Washington’s Dollar-and-Stick ploy with Iraq

February 16 2023


Iraqi officials are in Washington to discuss “economic reforms” but are in fact being pressured to shun Iranian energy imports in the hope of having US sanctions and dollar rations lifted.

Photo Credit: The Cradle

By Zaher Mousa

On 8 February, 2023, an Iraqi delegation led by Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Foreign Affairs Fuad Hussein arrived in Washington to discuss easing the recent US Treasury measures that have restricted the supply of dollars to Baghdad and imposed sanctions on the Central Bank of Iraq.

The high-level delegation, which includes several government officials, has indefinitely extended its stay in Washington for the “difficult” negotiations, indicating Iraq’s limited options in these talks. If the discussions fail and Washington does not ease its punishing measures, a major crisis could erupt in Iraq – resulting in the collapse of the dinar’s value because of high demand and limited supply.

A Washington Institute report suggests that the US is exerting “severe” pressure on Baghdad to redirect its energy sector away from Iran and to address allegations that its banking sector assists the Islamic Republic in evading western sanctions. These demands are likely to be challenging for Iraq to meet, given its vital ties to Iran and the importance of the energy sector to its economy.

New government, old challenges

The Iraqi visit takes place 100 days after the formation of the government of Mohammed Shia al-Sudani, which had to immediately grapple with the imposition of US sanctions on three Iraqi banks, and restrictions on dollar transfers from Iraq’s oil revenue account in New York to the Central Bank of Iraq.

These measures were put in place to ensure that Iraq did not violate US sanctions on Iran and Syria, which led to a significant decrease in the supply of dollars and a decline in the value of the dinar. This, in turn, stirred up discontent within a population already facing financial hardships.

Sudani’s new government responded by implementing quick measures: subsidizing some basic commodities, launching a campaign of arrests against dollar smugglers, and reducing the official exchange rate from 1,450 dinars to 1,300 dinars per dollar.

However, these steps were unable to control spiraling prices, and only resulted in a slight decrease in the dollar value in the parallel market. This situation has made negotiations with US officials even more critical for the Iraqi delegation, as failure to ease the US measures could have dire consequences for Iraq’s already fragile economy.

‘Forced to negotiate’

Sources in Iraq’s cabinet confirmed to The Cradle that the US did not want Prime Minister Sudani to lead the delegation to Washington, and requested a lower level of representation. As a result, Baghdad carefully selected the members of the visiting team, which is currently led by Fuad Hussein from the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), who is considered an “old friend” of the US.

The Iraqi delegation also includes Adnan al Zarfi, a member of the Parliamentary Finance Committee (PFC), who was previously nominated for the prime ministerial position. Zarfi maintains good relations with Washington officialdom, and has held US citizenship since 2003, making him a strategic choice for inclusion in the Iraqi mission.

Hussein Muanis, a PFC member and head of the Huqouq movement – which is close to Iran-supported Kataeb Hezbollah – tells The Cradle that Iraq was “forced to negotiate:”

“Negotiations should have been based on the strategic framework agreement [which the two countries signed in 2008]. What has been leaked from it so far indicates that the talks were not limited to the economic issues, and that the Iraqi delegation heard American diktats.”

However, Muanis denies that the US had placed a veto on the participation of any Iraqi political personages in the delegation. He emphasized that the PFC had unanimously selected Zarfi as a representative of the legislative authority: “we understand the position of a large part of the political parties regarding relations with Washington.”

Hard bargaining by the US

Thamer Dhiban, a member of the PFC for the Al-Fateh Alliance, which opposes the US presence in Iraq and includes Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq and the Badr Organization, confirmed that the “Coalition for State Administration,” the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament, supports these negotiations. Dhiban added that “what we have heard so far is positive in principle.”

He tells The Cradle: “There was an agreement to send another delegation to delve into the details of the economic issues, and we were not informed that the negotiations discussed political or military matters,” adding:

“The conditions for financial compliance and connection with the SWIFT system are in the interest of Iraq in the first place, and we will not allow the repetition of the economic blockade that was imposed on Iraq previously.”

Other sources suggest that the meeting between Central Bank Governor Ali al-Alaq and the US Treasury Department only discussed the conditions of the US Federal Reserve regarding financial transfers in dollars and Baghdad’s plans to reform the economic and financial sector.

However, during Hussein’s meeting with his US counterpart Anthony Blinken, political issues were also on the table. According to a Kurdish source who insisted on confidentiality, these included:

“Iraq’s accession to the Abraham Accords, normalization with Israel (which is currently criminalized in Iraq), urging Baghdad to find alternatives to Iranian energy imports, implementing electrical interconnection with Persian Gulf states and Jordan, facilitating the extension of the oil pipeline from Basra to Aqaba, and accelerating the export of gas. The Americans also requested that the ISIS-fighting and pro-Iran Popular Mobilizations Units (PMUs or Hashd al-Shaabi) be repositioned far way from US military bases in Iraq.”

Sources close to Iraq’s pro-Iran political factions, however, believe that “the idea of dissolving the PMUs will be impossible to implement due to legal obstacles on the one hand, and an urgent need for its existence, in addition to the difficulty of integrating it into the regular army.”

Regarding normalization with Tel Aviv, the sources say that the law criminalizing any interaction with Israel – approved by Iraq’s parliament in 2022 – blocked this project.

The sources also say one possible solution toward brokering the US dollar-control issue in Iraq is to resolve Baghdad’s tensions with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in Erbil, as the latter is a trusted US intermediary in Iraq. If Baghdad accepts to pay Erbil’s public salaries, for instance, this may smooth the way for the US to reduce pressures.

Ditching the dollar

Iraq is facing a multitude of crises, from political divisions to economic struggles. Due to its vast oil and gas resources, it has become an object of interest for both global and regional powers. Hours before the Iraqi delegation headed to Washington, Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov visited Baghdad and held talks with Iraqi officials about the dollar crisis and ways to enhance energy cooperation.

One of the proposals discussed was for Iraq to join a system that uses the Chinese yuan to facilitate trade with Tehran and Moscow, which are both subject to US sanctions. This move could provide Iraq with an alternative to the US dollar and help to mitigate the effects of the sanctions.

According to Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Jarida, some Iraqi experts described this particular Lavrov proposal as returning Baghdad to the era of “barter trade,” when the administration of Saddam Hussein entered into a food-for-oil exchange. For them, any payments outside the exalted dollar currency cannot build a proper economy.

But this is only one view from inside Iraq. According to official sources in Sudani’s media office, Baghdad does in fact “aspire to obtain membership in the Asian Development Bank and deposit the financial surplus in it instead of buying US bonds or increasing the financial reserves of the dollar.” The Asian Bank, the sources say, grants larger loan amounts with fewer conditions and lower interest rates than the World Bank.

Likewise, Iraq plans to submit membership requests to join the multipolar BRICS+ group of countries and the Chinese-led Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO).

As of this writing, the Iraqi delegation is still in Washington, but holding fewer official meetings and at a lower level.

