The Sixth Seal Long Overdue (Revelation 6)

ON THE MAP; Exploring the Fault Where the Next Big One May Be Waiting

The Big One Awaits


Published: March 25, 2001

Alexander Gates, a geology professor at Rutgers-Newark, is co-author of “The Encyclopedia of Earthquakes and Volcanoes,“ which will be published by Facts on File in July. He has been leading a four-year effort to remap an area known as the Sloatsburg Quadrangle, a 5-by-7-mile tract near Mahwah that crosses into New York State. The Ramapo Fault, which runs through it, was responsible for a big earthquake in 1884, and Dr. Gates warns that a recurrence is overdue. He recently talked about his findings.

Q. What have you found?

A. We’re basically looking at a lot more rock, and we’re looking at the fracturing and jointing in the bedrock and putting it on the maps. Any break in the rock is a fracture. If it has movement, then it’s a fault. There are a lot of faults that are offshoots of the Ramapo. Basically when there are faults, it means you had an earthquake that made it. So there was a lot of earthquake activity to produce these features. We are basically not in a period of earthquake activity along the Ramapo Fault now, but we can see that about six or seven times in history, about 250 million years ago, it had major earthquake activity. And because it’s such a fundamental zone of weakness, anytime anything happens, the Ramapo Fault goes.

Q. Where is the Ramapo Fault?

 A. The fault line is in western New Jersey and goes through a good chunk of the state, all the way down to Flemington. It goes right along where they put in the new 287. It continues northeast across the Hudson River right under the Indian Point power plant up into Westchester County. There are a lot of earthquakes rumbling around it every year, but not a big one for a while.

Q. Did you find anything that surprised you?

A. I found a lot of faults, splays that offshoot from the Ramapo that go 5 to 10 miles away from the fault. I have looked at the Ramapo Fault in other places too. I have seen splays 5 to 10 miles up into the Hudson Highlands. And you can see them right along the roadsides on 287. There’s been a lot of damage to those rocks, and obviously it was produced by fault activities. All of these faults have earthquake potential.

Q. Describe the 1884 earthquake.

A. It was in the northern part of the state near the Sloatsburg area. They didn’t have precise ways of describing the location then. There was lots of damage. Chimneys toppled over. But in 1884, it was a farming community, and there were not many people to be injured. Nobody appears to have written an account of the numbers who were injured.

Q. What lessons we can learn from previous earthquakes?

A. In 1960, the city of Agadir in Morocco had a 6.2 earthquake that killed 12,000 people, a third of the population, and injured a third more. I think it was because the city was unprepared.There had been an earthquake in the area 200 years before. But people discounted the possibility of a recurrence. Here in New Jersey, we should not make the same mistake. We should not forget that we had a 5.4 earthquake 117 years ago. The recurrence interval for an earthquake of that magnitude is every 50 years, and we are overdue. The Agadir was a 6.2, and a 5.4 to a 6.2 isn’t that big a jump.

Q. What are the dangers of a quake that size?

A. When you’re in a flat area in a wooden house it’s obviously not as dangerous, although it could cut off a gas line that could explode. There’s a real problem with infrastructure that is crumbling, like the bridges with crumbling cement.

 There’s a real danger we could wind up with our water supplies and electricity cut off if a sizable earthquake goes off. The best thing is to have regular upkeep and keep up new building codes. The new buildings will be O.K. But there is a sense of complacency.


IAEA warns of the looming meltdown at the Ukraine nuclear plant: Revelation 8

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

IAEA warns of ‘increasingly tense military situation’ around Ukraine nuclear plant

The Zaporizhzhya nuclear power plant in Ukraine.

The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) continues to warn of the potential nuclear threat in the Ukraine conflict amid rising tensions surrounding the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant (ZNPP). 

IAEA Director General Rafael Mariano Grossi said on Friday in a statement, that a location near the town of Enerhodar, home of most of the plant’s staff, reportedly came under artillery fire earlier in the day, “in the latest incident indicating an increasingly tense military situation in the area.” 

Speculation of military activity 

The ZNPP, Europe’s largest nuclear power plant, is located just a few kilometres from Enerhodar.  

IAEA experts present at the plant reported that it had not been affected “but the proximity once again underlined persistent nuclear safety and security dangers at a time of heightened speculation of future military operations in the region,” said Mr. Grossi. 

