A Lack Of Vigilance Before The Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Faults Underlying Exercise Vigilant GuardStory by: (Author NameStaff Sgt. Raymond Drumsta – 138th Public Affairs Detachment
Dated: Thu, Nov 5, 2009
This map illustrates the earthquake fault lines in Western New York. An earthquake in the region is a likely event, says University of Buffalo Professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.
TONAWANDA, NY — An earthquake in western New York, the scenario that Exercise Vigilant Guard is built around, is not that far-fetched, according to University of Buffalo geology professor Dr. Robert Jacobi.
When asked about earthquakes in the area, Jacobi pulls out a computer-generated state map, cross-hatched with diagonal lines representing geological faults.
The faults show that past earthquakes in the state were not random, and could occur again on the same fault systems, he said.
“In western New York, 6.5 magnitude earthquakes are possible,” he said.
This possibility underlies Exercise Vigilant Guard, a joint training opportunity for National Guard and emergency response organizations to build relationships with local, state, regional and federal partners against a variety of different homeland security threats including natural disasters and potential terrorist attacks.
The exercise was based on an earthquake scenario, and a rubble pile at the Spaulding Fibre site here was used to simulate a collapsed building. The scenario was chosen as a result of extensive consultations with the earthquake experts at the University of Buffalo’s Multidisciplinary Center for Earthquake Engineering Research (MCEER), said Brig. Gen. Mike Swezey, commander of 53rd Troop Command, who visited the site on Monday.
Earthquakes of up to 7 magnitude have occurred in the Northeastern part of the continent, and this scenario was calibrated on the magnitude 5.9 earthquake which occurred in Saguenay, Quebec in 1988, said Jacobi and Professor Andre Filiatrault, MCEER director.
“A 5.9 magnitude earthquake in this area is not an unrealistic scenario,” said Filiatrault.
Closer to home, a 1.9 magnitude earthquake occurred about 2.5 miles from the Spaulding Fibre site within the last decade, Jacobi said. He and other earthquake experts impaneled by the Atomic Energy Control Board of Canada in 1997 found that there’s a 40 percent chance of 6.5 magnitude earthquake occurring along the Clareden-Linden fault system, which lies about halfway between Buffalo and Rochester, Jacobi added.
Jacobi and Filiatrault said the soft soil of western New York, especially in part of downtown Buffalo, would amplify tremors, causing more damage.
“It’s like jello in a bowl,” said Jacobi.
The area’s old infrastructure is vulnerable because it was built without reinforcing steel, said Filiatrault. Damage to industrial areas could release hazardous materials, he added.
“You’ll have significant damage,” Filiatrault said.
Exercise Vigilant Guard involved an earthquake’s aftermath, including infrastructure damage, injuries, deaths, displaced citizens and hazardous material incidents. All this week, more than 1,300 National Guard troops and hundreds of local and regional emergency response professionals have been training at several sites in western New York to respond these types of incidents.
Jacobi called Exercise Vigilant Guard “important and illuminating.”
“I’m proud of the National Guard for organizing and carrying out such an excellent exercise,” he said.
Training concluded Thursday.

Antichrist Decries Iran’s Missile Attack On Erbil

Baghdad, UN Mission, Sadr Decry Iran’s Missile Attack On Erbil


IranConflict – Military

Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi has condemned the ballistic missile attack claimed by Iran targeting the US Consulate’s new building in Erbil.

In a tweet a few hours after the attack, al-Kadhimi said, “The aggression which targeted the dear city of Erbil and spread fear amongst its inhabitants is an attack on the security of our people”.

He added that he discussed these developments with Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Masrour Barzani, noting that “Our security forces will investigate and stand firm against any threats towards our people”.

Calling on people to keep calm, Barzani said, “Erbil will stand strong against the cowardly attacks”.

Influential Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr also denounced the attack, saying, “Erbil is in the crosshairs and fire of the coward and losers”.

Slamming the attack, leftist Iraqi-Kurdish political party the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) said such an attack “is a clear indicator of attempts to ruin stability in the Kurdistan Region.”

