Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake: Revelation 6

Quakeland: On the Road to America’s Next Devastating Earthquake

Roger BilhamQuakeland: New York and the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Given recent seismic activity — political as well as geological — it’s perhaps unsurprising that two books on earthquakes have arrived this season. One is as elegant as the score of a Beethoven symphony; the other resembles a diary of conversations overheard during a rock concert. Both are interesting, and both relate recent history to a shaky future.

Journalist Kathryn Miles’s Quakeland is a litany of bad things that happen when you provoke Earth to release its invisible but ubiquitous store of seismic-strain energy, either by removing fluids (oil, water, gas) or by adding them in copious quantities (when extracting shale gas in hydraulic fracturing, also known as fracking, or when injecting contaminated water or building reservoirs). To complete the picture, she describes at length the bad things that happen during unprovoked natural earthquakes. As its subtitle hints, the book takes the form of a road trip to visit seismic disasters both past and potential, and seismologists and earthquake engineers who have first-hand knowledge of them. Their colourful personalities, opinions and prejudices tell a story of scientific discovery and engineering remedy.

Miles poses some important societal questions. Aside from human intervention potentially triggering a really damaging earthquake, what is it actually like to live in neighbourhoods jolted daily by magnitude 1–3 earthquakes, or the occasional magnitude 5? Are these bumps in the night acceptable? And how can industries that perturb the highly stressed rocks beneath our feet deny obvious cause and effect? In 2015, the Oklahoma Geological Survey conceded that a quadrupling of the rate of magnitude-3 or more earthquakes in recent years, coinciding with a rise in fracking, was unlikely to represent a natural process. Miles does not take sides, but it’s difficult for the reader not to.

She visits New York City, marvelling at subway tunnels and unreinforced masonry almost certainly scheduled for destruction by the next moderate earthquake in the vicinity. She considers the perils of nuclear-waste storage in Nevada and Texas, and ponders the risks to Idaho miners of rock bursts — spontaneous fracture of the working face when the restraints of many million years of confinement are mined away. She contemplates the ups and downs of the Yellowstone Caldera — North America’s very own mid-continent supervolcano — and its magnificently uncertain future. Miles also touches on geothermal power plants in southern California’s Salton Sea and elsewhere; the vast US network of crumbling bridges, dams and oil-storage farms; and the magnitude 7–9 earthquakes that could hit California and the Cascadia coastline of Oregon and Washington state this century. Amid all this doom, a new elementary school on the coast near Westport, Washington, vulnerable to inbound tsunamis, is offered as a note of optimism. With foresight and much persuasion from its head teacher, it was engineered to become an elevated safe haven.

Miles briefly discusses earthquake prediction and the perils of getting it wrong (embarrassment in New Madrid, Missouri, where a quake was predicted but never materialized; prison in L’Aquila, Italy, where scientists failed to foresee a devastating seismic event) and the successes of early-warning systems, with which electronic alerts can be issued ahead of damaging seismic waves. Yes, it’s a lot to digest, but most of the book obeys the laws of physics, and it is a engaging read. One just can’t help wishing that Miles’s road trips had taken her somewhere that wasn’t a disaster waiting to happen.

Catastrophic damage in Anchorage, Alaska, in 1964, caused by the second-largest earthquake in the global instrumental record.

In The Great Quake, journalist Henry Fountain provides us with a forthright and timely reminder of the startling historical consequences of North America’s largest known earthquake, which more than half a century ago devastated southern Alaska. With its epicentre in Prince William Sound, the 1964 quake reached magnitude 9.2, the second largest in the global instrumental record. It released more energy than either the 2004 Sumatra–Andaman earthquake or the 2011 Tohoku earthquake off Japan; and it generated almost as many pages of scientific commentary and description as aftershocks. Yet it has been forgotten by many.

The quake was scientifically important because it occurred at a time when plate tectonics was in transition from hypothesis to theory. Fountain expertly traces the theory’s historical development, and how the Alaska earthquake was pivotal in nailing down one of the most important predictions. The earthquake caused a fjordland region larger than England to subside, and a similarly huge region of islands offshore to rise by many metres; but its scientific implications were not obvious at the time. Eminent seismologists thought that a vertical fault had slipped, drowning forests and coastlines to its north and raising beaches and islands to its south. But this kind of fault should have reached the surface, and extended deep into Earth’s mantle. There was no geological evidence of a monster surface fault separating these two regions, nor any evidence for excessively deep aftershocks. The landslides and liquefied soils that collapsed houses, and the tsunami that severely damaged ports and infrastructure, offered no clues to the cause.

“Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about present-day vulnerability.” The hero of The Great Quake is the geologist George Plafker, who painstakingly mapped the height reached by barnacles lifted out of the intertidal zone along shorelines raised by the earthquake, and documented the depths of drowned forests. He deduced that the region of subsidence was the surface manifestation of previously compressed rocks springing apart, driving parts of Alaska up and southwards over the Pacific Plate. His finding confirmed a prediction of plate tectonics, that the leading edge of the Pacific Plate plunged beneath the southern edge of Alaska along a gently dipping thrust fault. That observation, once fully appreciated, was applauded by the geophysics community.

Fountain tells this story through the testimony of survivors, engineers and scientists, interweaving it with the fascinating history of Alaska, from early discovery by Europeans to purchase from Russia by the United States in 1867, and its recent development. Were the quake to occur now, it is not difficult to envisage that with increased infrastructure and larger populations, the death toll and price tag would be two orders of magnitude larger than the 139 fatalities and US$300-million economic cost recorded in 1964.

What is clear from these two books is that seismicity on the North American continent is guaranteed to deliver surprises, along with unprecedented economic and human losses. Previous earthquakes provide clear guidance about the present-day vulnerability of US infrastructure and populations. Engineers and seismologists know how to mitigate the effects of future earthquakes (and, in mid-continent, would advise against the reckless injection of waste fluids known to trigger earthquakes). It is merely a matter of persuading city planners and politicians that if they are tempted to ignore the certainty of the continent’s seismic past, they should err on the side of caution when considering its seismic future.

Antichrist’s followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Sadr followers hold mass prayer outside Iraqi parliament in show of force

Updated 12 August 2022 


August 12, 202211:38

BAGHDAD: Thousands of followers of Moqtada Al-Sadr held a mass prayer outside parliament in Baghdad on Friday in a show of support for the powerful Shiite cleric who has called for Iraq’s judiciary to dissolve parliament by the end of next week.
Supporters of the populist leader have occupied the Iraqi parliament since July after a 10-month political stalemate that followed elections last October. Sadr was the biggest winner but failed to form a government free of Iranian-backed parties.
He withdrew his lawmakers from parliament and is now preventing the chambe
r from electing a new government and is demanding early elections.
On Wednesday he said the judiciary must dissolve parliament by the end of next week. If not “the revolutionaries will take another stand,” he said without elaborating.
Outside parliament on Friday thousands of Sadr supporters gathered for prayer. Most were dressed in black to mark the Muslim month of Muharram and some wore white capes symbolizing burial shrouds and their willingness to die.
“You will not break Iraq as long as Sadr is here,” an imam told the crowd from a big red stage set up outside parliament. “There is no going back from this revolution … and the people will not give up their demands.”
In the intense summer heat, men picked their way through the worshippers and sprayed them with cold water. Some carried portraits of Sadr and his father, also a prominent cleric, as well as Iraqi flags.
“We have revolted and there is no going back,” said Mohammed Elwan, 40, carrying a portrait of Sadr.
Hamid Hussain, a father of five, said: “I am here to call for an early election and make sure that all the corrupt faces are excluded from the upcoming elections…I became unemployed because of the corrupt parties.”
Sadr’s opponents also accuse him of corruption. They say his loyalists have run some of Iraq’s most corrupt and dysfunctional government departments.
Iran-aligned political groups were expected to hold their own demonstration later on Friday, the latest in a series of protest and counter-protest in recent days which have led to fears of unrest.
Sadr counts millions of Iraqis among his followers and has shown he can still stir up gatherings by hundreds of thousands of supporters, mostly working-class Shiite Muslims, if he needs to exert political pressure.
His father Mohammed Sadiq Al-Sadr was killed more than 20 years ago for his outspoken opposition Saddam Hussein. When Saddam was topped in a US-led invasion in 2003 Sadr began an insurgency against US troops.
His new foes, however, are fellow Shiite leaders and parties mostly aligned with Iran, as Sadr has positioned himself as a nationalist who rejects foreign interference. Those groups, like Sadr, are backed by heavily armed militias, but do not hold the same sway as he does over masses of fanatical followers.

