Indian Point’s Final Days Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12)

Earth Matters: Indian Point’s Final Days – Nyack News and Views

by Barbara Puff

Indian Point has been the crown jewel of the nuclear industrialist complex and closing it is a big step to a sustainable energy future. — Susan Shapiro, environmental lawyer.

When scientists began exploring nuclear power in the 1950s, pollsters didn’t ask the public their opinion as support was almost unanimous. By the ’60s, there had been a few protests and opposition increased to 25%. So when Indian Point opened on September 16, 1962, it was greeted with enthusiasm, fanfare, and, in hindsight, naivete.

Within a few years, increased pollution, loss of wildlife, and accidents at the plant elicited concern. In response, Hudson River Sloop Clearwater and Riverkeeper were formed in 1966. After incidents at Three Mile Island in 1979 and Chernobyl in 1986, public opinion began to turn against the use of nuclear power.

In 1984, her first year as a legislator, Harriet Cornell formed the Citizens Commission to Close Indian Plant. A glance at her press releases over the years shows her convictions regarding closing the plant. In a recent speech she noted: “Were it not for the superhuman efforts of concerned individuals and dedicated scientific and environmental organizations focusing attention on the dangers posed by Indian Point, who knows what might have happened during the last 40+ years.”

Simultaneously Riverkeeper began documenting incidents, including:

1 An antiquated water-cooling system killed over a billion fish and fish larvae annually.

2 Pools holding spent nuclear fuel leaked toxic, radioactive water into the ground, soil, and Hudson River.

3 Recurring emergency shut-downs.

4 27% of the baffle bolts in Unit 2 and 31% in Unit 3, holding the reactor core together, were damaged.

5 The plant was vulnerable to terrorist attack.

6 Evacuation plans were implausible.

7 No solution for spent nuclear fuel, posing the risk of radioactive release and contamination of land.

8 The plant was near two seismic zones, suggesting an earthquake over 6.2 could devastate the area.

9 Asbestos exposure.

These and other issues led the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to rate Indian Point in 2000 as the most trouble-plagued plant in the country. Lamont-Doherty Observatory agreed, calling it the most dangerous plant in the nation.

As individuals realized the seriousness of the situation, urgency for a solution grew and Indian Point Safe Energy Coalition was formed in 2001. Comprised of public interest, health advocates, environmental and citizen groups, their goals were to educate the public, pass legislation, and form a grassroots campaign with hundreds of local, state, and federal officials.

Clearwater also began monitoring the plant around that time. Manna Jo Greene, Environmental Action Director, recalls, “We were concerned when one of the planes that struck the WTC flew over the plant, including several buildings that hold huge fuel pools, filled with spent fuel rods and radioactive waste.” Had anything happened, the nuclear power industry had provided protection for themselves while neglecting surrounding communities. Powerful lobbyists, backed by considerable financing, induced Congress to pass the Price-Anderson Act in 1957. This legislation protected nuclear power plant companies from full liability in the event of an accident, natural disaster or terrorist attack.

With such warnings, it’s hard to believe as late as 2010, The New York Times stated, “No one should be hoping for a too hasty shutdown.” Over time, the cost of litigation by New York State proved more fatal to the continuance of plant operations than protests, though they were a crucial factor and led to initial filings. Attorney General Schneiderman was very active in filing contentions, legal reasons the plant shouldn’t be relicensed, and won several important court cases on high-level radioactive storage.

In 2016, The New York State Department of Environmental Conservation denied Entergy a discharge permit for hot water into the Hudson River, part of their once-through cooling system. This permit was necessary for continued operation of the plant and a requirement for relicensing. The New York State Department of State, Bureau of Coastal Management, denied Entergy a water quality certificate the same year, which it also needed to relicense. After more than four decades of danger to the environment and residents, Governor Cuomo announced in January 2017 the plant would finally be closing. Unit 2 would cease production on April 30, 2020 and Unit 3 would end productivity on April 30, 2021.

Later that year, in March 2017, the Atomic Safety and Licensing Board allowed Entergy to renew the plant’s licenses until 2021, dismissing final points of contention between the company, New York State, and Riverkeeper. Westchester County Executive Rob Astorino attempted to sue the state and reopen the plant in April 2017 but failed.

Ellen Jaffee, NYS Assemblywoman, stated, “After 46 years of operation, I am glad to finally see the closure of Indian Point. Since joining the Assembly, I have long fought for its closure. I would not have been able to pursue these efforts if not for the environmental advocates, like the Riverkeeper, who fought long and hard beside myself to close the plant. The plant’s closure must be conducted in a safe manner, where all radioactive materials will be properly disposed of, without inflicting further harm on our environment. The closure of Indian Point shows that we can reduce our impact on the environment.”

