sadr revealed his ideas for Iraq’s political future: a majority government, led by himself, that leaves former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki and a number of Shia political forces out in the cold.Betrayed by Iran? Iraqi armed factions given ‘slap’ with Kadhimi drone attackRead More »

According to two Shia political leaders familiar with the meeting in the holy southern city, Sadr gave detailed plans to his guests. Yet the “closed” lunch, which lasted several hours, “ended without leading to any real progress”, one of the leaders said.

There is only a limited amount of time before Iraq’s new parliament is gathered to elect the country’s next leaders.

On Monday, the supreme court finally ratified the results of October’s parliamentary election. Sadr emerged as victor, with his list winning 74 seats. Outgoing parliament speaker Mohammed Halbousi’s Taqadum came second with 42, and Maliki’s State of Law third, securing 35.

Fatah, the political wing of the Iranian-backed armed groups, was one of the biggest losers in the elections: the faction’s Alliance candidates won just 17 seats – less than half of its return in the previous election.

Now comes the parliamentary session to elect the president, prime minister and speaker, which has been arranged for 9 January. Iraq’s political system mandates a national and sectarian balance in these top positions, which means they must be taken by a Kurd, Shia and Sunni, respectively. All must be assigned at the same time.

‘The Shia forces fear Sadr forming a government, and they also fear him going to the opposition’

– Senior Shia leader close to Iran

Sadr hoped the lunch in Najaf would speed up government-formation negotiations ahead of the 9 January gathering of parliament.

“Sadr is still insisting on forming a political majority government that includes a number of the Shia forces that won the elections, but not all of them,” one of the leaders who attended the Najaf meeting told MEE.

“He says that the interest of Iraqis requires pushing one of the major Shia forces to the opposition, while another Shia force forms the government and bears full responsibility for its performance and the performance of its prime minister and ministers.”

Yet the leader was not convinced of Sadr’s vision.

“We cannot be satisfied with the dismantling of the Shia blocs while the Kurdish and Sunni blocs join together in the Sadr formation. This will lead to the weakening and dispersal of the Shia forces.”

What Sadr really wants

Since the first election in the post-Saddam Hussein era, in 2005, Iraq’s political forces have shared power by divvying up ministries and other state organs between them in proportion to the number of parliamentary seats they have won.

This power-sharing system has meant the almost complete absence of a parliamentary opposition that monitors government performance and seeks to corrects its tracks. Inevitably, that has contributed to the longstanding financial and administrative corruption that plagues Iraq.

It has not produced stability, either. Political forces jostle, compete and undermine each other in a struggle for ever-greater legitimate and illegitimate gains. Ahead of the October election, various incidents affected sectors under Sadr’s watch – health and electricity – which prompted the cleric to accuse his rivals of trying to weaken him.

Muqtada al-Sadr attends a news conference in Najaf, Iraq, 18 November (Reuters)
Muqtada al-Sadr attends a news conference in Najaf, Iraq, 18 November 2021 (Reuters)

Around 150 people were killed in two hospital fires in Baghdad and Nasiriyah in April and July, incidents in which corruption and negligence seemed to play a major role. Similarly, dozens of power transmission towers were sabotaged in the central and southern governorates in the same period, places also run by Sadr’s allies.

Sadr, crying foul, pledged at the time to form a majority government if his list was elected as the largest bloc. Yet Sadr and his preferred partners have not quite won enough seats to form an outright majority, forcing wider negotiations to pick the president, prime minister and speaker.

To confront Sadr, the losing Shia forces, led by the armed factions linked to Iran, revived the “coordinating framework of Shia forces”, an old political formation. But Sadr’s representatives boycotted it before the elections. Maliki, Sadr’s arch enemy, then assumed the presidency of the “coordinating framework”, as he has the largest number of seats among the framework forces. Without Sadr, the grouping combines around 60 seats.Iraq: The rise of the rival SadristsRead More »

Now we have Sadr, still bent on forming a majority government, versus his Shia rivals, who are determined to keep the power-sharing system.

