الصين تسرّع الخطى عالميّاً فهل يُسرّع لبنان؟

ناصر قنديل

رسمت الصين كقوة صاعدة على المستوى الاقتصادي الدوليّ مشروعها للانتقال خارج الحدود من خلال ما عُرف بخطة الحزام والطريق، الذي يتوزع على محاور عدة أبرزها خطوط سكك حديد وجسور بريّة ضخمة، وطرق بحريّة حديثة بمرافئ مجهزة، تؤمن ربط الصين بأجزاء القارة الآسيويّة كلها وصولاً إلى أوروبا من نوافذ متعددة أهمها روسيا وتركيا، وبمشاركة دولتين أوروبيتين هما اليونان وإيطاليا انضمّتا إلى الخطة الصينية، وفتحتا الباب لاستثمارات صينية تعبيراً عن ذلك، وتقع باكستان آسيوياً في قلب الخطة الصينية عبر استثمار يقارب مئة مليار دولار في مرفأ غوادر، بينما جاء الاتفاق الموقع بين الصين والعراق والذي بلغت قيمته خمسمئة مليار دولار، تطال بناء كل شيء في العراق من الجامعات إلى المستشفيات وسكك الحديد والكهرباء ومحطات المياه وخطوط النفط والغاز، والتي شكلت وفقاً للخبراء سبباً لتحريك الضغوط تحت عنوان ثورة الشارع على حكومة الرئيس عادل عبد المهدي وصولاً لاستقالته، ولا يتبرأ الأميركيّون من مسؤوليتهم عن إسقاطها، من دون أن يتمكن خليفته مصطفى الكاظمي من التبرؤ من الاتفاق الذي وقعه سلفه.

مع غموض مصير الاتفاق الصيني العراقي وبقائه فوق الطاولة، يثبت اتفاقان صينيان كبيران، كل منهما بخمسمئة مليار دولار، واحد مع إيران والآخر مع روسيا، وفيهما عناوين في حقول الطاقة وصناعة الطائرات المدنيّة، وصناعة تكنولوجيا الاتصالات، وتجهيز المرافئ وبناء شبكات متطوّرة لسكك الحديد ومدن سياحية، وعبرهما تصل الصين إلى حدود أوروبا من خلال روسيا، وإلى مياه الخليج وحدود المتوسط عبر إيران، ومن خلالها نحو العراق أو تركيا أو كليهما، بينما يتشارك الروس والإيرانيّون في تشجيع الصين على الاستثمار في سورية، خلافاً لكل التحليلات التي تتحدث عن تضارب مصالح على هذا الصعيد.

يناقش بعض اللبنانيين الانفتاح على الصين بسذاجة وجهل، متخيلين أن الحديث يجري عن دولة نامية، حيث يقع هذا البعض في أوهام ماضي التفوق الأوروبي التقني والصناعي، والتفوق الأميركي الاقتصادي، متجاهلين معنى انضمام إيطاليا لمبادرة الحزام والطريق الصينية، ومتجاهلين معنى نشر أبراج شركة هواوي الصينية في سويسرا وبريطانيا وألمانيا، لاستثمار تقنية الجيل الخامس من أجهزة الاتصالات، الذي يشكل محور الثورة العالمية في التكنولوجيا، ونقطة الارتكاز في الاقتصادات الرقمية الحديثة، ومتجاهلين أن صناعة الدواء العالمي، بما في ذلك الأميركي والأوروبي تتم بنسبة 90% في المصانع الصينية، وأن شركات أميركية عملاقة مثل أبل تصنّع هواتفها الذكية في الصين، وأن مرافئ عالمية كبرى مثل بوسطن وأمستردام تعمل بمعدات صينية بنسبة 80%، وأن اكبر مخزون عالمي من السلع والأموال والمعدات الصناعيّة موجود لدى الصين، وأن الاستثمار الأكبر في سندات الخزينة الأميركية هو الاستثمار الصيني بقيمة تزيد عن ثلاثة تريليونات دولار.

لبنان الذي يملك قيمة استراتيجية في موقعه على البحر المتوسط، وكان الصينيون قد أعربوا عن اهتمامهم بمرفأ طرابلس وبخطوط سكك الحديد وبناء مدن صناعية حرة، يملك أيضاً قيمة مضافة يمثلها القطاع المصرفي الذي ورّطه أصحابه والقيّمون عليه سياسياً ومالياً بعملية تدمير ذاتي، يمكن أن يشكل مصدر اهتمام صيني عبر عن نفسه بسعي الصين ضمن عروضهم للبنان بامتلاك مصرف ومؤسسة مالية، هذا بالإضافة لتوافر أجيال من خبراء بالتقنيات الحديثة في المعلوماتية والاتصالات بين متخرجي الجامعات من اللبنانيين، يندر وجود مثله في العالم العربي يؤهل لبنان لتشكيل منصة تقنية متقدمة للعالم العربي في مجال اقتصاد المعرفة.

الغباء وحده قد يحول دون إفادة لبنان من الفرصة الصينية، بما فيها ما سيحصل عليه إذا وضع ذلك شرطاً لاتفاق اقتصادي استراتيجي، لجهة طلب توظيف صيني برقم قد يصل إلى عشرين مليار دولار في سندات الخزينة اللبنانية بفائدة منخفضة ولمدة تزيد عن عشر سنوات، ما يؤهل لبنان السيطرة على أزمة الديون، والسيطرة على سعر الصرف، فهل يملك اللبنانيون شجاعة الإقدام، أم أن لدعوات الحياد علاقة بمسعى تعطيل هذا التوجّه، تحت شعار الهوية الدينية مرة والثقافية مرة؟

SYRIA CAESAR’S LAW: WHO DOES IT TARGET, AND HOW WILL IT AFFECT PRESIDENT ASSAD?

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

In mid-June, the US sanctions against Syria will escalate, with the enactment of “Caesar’s Law“, sanctions designed to “pursue individuals, groups, companies, and countries that deal with the Damascus government.” This law – purportedly named after a Syrian army officer who smuggled out thousands of photos of torture by the Syrian army in prisons – is designed to prevent companies and countries from opening diplomatic channels with Syria, and to prevent them from contributing to reconstruction, investment, and the provision of spare parts for the energy and aviation sectors in Syria. The sanctions also affect the Syrian central bank, freezing the assets of individuals who deal with Syria and invalidating any visa to America. Who will abide by this law, and what are its consequences for Syria, Lebanon, and the countries that stand beside Syria?

Torture is a common practice in many nations around the world. Syria practised torture (the case of Maher Arar) on behalf of the United States of America and the Bush administration. At least 54 countries (Middle Eastern and African nations but also western countries like Australia, Austria, Belgium, Canada, the Czech Republic, Denmark, Finland, Germany, Greece, Poland, Portugal, Romania, Spain, Sweden, United Kingdom and more) supported US “extraordinary renditions” in 2001 and secret detentions under President Barack Obama. Washington thus lacks any moral authority to claim opposition to torture as a basis for its policies. Over recent decades the US has become notorious for authorising gruesome forms of torture, stripping people of their most basic rights, and generally violating human rights in defiance of the Geneva convention and above all the 1984 UN convention against torture. James Mitchell, a CIA contract psychiatrist who helped draft and apply “enhanced interrogation techniques“, disclosed several methods approved by the US administration to torture prisoners placed in detention in “black sites” outside the US, illegally but with official authorisation. Images of torture in Abu Ghraib prisons showed the world that the US use of torture and illegal methods of interrogation against detainees in Iraq. 

Thus, US sanctions on Syria cannot plausibly indicate US concern for human values and opposition to the abuse of power. Moreover, the US administration’s adherence to its own Constitution is in grave doubt, given the reaction of the security forces against demonstrators in America in response to widespread racial discrimination and racially motivated police attacks.

These new US sanctions, under the name of Caesar Syria Civilian Protection Act, can in no way be ascribed to some moral value, but rather to the failure by the US, Israel and several Western and Arab countries to change the regime in Syria, and their refusal to acknowledge defeat. They keep trying, and in this case, imagine that through harsh sanctions against Syria and its allies they can achieve what they have failed to accomplish through many years of war and destruction.

In the 1990s, the US imposed sanctions on Iraq (oil-for-food). Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi citizens died as a result of US sanctions on Iraq without Saddam Hussein’s regime and his entourage being affected. Consequently, we can predict that US sanctions in general primarily affect the population and not the leaders.

The US fails to realize that it is no longer the only superpower in the world, and in the Middle East in particular. Russia has done what many thought was impossible and elbowed its way into the Levant to remain in Syria and confront NATO at the borders. China has followed as a rising economic superpower to make its way into the Middle East, mainly Iraq and Syria. Iran has already a strong presence and powerful allies in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Palestine. These three countries, along with Syria, are playing a leading role in actively eliminating US hegemony in this part of the world.

In Beirut, the government cannot adopt and abide by “Caesar’s Law” and close its gates to Syria. Lebanon’s only land borders are through Syria since Israel is considered an enemy. Any national economic plan to revitalise the abundant local agriculture sector and export to Syria, Iraq or other countries in the Gulf would fail if “Caesar’s Law” were put into effect. Any regenerated industry or import/export from the Middle Eastern countries must go through the “Syrian gate”. Besides, the current Lebanese government risks falling if it implements the US sanctions. Washington is not providing any financial assistance to the Lebanese economy in crisis and clearly has no intention of offering necessary and immediate help to the crippled Lebanese economy. The US, as has become the norm, seeks to impose sanctions and conditions on the nations it targets but offers little in return to affected countries. In the case of Lebanon, its budget deficit is close to 100 billion dollars following decades of corruption and mismanagement.

The government of Prime Minister Hassan Diab is, theoretically, a technocratic and non-political government. It does not consider the US an enemy but neither is it likely to follow US dictates, since it is close to the “March 8 Alliance” whose strongest members are not US friendly. Hence, the only solution for this government or any future government is to go east towards China, Russia and Iran. America will likely lose in Lebanon, with its “March 14 Alliance” allies rendered voiceless and powerless. 

There is no doubt that the Christian party within the “March 8” political group will be challenged and affected by US sanctions. These have an international relationship to look after and maintain as well as external bank accounts. Regardless, “Caesar’s Law” cannot be implemented in Lebanon, whatever the consequences of its violation.

As for Iran, it has already been subject to “maximum pressure” and harsh sanctions increasing year after year since the victory of the Islamic Revolution in 1979, for daring to reject US hegemony. Hence, it has no consideration whatsoever for the US “Caesar’s Law”. Even more, Iran is certainly not unhappy that the US blocked the return and reopening of Gulf countries’ embassies – who dare not disobey the US wishes – in Syria. Gulf companies are no longer in the field as competitors to divide shares in Iran’s reconstruction contracts related to projects in the field of industry, trade and energy. Iran has already challenged US and EU sanctions on Syria by sending oil tankers to Damascus. Also, Tehran sent five tankers to Venezuela, another country suffering from harsh US sanctions. The Gulf and European countries – US’s allies – are thus losing their opportunity to return to Syria, to be involved in its reconstruction and to regain their foothold in the Levant.

As for Russia, it has just signed a deal with the Syrian government to expand its military airport and naval bases in Tartous, Hasaka and Hmeymim. Furthermore, it is supplying Syria with modern military hardware and fulfilling the Syrian army needs to come up to full strength. It supplied Syria with squadrons of the updated MiG-29 fighters this month in a clear message to the US and its “Caesar Act” sanctions.

As for China, it is now in a “cold war” situation over US accusations that Beijing is responsible for the outbreak of COVID-19. The US is seeking to prevent Beijing from doing business with the European market, and particularly to prevent Europe from embracing China’s 5G network and technology. The US administration is also pushing Israel to curtail trade with China and to call off its billion-dollar contracts signed with China to avoid “hurting the relationship with the US”. Moreover, the Iraqi-US relationship took a severe blow when the former Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi signed off on a $20 billion “oil for reconstruction” agreement with China. Thus China, already involved in different projects in Syria, is not likely to abide by “Caesar’s Law”.

As for Syria, it will never accept starvation nor buckle under the US’s economic siege. President Bashar al-Assad is reconstructing the liberated areas under the government forces’ controls. He is rebuilding infrastructure for the Syrian population present in the homeland, excluding the areas abandoned by refugees who fled the country many of whom will not return. The Syrian government is not suffering from the absence of the five to seven million refugees in Idlib, in refugee camps outside the control of the government or in nearby bordering countries. Those refugees are financed and looked after by the international community and the United Nations. This relieves the central government of a considerable financial burden.

Consequently, Syria does not need to reconstruct the refugees’ homes or provide them with oil, electricity, schools, infrastructure and subsidies for as long as Western countries want them to stay outside Syria. The international community wants these refugees to remain away from the central government’s control and is doing everything in its power to prevent their return so as to be able to reject a future Presidential election- where Bashar al-Assad’s victory is guaranteed.

President Assad will work with Iran, Russia and China to secure his needs. Iran has defied US-European sanctions by sending oil tankers to Syria through the Straits of Gibraltar twice. Iran is building drug and medicine factories in Syria, and is also working on other projects that it shares with Russia and China. Syria is heading toward the east, not the west, since that it is the only remaining option left to it. This is the long-awaited dream of the “Axis of Resistance”. Lebanon, Syria and Iraq are looking to Asia to reverse the US-European sanctions against them and their allies in the Middle East. By imposing further unaffordable sanctions on Syria, the US is helping the Levant come out of the US sphere of influence and presence.

Iran, Russia, China and Syria are uniting as allies with an integrated project against US hegemony. There is no place for the domination of one state over another in this gathering of nations because solidarity is required to help Syria, for example, stand as a healthy and reliable country to confront the US. Their strength grows as the weakness of the US becomes more apparent, at a time when President Donald Trump is struggling domestically and his world influence is weakening. Washington is unilaterally imposing sanctions on nations and populations, forcing some allies to follow but also forcing them to consider seriously future possibilities for detaching from this burdensome “umbilical cord.”  

The US “Caesar’s Law” aims to submit and suppress the Syrian nation and people, as Washington has attempted with Iran and Venezuela, so far failing miserably. This policy can no longer be effective because the Russian – Chinese – Iranian alliance has now become important to many countries in the Middle East. The influence of this alliance now extends to the Caribbean Sea. “Caesar’s Law” will turn against its architects: “he who prepared the poison shall end up eating it.”

Proofread by:  Maurice Brasher and  C.G.B.

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com   2020 

IRAQ SERIOUS CHALLENGES: THE US, IRAN, ISIS PLUS A “DIFFICULT TO FORM” CABINET.

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

Just at the time when the country is being led by a caretaker Prime Minister, Adel Abdel Mahdi, and the newly elected Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kadhemi (boycotted by many powerful political groups) is struggling to form his cabinet, the terror group “ISIS” is increasing its attacks on a number of Iraqi provinces. The Shia majority has asked for the withdrawal of US forces while the Sunnis and Kurds want these forces to remain, and ask instead for the withdrawal of the Iraqi security forces al-Hashd al-Shaabi or “Popular Mobilisation Forces” (PMF). ISIS is testing the military readiness of the Iraqi security forces and is taking advantage of the severe domestic differences between all political parties, knowing that the country is also facing serious financial difficulties and has a pandemic to deal with as well. The country is in crisis and the pressure is overwhelming.

ISIS is aware of the presence of security holes in various parts of Iraq, particularly around the Hamrin mountains in Salahuddin province, Jurf al-Nasr (south of Baghdad) in Babil province, Jalawla and Baqubah in Dyala province, in Karbala province, wadi Houran, along the Iraqi-Syrian borders in the al-Anbar province. Since a month ago ISIS has been harassing the security forces, mainly the PMF, and engaging with them to test their readiness- and exhaust their resources. It is also establishing fake checkpoints with men dressed as members of the Iraqi Army who arrest and kill tribal men.  This is happening in the Sunni areas, whose political leaders are asking the PMF to leave their provinces and for the US to remain in Iraq. The US, with perfect timing, has ceased its intelligence collaboration with the Iraqi forces 

ISIS knows the desert and the mentality of the people living in these provinces. It also seems to be aware of the cessation of collaboration between the US and the Iraqi forces, where the Iraqi drones are insufficient to cover these provinces and collect enough intelligence information about ISIS’s movement and intentions. Thus, Iraqi forces have turned from a preventive stance to a defensive one, while ISIS moves from being the hunted to become the hunter in many provinces. It is common knowledge that the Iraqi forces have difficulties controlling the 599 km long border between Iraq and Syria, where ISIS crosses with its major forces and equipment. 

Many ISIS militants somehow managed to escape from a Syrian prison run by the Kurdish Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF), a US partner, in the north-eastern city of Hasaka, a prison that held some 11,000 to 12,000terrorists captured on the battlefield. The escapees seem aware of the existence of a meeting point to join other groups still on the loose between the two borders. According to Iraqi intelligence sources in Baghdad, many of these joined sleeper cells in different provinces; some were killed and captured by the Iraqi security forces during the latest attacks.

ISIS is capable of surprise attacks and insurgency but has failed to hold its new ground, notwithstanding the violence of its attack, the biggest since 2017. It has recently attempted to control the oil road east of Tikrit by isolating the north from the southern Tikrit city in Salahuddin province and attacking Mukeshefah and Samarra. ISIS aims to regain some control over financial resources (oil) and has been gathering forces coming overland and along the Tigris river. ISIS took advantage of the Federal Police presence—unfortunately, the Federal Police are unfit to fight against irregular militants as the well-trained counter-terrorism brigade or the PMF could. While many Sunni political leaders are asking US forces stay, many tribes in Salahuddin are asking the Prime Minister to send the Hashd PMF to their villages and cities as a permanent presence following the repetitive ISIS attacks. 

The list of the new Cabinet members in Iraq.

The assassination of the commanders Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis pushed Iraq to ask the US to leave the country. The US forces ceased intelligence collaboration and scheduled a meeting on the 6thof June to initiate a dialogue about the strategic relationship between the two countries- but not to organise total withdrawal. Following the Iraqi parliament’s binding decision to see the US forces out of Iraq, subsequent to Washington’s destructive decisions to violate Iraqi sovereignty and in contradiction with the agreement with Baghdad signed in 2014, these forces are no longer offering any support at all without political concessions from the Iraqi leadership. 

The Prime Minister asked Hashd al-Shaabi to intervene against ISIS due to its long experience in guerrilla warfare. However, Hashd lacks air cover due to the slow and inefficient coordination between its command on the ground and the Iraqi Air Force. This handicap is allowing ISIS to resist longer on the battlefield and contributing further to Hashd’s human casualties.

ISIS is playing on the US-Iraq and the US-Iran differences in Mesopotamia. It is also showing high military readiness and capability to fight back and exhaust the Iraqi security forces. However, Hashd al-Shaabi is also showing determination to defeat the group and force its withdrawal on multiple fronts. The Iraqi command needs to find non-US resources to regain the momentum, rely on its own resources to provide surveillance and armed drone support for its ground troops and intelligence services. Perhaps Russia and Iran can fill the vacuum the US is intentionally creating. Otherwise, Baghdad will indeed manage to repel ISIS, but with much greater human losses- unless it changes its classical approach and offers a new deterrence strategy, through spreading “eyes” in the sky in the “softest” areas, those where ISIS militants move at ease, and particularly on the Iraqi-Syrian borders and in al-Anbar desert. For that, the country needs a new and strong government- certainly not a caretaker Prime Minister with limited authority, and a novice Prime Minister unable to form an adequate cabinet and lacking political support from the MPs’ group leaders.

Mr Abdel Mahdi has ordered Hashd al-Shaabi – the security forces bombed repeatedly by the US air force and accused of being loyal only to Iran – to deploy its forces in the provinces where ISIS is most likely to enjoy a greater presence. Abdel Mahdi is aware that Hashd capacities and ideology make it fitter to confront ISIS than any other brigade. But Abdel Mahdi doesn’t want to remain in power and is looking forward to handing on the office to al-Kadhemi.

However, ex-Prime Ministers Nuri al-Maliki and Ayad Allawi refused to grant support to al-Kadhemi and his cabinet because some proposed names were not part of their consensus. Al-Kadhemi is accused of favouring the Kurds and the Sunni by accommodating their candidates but disfavouring the Shia by imposing names that are considered provocative and unacceptable to many groups. Al-Kadhemi is being asked not to choose names that are unsuitable to the Shia groups, to the street and to both Iran and the US. Decision-makers in Baghdad suggested that the new PM candidate asks all parties (Sunni, Shia and Kurds) to forward names of at least 3 technocrats or 3 politicians for each seat in the cabinet allocated to them (11 for the Shia, 6 for the Sunni, 4 for the Kurds and 2 for the minorities). If all those names are unsuitable for al-Kadhemi, he can ask for another batch of names. But what he can’t do – said the source – because this would fail to gain parliamentary support—is to choose technocrats from the Shia quota disapproved by many Shia groups, and other names of politicians as forwarded by the Kurds and the Sunni.

Furthermore, Baghdad lacks a strong government, yet the foreign debts and the low price of oil are adding severely to Iraq’s deficit. Iraq needs 80 billion dollars per year but has a revenue of less than 30 billion. In the midst of this difficult situation, the Coronavirus is adding more strain on Baghdad, and tensions between the US and Iran harm the country. Both countries are fighting their own war on Iraqi soil and each side wants the other out of the country. Hashd al-Shaabi is considered an enemy of the US and Israel and is essential for Iran for keeping the US out and, for Iraq, to protect the country from ISIS. The Shia are divided, as well as the Sunnis and the Kurds. And now, as the last straw, ISIS is increasing its attacks, taking advantage of this chaotic state. It will take a miracle for Iraq to be able to stand on its feet any time soon.

Proofread by:  Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com   2020 

IRAQ FACING A GREAT US THREAT: CHINA, AL-HASHD AND IRAN OUT, OR ELSE! … (2/2)

By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

No country could fail to be shaken by the kind of profound struggle between all its political groups that currently prevails in Iraq. The US does not need to make any great effort to sow discord between the parties because they are currently intrinsically fragmented. The removal of Major General Qassim Suleimani from the Iraqi scene– whose personal objective had been to bring the various political parties together – was a major event, but not a game-changer. It did not profoundly modify the Iraqi political scene because he had already failed, two months before his assassination by the US, to persuade the parties to agree on a single Prime Ministerial candidate, following the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi. Iraqi politicians put their differences above all else in order to protect their political influences, unmoved by the patriotic duty for unity in the light of the serious challenges facing their country.

Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi was not mistaken when he once told me: “We do not know how to rule. We are good at opposing the ruler.” No ruler in Iraq will be able to get the country out of its current severe financial crisis, the political acrimony, and COVID-19 health crisis, because the financial means are lacking. The pressure from the street, where protestors were demanding improved living conditions, will return stronger than ever. The low price of crude oil is undermining Iraq’s yearly income. The state’s budget deficit is skyrocketing; its external debts are persistent and its need for help from the World Bank, which is under US control, is greater than ever. America will not provide financial assistance until its demands are fulfilled and Iranian influence is removed from Iraq.

America rejects Iraq’s balancing policy. Iraq considers its relationship with the US only as important as its relationship with neighbouring Iran. Washington wants Iraq for itself, adopting one principle: “after me, the great flood” (après moi le deluge) an expression said to be often used by Louis XV of France to indicate that he is the centre of attention, no other consideration matter but his own self-obsession and that any other considerations are irrelevant.

The US is supporting Iraqi Kurdistan by expanding its “Harir” military base and establishing another large military base on the border with Iran. The message to Baghdad seems blunt: US forces will remain in the face of resistance from those parts of Iraq more subject to Baghdad’s authority. In Kurdistan, the central government authority is not as effective as in other parts of the country. The US supports the Kurdish Peshmerga and arms them through its allies, the United Arab Emirates, who are providing the Kurdish armed men with weaponry: four cargos full of weapons landed recently in Erbil. 

It is not excluded, if Trump remains in power, that his administration will help the Kurdistan region detach itself from Iraq, as it may also support a Kurdish secession attempt in north-eastern Syria. In the part of Syria, the US is occupying with Kurdish help, US forces are stealing Syrian crude oil- even if its price is no longer sufficient to pay the expenses of the troops deployed around it- indicating that there is another reason for their presence, related to the US ally, Israel. 

Iraqi protestors refer to the United States as the “Joker,” a powerful force exerting influence on events in Iraq, often covertly. This influence was evident in last year’s demonstrations, but most conspicuously in the Kurdistan independence movement. Kurdish officials already rejected the binding constitutional decision of the Iraqi parliament – in a clear rebellion against the authority of Baghdad –which demanded the US withdrawal from Iraq.

Iraqi decision-makers in Baghdad believe that US President Donald Trump acts only in accordance with his own country’s interests. He thanked Adel Abdul-Mahdi for his protection of the US embassy because it was attacked in Baghdad. The US President sent a positive message to Iran through Abdul-Mahdi and then, a few days later, killed the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. The US administration is also working for Israel’s interests in Iraq – and not according to the “declared” interest of the US in building a strong and friendly Iraq-US relationship. 

Trump did not listen to his protests when Abdul-Mahdi called him personally and told him that US actions in attacking security forces were angering the Iraqis and that any unilateral action would have catastrophic consequences for everyone. Rather, Trump listened to his aides who consider the Middle East leaders as subordinates, not allies. This US condescension serves the interests of Iran, which knows how to benefit from American mistakes, said the sources.

There is no doubt that Iraq is facing a crisis, with severe domestic bickering adding to the difficult economic and sanitary situation affecting all countries. But the greatest danger to the country comes from the Trump administration, which can only imagine subduing states by force. The US will certainly end up “reaping the whirlwind” rather than gaining a robust alliance with Iraq.

There is no doubt that Iraq is experiencing difficult labour in the midst of severe domestic bickering, plus the difficult economic and sanitary situation affecting all countries. But even more dangerous is the fact that Iraq is in the eye of the storm, pulled off course by the winds of Trump, who can only imagine subduing states by force. The US will certainly end up “reaping the whirlwind” rather than gaining any kind of robust allies.

