Al Sadr orders militias to suspend activities to defuse tension in Basra, Iraq
Prominent Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has ordered armed groups under his control to suspend their activities in almost the entire country in order not to increase tensions after weeks of heavy clashes in Basra province between the cleric’s forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of pro-Iranian militias.
A statement issued by the cleric’s unofficial spokesman, Sali Mohamed al Iraqi, specifically condemned the League of the Righteous (Asaib Ahl al Haq or AAH) militia, part of the Popular Mobilization Forces, for the disturbances.”They don’t know the slightest respect. They only know terrorism, money and power”, denounced Al Iraqi in a statement picked up by the Kurdish news agency Rudaw, where he points out that Al Sadr’s order is also aimed at ensuring that his militias are not accused of “sedition”.
Among the militias affected by Al Sadr’s order is the most prominent of all, the Companies for Peace (Saraya al Salam), founded by the cleric himself in 2014 and considered as a renewed version of the Mahdi Army, the armed force under the orders of the cleric who starred in 2003 in some of the most intense battles of the Iraq war against the U.S. forces that invaded the country.Iraq has been the scene in recent days of new mobilizations, coinciding with the third anniversary of the protests of October 2019, which resulted in at least 600 deaths across the country due to the reaction of the Iraqi Police and pro-Iranian militias. The protests were active for several months to demand an end to the system of government in place since the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003, an end to corruption, better basic services and employment.The protests led to the resignation of the then prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, who was replaced – after the rejection of several nominees – by Mostafa al-Kazemi, who initiated a series of reforms and called for early elections, held on October 10, 2021.
What’s shocking about Biden’s remark isn’t that Vladimir Putin is considering using nuclear weapons.
The Russian president has personally threatened to do so as his military faces setbacks in its bloody invasion of Ukraine. But when the US president – who has access to information from America’s spy agencies that few others do – warns that Putin is indeed serious, and compares the current moment to the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis, then it’s something else. The question is: what?
One possibility is that the utterance was part of the public rhetoric campaign the White House has been waging to warn it against using a nuclear weapon. Last month, national security adviser Jake Sullivan warned doing so would bring “catastrophic consequences”.
Speaking at a Democratic fundraiser last night, Biden acknowledged a level of uncertainty about Russia’s goals, and how far Putin was willing to go to achieve them. “We are trying to figure out what is Putin’s off-ramp? Where does he find a way out? Where does he find himself where he does not only lose face but significant power?” Biden said.
Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon in Ukraine would cause “unintended consequences” for Moscow, the White House press secretary said, while noting there’s no evidence yet that president Vladimir Putin intends to use his atomic arsenal.
“Russia’s talk of using nuclear weapons is irresponsible, and there’s no way to use to use them without unintended consequences. It cannot happen… We won’t be intimidated by Putin’s rhetoric,” Karine Jean-Pierre told reporters aboard Air Force One during president Joe Biden’s short flight to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he is to speak about the economy.
She downplayed the possibility that the first use of a nuclear weapon in war since 1945 was imminent.
“We have not seen any reason to adjust our own nuclear posture, nor do we have indications they are preparing to use them, but Putin can de-escalate this at any time and there is no reason to escalate.”
She did not comment directly on Biden’s prediction last night that Russia’s use of a nuclear weapon would cause “armageddon”.
As he set off from the White House on yet another lengthy day of travel, Joe Biden gave the press no opportunity to ask about his “armageddon” comment.
That’s from The Guardian’s David Smith, who’s covering the president’s departure. Biden is en route now to Hagerstown, Maryland, where he’ll speak about the economy, before flying to Philadelphia and finally Wilmington, Delaware, where he is to spend the weekend.
Press secretary Karine Jean-Pierre will take questions from reporters on Air Force One during the flight to Hagerstown, so we may find out more about the White House’s view of Russia’s intentions.
Biden ‘armageddon’ remark not driven by new intelligence: White House
US president Joe Biden’s remark last night that Russian president Vladimir Putin was serious about using nuclear weapons in Ukraine and that doing so would risk “armageddon” was not based on any new intelligence, Semafor reports.
