KATA’IB HEZBOLLAH THREATENS TO “FORCE” WASHINGTON TO WITHDRAW TROOPS FROM IRAQ

South Front

Kata'ib Hezbollah Threatens To "Force" Washington To Withdraw Troops From Iraq

31.12.2017

Kata’ib Hezbollah members

On December 30, Kata’ib Hezbollah released a statement calling on the US leadership to withdraw American troops from Iraq before the group will “force” Washington to do so.

The enemy of humanity, the US, can no longer desecrate Iraqi soil, as the fighters of the Hezbollah Brigades [Kata’ib Hezbollah] will not allow them to do so,” the group said in its statement. “The Iraqi government and Council of Representatives need to make a decisive decision about the presence of US troops who should voluntarily withdraw before we force them to flee from the country.

The statement was released on the sixth anniversary of the US military withdrawal from Iraq in 2011. In the statement, Kata’ib Hezbollah also recalled its role in the resistance to the US occupation of Iraq.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is a part of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), which are officially incorporated into the Iraqi Armed Forces.

The analysis below was released by SouthFront on August 27, 2017:

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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)

SYRIAN-IRAQI WAR REPORT – NOVEMBER 24, 2017: US FORCES TO REMAIN IN SYRIA TO OPPOSE IRAN, ASSAD

South Front

On November 23, the Syrian Arab Army (SAA), the Tiger Forces and their allies continued their operation against ISIS on the western bank of the Euphrates. Pro-government forces have established control over the villages of Mahkan, Quriyah, Subaykhan, Kashma and Tashreen.

On the same day, Tu-22M3 strategic bombers struck positions of ISIS in the province of Deir Ezzor after they had flown about 2,000 km from Russia. The strike hit ISIS’ manpower, vehicles and strong points near Al-Katia.

On November 24, the SAA and its allies advanced further in the direction of al-Bukamal.

In southwestern Aleppo, clashes are ongoing between the SAA and Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (formerly Jabhat al-Nusra, the Syrian branch of al-Qaeda) in the villages of al-Rashadiya and al-Hajara. Pro-government sources claim that the SAA has recently deployed reinforcements to the area. However, this has not helped the government forces yet.

In Western Ghouta, the SAA liberated the village of Beitima from Hayat Tahrir al-Sham (HTS) and engaged militants at Bardae Hill south of the militant-held town of Beit Jinn. If the SAA seizes this important hill, it will be able to establish a fire control over the key militant-held town in the area.

According to pro-HTS sources, 15 SAA soldiers were killed during the clashes near the hill.

Meanwhile, reports appeared in the mainstream media that Washington is not going to withdraw from Syria after the defeat of ISIS.

Previously, the US administration explained its invasion in the country with a need to defeat the terrorist group. Now, it is reportedly seeking to stay there in order to reduce the influence of Iran and Assad government in the post-ISIS period.

On November 23, the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) launched a military operation to liberate the remaining ISIS-held border area in western Iraq. According to the PMU media wing, government troops liberated 56 villages, the bridges of al-Sukariat, al-Akarb and al-Bka and the Geneva Airport.

The army and the PMU destroyed 8 vehicle-borne improvised explosive devices (VBIEDs) of ISIS and captured 3 others. They also destroyed 3 vehicles and several mortar positions of ISIS.

According to the ISIS-linked news agency Amaq, two suicide bombers attacked a gathering of the PMU fighters north of Baiji. There are no confirmed reports about the number of casualties because of the attack.

After the liberation of the Iraqi part of the Euphrates Valley, thousands of ISIS fighters were forced to retreat to the desert area at the Syrian-Iraqi border. A part of them is now seeking to infiltrate the government-held cities and to establish criminal networks there. Another part has joined the migration flow, which is heading through Turkey to the European Union.

