‘Million-Man March’ in Baghdad Demands US Troop Pullout

Posted by INTERNATIONALIST 360° on 

A massive demonstration –called for by a prominent Shia cleric– has flooded the streets of the Iraq’s capital Baghdad, with thousands voicing their anger at the US military presence there.

Early on Friday morning, throngs of protesters – men and women, young and old – began amassing at al-Hurriya Square in central Baghdad, near the city’s main university. The anti-America rally, dubbed the “Million-man March,” was called by Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric.

Some were wearing white robes, symbolizing their readiness to die for a religious cause, while others were pictured holding signs that read: “To the families of American soldiers – insist on the withdrawal of [your] sons from our country or prepare their coffins!”

“Get out, get out, occupier!” protesters shouted, while others chanted, “Yes to sovereignty!”

Security forces have cordoned off main roads in the capital, and the city’s Green Zone – home to foreign embassies and government premises – was barricaded with concrete barriers.

There are no reports yet on protesters heading for the US embassy, but a banner warning against crossing the barriers has reportedly been erected outside the mission.

The march comes just weeks after Iraq was shaken by an American drone strike near Baghdad airport, which killed Iran’s top General Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of Iraq’s Shia militia, along with other officers.

Aside from triggering a flare-up of military tensions and a retaliatory Iranian strike on US bases in Iraq, the killing sparked outrage among those Iraqis who see the 16-year American troop presence in their country as an unlawful occupation.

Official Baghdad, for its part, blamed Washington for breaching its sovereignty, with the lawmakers of the Islamic republic having passed a non-binding resolution calling on the government to expel all foreign troops from the country.

US media has suggested that the Pentagon was planning the withdrawal of its 5,000 troops from Iraq, but these reports were officially refuted afterwards.

RT

Huge Crowds in Baghdad Call for the Ouster of US Forces from Iraq

Huge crowds of Iraqis demonstrated in Baghdad on Friday to demand the ouster of US troops from the country.

The demonstration set off from al-Jadriyah and al-Karrada regions adjacent to the Green Zone in central Baghdad.

The demonstrators raised the national flags, chanted slogans rejecting the US presence on Iraqi soil and denounced the criminal actions committed by the US administration by targeting Iraqi military forces and resistance leaders.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi security forces have taken strict measures and cut a number of roads in central Baghdad in coincidence with the start of the massive demonstration, according to an Iraqi security source.

In statements to SANA correspondent in Baghdad, a number of demonstrators confirmed that the US military presence is the cause of all the dilemmas that Iraq is witnessing.

They demanded the immediate implementation of the Iraqi Parliament’s resolution which call for the expulsion of the US and foreign forces from all Iraqi lands.

This demonstration, according to demonstrators, represents a real popular referendum on the rejection of any US military presence in the country.

On January 5, the Iraqi parliament voted overwhelmingly in favor of a resolution bending the government to end the foreign presence in the country after the US crimes against Iraqi military headquarters and high ranking Iraqi and friendly resistance leaders.

Trump’s Gamble in Iraq Backfires: Assassination of Soleimani has Huge Cost for America

Funeral of Iran top General Qasem Soleimani. (Photo: via AJE)

January 24, 2020

By Iqbal Jassat

Despite conflicting official statements by the Trump administration about the reason behind its decision to target Iran’s most celebrated military official, the U.S. is adamant that its assassination of Qasem Soleimani and refusal to leave Iraq is about “protecting Americans”. 

From versions advanced publicly by former CIA chief Pompeo now serving as Trump’s trigger-happy defense secretary, during his TV-road show, the world was told that Qasem Soleimani was killed because he posed an “imminent” threat. 

This “official” narrative was spun to convince Trump’s domestic audience that though the Democrats had ganged up against him, he remained concerned about America’s safety and thus eliminated “bad” persons. 

The targeted assassination of Qasem Soleimani and a senior Iraqi military leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis, has raised serious questions about Trump’s real motivation. Notwithstanding the so-called justification being a vague, unproven claim of “imminent” threat of violence against Americans, Trump himself shot it down by saying that it “doesn’t really matter” whether Soleimani and al-Mohandis posed an imminent threat. 

In other words, as Commander-in-chief of America, I, Donald Trump can authorize the killing of anyone, regardless of whether the person singled out for extra-judicial execution is a serving official of any country, and it matters not whether the person poses an imminent threat. 

Strangely, the facts advanced by Iraq’s parliament particularly by Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi regarding the reason for Qasem Soleimani’s visit to Baghdad on the fateful day he was assassinated, have either been downplayed or ignored. 

In addition, the Iraqi parliamentary session reveals how the emergence of China and development of strong ties to Baghdad may be shaping America’s new Mideast strategy.

Clearly one cannot ignore what has been described as one of the most overlooked yet relevant drivers behind Trump’s current policy with respect to Iraq: preventing China from expanding its foothold in the Middle East. 

Indeed, some commentators have argued that the timing of Soleimani’s assassination was directly related to his diplomatic role in Iraq and his push to help Iraq secure its oil independence.

Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi’s insistence that America’s pressure on the Iraqi government arises from China’s growing ties especially in the oil sector, hasn’t received adequate media attention. While this may be due to much of the U.S. pressure being exerted on the caretaker government covertly and behind closed doors. 

Now that the Iraqi Prime Minister has lifted the lid on Trump’s bullying tactics, mainstream media has no reason to shy away from it. The evidence strongly suggests that America under Trump cannot countenance China’s presence nor Iran’s substantial influence in Iraq. 

The flip side is that both China and Iran are eager to free Iraq by ridding it of U.S. troops. Both have different means to do so which has the potential to saddle Trump with the prospect of exiting his army in ignominy. 

