The Quakes Preceding the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6:12

East Coast Quakes: What to Know About the Tremors Below

By Meteorologist Dominic Ramunni Nationwide PUBLISHED 7:13 PM ET Aug. 11, 2020 PUBLISHED 7:13 PM EDT Aug. 11, 2020

People across the Carolinas and Mid-Atlantic were shaken, literally, on a Sunday morning as a magnitude 5.1 earthquake struck in North Carolina on August 9, 2020.

Centered in Sparta, NC, the tremor knocked groceries off shelves and left many wondering just when the next big one could strike.

Items lie on the floor of a grocery store after an earthquake on Sunday, August 9, 2020 in North Carolina.

Fault Lines

Compared to the West Coast, there are far fewer fault lines in the East. This is why earthquakes in the East are relatively uncommon and weaker in magnitude.

That said, earthquakes still occur in the East.

According to Spectrum News Meteorologist Matthew East, “Earthquakes have occurred in every eastern U.S. state, and a majority of states have recorded damaging earthquakes. However, they are pretty rare. For instance, the Sparta earthquake Sunday was the strongest in North Carolina in over 100 years.”

While nowhere near to the extent of the West Coast, damaging earthquakes can and do affect much of the eastern half of the country.

For example, across the Tennesse River Valley lies the New Madrid Fault Line. While much smaller in size than those found farther west, the fault has managed to produce several earthquakes over magnitude 7.0 in the last couple hundred years.

In 1886, an estimated magnitude 7.0 struck Charleston, South Carolina along a previously unknown seismic zone. Nearly the entire town had to be rebuilt.

Vulnerabilities

The eastern half of the U.S. has its own set of vulnerabilities from earthquakes.

Seismic waves actually travel farther in the East as opposed to the West Coast. This is because the rocks that make up the East are tens, if not hundreds, of millions of years older than in the West.

These older rocks have had much more time to bond together with other rocks under the tremendous pressure of Earth’s crust. This allows seismic energy to transfer between rocks more efficiently during an earthquake, causing the shaking to be felt much further.

This is why, during the latest quake in North Carolina, impacts were felt not just across the state, but reports of shaking came as far as Atlanta, Georgia, nearly 300 miles away.

Reports of shaking from different earthquakes of similar magnitude.

Quakes in the East can also be more damaging to infrastructure than in the West. This is generally due to the older buildings found east. Architects in the early-to-mid 1900s simply were not accounting for earthquakes in their designs for cities along the East Coast.

When a magnitude 5.8 earthquake struck Virginia in 2011, not only were numerous historical monuments in Washington, D.C. damaged, shaking was reported up and down the East Coast with tremors even reported in Canada.

Unpredictable

There is no way to accurately predict when or where an earthquake may strike.

Some quakes will have a smaller earthquake precede the primary one. This is called a foreshock.

The problem is though, it’s difficult to say whether the foreshock is in fact a foreshock and not the primary earthquake. Only time will tell the difference.

The United State Geological Survey (USGS) is experimenting with early warning detection systems in the West Coast.

While this system cannot predict earthquakes before they occur, they can provide warning up to tens of seconds in advance that shaking is imminent. This could provide just enough time to find a secure location before the tremors begin.

Much like hurricanes, tornadoes, or snowstorms, earthquakes are a natural occuring phenomenon that we can prepare for.

The USGS provides an abundance of resources on how to best stay safe when the earth starts to quake.

The Antichrist projects strength in mass prayer

Sadrists project strength in mass prayer

Sources claim 1.5 million supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr pray in Baghdad streets, with some disappointed their leader could not join them

Supporters of Muqtada al-Sadr filled the streets of Baghdad for a mass prayer on Friday in a show of force, but the influential Shia cleric confounded expectations and did not appear in person.

The public display was ostensibly organised by Sadr to honour the memory of his late father Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadeq al-Sadr, although it has been widely perceived as an attempt to demonstrate how much support he retains following a public withdrawal from politics after failing to form a government.

