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.

More Quakes Before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

A magnitude-2.3 earthquake hit Morris Plains on Aug. 30th

Magnitude-2.3 Earthquake Hits Morris County in NJ

Published August 30, 2022 • Updated on August 31, 2022 at 12:32 pm

A magnitude-2.3 earthquake struck parts of northern New Jersey Tuesday evening, according to the U.S. Geological Survey.

The small quake hit around 5:14 p.m., and lasted about 30 seconds, according to a USGS official. The entire event likely passed in less than a minute and struck less than three miles west of Morris Plains, in Morris County, and was about three miles below ground.

The earthquake is very likely connected to the Ramapo Fault Line, which runs southwest to northeast through Morristown and is considered an active fault line, a geophysicist with the agency told NBC New York.

Geophysicist Jonathan Tytell said that Tuesday’s quake is the largest since 2015, when a magnitude-2.6 earthquake hit near Mendham, just a few miles away from Tuesday’s event.

While not a very powerful quake, Tytell said that it is strong enough for people in the area to clearly feel.

“If you’ve living on top of the quake, it will feel like a truck just hit your house,” Tytell said.

An even smaller 1.7-magnitude quake was recorded just after 6:30 p.m. in the same area, likely an aftershock or something similar.

While there were several reports from people on social media who said they felt something, there was no damage reported.

“Total Terror” in Iraq: Antichrist’s Supporters Fight Rivals in Baghdad Amid Political Deadlock

“Total Terror” in Iraq: Muqtada al-Sadr Supporters Fight Rivals in Baghdad Amid Political Deadlock


At least 30 people were killed and hundreds more injured in Iraq after armed supporters of the powerful Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr clashed with security forces in the capital of Baghdad following the cleric’s announcement Monday he would be quitting politics. The violence comes after months of political turmoil in Iraq that has seen politicians unable to form a government since parliamentary elections in October, and the prime minister said Tuesday he would “vacate his post” if the complicated political situation in the country continues. “The political parties that came to power are in reality just militias who cannot talk politics, do not understand democracy, do not understand what it means to step down once you did not win,” says Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, who joins us from Baghdad. Mohammed says the fighting fueled by the political parties “held the totality of the Iraqi people in ransom” for almost 24 hours, forcing people to stay at home “because it felt like a civil war.”


This is a rush transcript. Copy may not be in its final form.

AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman, with Juan González, as we turn to Iraq, where dozens were killed in fighting Monday after the powerful Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced he’s resigning. The Washington Post reports that, quote, “For 24 hours, loyalists … transformed the country’s government Green Zone into a front line,” unquote. At least 30 people were killed, hundreds more injured. On Tuesday, al-Sadr gave a speech calling on forces to withdraw. The fighting has now mostly stopped, and protesters supporting al-Sadr’s rivals also withdrew from their demonstration outside the government zone. Meanwhile, the Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi said Tuesday he may vacate his post.

PRIME MINISTER MUSTAFA AL-KADHIMI: [translated] And I warn that from now on if they want to continue to stir up chaos, conflict, discord and strife and not listen to the voice of reason, I will take my moral and patriotic steps by announcing the vacancy of the position of prime minister at the appropriate time, according to Article 81 of the Iraqi Constitution, and hold them accountable before the Iraqis and before history.

AMY GOODMAN: The formation of a new Iraqi government has been paralyzed since parliamentary elections in October, where al-Sadr’s Sadrist Movement won the most seats but failed to win an outright majority. Al-Sadr’s supporters had occupied the Iraqi parliament since late July in an effort to block lawmakers from choosing a new prime minister.

For more, we go to Baghdad to speak with Yanar Mohammed, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq.

Welcome back to Democracy Now! The bloodletting in the last day has been horrifying. It looks like it has subsided now. It’s happened in the Green Zone, where the Iraqi parliament is, the U.S. Embassy, other embassies and government buildings. Can you talk about the significance of what’s taken place, who is fighting, and what this means for the future?