He again underlined his determination to secure the protection of the ZNPP, which has already been shelled several times during the conflict. 

Preventing nuclear risk 

The Director General said he is engaged in intense negotiations with all parties to achieve this vital objective and help prevent the risk of a severe nuclear accident on the continent. 

“It is very simple: don’t shoot at the plant and don’t use the plant as a military base. It should be in the interest of everyone to agree on a set of principles to protect the plant during the conflict,” he said. 

The ZNPP was occupied by Russian forces shortly after the February 2022 invasion of Ukraine. 

Staff under stress 

There has been a major fall in staff numbers since the fighting began, with personnel and their families facing extremely difficult and stressful conditions in the frontline region during the conflict. 

The IAEA said a recent evacuation of some residents from Enerhodar added to the uncertainty about the staffing situation.

Earlier this month, agency experts observed a further reduction in staffing to essential personnel only, but regular day staff returned to the plant on Monday.  However, the workforce size is still far below the pre-conflict level. 

Personnel numbers ‘insufficient’ 

“Our experts have seen a notable increase of personnel at the plant this week. At the moment, it has enough staff for a plant whose reactors are all in a shutdown mode. It remains clearly insufficient, however, for carrying out necessary maintenance and other regular work,” said Mr. Grossi, who described the situation as “unsustainable”. 

He warned that the longer the plant has this kind of reduced staffing, the bigger the nuclear safety and security risks become.  

Sole power line 

Furthermore, the ZNPP still relies on the only remaining functioning 750 kilovolt power line for the external electricity required for reactor cooling and other essential nuclear safety and security functions.   

Four such lines were available prior to the conflict, while the last functioning back-up 330 kilovolt powerline was damaged in March and has still not been repaired

Meanwhile, the IAEA team onsite continues engagement on gaining access to the nearby Zaporizhzhya Thermal Power Plant (ZTPP) following assurances by Russia’s state nuclear company, Rosatom, that this would be granted.  

The ZTPP operates its 330-kilovolt open switchyard, through which back-up power has previously been provided to the nuclear power plant.  

Israel destroyed Islamic Jihad rocket production sites outside the Temple Walls: Revelation 11

 Smoke rises above buildings After air strikes by Israeli warplanes, in the southern Gaza Strip, on May 12, 2023.  (photo credit: ABED RAHIM KHATIB/FLASH 90)

How Israel exposed and destroyed Islamic Jihad rocket production sites in Gaza

Every operation has many critical moments, and one of them is the stage for choosing targets to attack.

As soon as the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) fired rockets from Gaza about two and a half weeks ago towards Sderot, as a sign of solidarity with the death of security prisoner Khader Adnan, the IDF’s OC Southern Command Col. Liron Batito was asked to pull out the secret attack plan: “Black Cloak” – a booklet of dozens of pages that included quality targets for the attack including photos on PIJ senior officials and terrorist infrastructures.

“About a hundred rockets in the middle of the day in Sderot? The sheer scope surprised us,” said an IDF senior officer, adding that “with Hamas, we were quite upset with Islamic Jihad because they did not live up to their commitment. It was clear that Israel could not be complacent and that a different kind of response was required.”

The Military Intelligence Directorate stated that not only did Hamas have no part in the rocket barrages, but that the senior Hamas leaders in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar and Mohammed Deif, had no intention of taking part in the escalation if it erupted, and therefore the IDF had focused only on Islamic Jihad commanders.

Operation Shield and Arrow: The critical moments

Every operation has many critical moments, and one of them is the stage for choosing targets to attack. Around each of the goals, there is an in-depth discussion about what the consequences are and what the achievements are, especially when they do not want to drag Hamas into a direct confrontation with Israel.

After recommendations were drawn up at the Southern Command, they were examined by senior Shin Bet Intelligence Division officials.

Unlike Operation Breaking Dawn, IDF Chief of Staff Herzi Halevi decided to open with Israel severely damaging Islamic Jihad’s weapons development, production and storage infrastructure to create a huge shock effect on an organization that receives full funding from Iran.

After Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu’s approval of the operation plan was received, a different kind of challenge presented itself, which was thwarting three different PIJ senior officials at a convenient time for a simultaneous attack. 

Problems in launching a counter-attack

The high bar set by the Chief of Staff created delays in the launch of such an operation whose name was changed from “Black Cloak” to Operation Shield and Arrow, because every time, there used to be a different kind of problem: inconvenient timing for an attack due to weather conditions, or being surrounded by civilians not involved in terrorism that would prevent such an attack from happening.