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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

Will the Saudi deterrence succeed after Boukamal and before Hodeidah? هل ينجح الردع السعودي بعد البوكمال وقبل الحديدة؟

Will the Saudi deterrence succeed after Boukamal and before Hodeidah?

Written by Nasser Kandil,

نوفمبر 17, 2017

هل ينجح الردع السعودي بعد البوكمال وقبل الحديدة؟

It seems that the bilateral imposed by facts, realities, and balances of forces based on the exclusion of any American – Saudi – Israeli foolishness that may lead to major war on one hand, And on the other hand, it based also on the need of this alliance which loses its sites successively for a war which it must choose its location, circumstances, and its calculations well in a way that ensures not to go to forbidden major war on one hand, and which ensures on the other hand  a valuable adjustment in the balances of forces which are strongly  in favor of the axis of the resistance, through its governments, its forces, its Russian ally, and the results of all the previous battles.

All the hypotheses for this complicated equation have been presented, as the experience of Kurdistan and supporting the secession in it with all its temptations, Boukamal, and the hypothesis of a limited war in the southern of Syria or in the southern of Lebanon. All of these are shortcuts for the comprehensive war. The intension on an American red line that prevents the convergence of the Syrian and the Iraqi armies and the forces of the resistance in Boukamal means getting involved in a war with Syria, Iran, Hezbollah, and the popular crowd of Iraq supported by Russia, while to stand firmly to protect the secession project in the Iraqi Kurdistan seemed a way that its end would be an open war with Iran, Iraq, and Turkey at least, while the war in the southern of Syria or in the southern of Lebanon will put Israel under the pressure of thousands of missiles from Lebanon ,Syria, and Iran.

The wars are not determined by the imprudent sons or those who took adventures and lost gambling as the loss in the war of Yemen, especially in an accurate moment that does not bear fatal mistakes, all the mistakes can be deadly, just for that each of the US President Donald Trump,, the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed Bin Salman and the Head of the occupation government Benjamin Netanyahu practices his game in his own  way but within controls and boundaries that are drawn by the US decision-makers from the military and intelligence who master studying maps, drawing plans, defining tactics and controls, and expanding and narrowing margins.

The Americans as well as the serious players on the geographical area that witnesses related wars from Russia in the north to the Gulf in the south and from Iran in the east to the Mediterranean in the west, and which includes major players as Iran, Russia, Turkey, Saudi Arabia, and Israel deal with this area as a modification of the concept of the traditional region which is known by the Middle East. Everyone knows without public recognition that the area of the five seas which the Syrian President talked about as a vital range of policies and strategies ten years ago is the new regional framework of the new world, and an alternative to what was known with the heart of the old world, it includes the Arab East and the northern of Africa as a description of the meaning of the Middle East which locates in the center of the major regional countries as Turkey, Iran, and the Gulf. The Americans tried to modify it by naming it the Great Middle East adding these countries to it, but they were surprised by the Russian involvement in the conflict and its turning into a regional player in it.

On the analysts and planners’ maps, the vital ranges of the five seas seem like that, In the Caspian Sea, the conflict has been resolved in favor of the major players in it; Russia and Iran, while the countries which locate along the sea are under Russian –Iranian cover such as Kazakhstan which  is hosting in its capital Astana the solution dialogues for Syria led by Russia, and Azerbaijan whose its president participated few days ago in a trilateral summit with the Russian and the Iranian Presidents in Tehran to announce a strategic cooperation network with Russia and Iran. In the Black Sea where the traditional conflict is between the two poles of the sea; Russia and Turkey and on its usage, the Syrian war has formed an arena for the maturity of Turkey and its reading of its interests, alliances, and its national security in a way that made it a part of the Russian-Iranian system at the regional level, despite its presence internationally in the NATO. In the Mediterranean Sea there is no place for small wars since it is the international lake in which the major players are present face-to-face. In the Gulf, where the American presence is face-to face with the Iranian one the adventure is not allowed. So the Red Sea is the only available battlefield under the controls of avoiding the Great War, and the seeking to modify the balances simultaneously.

