COLUMBIA, S.C. — Another earthquake shook up the South Carolina Midlands Thursday morning.
The earthquake hit at around 7 a.m. about 20 miles outside of Columbia, according to the United States Geological Survey. The 2.5 magnitude had it’s epicenters near Elgin.
This is the sixth earthquake since Dec. 27 when a 3.3 magnitude quake was reported. People reported feeling shaking and hearing a loud boom during some of the other quakes. All the seismic activity has been centered near Elgin or neighboring Lugoff. The other four earthquakes have been 2.5 magnitude or lower.
An earthquake of 2.5 magnitude is considered minor, according to seismologists. For the most part quakes that register 2.5 magnitude or less go unnoticed and are only recorded by a seismograph. Any quake less than 5.5 magnitude is not likely to cause significant damage.
Earthquakes can happen in clusters, seismologist say.
How Al-Sadr’s quit of political life reflects on Iraq’s political spectrum
Following Iraq’s powerful cleric Moqtada Al-Sadr’s announcement of quitting political life on August 29, his supporters stormed the presidential palace in the Green Zone, which later turned into clashes that rocked Baghdad for two days, killing 30 people and injuring over 700 others, according to Iraqi medical sources on August 30.
Ruba Ali Al-Hassani, an Iraqi-Canadian and a Postdoctoral Research Associate at Lancaster University and Project SEPAD – an acronym for “Sectarianism, Proxies and De-sectarianization” – said that Moqtada Al-Sadr’s resignation from political life is “performative.”
“It was his way of trying to wash his hands of responsibility for what would take place next,” Al-Hassani told Al Mayadeen English in an interview. “His supporters would not raise arms in battle without his consent or orders.”
“The party is disciplined and obedient, and I wash my hands of those who do not withdraw from parliament building within 60 minutes,” Sadr said in a televised speech broadcast by several news outlets including Al Mayadeen.
Asked if Al-Sadr’s clashes-ending call was late, Al-Hassani said “of course it was late, but it was also calculated and intended to arrive late, to show his counterparts what he and his followers are capable of.”
Al-Sadr also in his speech thanked “the security forces that took a neutral stance with all parties,” and added that the Popular Mobilisation Unit (PMF) that has integrated with the Iraqi security forces has nothing to do with what is happening.
Asked why Sadr didn’t call on his followers to leave the Green Zone before his resignation to avoid violence, Al-Hassani said “because his goal was for them [Sadrists] to storm parliament, as they did weeks ago, to storm the High Judicial Council, which they did last week, to storm the Republican Palace, as they did today [August 30].”
Sadr supporters stormed parliament in late July to prevent the Coordination Framework from forming a new cabinet after the Sadrist bloc resigned en masse from Parliament in June.
“They enjoy a level of impunity no one else does. The government doesn’t dare to challenge them, as [caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa] Al-Kadhimi is a Sadrist ally, as he has shown several times over the past two years,” she explained.
According to France 24, “Sadr says he simply wants a new election. The Coordination Framework says it wants a government to be formed first — and then for elections to be held, under conditions.”
Repercussions of resignation
The clashes between groups in Baghdad’s Green Zone and elsewhere prompted Iran to close its air and land borders with Iraq on August 29 before it reopened them following Sadr’s speech. The UAE also suspended flights to and from Baghdad over security reasons.
“Sadr uses his resignation frequently as leverage over his counterparts to posture and remind them that they cannot function politically without him,” Al-Hassani told Al Mayadeen English. “He has a large followership, and he has an unpredictable nature which puts his counterparts at a disadvantage.”
“If they cannot predict his next move, they cannot act accordingly. This time, however, his counterparts predicted that he would act impulsively, especially in response to Al-Haeri’s resignation, which came at a curious time. He also seems to have lost some leverage after stating in his press conference that ‘both the killer and the killed will go to hell’, thereby angering some of his own followers. This may just be the inevitable moment when Al-Sadr shot himself in the foot,” said Al-Hassani.
“Mind you, he is just as guilty as all other parties of corruption and violence. Reform should begin from within his party,” explained Al-Hassani.
However, following Sadr’s speech, his supporters started to leave the Green Zone area immediately in response to his call, and the nationwide curfew which went into effect on August 29 has been lifted by the government, raising hopes that there might be an end to the violence.
