USGS Evidence Shows Power of the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

New Evidence Shows Power of East Coast Earthquakes
Virginia Earthquake Triggered Landslides at Great Distances
Released: 11/6/2012 8:30:00 AM USGS.govEarthquake shaking in the eastern United States can travel much farther and cause damage over larger areas than previously thought.U.S. Geological Survey scientists found that last year’s magnitude 5.8 earthquake in Virginia triggered landslides at distances four times farther—and over an area 20 times larger—than previous research has shown.“We used landslides as an example and direct physical evidence to see how far-reaching shaking from east coast earthquakes could be,” said Randall Jibson, USGS scientist and lead author of this study. “Not every earthquake will trigger landslides, but we can use landslide distributions to estimate characteristics of earthquake energy and how far regional ground shaking could occur.”“Scientists are confirming with empirical data what more than 50 million people in the eastern U.S. experienced firsthand: this was one powerful earthquake,” said USGS Director Marcia McNutt. “Calibrating the distance over which landslides occur may also help us reach back into the geologic record to look for evidence of past history of major earthquakes from the Virginia seismic zone.”This study will help inform earthquake hazard and risk assessments as well as emergency preparedness, whether for landslides or other earthquake effects.This study also supports existing research showing that although earthquakes  are less frequent in the East, their damaging effects can extend over a much larger area as compared to the western United States.The research is being presented today at the Geological Society of America conference, and will be published in the December 2012 issue of the Bulletin of the Seismological Society of America.The USGS found that the farthest landslide from the 2011 Virginia earthquake was 245 km (150 miles) from the epicenter. This is by far the greatest landslide distance recorded from any other earthquake of similar magnitude. Previous studies of worldwide earthquakes indicated that landslides occurred no farther than 60 km (36 miles) from the epicenter of a magnitude 5.8 earthquake.“What makes this new study so unique is that it provides direct observational evidence from the largest earthquake to occur in more than 100 years in the eastern U.S,” said Jibson. “Now that we know more about the power of East Coast earthquakes, equations that predict ground shaking might need to be revised.”It is estimated that approximately one-third of the U.S. population could have felt last year’s earthquake in Virginia, more than any earthquake in U.S. history. About 148,000 people reported their ground-shaking experiences caused by the earthquake on the USGS “Did You Feel It?” website. Shaking reports came from southeastern Canada to Florida and as far west as Texas.In addition to the great landslide distances recorded, the landslides from the 2011 Virginia earthquake occurred in an area 20 times larger than expected from studies of worldwide earthquakes. Scientists plotted the landslide locations that were farthest out and then calculated the area enclosed by those landslides. The observed landslides from last year’s Virginia earthquake enclose an area of about 33,400 km2, while previous studies indicated an expected area of about 1,500 km2from an earthquake of similar magnitude.“The landslide distances from last year’s Virginia earthquake are remarkable compared to historical landslides across the world and represent the largest distance limit ever recorded,” said Edwin Harp, USGS scientist and co-author of this study. “There are limitations to our research, but the bottom line is that we now have a better understanding of the power of East Coast earthquakes and potential damage scenarios.”The difference between seismic shaking in the East versus the West is due in part to the geologic structure and rock properties that allow seismic waves to travel farther without weakening.Learn more about the 2011 central Virginia earthquake.

China Horn ‘more brazen, more damaging than ever before’

China ‘more brazen, more damaging than ever before’ says FBI director

No country presents a broader threat to American economic security, says Christopher Wray

Hackers targeted US nuclear weapons agency in massive cybersecurity breach

The threat to the US from China has reached a new level, becoming “more brazen [and] more damaging than ever before”, FBI director Christopher Wray said in a scathing rebuke to Beijing on the eve of the Winter Olympics Games.

Speaking at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library and Museum in California on Monday, the director of the FBI accused the Chinese government of stealing “staggering” volumes of information, causing job-destroying damage across a wide range of industries.

He said the FBI is opening a new case every 12 hours or so on Chinese hacking operations, with Chinese hackers trying to steal more American personal and corporate data than all other countries combined.

