The science behind the sixth seal: Revelation 6:12

The science behind the earthquake that shook Southern New England

Did you feel it? At 9:10 am EST Sunday morning, a Magnitude 3.6 earthquake struck just south of Bliss Corner, Massachusetts, which is a census-designated place in Dartmouth. If you felt it, report it!

While minor earthquakes do happen from time to time in New England, tremors that are felt by a large number of people and that cause damage are rare.

Earthquake Report

The earthquake was originally measured as a magnitude 4.2 on the Richter scale by the United States Geological Surgey (USGS) before changing to a 3.6.

Earthquakes in New England and most places east of the Rocky Mountains are much different than the ones that occur along well-known fault lines in California and along the West Coast.

Rhode Island and Southeastern Massachusetts fall nearly in the center of the North American Plate, one of 15 (seven primary, eight secondary) that cover the Earth.

Earth’s tectonic plates

Tectonic plates move ever-so-slowly, and as they either push into each other, pull apart, or slide side-by-side, earthquakes are possible within the bedrock, usually miles deep.

Most of New England’s and Long Island’s bedrock was assembled as continents collided to form a supercontinent 500-300 million years ago, raising the northern Appalachian Mountains.

Plate tectonics (Courtesy: Encyclopaedia Britannica)

Fault lines left over from the creation of the Appalachian Mountains can still lead to earthquakes locally, and many faults remain undetected. According to the USGS, few, if any, earthquakes in New England can be linked to named faults.

While earthquakes in New England are generally much weaker compared to those on defined fault lines, their reach is still impressive. Sunday’s 3.6 was felt in Rhode Island, Massachusetts, Connecticut, New York, and New Hampshire.

USGS Community Internet Intensity Map

While M 3.6 earthquakes rarely cause damage, some minor cracks were reported on social media from the shaking.

According to the USGS, moderately damaging earthquakes strike somewhere in the region every few decades, and smaller earthquakes are felt roughly twice a year.

The largest known New England earthquakes occurred in 1638 (magnitude 6.5) in Vermont or New Hampshire, and in 1755 (magnitude 5.8) offshore from Cape Ann northeast of Boston.

The most recent New England earthquake to cause moderate damage occurred in 1940 (magnitude 5.6) in central New Hampshire.

Barrack Biden’s Nuclear Deal With the Devil

Joe Biden’s Nuclear Deal With the Devil

The Israelis are nervous and with good reason. The theocratic regime in Iran has repeatedly vowed to wipe Israel off the map and now it looks like Joe Biden may help them try to achieve that ambition. Biden is edging closer to signing a renewed deal with the Islamic Republic which will do little to curb their race towards developing a nuclear weapon, but by lifting sanctions, will release over $100 billion annually, which the mullahs will use to fund their terrorist proxies across the Middle East. Israel’s Mossad spy chief, David Barnea, will visit Washington in early September to brief the Americans on the perils of reviving the defunct Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) nuclear deal. Israel’s caretaker Prime Minister, Yair Lapid, has stressed that the original JCPOA brokered by Barack Obama in 2015 was “not a good deal” and that any attempt at reviving it would lead to “greater dangers.”

President Trump unilaterally withdrew America from the JCPOA in 2018 claiming it was “the worst deal ever negotiated”. In May 2018, Donald Trump said: “Not only does the deal fail to halt Iran’s nuclear ambitions, but it also fails to address the regime’s development of ballistic missiles that could deliver nuclear warheads.Finally, the deal does nothing to constrain Iran’s destabilizing activities, including its support for terrorism. Since the agreement, Iran’s bloody ambitions have grown only more brazen.” The other signatories to the deal involved Germany, France, the UK, Russia, China and the EU, all of whom have sought ways of reviving the zombie agreement, despite Iran’s increasingly aggressive behaviour. Now the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell, has promised to organise more meetings in Vienna to try to finalise the agreement.