The Trump administration is thus faced with a huge dilemma: how to depart gracefully yet retain a presence? 

It knows that parliamentary approval to remove American forces along with all foreign troops means the end of the road. Challenging it as Pompeo is doing, is unsustainable and to defy Iraq is in effect defying international conventions. 

The martyrdom of Qasem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis and a number of their colleagues on Iraqi soil, is the straw that proverbially broke the camel’s back. 

Far from attaining any of Trump’s stated objectives, the targeted killings have had results entirely unfavorable to his goals. 

Iran is firmly united behind its revolutionary leadership, while Trump is facing an impeachment trial in a country deeply divided. The notion of a superpower is in tatters while Iran’s regional status has grown immensely. 

China’s entry will have further ramifications for America. This as one commentator explained: “China has the means and the ability to dramatically undermine not only the U.S.’ control over Iraq’s oil sector but the entire petrodollar system on which the U.S.’ status as both a financial and military superpower directly depends”. 

– Iqbal Jassat is an Executive Member of the South Africa-based Media Review Network. He contributed this article to The Palestine Chronicle. Visit: www.mediareviewnet.com

Houthis Anticipate US Assassination Attempts, Warn US Troops Will Be Targeted in Retaliation

By Ahmed Abdulkareem

Source

As tensions in the Middle East continue to rise, there are indications that Donald Trump’s administration is planning to carry out assassination operations against high-ranking Houthi officials inside of Yemen similar to the U.S. assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard General, Qassem Soleimani, a move likely to open the door for further escalation in the region.

On Thursday, a high ranking Houthi official in Sana’a told MintPress News on condition of anonymity that the Houthis would not hesitate to target U.S. troops in the region if the Trump administration targets its personnel inside Yemen.

The statement comes in the wake of an announcement by United States officials that the U.S. military tried, but failed, to kill another senior Iranian commander on the same day a U.S. drone strike killed Soleimani.

According to reports, a U.S. military air attack targeted Abdul Reza Shahlai, a high-ranking commander in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) while he was in Yemen, but the mission was not successful. The U.S. Department of the Treasury claimed that Shahlai was based in Yemen and accused him of having “a long history of targeting Americans and US allies globally.”

Meanwhile, Yemeni activists and media pundits are expressing concerns over what they consider serious threats from Trump administration, pointing out that news of the unsuccessful assassination in Yemen should not be underestimated. Others have called on U.S. Congress to prevent any attacks on Yemeni soil and to keep U.S. soldiers in the region out of harm’s way.

The pretexts for U.S. attacks in Yemen are not without precedent. On October 13, 2016, the U.S. military announced that it had struck three coastal radar sites in Hodeida, an area of Yemen controlled by Houthi forces, in retaliation for an alleged failed missile attack on the USS Mason, a U.S. Navy destroyer. The Houthis maintain that they were not involved in any missile attacks against the Mason.

For their part, the Houthis (Ansar Allah) were clear in their warning to U.S. leaders in the wake of U.S. assassinations in Iraq, promising that U.S. troops in the Arabian Gulf or the Red Sea would be targeted without hesitation if the Trump administration attempts to target Houthi leaders in Yemen.

Yemen Soleimani assassination

The Yemeni army, which is loyal to Ansar Allah, is already preparing for anticipated U.S. attacks. Ansar Allah’s leadership has reaffirmed that their anti-U.S. position is based on a principled and ideological commitment, but historically, Ansar Allah has not directly targeted the United States or its interests in the region.

During a televised speech broadcast live on January 8 during Yemen’s martyr’s week commemoration, Abdulmalik Badr al-Din al Houthi, the leader of Ansar Allah, said that “We will no longer acquiesce to Trump’s equation in killing us and interfering in our affairs and to do nothing is no longer acceptable.” He went on to say that the Houthis’ dealings with the “carelessness of the United States which targets the nation’s leaders will be different.”

The Ansar Allah leader pointed out that if there was no U.S. support for Saudi Arabia, the war against Yemen would not have occurred, adding that the role of the United States in the war against his country includes supervision, management, political protection, destruction, and the supply of weapons.

He also warned Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates from continuing their military campaign in Yemen, saying that “developments in the region are not in their interests.” Implying that the escalation of tensions between the U.S. and Iran could be used against both the United States and Saudi Arabia in some way.

The threats of Ansar Allah, a group known to strike sensitive targets without hesitation, should not be underestimated. On September 14, Yemen hit two of Saudi Arabia’s oil facilities in Abqaiq and Khurais in a retaliatory attack that the United States blamed on Iran. Now, they have developed their arsenal of ballistic missiles and drones even further and experts say are likely capable of hitting U.S. troops in the region.

According to Houthi officials in Sana’a, the Trump administration appears to be using allegations of an Iranian troop presence in Yemen, an allegation that Houthis deny, as a pretext for further military action in the country, despite no evidence to back the claim.

Furthermore, the contrast between the Houthi reaction to that of Iran’s allies in the region after the U.S. assassinated Soleimani further suggests that Iran has no significant measure of influence over the Houthi’s decision-making process.

In fact, the Houthis fiercely rejected any and all foreign attempts to influence their decisions after the assassination of Soleimani. The group, thus far, has not promised to retaliate against U.S. troops as revenge for the murder of Soleimani as Iran’s allies in the region did in near unanimity. Moreover, they treated the incident with caution and decided not to be drawn into an escalation despite angry demonstrations that took place in many of Yemen’s cities over the assassination.

However, the Houthis have signed a military cooperation deal with Iran as a result of the continued war and blockade against their country and may work with Iran to take action against U.S. troops in the region should the U.S. target Houthi leaders in Yemen. According to some strategic decision-makers in Sana’a, retaliatory attacks could take place if even a single case of a U.S. attack in Yemen were to take place.