Syria welcomes Iraqi PMF breaking of US sanctions, siege

February 14 2023

Last week’s devastating earthquake has shined a spotlight on Washington’s brutal economic sanctions on Syria while encouraging solidarity between the country and its neighbor Iraq

Popular Mobilization Unit fighters march during a parade marking the annual Quds Day, Baghdad June 2017. (Photo credit: AFP)

ByNews Desk- 

A member of the Syrian People’s Assembly, Mohammed Fawaz, lauded Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) for their success in breaking the harsh economic sanctions imposed on Syria by the United States. The PMF sent aid and delegations to Syria to assist in the wake of last week’s devastating 7.8 magnitude earthquake.

Fawaz said on Monday 12 February that, “Iraq is the strategic depth of Syria and its back, and this was embodied by the entry of the Popular Mobilization convoys into Syria, breaking the unjust siege on the Syrian people and in defiance of the Caesar Act.”

He added that “the visit of the Iraqi deputies to the Syrian People’s Assembly came as a political condemnation of the inhumane sanctions on the Syrian people and raised the voice from Damascus of the need to speed up the lifting of this ban.”

Another member of the Syrian People’s Assembly, Nasser Youssef, praised the PMF and called for strengthening cooperation between the brotherly countries of Syria and Iraq.

US planners imposed additional harsh sanctions on Syria in 2019 through legislation known as the Caesar Act. These were added to sanctions imposed at the start of the Syrian conflict in 2011 to complement the US-backed jihadist insurgency in the country.

The act was named after a report issued in 2014 claiming to show evidence of “industrial scale killing” by the Syrian government. The report, authored by the UK law firm Carter-Ruck, claimed to verify photographic evidence provided by a defected Syrian Arab Army (SAA) photographer, known as “Caesar,” who had smuggled 55,000 photographs out of Syria. These photographs allegedly documented the Syrian government’s torture and killing of some 11,000 detainees.

However, as journalist Rick Sterling has detailed, over 46% of the photographs (24,568) did not show people tortured to death by the Syrian government. Rather, they showed dead Syrian soldiers and victims of car bombs and other violence. Thus, nearly half the photos showed the opposite of what was alleged.

After reviewing the Carter-Ruck report, Dan Murphy of the Christian Science Monitor similarly concluded that the Carter-Ruck report and allegations made by Caesar were not credible.

In addition to the US-imposed sanctions on Syria, US planners have sought to block trade and cooperation between Syria, Iraq, and Iran by maintaining a military base on the Syria-Iraq border at al-Tanf, while the Israeli air force has regularly bombed PMF and SAA targets on the same border further to the north, near the town of Al-Bukamal, with US approval.

US killing of Soleimani ‘brazen attack’ on Iraq sovereignty: Iraqi PM

6 Jan 2023

Source: News websites

By Al Mayadeen English 

The Iraqi prime minister emphasizes that his government is working to lay a solid foundation for Iraqi sovereignty.

The coffins of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis were carried through Karbala, January 5, 2020. (Reuters)

Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia’ al-Sudani has paid tribute to top Iranian commander General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who were killed three years ago in a US drone strike near Baghdad airport, calling their targeted killings a “brazen attack” on Iraq’s sovereignty.

“The crime of assassinating the ‘Commanders of Victory’ and their companions represented a flagrant violation of Iraq’s territorial integrity and national sovereignty. The targeted killings of the commanders, who had a leading role in the elimination of the scourge of terrorism, is an utter disrespect to bilateral agreements [signed between Baghdad and Washington],” Sudani said at a Thursday ceremony in the capital Baghdad in commemoration of the two commanders.

“We woke up on January 3, 2020 to hear the terrible news about the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), and Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was on an official visit to Iraq,” he added.

The Iraqi prime minister went on to condemn former US President Donald Trump’s administration for its brazen attack on Iraq’s territorial integrity and sovereignty, pointing out that the fight against dark terrorism “requires power and resilience.” 

Read next: US occupation loots, smuggles 100 tankers of Syrian oil to Iraq

He emphasized that his government is working to lay a solid foundation for Iraqi sovereignty, that it is independent in decision-making, that it forges relationships based on common interests, that it protects the sovereignty of the country’s soil and territorial waters, and that it will go to any length to repel any act of aggression against the Iraqi nation and its guests.

Furthermore, Iraqi Supreme Judicial Council Chairman Faiq Zidane condemned the assassination of and Gen. Soleimani as a “vile and cowardly act.”

He emphasized that it is the responsibility of the Iraqi judiciary to shed light on all circumstances surrounding the US assassination, and he urged the country’s security institutions to provide judicial authorities with all relevant documents and findings.

‘Iraq judicial chief highlights arrest warrant for Trump’

Zidane went on to say that the Supreme Judicial Council of Iraq has issued an arrest warrant for former US President Donald Trump in connection with the assassination of General Soleimani and the deputy chief of the PMU.

The president of the council stated that Trump has admitted to his “crime” in relation to the assassination of the “Leaders of Victory.”

Read next: US forces withdrew from Ein Al-Asad base in Iraq

He urged all Iraqi officials involved in the targeted killings investigations to do everything possible to identify all related architects, organizers, and perpetrators.

Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers passed legislation requiring the government to withdraw all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country.

The struggle of the axes in the region and the consequences of the assassination of the two commanders, Soleimani and Al-Muhandis
documentaries | Victory leaders
Documentaries | Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of Iraq – Part One
Documentaries | Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis of Iraq – Part Two

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    Exclusive interview with Hezbollah commander in Iraq: ‘The Americans did not fight ISIS’

    January 04 2023

    The Cradle speaks with a senior Hezbollah military official in Iraq on the crucial role played by Iran’s late Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani in leading the resistance against ISIS.

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By The Cradle’s Lebanon Correspondent

    Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian commander of the elite Quds Force in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), played a significant role in launching the Iraqi resistance against the US occupation, and subsequently, against the self-proclaimed caliphate of ISIS.

    The story of the military operation that led to ISIS’ defeat began with a meeting between Soleimani and Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah in Beirut, who decided to summon a group of Hezbollah field officers based in Syria and Lebanon to a meeting in Damascus. There they would gather to determine how they would help the Iraqis defeat ISIS.

    One of these officers, a senior Hezbollah military commander who accompanied Soleimani and fought alongside him in many battles, shared the details of this story in an exclusive interview with The Cradle. To preserve his anonymity, we have used the name Sajed below.

    The Cradle: With the emergence of ISIS, Qassem Soleimani’s name began to feature more prominently, both globally and in the region. However, his work in Iraq had begun long before that. What was his role in the Iraqi resistance against the US occupation of Iraq?

    Sajed: Hajj Qassem is the commander of the Quds Force in the IRGC, he was a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, and he knew Iraq well. When the Americans occupied Iraq, some formations that were active against Saddam Hussein’s regime decided to direct their efforts to resisting the occupation.

    They asked for Hajj Qassem’s help, and he did not delay in responding. He helped organize these groups, establish training camps, and personally supervised the provision of support, equipment, and weapons to the Iraqi resistance factions.