The Israelis are concerned that, according to a memo leaked from the Vienna talks, any revival of the nuclear deal would include removing 150 Iranian financial institutions and 17 banks from the sanctions list, while $7 billion of Iranian assets frozen by South Korea would be immediately released. The Israeli PM Yair Lapid claimed these assets would be funnelled directly towards Iran-backed militant groups like Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic Jihad. For years the Iranian regime has also backed Bashar al-Assad’s bloody civil war in Syria, the Houthi rebels in Yemen and the brutal Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) in Iraq, financing and directing proxy wars across the Middle East. Despite their broken economy, spiralling inflation, and a population reduced to abject poverty, the mullahs have continued to fund their terrorist proxies and to accelerate their nuclear program in open defiance of the West. They have boasted that they have ramped up their nuclear program, purifying uranium to 60% purity, a hair’s breadth from weapon’s grade.

In retaliation for President Trump’s “maximum pressure” sanctions campaign, the theocratic regime has resorted to gunboat diplomacy in the Strait of Hormuz, one of the world’s strategically most important choke points for the transportation of oil and gas from the Persian Gulf to the Indian Ocean. US naval vessels and commercial oil tankers have been attacked with weaponized drones and limpet mines by the terrorist Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). There have also been IRGC terrorist plots and attacks in the West. Earlier in August the US Department of Justice uncovered a plot to murder Mike Pompeo and John Bolton, involving an IRGC officer. Last year an Iranian diplomat – Assadollah Assadi, was jailed for 20 years in Belgium for plotting to bomb a rally of Iranian dissidents near Paris.

But it seems as if such acts of naked aggression and terrorism are not enough to concern Western appeasers.According to the leaked memo, any revived nuclear deal will not even contain a mention of the rampant human rights abuse and escalating number of executions taking place inside the repressive regime. Nor will the JCPOA mention the mullahs’ war mongering in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and Lebanon. There will be no mention of the massacre of over 30,000 political prisoners in 1988, now the subject of a UN special inquiry. Nor will there be any mention of the 1,500 unarmed protesters gunned down by the IRGC, in the nationwide uprising which erupted in every town and city in Iran in November 2019. It seems that the promise of an end to sanctions, so that US and EU businesses can re-open trade with the theocratic regime, is more important than human rights. Yair Lapid is right when he says that the renewed deal and lifting of sanctions would be used to “undermine stability in the Middle East and spread terror around the globe.”

As the Americans and Europeans appear to be edging towards accepting what has been branded in Vienna as ‘the final text’ of a revived deal, Mohammad Eslami, the head of Iran’s Atomic Energy Organization, said: “We are committed to inspections in the framework of the nuclear deal that are linked to nuclear restrictions which we have accepted in the past… Not one word more, not one word less,” clearly indicating that no new clauses will be acceptable to the mullahs. This would also constrain inspectors from the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) from further investigating covert sites where they have detected uranium. Eslami claims the allegations are untrue, based on falsehoods spread by dissidents and by Israel. But Rafael Grossi, the director general of the IAEA, has urged the mullahs to cooperate with his investigations into the nuclear traces found at the three previously undeclared sites. Iran has emphasised it wants the IAEA probe permanently closed before an agreement can be reached to restore the JCPOA.

Previous demands from the mullahs that the Americans should remove the IRGC from their list of foreign terrorist organizations, appear now to have been dropped. Nevertheless, opposition to a renewed deal is growing in Washington, where there are concerns that assets unfrozen by the lifting of sanctions could be used by the mullahs to fund a delivery of sophisticated, weaponized drones, as part of Iran’s growing support for Vladimir Putin’s war in Ukraine. 

Israel’s former prime minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, said last week that the terms of a possible deal with Iran are worse than the original 2015 accord. He said: “This terrible deal with Iran casts a heavy shadow on our security and our future. The deal enables Iran to get everything and give nothing.”

Struan Stevenson is the Coordinator of the Campaign for Iran Change (CiC). He was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), president of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and chairman of the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is an international lecturer on the Middle East and president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

What does the Antichrist really want?

Analysis - Sadr Politics

Iraq is now experiencing an ominous calm before the next expected escalation between supporters of Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr and his Iranian-backed Shia rivals, who have been at the centre of the country’s political stalemate for years.