Harriet Cornell said, “We have waited years for this to happen and frankly, it can’t happen soon enough. The facts have long shown there is no future for this dangerous plant.”

“The closure of Indian Point marks the shutdown of dirty polluting energy,” noted Susan Shapiro.

Holtec, the company chosen to oversee decommissioning of the plant, has a horrific track record. New York State Attorney General Tish James released a statement in January expressing multiple grave concerns about them. According to Riverkeeper, they have a scandalous corporate past, little experience in decommissioning, dubious skills in spent fuel management, workplace safety infractions, and health violations. Another fear is the cost will exceed a decommissioning fund set aside by Entergy, Holtec will declare bankruptcy, and the public will absorb the difference.

“Entergy made huge profits from Indian Point,” said Manna Jo Greene. “They’ve hired Holtec, a company with a poor record of decommissioning, to complete the work. Entergy plans to declare bankruptcy, thereby having taxpayers foot the bill. We are not out of danger. It is a different danger.”

Richard Webster, Legal Program Director at Riverkeeper, adds, “Decommissioning must be done promptly, safely and reliably. Selling to Holtec is the worst possible option, because it has a dubious history of bribes, lies, and risk taking, very limited experience in decommissioning, is proposing to raid the decommissioning fund for its own benefit, and is proposing leaving contaminated groundwater to run into the Hudson River.”

State Senator David Carlucci warned, “The NRC Inspector General Report shows there is much to be done by the NRC to gain the confidence of myself and the public, as the commission is charged with overseeing the decommissioning of Indian Point and ensuring the health and safety of Hudson Valley Communities. We demand answers from NRC Chairman Kristine Svinicki. The Chairman needs to come to the Hudson Valley immediately and outline the steps being taken to address our safety and explain how the commission will properly inspect and guard the pipeline near Indian Point moving forward.”

One of the gravest dangers in decommissioning is the storage of spent fuel rods. A fuel rod is a long, zirconium tube containing pellets of uranium, a fissionable material which provides fuel for nuclear reactors. Fuel rods are assembled into bundles called fuel assemblies, which are loaded individually into a reactor core. Fuel rods last about six years. When they’re spent and removed they are placed in wet storage, or pools of water, which is circulated to reduce temperature and provide shielding from radiation. They remain in these pools for 10 years, as they are too hot to be placed in dry storage, or canisters. Even in dry storage, though, they remain extremely radioactive, with high levels of plutonium, which is toxic, and continue to generate heat for decades and remain radioactive for 10,000 years.

“Elected officials and government groups became involved once they understood the fatal environmental dangers nuclear energy creates for millenium,” said Susan Shapiro. “It is the only energy that produces waste so dangerous that governments must own and dispose of it.”

Robert Kennedy, Jr., of Waterkeeper, explained “If those spent fuel rods caught on fire, if the water dropped, the zirconium coatings of the spent fuel rods would combust. You would release 37 times the amount of radiation that was released at Chernobyl. Around Chernobyl there are 100 miles that are permanently uninhabitable. I would include the workplaces, homes of 20 million Americans, including the Financial District. There’s no evacuation plan. And it’s sitting on two of the biggest earthquake faults in the northeast.”

On April 24, 2020, Beyond Indian Point Campaign was launched to advocate for a safe transition during decommissioning. Sponsored by AGREE, Frack Action, Riverkeeper, NIRS and Food and Water Watch, they’re demanding Cuomo hire another company, opposing a license transfer before the State Public Service Commission and NRC and pushing state legislation to establish a board to supervise the decommissioning fund. When decommissioning is finished Beyond Indian Point hopes to further assist the community in the transition to renewable energy. These include wind, solar, geothermal, biomass and hydrothermal power. Sign an online petition on their website to support their work, future generations and earth at, Facebook, or Twitter.

“Bravo to everyone involved in making this historic day come to pass,” said Susan Shapiro.

Raised in the Midwest, Barbara Puff is a writer who lives in Nyack, NY.

The Australian Horn Wants More Nukes: Daniel 7

Australia wants B-21 stealth bombers to check China

Australian defense chief hints at possible purchase to restore long-range strike capabilities but its not clear Canberra has the money


Australia is considering procuring America’s upcoming B-21 stealth bombers in a move that would potentially restore its long-range strike capabilities against China’s growing military reach in the Pacific.

