إيران ودرس كردستان العراق الجديد لمن يفهم!

سبتمبر 10, 2018

ناصر قنديل

– فيما الإعلام منشغل والسياسة منغمسة، في استقراء رسائل أحداث البصرة، والاستعصاء الحكومي في العراق، والتصعيد المفتعل في حرب الصلاحيات لتبرير التعطيل في لبنان، وبينهما وفوقهما، بما شهدته قمة طهران ومن ورائها معركة إدلب، التي بدا واضحاً أن كل التهديد والوعيد لا يفتّ في عضد أصحاب القرار فيها، قام الحرس الثوري الإيراني بالإعلان عن استهداف مواقع للجماعات الكردية المسلحة الإيرانية المتمرّدة والمتمركزة داخل كردستان العراق، وهي جماعات ينظمها ويرعاها الأميركيون للقيام بأعمال تخريبية داخل إيران. والحدث كبير جداً ويحمل رسائل تتصل بحجم القرار الإيراني في التعامل مع المحاولات الأميركية لتغيير توازنات النصر في سورية التي تقترب لحظاتها الأخيرة لصالح محور المقاومة الذي تشكّل إيران قوّته الرئيسية وعمقه الاستراتيجي.

– رسالة كردستان العراق ودرسها الأهم، أن إيران التي صمتت عن بعض هذه الجماعات في ما مضى منعاً للتصعيد، واكتفت بالاستعدادات داخل حدودها لمنع تسلل هذه الجماعات، قرّرت مطاردتها وتصفيتها داخل الحدود العراقية في ظل وجود أميركي مباشر في العراق، وفي أشدّ اللحظات العراقية السياسية الداخلية تعقيداً، وتجاذب سياسي داخلي عراقي يتصل بدور إيران، التي يفترض منها مراعاته ويتوقع منها تهيّب القيام بما يثير ضدها بعض المواقف ويستصدر بعض البيانات، فإذ بها تفعل العكس غير آبهة بما سيُقال، لتقول إنه في كل مواجهة تكون أميركا هي الطرف المقابل فيها بصورة مباشرة أو بصورة غير مباشرة، فلا خطوط حمراء تمنع إيران من الذهاب للاشتباك المباشر مهما كانت النتائج، وأنها مستعدّة لتحمل التبعات، وخوض المخاطر.

– هذا يعني مباشرة أن الرسائل قابلة للصرف في ساحتي اشتباك افتراضيتين، الأولى في سورية وفقاً لقراءة ما بعد إدلب، والتبشير الإيراني المتواصل منذ سنتين بدنو معركة الرقة، ومن ضمنها طرد الأميركيين من سورية، وليس خافياً أن العملية التي استهدفت الجماعات الكردية المجهزة لاستهداف إيران، يأتي بعد يومين على قيام جماعات كردية مشابهة يقودها الأميركيون باستهداف الجيش السوري في منطقة القامشلي، والثانية في مضيق هرمز، حيث حذرت إيران من دفعها لإقفاله أمام الصادرات النفطية، إذا جرى تقييد حركتها في أسواق النفط بصورة تصيب وضعها المالي والتجاري بنتائج قاسية، فالتحرك العسكري خارج أراضي إيران، وفقاً لمفهوم أمنها القومي، ودون تنسيق مسبق مع حكومات الجوار المعنية، هو منهج على واشنطن وضعه في الحساب، كلما دنت ساعة الاختبار في الخليج.

– بالتزامن تبدو الرسالة واضحة لجهة عدم ترك المجال للفهم الخاطئ لتعامل إيران وحلفائها مع مساعي الفتن التي يشعلها الأميركيون في العراق ويريدون إشعالها في لبنان، فالاحتواء والامتصاص أسلوبان ناجحان في الأحداث الداخلية العراقية واللبنانية سياسة رابحة لإيران، حيث تحوّلت الفوضى التي أُخذت إليها منطقة البصرة في العراق لإحراق اسم المرشح الذي يدعمه الأميركيون لرئاسة الحكومة، الدكتور حيدر العبادي، وتحميل تيار السيد مقتدى الصدر مسؤولية الفوضى التي استهدفت خصومه والقنصلية الإيرانية، بعدما كان المقصود استهداف تيار الحشد الشعبي ورئيس الحكومة السابق نور المالكي، وتحميلهما مع إيران مسؤولية المعاناة المتراكمة لأهالي البصرة. وفي لبنان فشلت محاولات تحميل رئيس الجمهورية مسؤولية تأخير ولادة الحكومة، وبدا بوضوح أن المسؤولية عند الرئيس المكلف تشكيل الحكومة رغم كل الحشد الذي تمّ استحضاره لافتعال معركة صلاحيات رئاسية. والرسالة، هنا هي لا تسيئوا فهم المرونة، فرسالة القوة في مكان آخر، ولسنا ملزمين عندما تهاجمون بالردّ في المكان والأسلوب ذاتهما، فافهموا الأبعاد والمعاني وضعوها في حساباتكم الأكبر، والأبعد مدى!