“The time that has passed has allowed us to organize a set of critical infrastructure targets for an attack, with which we critically optimized our defense through our attack efforts,” said an Israeli Air Force senior officer. “We have damaged their launching capabilities, which without question, would have included launches on Gush Dan.

“This is as a result of deep intelligence work, planning together with the Shin Bet’s operational unit, which was a key factor in this operation,” he continued.

The intelligence achievement was done thanks to one official who was responsible for cracking the most secret activities of Islamic Jihad and Hamas, as well as the source of their power – which in addition to weapons storage facilities, also included the smuggling routes to the Gaza Strip of weapons, production machines and materials from which explosive charges, rockets, mortar bombs and launchers are mainly produced from.

One minute after the three targeted attacks on Islamic Jihad officials, the IAF launched broad attacks in the entire Gaza Strip, bombing 12 PIJ targets that included a tunnel that contained the largest workshop for the production of rockets, laboratories for the production of explosives, launch pits and weapons depots. 

By the end of the operation, the IDF had attacked 32 infrastructure targets. “From these sites, rockets would have been fired at Israeli citizens and the Iron Dome will have to deal with them in the best-case scenario,” explained a senior IDF officer.

The targets that were attacked

One of the high-quality reinforcement targets attacked during Operation Shield and Arrow includes a chemical material storage site that was very difficult to smuggle into the Gaza Strip and was built in a civilian environment.

“This is a target that we attacked in Operation Breaking Dawn. They restored the site and we located it again and attacked it. These precise actions create a sense of hostility in Islamic Jihad; they moved the site to another location,” an IDF official told Walla.

Another location that was targeted was a tunnel where a factory for the production of rockets was built. Islamic Jihad reportedly built the site deep in the ground because it wanted to upgrade its level of survivability against attacks by the IAF. An IDF lieutenant who specializes in visual intelligence revealed that they used AI to locate production workshops and that “we have very skilled researchers with accumulated knowledge who know how to identify signs to locate production workshops.”

A preliminary assessment by the IDF’s research division, Islamic Jihad’s ammunition sites were “completely wiped out” including the main rocket production areas. When asked about the possibility of Islamic Jihad possibly borrowing rockets from Hamas, an IDF official said that “they don’t usually do that.”

That official, who will finish his position in a few months and conclude his tenure, said that “we’ve struck at the heart at the sources of power for Islamic Jihad and Hamas all the time, even on a routine basis. We are also making things difficult for Hamas. There is no entrance from the sea. We also have 90% in the tunnels. My doubt is only in the crossings, specifically the Rafah Border Crossing which may be an entry point for things, it is important to understand that we are hitting the heart of Hamas’ production all the time.”

Pakistani nuclear horn in focus after Baloch diaspora launches protests

Pakistani nuclear tests in focus after Baloch diaspora launches protests

Pakistani nuclear tests in focus after Baloch diaspora launches protests

New Delhi: On May 28, Pakistan will celebrate the ‘Youm-e-Takbir’, the ‘Day of Greatness’ to give itself a pat on its back, for the nuclear tests in 1998, under the shadow of an unprecedented revolt against the powerful army. Around the same time, the Baloch diaspora will protest against the Pakistani nuclear tests in Balochistan as Aasrokh – day of mourning.

Pakistan had conducted the tests in utter secrecy in the Chagai district of Balochistan, not even revealing about the tests to the Baloch chief minister and his cabinet who came to know about the tests only through the media.

In a press statement, the Free Balochistan Movement (FBM) said that it would hold simultaneous demonstrations in the UK, the Netherlands and Germany to highlight the negative effects of the radiation on the Baloch community. The FBM statement said that after Pakistan’s 1998 nuclear tests in Chagai, “drought and skin cancer and other radiation-induced diseases have become common among people. It has destroyed the ecosystems of the areas which has damaged the agriculture and livestock of our poor people”.

The Baloch diaspora plans to hold the protests to lobby with the European nations against the nuclear tests which, it says were conducted against the will of the local community. The tests were carried out by Pakistan in the Ras koh mountain range and Chaagi district of Balochistan on May 28, 1998. The Baloch activists also plan to run a social media campaign with the hashtag #NoToPakistaniNukes on May 28.