To nuke or not to nuke in SE Asia: Revelation 8

Southeast Asia is confronted by a nuclear dilemma. Image: Twitter

To nuke or not to nuke in SE Asia

Regional treaty bars nuclear weapons but individual countries are fast rethinking past aversion to nuclear power and research

by David Hutt August 11, 2022

At a recent Association of Southeast Asian Nations (ASEAN) conference, Cambodian Prime Minister Hun Sen was filled with foreboding.

“The current world environment is hard to predict, the world is breaking apart while nuclear war or World War III could break out because countries are threatening each other,” he warned, speaking in his capacity as this year’s chair of the regional bloc.

A few months earlier, Lee Hsein Loong, the Singaporean prime minister and the region’s articulator of international relations, was equally disturbed by the potential snowball effect of a new nuclear arms race in the region.

“In Japan and South Korea, sensitive issues are being raised publicly, including whether to allow nuclear weapons to be deployed on their soil, or even go a step further and build capabilities to develop such weapons,” Lee said in a keynote speech at Nikkei’s Future of Asia summit.

“But if we only look at regional security from the perspective of individual nations, we may end up with an arms race and an unstable outcome,” he added.

In 1995, delegates from across Southeast Asia converged in Bangkok to sign the Southeast Asia Nuclear Weapon-Free Zone Treaty SEANWFZ), also known as the “Bangkok Treaty.”

It enshrines a commitment not to “develop, manufacture or otherwise acquire, possess or have control over nuclear weapons; station nuclear weapons; or test or use nuclear weapons anywhere inside or outside the treaty zone.”

Almost three decades later, the war in Ukraine has brought on what some see as a new nuclear era. The Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons, which came into force last year and calls for their abolition, appears weaker than ever.The threat of nuclear weapon use is rising with the war in Ukraine. Image: Twitter

Not long after the Ukraine invasion, Russia’s president, Vladimir Putin, warned that any country that interferes would face consequences “such as you have never seen in your entire history.” 

This was widely seen as a threat to launch a nuclear attack, a view supported after Putin put Russia’s nuclear weapons on alert. NATO, the Western security alliance, dithered afterward. Some pundits reckon Putin’s nuclear threat meant Western democracies have limited their material support for Ukraine. 

This has two worrying implications for Asia. One is that nuclear states like Pakistan and North Korea will be ever-more assured they made the correct decision in not giving them up under Western pressure. 

Kiev agreed to give up its Soviet-era nuclear weapons in 1994 on the promise that Russia, Britain and the United States would uphold its territorial integrity. Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014 and its full-scale invasion in February left that promise in tatters.

If Ukraine still had those nuclear weapons, Putin probably would never have attacked, many speculate.    

The second implication is that other nuclear-armed states may now reckon they can simply copy Putin’s playbook. If Western democracies or local rivals become too critical, all they have to do is threaten a nuclear strike. 

The UN said earlier this year that Iran now has enough enriched uranium for its first bomb. Pakistan is adding to its arsenal. China is rapidly expanding its nuclear program amid speculation that Beijing aims to deploy nuclear submarines in the South China Sea.

A study last year by the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, a think tank, found that 71% of South Korean respondents support developing their own nuclear weapons, while 56% support the deployment of US nuclear weapons in South Korea. 

No Southeast Asian state has nuclear weapons, the result of history as much as the Bangkok Treaty. But they are close to those that do.

Myanmar borders India, which for decades has threatened nuclear war against Pakistan, its historic rival and another nuclear state only a few thousand kilometers from Southeast Asia. Myanmar, Laos and Vietnam all border China, a nuclear power since 1964. 

Is Southeast Asia at greater risk today of fallout from a nuclear war?

Tensions between China and Taiwan are reaching a crescendo. Recent wargaming in Washington concluded that a conflict between the US and China over Taiwan could quickly escalate and possibly go nuclear.

“Some [People’s Liberation Army] officers have discussed [China] using nuclear weapons first in cases like when a conventional attack threatens the survival of the PLA’s nuclear force or the [Chinese Communist Party] itself,” reads the US Defense Department’s 2021 China Military Power Report.