No other country in the world presents a broader threat to the US than China, Mr Wray warned.

His remarks made clear that even as the US currently remains consumed by Russia-Ukraine tensions, Washington continues to regard Beijing as its biggest threat to economic security.

“When we tally up what we see in our investigations, over 2,000 of which are focused on the Chinese government trying to steal our information or technology, there’s just no country that presents a broader threat to our ideas, innovation, and economic security than China,” Mr Wray said.

The stinging rebuke of the Chinese government was delivered to a full-house audience in the library’s Air Force One Pavilion in an event held for the library’s current exhibition “FBI: From Al Capone to Al Qaeda”.

FBI director Christopher Wray (R) speaks at the Reagan Library in Simi Valley, California, 31 January, 2022. 

China has been long accused by the West of carrying out “systematic cyber sabotage” on a massive scale. Last year, the British government called out China for using criminal hacking groups for spying, data theft, blackmailing businesses and targeting political opponents.

“The harm from the Chinese government’s economic espionage isn’t just that its companies pull ahead based on illegally gotten technology. While they pull ahead, they push our companies and workers behind,” Mr Wray said.

Meanwhile, in a separate attack aimed at China which also came on Monday, hedge-fund billionaire George Soros described president Xi Jinping as the  “greatest threat” to open society in the world.

He warned businesses against investing in China, arguing the country is facing an economic crisis following a decline in its real estate boom last year.

Chinese government officials have previously rejected accusations of attempts to steal technology and data from the US.

The Chinese embassy in Washington said last July that Americans have “made groundless attacks” and malicious smears about Chinese cyber attacks. The statement described China as a “staunch defender of cybersecurity”.

Mr Wray said the threat from China was not new, and that he has been raising concerns about it since he became FBI director in 2017.

“But I want to focus on it here tonight because it’s reached a new level – more brazen, more damaging, than ever before, and it’s vital – vital – that all of us focus on that threat together,” he said.

Time for Iran to make ‘tough decisions’ on whether to revive the Obama nuclear deal

Image: Iran Nuclear talks

Time for Iran to make ‘tough decisions’ on whether to revive 2015 nuclear deal, says U.S. official

Asked how much time it would take Iran to secure enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon, the official said, “We’re talking about weeks, not months.”

Feb. 1, 2022, 2:31 AM MST / Updated Feb. 1, 2022, 7:45 AM MST

Nuclear talks between world powers and Iran are entering the “final stretch” and leaders in Tehran must now make tough political decisions about whether to return to the 2015 nuclear deal, a senior State Department official said Monday.

After the latest round of talks in Vienna produced progress, the negotiations have reached a critical stage, and Iran and other governments should decide whether to press ahead to clinch an agreement, the official told reporters. 

The U.S., Britain, France, Germany, China and Russia, which are taking part in the negotiations, “are united on this notion that we have little time, that tough decisions need to be made and now’s the time to make them,” the senior State Department official said. 

“This is the message that our European partners in particular left the Iranian delegation in Vienna with last Friday,” the official said.

The U.S. official said the Biden administration had the understanding that French President Emmanuel Macron conveyed a similar message when he spoke to Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi over the weekend. “That there is an opportunity, that it is a significant opportunity, but there’s also urgency, and if we all don’t move with that urgency, that opportunity will very soon disappear,” the official said.

The 2015 nuclear deal, known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, imposed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear program in return for an easing of economic sanctions. But President Donald Trump pulled the U.S. out of the accord in 2018 and reimposed sanctions. Iran has since then steadily exceeded the deal’s limits on its nuclear activity, raising concerns that it could soon have enough fissile material for an atomic bomb.

Iran denies it has any plans to build nuclear weapons.

Iran’s growing stockpile of enriched uranium means time is running out to strike a deal, the senior official said.

“We are in the final stretch, because, as we’ve said now for some time, this can’t go on forever because of Iran’s nuclear advances,” the official said. It is not an “ultimatum, but just a statement of fact,” the official added.