Pakistan had conducted a total of six nuclear tests between May 28 and May 30, 1998. The country had begun its quest for a nuclear device after India, under then prime minister Indira Gandhi, had tested one in 1974. In response, the then Pakistani prime minister Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto, who was later hanged to death, said famously: “We will eat grass… but we will make a bomb”.

The Baloch have been struggling for an independent Baloch nation soon after the Pakistani Army invaded the independent land in March 1948 and annexed it. At that very moment as the Pakistani Army was marching into Balochistan, its Parliament was debating on how to tackle an imminent Pakistani threat in case of an invasion. Since then, the Baloch tribes, people and various armed groups have been running a lethal struggle against the Pakistani Army and the government for a free nation.

The FBM, which advocates for an independent Balochistan, says that it wants an independent investigation by the UN on the impact of these tests on the people and environment of Balochistan. It also wants areas contaminated by radioactivity to be cleaned of toxicity as well as compensation to be paid to the local Baloch community that has suffered from diseases and deformities.

How the Antichrist’s foes are trying to suck him back into Iraqi public life

Muqtada al-Sadr leads Friday prayers alongside his supporters at the Great Mosque of Kufa outside the central holy city of Najaf, on 4 November, 2022 (AFP)

How Sadr’s foes are trying to suck him back into Iraqi public life

Undermined from inside and outside his movement, keeping out of politics is proving a difficult and dangerous game for the influential Shia cleric

As the final days of the holy month of Ramadan approached, Muqtada al-Sadr busied himself with preparations for his annual itikaf, a period of reflection to be spent in the great mosque of Kufa.

To those around him, it seemed clear he was trying to divert his attention away from events in the world outside the walls of his home in central Najaf’s Hanana.

It has been almost a year since the influential Shia cleric announced his withdrawal from politics. Over the past few months, as a new Iraqi government was formed without his participation, he resolutely refused to enter into any political dialogue or receive visitors trying to speak to him about developments or issues the country was facing.

Sadr’s entourage could see how difficult it was for Sadr to remain calm as he made his arrangements for the three-day Kufa mosque retreat. It was plainly difficult for him to stay away from the daily drama of Iraqi politics.

Sadr had just a few days before he was due to head to Kufa. He asked who would join him in itikaf, and what food they would be given for their days of reflection, one of Sadr’s close aides told Middle East Eye.

Everyone told him everything was as he wanted it and that there was nothing to worry about. But that wasn’t quite true.

On 13 April, immediately after the evening prayer, a short video began circulating on social media. In it, a bearded young man appears wearing black religious garb, his face hidden behind a black mask. The figure called on everyone to pledge their allegiance to Sadr, identifying him as the Mahdi, the awaited twelfth imam of the Shia who, it is believed, will appear as a saviour to bring justice to all.

The masked man said that the Kufa mosque would witness the launch of a “big campaign” to declare allegiance to Sadr during his stay there.

“We will pledge allegiance to him and announce that he is the awaited imam, and we will be under his banner and support him,” the man said.

“Do not let down the imam of your time. Give your allegiance to him and support him.”

Hours later, dozens of Sadr’s supporters, who call themselves “owners of the cause”, gathered in Hanana in front of his house to declare their allegiance.

To their surprise, Sadr’s guards did not greet them, instead assaulting the rapturous Sadrists and handing them over to the police, local sources told MEE.

Sadr already knew that there were some among the most devoted in the Sadrist movement who believe he is the Mahdi, and footage like the video of the masked man was not particularly unusual. But for some reason, the developments “provoked him a lot, and raised his fears”, Sadr’s aide said.

Rather than being a show of support, the video was seen as an attempt to destabilise Sadr. 

“That was an explicit threat to Sadr’s life and a threat of chaos,” the aide told MEE.

According to the aide, whoever was behind the video wanted to provoke Sadrists into massing at the Kufa mosque and then confronting Shia clergy in Najaf, who would not accept the claim Sadr is their long-awaited saviour.

“These people are very dangerous and can carry out crimes in the name of Sadr,” he said.

A devotee reads the Quran during Ramadan at the Grand Mosque of Kufa, 14 April (AFP)
A devotee reads the Quran during Ramadan at the Grand Mosque of Kufa, 14 April (AFP)

If this analysis is correct, Sadr’s response showed he understood well what was at play and decided to distance himself from it as soon as possible.