Australian Defense Minister Richard Marles hinted that Australia could purchase the upcoming B-21 Raider in an interview with The Australian last month.

Marles mentioned that the B-21, which is still in development, is being examined to fill requirements for Australia’s long-range strike capabilities, which it lost in 2010 following the retirement of its F-111C/G Aardvark strike aircraft fleet.

His statement came days after US Air Force Secretary Frank Kendall stated that America was “willing to talk about anything that there was an interest in from the Australian perspective that we could help them with,” he was quoted as saying in Australian Aviation.

However, the Asia Pacific Defense Journal notes that the US still has sole discretion over whether it will allow Australia to procure its B-21 bomber, reflecting US reluctance to supply its allies with strategic weapons such as nuclear-powered submarines or strategic bombers.

The B-21 is a successor to the Cold War B-2 Spirit and aims to phase out the aging B-1 Lancer and B-52 Stratofortress now in US service. The fighter jet features a flying wing design to penetrate deep into defended enemy airspace.

The National Interest notes that it prioritizes stealth, penetration capabilities and prodigious payload over speed and maneuverability, with its confirmed armaments including the JASSM-ER stealth cruise missile, GBU-57 bunker buster bomb and GBU-31 JDAM satellite-guided bomb.

As noted by Bloomberg, the US is expected to deploy 100 B-21s at a cost of US$203 billion to develop, purchase and operate for 30 years.

In a seeming prelude to basing strategic bombers in Australia, this July the US deployed B-2 bombers as a part of “enhanced air cooperation through the rotational deployment of US aircraft of all types in Australia and appropriate aircraft training and exercises,” the Australian Department of Defense said to leading defense publication Janes.

The US move may reflect the capability gap caused by its decision to end its continuous bomber presence on Guam, with the US Air Force noting in April 2020 that it will no longer base strategic bombers outside the continental US.

The US Air Force decided to change its bomber force posture in favor of a “dynamic force employment” model that allows its bombers to operate from a “broader array of overseas locations”, as noted by the Air and Space Magazine.

However, a more plausible concern is that Guam has already become too vulnerable to Chinese and North Korean missile threats, which puts US strategic bombers on the island at risk.

Asia Times previously reported on Chinese and North Korean missile threats to Guam, noting that China’s DF-26 and North Korea’s Hwasong-12 have sufficient range to hit the island while noting the deficiencies of its missile defenses and the challenges in upgrading them.

Highlighting Guam’s increasing vulnerability, the US has stepped up efforts to renovate its disused airfield at Tinian as a backup air facility should Chinese and North Korean missile strikes take out Guam.

Asia Times has reported on this and noted that US military strategy in the Pacific assumes that Guam will always be ready for operations, notwithstanding its increasing vulnerability to Chinese and North Korean missile attacks.

As such, it makes sense for the US to reduce its bomber footprint on Guam and find alternative bases for its strategic bombers short of permanent basing, due to political and security concerns about US bases on its allies’ territory.

The US may thus be looking at Australia as an alternative basing area for its bombers. By selling extra B-21s to Australia, the US can also lower production costs for the aircraft, notes senior defense analyst Peter Suciu in an article for 1945.

Suciu also notes that Australia’s B-21 fleet can reduce the need for US bomber deployments from Guam, which frees the US bomber fleet for other missions such as maintaining nuclear deterrence in Europe.

Australia views its possible B-21 acquisition as a flexible deterrent option compared to fighters, submarines and land-based missiles. In an interview for Breaking Defense, former Australian Air Marshall and F-111C/G Aardvark pilot Geoff Brown says that bombers can signal, which is vital in managing crisis scenarios.

Brown notes that it is much easier to signal the threat of force using bombers than submarine-launched cruise missiles while using land-based missiles is an all-or-nothing approach. He also says that fighters have limited range and may be perceived as very offensive to the party being deterred.

Brown also emphasizes that the real advantage of bombers is that they can shape an adversary’s threat perceptions and expectations in a way that other deterrents can’t.

He notes that rotational B-2 bomber flights between the US and Australia demonstrate their utility, effectiveness and attack potential and impact adversaries’ perceptions due to their strategic weight.

Despite these arguments in favor of Australia acquiring B-21 bombers, as with its nuclear sub ambitions, Australia’s bomber plans may come up against the reality of budget limitations.

In an article for The Strategist, senior defense analyst Marcus Hellyer notes that the B-21 can get caught in a “cost-death spiral” similar to that of the B-2 and F-22, whose increasing production costs forced the reduction of projected unit numbers.