Asked about Iran’s “breakout time” — how long it would take Iran to secure enough fissile material for a nuclear weapon — the official said: “We’re talking about weeks, not months.”

It would take more time for Iran to build a nuclear warhead to be placed on the tip of a missile and to test a nuclear weapon, possibly months or more than a year, arms control experts say. 

A revival of the 2015 nuclear deal would require Iran to get rid of much of its stockpile of enriched uranium, but it has gained technical know-how that cannot be erased, foreign diplomats said. 

The 2015 deal had extended Iran’s breakout time to one year, but it is almost certain that if Iran returns to the accord, the time it would take to acquire enough fissile material for a bomb would be less than a year, the foreign diplomats said. A seal bearing the initials of the International Atomic Energy Agency at the nuclear research center of Natanz in Tehran, Iran in January 2014.Kazem Ghane / IRNA/AFP via Getty Images file

“It’s impossible now to go back to one year because of what they now know,” a diplomat said.

The senior State Department official said the negotiations in Vienna over the past month “were among the most intensive that we’ve had to date.”

The official added that “we made progress narrowing down the list of differences to just key priorities on all sides,” adding, “And that’s why now is the time for political decisions.”

The U.S. official also addressed questions about why some members of the U.S. negotiating team, including Richard Nephew, had left to take up other roles at the State Department just as the talks enter a crucial stage.

The official said that Nephew was “an exceptional colleague” and that it was “with regret that we see him moving on” but that it was not unusual one year into a new administration. 

There were no “personal differences” in the negotiating team, and much of the media reporting was “simply misinformed,” the official said.

The policy for the nuclear talks is set by the president, the secretary of state, the national security adviser and others in the Cabinet, and the negotiating team carries out that policy, the State Department official said.

However, a different U.S. official and a person with knowledge of the matter said Nephew and another member of the team, Ariane Tabatabai, left over policy disagreements with the head of the negotiating team, Robert Malley. The two supported censuring Iran over its lack of cooperation with the U.N. atomic watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency, and opposed some proposed sanctions relief for Tehran, the sources said. 

Nephew, Tabatabai and Malley declined to comment.

NBC News first reported Nephew’s departure from the team to another position at the State Department. The Wall Street Journal reported that Tabatabai had also left and why she and Nephew had departed.

The senior U.S. official said the release of four Americans imprisoned in Iran remained an “absolute priority” and that Washington continued to raise their plight in separate negotiations with Iran.

Human rights groups say the Americans have been detained on baseless charges and that Iran often jails foreign citizens to use as bargaining chips with Western governments. Iran denies the accusations.

Echoing recent comments by the Biden administration, the official said it was hard to imagine the U.S. returning to the JCPOA if the four Americans remained behind bars.

Iran has refused to hold direct talks with the U.S. delegation, and U.S. officials have to relay messages to the Iranians through other foreign diplomats at the talks.

The senior State Department official said the U.S. remains ready to engage in direct talks if Iran agrees.

“We’re prepared to meet with Iran if they’re prepared to meet with us,” the official said. “We have no indication that’s going to be the case when we reconvene.”

Iran’s U.N. mission did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

Just a ‘handful of weeks’ left to renew the Obama Deal

Demonstrators stand in front of a wall of the former U.S. embassy with anti-U.S. murals during the 42nd anniversary of the U.S. expulsion from Iran, in Tehran, Iran November 4, 2021.

Just a ‘handful of weeks’ left to strike nuclear deal with Iran, official says

WASHINGTON – The signatories of the Iran nuclear deal only have a “handful of weeks left” to strike a deal and usher in a mutual return to compliance with the agreement, a senior State Department official said Monday.

“We are in the final stretch because as we’ve said now for some time this can’t go on forever because of Iran’s nuclear advancement,” explained the official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity in order to share some details of the negotiations.

The official said that the U.S. was not imposing an “artificial deadline” or “an ultimatum.”

