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 BeyondIndianPoint.com, 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 China Horn Warns Babylon the Great: Revelation 16

China warns the U.S. of ‘grave consequences’ – including nuclear war

By Morgan Phillips, Politics Reporter For Dailymail.Com 17:43 EDT 03 Oct 2022 , updated22:27 EDT 03 Oct 2022

China warned the U.S. could face ‘grave consequences,’ including , if Ukraine were allowed to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (). 

‘All European countries will tremble under the shadow of a possible nuclear war,’ Beijing warned in a Sunday editorial in the state-owned 

‘In that case, there will be no security for anyone, not for Ukraine, and not for the world,’ the newspaper wrote. ‘Instead of pursuing resolutions to end the conflict, Washington has, over and over again, displayed that the US is charging toward the other direction—fanning the flames of war.’  

President Volodomyr has renewed his call to be let into the alliance as Russia announced a bid to annex four regions in Ukraine. 

Asked about Zelensky’s request to fast track Ukraine’s NATO membership, US national security adviser Jake Sullivan said last week now is ‘not the right time’ and the application ‘should be taken up at a different time.’

China called for the Western alliance to withdraw from Eastern Europe entirely. 

The recent threat comes in a string of fiery warnings from China, with others aimed at the U.S.’s support of Taiwan amid Beijing’s encroachment on the territory.  

China warned the U.S. could face 'grave consequences,' including nuclear war, if Ukraine were allowed to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO)
China warned the U.S. could face ‘grave consequences,’ including nuclear war, if Ukraine were allowed to join the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) 
President Volodomyr Zelensky has renewed his call to be let into the alliance as Russia announced a bid to annex four regions in Ukraine
President Volodomyr Zelensky has renewed his call to be let into the alliance as Russia announced a bid to annex four regions in Ukraine 

Zelensky: Nine more NATO countries have supported our aspiration

China and Russia have sought to ally themselves as a bulwark against the West. 

Last week Congress passed a temporary funding measure that included another $12 billion for Ukraine, bringing the total to $66 billion.

Biden previously supported Ukraine’s NATO bids, but has backed down since the invasion. He did issue a warning to Russian forces if they were to try to mess with any bordering NATO-aligned countries. 

‘America’s fully prepared with our NATO allies to defend every single inch of NATO territory. Every single inch,’ Biden said.  

Vladimir Putin ignited new fears of nuclear war when he said he was ‘not bluffing’ when he said Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory.

He also said any country who wants to ‘live by the rules of the United States’ are ‘political masochists.’

Announcing that he was annexing four Ukrainian regions, Putin said Russia would use ‘all the power and all the means’ at its disposal to defend its new lands from attacks by the West or Ukraine and to help liberate the world.

The Russian despot, speaking in front of his cronies in Moscow, declared that ‘millions of people’ had ‘opted’ to become vassals of Russia after staging sham referendums in which gun-toting troops went door-to-door with clear glass ballot boxes in order to force people to vote.

Putin ignited new fears of nuclear war when he said he was 'not bluffing' when he said Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory
Putin ignited new fears of nuclear war when he said he was ‘not bluffing’ when he said Russia was prepared to use nuclear weapons to defend its territory 

‘They are our people, forever,’ he said to a standing ovation inside the Kremlin’s grand Georgian Hall before calling on Ukraine and its Western allies to abandon hopes of re-taking them, repeating a threat to use ‘all forces’ to defend the ‘new territories’.

He said: ‘The West wants to see Russia as a colony, an unfree society.’

The Russian president said westerners have made the leap from issuing sanctions to conducting ‘terror attacks’ in a hostile speech delivered from the Kremlin.

The West sabotaging Nord Stream 1 and 2 pipelines was an attempt to ‘destroy the European energy infrastructure,’ he claimed – and added that ‘those who profit from it have done it,’ without naming a specific country.

Zelensky signs application for fast-track membership of NATO

Israel Tries to Attack the Iranian Nuclear Horn

Picture shows general view of Isfahan (UCF) nuclear power plant (UCF) 295 km from Tehran, March 2005 (photo credit: HENGHAMEH FAHIMI / AFP)

IRGC claims it arrested militants planning to attack nuclear sites in Isfahan

In July, the Iranian Intelligence Ministry said it had caught a Mossad cell plotting to blow up sensitive sites in Isfahan.