China is on the Red Sea in Djibouti, while Iran is on the Red Sea in Eritrea as the Americans, the Saudis, and the Israelis said. Saudi Arabia, Egypt, and Israel is on the Red Sea directly, but Yemen and Egypt alone have control on the sides of the Red Sea, so resolving the US domination on the two sides of the Red Sea the northern and the southern is achieved by imposing the Saudi presence in the north on the coast of Yemen, because it prevents turning the Egyptian presence in the south into a neutral settling role, while the staying of the Yemeni coast under the control of the Yemenis especially the port of Hodeidah keeps the Egyptian role Egyptian and prevents its involvement in the international and the regional equations and the considerations of its balances, especially because the battle of Bab Al-Mandab is not resolved but by having control on Hodeidah.

Therefore, the war is the war of Hodeidah. In Lebanon the equation is to link the acceptance of the Saudi cover of a settlement that recognizes the victories of Hezbollah in Syria in exchange of the acceptance of Iran of a settlement in Yemen that recognizes the victories of Saudi Arabia after resolving Hodeidah, where the resignation of the Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Al-Hariri becomes under a Saudi decision a deterrent preemptive to protect the project of the virtual settlement after the war of Hodeidah. While in the field there is a Saudi preemptive escalation against Iran as a virtual deterrence for any Iranian involvement in the war of Hodeidah. The beginning is the announcement of the closure of the Yemeni territorial water and linking the missiles that target Saudi Arabia from Yemen with an Iranian role and making the port of Hodeidah a title for this linkage.

The war of Yemen is the well-considered limited war to prevent a major war which the American and the Israeli know that they do not have the ability to get involved in, because if Saudi Arabia controls on it,  then it will be a gain for the whole alliance, and if it does not control on it, Saudi Arabia will bear the consequences of the of the defeat alone since it received a lot of money in advance as a compensation for the cover of its campaign against its neighbors and seizing their wealth.

The Yemenis say that they do not need Iranian intervention to protect their capabilities in Hodeidah, since their missiles to the Saudi depth in case of the outbreak of war will deter the Saudis from continuing their tampering with fire.

Everyone says that by the end of this year the wars will end, and settlements will start, so Syria goes to war of recapturing Raqqa and Idlib, supported by Iran and Russia, even if it collided with the Americans and the Turks, while America and Israel sent Saudi Arabia to occupy Hodeidah provided that not to collide with Iran.

After drawing and resolving the balances of the Red Sea, the equation of the Gulf becomes clear, and the Mediterranean Sea will host the summits of the major settlements in the area of the five seas.

Translated by Lina Shehadeh,

هل ينجح الردع السعودي بعد البوكمال وقبل الحديدة؟

نوفمبر 9, 2017

ناصر قنديل

هل ينجح الردع السعودي بعد البوكمال وقبل الحديدة؟

– تبدو الثنائية التي تفرضها الحقائق والوقائع وموازين القوى، قائمة على استبعاد أيّ حماقة أميركية سعودية «إسرائيلية» بحرب كبرى، من جهة ومن جهة مقابلة، على حاجة هذا الحلف الذي يخسر مواقعه تباعاً، إلى حرب عليه أن يحسن اختيار مكانها وظروفها، وحساباتها، بحيث تضمن عدم الانزلاق إلى الحرب الكبرى الممنوعة من جهة، وتضمن تعديلاً ذا قيمة في موازين القوى الراجحة بقوة لحساب محور المقاومة بحكوماته وقواه وحليفه الروسي، بنتائج المعارك السابقة كلها.