“The Iranians have been aware of for some time that we are reaching the final moment, after which we will no longer be in a position to come back to the JCPOA because it will no longer hold the value that we negotiated,” the official said, adding that the negotiations have been ongoing for roughly 10 months.

Last year, signatories of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, or JCPOA, began the first of what would become eight rounds of all-day negotiations to revive the deal at multiple hotels across Vienna.

The 2015 JCPOA, brokered in part by the Obama administration, lifted sanctions on Iran that had crippled its economy and cut its oil exports roughly in half. Alongside the United States, France, Germany, the U.K., Russia and China ⁠were also signatories of the agreement.

The other participants of the deal are also referred to as the P5+1.

Iran agreed to dismantle some of its nuclear program and open its facilities to more extensive international inspections in exchange for billions of dollars in sanctions relief.

In 2018, then-President Donald Trump kept a campaign promise and unilaterally withdrew the United States from the JCPOA, calling it the “worst deal ever.” Trump also reintroduced sanctions on Tehran that had been previously lifted.

Tensions between Tehran and Washington soared to new heights under the Trump administration and culminated with a deadly U.S. strike on Iran’s top military leader. 

The Jan. 2 strike that killed Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a key military figure of Iranian and Middle East politics, followed a string of attacks on locations that hosted U.S. and coalition forces, including the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.

On the heels of Soleimani’s death, Iran launched at least a dozen missiles from its territory on Jan. 7 at two military bases in Iraq that house U.S. troops and coalition forces. 

A day later from the White House, Trump said that Iran appeared “to be standing down” and warned Tehran to abandon its nuclear ambitions.

Following Washington’s exit from the landmark nuclear deal, other signatories of the pact ⁠have struggled to keep the agreement alive.

Since Trump’s decision to leave the agreement, Tehran has increased its uranium enrichment and stockpiling far beyond the deal’s limits. What’s more, Western powers are concerned about Iran’s ambitious advances in research and development in the nuclear field.

The Trump administration’s “maximum pressure” campaign hampered Iran’s already strained economy and slashed oil exports, bringing tensions between Tehran and Washington to a boiling point.

The Biden administration has since sought a return to the deal after a standstill in talks following the sixth round of negotiations in June.

The pause came as Iran elected a new president, Ebrahim Raisi, to succeed Hassan Rouhani.

Presidential candidate Ebrahim Raisi speaks during a campaign rally in Tehran, Iran June 15, 2021.

Majid Asgaripour | WANA News Agency | Reuters

In June, Raisi ruled out a meeting with Biden, which the White House downplayed by saying that the United States does not currently have diplomatic relations with Iran.

Raisi, who is under personal U.S. sanctions over allegations of human rights abuses, was expected to adopt a hard-line approach at the talks in Vienna.

After nearly five months of stalled talks, the State Department announced in Novemberthat U.S. special envoy for Iran, Robert Malley, would lead the U.S. delegation in the seventh round of negotiations.

Iraq’s political standoff as the Antichrist faces down rivals

Iraqi Shiite leader and cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a speech to his supporters following Friday prayers at the grand mosque of Kufa in the central Iraqi shrine city, some 160 kilometres south of the capital Baghdad, on September 21, 2018. (Photo by Haidar HAMDANI / AFP)

Iraq’s political standoff as cleric Moqtada Al Sadr faces down rivals

Shiite populist cleric seeks to exclude some of his Iran-backed rivals from government formation

Populist Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr met his Sunni and Kurdish allies on Monday in a last-gasp attempt to end the political deadlock over forming a new government in Iraq.

Nearly four months after Iraq held national elections to satisfy the demands of a growing protest movement, political rivals remain at loggerheads over how to divide and allocate government posts.

Mr Al Sadr, whose Sadrist Bloc emerged as the clear winner in October elections with 73 seats, has blocked some of his Iran-backed Shiite rivals from being part of the new government.

Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Al Sadr delivering a speech to his supporters following Friday prayers, in September 2018. AFP 

At his home in the southern city of Najaf, Mr Al Sadr hosted the president of the semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region Nechirvan Barzani, Sunni Parliament Speaker Mohammed Al Halbousi and tycoon Khamis Al Khanjar.