“He [Al-Sadr] continues to be their leader, and his press conference today and ensuing withdrawal of Sadrists from the Green Zone is a prime example of that,” Al-Hassani said. “There is no Sadrist movement without Al-Sadr.”
Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi and the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) welcomed Al-Sadr’s call for protesters to end protests in the Green Zone.
Al-Kadhimi also hailed Al-Sadr as a patriot for calling to end the bloodshed and said in a tweetthis call placed a “moral duty” on all Iraqis to engage in dialogue.
‘Reason for this crisis’
Following Sadrists withdrawal from the Green Zone, the Coordination Framework called on its supporters to end their protests and leave Baghdad’s Green Zone.
“The Coordination Framework has the options of forming a government, removing the Sadrist movement from all its positions, and not allowing it to interfere in any of the state’s files,” said Ghalib Aldaamy, Professor of Media at Ahlul-Bayt University.
The Sadrists started an open-ended protest first inside and then outside parliament to prevent the Framework from forming a government and demanding dissolving parliament and holding fresh elections.
“I do not think that the framework is with the dissolution of parliament at all, and the reason for this crisis is the unwillingness of the Framework to dissolve the parliament,” Aldaamy told Al Mayadeen English.
“I don’t think that Al-Sadr is serious about withdrawing from political life, as he took such a decision more than once and has always returned to politics under the pretext of defending,” Iraqi journalist Ahmed Adel told Al Mayadeen English. “This withdrawal is nothing but a pressure card.”
Adel pointed out that during the negotiation process of the electoral alliances, Sadr changed committees more than once, but in the end, he is the one who comes up with the political decision through a tweet or word away from these committees.
The journalist believes that “the first one responsible for the clashes is the [caretaker] Prime Minister as he allowed these groups to enter the Green Zone and he was aware of all kinds of weapons they entered.”
“Those responsible for protecting the Green Zone are the special squad that is protecting the government buildings, so these clashes were between the Saraya Al-Salam militias and the official government forces, and today [August 31] a funeral was held for the sons of the Iraqi army [killed] in Baghdad,” said Adel.
It is not clear if Sadr will backtrack his decision of quitting political life, as Reuters reported: “he has often returned to political activity after similar announcements although the current deadlock in Iraq appears harder to resolve than previous periods of dysfunction.”
Dr. Ghalib Aldaamy, professor of Media at Ahlul-Bayt University in Iraq, said the “political process in Iraq is one that is not governed by regulations, standards, or foundations; it relies on improvisational rules.”
“It is difficult to say that the Sadrist movement has retired from political life,” Aldaamy told Al Mayadeen English.
“Sadr withdrew in the sense that he will not interfere with the trends of his followers in the demonstrations, and this was confirmed August 30 when he delivered a clear statement calling for the movement to be withdrawn from the demonstrations permanently,” Aldaamy said.
“As long as Mr. Muqtada Al-Sadr is alive, the Sadrist movement will remain politically active.
“I think that Al-Sadr will deputize one of the people in managing the most important files, but he will remain interfering in critical circumstances that need him to send a message to the Sadrist movement,” added Aldaamy.
Al-Hassani, the Postdoctoral Research Associate at Lancaster University, told Al Mayadeen English that “he [Sadr,] is the boy who cried wolf, as he has resigned at least 6 times in the past, and 2 times over the past year.”
Two of those killed were from Saraya al-Salam, while three were from Asaib Ahl Al-Haq, a senior security official in Basra told The New Arab‘s Arabic-language sister siteAl-Araby Al-Jadeed. Theyadded that the situation had since calmed after the heavy deployment of state security forces.
Baghdad’s Green Zone, home to many state institutions, witnessed heavy bloodshed on Monday when supporters of the Sadrist Movement stormed the area in violence that killed 30 people after its leader, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, said he would quit politics.
Salih Mohammad al-Iraqi, a shadowy figure on Twitter believed to be a senior adviser to Muqtada Al-Sadr, urged caretaker prime minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to have state forces take over “sensitive” areas and remove all PMF militia factions from the Green Zone.
Al-Iraqi also called for al-Kadhimi to remove Falih al-Fayyadh from his position as chairman of the PMF, saying he was unfit to hold the role.
The PMF is a state-sanctioned umbrella group of militias backed by Iran. Some have been accused of grave human rights violations, including the killing and kidnapping of prominent figures in Iraq’s popular protest movement that began in October 2019.