In a statement on Twitter on Friday, Sadr said he thanked God for the “great victory” of the gathering and asked that “everyone return safely as soon as possible”.

Prayers took place in Sadr City, the impoverished east Baghdad district that is one of his biggest strongholds. Security sources and eyewitnesses told Middle East Eye that around 1.5 million supporters took part. 

Three Sadirist activists who attended the prayer told MEE that they wished to see Sadr, but they also had expected him not to show up. It is widely believed that Sadr didn’t show up for security reasons.

Iraq: Sadr’s rivals fear mass demonstrations. His supporters do tooRead More »

Shiekh Mahmoud al-Jaiashi, one of Sadr’s top aides, delivered the Friday sermon.

However, Jaiashi also read a letter from Sadr, in which the cleric said that if political parties want to form a government, “they should abide in taking the occupation [out of Iraq] in diplomatic and parliamentarian ways”.

“The political blocs, the Shia ones in particular, should repent. The first step to repentance is to hold the corrupt ones accountable without hesitation,” Sadr said in his letter.

On Thursday, Sadr tweeted that he would remain adamant in supporting “reform” and would avoid “sedition”. He also said that he might send someone on his behalf to attend the Friday sermon.

On Friday morning, Iraqi armed forces put in place strict security measures in Baghdad and deployed additional forces in the eastern regions of the city.

Iraqi Defence Minister Jumaa Inad and Deputy Commander of Joint Operations Lieutenant-General Abdul-Amir al-Shammari supervised the plan to secure worshipers, security authorities said.

Sadr’s Sairoon Alliance won 73 seats of the total 329 in the Iraqi parliament in the October election, becoming the biggest party.

However, Sadr had failed to form a majority government with Sunni and Kurdish parties. In June, his party members withdrew from the parliament in reaction to being repeatedly blocked by his Iranian-backed rivals in the Coordination Framework alliance.

Living Dangerously: A New Nuclear Arms Race: Revelation 16

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test April 26, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Minuteman system has been in service for 60 years. Through continuous upgrades, including new production versions, improved targeting systems, and enhanced accuracy, today's Minuteman system remains state of the art and is capable of meeting all modern challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

Living Dangerously: A New Nuclear Arms Race – Analysis

July 16, 2022

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test April 26, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Minuteman system has been in service for 60 years. Through continuous upgrades, including new production versions, improved targeting systems, and enhanced accuracy, today’s Minuteman system remains state of the art and is capable of meeting all modern challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

An unarmed Minuteman III intercontinental ballistic missile launches during an operational test April 26, 2017, from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The Minuteman system has been in service for 60 years. Through continuous upgrades, including new production versions, improved targeting systems, and enhanced accuracy, today’s Minuteman system remains state of the art and is capable of meeting all modern challenges. (U.S. Air Force photo/Senior Airman Ian Dudley)

By Dr. Manpreet Sethi*

A re-run of the nuclear arms race is staring us in the face. And, it is taking place in new circumstances. Today’s nuclear reality is starkly different from what the well-known nuclear strategist Thomas Schelling had described in 2009. He wrote, “There is no sign that any kind of nuclear arms race is in the offing—not, anyway, among the current nuclear powers. Prospects are good for substantial reduction of nuclear arms among the two largest arsenals, Russian and American. That should contribute to nuclear quiescence… Except for some ‘rogue’ threats, there is little that could disturb the quiet nuclear relations among the recognized nuclear nations.”

The nuclear landscape has changed dramatically in just a little more than a decade. What is the contemporary nuclear reality that is driving this new nuclear arms race? Can the trend be arrested? And when and where could such attempts best be made?

The once-upon-a-time bipolar nuclear world has today morphed into one marked by the presence of a number of nuclear-armed states. These form multiple adversarial dyads; some even elongate into strategic chains. So, changes in nuclear capabilities, postures or doctrines in one state trigger a cascading impact on not just another state, but on many others. Severely stressed inter-state relations are resulting in nuclear modernisation based on worst case assumptions. As induction of new technologies like hypersonics and cyber takes place, nuclear armed-ystates seem to opt for creating ambiguities and entanglement with the deployment of dual-use delivery systems. Instead of clarity on nuclear and conventional systems, their intermingling is preferred—ironically, for the risks it generates. This is believed to enhance deterrence.