    The Cradle: Following the expansion of ISIS control, Soleimani began to appear more often in public. In one of his speeches, Nasrallah said that Hezbollah was at the forefront of those who were with him. What was the task assigned to Hezbollah and its field officers by Soleimani, and what were the instructions and objectives provided by Nasrallah?

    Sajed: After a meeting between Hajj Qassem and Sayyed Nasrallah, a decision was taken to summon a group of Hezbollah cadres, between 12 and 13 people, to a meeting with Hajj Qassem in Damascus. There he informed them that they would go to Iraq to help our brothers in the Iraqi resistance, by transferring the experiences they gained in resisting the Israeli occupation and in the Syrian war.

    They were of various specializations, including operational commanders. Everyone was surprised that the mission had just begun and that they were to travel to Baghdad immediately. Some of them asked for an opportunity to bring their personal belongings or to say goodbye to their families, but Hajj Qassem insisted that some of them would leave with him that same night for Baghdad, while the rest were to meet him there shortly afterwards.

    The first batch left with Hajj Qassem on the same flight to Baghdad and spent their first night at the home of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis  (the late deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units or PMUs). After that, the rest arrived, and the number reached about 30. Hajj Qassem personally distributed roles and missions, and said:

    “All of you participated in major operations against Israel and against the takfiris in Syria. What is required of you is to transfer your experiences to our Iraqi brothers, and to show them the same spirit with which you fought the Israelis and defended the shrine of Sayyida Zainab (the burial place outside Damascus of the Prophet Muhammad’s granddaughter).”

    Simply put, that was the mission.

    After distributing the tasks, each headed to the location assigned to him. This was before the fatwa of the supreme Shia authority in Iraq, Sayyed Ali al-Sistani, on 13 June, 2014, which led to the formation of the PMU, with the aim of confronting the expansion of ISIS and its control over large parts of Iraq.

    In addition to ISIS at the time, there were other armed factions [aligned with the terror group] such as the Military Council, which included various militant organizations, including the Twentieth Revolution, the Salah al-Din Brigades, the Brigade of the Messenger of God, the Al-Qaqaa Brigades, and groups from the Baath Party. At that time, they [ISIS] were mainly extending their control towards western Baghdad, after they had captured the city of Mosul, and approached the city of Samarra.

    The Cradle: Western and Persian Gulf media promoted the narrative that Soleimani was implementing an Iranian agenda in Iraq. You worked closely with him – is this true, and what was his actual goal in defending Iraq and achieving victory over ISIS and other terrorist organizations?

    Sajed: This question should be directed to the Iraqis. I believe that anyone who aims to implement a private agenda will not go so far as to endanger his life. Many times, Hajj Qassem was at the forefront of the attacking groups, and he could have died at any moment.

    For example, he was in one of the Hummers that opened the road to Samarra. I do not think that Iran’s agenda in Iraq is based on opening a road to a city, and requires endangering the life of a leader like Hajj Qassem.

    His mission was to place all his capabilities and the capabilities of the Islamic Republic in Iran at the service of the Iraqi government. In all his meetings with the Iraqis, he used to tell them:

    “The decision is yours. We are only here to help, and anyone who does not comply with your orders can be asked to leave immediately.”

    Even on the behavioral level, it was not possible to distinguish between him and any of the other fighters.

    The Cradle: We have heard that Soleimani is called the “Man of the Ditches.” Does that mean he was present, on the ground, in some of the battles? Tell us about that.

    Sajed: I can say that Hajj Qassem was personally present in all the battles. On 31 August, 2014, he participated in lifting the siege on the city of Amerli. The siege of the city, inhabited by Shia Turkmen, began after the fall of Mosul in July 2014. ISIS militants took control of all the villages surrounding Amerli, isolating the city and depriving it of water, food and medicine for 80 days.

    Hajj Qassem was at the forefront of the attacking convoy to lift the siege, and he was ambushed tightly when an explosive device exploded in the Hummer he was traveling in, killing two of those who were with him and injuring two others.

    A similar thing happened in the battle of Jurf al-Sakhar in October 2014. This is a very complex area geographically for any attacking forces because of the dense palm groves that surround it, which serves as a cover for the forces defending it. It is also a very important area from a strategic point of view, and it formed an enclave for ISIS through which it can reach the holy cities such as Karbala and Najaf.

    After two weeks of attacks, the attacking forces were unable to cut off the road and reach the river bank until Hajj Qassem came. He asked to bring an armored Hummer to head to the river bank, which was about three kilometers away. Getting there practically meant liberating the area from the grip of ISIS. He wanted to explore the area, so he climbed the berm, which was under fire by medium weapons.

    One of us said to him, “Do you want us to die?” He replied: “I do not want us to die, but rather that we open the road.” Then the commander of Badr Operations, Abu Muntazer, said to him: “I will take care of things.” To which Hajj Qassem replied: “I will be with you.” But Abu Muntazer insisted that he advance with a group of fighters, and that Hajj Qassem join them later.

    After less than ten minutes, Hajj Qassem decided to set off. Immediately, as soon as we crossed the road, Jurf al-Sakhar slipped out of ISIS control like magic. Also in the battle of Al-Dhuluiya, in December 2014, Hajj Qassem insisted on accompanying a young man on a motorbike to explore ISIS-controlled territory on his own. This battle constituted a quantum leap in the war against ISIS, after it liberated the road between Baghdad and Samarra from the terrorists.

    The Cradle: There are those who claim that Soleimani fought alongside the US, with the Americans providing air cover while he was on the ground. How true is this assumption?

    Sajed: The Americans did not participate in any operation to liberate Iraq from ISIS. In the battle of Tikrit, in March 2015, the PMU finished their preparations to liberate the city, but the Americans intervened with the Iraqi government to prevent the PMU from carrying out the attack.

    Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi decided to assign the anti-terrorism forces and the federal police to carry out the operation, and US planes bombed targets inside the city. When the government forces entered, they were unable to advance much, and it turned out that the American bombing did not cause much damage to ISIS.

    As a result, the city was not liberated until after the participation of the PMU in the battle. The US military did not provide air coverage for any of the PMU operations, nor did they participate in any operation to liberate Iraq from ISIS.

    The Cradle: After the defeat of ISIS, there was a widespread narrative that attributed the victory to the US-led coalition and tried to present Soleimani as an international terrorist. What is the real story?

    Sajed: The coalition forces have not participated in any operations against ISIS. It rejected the request of the government of (former Iraqi Prime Minister) Nuri al-Maliki to intervene against the terrorist organization, and refused to provide the Iraqi army with weapons. The Iraqi army had only four tanks without ammunition, and they were used as binoculars for night vision only.

    The only battle in which the Americans participated was in Mosul. For us, resistance is resistance to occupation whoever it may be. But for the Americans, resistance is legitimate when it is against, say President Bashar al-Assad, and it becomes “terrorism” when it is against Israel.

    The Cradle: What was the turning point in the war that marked the beginning of ISIS’ defeat?

    Sajed: The Battle of Baiji from late December 2014 until late October 2015 was the decisive battle that allowed the resistance to take control of the highway from Baghdad to Baiji, and use Baiji as a base to launch a counter offensive on Mosul.