He cancelled his itikaf, ordered most of his offices closed, and suspended his movement’s religious and social work for at least a year.

At least three prominent Shia leaders told MEE that “a malicious plan was behind that movement”, and that Sadr was indeed a target.

“It was an ideological game aimed at manipulating Sadr and inflating his ego. If he remained silent or responded to the game positively, then killing him became legitimate,” one of the leaders said.

“Whoever was behind this scheme, he was seeking to implicate Sadr and to force him in one way or another to take a stand.”

Since that day, Sadr has only been dealt further painful blows, both by his political opponents and people closer to home. It seems more than one player is trying to drag him out of his seclusion.

The fatwa loophole

In Shia jurisprudence, adult Muslims must choose a senior cleric to be their religious reference – or marjaa – and follow his fatwas and instructions in all matters of life. 

Traditionally, that marjaa must be alive and known for his religious scholarship. But the two founders of the Sadrist movement, Muhammad Baqir al-Sadr and Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr, stressed that a marjaa should be the most knowledgeable cleric available – alive or dead.

Grand Ayatollah Kadhim al-Haeri, who was a student of the first Sadr and guardian of the second, did not deviate from this line. In fact, he issued a fatwa allowing people to follow a dead marjaa, as long as they have the permission of a living one, like himself.

When Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr was assassinated by Saddam Hussein’s agents in 1999, the Sadrists began to follow Haeri spiritually and the slain Sadr’s son, Muqtada, politically.

Haeri also gave Muqtada al-Sadr permission to manage his father’s office and religious schools, as well as the funds raised through khums (obligatory religious charity) and donations.

This arrangement benefitted Sadr considerably and helped keep the Sadrist movement together under his leadership, particularly keeping the loyalty of youth born following his father’s death.

Fear, a fatwa, and bloodshed: Inside the battle for Iraq’s Green Zone

This situation changed completely at the end of August last year, when Haeri, who is based in the Iranian city of Qom, announced his “sudden and unprecedented” retirement “due to illness and advanced age”.

In his announcement, Haeri rescinded his permission for Sadr to manage the movement’s funds and activities.

“Sayyid Haeri’s sudden retirement confused Sadr and greatly embarrassed him,” Khalid al-Hamdani, professor at Najaf’s scientific seminary, told MEE. 

“Retirement is not customary among Najaf clergymen… so everyone was surprised by it, including the offices of Sadr and Haeri himself. That retirement has impacted all the arrangements between Sadr’s and Hairi’s offices dating back to 2003.”

Haeri’s retirement prompted Sadr to suspend the work of the Sadrist religious schools and institutions, and he stopped receiving the khums.

Not only did he lose access to the hundreds of millions of dollars they brought in, he haemorrhaged followers as well.

Only adding to the “shocking” and “strange” nature of Haeri’s announcement, as a number of Shia scholars in Najaf described it, was the order for the marjaa’s followers to “obey” Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei instead.

“Herein lies the danger,” said a prominent Sadrist leader. Previously, Sadrists would be embarrassed following Khamenei spiritually, and therefore working with the Iraqi armed factions associated with the Iranian supreme leader.

But not only had Haeri embarrassed Sadr by associating him with Khamenei, whom he had long kept a distance from, he had opened the door for Sadrists to consider other clerics as their marjaa rather than Muhammad Muhammad Sadiq al-Sadr.

“Can you imagine what happened? The semi-closed circle, which Sadr was keen to keep the Sadrists inside, has broken, and this is what Sadr never expected to happen,” Sadr’s aide said.

Today, Sadr’s status is a hot topic of discussion, with Haeri’s announcement opening the door for the cleric’s Shia rivals to question his legitimacy at every opportunity.

‘Frankly, the issue is far from jurisprudence, religion and faith. It is a struggle over the Sadrist grassroots’

– Former Sadr aide

Dozens of Telegram channels, WhatsApp groups and Facebook pages, some of them linked to Shia armed factions and others of unknown affiliation, have been heavily promoting the debate for weeks.

It seems clear that the real threat facing Sadr is political, not ideological, especially after his opponents, the Shia rivals in particular, have realised that his main source of strength is the same as his main source of weakness: Haeri’s fatwa.

In response, Sadr has tried to shore up his support.