However, the region has known this threat for decades. “Southeast Asia has been facing nuclear-armed China and India since the 1960s,” notes Hoo Chiew-Ping, a senior lecturer in Strategic Studies and International Relations at the National University of Malaysia. 

“The greater risk for Southeast Asia now,” she added, “is the non-committal to the non-proliferation treaty (NPT) by the major powers and smaller states that aim to offset the potential threats of being toppled by foreign powers by establishing a nuclear weapons program, with North Korea being the successful example.”

A security pact signed last year between the US, Britain and Australia, known as AUKUS, adds a new concern on Southeast Asia’s southern flank. Under the AUKUS arrangement, the US and UK will assist Australia in acquiring nuclear-powered submarines. 

Most regional respondents to the latest State of Southeast Asia survey, published earlier this year by Singapore’s ISEAS-Yusof Ishak Institute, reckoned AUKUS will help to balance China’s growing military power.

But 22.5% said it will escalate the regional arms race, and 12% said that it “will undermine the nuclear weapons non-proliferation regime.”

Canberra says it doesn’t intend to acquire nuclear weapons, but Australia hasn’t ratified the Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons and some question the point of nuclear-powered submarines without nuclear weapons. Australia will soon have US-made attack nuclear-powered submarines for deployment to the South China Sea. Photo: US Navy

There’s been no serious accident in the region so far, but last year the USS Connecticut, an American nuclear-powered submarine, hit an uncharted underwater mountain in the South China Sea. Washington was naturally tight-lipped over what actually happened.

Southeast Asian states are confined by the Bangkok Treaty. Some even have it written into their constitutions that they cannot possess nuclear weapons. But it hasn’t stopped politicians from the region from pondering “what ifs.” 

In 2020, Indonesia’s Maritime Affairs and Investment Minister Luhut Pandjaitan recalled a sense of being overlooked by American officials at a meeting, at the expense of nuclear China and North Korea. “I thought in my mind, maybe only if we have nuclear power will it scare you,” he said.

Nuclear weapons might be beyond question, but almost all regional governments are now rethinking their previous aversion to civilian nuclear power, especially as global oil and gas prices have soared with the Russia-Ukraine war and as countries look to bolster their climate change actions. 

“A number of countries in Southeast Asia are either in a position to or close to being in a position to make a formal decision to embark on a civil nuclear per program,” said Philip Andrews-Speed, a senior principal fellow at the National University of Singapore’s Energy Studies Institute. 

It might be argued that the Philippines has already made this decision, he added, referring to President Ferdinand Marcos Jr’s pledge to adopt nuclear power. In February, Rodrigo Duterte, his predecessor, signed an executive order to include nuclear power in the country’s energy mix and as Manila moves to phase out coal-fired power plants.

This could entail restarting the inactive Bataan nuclear power plant, built by Marcos Jr’s father, the late dictator Ferdinand Marcos. The US$2.2 billion plant was completed in the 1980s but never opened over safety concerns, especially after the Chernobyl disaster in Ukraine in 1986, the same year Marcos Sr was toppled from power.

In 2009, Vietnam decided to build two nuclear reactors but the plan was shelved seven years later over costs. Its government is now debating whether to revive those plans with Russian and Japanese assistance. Vietnam’s industry minister recently called nuclear power an “inevitable trend” for his fast industrializing country. 

Indonesia and Malaysia have also been weighing their nuclear futures for decades. A draft bill in Indonesia’s parliament could see the country have its first nuclear power plant by 2045. There now appears to be more enthusiasm in Kuala Lumpur for a nuclear power plan after pushback from the previous government of Mahathir Mohamad. 

Under its military-influenced government, Thailand has been “very quiet about nuclear, though they have expertise,” Andrews-Speed noted. 

As in much of the world, debates are raging across Southeast Asia about whether nuclear is a better alternative for renewable energy, or whether the region should stick with wind, solar and hydrothermal.The Philippines’ Bataan Nuclear Power Plant has been on ice for decades. Image: Twitter

Vietnam has recently become one of the world’s largest investors in solar power. Laos, which signed a nuclear energy agreement with Russia in 2016, is a key hydropower exporter.  

Based on other examples, such as in the UK and Germany, “decisions on nuclear power are heavily influenced by politics, in which public opinion plays a major role depending on the nature of the political system,” said Andrews-Speed, of the National University of Singapore.

