By Meteorologist Michael Gouldrick New York State PUBLISHED 6:30 AM ET Sep. 09, 2020 PUBLISHED 6:30 AM EDT Sep. 09, 2020
New York State has a long history of earthquakes. Since the early to mid 1700s there have been over 550 recorded earthquakes that have been centered within the state’s boundary. New York has also been shaken by strong earthquakes that occurred in southeast CaThe History of Earthquakes In New York Before the Sixth Seal (Revelation 6:12) nada and the Mid-Atlantic states.
A school gymnasium suffered major damage, some 90% of chimneys toppled over and house foundations were cracked. Windows broke and plumbing was damaged. This earthquake was felt from Maine to Michigan to Maryland.
Another strong quake occurred near Attica on August 12th, 1929. Chimneys took the biggest hit, foundations were also cracked and store shelves toppled their goods.
Strong earthquakes outside of New York’s boundary have also shaken the state. On February 5th, 1663 near Charlevoix, Quebec, an estimated magnitude of 7.5 occurred. A 6.2 tremor was reported in Western Quebec on November 1st in 1935. A 6.2 earthquake occurred in the same area on March 1st 1925. Many in the state also reported shaking on August 23rd, 2011 from a 5.9 earthquake near Mineral, Virginia.
Earthquakes in the northeast U.S. and southeast Canada are not as intense as those found in other parts of the world but can be felt over a much larger area. The reason for this is the makeup of the ground. In our part of the world, the ground is like a jigsaw puzzle that has been put together. If one piece shakes, the whole puzzle shakes.
In Rochester, New York, the most recent earthquake was reported on March 29th, 2020. It was a 2.6 magnitude shake centered under Lake Ontario. While most did not feel it, there were 54 reports of the ground shaking.
So next time you are wondering why the dishes rattled, or you thought you felt the ground move, it certainly could have been an earthquake in New York.
Here is a website from the USGS (United Sates Geologic Society) of current earthquakes greater than 2.5 during the past day around the world. As you can see, the Earth is a geologically active planet!
Another great website of earthquakes that have occurred locally can be found here.
To learn more about the science behind earthquakes, check out this website from the USGS.
China is equipping its nuclear-powered ballistic missile submarines with advanced JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missiles (SLBMs) that are capable of targeting the continental United States, according to the U.S. Defense Department.
China is ahead of schedule in equipping its Jin-class nuclear-powered submarines with advanced JL-3 submarine-launched ballistic missiles capable of striking the continental United States. (Photo by Mark Schiefelbein/AFP via Getty Images)The deployment comes earlier than expected. Previous U.S. reports estimated that China would deploy the JL-3 missile along with the country’s next-generation ballistic missile submarine, the Type 096, which is believed to be still under construction. (See ACT, June 2021.)
China’s six Jin-class ballistic missile submarines “are now being equipped with the new third-generation JL-3 SLBM” capable of reaching the continental United States, said Air Force Gen. Anthony Cotton, commander of U.S. Strategic Command, during a March 8 congressional hearing.
The JL-3, which was tested first in November 2018, has an estimated range of more than 10,000 kilometers and is expected to be capable of delivering multiple nuclear warheads. The new missile is a significant improvement over its predecessor, the JL-2, which has a range of about 8,000 kilometers. (See ACT, July/August 2019.)
The JL-2 is also capable of striking the United States, but the missile’s limited range would require China’s People’s Liberation Army Navy to sail farther into the Pacific Ocean where Chinese submarines are more vulnerable to U.S. anti-submarine defenses.
According to the Pentagon’s 2022 report on Chinese military power, the JL-3’s extended range allows the Chinese navy to target the United States from the safety of “bastion” waters near China’s coast, such as the South China Sea and Bohai Gulf. This new capability will enhance the survivability of China’s sea-based nuclear deterrent, the report says.
The Type 096 submarine is expected to be much quieter than the existing Jin-class, or Type 094, submarines, which the Defense Department considers to be China’s first credible sea-based nuclear deterrent. Given the estimated 30- to 40-year service life of China’s ballistic missile submarines, the Type 094 and the Type 096 are expected to operate concurrently, which could bring China’s total number of ballistic missile submarines to 8 to 10 over the coming years, according to Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.