Sadr, in a tweet on 29 August, unexpectedly announced his “final” retirement from politics, causing his supporters to take to the streets in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone, as well as across central and southern Iraqi provinces.

His announcement turned the Green Zone – home to government buildings and embassies – into a battlefield, as Sadr supporters used machine guns, Rocket Propelled Grenades (RPG), and Katyusha rockets in pitched battles against their rivals, including former paramilitaries of the Iran-backed Al-Hashd Al-Shaabi network and the party of former prime minister Nouri Al-Maliki, a longtime foe of Sadr.

“The recent violence in Iraq really demonstrated Sadr’s power and ability to incite a civil war in the short-term”

More than 30 people were killed and hundreds were injured. The fighting ended the next day with a call from Sadr to his fighters to cease fighting and withdraw from the area.

“The violence escalated, Sadr gave 24 hours to his supporters to act without his instructions and needed to end it as it looked like the Sadrists were the outlaws attacking the state,” Sajad Jiyad, a fellow at the Century International for Research and Policy, told The New Arab.

“It is possible this was a planned provocation and, in any case, he showed the power of his group and nothing more was to be gained.”

During a press conference, Sadr went on to say that both those killed in the clashes and the killers “were in hell”, with others speculating about whether the Shia cleric had ambitions of replacing Iraq’s Grand Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Al-Sistani.

“Sadr was disappointed that his group resorted to such open violence and wanted to distance himself from it, which is why he blamed the killer and those killed for engaging in violence,” Jiyad told TNA.

“I think he cares very much about his image and religious legitimacy and does not want to be seen like any other political leader, which is natural as he is a cleric too.”

Iraq’s political crisis is now in its 11th month after the country went to early elections on 10 October 2021 in which Muqtada al-Sadr’s bloc won a majority with 73 seats. Sadr tried to form a ‘national majority’ government with several Sunni and Kurdish blocs, mobilising against pro-Iran Shia blocs organised under the Coordination Framework (CF).More than 30 people were killed and hundreds injured in clashes between Shia rivals last month. [Getty]

Frustrated in his efforts to fulfil his promise to his supporters, however, Sadr ordered lawmakers from his bloc to resign, which all his MPs did on 12 June. The CF replaced Sadr’s MPs with their own, becoming the biggest bloc in the Iraqi parliament. They vowed to form a consensus government that would include all the Sunni and Kurdish blocs.

Iraqi analysts have told The New Arab that Sadr had made a mistake by withdrawing from the parliament and choosing to confront his rivals in the Iraqi streets and through his Saraya al-Salam and Al-Mahdi Army militias.

Sadr, claiming to be a reformist, insists that the Iraqi parliament should be dissolved by the country’s Supreme Federal Court, and snap elections be held again. But the CF insists that the parliament should convene to elect a president, form a consensus government, amend the country’s election law, and then vote to dissolve itself.

“Muqtada al-Sadr is interested in becoming the most powerful figure in Iraq, both politically and spiritually, and all of his moves are framed by his want to do so”

Where is Iraq going?

There are now several different scenarios for Iraq, including the possibility of snap elections, which even Iraq’s President Barham Salih has voiced support for.

“The trouble is that an election is actually unlikely to change anything on the ground, it could even make things worse, whilst only temporarily abating the different factions,” Shayan Talabany, an analyst at the Tony Blair Institute (TBI) focused on Iraq’s politics, told TNA.

“Iraq’s last election had the lowest voter turnout in any election since 2003. With the recent violence, there are different dynamics that could play out in terms of voting. Some Iraqis could feel more encouraged to vote, which could be a source of optimism, as a large population of Iraqis would rather vote for those not currently in government,” Talabany said.

“Another very likely scenario is that Iraqis will be even more frustrated with the political process and not even vote, particularly if they feel that even when alternative parties do gain votes (such as in October 2021) these results are overridden by the traditional parties who are squabbling for power,” she added.