“That being said, a combination of rising energy demand and growing awareness of climate change make it increasingly likely that one or more ASEAN member states will start constructing one or more nuclear power stations in the next 10 years,” he added. 

A PUBLiCUS Asia survey conducted in June found that 59% of Filipinos support the construction of a nuclear power plant. Opinion polls in Indonesia taken between 2010 to 2016 typically found majority support. 

The expertise needed to go nuclear is in place across the region, with nuclear engineers and nuclear scientists working on nuclear energy, safety and managing nuclear waste, Chiew-Ping noted.

Some work for the International Atomic Energy Agency, an international organization. The Malaysian Nuclear Agency was established in 1972 and has operated the Puspati Triga research reactor since 1982. 

One roadblock, though, is cost. “The key reason that all of these countries have not yet moved forward to build the large-scale nuclear power plant is evidently and repeatedly on safety concerns and financial burdens regarding massive upfront costs and risk of overrun that it entails,” said a Southeast Asian researcher who requested anonymity. 

“This implies that [Southeast Asian] governments may have realized or already envisioned a shared huge responsibility of nuclear disaster on the environment and public health that will remain for future generations,” the source added. 

Vietnam has u-turned on nuclear energy several times because of the cost implications. It scrapped plans in 2016 as price projections doubled to $18 billion.  

One alternative is to turn to Russia. Rosatom, a Russian state-run nuclear firm, has often given developing countries rather generous assistance in nuclear development.Russia’s state nuclear corporation Rosatom has built facilities in China. Photo: AFP / Sputnik / Rosatom

Before plans were stopped in 2016, Vietnam was going to build its reactor in cooperation with Rosatom, which has also signed MOUs with Cambodia and Laos for sharing nuclear advice.  

In mid-July, Myanmar’s junta signed an MOU with Rosatom. This came after Russia and Myanmar signed a preliminary agreement to cooperate in the peaceful uses of nuclear energy in June 2015.

But analysts are unsure of whether Russian nuclear firms will be welcome in the region after the invasion of Ukraine, while Moscow probably lacks the funds to offer the same sort of generous packages it did previously due to war costs.

Hanoi has been quiet on whether it wants Russian assistance for its renewed nuclear plans. Indonesian president Joko Widodo reportedly discussed nuclear assistance with Putin when he visited Moscow in late June but it’s not clear if any nuclear agreement is on the horizon. 

Follow David Hutt on Twitter at @davidhuttjourno

The China and Pakistani Nuclear Horns are Growing

The nuclear arsenals of China, India and Pakistan are growing

But the countries are not in an arms race—yet

Aug 11th 2022

For most of the 75 years since India and Pakistan became independent states, at midnight on 15th August 1947, nuclear weapons have cast a shadow over South Asia. China got the bomb in 1964, two years after thumping India in a border war and forcing its policymakers to confront their country’s vulnerabilities. India showed it too could build one with a demonstrative explosion just a decade later. Pakistan was a screwdriver’s turn away by the 1980s. In 1998, both India and Pakistan conducted nuclear-weapons tests, making official what was already an open secret. 

Yet, in many ways, all three countries were hesitant nuclear powers. China did not deploy a missile capable of hitting the American mainland until the 1980s. When India and Pakistan fought a war over Kargil, in the disputed region of Kashmir, in the summer of 1999, India’s air force, tasked with delivering the bombs if needed, was not told what they looked like, how many there were or the targets over which they might have to be dropped.

US Counters the Iranian Nuclear Horn: Daniel

United States’ Ambassador to Israel Thomas R. Nides (file photo)

US Open To Every Option In Countering Iran Nuke Threat – Envoy To Israel

The US ambassador to Israel says “every option” is open to the US in countering the Iranian nuclear threat, as negotiations over Tehran’s nuclear program appear to be near a dead end.

In a Wednesday interview with Israel’s Channel 13, Tom Nides reiterated Washington’s full support of Israel’s right to self-defense after the latest operation against Iran-backed Palestinian Islamic Jihad, a militant outfit designated a terrorist organization by the US, EU, and UK. Iran also backs the Gaza rulers, Hamas.

“Every option is on the table, as President Biden has said. We’re not going to allow Iran to have a nuclear weapon. Every option is on the table,” Nides said of the Iranian nuclear threat.

