A nuclear arms race before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 8

nuclear arms, Southern Asia, SIPRI, nuclear weapons, missile, China, ballistic missiles, US-Russian, Arms Control, Xian H-20, TPNW

A nuclear arms race in Southern Asia?

6 August 2022

The nuclear dynamics of Southern Asia are inextricably linked to the larger global scenario, which is today characterised by two interlinked aspects: An uncertain fate of the US–Russia arms control cooperation and the bleak prospect of nuclear disarmament.

On 13 June 2022, the Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) shared its annual global nuclear weapons arsenal inventory assessment. The assessment broadly noted that there had been a marginal decrease in the nuclear inventory of nine nuclear-armed states. Still, over the coming decade, this inventory is expected to grow. Currently, there are an estimated 12,705 nuclear warheads in total, out of which about 9,440 were in military stockpiles for potential use.

Table 1: World nuclear forces, January 2022CountryNuclear weapons inventory China350France290India160Israel90North Korea20Pakistan165Russia5,977United Kingdom225United States5,428

Source: SIPRI Yearbook 2022

For Southern Asia, the assessment notes that all three countries—India, China, and Pakistan—appear to be amidst an expansion of their nuclear arsenal. Moreover, they are also deploying different kinds of delivery systems. Specifically, SIPRI highlighted that China is substantially expanding its arsenal and constructing over 300 new missile silos. Current estimates show that China has 350 operational warheads, 248 land-based ballistic missiles, and 72 sea-based ballistic missiles. It also has 20 nuclear gravity bombs. Beijing is also activating its nuclear triad based on land, sea-based missiles, and nuclear-capable aircraft.

As far as India is concerned, it has approximately 160 warheads, and New Delhi is also modernising its arsenal by developing canisterisation and Multiple Independent Re-entry Vehicle technology to take its delivery systems to the next level. On the other hand, Pakistan is slightly ahead with 165 warheads and is exploring ways to upgrade its delivery systems as part of its ‘full spectrum deterrence posture.’

Current estimates show that China has 350 operational warheads, 248 land-based ballistic missiles, and 72 sea-based ballistic missiles.

SIPRI’s assessment gives an impression that Southern Asia is in the midst of an arms race, and India is rapidly expanding its nuclear arsenal. While this is perhaps true, the nuclear dynamics of this region are inextricably linked to the larger global scenario, which is today characterised by two interlinked aspects: An uncertain fate of the United States–Russia arms control cooperation and the bleak prospect of nuclear disarmament. Both these factors shape India’s threat perception.

The Ukraine conflict and the resultant US-Russian tensions have ruled out any substantial progress on the arms control front shortly. Russian officials’ repeated references to nuclearweapons during the ongoing Ukraine conflict have only worsened matters. However, the US-Russia bilateral consensus over arms control had unravelled even before the Russian hostilities in Ukraine. Both had withdrawn from the Intermediate-Range Nuclear Forces Treaty in 2019 and subsequently, from the Open Skies Treaty. These moves demonstrated their unwillingness to advance negotiations on any arms control instrument and to retain existing bilateral or multilateral avenues of cooperation.

In 2021, Russia and the US proceeded quickly to salvage one last bilateral nuclear arms control arrangement, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty. Presidents Vladimir Putin and Joe Biden agreed to extend this treaty by five years, which was due to expire in February that year. This was a significant development yet, inconsequential in altering the larger dynamics, as the subsequent deterioration in Russia-US ties showed.

Trust deficit levels between Moscow and Washington remain high to envision any progress on arms control negotiations. Sergey Lavrov, Russian Foreign Minister, has stressedthat if Ukraine goes nuclear, Russia “cannot but react to this real danger.” US officials share Russian scepticism. As Mallory Stewart, US Assistant Secretary of State for Arms Control, Verification, and Compliance noted recently, “With [Russia’s] illegal invasion of Ukraine and their continued, horrific 17th century activities, it’s very hard to figure out how we can sit and think that our diplomacy will be taken seriously on that side.”