YANAR MOHAMMED: The significance of it reminded us that the powers that came — the political parties that came to power are in reality just militias who cannot talk politics, do not understand democracy, do not understand what it means to step down once you did not win. So, the only way they could resolve this problem was to go down to the streets, to invade the presidential palace and the parliament. And in the last day, they took all their machine guns and their heavy machinery with them, and they held the totality of the Iraqi people in ransom. All of us lost our well-being and were scared. We ran to our homes. People bought as much bread as they could to keep it at home, because it felt like a civil war, like the launching of a civil war. We were reminded that those who are in power do not care about the well-being of the people and that they are using every single way possible just to gain power. They don’t care about people’s lives, about our well-being.

And a piece of information here: It did not stay only in the Green Zone, the clashes. The clashes were around the city of Baghdad and in the — not in the governmental buildings but in the centers of the political parties in the other cities also. So, for almost 24 hours, we had to live again the situation of war, where we were all in terror, helpless, sitting in the homes and glued to our televisions, just waiting for a word to come from the leaders of trouble for us to go back to our normal life.

And the strange thing is that those who started the demonstration that led to the clashes, to the killing and to the bombing around the city, nobody dares to challenge them or to speak any bad word against them. It’s as if I’m living the days of Saddam Hussein all over again, where everybody is scared of a single person, and nobody dares to say anything. It’s a terrible situation.

I know that in the West, everybody watches series. But this series of terror that the Iraqi people are living in are endless — since the occupation, since Bush the father, then Bush Jr., and then the sectarian war, and now this. We do not deserve to live in this situation. I’m sitting at work now, and we don’t have electricity. We had to bring our own gadget to make electricity. After 19 years, after occupation, we still do not have electricity. We have to dig a well to be able to water our garden. Iraq, although it has the resources that can provide money for three or four countries in a rich situation, but we are living in poverty. We are barely making ends meet.

And those who are in power — and they did not come to power by accident. Iraq was planned to have a theocracy in power, a part of which is supported by the Islamic Republic of Iran, and the other part is local but is a cult-like medieval power. And those two powers both have very strong militias that took all their machine guns, their mortar bombs, and they began to shoot each other. And once some of them shot over the American Embassy in the Green Zone, the C-RAM system took the mortars and shot them back at the city from where the shots came. So, we lived one day of total terror. We had flashbacks of what we have been through during the first American occupation, and then the second one. And it seems Iraq is meant to be living in these situations for a very long time ahead.

JUAN GONZÁLEZ: And, Yanar Mohammed, could you — supposedly, Muqtada al-Sadr’s party won the largest number of seats but has not been able, for months and months, to form an actual government. Could you talk about why there’s been so much difficulty through the legislative route trying to form a government that can begin to address some of the needs of the Iraqi people?

YANAR MOHAMMED: The government, the way it was put together in the first place, and which dragged on and on during the next round of elections, it was meant to gather a big majority in order to form the government. And that big majority, the number of seats that he needed to form the government, he couldn’t get. And in the same time, these two biggest Islamic Shia factions have had a history of fights amongst each other. So, had they been together, the government would have been in place now and working and functional. But because they cannot reach to an agreement, Muqtada al-Sadr, when he joined his efforts with the Sunni blocs and the Kurdish blocs, the party from Erbil — we call it the party, it’s the KDP from Erbil — their number was not even enough to put together a government.

And once he couldn’t, this man cannot take “no” as an answer. Once he couldn’t put together the government, he ordered — and I say it, “ordered” — all his party, or all his slate members, to withdraw from the government, and with no discussion at all. He just spoke of it at night, and he told everybody to step out of the government. And once he stepped out of the government and it was time for the others to put the government together, he still couldn’t take “no” for an answer, and he took all his followers into the streets with a demonstration for a whole month. And when it didn’t bring any results, because the judiciary ruled that the government can still be formed with the others, he started fighting. He says something new every other day, and nobody dares to challenge him. I mean, it’s a terrible situation.