    The fall of Mosul began when the PMU cut the road between Mosul and Syria and prevented supplies from reaching the terrorists in the city. Although the Americans contributed to the battle of Mosul, they were responsible for 99 percent of the losses suffered by the resistance forces.

    The Cradle: How were the US responsible?

    Sajed: Most of the casualties were caused by suicide bombers. They were driving cars full of explosives, armored and closed on all sides, so that their drivers could not see the road. It was US drones that guide them to the paths that they should take.

    The Cradle: Were the PMU limited to Shias only?

    Sajed: Of course not. There were and still are Sunnis, Christians, and Yazidis.

    The Cradle: There are about 5,000 ISIS members in prisons controlled by the Kurds today. In the event of facilitating their escape, is there a possibility to revive the organization?

    Sajed: If this happens the game will be exposed. However, 5,000 is a meager number in a country like Iraq. I think it is impossible for them to be able to even form a small emirate.

    The Cradle: Despite the role played by Iran in achieving victory over ISIS, there are negative feelings towards it among a large number of Iraqis – why is this the case?

    Sajed:  The reason is the media machine that blamed the Islamic Republic for the widespread corruption in Iraq, once under the pretext of its support for the government of Nuri al-Maliki, and again under the pretext of its support for the government of Haider al-Abadi.

    Yes, Iran supported the Iraqi government, but it is not responsible for the policy adopted by this government. Supporters of the US and its followers in Iraq made great efforts in the media to hold Iran responsible for all the mistakes committed by Iraqi politicians, in order to turn the Iraqis against the Iranians.

    The Cradle: What do you think was the motive behind the assassination of Soleimani on Iraqi soil?

    Sajed:  They [the US] felt that the presence of Hajj Qassem would be an obstacle to their adoption of the victory over ISIS. He was a major obstacle to the American project in West Asia, just as Hajj Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was a major obstacle to the same project in Iraq.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

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    Iran: Indictment on case of Martyr Soleimani’s assassination near

    31 Dec 2022


    By Al Mayadeen English 

    The head of the Iranian special committee in charge of the case, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, says that the US committed an unforgivable crime.

    The head of the Iranian special committee responsible for pursuing the legal case of the assassination of Martyr Qassem Soleimani, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei.

    Iran is in the final stages of releasing an official indictment on the case of the murder of IRGC’s Quds Force Commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, by the United States back in 2020, according to an Iranian official.

    The head of the special committee in charge of the case, Abbas-Ali Kadkhodaei, said on Saturday that the Judiciary in the Islamic Republic and the foreign ministry have taken measures to accurately follow the case.

    “In the criminal aspect, the indictment related to this case is nearing its final stages and we hope that it will reach good result,” he said.

    Kadkhodaei made the announcement during an event on the fight against terrorism and extremism in West Asia.

    On January 3 of 2020, the US carried out a drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump targeting a car carrying the commander of the Quds Force of the IRGC General Qassem Soleimani, and his Iraqi trench-mate and the second-in-command of Iraqi PMU (Popular Mobilization Units), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

    Martyr Soleimani was on an official visit to Iraq and was being transported in a car with Martyr al-Muhandis from Baghdad’s International Airport upon his arrival, before being assassinated by the US.

    “This is an unforgivable crime and the American officials who committed this crime and accepted responsibility for it must be tried and punished for their action,” Kadkhodaei, who is an advisor to the foreign minister, continued.

    “The US tries to resort to every means to secure its illegitimate interests.”

    During an address to the 77th annual session of the United Nations General Assembly in New York last September, Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi raised a picture of the former commander of the Quds Force and called for punishing former US President Donald Trump, who ordered the assassination of Soleimani in a barbaric and illegal manner.

    “The previous president of the United States [Trump] effectively managed to sign the document of the savage crime, an illegal crime, an immoral crime,” he indicated.

    It’s noteworthy that earlier this month, former Iraqi PM Mustafa Kadhimi had local lawmakers contemplating his arrest for allegedly being involved in the assassination of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani by the US in 2020.

    A senior official in the State of Law Coalition, Fadel al-Zerigawi, stated during an interview with Iraqi news outlet Shafaq News last Monday that Kadhimi is hiding inside the US embassy.

    Although Kadhimi previously vowed to expel all foreign military forces from the country, US troops remained but were given the option to “rename” their position as “advisory roles”.

    Read more: 

    Leader: Gen. Soleimani empowered, equipped and revived resistance front against Israel, US

    Sunday, 01 January 2023 11:23 AM  

    [ Last Update: Sunday, 01 January 2023 12:13 PM ]

    Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei holds a meeting with General Soleimani’s family and members of his commemoration committee. (Photo by Leader.ir)

    Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei has lauded sacrifices made by late commander General Qassem Soleimani, saying the anti-terror icon’s great work was to protect, empower, equip and revive the resistance front against Israel and the US.

    The item is being updated..

    Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:



    Gen. Soleimani ‘unifying figure’, ‘architect of resistance’: Academic

    Sunday, 01 January 2023 11:07 AM  

    [ Last Update: Sunday, 01 January 2023 11:08 AM ]

    Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani

    An academic has described Iran’s top anti-terror commander, Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, as the “architect of resistance” and a “unifying figure” in life and death.

    Pro-Palestine professor, David Miller, sacked by Bristol University over his criticism of Israel and Zionism, made the comments about General Soleimani in Press TV’s Palestine Declassified aired on Saturday.

    Soleimani, the chief commander of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, was assassinated on January 3, 2020, in a US air raid outside Baghdad International Airport under the direct order of then-US president Donald Trump.

    Miller mentioned the “practical effect” of Soleimani’s legacy on enabling the Axis of Resistance as well as Palestinian factions to collaborate with each other.

    “All the Palestinian factions got together and still remain unified, even though the Israelis tried to split them apart; I think that the resistance is unified much stronger than it has been for many years and that is directly because of Soleimani’s activity,” he said, adding that, “he was a unifying figure in life and death.”

    Miller also said that Soleimani was the “architect of resistance” and brought together the forces in the Axis of Resistance, a transnational organization, willing to fight US imperialism and target and fight Zionism.

    He also lauded the anti-terror commander for his endeavors in bringing the resistance together despite the Shia-Sunni divide.

    “He worked seamlessly across the sectarian divide, and the support from [the Palestinian resistance movement] Hamas, predominantly a Sunni organization, is unparalleled for any other particular leader in the Iranian government,” he said.

    “Soleimani is somebody who, during his life, accomplished military feats, for which the whole world should be grateful,” Miller added.

    The killing of General Soleimani

    The killing of Qassem Soleimani by a drone strike on 3 January 2020 was carried out on the direct orders of President Donald Trump.

    ‘Gen. Soleimani steadfast ally of Palestinian resistance’

    Aamar Kazmi, an anti-imperialist political activist, also told Press TV that General Soleimani was certainly seen as a “steadfast ally of the Palestinian resistance.”