Iraqi leaders have failed to hold the factions accountable for such abuses.
Some of the militias are linked to members of the Coordination Framework, the umbrella group of Iran-backed political parties that are the main opponents of Sadr and his party.
The two sides have been engaged in a political deadlock that has left Iraq without a government for almost a year.
The Sadrists won the largest share of seats in the October election but failed to form a majority government. MPs belonging to Sadr’s bloc later resigned from parliament, and his supporters last month stormed the parliament building in Baghdad.
Sadr has demanded that parliament be dissolved and early elections held, while the Coordination Framework said that parliament would have to convene to dissolve itself.
The trip will come ahead of his impending travel plans to Central Asia in mid-September, when he may meet with Chinese President Xi Jinping and other nation’s leaders for a regional summit.
“He will work in Vladivostok itself,” Peskov said, referring to an area along the Sea of Japan and just north of North Korea. “The strategic command and staff exercises of the armed forces Vostok-2022 begin there.”
Russia’s defense ministry said this week that the exercises will be held Sept. 1-7 in several locations across Russia’s Far East.
The drills will involve more than 50,000 troops and participation from several former Soviet nations, China, India, Laos, Mongolia, Nicaragua and Syria.
The exercises will take place at seven different firing ranges and utilize over 5,000 weapons units, 140 aircraft and 60 warships.
“It’s a strategic messaging campaign,” former intelligence officer for the Defense Intelligence Agency (DIA) Rebekah Koffler said, adding it signifies “business as usual for Russia, despite the fact that war is raging on.”
The Russia expert said Putin is letting Western nations know that Moscow is not as isolated as the U.S. and its allies would like to think amid its war in Ukraine.
“This is a multi-lateral war-game with China having 2,000 troops participating – plus 12 other countries, including Syria, and possibly India,” she added.
Koffler said Putin could be planning some sort of stunt to “surprise” the U.S. and Western allies, like a simulated “nuclear weapons release.”
The former DIA intelligence officer pointed to the 2010 military exercises when Russian forces simulated a tactical nuclear strike against an invading force.
The 2018 exercises saw China’s first ever participation in the coordinated trainings, which were presided over by Putin and Xi during live-fire drills.
“These sorts of things are prone for misunderstanding, miscalculation and unintended escalation, especially during an active conflict as the relations between both Russia and the U.S., and China and the U.S. are extremely tense,” she said.
Koffler pointed out that though this year’s drills are much smaller than in previous years, she warned, “We are in a very dangerous zone.”
“Both Russia and China are behaving recklessly, and they have no respect for the current U.S. administration,” she added.
The naval exercises come as Western defense officials are increasingly concerned by China’s aggressive behavior directed at Taiwan.
It remains unclear if Xi will be officially be traveling to the regional conference to meet with Putin, but reports last month suggested the Chinese president was considering the trip following Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi’s visit to Taipei earlier in the month – which sparked outcry from Beijing.
The Associated Press contributed to this report.
Caitlin McFall is a Fox News Digital reporter. You can reach her at email@example.com or @ctlnmcfall on Twitter.
Deputy Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Ryabkov said that Russia can use nuclear weapons if its existence is threatened, and this is found in the Russian military doctrine.
“Let me remind you that the Russian military doctrine, as well as a document such as the “Basics of State Policy in the Field of Nuclear Deterrence”, comprehensively defined all the scenarios in which we can theoretically use nuclear weapons. Such scenarios of aggression against Russia and its allies using weapons of mass destruction.”. Ryabkov said.
He added that Russia and other countries have expressed concern about the proliferation of nuclear weapons, as well as their concerns about the transfer of nuclear weapons by the United States outside Europe, which has been happening for decades.
“We call on the United States and its NATO allies to take a different approach and be guided by responsibility in this area, as Russia does,” he added.
USGS has confirmed that two relatively weak earthquakes struck New Jersey yesterday in northern New Jersey, confirming what many people had reported on social media. USGS received more than 5 dozen reports of shaking from the stronger of two earthquakes which struck Morris County.
The first earthquake, a magnitude 2.3 event, struck at 5:14 pm at a depth of 5 kilometers near White Meadow Lake. According to a USGS, an aftershock from that initial earthquake struck nearby at 6:37 pm at a depth of 5 km. The aftershock was rated a magnitude 1.7 event.
While many people reported shaking, there were no confirmed reports of any damage.