The Pentagon also has confirmed that China’s Jin-class submarines are “conducting continuous at-sea deterrence patrols” for the first time. (See ACT, January/February 2023.) The patrols will ensure that at least one Chinese nuclear-armed submarine will be at sea at all times.
China has long adhered to a policy of minimum deterrence by which it maintains a relatively small nuclear force capable of a retaliatory second strike. But China’s recent expansion of its nuclear capabilities indicates that the country deems its current nuclear deterrent insufficient and intends to achieve strategic parity with the United States perhaps achieving 1,000 operational nuclear warheads by 2030. (See ACT, April 2023.)
As US armour was rolling into Iraqi cities, international news networks replayed over and over again a scene from April 9 that year that in hindsight seems loaded with dramatic irony.
The toppling of the statue of Saddam Hussein in Baghdad’s Firdos square — an event that turned out to be stage-managed — was meant to symbolise the liberation of Iraqis and the end of the Ba’ath Party’s 35-year-long rule in Iraq. Yet it was not the grand finale of the US invasion but rather the prelude to a long and bloody revolt and armed uprising.
The US occupation that lasted eight years created aftershocks of regional instability and left hundreds of thousands of Iraqis dead — so many that no one has an exact count.
Like the US-led coalition in Iraq back then, the Russian government expected its illegal invasion of Ukraine in 2022 to end with a quick and decisive victory.
Fooled by a sense of its own invincibility, the Russian army entered Ukraine as if on parade, in long columns that became easy targets for US-made Javelin missiles. They expected to be marching through the streets of Kyiv within days, but a year later, the Russians remain bogged down in a protracted and bloody war.
So did Russian President Vladimir Putin end up repeating the mistakes — and for many, the crimes — of Bush in Iraq 20 years ago? How much do these two epoch-defining invasions have in common? What are the differences?
The short answer: The parallels run deep, from the false pretexts under which they were launched and the failings of the United Nations system that the wars showed up, to the use of private military contractors. But key differences exist in the deeper motivations that triggered the wars, said military historians and analysts. And the US military proved more effective at fighting a conventional war in Iraq than Russia has in Ukraine.
“In the US case they achieved the decapitation, but they really misread the Iraqi population,” says al-Marashi. “The US thought they would be greeted as liberators overthrowing Saddam Hussein, and that didn’t happen. What did Russia think? That the Ukrainians would also welcome them as liberators for overthrowing this so-called ‘fascist regime’.”
Once senior Bush administration officials had made up their minds about invading Iraq, their single-minded determination to topple the Iraqi regime rendered them oblivious to the unintended consequences of war, said analysts.
It also blinded them to inconvenient truths — something neatly encapsulated in what a White House official reportedly told journalist Ron Suskind. “We’re an empire now, and when we act, we create our own reality,” the official said.
Creating their “own reality” meant ignoring international law and the United Nations Charter that the US and Soviet Union were original signatories to. The inability to stop the two bellicose powers from attacking sovereign states starkly exposed the weaknesses of the post-World War II international order.
Both Russia and the US went to war off the back of bogus pretexts — alternate realities they created. In the case of the US and its closest ally in the invasion of Iraq, the United Kingdom, dubious intelligence painted Saddam Hussein’s Iraq as a harbourer of al-Qaeda, a hoarder of weapons of mass destruction, and an all-around international bogeyman.
Al-Marashi has firsthand experience of this. A paper he wrote was plagiarised by the UK government in a 2003 document used to make the case for invading Iraq — the so-called “dodgy dossier”. Al-Marashi said his work was used in “constructing the image of a dictator who had to be overthrown”.
Russia constructed the image of a hostile administration in Kyiv that needed to be overthrown and took that lie to its absurd outer limits, portraying Ukraine’s Jewish president Volodymyr Zelenskyy as a depraved addict presiding over a government of neo-Nazis.
“The first ‘reason’ for Putin taking Ukraine was that he was saving the Ukrainians from this drug-crazed criminal Nazi gang running the country,” says Margaret Macmillan, professor of history at the University of Oxford. “And when it turned out that a lot of Ukrainians were supporting the drug-crazed criminal gang the war was now on the Ukrainians themselves, and then there was talk of re-educating them.”
As a state where power is concentrated in one man, Russia’s war in Ukraine is Putin’s war — the brutal incarnation of his own imperial designs, said experts.