A legacy of targeted killings

In the wake of the U.S. killing of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi military leader Abu Majd al- Muhandis, many Yemeni politicians fear the Trump administration could carry out similar operations against high-ranking leaders in Yemen. The Saudi-backed assassinations of former presidents Saleh al- Sammad and Ibrahim al-Hamdi, both popular figures among Yemenis, are cemented in the country’s collective memory.

On November 6, 2017, Saudi Arabia released a list of 40 names of Houthis leaders and senior figures that the Kingdom wanted dead or alive. The list was issued by the Saudi Ministry of Interior, which offered rewards of between $5 to $30 million. On April 19, 2018, former president of the SPC, Saleh al-Samad, was assassinated by Saudi airstrikes in Hodeida while preparing for a protest to statements made by the American ambassador that the Houthi-controlled city of Hodeida will fall.

Almost two years after al-Sammad’s assassination, a criminal court in Hodeida has begun the trial of U.S. President Trump along with 61 Yemenis and foreigners, all believed to be involved in the assassination of the former head of the SPC. After finding ten suspects guilty, the court held its first hearing, trying Trump and the remaining 51 foreign and Yemeni defendants in absentia in late October.

The trial, which has drawn national media attention, may only be symbolic, but it sends a clear message to the U.S. that its operations in Yemen and its ongoing complicity in the worst man-made humanitarian crisis in the world is unacceptable and will undermine U.S. foreign policy in the region.

Before his assassination, Al-Sammad was attempting to carry out a plan to rebuild Yemen into a modern, stable and democratic state by 2030. He penned the National Vision, a manifesto of 175 goals focused on independence, freedom and non-submission to foreign influence.

Yemenis’ concerns about .U.S and Saudi intentions towards their national leaders were reinforced when the Yemeni Defense Ministry revealed that both U.S intelligence and Saudi princes’ were involved in the 1977 assassination of popular Yemeni president Ibrahim al-Hamdi after he refused Washington and Riyadh’s interference in Yemen’s internal affairs.

At a press conference, Brigadier Abdullah bin Amer, a senior official at the Yemeni Defense Ministry, released important documents related to the assassination of President al-Hamdi, including the names of those involved in his murder.

Before his death, al-Hamdi was attempting to pivot Yemen away from the Saudi kingdom and the United States and build Yemen’s independence by developing it’s oil reserves and its strategic location on the Bab al-Mandeb Strait. Now, according to senior Houthi officials, Sana’a is in possession of evidence that confirms the role of President Carter’s administration and the Saudi regime in the assassination, including planning, supervising and covering up the crime, according to Brigadier bin Amer.

The Last Lunch

MintPress was shown documents allegedly exchanged between U.S. and Saudi intelligence that indicated the involvement of the United States and former Saudi Kings Khalid bin Abdulaziz Al Saud, Fahd bin Abdulaziz and their brother Sultan in the assassination, but was unable to independently verify their authenticity.

According to the documents as well as witness testimony, al-Hamdi was invited to lunch at the residence of Ahmad al-Qashmi, who was the Army chief of staff under his command. During his stay there, Ali Abdullah Saleh, then a brigade commander, and one of his bodyguards entered the house. Moments after they entered, al-Hamdi was killed in a hail of bullets.

Sultan Bin Abdulaziz, according to the documents, was in direct contact with Saleh al-Hadyan, the Saudi military attaché in Northern Yemen’s capital Sana’a at the time of the targeted killing. Riyadh allegedly dispatched three Saudi intelligence operatives to Sana’a hours before the assassination who then left Yemen three hours after the operation concluded.

“Saudi Arabia killed al-Hamdi under the supervision of Saudi military attaché, Saleh al-Hadyan because he was an opponent of Saudi Arabia and did not comply with its instructions and interventions in Yemen,” The late Abdullah Saleh said in a 2016 interview with RT Arabic in which he claimed that he had “evidence of the involvement of Saudi Arabia.”

When al-Hamdi came to power in 1974, North Yemen lacked even the most basic services and infrastructure. Moreover, the country was on the brink of collapse and tribesmen held significant power and influence. Al-Hamdi, much like Al-Sammad, created a development plan supervised by a number of committees which encouraged local communities to contribute to road construction, school buildings, and water networks.

Under al-Hamdi’s direction, North Yemen underwent a period of rapid economic growth. The country’s GDP rose from 21.5 percent in 1974 to 56.1 percent in 1977 and per capita income rose by 300 percent. Al-Hamdi, according to WikiLeaks documents, was also working to “prepare the groundwork for eventual elections” in North Yemen.

Given the fate shared by those willing to risk charting a path free of foreign intervention in Yemen, it is unlikely that the Houthis, nor their fellow countrymen, will take attempts by foreign countries to assassinate Yemeni leaders lightly.

Sitrep – Soleimani and Al-Muhandi’s murders

by Aram Mizraei for The Saker Blog

January 04, 2020

Huge crowds of Iraqi mourners join Gen. Soleimani’s Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis funeral procession

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis chanting “Death to America” have joined the funeral procession for Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi anti-terror forces chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad.

The terrorist attack on the two commanders seem to have united Iraqis from all sects and walks of life as former political rivals have set aside their differences to unite against the occupying Americans. As an example, the Sunni grand Mufti of Iraq has called on his forces to join with the Shia Iraqi brothers in violently removing the US forces from Iraq.

The presence of figures such as Sayyed Ahmad al-Safi and Hadi Al-Ameri, who are otherwise rivals, in the funeral procession is a message to Washington that the assassinations have unified the Iraqis more than ever against the US.

The same can be said when Moqtada Al-Sadr who us known to have been opposed to Iranian presence in Iraq, traveled to the home of Soleimani’s family in Kerman to offer his condolences.