“The real issue is that the political process of forming a government, the outbursts of violence, and the continuous back and forth between the different factions engaged in a power struggle have the ability to prolong the political process even further. This could quickly become very dangerous, given the ability of more regressive forces, such as Muqtada al-Sadr’s followers, to mobilise so quickly. The recent violence in Iraq really demonstrated Sadr’s power and ability to incite a civil war in the short-term.”

She also cautioned that there is a high possibility that public anger and frustration could rise and potentially explode if the country’s needs and its people’s demands are further ignored.

Sadr’s withdrawal from politics has also once again raised the question of whether he wants to be Iraq’s next Shia religious Marjaeya, replacing al-Sistani.Sadr’s withdrawal from politics has once again raised the question of whether he wants to be Iraq’s next Shia religious Marjaeya. [Getty]

“I think Muqtada al-Sadr is interested in becoming the most powerful figure in Iraq, both politically and spiritually, and all of his moves are framed by his want to do so. On the political front, the trouble is that Iraq’s system structurally prevents a single or central concentration of power, especially since former Prime Minister Noori al-Maliki was removed. We have seen this play out since the October 2021 elections,” Talabany said.

“On the religious or spiritual front: Sadr does not have the qualifications nor calibre religiously to replace al-Sistani. The danger is however that Sadr thinks he can or should achieve both these pillars of authority. What Sadr wants and what is actually feasible, at least under the current circumstances, is therefore quite different.”

Regarding the scenario that the US might fully withdraw from Iraq as it did in Afghanistan last year, Talabany ruled out such a possibility, given how different the situation in both countries is.

“Sadr does not have the qualifications nor calibre religiously to replace al-Sistani. The danger is, however, that Sadr thinks he can or should achieve both these pillars of authority”

“It is difficult to make the argument that Iraq is the centre of international interest. I think that apart from Iraq’s current important role as a major oil exporter during times of low energy supply, there is international fatigue with Iraq,” she said. 

“There is a lot of international interest in Iraq that is solely centred on Iran. It is worrying to hear the large number of voices that seem very willing to allow Iraq to regress, for the sake of countering Iran, which is itself a really impractical and narrow-sighted way of viewing the country and its relationship with its neighbours,” Talabany added.

“At the same time, if Iraq wants to be taken seriously, it has to maintain its security so that it can move on and attract positive attention and not just negative attention by being a security threat – but right now that seems quite unlikely.”

Dana Taib Menmy is The New Arab’s Iraq Correspondent, writing on issues of politics, society, human rights, security, and minorities.

Follow him on Twitter: @danataibmenmy

The Antichrist will not be absent for a long time

A supporter of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr carries away items as their encampment in Baghdad's high-security Green Zone is dismantled on August 30, 2022 [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images]

Moqtada Al-Sadr will not be absent for a long time

Dr Amira Abo el-Fetouh

August 25, 2022

A supporter of Shia Muslim cleric Moqtada al-Sadr carries away items as their encampment in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone is dismantled on August 30, 2022 [AHMAD AL-RUBAYE/AFP via Getty Images]

September 5, 2022 at 3:50 pm 

Almost two decades ago, the US invasion of Iraq took place and overthrew the dictator, Saddam Hussein, uprooted the Ba’ath Party, dismantled its oppressive security system and dissolved the official army. However, it did not establish a new political mechanism for an alternative democratic system, despite the promise of US President, George W. Bush, at the time that Iraq will be a role model of democracy in the Arab world, to be emulated by the Arab people!

The political vacuum has become dominant in Iraq, and it has been filled by political and religious groups that do not focus on state-building but, rather quite the contrary, countering forces that fight to return Iraq to a strong and coherent state, and these forces are intimately connected to Iran.

Sectarianism sprang up, grew and expanded. Iran penetrated all the institutions of the State, such as the government, the judiciary, the media, parliament and Iraqi society under the eyes of the United States. It managed to establish an Iraqi army under its command similar to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, called the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” (PMF). It also formed political parties, at a time when the US gradually withdrew from the Iraqi arena after handing it on a silver platter to Iran, due to their mutual interests there. Both the US and Iran sought to make Iraq a weak and bankrupt State. The US wants Iraq to be weak to serve the Zionist entity, while Iran considers it as an extension of its State, as if it has become a governorate within its territory. Did not one of the Iranian officials say that Iran occupies four Arab countries, Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria?

