Sunday, June 15, 2014

Iraq in chaos as insurgents advvance towards Baghdad

(15 June 2014)  The Iraqi government teetered on the verge of collapse last week as jihadist insurgents continued their advance on Baghdad.  The radical Islamist group ISIS has recently taken over large swaths of territory in the Sunni-dominated north and now threaten to topple the Shiite Maliki government.  Iraq's sectarian divisions now threaten to redraw the existing boundaries as the country may be better off dividing along religious lines.  And as Iraq moves towards total disintegration, the US is most concerned with the fact ISIS it a terrorist group with Al-Qaeda connections.  If they take over all of Iraq or even just establish a separate Sunni state in the north of Iraq, it would provide a potential terrorist training area not unlike what Afghanistan was before 2001.

The most pressing questions now are: 1) what are the chances that Iraq be taken over by ISIS or will be broken up into separate states with new boundaries?; and 2)  more immediately, how long is the current round of fighting likely to last?   Analysts have suggested that President Obama is in a difficult position here as he would be very reluctant to provide much military cover to the Maliki government.  Air strikes are still possible but likely only in a temporary capacity to stop the current advance by the insurgents.  His options are therefore very limited.  Maliki could also enlist support from neighboring Iran to prevent a worst case scenario of a total takeover by ISIS.  It may take some time for the government to re-assert its control over the central portion of the country, let alone re-take the northern Sunni-controlled area.  With the situation in flux and the future uncertain, what insight might the planets provide?

From an astrological perspective, one quick look at the Iraq horoscope and we see the problem.  Transiting Saturn (23 Libra) is backing into a very tight conjunction with the natal Moon (23 Libra) in this chart.   The Moon represents the people as a whole and is usually activated in any significant national developments, for good or ill.  Saturn, of course, is typically the most negative influence of all the planets as it symbolizes suffering, loss, and death.  To be sure, Saturn also has more positive significations, but its more negative associations are more likely to manifest in this time due to the afflicted nature of the chart as a whole.  Natally, Saturn is damaged from the get-go due to its opposition with Pluto across the 1-7 house axis.  Pluto symbolizes coercive power and potential cruelty.  To some extent, all Saturn transits in this chart will therefore be stamped with this more negative Saturn-Pluto energy. 

The reason why this particular Saturn-to-Moon transit correlates with such major difficulties is because Saturn is due to station at 22 Libra on July 20th.  In other words, it is moving very slowly at the moment and therefore has assumed much more energy than when it is moving at normal velocity.  A Saturn station to a key planet like the Moon often coincides with significant historical events in the life of a country.  That would appear to be the case here.  Saturn's conjunction with the Moon lasts from approximately May until August so that period runs the greatest risk of hardship and suffering.

Also we can see that the lunar nodes, Rahu and Ketu, are very much front and center.  First, we should note that the transiting Saturn comes under the influence of the aspect of Rahu (24 Aquarius) during this long Saturn direct station period from May to August while Saturn is barely moving.  The Saturn-Rahu pairing is typical in situations where boundaries and structures (Saturn) are undergoing disruption and change (Rahu).  Over the past weeks, Iraq is fragmenting as the large numbers of soldiers have fled and surrendered territory to the jihadists. 

We can also see that transiting Ketu (2 Aries) is closely conjunct the equal 10th house cusp (0 Aries).  It will exactly conjoin this point on July 2nd using the true node measurement.  In mundane astrology, the 10th house represents the government and its leaders.  Like Rahu, Ketu symbolizes change and development, usually in a sudden or shocking way.  The fact that transiting Ketu still has three weeks before becoming conjunct with the 10th house cusp suggests the the period of greatest intensity and disruption is yet to come for the Maliki government in Baghdad. 

Transiting Mars is in the picture too (of course!) as it conjoins the Sun-Mercury duo in Virgo close to the unequal 4th house cusp.  Mars is the planet most connected with violence and its conjunction with the Sun is evocative of the violent attack on the Iraqi government and its military. 

Somewhat paradoxically, benefic Jupiter conjoins the Ascendant.  What symbolic role could Jupiter take in the current situation?  There are a few possibilities here and I wouldn't argue to strongly for any one in particular.  Jupiter could represent US air strikes that help to save the Maliki government from defeat.  Or help could also come from Iran, a Shiite ally in the region.  Jupiter makes its exact conjunction with the Ascendant on June 23rd.

Whatever the possible stabilizing influence of Jupiter in the next week, the outlook seems problematic for Iraq.  As already noted, Ketu has yet to make its closest conjunction with the 10th house which takes place in the first week of July.  Moreover, transiting Mars will conjoin Rahu on July 13th at 0 degrees of Libra.  This will fall exactly on the 4th house cusp and will thereby activate the natal square of Pluto (0 Cancer) and Uranus (29 Aries).  This looks like a time when violence and military action could be near their peak.  The transiting Sun will cross the Ascendant a few days later on the 17th and thus set up a larger alignment with Rahu, Ketu and Mars.   If the Maliki government is going to fall, this would be one possible time for that to happen.   A sustained attack on the city of Baghdad is another possible manifestation of this pattern.  August 25th also looms large as that is the date that Mars conjoins Saturn in the sky and hence both malefics will be closely conjunct Iraq's Moon.  I would expect large-scale military actions to continue in Iraq until at least that date. 

Interestingly, by late August Jupiter will have moved into an exact conjunction with the natal Mars at 14 Cancer.  This is exactly where Jupiter stationed in April 2003 when the US invaded Iraq and toppled the Saddam government.  This is probably not going to be a repeat of history, but it may support the notion that major military action will occur in August. 

I am agnostic on the question of whether Iraq will survive.  The chart is afflicted but probably not afflicted enough to suggest that it will be dissolved.  Nonetheless, the next year or two look troubled for this country.  The next six months are probably going to be the most significant for shaping its future direction.  I hope to revisit these questions in later posts as more details become known.

Financial Markets Update

Stocks edged lower last week as worries over the Iraqi situation gave investors a reason to take profits.  The Dow lost 100 points closing at 16,775 while the Sensex dipped to 25,228.  I had noted the presence of some bearish-looking aspects midweek (Venus-Saturn) and late week (Mars-Pluto) so the move lower did not come as a big surprise.  Friday's rebound in the US also seemed to correlate nicely with the more bullish Sun-Jupiter aspect that day.

This week looks somewhat more positive as both Venus and Jupiter -- two benefic planets -- change signs at midweek.  I would think this simultaneous shift in energy of these planets is likely to correlate with some upside here.  However, Mars is approaching its opposition with Uranus as we get deeper into the week so that is a significant red flag that could suggest some panic selling.  Friday's alignment with the Moon is perhaps most portentous in this respect although the aspect does continue into early into next week.