Meanwhile, in Iran, the red flag was raised over the minaret of the Jamkaran Mosque in the holy city of Qom. It is the first time in history that the red flag has been raised over the minaret of Jamkaran. According to Shia tradition the red flag symbolizes blood spilled unjustly and is also a call for revenge.

Another thing worthy of notice is the visit of Qatar’s foreign minister to Iran in an attempt to mediate between Washington and Tehran. Unconfirmed reports on Twitter claim that the US asked Qatar to mediate with Iran over the retaliation to Washington’s terrorist attack. Deputy PM/ FM Mohammed bin Abdulrahman Al Thani met with his counterpart Mohammad Javad Zarif and offered a “nuclear deal” and lifting sanctions in exchange of no response.

It is also worth noticing that Qatar changed the color of its flag from red and white to black and white during the visit. A sign of solidarity with Iran perhaps?

Condemnations and vows for revenge continue to pour in from many parts of the region:

Lebanon: A high-ranking official with the Lebanese Hezbollah resistance movement has strongly condemned the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani. Speaking at a memorial ceremony held in Lebanon’s southern town of Doueir, Mohammad Raad slammed  the “US’ cowardly crime” of targeting the top Iranian general, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis stressing that the act will not go unpunished.

“Whoever belongs to the axis of resistance commits himself to participating in the response, because the two martyrs represent every drop of blood that runs through our veins and every breath through which we live. Days are passing by and there is talk of a new war,” Raad, who is also the head of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc in the Lebanese parliament, pointed out.

Meanwhile, another Lebanese legislator described General Soleimani as a partner in every victory that the anti-Israeli resistance front, Lebanese nation and the peoples of Palestine, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan have achieved.Speaking during a memorial ceremony held in the southern city of Yater, Hassan Fadlallah said the late Iranian commander’s role was noticeable in humiliation of US and Israeli occupation projects, and in the defeat of Takfiri terror groups like Daesh.

“America, the Israeli enemy and all their allies in the axis of evil are under the illusion that they could weaken this struggle if they killed a commander or a hero of this resistance axis. They do not know the truth of this culture to which we belong. A culture, under which, a combatant may get killed on the ground but emerges victorious in the end,” Fadlallah, who is also a member of the Loyalty to the Resistance Bloc, highlighted.

He added, “Enemies can target a leader here and a hero there; but at the same time they must know that they cannot weaken or make the axis of resistance retreat. All past experiences have actually proven that the blood of such commanders will further the strength and firmness of the axis of resistance.”

Gaza: Islamic Jihad leader Ahmed al-Modallal said the top Iranian general directly supported the Palestinian resistance front, and he was in charge of providing logistical supplies to Palestinian resistance groups.

“The assassination of General Soleimani increases our determination and adherence to resistance in the face of forces of arrogance. (The Palestinian) resistance movement will stand committed to the blood of their martyrs,” Modallal added.

He then slammed attempts by certain Arab states to normalize diplomatic relations with the Israeli regime, stating that the United States aims to rob Arab and Muslim nations of their wealth and capabilities.

“It is shameful that several Arab countries have opened up their arms to embrace the axis of evil and have deployed troops to kill our people,” Modallal pointed out.

Separately, top Hamas official Ismail Radwan underlined that General Soleimani’s assassination will unite anti-US peoples to stand against the occupation of Arab and Muslim territories.

Yemen: The politburo of Ansarullah in a statement on Friday described the operation as a war crime by the White House against the entire Muslim Ummah, the anti-Israel axis of resistance and the Palestinian cause.

“Washington assumed it could get rid of General Soleimani by means of his targeted killing, but one can rest assured that his blood will chase Americans more than ever,” it said.

On Friday, Abdul-Malik al-Houthi offered his sincere condolences over the martyrdom of the two distinguished Iranian and Iraqi military figures in US airstrikes, saying, “The freedom-loving Yemeni nation must know that the enemy targets anyone without exception in its pursuit to control all.”

“The enemy is fairly annoyed, and has resorted to targeted killing because the axis of resistance poses an obstruction for its plots and thwarts them,” Houthi pointed out.

In other places, massive protests have been held in Kashmir, in Afghanistan, in the occupied Gaza strip in solidarity with the martyred General. It seems that Soleimani is viewed as a champion for many of the oppressed people of the world.


Sayyed Nasrallah on Gen. Soleimani’s Assassination: We’ll Pursue His Path, Work Night & Day to Achieve His Goals

Translated by Staff

Hezbollah Secretary General, His Eminence Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, issued a statement mourning the martyrdom of IRGC Quds Force Commander Martyr Leader Qassem Soleimani

In the name of Allah, the Entirely Merciful, the Especially Merciful.

{Among the believers are men true to their pledge before God. Some of them have fulfilled their vows, and some are still waiting, and never wavering.}

Allah the Almighty has spoken the truth

Given that the beloved brother and great leader Hajj Qassem Soleimani has fulfilled his ultimate hope by achieving noble martyrdom, he truly became the master of the martyrs in the resistance axis.

We offer our condolences to our master and Imam, master of the time, may God Almighty hasten his relief; to His Eminence the Leader, Grand Ayatollah Sayyed Khamenei, to our great religious references and dear brothers and officials of the Islamic Republic in Iran, especially the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard and the great and resisting Iranian people, to each and every member in Hajj Qassem’s noble and resisting family in particular. 

I extend the warmest condolences to them all on the loss of this brave and ingenious role model and compassionate father of all resistance fighters and Mujahideen in our region.

I congratulate and exult him on this great martyrdom and for arriving to the high status in the school of (Imam) Hussein and Zainab, peace be upon them. This is what the scene is like for us. 

This is how we perceive the scene and the situation. 