Unfortunately, the will of Iraqis was lost between their blind adherence to the political and religious authorities who fight over the State from outside the State. When Iraqis rebelled in the autumn of 2019, and tried to break out of these sectarian authorities and chanted, “Iran out, Iran out”, “Iran will not rule Iraq”, and other slogans that refer to patriotism, it was a strong expression of a broad Iraqi popular rejection of all Iran’s interventions in Iraq and a rejection of all its men in Iraq. The revolution of the Iraqis was an expression of the Arabism that runs in their veins and the adherence to all the values of the Iraqi identity rooted in Iraqi land, away from Persian Shiism and the malicious Safavid project that Iran wants to spread in the Arab world. But, unfortunately, everyone turned against them and took down their revolution.

However, Iraqi popular anger remained hidden under the ashes of this Iranian occupier until it appeared in the recent events in Baghdad, as a result of an accumulation that lasted for years. Many Iraqi political elites who came with the US invasion of Iraq did not live long in Iraq, but rather lived under the Islamic Jurist system in Tehran for decades, and were supported and trained under the slogan “opposing Saddam “. They provided all the obligations of obedience and loyalty to Iran and, when they returned to Iraq, they returned with the mentality of the occupier, not the Iraqi citizen, and this explains to us their murders against the Iraqi blood, their theft and corruption. Through this, they were able to impoverish a rich country and keep its people poor and destitute.

Hands are tied as the political unrest continues in Iraq – Cartoon [Sabaaneh/Middle East Monitor]

During the recent clashes launched by Moqtada Al-Sadr’s supporters against the Republican Palace, voices affiliated with the Sunni public in Iraq commended Moqtada Al-Sadr as the warrior who resists Iranians in Iraq; they went far as to say that Al-Sadr’s attack on the Green Zone was “nothing less than the liberation of Al-Faw”. Former Iraqi parliament member, Najeh Almezan said that Moqtada Al-Sadr is the third hero of Al-Qadisiyyah.

The Americans also celebrated Moqtada Al-Sadr and started to glorify him and present him as the greatest Iraqi civilian leader fighting Iran, while Al-Sadr was a wanted criminal and the leader of an insurgent gang in the opinion of Bush and the US military in 2004. The US military commander said: “The mission of the US military is to kill or arrest Al-Sadr”, while Bush said: “We will not allow Al-Sadr to control Iraq.” Now the US media is promoting him and saying that he is leading a national revolution against Iran.

READ: Iraq PM threatens to quit if protests continue

Al-Sadr was the sole hero of recent Iraqi events, and he announced his final retirement from political work on the night of 29 August, and also stopped his tweets and his Sadrist Movement’s pages on all social media platforms.

Despite this decision of retirement, it is not certain that he will continue with it, since he had previously announced his political retirement in 2014, closed the offices of the Sadrist Movement, and dissolved its armed militia, the “Mahdi Army” which consists of sixty thousand fighters, and converted it into a cultural organisation which he called “Saraya Al-Salam”. Then he came back and abolished his retirement and participated in the elections and the government, and then decided to re-arm the “Saraya Al-Salam” organisation in 2020, which was prominent in the last night of violence, so I think his retirement is evasion or a manoeuvre on his party, and he will return to the political arena after becoming the most difficult figure in the political arena, and among the Shias of Iraq. He has millions of supporters among the poorest Shias, which their youth, motivated by national social, not sectarian, motives had moved. Moqtada Al-Sadr has become a popular leader, and will not easily abandon this position in favour of Iran followers.

Hamas warns Israeli occupation against settlement outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

Hamas warns Israeli occupation against settlement expansion

Hamas official Abdul Hakim Hanini warned the Israeli occupation against proceeding with their escalating settlement projects and the seizure of Palestinians’ property and belongings.

In a press release, the Hamas official described the settlement expansion as ‘theft’ that would spark anger against the occupation forces and settlers.