Russia and the US proceeded quickly to salvage one last bilateral nuclear arms control arrangement, the New Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

This air of uncertainty over arms control is directly feeding not just the Russian and American drive to diversify and refine their nuclear arsenal but also Beijing, as the SIPRI report has noted. In the last decade, China has advanced its nuclear triad capabilities—from historically strong land-based intercontinental ballistic missiles to inducting Julang-2 submarine-launched ballistic missiles and planned introduction of the Xian H-20 strategic stealth bomber. These developments are, in turn, driving India’s nuclear modernisation efforts.

The major powers’ nuclear modernisation is coupled with their efforts to develop offensive capabilities in domains like cyber and space. However, these domains have no effective arms control agreement as such. It can be argued that major powers are benefitting from the lack of any arms control framework in these domains, particularly Russia and China in cyberspace. These dynamics, therefore, are posing newer challenges to deterrence stability. Besides, any contemporary arms control will inevitably entail levels of intrusive inspection, which will not be acceptable to any of the major powers. This makes the prospects of any arms control agreement, nuclear or otherwise, even slimmer.

The TPNW’s conditions reflect those of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which put the onus of nuclear non-proliferation on non-nuclear powers without commensurate responsibility on nuclear powers.

The major powers’ scepticism on arms control is also reflected in the bleak outlook for nuclear disarmament. In February 2021, the United Nations-negotiated Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons (TPNW) entered into force. This treaty prohibits participation in any nuclear weapon-related activities, thereby trying to grapple with the issue of prestige associated with nuclear weapons. However, none of the nuclear powers has acceded to it, meaning the TPNW essentially forbids these activities for countries that do not even have nuclear capabilities.

The TPNW’s conditions reflect those of the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty and the Comprehensive Test Ban Treaty, which put the onus of nuclear non-proliferation on non-nuclear powers without commensurate responsibility on nuclear powers. This makes the TPNW irrelevant to disarmament and the normative issues associated with nuclear weapons.

Perhaps, only an escalation or a crisis, similar to the Cuban Missile Crisis of 1962, may break this cycle and trigger interest in arms control and non-proliferation. Alternatively, even the realisation on the part of the major powers that what you can do to others can also be done to you—sort of a mutually assured destruction logic of deterrence—can potentially compel them to try their hand in institutionalising the nuclear restraint through an agreement This will create an enabling condition for strategic stability in Southern Asia.


Keerthana Rajesh Nambiar is a Research Intern at ORF.The views expressed above belong to the author(s).

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After years of denial, Iran admits they have Nukes

Iran's chief nuclear negotiator Ali Bagheri Kani, at right, arrives at the Coburg Palais, the venue of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) talks in Vienna on August 4, 2022. (Alex Halada/AFP)

After years of denial, Iran now openly says regime has ability to make nuclear bomb

Remarks about Iran’s ‘technical ability’ to produce weapon could be for leverage in negotiations, or Tehran may have decided building nukes is worth the sanctions

By Jon Gambrell4 Aug 2022, 9:12 pm

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates (AP) — Iranian officials now speak openly about something long denied by Tehran as it enriches uranium at its closest-ever levels to weapons-grade material: The Islamic Republic is ready to build an atomic weapon at will.

The remarks could be bluster to force more bargaining-table concessions from the US without planning to seek the bomb. Or, as analysts warn, Iran could reach a point like North Korea did some 20 years ago where it decides having the ultimate weapon outweighs any further international sanctions.

All this could be put to the test Thursday as Iran, the US and the European Union prepare for a snap summit that appears to be a last-ditch effort in Vienna to revive Tehran’s tattered nuclear deal amid the new pressure. That includes one Iranian video online suggesting the country’s ballistic missiles could “turn New York into a heap of rubble from hell.”

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Hyperbole aside, the language taken as a whole marks a distinct verbal escalation from Tehran.

“In a few days we were able to enrich uranium up to 60% and we can easily produce 90% enriched uranium… Iran has the technical means to produce a nuclear bomb but there has been no decision by Iran to build one,” Kamal Kharrazi, an adviser to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, told Al Jazeera in mid-July. Uranium enriched at 90% is considered weapons-grade.