Proofread by:  Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

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THE RESISTANCE STRIKES THE US WHICH SEEKS A TRUCE IN IRAQ

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier:

New anonymous organisations in Iraq have threatened to strike US forces if they refuse to withdraw from Iraq. One of these newly emerged organisations released its first video of an attack against a US military convoy transporting vehicles on the road between the Kurdish province of Erbil and the northern Salahuddin province, where the US maintains large military bases.

US Ambassador Matthew Tueller has met with caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, expressing the will of his country to begin strategic talks with Baghdad. The US did not disclose that the US diplomat informed Mr Abdul-Mahdi about the US intention to pull out forces from Iraq and his request not to be attacked during the withdrawal of troops. Indeed, the US has already evacuated forces from 6 bases and centres of control in different places in Iraq. This is what prompted the Iraqi Kataeb Hezbollah (Brigades) to ​​announce particularly that the organisation does not intend to strike US forces as long as they completely withdraw from the country. 

However, the Iraqi resistance does not trust the US promises as forwarded to the Iraqi premier. It considers the US is manoeuvring to redeploy forces from the more vulnerable bases to more protected bases. This scepticism has caused new Iraqi resistance to surface, and provoked attacks against US forces in a manner reminiscent of the 1980s “Islamic Jihad” organisation in Lebanon, which was responsible for the kidnapping and killing of US officers and citizens.

The first newly emerged organisation identified itself as “The Revolutionary League” (Usbat al-Thaereen). In its first communiqué, it has shown drone images with excellent resolution of the US embassy in Baghdad in all its details, building, helicopters, movement of personnel and military forces inside.  What is striking is not only the fine details and high-quality of the drone footage but how a drone managed to fly for extended minutes over the most guarded buildings inside the Iraqi capital. Three brigades of the Iraqi army (6, 11 and 17) are deployed in the capital Baghdad along with the anti-terrorist force, the federal police HQ, the Ministry of the Interior and the local police. Most of these are based in the “Green Zone” where the US embassy is. US forces are also deployed at Baghdad airport (not far away) and inside the Embassy.

Not only that, but a second video was also distributed to the press a few days later with drone footage of the most extensive US military base in Iraq, at Ein al-Assad base in the Anbar desert. The video showed weapons stores, forces, buildings, command and control tower and base, hangars, landing and take-off runways and many more details of the entire map of the base. At Ayn al-Assad, the US deploys of the most sophisticated radars, Patriot missiles and other defence systems that are supposed to secure the base.

Moreover, the video had also been shot from outside the base, showing the driving of a car along the walls of the American base in Ain al-Assad, which indicates the ease of movement of the group without regard for the security measures deployed along the road.

The organisation broadcast an enthusiastic song stating its goal of avenging the assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani and the Iraqi leader Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis. The singer’s dialect indicates that he is not Iraqi, though clearly, the singer is a native Arab speaker.

Another new organisation called “The Islamic Resistance in Iraq – People of the Cave” (referring to Surat al-Kahf in the Quran) issued a video in which it showed an IED exploding in convoy carrying military vehicles and, one minute later, a second powerful IED explosion when the convoy personnel gathered to assess the damage. The convoy is said to be travelling from Kurdistan – Erbil to Salah al-Din Governorate, the Uwaynat region. This attack is a message for the US forces: they will not be able to roam as they wish in Iraq because for them the country is now insecure, as are their military bases.

A statement issued by a third new Iraqi organisation called “Islamic Resistance Factions – Iraq – the fist of guidance” accuses America of preparing to launch an attack against the Iraqi factions, and gives the American and British ambassadors 48 hours to leave, or they will be killed. It was not possible to confirm the authenticity of this  statement. 

It is to be expected that more organisations will emerge in Iraq, enjoying military, media and organisational skills and capabilities. These undoubtfully benefited from the long years of war in Lebanon between Hezbollah and Israel, in Syria against al-Qaeda and ISIS (The Islamic State), and in Iraq against the US during the 2003-2011 invasion and against ISIS following the occupation of a third of Iraq in 2014.

These organisations seek retribution against the US, which assassinated the leader of the “Axis of Resistance” Major General Qassim Soleimani, the field commander in the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” (PMF) Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, and which bombed several bases of the Iraqi army, its federal police and the PMF at the Syrian-Iraqi borders, al-Qaem, and destroyed Karbala Civil Airport. The US breach of the memorandum of agreement signed in 2014 exasperated Iraqi political, military officials and many other resistance groups.

The US Ambassador visited the caretaker Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi to inform him about its decision to leave Iraq and proposes a large meeting next June to agree on the mechanism of withdrawal from Iraq. The ambassador asked Mr Abdul Mahdi to intervene to stop all attacks against American forces while withdrawing and to mediate with Iran to achieve this, because “America is serious about proceeding with the exit from Iraq.”

The Iraqi Hezbollah Brigades, the League of the Righteous (Asaeb Ahl al-Haq), Al-Nujabaa Movement and the Imam Ali Brigades responded to the Iranian request to refrain from opposing al-Kazemi, despite their lack of trust in him and in the US intention to withdraw. These factions promised not to attack the US forces as long as the US shows they are withdrawing their forces from the country. Thus, the emergence of new organisations aims to offer an excuse for these groups, that they are not apparently involved in any attack and that they are “encouraging” the US to leave. These groups are unknown and new on the Iraqi scene. Therefore, it is easy for them to avoid pressure from the officials in Baghdad.

However, the style of these organisations reminds us of the “Islamic Jihad” organisation in Lebanon that emerged in the 1980s, was responsible for the kidnapping of hostages in Lebanon and worked directly under the command of Iran. It was not connected to Lebanese “Hezbollah” at the time.

It seems that the US has not read carefully enough the Iranian messages following the assassination of the Axis of the Resistance leader. When Sayyed Ali Khamenei said: “The price of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis is the US departure from West Asia” this meant that the decision had been taken to force the US out whatever the cost.

Sayyid Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah in Lebanon and of the “Axis of Resistance” in Lebanon, Gaza, Syria, Iraq and Yemen, said “every American soldier is a legitimate target”. He wondered, when directing his question to the US following the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandis: “what have you done? Are you aware whose blood you spilt?” His message was clear: “Hezbollah will not stand idle and will target every US soldier.” Sayyed Nasrallah said explicitly: “Iraq is the battlefield”.

Driving the US out of West Asia is the goal. The methods used by the Iraqi resistance will not be different from methods used against Israel in Lebanon, in Syria and Iraq during the past decade. They will be employed until the very last US soldier leaves Iraq.

Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.G.B

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020 

THERE IS NO IRANIAN-AMERICAN AGREEMENT AND NO TRUCE IN IRAQ

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier@ejmalrai

Mustafa Al-Kazemi has been chosen Prime Minister after difficult negotiations marked by intra-Shiite disagreement. The President of the Republic, Barham Salih, had exploited this disagreement when he boldly challenged the majority Shia in Iraq by his choice of an anti-Iranian and pro-US candidate, Mr Adnan Al-Zurfi. The nomination of Mr Al-Kazemi is a response to this move; Shiite blocs had already circulated his name several months ago. 

When Mr Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the caretaker Prime Minister, resigned, consultation began among various Shia political leaders to find a candidate enjoying support from most blocs. That is a task that, in the past, had always been given to the Iranian IRGC-Quds commander Major General Qassim Soleimani (treacherously assassinated by President Donald Trump at Baghdad Airport) and Sheikh Muhammad Kawtharani, who represents Lebanese Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Sayyed Nasrallah enjoys great respect and a close personal relationship with all Iraqi parties of different religions and policies (Shi’a, Sunni, Kurds, tribal, and others) with whom he is in regular contact. Iraqi leaders failed to reach the agreement without outside intervention.

Many Shia groups categorical rejected President Saleh’s candidate (al-Zurfi) and decided to oppose his candidacy. However, Al-Kazemi’s selection as a new Prime Minister did not take place until Tehran asked all the Shi’ite blocs to unify their decision, to disregard al-Zurfi and choose a candidate that all could agree upon. 

This is how al-Kazemi reached the premiership:

Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, supported by Muqtada al-Sadr, was the first to promote Mustafa Al-Kazemi last year following the resignation of Abdel-Mahdi. However, other Shiite blocs refused to accept any counter-terrorism officer, intelligence chief or any other officer belonging to the military-security establishment. Many Shia blocs are apprehensive about any candidate with a similar profile to Saddam Hussein. The experience of Nuri al-Maliki in control – he who refused to share the power with Shiites, Sunnis and Kurds – is still alive in these leaders’ memory.

Due to the disagreement within the Shia bloc, Qusay al-Suhail fell and was followed by the governor of Basra, Asaad Al-Eidani, when President Barham Salih refused to abide by the constitution and nominate the candidate of the largest bloc. Saleh played on the intra Shiite disagreement, mainly between the Al-Fatah bloc headed by Hadi al-Amiri and the Saeroun bloc led by Muqtada al-Sadr.

Because demonstrators rejected any candidate nominated by the dominant political blocs, Sayyid Muqtada tried to ride the wave by considering himself the representative of the demonstrators who in fact refused him as they did other establishment figures. Subsequently, President Saleh was asked by Sayyed Moqtada to reject any name he did not agree with. Moqtada claimed that he, not Al-Amiri, held the largest bloc. 

Later on, Muhammad Allawi also failed because he refused to consult the Sunni, the Kurdish blocs, and some Shiites in choosing his cabinet members. Allawi wrongly believed he could rely on the support of Sayyed Muqtada Al-Sadr, who had promised to bring everyone to Parliament by all means to approve Allawi’s cabinet. Moqtada failed to convince the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds, and was unable to bring Allawi to power.

However, President Saleh went further relying on the Iraqi constitution rather the prevailing consensus between Iraqis (Shi’a, Sunni, and Kurd) and nominated Adnan al-Zrafi, who is anti-Iran and pro-American. Many political blocs and Shia organisations announced their rejection of al-Zarfi. At the same time, the Dawa candidate (Adnan al-Zarfi) enjoyed the support of his chief bloc, led by former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Al-Zurfi was also secretly supported by Nuri al-Maliki, who wanted the position of prime minister to return to the Dawa Party (since 2005 and until 2018 al-Da’wa held the position of PM). Al-Zurfi also enjoyed support from Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr, who had been promised control over any ministerial cabinet or any other senior position within the Iraqi state.

Despite Iran’s official statement that it did not oppose the nomination of Al-Zurfi, the reality was different. Al-Zurfi was tacitly accused of burning Iran’s consulate in Najaf and Karbala during last months’ demonstrations. Admiral Ali Shamkhani – who, along with Major General Qassim Soleimani, was in charge of the relationship between Iran and Iraq – visited Iraq, followed by a short visit of General Ismail Qa’ani. Both men carried one message to the Iraqis: “We don’t disagree with the choice of Mr Mustafa Al-Kazemi, if he is your choice, and we enjoy good relations with him.” Iran has never said these words about al-Zurfi.

First Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani announced his support for al-Kazemi, and then Sunni leader, Speaker Muhammad al-Halbousi, followed suit. Barzani wanted to send a message to the Shiite blocs, so they would not again choose a candidate for the presidency who does not have a Kurdish authority above him, as happened with President Saleh.

Saleh was Qassem Soleimani’s choice and turned out today to be a mistake from the Iranian and the Shia blocs’ point of view. Fouad Hussein, the Minister of Finance, was Erbil’s choice, but Soleimani considered him at the time the candidate of the American presidential envoy Bret McGurk. This is why Soleimani asked the Shiites, Sunnis, and his allies Kurds in Sulaimaniyah not to vote to Hussein but to promote Barham Saleh. Saleh told Soleimani in 2018 that he would immediately nominate the candidate he wanted. This is how Adil Abdul Mahdi was elected Prime Minister.

There has never been a US-Iranian understanding in Iraq. Instead, when possible candidates have been chosen to attract minimal opposition from the Iranians and the Americans. Al-Kazemi enjoys good relations with Riyadh, Tehran, and Washington, as was the case of the caretaker Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi. Abdil Mahdi had been supported by Washington and yet, a year later, it was he who presented a draft proposal to the Iraqi Parliament demanding the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq.

Al-Kazemi, who promised to support the “Popular Mobilisation Forces” (hashd al-Shaabi), agreed to seek the removal of all US forces from Iraq, as stipulated in the binding constitutional decision of the Iraqi Parliament. Tehran convinced its ally, Kataeb Hezbollah al-Iraq, which had publicly accused Al-Kazemi of responsibility for the assassination of Commander Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, to accept al-Kazemi as a Prime Minister and wait to see his actions before judging him. The price of the assassination of Soleimani and Muhandes is the total withdrawal of the US forces from Iraq, and not al-Kazemi.

This time – after three failed attempts to nominate a prime minister  – Al-Kazemi will be supported to form his cabinet and will have the parliamentary support needed. However, he will face severe difficulties and challenges. 

The US is redeploying its forces and not showing any intention of complete withdrawal. Al-Kazemi will not be able to seek an easy US withdrawal and won’t be able to disarm Iraqi organisations as he promised to do. Moreover, he will face a real economic problem because Iraq suffers from a low oil price and external debts. The income of Iraq is just over 30 billion dollars whereas it needs 80 billion to pay salaries and maintain the infrastructure as it is. Al-Kazemi will not be able to respond to demands from the street because he simply does not have enough money. 

Iran is not afraid who sits at the top of the Iraqi government; today’s friend may turn out to be tomorrow’s enemy. Tehran enjoys enough connections with political leaders and military commanders and head of organisations in Iraq. Iran has experienced an aggressive Prime Minister in the past, Haidar Abadi, and managed its way in Iraq, a country sensitive to a balance among its political leaders. The US doesn’t have enough leverage in Iraq to match the leverage of Iran.

Proofread by:  C.G.B

This article is translated free to many languages by volunteers so readers can enjoy the content. It shall not be masked by Paywall. I’d like to thank my followers and readers for their confidence and support. If you liked it, please don’t feel embarrassed to contribute and help fund it, for as little as 1 Euro. Your contribution, however small, will help ensure its continuity. Thank you.

Copyright © https://ejmagnier.com  2020 

الزرفي يسقط بـ«ضربة» قاآني: مصطفى الكاظمي رئيساً للوزراء؟

 العراق 

نور أيوب الإثنين 6 نيسان 2020

الزرفي يسقط بـ«ضربة» قاآني: مصطفى الكاظمي رئيساً للوزراء؟
يحظى الكاظمي (الكادر) بتوافق شيعي وقبول وطني وكذلك برعاية إقليمية (أ ف ب )

مصطفى الكاظمي إلى الواجهة مجدّداً. أركان «البيت الشيعي» رشّحوه رئيساً للوزراء بديلاً من المكلّف عدنان الزرفي الذي سقط بضربة إسماعيل قاآني «القاضية». برهم صالح، بدوره، سيوقّع «كتاب التكليف» لحظة انسحاب الزرفي «رسميّاً» من سباق الظفر بمنصب «حاكم بغداد»لا يزال رئيس الوزراء المكلّف في العراق، عدنان الزرفي، مصرّاً على استكمال مهامه وفق «السياقات الدستوريّة». أنهى صياغة «منهاج وزاريّ» مقتضب، واضعاً مسوّدةً أولى لتشكيلته. أعلن رفعها إلى البرلمان خلال الساعات المقبلة من دون أن يجزم بقدرته على «تمريرها» لدى النواب. هذا التعسّر مردّه إلى «موقف» أركان «البيت الشيعي»، الذين اتفقوا خلال الساعات القليلة الماضية على بديل يحظى بدعمهم، في اجتماع عُقد في مكتب زعيم «تحالف الفتح» (ائتلافٌ برلماني يضم الكتل المؤيدة لـ«الحشد الشعبي»)، هادي العامري. أبرز الحاضرين إلى جانب الأخير كان زعيم «ائتلاف دولة القانون»، نوري المالكي، وزعيم «تيّار الحكمة الوطني»، عمّار الحكيم، إلى جانب قيادات شيعيّة أخرى. كتلة «سائرون»، المدعومة من زعيم «التيّار الصدري»، مقتدى الصدر، لم تحضر، لكنّها أكّدت مضيّها في أي توافق شيعي. أما «تحالف النصر»، بزعامة رئيس الوزراء الأسبق حيدر العبادي، فلم يشارك متمسّكاً بمرشحه الزرفي، ورافضاً أي مساس بـ«السياقات الدستورية»، لكنّه في الوقت عينه مع المضيّ بأي إجماع.

مخرجات الاجتماع أسفرت عن ترشيح رئيس جهاز المخابرات، مصطفى الكاظمي، للمنصب، إثر «صياغة» رؤية متكاملة للمرحلة الانتقاليّة، تحظى بتأييد ودعم «الفضاء الشيعي»، ومنها يُنطلق إلى «الفضاء الوطني»، أي تحقيق توافق مع المكونين «السُنّي» و«الكردي». هذا الترشيح جاء مغازلاً لمعايير «المرجعيّة الدينيّة العليا» (آية الله علي السيستاني) بالدرجة الأولى، من دون أن يستفز طرفاً دون آخر بالدرجة الثانية، كما أنه يحظى بدعم إقليميّ ــــ دوليّ بالدرجة الثالثة، ما يشكّل عنصراً لـ«التهدئة» في المرحلة الانتقاليّة، ضمن مهمة رئيسية هي إجراء الانتخابات التشريعية المبكرة، في غضون عام على أبعد تقدير.

تسلّمت بغداد رسالة أميركية تطلب فيها «فتح حوار استراتيجيّ»


عمليّاً، نجح قائد «قوّة القدس» في «الحرس الثوري» الإيراني، إسماعيل قاآني، في زيارته الأخيرة لبغداد، موجهاً «ضربة قاضية» للزرفي ومشروعه. كما شكّلت زيارته رفعاً لـ«فيتو» قيل إن طهران سبق أن وضعته على ترشيح الكاظمي. هذه الخطوة، وفق تعبير أكثر من مصدر، من شأنها أن ترسم ملامح المرحلة المقبلة التي يصفها البعض بـ«الهادئة»، وأنها محاولة لضبط الاشتباك القائم بين واشنطن وطهران في الميدان العراقي. هنا، يبرز استقبال رئيس الوزراء المستقيل، عادل عبد المهدي، السفير الأميركي لدى بغداد، ماثيو تولر، أمس، وتسليم الأخير رسالة من الإدارة الأميركية تطلب فيها «فتح حوار استراتيجيّ بين الحكومتين، اقتصاديّاً وثقافيّاً وتجاريّاً وأمنيّاً، بما يحقق مصالحهما المتبادلة، في ظل القرارات والمستجدات في العراق والمنطقة».

لكن تسمية الكاظمي رسمياً مرهونةٌ حتى الآن بإيجاد مخرج للزرفي، في ظل تضارب الأنباء عن إمكانيّة التصويت له برلمانيّاً، وسط تأكيد أنّه لحظة «خروجه من السباق» سيوقّع رئيس الجمهوريّة، برهم صالح سريعاً «كتاب التكليف»، وبذلك يكون مدير المخابرات أمام اختبار التأليف المحدّد دستوريّاً بثلاثين يوماً؛ فهل يكرّر سيناريو محمد توفيق علّاوي ويعتذر، أم سينجح، وخاصّةً أن حظوظ نجاحه كبيرة نوعاً ما في ظل الدعم الممنوح له «شيعيّاً»، و«وطنيّاً» عامة (علاقات الكاظمي مع مختلف الأطراف العراقيّة قويّة نوعاً ما، وخصوصاً مع قيادات «إقليم كردستان»)، وبصورة أعمّ الغطاء الإيراني ــــ الأميركي الموفّر له لتأدية مهمته المرتقبة؟

أمام هذا المستجد، يبقى عبد المهدي في منصبه شهراً جديداً وسط تقديرات أن يُطلق الحوار المرتقب مع واشنطن «قريباً جدّاً»، لحاجة الطرفين إلى ذلك في الظروف المحليّة والإقليميّة والدوليّة الراهنة. حوارٌ، إن استطاع عبد المهدي، أو خليفته، الوصول به إلى «اتفاقية» ما، سيشكّل منعطفاً كبيراً وتحوّلاً في العلاقة بين الجانبين من جهة، وفي تموضع «عراق ما بعد صدام» وشكله من جهة ثانية.

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IRAQI POLITICS IN A STORM, HEADING TOWARDS INSTABILITY AND CHAOS

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

By Elijah J. Magnier:  @ejmalrai

Following Iraqi president Barham Saleh’s nomination of Adnan al-Zarfi (Zurufi or Zurfi) as the new Prime Minister, Iraq has entered a critical stage.  The Shia block is divided. The 30 days given to al-Zarfi to nominate his cabinet will lead either to a quorum of the parliament recognising his new cabinet and in consequences to a bloody future that could lead to unrest and even partition of Iraq or absence of a quorum. Why did President Saleh nominate al-Zarfi?

In 2018 Speaker Mohamad Halbousi proposed Barham Saleh as President. The proposal was adopted by “Al-Fateh”, the largest Shia coalition, with the agreement of the Sunni. Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani and US presidential envoy Brett McGurk were against the nomination of Saleh. It was Iranian IRGC Major General Qassem Soleimani who pushed for Barham Saleh to become president. Saleh, upon his nomination, promised Soleimani to be “better than Mam Jalal” (Uncle Jalal Talibani, one of Iran’s closest allies). Once Saleh was elected, he was asked by the “Al-Fateh” coalition, to nominate Adel Abdel Mahdi as prime minister, and he complied.  One year later, Abdel Mahdi was asked by the Marjaiya in Najaf to resign in response to street demonstrations demanding reforms, necessary infrastructure and better job opportunities.

Soleimani met with Shia leaders who all agreed– with the exception of Hadi al-Ameri, who wanted to be the Prime Minister of Iraq – to nominate Qusay al-Suheil. Al-Fateh forwarded the name to President Barham Salih who refused to appoint al-Suheil and went to Erbil for a few days, enough time for the street to reject the nomination. It was Sayyed Moqtada al Sadr – who rejected the nomination of al Suheil – who then contacted President Saleh and informed him that he represented the largest coalition, called “Sairoon”. Saleh, who feared Moqtada’s reaction, sent a letter to the parliament and the constitutional court asking them to define the “largest coalition”. None managed to respond clearly to this request.

The Iraqi constitution’s definition of the “largest coalition” is elastic and subject to interpretation. President Barham Saleh maliciously threw this apple of discord between the parliament and the constitutional court. It was Nuri al-Maliki who in 2010 introduced a new definition of “large coalition” to beat Ayad Allawi, who had managed to gather 91 MPs and was eligible to form a government. Al-Maliki formed a broad coalition after the MPs took their oaths and established that he was leading the largest coalition, as defined by the final alliances formed after the parliamentary elections, rather than by the poll results.

President Salih told Soleimani that the Shia coalition was divided and that he was not in a position to decide. At the same time, Salih accommodated the Americans who saw that Soleimani’s candidates were failing to win consensual approval. Iran’s Shia allies were effectively contributing to the failure of Soleimani’s efforts to reach an agreement among Shia over a PM nominee.

By forwarding his resignation on November 29, 2019, to President Salih, Adil Abdel Mahdi made it clear he no longer wished return to power. On February 1, Salih nominated Mohamad Allawi on Moqtada al-Sadr’s demand. Moqtada was given the leading role in choosing a candidate following the US assassination of Soleimani at Baghdad’s airport. This leadership was agreed to in Tehran by General Ismail Qaaani, who believed Moqtada should lead all groups because he was the main instigator of the protests. Even if the people in the street no longer welcomed Moqtada, he remained the only one capable of clearing the road and allowing the formation of a new government. Iran’s priority was for the parliament and the government to concentrate on the withdrawal of all foreign forces, led by the US.

Mohammad Allawi failed to achieve a parliamentary quorum because he behaved condescendingly towards some of the Shia, the Sunni and the Kurds. Allawi believed that Moqtada’s support was sufficient and that all the other groups and ethnicities would have to accept his choice of ministers. Allawi presented his resignation to Salih on March 2.

According to article 73/3 of the Iraqi constitution, the sole authority for nominating a prime minister belongs to the president, who has 15 days to select a candidate. However, President Salih gave the Shia 15 days to choose a candidate. A coalition of seven members representing all Shia groups was formed—they presented 17 candidates. Three names were offered: Naim al-Suheil, Mohamad al-Soudani and Adnan al-Zarfi. Naim al-Suheil received the most votes but was rejected by Faleh al-Fayad. 

Although al-Zarfi is a member of the al-Nasr party led by former PM Haidar Abadi (al-Nasr was formed in 2018), Nuri al-Maliki pushed hard for al-Zarfi (also a member of al-Da’wa party) and sent him to Beirut to convince the Lebanese to bless his nomination. Iran was against the designation of a US national (al-Zarfi holds a US passport). Confronted by Iran’s rejection, Al-Maliki managed to convince Moqtada al-Sadr to nominate al-Zarfi. Al-Maliki managed even if al-Zarfi was the one who fought against Jaish al-Mahdi – with US support – in Najaf in 2004, persecuted Moqtada in the city and expelled him to Baghdad. Moqtada al-Sadr – who recently refused any prime minister holding dual nationality – put his signature on the agreed paper offered to Salih along with Nuri al-Maliki, Haidar Abadi and Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim as per the newly claimed “largest coalition”.

It was a golden opportunity for Salih, with the absence of Soleimani, to please the Americans, the Kurds, the Sunni and a large group of Shia. Salih used his constitutional authority to nominate al-Zarfi as a prime minister. It will be a blow to Iran if al-Zarfi manages to form his government and present it to the parliament.  With the support of such a large coalition of Shia-Sunni-Kurdish MPs, he will no doubt reach the necessary quorum.