The United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) also strongly condemned the “heinous missile attack”, saying, “Perpetrators of this cowardly attack must be held to account”.

“Iraqis are called upon to stand together in the face of any act that violates Iraq’s sovereignty/territorial integrity, and/or aims to undermine stability/unity”, it said.

Several hours after a dozen ballistic missiles struck Erbil, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards took responsibility for it, saying they targeted Israeli “strategic centers”.

Russia Asks for Help From the Chinese Nuclear Horn

President Vladimir V. Putin of Russia and  President Xi Jinping of China have met 38 times as national leaders.

Russia Asked China for Military and Economic Aid for Ukraine War, U.S. Officials Say

March 13, 2022, 3:52 p.m. ETMarch 13, 2022March 13, 2022

Edward Wong and Julian E. Barnes

Russia has also asked China for additional economic assistance, to help counteract the battering its economy has taken from broad sanctions imposed by the United States and European and Asian nations, according to an official.

American officials, determined to keep secret their means of collecting the intelligence on Russia’s requests, declined to describe further the kind of military weapons or aid that Moscow is seeking. The officials also declined to discuss any reaction by China to the requests.

President Xi Jinping of China has strengthened a partnership with Mr. Putin and has stood by him as Russia has stepped up its military campaign in Ukraine, destroying cities and killing hundreds or thousands of civilians. American officials are watching China closely to see whether it will act on any requests of aid from Russia. Jake Sullivan, the White House national security adviser, met on Monday in Rome with Yang Jiechi, a member of the Chinese Communist Party’s elite Politburo and director of the party’s Central Foreign Affairs Commission.

Mr. Sullivan intended to warn Mr. Yang about any future Chinese efforts to bolster Russia in its war or undercut Ukraine, the United States and their partners. The meeting came one day after U.S. officials told The New York Times about Russia’s request for military and economic aid from China. It had been scheduled before the war in Ukraine began and was planned as a follow-up discussion to a video summit meeting between President Biden and Mr. Xi in November.

“We are communicating directly, privately to Beijing that there will absolutely be consequences for large-scale sanctions evasion efforts or support to Russia to backfill them,” Mr. Sullivan said on CNN on Sunday.

“We will not allow that to go forward and allow there to be a lifeline to Russia from these economic sanctions from any country, anywhere in the world,” he said.

Mr. Sullivan did not make any explicit mention of potential military support from China, but other U.S. officials spoke about the request from Russia on the condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of diplomatic and intelligence matters.

Liu Pengyu, a spokesman for the Chinese Embassy in Washington, said he had never heard of the request from Russia. “The current situation in Ukraine is indeed disconcerting,” he said, adding that Beijing wants to see a peaceful settlement. “The high priority now is to prevent the tense situation from escalating or even getting out of control.”

The Biden administration is seeking to lay out for China the consequences of its alignment with Russia and penalties it will incur if it continues or increases its support. Some U.S. officials argue it might be possible to dissuade Beijing from ramping up its assistance to Moscow. Chinese leaders may be content to offer rhetorical support for Moscow and may not want to further enmesh themselves with Mr. Putin by providing military support for the war, those U.S. officials say.

Mr. Sullivan said China “was aware before the invasion took place that Vladimir Putin was planning something,” but added that the Chinese might not have known the full extent of the Russian leader’s plans. “It’s very possible that Putin lied to them, the same way he lied to Europeans and others,” he said.

Mr. Xi has met with Mr. Putin 38 times as national leaders, more than with any other head of state, and the two share a drive to weaken American power.

Traditionally, China has bought military equipment from Russia rather than the other way around. Russia has increased its sales of weaponry to China in recent years. But China has advanced missile and drone capabilities that Russia could use in its Ukraine campaign.

Although Russia on Sunday launched a missile barrage on a military training ground in western Ukraine that killed at least 35 people, there has been some evidence that Russian missile supplies have been running low, according to independent analysts.