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Ataollah Mohajerani, a culture minister under former Iranian president Mohammad Khatami, then wrote in Iran’s Etemad daily newspaper that Kharrazi’s announcement that Iran could make a nuclear weapon provided a “moral lesson” for Israel and US President Joe Biden.

And finally, Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s civilian nuclear agency, made his own reported comment about a potential military aspect of Iran’s program.

“As Mr. Kharrazi mentioned, Iran has the technical ability to make an atomic bomb, but there is no such plan on the agenda,” Eslami said Monday, according to the semi-official Fars news agency.

Eslami’s agency later said he had been “misunderstood and misjudged” — likely a sign Iran’s theocracy didn’t want him to have been so specific. Eslami’s threat also carries more weight than others as he’s directly worked for Iranian defense agencies linked to Iran’s military nuclear program — including one that secretly built uranium-enriching centrifuges with Pakistani nuclear proliferator A.Q. Khan’s help.

But by 2003, Iran had abandoned its military nuclear program, according to US intelligence agencies, America’s European allies and IAEA inspectors, although Israel has said Iran never gave up its nuclear ambitions. The US had just invaded Iraq, citing later-debunked claims of Saddam Hussein hiding weapons of mass destruction. America already was at war in Afghanistan, another nation neighboring Iran.

Libya under then-dictator Moammar Gadhafi gave up its own nascent military atomic program that relied on the same Pakistani-designed centrifuges that Tehran bought from Khan.

Ultimately, Iran reached its 2015 nuclear deal with world powers, which saw it receive economic sanctions relief while it drastically curtailed its program. Under the deal, Tehran could enrich uranium to 3.67%, while maintaining a stockpile of uranium of 300 kilograms (660 pounds) under constant scrutiny of IAEA surveillance cameras and inspectors.

But former US president Donald Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the accord in 2018, saying he’d negotiate a stronger deal including Tehran’s ballistic missile program and its support of regional militant groups. He didn’t. Attacks on land, at sea and in the air raised tensions across the wider Mideast. And Iran, after a year, began breaking the deal’s terms.

As of the last public IAEA count, Iran has a stockpile of some 3,800 kilograms (8,370 pounds) of enriched uranium. More worrying for non-proliferation experts, Iran now enriches uranium up to 60% purity — a level it never reached before that is a short, technical step away from 90%. Those experts warn Iran has enough 60%-enriched uranium to reprocess into fuel for at least one nuclear bomb.

Iranian diplomats for years have pointed to Khamenei’s preachings as a binding fatwa, or religious edict, that Iran wouldn’t build an atomic bomb.

“We do not need nuclear bombs. We have no intention of using a nuclear bomb,” Khamenei said in a November 2006 speech, according to a transcript from his office. “We do not claim to dominate the world, like the Americans, we do not want to dominate the world by force and need a nuclear bomb. Our nuclear bomb and explosive power is our faith.”

But such edicts aren’t written in stone. Khamenei’s predecessor, Grand Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, issued fatwas that revised his own earlier pronouncements after he took power following the 1979 Islamic Revolution. And anyone who would follow the 83-year-old Khamenei as the country’s supreme leader could make his own fatwas revising those previously issued.

For now though, it appears Iran will continue to lean into the atomic threat. Public opinion appears to be shifting as well.

A July telephone survey by IranPoll, a Toronto-based firm, suggests about a third of the Iranian public now support abandoning the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons and pursuing the bomb. A September 2021 poll found less than one in 10 respondents supported such a move.

The margin of error for the firm’s two polls of 1,000 respondents was around 3 percentage points.

A video recently posted online by an account believed to be associated with Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard bluntly made the missile threat on New York. It described Iran as being “one step away from a nuclear breakthrough and from joining [other countries] that have nuclear weapons.”

The video’s title? “When Will Iran’s Nuclear Bombs Be Awakened From Their Slumber?”