    “Many Palestinians, particularly those in Gaza, admire Soleimani, display portraits of him and even in the West Bank, and there are murals of him on the apartheid wall, so he is very well respected in Palestine and lots of tributes were paid to him upon his martyrdom,” he said.

    ‘Soleimani, architect of defeat of ISIS’

    Elsewhere in his remarks, Kazmi said Soleimani was the architect of the defeat of Daesh (ISIS) terrorists in Iraq and Syria.

    “Qassem Soleimani’s role was quite unique; over the years, he was on the ground, literally all over the place in Iraq and Syria, building connections, planning and strategizing, providing inspiration and morale. Sometimes it is possible to attribute too much to a single individual but I do not think this is one of those cases,” he concluded.

    Iraq commemorates General Soleimani ahead of US assassination anniversary: ‘His path will continue’

    The Iraqi people hold ceremony in Salahedine Governorate to commemorate the former commander of the IRGC Quds Force General Qassem Soleimani and his comrades.

    During his lifetime, General Soleimani played a significant and direct role all across the region.

    In 2006, Soleimani sent military support to Hezbollah to help eject the Zionist invasion of southern Lebanon.

    In Syria, Soleimani assumed personal control of the Iranian intervention. He reportedly coordinated the war from a base in Damascus with Syrian officers, Hezbollah, and Iraqi Shia militia forces.

    In 2015, he was the main architect of the joint intervention involving Russia as a new partner with Assad and Hezbollah. Soleimani personally briefed President Putin on the strategy.

    In 2017, he dealt a decisive blow against ISIS in both Syria and Iraq.

    General Soleimani was targeted in a US drone strike directly ordered by Trump, which also killed the deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis among others.

    Five days later, Iran, which had vowed to avenge Soleimani’s assassination, launched a barrage of missiles at the US-run Ain al-Assad airbase in Iraq’s western province of Anbar, as well as another airbase in Erbil.

    The Islamic Republic also said the attack, dubbed Operation Martyr Soleimani, was a “first slap” and that its retaliation was not over.

    Press TV’s website can also be accessed at the following alternate addresses:




    The rise and fall of Muqtada al-Sadr…again

    While Muqtada al-Sadr may be this week’s biggest loser in Iraq, the country’s battle for influence is still in full swing

    September 01 2022

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    By The Cradle’s Iraq Correspondent

    On Monday at noon, Kazem al-Haeri, a prominent Shia authority (marjaa) in Iraq – particularly among supporters of firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr – announced his retirement and urged all ‘believers’ to follow the Leader of the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

    Within Haeri’s two-page statement, he addressed the influential position of Muqtada al-Sadr – whose Sadrist bloc garnered the most votes in Iraq’s October 2021 election – and accused the wildly popular cleric of possessing neither the religious knowledge nor the ability to lead the Shia sect or the people of Iraq.

    In response, Sadr made two decisions: the first, was a tweet to announce his retirement from Iraqi politics. Although he has regularly (nine times) ‘retired’ since 2013, this time it was under the guidance of a religious figure he could absolutely not ignore.

    For Haeri is the religious heir to Muqtada’s father Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, one of the most influential Shia authorities in Iraq’s recent history. Before his untimely assassination along with two of his sons in 1999, the elder Sadr had urged his followers to obey Kazem al-Haeri in his stead.


    Although in the intervening 23 years, Muqtada has garnered the widespread support of his father’s followers to become the most powerful Shia political figure in Iraq today, he is not Mohammad Sadeq’s designated religious heir, and so Haeri’s public set down was significant.

    Baghdad on fire

    On Monday evening, hours after Sadr’s Twitter resignation, Baghdad fell into violent chaos when Sadrists stormed the capital’s Green Zone, leading to 30 dead and almost 200 injured security forces and rioters.

    Sadr’s quick resignation had in fact been a smart move to prevent his movement from splitting in half: he feared one group would stay loyal to him, while the second would obey his father’s successor, Haeri.

    Haeri’s statement would not be the only blow to Sadr’s ambitions. Despite his vast number of Shia followers, Sadr has recently been beset by a series of political setbacks.

    In June, after months of unsuccessfully struggling to form a coalition government with his winning parliamentary bloc, Sadr attempted to shake up the Iraqi political scene by ordering his political bloc to quit.

    The resignation of his deputies from parliament did not reap the desired results. Iraq’s judiciary gave him the cold shoulder, refusing to provide legal backing for Sadr’s controversial move. And his political opponents slapped right back at him – step by step, tweet for tweet, street by street.

    Not only did Sadr fail to dissolve parliament and put in motion a process for new elections, but his calls for other Iraqi parties and movements to relinquish their weapons were rejected.

    A nail in Sadr’s coffin?

    Sadr’s major second decision on Monday was executed through his party’s armed wing, Saraya al-Salam (Brigades of Peace, ironically). It is inconceivable that the mobs of armed Sadrists who stormed the Green Zone later that evening were part of a spontaneous action. In actuality, Sadr was sending Iraqis a mixed message: while he is withdrawing from commanding his bloc’s political leadership, he is in effect leaving it in the custody of Saraya al-Salam, which will ultimately take direction from Muqtada himself.

    The Sadrists rapidly moved to demonstrate that they still maintain the upper hand in Baghdad – despite their leader’s resignation – with a show of force in the city’s high security Green Zone, where Iraq’s government buildings and foreign embassies are mainly located.

    The most prominent of the Sadrists on the street that night was the general supervisor of Saraya al-Salam, Tahseen al-Hamidawi, a long-time fighter who participated for years in battles against US occupation forces in Iraq.

    The role of Saraya al-Salam in transferring its militants from the neighborhoods of Sadr City, al-Shaab, and Ur neighborhood, east Baghdad, to the Green Zone was crystal clear on Monday night.

    Not only did these fighters engage in armed confrontation in the heart of Baghdad, they also moved to the city’s outskirts to torch the headquarters of some Popular Mobilization Units (PMU or Hashd al-Shaabi ) such as Badr Organization, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and the State of Law coalition of former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. In addition, during the clashes, rockets were fired at the US embassy and pictures of Iranian leaders were burned.

    The Sadrists were clearly trying to provoke the PMU into armed confrontation, but the latter exercised a uniform discipline that left the former clashing with Iraqi government forces instead.

    Although regional and foreign media tried to frame these clashes as a Shia-on-Shia fight between Sadists and pro-Iran PMU groups, this was never the case, as Sadr himself later clarified in his statement the following day.

    The conflagration that night picked up steam quickly, spreading to Basra, the economic capital of Iraq, and to the provinces of Maysan, Dhi Qar, and Diwaniyah.

    The clashes between Saraya al-Salam and Iraqi security forces spilled into Tuesday morning, as in Iraq, each person has his own clan and tribal extension, and any crisis tends not to remain confined between political parties once the bloodshed begins.

    This was not a good look for Sadr and his supporters. They were fighting, killing, and injuring Iraq’s own forces, and had not succeeded in drawing his opponents into the street. Muqtada had to stop the clashes, and quickly.

    A source close to both Ayatollah Ali Sistani – Iraq’s leading Shia authority – and Sadr, tells The Cradle that Sistani’s son, Mohammed Ridha, called Muqtada to arrange a meeting with his father.