It is thus unclear if the US can afford its planned 100 B-21 units, which could mean it will have few, if any, extra bombers to spare for Australia.

Hellyer also notes that if Australia acquires 12 to 20 B-21 units, it would spend US$5-6 billion per year over five or six years, or half the sum is half of Australia’s defense capital equipment budget.

Moreover, it would compete with Australia’s other defense priorities, such as its shipbuilding program, which the Australian government has declared untouchable.

It is thus difficult to see how Australia could afford its B-21 ambitions short of a massive new splurge in defense spending, which as ever may prove unsustainable in the long run.

The Growing Risk of Russian Nukes: Daniel 7

John Bolton says threat of Russia using nuclear weapon ‘closer’ than before

BY CHLOE FOLMAR – 09/12/22 8:05 PM ET


Trump national security adviser John Bolton on Monday said the threat of nuclear war with Russia is “a lot closer” than before.

“Where we are now after this Ukraine success in the north is not that point,” Bolton said on WABC radio’s “Cats at Night” when asked whether Russian President Vladimir Putin might approve the use of nuclear weapons.

“But it is a lot closer to it than we’ve been before,” he added.

Bolton, who served under former President Trump in 2018 and 2019, said that he has “always” predicted that Putin would not use nukes unless Ukrainian troops became successful enough to cross the Russian border.

“The potential risk of the use of a nuclear weapon is not so much to change the battlefield but to strengthen Putin’s position at home,” he told host John Catsimatidis.

The Ukrainian military launched a massive counteroffensive last week against the Russian troops that invaded in February.

Ukraine pushed back on the Russian military in the north of the country after leading its opponent to believe for months that it would attack in the south.

Bolton described Putin’s current political position as “endangered,” claiming that the president is in “more trouble now than he’s been since the invasion.”

“We need to think about how to take advantage of that,” he added.

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“That would be a signal of weakness,” he said. “This defeat is significant enough that it will have political effects.”

Bolton praised Ukraine’s skill in the war, saying that the country deserves “great credit.”

As for Russia, Bolton said, “Just when you think the Russian military can’t perform any worse, they surprise you and perform worse.”

Blinken calls Iran’s latest response to Obama nuclear deal proposal a ‘step backward’

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Blinken calls Iran’s latest response to nuclear deal proposal a ‘step backward’

By Ellie Kaufman and Paul LeBlanc, CNN

Updated 10:18 PM ET, Mon September 12, 2022

US Secretary of State Antony Blinken.

Washington (CNN)Iran has taken “a step backward” with its latest response to a nuclear deal proposal, US Secretary of State Antony Blinken said Monday, calling a near-term agreement “unlikely.”

“What we’ve seen over the last week or so in Iran’s response to the proposal put forward by the European Union is clearly a step backward and makes prospects for an agreement in the near-term, I would say, unlikely,” Blinken told reporters, speaking from Mexico City, where he met with Mexican President Andrés Manuel López Obrador.

The United States and Iran have traded responses via the European Union to a proposal put forward by the EU’s top diplomat, Josep Borrell. Iran submitted its initial answer in mid-August; the US replied to it about a week later.

Earlier this month, Iran sent its latest answer, which a State Department spokesperson called “not constructive.”

As CNN previously reported, according to a US senior administration official, Iran in its latest response reopened the issue of the UN nuclear watchdog’s investigation into undeclared uranium traces found at Iranian sites. Iranian officials had repeatedly said that the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) probe would need to be closed before they would return to the deal. However, a separate US senior administration official suggested last month that Iran had accepted the EU proposal — described by Borrell as the “final text” — without making demands regarding the investigation.

Blinken said Monday he could not offer a time frame for when he thinks it will be possible to reenter an Iran nuclear deal, saying Iran is either “unwilling or unable to do what is necessary to reach an agreement.”

“They continue to try to introduce extraneous issues to the negotiation that make an agreement less likely,” Blinken said. “But certainly what we’ve seen in the last week is a step backward away from the likelihood of any kind of near-term agreement.”

US officials had previously voiced some optimism around the latest efforts to revive the nuclear deal — which the US left in 2018 during the Trump administration and which Tehran has increasingly violated since then — but hopes of a breakthrough have continued to fade.

CNN’s Kylie Atwood, Adam Pourahmadi, Mostafa Salem and Jennifer Hansler contributed to this report.