One tactic used by Sadr, according to a Shia political leader, is offering to hand over responsibilities for forming the government and go into opposition himself.

In short, Sadr is seeking to dismantle the coordination framework, while they are seeking to force him to return to their embrace. The Shia forces fear Sadr forming a government, and they also fear him going to the opposition,” a senior Shia leader close to Iran told MEE.

“Sadr going to the opposition means that the next government will never be stable, and that it may fall after months or weeks. As for his complete control of the government and parliament, it will mean that he will pursue them one by one.

“Sadr will not forgive them for what they did to him before the elections, and he will not forget his old rivalry with Maliki and Khazali.”

Expected scenarios

Sadr knows his opponents well. He is familiar with the strengths of the “coordinating framework”, but more importantly its weaknesses.

Maliki, Amiri and Khazali all want to be seen as the top leader of Iraq’s Shia forces associated with Iran. This competitiveness has gifted Sadr an opportunity to try to prise Amiri, Khazali and Fayyad away from their allies.

Khazali, who aspires to lead the armed Shia factions and the Fatah bloc, has real problems with Amiri, the Fatah leader accused of overseeing the chastening election loss.

There are also disputes between Khazali’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq and other armed factions, led by Kataeb Hezbollah, over leadership, influence and revenues.

‘The strange thing is that Iran and America have not yet intervened, meaning that the game is still purely local, and Najaf has not yet said its word’

– Prominent Shia leader

Sadr could provide Khazali cover and protection amid these disputes, and the Asaib leader is reportedly interested in what the cleric is offering.

On the other hand, Fayyadh has become the weakest link of all the Shia forces linked to Iran since the January 2020 killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the godfather of the armed factions who was Fayyadh’s greatest supporter. With no real support on the ground, he needs a new protector to assure his place as head of the Popular Mobalisation Authority – a position coveted by many.

As for Amiri, who leads the veteran Badr Organisation, it is known that he is the least inclined to engage in political conflicts, and has a reputation for stability and pragmatism. Despite Amiri’s great disputes with the commanders of the armed factions about some of their policy positions on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and Sadr in recent months, he has never sought to be a tool in deepening these disputes and has always played the role of mediator between all the conflicting parties.

It is expected, therefore, that he will eventually join Sadr as a “calming factor” between the cleric and his Shia opponents.

Few options

After Wednesday’s meeting, Amiri returned alone to Baghdad to meet with the leaders of the coordination framework in Maliki’s house. Khazali and Fayyadh did not attend that meeting.  

“Currently, there are not many options for everyone. Either Sadr abandons his project and allies with the forces of the coordination framework to form a power-sharing government, or he withstands pressure and proceeds with his project,” a prominent Shia leader close to Iran told MEE.

6 rebels, Indian soldier killed before the first nuclear war: Revelation 8

Police: 6 rebels, Indian soldier killed in Kashmir fighting

SRINAGAR, India (AP) — Six suspected rebels and an Indian soldier were killed in two separate counterinsurgency operations in disputed Kashmir, police said Thursday.

The killings came during a surge in the government’s offensive against anti-India rebels in Kashmir, which is divided between nuclear-armed India and Pakistan and claimed by both. 

Fighting erupted after government forces cordoned off two southern villages in Anantnag and Pulwama districts Wednesday night in search of militants reportedly hiding there, police said.

Six militants were killed in the two incidents, police said. Three soldiers and one police officer were also injured, and one of the soldiers died later at a hospital, officials said.

Police said in a statement that two of the slain suspected militants were Pakistani nationals but offered no evidence. It said three of the dead, including a Pakistani, were involved in an attack on a police bus in the outskirts of the region’s main city of Srinagar on Dec. 13 in which three police officers were killed and 11 others wounded. 

According to government records, at least 168 militants, 34 civilians and 30 Indian troops have been killed this year in the Kashmir Valley.