    In their meeting, Ali Sistani, the Shia cleric whose famous fatwa led to the creation of the PMU after ISIS invaded Iraq, urged Sadr to stop the carnage at once.

    Following their conversation, on the afternoon of 30 August, Sadr aired a televised statement demanding that his supporters end their siege of Baghdad’s Green Zone. He further thanked the PMU for their restraint and for not participating in the clashes.

    Humbled by his miscalculations, Sadr referred to himself as an “ordinary citizen” and disavowed his own Saraya al-Salam militia by calling their actions “shameless.”

    What now?

    Iraqis recognize that what is happening now is merely an attempt to calm the situation, and that at least the immediate risk of renewed fighting has been removed.

    While it is true that Sadr’s political rival parties were calling for calm, they too have been prepped for an internal fight. These parties hold Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kazemi responsible for allowing the escalation, and have hinted that he has benefited from widespread Iraqi support for their security forces during the clashes, as he rigorously pursues a second term in office.

    The ongoing fragility of Iraq’s political impasse demands tangible, radical solutions implemented by a transitional government that tackles the issues of the Electoral Commission, the electoral law, the overlapping of powers, and constitutional loopholes. These are urgent items agreed upon by all political parties.

    In public, the official demands of the two rival Shia camps focus on the way the state is run, but in truth, it is a battle for influence in the government and the state.

    According to well-informed sources, several Iraqi armed movements, particularly Iraq’s Hezbollah Brigades and the Badr Organization, are working on reorganizing inter-Shia talks to reconcile their differences and reach a win-win solution palatable to all.

    Although Sadr has stepped away from politics – at least for now – he was able to send several messages this week: he confused Iraq’s various regional influencers, reestablished himself as an important militia leader, and in his resignation speech, managed to win the sympathy of some of his opponents.

    Winners and losers

    Despite scoring some important points, Sadr and his movement are likely the biggest losers from this week’s events in Iraq.

    First, Sadr has consistently demanded that Iraqi militias (PMU), mainly the Iranian-backed variety, hand over their weapons to the government, fearing they might be used internally and not against ISIS or foreign occupation forces. Instead, Monday’s events plainly showed the country that the only militia using their bullets on Iraqis were Sadr’s Saraya al-Salam.

    Regionally and internationally, Sadr has been a hard nut to crack – an unpredictable powerhouse with a lot of people-power inside Iraq. Muqtada has fought both the Americans by gun and the Iranians by politics, and his statements against both can flip from one day to the next.

    If Sadr keeps his word and maintains his distance from politics, this will create a domestic vacuum that both the US and Iran will be eager to fill.

    Given that Iraq’s Shia demographic represents more than 60 percent of the country’s population, and Haeri has asked Mohammad Sadiq a-Sadr’s followers to obey Iran’s supreme leader in his stead, Iran may at first glance have the upper hand in this contest.

    An Iraq unswayed by US diktats is, after all, more likely to ease its restricted borders, engage more heavily in trade and diplomacy with its immediate neighbors, and play nice with the region’s Axis of Resistance, which wields influence from Beirut and Damascus to Tehran and Sanaa.

    The only genuinely popular Shia leader in West Asia who does not share Iran’s political worldview, at least in recent times, is Muqtada al-Sadr. His exit from Iraq’s political scene makes room for the Resistance Axis’ foreign policy and economic development vision to grow, with less fear of internal breaches and more coordination against common external enemies.

    The US and its Persian Gulf allies, however, will not stop seeking influence over Iraqi decisions. Their efforts to sow discord between Shia political parties has succeeded in recent years, and whether knowingly or unwittingly, Sadr was instrumental in realizing this schism.

    Only time will tell how this picture progresses. Sadr remains a highly unpredictable figure inside Iraq with a strong support base, and one who is not known for sticking to his word.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.


    Iraqi resistance group warns of attacks against US, Israeli targets in Kurdistan region

    Harakat Hezbollah Nujaba says Kurdish leaders have turned Iraqi Kurdistan into a ‘legitimate target’ for hosting of US and Israeli occupying forces

    May 17 2022

    Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are seen in Zumar, Nineveh province, Iraq October 18, 2017. REUTERS/Ari Jalal – RC1E698CF530

    ByNews Desk

    Iraqi resistance group Harakat Hezbollah Nujaba (HHN) has threatened to target Israeli and US positions in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region (IKR).

    In a statement published by the Sabereen News media outlet, the leader of the group, Akram al-Kaabi, said: “By hosting the US military bases and the positions of the Mossad, leaders of the Iraqi Kurdistan region have not only compromised the security of the northern Iraqi people but have also turned the area, infested with spies and occupying forces, into a legitimate target for Iraqi resistance groups.”

    The statement was accompanied by a caricature showing the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), Masoud Barzani, with two crows marked as Israel and the US sitting on his head, while he invites other evil crows to his sphere of influence.

    It also depicted the commander of the Nujaba resistance movement ordering his forces to smash the nests of crows perched atop Barzani’s head.

    The HHN, also known as the 12th Brigade, is a Shia resistance group affiliated with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), also known as Hashd al-Shaabi.

    Last December, Iraqi lawmaker Ali al-Fatlawi said resistance groups could legitimately force US-occupation troops to withdraw from the country.

    He added that the withdrawal of foreign occupation troops from Iraq was “non-negotiable,” as in early 2020 parliament passed a resolution calling for the full withdrawal of the occupying forces in the wake of the US assassination of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani and PMU deputy leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes.

    In March of this year, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) launched a precision missile strike against a Mossad base in the city of Erbil.

    Speaking exclusively to The Cradle, a senior Iranian security source revealed that three Mossad agents were killed during the strike.

    In another exclusive, the official spokesman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) party’s Erbil office, Azad Jolla, confirmed that the Israeli spy agency Mossad has long been active in the capital of the IKR.

    Related Posts

    Several US military convoys come under attack in Iraq

    May 15 2022

    Iraqi resistance groups have stepped up strikes against US military convoys in recent months

    ByNews Desk

    US soldiers speak to families in rural Anbar, western Iraq. (Photo credit: AP Photo/Susannah George, File)

    US military convoys have come under attack by unknown militant groups in several Iraqi cities, according to a 15 May report by Mehr News Agency.

    Citing local sources, the report states that three US military logistics convoys came under attack in the Iraqi cities of Al Diwaniyah and Samawah.

    There have been no reports about the details of the damages, casualties, nor of any groups claiming responsibility for the attacks.

    Another attack on a US military convoy, also in Al Diwaniyah, was reported by Sabereen News on 11 May.

    Attacks on US forces in Iraq have seen an uptick in recent months after Baghdad’s failure to implement a law passed by parliament to expel foreign occupation forces from the country.

    The vote came in the days following the assassination of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander Qassem Soleimani and Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) deputy-chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in 2020.

    Roadside bombs have also recently targeted US forces in Dhi Qar and Anbar.

    Iraqi resistance groups have pledged to only lay down their arms after the full withdrawal of US forces in Iraq.