According to Jade McGlynn, research fellow at the Department of War Studies at King’s College in London, and author of the book Russia’s War, the invasion of Ukraine “at its heart is a war over identity and conceptions of the [Russian] nation”.
Putin “conflated himself with the power structures of Russia,” said McGlynn, and “constructed a post-Soviet Russian identity that is very dependent on Ukraine and the idea of a greater Russia”.
For al-Marashi, who used to teach at Ukraine’s Ivan Franko University, Russia’s war has an undeniably imperial aspect to it that can be traced back to Ukraine’s incorporation into the Russian empire and deliberate policies of “Russification”, which attempted to deny Ukrainian culture and identity in the 19th century. This “imperial mindset” has a long history to it, said al-Marashi, from Catherine the Great’s description of Ukraine as ‘New Russia’ all the way to Putin. “Those are imperial linkages that I don’t think you can deny,” he said.
The US’s imperial mindset towards countries it has invaded and occupied is also hard to ignore, said experts. But there is a key difference highlighted by the contexts that set the stage for the wars in Iraq and Ukraine.
Russia, said Macmillan, “is the last standing European empire”. But it is a crumbling empire, and the speeches and revisionist historical treatises that laid Putin’s ideological groundwork for the invasion of Ukraine are often shot through with a sense of historical loss. Putin has lamented the breakup of the Soviet Union as a “genuine tragedy” in which “tens of millions of our fellow citizens and countrymen found themselves beyond the fringes of Russian territory”.
But it was very different for Bush, who “inherited the windfall” of the end of the Cold War and was “riding the emergence” of the US as the superpower in a unipolar world.
According to al-Marashi, the 2003 invasion of Iraq came at a “unique historical moment” for the US, when its hegemony was relatively unchallenged and it “sought to reshape the world” in its image.
When Bush ran for president, he was focused on domestic affairs, not foreign intervention, al-Marashi pointed out. But that changed with the 9/11 attacks, which emboldened the administration’s hawks, who felt that the US had unfinished business in Iraq.
In much the same way, the Putin regime had unfinished business in Ukraine. Putin, said experts, felt the need for a lasting solution to the Ukraine question that had plagued Russian nationalists since the Soviet breakup in 1991. That question — namely, what to do about Ukraine drifting towards the West’s embrace — had become ever more pressing since the 2014 war in the Donbas.
For Bush Junior, returning to the Middle East was an opportunity to finish off what his father started in the First Gulf War. Key officials and ideologues of the second Bush administration had served under the elder Bush including his vice president, Dick Cheney, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz, Deputy Secretary of State Richard Armitage, and US trade representative Robert Zoellick. They had long advocated for US military intervention abroad.
Wolfowitz, Armitage and Zoellick — three leading “neocons” — together with another key war architect, Bush’s Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, were signatories of a letter to President Bill Clinton in 1998 calling for regime change in Iraq.
“The only acceptable strategy is one that eliminates the possibility that Iraq will be able to use or threaten to use weapons of mass destruction,” the letter read. “In the near term, this means a willingness to undertake military action as diplomacy is clearly failing. In the long term, it means removing Saddam Hussein and his regime from power.
“In any case, American policy cannot continue to be crippled by a misguided insistence on unanimity in the UN Security Council.”
From Blackwater to Wagner
Security concerns, although they turned out to be highly exaggerated, played into the decisions of the US and Russia to embark on their illegal invasions.
Moscow has pointed to its fears of NATO expansion and the existential threat posed by a hostile Ukraine, describing its neighbour as merely a proxy for the West. It is, in Putin’s view, the latest episode in a long history of Western attempts to cripple Russia.
To some extent, it has become a self-fulfilling prophecy. European support for NATO is far greater than before the invasion, and Russia is more isolated, more economically vulnerable, and faced with biting sanctions.
Similarly, in the aftermath of 9/11, paranoia crept into the US establishment. The first major attack on the US mainland exposed the vulnerability of the world’s sole superpower and left the US public deeply shocked. Although Iraq had nothing to do with the attack, Americans “were prepared to believe the government if it told them Iraq was responsible,” Macmillan said.