One of the main reasons Moqtada al-Sadr supported al-Zarif (apart from al-Zarif’s promise to satisfy Moqtada’s requests in the new cabinet) is the birth of a new group called “Osbat al-Thaereen” (the “Movement of the Revolutionary Association” – MRA). This group claimed twice its responsibility for bombing al-Taji military base where the US and other members of the coalition have a permanent presence. Sayyed Moqtada rejects any attacks on US forces and prefers acting through diplomatic channels (via the parliament). Many Iraqi groups close to Iran swore to seek the withdrawal of the US forces mainly due to the Pentagon’s refusal to discuss a full removal of troops. The US is only willing to relocate troops. Moreover, the US is reinforcing its presence in crucial bases in Iraq (K1, Ayn al-Assad and Erbil) and is about to bring the Patriot interception missile system to its bases in Iraq, without Iraqi government consent.

If al-Zarfi manages to get parliament approval, he may seek to avoid any withdrawal negotiations with the US. He would also merge Hashd al-Shaabi and attempt to disarm the Iraqi groups close to Iran. But al-Zarfi is not in a position to seek a change of the parliament’s decision related to the US withdrawal. That issue will concern the newly elected parliament. However, al-Zarfi, like any new prime minister, is expected to gather a large number of MPs in the forthcoming parliamentary elections, enough to seek the prolonged presence of the US forces in Iraq.

Osbat al-Thaereen warned the US forces in Iraq.

This scenario is only applicable if al-Zarfi manages to reach the parliament in 30 days with a new cabinet and to retain his allies, notably the Shia. Iran will do everything possible to make things difficult for al-Zarfi. The ex-governor of Najaf was accused of burning the two Iranian consulates in Karbala and Najaf last year and is expected to follow the path of his al-Nasr coalition leader (former PM Abadi) in respecting US sanctions on Iran. That would be devastating to Iran’s economy, already suffering from the harshest US sanctions ever.

Al-Zarfi as prime minister will be a major blow to Iran and to those who support its objectives and ideology in Iraq. The coronavirus will not keep Iran away from the Iraqi theatre; Iran will not allow Iraq to fall under US control. If al-Zarfi comes to power, the stability of Iraq will be shaken, and partition will be back on the table. An era of instability can be expected in Mesopotamia under an Iraqi prime minister considered to be an ally of the US, particularly following the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Proofread by:  C.G.B

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عبد المهدي إلى «التكليف» مجدّداً؟

الأخبار

 الإثنين 9 آذار 2020

بغداد | البحث عن بديلٍ لرئيس الوزراء المستقيل عادل عبد المهدي، مستمر. مساعٍ متوازية تبذلها الأحزاب والقوى السياسية للوصول إلى حلٍّ للخروج من الأزمة المستمرة منذ 1 تشرين الأوّل/ أكتوبر الماضي. في الإطار العام، ثمّة خياران: الأوّل بقاء عبد المهدي، والثاني البحث عن بديل.

في الخيار الأوّل، ثمّة مساران متوازيان. الأوّل هو بقاء عبد المهدي، مصرّفاً للأعمال؛ وبذلك تُسند مهمة إجراء الانتخابات التشريعية المبكرة إلى الحكومة الاتحادية الحاليّة، وقد سبق أن حدّد عبد المهدي الموعد الأوّلي لإجرائها مطلع كانون الأوّل/ ديسمبر المقبل.

أما الثاني، فإعادة تكليف عبد المهدي، وتحديداً من قِبل «الكتلة النيابيّة الأكبر»، أي «تحالف البناء» (يضمّ إلى جانب هادي العامري، نوري المالكي وفالح الفياض وخميس الخنجر ومحمد الحلبوسي وآخرين)، هو أمرٌ واردٌ جدّاً، غير أن هذه الخطوة مرتبطةٌ بـ«ثلاث موافقات»، هي:

1-

موافقة عبد المهدي، شخصيّاً، واستمرار بعض الأطراف في الضغط على الرجل ليعود عن قراره في «الغياب الطوعي». ثمة من يقول إن العودة ستكون «تدريجيّة»، بالتوازي مع الاتصالات القائمة. وإن أسفرت المباحثات عن اتفاقٍ على بديل فسيكون عبد المهدي في غنىً عن قرار «العودة». وإن فشلت، فستسلّم الأحزاب والقوى أمرها إليه، ولا سيما أنه أبدى بعض «الليونة»، وقد بدا ذلك في حراكه الأخير يوم الجمعة الماضي، والذي حمل رسالةً واضحةً بأنّه «جاهزٌ» (نوعاً ما) للتصدّي لمسؤوليّاته، علماً بأنّ بعض زوّاره يعبّرون عن «تململه» من المناخ السياسي السائد.

2-

موافقة النجف، أي «المرجعية الدينية العليا» (آية الله علي السيستاني). فبعدما دعت القوى السياسية إلى «إعادة النظر» في دعمها لعبد المهدي، أواخر العام الماضي، سارع الأخير إلى تقديم استقالته. ثمّة من يربط بين «تمريره» وبين رفع «الفيتو» عنه. هذا الرفض مردّه إلى موقف النجف، المنحاز إلى الشارع الرافض لاستمرار عبد المهدي في منصبه. لكن، وفي محاولةٍ لـ«الالتفاف» على ذلك، ثمة من يقول إن «النجف وبُعيد موقفها الرافض بالتدخل إيجاباً أو سلباً، في مسألة التكليف، أو حتى التعليق»، منحت القوى السياسية مساحةً لـ«المناورة» وتسمية من تراه مناسباً. في المقابل، ثمّة من يقول إن هذا الموقف لا يسري على إعادة تكليف عبد المهدي. هنا، يُنقل عن مطّلعين على مناخات النجف، إشارتهم إلى «الأحداث الأخيرة، وما نتج منها من رفع الدعم عن عبد المهدي، ومن الصعب أن يُمنح مجدّداً».

3-

الشارع، وتحديداً المحتجون منذ 1 تشرين الأوّل/ أكتوبر الماضي، إلى جانب «التيّار الصدري»، بزعامة مقتدى الصدر. موقف الغاضبين من التركيبة الحكوميّة مدعوماً بموقف الصدر، سيواجَه بموقف القوى الداعمة لعبد المهدي. وعليه، من شأن التفاهم مع الصدر، ضبط الشارع. هذه النقطة ــــ كما يُنقل عن المطّلعين ــــ «دقيقةٌ جدّاً»، فـ«انتزاع القبول من الشارع، مرتبطٌ بتفاهمات القوى السياسية»، وترجمة «دعم» عبد المهدي، في الشارع، مرتبطٌ أيضاً بالمكاسب السياسية التي سيحقّقها الصدر وتيّاره، في المفاوضات القائمة.

أما في الخيار الثاني، أي في الشقّ المتعلّق بـ«بدلاء» عبد المهدي، فيبرز في «بورصة» الأسماء، الآن، مدير جهاز المخابرات العراقي مصطفى الكاظمي، والمرشّح السابق على قائمة «تحالف الفتح» (ائتلاف الكتل المؤيّدة لخيار «الحشد الشعبي») علي شكري. الأنظار تتجه إلى الأوّل، وخاصّةً أن حظوظه مرتفعةٌ جدّاً، في ظل الدعم الإقليمي والدولي الذي يحظى به بالدرجة الأولى، وقبوله كمرشّح توافقيٍّ من مختلف الأطراف من القوى «الشيعية» و«السُنّية» و«الكرديّة» (والشارع) أيضاً بالدرجة الثانية، وقدرته على تنفيذ ما هو مطلوبٌ منه في المرحلة المقبلة، أي استعادة «هيبة الدولة» وفرض القانون، وإجراء الانتخابات المبكرة. وفي هذا السياق، وتحديداً في الشق المتعلّق بـ«اهتمام» طهران بالكاظمي، كانت لافتة زيارة الأمين العام لمجلس الأمن القومي الإيراني علي شامخاني له، حيث أكد أن «تشكيل حكومة قويّةٍ وفاعلةٍ ومنبثقة من أصوات الشعب العراقي، يمثّل رغبةً إيرانيّةً دائمة».

فيديوات متعلقة

مقالات متعلقة

Abdul Mahdi Says US Pressuring Iraq to Cut Ties with Iran

 March 9, 2020

Iraq’s caretaker prime minister said the US is pressurizing Baghdad to sever relations with Tehran, but Iraqis will never allow their country to become a staging ground for clashes between other countries.

“By withdrawing from the JCPOA and putting pressures on Iran and Iraq, the US further complicated the regional situation, and is now mounting pressure on us and urges the severance of ties between Iraq and Iran,” said Adil Abdul Mahdi in a meeting with Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (SNSC) Ali Shamkhani in Baghdad.

Abdul Mahdi has remained in office as the caretaker prime minister of Iraq since his resignation in November.

Abdul Mahdi further underlined that the Iraqi people and government will never allow the Arab country to be a venue for the settlement of conflicts or clashes between other countries.

Praising the Iranian government and nation for their genuine support for Iraq in the difficult years of the war against terrorism, he expressed gratitude to Tehran for offering assistance in the battle with a novel coronavirus epidemic.

“The geopolitical logic dictates that we employ the potential of our neighbors to fulfill our national interests and security,” AbdulMahdi stated.

For his part, Shamkhani highlighted the leading role of Iraq in restoring stability and calm to the region, and voiced Iran’s support for the immediate formation of a popular government in the Arab country.

There is hard evidence that a Western-Arab-Hebrew axis is doing its utmost to obstruct stability in Iraq, Shamkhani said, adding that Takfiri terrorists were the West’s proxies that only sought Iraq’s disintegration.

The Iranian official also lauded the Iraqi Parliament for ratifying a bill on the expulsion of American military forces, saying the Iraqi army and popular forces have proved their ability to ensure security without reliance on foreign forces.

Related News

‘Bombshell’: Iraqi Officials Say ISIS —Not Iran— Likely Behind Rocket Attack Trump Used to Justify Soleimani Assassination

“Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and we went to war with Iraq. If this report is true, ISIS attacked the U.S. and we nearly went to war with Iran.”

 

Global Research, February 10, 2020
Common Dreams 7 February 2020

In a “bombshell” revelation that calls into question one of the Trump administration’s stated justificiations for assassinating Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani—a move that nearly sparked a region-wide military conflict—Iraqi intelligence officials told the New York Times that they believe ISIS, not an Iran-linked militia, was likely responsible for the Dec. 27 rocket attack that killed an American contractor at an air base near Kirkuk, Iraq.

The Times reported Thursday that “Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets… saying they believe it is unlikely that the militia the United States blamed for the attack” was responsible.

“All the indications are that it was Daesh,” Brigadier General Ahmed Adnan, the Iraqi chief of intelligence for the federal police at the K-1 air base, told the Times, using the Arabic acronym for ISIS. “We know Daesh’s movements.”

The Trump administration has not released a single piece of evidence showing that the Iraqi militia Khataib Hezbollah, which has ties to Iran, was responsible for the attack on K-1. The group has denied carrying out the attack.

The U.S. responded to the rocket attack days later with deadly airstrikes on Khataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria, setting off a dangerous escalatory spiral that brought Iran and the U.S. to the brink of war.

On Jan. 2, the U.S. assassinated Soleimani with a drone strike in Baghdad ordered by President Donald Trump. Following the assassination, which was widely condemned as an act of war, the U.S. Department of Defense issued a statement claiming without evidence that Soleimani “orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months—including the attack on December 27th—culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”

But Iraqi officials told the Times that “based on circumstantial evidence and long experience in the area where the attack took place,” there is good reason to be skeptical about U.S. claims that Khataib Hezbollah was behind it.

As the Times reported:

The rockets were launched from a Sunni Muslim part of Kirkuk Province notorious for attacks by the Islamic State, a Sunni terrorist group, which would have made the area hostile territory for a Shiite militia like Khataib Hezbollah.
Khataib Hezbollah has not had a presence in Kirkuk Province since 2014.
The Islamic State, however, had carried out three attacks relatively close to the base in the 10 days before the attack on K-1. Iraqi intelligence officials sent reports to the Americans in November and December warning that ISIS intended to target K-1, an Iraqi air base in Kirkuk Province that is also used by American forces…
These facts all point to the Islamic State, Iraqi officials say.
“We as Iraqi forces cannot even come to this area unless we have a large force because it is not secure,” Brig. Gen. Adnan said of the area from which the rocket attack was launched. “How could it be that someone who doesn’t know the area could come here and find that firing position and launch an attack?”

In response to the Times report, Jamal Abdi, president of the National Iranian American Council, tweeted:

“Al-Qaeda attacked the U.S. on 9/11 and we went to war with Iraq. If this report is true, ISIS attacked the U.S. and we nearly went to war with Iran.”

Sina Toossi@SinaToossi

 

 

This is huge: Iraqi military & intelligence officials say it’s highly unlikely that a rocket attack that killed an Iraqi-American contractor in early January—& led to an escalation cycle that almost started a war—was carried out by an Iran-allied militia.https://www.nytimes.com/2020/02/06/world/middleeast/iraq-iran-hezbollah-evidence.html 
Iraqi soldiers at the K-1 base, which was struck by rockets on Dec. 27.

Was U.S. Wrong About Attack That Nearly Started a War With Iran?

Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started a dangerous spiral of events.

nytimes.com

 

 

127 people are talking about this

 

CODEPINK@codepink

 

 

The US almost started WWIII based on questionable evidence.After all of the violence in the Middle East following the attack on US bases, officials are now questioning the US’s claim that the -backed militia Khataib Hezbollah are to blame. https://buff.ly/31CpWqT 

Iraqi soldiers at the K-1 base, which was struck by rockets on Dec. 27.

Was U.S. Wrong About Attack That Nearly Started a War With Iran?

Iraqi military and intelligence officials have raised doubts about who fired the rockets that started a dangerous spiral of events.

nytimes.com

 

 

46 people are talking about this

 

U.S. officials insisted to the Times that they have “solid evidence” showing that Khataib Hezbollah carried out the attack, but they have not released any of this evidence to the public or to Iraqi officials.

“We have requested the American side to share with us any information, any evidence, but they have not sent us any information,” Lt. Gen. Muhammad al-Bayati, chief of staff for former Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, told the Times.

Ilan Goldenberg, Middle East security director at the Center for a New American Security think tank, tweeted that the U.S. Congress “must ask questions about this and get the intel.”

Responsible Statecraft managing editor Benjamin Armbruster agreed.

“Congress needs to investigate ASAP,” Armbruster tweeted.

*

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Muqtada al-Sadr, US occupation & the Iraqi Resistance

JANUARY 28, 2020

Original link: http://middleeastobserver.net/muqtada-al-sadr-us-occupation-the-iraqi-resistance/

(Please support MiddleEastObserver.net on Patreon: https://www.patreon.com/MiddleEastObserver)

Description:

Prominent Lebanese political analyst Nasser Kandil analyses the strategic significance of Iraqi Shia leader Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr’s recent call for a “million-man march”, which demanded that the US military completely withdraw from the Arab country.

Kandil is a regular fixture on Lebanese and Arab media, often commentating on matters relating to the regional ‘Resistance Axis’, an emerging anti-Israeli/anti-US imperialist alliance composed of, but not limited to, Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, Iraq’s Hashed al-Shaabi, Yemen’s Ansarullah, and various Palestinian armed factions.

Source: Nasser Kandil (YouTube)

Date: 18 January, 2020

الحلقة 03 # من برنامج ستون دقيقة مع ناصر قنديل 18 01 2020

Transcript:

Dear followers of “60 Minutes with Nasser Kandil”, welcome to the new, third, episode of 2020. The title of this episode is “Two Wars Progressing Side by Side”. The first war is the one that has been started by the Axis of Resistance to expel US forces from the region. This war was faced with some disruptions as a consequence of the Ukrainian plane crash, whether through the international community who’s taking advantage of this incident, or through its impact on public opinion in Iran where protests were held over the incident. But two developments put things back on track. The first was the speech of the Russian foreign minister, who’s considered a (credible) source when it comes to providing information. (In his speech), he says that a squadron of American F-35 jets were flying over Tehran at the time of the incident which disrupted Iranian defence systems in terms of handling flying objects whether civilian or military. The second development was Imam Khamenei’s speech that mobilized the Iranian people. This mobilization came in the form of the amazing crowds of millions in the streets of Tehran (who stayed) under freezing cold weather, and at temperatures between -1 and 4 °C.  Not only did (the crowds) stay to pray, but they also listened to the speech in Persian and then the speech in Arabic. His eminence’s speech was strongly worded and clear, stating that the battle in the region will continue until US forces are expelled, and that the long-term goal is freeing Palestine. He advised Arabs and Muslims to unite over the cause of freeing Palestine, and expelling US forces, and to engage in dialogue with neighbouring countries and Arab regimes to prevent segregation, discord and divisions. This strong political message, in addition to these huge crowds, bring us back to square one, in which the resistance forces announced – that is before the consequences that came about after Iran took full responsibility for the downing of the Ukrainian plane – (we are back to) the same climate of cohesion and solidarity. In fact, what matters the most – not because Imam Khamenei’s speech is less important, not at all, but because actions speak louder than words.

(Looking at) the practical steps today, it is obvious that, according to the Axis of Resistance, the key arena in which it will clash with the Americans is Iraq. In other words, when we talk about expelling Americans (forces) from the region, no one should think that we will start from Saudi Arabia, for example, or from the waters of the Gulf. The key battle to expel US forces from the region revolves around beginning (the fight) to expel the US forces from Iraq, and making this a regional and international cause, thus ending automatically the American presence in Syria. Because the American presence in Syria would be impossible if there is no American presence in Iraq.

However, it is obvious that the battle in Iraq today is set according to a calendar. On one side, we have a prime minister, Dr. Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is obviously making firm decisions. He brings the decision of the Council of Representatives, puts it on the table, addresses the American government with persistence and a serious attitude. He establishes committees to begin technical negotiations in order to devise a mechanism for this withdrawal. The situation will escalate at the diplomatic level, through addressing the Security Council and major powers, and escalation will take place with the US itself. American threats and intimidation, I believe, are empty for a simple reason. When Americans become convinced that they must withdraw (from Iraq), they will have two priorities: first, to make the withdrawal seem voluntary and not an expulsion. And in that case, it is against American interests to impose sanctions on Iraqi governments, because this would mean continuing the battle in a different form. Second, to try to protect their interests that lies with keeping a positive relationship with the Iraqi government. So now Americans can make threats, send messages, exploit divisions and fight the battle for survival. This is normal. It is unlikely for their position to change for months. But when their position starts to change towards them accepting the idea of leaving, Americans will make sure to – they will for sure adopt a position encouraging a friendly positive exit through negotiations. They will prepare a schedule that guarantees keeping a number of advisors for six months for purposes related to the fight with ISIS. After six months they will say they need to make sure that the Iraqi army is prepared and has the (necessary) potentials. They will link the issue to the relationship with Russia suggesting that the Russians act as an ally in fighting against terrorism. This will happen in the next stage. However, now, do not take American threats seriously. What should be taken seriously are the preparations that are being done by the Axis of Resistance to have this confrontation.

The frontline of this confrontation is Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr’s call for millions (to demonstrate). Here I have to parenthetically say that we must look into the meaning, position, value and importance of this call. Because this entire American move, as I have said earlier when the Council of Representatives voted (to expel US forces) – it is not true that Americans were counting on a political coup in Iraq, by seeing whether they will succeed to exert influence on Sunni and Kurdish parliamentary groups under the auspices of Saudi Arabia, the Gulf or others. They knew they had that in their pocket. They are counting on the answer to this question: is there hope to (win) the battle in Iraq? Which brings up another question: is there hope to shatter the unity of the Shia community? Yes, or no? They pinned their hopes on shattering the unity of the Shia community via (effecting change in) Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr’s position, because they cannot manipulate the highest religious authority. They hope for divisions among the highest religious authorities in Qom on the one hand, and in Najaf on the other, especially since the highest religious authority in Najaf always tends to be more moderate. However, even the position of the highest religious authority in Najaf will be tougher if there is unity in the Shia community.

So, how does the Shia community unite? Or what is the factor that can divide them? Is it Ayad Allawi? Of course not. The factor that can divide them is Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr. The elections are the proof. Don’t we talk about the Sairoon political bloc, that is represented and led by Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr? When there was a dispute on which is the bigger bloc that should be entitled to nominate a candidate as the prime minister. The two competing blocs were Sairoon and Al-Binaa, i.e. Sayyed Muqtada and the resistance forces. And the dispute was resolved through the agreement of these two blocs to choose President Adel Abdul-Mahdi. This is the equation. This is the battle. Americans have tried, through third parties, especially through Gulf states and some Iraqi groups, to change Sayyed Muqtada’s position. They have succeeded to make accomplishments in some places, and failed in others. But the answer to the big question of “where does Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr stand?” remained unclear. Neither resistance forces have the answer to this question nor its opponents. Sayyed Muqtada has his own position.

In terms of Iraqi internal affairs, he is against the alliance of the resistance. However, regionally, he makes sure to reflect the image of an Iraqi patriot who develops relationships with Gulf states, Iran and Syria – but in his unique way which he makes sure to preserve. Therefore, the Gulf and American high hopes for the position of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr (to change) is what explains America’s hard efforts to destabilize Iraq, especially after the last movement sponsored by Sayyed Muqtada. The reason is that they think that if the status, position and authority of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr – and that is a reasonable and important assumption – shifts to become against Iran and the resistance forces, big changes will take place in Iraq, which is extremely accurate.

This (assumption) is based on the fact that, first, Sayyed Muqtada has inherited this enormous institution, in Baghdad in particular and in Iraq in general, from his father, Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr who, during the previous regime, under the rule of Saddam Hussein, had a political vision that kept him away from violent clashes (with the regime). He also made sure to maintain his position as a top religious scholar without cutting ties and completely destroying relationships, although the previous regime showed great hostility towards Sayyed Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr and committed crimes against his family through murder, death sentences, etc….But Sayyed Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr turned into a social institution. Baghdad traders feel beholden to him. They used to pay contributions to his fund. While his institution has and is still providing for thousands of families, giving tens of thousands of (cases) of aid, taking care of a community of almost two million Iraqis and responding to their social, economic and developmental needs. This gave Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr, who followed in his father’s footsteps of honesty, integrity, and direct supervision, and having (close) ties with the poor, assuming the role of their leadership and authority, and representing their interests. This is the first factor.

The second factor is that Sayyed Muqtada was not among those who fled from Iraq. Therefore, opposition forces who came back to Iraq when the American occupation began can be criticized by those who are affiliated with the previous regime and by the Sunni commentators who have the same stances as the representatives of the previous regime; those who consider that the patriotic position against the occupation lowered the status of Sunnis in the government and gave Shias a high status. Those people can face Shia leaders, and say: “you came with the American tanks. Don’t give us a lesson in patriotism. We have fought”, because at the beginning members of the resistance were mainly Sunni. However, they cannot say this to Sayyed Muqtada. First, he didn’t come (to Iraq) on American tanks. He was in Iraq from the beginning. Second, and most importantly, he is one of the first Iraqi leaders to call for resistance. He also never had any relationship with the occupation. He was the symbol of fighting the occupation. He established the Mahdi Army with the objective of fighting the occupation. And on top of that, when the battle of Fallujah took place following the actions of the resistance, and when Americans raided the city, committed what they committed, put its people under siege and deprived them of food, drinks and electricity; no one stood with Fallujah, except for Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr. He offered moral and financial support, and sent food supplies and aid convoys. He adopted a tough stance during the demonstrations that were held in support of Fallujah in Shia regions. Therefore, people of Fallujah and people of central Iraq in general, Sunni people, will always be grateful to him. Then, this issue happened again, when Nour al-Maliki was the prime minster, during the al-Anbar uprising, and the uprising of Sunni people against al-Maliki, who ofcourse later took a stand (against) the occupation, the (in support) of the resistance, and in support of the forces affiliated to the Axis of Resistance. However, Sayyed Muqtada, at the time, in addition to beating others in terms of his position in support of the resistance, also showed solidarity with the people of al-Anbar and central areas against the government of Nour al-Maliki. He was also the one that gave this opposition a national united aspect, which was another reason that increased his status and influence. At least, if anything, it results in the inability to challenge (Sadr) regarding his sincerity in confronting the occupation.

Today, when Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr calls for a ‘million-strong march’ to expel the occupier, no one can challenge his position as a leading religious scholar and as a patriot. On the one hand, no one has a record that is like Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr’s record in confronting the occupation. On the other hand, regarding the issue of national unity i.e. refraining from sectarian calculations and sectarian violence, no one emulates the position of Sayyed Muqtada. Neither have the Sunni leaderships succeeded in showing solidarity with the concerns of Shias, nor have the rest of the Shia leaderships succeeded in showing solidarity with the concerns of Sunnis as the Shia leader Sayyed Muqtada has done. He always pays attention to the suggestions and concerns of Sunnis which secures in turn his strong position in politics and society amongst all Iraqi leaders. Thus, when Sayyed Muqtada himself calls for this march and the resistance forces join in, it means that he didn’t issue the call in competition with the resistance forces. Not at all, this has happened in coordination between them all. As they did when they nominated the Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the resistance leaders communicated with Sayyed Muqtada, met him, and agreed with each other, but this time the equation is more accurate and clearer; it came as a shock to the US and the Gulf. (The shock came in the form of) the political leadership of Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, in addition to the popular leadership of Sayyed Muqtada, in addition to the presence of the resistance forces who stand in support behind both (Abdul-Mahdi and Sadr). This reflects a smart, mature, wise and courageous advancement that offers the resistance forces the ability to decide the appropriate timing and tempo of (military) resistance actions that serve the interests of the battle taking place on the legal, diplomatic and populist path i.e. the path being led legally and diplomatically by Adel Abdul-Mahdi, and the one being led on the popular level by Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr. Thus, the ‘million-strong march’ beginning on Friday is not just one march; it represents a starting point on the path that will be followed by other ‘million-strong marches’ on the popular level.