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Mashaan AlJabouri: On Iraqi Elections

Iraq: Will Tony Blair Finally Stand Trial for His Part in the “Supreme International Crime”? @InstituteGC

Iraq: Will Tony Blair Finally Stand Trial for His Part in the “Supreme International Crime”?

Former British Prime Minister Blair listens to a question during an appearance at the 9/11 Memorial Museum in New York REUTERS/Brendan McDermid

The article below, first published on GR in July 2017, is relevant to the commemoration of the 2003 invasion of Iraq.

“I think most people who have dealt with me, think I’m a pretty straight sort of guy, and I am.” (Tony Blair, BBC “On the Record”, 16th November 1997.) 

On 30th November last year, Michael Gove, currently UK Environment Minister, pretty well unloved by swathes of the population whatever Ministry he heads, declared, at the post Chilcot Inquiry debate in Parliament regarding Tony Blair’s role in dragging the UK in to a monumental tragedy for which history will not forgive:

“History, I think will judge him less harshly than some in this House do.”

Deciding whether or not to illegally invade Iraq was a “finely balanced act”, fantasized Gove.

It was not. It was a pack of lies, many of which came from the Blair regime, as confirmed by Colin Powell’s delusionary address to the UN on 5th February 2003, in subsequently unearthed correspondence and of course, the Chilcot Inquiry. 

On 15th September 2004, the then UN Secretary General, Kofi Annan, in an interview with the BBC World Service, asked if the invasion was illegal, stated:

“Yes, if you wish.” He continued without caveat: “I have indicated it was not in conformity with the UN Charter. From our point of view and from the Charter point of view it was illegal.” 

Blair, his Foreign Secretary, Jack Straw and his Attorney General Lord Goldsmith did not face a Nuremberg type trial – and surreally, Blair, after his 2007 resignation was appointed Middle East Peace Envoy. Straw and Goldsmith went back to business as usual. 

However, after fourteen years, maybe two million deaths, the decimation by ISIS, the US, and the UK of Iraq’s (Mesopotamia’s) history, culture stewardship and witness, over millennia, to one of the world’s great, ancient civilizations, there is a chance that Antony Charles Lynton Blair, Jack Straw and Lord Goldsmith may yet face a Court of Law. 

File:Chirac Bush Blair Berlusconi.jpg

George W. Bush poses with G8 leaders during the G8 Summit in Evian, France, on June 2, 2003. From left, President Jacques Chirac of France, President Bush, Prime Minister Tony Blair of Great Britain and Prime Minister Silvio Berlusconi of Italy. (Source: White House photo by Eric Draper / Wikimedia Commons)

In April this year the UK Attorney General, Jeremy Wright, intervened in an attempt to halt a private prosecution of the three brought by General Abdul-Wahid al-Ribat, former Chief of Staff of the Iraqi Army under Saddam Hussein’s government.

The Attorney General argued that the basis of the case, the crime of aggression “the supreme international crime” as enshrined in the Nuremberg Tribunals, did not apply in British law and that the former Prime Minister, Blair and his Ministers had:

“implied immunity as former Head of State and government Ministers, therefore offence not made out … Allegations involve potential details being disclosed under the Official Secrets Act for which Attorney General and Director of Public Prosecutions consent are required.” (1)

The implication seemingly being that those consents would not be forthcoming. 

However, in direct contradiction, relating to the argument regarding the crime of aggression:

“In his 2003 memo on the legality of the Iraq war (Lord) Goldsmith, then Attorney General, appeared to concede the key point of those now seeking his prosecution. ‘Aggression is a crime under customary international law which automatically forms part of domestic law’ “, he wrote in an advice to then Prime Minister Blair prior to the invasion. (2) 

Nevertheless the case was dismissed by the Judge at Westminster Magistrates Court. The legal team for General al-Ribat, led by Michael Mansfield QC and lawyer Imran Khan are not easily deterred. 

Mansfield has been described thus:

“The radical lawyer has become an icon in a disenchanted age … (Mansfield’s) high profile victories take on a hallowed significance: the good guys against the rotten state … with a flourish of his insolence and a refusal to shut up they flock to him … and he looks after them all. The Establishment loathes him.” (Guardian, 25th October 1997.) Imran Khan: “is one of the most highly regarded human rights layers in the country” and “a rebel with many causes.” (The Lawyer, 17th June 2015.) “My objective is to make sure the State is held accountable”, he is quoted as saying. 