Rebels in Indian-controlled Kashmir have been fighting against Indian rule since 1989. 

Most Muslim Kashmiris support the rebels’ goal of uniting the territory, either under Pakistani rule or as an independent country.

India insists the Kashmir militancy is Pakistan-sponsored terrorism. Pakistan denies the charge, and most Kashmiris consider it a legitimate freedom struggle.

Tens of thousands of civilians, rebels and government forces have been killed in the conflict.


This story corrects that one police officer was injured, not two.

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The sixth shake before the sixth seal: Revelation 6

The sixth earthquake in four days rocks the SC Midlands. What to know

COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another earthquake shook up the South Carolina Midlands Thursday morning.

The earthquake hit at around 7 a.m. about 20 miles outside of Columbia, according to the United States Geological Survey. The 2.5 magnitude had it’s epicenters near Elgin.

This is the sixth earthquake since Dec. 27 when a 3.3 magnitude quake was reported. People reported feeling shaking and hearing a loud boom during some of the other quakes. All the seismic activity has been centered near Elgin or neighboring Lugoff. The other four earthquakes have been 2.5 magnitude or lower.

An earthquake of 2.5 magnitude is considered minor, according to seismologists. For the most part quakes that register 2.5 magnitude or less go unnoticed and are only recorded by a seismograph. Any quake less than 5.5 magnitude is not likely to cause significant damage.

Earthquakes can happen in clusters, seismologist say.

©2021 The State. Visit at Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.

Three Palestinians wounded by Israeli tank fire outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Israeli soldiers stand along the border fence with Gaza
Israeli soldiers stand on guard by the fence along the border with the Gaza Strip [File: Menahem Kahana/AFP]

Three Palestinians wounded by Israeli tank fire on Gaza

Israel’s military says it fired at Hamas positions after an Israeli civilian was lightly wounded by gunfire from Gaza.

Three Palestinians have been injured by Israeli army tank fire that came after an Israeli civilian was lightly wounded by gunfire from Gaza along the border fence with Israel, officials said, in the first exchange of fire in months on the Gaza frontier.

The Israeli military said it responded to the gunfire which wounded the Israeli civilian on Wednesday with tank fire aimed at military positions manned by Hamas, which has ruled the besieged territory since 2007.

The Ministry of Health in Gaza said three Palestinians were wounded. Local media shared photos of the three men as they were transferred to a hospital in northern Gaza. It said they were all farmers.

Earlier on Wednesday, Israel announced measures aimed at improving life in the occupied West Bank after a rare meeting of top Israeli and Palestinian officials.

Israel has taken steps in recent months it says are aimed at easing tensions, even as attacks by Israeli settlers on Palestinians have been on the rise.

Israeli Defence Minister Benny Gantz on Wednesday approved a series of measures aimed at improving relations with the Palestinians after hosting Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas at his home in Israel late on Tuesday.

It was the first time Abbas met an Israeli official in Israel since 2010. The two discussed security coordination between Israel and the Palestinian Authority (PA), which administers pockets of the occupied West Bank.

In a statement on Tuesday, the Israeli defence ministry said “the two men discussed security and civil matters” during the meeting, which, the Israeli media reported, took place at Gantz’s home in Rosh Ha’ayin in central Israel.

Gantz’s office said he approved “confidence-building measures”, including the transfer of tax payments to the PA, the authorisation of hundreds of permits for Palestinian merchants and VIPs, and approving residency status for thousands of Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza Strip.

Israel collects hundreds of millions of dollars of taxes on behalf of the PA as part of the interim peace agreements signed in the 1990s.

The tax transfers are a key source of funding for the cash-strapped Palestinians, but Israel has withheld funds over the PA’s payment of stipends to thousands of families that have had relatives killed, wounded or imprisoned in the conflict.

Israel says the payments incentivise “terrorism”, while the Palestinians say they provide crucial support to needy families.