He also confirmed that the Israeli occupation’s schemes to build thousands of colonial settlement units in occupied Jerusalem and create systems that legalize dozens of colonial farm outposts in the occupied West Bank, which comprises about 7% of area C, are crimes added to the Israeli occupation’s criminal record of illegal settlement expansion.

Legalizing colonial farm outposts in the occupied West Bank and stealing large areas of Palestinian lands leads to a disaster in the agricultural and livestock sector, the Hamas official pointed out.

He emphasized that these colonial settlement plans unequivocally show the Israeli occupation’s disregard for international human rights and humanitarian law, especially after the US President gave it the green light to continue with its terrorist activities in occupied Palestine.

Consequences of the Bowls of Wrath: Revelation 16

Climate scientists at Rutgers University have mapped out the effects of six possible nuclear war scenarios.

What climate scientists believe life will be like after a nuclear war

Amid the Russian invasion of Ukraine and rising geopolitical tensions, revived fears of nuclear war have prompted many to question what a nuclear conflict would mean for humanity and the planet.

Any nuclear conflict would have a huge range of devastating consequences, from initial deaths in the direct blasts to the lingering effects of radiation and environmental pollution.

But immediate casualties could be dwarfed by deaths from a subsequent global famine, caused by massive amounts of soot blocking the Sun and disrupting climate systems and food production, according to new research published in the journal Nature Food.

Climate scientists at Rutgers University have mapped out the effects of six possible nuclear war scenarios.

A full-scale nuclear war between the US and Russia, the worst scenario modelled, could result in more than five billion people dying of hunger after two years. Even a relatively small-scale conflict between India and Pakistan could lead to worldwide famine.

In a nuclear war, bombs targeted at cities and industrial areas would start firestorms, injecting large amounts of soot into the upper atmosphere which would spread globally and rapidly cool the planet, say the researchers.

This would disrupt the Earth’s climate, impacting food production systems on land and in the oceans.

The researchers used a climate forecasting tool to estimate the productivity of major crops on a country-by-country basis.

They analysed what would happen in six possible nuclear conflict scenarios, each of which would result in different amounts of soot in the atmosphere, and could see temperatures fall between one and 16 degrees Celsius.

Even a relatively small-scale battle between India and Pakistan could result in crop yields declining by around 7 per cent within five years of the conflict.

Both countries possess nuclear arsenals of comparable size, and of the world’s nine nuclear-armed countries, the two are also among the handful that has been increasing their nuclear warhead stockpiles, according to the Federation of American Scientists (FAS).

Meanwhile, a full-scale nuclear war between the US and Russia, which are jointly estimated to account for 90 per cent of the world’s nuclear stockpile, could see production fall by around 90 per cent in the three to four years after the fighting.

The researchers considered mitigating factors like using crops fed to livestock as human food, or reducing household food waste, but concluded that these sorts of interventions would not stop large parts of the world from experiencing famine, especially after larger-scale conflicts.

Crop declines would be most severe in the mid to high-latitude nations, including major exporting countries such as Russia and the United States, which could trigger export restrictions and cause severe disruptions in import-dependent countries in Africa and the Middle East.

“If nuclear weapons exist, they can be used, and the world has come close to nuclear war several times,” said Alan Robock, the study’s co-author and a professor of climate science in the Department of Environmental Sciences at Rutgers University.

“Future work will bring even more granularity to the crop models,” said Lili Xia, lead author of the study and an assistant research professor in the School of Environmental and Biological Sciences at Rutgers University.

“For instance, the ozone layer would be destroyed by the heating of the stratosphere, producing more ultraviolet radiation at the surface, and we need to understand that impact on food supplies,” she said.

“Banning nuclear weapons is the only long-term solution,” he said. “The five-year-old UN Treaty on the Prohibition of Nuclear Weapons has been ratified by 66 nations, but none of the nine nuclear states”.

“Our work makes clear that it is time for those nine states to listen to science and the rest of the world and sign this treaty”.