This week, on Wednesday, 5th July, General al-Ribat’s case returned to the High Court in an appeal which is being heard by the Lord Chief Justice, Lord Thomas of Cwmgiedd, and Mr. Justice Ouseley. 

The General had been motivated, Mansfield told the Court, by the findings of the Chilcot Inquiry that the Iraq invasion was unnecessary and undermined the United Nations. 

‘Mansfield summarised the report’s findings as:

“Saddam Hussein did not pose an urgent threat to the UK, intelligence reporting about [Iraqi] weapons of mass destruction was presented with unwarranted certainty, that the war was unnecessary and that the UK undermined the authority of the UN Security Council.” 

“Nothing could be more emphatic than these findings,” he said. “It was an unlawful war.” 

He further argued that in 1945:

“… when the British prosecutor, Sir Hartley Shawcross, opened the cases against Nazi leaders at the Nuremburg war crimes trials at the end of the second world war, he acted as though the crime of aggression had already been assimilated into English law.” (3) 

James Eadie, QC. representing the Attorney General, Jeremy Wright stated that:

“The crime of aggression is not know to English law” and does not exist in the statute book. 

Sabah al-Mukhtar, of the Arab Lawyers Network, commented of the case:

“This is just looking at whether the first Court was right in refusing to entertain the case. 

“The Magistrates Court dismissed it on the grounds that Tony Blair had immunity and that the crime of aggression was not part of English law. Many think they were not correct on that.” 

The case can be brought in Britain since the British were part of the occupying forces in Iraq, thus General al-Ribat, now living in exile is: “under the European Convention on Human Rights, deemed to have been within the jurisdiction at a relevant time.” 

The High Court’s decision has been reserved to allow a further week for the General’s legal team to make “additional specified submissions.” If the Appeal is not dismissed: “the issue of whether the crime of aggression exists in English law will be sent up to the Supreme Court to decide.” 

Related image

Sir John Chilcot (Source: Iraq Inquiry)

It has not been Blair’s week. In the light of the Court hearing, Sir John Chilcot – who headed the seven year Inquiry in to the decimating attack on Iraq and found that the Blair Cabinet’s decisions on the matter had been “far from satisfactory” – broke a year long silence in an interview with the BBC. 

Asked if the former Prime Minister had been as truthful with him and the public as he should have been, Sir John replied: 

“Can I slightly reword that to say I think any Prime Minister taking a country into war has got to be straight with the nation and carry it, so far as possible, with him or her. I don’t believe that was the case in the Iraq instance.” 

Millions would surely agree, including a swathe of the media, as encapsulated by media correspondent Roy Greenslade (4) exactly a year ago, on the publication of the Chilcot Inquiry. The sub-heading was:

“Without exception, the ‘feral beasts’ of the press tear the former Prime Minister apart over the Iraq invasion, leaving his reputation in tatters.” 

A few front page examples were: “Chilcot Report into Iraq war delivers harsh verdict on Blair” (Financial Times); “A monster of delusion” (Daily Mail); “Weapon of mass deception” (Sun); “Blair’s private war” (Times); “Blair is world’s worst terrorist” (Daily Star) and “Spinning on their graves” (Independent). The Mail cited: “the duplicitous, dishonest, secretive, shallow and incompetent conduct of Tony Blair…” 

In November 2011:

“In Kuala Lumpur, after two years of investigation by the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Commission (KLWCC), a Tribunal (the Kuala Lumpur War Crimes Tribunal, or KLWCT) consisting of five Judges with judicial and academic backgrounds reached a unanimous verdict that found George W Bush and Tony Blair guilty of crimes against peace, crimes against humanity, and genocide as a result of their roles in the Iraq War.” (5)

Of relevance to this week’s case may be that: The Tribunal also added several recommendations to its verdict:

1) Report findings in accord with Part VI (calling for future accountability) of the Nuremberg Judgment of 1945 addressing crimes of surviving political and military leaders of Nazi Germany; 

2) File reports of genocide and crimes against humanity at the International Criminal Court in The Hague; 

3) Approach the UN General Assembly to pass a resolution demanding that the United States end its occupation of Iraq; 

4) Communicate the findings of the tribunal to all members of the Rome Statute (which governs the International Criminal Court) and to all states asserting Universal Jurisdiction that allows for the prosecution of international crimes in national courts; and

5) Urge the UN Security Council to take responsibility to ensure that full sovereign rights are vested in the people of Iraq and that the independence of its government be protected by a UN Peacekeeping Force. 

It is ten years nearly to the day (27th June 2007) since Blair left Downing Street, left Iraq bathed in blood and tears and walked off to make £millions and a joke of all peace stands for, as a “Peace Envoy.”