AMY GOODMAN: And he’s quit before and come back. And to be clear, this is fighting between Shia militias. But I wanted to ask you — we only have a minute, and I wanted to ask — while a lot of attention is being put on the U.S., the first anniversary of the U.S. pulling out of Afghanistan, the U.S.’s longest war, the U.S. has thousands of troops in Iraq, what, something like 2,500, in this 19th year of the occupation of Iraq, U.S. occupation. What role does the U.S. play in this? And that’s where we’ll end.

YANAR MOHAMMED: They do not play a strong role. There’s a general feeling that the negotiations between the U.S. and Iran, and all the pressure from both sides, is being implemented in the lands of Iraq, because Nouri al-Maliki’s bloc, who is fighting against Muqtada al-Sadr, is a proxy of the Islamic State of Iran, while Muqtada al-Sadr and the blocs around him are on the other side. Muqtada al-Sadr’s group is meant to be like local, but his other groups are supported by the American side. So, we are being sandwiched between the two, and it doesn’t seem that there is any solution anytime soon.

AMY GOODMAN: Yanar Mohammed, we want to thank you for being with us, president of the Organization of Women’s Freedom in Iraq, speaking to us from Baghdad.

Coming up, as President Biden calls for an assault weapons ban and more funding for police, we’ll talk to UCLA professor Robin D. G. Kelley. The publication of the 20th anniversary of his book Freedom Dreams: The Black Radical Imagination, the book has just come out. Stay with us.

Iran is Stepping Up Her Nuclear Horn

A man with a white beard, wearing a black turban, sits at a desk in front of a framed portrate of Ayatollah Khomeini.
Iran’s President Ebrahim Raisi at a news conference in Tehran on Monday.(West Asia News Agency via Reuters: Majid Asgaripour)none

Iran is stepping up its underground uranium enrichment, confidential IAEA report says

Posted Mon 29 Aug 2022 at 9:35pm

Iran is pressing ahead with its rollout of an upgrade to its advanced uranium enrichment program, a report by the UN nuclear watchdog seen by Reuters on Monday shows, even as the West awaits Iran’s response on salvaging its 2015 nuclear deal.

Key points:

The first of three cascades, or clusters, of advanced IR-6 centrifuges recently installed at the underground Fuel Enrichment Plant (FEP) at Natanz is now enriching, the report said, the latest underground site at which the advanced machines have come onstream.

Diplomats say the IR-6 is its most advanced model, far more efficient than the first-generation IR-1 — the only one the deal lets it enrich with.

For more than a year Iran has been using IR-6 centrifuges to enrich uranium to up to 60 per cent purity, close to weapons-grade, at an above-ground plant at Natanz.

Recently it has expanded its enrichment with IR-6 machines at other sites. Last month a second IR-6 cascade at Fordow, a site buried inside a mountain, started enriching to up to 20 per cent.Joe Biden will attempt to revive the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

In the confidential report to UN member states, the watchdog, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), wrote: “On 28 August 2022, the Agency verified at FEP that Iran was feeding UF6 enriched up to 2% U-235 into the IR-6 cascade … for the production of UF6 enriched up to 5% U-235.”

Uranium hexafluoride (UF6) is the gas centrifuges enrich.

Drab grey and beige buildings and roads sit in an open green field.
The Natanz uranium enrichment facility, 250 kilometres south of Tehran, in 2005.(Reutres: Raheb Homavandi)none

Of the two other IR-6 cascades installed at the Natanz FEP, one was undergoing passivation with depleted UF6, a process that is carried out before enrichment proper begins, and the other had yet to be fed with any nuclear material, the agency said.

Iran says nuclear watchdog cameras will stay switched off until UN conflict resolvedThe head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organisation told the IAEA it had removed the equipment after the agency passed resolutions criticising Iran in June.Read more

Iran and the United States appear to be inching towards an agreement to revive the 2015 deal, which placed restrictions on Iran’s nuclear activities in exchange for lifting sanctions against Tehran.

That deal unravelled after a US withdrawal in 2018 prompted Iran to breach those restrictions one by one.

After more than a year of indirect talks, Iran has said it will soon respond to the latest US comments on a compromise text submitted by the European Union, which is coordinating the talks.