We are still with forming a majority government and we welcome the dialogue with the national opposition

Moqtada Al Sadr

They discussed a plan by Masoud Barzani, the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, to break the deadlock.



Mr Barzani said his aim was “solving the problems and creating a suitable and good environment for the political process in Iraq.”

A Kurdish official told The National that a day earlier, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, Brig Gen Esmail Qaani had met officials in Erbil.

For weeks, Iran has orchestrated diplomatic efforts in Baghdad, Najaf and Erbil to bring Shiites together and secure Tehran’s allies a seat in the government.

In reference to Iran’s efforts, Mr Al Halbousi tweeted before the meeting in Najaf: “That time of foreign intervention in forming Iraqi government is gone.”

Despite being a clear winner, Mr Al Sadr fell short of gaining the majority — 165 seats in the 329-seat parliament — needed to form a government and will have to create a bigger coalition with other players.

Former Shiite prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who heads the State of Law bloc, won 33 seats, while the Iran-backed Fatah Alliance won 17.

Discussions with the Iran-allied Co-ordination Framework — which is formed from the State of Law, Fatah and other Shiite groups — have not lead to a deal.

Mr Al Maliki is one of the main obstacles to any deal, as Mr Al Sadr wishes to exclude him. The pair’s enmity dates back to 2008, when Mr Al Maliki launched a military operation against the Mahdi Army.

The Co-ordination Framework has so far resisted Mr Al Sadr’s attempts to convince some its members to defect, threatening instead to disrupt government formation as an opposition bloc or boycott the political process.

After Monday’s meeting, Mr Al Sadr tweeted that “we are still with forming a majority government and we welcome the dialogue with the national opposition”.

The rifts between Shiite rivals deepened during the first parliamentary session on January 9 when Mr Al Sadr joined forces with Sunni and Kurdish parties to successfully elect the Parliament Speaker and his deputies.

The move angered the pro-Iran camp, which includes influential Shiite militias that boycotted the session and later issued threats against Sunnis and Kurds.

Updated: February 1st 2022, 4:15 AM

Sadr the Saviour or the Antichrist the Scourge?

Sadr the Saviour or Sadr the Scourge?

In many ways, it is incredible how the standard news cycle works and in a manner that seems to blight much of its audience with a collective amnesia. 

Like a theatrical production, a good news story usually covers an isolated event with main characters, protagonists and antagonists. Depending on the political leanings of the organisation covering the story, the event is picked apart by commentators, many of whom are genuine experts but have mere minutes to explain a complicated event in isolation of its broader context.

In modern Iraq, no story and no “main character” elicits as much collective amnesia in the media – even amongst those who ought to know better – than the saga of the Shia cleric, militia commander, and newly anointed political leader that is Muqtada al Sadr.

Scourge, not a saviour

It is not uncommon these days to see reports and analytical pieces describing Sadr as the United States’ “best hope” in Iraq. He is also described as an “Iraqi nationalist,” and as the man who may finally “break Iran’s grip” on Iraqi politics. It is almost laughable in its naivete, or a more cynical interpretation might suggest that it was intentional obfuscation to polish Sadr’s image.

Of course, and as any Iraqi or legitimate expert will tell you, Sadr was once deemed a “firebrand,” a “radical,” and his militia even “terrorists” by not only the mainstream press, but also the governments of both the United States and its Iraqi client state. It was not uncommon to see these phrases bandied about the media, and for good reason.

Sadr and his men were closely linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force. These relations were cultivated when Sadr was sheltered by Iran after his father, Grand Ayatollah Muhammad al Sadr, and two of his brothers were shot by unknown assassins in Najaf in 1999.

Early in the American-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, Sadr launched his Jaysh al Mahdi militia, better known as the Mahdi Army in English, with extensive Iranian backing. 

Sadr’s militia was renowned for its use of sectarian violence, kidnapping Sunnis off the street for no other reason than their faith, and either ransoming them back to their families or, as often occurred, torturing them to death even after the ransom was paid.