The president’s dire assessment of the risk of nuclear war – which he said was at its highest level since the Cuban Missile Crisis 60 years ago – was instead a reflection of Washington’s seriousness when it comes to Putin’s increasingly strident rhetoric, a White House official said:
A WH official says of Biden comments on Putin at DNC reception last night: “The President’s comments reinforce how seriously we take these threats about nuclear weapons – as we have done when the Russians have made these threats throughout the conflict.”— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) October 7, 2022
“The kind of irresponsible rhetoric we have seen is no way for the leader of a nuclear armed state to speak,” official says.— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) October 7, 2022
I’m told no new assessment drove his comments.— Morgan Chalfant (@mchalfant16) October 7, 2022
Good morning, US politics blog readers. The job of an American president often involves reassuring or comforting the nation during uncertain times. Joe Biden instead gave Americans a blunt assessment of reality last night, when he suggested that the Russian president, Vladimir Putin, was not kidding with his threats to to use nuclear weapons in Ukraine, and warned the world was the closest it has been to “Armageddon” in six decades. Chilling stuff.
A+ A-ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Powerful Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr on Thursday announced the freezing of all armed factions under his control across Iraq in light of the recent clashes that erupted in the southern city of Basra, calling on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi to restrain the pro-Iran Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) militias.
Salih Mohammed al-Iraqi, a close associate of Sadr, said in a statement on behalf of the Shiite leader that they were freezing all armed factions, including the Saraya al-Salam, and banning the use of weapons in all Iraqi provinces except for Salahaddin to “avoid sedition” in Basra, adding “otherwise, we will take other measures later.”
Iraqi also called on the commander-in-chief of the armed forces Kadhimi to control the “disrespectful” militias of Qais al-Khazali, secretary-general of AAH, as they “know nothing but terror and money and power.”
Khazali responded to Iraqi’s statement hours later, saying that he was renewing calls for “restricting of arms into the hands of the state,” calling on security services to take “deterrent and decisive measures” otherwise.
AAH is part of the PMF, an umbrella group of Shiite paramilitary forces that was formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State (ISIS) under a fatwa from Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani. A number of forces within the umbrella group are backed by Iran.
Saraya al-Salam was founded by Sadr himself in 2014 and considered as a revived version of Sadr’s Mahdi army, militants who fought the Americans following their invasion in 2003.
At least one was killed and another injured when clashes broke out between the AAH and Saraya al-Salam early Sepetmber in Basra, reportedly in response to the killing of a member of the Sadrist militia outside the offices of AAH.
The Ukrainian government, at least, seems to be taking him at his word. According to a top adviser to President Volodymyr Zelensky, the country’s intelligence agencies believe there is a “very high” risk that Russia might use so-called tactical nuclear weapons, less powerful cousins of conventional nuclear weapons that are designed to be used on the battlefield.
U.S. officials maintain that the risk remains low, having detected no evidence of a nuclear mobilization. But they are far more worried about the possibility than they were at the outset of the conflict, The Times reported, and have begun gaming out post-strike scenarios. If Putin does break the 77-year-old nuclear taboo, how should the world respond? Here’s what people are saying.
In response to Putin’s speech, President Biden’s national security adviser, Jake Sullivan, said that any nuclear weapon use would result in “catastrophic consequences” for Russia, which he had “spelled out” in private communications with Moscow.
What exactly those consequences would be is of course not known to the public. One option would be for the United States to respond in kind with its own tactical nuclear weapon strike. As the Atlantic Council’s Matthew Kroenig writes, “A nuclear response is most likely to reinforce the deterrence of adversaries, result in the assurance of allies, and re-establish the global taboo against nuclear use in the future by demonstrating that countries cannot use nuclear weapons without dire consequences.” Otherwise, he added, “both allies and adversaries might be surprised or perceive weakness.”
Administration officials, however, have said for months that there are almost no scenarios in which the United States would respond with nuclear weapons, and for good reason: As Kroenig notes, while U.S. nuclear retaliation could restore the nuclear taboo, it could also start a cycle of mutual escalation ending in full-blown nuclear war.
Any attack on Russian forces would still be considered an attack on Russia, “but it would be sort of at a half step, if you will,” said Hans Kristensen, the director of the Nuclear Information Project at the Federation of American Scientists. “You could still say to the Russians, ‘We’re doing this not to threaten Russia, as such, but to tell you that if you continue to do this then the next phase would be a lot more serious.’”
Still, even a conventional military response — which, it bears noting, would probably be conducted without congressional approval — would result in a direct clash between Russia and NATO, “and therefore incurs the risk of World War III, with Armageddon still one scenario at the end,” Andreas Kluth argues in Bloomberg. “Putin might conclude that the U.S. isn’t prepared to retaliate with nukes, and launch even more nuclear strikes.”