Ultimately, both wars left the countries that started them — and the world at large — less secure than before, and as the costs and casualties began to mount, their citizens became predictably wary. The aftermath of 9/11 saw jingoism reach a fever pitch in the US but also galvanised an anti-war movement. By the end of Bush’s final term, public support for the war had plummeted.
It is much harder to gauge Russian public opinion — criticism of the war has been banned and early shows of public disapproval were ruthlessly stamped out — but the exodus of hundreds of thousands of Russians fleeing abroad to avoid the draft gives some indication of the public mood.
When the war in Donbas started in 2014, “there was a nationalist revival”, said McGlynn, “you saw people volunteering to go off to Donbas.
“In 2022 it was different, people were anxious”.
Yet again, Putin appears to have followed Bush’s example.
The US did not rely on conscription to fight its war in Iraq, but was nevertheless wary that a steady stream of body bags for regular troops would take a major toll on public opinion. Its widespread reliance on private military contractors in Iraq, however, helped solve that problem.
Newly recruited, poorly trained prisoners have been pressed into service with the promise of freedom, and have reportedly been used as cannon fodder in some of the most intense fighting in Ukraine. Wagner’s fighters have also been implicated in some of the worst atrocities in the ongoing war.
Who won, and who lost
The US did not have a sound exit strategy in Iraq and so got trapped in a grinding conflict, said Macmillan, adding that Russia has made the same mistake.
Yet the results of the Russian and US invasions have been felt most acutely by the invaded populations — Iraqi society was “shattered” by the US’s “shock and awe” offensive, said Macmillan, while the costs of reconstruction for Ukraine will likely be higher than in Iraq.
Still, there are differences in the consequences that the US faced and that Russia will likely confront for years to come.
While the US was stuck in a quagmire of its own creation for nearly a decade, there were no significant economic hardships experienced by its population. The US economy did not suffer a war-induced shock, it faced no sanctions and diplomatic isolation, and its military was not humiliated in the way Russia’s has been.
Condemnations of US actions were ultimately inconsequential. The US was simply too secure in its role as global hegemon to be treated like a pariah state, and the prospect of an International Criminal Court arrest warrant for Bush or any other senior US government official, as has been issued for Putin, was inconceivable.
For Russia, it is different. Russia is not the Soviet Union — it is a rump state with a struggling economy overly dependent on hydrocarbon exports. Its military, once seen as among the world’s most sophisticated, increasingly looks like a Potemkin army when put to the test.
The consequences for the world at large may also be more severe this time.
War in Ukraine threatens to feed into global insecurity. In Iraq, apart from oil supply instability, the spillover from war was largely contained to the Middle East. Ukraine, on the other hand, is more integrated into the global economy and is a breadbasket that sustains global food markets, while sanctions on Russia have destabilised global energy supplies.
The conflict also comes at a time when the guardrails of an interconnected global order that disincentivised wars between major economies are falling apart. “Globalisation is unwinding,” said Macmillan.
The world, in short, is a more dangerous place than it was two decades ago. A major nuclear power is engaged in a war that is sucking in NATO powers. And even superpowers cannot create an alternative reality.
The U.S. and South Korea have countered North Korea’s increasing aggression by expanding joint military drills in the region, part of the U.S.’s effort to strengthen its overall defense posture in the Asia-Pacific region in the face of a growing challenge from China. In February, officials from the two countries simulated a North Korean nuclear attack in a “tabletop” exercise at the Pentagon that was aimed partly at reinforcing Washington’s security commitment.
But the idea of a nuclear-armed South Korea has support even among people who are confident in the U.S. alliance, the 2022 poll showed.
Rep. Lee Jae-jung, a left-leaning lawmaker who opposes nuclear armament, said Washington’s focus on other issues, like the potential for confrontation with China over Taiwan, has prompted South Koreans to consider their own responsibility for self-defense.
“The fact that the nuclear-armed North is not a priority for the Biden administration makes the Koreans nervous,” she said.
A State Department spokesperson said the U.S. commitment to defend South Korea remained “ironclad.”
“The Yoon administration has made clear that it is not pursuing a nuclear weapons program and that it is working closely with the United States through existing extended deterrence mechanisms,” the spokesperson said.
Experts say there are several reasons South Korea will not be acquiring nuclear weapons any time soon.