Two of his top lieutenants, Qais al Khazali and Akram al Kaabi, later established their own offshoot militias called Asaib Ahl al Haq and Harakat Hezbollah al Nujaba respectively. Khazali was arrested by British special forces and the transcripts of his interrogation reportshave since been declassified in which, among other things, he admits to the brutal sectarian tactics he employed along with his former master and even offered to collaborate with the US-led coalition.

At the height of the sectarian violence in 2006, which was spearheaded by the likes of Sadr, Shia death squads were responsible for the lion’s share of a horrifyingly immense 655,000 deaths.

Sadr is therefore far from Iraq’s saviour. Yet mass amnesia seems to have set in, and with predictably horrific results for the Iraqi people.

How did the world forget?

While far from being the only perpetrator, Sadr is unique in that he underwent an almost wholesale makeover at the hands of the international media and think tank “experts” keen to dish out their latest hot take on a country they have scarcely, if ever, understood.

Sadr started off as a man whose death squads not only murdered countless thousands of Iraqis simply for being called Abu Bakr, Omar, or even Talha – common Sunni names, but even assassinated American journalists who uncovered the Sadrists’ involvement in corruption in Basra in 2005.

This was two years after Sadr endorsed a religious decree allowing looters who rampaged across Iraq in the aftermath of the invasion to keep their ill-gotten gains so long as they donated a fifth – known as the khums in Shia jurisprudence – to Sadr and the Shia clergy.

He has since transformed into an apparent unifier, an “anti-corruption” political icon, and – probably most hilariously were it not for its seriousness – as the man who can finally stand up to Iran and undermine its pernicious control over Iraqi state institutions. In short, he has had the sort of facelift ageing popstars long past their glory years could only hope to dream of.

The reason why this is so subversive is that the media and experts are trusted by the wider public to inform them with independent and trustworthy analysis. This, in many ways, is a sacred duty and public service. Nevertheless, and on the whole, they have either lazily or cynically misled a global audience for the sake of preserving a status quo that the Iraqi people themselves – Sunni, Shia, and otherwise – have long rejected.

If the earlier Sunni-led protest movements up until late 2013, the later Shia-led demonstrations since 2019, and the disastrously low turnouts for elections no one believes in anymore have not shown how Iraqis writ large have rejected the political process imposed on them since 2003, then nothing will convince these international observers and commentators to abandon their reckless attempts to polish the image of a man who has the blood of thousands of innocents on his hands.

It is actions like these that have Iraqis increasingly believing that they are entirely on their own in their struggle for freedom from violence, oppression, and sectarianism. 

Sadr can never and will never be the man to extract Iraq from darkness into light, rather he will plunge it ever deeper into the brutal abyss it has been stuck in since 2003.

Disclaimer: The viewpoints expressed by the authors do not necessarily reflect the opinions, viewpoints and editorial policies of TRT World.

We welcome all pitches and submissions to TRT World Opinion – please send them via email, to


Tallha Abdulrazaq is an award-winning academic and writer, with a specialism in Middle Eastern strategic and security affairs.

Antichrist committed to forming Iraq’s first majority government

An Iraqi child walks past a poster of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City in Baghdad on Oct. 17, 2021.

Sadr committed to forming Iraq’s first majority government

The Coordination Framework, comprised of several Shiite parties is seeking a national unity coalition modeled on previous governments, while Sadr whose bloc won the majority of seats seeks majority government.

An Iraqi child walks past a poster of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr in Sadr City in Baghdad on Oct. 17, 2021. – AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty ImagesAkeel Abbas@akeel11111

February 1, 2022

The days ahead will tell us if Iraq’s difficult political process is to chart a new path by allowing the formation of a majority government, as promised by the electoral winners of the October parliamentary election, or continues its 17-year tradition of  “national unity” governments that have proven ineffective, unmanageable and unpopular with the people.