Israel controls the Palestinian population registry, and over the years its policies have left an estimated tens of thousands of Palestinians without legal status, severely limiting their freedom of movement, even within the occupied territories. Israel granted legal status to some 4,000 Palestinians in October.

Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett is opposed to Palestinian statehood. His government has shown no interest in reviving peace talks but has said it wants to reduce tensions by improving living conditions in the West Bank.

Tuesday night’s meeting was welcomed by the new American ambassador to Israel, Tom Nides. “May this meaningful diplomacy lead to many more such confidence building measures for the New Year. It benefits us all!” he tweeted.

But Hamas, in a statement, condemned the visit as going against the “national spirit of our Palestinian people”.

Gantz’s meeting with Abbas – the second in the six months since Bennett’s coalition government took office – also drew vocal criticism from Israeli opposition legislators. They fear the new government is preparing to make broad concessions to the Palestinians.

The Palestinians seek an independent state that includes all of the West Bank, East Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, areas Israel captured in the 1967 Middle East war.

Hamas seized Gaza from Abbas’s forces in 2007, a year after the group won a landslide victory in parliamentary elections. Gaza has been under an Israeli-Egyptian blockade since then.

The Gaza frontier has been mostly quiet since Israel carried out an 11-day offensive on Gazain May — their fourth since Hamas took over Gaza. At least 232 Palestinians in Gaza and 12 people in Israel were killed.

Antichrist Could Break Iran’s Grip on Iraqi Politics

Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr's movement celebrate after Iraq's Supreme Court ratified the results of parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq, Dec. 27, 2021.
Iraqi supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr’s movement celebrate after Iraq’s Supreme Court ratified the results of parliamentary election, in Najaf, Iraq, Dec. 27, 2021.

Election Victory of Shiite Cleric Could Break Iran’s Grip on Iraqi Politics, Observers Say


With Iraq’s October parliamentary election results now ratified, political parties are negotiating the composition of the country’s next government.

Observers say they see alliances between different groups changing, not based on ideology but on narrow political interests. The central focus now is on who will become Iraq’s next prime minister as the country struggles over its future direction.

The election victory by nationalist Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has the potential to break Iran’s grip on Iraqi politics, observers say. 

Osama Al Sharif, an Amman-based Middle East political commentator, says al-Sadr is one of Iraq’s few political figures calling for the dissolution of armed pro-Iranian militias.

Writing in the Saudi Arab News daily, Al Sharif said al-Sadr’s Sairoon alliance is “the only one brave enough to denounce the political quota system and the rampant corruption beleaguering the new Iraq.” 

And perhaps that’s precisely why, Al Sharif said, Iraqi voters gave al-Sadr’s parliamentary bloc 73 seats “at the expense of pro-Iran blocs such as Hadi Al-Amiri’s Fatah coalition — a political front for the pro-Iran militias.” 

But Iraqi journalist Mina Al Oraibi, writing in Dubai’s The National newspaper, says that despite al-Sadr’s win, he does not have a majority. “Given the shifting alliances,” she wrote, “it is unclear whether [he] can pull together a majority in parliament to name the next prime minister, who will be tasked with forming the future government.” 

Al Oraibi and other observers say they would like to see Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi maintain his position, saying that “al-Kadhimi still represents Iraq’s best chance at stability.” 

Senior analyst Nicholas Heras with the Newlines Institute in Washington says there are no guarantees at this time that al-Kadhimi will keep his post. 

“There is a distinct possibility that Kadhimi will be replaced. Although there is no clear answer as to who his replacement would be. Fundamentally, Kadhimi came into office in the spring of 2020 as sort of a compromise candidate. The Iranians, the Americans, the Shia, the Sunni, the Kurds, other groups could all sort of come to the agreement that he was the best of whatever was available in terms of options, and there is still this sense that Kadhimi could play that role,” Heras said. 

Journalist Al Oraibi says al-Kadhimi’s strength as prime minister is “that he is not beholden to a political party and is largely seen as a nationalist, not swayed by ethnic or sectarian beliefs.”