Last week, the White House criticized China for helping spread Kremlin disinformation about the United States and Ukraine. In recent days, Chinese diplomats, state media organizations and government agencies have used a range of platforms and official social media accounts to amplify a conspiracy theory that says the Pentagon has been financing biological and chemical weapons labs in Ukraine. Right-wing political figures in the United States have also promoted the theory.

On Friday, Russia called a United Nations Security Council meeting to present its about the labs, and the Chinese ambassador to the U.N., Zhang Jun, supported his Russian counterpart.

“Now that Russia has made these false claims, and China has seemingly endorsed this propaganda, we should all be on the lookout for Russia to possibly use chemical or biological weapons in Ukraine, or to create a false flag operation using them,” Jen Psaki, the White House press secretary, wrote on Twitter last Wednesday.

China is also involved in the Iran nuclear negotiations, which have stalled because of new demands from Russia on relief from the sanctions imposed by Western nations in response to the Ukraine war.

American officials are trying to determine to what degree China would support Russia’s position in those talks. Before Russia raised the requests, officials from the nations involved had been close to clinching a return to a version of the Obama-era nuclear limits agreement from which President Donald J. Trump withdrew. Mr. Sullivan might bring up Iran with Mr. Yang on Monday.

Current and former U.S. officials say the Rome meeting is important, given the lives at stake in the Ukraine war and the possibility of Russia and China presenting a geopolitical united front against the United States and its allies in the years ahead.

“This meeting is critical and possibly a defining moment in the relationship,” said Evan Medeiros, a Georgetown University professor who was a senior Asia director on the National Security Council during the Obama administration.

“I think what the U.S. is probably going to do is lay out the costs and consequences of China’s complicity and possible enabling of Russia’s invasion,” he said. “I don’t think anyone in the administration has illusions that the U.S. can pull China away from Russia.”

Some U.S. officials are looking for ways to compel Mr. Xi to distance himself from Mr. Putin on the war. Others see Mr. Xi as a lost cause and prefer to treat China and Russia as committed partners, hoping that might galvanize policies and coordination among Asian and European allies to contain them both.

Chinese officials have consistently voiced sympathy for Russia during the Ukraine war by reiterating Mr. Putin’s criticism of NATO and blaming the United States for starting the conflict. They have refrained from any mention of a Russian “war” or “invasion,” even as they express general concern for the humanitarian crisis.

They mention support for “sovereignty and territorial integrity,” a common catchphrase in Chinese diplomacy, but do not say explicitly which nation’s sovereignty they support — meaning the phrase could be interpreted as backing for Ukraine or an endorsement of Mr. Putin’s claims to restoring the territory of imperial Russia.

Russia-Ukraine War: Key Things to Know

Looking for a way out. Negotiators from both sides met again, as Russia expanded the targets of its military offensive and the humanitarian crisis deepened in Mariupol and other cities. But even the most basic progress towards diplomacy has proved elusive.

China’s strategy. China’s leadership, which dismissed U.S. allegations that Russia asked Beijing for military and economic aid, has calculated that they can benefit from the geopolitical shifts caused by the war by being seen as a pillar of stability in a turbulent world.

American journalist killed. Brent Renaud, an award-winning American filmmaker and journalist who drew attention to human suffering, was fatally shot while https://andrewtheprophet.comreporting in a suburb of Kyiv. Mr. Renaud, 50, had contributed to The New York Times in previous years, most recently in 2015.

China and Russia issued a 5,000-word statement on Feb. 4 saying their partnership had “no limits” when Mr. Putin met with Mr. Xi before the opening ceremony of the Winter Olympics in Beijing. Around that time, senior Chinese officials asked senior Russian officials not to invade Ukraine before the end of the Games, according to U.S. and European officials who cite a Western intelligence report.

Starting last November, American officials quietly held talks with Chinese officials, including the ambassador in Washington and the foreign minister, to discuss intelligence showing Mr. Putin’s troop buildup to persuade the Chinese to tell the Russians not to launch a war, U.S. officials said. The Chinese officials rebuffed the Americans at every meeting and expressed skepticism that Mr. Putin intended to invade Ukraine, the U.S. officials said.