South Korea is a signatory to the Treaty on the Non-Proliferation of Nuclear Weapons, known as the NPT, which bars countries from seeking them, and withdrawing from it could bring international sanctions.
Nuclear armament would most likely anger both China, South Korea’s largest trading partner, and the U.S., its longtime defense guarantor. A nuclear-armed South Korea could also inspire other countries in the region, like Japan and Australia, to develop arsenals of their own.
“Anybody who genuinely believes that South Korea will get its own nuclear weapons has absolutely no idea what they’re talking about,” said Jung Se-hyon, a former unification minister.
“But the robust support for proliferation does speak to the Korean people’s fears of conflict,” he added, “and the South Korean public just doesn’t trust what the Americans are saying right now.”
Official U.S. policy is for all of the Korean Peninsula to be free of nuclear weapons, meaning Washington would not support a nuclear-armed South Korea. Some argue it should instead start sharing its nuclear weapons with South Korea or redeploy the tactical nuclear weapons it withdrew from the country at the end of the Cold War.
“South Korea is actually staying naked without nuclear weapons, and I have long argued that we need nuclear parity on this peninsula, regardless of the consequences,” said Kim Tae-woo, who was an adviser to conservative former President Lee Myung-bak.
South Korea previously tried to acquire nuclear weapons in the 1970s, when President Richard Nixon considered withdrawing U.S. troops from the Korean Peninsula, said Ellen Kim, the deputy Korea chair at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington.
“What is different now is that there’s a nuclear-armed North Korea that threatens to use nuclear weapons against non-nuclear South Korea,” Kim said, “and North Korea continues to advance its nuclear missile capability.”
With North Korea testing weapons thought to be able to strike anywhere in the U.S., some South Koreans worry the U.S. will abandon them in a conflict with North Korea. Others fear that the U.S. will miscalculate and entrap them in a potential nuclear war with North Korea or China. Having its own nuclear arsenal, supporters say, would allow South Korea to decide whether and when it fights a nuclear war.
There is also concern that U.S. troops could still be withdrawn one day, an idea floated by former President Donald Trump.
That cocktail of uncertainty, Kim said, is “driving South Korea’s nuclear debate.”
Rep. Jang Hye-yeong, a member of the progressive Justice Party, said South Koreans have not fully debated the pros and cons of nuclear armament because the subject is still somewhat taboo.
“If we as a country really have an honest discussion about the risks of developing our own nuclear arsenal, I believe the public’s support will decrease,” she said.
Some South Koreans say they are primarily looking for reassurance.
“North Korea is firing more missiles, China could invade Taiwan, and politics in the United States are very unstable right now,” said Lee Hak-joon, 24, a public affairs student at Sungkonghoe University in Seoul. “The United States needs to show us that we can really rely on them to protect us.”
The United Nations is warning that more than 800,000 people could flee Sudan to neighboring countries amid the ongoing conflict between rival military factions.
The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees (UNHCR) office, along with other governments and partners, is “preparing for the possibility that over 800,000 people may flee the fighting in Sudan for neighboring countries,” tweeted UNHCR chief Filippo Grandi.
“We hope it doesn’t come to that, but if violence doesn’t stop we will see more people forced to flee Sudan seeking safety,” Grandi said.
The fighting has prompted many to flee the conflict. More than 100 American citizens on Monday reached Saudi Arabia from Sudan, making up about 1,000 citizens that the U.S. government has been able to evacuate from Sudan since the fighting started.
On April 28, the UNHCR estimated that more than 50,000 people had already fled Sudan to Chad, Egypt, South Sudan and the Central African Republic, including both Sudanese citizens and refugees forced to return to their countries.
“Sudan hosts over one million refugees from the region. Like all civilians, they are impacted by violence and cut off from humanitarian aid. More than 3000 South Sudanese are now fleeing back daily to their fragile country,” Grandi tweeted.
“The scale & speed of what is unfolding in Sudan is unprecedented in the country,” U.N. Secretary-General António Guterres said on Sunday, upon dispatching the U.N.’s under-secretary-general for humanitarian affairs and emergency relief coordinator to the region.
“I once again call for the protection of civilians & respect for humanitarians,” he added.