“We support Israel’s right to defend itself, its right to basically take the actions it needs to keep this place safe, so we’re fully supportive of Israel’s actions,” the envoy said.

Israel launched airstrikes against the group on August 5, kicking off three days of fighting, before an Egyptian-brokered ceasefire came into force Sunday night. “These are bad guys,” Nides said referring to the terror groups. “We’re aware of the situation going on in Gaza. We understood this was an important mission for the Israelis.”

Earlier in the week, UK Foreign Secretary Liz Truss said that she remains committed to standing up to Iranian hostility and their pursuit of nuclear weapons.

“The UK stands by Israel and its right to defend itself. We condemn terrorist groups firing at civilians and violence which has resulted in casualties on both sides. We call for a swift end to the violence,” the candidate to becomes the next UK prime minister added.

Russia threatens to start nuclear war Daniel 7

Russia threatens to unleash nukes on UK and US over ‘out of control’ nuclear plant

RUSSIA has threatened to unleash nuclear missiles on the US and Britain over the escalating conflict at Europe’s biggest atomic plant, a news report has stated.

By Astha Saxena

 03:29, Wed, Aug 10, 2022 | UPDATED: 03:30, Wed, Aug 10, 2022

Russia turning ‘irrational’ with nuclear plant threat

According to reports, Ukraine has accused Russian forces of deliberately shelling the Zaporizhzhia nuclear power station and of having a “suicidal” plan to blow it up with mines. Russia has also reportedly launched artillery and missile strikes from the plant, using it as a “nuclear shield” as Ukraine are unlikely to retaliate due to the risk of a ­Chernobyl-style disaster.

Last night Moscow’s largest state-controlled TV channel gave air time to Yury Kot, the leader of Parus, a pro-Kremlin movement in Ukraine.

Mr Kot claimed it is Kyiv and the West jeopardising nuclear safety – and urged Putin to be prepared to fire nukes at London and Washington.

“We all understand very well that [Ukraine and the West] are concocting a fictional reality,” he said on Channel One.

He continued: “We are dealing with the reality.

Vladimir Putin

“We need to tell Ukraine and its supporting countries – Britain and America foremost…and make it clear.

“If Zaporizhzhia nuclear plant is damaged and a disaster occurs, two missiles will immediately strike your decision-making centres.

“One in Washington, the other in London.

“Nuclear ones. And that’s it….there won’t be any more talk.”

But he was slapped down by another talk show pundit Aleksey Mukhin, head of Centre for Political Information, who said: “This would trigger the mutual destruction protocol, so I would honestly refrain from making such statements.”

The UN’s atomic watchdog warned the plant – with six reactors – is “out of control” and said Russia had “violated every safety principle” since seizing it in March.

There are fears Vladimir Putin will use a disaster at the site as a pretext to deepen the conflict.

Russia denies the charges and claims it is Ukraine risking nuclear catastrophe by shelling the plant.

Antichrist calls for parliament to be dissolved within a week

Supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr storm the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq on July 30, 2022 [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

Sadr calls for parliament to be dissolved within a week

August 1, 2022

Supporters of Shia cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr storm the Iraqi parliament building in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone in Baghdad, Iraq on July 30, 2022 [Murtadha Al-Sudani/Anadolu Agency]

August 10, 2022 at 3:28 pm 

Powerful Iraqi cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr called on the country’s judiciary to dissolve the parliament by end of next week, he said in a statement today, Reuters reported.

Protesters rallied by Al-Sadr and his Sadrist Movement tore down concrete barriers and entered the Green Zone, which houses government departments and foreign missions, before breaking into parliament last month.

The Sadrist Movement came first in an October election as the largest party in parliament, making up around a quarter of its 329 members.

Iran-aligned parties suffered heavy losses at the polls, with the exception of former Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, an arch rival of Al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr failed to form a government free of those parties, however, beset by just enough opposition in parliament and federal court rulings that stopped him getting his choice of president and prime minister.

He withdrew his lawmakers from parliament in protests and has since used his masses of mostly impoverished Shia followers to agitate through street protests.

Al-Sadr continues to ride the wave of popular opposition to his Iran-backed rivals, saying they are corrupt and serve the interests of Tehran, not Baghdad.