The US and the Gulf rushed to work on how they can agitate the civil movement to challenge the call of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr. They found groups that can gather merely hundreds of people. In contrast, the great mass of people that were at the beginning of the (recent) Iraqi (protest) movement and that moves in the name of Sayyed Muqtada value his stance towards the movement; they know that he is an Iraqi patriotic leader and an Iraqi populist leader; they know that (Sayyed Muqtada) is on the front lines in fighting corruption, and in terms of fighting the occupation he is on the front lines, and he is the most eligible and capable to clash with any (Iraqi) government or authority. In fact, we have an excellent opportunity (before us).

In practice, the unique (position) of Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr has been proven in practice with the following example: the US and the Gulf had bet on creating division in Lebanon among the (Speaker of the Parliament) Nabih Berri  ̶  that is between Hezbollah and the Amal movement – their assumption being that (these two parties) compete with each other (on the Lebanese scene), and that (Parliament Speaker) Berri has his own unique (characteristics), his own approach towards (political) issues, that he follows his own path concerning his relations with the Gulf and the international environment, while Hezbollah adopts a more deep-rooted stance in the political and regional arena. During the key stages and (historical) moments that (Lebanon witnessed), the US and the Gulf made their bets and calculations (based on such assumptions). In 2005, we read a lot of analyses, and today we arrive at the same scene, that all parties, the (Lebanese) March 14 alliance, the US, and the Gulf used to hold that: the struggle is to find out how to attract (Parliament Speaker) Berri and get him out of (his) relationship with Hezbollah, but (these parties) found an impenetrable wall and lost all the cards (which they were betting upon).

Today in Iraq the same scene is repeated. In so much as the Iranian leadership and his eminence Sayyed (Hassan Nasrallah) have always been keen to preserve the relationship with (Parliament Speaker) Berri in Lebanon, they also make sure to preserve the relationship with Sayyed Muqtada (in Iraq). Previously, we didn’t use to say this (publicly) but today we have an interest in saying this: the relationship and the meetings of Sayyed Muqtada with the Iranian leadership have never stopped, and his relationship, meetings and visits to his eminence Sayyed (Hassan Nasrallah) have never stopped either. There was always an acceptance and understanding (by Iran and Hezbollah) of the special room for manoeuvre that Sayyed Muqtada had assumed within which he was carrying out his (political) movements and stances. Thus the relationship (between Sadr and Iran/Hezbollah) was always based on accommodating this specificity. However, the moment that the situation becomes critical, (it was agreed that) Sayyed Muqtada will not be outside this decisiveness in terms of taking a political stance. Concerning this battle, when Imam Khamenei spoke about expelling the US (forces) from the region, he was not merely giving lip service on this matter. Nor was Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah giving lip service on this matter either. Not at all. The (regional) resistance (movement), its leadership, the leadership of the Resistance Axis, holds that the battle today (must be waged) in Iraq, and that it is a political and popular battle, within which the (resistance forces) have to gradually warm-up (the circumstances and conditions), such that when the resistance in the battlefield is required to undertake its highest level of (military action), it will be ready to carry it out.

—————————–

The US is facing a challenge: it is now trying to engage in sowing sedition in a political, diplomatic and security battle to remain in Iraq, yet in any case it will lose (this battle), because with regards to the issue of ‘sedition’, the US’ options are linked with the ability of finding an environment (conducive for this).  However, when Sayyed Muqtada is the focus of the struggle, it is difficult to find large solid Sunni blocs that can fight Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr. (In that case) they will prove to be disloyal and ungrateful. They will appear as if they are denying the history, unity and stance in confronting the occupation. It is difficult for these (Sunni forces) to fight (in such circumstances) with the forces that it accuses of being an extension of Iran, or (fight) with the resistance forces whose leaderships appeared after the occupation began. (Let alone) when talking about Sayyed Muqtada. If they want to say that you didn’t take into account the (political) storms and tribulations that Sunni regions have faced, they can’t say it about Sayyed Muqtada. Therefore, the intelligent manner in which this current struggle (against the US occupation) is being waged nullifies the possibility of sedition. It nullifies the possibility of sedition with the Kurds as well. The joining of forces between Adel Abdul Mahdi and Sayyed Muqtada al-Sadr creates a new balance on the political, psychological and social scene in which the fight against the US occupation is taking place. What can the US do in such a situation? It will certainly (try whatever it can do) since it is difficult for it to (accept) going down in defeat.

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

مليونيّة العراقيين ترفض الاحتلال والتواطؤ والالتباس

د. وفيق إبراهيم

العراق اليوم في شوارع مدنه وأريافه لإعلان موقف وطني يقطع أولاً مع المحتل الأميركي مهدّداً المتواطئين معه بمصير مشابه له ومنبّهاً الملتبسين بانتهاء «الرمادية» في المواقف.

وما على الأحزاب العراقية إلا أن تنضم للمنتفضين على الاحتلال، او تقف الى جانب الأميركيين في وجه الشعب والقوى الوطنية، فهذا ما تتطلبه هذه المرحلة الدقيقة، التي نجح فيها الأميركيون في إلغاء كامل السيادة الوطنية، مبيحين لقواتهم المحتلة نصب الكمائن وقتل العراقيين وضيوفهم واستعمال قواعدهم العسكرية في أنحائه للإشراف على العراق ومراقبة إيران وإدارة المعارك في شرقي الفرات السوري المجاور.

سياسياً تمكّن الأميركيون من «بعثرة» السياسة العراقية على قاعدة تأجيج خلافات عرقية وطائفية وجسّدوها في دستور بريمير الذي يسمح للمناطق بالتحوّل الى أقاليم فدرالية تتمتع بإدارة ذاتية شبيهة بمراحل تسبق عادة الانفصال الكامل، معززين قوى سياسية في المنطقتين الوسطى والشمالية، وبعض الطامحين الى السلطة في أحزاب الجنوب وتشكيلاته وذلك لدفع البلاد نحو انفصال حقيقي بطروحاتها الفئوية واحتمائها بالأميركيين.

هناك اذاً سياسة أميركية تعمل بلا كلل منذ 2013 على إضعاف الدولة العراقية ونفخ القوى المناطقية لهدفين اثنين: إضعاف العراق الى حدود الترنح وغياب الموقف الوطني، وتأمين حريات واسعة يصبح الاستعمار الأميركي بموجبها قائداً لإدارة المنطقة عسكرياً وبالتالي سياسياً.

هذه هي الأسباب التي تعطل الدور العراقي في الداخل والخارج وتمنح الأميركيين القدرة على الإمساك بقرارته السياسية والاقتصادية والوطنية والحربية.

فما إن وافقت حكومة عبد المهدي على عقد اتفاقات تبادل اقتصادي مع الصين بين السلع والنفط حتى استشعر الأميركيون ولادة موقف عراقي يبحث عن وسائل قوة في وجه الاحتلال وقراراته بالعقوبات والخنق الاقتصادي.

ولدى شعورهم بإصرار عراقي على التنسيق مع سورية، قاموا بقصف قاعدة لحزب الله العراقي قرب منطقة القائم عند حدود العراق مع سورية.

بما يسمح إضافة هذين السببين الى التقارب مع إيران كأسباب لتصعيد أميركي أكثر خطورة يرمي الى نقل الضعف الوطني العراقي الى مرحلة تقسيم بين أقاليم متصارعة فتذهب ريح أرض الرافدين مرة واحدة من دون آمال كبيرة بإعادة تجميعها.

هذا ما عجّل بتنفيذ اغتيال أميركي علني لقائدين كبيرين من قيادة العمل الأمني الجهادي إقليمياً وعراقياً وهما القائدان قاسم سليماني وابو مهدي المهندس على مقربة من مطار بغداد الدولي.

وهذا يؤكد على استخفاف الأميركيين بالسيادة العراقية وانتهاكهم ضرورات التنسيق المسبق مع القيادات الأمنية العراقية كما تنص الاتفاقيات المعنية. بما يكشف أنهم نفذوا الاغتيال وهم متأكدون مسبقاً من عجز الدولة العراقية عن الاتفاق على قرار موحّد من هذا الاغتيال. وهذا ما حدث، فحكومة كردستان الشمالية تتلاعب بالكلمات والمفردات وصولاً الى إعلان رفضها الكامل لسحب القوات الأميركية من العراق، كذلك فإن رئيس المجلس النيابي الحلبوسي يطالب بإقليم مستقل لوسط العراق في رسالة تهديدية لمن يطالبون بسحب الأميركيين، ما أفرز المعادلة التالية: وهي إعلان إقليم للاكراد وآخر للسنة في حالة الإصرار على طرد الأميركيين من ارض السواد. وهذا ما يبني عليه الأميركيون دائماً لإجهاض أي محاولة لفرض ظروف موضوعية تؤدي الى سحبهم.

اما الدليل الساطع على موضوعية هذا المطلب فموجود في واحد من تصريحات الرئيس ترامب الذي اكد فيه ان قواته أنهت الإرهاب في العراق. وهذا دافع للسؤال عن الدواعي لبقاء الأميركيين في العراق، ما دام مبرر وجودهم استناداً الى الاتفاقيات الموجودة، هو دعم العراقيين لمحاربة الارهاب!

لذلك بدأت المراوغة الأميركية بالزعم بعودة قريبة للإرهابيين مع دفع قيادات في المناطق الكردية والوسطى الى الاصرار على الانفصال في اطار اقاليم مستقلة. إلا اذا بقيت قوات الاحتلال الأميركية في العراق بما يكشف مدى الترابط بين الاستثمار السياسي لبعض القوى البرازانية في الشمال والحلبوسية – التركية السعودية في الوسط.

ما العمل اذاً؟

تداعت قوى سياسية مستقلة وأخرى تنتمي الى تحالف الحشد الشعبي والعاصمة بغداد وبعض الوسط الى استفتاء جماهيري يعلن قوة العراق في جمهوره الهادر اليوم والمتكوّن من مختلف أطيافه وأعراقه من عربه من الشيعة والسنة الى قسم من أكراد مقيمين في بغداد الى مسيحيين كلدان وأيزيديين وصابئة. وعشائر من الأنبار وشخصيات سنية معتدلة مدعومة من مراكز إفتاء ووجهاء وشيوخ.

بما يشمل جنوب البلاد ومناطق العاصمة وأريافها وبعض الوسط في اوسع تعبير عن وحدة العراق منذ احتلاله من قبل الأميركيين في 2013.

وفي إصرار على التحدي ينطلق اليوم عراقيو بغداد من منطقة الجادرية في عاصمتهم قرب السفارة الأميركية وذلك للانضمام الى حشود مليونيّة تعم البلاد بأسرها.

ما هو جدير بالملاحظة هما تهديدان أحدهما من قيادة البرازاني تحض الأكراد على عدم المشاركة مع بيانات غير موقعة ورسائل من وسائل الاتصال الجمعي تحذر ايضاً أهالي الوسط من المشاركة فيها.

هذا الى جانب وسائل الإعلام الخليجية العاملة دائماً على بث الفتنة المذهبية بين السنة والشيعة وتوحي وكأن المليونيّة هي لدعم إيران.

لكن كل هذه الأساليب لن تعطل زحف الملايين الساعية الى توفير القاعدة الشعبية للعراق الوطني الرافض لسياسات التقسيم الأميركية والخليجية والتركية والإسرائيلية.

فكيف يقبل العرب محللاً إسرائيلياً يدعى كوهين يقول على شاشة احدى المحطات الخليجية ان الكيان الاسرائيلي المحتل مستعدّ لدعم السنة ضد الشيعة؟

لذلك فإن هذا اليوم المليوني الموحّد للعراقيين هو مثابة قطع نهائي مع المراحل السابقة وتأريخ لبدء العمل بالمساواة بين العراقيين في السياسة الوطنية الرشيدة وتوزيع المال العام على كل المكونات العراقية على قاعدة إجهاض الفساد والتبذير والمساواة، في الانتماءات الاجتماعية لمصلحة الولاء لوطن عراقي موحّد يستوعب تنوعات ابنائه ساعياً الى استعادة دوره الإقليمي واستقلاله السياسي.

فيديوات متعلقة

متظاهرين عراقيين – كلا كلا اسرائيل كلا كلا امريكا
ملايين العراقيين يخرجون في تظاهرات ثورة العشرين الثانية ضد الاحتلال الامريكي
الشعب العراقي بصوت واحد كلا كلا امريكا
عبد الباري عطوان العراق.. مسيرة من نوع خاص ولماذا هي مختلفة عن كل المسيرات العربية
من العراق | 2020-01-24 | الشيخ صلاح العبيدي – الناطق الرسمي باسم السيد مقتدى الصدر

مواضيع متعلقة

How a Hidden Parliamentary Session Revealed Trump’s True Motives in Iraq

By Whitney Webb

Source

Since the U.S. killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis earlier this month, the official narrative has held that their deaths were necessary to prevent a vague, yet allegedly imminent, threat of violence towards Americans, though President Trump has since claimed whether or not Soleimani or his Iraqi allies posed an imminent threat “doesn’t really matter.”

While the situation between Iran, Iraq and the U.S. appears to have de-escalated substantially, at least for now, it is worth revisiting the lead-up to the recent U.S.-Iraq/Iran tensions up to the Trump-mandated killing of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in order to understand 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, it has been alleged that even 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, beginning with the implementation of a new massive oil deal with China.

While recent rhetoric in the media has dwelled on the extent of Iran’s influence in Iraq, China’s recent dealings with Iraq — particularly in its oil sector — are to blame for much of what has transpired in Iraq in recent months, at least according to Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who is currently serving in a caretaker role. 

Much of the U.S. pressure exerted on Iraq’s government with respect to China has reportedly taken place covertly and behind closed doors, keeping the Trump administration’s concerns over China’s growing ties to Iraq largely out of public view, perhaps over concerns that a public scuffle could exacerbate the U.S.-China “trade war” and endanger efforts to resolve it. Yet, whatever the reasons may be, evidence strongly suggests that the U.S. is equally concerned about China’s presence in Iraq as it is with Iran’s. This is because 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.

Behind the curtain, a different narrative for Iraq-US Tensions

Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi gave a series of remarks on January 5, during a parliamentary session that received surprisingly little media attention. During the session, which also saw Iraq’s Parliament approve the removal of all foreign (including American) troops from the country, Abdul-Mahdi made a series of claims about the lead-up to the recent situation that placed Iraq at the heart of spiking U.S.-Iran tensions.

During that session, only part of Abdul-Mahdi’s statements were broadcast on television, after the Iraqi Speaker of the House — Mohammed Al-Halbousi, who has a close relationship with Washington — requested the video feed be cut. Al-Halbousi oddly attended the parliamentary session even though it was boycotted by his allied Sunni and Kurdish representatives.

Mike Pompeo Halbousi

After the feed was cut, MPs who were present wrote down Abdul-Mahdi’s remarks, which were then given to the Arabic news outlet Ida’atPer that transcript, Abdul-Mahdi stated that:

The Americans are the ones who destroyed the country and wreaked havoc on it. They have refused to finish building the electrical system and infrastructure projects. They have bargained for the reconstruction of Iraq in exchange for Iraq giving up 50% of oil imports. So, I refused and decided to go to China and concluded an important and strategic agreement with it. Today, Trump is trying to cancel this important agreement.”

Abdul-Mahdi continued his remarks, noting that pressure from the Trump administration over his negotiations and subsequent dealings with China grew substantially over time, even resulting in death threats to himself and his defense minister:

After my return from China, Trump called me and asked me to cancel the agreement, so I also refused, and he threatened [that there would be] massive demonstrations to topple me. Indeed, the demonstrations started and then Trump called, threatening to escalate in the event of non-cooperation and responding to his wishes, whereby a third party [presumed to be mercenaries or U.S. soldiers] would target both the demonstrators and security forces and kill them from atop the highest buildings and the US embassy in an attempt to pressure me and submit to his wishes and cancel the China agreement.”

“I did not respond and submitted my resignation and the Americans still insist to this day on canceling the China agreement. When the defense minister said that those killing the demonstrators was a third party, Trump called me immediately and physically threatened myself and the defense minister in the event that there was more talk about this third party.”

Very few English language outlets reported on Abdul-Mahdi’s comments. Tom Luongo, a Florida-based Independent Analyst and publisher of The Gold Goats ‘n Guns Newsletter, told MintPress that the likely reasons for the “surprising” media silence over Abdul-Mahdi’s claims were because “It never really made it out into official channels…” due to the cutting of the video feed during Iraq’s Parliamentary session and due to the fact that “it’s very inconvenient and the media — since Trump is doing what they want him to do, be belligerent with Iran, protected Israel’s interests there.”

“They aren’t going to contradict him on that if he’s playing ball,” Luongo added, before continuing that the media would nonetheless “hold onto it for future reference….If this comes out for real, they’ll use it against him later if he tries to leave Iraq.” “Everything in Washington is used as leverage,” he added.

Given the lack of media coverage and the cutting of the video feed of Abdul-Mahdi’s full remarks, it is worth pointing out that the narrative he laid out in his censored speech not only fits with the timeline of recent events he discusses but also the tactics known to have been employed behind closed doors by the Trump administration, particularly after Mike Pompeo left the CIA to become Secretary of State.

For instance, Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation to China ended on September 24, with the protests against his government that Trump reportedly threatened to start on October 1. Reports of a “third side” firing on Iraqi protesters were picked up by major media outlets at the time, such as in this BBC report which stated:

Reports say the security forces opened fire, but another account says unknown gunmen were responsible….a source in Karbala told the BBC that one of the dead was a guard at a nearby Shia shrine who happened to be passing by. The source also said the origin of the gunfire was unknown and it had targeted both the protesters and security forces. (emphasis added)”

U.S.-backed protests in other countries, such as in Ukraine in 2014, also saw evidence of a “third side” shooting both protesters and security forces alike.

After six weeks of intense protests, Abdul-Mahdi submitted his resignation on November 29, just a few days after Iraq’s Foreign Minister praised the new deals, including the “oil for reconstruction” deal, that had been signed with China. Abdul-Mahdi has since stayed on as Prime Minister in a caretaker role until Parliament decides on his replacement.

Abdul-Mahdi’s claims of the covert pressure by the Trump administration are buttressed by the use of similar tactics against Ecuador, where, in July 2018, a U.S. delegation at the United Nations threatened the nation with punitive trade measures and the withdrawal of military aid if Ecuador moved forward with the introduction of  a UN resolution to “protect, promote and support breastfeeding.”

The New York Times reported at the time that the U.S. delegation was seeking to promote the interests of infant formula manufacturers. If the U.S. delegation is willing to use such pressure on nations for promoting breastfeeding over infant formula, it goes without saying that such behind-closed-doors pressure would be significantly more intense if a much more lucrative resource, e.g. oil, were involved.

Regarding Abdul-Mahdi’s claims, Luongo told MintPress that it is also worth considering that it could have been anyone in the Trump administration making threats to Abdul-Mahdi, not necessarily Trump himself. “What I won’t say directly is that I don’t know it was Trump at the other end of the phone calls. Mahdi, it is to his best advantage politically to blame everything on Trump. It could have been Mike Pompeo or Gina Haspel talking to Abdul-Mahdi… It could have been anyone, it most likely would be someone with plausible deniability….This [Mahdi’s claims] sounds credible… I firmly believe Trump is capable of making these threats but I don’t think Trump would make those threats directly like that, but it would absolutely be consistent with U.S. policy.”

Luongo also argued that the current tensions between U.S. and Iraqi leadership preceded the oil deal between Iraq and China by several weeks, “All of this starts with Prime Minister Mahdi starting the process of opening up the Iraq-Syria border crossing and that was announced in August. Then, the Israeli air attacks happened in September to try and stop that from happening, attacks on PMU forces on the border crossing along with the ammo dump attacks near Baghdad… This drew the Iraqis’ ire… Mahdi then tried to close the air space over Iraq, but how much of that he can enforce is a big question.”

As to why it would be to Mahdi’s advantage to blame Trump, Luongo stated that Mahdi “can make edicts all day long, but, in reality, how much can he actually restrain the U.S. or the Israelis from doing anything? Except for shame, diplomatic shame… To me, it [Mahdi’s claims] seems perfectly credible because, during all of this, Trump is probably or someone else is shaking him [Mahdi] down for the reconstruction of the oil fields [in Iraq]…Trump has explicitly stated “we want the oil.”’

As Luongo noted, Trump’s interest in the U.S. obtaining a significant share of Iraqi oil revenue is hardly a secret. Just last March, Trump asked Abdul-Mahdi “How about the oil?” at the end of a meeting at the White House, prompting Abdul-Mahdi to ask “What do you mean?” To which Trump responded “Well, we did a lot, we did a lot over there, we spent trillions over there, and a lot of people have been talking about the oil,” which was widely interpreted as Trump asking for part of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for the steep costs of the U.S.’ continuing its now unwelcome military presence in Iraq.

With Abdul-Mahdi having rejected Trump’s “oil for reconstruction” proposal in favor of China’s, it seems likely that the Trump administration would default to so-called “gangster diplomacy” tactics to pressure Iraq’s government into accepting Trump’s deal, especially given the fact that China’s deal was a much better offer. While Trump demanded half of Iraq’s oil revenue in exchange for completing reconstruction projects (according to Abdul-Mahdi), the deal that was signed between Iraq and China would see around 20 percent of Iraq’s oil revenue go to China in exchange for reconstruction. Aside from the potential loss in Iraq’s oil revenue, there are many reasons for the Trump administration to feel threatened by China’s recent dealings in Iraq.

The Iraq-China oil deal – a prelude to something more?

When Abdul-Mahdi’s delegation traveled to Beijing last September, the “oil for reconstruction” deal was only one of eight total agreements that were established. These agreements cover a range of areas, including financial, commercial, security, reconstruction, communication, culture, education and foreign affairs in addition to oil. Yet, the oil deal is by far the most significant.

Per the agreement, Chinese firms will work on various reconstruction projects in exchange for roughly 20 percent of Iraq’s oil exports, approximately 100,00 barrels per day, for a period of 20 years. According to Al-Monitor, Abdul-Mahdi had the following to say about the deal: “We agreed [with Beijing] to set up a joint investment fund, which the oil money will finance,” adding that the agreement prohibits China from monopolizing projects inside Iraq, forcing Bejing to work in cooperation with international firms.

The agreement is similar to one negotiated between Iraq and China in 2015 when Abdul-Mahdi was serving as Iraq’s oil minister. That year, Iraq joined China’s Belt and Road Initiative in a deal that also involved exchanging oil for investment, development and construction projects and saw China awarded several projects as a result. In a notable similarity to recent events, that deal was put on hold due to “political and security tensions” caused by unrest and the surge of ISIS in Iraq, that is until Abdul-Mahdi saw Iraq rejoin the initiative again late last year through the agreements his government signed with China last September.

Notably, after recent tensions between the U.S. and Iraq over the assassination of Soleimani and the U.S.’ subsequent refusal to remove its troops from Iraq despite parliament’s demands, Iraq quietly announced that it would dramatically increase its oil exports to China to triple the amount established in the deal signed in September. Given Abdul-Mahdi’s recent claims about the true forces behind Iraq’s recent protests and Trump’s threats against him being directly related to his dealings with China, the move appears to be a not-so-veiled signal from Abdul-Mahdi to Washington that he plans to deepen Iraq’s partnership with China, at least for as long as he remains in his caretaker role.

Iraq’s decision to dramatically increase its oil exports to China came just one day after the U.S. government threatened to cut off Iraq’s access to its central bank account, currently held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, an account that currently holds $35 billion in Iraqi oil revenue. The account was set up after the U.S. invaded and began occupying Iraq in 2003 and Iraq currently removes between $1-2 billion per month to cover essential government expenses. Losing access to its oil revenue stored in that account would lead to the “collapse” of Iraq’s government, according to Iraqi government officials who spoke to AFP.

Though Trump publicly promised to rebuke Iraq for the expulsion of U.S. troops via sanctions, the threat to cut off Iraq’s access to its account at the NY Federal Reserve Bank was delivered privately and directly to the Prime Minister, adding further credibility to Abdul-Mahdi’s claims that Trump’s most aggressive attempts at pressuring Iraq’s government are made in private and directed towards the country’s Prime Minister.

Though Trump’s push this time was about preventing the expulsion of U.S. troops from Iraq, his reasons for doing so may also be related to concerns about China’s growing foothold in the region. Indeed, while Trump has now lost his desired share of Iraqi oil revenue (50 percent) to China’s counteroffer of 20 percent, the removal of U.S. troops from Iraq may see American troops replaced with their Chinese counterparts as well, according to Tom Luongo.

“All of this is about the U.S. maintaining the fiction that it needs to stay in Iraq…So, China moving in there is the moment where they get their toe hold for the Belt and Road [Initiative],” Luongo argued. “That helps to strengthen the economic relationship between Iraq, Iran and China and obviating the need for the Americans to stay there. At some point, China will have assets on the ground that they are going to want to defend militarily in the event of any major crisis. This brings us to the next thing we know, that Mahdi and the Chinese ambassador discussed that very thing in the wake of the Soleimani killing.”

Indeed, according to news reports, Zhang Yao — China’s ambassador to Iraq — “conveyed Beijing’s readiness to provide military assistance” should Iraq’s government request it soon after Soleimani’s assassination. Yao made the offer a day after Iraq’s parliament voted to expel American troops from the country. Though it is currently unknown how Abdul-Mahdi responded to the offer, the timing likely caused no shortage of concern among the Trump administration about its rapidly waning influence in Iraq. “You can see what’s coming here,” Luongo told MintPress of the recent Chinese offer to Iraq, “China, Russia and Iran are trying to cleave Iraq away from the United States and the U.S. is feeling very threatened by this.”

Russia is also playing a role in the current scenario as Iraq initiated talks with Moscow regarding the possible purchase of one of its air defense systems last September, the same month that Iraq signed eight deals, including the oil deal with China. Then, in the wake of Soleimani’s death, Russia again offered the air defense systems to Iraq to allow them to better defend their air space. In the past, the U.S. has threatened allied countries with sanctions and other measures if they purchase Russian air defense systems as opposed to those manufactured by U.S. companies.