– وضعت على الطاولة للبحث عن جواب لهذه المعادلة المعقدة، الفرضيات كلّها، من اختبار كردستان ودعم الانفصال فيها، بإغراءاتها كلها، والبوكمال بكلّ ما تعنيه، وفرضية حرب محدودة في جنوب سورية او جنوب لبنان، وكلها بدا أنها طريق مختصر للمواجهة الشاملة، فالإصرار على خط أحمر أميركي يمنع تلاقي الجيشين السوري والعراقي وقوى المقاومة في البوكمال يعني دخول حرب مع سورية وإيران وحزب الله والحشد الشعبي في العراق، ومن ورائهم روسيا، والوقوف بحزم لحماية مشروع الانفصال في كردستان العراق بدا طريقاً نهايته القريبة حرب مفتوحة مع إيران والعراق وتركيا على الأقلّ، والحرب في جنوب سورية أو جنوب لبنان ستضع «إسرائيل» تحت ضغط آلاف الصواريخ من لبنان وسورية وإيران.

– الحروب لا يقرّرها الصغار ولا يرسم دوائرها الهواة، خصوصاً الذين خاضوا مغامرت ومقامرات خاسرة كحرب اليمن، خصوصاً في لحظة دقيقة لا تحتمل الأخطاء القاتلة. وكلّ الأخطاء يمكن أن تكون قاتلة، ولذلك يؤدّي الرئيس الأميركي دونالد ترامب وولي العهد السعودي محمد بن سلمان ورئيس حكومة الاحتلال بنيامين نتنياهو لعبة كلّ منهم بأسلوبه، لكن ضمن ضوابط وهوامش يرسم حدودها صنّاع القرار الأميركي من رجال الجيش والمخابرات، الذين يجيدون دراسة الخرائط ورسم الخطط، وتحديد التكتيكات والضوابط، وفتح وإغلاق الهوامش.

– يتعامل الأميركيون، ومثلهم اللاعبون الجديون كلّهم على رقعة جغرافية تشهد حروباً متصلة، تمتدّ من روسيا شمالاً إلى الخليج جنوباً، ومن إيران شرقاً إلى البحر المتوسط غرباً، وتضمّ لاعبين كباراً مثل إيران وروسيا وتركيا والسعودية و«إسرائيل»، باعتبارها تعديلاً لمفهوم الإقليم التقليدي المتعارف على تسميته بالشرق الأوسط، وينطلق الجميع من دون إقرار علني بذلك، من كون منطقة البحار الخمسة التي تحدث عنها الرئيس السوري كمدى حيوي للسياسات والاستراتيجيات قبل عشر سنوات، هي الإطار الإقليمي الجديد، لقلب العالم الجديد، كبديل لما عُرف بقلب العالم القديم، ويضمّ المشرق العربي وشمال أفريقيا، كتوصيف لمعنى الشرق الأوسط، الواقع في قلب كتل إقليمية كبرى هي تركيا وإيران والخليج. حاول الأميركيون تعديله بتسمية الشرق الأوسط الكبير بإضافة هذه الكتل إليه، ففاجأهم الدخول الروسي لقلب الصراع والتحوّل إلى لاعب إقليمي فيه.

– على خرائط المحللين والمخططين، تبدو المجالات الحيوية للبحار الخمسة كما يلي، في بحر قزوين، حيث اللاعبان الكبيران روسيا وإيران، حسم الصراع لصالحهما، مع انضواء الدول المشاطئة للبحر تحت مظلة روسية إيرانية، كازاخستان التي تستضيف في عاصمتها أستانة حوارات الحلّ في سورية بقيادة روسيا، ومثلها أذربيجان التي شارك رئيسها في قمة ثلاثية قبل أيام مع الرئيسين الروسي والإيراني في طهران للإعلان عن شبكة تعاون استراتيجية مع روسيا وإيران، في البحر الأسود حيث الصراع التقليدي بين قطبي البحر واستخداماته، روسيا وتركيا، شكلت الحرب السورية ساحة إنضاج لموقع تركيا وقراءاتها لمفهوم مصالحها وتحالفاتها وأمنها القومي، بصورة جعلتها جزءاً من منظومة روسية إيرانية على المستوى الإقليمي رغم وجودها دولياً في حلف الأطلسي، في البحر المتوسط لا مكان لحروب صغيرة فهو البحيرة الدولية التي يتواجد فيها اللاعبون الكبار وجهاً لوجه، وفي الخليج حيث الوجود الأميركي الإيراني وجهاً لوجه أيضاً لا تجوز المخاطرة، ليصير البحر الأحمر ساحة الحرب الوحيدة المتاحة، ضمن ضوابط تفادي الحرب الكبرى، والسعي لتعديل التوازنات في آن واحد.