On 29 April, he asked his followers to submit a written pledge signed in blood where they promised not to follow any religious scholar who has not been a longstanding Sadrist. They also had to vow not to join any “suspicious groups that want to undermine Iraq, the sect and the Sadrist movement”.

Sadr was keen to stress to his followers that his enemies had “malicious plans” aimed at dispersing the Sadrist movement and encouraging them to question their marjaa or leader – Sadr himself.

“Frankly, the issue is far from jurisprudence, religion and faith. It is a struggle over the Sadrist grassroots,” said a former Sadr aide, who a few years ago defected to an Iranian-backed armed faction.

“Questioning Sadr’s religious and ideological authority, and raising questions about the nature of the relationship between him and his followers, is one of the weapons used in the battle and we all know this.”

The former aide acknowledged the cleric relies heavily on the movement’s youngest generation but also said these youth remain committed to him spiritually and politically.

“Fortifying these people and keeping them under control, away from the influence of opponents, is Sadr’s chief goal right now,” he said.

Fraternal competition

Sadr’s fiercest opponents are his former companions: followers of his father and uncle, people he has gone into battle with.

Most prominent are Shia armed factions Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataeb Hezbollah, who have ideological, demographic and territorial overlap with the Sadrist movement.

The three factions emerged from the same school of jurisprudence that was founded by the first Sadr leader, Muhammad Baqir, Sadr’s uncle and father-in-law.

This demographic and ideological crossover complicates the competition between the factions, making their fight even more cruel. 

And the fraternal nature of their competition means the Sadrists, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and Kataeb Hezbollah know exactly how to undermine each other and tempt their fighters away.

Iraqi documents say Hashd al-Shaabi fighters have doubled in two years

This dynamic dramatically and publicly revealed itself earlier this month.

On 6 May, Sadr instructed his supporters to mark the annual anniversary of the assassination of his father later in the month.

Only those who had signed the pledges in blood were allowed to participate in the Najaf ceremony, provided they walk on foot from the outskirts of the holy city to the place where Sadr senior was killed.

Sadr’s stipulations and planned march were a message to his opponents, one of the cleric’s aides told MEE. He was showing his rivals that only he could move such vast crowds of devotees.

“The plan was for everyone to see the number of those willing to die for Sadr. We do not deny that the goal was to display our strength and our men,” the aide said.

Just days before the parade was due to take place, it was cancelled.

Sadr’s office distributed an audio recording of the cleric, in which he ordered everyone to stop preparations and close Sadr’s shrine in Najaf throughout the last week of May, when the anniversary was due to fall.

This was “the best punishment for this hypocritical group and those who support them among the corrupt and shameless militias”, Sadr is heard saying, using a common nickname he has for Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

No other reason was given. But developments in the southern governorates of Basra and Nasiriyah in recent weeks offer some clues.

Internal Sadrist correspondence seen by Middle East Eye shows in late April the central security branch of Saraya al-Salam, the Sadrists’ armed wing, ordered the expulsion of 18 fighters from the 304th Basra Brigade, without mentioning why. 

A senior Saraya al-Salam commander in Basra told MEE that the fighters were believed to be defecting to Asaib.

Saraya al-Salam fighters take part in a parade along a street in Najaf in 2016 (Reuters)
Saraya al-Salam fighters take part in a parade along a street in Najaf in 2016 (Reuters)

Two weeks later, the same branch ordered the expulsion of Abu Hassan al-Daradji, a senior commander in Basra, on charges of “treason”, the correspondence shows.

Twenty-four hours later, websites linked to Asaib published pictures of Darraji accompanied by a number of the armed faction’s leaders, announcing his defection.

“Our information says that they paid him at least 2bn dinars [$1.5m] to defect from us, along with his unit,” the Saraya al-Salam commander told MEE. 

It is not clear what material damage Darraji’s defection caused Sadr’s Basra units, but by the reactions of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, we can see it was a blow to morale.

Local Sadrist leaders in Basra told MEE that Daradji had been made commander of Asaib’s special missions team.

“They wanted to tell us that this was his reward,” the Saraya al-Salam commander told MEE.

Wanting Sadr back

The Sadrist retreat began in June last year, when, frustrated by his inability to form a government, Sadr ordered his MPs to resign from parliament.

That allowed Sadr’s Shia rivals in the Coordination Framework alliance to form the government of their choice. It seemed like an incredible coup for them. Months later, it appears more like a trap.