A deal would involve undoing much of the enrichment work Iran has been doing, and capping its enrichment at 3.67 per cent purity.

Its installation of advanced machines at underground sites like Natanz and Fordow, however, could be a signal to any power that might want to attack it if there is no agreement, since it is unclear that air strikes on those sites would be effective.

Western powers worry that Iran is moving towards the ability to make nuclear bombs. Iran denies any such intention.

Russia and the U.S. are entering ‘dangerous and uncharted’ nuclear territory

Fighting around a Ukraine nuclear power plant is poisoning arms control discussions and feeding fears of a diplomatic break.

In early August, Biden put the onus of future nuclear negotiations on Russia, saying the United States is “ready to expeditiously negotiate a new arms control framework to replace New START when it expires in 2026.”

“But negotiation requires a willing partner operating in good faith,” Biden said in a statement. “And Russia’s brutal and unprovoked aggression in Ukraine has shattered peace in Europe and constitutes an attack on fundamental tenets of international order. In this context, Russia should demonstrate that it is ready to resume work on nuclear arms control with the United States.”

The complications over New START come amid growing sentiment among U.S. officials that it’s time to bring China into arms control treaties as well, especially given Beijing’s growing economic and military clout on the world stage — and ballooning nuclear arsenal at home. But Beijing has shown little, if any, interest in such talks.

There is one nuclear arena in which the United States, Russia and China continue to cooperate: the drawn-out effort to rein in Iran’s atomic activities by reviving the 2015 Iran nuclear deal.

Even that, however, has not been without strains.

Earlier this year, as international sanctions battered its economy in the wake of its invasion of Ukraine, Russia tried to find some relief via the Iran talks. Moscow demanded that a restored Iran deal include exemptions that protected Russian trade with Iran from U.S. and European sanctions.

But that was a non-starter for the United States and its European allies, and Russia eventually let the matter drop. There remain concerns, however, that a growing Iranian-Russian partnership, evident in Putin’s visit to Tehran last month, will in the long run give both countries some relief from the various sanctions regimes they face.

Lara Seligman contributed to this report.

The Antichrist Controls Iraq

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr makes a speech from his house in Najaf, Iraq, on Tuesday.

What 24 hours of chaos in Iraq says about who controls the country

By Abbas Al Lawati and Adam Pourahmadi, CNN

Updated 10:36 AM ET, Wed August 31, 2022

Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr makes a speech from his house in Najaf, Iraq, on Tuesday.

Abu Dhabi and London (CNN)It took just 24 hours for Iraq’s most powerful man to showcase his might on the streets of Baghdad on Monday, in what turned out to be one of the capital’s most violent episodes in years.

Muqtada al-Sadr, a fiery cleric who counts both Iran and the United States as his adversaries, withdrew from politics on Monday out of frustration at his opponents’ maneuvers against him. The move prompted his loyalists to rampage through the streets and storm the heavily fortified Green Zone, where government buildings and diplomatic missions are located.

“Essentially, he let his supporters have a free 24 hours to do as they pleased,” Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Century Foundation in New York, told CNN’s Eleni Giokos on Tuesday. After at least 21 people were killed and 250 injured, Al-Sadr called on his followers to pull back.

“It does send a message to his rivals that he is a key player in the country,” said Jiyad. “Also that he has potential to use violence as much as any other side.”

The episode served as a reminder of the fragility of the government in Baghdad, which remained largely neutral in the crisis, as well as the competing players at home and abroad that seek to control the country’s politics.

Here’s what you need to know about the chaos in Iraq:

Who is Muqtada Al Sadr?

Al-Sadr, 48, is a cleric from a prominent Shiite family who commands the support of millions across the country.

His father, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, was an important Shiite figure who openly spoke out against Saddam Hussein and his ruling Baath party. He was assassinated in 1999, in an operation believed to be the work of Saddam’s forces or those loyal to him. The younger al-Sadr subsequently inherited his father’s popularity.

Al-Sadr’s capacity to reinvent his role in Iraqi politics, and tap into a strong vein of Shiite protest, has helped him survive and outmaneuver many rivals over the past two decades. His latest move reinforces his place as one of the most influential figures in Iraq.