The U.S.’ efforts to curb China’s growing influence and presence in Iraq amid these new strategic partnerships and agreements are limited, however, as the U.S. is increasingly relying on China as part of its Iran policy, specifically in its goal of reducing Iranian oil export to zero. China remains Iran’s main crude oil and condensate importer, even after it reduced its imports of Iranian oil significantly following U.S. pressure last year. Yet, the U.S. is now attempting to pressure China to stop buying Iranian oil completely or face sanctions while also attempting to privately sabotage the China-Iraq oil deal. It is highly unlikely China will concede to the U.S. on both, if any, of those fronts, meaning the U.S. may be forced to choose which policy front (Iran “containment” vs. Iraq’s oil dealings with China) it values more in the coming weeks and months.

Furthermore, the recent signing of the “phase one” trade deal with China revealed another potential facet of the U.S.’ increasingly complicated relationship with Iraq’s oil sector given that the trade deal involves selling U.S. oil and gas to China at very low cost, suggesting that the Trump administration may also see the Iraq-China oil deal result in Iraq emerging as a potential competitor for the U.S. in selling cheap oil to China, the world’s top oil importer.

The Petrodollar and the Phantom of the Petroyuan

In his televised statements last week following Iran’s military response to the U.S. assassination of General Soleimani, Trump insisted that the U.S.’ Middle East policy is no longer being directed by America’s vast oil requirements. He stated specifically that:

Over the last three years, under my leadership, our economy is stronger than ever before and America has achieved energy independence. These historic accomplishments changed our strategic priorities. These are accomplishments that nobody thought were possible. And options in the Middle East became available. We are now the number-one producer of oil and natural gas anywhere in the world. We are independent, and we do not need Middle East oil. (emphasis added)”

Yet, given the centrality of the recent Iraq-China oil deal in guiding some of the Trump administration’s recent Middle East policy moves, this appears not to be the case. The distinction may lie in the fact that, while the U.S. may now be less dependent on oil imports from the Middle East, it still very much needs to continue to dominate how oil is traded and sold on international markets in order to maintain its status as both a global military and financial superpower.

Indeed, even if the U.S. is importing less Middle Eastern oil, the petrodollar system — first forged in the 1970s — requires that the U.S. maintains enough control over the global oil trade so that the world’s largest oil exporters, Iraq among them, continue to sell their oil in dollars. Were Iraq to sell oil in another currency, or trade oil for services, as it plans to do with China per the recently inked deal, a significant portion of Iraqi oil would cease to generate a demand for dollars, violating the key tenet of the petrodollar system.

US China Iraq oil

As Kei Pritsker and Cale Holmes noted in an article last year for MintPress:

The takeaway from the petrodollar phenomenon is that as long as countries need oil, they will need the dollar. As long as countries demand dollars, the U.S. can continue to go into massive amounts of debt to fund its network of global military bases, Wall Street bailouts, nuclear missiles, and tax cuts for the rich.”

Thus, the use of the petrodollar has created a system whereby U.S. control of oil sales of the largest oil exporters is necessary, not just to buttress the dollar, but also to support its global military presence. Therefore, it is unsurprising that the issue of the U.S. troop presence in Iraq and the issue of Iraq’s push for oil independence against U.S. wishes have become intertwined. Notably, one of the architects of the petrodollar system and the man who infamously described U.S. soldiers as “dumb, stupid animals to be used as pawns in foreign policy”, former Secretary of State Henry Kissinger, has been advising Trump and informing his China policy since 2016.

This take was also expressed by economist Michael Hudson, who recently noted that U.S. access to oil, dollarization and U.S. military strategy are intricately interwoven and that Trump’s recent Iraq policy is intended “to escalate America’s presence in Iraq to keep control of the region’s oil reserves,” and, as Hudson says, “to back Saudi Arabia’s Wahabi troops (ISIS, Al Qaeda in Iraq, Al Nusra and other divisions of what are actually America’s foreign legion) to support U.S. control of Near Eastern oil as a buttress of the U.S. dollar.”

Hudson further asserts that it was Qassem Soleimani’s efforts to promote Iraq’s oil independence at the expense of U.S. imperial ambitions that served one of the key motives behind his assassination.

America opposed General Suleimani above all because he was fighting against ISIS and other U.S.-backed terrorists in their attempt to break up Syria and replace Assad’s regime with a set of U.S.-compliant local leaders – the old British “divide and conquer” ploy. On occasion, Suleimani had cooperated with U.S. troops in fighting ISIS groups that got “out of line” meaning the U.S. party line. But every indication is that he was in Iraq to work with that government seeking to regain control of the oil fields that President Trump has bragged so loudly about grabbing. (emphasis added)”

Hudson adds that “…U.S. neocons feared Suleimani’s plan to help Iraq assert control of its oil and withstand the terrorist attacks supported by U.S. and Saudi’s on Iraq. That is what made his assassination an immediate drive.”

While other factors — such as pressure from U.S. allies such as Israel — also played a factor in the decision to kill Soleimani, the decision to assassinate him on Iraqi soil just hours before he was set to meet with Abdul-Mahdi in a diplomatic role suggests that the underlying tensions caused by Iraq’s push for oil independence and its oil deal with China did play a factor in the timing of his assassination. It also served as a threat to Abdul-Mahdi, who has claimed that the U.S. threatened to kill both him and his defense minister just weeks prior over tensions directly related to the push for independence of Iraq’s oil sector from the U.S.

It appears that the ever-present role of the petrodollar in guiding U.S. policy in the Middle East remains unchanged. The petrodollar has long been a driving factor behind the U.S.’ policy towards Iraq specifically, as one of the key triggers for the 2003 invasion of Iraq was Saddam Hussein’s decision to sell Iraqi oil in Euros opposed to dollars beginning in the year 2000. Just weeks before the invasion began, Hussein boasted that Iraq’s Euro-based oil revenue account was earning a higher interest rate than it would have been if it had continued to sell its oil in dollars, an apparent signal to other oil exporters that the petrodollar system was only really benefiting the United States at their own expense.

Beyond current efforts to stave off Iraq’s oil independence and keep its oil trade aligned with the U.S., the fact that the U.S. is now seeking to limit China’s ever-growing role in Iraq’s oil sector is also directly related to China’s publicly known efforts to create its own direct competitor to the petrodollar, the petroyuan.

Since 2017, China has made its plans for the petroyuan — a direct competitor to the petrodollar — no secret, particularly after China eclipsed the U.S. as the world’s largest importer of oil. As CNBC noted at the time:

The new strategy is to enlist the energy markets’ help: Beijing may introduce a new way to price oil in coming months — but unlike the contracts based on the U.S. dollar that currently dominate global markets, this benchmark would use China’s own currency. If there’s widespread adoption, as the Chinese hope, then that will mark a step toward challenging the greenback’s status as the world’s most powerful currency….The plan is to price oil in yuan using a gold-backed futures contract in Shanghai, but the road will be long and arduous.”

If the U.S. continues on its current path and pushes Iraq further into the arms of China and other U.S. rival states, it goes without saying that Iraq — now a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative — may soon favor a petroyuan system over a petrodollar system, particularly as the current U.S. administration threatens to hold Iraq’s central bank account hostage for pursuing policies Washington finds unfavorable.

It could also explain why President Trump is so concerned about China’s growing foothold in Iraq, since it risks causing not only the end of the U.S. military hegemony in the country but could also lead to major trouble for the petrodollar system and the U.S.’ position as a global financial power. Trump’s policy aimed at stopping China and Iraq’s growing ties is clearly having the opposite effect, showing that this administration’s “gangster diplomacy” only serves to make the alternatives offered by countries like China and Russia all the more attractive.

Iraq: The October Revolution of 2019 and the Iran-US Conflict

Iraq is home to thousands of US troops and is also home to powerful Iranian-backed militias. The fear is that Iraq could become the battleground of a war between the United States and Iran.

By Dirk Adriaensens

Global Research, January 03, 2020

The revolts that have swept over Iraq since 1 October 2019 come at a critical moment of increasing tensions between Iran and the United States, both allies of the Iraqi government.

Rivalry between the US and Iran increases

On August 29, 2019, the International Crisis Group published a report calling for the US-Iran conflict not to be settled in Iraq.

“In June, various rockets were fired at American installations in Iraq, and in July-August, explosions destroyed the storage sites for weapons and a convoy of Iraqi paramilitary groups associated with Iran. These incidents helped push US-Iranian tensions to the brink of confrontation and underlined the danger of the situation in Iraq and the Gulf.

Although the US and Iran have not so far collided directly with each other, they are forcing the Iraqi government to take sides. Iraqi leaders are working hard to maintain the country’s neutrality. But increasing external pressure and internal polarization threaten the survival of the government.

What needs to be done? The US and Iran must refrain from engaging Iraq in their rivalry, as this would undermine Iraq’s weak stability after the fight against ISIS. With the help of international actors, Iraq should maintain its diplomatic and domestic political efforts to remain neutral. ”

For geographical and historical reasons, Iraq is in the eye of the storm. Washington’s “maximum pressure” campaign on Iran and Tehran’s response put heavy pressure on the Iraqi government, a partner for both. The US expects Baghdad to resist Iran, and Iran expects Baghdad to resist the US. An almost impossible position.

Relations between the US and Iran have always had a dual character in Iraq. There has been cooperation between the two countries since the 2003 invasion to pacify Iraq, and at the same time, relations are very conflicting. The two countries are fighting each other for influence in the Middle East. The withdrawal of the Trump government in May 2018 from the nuclear deal and the reintroduction of US economic sanctions against Iran in November 2018 have created an explosive situation. Halfway through 2019, following Washington’s decision to tighten sanctions, a series of incidents opened the door to a new war that could engulf the entire Middle East.

Iran has used the power vacuum after 2003 to invest heavily in Iraq’s political system, economy and security system. Several Shiite militias and notorious death squads, allied to Iran, such as the Badr Brigades, were integrated into the brutal and sectarian National Police, created by the US. Together with the US, they fought the National resistance movement, while also resisting the presence of the US. The US and Iran also worked closely together during the four-year battle to defeat ISIS (2014-2017). Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shiite militias formed the core of the Hashd al-Shaabi (popular mobilization forces – PMF), an amalgam of paramilitary forces that responded to Great Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani’s 2014 call to fight ISIS.

In the aftermath of the 2003 US invasion and the subsequent fight against ISIS, Baghdad has the largest US embassy in the Middle East and the largest number of US troops (more than 5,000) in six currently operating military bases:

  • Forward Operating Base Abu Ghraib is one of the first military bases to be established in Iraq by the United States of America. The base is in Abu Ghraib, in the province of Anbar. It is just 32 km from the center of Baghdad and only 15 km from the international airport of the Iraqi capital.
  • Justice Camp Base Base in Kadhimiya, Iraq. Camp Justice, formerly known as Camp Banzai.
  • Forward Operating Base (FOB) Sykes is located in the northern Iraqi province of Nineve, a few miles outside of Tal Afar. The base was used as an established outpost for combat and tactical operations of the United States during Operation Iraqi Freedom.
  • Camp Taji, Iraq – also known as Camp Cooke – is in the immediate vicinity, just 30 km from Baghdad. The base is used by coalition forces in Iraq and not just by the United States.
  • Joint Base Balad was one of the many military installations that are maintained and used by the US in Iraq. It was known by multiple names, including Balad Air Base, Al Bakr Air Base, Camp Anaconda or LSA Anaconda. The base is one of the largest of the Americans.
  • Victory Base Complex – also called VBC – is a combination of military installations around Baghdad International Airport. The complex includes 10 bases – Victory Fuel Point, Slayer, Striker, Cropper, Liberty, Radwaniyah Palace, Dublin, Sather Air Base, Logistics Base Seitz and Victory. The most important is Camp Victory. It houses the headquarters for all American operations in Iraq. The camp also includes the Al Faw Palace.

The end of US-Iran detente

The defeat of ISIS and the inauguration of President Donald Trump have put an end to the silent American-Iranian detente in Iraq and this has led to a period of escalating rivalry. In the aftermath of the Iraqi parliamentary elections of May 2018, that rivalry became very clear. Both Washington and Tehran tried to exert influence through their favorite actors. Their disputes over the formation of the government lasted thirteen months and yielded a list of acceptable, but weak figures, who, even within the political parties to which they belong, lack strong support. Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih, two somewhat isolated politicians, were appointed in October 2018.

Adel Abdul-Mahdi (image on the right) is the personification of the bankrupt and corrupt political regime imposed by US imperialism. He started his career as a member of the Ba’ath party, then became a leading member of the Iraqi Communist Party and then went into exile in Iran as a loyalist to Ayatollah Khomeini. He returned to Iraq on the back of American tanks and joined the puppet government in 2004 as finance minister. He was described by the US Council on Foreign Relations as “a moderate technocrat who is helpful to American interests.” Like his predecessors since 2004, he helped organize the looting of Iraq’s oil wealth to enrich foreign companies, the local ruling oligarchy, and corrupt politicians and their supporters.

The function of the Minister of the Interior, Defense and Justice remained open for eight months, largely as a result of constant rivalry between Iran and the US. The tug-of-war between the two countries has been going on since 2003, because both the US and Iran must approve the composition of a government after every election. This shows that sovereignty for Iraq is still a distant dream.

US policy towards Iran has put strong pressure on the Abdul-Mahdi government. When Washington reactivated the sanctions against Iran in November 2018, the US called on the Iraqi government to stop payments to Tehran for natural gas and electricity and to diversify its energy imports, including through contracts with US companies. Baghdad asked Washington for more time to pursue alternatives for fear of reprisals from Iran and electricity shortages. Temporary respite from the Trump government allowed Baghdad to continue importing gas and electricity from Iran, but the US continued to urge Baghdad to sign energy infrastructure contracts with US companies.

However, Abdel Mahdi concluded a $ 284 million electricity deal with a German rather than an American company. The Iraqi prime minister refuses to abide by US sanctions and still buys electricity from Iran and allows extensive trade between the two countries. This trade produces large amounts of foreign currency that stimulates the Iranian economy. Abdel Mahdi is willing to buy the S-400 and other military hardware from Russia. He has signed an agreement with China to rebuild essential infrastructure in exchange for oil. And finally he tried to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia and showed his intention to distance himself from US policies in the Middle East. All these decisions made Abdul Mahdi extremely unpopular with the US.

Israel also interferes openly in Iraq. The country used its F-35i stealth fighter jets to attack Iranian targets in Iraq in July and August, seriously damaging four Iraqi bases used by Iranian troops and proxies as a supposed repository of Iranian ballistic missiles. The Iraqi government minimized this issue, first attempted to ignore it, and even attempted to let Israel off the hook. It took weeks before Abdul Mahdi announced in a television interview that there were “references” to Israel’s responsibility.

This reluctant position of the regime in Iraq is evidence of the loyalty to the US. There was not even a trace of indignation from the Iraqi government when Netanyahu bragged about bombing Iraq during his election campaign. The US denied any involvement in these attacks, but it is very doubtful that Israel would hit Iraqi targets without at least the consent of Washington. As a result, US military and coalition forces in Iraq must now request official approval before launching air operations, including in the campaign against ISIS.

Another requirement of the Trump administration is for the Iraqi government to dissolve the Iranian-related militias (PMF). Since the defeat of ISIS, these militias have taken control of various regions in Iraq and have also participated in the recent elections. No unit of the public militias was dissolved, on the contrary: In 2016, the government formally integrated the PMF into the security forces and has no effective control over their actions. The Fatah front, a collection of various militias from the PMF, became the second largest formation after the recent elections.

Endemic corruption

Despite the enormous oil wealth in Iraq, 32,9% or 13 million Iraqis live below the poverty line and youth unemployment is 40 percent according to recent figures from the IMF, while young people under 25 make up 60 percent of Iraq’s 40 million inhabitants. Half of all Iraqis are under the age of 18. The overall unemployment rate is estimated at around 23 percent, according to the Central Bureau of Statistics in Baghdad. The Iraqi organization “Al-Nama” estimates the percentage of unemployed women at more than 80%. Employment Rate in Iraq decreased to 28,20 percent in 2018 from 43,20 percent in 2016. Electricity is supplied for 5 to 8 hours a day, water is polluted, there is a failing medical system, education levels are very low, corruption is endemic. These are just a few of the problems that frustrate Iraqis. Politicians never keep their promises. Restoration and improvement projects are promised, but scrapped before the ink has dried up and the money being allocated disappears into corrupt pockets. The oil, which accounts for more than 90% of government revenues, is also the most important commodity on the black market. Criminal networks, including oil ministry staff, senior political and religious figures, are allegedly involved in corruption, in collaboration with Mafia networks and criminal gangs that smuggle oil and generate large profits. The three most disturbing problems for Iraqis are corruption (47%), unemployment (32%) and safety (21%).

Iraq is one of the most corrupt countries in the Arab world, according to Transparency International reports. The country occupies the 168th of the 180 countries in the corruption index. Deep-rooted corruption in Iraq is one of the factors that has been hampering reconstruction efforts for more than a decade. Former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki has “lost” $ 500 billion during his term of office (2006-2014), according to the Iraqi Integrity Committee (CPI). “Nearly half of the government’s revenues during the eight-year period were “stolen” or “disappeared”, said Adil Nouri, spokesperson for the CPl in October 2015. He called this “the biggest political corruption scandal in the history”. Iraq’s oil revenues amounted to 800 billion dollars between 2006 and 2014, and the Maliki government also received support of 250 billion dollars from various countries, including the US, during that period.

The World Bank ranks Iraq as one of the worst-governed states in the world, and the Iraqi government remains one of the most corrupt regimes in the world. The Iraqi government has so far made little effort to restoring the destroyed cities of its largely Sunni population after the fight against ISIS. It has done little to establish any form of ethnic or sectarian conciliation, and far too much of  the ‘oil wealth’ is consumed by its politicians, officials and a government sector that is one of the best paid and least productive in developing countries.

Corruption, waste of government resources and the purchase of military equipment have increased Iraq’s budget deficit from $ 16.7 billion in 2013, $ 20 billion in 2016 to $ 23 billion for fiscal year 2019. MiddleEastMonitor quoted the head of the parliamentary finance committee Haitham Al-Jubouri on 18 December: “Iraq’s foreign debt amounted to more than $50 billion. More than $20 billion was paid back over the last period”. According to the official, Iraq still owes $27 billion to foreign countries, in addition to $41 billion to Saudi Arabia given as a grant to the late Iraqi President Saddam Hussein. Iraqi lawmaker Majida Al-Tamimi confirmed that Iraq borrowed $1.2 billion in 2005 and $1.4 billion in 2006 from the World Bank and external parties to support investment and bridge the budget deficit. Also the IMF came to the rescue with billion dollar loans that make the country even more dependent on the US and other foreign creditors. It’s not surprising that 78% of the Iraqi people consider the Iraqi economy as “bad” or “very bad”, according to IIACSS polling firm.

The constitution allows Iraqis to have two nationalities, but stipulates that the person appointed to a higher or security position must renounce the other nationality (Article 18, 4). However, no Iraqi official has complied with this Regulation.

Many senior Iraqi officials have dual nationality, including Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi (France), former Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and former Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari (UK) and Parliament President Saleem al-Jibouri (Qatar). Of the 66 Iraqi ambassadors, 32 have dual nationality, as well as an estimated 70 to 100 MPs.

Then there are the ministers in the current Iraqi government with a Western background: Mohamed Ali Al hakim – Minister of Foreign Affairs (UK and US), Fuad Hussein – Minister of Finance and Deputy Prime Minister (the Netherlands and France), Thamir Ghadhban – Minister of Oil and Deputy Prime Minister (UK).

Many officials accused of corruption by the Iraqi authorities have fled the country to escape persecution thanks to their foreign passport, including former ministers Abdul Falah al-Sudani (trade), Hazim Shaalan (national defense) and Ayham al-Samarrai (electricity).

Najah al-Shammari serves as the current defense minister from 2019 onwards in the government of Adel Abdul Mahdi. He is a Swedish citizen who is part of the Mahdi cabinet. The minister is under investigation for benefit fraud for claiming housing and child benefits from Sweden, according to the online news site Nyheter Idag and the Swedish newspaper Expressen. He is charged with “crimes against humanity” in Sweden.

President Barham Salih is a British citizen. A complaint was made against him by “Defending Christian Arabs”, who asked the Advocate General in Scotland to open an investigation against him for “crimes against humanity by giving permission or being complicit in the widespread attack on civilian demonstrations in Iraq that resulted in mass killings, injuries, illegal arrests and kidnapping of people. ”

Civil servants are known to demand bribes up to tens of thousands of dollars to give government contracts or even only to put a signature on a public document; also to arrange a lucrative function for a friend or family member. “Political parties are refusing to leave the cabinet because they will no longer be able to grab hold of the treasury”, a senior member of the ruling coalition told AFP.

Many appointments in the Cabinet, Directors General in Ministries and embassy staff are family members of Moqtada Sadr and Hadi Al-Ameri, the head of the Badr organization, the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council, the two largest parties in the Iraqi Parliament.

Amid the expected rescheduling of the cabinet, positions are already ‘bought’, according to a senior Iraqi official. “A political party is assigned a certain ministry and then sells that ministerial position to the highest bidder”. He described a transaction worth $ 20 million. It is a well-known script: the candidate pays the party for the position and then tries to appropriate as much public money as possible, with which the debt can be paid off. The system is so deeply rooted, observers say, that there is little that Abdel Mahdi can do to stop it.

Iraqi Prime Minister receives many visitors

Donald Trump said in February 2019 that US soldiers must remain in Iraq “to guard Iran.” Two months later, on April 7, Iran’s chief, Ali Khamenei (image on the left), called on Iraqi leaders to ensure that the US military leaves “as quickly as possible.” Meanwhile, a procession of US and Iranian officials came to Iraq to defend their respective interests, including Trump himself during an unannounced visit in December 2018 and, four months later, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani.

NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg met with the Iraqi Prime Minister on 17 September to discuss a new military training mission to Iraq. Amid the current uprising, Russian Foreign Minister Sergey Lavrov also arrived in Baghdad on 8 October to discuss escalating tensions between the United States and Iran in the Gulf region.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned Iran on December 13 for a “decisive” reaction if US interests are endangered in Iraq, following a series of rocket attacks on bases where US forces are housed. The military base at Baghdad International Airport became the target of two missiles on December 12. It was already the 10th attack on that basis since October. “We use this opportunity to remind Iran’s leaders that any attack by them or their proxies, which harm Americans, our allies or our interests, will be answered with a decisive response from the US,” Pompeo said in his statement.

The US military leadership has also made it clear that the death or injury of an American citizen is a red line that will lead to retaliation. “My fear is that the Iraqi government is not willing to take action, and if there is no willingness to stop this, then we will come to a point where we are pushed into a corner,” said a US military official. “We will not eat rockets all day and keep quietly watching when some of us are killed.” The US has sent between 5,000 and 7,000 extra troops to Iraq.

ISIS is no longer a big problem for Iraq

Iraq has changed so much because of the protest movement, that ISIS may no longer be an important challenge. The sectarian polarization from which ISIS benefited has faded. Moreover, now that many Sunnis have experienced a double trauma due to the draconian control of ISIS and the subsequent military campaign to recapture their territories, most of them no longer want to have anything to do with the terror group. The Iraqi security forces, in turn, have somewhat curtailed their sectarian excesses and forged a better relationship with the Sunnis.

Despite these reasons for optimism, securing peripheral areas where ISIS is still active remains necessary. But that is a task that should be entrusted to the Iraqi armed forces. The government still needs to rebuild the economies and public services of the areas devastated by the war against ISIS so that displaced persons can return. Healing the wounds of this conflict remains difficult. The judicial approach of the Iraqi government after ISIS threatens to deepen the contradictions in the country. “ISIS Families”: Citizens with alleged family ties to ISIS militants, who have been expelled from their homes, are in danger of becoming a permanently stigmatized underclass.

And as if there are not enough problems already, the Iraqi government must also provide an answer to reports that predict bleak economic prospects and a financial crisis in 2020. The military fight against ISIS was expensive and has exhausted the state treasury. The reconstruction of affected areas such as Nineve, Anbar and Salahaddin and the housing of hundreds of thousands of Iraqis who remain displaced by the fighting will be even more expensive.

The “lost youth” of Iraq take the future into their own hands

On October 1, young protesters appeared on Tahrir Square in Baghdad to express their dissatisfaction with the unlivable situation in their country. “No future”, “Iraq is done”, “Iraq is finished”, were often heard statements by young Iraqi people, who fled en masse from the country in search of a safe haven where they could build a meaningful future. According to a recent poll, the number of young people who absolutely wanted to leave the country had risen from 17% to 33% between 2012 and 2019. Since the withdrawal of US troops from Iraq in 2011, there have been continuous peaceful protests against what the Iraqi anti-occupation movement calls “the second face of the occupation”: the neoliberal economic structures and the sectarian corrupt political structures, a country which remained under control of imperialism. Those protest actions have had no effect so far. But that could soon change.

In the months prior to the October mass demonstrations, university graduates organized sit-ins at various ministries in Baghdad, often together with graduates from other cities. Security forces unleashed hot-water cannons on the sit-ins that were held from June to September.

Instead of giving in to the demands of the young people, the authorities launched a campaign to demolish homes and shops of unemployed and poor workers built on state-owned property in the southern cities of Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people lost their homes, including some who had bought their land from militias or corrupt government officials. Most of them had used up all their savings, had incurred debts or relied on the help of their social network.

On 22 September, a small group of civilian activists in Iraq called to demonstrate on 1 October. They had no idea that their call would result in a general uprising.

The call, which insisted on the need to get out on the street against “the poorly functioning government”, was spread through various social media and was supported by the Al-Hikma Islamic Current, an Islamic Shiite political organization.