Meanwhile, another prominent feature of today’s nuclear arms race is that it is being run on the twin track of offensive and defensive systems. This is something that the 1972 anti-ballistic missile (ABM) Treaty had tried to arrest by stopping the unchecked deployment of defensive systems and anchoring deterrence in the idea of mutual vulnerability. But the abandonment of the ABM Treaty in 2002 resulted in an offence-defence tussle. Advances in US ballistic missile defence (BMD) technology and deployments has led Russia to repeatedly declare its intention to develop “invincible weapons.” The Avangard and Poseidon are examples of those efforts. China too seems to have decided to move towards a rapid expansion of its nuclear warhead numbers, as well as significant improvements in the penetrability, accuracy, and mobility of its delivery systems. There are also reports that it could adopt launch-on-warning postures to signal a higher degree of readiness. These developments race ahead in an environment bereft of all arms control measures, except for New START. No new agreements are on the anvil. Rather, the military industrial complex appears to be driving the arms race. And the P-5 seem to be drawing apart, driven by hyper-nationalist domestic politics.

One more disconcerting new reality that might emerge in the wake of the Russia-Ukraine conflict is a breakup of the long-held consensus on non-proliferation. Some non-nuclear weapon states (NNWS) have expressed disquiet at the manner in which a nuclear Russia invaded a non-nuclear Ukraine. NNWS that face a hostile relationship with a nuclear weapon state (NWS) could begin to believe that their security, too, demands the possession of nuclear weapons.

Overall, the perception of the value of nuclear weapons appears to be on the ascendant. And, the prospects for both vertical and horizontal proliferation could grow. This, then, would further exacerbate the risk of nuclear use. The growing popularity of strategies that favour low-yield nuclear weapons to fight a ‘limited nuclear war’ could result in the deployment of tactical nuclear weapons (TNWs) with delegated command and control. This could raise the risk of accidental use due to miscalculation amidst the fog of war. These worrisome and challenging issues dot today’s security environment.

Unfortunately, the possibilities of arresting the nuclear arms race appear dim. A P-5 statement at the start of 2022 that reaffirmed that a “nuclear war cannot be won and should not be fought” has sunk without a trace. Instead, it exhibited the superficiality of the five NWS’ projected unity.

The starting point for any change, however, can only be through dialogue. Direct, straight talks can help clear misperceptions. But the possibility of these taking place looks near impossible given the differences amongst the P-5. These are being further widened through the release of documents that tend to describe the other in adversarial tones. For instance, the US National Defense Strategy issued earlier this year, as well as the recently released NATO Strategic Concept, paint Russia and China as enemies. NATO has vowed to undertake the “biggest overhaul of our collective defense deterrence since the end of the Cold War,” as described by its Secretary General. It is likely that the delayed US Nuclear Posture Review will echo similar thoughts. So most likely will China’s White Paper on National Defence, whenever its next iteration is released.

The problem with this situation is that when documents talk to each other, rather than individuals, the language can be particularly harsh. When two people dialogue looking each other in the eye, there is scope for rapprochement. This goes missing in the case of documents, since they also pander to domestic constituencies, and hence can be more combative.

For dialogue to take place, one also needs the ‘right’ kind of leadership. National leaders with a more-than national vision, who are cognisant of the dangers of nuclear weapons and the risks of inadvertent use from adopting risky postures and policies, can be exhorted towards statesmanship on nuclear arms control. But no such leaders appear on the horizon as of now. Realistically speaking, for the arms race to be arrested, visionary leaders must speak to each other, share their sense of nuclear risks, and find it mutually beneficial to take the necessary steps.