He’s not a general and he’s not a politician, at least in the conventional sense. But with a single speech he can spark a protest that ends up in with hundreds of Iraqi Shiites storming their parliament. He’s commanded a militia of thousands, some who fought and killed U.S. and Iraqi soldiers. And he’s been on TIME Magazine’s annual list of the 100 most influential people on the planet.
This is how he’s managed to gain such prominence — and retain it.
The Sadr family
Sadr was born in 1973 in the Shiite holy city of Najaf to a prominent family.
The city, which is about 100 miles south of Baghdad, is home to the Imam Ali shrine, where the eponymous cousin and son-in-law of the prophet Muhammad is buried. Shiites believe that Ali was the rightful successor to Muhammad.
Sadr’s father, Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, was an important Shiite figure in Iraq who openly spoke out against Saddam Hussein and his ruling Baath party.
The elder Sadr and two of his sons were assassinated in 1999 in Najaf, and many believe that he was killed either by the dictator’s forces or Sunnis loyal to him.
Despite the cult of personality Muqtada al-Sadr has developed in recent years, he is still a relatively private man. He does not appear in public often and his exact age was not known until recently.
Protesters in Kadhimiya, Iraq, hold up pictures of Ayatollah Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, Muqtada al-Sadr’s father.
The Mehdi Army
Sadr is best known to Western audiences for his role leading the Mehdi Army, which he formed in 2003 during the U.S. invasion of Iraq.
The militia is considered the armed wing of the Sadrist movement, which followed the teachings of Sadr’s father. Its power base was in Najaf and the massive Sadr City in eastern Baghdad, which is home to more than 2 million Shias.
Sadr himself opposed the presence of outside forces in Iraq — be they al Qaeda’s Sunni fighters or U.S. forces — and hoped to establish Islamic rule within the country, clashing with the Iraqi Army, U.S. forces and fellow Shias.
By 2004, forces loyal to Sadr battled the U.S. for control of Najaf. President George W. Bush labeled him an enemy and ordered the U.S. military to take him out.
Within a week, Bush changed course and decided not to go after him.
“That reversal was the turning point in al-Sadr’s rise to power,” Sanchez, who commanded U.S. forces in Iraq from 2003 to 2004, said. “It gave him legitimacy and enhanced his stature within the broader Iraqi community.”
Later that year, Sadr made peace with the most powerful Shia religious figure in Iraq, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, who brokered a truce between U.S. forces and the Mehdi Army. The deal brought together the unquestioned spiritual leader of Iraq’s Shia population and the man who could mobilize the Shia “street.”
The Mehdi Army in Najaf in 2007.
As part of the agreement, the Iraqi government agreed not to press charges after a judge issued an arrest warrant for Sadr in connection with the killing of another prominent Shia leader, Ayatollah Abdul Majid al-Khoei.
But the Mehdi Army became even more deadly as the war dragged on.
The militia was linked to much of the sectarian violence that reached fever pitch in Iraq in 2006 and 2007. It was accused of running death squads, killing Sunni Arabs and fighting with rival Shiite factions, though Sadr would denounce the violence from time to time.
By the end of the year, Pentagon leaders assessed that the Mehdi army had replaced al Qaeda as “the most dangerous accelerant” of sectarian violence in Iraq.
But the Mehdi Army also clashed with other Shiite militias. The group often clashed with Badr Brigades for control of parts of Iraq’s Shiite-dominate south. At one point the Badr Brigades partnered with Iraqi security forces to fight the Mehdi Army.
However, the Mehdi Army’s power and influence began to subside by the end of 2007, in part due to the U.S. troop surge.
Sadr’s capacity to reinvent his role in Iraqi politics, and to tap into a strong vein of Shia protest, has helped him survive and outmaneuver many rivals over the past 13 years. His latest initiative reinforces his place as one of the most influential figures in Iraq.
He and the Iraqi government signed a ceasefire in 2008, and later that year he formally disbanded the Mehdi Army.
The organization is now called Saraya al-Salam, which means the Peace Brigades.
His plan was to transition it into a socio-political populist movement to help Iraq’s poor Shiites through a combination of political and grassroots activities — following a similar model to the structure of Hezbollah in Lebanon.
Sadr would move to Iran later that year for religious study. Some believed that he hoped to achieve a higher religious standing, like Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah, in order to strengthen his leadership position.
Muqtada al-Sadr delivers a speech in Najaf in 2011.