Tens of thousands pray in show of force by the Antichrist

Tens of thousands pray in show of force by Iraq cleric Sadr

Tens of thousands pray in show of force by Iraq cleric Sadr

Updated 05 August 2022 

AFP 

August 05, 2022 12:50

BAGHDAD: Tens of thousands attended mass prayers Friday in Baghdad’s Green Zone in a new power play by Iraqi Shiite cleric Moqtada Sadr after his adversaries conditionally backed his call for early elections.
Sadr, a longtime political and religious force in the oil-rich but war-scarred country, has for months been in a political standoff with a rival Shiite alliance backed by Iran.
Worshippers converged on a vast
square inside the normally secure Green Zone, home to government and diplomatic buildings, including the parliament which his followers began occupying on July 30.
“Yes, yes to reform! Sadr’s followers chanted during the prayers.
“No, no to corruption.”
After the prayers, hundreds returned to parliament’s vicinity, where tents were still erected and food served to protesters pursuing their sit-in among the gardens of the complex.
Sadr’s mass prayer rally follows his demand for early elections — a possibility that the rival bloc says it is conditionally open to, despite the last national polls only taking place about 10 months ago.
Months of post-election negotiations between Sadr’s bloc — the largest in parliament — and other factions failed to produce a new government, prime minister and president.
The political tensions come as Iraq remains beset by rampant corruption, crumbling infrastructure and unemployment.
As a result of past deals, the Sadrists also have representatives at the highest levels of government ministries and have been accused by opponents of being as corrupt as other political forces.
Supporters of Sadr, however, are ready to follow him almost blindly and view him as a champion of the anti-corruption fight.
Speaking from a dais, the imam who led the prayer endorsed Sadr’s call for early elections.
“Iraq is a prisoner of the corrupt,” the imam said, denouncing “the scandalous deterioration of public services, health and education.”
Sheikh Ali Al-Atabi, 38, joined the throng to support Sadr. Calling people to Friday prayers is “part of his repertoire” when he “wants to use the people for something,” Atabi explained.
A similar prayer call and pressure tactic from Sadr in mid-July drew hundreds of thousands of Muslim worshippers to Sadr City, a Baghdad district named after his assassinated father.
Qassem Abu Mustafa, 40, described the latest gathering as “a thorn” jabbing “the enemy to demand legislative elections and reforms.”
The faithful, mostly men but with some women, used umbrellas to protect themselves from Baghdad’s 42 degrees Celsius (108 Fahrenheit) heat.
Some waved Iraqi flags and carried portraits of their leader.
“Whatever Mr. Sadr’s opinion, we are with him,” Abu Mustafa said.
Sadr’s bloc emerged from the October elections as parliament’s biggest, but still far short of a majority.
In June, his 73 lawmakers quit in a bid to break the logjam. That led to a rival Shiite bloc, the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, becoming the largest in the legislature.
The Coordination Framework’s nomination of former cabinet minister Mohammed Shia Al-Sudani as prime minister angered the Sadr bloc and triggered the occupation of parliament by his supporters.
With armed groups linked to the various political factions in Iraq, the United Nations has warned that tensions could escalate.
On Wednesday Sadr called for the dissolution of parliament and new polls. The Coordination Framework late Thursday said they were open to that idea, signalling a potential deescalation.
But “a national consensus on the question and providing a safe environment” were prerequisites for such polls, it said.
The Framework stressed the importance of “not disrupting the functioning” of constitutional institutions — a clear reference to the occupation of parliament by Sadr’s followers.
The Coordination Framework includes lawmakers from the party of former prime minister Nuri Al-Maliki, a longtime foe of Sadr, and the Hashed Al-Shaabi, a pro-Iran ex-paramilitary network now integrated into the security forces.
Outgoing parliamentary speaker Mohammed Al-Halbussi, a member of the minority Sunni community, on Twitter expressed support for new elections.
He said it is “impossible to ignore the will of the masses.”

Russian Horn Pushes For Nuclear War: Revelation 16

Putin

‘Will not back down’ Putin’s chilling nuclear warning as Russia points to ‘doctrine’

PUTIN’S Russia has issued a chilling warning outlining the scenarios in which the Kremlin would use a nuclear weapon.

By MILLIE COOKE

12:58, Thu, Aug 4, 2022 | UPDATED: 13:03, Thu, Aug 4, 2022

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The Kremlin warned that it could use the lethal weapons “if western countries try to test our resolve”. Russian diplomat Alexander Trofimov listed two “hypothetical scenarios” which could trigger a nuclear response. Speaking at the nuclear non-proliferation conference on Tuesday, Mr Trofimov denied that Russia has threatened to use its nuclear arsenal against Ukraine.