The Sadrists, with 73 seats, scored a major victory in the Iraqi parliament’s opening session on Jan. 9. Their quiet, behind-the-scenes work to form an ethno-sectarian alliance with Kurdish and Sunni parties bore fruit when the alliance easily elected its Sunni choice for the speakership of the parliament, Mohammed al-Halbusi.  

A potentially second major victory was scored during the same session by registering the Sadrists as the biggest bloc with 90 seats after they drew to their bloc an additional 17 members of parliament. This effectively means that once the president of the republic is elected, most likely during parliament’s second session on Feb. 7, he will have 15 days to charge Sadrists with the task of forming the new government, giving them 30 days to achieve this task.

But because of its highly fractious politics, all is not certain in Iraq.

Still, Sadrists have the best chance to maintain their position as the biggest bloc again if a new parliamentary session is needed to settle the issue.

The Coordination Framework (CF), a loose Shiite alliance, is calling for a national unity government and a delay in the formation of the majority government in the hope of pressuring Sadrists into accepting a deal allowing the CF’s various blocs to join the government. The CF has been using these time-gaining tactics in various contexts since the initial results of the election were released in mid-October. The tactics failed to change Sadrists’ insistence on a majority government. Now with the Sadrists in a better-placed position after forming their grand ethno-sectarian alliance and electing the parliamentary speaker and his two deputies, it is highly unlikely they will accommodate the CF.

Neither has Iranian intervention on behalf of the CF changed Muqtada al-Sadr’s determination to go it alone in government formation without other Shiite partners if necessary. The sticking point seems to be the Sadrists’ unwavering rejection to include in the next government the CF’s biggest bloc, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law Coalition, with 33 seats. The several visits to Najaf and Baghdad by Iran’s commander of the Quds Force Ismael Qani could neither broker a deal to bring all Shiite Islamist parties together in a grand alliance nor convince Maliki to go into the opposition.

The new fact is that the CF is still holding together after initial indications that some of its blocs, particularly Hadi al-Amiri’s Fatah Alliance with 17 seats, might join the majority government, basically breaking the CF whose main bargaining chip is to stick together to be able to pressure the Sadrists. In his latest TV appearance, Sadr said that Amiri stepped back from an earlier promise to join the government. With the CF still holding together, the goal seems to protect Maliki from future prosecution if he goes to the opposition. A source told Al-Monitor that the CF, with Iran’s help, has been trying, unsuccessfully so far, to obtain guarantees from Sadr that Maliki and other CF members would not be pursued for past alleged misdeeds. 

Sadr’s ethno-sectarian alliance, on the other hand, projects confidence. Prior to a three-way meeting in Najaf with Sadr, the Kurdistan Regional Government’s President Nechirvan Barazani and parliament speaker Halbusi, the latter tweeted that “the time of outside intervention is over,” taking a jab at Iran’s influencing effort. It is unusual for a high-level Sunni official such as Halbusi to criticize Iran in such a thinly veiled manner. Sadr’s tweet following the meeting was even more straightforward in setting “the demarcation line” between his alliance and the CF, stating, “We are still pursuing a national majority government and welcome a dialogue with the national opposition.” By calling for a dialogue with “the opposition,” Sadr seems to have closed the door on further negotiations with the CF about government formation, basically forcing it into parliamentary opposition. Seeing their hopes of being represented in the government dashed, some CF members may jump ship and join the Sadrist-dominated government.  A source told Al-Monitor that 25 parliament members from Maliki’s bloc expressed their desire to leave the bloc and join the government.

Barring the unexpected, the path seems clear to a majority government. A possible challenge the CF can throw in the way is to break the quorum for the Feb. 7 parliamentary session to elect the president of the republic. The Iraqi Constitution requires the presence of at least two-thirds of all parliament members to conduct the first round of this election. The CF does not have the needed quorum-breaking third (109 parliament members), but if it draws enough parliament members from independents and smaller blocs, it may be able to pull it off. This is unlikely because many of the independents and small blocs hail from or support the October 2019 protest movement, which greatly distrusts the CF and accuses its armed wing of targeting protesters.