Concerning us who remained after him, we will pursue his path and work night and day to achieve his goals. We’ll carry his flag in all arenas, fields and fronts. The victories of the resistance axis will increase with the blessing of his sacred blood, just like these victories grew with his perseverence and tireless struggle. It will be the responsibility, duty, and action of all resistance fighters and Mujahideen throughout the world to take harsh revenge from his criminal killers who are the worst villains of this world. 

The US killers, God willing, will not be able to achieve any of their goals with this huge crime. Rather, all of Hajj Qassem’s goals will be accomplished owing to the greatness of his soul and blood. (The goals) will be accomplished by his brothers, children, and students of the resistance from all the peoples of our nations that reject humiliation and submission to the imperialists and tyrants.

Glory, honor, and high ranks be to the great martyr leader Hajj Qassem Soleimani, and to all the dear Mujahideen who were martyred with him, especially the great martyr leader Abu Mahdi, may Allah be pleased with them.

قاسم سليماني القائد الحاضر في الميدان حتى الشهادة
“أبو مهدي”.. مهندس المقاومة ضد الاحتلال وداعش
مشاهد أولية لاستهداف قاسم سليماني وأبو مهدي المهندس
البخيتي: الدماء الطاهرة ستكون نكالاً على أميركا
تغطية خاصة | 2020-01-03 | إغتيال القادة “قاسم سليماني وأبو مهدي المهندس”
تداعيات فشل اهداف العدوان الامريكي على العراق

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Commander of Iran’s Quds Force, PMU deputy head martyred in US strike

Video

Friday, 03 January 2020 12:46 AM  [ Last Update: Friday, 03 January 2020 4:06 AM  

Late Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (L), and late Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Iraqi pro-government Popular Mobilization Units (file photo)

Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), have been killed in US airstrikes in the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

The IRGC announced in a statement on Friday morning that Major General Soleimani and al-Muhandis were martyred in the attack carried out by US helicopters.

The Iraqi pro-government group also confirmed the incident. 

“The deputy head of the Hashed, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and head of the Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, were killed in a US strike that targeted their car on the Baghdad International Airport road,” it a statement on Friday.

“The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani,” said Ahmed al-Assadi, a PMU spokesman. 

The group had earlier said that its public relations director Mohammed Reza al-Jaberi and four other members of the group were also killed after three Katyusha rockets struck a military base next to Baghdad International Airport in the Iraqi capital.

This picture shows the aftermath of a rocket attack on Baghdad International Airport, Iraq, early on January 3, 2020. (Photo via Facebook)

The media bureau of the voluntary forces – better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Shabai – described the early Friday morning attack as a  “cowardly US bombing”.

The rockets landed near the air cargo terminal, burning two vehicles and injuring several people, the Iraqi Interior Ministry’s Security Media Cell said in an earlier statement.

خلية الإعلام الأمني@SecMedCell

سقوط 3 صواريخ كاتيوشا على مطار بغداد الدولي قرب صالة الشحن الجوي ادى الى احتراق عجلتين اثنين واصابة عدد من المواطنيين وسنوافيكم التفاصيل لاحقاً.642:46 AM – Jan 3, 2020Twitter Ads info and privacy18 people are talking about this

Shortly after the attack, US officials, speaking on condition of anonymity, told Reuters that the strikes were carried out against two targets linked to Iran in Baghdad. The officials declined to give any further details.

Meanwhile, security sources, speaking on condition of anonymity, told AFP that eight people were killed in the attack.

The development came as the United States military said on Sunday it had carried out strikes in western Iraq against Kataib Hezbollah group, which is part of the pro-government Popular Mobilization Units – better known by the Arabic word Hashd al-Sha’abi.

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units confirm US attack on their base in Anbar

Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units confirm US attack on their base in AnbarIraq’s Popular Mobilization Units say US forces attacked their base in the western Anbar province.

Iraqi security sources said at least 25 fighters were killed and at least 55 wounded following the air attacks.

 Senior Iraqi officials also condemned the US attack against the Kataib Hezbollah’s positions as a “violation of Iraqi sovereignty”.

Caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called the move a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region” in a statement on Sunday,

US contractor killed in rocket attack on Iraq base: American officials

US contractor killed in rocket attack on Iraq base: American officialsAmerican officials say a “US civilian contractor” has been killed in, what they describe as, a rocket attack targeting a military base in northern Iraq.

Abdul Mahdi said US Secretary of Defense Mark Esper had called him about half an hour before the US raids to tell him of the US intentions to hit Kataib Hezbollah’s bases. He said he asked Esper to call off US plans.

Iraqi caretaker President Barham Salih also condemned the attack.

The US raids drew a wave of condemnation from officials and movements across the region, and triggered furious public protests outside the US embassy in Baghdad.

US Embassy in Iraq evacuated amid angry protests over airstrike on PMU

US Embassy in Iraq evacuated amid angry protests over airstrike on PMUThe United States evacuates its Embassy in Baghdad as thousands of angry Iraqi demonstrators gather outside the gates of the compound to condemn Washington’s fatal military aggression against the PMU.

The Pentagon said the bombings were in response to attacks targeting American forces near the oil-rich northern Iraqi city of Kirkuk last week, which reportedly killed a US civilian contractor and injured four US service members, as well as two members of the Iraqi security forces. The US accused Kataib Hezbollah group of the attack.


Occupied Palestine: The Most Enduring Media Cover-up

Global Research, November 28, 2019

Clearing the FOG hosts Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese interviewed Alison Weir, journalist and founder of If Americans Knew, a website that provides factual information about the Israeli State and Palestine. Weir describes how she learned firsthand that US media provide a false and one-sided narrative about Occupied Palestine and why she has dedicated the past twenty years to counter that. She also explains some of the most common myths and what she learned as she did research for her book, “Against Our Better Judgment.” Weir is a very clear thinker on the issue of Palestine-Israel and provides the data and language we need to speak to a propagandized population. You can listen to the entire interview and the week’s news analysis on Clearing the FOG.