He said this is “utterly unfounded, detached from reality and unacceptable”.

However, he said Russia could use nuclear weapons “in response to weapons of mass destruction or a conventional weapons attack that threatened the existence of the Russian state”.

He added: “None of these two hypothetical scenarios is relevant to the situation in Ukraine”.

However, he accused NATO countries of a “fierce hybrid confrontation” against Russia that now “dangerously balances on the edge of an open military clash”.

Russia has issued a chilling warning suggesting that they may resort to nuclear weapons (Image: Getty)

Putin

The Kremlin warned that it could use the weapons ‘if western countries try to test our resolve’ (Image: Getty)

He added: “Such a move would be able to trigger one of the two emergency scenarios described in our doctrine.

“We obviously stand for preventing this, but if western countries try to test our resolve, Russia will not back down.”

The day before, US President Joe Biden had said he was ready to pursue a new nuclear arms deal with Russia, calling on Moscow to “act in good faith”.

The conference is the second time this week Russia has accused the US of playing a direct role in the Ukraine war.

64 Percent: China Has Ability to Nuke US: Daniel 7

chinese flag with two missiles taking off

64 Percent: China Has Ability to Launch Nukes That Could Reach US

By Scott RasmussenThursday, 04 August 2022 11:22 AM EDTCurrent | Bio | Archive

August 4, 2022: Sixty-four percent (64%) of voters believe that China has the capability to launch nuclear weapons that could reach the United States. A Scott Rasmussen national survey found that just 9% think they do not, and 26% are not sure.

However, the survey also found that 59% think it is likely that, if China launched such an attack, U.S. defense systems could stop those weapons. Twenty-three percent (23%) say that is not likely, and 19% are not sure.

Methodology
The survey of 1,200 registered voters was conducted online by Scott Rasmussen on July 19-21, 2022. Fieldwork for the survey was conducted by RMG Research, Inc. Certain quotas were applied, and the sample was lightly weighted by geography, gender, age, race, education, internet usage, and political party to reasonably reflect the nation’s population of registered voters. Other variables were reviewed to ensure that the final sample is representative of that population.

The margin of sampling error for the full sample is +/- 2.8 percentage points.

Note: Neither Scott Rasmussen, ScottRasmussen.com, nor RMG Research, Inc. have any affiliation with Rasmussen Reports. While Scott Rasmussen founded that firm, he left nearly a decade ago and has had no involvement since that time.

Scott Rasmussen is founder and president of the Rasmussen Media Group. He is a political analyst, author, public speaker, independent public opinion pollster and columnist for Creators Syndicate. Read Scott Rasmussen’s Reports

What’s Behind Antichrist’s Bid to Shake up Iraq’s Politics?

A poster of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, Sept. 30, 2021. (Andrea DiCenzo/The New York Times)
A poster of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in the Sadr City neighborhood of Baghdad, Sept. 30, 2021. (Andrea DiCenzo/The New York Times)

What’s Behind Moqtada al-Sadr’s Bid to Shake up Iraq’s Politics?

Nearly 10 months after its last election, Iraq’s stability is at stake. Its leaders and the international community should take it seriously.

Thursday, August 4, 2022 / BY: Sarhang Hamasaeed

Over the weekend, followers of the powerful Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr stormed and occupied Iraq’s parliament in protest over a rival bloc attempting to form a government. The move comes less than two months after al-Sadr’s bloc in parliament resigned after its failure to form a majoritarian government following its victory in the October 2021 elections. Nearly 10 months after those elections, there is still no new government and the stability of the country is at stake as this showdown between al-Sadr’s supporters and his political rivals continues to play out.

There are mixed views among Iraqis on what al-Sadr’s objectives are and the tactics he employs. Still a large swathe of the public views him as a needed agent of change amid the failures of Iraq’s political system.

USIP’s Sarhang Hamasaeed looks at how we got here, what al-Sadr wants, if there is a role for United States and what’s next for Iraq.