SYRIAN-IRAQI WAR REPORT – NOVEMBER 27, 2017: IRAQI TROOPS LIBERATED 14,100 KM2 FROM ISIS

South Front

Russian Tu-22M3 strategic bombers carried out massive strikes on ISIS terrorists in the Syrian province of Deir Ezzor on November 25 and November 26. According to the Russian Defense Ministry, the strikes hit ISIS’ manpower, vehicles and command posts in the Euphrates Valley.

The Syrian Arab Army (SAA) Tiger Forces continued clearing the western bank of the river from terrorists and liberated Gharibah, Dablan, Wadi Fulaytah and Tall Tafran.

On November 26, the Syrian Kurdish Hawar News Agency (ANHA) claimed that “Turkish-backed militants” have shot down three Russian helicopters over the northern Aleppo countryside. An official of the Kurdish People’s Protection Units (YPG) told ANHA that several Russian pilots and high-ranking officers were killed or injured in the supposed attack on the Russian helicopters.

So far, ANHA has provided no video or photo confirmation of its claims. The militant groups of Nour al-Din al-Zenki Movement and Hay’at Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) have not claimed that they downed some helicopters in the area.

According to local sources, three Russian helicopters, a Mi-8AMTSh and two Ka-52, were really spotted in the area. Local militants opened fire on them with light weapons and machine guns.

However, no helicopter was downed. An absence of the official commentary on the issue from the Russian Defense Ministry contributes to this version.

In northeastern Hama, ISIS cells have seized the villages of Rasm Sakkaf, Mu’siwan, ‘Atshanah, Shayhat Hamra and Abu ’Ajwah from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS). The group expansion in the area came amid an intense fighting between the SAA and HTS in southern Aleppo and northern Hama.

The Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have liberated the area of 14,100 km2 including 175 villages since the start of the anti-ISIS operation in the al-Jazeera region of Iraq. During their advance, government troops have destroyed 11 vehicles, 5 oil tankers, 18 car bombs and 6 motorcycles of ISIS as well as dismantled 1,000 IED planted by ISIS.

The army and the PMU are now consolidating their gains, securing the recently liberated area and re-supplying their troops. As soon as this is done, they will continue their push to liberate the rest of the border area from ISIS.

ISIS-held Pocket In Euphrates Valley Is Close To Collapse Under Tiger Forces Pressure (Map)

US BUFFER ZONE IN NORTHEASTERN SYRIA AND LAND-BRIDGE FROM TEHRAN TO BEIRUT

24.11.2017

Written by Elijah J. MagnierOriginally appeared in Arabic at alraimedia.com and in English HERE;

Following the victory of the Syrian army and its allies over the “Islamic State” group in the town of Albu Kamal in the north-east of the country, the road has been opened for the first time since the declaration of the Islamic Republic of Iran in 1979 between Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut and become safe and non-hostile to the four capitals and their rulers.

The United States tried to block the road between Tehran and Beirut at the level of Albu Kamal by forcing the Kurdish forces into a frantic race, but Washington failed to achieve its goals.

US Buffer Zone In Northeastern Syria And Land-Bridge From Tehran To Beirut

Click to see the full-size map

The Syrian Army along with allied forces (the Lebanese Hezbollah, the Iranian Revolutionary Guards and the Iraqi Harakat al-Nujaba’) liberated the city, opening the border with Iraq at al-Qa’im crossing. ISIS militants fled to the Iraqi al-Anbar desert and east of the Euphrates River where US and Kurdish forces are operating.

The United States established a new rule of engagement in the east of the Euphrates, informing the Russian forces that it will not accept any ground forces (the Syrian army and its allies) east of the Euphrates River and that it will bomb any target approaching the east of the river even if the objective of the ground forces was to pursue ISIS.

Thus, the US is establishing a new undeclared no-fly-zone without bothering to deny that this can serve ISIS forces east of the Euphrates and offer the terrorists a kind of protection. Moreover, the US-led international coalition air bombing against ISIS has reduced noticeably.

With this US warning, it is clear that Washington is declaring the presence of an occupying force in Syria, particularly as the presence of the coalition was linked to fighting ISIS as previously announced. Today ISIS has lost all cities under its occupation since July 2014 in Iraq and before this date in Syria. Therefore there is no legal reason for the presence of the US forces in the Levant.

By becoming an occupation force, the US troops expose themselves, along with the proxy Kurds operating under its command, to attacks similar to the one in Iraq and the one in Lebanon in 1982 during the Israeli invasion.