William J. Burns, the C.I.A. director, said on Thursday in a Senate hearing that he believed Mr. Xi was “unsettled” by the Ukraine war.

Last Tuesday, Mr. Xi repeated China’s standard talking points on the war in a video call with the leaders of France and Germany. He also said that all nations should show “maximum restraint” and that China was “deeply grieved by the outbreak of war again on the European continent,” according to a Chinese readout. He did not say Russia had started the fighting.

U.S. and European officials say large Chinese companies will most likely refrain from openly violating sanctions on Russia for fear of jeopardizing their global commerce. On Thursday, some Russian news articles and commentary questioned China’s commitment to Russia after news agencies reported that China was refusing to send aircraft parts to the country.

Russia, as U.S. officials often remind the public, has relatively few friends or allies. And officials have said Russia’s outreach to its partners is a sign of the difficulties it is encountering in trying to subdue Ukraine.

As the United States and Europe have increased pressure and sanctions, Moscow has sought more aid.

In the buildup to war, Russia got assistance from Belarus, using its territory to launch part of the invasion. Minsk has also tried to help Moscow evade sanctions. Those actions prompted the European Union to impose sanctions on Belarus. The penalties limit money flowing into Belarus from Europe and block some Belarusian banks from using the SWIFT financial messaging system.

Michael Carpenter, the U.S. ambassador to the Organization for Security and Cooperation in Europe, accused Belarus of being a “co-aggressor” and having “stabbed your neighbor in the back,” referring to Ukraine.

President Aleksandr G. Lukashenko of Belarus has said his military will not join in the war. But Russia has launched missiles from Belarus and evacuated some injured Russian soldiers to hospitals in that country.

President Bashar al-Assad of Syria, who owes his government’s survival to Russian intervention in the Syrian civil war, also declared support for Moscow’s invasion. Russia has tried to recruit Syrian fighters to join the Ukraine war, according to the Pentagon.

While there are no details of how many recruits Moscow has enlisted or if they have arrived in Ukraine, American officials said Russia’s efforts were an indicator of the strategic and tactical problems that have plagued its commanders.

Before the start of the war, European officials said, Russian military contractors with experience fighting in Syria and Libya secretly entered eastern Ukraine to help lay the groundwork for the invasion.

Edward Wong is a diplomatic and international correspondent who has reported for The Times for more than 20 years, 13 from Iraq and China. He received a Livingston Award and was on a team of Pulitzer Prize finalists for Iraq War coverage. He has been a Nieman Fellow at Harvard and a Ferris Professor of Journalism at Princeton. @ewong

Julian E. Barnes is a national security reporter based in Washington, covering the intelligence agencies. Before joining The Times in 2018, he wrote about security matters for The Wall Street Journal. @julianbarnes • Facebook

The Peril of Nuclear War: Revelation 16

An illustration of a Ionizing radiation symbol with a black-and-white photo of Vladimir Putin in the center.
The Atlantic

This Is a Uniquely Perilous Moment

Smaller-scale tactical nuclear weapons could bring the great powers into a brutal, deadly, and unprecedented conflict.

By David French

March 12, 2022, 7 AM ET

About the author: David French is a contributing writer at The Atlantic and the author of its newsletter The Third Rail. French is also a senior editor at The Dispatch.

To understand the perils of the present, it is necessary to understand the perils of the past, a distant past that few Americans remember well. In the early days of the Cold War, NATO allies faced a daunting strategic challenge. The Soviet Union and its Warsaw Pact allies possessed an overwhelming advantage in conventional weaponry. They had more men, more tanks, and more planes—and they were massed in proximity to NATO’s borders.

There was a real fear that if the Soviet Union decided to attack the West, it could pulverize NATO’s defenses in days, and that once it penetrated NATO’s front lines, nothing could stop it from sweeping all the way to the Atlantic coast.

The United States, meanwhile, possessed one major advantage: superior nuclear forces. But this was more an advantage in theory than one that could actually be put to use. It was easy to say that American forces would nuke Russian cities if the Soviets attacked Europe; it would have been much less easy to do so. Would an American president really initiate a global thermonuclear exchange (which could annihilate entire American cities) to keep Paris from falling into enemy hands?