Iraq’s Political Forces Discuss Plan to Present to the Antichrist

Iraq’s Political Forces Discuss Plan to Present to Sadr

Tuesday, 13 September, 2022 – 09:00

Iraqi protesters demand the dissolution of Parliament in the Green Zone in Baghdad. (AFP)

Asharq Al-Awsat

Iraqi political forces are scrambling to formulate a plan to present it to leader of the Sadrist movement Muqtada al-Sadr, after the Arbaeen holiday early next week.

This came following statements issued by the Sovereignty Alliance and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

Sadr, for his part, did not comment on the statement that highlighted the two blocs’ commitment to form a government with full powers, in preparation for early elections. The announcement contradicted the Sadrist movement’s call on its political allies to withdraw from Parliament.

While the Sovereignty Alliance refrained from responding to Sadr’s request, the KDP warned that such crucial decisions could not be made through tweets, but following a constructive dialogue.

Meanwhile, the Coordination Framework political bloc welcomed on Monday the announcement of the Sovereignty Alliance and the Kurdistan Democratic Party to adhere to the constitutional option, by “holding early elections under the supervision of a government with full powers.”

The bloc said that it would maintain dialogue with all parties to revive the work of state institutions and form a government with full powers, in line with the constitution.

Information leaked by the country’s political circles showed that the situation began to change, with the separate visits conducted by US Assistant Secretary of State Barbara Leaf, and the head of Turkish intelligence, Hakan Fidan, who have both influenced the Iraqi decision-makers – especially the Sunni and Kurdish players, while the Iraqi political forces have missed the repetitive trips of the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, to Iraq, in the wake of the intra-Shiite crisis.

Identical sources reported that while Washington – through its assistant secretary of state – called for “listening to the voice of Sadr,” which means accepting, albeit implicitly, his call to allow President Barham Salih and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to supervise the upcoming early elections, Fidan asked the Sunni alliance to form a new Iraqi government, given Türkiye’s need for Iraq’s stability, and to ensure the smooth operation of Turkish companies in the country.

The Revenge of Antichrist

Iraqi populist leader Muqtada al-Sadr delivering a speech in Najaf, Iraq, August 2022
Iraqi populist leader Muqtada al-Sadr delivering a speech in Najaf, Iraq, August 2022Alaa Al-Marjani / Reuters

The Revenge of Muqtada al-Sadr

Why Iran Could Be the Real Loser in Iraq’s Intra-Shiite Struggle

By Mohamad Bazzi

September 13, 2022

On August 29, the Iraqi Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr announced that he would withdraw from politics after months of failed attempts to form a new government. Thousands of supporters of the nationalist leader, who has emerged as a staunch opponent of Iranian-backed militias in Iraq, surged into the streets in anger, clashing with Iraqi security forces, breaching concrete barriers around Baghdad’s Green Zone, and storming the seat of government. After dozens of people were killed, Sadr went on television and instructed his supporters to go home, easing—for the moment, at least—a political crisis that has paralyzed Iraq’s caretaker government for months.

Iraq’s political system has been deadlocked since last October, when the country held its fifth parliamentary elections since the U.S.-led invasion in 2003. Sadr’s alliance won the most seats, but neither his bloc nor any other has managed to form a government. The conflict has played out not between rival sects or ethnic groups but within Iraq’s largest community, the Shiites, who are divided over their country’s relationship with Iran. The Sadrists, whose leader was once Tehran’s close ally, argue that Baghdad should distance itself from all foreign powers including Iran; other factions remain more closely aligned with Iraq’s powerful neighbor.

Although Sadr claims to have retired from politics, he is likely working to leverage this latest cycle of brinkmanship and street protests to gain the upper hand over his rivals. Sadr has made similar pronouncements in the past but has never truly withdrawn from the political realm. He seeks to establish himself as Iraq’s undisputed Shiite power broker and to dominate the sectarian power-sharing system that has been in place since shortly after the United States toppled Iraqi President Saddam Hussein’s Baathist regime. Although Sadr has couched his power play as a crusade against a corrupt political class that is beholden to Iran and other foreign powers, his gambit poses another risk to the fragile Iraqi state: Baghdad could be overpowered not by Iranian-backed political factions but by a Shiite Islamist cleric who once commanded one of Iraq’s most feared militias. That may seem like a long shot in the wake of Sadr’s failed street protests. But as the heir to one of the Shiite world’s most renowned clerical families, Sadr has proved remarkably adept at parlaying his religious pedigree into hard power. His opponents should think twice before counting him out. 