Possible Opportunities

The nearest meaningful opportunity that could be used to make a difference will be the NPT Review Conference (NPT RevCon) in August 2022. Five NWS and nearly 190 NNWS will come together to mark 52 years of the NPT. If the states parties wish to remain invested in this Treaty, then the NWS must provide reassurance to their own counterparts as well as to the NNWS by adopting strategies that tend to reduce the value of nuclear weapons. Mutual assurances accompanied by tangible measures could temper the nuclear arms race. A positive note struck at the RevCon could change the mood and be leveraged in other forums such as the Conference on Disarmament. It would also be useful if the leaders of the US uand China initiated a bilateral nuclear dialogue. Meaningful outcomes at that level would have an effect on nuclear issues around the world.

Lastly, it needs reminding that as weapons of mass destruction, nuclear weapons are completely distinct. Any attempt to ‘conventionalise’ them—by suggesting that small nuclear weapons, low in yield, few in number, and against military targets can be used without repercussions— would set states down a slippery slope.

The nuclear arms race needs to be arrested right away for the sake of the entire world. Some countries may be able to financially afford running and even winning this race. But the dangers that accompany this exercise would make everyone a loser—including even the winner of the race.

Dr. Manpreet Sethi is Distinguished Fellow, Centre for Air Power Studies (CAPS), New Delhi.

The Pakistan Horn’s Coming Collapse Should Worry the World: Revelation 8

Pakistan’s Coming Collapse Should Worry the World

Russia’s invasion of Ukraine sent economic shockwaves across not only Europe but also the broader Middle East. Pakistan, whose economy is already weak because of decades of corruption, mismanagement, and unstable governance, has been particularly vulnerable. While many countries are dependent upon Ukrainian or Russian wheat or foreign energy imports, Pakistan requires both. Between July 2020 and January 2021, for example, Pakistan was the third-largest consumer of Ukrainian wheat exports after Indonesia and Egypt. The price spike in oil prices has hit Pakistan hard, driving up the cost of its imports by more than 85 percent, to almost $5 billion, just between 2020 and 2021.

For Pakistan, it is a perfect storm. At the end of Pakistan’s fiscal year on June 30, 2022, its trade deficit neared $50 billion, a 57 percent increase over the previous year. Had the Shehbaz Sharif government not banned the import of more than 800 non-essential luxury items in May 2022, the figure might have been even higher.

Even the middle class is unable to keep up with inflation. In June, inflation soared to over 20 percent, the highest in the recent past. An International Monetary Fund-directed end to subsidies has caused both the price of electricity and gas to soar, even beyond the hike caused by the rise in oil prices worldwide. Food insecurity is rife. According to the State Bank of Pakistan, “reliance on imports for edible oil and oilseed meals to meet domestic demand consumption has been increasing over the past two decades: 86 percent of domestic edible oil consumption in 2020 came from imports up from 77 percent in 2000.” Population growth is only increasing the need for imports as domestic projects to produce soybean and palm oil falter.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani rupee continues to hemorrhage value when compared to the U.S. dollar, off more than 30 percent over the past year. In contrast, the Indian rupee has slid just over six percent. The decline in the Pakistani rupee hurts the middle class especially and all those unable to dollarize their saving. Wealthier households and the affluent invest in lucrative real estate dealings instead of activity that could generate not only rent-seeking income but also employment.

Yusuf Nazar, a former chief strategist at Citigroup’s emerging markets division, estimatesthat Pakistan’s foreign exchange reserves have dropped by half since February to just $6.3 billion, akin to what Iran suffered under the so-called “maximum pressure” campaign. For Pakistan, however, the dramatic decline is of its own making: According to Nazar, Pakistan has received more International Monetary Fund (IMF) bailouts than any other country. This shows the unwillingness or inability of the Sharifs, Bhuttos, and Khans to implement serious reform.

International patience has worn out. The IMF no longer trusts Pakistani promises to reform, and is unwilling to throw good money after bad. Islamabad’s unwillingness to conduct reforms demanded by the Financial Action Task Force (FATF) underlines how intertwined the Inter-Services Intelligence agency is with the murkier aspects of Pakistani finance.