A group of militants planning to attack nuclear facilities in Isfahan was arrested about a month and a half ago, Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Ground Force commander Sardar Mohammad Pakpour claimed on Monday in an interview with the Mehr News Agency. The commander may have been referring to a case first announced in July.

Pakpour was discussing recent missile and drone attacks by the IRGC on Kurdish groups in Iraqi Kurdistan, claiming “separatist elements” had established bases and training centers in northern Iraq.

The IRGC commander complained that despite multiple requests by Iran, Iraqi authorities had not acted against the Kurdish groups in northeastern Iraq.

“According to some information that we have, it seems that there is no will to deal with these terrorist elements among the regional authorities,” said Pakpour to Mehr.

“About a month and a half ago, the Intelligence Ministry identified and arrested the terrorist group that planned to sabotage Isfahan’s nuclear facilities,” added Pakpour. “In their confessions, it is stated that the Zionist regime is present in the bases of terrorist groups located in the northern region of Iraq. They select people and take them to Israel and after providing the necessary training, they send trained teams to carry out terrorist activities inside Iran. Therefore, these bases can also be considered the bases of the Zionist regime, because their interest goes to the Zionist regime.”

The IRGC commander repeated claims that Kurdish groups were driving unrest in Iran, stating that the IRGC attacked the groups because of this.

According to Pakpour, the IRGC fired missiles and drones as far as 130 kilometers into Iraq.

Past claims of Israeli attempts to attack Isfahan sites

In July, the Iranian Noor News agency claimed that Mossad agents who the Iranian Intelligence Ministry had alleged earlier had been caught in the country had been trying to blow up a “sensitive site” in Isfahan in central Iran.

The Iranian Intelligence Ministry announced in July that it had caught a network of Mossad agents who were in contact with other agents in a “neighboring country” and had entered Iran from the Kurdistan Region of Iraq. The ministry claimed that the network was planning to carry out “unprecedented acts of sabotage and terrorist operations by using the most up-to-date operational and communication equipment and the most powerful explosives.”

It is unclear if this is the case Pakpour was referring to.

Iran has repeatedly claimed that Israel’s Mossad is operating in Iraqi Kurdistan.

In March, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) fired 12 missiles toward a home in Erbil in the Kurdistan Region, saying it was a response to the “recent crimes of the fake Zionist regime.” The IRGC additionally claimed that the targeted structure was called “the Strategic Center of Conspiracy and Evil of the Zionists.” Reports by Iranian and pro-Iranian media indicated that the missile strike was carried out in response to an alleged Israeli drone attack on an IRGC drone base in Mahidasht, Iran.

While the reports did not state which site was being targeted, the Isfahan Nuclear Technology Center, located in the area, is one of the country’s largest nuclear facilities, according to the Nuclear Threat Initiative (NTI).

Last month, some of the surveillance cameras used by the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) were removed from the Isfahan site. Additionally, the IAEA reported last month that 90% of Iran’s uranium enriched to 60% fissile purity had been moved to Isfahan. In January, the IAEA reported that Iran had informed it that it would move the production of centrifuge parts to Isfahan.

Last year, Iran announced that it had begun producing enriched uranium metal, a material that could be used to create the core of a nuclear weapon, at the Isfahan site.

The Developing Saudi Nuclear Horn: Daniel 7

Saudi Arabia developing national capabilities in nuclear technology: Minister 

Saudi Arabia developing national capabilities in nuclear technology: Minister 

Prince Abdulaziz praised the International Atomic Energy Agency’s role in developing countries’ capabilities in facing nuclear threats (Shutterstock)

Updated 26 September 2022

WAFFA WAEL AND DANA ABDELAZIZ 

September 26, 202216:14

RIYADH: Saudi Arabia is working to enhance people’s skills and abilities in the nuclear technology sector and its regulatory aspects, the Kingdom’s minister of energy said.