This is the unthinkable version of nuclear war that dominated millions of people’s fears during the Cold War. This is the nuclear war of The Day After, the 1983 ABC television movie that depicted a catastrophic nuclear exchange. An estimated 100 million Americans watched, and I still remember the hushed hallways in my high school the morning after it aired.

But there was also a thinkable version of nuclear war, one that relied on a kind of nuclear weapon that could perhaps deter the Soviets (and, if deterrence failed, smash their invading armies) without triggering a global thermonuclear exchange. The common term for these armaments is tactical nuclear weapons.

It’s precisely this kind of weapon that raises unique and profound concerns now, as Russia attacks Ukraine, and as NATO allies consider the limits of their support for Ukrainian resistance. Vladimir Putin is using a threat that NATO used to deter the Soviets to now deter NATO. Even worse, we have reason to believe that Putin may actually deploy such weapons, with the goal of not merely ending but also winning the war.

There are many definitions for tactical nuclear weapons, but as a general rule the term refers to low-yield, short-range weapons that are designed for use against military targets, such as enemy airfields or columns of enemy forces. Tactical nukes can be mounted in simple gravity bombs, on rockets, or even in artillery shells.

In theory, NATO could have used tactical nuclear weapons to blunt a Soviet attack without threatening or attacking Soviet cities. Why escalate to city-busting strikes when you could destroy Soviet forces in place?

But the ramifications of using tactical nuclear weapons still rightly frightened American’s military planners. Even without diving into the immense amount of scholarship and war-gaming around the use of tactical nukes, the problems they could create are still obvious. Wouldn’t the Soviets view the incineration of their forces in the field as an existential threat? If tactical nuclear weapons were mainly viewed as defensive, wouldn’t the allies be deploying them on their own soil? And the Soviets could (and did) build and equip their military with them as well. If used, tactical nuclear weapons could quickly inflict such immense casualties and damage that they could trigger the exact strategic attacks they were designed to avoid.

From an American perspective, tactical nuclear weapons became less important as we closed the conventional-military gap with Russia. By the end of the Cold War, the balance of power had shifted decisively. NATO possessed overwhelming conventional strength. Russia was the inferior conventional power, as it remains today.

But it’s not inferior throughout its force. Today, Russia is the power that holds a dramatic advantage in tactical nuclear weapons. According to a 2021 Congressional Research Service report, Russia possesses close to 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons. The U.S. stores roughly 100 tactical nuclear weapons in Europe. As we gained the conventional advantage, we essentially gave up on our tactical nuclear force. Russia did not.

Moreover, there is considerable evidence that use of those tactical nuclear weapons is part of contemporary Russian-military planning. Russia has reportedly adopted a military strategy known as “escalate to de-escalate” or “escalate to terminate.”

In a March 2014 article in the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists, Nikolai N. Sokov, a former Soviet and then later Russian arms-control negotiator who is now a senior fellow at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies, described Russia’s current military doctrine as open to using tactical nuclear weapons to inflict “tailored damage,” which is defined as “damage [that is] subjectively unacceptable to the opponent [and] exceeds the benefits the aggressor expects to gain as a result of the use of military force.”

Imagine if Russia were to use low-yield nuclear weapons to destroy key air bases throughout Europe or attack an aircraft-carrier task force. How could NATO expect to operate a no-fly zone if its principal air bases are a smoldering ruin or one or more aircraft carriers is at the bottom of the Atlantic? Or imagine if Russia were to use low-yield nuclear weapons to destroy specific army bases, catastrophically damaging NATO’s ground-based striking power.

To put it another way, Vladimir Putin’s 2,000 tactical nuclear weapons make him the first opponent that NATO allies have faced since the end of the Cold War who has the raw military capability to destroy a substantial portion of NATO forces in the field.