    Recently, US troops stationed at Harir Air Base in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) opened fire on a number of houses and one car in Erbil’s Basrma district on 9 May.

    The Governor of Basrma, Jangawar Azhgayi, told Rudaw that US troops were conducting drills when the accident happened. He also confirmed that no casualties were reported.

    A video released by Telegram news channel Sabereen News on 28 April allegedly showed the transfer of ISIS fighters by two US Army CH-47 Chinook helicopters inside Iraq.

    Over the years, US occupation forces in Iraq and Syria have faced several accusations of collaborating with the Takfiri armed group, despite claims to the contrary.

    In August 2017, the UK-based Syrian Observatory for Human Rights (SOHR) reported seeing US choppers transporting ISIS fighters in and out of the city of Deir Ezzor multiple times.

    “The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that a new airdrop was carried out in the western countryside of Deir Ezzor, by the forces of the International Coalition … reliable sources confirmed to the [SOHR] that the International Coalition transported members of the ‘Islamic State’ organization.”

    Seif Al-Quds: The battle which ushered in a new era of Palestinian armed struggle

    12 May 2022

    Source: Al Mayadeen English

    Robert Inlakesh 

    The battle fought between the unified Palestinian resistance factions and “Israel” completely changed the trajectory of the region’s conflict with the Zionist regime.

    Seif Al-Quds: The Battle Which Ushered In A New Era Of Palestinian Armed Struggle

    Although for many, the Seif al-Quds (Sword of Jerusalem) battle, last May, represented significant suffering and loss of Palestinian life, the war fought between the unified Palestinian resistance factions and “Israel”, completely changed the trajectory of the region’s conflict with the Zionist regime.

    Lasting between May 10 and May 21, dubbed the “11-day war”, Palestinian armed factions in the Gaza Strip combined their strength with that of the entire Palestinian population inside occupied territories. After consistent Israeli incursions into al-Aqsa mosque last Ramadan, the spokesperson for the al-Qassam brigades [armed wing of Hamas], Abu Ubaydah, gave Israeli occupation forces a 6 PM deadline to withdraw from Al-Aqsa Mosque and stop a far-Right settler march. On the deadline, a barrage of rockets was fired from Gaza, into Israeli settlements surrounding Jerusalem. It was then that “Israel” officially announced it was going to war with Gaza.

    Around 270 Palestinians were killed across the occupied territories by Israeli occupation forces and settlers, however, the story of human suffering during the war was not the only significant element. Unlike had been the case in 2014, 2008-9, and even in 2012, all years when the Israeli occupation forces launched military operations against the Gaza Strip, no significant win could be taken from the side of the Palestinian resistance. With the exception of the 2012 war, the other battles between Gaza’s armed groups and “Israel” had resulted in the weakening of the position of the Palestinian armed struggle. During Seif Al-Quds, things were quite the opposite, for the first time, it was a real strategic victory on the part of a unified front of armed factions, making up what has become known as the ‘Joint Room’ of resistance factions.

    “Israel” was forced into political and military disarray, as the victory of Seif Al-Quds only further led to the downfall of former Israeli Prime Minister, Benjamin Netanyahu, ushering in a new Israeli ruling coalition. “Israel”’s military strategy of attempting to draw the resistance forces into the attack tunnel systems, in order to bombard them and kill hundreds, failed tremendously and completely took the Israeli military by surprise. The Gazan forces had somehow figured out, most likely through intelligence gathering methods, what “Israel” had been planning – a fake invasion announcement – preemptively preparing themselves for such an Israeli attack. Hamas even dictated to the Israelis in “Tel Aviv” when they could come out of their bomb shelters, telling them that they would stop their rocket attacks for 2 hours on one given night. The sight of Israelis listening to the guidelines set to them by Hamas and the other armed factions, made “Israel’s” air defense systems and military strategy seem weak, proving the Zionist forces useless at defending their own population.

    Furthermore, the tactics used by the armed groups, such as; slowly revealing new weapons technology, striking everywhere inside the 1948 territories, putting Israeli airports on temporary lockdown and controlling the course of the battle, all showed the entire region the weaknesses of “Tel Aviv”. If little besieged Gaza could foil “Israel’s” military strategies that they had worked on for years, not lose their military capabilities, force “Israel” to accept a non-conditional ceasefire, imagine what a force like Lebanese Hezbollah, or the Syrian Arab Army, would do to them? This was the question in the minds of world leaders at the time. To conclude the battle of Seif Al-Quds, “Israel” did not fire the final shot by midnight when the ceasefire kicked in, it was Hamas that had the last say. 

    Seif al-Quds proved for the Palestinians, as well as regional allies of the camp of resistance to “Israel”, that the armed struggle was the only way forward. The Palestinian Authority (PA), based in Ramallah, chooses the path of “security coordination” and refuses to resist “Israel” with violence and has failed to achieve a so-called “two-State solution”. The PA, of President Mahmoud Abbas, has little legitimacy left in the eyes of Palestinians and has no negotiating chips to bring to the table of any talks with the Israeli side, on top of this, no Israeli ruling coalition will have anything to do with the PA and talks of “two-States”. Now, the answer, following the era of Oslo, which really died with the late Palestinian leader Yasser Arafat, is again the armed struggle and this is clearly what we see, as the rising belief, all throughout occupied Palestine.

    A regional coalition, to fight for al-Aqsa Mosque, is now developing in its coordination and capabilities, included in which will be; Hezbollah, Ansarallah, groups from within the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) and the Palestinian armed factions. The head of the Hamas movement in Gaza, Yahya Sinwar, has vowed that the war for Jerusalem will begin after Ramadan and that the armed factions in Gaza will be on high alert to thwart Israeli plots against the Palestinian people and Jerusalem’s Holy Sites. 

    The battle of May 2021 represents the opening of a new chapter in the conflict with “Israel”, forcing the entire region and beyond to pay attention. Having said this, the questions to now be answered are; How will a regional coalition launch a successful military campaign against “Israel”? When will the Israeli ruling coalition collapse and how will the resistance deal with this? When will the PA change hands from its current rulers or collapse? And, when will the international community begin to start approaching Hamas as a representative of the Palestinian movement and people? The answers to these questions will be determining factors to how the Palestinian cause will once again emerge as a top priority on the regional and international stage. 

    The opinions mentioned in this article do not necessarily reflect the opinion of Al mayadeen, but rather express the opinion of its writer exclusively.

    Mind tricks: Why resistance to Israel and imperialism are called ‘Shia causes’

    April 20 2022

    The Arab and Muslim street remains firmly opposed to western imperialism and Israel. So their Arab Sunni rulers began calling all resistance ‘Shia.’

    By Omar Ahmed

    Would Sunni Arab monarchs be able to continue conspiring with the west and Israel without labelling those who resist collaboration as ‘Shia?’Photo Credit: The Cradle

    The past several decades have seen the political ascendency of Shia Muslims in West Asian geopolitics. While initially ignited by Iran’s Islamic Revolution of 1979, it was the aftermath of the illegal US invasion of Iraq in 2003 which accelerated this political shift by paving the way for Iraq’s Shia majority to govern.