– الصين على البحر الأحمر في جيبوتي، وإيران على البحر الأحمر في اريتريا، كما يقول الأميركيون والسعوديون و«الإسرائيليون»، والسعودية ومصر و«إسرائيل» على البحر الأحمر، مباشرة، لكن اليمن ومصر وحدهما يمسكان كلّ من جهة بعنق البحر الأحمر، فحسم السيطرة الأميركية على عنقَيْ البحر الأحمر الشمالي والجنوبي، يحققه فرض الوجود السعودي شمالاً على سواحل اليمن، لأنه يتيح منع تحوّل الوجود المصري جنوباً إلى دور حيادي تسووي، أما بقاء الساحل اليمني يميناً خصوصاً في ميناء الحديدة، فيبقي الدور المصري مصرياً، ويمنع ترصيده في المعادلات الدولية الإقليمية وحسابات توازناتها، خصوصاً أنّ معركة باب المندب لا تحسم إلا بالسيطرة على الحديدة.

– الحرب إذن هي حرب الحديدة، والمعادلة هي، في لبنان ربط قبول تغطية سعودية لتسوية تعترف بانتصارات حزب الله في سورية، بقبول إيران بتسوية في اليمن تعترف بانتصارات السعودية بعد حسم الحديدة، وتصير استقالة رئيس الحكومة اللبنانية سعد الحريري بقرار سعودي استباقاً رادعاً، لحماية مشروع تسوية افتراضية ما بعد حرب الحديدة. وفي الميدان، تصعيد استباقي سعودي بوجه إيران، لردع افتراضي لأيّ دخول إيراني على خط حرب الحديدة، والبداية إعلان إغلاق المياه الإقليمية اليمنية، وربط الصواريخ التي تستهدف السعودية من اليمن بدور إيراني، وجعل ميناء الحديدة عنواناً للربط.

– حرب الحديدة هي الحرب المحدودة والمحسوبة، منعاً لحرب كبرى يعرف الأميركي و«الإسرائيلي»، أن لا قدرة على التورّط فيها، فإنْ فاز بها السعودي صارت كسباً للحلف كله، وإنْ لم يفز يحمل نتائج الهزيمة وحده، وقد نال تعويضه مالاً كثيراً سلفاً بتغطية حملته على أبناء عمومته و«تشليحهم ثرواتهم في ليلة لا ضوء قمر فيها».

– يقول اليمنيون إنهم لا يحتاجون تدخّلاً إيرانياً لحماية قدراتهم في الحديدة، وإنّ وابل صواريخهم على العمق السعودي إذا اندلعت حرب الحديدة سيتكفل بردع السعوديين عن مواصلة اللعب بالنار.

– يقول الجميع إنّ نهاية العام، موعد نهاية الحروب، وانطلاق عام التسويات، فلذلك تذهب سورية لحرب استرداد الرقة وإدلب ومعها إيران وروسيا، ولو تصادمت مع الأميركيين والأتراك، وترسل أميركا و«إسرائيل» السعودية لاحتلال الحديدة شرط عدم التصادم مع إيران.

– بعد رسم وحسم توازنات البحر الأحمر تتحدّد معادلة الخليج، ويستضيف البحر المتوسط قمم التسويات الكبرى، في منطقة البحار الخمسة.

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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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