Putin, Sokov argues, is borrowing from the 1960s-era American policy I described above. It’s a doctrine that enables a weaker power to deter a stronger power. It is not the strategy of an ascendant conventional military. Indeed, Russia’s struggles and losses in the first two weeks of its conflict with Ukraine serve only to underscore Russia’s conventional vulnerability. Those same struggles may very well make Russia more likely to pull the nuclear trigger. It is now painfully clear that its military is in no shape to wrest control of the skies or the ground from a motivated NATO force.

Indeed, ideas about the use of nuclear weapons as an equalizing force against a superior conventional foe are hardly limited to Russia. Surveying the wreck of Saddam Hussein’s immense army after the Gulf War, Krishnaswamy Sundarji, a former chief of staff of the Indian army, famously said, “One principal lesson of the Gulf War is that, if a state intends to fight the United States, it should avoid doing so until and unless it possesses nuclear weapons.”

But would Putin pull the trigger, really?

As Sokov notes, “The efficacy of threatening tailored damage assumes an asymmetry in a conflict’s stakes.” In plain English, this means that while we might want to intervene, the outcome of the conflict simply matters more to Russia than it does to NATO.

And remember, if we’re comparing the relative meaning of the conflict to the competing powers, Putin has argued that Ukraine is functionally part of Russia itself. In his February 21 speech outlining his alleged justifications for invading Ukraine, Putin argued, “Ukraine is not just a neighboring country for us. It is an inalienable part of our own history, culture, and spiritual space.” He would be using nuclear weapons to defend gains in a land that he calls his own.

Ukraine is not part of Russia. The Ukrainians are demonstrating that reality each and every day that they offer courageous resistance to Russian invasion, but a superior historical and moral position is irrelevant if it doesn’t convince the man who has his finger on the nuclear button.

Russian-military doctrine and capabilities are directly relevant to American domestic debate. Although Americans are overwhelmingly united in opposition to Russia’s aggression in Ukraine, there’s a division between those who want to make sure that American forces do not engage Russians and those who are willing to risk direct military engagement. On Tuesday, a group of 27 “foreign policy heavyweights” published an open letter calling for a “limited no-fly zone” over Ukraine, “starting with protection for humanitarian corridors.”

In a Reuters/Ipsos poll conducted late last week, a startling 74 percent of Americans supported a no-fly zone over Ukraine, though it’s questionable whether respondents understood that imposing a no-fly zone would require direct military confrontation with Russian forces, and that direct military intervention—even a limited intervention—increases the possibility of a nuclear strike.

Those who support American military intervention in Ukraine are in essence asking that NATO call Russia’s bluff. They don’t believe that Putin would nuke American forces in the field. And perhaps they’re right. Would he really risk Moscow and St. Petersburg to preserve his hold on Kyiv? We just don’t know.

But I’m afraid this argument insufficiently addresses the logic of tactical nuclear warfare. If he deploys tactical nuclear weapons, Putin would be calling our bluff. Given our limited tactical nuclear arsenal, would we escalate to the use of strategic weapons in response? Would we risk Washington and New York to dislodge Putin from Ukraine?

Given Putin’s expansive tactical nuclear arsenal—and given the very live debate over his willingness to deploy that arsenal to block NATO intervention and (theoretically) force an end to the war before a truly apocalyptic escalation—the Biden administration’s strategic choices since the invasion make a great deal of sense.

The administration is trying to walk a difficult path: providing Ukraine with enough military aid (and punishing Russia with sufficiently severe economic sanctions) to affect the battlefield and degrade Russia’s ability to wage a prolonged war without crossing the red lines that could trigger a dramatic Russian response. Walking that path is even more difficult because we don’t know exactly where those red lines are. Putin himself may not have even fixed the lines yet in his mind.

Since the dawn of modern warfare, the world’s most powerful countries have inflicted terrible destruction on the nations they conquer. But nuclear weapons raise the stakes higher still. It’s vitally important that Americans understand the true nature of Putin’s forces, and the doctrines that might dictate their use.

It’s one thing to confront a potential nuclear conflict when both sides know they’ll lose. Mutual assured destruction kept the peace even during the darkest days of the Cold War. It’s another thing entirely to confront a potential nuclear conflict when one side believes it can win. That’s the most dangerous confrontation of all, and we may be close to that now.