Efforts by some Pakistani liberals to relaunch the stalled Trade and Investment Framework Agreement with the United States have gone nowhere, especially given Washington’s concerns with poor Pakistani regulatory practices, supply chain management, data protection, and intellectual property rights.

One of the reasons successive Pakistani leaders avoided reform was that they believed it easier to accept the fairytales spun by China. Far from being an economic savior for Pakistan, however, it is now clear that Beijing used the China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC), foolishly acceded to by Sharif’s brother Nawaz, as a mechanism to enslave Pakistan. “Our friendship is higher than the Himalayas and deeper than the deepest sea in the world and sweeter than honey,” he said in words that most Pakistanis today rue. Instead of promoting growth in Pakistan, the CPEC has become a liability for Islamabad. Sovereign counter guarantees to Chinese independent power producers eat up the Pakistani government’s revenue, even as Pakistan continues to face lengthy power outages. CPEC project implementation is sporadic even though, for the last four years, Pakistan is the world’s largest recipient of Chinese grants and assistance.

The World Bank has warned that Pakistan could soon face “macroeconomic instability.” Societal instability would soon follow. Pakistan’s private sector has not created enough jobs to absorb the labor pool. Anger is reaching the boiling point, and growing criminality hints at societal breakdown.

Sri Lanka’s collapse worries the region, but Pakistan’s collapse should worry the world. For decades, state failure in Pakistan has been a nightmare scenario. Both Pakistan and the broader world have had a taste of that scenario as violence, extremism, and poverty engulf the former capital and commercial hub of Karachi and as Pakistani authorities lose control over many regions alongside the Afghanistan border. The United States, India, and Iran are right to worry about the security of Pakistan’s nuclear arsenal, as military officers also begin to struggle to get by. Pakistani elite live in a state of denial believing that the status quo in which they live an affluent life insulated from broader society is permanent. It is not. The bubble is collapsing, and the result will not be pretty.

Michael Rubin is a senior fellow at the American Enterprise Institute.

Image: Reuters.

Hamas Wants to Rule Outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Opinion

Hamas Wants to Rule the West Bank

Enia Krivine | Jul 15, 2022 12:01 AM

Earlier this week, Palestinian Authority President Mahmoud Abbas and Hamas leader Ismail Haniyeh met for the first time since 2016 while both were in Algiers. However, reconciliation between the competing factions is less likely than ever following a month of tensions, during which Fatah accused Hamas of seeking to seizethe West Bank by force.

Fatah levelled those accusations after PA security forces thwarted an attempt by Hamas to blow up a security installation in the West Bank. The security forces discovered several kilograms of explosives in an underground weapons cache near the small town of Beintunia, outside Ramallah. According to PA sources, an inadvertent explosion led PA security forces to uncover the alleged plot which included plans to strike the PA headquarters. The attempted attack is a clear indication of Hamas’s desire to take over the West Bank and establish yet another Iran-backed regime to threaten the Jewish State.

The thwarted attack came as new rumors were circulating that the aged and ailing PA president may finally have been preparing to step down, ending his 17-year rule. Abbas has already overstayed his term by 13 years, and (rumors aside) it is unclear whether he intends to willingly retire anytime soon. What is certain is that Abbas’s departure will lead to a contested and potentially bloody succession battle. The foiled attack on PA headquarters signals Hamas’ readiness to exploit instability in the West Bank and potentially establish its control there.

It was no coincidence that the failed Hamas strike coincided with the fifteenth anniversary of a similar strike in Gaza that marked a turning point in the Hamas-PA civil war that ended with Hamas in control of the enclave. The war resulted in hundreds of Palestinian casualties, including deaths caused by tossing adversaries from the roofs of 15-story buildings, and deliberate gunshots to the kneecaps of prisoners, crippling the victims for life. Since Hamas’s 2007 takeover in Gaza, the Iran-backed terror organization has fired thousands of rockets at Israeli civilians, launched four major conflicts, and perpetrated cross-border abductions of Israeli soldiers.