Iraq has witnessed a period of relative calm in recent months. Leaders of the Coordination Framework, which includes most Iranian-backed political forces and armed factions, have gone about their business without obvious concerns.

Yet Shia political leaders told MEE that fears are beginning to surface.

Some of the biggest concerns expressed by Framework leaders is that some of their partners in the Shia alliance are “encroaching” on their territory and have control over key institutions.

Essentially, the organs of state are a lucrative business for whoever controls them. 

‘It is certain that several international and local parties are seeking to bring Sadr back to the scene’

– Coordination Framework leader

While Sadrists had powerful positions in government, anyone pursuing illegal and corrupt activities could accuse them of being responsible instead, giving them plausible deniability.

With that no longer possible, Sadr’s friends and enemies alike find they miss him and wish for his return to political life, “to relieve them of embarrassment and to provide them with the required cover for their illegal business”, as a Framework leader put it.

“Many international and local parties believe that Sadr’s presence outside the political process is more costly than his presence inside it, and it is time for him to return,” the Framework leader said.

According to the leader, Asaib Ahl al-Haq has begun taking more shares of the spoils of government than its partners are happy with.

“If it stays like this, this faction will turn on the rest and swallow them up,” he said.

“Others have become exposed and cannot proceed with their illegal activities without the presence of someone that they can use as a cover to throw the charge at.”

Sadr, the Framework leader said, is a “tool of deterrence” and provides a kind of protection for several parties.

“It cannot be said that only one player is behind everything that is happening with Sadr now, but it is certain that several international and local parties are seeking to bring him back to the scene,” he said.

“How and when will he return? This mainly depends on his ability to hold on.”

Iran Warns of Payback to Babylon the Great

Chief commander of the Revolutionary Guard Hossein Salami speaking at a ceremony in memory of IRGC ‘martyrs’ in the city of Golpayegan, Esfahan (Isfahan) province, on May 18, 2023

IRGC Chief Commander Says US Has Yet To Receive ‘Final Blow’

Iran International Newsroom

The United States will be forced to leave the Middle East and Iran’s “last blow” is yet to come, chief commander of the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) said Thursday.

Speaking at a ceremony in memory of IRGC ‘martyrs’, Hossein Salami mentioned the targeted killing of Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad in 2020 in a US drone strike and said Iran already landed its first blow, by firing missiles at bases in Iraq hosting US troops, days after the killing.

“They received the first slap, and the second will be their gradual withdrawal from the region, but the last slap is yet to come,” he said.

Soleimani was the commander of IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force, who was the mastermind of the Iranian regime’s strategy of building a proxy network in the Middle East, made up of armed militias, Shiite groups, and the Syrian government.

Former commander of IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force Qassem Soleimani (left), IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami (2nd left) IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh (3rd left) and Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Bagheri (May 2019)

Former commander of IRGC’s extraterritorial Quds Force Qassem Soleimani (left), IRGC Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami (2nd left) IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh (3rd left) and Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Bagheri (May 2019) 

Soleimani invested heavily in post-Saddam Iraqi chaos, arming Iran’s proxies and instructing them to launch attacks against US forces in the country. As these attacks intensified in late 2019, former US President Donald Trump ordered his killing, which was a heavy blow to the regime.

Salami went on to highlight attacks against Israel. “These days fire is raining down on Israelis from Gaza, but the Zionists are unable to do anything and are powerless, and America has also left the region.”

Salami’s statement comes as the US and Israel are in close cooperation in intelligence and military matters, conducting large joint military drills. 

The US and Israel conducted their largest-ever joint military exercises in January, with thousands of troops, dozens of aircraft, and naval vessels in and around Israel.

The drills, dubbed Juniper Oak 2023 was widely seen as a message to Iran, although US officials said the live-fire exercise did not include mock-ups of Iranian targets, but American strategic bombers did take part.

Salami also warned that “no one can prevent our maritime trade, and if this happens, we will settle accounts anywhere in the world.”

It is not clear what Salami was referring to, but the US Navy and its European allies have interdicted several shipments of weapons and explosive from Iranian ports headed to Yemen in recent months. Iran also breaks US oil export sanctions by shipping cargos on “ghost tankers” that usually transfer the crude to other tankers on high seas to conceal their origin.

IRGC leaders have intensified their rhetoricsince March and openly indicted that they are supporting the Palestinian Hamas and Islamic Jihad in rocket attacks against Israel.