Antichrist Rebuilds Alliances, Holds Talks with Maliki

Iraq’s Sadr Rebuilds Alliances, Holds Talks with Maliki

Baghdad – Asharq Al-Awsat

Saturday, 12 March, 2022 – 06:00 

Head of the Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr. (AFP)

Head of Iraq’s Sadrist movement, cleric Moqtada al-Sadr surprised his partners and rivals alike when he telephoned former Prime Minister and head of the State of Law coalition Nuri al-Maliki in an effort to ease the political impasse in the country.

Sadr had been adamant about refusing to work with Maliki even before he formed his alliance with the Sunni and Kurdish blocs after his parliamentary elections victory in October 2021. The former PM came second in the polls.

Sadr formed an alliance with Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani, parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and leading Sunni figure Khamis Khanjar soon after the polls.

The months after the elections witnessed disputes between Sadr and the Shiite Coordination Framework – a grouping of pro-Iran factions that were the greatest losers in the poll – over the formation of a new government and election of a president. The Coordination Framework had rejected the results of the elections as a sham and held several protests and filed several appeals in complaint.

As the disagreements persisted, Maliki appeared as the main obstacle in the Sadrists and Framework reaching an understanding.

Sadr’s call with Maliki therefore came as a surprise to the political powers.

Barzani sought to kick off an initiative aimed at persuading Sadr to lift his “veto” against Maliki so that they would go along with the election of his candidate as president. His initiative ultimately failed.

A source close to Sadr told Asharq Al-Awsat that the cleric has “eliminated the role of the godfather, whether this was an internal or foreign player, who used to arrange affairs and then reach an agreement with all parties.”

Sadr is now the one carrying out the negotiations and talks with various parties.

Asked about what prompted the call with Maliki, the source explained that several factors had emerged in recent weeks, including the deterioration of relations between the Sadrists and Barzani’s Kurdish Democratic Party (KDP).

Relations have also soured between Sadr and the two other members of his alliance, Halbousi and Khanjar. He was particularly upset with the two officials’ meeting with Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, revealed the source.

Amid these developments, the growing public anger over rising prices, the delay in the formation of a new government and failure to elect a new president, Sadr chose to “upend the equation and rebuild alliances.”

“The telephone call was part of this new shift and this means that talks with the Coordination Framework will take a new path, which may perhaps lead to understandings,” the source added.

He noted that Sadr had even proposed to Maliki the appointment of his nephew, Iraq’s ambassador to London Jaafar Mohammed Baqir al-Sadr as prime minister.

Maliki informed Sadr that the naming of a premier would be discussed with his allies in the Coordination Framework.

The Framework, meanwhile, held a meeting to address the repercussions of the call between Sadr and Maliki. Several questions have been raised: Will Sadr pay a price for nominating his nephew as premier? In other words, would he be willing to relinquish parliamentary seats in favor of the PM in return for portfolios in the new government?

Sadr’s response to this question will shape the coming phase in Iraq. The answer may lead to continued impasse that may even lead to the dissolution of parliament and holding new elections, or it could lead to a solution from which all parties come out with major losses and minor gains.

Iran targets US bases again: Daniel 7

Iraq: Multiple ballistic missiles strike Erbil

Iraqi and US officials say no one known to be hurt in the attack, and suggest the missiles were fired from Iran

Multiple ballistic missiles struck Erbil, the capital of Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan region, on Saturday night, Iraqi authorities said. The missiles were launched from Iran, Kurdish officials claimed.

Saman Barzanji, health minister in the Kurdistan Regional Government, was quoted by state television saying there were no casualties.

Around a dozen missiles rained down on the city at 1am, reportedly targeting the USconsulate’s new building. Though neighbouring areas were struck, the attack seems to have only caused material damage.

“We condemn this terrorist attack launched against several sectors of Erbil, we call on the inhabitants to remain calm,” Kurdistan Prime Minister Masrour Barzani said.