Israel has kept a lid on the threat from Gaza, sealing it off via stringent military blockade, close cooperation with Egypt to keep the borders secure, employing an advanced missile defense system to protect against rockets, and a high-tech security barrier to prevent Hamas from digging terror tunnels into Israel. However, the prospect of a similar terror threat along Israel’s boundary with the West Bank – a somewhat porous and winding 700-kilometer barrier – should be extremely troubling for Israel, since it cannot countenance an Iranian backed terror organization within easy rocket range of Israel’s population center, international airport, and major infrastructure. 

The thwarted June attack should also serve as a wakeup call to Mahmoud Abbas, who has not done nearly enough to cultivate a credible successor. Recent polling indicates Abbas’s approval rate in the West Bank hovers below 30%, while over 70% of respondents want him to resign. Abbas’s tendency to consolidate power and inability (or resistance) to appointing an heir apparent has led to the dire leadership crisis the PA faces today. Meanwhile, Hamas, at Iran’s urging, continues to strengthen its networks and capabilities in the West Bank.

As a result of this leadership crisis, and a prevailing sense of insecurity in the West Bank, the territory has seen a troubling uptick in arms proliferation and resulting violence, as families and clans prepare for the chaos that will ensue when Abbas either steps down or is incapacitated. So much so, that in 2020, a Palestinian human rights organization issued a warning about an ongoing arms race in the West Bank.

Since at least 2014, it has been Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei’s stated policy to arm the West Bank “just like Gaza”. Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps chief, Hossein Salami reiterated the policy shortly after. Furthermore, in 2019 Iran-aligned Arab journalist Mohammad Sadeq Al-Hosseini announced that Iran is arming Palestinians in Gaza, the West Bank, and also Israeli Arabs within Israel’s 1948 borders.

While it’s not clear how successful Iran’s policy of arming the West Bank has been, Iran has successfully flooded Israel with arms via Hizballah smuggling routes in southern Lebanon. The deluge of weapons has resulted in an escalation of gun violence within the Arab Israeli community, including assassinations related to organized crime, and murder.

During President Joe Biden’s upcoming visit to Israel and the West Bank, he should make clear that Abbas is not doing enough to ensure stability when he eventually steps down. Despite all sides’ many grievances and the enduring stalemate in Israeli-Palestinian negotiations, the U.S., PA, and Israelis must make a colossal and coordinated effort to crush the illicit networks that finance arms transfers and maintain the smuggling routes that Hamas relies on. Failure to do so may result in an Iran-backed terrorist regime along Israel’s eastern flank, waiting for an opportunity to strike. 

Enia Krivine is the senior director of the Israel Program and the FDD National Security Network at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies. Follow Enia on Twitter at @EKrivine.

New Yorkers are preparing for nuclear war: Revelation 16

Nuclear attack survival ad alarms New Yorkers

New York City released a video advising residents how to survive a nuclear attackThe random-seeming timing of the video caught New Yorkers by surprise

Published: 10:08am, 14 Jul, 2022

New York City’s emergency management office defended its decision to produce a public service announcement advising residents how to survive a nuclear attack after some questioned the advisory’s timing.

The goal of the campaign is to inform the public on ways to stay safe if nuclear weapons were pointed in New York’s direction, a department spokesperson told Reuters.

“There is no direct threat to the city but we felt it was important that we addressed this topic,” said Allison Pennisi, head of public information for NYC Emergency Management.

Released online on Monday, the 90-second video lays out three steps New Yorkers should follow if “the big one has hit”, though officials say the likelihood of an attack is “very low”.

It says people should seek shelter inside a building away from windows, stay inside to reduce exposure to radioactive dust, and follow media for official updates.

The random-seeming timing of the video caught New Yorkers by surprise, prompting a slew of viral social media posts ranging from spoofs of the announcement to suggestions that political conspiracies are afoot.

Opinion on the streets was divided.

“I think this message is a little alarming,” said Lauren Hurwitz, a New York property agent. “Quite frankly, there’s so many other things going on to worry about. And if I have to find cover somewhere, I definitely will.”