The pressure of economic sanctions has crippled Iran’s economy, but the regime continues to expand its nuclear program, with high levels of uranium enrichment. Already, the UN nuclear watchdog and governments say that Tehran has accumulated enough enriched uranium to build two or more bombs.

Israel has repeatedly warned that it will not tolerate a nuclear-armed Iran in the region.

The Biden administration, despite holding indirect nuclear talks with Tehran, says that all options are on the table, indicating the US might assist Israel in a possible attack to prevent Iran from becoming a nuclear power.

However, Republicans in the US Congress criticize the Biden team for not having a new policy regarding Iran after nuclear talks reached an impasse last September.

Hundreds Report Shaking Before the Sixth Seal: Revelation 6

The epicenter of New York's earthquake today was roughly 16 miles away from midtown Manhattan. The epicenter is the orange dot inside the concentric colored circles on this map. Image: USGS
The epicenter of New York’s earthquake today was roughly 16 miles away from midtown Manhattan. The epicenter is the orange dot inside the concentric colored circles on this map. Image: USGS

Hundreds Report Shaking as Earthquake Strikes New York Near New York City, New Jersey, and Connecticut

May 19, 2023

Hundreds of people used the USGS website and their “Did you feel it?” web reporting tool to report shaking they felt from an early morning earthquake that struck the Hastings-on-Hudson area of New York, just outside of New York City and across the Hudson River from New Jersey. The relatively weak magnitude 2.2 event struck at 1:53 am this morning in Westchester County at a depth of 9.8 km. While there were no reports of damage, people used both social media and the USGS website to share their experiences. People across New York, New Jersey, and Connecticut reported feeling the late-night earthquake.

More than 380 people used the "Did you feel it?" tool on the USGS website to report feeling today's earthquake. The colored box indicates a report and the intensity of each report around the epicenter which appears as a red star. Image: USGS
More than 380 people used the “Did you feel it?” tool on the USGS website to report feeling today’s earthquake. The colored box indicates a report and the intensity of each report around the epicenter which appears as a red star. Image: USGS

According to USGS, earthquakes with a magnitude of 2.0 or less are rarely felt or heard by people, but once they exceed 2.0, as this event did, more and more people can feel them. While damage is possible with magnitude 3.0 events or greater, significant damage and casualties usually don’t occur until the magnitude of a seismic event rises to a 5.5 or greater rated event.

Within the last 30 days, USGS reported no other earthquakes around the area of today’s. Last month, there were several earthquakes in western New York near Watertown. In April, an earthquake also rocked portions of southern New Hampshire.

New York has seen the most number of damaging earthquakes in the northeast in the period 1678-2016. Image: NESEC
New York has seen the most number of damaging earthquakes in the northeast in the period 1678-2016. Image: NESEC

According to the Northeast States Emergency Consortium (NESEC), New York is a state with a very long history of earthquake activity that has touched all parts of the state. Since the first earthquake that was recorded in December 19, 1737, New York has had over 550 earthquakes centered within its state boundaries through 2016. It also has experienced strong ground shaking from earthquakes centered in nearby U.S. states and Canadian provinces. Most of the quakes in New York have taken place in the greater New York City area, in the Adirondack Mountains region, and in the western part of the state.

While many of the earthquakes to hit New York are weak like today’s, some have been damaging. Of the 551 earthquakes recorded between 1737 and 2016, 5 were considered “damaging”: 1737, 1929, 1944, 1983, and 2002.

New York is no stranger to earthquakes; this map shows the epicenter of every earthquake from 1975 to 2017. Image: NESEC
New York is no stranger to earthquakes; this map shows the epicenter of every earthquake from 1975 to 2017. Image: NESEC

While most of New York’s earthquakes have been in the Upstate, New York City has also seen damaging earthquakes over the years. At about 10:30 pm on December 18, 1737, an earthquake with an unknown epicenter hit New York with an estimated magnitude of 5.2. That quake damaged some chimneys in the city. On August 10, 1884, another 5.2 earthquake struck; this quake cracked chimneys and plaster, broke windows, and objects were thrown from shelves throughout not only New York City, but surrounding towns in New York and New Jersey too. The shaking from the 1884 earthquake was felt as far west as Toledo, Ohio and as far east as Penobscot Bay, Maine. It was also reported felt by some in Baltimore, Maryland.