Sadr embodies a rebellious and nationalist brand of Shiism in Iraq. Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the country’s most revered cleric, and other senior Shiite theologians eschew direct political involvement. In so doing, they have created a power vacuum within the Shiite community—one that Sadr has worked for two decades to fill.

A brash, little-known cleric who first emerged in 2003 in Najaf, Iraq’s center of Shiite theology, Sadr went on to become one of Washington’s most vexing enemies in Iraq. His militia, the Mahdi Army, fought against U.S. forces for years, killing hundreds of American soldiers. From the beginning, he sought to combine political power with religious authority, despite having limited theological credentials and an apparent disdain for the years of study under senior clerics required to attain the title of ayatollah. Without such qualifications, Sadr could not issue religious rulings or serve as a marja, an example for the Shiite faithful to emulate. But as the only surviving son of Grand Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, a leading Shiite scholar who challenged the Baathist regime until he was assassinated in 1999, the younger Sadr was able to follow in his father’s footsteps as the political leader of the Sadrist movement. 

Since the U.S. invasion, Sadr has been the Iraqi leader most adept at navigating the intersection of politics and religious authority, a fact that could explain his latest maneuver. Iraq’s political crisis has lasted nearly 11 months. Yet Sadr did not initiate bloody street protests until he confronted a threat beyond politics: one to his religious legitimacy. A day before Sadr declared his retirement from politics, Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, an aging Iraqi cleric based in Iran who had served as a spiritual guide to many members of the Sadrist movement, announced that he was stepping down due to poor health. But instead of calling on his followers to transfer their allegiance to another Iraqi Shiite cleric—one who might be sympathetic to Sadr—Haeri advised them to follow Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. It was an unusual move, since most grand ayatollahs instruct their followers to emulate other senior clerics only after the clerics have died. And the pronouncements of grand ayatollahs are typically filled with religious invocations and platitudes, whereas Haeri’s was implicitly critical of Sadr. Without naming him, Haeri said that Sadr risked tearing apart Iraq and its Shiite majority. He also suggested that Sadr lacked the necessary qualifications for religious leadership and challenged the younger cleric’s status as heir to his family’s legacy. In his own speech calling for an end to the recent demonstrations, Sadr claimed that Iranian officials and his Iranian-backed Shiite rivals were behind Haeri’s criticism.

In 2020, nearly three-quarters of Iraq’s budget went to paying salaries and pensions.

This backstabbing reflects a growing power vacuum within Iraq’s Shiite community, one that has opened up as Iran’s influence in the country has waned. For years, Iran’s supreme leader sent General Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s foreign operations unit, to Iraq to keep Tehran’s Shiite supporters in line. But after the United States killed Soleimani in a drone strike in 2020, Iran lost an important lever of power over its Iraqi allies. Soleimani’s successor has been less successful at keeping Iraq’s Shiite factions—especially the Sadrists—from challenging Tehran. Although Sadr has portrayed himself as an Iraqi nationalist who seeks to stamp out foreign meddling, he lived in Qom, Iran’s center of Shiite scholarship, during some periods of Iraq’s civil war and was once allied with Tehran. But Iran’s leaders grew exasperated with Sadr’s unwillingness to work with their Iraqi allies, and they likely tried to increase the pressure on Sadr by convincing Haeri to question his religious legitimacy.

More political machinations are likely. Sistani, the most powerful cleric in Iraq, is in his nineties and believed to be in poor health. His statements are becoming rare. Shiite leaders in Iraq and Iran are preparing for his death and a potential rupture if more than one successor emerges from Najaf. Despite his limited credentials, Sadr is positioning himself for the post-Sistani period, hoping to play a role in choosing a successor or consolidating support in case there are competing heirs. Sadr’s drive for greater political influence in Iraq is part of this campaign: with more sway over the government in Baghdad and a greater share of its spoils, Sadr will be able to exert even more influence over Iraq’s religious establishment.


Iraq’s current political crisis stems from Sadr’s failure to form a government after winning the largest share of seats in the country’s 329-seat parliament. Historically, Iraq’s Shiite factions have coalesced after elections—often with help from Iran—to form a large bloc and distribute top government ministries, eventually bringing in the Sunni and the Kurdish parties. But with the support of just 73 lawmakers, Sadr tried to form a coalition government with the Sunni and the Kurdish factions and freeze out his Shiite opponents. Had he succeeded, his supporters would have claimed that Sadr upended the highly unpopular ethno-sectarian power-sharing system—known as muhasasa—that the United States and its Iraqi allies imposed after the invasion. But Sadr is actually trying to further consolidate that system under his control, not destroy it.