Matt Devine, a sales worker at a New York tech startup, said he felt that it was justified, though.

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“Just as a precautionary measure more than anything else. Yeah, I’m scared, to tell you the truth. I’m scared. I think about it a lot.”

White House National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan told reporters on Wednesday that the federal government did not play a role in launching the video, nor does he believe that it was a result of intelligence sharing.

New York Councilmember Joann Ariola, who chairs a committee that oversees the emergency management department, told Reuters the public service announcement was one of many that were created based on issues raised by residents.

At a Tuesday press conference, New York Mayor Eric Adams applauded city officials for being proactive and denied that it was “alarmist”.

The video was released as worries mount about the potential use of nuclear weapons as the West responds to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

Last week former Russian president Dmitry Medvedev warned that it would be “absurd” to punish a country such as Russia that had expansive nuclear capabilities.

Russian officials have also warned the United States and other countries that oppose the Ukrainian invasion to avoid any actions that would risk nuclear war.

Additional reporting by Bloomberg

Antichrist shows power as thousands attend mass prayer

Followers of Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr chant slogans during an open-air Friday prayers in Sadr City, Baghdad, Iraq, Friday, July 15, 2022. (AP Photo/Hadi Mizban)

Iraqi cleric shows power as thousands attend mass prayer

BAGHDAD — Tens of thousands of Iraqis attended a mass prayer in a Baghdad suburb on Friday called for by an influential Shiite cleric, sparking fears of instability amid a deepening political crisis that has followed the country’s national elections.

Followers of Moqtada al-Sadr arrived in the capital from across the country, filling up Sadr City’s al-Falah Street — the main thoroughfare that cuts across the populist figure’s key bastion of support. Worshippers carried Iraqi flags and wore white shrouds, typically donned by his supporters.

The event was considered a show of force from the cleric who’s party won the highest number of seats in the October national elections but withdrew after failing to form a government with Sunni and Kurdish allies in Iraq’s cutthroat power-sharing system.

Followers stood under the scorching sun and chanted religious slogans. Al-Sadr’s representative, Sheikh Mahmoud al-Jiyashi, read aloud a speech from the cleric during the service that reiterated calls to disband armed groups — an indirect reference to Iran-backed Iraqi militia groups affiliated with his rivals.

Ahmad Kadhim, 17, was among the worshippers. He said he was disappointed al-Sadr himself did not appear at the service. “I would have been happy just to see him, but this wish did not come true,” he said.

By capitalizing on fears that the mass prayer could turn into protests, al-Sadr sent a potent message of his authority and power. The event was among the largest gatherings of al-Sadr’s followers after the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. But more importantly, it carried a message to al-Sadr’s political rivals of his ability to mobilize the Iraqi street and destabilize the country.

In a tweet on Thursday ahead of the prayer, al-Sadr said the choice to protest was up to his followers.

“I support them if they want to stand up for reform,” he wrote. Many considered that a veiled threat to his rivals.

Al-Sadr, who won the most seats in the October national elections, withdrew from the government formation last month, following eight months of stalemate. In line with his orders, the members of his parliamentary bloc resigned.

Al-Sadr had sought to form a government with Sunni and Kurdish allies that excluded Iran-parties lead by his long-time rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The surprise move shocked his opponents and his supporters alike, sparking fears of more unrest and street protests if al-Maliki forged ahead with government formation plans that excluded al-Sadr.

If the political crisis extends to August, it will be the longest that Iraq has gone without a government since elections.

The threat of mass demonstrations is a well established tactic by al-Sadr that has proven successful in the past. In 2016, al-Sadr’s supporters repeatedly the Green Zone, a heavily fortified area housing Iraq’s government buildings and foreign embassies, even storming parliament complex and attacking officials.

The prayer service is also an ode to al-Sadr’s father, cleric Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, from whom he derives much of his support base. The elder al-Sadr had held Friday prayer service in defiance of the Saddam regime in the 1990s. He was was assassinated in 1999