He returned to Iraq permanently in 2011 — more than three years later — without a new title, but with ambitions to become an Iraqi nationalist leader who could make a difference by growing his movement and pushing his followers to the ballot box.
“We have not forgotten the occupier. We remain a resistance,” he said in one of his first speeches back. Sadr did strike a conciliatory tone with fellow Iraqis: “Whatever struggle happened between brothers, let us forget about it and turn the page forever and live united,” he said. “We do not kill an Iraqi.”
Though Sadr rarely makes public appearances, his plan seems to have worked so far.
During Iraq’s 2010 elections, his supporters were key to helping then-Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki secure a second term; today they make up the second-largest bloc in Iraq’s Parliament.
Muqtada al-Sadr and former Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki in 2006.
But Sadr and Maliki have since had a nasty falling out, and now are considered rivals in Baghdad.
After the 2010 election, Sadr referred to Maliki as a “dictator.”
He often called for the government to better include moderate Sunni elements, a faction that most say was marginalized by the Maliki government, which led to his ouster (and in part contributed to the rise of ISIS).
His support for Iraq’s current Prime Minster, Haider al-Abadi, is lukewarm at best.
Sadr is now focusing his efforts on reshaping Iraq’s government — he wants more technocrats appointed and to go after corrupt politicians.
Sadr’s supporters held massive protests earlier this year to push Abadi to form a new government and enact reforms. The demonstrations were called off after Abadi trimmed the size of his Cabinet and submitted a new list of nonpolitical ministers for approval by parliament.
And it was Sadr’s impassioned speech late April that spurred protesters to occupy the Iraqi Parliament and Baghdad’s Green Zone, a normally off-limits area housing government buildings and foreign embassies.
CNN’s Tim Lister, Hamdi Alkhshali, Mohammed Tawfeeq and Elise Labott contributed to this report
In this photo released by KhabarOnline News Agency on September 18, 2019, Ali Reza Akbari speaks in an interview. (KhabarOnline News Agency via AP, File)
Russian intelligence reportedly helped Iran discover that a dual Iranian-British national who once served as its deputy minister of defense was leaking information about its top-secret nuclear weapons program.
According to an in-depth New York Times report released on Monday, Akbari was indeed a spy and began leaking Iranian nuclear secrets to the British in 2004 — keeping his activities hidden for 15 years.
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The report said that in 2008, a senior British intelligence officer told Israeli security officials during a meeting in Tel Aviv that the UK was working with an Iranian spy who had significant information about Tehran’s nuclear activities.
Citing “three Western intelligence and national security officials,” the newspaper reported that the UK passed on information from Akbari to Israel about Iran’s nuclear activities at the Fordo site and their ties to the country’s efforts to produce nuclear weapons — information not previously known to Western intelligence officials.
Iran has long denied pursuing a nuclear weapon and says its program is for civilian research purposes, but Western officials believe the country was actively pursuing weapons production until at least the early 2000s.
In 2019, the NY Times report claims, Iran was aided by “Russian intelligence officials” in pinpointing Akbari as the source of the leak about activities at Fordo. The newspaper wrote that it was not clear how Russia had been able to discover this.
Akbari also reportedly turned over the names of around 100 senior Iranian officials to British authorities, including that of Iran’s top nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh, who was killed in November 2020 in an attack that Tehran blames on Israel.
Akbari, who ran a private think tank, had not been seen in public since 2019, when he was apparently arrested.
He was executed in January after being sentenced to death for “corruption on earth and harming the country’s internal and external security by passing on intelligence,” the website of Iran’s judiciary reported.
Iranian state media reported that the 61-year-old Akbari had held high positions in the country’s defense establishment. His posts included deputy minister of defense for foreign affairs and a position in the secretariat of the Supreme National Security Council. Akbari had also been an adviser to the commander of the navy, as well as heading a division at the defense ministry’s research center.
Ali Reza Akbari speaks at a meeting to unveil the book ‘National Nuclear Movement,’ in Tehran, Iran, on October 14, 2008. (Davoud Hosseini, Islamic Republic News Agency via AP)
In videos released by state media following his execution — which Iran touted as a confession and his family said was forced — Akbari said he was recruited by British intelligence in 2004 with the promise of visas for him and his family.