The United States will no longer be able to block the Iraqi-Syrian road (Al-Qaim-Albu Kamal) because it is related to the sovereignty of the two countries. But this does not mean Tehran will use this route to send weapons across Baghdad and Damascus to Hezbollah in Lebanon, for two reasons:

First, Iraq has sovereignty and the Prime Minister Haider Abadi will not allow any Iraqi armed party to keep its weapons because the Iraqi armed forces are responsible for holding security, especially after the defeat of ISIS in all cities.

Abadi’s next step will be to disarm all Iraqi movements and organizations by the year 2018 and most likely after the forthcoming elections in May. According to well-informed sources Iran and the Marjaiya in Najaf (and the majority of the Iraqi parties) want Abadi to be re-elected for another term.

This means that Iraq will not allow its territory to be used to finance non-state actors, even if these have taken part in the elimination of ISIS. Neither will he allow weapons to cross his country to an ally that fought alongside the Iraqi forces – such as Hezbollah – because he is not positioning himself against the United States and the countries of the region. This is not Iraq’s battle.

Secondly, Hezbollah does not need the land route from Tehran to Beirut because the sea and air links with Tehran are open through Syria and from it to Lebanon. Moreover, Hezbollah is no longer in need of additional weapons in Lebanon, especially since the Lebanese-Syrian front is unified against any possible future Israeli war.

As for Syria, the preparations for starting the challenging and complex rounds of negotiation to open the way for political talks have begun in Sochi, Russia. Naturally, these talks are difficult because the United States has demands, as does Turkey, which has shown its intention to stay for a very long in the north of Syria.

In this context, Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is ready to prepare for a new constitution, on which work began several months ago. Syrian and international human rights experts and law specialists have been discussing with various groups how to establish new constitutional foundations for Syria, aiming to invite the numerous anti-Damascus parties to lay down their arms and join in the negotiations for the future of Syria.

The only problem remains with al-Qaeda in Bilad al-Sham, and the thousands of foreign fighters in Idlib, waiting for the results of the Turkish-Syrian negotiation.

The war was long and complex, mainly because of shifting alliances. But the peace will be no less complex to construct if future wars based on revenge and a greedy desire for territory are to be avoided.

جسر طهران – بيروت… حقيقي أم وهمي؟

تقرير / منطقة أميركية عازلة شمال شرقي سورية

بعد الانتصار الذي حققه الجيش السوري وحلفاؤه باستعادة مدينة البوكمال السورية شرق البلاد من تنظيم «داعش»، فُتحت الطريق – للمرة الأولى منذ إعلان الجمهورية الاسلامية في ايران العام 1979 – بين طهران وبغداد ودمشق وبيروت وأصبحت آمنة وغير عدائية للعواصم الأربع وحكّامها.

وحاولت الولايات المتحدة قطع الطريق البرية بين طهران – بيروت وإعاقتها عبر البوكمال من خلال دفْع القوات الكردية (قسد) التي تعمل بإمرتها نحو البوكمال في سباقٍ محموم أدى الى فشل واشنطن في تحقيق أهدافها. وقد وصلت القوات السورية ومعها القوات الرديفة (حزب الله اللبناني والحرس الثوري الايراني وحركة النجباء العراقية) الى المدينة وحرّرتْها وفتحتْ الحدود البرية مع العراق، بعدما كانت سيطرت قواته البرية على الحدود من ناحية القائم وطردت «داعش» الذي فرّ رجاله إلى الصحراء العراقية في الأنبار وإلى شرق نهر الفرات حيث توجد القوات الأميركية وتلك الكردية العاملة بإمرتها.

وعملت الولايات المتحدة على إرساء قواعد اشتباك جديدة شرق الفرات، إذ أبلغت الى القوات الروسية انها لن تقبل وجود أي قوى للجيش السوري وحلفائه شرق نهر الفرات وأنها ستقصف أي هدف يقترب من شرق النهر حتى ولو كان الهدف قوات «داعش»، وتالياً فإن أميركا فرضت منطقة حظر طيران من دون الإعلان عنها ولم تُخْفِ حمايتها حتى لقوات «داعش»، وخصوصاً أن وتيرة الغارات الأميركية والتحالف الدولي الذي تقوده واشنطن تراجعتْ في شكل ملحوظ. وبغرض منْع عبور نهر الفرات، تكون أميركا أعلنت عن بقائها في شمال شرقي سورية، الأمر الذي تعتبره دمشق احتلالاً لأن الحرب على «داعش» اقتربت من نهايتها مع خسارة التنظيم كل المدن التي كان يحتلّها في سورية والعراق.

وهذا التوصيف للقوات الأميركية قد يعرّضها ومعها القوات الموالية لها لعمليات شبيهة بتلك التي تعرّضت لها العام 2003 مع بداية احتلالها للعراق وأيضاً العام 1982 في لبنان إبان الاجتياح الاسرائيلي.