Sadr is particularly loath to ally with Nouri al-Maliki, whose bloc won 33 seats in last year’s elections, the second highest among Shiite factions after the Sadrists. Maliki, who served as prime minister from 2006 to 2014, was responsible for many of the disastrous policies that alienated the Sunnis, weakened the Iraqi security forces, and allowed the Islamic State (or ISIS) to capture nearly one-third of the country. But Sadr’s rivalry with the former prime minister isn’t just about Maliki’s record; it is personal: in 2008, Maliki, with support from U.S. officials, ordered Iraqi security forces to fight Sadr’s militia in southern Iraq. The cleric never forgave Maliki for damaging his movement at the height of Iraq’s civil war.

The muhasasa system of doling out the spoils was modeled on Lebanon’s dysfunctional arrangement, which sought to guarantee the rights of religious minorities but ended up creating endemic corruption, political instability, and economic collapse. Under Iraq’s scheme, the prime minister must be a Shiite, the speaker of parliament a Sunni, and the (largely ceremonial) president a Kurd. The system extends through most layers of government and the civil service. After each parliamentary election, sectarian parties divide up the ministries, causing long delays in cabinet formation, as they jockey for the offices with the most lucrative government contracts and other sources of patronage. As a result, the number of public workers in Iraq has tripled since 2004, and the government now pays 400 percent more in salaries than it did then. In 2020, nearly three-quarters of Iraq’s budget went to paying salaries and pensions for the bloated public sector.

Most Iraqi parties and factions that came to power after 2003 benefit from this system of sharing the spoils and are reluctant to abandon it, even as they drive their oil-rich country toward financial ruin and fail to provide electricity, clean water, health care, and other basic services to the Iraqi people. Sadr’s movement and its allies also gain from the current system, despite the cleric’s best efforts to portray himself as a reformer. His power stems from a combination of religious and populist appeal and the fruits of state patronage. Like other members of the Iraqi elite, Sadr has maneuvered his aides and supporters into senior government positions. Dramatic reform would not serve his interests, which is why he doesn’t seek to abolish the power-sharing scheme but rather to position himself atop it as kingmaker.


In trying to solidify his control over the system after last year’s elections, Sadr may have overplayed his hand. After months of negotiations with the Sunni and the Kurdish parties, the Sadrists cobbled together a parliamentary majority that would have been able to elect a president, who in turn could have nominated a prime minister to form a cabinet. The parliament would then have had to approve the cabinet before the ministers took their posts. But in February, Iraq’s Supreme Court, whose judges were appointed by pro-Iranian Shiite factions, ruled that the legislature must convene with at least a two-thirds majority to elect a president, as opposed to the simple majority required in previous years. Shiite factions that oppose Sadr boycotted the parliamentary session, denying him the supermajority needed to hold a vote.

Sadr tried to peel away some rival Shiite factions by offering them control of various ministries, but he refused to negotiate with Maliki and failed to gain a supermajority. In June, Sadr’s candidate for prime minister, Jaafar al-Sadr, the cleric’s cousin and the current Iraqi ambassador to the United Kingdom, withdrew his candidacy. Sadr then ordered his 73 lawmakers to resign from parliament en masse, hoping to force his rivals to lift their boycott and reconvene the chamber.

Sadr may have overplayed his hand.

But Sadr’s gambit backfired, as his Shiite opponents quickly moved to fill the seats, which by law go to the runner-up in each district when the winner resigns. With his rivals commanding a new parliamentary majority, Sadr feared he could be excluded from a government that could stay in power for three years. In July, he responded by urging his followers to breach the Green Zone and blockade parliament with a sit-in protest to prevent a vote on a new president and cabinet. Thousands of Sadrists packed a tent encampment, demanding the dissolution of the current parliament and early elections.

The Sadrist siege of parliament ended on August 30, after Sadr ordered his supporters to leave the streets to avoid more violence. In reacting to Haeri’s religious challenge, Sadr may have miscalculated by instigating violent protests without a clear plan to break Iraq’s political deadlock. But Sadr has a way of recovering from political setbacks and emerging with even greater power. Despite his reputation as a tempestuous and erratic leader, Sadr has played a long game, outlasting the U.S. occupation and some aging members of the Najaf religious hierarchy. He built a formidable social and political movement that can deliver votes and take advantage of Iraq’s corrupt patronage system. For years, Sadr showed greater political skill than the United States and his Iraqi rivals gave him credit for—and he consistently outmaneuvered them.