Interview

Clearing the FOG (CtF): Alison, your website is a great source of information. Before we get into the site, why don’t you tell us about how you got involved in this issue.

Alison Weir (AW): People always wonder that because I don’t happen to be Jewish or Arab or Muslim or Palestinian and like most Americans 20 years ago, I knew very little about this issue. I had been active on other issues, anti-war during the Vietnam war, civil rights, that type of thing but I had never focused on Israel-Palestine until the Second Intifada began in the Fall of 2000. I’m sure you know intifada just means “Uprising,” a Palestinian Uprising. When that began, in Fall of 2000, I got curious about it.

My background is journalism. At that time, I was the editor of a very small weekly newspaper in Northern California. This wasn’t for my job, it was just my personal curiosity. I started to follow the news coverage on this uprising and I quickly noticed that it was very one-sided, that we were hearing from and about Israelis in great detail, but we got very little information from and about Palestinians.

I went on the internet and discovered a great deal of information from the region itself, from humanitarian agencies that were there, Israeli media in English, Palestinian media. And I discovered that Israeli forces were shooting Palestinians every day in large quantities, including many children and I noticed this reality was not being reported on the news sites that I usually looked at. The San Francisco Chronicle, the New York Times, especially NPR, seemed to be covering that up.

So the more I looked into it, the more I felt this was a truly significant cover-up. I felt and I do feel now that this was the longest-lasting and most enduring cover-up I had ever seen and that it was occurring across the political spectrum. After a few months of looking into that, I decided, it seemed so significant that I quit my job in Sausalito and traveled as a freelance reporter throughout Gaza and the West Bank. It was a very intense trip, I was not part of any delegation. There really weren’t any delegations at that time.

When I came back, I started the organization, If Americans Knew. The goal has been to be very factual, to show the sources of our information. It’s very transparent. It gives Americans without ideological slant the facts on Israel-Palestine and especially the American connection, the fact that we are in many ways responsible for what Israel does because our tax money goes to Israel. It’s now over 10 million dollars per day. We’ve given Israel far more than we’ve given anybody else.

Most Americans, I think, are the way I was. I felt I had no connection to this confusing issue on the other side of the world, but I learned I have a very direct connection to it and therefore it’s my responsibility to know about it and to act in ways that I feel are morally required. In a nutshell, that’s how I ended up 20 years later still working on this issue.

CtF: That was a very courageous thing to do. Of course, the US also provides cover for Israel in the United Nations or when the International Criminal Court wants to investigate Israel. How were you received by Palestinians when you went there to cover the Intifada?

AW: The perception was and is that you will be in great danger from Palestinians. But I discovered it was the opposite. I was welcomed. I was invited to stay in people’s homes, which I often did. People were very excited to learn that an American journalist was there. I told people I’m here to see what’s going on and people would smile at me in places like Gaza where there were really very few Americans at that time. I didn’t see any other journalists traveling around.

Crowds of people would come up to me and they wanted to show me their bullet-riddled homes and show me what was happening to them. So I found it then and on my other trips there since, people are very welcoming, very friendly. Often they’re very aware of how much money the US gives to Israel. Even though most Americans don’t know that, it is known in the region. Despite their knowledge of that and despite their knowledge of how the US has supported Israel in so many ways, they’re still very welcoming to Americans and very willing to not blame us for what our government is doing. So it’s really the opposite of what people have been led to believe it would be like.

CtF: We were just in Occupied Palestine recently and what you describe is very consistent with our experience as well. Your website focuses on correcting the misconceptions. What are some of the most important misconceptions that people in the United States have about the situation in Occupied Palestine?

AW: That’s at the heart of the problem because there are so many that it’s hard to make people realize it’s really as different as they expect. If there were only one or two, people can accept that. It’s harder for them to realize that almost everything they thought was true is not accurate. And that is what I am often telling them.

One of the main things is that we are directly related to the conflict. We give Israel massive amounts of money. This is per capita on average 7,000 times more than we give other people. One of the other things is that many people are unaware that Israel was established in my lifetime, that when I was born there was no Israel. There was a region called Palestine that had been there called Palestine for really millennia.

Many intelligent and knowledgeable people are not aware of what Israel Palestine is about, that basically Israel was established through warfare. It was not established by the United Nations, another misconception. It was established by a war of ethnic cleansing. That’s what we now term that type of war. It’s the title of an excellent book by an Israeli historian Ilan Pappe, so, the very foundation of Israel is very different than people realize.

This was an intentional dispossession of the indigenous population. It started with the beginning of the establishment of the modern state of Israel and continues through today. Constantly Israel is confiscating additional Palestinian land and taking it over for Jewish-only settlements, as they’re called. Many people are unaware that many Palestinians are Christians. This is where Christianity began. It’s rarely mentioned in the US media.

The other thing people are often unaware of these days is media coverage always focuses on “rockets from Gaza.” Every news report mentions rockets from Gaza. The fact is that I was there traveling around by myself as a reporter before any rockets had been fired and I saw already at that time in early 2001 extreme devastation. I saw neighborhoods in Gaza that were bullet-riddled, that looked like the pictures you see of World War II ruins. In the West Bank too shelling was going on. This was before any rockets had been fired.