Speaking at the 66th General Conference of the International Atomic Energy Agency in Austria, Prince Abdulaziz bin Salman spoke of the importance of his government developing peaceful uses for nuclear technology with the highest standards of transparency, reliability and the highest levels of safety. 

“As a result of these programs, national capabilities have grown rapidly to keep pace with the best international standards,” he said, later adding: “We are also working in cooperation and coordination with the agency to develop national plans to enable nuclear energy to contribute to the national energy mix.” 

Prince Abdulaziz praised the agency’s role in developing countries’ capabilities in facing nuclear threats.

He said the Kingdom would continue to back the agency’s efforts and initiatives in harnessing nuclear technology to find solutions to global challenges in terms of a safe environment from nuclear threats.

Speaking of Saudi Arabia’s support, he said the Kingdom has contributed an amount of $2.5 million to support the IAEA’s initiative to modernize its laboratories. 

This is In addition to $1 million handed over to back the agency’s initiative in the work of combating zoonotic diseases to prevent the outbreak of infectious diseases from animals. 

The 66th Annual Regular Session of the IAEA General Conference is being held from Sept. 26 to 30 at the Vienna International Center.

Israel CANNOT put a stop to a nuclear Iran: Daniel 8

 An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)An Iranian missile is displayed during a rally marking the annual Quds Day, or Jerusalem Day, on the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan in Tehran, Iran April 29, 2022. (credit: MAJID ASGARIPOUR/WANA (WEST ASIA NEWS AGENCY) VIA REUTERS)

Can Israel put a stop to a nuclear Iran? -opinion

By SALEM ALKETBI

Published: OCTOBER 2, 2022 02:12

Updated: OCTOBER 2, 2022 09:21

 PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid, as foreign minister, greets Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, at the Negev Summit in Sde Boker, in March. What is certain is that both the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel share a common view of the Iranian nuclear threat, says the writer. (photo credit: FLASH90)

PRIME MINISTER Yair Lapid, as foreign minister, greets Bahrain’s Foreign Minister Abdullatif bin Rashid al-Zayani, at the Negev Summit in Sde Boker, in March. What is certain is that both the Gulf Cooperation Council and Israel share a common view of the Iranian nuclear threat, says the writer.

(photo credit: FLASH90)

The tone of political discourse differs little among leaders and political parties when it comes to preventing Iran from acquiring nuclear capabilities that threaten Israel’s security.

According to analysts and experts, this means that there is some likelihood that Israel will launch a preemptive military strike against Iran’s nuclear facilities if it feels the threat has escalated to the point where the cost of a strike is strategically less than the risk of remaining silent. A realistic discussion of this possibility, however credible, seems important to us in the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC).

A military confrontation of any kind between Iran and Israel, whether limited or large-scale, would have negative consequences for our region’s security and stability. That is one thing no one wants. Nevertheless, it is unavoidable to consider different scenarios.Top ArticlesRead More

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Mutual misjudgments and miscalculations can lead to such a scenario. What is certain is that both the GCC and Israel share a common view of the Iranian nuclear threat. But this shared sense does not mean that these countries support any plan by Israel to launch a military strike against Iran.

This is a very sensitive issue for the security of the GCC countries, and we believe that Israeli circles are well aware of this sensitivity and take it into account in shaping their growing relations with important regional countries and partners such as the United Arab Emirates, Bahrain and others.

What should be considered during discussions of Israel’s threats of disrupting Iran’s nuclear program?

Of course, in discussing Israel’s continued threat to disrupt Iran’s nuclear program, several factors must be considered, chief among them Iran’s level of knowledge, i.e., possession of the technology to produce nuclear weapons. In my view, it is not the production or deployment capability but the knowledge capability that is the prime component of Iran’s nuclear program.

This is what the Iranians are verbally manipulating when they constantly harp on the “prohibition” of possessing nuclear weapons based on the supreme leader’s religious fatwa. The production of nuclear weapons can be postponed. But knowledge does not fall under the supposed “ban.”