What happened in Iraq’s last election that got it here?

Before Iraq’s October 2021 national parliamentary vote, many questioned what change the elections could bring. Could the election break the political stalemate that had crippled the national political process since 2018? Would it lead to a government that could deliver on the demands of the 2019 protest movement for better services, jobs and reforms? Clearly neither change occurred.

Like the 2018 elections, the 2021 vote produced two broad coalitions. The Tripartite Coalition (or Saving of the Homeland) first tried to form a government. The coalition included al-Sadr’s bloc, who won the largest number of seats (73); most of the elected Sunni Arabs, led by parliament Speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi and Khamis al-Khanjar, with 63 seats; and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), led by former Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani, with 31 seats. The other coalition is the Coordination Framework — considered to be Iran-backed — which includes the State of Law alliance of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, the Fatah Coalition and others.

While al-Sadr and his coalition had enough votes to form the government, they never got to that point because the constitution requires parliament to elect a president who would then ask a nominee for prime minister from the biggest parliamentary bloc to form the government. Al-Sadr wanted a majoritarian government rather than the broad consensus — known in Iraq as “tawafuq” — government that has typically defined post-2003 Iraqi governments, but also been a source of ineffectual governance.

Iraq’s Supreme Federal Court gave al-Sadr’s rivals a win when it interpreted article 70 of the constitution as requiring a two-third majority of parliament to be in session when electing the president, which al-Sadr’s coalition could not secure. Interestingly, that constitutional requirement was primarily intended to ensure the Kurds that the majority Arab population would not marginalize them in the government formation process. For the Sunni Arabs, it was meant to ensure that the Kurds and Shia Arabs would not marginalize them. This very guarantee came to serve the Coordination Framework, instead of the political objective of the Sunni Arabs and the Kurds who allied with al-Sadr. Ultimately, the constitutional clause did the job of preventing a political process from moving forward without broad consensus; it just served a different group than originally intended.

What does Sadr ultimately want?

In early June, Sadr shockingly announced that his bloc of 73 MPs would resign, which they did days later. Speculation abounded on exactly what al-Sadr’s motives were: Was he frustrated by the protracted stalemate and preparing to resign from politics? Or had he given up on the political system and planned to take on the political class from outside? Had his life been threatened by Iran because he was aiming to exclude their allies from being part of the government?

Al-Sadr’s rivals thought they succeeded in frustrating him to the point of quitting the political process and swiftly replaced his MPs, mostly with members of their own. The Coordination Framework and others thought the road to government formation had cleared and al-Maliki looked to position himself for a third term in the premiership or have a prime minister selected from his inner circle. However, a minority believed al-Sadr and his constituency should not be left out of the government.

Al-Sadr’s withdrawal from parliament put current Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi and his government along with al-Sadr’s political and parliamentary partners in a very tough spot and reinforced the idea that al-Sadr could not be relied on. Many of his rivals also thought al-Sadr had lost a considerable amount of his constituents, frustrated because he did not form a government and deliver for them. They would not support al-Sadr taking down the system and igniting an intra-Shia civil war. Neither Iraq’s Shia religious establishment in Najaf nor the international community would support such a move. Iran, of course, would oppose their allies being excluded from power and Shia infighting.

In the thinking of al-Sadr’s rivals, Russia’s war on Ukraine changed things. The United States and Europe need Iraq’s energy. With Gulf states’ production capacity maxed out, Iraq could compensate and produce more. So, they thought that Washington and Brussels would accept a Coordination Framework government, hoping it would prioritize energy production over reform and other governance matters.

Some stakeholders in the political process, who thought al-Sadr might make a move outside the government and parliamentary system, believed he would need to do so before a new government is formed. Otherwise, his rivals could use power of the state and its armed forces against him, as they suspected he would have done had he formed a government.