‘We obey’: Iraq’s Sadr loyalists express diehard support

Sadr gives a speech in Iraq's central holy shrine city of Najaf

‘We obey’: Iraq’s Sadr loyalists express diehard support

by Hashem Osseiran 

September 5, 2022

In a sun-baked cemetery in the central Iraqi city of Najaf, fresh are the graves of loyalists to Shiite leader Moqtada Sadr who were killed in clashes in Baghdad last week. 

So too is seething anger following the face-off between the cleric’s supporters, rival Iran-backed factions and the army that left more than 30 Sadrists dead and 570 others wounded. 

Standing between tombstones, Moussa Abbas said the fight was far from over. 

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“Blood was spilt, but there is plenty more where that came from,” the 21-year-old Sadr loyalist told AFP. “For every martyr we lose, there are 10 that will come in his place.

“The same way they sacrificed themselves for us, we will stand up for them.”

Nearly 24 hours of fighting erupted on August 29 when Sadr supporters stormed the government headquarters in Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone after their leader said he would resign from politics.

The ensuing battles — the deadliest in nearly three years — followed months of disagreements between Sadr and rival Shiite factions, as the political deadlock has left the country without a new government, prime minister or president since elections in October last year.

After last week’s unrest brought tensions to a boil, Sadr supporters said they were willing to give their lives for their leader.

“I am ready to the be the first of the martyrs,” said Taleb Saad, 60, who said he had been caught up in the violence.

“My wish is to be buried here,” he said, pointing at graves adorned with plastic flowers and large portraits of young men. 

– ‘Under his command’ – 

Sadr gained widespread popularity following the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, when he ran the feared Mahdi Army militia that fought against American and Iraqi government forces.

He has now reinvented himself as a champion of reform in a country blighted by endemic corruption — though opponents accuse Sadrist officials of being as unscrupulous as other political forces.

Sadr’s rise was aided by the reputation of his father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammed Sadek Sadr, whom former dictator Saddam Hussein had assassinated in 1999.

The grey-bearded cleric retains a devoted following of millions among the country’s majority Shiite population.

As fighting raged in the Green Zone, all it took was one stern statement from Sadr for his loyalists to begin streaming out of the area. 

In the Najaf cemetery — established in 2004 to bury Mahdi Army fighters — grief did not douse their support. 

“We obey the orders of our leader and commander — whatever he wants, we are ready,” said Sadeq Jaber, mourning a 16-year-old from his tribe who was shot dead last week. The boy’s given name was Moqtada Sadr.

“All of us, with our children, houses and families — we are all under his command,” Jaber said.

Nearby, women clad in black wailed at graves so recent they bore temporary paper tombstones, as cemetery workers made space for corpses arriving almost daily from Baghdad’s hospitals.

Jaber, who drove two hours from the capital to pay his respects, said the cemetery would keep growing. 

“There will continue to be martyrs as long as this ruling class is in power,” he said.

– Clergy politics –

Iraq’s current political standoff has pitted Sadr against the pro-Iran Coordination Framework, which includes lawmakers from the party of his longtime foe, ex-prime minister Nuri al-Maliki.

Sadr wants snap elections and the dissolution of parliament but the rival Shiite bloc wants a new head of government appointed before any new polls are held. 

“There can’t be a reconciliation between them,” said Sadr-leaning cleric Fadel al-Bdeiri.

“The people either side with the Sadrist movement and wage this battle and secure their demands, or they side with the Framework and remain mired… in the status quo,” he told AFP from his Najaf office.

The holy shrine city — home to Iraq’s Shiite spiritual leadership, headed by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani — has not been immune to the tug of war, even though clerics there insist they are independent of party politics.

In an unusual move, spiritual leader Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, who provides religious cover for Sadr and counts many of the cleric’s loyalists among his followers, announced his retirement late last month.

Haeri, who has lived in Iran for decades, called on his base to back the Islamic republic’s Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in a blow to the Shiite seat of power in Najaf.

“We don’t know the circumstances that forced him to write this statement,” Bdeiri said, adding there were signs of “pressure” from certain parties, alluding to Iran. 

Looking to Iraq’s future, Bdeiri said he was not optimistic.

“We hope for the best, but the reality on the ground is not promising,” he said.