This means that, with a high degree of probability, confirmed by Western and Israeli intelligence reports and assessments, Iran already has the knowledge to produce a “bomb,” i.e., the necessary technology and enriched uranium resources, as well as the necessary equipment, pending a political decision by its top leadership. The second factor is the international strategic environment.

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Israel’s or even the US’s decision to launch a military strike against Iranian or non-Iranian nuclear facilities is no trivial matter. It is a very dangerous decision with long-lasting consequences, especially if the target country has reached an advanced nuclear stage and is second-strike capable, as is the case with Iran, particularly at the level of dangerous militia weapons that undermine security and stability throughout the Middle East region.

There is also the possibility of multi-range missiles that could reach not only countries in the region but also deep into Europe.

The current international environment is not at all conducive to such a decision, both because of the intensification of the Ukraine conflict with all its consequences for the world, and in view of the worsening American conflict with China and Russia, the deterioration of the world economy, and the difficulty for Israel to muster sufficient international support for this step. Moreover, such a decision carries enormous risks without a US green light. 

The third factor is related to the second: The strategic level of such a decision puts it in a different frame than any other, so it must be carefully weighed not only at the military but also at the political and security levels. Operational calculations to carry out a military plan could support the decision.

Israel may not lack the operational capability to launch a preemptive strike. But in this particular case, the question does not turn on operational capabilities, but on the outcome of the political and strategic examination of the situation.

What will determine the outcome of the whole process will not be the results of a possible bombing, but the Iranian and international backlash, how it can be managed, and the precise calculation of all these issues to ensure that Israel achieves its strategic goal without great cost. In each case, the decision to go to war is a political one.

In all cases, military capabilities also play a major role in the decision-making process. But in some cases, the decision before, after, and while thinking about the limits of military power and effectiveness can be purely political.

My belief is that there is a misunderstanding not only on the Iranian side but also on the part of many experts and analysts who feel that the Israeli threats are nothing more than psychological or verbal warfare. This is not the case at all. The perception of an Iranian threat by Israeli political and security circles is very real.

We in the Gulf states know this very well, not because of actual relations with Israel, but because we have known this feeling for many years because we understand full well the sense of threat from neighboring nuclear facilities that do not have precise standards of nuclear control and reckon with the leakage of radiation.

In addition, there is the intimidation of the conventional and unconventional military arsenal on which literally all the resources of the Iranian state focus. Yes, Israel is concerned about the Iranian threat. Feeling worried and fearful, however, does not compel a military response.

Israel, for example, is chronically concerned about the growing military capabilities of Lebanese Hezbollah. Of that, there is no doubt. But it has not opted for all-out war to knock out those capabilities, relying so far on managing the threat politically and strategically, according to the many complex factors that influence war and peace decisions for Israel or other states.

Iran’s quandary at this stage is that it is under constant pressure – like a man who deliberately presses on a bleeding wound to hurt his opponent. It is fully aware of the complexity of a decision to launch a military strike against its nuclear facilities.

Of course, that does not mean it is not preparing for it; it very much is. The risk assessment in Iran’s case is what makes Israel think twice before resorting to a military strike. Iran’s nuclear facilities are not comparable to Iraq’s Tammuz reactor, both in terms of geographic extent and in terms of operational and technical development.

Clearly, these are very complex calculations. They begin and end at a point that Iran is well aware of and is betting on to deter any military plans against it. But this risky bet, which seems to many, myself included, unpredictable, constantly brings our region to the brink of the abyss.

The writer is a UAE political analyst and former Federal National Council candidate.

Antichrist’s Men Attack Rivals

Mourners attend the funeral of two Saraya al-Salam fighters in Basra on 1 September (AFP)

Iraq: Sadrists attack rival factions in Basra to choke off their funds

After Muqtada al-Sadr declined to use a legal loophole to return his MPs, his followers are pressuring Asaib Ahl al-Haq in the south to cut off their revenues

Mourners attend the funeral of two Saraya al-Salam fighters in Basra on 1 September (AFP)

Suadad al-Salhy

Published date: 4 October 2022 13:04 UTC | Last update: 2 hours 59 mins ago

Basra has become the latest front in Iraq’s political crisis as followers of Muqtada al-Sadr have begun pressuring his opponents in the southern Iraqi oil hub to strip them of their economic resources.