The established parties responded differently to the call. The Ba’athists announced that they could seize the opportunity to regain power. Muqtada al-Sadr noted that the end of the current government was near. The Workers Communist Party of Iraq (WCPI) warned the masses against participation in what they saw as protests organized by the Islamic parties. On the eve of October 1, there was a lot of confusion about who exactly was behind the call.

The protest would take place on Tuesday at 10 a.m. – a deliberate choice to distinguish the action from the Friday meetings organized by the Sadrists as well as to disrupt a working day (Friday is Iraq’s closing day). In the first hours of the demonstration on Tahrir Square in Baghdad, there were only a few hundred demonstrators. Most were supporters of the popular former commander of counterterrorism forces, General Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, who were angry with the government’s decision to degrade him.

Soon other demonstrators filled the square. Around noon, the government started using violence against the protesters, first in the form of water cannons and tear gas, and later they used live ammunition. When at least 10 protesters were killed after the first day of protest, the uprising spread to all southern Shiite provinces, including the important oil port of Umm Qasr near Basra, reducing economic activity by more than 50 percent. Since the uprising in October, protesters have blocked access to oil fields in the southern cities of Basra, Nasiriyah and Missan and closed the main roads to ports to paralyze the oil trade. On November 2, the blockade of the Umm Qasr port, the most important access to Iraq, had already cost the government nearly $ 6 billion.

Iranian-sponsored Arab Shiite militias joined the government’s security forces and shot the protesters at random. Death squads faced unarmed demonstrators and every day protesters were shot. The government blacked out social media, shut down the internet, and announced a curfew in various cities. The demonstrators erected barricades and burned tires to prevent militia and government forces from entering their neighborhoods. The fight went on. An Iranian-sponsored militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, controlled the main access to Tahrir Square, the central square in Baghdad, and shot at demonstrators who were trying to reach the square. A new militia supported by Iran, Saraya al-Khorasani, attacked the al-Ghazaliya district in Baghdad, bombed a hospital and killed people in their homes.

On October 6, dozens of women and children were killed in Sadr City, the poorest district of Baghdad. Other cities also turned into a battlefield. Protesters set fire to the Islamic Shiite party offices in Nasiriyah and Missan and proclaimed Nasiriyah a city free of government parties. The deterrent effect of the government’s violent repression – along with its allegations of foreign influence – could not stop the protests, on the contrary, more and more people came to the streets. Protesters decided on October 25 to launch a new wave of demonstrations to honor the victims.

In Baghdad, the mobilization was initially motivated by socio-economic motives. The first demonstrators were unemployed youth from the Shiite east side of the city. Many have gone on a general strike to support the protesters and Iraqi unions are organizing events on Tahrir Square to support the protests. In southern Shiite Iraq, teachers’ unions have led a general strike movement in most schools and universities. Civil society students and organizations have also joined the second wave of protest that began on 25 October. Resistance to the political elite includes all social classes. It has become the largest grassroots movement in the modern history of Iraq. Millions of demonstrators take part in the daily actions and demonstrations.

On October 25, protesters and government forces faced each other on the Al-Jumhuriya bridge in Baghdad and two other bridges over the Tigris River that lead to the Green Zone. The demonstrators succeeded in occupying these strategic bridges, where government buildings, villas of top officials, embassies and offices of military mercenaries and other foreign agencies are located. Protesters attempting to move from Tahrir Square to the Green Zone were confronted with extreme violence: government forces used skull-piercing tear gas canisters, sound bombs and live ammunition. The Green Zone covers an area of ​​142 hectares and houses the US embassy of 750 million dollars, which was formally opened in January 2009 with a staff of over 16,000 people, mostly contractors, but including 2,000 diplomats.

The courage and creativity of the mass demonstrators are remarkable. Drivers of tuk-tuks – motorized three-wheeled rickshaws – have transported injured people from Tahrir Square to nearby hospitals. Civil society organizations, trade unions and political groups have set up tents on the square to provide logistical support, medical services, food and water supplies, helmet distribution, educational sessions and more. Doctors, nurses and medical students offer treatment to wounded and sick people on the square day and night. When protesters made a call to bring food to the square, families, restaurant owners, shopkeepers and others outside the camp flooded the protesters with food. The unemployed, the handicapped, members of Baghdad tribes and surrounding areas, academics, the Workers Communist Party of Iraq, the current Al-Sadr party, women’s organizations, opposition members of Parliament, the Iraqi Communist Party – all are involved in the mass demonstrations.

The majority of demonstrators grew up during the US invasion and occupation and the ongoing violence that followed. A banner from a young demonstrator reads: “We are a generation born in your wars, we spent our youth in your terrorism, our adolescence in your sectarianism and our youth in your corruption. We are the generation of stolen dreams and premature aging”. To the question: “How often have you felt so depressed in the past six months that nothing could encourage you?”, 43.7% of Iraqi respondents in the 2019 poll answered: “often” and 39.3% “sometimes” . This says something about the desperation of the Iraqi youth.

Absent in the current protests are the established political parties. These youth protests came as a surprise for them. The influence of well-known clergymen on the course of the protests, such as Great Ayatollah al Sistani and Moqtada al Sadr, has decreased considerably.

Moqtada al Sadr’s attempt to calm down the protesters by announcing that his followers would leave the parliament in solidarity with the protesters did not change the situation much. Protesters criticized the lack of solidarity by the two most important religious institutions in Iraq. They asked: “where is your duty to the Iraqi people, your dedication to piety and faith? Is the anthem played by a lady on the violin worse than killing hundreds of Iraqis?” They referred to an event a few months ago in which both Sunni and Shiite institutions protested against a woman playing the violin during the opening of a sports event in Najaf, because they felt that this was against the “true faith.”Iraq Gives the US Its Marching Orders. What Part of “Go Home” Don’t You Understand?

Repression

The protest escalated within a few days with hundreds of deaths and thousands wounded. Party and government offices were set on fire in various cities.

General Qasem Soleimani (image on the right), commander of the forces of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and architect of the Iranian regional policy visited Baghdad several times since 1 October to discuss the strategy against the uprising with the Iraqi leaders, including Haidi Al Amiri, who heads one of the largest parliamentary blocs in Iraq and the Badr organization supported by Iran.

Most of the deaths are caused by machine gun fire and snipers, randomly in the crowd and on identified protest leaders. Amnesty International stated that security forces in Baghdad had deployed military-grade tear gas shells “to kill demonstrators instead of dispersing them.” These 40 mm shells are, according to Amnesty’s analysis, Serbian Sloboda Ĉaĉak M99 shells, but also M651- tear gas shells and M713 smoke shells produced by the Defense Industries Organization (DIO) of Iran Commissioner Yousra Rajab of the Iraqi parliamentary human rights commission said government forces used CF gas bombs containing poisons that cause blindness, miscarriages in pregnant women, strokes and burns that can lead to death.

The Iraqi army admitted on Monday 7 October that it had shot at demonstrators in Baghdad. “Excessive violence was used and we have begun to hold the commanding officers who have committed these crimes responsible,” the statement said. It was the first time since the outbreak of protests that security forces acknowledged that they had used excessive force.

The government sent the military anti-terrorism troops to Nasiriyah and the situation was initially resolved without further violence. But then came November 28. The security forces raided the demonstrators in Nasiriyah at night, killing at least 46 people and injuring many more.

An eyewitness: “They opened fire non-stop. They recaptured the bridge within five minutes … because they didn’t stop shooting, people ran away. I saw at least five people die before me. Everyone who was shot and killed was left on the street and the troops beat everyone they had captured. I saw them beating people as if they wanted to kill them. It was a catastrophe.

“We ran into houses to hide. The armed forces said through their loudspeakers: “If someone is hiding in a house, come outside or we will blow up the houses”. We had to come out. They were still shooting. They arrested and chased the remaining protesters to al-Habboobi square, the traditional place for the protests. But many residents of the city had gathered there to protect the protesters: men, women and children. The shooting went on until 7 a.m. ”

“The scenes from Nasiriyah this morning look more like a war zone than a city with streets and bridges. This brutal attack is only the last in a long series of fatal events in which Iraqi security forces have acted terribly violently against largely peaceful demonstrators,” said Lynn Maalouf, Middle East director at Amnesty International.

Security forces have launched a widespread campaign of night-time raids, arresting protesters. While some have vanished without a trace, others were subjected to torture and only released after being forced to sign pledges promising to stop participating in protests.

The security forces also resort to enforced disappearances as a way of creating an atmosphere of fear and paranoia among demonstrators. They have targeted medics, lawyers and journalists in particular. In addition, activists and journalists have received warnings that their names would be added to blacklists if they did not stop criticizing the authorities. Security forces have also infiltrated demonstrations, deliberately inciting violence and surveilling activists.

The authorities have systematically prevented information about human rights violations in the context of protests from getting out, including through sustained internet blackouts and the muzzling of government institutions. Paramilitary groups sent their militants to television channels that reported on the protests to destroy their equipment and studios. They attacked wounded protesters in hospitals and kidnapped and threatened journalists, doctors and everyone who supported the demonstrations. The Iraqi Communications and Media Commission issued warnings to five TV channels and decided to close nine others, as a direct result of their coverage of demonstrations. Despite constant reports of kidnappings, arrests and killings, definitive figures and exact information are not available.

Iraqi professor Kamel Abdul Rahim:

“I have never been convinced that Iranian General Qasim Soleimani played a major role in Iraqi politics, but the slaughter committed yesterday (November 28) in al-Nasiriya and Najaf (where at least 69 people were killed) ), a massacre that will no doubt spread to Tahrir Square in Baghdad, is a blatant expression of the way Soleimani views Iraq as an Iranian province. The Iranian ruling administration will never accept its loss in Iraq. They could possibly accept the loss of Yemen or Lebanon and even Syria … but Iraq is the red line.”

“Adel Abdul Mahdi, the generals and the other warlords, the entire political class … they all chose the deadly recipe of Soleimani. We are on the threshold of a bloody phase. The Trump government opted for silence and perhaps approved Soleimani’s plan. After all, there is a great consensus between the two “enemies” America and Iran. The theater for their conflict is Iraq ”.

“Iraqi citizens are the new threat to their common agenda because they oppose this imposed system. The Iraqi citizen has become a burden and the Iraqi people can only count on themselves to bring about change.”

Washington’s silence

Ironically, both Washington and Tehran oppose the protesters’ demand for the abolition of the regime. The position of the US is clear in support of the regime, as evidenced by the telephone conversation that US Foreign Minister Pompeo had with Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, on the sixth day of the protests, in which he spoke about “the power and depth of the strategic relations between the two countries”, while the blood of the killed protesters had not yet dried up.

The US Department of Foreign Affairs, which is largely concerned with securing the US bases, had initially not commented on the bloody repression of the demonstrators. However, at the end of October, after it was reported that Iran had concluded an agreement with the major Iraqi political parties to keep Mahdi in power and suppress the protests even harder, Washington began to talk about “respecting the demands of the protesters.”

The Atlantic Council, a pro-American think tank on international relations, explains precisely why the US remains so silent about the uprisings in Iraq: “Should the government decide to undertake real reform, it will need support from the international community. On this point, the United States needs to be careful. While calls from the US Embassy to avoid violence are certainly appropriate, it is important to remember that Iraqis are not just tired of Iranian meddling, but anyone’s. While the United States, so far, does not seem to be the focus of the protests, a recent Iraqi opinion poll showed a favorability rating for the United States at 22 percent, which at least was higher than the Iranians, who were at 16 percent. The poll also noted, however, that nearly 43 percent of Iraqis believe the United States influences Iraq in a significant way and that 53 percent believe the 2003 invasion’s purpose was to “occupy Iraq and plunder its wealth.” These numbers suggest that a strong, visible response from the United States could just make things worse.”

An Iraqi uprising initiated by the Shia population

Protests against the Shiite-led government originated in the central and southern provinces of Iraq, which have traditionally been the backbone of Iranian influence in the country. But this is not a Shiite uprising. This is an Iraqi uprising. The Sunni Arabs in Iraq tried to put an end to this system, but failed. Their protests in 2013 led to the emergence of ISIS and the destruction of their cities.

In the capital, sit-ins and strikes by students symbolizes the hope of a young generation that yearns for a non-sectarian policy. But in the south, where militia-backed militias are stronger than the state or the state itself, and where a party or militia can dominate the security apparatus, the anger of the people is even greater.

In Amara, for example, a crowd burned the headquarters of a powerful Iranian-backed militia. Guards opened fire, and during subsequent collisions, demonstrators pulled the wounded commander of the militia out of an ambulance and killed him.

Protesters stormed the Iranian consulate in Najaf, the seat of the powerful Shiite clergy of Iraq. They accused the Iraqi authorities of turning against their own people to defend Iran.

The Guardian reported on 29 November: “In the beginning, only a few dozen people protested,” says a 22-year-old demonstrator in al-Shatrah. “But when the locals heard the bullets and saw that their boys were killed, they left their homes. It became a matter of honor. We decided to free our cities from these parties.”

Many of the most powerful Iraqi politicians and militia commanders come from the south. The youth in the region formed the backbone of the Shiite militias who fought against the Islamic State (ISIS). Anger towards the militias and political parties began, activists say, with the defeat of ISIS, when young men returned from the front lines and discovered that their commanders had become warlords and had accumulated wealth and business contracts.

“So many politicians and officials come from this region, and yet this is a very poor province,” said Mohamed, a human rights activist and anti-corruption campaigner. “During the elections, politicians give people blankets and a few phone cards, give a few men a job with the police, repair a road … that’s how they win votes. After 16 years of Shiite rule, the children now say it was better under Saddam. ”

“Who are the Hashd al Shaabi? Our children were the Hashd. These politicians and commanders climbed on their backs to achieve their goal and gain power and wealth. ”

For Mohamed, “the status of the Shiite clergy has collapsed. If a militia commander now would come to the square, he would be beaten with shoes.” In the south, some of the most bloody incidents have occurred since the uprising began.

Iraq is governed by power sharing between religious and ethnic parties. Each party has their own militias, which are also internally divided and who want to obtain as much economic and political power as possible. Militia leaders who belong to these groups sit on administrative boards and control the ports, borders, oil fields, trade, etc.

The city of Basra is a good example, where the Shi’a Muslim Al-Dawa party controls the Al-Burjisiya oil field, the Sheeba and Al-Muthanna gas fields, the Basra International Airport and the Umm Qasr seaport. Another group, consisting of Asaib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr militia, controls the port of Abu Flous and the railway line. The Sadrist militia controls the stadium of the city and the Al-Shalamcheh border crossing with Iran. Al-Hikma, a Shiite Islamic block, guards the North Al-Rumaila oil field, the port of Al-Maqal and the border crossing with Safwan with Kuwait. Other areas such as the port of Khor Al-Zubair and the rectorate of Basra University are controlled by clans such as the Al-Battat.

Business contracts only go to people or companies that are affiliated with the ruling parties and their militias. Corruption is widespread, law enforcement is completely absent. Political parties and their militias flourish by using state revenues to enrich themselves, ranging from factories and agriculture to tourism, Islamic banking and private schools. Bribes for state contracts with foreign companies are channeled through the parties and militias that control the ministries.

In the predominantly northern Sunni areas of the province of Anbar and Mosul, which were bombed during the war against ISIS, people are not yet en masse on the streets. This is not because of a lack of support, but because of the repressive action against any sign of opposition. Even those in the region who have expressed their solidarity on Facebook are being arrested by security forces, while the authorities have made it clear that anyone who opposes the government will be treated as “terrorist” and ISIS sympathizer.

Regarding the position of the Kurds, the Kurdish leaders fear that they will be on the losing side if any change would occur in the current political system because an amendment to the Iraqi constitution would affect their guaranteed rights. They are therefore not opposed to the Iraqi government and Prime Minister Mahdi.

An uprising of the Iraqi youth

The current uprising was initially dominated by young people between the ages of 17 and 23. The younger generations no longer believe in political parties and the country’s leaders. At Tahrir Square in Baghdad, protesters have set up a “wall of wishes”, Reuters reported on 26 November. “I hated Iraq before October 25, now I am proud of it,” said 16-year-old Fatima Awad. “We used to have no future and no one would protest because everyone was scared. Now we are all gathered in Tahrir Square,” she added.

Unemployment is particularly high among graduates, the vast majority of whom are looking for work in the public sector because the private sector is so weak. Pathogenic factors associated with unemployment are increasing, including suicide, drug addiction and depression. Unemployment has boosted organized crime and has encouraged many young men to join militias.

In addition to the economic slump, the social fabric of Iraq has crumbled since the US-led invasion in 2003. The occupation exacerbated the destruction Iraq had already suffered as a result of the Gulf War of 1991, the bombing campaigns of the 1990s by the United States and the UK , and the murderous economic embargo since 1990. But despite this bleak reality, it is the youth of Iraq who are the driving force behind the ongoing protests.

The hope for a better future not only lives within Iraq, but also among the Iraqis in the diaspora. From Sydney to Toronto and also in Belgium, solidarity campaigns are being organized with the revolts. Sundus Abdul Hadi, an Iraqi-Canadian artist and author wrote in Medium.com on 1 November: “I would say that most of us in the diaspora have been completely seized or even obsessed with what is happening in our motherland. We are with heart and soul with the people in Iraq. Without social media I don’t know what I would do. It gives us the opportunity to make direct contact with people in Iraq, to ​​share their vision and experiences. This I’d say that most of us in the diaspora have been completely absorbed, if not obsessed, with what is going on in our motherland. We are living it, body and soul, with the people in Iraq. If it wasn’t for social media, I don’t know what I’d do. It is giving us an opportunity to connect directly with people in Iraq, to share their vision and experiences. This is in complete contrast to the one-dimensional and one-sided images that came out of the Iraq war in 2003 from embedded journalists. (…) This revolution is also for those of us outside of Iraq, who are displaced or exiled, always longing to return, living in our nostalgias and traumas. It is for the Iraqis that have been robbed of a land to return to, of a homebound future to lay claim to. It is for the Iraqis, like me, who gave birth to children in faraway countries, whispering into their ears that they are Iraqi despite the fact that Iraq is an illusory, mythical place plagued by war and instability.”

At the front of the square, on the edge of the Jumhuriya Bridge, is the 14-storey “Turkish restaurant building” that overlooks Tahrir Square and the Jumhuriya Bridge (which leads to the Green Zone) and is the beating heart of the revolution. It has now been taken over by the young demonstrators who vowed not to leave the building. There are checkpoints at all entrances to the building and Tahrir Square where young volunteers check the possession of weapons that are prohibited at all times on the square. Each floor has a different function: one for the artists and the painters, one for the musicians, one for a library, one for security, etc. The building has been abandoned since 2003 after it was bombed in 2003 and never rebuilt. On all floors there are sleeping places, toilets are built and there is a cleaning service.

A demand for system change and restoration of national identity

Iraq suffers under the capitalist privatization process that pro-consul Bremer introduced after 2003 and was not abolished by successive Iraqi governments. The demonstrators demand – perhaps unknowingly – a return to the welfare state created by the Ba’ath regime, where the Iraqi population had a much higher standard of living than today. The polarization between the elite and the people is caused by the neoliberal economic policy (privatization, job crisis, etc.) and the militarization of the economy.

The most radical demand on Tahrir Square is the dismantling of this entire sectarian, political, Islamic system and an end to the country’s foreign control. This is the first and most important demand. The people want to change the constitution, expel the ruling political parties, abolish sectarian election rules, cancel all treaties with the World Bank. The people want to regain their sovereignty, expel the US army and its bases, expel the Iranian presence, expel the Turkish army, internationalize the issue of the Tigris and the Euphrates. The protesters want a separation of religion and politics. The young Iraqis use words such as citizenship, social justice, as opposed to the religious or ethnic identity that the influential clergy and rulers have imposed on the Iraqi people. The US occupation has done everything to erase the national Iraqi identity and to keep the country ethnically and religiously divided, which has given rise to bloody sectarian conflicts. But that tactic no longer works.

In a piece originally published in German by Rosa-Luxemburg-Foundation, Ansar Jasim and Schluwa Sama reported from Tahrir Square. “This is a movement of all of us, your origin does not play a role here, we are all suppressed by one political class,” an activist explains. Posters that prohibit any sectarian language are everywhere. Instead, people make references to elements that have played a unifying role in history, and Islamic and Christian symbols and drawings adorn Tahrir square.

Cuneiform script and figures from the Mesopotamian heritage of the region are also visible. Protesters do not have an exclusive Arab-Islamic identity as before, but want an identity that reflects the diversity of the country. Time and again they talk about all the different social, ethnic and religious groups that are present on the Square.

The demonstrations are supported by all religious and ethnic groups. The Mandaeans support the demands of the protesters and hand out food, the Chaldean Catholic church patriarch of Babylon Louis Raphael I Sako canceled a planned interview in Hungary and chose to “stay in Baghdad during this difficult time.” In a joint statement, Sako and other leaders of Christian communities thanked “the young men and women, the future of Iraq, for their peaceful protests and for breaking the country’s sectarian barriers and emphasizing the Iraqi national identity.”

Arabic next to Kurdish slogans are everywhere on the square. A Kurdish-Arabic tent invites demonstrators for free tea. There is also great solidarity from the Yezidi community, which sends money, but also brings food and water to the square. Even if they do not have a direct, visible presence on the square, they express their support for change that could lead to a renewed Iraqi identity.

But the religious leaders who run the country are not welcome in the square, with some even denouncing Moqtada al Sadr and others who are held co-responsible for the looting of the country. “Don’t ride the wave, Moqtada” is therefore a popular slogan, as well as “In the name of religion, politicians act like thieves!”

the resignation of Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, an apparent concession to the demonstrators, has not paralyzed the movement. It was too little and too late, they claim. Their demand is an entirely new political system, not the removal of one person.

No to “Muhasasa”

The Iraqi constitution has caused anger among the Iraqi people since 2005 and has given rise to continuous protests. “No to Muhasasa, no to political sectarianism,” protesters in Tahrir Square sang after the resignation of Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi at the end of November 2019. The divisive constitution has anchored “Muhasasa” in Iraqi society. Muhasasa is the system for distributing public offices, political positions and state resources along ethnic-sectarian lines between parties that are part of the ruling elite of the country.

One of the biggest ailments of the Muhasasa, according to Iraqi demonstrators and experts, is that it has driven the sectarian tensions and broke down the social fabric by putting ethnic-sectarian identities in the foreground.

Although the muhasasa was introduced by the United States after the 2003 invasion, the foundations of the system were laid in the early 1990s by Iraqi opposition groups, which worked out a system for proportionate representation of Sunni, Shiites, Kurds and other ethnic sectarian groups in Iraq.

Prof. Saad Naji Jawad has written extensively about the disastrous Iraqi Constitution. I draw from his analysis. When US pro-consul Paul Bremer ​​arrived in Baghdad in May 2003, he had no prior knowledge of Iraqi politics, but immediately began issuing his 100 orders, many of which are still in force today. Bremer also formed a governing body, the Iraqi Governing Council (IGC), consisting of people selected on the basis of sect, ethnic background and, most importantly, their loyalty to the US. It was the first time in Iraq’s history that agreements were made on a sectarian and ethnic basis. 65% of the IGC members had dual nationality.

The IGC appointed a committee to review the draft for a new constitution. This draft was strongly influenced by American political interests and written by American advisers, in particular the Jewish professor Noah Feldman and Peter Galbraith, assisted by two emigrated Iraqis who had the American and British nationality and had not lived in Iraq since childhood. None of the authors was an expert in constitutional law. The document itself was written in English and was poorly translated into Arabic.

The committee lacked representatives of civil society organizations and the committee’s discussions were not made public. The committee appointed advisers, mostly foreigners, whose names were never disclosed. A few days after their appointment, two Sunni members of the editorial committee and an adviser who objected to the proposed draft were murdered. A few days later, another Sunni committee member was kidnapped and killed. The result was that the Sunni representatives stopped their participation and demanded an investigation into the murder of their colleagues.

The important items in the document were not even discussed. However, the Kurdish members had clear ideas about what they wanted and had a team of American and European experts who advised them.

The IGC was asked to approve the constitution and did so with only minor changes. The Council’s main objection was that the new law did not refer to Islam as the state’s official religion, and Article 7 was included at their insistence.

“Sect” is mentioned a number of times in the Constitution (for example, Articles 12 and 20). This divisive word was never included in earlier Iraqi constitutions and its use was rejected by a large number of Iraqis. The only Iraqis who agreed to use the term were those who participated in the political process.

Iraqis were not aware of the details of the document because no public version was available. Some Iraqi constitutional law experts and academics pointed out the dangers of divisive clauses, based on the very few press releases, but these critics were threatened by police and unknown militias.

The constitution stipulates that in the event of inconsistencies between central laws and laws of a regional government, priority is given to the laws of the local government. This is perhaps the only time in modern constitutional history that such a hierarchy has been established. Immediately after the adoption of the constitution, the Kurdish federal region issued its own local constitution, which contained many clauses that contradicted those of the central government, especially regarding the exploitation of national and regional wealth, such as the oil.

Iraqi women were dissatisfied with the Constitution because the 1959 Progressive Personal Status with all its advanced amendments was canceled (Article 41).

In October 2005, Iraqis voted on a permanent constitution that they had not seen, read, studied, discussed or drafted. Even worse is that they voted for an incomplete document. They followed the instructions of their political and religious leaders and the majority did not realize that this document would become a major source of misery.

The provision in the Constitution to keep the central government weaker than the regional authorities has caused a chronic problem for the state. The Iraqi political discourse has centered on ethnicity and religion instead of Iraqi citizenship. The various components within Iraq have great autonomy and pursue an independent foreign policy. For example, there is no objection to the declared alliance policy between the leaders of the Barzani tribes and Israel. An Iraqi politician, such as Al-Alusi, can visit occupied Palestine – at the invitation of the occupying government – and speak and openly call for an alliance with Israel. Al-Alusi was himself one of those responsible for the de-Ba’athification, a decision that blew up the Iraqi state.