How is his relationship with foreign powers?

Al-Sadr is best known in the US for his role in leading the Mahdi Army, which he formed in 2003 during the US invasion of Iraq to fight against US-led coalition forces.

He fled to Iran during the US occupation of Iraq and returned to his country in 2011. Since then, he has become one of the fiercest critics of Tehran’s influence in Iraq and has sought to counter it. He now fashions himself as an Iraqi nationalist.

The cleric has good relations with Gulf Arab states like Saudi Arabia and the UAE, which see Iran as a threat to regional security.

“The US and the Gulf have been indirectly supportive of al-Sadr because of his stance against Iran, ignoring his historic strong ties with Iran and Iran’s ability to influence him,” said Marsin Alshamary, a research fellow at the Harvard Kennedy School’s Middle East Initiative.

What triggered Monday’s events?

Parliamentary elections in October 2021 saw Iran-backed Shiite blocs lose seats to Sadrists. Despite his win, al-Sadr failed to form a government amid opposition from Iran-backed rivals.

So, in June, he pulled his bloc from parliament in protest. The Iran-backed blocs subsequently attempted to form a government without his support in July, which prompted Sadrists to stage protests outside parliament.

The announcement by al-Sadr on Monday to finally withdraw from politics, however, came after his movement’s Iran-based spiritual leader, Grand Ayatollah Kadhim Al-Haeri, said he would step down as a Shiite religious authority, and directed his followers to pledge religious allegiance to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Aside from being a leader of Iran, Khamenei is also a Shiite religious authority with followers beyond its borders.

Al-Sadr said he didn’t believe al-Haeri resigned on his own volition, suggesting that he was pressed by Iran to do so in order to weaken him.

The resignation was an “unprecedented move for an Ayatollah,” said Alshamary. “[Al-Haeri] also criticized Sadr for the instability in Iraq… I think [his] statement was released under pressure from Iran.”

What’s next?

Al-Sadr’s withdrawal from politics, if sincere, could leave the remaining Shiites, many of whom are backed by Iran, to dominate the country’s politics.

Public opinion in Iraq is strongly anti-Iranian which means that any future elections — if free and fair and with decent turnout, may usher in new political parties that represent the Iraqi street,” Alshamary said.

Iraqi President Barham Salih said on Tuesday that although ending the violence is crucial to stop the bloodshed, it doesn’t mean the political crisis is over. He suggested holding early elections as a way out of the deadlock.

Jiyad said there isn’t much hope for change. “If early elections are going to have a negative effect, [the ruling elite] will put off those elections and keep the situation as it is,” he said. “It’s about who is willing to give in or compromise — neither side is willing to do so.

As politicians bicker, Iraq’s more pressing problems such as power outages are going unresolved, said Jiyad. “They are misunderstanding the people’s patience for subservience,” he said. “I think eventually protests will break out.”

Of Course the Antichrist’s retirement announcement is a tactic

Iraq Sadr
One of the remaining encampments of supporters of Shia Muslim cleric Muqtada al-Sadr before their dismantlement in Baghdad’s Green Zone, on August 30, 2022 [Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP]

Analysis: Is Muqtada al-Sadr’s retirement announcement a tactic?

Shia Muslim leader Muqtada al-Sadr has announced his withdrawal from Iraqi politics amid a deepening crisis.

By Ali Hashem

Published On 30 Aug 202230 Aug 2022

When the Shia spiritual leader Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri announced last week that he would step down as a religious authority, Muqtada al-Sadr realised that he was facing a challenge to his own standing within the Shia community in Iraq.

The 83-year-old al-Haeri, despite his disagreements with al-Sadr, has long been the religious scholar that the Sadrist movement followed in their spiritual and life affairs.

He gained that authority after a special recommendation from the former leader of the Sadrists, Ayatollah Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, Muqtada’s father, who was killed in 1999 along with two of his sons in the city of Najaf.

On Sunday, al-Haeri announced that he was stepping down due to health reasons and asked his followers to rally behind Iran’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. The message dealt a blow to al-Sadr, who gained some of his clout from al-Haeri’s supporters.