ولن تستطيع الولايات المتحدة قفل الطريق العراقي – السوري (القائم – البوكمال) لأن الأمر يتعلق بسيادة البلدين. الا أن هذا لا يعني ان طهران ستستخدم هذه الطريق لعبور الأسلحة الى «حزب الله» لسببين:

اولاً: ان للعراق سيادة وتالياً فإن رئيس الوزراء حيدر العبادي لن يسمح لأي طرف مسلّح عراقي بالوجود في العراق لان القوات المسلحة العراقية كافية للإمساك بالوضع الأمني – خصوصاً بعد إنهاء سيطرة «داعش» على المدن – وتالياً الخطوة التالية للعبادي ستكون سحب السلاح من كل الحركات والتنظيمات العراقية بحلول السنة المقبلة وعلى الأرجح بعد الانتخابات. وعلمت «الراي» أن إيران والمرجعية العليا في النجف وغالبية الأحزاب العراقية تريد التمديد للعبادي لولاية ثانية. وهذا يعني أن العراق لن يسمح بأن تُستخدم أراضيه لتمويل جهات غير حكومية – حتى ولو كانت صديقة وشاركت بالقضاء على «داعش»، مثل «حزب الله» – لانها بهذه الطريقة تضع نفسها بالواجهة ضدّ الولايات المتحدة ودول المنطقة وهذا ما لا تريده بغداد.

ثانياً: لا يحتاج «حزب الله» الى الطريق البرية لأن الخطوط البحرية والجوية مفتوحة عن طريق سورية والداخل اللبناني، إضافة الى ان الحزب لم يعد يحتاج إلى أسلحة إضافية في لبنان، وخصوصاً ان الجبهة اللبنانية – السورية أصبحت موحّدة ضد أي عدوان اسرائيلي محتمل في المستقبل. اما بالنسبة إلى سورية فالتحضيرات لبدء الجولات الصعبة والمعقّدة لفتح الطريق أمام المحادثات السياسية قد بدأت في سوتشي – روسيا، ومن الطبيعي ان تكون هذه المحادثات شاقة لأن الولايات المتحدة لها طلبات وكذلك تركيا التي ثبتت نفسها في المناطق الشمالية لسورية وكأنها باقية لأمد طويل.

وفي هذا السياق فإن الرئيس السوري بشار الأسد مستعدّ للتحضير لدستور جديد بدأ العمل من أجله منذ أشهر وقد عُرض على الخبراء الحقوقيين ويُناقَش مع جهات مختلفة لوضع أسس دستورية جديدة لسورية تجبر الأطراف المتنوعة المشارب على إلقاء السلاح. وتبقى عقدة «القاعدة» في بلاد الشام والمقاتلين الأجانب الموجودين بالآلاف في إدلب على حالها في انتظار القرار التركي – السوري في شأن مصيرهم.

Debate: The end of Daesh and its caliphate

Live from Baghdad: the secret of Iraq’s renaissance

November 14, 2017

by Pepe Escobar of the Asia Times (cross-posted by special agreement with the author)

BAGHDAD – On a sandstorm-swept morning in Baghdad earlier last week, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the legendary deputy leader of Hashd al-Shaabi, a.k.a. People Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the actual mastermind of numerous ground battles against ISIS/Daesh, met a small number of independent foreign journalists and analysts.

This was a game-changing moment in more ways than one. It was the first detailed interview granted by Mohandes since the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani – the immensely respected marja (source of emulation) and top clerical authority in Iraq – in June 2014, when Daesh stormed across the border from Syria. The fatwa, loosely translated, reads, “It is upon every Iraqi capable of carrying guns to volunteer with the Iraqi Armed Forces to defend the sanctities of the nation.”

Mohandes took time out of the battlefield especially for the meeting, and then left straight for al-Qaim. He was sure “al-Qaim will be taken in a matter of days” – a reference to the crucial Daesh-held Iraqi border town connecting to Daesh stronghold Abu Kamal in Syria.

That’s exactly what happened only four days later; Iraqi forces immediately started a mop up operation and prepared to meet advancing Syrian forces at the border – yet more evidence that the recomposition of the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria is a (fast) work in progress.

The meeting with Mohandes was held in a compound inside the massively fortified Green Zone – an American-concocted bubble kept totally insulated from ultra-volatile red zone Baghdad with multiple checkpoints and sniffer dogs manned by US contractors.

Adding to the drama, the US State Department describes Mohandes as a “terrorist”. That amounts in practice to criminalizing the Iraqi government in Baghdad – which duly released an official statement furiously refuting the characterization.