Over recent weeks, there have been near-daily armed clashes between Sadrists and fighters of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the most influential armed factions in Iraq and a staunch opponent of the influential Shia cleric. 

The clashes have killed at least four people, three of them Sadrists, local security sources told MEE.

Most attacks are launched by Sadrist fighters, and have targeted the presidential palace complex, Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s headquarters and the homes of a number of its commanders.

The largest and most ferocious of these attacks took place at dawn on Tuesday and targeted the headquarters of the Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary organistion in the presidential palaces complex, which is located in central Basra. 

It was preceded by another attack targeting a group of Asaib leaders in Karmat Ali, north of the city.

Both attacks were carried out with Katyusha rockets, mortars and automatic weapons. The clashes between the two parties, which lasted for several hours in both locations, killed two people, one a Sadrist, local security sources said.

Competition in Basra

Iraq is OPEC’s second-largest oil producer, with production reaching more than 4.45 million barrels per day in August. Most of it is produced from Basra, which hosts four of the six largest oil fields in the world. 

Those petrodollars are the lifeblood of most of Iraq’s major political forces and armed factions, which draw funds from sub-contracts, commissions, royalties and illegal business related to border ports and oil companies operating in Basra.

Therefore paralysing their work in Basra will cost Sadr’s rivals billions of dollars in losses per month, local and federal officials and armed factions’ commanders in the city told MEE.

Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam is the most influential armed faction in Basra, with Asaib Ahl al-Haq coming a close second. In recent years Asaib has proved a serious competitor for the Sadrists, securing huge financial gains. Sources said Asaib has the most to lose from the shutdown of activities prompted by Sadrist assaults.

“All political forces and armed factions subsist on [the resources of] Basra. Depriving them of their most vital economic resources will break them,” a senior Saraya al-Salam commander serving in Basra told MEE.

The commander said Asaib Ahl al-Haq is the “spearhead” of Sadr’s opponents. “Breaking this spearhead will undoubtedly break the rest.”

Opportunity declined

Iraq has suffered a debilitating political crisis for a year, ever since Sadr emerged from parliamentary elections in October 2021 as the winner but was unable to form a government.

His Iran-backed rivals in the Coordination Framework alliance would have been marginalised by his proposed government, and managed to frustrate Sadr’s efforts until he ordered his 73 MPs to resign and announced his own withdrawal from politics in June.

Since then, Iraq has been in a spiral, with Sadr refusing to allow his opponents to form the power-sharing consensus government they want. He insists on dissolving parliament and holding early elections while maintaining the current caretaker administration headed by his ally, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi.

Iraq parliament legal advisor rules Sadrist MPs’ resignations illegal

Last week, a legal loophole was exposed that may have brought the Sadrist MPs, the majority of which were replaced by Coordination Framework candidates that had lost out originally, back to parliament.

A legal advisor to parliament ruled the resignations illegal, citing a lack of proper process. Coordination Framework sources told MEE the alliance was aware of the ruling and believed it could be a way to resolve the political impasse.

However, on Sunday Sadr decided his MPs would not use the loophole and return to parliament.

He insisted that new elections must be called, and refuses to entertain any talks that might lead to a political solution that satisfies all parties before fresh polls are held, a Sadrist leader close to the cleric told MEE.

“Everyone was surprised by Sadr’s refusal to return to the parliament two days ago. The decision was shocking to the narrow circle close to Sadr,” the leader said.

“All indications were suggesting a breakthrough and everyone [the Sadrist leaders] was satisfied with this face-saving solution. But he surprised everyone with his refusal.”

North Korea Threatens the Asian Horns

North Korea conducts longest-range missile test yet over Japan

9:07 AM MDT

SEOUL/TOKYO, Oct 4 (Reuters) – Nuclear-armed North Korea fired a ballistic missile over Japan for the first time in five years on Tuesday, prompting a warning for residents to take cover and a temporary suspension of train operations in northern Japan.