Obviously, this turn of events has already shown that much of the thinking of al-Sadr’s rivals did not pan out. His call for Friday prayers on July 15, in the middle of the scorching heat of Baghdad’s summer, with tens of thousands of people answering the call and praying in the street, showed that al-Sadr’s support is still strong. Taking over the parliament building and other facilities in the green zone in the past few days, and calling on other political actors, tribal leaders and the Iraqi public to join what he called “a spontaneous peaceful revolution,” clearly indicate al-Sadr is keen on achieving his stated political objectives to change the political system and fight corruption, among other things. His opponents think he is really just moving toward an ultimate objective of holding political, economic, religious and social power above everyone else. Calls for replacing or changing the system makes the Kurds and others nervous, because there is no guarantee that what would follow would be better for them.

Is there a role for the United States?

There are contradicting perceptions in Iraq about the role of the United States. There is a general belief that no prime minister would be appointed or could succeed if the United States, and Iran, do not approve. At the same time, many political actors think the United States’ role and influence has significantly diminished. Despite the difficult history between al-Sadr and the United States, some believe Washington favored al-Sadr forming a government in order to strengthen Iraq vis-a-vis Iran and its armed allies in Iraq. While there may be pragmatists who think this is the best path to limit Iran’s influence in Iraq, others in Iraq are surprised that al-Sadr is seen as anti-Iran when the cleric shares similar values with the theocracy in Tehran.

The United States has an interest in a democratic, stable, peaceful and sovereign Iraq, and could work with its allies across Iraq’s political spectrum, along with its European allies and the United Nations, to encourage and support dialogue among the different actors to prevent violence, break the political stalemate and enable effective governance.

Where does Iraq go from here?

Taking a broader look at the situation in Iraq, there have been numerous developments in recent months that could have triggered violent conflict, including an assassination attempt on al-Kadhimi and attacks on the offices of the KDP and Speaker al-Halbousi, just to name a few. Yet, Iraq’s political system, and key political actors, demonstrated the ability to absorb these shocks, indicating increased resilience against wide-scale violence. Tribal sheikhs, civil society leaders, media commentators and the Iraqi public have been calling on political leaders to resolve their differences through dialogue and get to the business of serving the people, instead of their own interests. Yet, that resilience should not be taken for granted and the risk of violence should not be underestimated, as al-Sadr and his rivals both have armed forces and young followers on the street.

In my meetings this June with a wide spectrum of Iraqi leaders, “lack of trust” was cited as the key problem in the political space. But, I believe, it goes deeper than that because this mistrust could be addressed through dialogue, confidence-building measures and effective monitoring of agreements. Iraqi political actors’ unwillingness to accept the “other” or their views is the real issue. Furthermore, even when ostensible agreement is reached, implementation is often held up as another way to stymie rivals’ goals.

Iraq’s constitution, the country’s social contract, is key among agreements that are not being implemented as needed. Despite its flaws, the constitution includes key principles, institutions and guarantees for a democratic, pluralistic, inclusive, stable and peaceful country. However, different actors do not implement different parts of it because they don’t accept them or their interpretation by others. Some argue the constitution was written under unhealthy circumstances amid an imbalance of power, and therefore since 2005 there has been several calls and attempts to amend it. But these have not been successful and will likely not be in the future. Despite many changes in Iraq, the fundamentals are the same: there is imbalance of power, a continued unwillingness to accept the other, and limited effort to implement what’s already agreed on. The political class is detached from the public’s suffering and they largely act indifferent, despite their rhetoric. While Iran, Turkey and others have strong competing influence in Iraq and the current crisis gives more opportunity to expand that influence, it is Iraq’s internal dysfunction that provides space to others to exert their sway. Iraq’s issues could be resolved or mitigated if Iraqis work with each other better.

Iraq remains important for the region’s stability and for the national security interests of regional and global powers. The country has many of the elements necessary for positive change — increasingly active youth and civil society, governance-minded tribal leaders, a dynamic media landscape representing many points of view, younger and more moderate members of traditional parties, and the clout of Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who has often sided with Iraqis’ demands for change. But the country still lacks a catalyst to harness these elements. Al-Sadr is trying to mobilize as many of them as possible, especially the people, a key game changer in 2018 and 2019. There are efforts to break the current political standoff, but Iraq’s deep political stalemate will not be broken anytime soon. Real change could happen if the political process becomes more reflective of the will of the Iraqis, more than 60 percent of whom did not vote in October 2021 and do not approve of the political class.