The move came as the relationship between al-Sadr and the Iranians reached a new low point, with both sides at odds over the fate of the political process in Iraq, where political parties have failed to form a government after elections.

Al-Sadr responded on Monday by announcing his retirement from politics in a statement posted on Twitter. It appeared that he intended to rally his supporters onto the streets of Iraqi cities including the capital, Baghdad.

Following the announcement, al-Sadr’s supporters, who largely come from the outskirts of the Iraqi capital, roamed Baghdad and entered the presidential palace and the parliament.

But al-Sadr has previously said he was retiring from politics several times, even going as far as suspending his political activities and closing his movement’s offices. This has raised questions about whether his latest pledge to withdraw from politics is part of his overall strategy to strengthen his position in negotiations to form a government.

But al-Sadr’s escalation wasn’t solely to demonstrate his clout. The frayed political contract and the state of fragmentation in political representation in Iraq weren’t enough for parties to put aside their differences and devote themselves to reviving the political process.

Divisions have been increasing since the United States invasion in 2003 and the removal of President Saddam Hussein, which resulted in the dismantling of Iraqi state institutions.

The result of the Iraqi general elections in October 2021 showed that confidence in the political elite has reached its lowest level, with nearly 60 percent of the Iraqi electorate boycotting the democratic process.

Al-Sadr had the most success in mobilising his supporters and winning the largest number of seats, followed by his historical rival, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Because al-Sadr’s share of the vote remained very far from the number required for a majority in parliament – 165 seats – al-Sadr had to establish alliances in an attempt to form a government.

Nevertheless, a coalition called the Coordination Framework, which includes other anti-Muqtada Shia forces, and which is close to Iran, was keen to obstruction efforts to form what al-Sadr repeatedly described as a national majority government.

Al-Sadr’s attempts to form alliances failed to result in a government, and his MPs resigned upon his request. His supporters filled the streets and occupied the parliament building as he called on his opponents to form a minority government.

This did not work, and he was left with only one option: calling for early elections. But these, in turn, may not be enough to get Iraq out of its structural crisis.

The lack of confidence in the political system may lead to results similar to the last elections, held in 2021 and boycotted by around 60 percent of voters.

Therefore, there are growing calls for the launch of a comprehensive political dialogue process that could contribute to addressing the major outstanding concerns. However, there are issues that the internal dialogue may not be able to resolve, including external influence in Iraqi politics.

Interactive - AL SADR profile

A significant part of al-Sadr’s struggle with his opponents cannot be separated from the fact that they are allied with Iran, and al-Sadr has since become more emboldened to demand the containment of Iranian influence in his country.

The issue here becomes more complicated given that al-Sadr studied religion at the Qom Seminary in Iran, and part of his extended family lives in the Iranian capital, Tehran. Meanwhile, Iran appears to be in an unenviable position as it watches the Shia forces wrestle with each other in the most serious internal Shia conflict in years.

The limited Iranian leverage over the Iraqi scene follows the US assassination in January 2020 of the commander of the Quds Force in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Qassem Soleimani, who had enjoyed warm relations with Iraqi political forces and was able to contain crises regardless of their complexity.

It is true that al-Sadr appealed to his supporters to withdraw from the streets and return to their homes, and that he condemned violence. But it is also true that the state of surprise that al-Sadr reflected in his speech – along with discontent with his masses and his threat that he would not continue as the leader of the Sadrist movement in the event that his supporters did not leave the streets within 60 minutes – carried messages in a different direction.

Al-Sadr showed that if he does not guide his supporters then no one will be able to control what is happening, that he remains able to withdraw his men from the street if he makes a decision to do so, and that if he retires from politics permanently, he would remain the most powerful man among politicians in his country.

What al-Sadr knows well is that he will continue to have the upper hand when it comes to protests, sit-ins, and all sorts of peaceful manifestations, but the moment his supporters decide to engage in armed confrontations, he’ll be the first amongst the losers, if not the main loser, and that could explain his decision to intervene.