So far, Sadr has fallen short in his campaign to contain Iran’s influence, weaken other Shiite factions in Iraq, and exert control over the country’s power-sharing arrangement. The question now is whether Sadr’s opponents will try to exclude him from the government entirely—and risk unleashing a new cycle of bloodshed—or attempt to reach a compromise and thereby delay his grand ambition to become Iraq’s most powerful Shiite leader.

The Russian horn prepares to start nuclear war: Revelation 16

A Russian serviceman guards an area of the Zaporizhzhia Nuclear Power Station in southeastern Ukraine on May 1. The nuclear power plant, built during

Russia weaponizes nuclear plant

Opinion editor’s note: Editorials represent the opinions of the Star Tribune Editorial Board, which operates independently from the newsroom. 


“I was worried, I am worried, I will be worried, for as long as we don’t have a stabilized situation in a permanent manner,” Rafael Mariano Grossi, director general of the International Atomic Energy Agency, told reporters last week after assessing Ukraine’s imperiled Zaporizhzhia nuclear-power plant.

On Monday, he amplified that message, saying, “We are playing with fire, and something very, very catastrophic could take place.” To avoid such an outcome, the IAEA rightly called for a “special safety and security zone” around the plant.

Grossi was speaking for himself and his United Nations agency, but the rest of the world should share his worry and heed his warning. The risk of a nuclear catastrophe is real, and Grossi indicated that the plant had already been breached “several times” by shelling that he deemed “unacceptable.”

The latest incident came Sept. 4 when a fire from shelling caused the plant to be disconnected from Ukraine’s national power grid — just days after Grossi led a 14-person delegation through the war zone to the plant in southeastern Ukraine, a territory now in Russian hands as part of the illegal, inhumane invasion of its sovereign neighbor.

Indeed, while each side has traded blame along with fire, one side is at fault: Russia. Its invasion started this war and has increased the existential threat not just to Ukraine but to its own citizens and portions of Europe by creating the conditions where a nuclear facility is at risk.

Russia is using Zaporizhzhia as a “nuclear weapon,” Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskyy told ABC News in an interview. “It means the biggest danger in Europe,” he said, comparing the catastrophic potential to “six Chernobyls.”

It’s part of a pernicious expansion of the concept of nuclear security: Not only does the non-proliferating nation of Ukraine face risks from nuclear superpower Russia, but Ukraine’s peaceful use of nuclear power is also now jeopardized by Russia’s recklessness.

That undermines the intent of the Treaty on the Nonproliferation of Nuclear Weapons (NPT), which gives everyone “the right to the peaceful benefits of nuclear energy, which essentially means nuclear energy,” Mark Bell, an associate professor of political science whose expertise includes nuclear proliferation issues, told an editorial writer.

However, as with other Ukrainian rights, Russia has taken this away. And it may deepen the damage if it redirects Zaporizhzhia’s energy from Ukraine’s electrical grid to Russia’s. Such a crime would “fit with the Russian effort to sort of strangle the eastern part of Ukraine, the Donbas region, just slowly grind it down,” Mitchel Wallerstein, a nonresident senior fellow at the Chicago Council on Global Affairs, told an editorial writer.

It’s not just eastern Ukraine and not just since the invasion that Moscow has tried to grind Ukraine. Not forgotten in Kyiv and other capitals around the world is Russia abrogating a 1994 pact between Ukraine, Russia, the U.S. and United Kingdom that offered security assurances in exchange for Ukraine to relinquish its significant Soviet-era nuclear weapon stockpile and ascend to the NPT. The deal, known as the Budapest Memorandum, “is obviously not worth the paper it was written on at this point,” Bell said.

That fact has and will likely give other nations pause as they consider developing nuclear weapons, thus amplifying the pernicious impact of Russia’s invasion. There may also be other harmful effects, especially since many nations are considering commissioning more nuclear-power plants in response to the longer-term climate crisis and the more immediate energy and economic crisis created by Russia’s invasion. The weaponization of Zaporizhzhia could mean even further delay in the urgent need to lower carbon emissions and dependency on Russian energy.

Regarding “any serious effort to substantially decarbonize electricity generation, it’s hard to see how you can really do that in a serious way without nuclear power playing a significant role in that, and this will inevitably involve serious thinking about the risks of that,” Bell said.

The overall impact of Russia’s invasion and its imperiling of Europe’s biggest nuclear power plant cannot be overstated. Nor can the imperative to keep Russia from dictating these terms. The West must maintain, if not increase, its political, economic and military support of Ukraine so it can resist and ultimately reverse Russia’s aggression.