The PMUs are an official body with tens of thousands of volunteers linked to the office of the Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces. The Iraqi Parliament fully legalized the PMUs in November 2016 via resolution 91 (item number 4, for instance, states that “the PMU and its affiliates are subject to military regulations that are enforced from all angles.”)

Its 25 combat brigades – comprising Shi’ites, Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen, Shabak and Kurds – have been absolutely crucial in the fight against Daesh in Samarra, Amerli, Jalawla, Balad, Salahuddin, Fallujah (35 different battles), Shirqat and Mosul (especially over the western axis from Qayarah base to the Iraq-Syrian border, cutting off supply chains and sealing Mosul from an attempted Daesh escape to Syria).

Retaking Kirkuk “in a matter of hours”

Mohandes describes the PMUs as “an official military force” which plays a “complementary role” to the Iraqi Army. The initial plan was for the PMUs to become a national guard – which in fact they are now; “We have recon drones and engineering units that the Army does not have. We don’t mind if we are called gendarmes.” He’s proud the PMUs are fighting an “unconventional war”, holding the high ground “militarily and morally” with “victories achieved in record time”. And “contrary to Syria”, with no direct Russian support.

Mohandes is clear that Iran was the only nation supporting Iraq’s fight against Daesh. Iraq reciprocated by helping Syria, “facilitating over flights by Iranian planes.” With no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Washington and Baghdad, “the Americans withdrew companies that maintain Abrams tanks.” In 2014

“we didn’t even have AK-47s. Iran gave them to us. The US embassy had 12 Apache helicopters ready to transport diplomats if Baghdad fell to Daesh”.

One year later, “Baghdad would have been occupied” were not for the PMUs; “It’s like you’re in a hospital and you need blood. The Americans would show up with the transfusion when it was too late.” He is adamant “the US did not provide a single bullet” in the overall fight against Daesh. And yet, Mohandes clarifies that the “US may stay in Iraq should the Iraqi government decide it. My personal opinion is well known.”

Mohandes considers the [Western] “media war waged against Hashd al-Shaabi” as “normal from the beginning”; “Countries that supported terrorism would not perceive that a popular force would emerge, and did not recognize the new political system in Iraq.” On that note, he added ruefully, “you can smell petrol”.

Mohandes was personally wounded in Halabja and also in Anfal – Saddam Hussein’s anti-Kurdish operations. He was “pleased to see Kurdistan saved after 1991”; stresses “we had martyrs who fell in Kurdistan defending them”; and considers himself a friend of the Kurds, keeping good relations with their leaders. Iranian advisors, alongside the Iraqi Army and the PMUs, also “prevented Daesh from conquering Erbil.”

Yet after a “unilateral referendum, Iraq had to assert the authority of the state”. Retaking Kirkuk – largely a PMU operation – was “a matter of hours”; the PMUs “avoided fighting and stayed only in the outskirts of Kirkuk”. Mohandes previously discussed operational details with the Peshmerga, and there was full coordination with both Iran and Turkey; “It’s a misconception that Kurdish leaders could rely on Turkey.”

Fallujah, finally secured

The PMUs absolutely insist on their protection of ethnic minorities, referring to thousands of Sabak, Yazidi and Turkmen – among at least 120,000 families – forced by Daesh rule into becoming IDPs. After liberation battles were won, the PMUs provided these families with food, clothing, toys, generators and fuel. I confirmed that many of these donations came from families of PMU fighters all across the country. PMU priorities include combat engineering teams bringing families back to their areas after clearing mines and explosives, and then reopening hospitals and schools. For instance, 67,000 families were resettled into their homes in Salahuddin and 35,000 families in Diyala.

Mohandes stresses that, “in the fight against Daesh in Salahuddin and Hawija, the brigade commanders were Sunnis”. The PMUs feature a Christian Babylon brigade, a Yazidi brigade, and a Turkmen brigade; “When Yazidis were under siege in Sinjar we freed at least 300,000 people.”

Overall, the PMUs include over 20,000 Sunni fighters. Compare it with the fact that 50 per cent of Daesh’s suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudi nationals. I confirmed with Sheikh Muhammad al-Nouri, leader of the Sunni scholars in Fallujah, “this is an ideological battle against Wahhabi ideology. We need to get away from the Wahhabi school and redirect our knowledge to other Sunni schools.” He explained how that worked on the ground in Haditha (“we were able to control mosques”) and motivated people in Fallujah, 30 minutes away; “Fallujah is an Iraqi city. We believe in coexistence.”

After 14 years in which Fallujah was not secure, and with the Haditha experience fast expanding, Sheikh Muhammad is convinced “Iraq will declare a different war on terror.”