Russian officials seem to believe that they could deploy a nuclear weapon in Ukraine without running a high risk of military retaliation from NATO. “Overseas and European demagogues are not going to perish in a nuclear apocalypse,” Dmitri Medvedev, vice chairman of Putin’s security council, wrote in a post on the Telegram social network. “Therefore, they will swallow the use of any weapon in the current conflict.”
But inviting a “nuclear apocalypse” and doing nothing are not the only ways Ukraine’s allies could respond:
Ukraine has received tens of billions of dollars in military aid, including $15 billion in weapons and equipment from the United States. Still, after Putin brandished the nuclear option last week, Zelensky calledon allies to provide his military with tanks for its offensives in the east and the south, as well as air defenses to protect civilian infrastructure from Russian barrages. Should Putin follow through on his threat, those allies may feel more pressure to grant Zelensky’s request.
As severe as the sanctions on Russia are now, Eliot A. Cohen, a professor at the school of international studies at Johns Hopkins, argues that Ukraine’s allies still have economic arrows in their quiver: The United States, in particular, he says, could impose unlimited secondary sanctions on anyone doing business with Russia and move to confiscate the roughly $300 billion Russia has in accounts held abroad. Ukraine’s allies are also mulling putting a price cap on Russian oil to further squeeze the Russian economy.
Some analysts believe that the oil price cap scheme could succeed only with the cooperation of big oil purchasers like China and India, which, like most of the world’s 195 countries, have not joined in imposing sanctions on Russia. If Putin were to break the nuclear taboo, however, that could well change: “The whole world would stop,” said Joseph Cirincione, a nuclear expert at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft.
Yet given the strength of Putin’s resolve to this point, some analysts doubt that expanded sanctions and military support would be enough to break it or restore the nuclear taboo. “Moscow would have gotten away with using a nuclear weapon, shown that deterrence was meaningless, and set itself up to use nuclear weapons again in the future,” Dan Goure, a vice president at the public-policy research think tank Lexington Institute, writes in The National Interest. “Putin’s fortunes at home would certainly improve. He would claim to be the Russian leader that stood up to the West and got away with employing a nuclear weapon to defend the motherland.”
Debatable Agree to disagree, or disagree better? Broaden your perspective with sharp arguments on the most pressing issues of the week.
DEIR AL-HATAB, West Bank (AP) — Israeli troops exchanged fire with Palestinians during an arrest raid in the occupied West Bank on Wednesday, killing one Palestinian and forcing the surrender of a wanted man.
The raid unfolded in the village of Deir al-Hatab, near the West Bank city of Nablus, a recent flashpoint of violence.
Troops surrounded the three-story building where the suspect, Salman Omran, was staying, the army said. It said Omran opened fire, setting off a gun battle. Troops also used grenades and a bulldozer in attacking the hideout, the army said. It said Omran eventually surrendered, handing over his M-16 assault rifle.
Troops also exchanged fire with several gunmen in the area. Palestinian health officials said a 21-year-old man was killed by a shot to the head. He was buried later Wednesday in a nearby village.
The Palestinian Red Crescent said seven people were wounded, including three journalists, during the clashes and that one of its ambulances had been hit by tear gas.
Israel has carried out similar incursions almost every night in the West Bank since the spring after a s against Israelis killed 19 people.
Israel says its operations aim to dismantle militant infrastructure and prevent future attacks, and that it has been forced to act because of ineffectiveness on the part of Palestinian security forces. For Palestinians, the nightly raids into their cities, villages and towns have undermined the Palestinian security forces and strengthened Israel’s control over lands Palestinians want for their hoped-for state.
The Israeli raids have killed some 100 Palestinians, making this year the deadliest since 2015. Most of those killed are said by Israel to have been militants, but local youths protesting the incursions as well as some civilians have also been killed in the violence. Hundreds have been rounded up, with many placed in so-called administrative detention, which allows Israel to hold them without trial or charge.
The raids have increased tensions in the West Bank, with a recent uptick in Palestinian shooting attacks against Israelis. They have also drawn into focus the growing disillusionment among young Palestinians over the tight security coordination between Israel and the internationally backed Palestinian Authority, which work together to apprehend militants.
Israel captured the West Bank in the 1967 Mideast war and 500,000 Jewish settlers now live in some 130 settlements and other outposts among nearly 3 million Palestinians. The Palestinians want that territory, along with east Jerusalem and the Gaza Strip, for their future state.