The Japanese government warned citizens to take cover as the missile appeared to have flown over and past its territory before falling into the Pacific Ocean.

It was the first North Korean missile to follow such a trajectory since 2017, and Tokyo said its 4,600 km (2,850 miles) range may have been the longest distance travelled for a North Korean test flight, which are more often “lofted” higher into space to avoid flying over neighbouring countries.

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The latest launch was Pyongyang’s fifth in 10 days, amid military muscle-flexing by the United States, South Korea, and Japan. Last week, the three countries conducted trilateral anti-submarine exercises that included a U.S. aircraft carrier, which stopped in South Korea for the first time since 2017.

Recent tests have drawn relatively muted responses from Washington, which is focused on the war in Ukraine as well as other domestic and foreign crises, but the U.S. military has stepped up displays of force in the region.

Tokyo said it took no steps to shoot the missile down. Defence Minister Yasukazu Hamada said Japan wouldn’t rule out any options, including counterattack capabilities, as it looks to strengthen its defences in the face of repeated missile launches from North Korea. South Korea also said it would boost its military and increase allied cooperation.

The United States said it strongly condemned North Korea’s “dangerous and reckless” decision to launch a long-range ballistic missile over Japan.

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“This action is destabilizing and shows the DPRK’s blatant disregard for United Nations Security Council resolutions and international safety norms,” National Security Council spokesperson Adrienne Watson said in a statement, using the initials for North Korea’s official name.

‘REAL-WORLD’ TEST

Officials in Tokyo and Seoul said the missile flew between 4,500 to 4,600 kilometres (2,850 miles) to a maximum altitude of about 1,000 km.

South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) said it appeared to have been an intermediate-range ballistic missile (IRBM) launched from North Korea’s Jagang Province. North Korea has used that province to launch several recent tests, including multiple missiles that it claimed were “hypersonic.”

The test prompted East Japan Railway Co (9020.T) to suspend train operations in the northern regions, Japanese broadcaster NHK reported.

The initial flight details suggest the missile may have been the Hwasong-12 IRBM, which North Korea unveiled in 2017 as part of its threatened plan to strike U.S. military bases in Guam, said Kim Dong-yup, a former South Korea Navy officer who now teaches at Kyungnam University.

The Hwasong-12 was used in 2017 tests that overflew Japan, and Kim noted it was also test fired from Jagang Province in January.

Flying a missile such a long distance allows North Korea’s scientists to test missiles under more realistic conditions, said Ankit Panda of the U.S.-based Carnegie Endowment for International Peace.

“Compared to the usual highly lofted trajectory, this allows them to expose a long-range reentry vehicle to thermal loads and atmospheric reentry stresses that are more representative of the conditions they’d endure in real-world use,” he said.

“Politically, it’s complicated: the missile largely flies outside of the atmosphere when it’s over Japan, but it’s obviously distressing to the Japanese public to receive warnings of a possible incoming North Korean missile.”

North Korea’s flurry of missile testing helps make more of its weapons operational, develop new capabilities and sends a message that development is s sovereign right, analysts said.

North Korea’s missile and nuclear weapons programmes are banned by United Nations Security Council resolutions, which have imposed sanctions on the country.

POLITICAL BACKLASH

South Korean President Yoon Suk-yeol called the test “reckless” and said it would bring a decisive response from his country’s military, its allies and the international community.

He has pushed for more military muscle to deter the North, and South Korea staged its own show of advanced weaponry on Saturday to mark its Armed Forces Day, including multiple rocket launchers, ballistic missiles, main battle tanks, drones and F-35 fighters.

Speaking to reporters in Tokyo, Japanese Prime Minister Fumio Kishida called North Korea’s actions “barbaric”, and said the government would continue to gather and analyse information.

The launch over Japan was “not a productive path forward” but Washington remained open to talks, Daniel Kritenbrink, the top U.S. diplomat for East Asia, said during an online event hosted by the Institute for Corean-American Studies.

The North has completed preparations for a nuclear test, which it might look to undertake sometime between China’s Communist Party Congress this month and U.S. mid-term elections in November, South Korean lawmakers said last week.