People think Israel is defending itself from rockets, but the rockets were actually resistance groups in Gaza trying to fight back with really very ineffectual rockets. In the whole time they’ve been used, they’ve killed at most a few dozen Israelis. Meanwhile, Israeli forces have killed many thousands of Gazans. The only statistic we get in the typical news report is thousands of rockets have been fired from Gaza. They never tell that the total number of Israelis who have been killed is perhaps by now, maybe 50, perhaps not even that high and they never tell that during that time about 5,000 Gazans have been killed. We don’t hear about the massive bombardment of Gaza that’s been going on for a very long time and that has killed thousands of Gazans. And of course, killed many people in the West Bank also.

CtF: When we were there, we saw fighter planes flying over Jerusalem on their way to bomb Gaza. Over 30 Gazans were killed, including a family. Tens of thousands of Palestinians were displaced from their homes in the recent siege of Gaza. And these so-called rocket attacks, they’re like little pipsqueak rockets. These rockets were a response to an Israeli assassination in Gaza. It’s really amazing they use that as an excuse, but they do.

AW: They get away with it because the media only tell about the response and don’t tell about what came before. The American population is completely misled. Most of these are small homemade projectiles, but media will report them as missiles and people are imagining a Nike missile or something. That’s just not what’s going on.

There have been studies of the chronology of the violence in the conflict. There was one excellent study by an MIT professor who looked at periods of calm, at various truces through the years. Her study showed that it was something like 96% of the time in the shorter truces it was Israel that had first resumed violence against Palestinians and in the longer truces, it was 100% of the time that Israeli forces resumed the violence. This is just not known to the American public because it’s very filtered news coverage that people are getting.

Your point of hearing jets flying over to bomb Gaza is very significant. People don’t know that here we have one of the most powerful militaries on the planet, largely due to our tax money and often US weaponry, fighting against a population that has no Air Force, no Navy, no aircraft, no helicopter gunships. The disparity is astounding and the media try to call it a war. A war is between two military forces. That’s not what we have when we look at Gaza and Israeli forces.

CtF: It’s such an asymmetric situation. Palestinians have been forced from their homes, living in an apartheid state and have the right under international law to defend themselves. But the Palestinians we met with while we were there, activists, said we are nonviolent, we believe in using non-violence and talked about teaching their children not to hate other people, how giving in to that was destructive. One of the things that people push back in the United States is they say that there never really was a Palestine, that Palestinian nationality didn’t start until the 20th century. Can you comment on that?

AW: Yes. This is one of the Israeli talking points that many people have fallen for. You see this on Facebook and Twitter and various places. It’s a nonsensical argument. It’s true, there was not a state of Palestine. There was not a state of Israel. There was a region called Palestine. You can look at old maps.

Palestine was a region back in biblical times. It was talked about in more recent times. It was talked about in more recent centuries. It was under the Ottoman Empire. It was what we call multicultural. Around 1900, the population was about 80 percent Muslim, about 15 percent Christian and a little under five percent Jewish. This was a region. It was not a nation-state, as we know nation-states came relatively late to the world. Germany wasn’t a nation-state for many years. The United States did not used to be a nation-state. Palestine was a region. Palestinians have existed.

There was a book published some years ago by an Israel partisan who went by the name Joan Peters claiming the Palestinians did not exist, that they were just nomads that had come in because the Zionists’ wonderful entrepreneurial spirit had created jobs for these nomads to join them. This is the thesis of her book called “From Time Immemorial.” Many people read it. It was praised by pretty much every book review in the United States.

People like Barbara Tuchman, an Israel partisan, but known as a historian, praised it. It turned out to be a complete hoax.  Some very good historians and analysts including some Jewish Americans looked into the book and found out that these many footnotes were often fraudulent. They were actually coming from Zionist propaganda. In Israel itself, it was exposed as non-factual. In Britain, it was exposed as non-factual. In the United States, it eventually was, but I don’t think any of the people that gave it a positive review and that endorsed it then had the honesty or principle to retract their erroneous reviews.

Many people, especially many Jewish Americans, read that book and were taken in by it and then repeat the myth that there were no such thing as Palestinians. Even Golda Meir, the famous Israeli Prime Minister, said at one point that quote there were no Palestinians. That’s like Americans trying to say well there were no Native Americans here. Of course, there was.

CtF: Even in the country itself Israeli Jews seem oblivious to the reality in their own country. Home demolitions and the settlers putting settlements on Palestinian communities and on Palestinian lands. We drove on Jewish-only roads. If I Google “Jewish only roads,” I find an article about “Jewish only roads don’t exist.” One of the challenges we have in talking to people in the United States, and even in Israel, Occupied Palestine, is they don’t want to see reality. How do you communicate to people who just seem oblivious whether unintentionally or intentionally?

AW: Certainly, Israelis have been brought up to be just the way you’re describing. Nurit Peled, an academic, has done excellent work showing that Israeli textbooks are very propagandistic in the way that they depict Palestinians. They’re not even called Palestinians. They call them Israeli Arabs. So this is deeply embedded in many portions of the Israeli population.

Fortunately, there are many people in Israel that are dissenting from that and they’re trying to reach their fellow Israelis. There are Israelis Against Torture and Israelis Against Home Demolition. There are a number of Israeli groups within the society, a small fraction, but they’re doing really wonderful work in trying to expose what’s actually going on. There are some Israeli journalists, especially Gideon Levy, who write every week in the Israeli media about some of the latest atrocities being committed by Israel against Palestinians.

I would love to reach everybody. I’d love to reach every Israeli. I’d love to reach every American who’s taken in by Israeli talking points. What I focus on is the really fairly promising reality that about three-quarters of the American population, despite the pro-Israel media coverage that we’ve been getting for decades and despite Hollywood, really does not have a strong view on this issue. And general surveys will show that they say something like we shouldn’t take sides, which is sensible. If you don’t know much about an issue, you just don’t take sides.