The inclusive approach was also confirmed by Yezen Meshaan al-Jebouri, the head of the Salahuddin PMU brigade. This is crucial because he’s a member of the very prominent Sunni Jebouri family, which was historically inimical to Saddam Hussein; his father is the current governor of Tikrit. Al-Jebouri decries “the state corruption in Sunni regions”, an “impression of injustice” and the fact that for Daesh, “Sunnis who did not follow them should also be killed.” He’s worried about “the Saudi accumulation of developed weapons. Who guarantees these won’t be used against the region?” And he refuses the notion that “we are looked upon by the West as part of the Iranian project.”

Military victory meets political victory

Far from the stereotyped “terrorist”, Mohandes is disarmingly smart, witty and candid. And a full-blooded Iraqi patriot; “Iraq now reinstates its position because of the blood of its sons. We needed to have a military force capable of fighting an internal threat. We are accomplishing a religious national and humanitarian duty.” Soldiers apart, thousands of extra PMU volunteers do not receive salaries. Members of Parliament and even Ministers were active in the battlefield. Mohandes is proud that “we have a chain of command just like the army”; that the PMUs harbor “thousands of people with college degrees”; that they run “dozens of field hospitals, intensive care units” and have “the strongest intel body in Iraq.”

In Baghdad, I personally confirmed the narrative accusing the PMUs of being Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private army is nonsense. If that was the case, Grand Ayatollah Sistani should take the blame, as he conceptually is the father of the PMUs. Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary-general of the powerful Badr organization, also extremely active in the fight against Daesh, stressed to me the PMUs are “part of the security system, integrated with the Ministry of Defense”. But now “we need universities and emphasis on education.”

Pakistani Prof. Hassan Abbas, from the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington, went even further, as we extensively discussed not only Iraq and Syria but also Afghanistan and Pakistan; “Iraq is now in a unique position heading towards a democratic, pluralistic society”, proving that “the best answer to sectarianism is religious harmony.” This “inclusiveness against Takfirism” must now connect in the streets “with the rule of law and a fair justice system”. Abbas points out that the base for Iraq to build up is law enforcement via scientific investigation; “Policing is the first line of defense”.

Baghdad has been able, almost simultaneously, to pull off two major game-changers; a military victory in Mosul and a political victory in Kirkuk. If Iraq stabilizes, erasing the Daesh death cult, so will Syria. As al-Jebouri notes, “now every community must have a cut of the cake.” At least 7 million jobs and pensions are paid by Baghdad. People want the return of regularly paid salaries. That starts with decent security all over the country. Mohandes was the engineer – his actual profession – of key battles against Daesh. There’s a wide consensus in Baghdad that without him Daesh would be firmly installed in the Green Zone.

Hashd al-Shaabi is already an Iraqi pop phenomenon, reflected in this huge hit by superstar Ali al-Delfi. From pop to politics is another matter entirely. Mohandes is adamant the PMUs won’t get involved in politics, “and directly won’t contest elections. If someone does, and many individuals are now very popular, they have to leave Hashd.”

From hybrid warfare to national renewal

After days talking to Hashd al-Shaabi personnel and observing how they operate a complex hybrid warfare battlefield coupled with an active recruitment process and heavy presence in social media, it’s clear the PMUs are now firmly established as a backbone underpinning Iraqi state security, an array of stabilization programs – including much needed medical services – and most of all, introducing a measure of efficiency Iraq was totally unfamiliar for almost three decades.

It’s a sort of state-building mechanism springing out of a resistance ethic. As if the ominous Daesh threat, which may have led to as many as 3.1 million IDPs, shook up the collective Iraqi subconscious, awakened the Iraqi Shi’ite proletariat/disenfranchised masses, and accelerated cultural decolonization. And this complex development couldn’t be further from religious bigotry.

Amid Wilsonian eulogies and references to the Marshall Plan, Foreign Minister Ebrahim al-Jaafari is also a staunch defender of the PMUs, stressing it as “an experiment to be studied”, a “new phenomenon with a humane basis operating on a legal framework”, and “able to break the siege of solitude Iraq has suffered for years.”

Referring to the Daesh offensive, Jaafari insisted “Iraq did not commit a crime” in the first place, but hopefully there’s “a new generation of youth capable of reinforcing the experiment”. The emphasis now, following reconciliation, is on “an era of national participation”. He’s adamant that “families of Daesh members should not pay for their mistakes.” Daesh informers will be duly put on trial.

I asked the Foreign Minister if Baghdad did not fear being caught in a lethal crossfire between Washington and Tehran. His response was carefully measured. He said he had enough experience of dealing with “radical” neocons in D.C. And at the same time he was fully aware of the role of the PMUs as well as Iran in Iraq’s reassertion of sovereignty. His warm smile highlighted the conviction that out of the ashes of a cultish black death, the Iraqi renaissance was fully in effect.

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