No wonder that for the Iraqis this constitution remains controversial. The debate continues about the ambiguity of most articles. The constitution has undermined the unity and survival of the Iraqi state.

The role of the trade unions in the uprising

Trade unions are present in the protests, but not in the forefront. Months before the uprising broke out, public sector employees in Central and Southern Iraq, including textile workers in Diwaniyah, municipal workers in Muthanna and leather workers in Baghdad, formulated demands for better wages and safe working conditions, decent housing and permanent jobs. But these demands have faded into the background since the protests began.

At a meeting in Basra on October 28, trade unions of lawyers, teachers and employees formed a committee that urged other trade unions to support the demonstrator’s demands rather than their own sectoral demands. According to them, the role of the trade unions would be more effective if they would show their solidarity with the demonstrators instead of playing a leading role in the historical uprising.

Most, if not all, trade unions have issued press releases to support the protest movement. The General Federation of Iraqi Trade Unions (GFITU, the only official federation in present-day Iraq, dominated by the Sadrists) called for “solidarity” with the insurrection without asking the workers to participate in the demonstrations. The GFITU advised the demonstrators to “protect public property and maintain good contact with security forces”. The General Federation of Workers’ Unions in Iraq (GFWUI) condemned the government’s violent action and organized pickets outside oil companies and refineries in Basra, Nasiriyah, and Misan, and also held demonstrations in Baghdad and Babel. The GFWUI also set up tents in Nasiriyah and militants brought food and drink for the demonstrators.

In a mass meeting at the Basra Oil Company, the unions demanded an end to the repression. However, the local section promised to continue production and remove the demonstrators who blocked access. The most militant action is done by the unemployed and the poor workers, not by oilworkers, who are severely punished when they strike.

So far, the most precarious demonstrators have received the hardest blows. The poor, the unemployed, the people who have nothing to lose, are the ones who occupy the front lines and defy riot police, militias and even Iranian paramilitary forces. But to bring about real change, the organized working class will have to play a greater role in the movement if the Iraqi people want a state that actually defends their interests.

All social classes participate in demonstrations

On Tahrir Square, bakers, restaurateurs, doctors and nurses, hairdressers, etc., all offer their services free of charge. Families from all classes and neighborhoods are demonstrating together under the hashtag نازل_اخذ_حقي# (I am demonstrating to claim my rights). Hordes of students leave high schools and universities to participate in the protests. Trade unions have joined the uprising. According to a poll conducted last year, 77% of the Iraqi people supported the uprising of 2018 (in Iraqi Kurdistan it was 53%). The support for the current revolution will be probably higher.

But especially the Tuk Tuk drivers have become the symbol of the revolution par excellence. The Tuktuk is a three-wheeled vehicle that serves as a taxi for the poor, but is now a symbol of the revolution itself. Tuktuks are not only depicted on the walls around the square, songs are written about them and even the newspaper of the revolution, which reports on all activities in the square, is called Tuktuk. Tuktuk drivers were previously socially marginalized and discriminated against. They are mostly young, underage drivers who have no other choice than to do this job, given the high unemployment and widespread poverty.

Now they transport wounded demonstrators and also have a logistical function. They are the only vehicles that are allowed on Tahrir square. The increased social recognition is reflected in more and more donations from other protesters, mainly from other social classes. This is necessary, because these young drivers often offer their services free of charge.

Another group on which the Iraqis have changed their opinion since 1 October are the residents of the southern province of Dhi Qar. Some of the most aggressive protests have taken place here, where protesters have set fire to political party offices and have gained a degree of control over the provincial capital Nasiriyah. In the meantime, the demonstrators of Dhi Qar have gained heroic status among their countrymen. This is despite the fact that the inhabitants of the city have had a bad reputation for decades. They are often described as “bad” fruits that have fallen from the “cursed tree.” If someone did something bad somewhere, it was often said that the person “probably comes from Nasiriyah”.

Since the demonstrations started, the people of Nasiriyah were praised for their courage. “We, the Baghdad demonstrators, have been trying to cross the bridge to the Green Zone for weeks,” is a slogan in Tahrir Square. “We are now asking our fellow demonstrators in Nasiriyah to help us do that faster.”

Women are prominently present in the revolution

Women have long been marginalized and silenced by conservative Islamists and now they have decided to finally make themselves heard. They joined the protest movement en masse. In a society where sexes do not normally mix, protesting alongside men means that a taboo has been broken. This is also a revolution against outdated traditions and norms. Men and women walk hand in hand, hug each other and people even kiss. This is unseen. There is no doubt that the uprising is a turning point for women, but the road to their freedom and rights is still full of obstacles. Breaking the artificial barrier between men and women is one of the most beautiful and significant outcomes of this historic uprising. The women come from all sectors of society, with or without headscarves, Muslims, Christians, young people, the elderly, middle-class and working-class women, housewives … they all participate, in the front lines or as logistical supporters. This is a hopeful evolution and no power will be able to reverse it, despite all the efforts and money that political Islam has spent to impose its feudal culture.

The women who demonstrate, offer help and even spend the night on Tahrir Square also feel completely safe. The office of the Iraqi Human Rights Commissioner stated on November 6 that “since the beginning of demonstrations in the various Iraqi provinces, there has been no case of women being harassed despite the participation of thousands of women”.

Iran, the big enemy?

Although Iran itself is threatened by the US and Israel and suffers from a criminal sanctions regime, the country has worked with the US since 2003 to pacify the country and shape the sectarian system. Iranian and American ambassadors have very actively tried to stop any Iraqi attempt at independence. Both the US and Iran must approve the composition of a government after each election in the secure Green Zone. At the same time, the relationships are very conflicting. Both Washington and Tehran fight each other for complete control of Iraq.

It has also become clear that the American mission in Iraq, set up to create a pro-American model for the region and a stronghold against anti-American militantism, has achieved the exact opposite. The defeat of Iraq was intended to illustrate how much the US firepower could intimidate the region and scare off the so-called “rogue states”. Instead, the policy outlined by the neoconservatives, Israel and the oil companies has ironically strengthened Iran’s power, the only regional power to withstand all that pressure, and is now the new “rogue state.” Iran’s regional status has risen in a way that was impossible without this background of failed imperial politics. Mohammad Ali Abtahi, the Iranian Deputy Chairman for Legal and Parliamentary Affairs – at the Conference The Gulf and Future Challenges, held in Abu Dhabi, January 2004 by the Emirate Center for Strategic Research and Studies – clearly explained Iran’s role in the occupation of Iraq. “The fall of Kabul and Baghdad would not have been easy without the assistance of Iran,” Abtahi said about the role of Iranian militias and intelligence in Iraq and Afghanistan. The Iranian threat is now imminent and pro-American authoritarian regimes in Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have helped to achieve this.

At the beginning of March 2015, several Arab newspapers reported that Ali Younesi, a senior adviser to Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, had declared that Baghdad is the capital of “a new Persian Empire”. “Iran has today become an empire as it has been throughout history and the capital is now Baghdad in Iraq, which reflects the center of our civilization and our culture and identity today, as it was in the past”.

The “ISNA” news agency reported on his intervention in a forum in Tehran entitled “The Iranian Identity”. Younesi said that “Iran and Iraq are geographically indivisible. Younesi, who was the minister of information in President Mohammad Khatami’s ‘reform’ government, denounced anyone opposed to Iranian influence in the Middle East :”We will defend all peoples of the region because we consider them to be part of Iran. We will fight Islamic extremism, fight Takfiri, atheists, neo-Ottomans, Wahhabists, the West and Zionism.”

He emphasized the continuation of Tehran’s support for the Iraqi government and sent a clear message to Turkey: “Our competitors, the historical heirs of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Ottomans, resent our support for Iraq.” Younesi also stated in his speech that his country is planning to establish an “Iranian Federation” in the region: “by Iranian Federation, we do not mean to remove borders but that all nations neighboring the Iranian plateau should be close. I do not mean that we want to conquer the world all over again, but that we must regain our historical position to globally think and act Iranian

To understand the ambiguous position of Iran, we must go back to the Islamic revolution in Iran in 1978-79, initially welcomed by the Iraqi government, because for the two countries the Shah was a common enemy. Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, however, saw Saddam Hussein’s secular, Arab-nationalist Ba’ath regime as un-Islamic and “an envoy of Satan”. The call by Khomeini in June 1979 to the Iraqi Shiites to overthrow the Ba’ath regime was therefore badly received in Baghdad. In 1979-1980 there were anti-Ba’ath riots in the Shiite areas of Iraq, and the Iranian government provided extensive support to the Iraqi Shiite militants to unleash an Islamic revolution. The repeated calls for the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime and support for Iraqi Shiite groups by the new regime in Iran was increasingly seen as an existential threat in Baghdad. Iranian pan-Islamism and revolutionary Shia Islamism, against secular Iraqi Arab nationalism were therefore central to the conflict between the two countries. Many of the current rulers in Iraq, including former Prime Minister al-Maliki, returned from Iran to Iraq on the back of the American tanks. Revanchist motifs played a major role. Officers from the former Iraqi army were systematically killed on the basis of death lists. Militias like the BADR Brigades, supported by Iran, sometimes worked together with the US to combat armed resistance, in a particularly brutal way. At other times they turned against the US. The US had no choice but to accept this option so as not to sink further into the Iraqi quagmire.

The Iranian discourse reflects ignorance about the reality of the Arab national identity. It is more important to the Iraqi Shiites than their religious identity. For example, in 1980 Khomeini wrongly thought that the Shiites in the Iraqi army would not fight against Iran and that they would choose Iran’s side because of their religious affiliation. But that didn’t happen. Iran does not seem to realize that the socio-religious rules in Iran are incompatible with the less strict religious behavior of Arab Shiites. This is an element of alienation for Shiite Arabs. The various Iranian statements have also angered the Shiites. 24 “battalions” consisting of 7,500 special police units accompanied more than 3 million Iranians arriving in Karbala province in Iraq to participate in the Arbaeen pilgrimage. Most Iraqi Shiites didn’t like that either..

But the Saudi alternative cannot appeal to the Iraqi Shiites either. The expression of Arab identity or Iraqi identity is the opposite of the reactionary definition of Saudi Wahhabism.

The inhabitants of the Shiite provinces also suffered little from the Anglo/American military campaign that befell the Sunni provinces. No Shiite city has undergone the destruction of Falluja, Ramadi, Mosul, Tikrit and other cities.

Ayatollah Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, stated in October 2019 that the uprisings and demonstrations in Iraq and Lebanon were fueled by foreign powers, a vision also adopted by the Iraqi government and Hezbollah in Lebanon. Khamenei described the demonstrations in a tweet as “a conspiracy that will have no effect!” According to him, this “conspiracy” was led by the United States, Israel, Saudi Arabia, and remnants of the Ba’ath party, to overthrow the government and install a regime under Washington control. Even the highest Shiite religious authority, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, indicated a possible plot in a statement, although he also condemned the violence against the demonstrators.

For months there had been rumors of a US-initiated coup in Iraq. More than two months before the uprising, Qays Khaz’ali, leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq (AAH), an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia and political party operating in Iraq, said: “There are plans to change the Baghdad government in November, with protests that will break out in October. Protests will not be spontaneous, but organized by factions in Iraq. Pay attention to my words ”

Sharmine Narwani on October 5, 2019: “Al Akhbar newspaper says the Iraqi government heard 3 months ago about of a planned US-backed coup by military officers, followed by street action. Time to be skeptical about events in Iraq? ”

“Protesters confirm the use of snipers in buildings aimed at demonstrators approaching Tahrir Square. During the US coup in Ukraine in 2014, the same method was used to bring about regime change.” So it was insinuated that the snipers shooting at the demonstrators were allied to the US, while the Iraqi army leadership itself admitted that its armed forces are responsible for the death of the demonstrators.

The claim that some Iraqi officers planned a coup has not been proven. Similarly, there are claims that Iran is planning a takeover of power through its militias. That claim cannot be substantiated either.

The story goes that General Abdul Wahab al-Saadi, commander of anti-terrorism forces, would have visited various embassies to receive support for large-scale demonstrations that would lead to a military coup. He was dismissed from office based on those rumors. However, this story lacks credibility.

General Al-Saadi, who became an Iraqi national symbol in 2015 after leading his troops to decisive victories in the fight against ISIS, received the respect of the Iraqi people for impartiality in the war between Iran and the United States in the military campaign against IS. While Iran was arming, financing, and training many of the militias that formed the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), al-Saadi had no problem refusing Iranian support during his successful attempt to recapture territories on ISIS. At the same time, the General did not hesitate to express his frustration with the American patrons of Iraq and openly stated in the media: “Sometimes they carried out airstrikes that I had never asked for, and at other times I begged them for airstrikes that never came”. In a country where loyalty to foreign powers could make or break military and political careers, al-Saadi’s refusal to take sides made him unique in the eyes of Iraqis. His resignation was one of the reasons for the current protests.

Moreover, al-Saadi was only the number two in the command structure of the Iraqi Counter Terrorism Service (CTS), which is led by General Talib Shaghati. Organizations such as CTS form the core of American strategies in the Middle East to keep the region under control. American forces created and trained and armed CTS during the first years of occupation and General Talib Shaghati has been the head of the CTS since 2007. Shagati’s entire family is housed in the US “for security reasons.” The only possible explanation for the removal of al-Saadi from his position is not that he was planning a coup, but that he placed Iraqi interests above foreign interests.

According to some commentators, Saudi Arabia and the Emirates are funding the protests in Iraq, because where else would the funds come from to distribute free food and drink daily to the thousands of men and women who permanently occupy Tahrir Square? This claim ignores the massive support of the people for the revolts and the enormous solidarity that this revolution generates.

PMF Militias in Iraq were created after the fatwa of the high Shiite cleric Ali al-Sistani to fight ISIS terrorists, but after the fighting ended, they shifted their focus to politics and control various government institutions and major parts of the country. They became the second largest formation in the Iraqi government after the 2018 elections, the party of Moqtada al Sadr being the largest.

These “people’s militias” have violently imposed their rule all over Iraq in the areas they control. They enrich themselves in every possible way. Bribes are demanded at checkpoints, especially on roads to areas conquered by ISIS. According to a report from the London School of Economics, militias in only one city generated an estimated $ 300,000 a day in illegal taxes. There are also reports of militias organizing a scrap trade around Mosul and carrying material away to sell instead of supporting the reconstruction of the city.

The militias control the seaport of Umm Qasr and the oil industry has not been spared either. In 2015, militias plundered the Baiji oil refinery, formerly the largest in Iraq. More recently there have been allegations of organized smuggling from oil fields around Mosul and Kirkuk. Militias have been smuggling oil in Basra for a long time and some have signed lucrative contracts with international oil companies.

When asked: “Do you have a positive or negative image of the following countries?”, In a 2019 poll, only 38% of the Iraqi Shiite population had a positive perception of Iran, compared to 86% in 2014. It is impossible to blame US propaganda for this sharp fall in Iran’s perception. The same poll mentions the 3 main reasons for this negative perception: 1) Dumping Iraq with cheap products; 2) Dumping Iraq with Drugs; 3) Supporting different non efficient and corrupt governments.

Of course, the US is the main culprit for the current chaos in Iraq, but Tehran also bears a great responsibility for the damage done to the relations between the Iraqi and Iranian people. The current hostility to Iran does not come out of the blue, but is the result of years of discontent because of Iran’s cooperation with the US occupation forces who together helped to protect government leaders and protect the sectarian quota system, and directly intervened on various occasions to cancel parliamentary decisions. Now that IS has been defeated, the Shiites notice that their reward is a country where the population has fallen even deeper into poverty, while the political and religious elites are pampering themselves with dazzling mansions and spacious country houses abroad, a country where some militias are involved in lucrative smuggling of oil, drugs and human trafficking, where dress codes and religious fatwas are forcefully enforced, a population in poverty while the country floats on a sea of ​​oil.

The US and Saudi Arabia will naturally want to use the current uprising to try to push through their own agenda and insist on regime change. America and Israel are engaged in a total war in the region against all areas under Iranian influence. America does not really have control over the thousands of demonstrators, but it exploits every event and every political development when it serves its interests. However, what we do not read in the Western media is that the protests are also directed against the American presence and also against the interference of Saudi Arabia and Israel.

Adel Abdul Mahdi offered his resignation on November 29 after the massacre in Nassiriyah, Najaf and Baghdad.

Western media versus social media

The US and Saudi Arabia do naturally want to use the current revolution to try to push through their own agenda. America and Israel are engaged in a total war in the region against all areas under Iranian influence. America does not really have control over the hundreds of thousands of demonstrators, but it exploits every event and every political development when it serves its interests. We only read anti-Iranian rhetoric in Western media. However, what we do not read in the press is that the protests are equally directed against the American presence and against the interference of Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Israel.

Fortunately, there are social media that bring powerful stories and a human face to the struggle, in a way that has never been done before. There have been desperate attempts by the government to stop the spread of eyewitness accounts on social media by shutting down the internet. However, that did not work.

Banners on Tahrir Square read: “No to America, No to Erdogan, No to Iran, No to Barzani, No to Israeli NGOs”.

Iraqi poet, novelist, translator and scholar Sinan Antoon was born and raised in Baghdad and his most recent novel is entitled “The Book of Collateral Damage”. He said on November 26, “What is really important is the restoration of Iraqi identity and a new sense of Iraqi nationalism that transcends sectarian discourse institutionalized by the United States in 2003”.

“Iran has a lot of influence in Iraq and has infiltrated many of the institutions and supported many of the Iraqi militias, but all of that is a product of the US occupation and invasion of Iraq. While Iran is one of the targets of these demonstrators, it’s important to remember that many of the banners and posters on the Tahrir square say “no” to any foreign intervention. So they say no to Iran, no to Turkey, no to Israel, no to the United States.

But of course the mass media in the United States, because of their geopolitical interests and their continued interference in the region, write only about Iran, and no one denies that Iran supports many of the parties in Iraq financially and otherwise and infiltrates Iraqi society in so many ways. But there are all those other dimensions and, unfortunately, the regular media in the US and also in Europe are very short-sighted and only focus on the influence that Iran exerts on the Iraqi regime.

And that’s correct. But Iraqis want their country back and they want sovereignty and they are against all kinds of interventions. And the Iraqi state, since 2003, is very weak. We have Turkish troops in Iraq, in the north, we have American troops. The demonstrators are really aware of all this and they understand very well – at least based on what they say when they appear in the media – that the interests of Iraq and Iraqis come first and that sovereignty is very important. Of course it will not be taken back in one day, but they realize that the Iranian regime is not the only threat and not the only sponsor of certain forces in Iraq. ”

The Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who became famous after throwing two shoes at Bush while shouting, “This is a farewell kiss from the Iraqi people, you dog”, told Euronews that protesters are calling for the fall of the political regime. He also said that they do not want other countries to interfere in Iraq. “The government of the American occupation is rejected. This government has brought disaster to the country … today we want the fall of this political regime and the end of this government”, he explained. “We don’t hate Iran, we don’t hate Saudi Arabia, we don’t hate Turkey. But our message is simple: they must stop interfering with our country. The Iraqi people are a free people”, he said.

“All these human losses, the robbery, the crimes of the Green Zone government are the total responsibility of the US government. They have been protecting that gang of thieves since 2003 with their mercenaries and military bases, just to allow multinational corporations to control Iraq’s oil and other resources”, Souad al-Azzawi, an Iraqi environmental scientist, wrote.

Another comment:” Dear Iraqi sisters and brothers, Americans are working very hard to hijack your demonstrations and use them as an excuse to install an American puppet regime in place of the current regime. Please be vigilant and do not allow Iraq to become a battlefield of world and regional powers.”

Following the revelations in the New York Times and the intercept on November 18, the so-called “control” of Iran over Iraq, an authoritative Iraqi opinion maker wrote:

Some questions …

what are those important secrets that America has unveiled and published in the New York Times, which are not known by the Iraqis ??

  • Is it not America that occupied Iraq and destroyed its national institutions, killed, arrested and displaced millions of people?
  • Is it not the US that created the corrupt sectarian political process and wants to protect and continue it?
  • Is it not the US that has worked for years with Iran and its criminal terrorist militias? The US knows exactly how these gangs came to power; after all they stole billions of dollars together, plundered the wealth of the country, kidnapped innocent people and killed them.
  • Is it not America that controls the space, land, air, security and communication with their spies and knows exactly what is going on, even in the living rooms ???
  • Yes, the US knows all the small and big crimes that Iran and its agents have committed against the people of Iraq since 2003 until now. After all, they were deeply involved and pulled Iran into the Iraqi quagmire.

The rebellious people of Iraq do not need such “revelations” because they rebelled for themselves, their homeland and humanity, after their patience was exhausted and they saw no light at the end of the dark tunnel created by America by its brutal occupation of this country.

Maybe these documents cause a scandal in America, and then they can keep silent about their own role in killing a people and the rape of the country over the years. So these documents should not only be a condemnation of Iran, because Iran is only a partner in the crimes against humanity committed by the US. ”

These are just a few examples to disprove the story of the mass media that the uprising would be aimed primarily at Iran, quod non. The US, but also the Iranian leadership, are terrified of an escalation of this conflict and a possible overthrow of the existing regime, from which they both benefit.

Conclusion

A revolt against the government does not require external conspiracy: all domestic factors for protest, revolt and revolution are present. The Iraqi people have a thousand reasons to revolt against the existing regime. The stigmatization of the uprisings in Iraq as a Zionist-American conspiracy or a Ba’athist uprising is unfair to the hundreds of thousands who want to take their future into their own hands and want to get rid of the political system.

The Iraqi people continue to be a pawn in the game of geopolitical power politics, victims of the hunger for profit of the oil companies and corrupt politicians in an occupied country. Iraqis continue to bear the full burden of 29 years of sanctions, wars, misery, death, destruction, chaos and extreme neoliberalism. The people, however, have always remained alert, have constantly opposed the inhumane situation in which they were forced and want a fairer redistribution of the available resources. The past and present protests also have repeatedly opposed the division of the country, foreign interference and the sectarian structures imposed on them.

There is a continuity in Iraq’s popular resistance since 2003. Iraq is not Ukraine, is not Hong Kong. This is yet another uprising against the Green Zone, the fortified castle where the US, but also Iran, determine the rules of the game through the puppet government they have appointed. Any attempt to turn Iraq into the arena of a US war against Iran must be resisted. The people of Iraq cannot cope with another war.

A new Iraq may be coming, but that will not be welcomed by the American occupier, nor by Israel, Saudi Arabia, the Iraqi authorities, Europe and Iran. The people of Iraq will continue to oppose any foreign occupation and foreign interference and strive for a sovereign Iraq. The first condition is that all foreign troops, mercenaries and foreign counselors leave Iraq.

On a personal note: there is a strong “anti-organization” attitude, a general rejection of political structures and a focus on spontaneity. This attitude is understandable given the demonstrators’ fear of being co-opted by dominant political parties. The slogan “no to political parties” is very popular. The Left and trade unionists in the movement should emphasize that workers should organize themselves politically with a clear program to withstand the pressure of the neoliberal state, the economic elites and the dominant political parties and to remain independent. The lack of organization, the lack of clear alternatives, the political division among the demonstrators, have ensured that the protest movements since 2011 have not led to tangible results, with an absolute low point being the support that some Sunni groups have given to the terror group ISIS. Many demonstrators are young and inexperienced, reject everything, even early elections. They think that the political class will easily give up power, and that afterwards Iraqis will be able to rule themselves freely. Iraq is not a sovereign state, but is dominated by well-organized foreign powers, so the demonstrators should be even better organized if they want this revolution to succeed.

Victory for the demonstrators is not inevitable, perhaps not even likely. But it would be the only just outcome. What happens after a popular uprising is never a certainty, but that should not prevent the peace movement from giving its support to the just demands of the Iraqi people. If this rebellion does not produce the desired results, further rebellions will follow. The Iraqi people want to put an end to foreign interference and the corrupt system that has plunged millions into poverty. These protests are the only guarantee for a long-awaited peace in Iraq. Our solidarity with the justified demands of the Iraqi demonstrators is therefore more than necessary.

“Stay on the streets, never go home, because that is the secret of your success”.

*

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Dirk Adriaensens is a member of the executive committee of the BRussells Tribunal. Between 1992 and 2003 he led several delegations to Iraq to observe the devastating effects of  UN sanctions. He was a member of the International Organising Committee of the World Tribunal on Iraq (2003-2005). He is also co-coordinator of the Global Campaign Against the Assassination of Iraqi Academics. He is co-author of Rendez-Vous in Baghdad, EPO (1994), Cultural Cleansing in Iraq, Pluto Press, London (2010), Beyond Educide, Academia Press, Ghent (2012), Global Research’s Online Interactive I-Book ‘The Iraq War Reader, Global Research (2012), Het Midden Oosten, The Times They are a-changin ‘, EPO (2013) and is a frequent contributor to Global Research, Truthout, Al Araby, The International Journal of Contemporary Iraqi Studies and other media.

Featured image: Demonstrators are seen in Basra, Iraq, on July 19, 2019. During the protest, demonstrators assaulted journalist Ayman al-Sheikh. (Reuters/Alaa Al-Marjani)The original source of this article is Global ResearchCopyright © Dirk Adriaensens, Global Research, 2020

IRAQ IS THE NEXT BATTLEGROUND.

Posted on  by Elijah J Magnier

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By Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai

Well-informed and established sources at Iraqi Prime minister Adel Abdel Mahdi’s office in Baghdad believe “the US is unwilling to listen to reason, to the Iraqi government or the parliament. It has the intention of bringing war upon itself and transforming Iraq into a battlefield, by refusing to respect the law and withdraw its forces. The US will be faced with strong and legitimate popular armed resistance, even if some Iraqis (in Kurdistan) will break the law and will accept the US presence in their region, though without a heavy price.”

Caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdel Mahdi suggested to the parliament to agree on a new law asking the US to leave the country. The parliament listened to Mr Abdel Mahdi and agreed on a new law terminating the contract between Iraq and the US forces and asked the government to implement it. Mr Abdel Mahdi, in a phone conversation with US Secretary Mike Pompeo, demanded the presence of a delegation to organise the total withdrawal of all US forces from the country. The answer did not have to wait for long: “The US shall not withdraw from Iraq but respects its sovereignty and decisions,” said Secretary Pompeo. The US official failed to explain how Washington can reject the Iraqi sovereign decision asking for the withdrawal of the US troops and yet respect it at the same time.

President Donald Trump took a harsh position asking the Iraqis to pay billions of dollars for the development of the Iraqi bases his forces are hosted in. Otherwise, he threatened to “charge the Iraqi with sanctions like they’ve never seen before” and “it’s Central Bank account held at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York with $35 billion could be shut down”.

US Ambassador to Iraq Mathew Tueller delivered to Iraqi officials – including PM Abdel Mahdi, who has asked for the US forces removal of Iraq — a copy of all the possible US sanctions Iraq could from if the government insists on the total withdrawal of all US forces. This has triggered an immediate reaction from Iraqi groups willing to fight the US forces once declared an occupation force by Iraq.

Iraqi groups who fought against al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria and Iraq visited the newly appointed Iranian General head of the IRGC-Quds brigade Ismail Qaani who replaced Sardar Qassem Soleimani. They asked for military and financial support to fight the new “occupation forces”. The Iranian General promised to assist in implementing the parliament, government and people’s decision to fight the US occupation forces. Qaani is expected to visit Iraq, where over 100 Iranian advisors work in Baghdad security and command Control Base along with Syrian and Russian counterparts to fight ISIS.

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Trump’s decision to take control of Iraq’s oil revenue account at the US Federal Reserve Bank of New York could create a devaluation of the local currency and a crash in the financial system. There is also an implicit threat in Trump’s words, to confiscate Iraq’s national gold reserves, held at the New York Fed.

Clearly, the US administration could not care less about the stability of Iraq and consequences for the nearby European continent, which could suffer the most from Iraqi migration and increased instability in the Middle East.

Secretary Pompeo wrongly claimed the Iraqi parliament’s decision is non-binding. What grounds would a US official have, to consider an Iraqi political decision void?

When the US assassinated Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and other officers in their company, the Iraqi Prime Minister asked for the revocation of the US-Iraq agreement signed in 2014 that regulated the US forces’ presence in Iraq.

The original agreement was terminated in 2011 when all US forces pulled out of Iraq. In 2014, the deal was re-activated by the government to join forces in the fight against the “Islamic State” (ISIS).

In its Preamble, the agreement states that the US will support Iraq against “threats to its sovereignty and territorial integrity and against its democratic, federal and constitutional system.”

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The US is violating the agreement by using its land and airspace – as stated by Prime Minister Abdel Mahdi – without asking Baghdad’s permission. The US forces are allowing Israel to assassinate Iraqi commanders and attack Iraqi warehouses – as the US ambassador to Iraq informed Mr Abdel Mahdi. By killing Iraqi and Iranian commanders at Baghdad’s airport, US forces are causing the termination of the agreement by non-respect, in accordance with its articles 2 and 3.

The US government is further violating Iraq’s sovereignty by ignoring the Iraqi parliament’s resolution and refusing to schedule the withdrawal of all forces. Not only this: President Trump has openly threatened to break the Iraqi economy by disregarding the UN and international law, thereby imposing his “law of the jungle.”

At the Iraqi parliament, 173 MPs out of 328 voted for the withdrawal of the US forces. The suggestion of the caretaker Prime Minister is not binding. The government can only suggest and offer its opinion. The legislative decision goes back to the parliament, and its decision is a binding law applied to the present and future government (unless a new parliament revokes decisions of the previous one).

Even if all Kurds and most Sunni MPs (3 were present) were absent, the Constitution doesn’t rely on the presence of religions or ethnicities, the vote and the source of law are based on the majority (half plus one). This is how the Speaker, the President and the Prime Minister are elected, always by the most significant political coalition group.

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The parliament will meet again to read the resolution for the second time, ask all MPs to sign the document, and agree upon a deadline for the US withdrawal. The agreement doesn’t require the signature of the President in this case, as declared by the Speaker Mohamad al-Halbousi, but requires Halbousi’s presence, which is the case.

President Trump asked Iraq to pay him “billions of dollars” for the expansion of military bases to suit the US forces. Again, the US deliberately ignored article 5 of the agreement that all “Iraq owns all buildings, non-relocated structures… including those that are used, constructed, altered or improved by the US. Upon their withdrawal, the US shall return to the government of Iraq all the facilities free of any debts and financial burdens…The US shall bear the costs of construction, alterations, or improvements in the agreed facilities and areas provided for its exclusive use.”

Article 24 also states that the “US recognises the sovereign right of the government of Iraq to request the departure of the US forces from Iraq any time.” Trump disregards this treaty obligation, and instead says: “Iraqi will pay if they want us out.” It shows the US administration’s intention to remain in oil-rich Iraq for a long time.

Thus, following the assassination of the generals, there is little doubt 2020 will be a hot year in Iraq and hard on US forces if their President continues to ignore Iraq’s sovereignty and constitutional decisions. The US forces will now be considered a force of occupation, legitimising armed resistance against it. Iraq is back to 2003 when George W. Bush declared the country occupied. This was when the resistance took off. Trump’s last year of his first term will not likely bring any stability to the Middle East, and will certainly be very dangerous for US service personnel deployed in the region.

Proofread by  C.G.B and Maurice Brasher

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US threatens to cut off Iraq’s access to oil account in New York if troops expelled: Paper

Source

Sunday, 12 January 2020 7:15 AM  [ Last Update: Sunday, 12 January 2020 9:45 AM ]

The cornerstone for the Federal Reserve Bank of New York is pictured in the Manhattan borough of New York City, New York, October 4, 2019. (Photo by Reuters)

Iraqi officials say the administration of US President Donald Trump has threatened to shut off Iraq’s access to a key central banking account if Baghdad expels American troops from the Arab country.

Washington would shut down Baghdad’s access to its main account at the Federal Reserve Bank of New York, used to collect revenues from Iraq’s overseas oil sales, The Wall Street Journal quoted the officials as saying.  

According to the most recent financial statement from the Central Bank of Iraq, the bank held almost $3 billion in overnight deposits at the close of 2018.

The report came a day after Trump implicitly threatened to seize $35 billion of Iraqi money held in US banks if the country insists on having American forces withdrawn from Iraq. 

Trump said he had told Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi that Iraq “should pay back the United States for its investments in the country over the past several years or the American military will stay there,” Fox News reported.

“I said, ‘If we leave, you got to pay us,'” Trump told the news network in the White House. “If we leave … you have to pay us for the money we put in.”

Asked how he planned to collect money from Iraq, Trump said: “Well, we have a lot of their money right now. We have a lot of their money. We have $35 billion of their money right now sitting in an account.

“And I think they’ll agree to pay. I think they’ll agree to pay. Otherwise, we’ll stay there,” he added. 

Trump: US troops won’t leave Iraq unless it pays for ‘money we put in’

Trump: US troops won’t leave Iraq unless it pays for ‘money we put in’US President Donald Trump says American troops should not leave Iraq unless Baghdad pays back the United States for “the money we put in” the country.

Last week, Trump claimed that the United States had paid Iraq billions of dollars a year for many years.

Asked about the claim on Friday, Trump told Fox News, “We built one of the world’s most expensive airport facilities, anywhere in the world” in Iraq.  

Baghdad International Airport houses US military personnel. On Saturday, NBC News revealed that CIA agents at the airport were waiting for a jet carrying Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani from Damascus. 

Once the flight landed, American spies at the airport confirmed its exact whereabouts as three American drones moved into position overhead and targeted two vehicles carrying Soleimani and Iraq’s anti-terror commander Abu Mehdi al-Muhandis and their companions. 

The US military also controls several airbases in Iraq, including Ain al-Asad which is said to be the largest of the American bases in the Middle East. 

On Wednesday, Iran pounded the airbases with a volley of ballistic missiles in response to General Soleimani’s assassination. 

About 5,300 American forces are deployed across Iraq. After the assassination, the Iraqi parliament approved a motion, calling for the withdrawal of all American forces. 

On Thursday, Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi asked US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to “send delegates to put in place the tools to carry out the parliament’s decision.”  

However, the State Department said in a statement on Friday that Washington would not hold discussions with Baghdad regarding US troop withdrawal.

Iraq wants US to set up mechanism for withdrawal of troops

Iraq wants US to set up mechanism for withdrawal of troopsIraq

The US, backed by the UK, invaded Iraq in 2003 under the pretext that the former regime of Saddam Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction. No such weapons were ever found in the country. 

The invasion, however, plunged Iraq into chaos and led to the rise of terrorist groups across the region.

US rebuffs Iraq's call to withdraw troops from Arab country

US rebuffs Iraq’s call to withdraw troops from Arab countryThe United States has rejected Iraq

Sayyed Nasrallah: Suleimani’s Shoe Worth More Than Trump’s Head

Marwa Haidar

Stressing there is no figure equivalent to General Qassem Suleimani in terms of retaliation; Hezbollah Secretary General Sayyed Hasan Nasrallah said the response to his blood must be the expulsion of US forces from the region.

In a memorial service for General Suleimani, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and other martyrs who fell in the US strike on Baghdad airport early Friday (January 3, 2020), Sayyed Nasrallah said the US will get out of the region humiliated.

“The minimal retaliation to assassination of General Suleimani is to liberate Iraq from US forces,” his eminence addressed crowds at Sayyed Shuhadaa Complex in Beirut’s southern suburb, Dahiyeh.

He stressed that when this goal is achieved then the liberation of Palestine and Al-Quds will be imminent.

Sayyed Nasrallah affirmed, meanwhile, that fair punishment of General Suleimani killers means that US forces, warships and bases must pay the price.

“We are neither angered nor afraid, but we consider that there is a chance to get rid of the US occupation and hegemony.”

Assassination and Martyrdom

Sayyed Nasrallah paid tribute to General Suleimani as a worldwide great Islamic commander, stressing that the date of his assassination, alongside Iraq’s Hashd Shaabi Deputy Commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, represents a new stage not only for Iran and Iraq but for the entire region.

He also praised Al-Muhandis as a “dear and great commander.”

“Suleimani has achieved his personal goal. Embracing martyrdom was his wish since he was young… In the last years he spent many nights weeping while remembering martyrs as he was missing them.”

His eminence offered condolences to the families and relatives of the two commanders.

“Martyrdom is one of two glorious things. It’s either victory or martyrdom. The day of martyrdom of General Suleimani and Al-Muhandis is another sample of victory of blood over sword. In the school of Imam Hussein (a.s) and Sayyeda Zeinab (a.s.) we adore martyrdom and we don’t see but beauty.”

Hezbollah S.G. then elaborated what happened early Friday, saying that General Suleimani left Lebanon for Damascus on Thursday and then to Baghdad, where he was received by Al-Muhandis.

As they rode the cars they were brutally targeted by US precise missiles that led to total destruction of the vehicles, Sayyed Nasrallah said, noting that all people in the cars turned into body parts that were hard to be identified.

Few hours, Pentagon claimed responsibility for the strike, and US President Donald Trump himself said that he ordered the attack, Sayyed Nasrallah added.

“We are before a clear crime and not a mysterious one, something which indicates two things: The first is that all previous attempts to covertly assassinate General Suleimani have failed, and the second is related to conditions our region has been witnessing especially in Iraq.”

Trump’s Foreign Policy a Failure

“We are before a clear crime and not a mysterious one, something which indicates two things: The first is that all previous attempts to covertly assassinate General Suleimani have failed, and the second is related to conditions our region has been witnessing especially in Iraq.”

Sayyed Nasrallah then talked about failure of Trump’s foreign policy, noting that the US President is confused as his term nears its end.

“Throughout three years of his administration Trump has failed to reach the goals he set at the beginning of his term. All forms of pressure by Trump have failed to subdue Iran.”

“All what he wanted is to get Iran into negotiation table. And now his term will end without achieving this goal.”

“In Syria, there is a clear confusion, the latest of which is abandoning Trump’s allies (the Kurds). In addition to the unclear decision, whether he wants to withdraw troops or redeploy them in a bid to protect oil fields there.”

“In Lebanon, and despite all money spent in a bid to distort the Resistance image” the US administration failed to dictate its conditions on the country.

He noted, meanwhile that the same thing applies in Yemen, Afghanistan and Palestine, Sayyed Nasrallah added.

Iraq and Attempts to Create Strife with Iran

“He (Trump) is so transparent since he is arrogant and doesn’t recognize international community. He repeatedly said that the US wants to take over the Iraqi oil. And when he was asked about the state in Iraq he used to say there was no state there.”

He added that Washington used the Takfiri group, ISIL, as a pretext to return to Iraq and reestablish bases there.

This scheme has been foiled as ISIL was defeated, Sayyed Nasrallah said, underlining the major role played by General Suleimani and Al-Muhandis in confronting the terrorist group.

“After ISIL defeat, national Iraqi factions won the parliamentary elections and a new government was formed by Mr. Adel Abdul Mahdi, and they refused to be part of the anti-Iran campaign, as it also refused the ‘deal of the century’. Therefore the Americans felt that they would lose Iraq.”

Sayyed Nasrallah added that Washington then tried to sue discord between Iraq and Iran and to drag Iraq into civil war.

Hezbollah S.G. also talked about US administration failure in Venezuela, Cuba and North Korea.

“In his new election campaign all what he talks about are the $400 Billion he took from Saudi Arabia, arms deals with Arab states which worth tens of billions of dollars, and transferring the US embassy from Tel Aviv into Al-Quds (Jerusalem).”

Suleimani Central Figure in Axis of Resistance

Returning to assassination of General Suleimani, Sayyed Nasrallah stressed that the US strike which killed the top Iranian commander is not isolated incident and represents the beginning of a new approach adopted by Trump administration.

“They (Trump administration) settled on assassinating Suleiman who is a central figure in the Axis of Resistance,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, noting that he warned the Iranian general of attempts to kill him.

Sayyed Nasrallah underlined the major role played by General Suleimani across the region countries from Palestine to Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan, noting that he has posed an existential threat to the Zionist entity.

“Israel considers Suleimani as the most dangerous man. But it couldn’t dare to kill him. So it resorted to the US to do so.”

Retaliation

The retaliation for the assassination of Suleimani has already started in both Iran and Iraq, Sayyed Nasrallah said.

“The US goal behind assassinating Suleimani was to terrify Iran and subdue it. However the confrontation has already started since Imam Khamenei’s speech in which the Supreme Leader vowed severe revenge.”

Meanwhile, in Iraq the US was hoping to create atmosphere of fear and strife with Iran, Sayyed Nasrallah said, noting that tis goal was foiled as the Iraqis took to streets and held joint funeral for both Iraqi and Iranian martyrs.

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah said that now there are calls in Iraq for US withdrawal, noting that the eyes are now on the Iraqi parliament. He hoped that the Iraqi parliament will approve a bill to get the US troops out of the Arab country.

“The minimal retaliation for assassination of General Suleimani and Al-Muhandis is to expel foreign forces from Iraq and liberate it from US troops.” Sayyed Nasrallah said.

His eminence noted, meanwhile, that the responsibility of the Axisi of Resistance now is “to go forward in face of US goals to terrify us, and to coordinate between each other and come closer in a bid to strengthen our capabilities.”

“Suleimani is not only an Iranian figure. He is all of the Axisi if Resistance: Palestine, Yemen, Lebanon, Syria, Afghanistan and every country which has Resistance supporters.”

“Iran can retaliate as it pleases, but this doesn’t exempt the Axis of Resistance from retaliation on its behalf,” Sayyed Nasrallah said, stressing that such retaliation is not at the request of the Islamic Republic.

“Fair Punishment”

Referring to the word “fair punishment” Sayyed Nasrallah had earlier used in his statement shortly after the martyrdom of the two commanders, his eminence stressed that there is no equivalent figure to General Suleimani.

“Suleimani’s shoe is worth more than Trump’s head. Fair punishment means that US forces, bases and warships must pay the price.”

In this context, Sayyed Nasrallah noted that US civilians must not be targeted because such move serves the interests of Trump.

“The US forces will leave our region humiliated, defeated and terrified. The martyrs who blew themselves up and forced the US troops out of the region in the past, are now many more.”

“Avenging Suleimani and Al-Muhandis must be through the expulsion of all US forces from our region. When we accomplish this goal, then we don’t need a battle to liberate Palestine, and the Zionist will pack their bags and leave.”

“If the people of our region head in this direction… When US coffins come back to their country… When the US officers who came to the region vertically will return back horizontally, at that time, Trump and his administration will realize that they lost the region and lost the elections. Those idiots don’t know what did they do!

“The fair punishment in sake of Suleimani will also be a fair punishment in sake of Imad Mughniyeh, Mustafa Badriddine, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and all other martyrs.”

At the end of his speech, Sayyed Nasrallah reiterated that he is happy for General Suleimani because he fulfilled his wish of martyrdom, noting that “we are neither angry, nor afraid, but we consider his blood an opportunity to expel the US from the region.”

“O most honorable people… We will continue the path and triumph at last,” his eminence concluded his speech.

Source: Al-Manar English Website

ملايين الإيرانيين يشيعون الشهيدين سليماني والمهندس في طهران
فلسطين الحاضر الأول في نضال سليماني وفي وداعه
تغطية خاصة | 2020-01-06 | تشييع جثماني الشهيدين سليماني والمهندس في طهران 
تغطية خاصة | 2020-01-06 | تداعيات وأبعاد اغتيال سليماني والمهندس
تغطية خاصة | 2020-01-05 | تداعيات اغتيال سليماني والمهندس

The USA is now at war, de-facto and de-jure, with BOTH Iraq and Iran (UPDATED 6X)

January 05, 2020

The Saker

The blowback has begun

First, let’s begin by a quick summary of what has taken place (note: this info is still coming in, so there might be corrections once the official sources make their official statements).

  1. Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdl Mahdi has now officially revealed that the US had asked him to mediate between the US and Iran and that General Qassem Soleimani to come and talk to him and give him the answer to his mediation efforts.  Thus, Soleimani was on an OFFICIAL DIPLOMATIC MISSION as part of a diplomatic initiative INITIATED BY THE USA.
  2. The Iraqi Parliament has now voted on a resolution requiring the government to press Washington and its allies to withdraw their troops from Iraq.
  3. Iraq’s caretaker PM Adil Abdul Mahdi said the American side notified the Iraqi military about the planned airstrike minutes before it was carried out. He stressed that his government denied Washington permission to continue with the operation.
  4. The Iraqi Parliament has also demanded that the Iraqi government must “work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using its land, airspace or water for any reason
  5. The Iraqi Foreign Ministry said that Baghdad had turned to the UN Security Council with complaints about US violations of its sovereignty.
  6. Iraqi cleric Moqtada al-Sadr said the parliamentary resolution to end foreign troop presence in the country did not go far enough, calling on local and foreign militia groups to unite.  I also have confirmation that the Mehdi Army is being re-mobilized.
  7. The Pentagon brass is now laying the responsibility for this monumental disaster on Trump (see here).  The are now slowly waking up to this immense clusterbleep and don’t want to be held responsible for what is coming next.
  8. For the first time in the history of Iran, a Red Flag was hoisted over the Holy Dome Of Jamkaran Mosque, Iran.  This indicates that the blood of martyrs has been spilled and that a major battle will now happen.  The text in the flag says “Oh Hussein we ask for your help” (unofficial translation 1) or “Rise up and avenge al-Husayn” (unofficial translation 2)
  9. The US has announced the deployment of 3’000 soldiers from the 82nd Airborne to Kuwait.
  10. Finally, the Idiot-in-Chief tweeted the following message, probably to try to reassure his freaked out supporters: “The United States just spent Two Trillion Dollars on Military Equipment. We are the biggest and by far the BEST in the World! If Iran attacks an American Base, or any American, we will be sending some of that brand new beautiful equipment their way…and without hesitation!“.  Apparently, he still thinks that criminally overspending for 2nd rate military hardware is going to yield victory…

Analysis

Well, my first though when reading these bullet points is that General Qasem Soleimani has already struck out at Uncle Shmuel from beyond his grave.  What we see here is an immense political disaster unfolding like a slow motion train wreck.  Make no mistake, this is not just a tactical “oopsie”, but a major STRATEGIC disaster.  Why?

For one thing, the US will now become an official and totally illegal military presence in Iraq.  This means that whatever SOFA (Status Of Forces Agreement) the US and Iraq had until now is void.

Second, the US now has two options:

  1. Fight and sink deep into a catastrophic quagmire or
  2. Withdraw from Iraq and lose any possibility to keep forces in Syria

Both of these are very bad because whatever option Uncle Shmuel chooses, he will lost whatever tiny level of credibility he has left, even amongst his putative “allies” (like the KSA which will now be left nose to nose with a much more powerful Iran than ever before).

The main problem with the current (and very provisional) outcome is that both the Israel Lobby and the Oil Lobby will now be absolutely outraged and will demand that the US try to use military power to regime change both Iraq and Iran.

Needless to say, that ain’t happening (only ignorant and incurable flag-wavers believe the silly claptrap about the US armed forces being “THE BEST”).

Furthermore, it is clear that by it’s latest terrorist action the USA has now declared war on BOTH Iraq and Iran.

This is so important that I need to repeat it again:

The USA is now at war, de-facto and de-jure, with BOTH Iraq and Iran.

I hasten to add that the US is also at war with most of the Muslim world (and most definitely all Shias, including Hezbollah and the Yemeni Houthis).

Next, I want to mention the increase in US troop numbers in the Middle-East.  An additional 3’000 soldiers from the 82nd AB is what would be needed to support evacuations and to provide a reserve force for the Marines already sent in.  This is NOWHERE NEAR the kind of troop numbers the US would need to fight a war with either Iraq or Iran.

Finally, there are some who think that the US will try to invade Iran.  Well, with a commander in chief as narcissistically delusional as Trump, I would never say “never” but, frankly, I don’t think that anybody at the Pentagon would be willing to obey such an order.  So no, a ground invasion is not in the cards and, if it ever becomes an realistic option we would first see a massive increase in the US troop levels, we are talking several tens of thousands, if not more (depending on the actual plan).

No, what the US will do if/when they attack Iran is what Israel did to Lebanon in 2006, but at a much larger scale.  They will begin by a huge number of airstrikes (missiles and aircraft) to hit:

  1. Iranian air defenses
  2. Iranian command posts and Iranian civilian and military leaders
  3. Symbolic targets (like nuclear installations and high visibility units like the IRGC)
  4. Iranian navy and coastal defenses
  5. Crucial civilian infrastructure (power plants, bridges, hospitals, radio/TV stations, food storage, pharmaceutical installations,  schools, historical monuments and, let’s not forget that one, foreign embassies of countries who support Iran).  The way this will be justified will be the same as what was done to Serbia: a “destruction of critical regime infrastructure” (what else is new?!)

Then, within about 24-48 hours the US President will go on air an announce to the world that it is “mission accomplished” and that “THE BEST” military forces in the galaxy have taught a lesson to the “Mollahs”.  There will be dances in the streets of Tel Aviv and Jerusalem (right until the moment the Iranian missiles will start dropping from the sky.  At which point the dances will be replaced by screams about a “2nd Hitler” and the “Holocaust”).

Then all hell will break loose (I have discussed that so often in the past that I won’t go into details here).

In conclusion, I want to mention something more personal about the people of the US.

Roughly speaking, there are two main groups which I observed during my many years of life in the USA.

Group one: is the TV-watching imbeciles who think that the talking heads on the idiot box actually share real knowledge and expertise.  As a result, their thinking goes along the following lines: “yeah, yeah, say what you want, but if the mollahs make a wrong move, we will simply nuke them; a few neutron bombs will take care of these sand niggers“.  And if asked about the ethics of this stance, the usual answer is a “f**k them! they messed with the wrong guys, now they will get their asses kicked“.

Group two: is a much quieter group.  It includes both people who see themselves as liberals and conservatives.  They are totally horrified and they feel a silent rage against the US political elites.  Friends, there are A LOT of US Americans out there who are truly horrified by what is done in their name and who feel absolutely powerless to do anything about it.  I don’t know about the young soldiers who are now being sent to the Middle-East, but I know a lot of former servicemen who know the truth about war and about THE BEST military in the history of the galaxy and they are also absolutely horrified.

I can’t say which group is bigger, but my gut feeling is that Group Two is much bigger than Group One.  I might be wrong.

I am now signing off but I will try to update you here as soon as any important info comes in.

The Saker

UPDATE1: according to the Russian website Colonel Cassad, Moqtada al-Sadr has officially made the following demands to the Iraqi government:

  1. Immediately break the cooperation agreement with the United States.
  2. Close the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
  3. Close all U.S. military bases in Iraq.
  4. Criminalize any cooperation with the United States.
  5. To ensure the protection of Iraqi embassies.
  6. Officially boycott American products.

Cassad (aka Boris Rozhin) also posted this excellent caricature:

UPDATE2: RT is reporting that “One US service member, two contractors killed in Al-Shabaab attack in Kenya, two DoD personnel injured“.  Which just goes to prove my point that spontaneous attacks are what we will be seeing first and that the retaliation promised by Iran will only come later.

UPDATE3: al-Manar reports that two rockets have landed near the US embassy in Baghdad.

UPDATE4Zerohedge is reporting that Iranian state TV broadcasted an appeal made during the funeral procession in which a speaker said that each Iranian ought to send one dollar per person (total 80’000’000 dollars) as a bounty for the killing of Donald Trump.  I am trying to get a confirmation from Iran about this.

UPDATE5: Russian sources claim that all Iranian rocket forces have been put on combat alert.

UPDATE6: the Russian heavy rocket cruiser “Marshal Ustinov” has cross the Bosphorus and has entered the Mediterranean.

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