That sounds like a fairly wimpy approach to those of us who know what’s going on there, but what that would mean if you don’t take sides is we would stop giving Israel 10 million dollars per day. We would stop vetoing UN resolutions to protect Israel from world condemnation of its violence. So it’s actually quite a good stand if we did what the majority of Americans already say we should do.

I try to focus on giving the general public the facts on this issue and the importance of making their wishes known to their elected representatives that it’s time to stop this massive aid to Israel. It prevents peace. Israeli militarists think they have a blank check from the most powerful nation on the planet, which they do right now. So my view is we give voters factual information on this. We show how extremely tragic the situation is because of what we’re funding and the fact that it hurts us as well and emphasize how important it is to tell our elected representatives that we want them to change these misguided destructive US policies of a blank check to Israel.

It’s time for us to vote and to work on the issue of Israel Palestine. Not only because of what it’s doing to Palestinians, not only because of what it then does to the US but because our support of Israel has led to our wars in the region. It has led to much of the violence in the region that has since spilled over elsewhere. It’s the core issue of the Middle East and it’s the time for us to focus on it and to address it.

CtF: I want to ask you about a topic that you’ve been writing about recently. And that is the criticism that people who question or criticize the Israeli state are anti-semitic. Can you talk about that?

AW: Yes, that’s used all the time and most of us are profoundly opposed to bigotry of all kinds. We don’t want to be splattered with such mudslinging. We don’t want to be called anti-Semitic. We don’t want to be anti-Semitic and we’re not being anti-Semitic when we speak out for justice as a principal, but that’s the attack that they try to use.

A member of the Israeli Parliament some years ago on Amy Goodman’s Democracy Now said, and I’m paraphrasing, she said this is a trick. We always use it when somebody is critical of Israel, we call them anti-Semitic and that is exactly what going on. Nobody should be anti-Semitic. Nobody should be against any population, should be hostile and prejudiced against people. Bigotry is wrong. So that’s what they try to use.

What’s gotten worse is that not only do they try to claim somebody’s anti-Semitic when we’re talking about a nation-state and talking about injustice and trying to support principles of justice for all people, there is an effort to change the definition of anti-Semitism to include criticisms of Israel. This is extremely insidious.

It’s been going on for a number of years. There’s a new formulation in which certain criticisms of Israel, factual statements about Israel, will now be defined as anti-Semitism. Therefore it will be defined as hate speech, etc. This effort was begun by an Israeli Minister named Natan Sharansky. It has now been embedded in the US State Department and it’s being embedded elsewhere around the world. We need to learn about that and we need to oppose it. We need to stick with the traditional definition of anti-Semitism and we should oppose all anti-Semitism just as we oppose all racism, but we should not allow that incorrect epithet to be used to silence us or to prevent us from working for justice and human rights for all people including Palestinians.

CtF: One of the people we visited with when we were recently in Occupied Palestine was Rabbi Hirsh, who is with an ultra-orthodox Jew, and he makes a very strong case that Zionism is inconsistent with Judaism, that it violates the Torah. That makes the state of Israel really under his religious analysis to be against Judaism. A growing group of Jews in the United States is getting active in the Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions movement. A number of Jewish groups are actually beginning to criticize Zionism and Israel. It’s really is an absurd claim that people who criticize Israel or Zionism are anti-Semitic. It just shows the weakness of their arguments.

AW: It does and I’m glad you brought that up because when Zionism, political Zionism, began with Theodore Herzl and some conferences in Switzerland in the late 1800s, the majority of Jews around the world did not join that movement. They said we’re Americans, we’re British etcetera. Even a Jewish population in Palestine was opposed to it, especially observant Jews were opposed to it and considered it a heretical move. There are many Jews who for religious reasons oppose Zionism saying this is against the Bible. It’s against God’s will. That’s part of what people don’t know. And in my book, in the research I did, it was very interesting to see how Zionists were very upset that Jewish-Americans were not embracing Zionism in the early years. In fact, for a number of decades, there were groups such as the American Council on Judaism that actively and strenuously opposed Zionism.

CTF: Finally, how can people learn more about the work that you do?

AW: The first thing would be to go to our website: IfAmericansKnew.org. From there, you will also go to our blog, the If Americans Knew blog. Between those two resources, I believe there’s a lot of information that will be useful to people. My book is available on Amazon. The short title is “Against Our Better Judgment.” It can be read very quickly. It’s one of the selling points and it’s thoroughly cited. It turned out that the book is half citations. So every statement in it, you can find the source for that statement. It contains a great deal of information that many people, even experts on the issue, did not know about before because when I started researching it, I was starting from scratch. I read a huge number of books. We’re also working to encourage people to join the effort to work within their congressional district to inform the people in your community about what’s going on. You can email us at contact@IfAmericansKnew.org and help get this information off the internet and into the hands of people in your community. We also have a very active Facebook page, If Americans Knew Facebook page, where we post things every day. I especially encourage people to join our email list. We should not rely on Facebook for our communication. That is a private company and they could turn it off whenever they want to so, please join our email list also.

CtF: If you haven’t visited If Americans Knew, it’s a very deep website. If you ever want to understand a particular aspect of Israel or Occupied Palestine, you’ll find a lot of the facts right there. If you’re ever writing about it, debating it, trying to understand and discuss it with others, it’s a very fact-based and deep web site that serves a very useful purpose for engaging on this issue.

AW: We’ve certainly tried and the websites been live about 15 or 16 years. There’s really a depth of content there. We’re trying to upgrade it to a more modern look but there’s so much content, we just haven’t been able to do that yet. So it’s an old-school look but the content is there for people to find and it’s all sourced. We try to make sure that our material is factual and show people that that’s the case.

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Margaret Flowers and Kevin Zeese co-direct Popular Resistance where this article was originally published.

Featured image is PressTV

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