Kurdistan 24, a local news outlet, is based close to the new US consulate, and posted images of its damaged office after the blasts, with debris strewn across the newsroom.

Other images circulating on social media appear to show missiles striking the ground and causing explosions.

Cemal Batun, a presenter at Kurdistan 24, was in the channel’s cafeteria when rockets hit nearby. CCTV footage shows him, wearing a suit, taking cover when the rockets hit:

“Six missiles were fired and we were in the middle of the broadcasting… This is a very aggressive action against democratic people and society,” Batun told Middle East Eye.

“It’s not only against a military party but against all of society, as a message that we can target you all the time. Kurdistan 24 might not be the main target, but in practice it has been one of the targets. Thank god, no one has been injured.”

There has been no official claim of attack, though Kurdish and US officials, speaking off the record, have suggested to media outlets that the missiles came from Iran. The Kurdish interior ministry said in a statement that the missiles were fired from outside Iraq’s eastern border.

Influential Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr, whose political movement won the October parliamentary elections, tweeted: “Erbil is under fire… as if Kurds were not Iraqis”.

A US State Department spokesperson called it an “outrageous attack”.

Erbil is the site of bases that host US forces, who have routinely been targeted by Iran-backed Iraqi factions in Iraq, particularly since Washington’s killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad airport in January 2020.

However, such raids appeared to have eased as political forces conducted ongoing negotiations to form a new government.

The vast majority of attacks against US forces in recent years have been launched using rockets or drones. Saturday’s attack is the first to use ballistic missiles since Iran staged a retaliatory attack on US bases in Iraq days after Soleimani’s killing.

Iran first used ballistic missiles in Iraq against Iranian Kurdish opposition parties in the Koya district in September 2018.

The strikes come at a tense time as Iran and the United States had recently appeared close to concluding an agreement to return to the 2015 nuclear agreement, only for talks to be put on hold.

The US seizure of Iranian oil cargo and new Russian demands in the wake of Moscow’s invasion of Ukraine has been cited as reasons why the talks have faltered since Friday.

Meanwhile, earlier this week, Iran said Israeli airstrikes in Syria had killed two Revolutionary Guard officers and vowed revenge.

Kamaran Palani, an international security expert, and lecturer at Erbil’s Salahaddin University, told Middle East Eye that Saturday night’s attack could be related to the Iraqi government formation process, and fears in Iran that Tehran’s allies would be excluded from the future Iraqi government.

The Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) led by Massoud Barzani has allied with Sadr, who wants to form a majority government that excludes Iranian-backed factions who performed poorly in the last elections.

“One of the reasons behind Erbil’s attack could be that the KDP wants to form a government excluding Iran-aligned groups, which deeply diverges with Iran’s strategic interests in Iraq,” Palani said.

‘One of the reasons behind Erbil’s attack could be that the KDP wants to form a government excluding Iran-aligned groups’

– Kamaran Palani, security expert

“In their talks with the Erbil leaders, Iran has directly threatened Erbil. We cannot properly analyse the motives behind last night’s attacks without analysing the divergence between Erbil and Teheran in government formation in Baghdad.”

Farhad Alaaldin, chairman of the Iraq Advisory Council, who previously served as advisor to Iraqi president Barham Salih between 2018-2019, told MEE: “Erbil has been warned during formal meetings that they need to give the Shia parties enough space and room to negotiate on their own to reach a consensus.”

“The Iranians have warned Erbil officials that forming a government in Baghdad without the Shia house agreeing to it is a threat to their national security,” he added.

Sabreen News, an Iranian-backed Telegram channel close to Iraqi paramilitaries, said the Erbil attack was not related to the Revolutionary Guard killings in Syria.

“That the response to the killing of our leaders will be in the place and time chosen by the resistance,” it posted.

The Iranian government-affiliated Iranian Students News Agency (INSA) also quoted Sabereen News as saying “two advanced Israeli Mossad training centres” were attacked.

Local news agency Rudaw said Erbil’s governor denied the presence of Israeli units, calling such allegations “baseless”

Reuters and AFP contributed to this report.