    A year after US troops occupied Iraq and overthrew its Sunni president Saddam Hussein, Jordan’s King Abdullah II, fearing a growing influence of Iran among Iraq’s Shia majority and their regional coreligionists, coined the phrase “Shia Crescent.” This so-called ideological belt, it is hypothesized, runs from Tehran through several Arab capitals, including Baghdad, Damascus and Beirut, and later Sanaa.

    The idea has been criticized as it treats the Shia as a monolith and greatly exaggerates the extent of control or influence Iran exerts over the region.

    Tehran’s efforts to forge ties with friendly governments, powerful political parties, and militia forces are arguably based on pragmatism and self-interest rather than sectarian ideology. Among the state and non-state actors that provide Iran with its regional strategic depth – and therefore, influence – are Sunnis, Druze, Christians, Alawis, Zaidis, and other non-Shia populations. This alliance is more commonly – and accurately – known as the Axis of Resistance and its fundamental tenet is opposition to both western imperialism and the Zionist project, and a desire for self-determination.

    Axis of Resistance

    With Tehran at its nexus, this network consists of both state and non-state actors. Notable Shia factions include Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement and Afghan and Pakistani brigades.

    Sunni Palestinian resistance movements Hamas and Islamic Jihad are also considered to be a part of the axis, and an armed affiliate of Hezbollah, the Lebanese Resistance Brigades (also known as Saraya), is composed of Sunnis, Maronite Christians and Druze. At the state level are the mostly Zaidi, Ansarallah-led, de facto government of Yemen and the Alawite-dominated government of Sunni-majority Syria.

    While not part of the axis per se, Sunni-majority Algeria has also consistently opposed Zionism and could strengthen its ties with Iran, especially in light of growing tensions with neighboring Morocco whose government has recently aligned with Israel.

    Traditional western-aligned Sunni Arab states such as Egypt, Saudi Arabia and Jordan have all expressed their own concerns about this Shia-majority, ‘Iran-led’ axis, and along with Israel have opposed the Resistance Axis. It is due to these mutual interests that there have been several proposals for a “Sunni-Jewish alliance.”

    Arab normalization with Israel

    This new public alliance tangibly materialized in 2020 with the signing of the Abraham Accords and the normalization of ties between Israel and the UAE, Sudan, Morocco and Bahrain (the latter is a Shia majority nation ruled by a Sunni royal family). Certainly, it ended years of speculation that there were indirect, covert ties between Tel Aviv and several Arab states.

    However, it is important to differentiate between the policies of these governments and the popular sentiments among their citizens. According to an opinion poll carried out between 2019-2020 by the Qatar-based Arab Center for Research and Policy Studies (ACRPS), the majority of the Arab world (88 percent) opposes any normalization with Israel. This includes the Persian Gulf: “Refusal to recognize Israel is proportionally the highest in the Gulf region,” the report found.

    Nevertheless, last month’s Negev Summit ushered in an unprecedented level of security cooperation between Israel and Arab states and may be a precursor to an ‘Arab-Israeli NATO‘ equivalent intent on confronting the Axis of Resistance, especially over heightened fears of a nuclear-powered Iran, should efforts in Vienna to revive the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) fail.

    The Palestinian issue

    After the humiliating and resounding failures of pan-Arab nationalism to liberate occupied Palestine following the Six Day War in 1967, Egypt lost its position as the leader of the Arab world. This was cemented after Egypt made peace with Israel under Anwar Sadat in 1979, the same year as Iran’s Islamic Revolution.

    As one of, if not the most pressing and long-standing Arab and Muslim issues of our time, the Palestinian cause was essentially abandoned by the Sunni Arab leadership, only to be championed by the Islamic Republic of Iran and its regional allies. Symbolically, the first statesman to visit revolutionary Iran was Palestinian Liberation Organization leader Yasser Arafat who was given keys to what was once the Israeli diplomatic mission-turned Palestinian embassy, as it remains to this day. “We shall liberate the land of Palestine under the leadership of Imam Khomeini,” Arafat declared during his historic visit.

    Significantly, during the 1990s, Iran’s support to Palestinians was not merely diplomatic but military too, as Iran has consistently been the main patron of Palestinian armed resistance factions Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), something acknowledged by the movements themselves.

    Lebanon’s Hezbollah movement, itself established with the help of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), has also been instrumental in assisting Palestinian factions in training and developing weapons capabilities. Early last year, IRGC Aerospace Force commander Amir Ali Hajizadeh stated, “All the missiles you might see in Gaza and Lebanon were created with Iran’s support.”

    ‘Iranian-backed’ doesn’t make these ‘Shia causes’

    Well before the Abraham Accords, there were signs that a regional narrative was being developed to aid Arab autocrats in breaking with the popular causes of the Arab/Muslim world, namely resistance to Zionism and western imperialism.

    Two years after King Abdullah’s ‘Shia crescent’ narrative began to be employed, the 2006 Lebanon-Israel war broke out. Although a historic ‘Arab nation’ victory against Israel was achieved that year, in a new public turn, the Arab League and the Saudis in particular were instead scathing in their criticism of Lebanese resistance movement Hezbollah for what they said was an unprovoked and irresponsible conflict.

    We have now reached an epoch, whereby vocal or material support for a plethora of resistance efforts in West Asia is seen as being ‘Shia’ or even ‘Persian’ rather than Arab or Muslim causes. These include the central issue of Palestine, as after all at the crux of it – that is to say armed struggle – it is only the Resistance Axis that now provides support where it materially matters.

    The Palestinian cause has not always been a ‘Shia’ cause, argues Hussain Abdul-Hussain of the pro-Israel Foundation for the Defense of Democracies, who alludes to the anti-Palestinian sentiments in South Lebanon before the rise of Hezbollah. He claims – a criticism parroted by the pro-west Sunni monarchs – that Iran “found in Palestine a good tool to undermine the sovereignty of Arab Sunni governments” and to win over support from “Arab Sunni masses.” This assessment disregards the fact that even before the revolution, under the rule of Iran’s Shah, Iran’s religious and secular opponents were popularly pro-Palestine and opposed the Shah’s support of Israel.

    Who else will oppose Zionism and western imperialism?

    In Iraq, there is a lingering threat from pockets of ISIS remnants and legitimate grievances about continuing US military presence, which is likely to continue for years to come. Both of these threats to Iraqi sovereignty have been targeted by “Iranian-backed Shia militia,” many who are an integral part of Iraq’s armed forces in the form of the PMUs. Ironically, these anti-ISIS forces were in fact initiated by a religious ruling from within Iraq, independent of Iran’s diktats.

    The world’s worst humanitarian crisis, according to the UN, is in Yemen which has been bombed and besieged almost relentlessly for seven years by a US/UK-backed and armed, Saudi-led coalition. Yemen’s resistance to this foreign aggression is led by the Ansarallah movement and its allied Yemeni armed forces. Here too, the Arab Sunni monarchs’ narrative has played a nefarious role, labelling Yemen’s resistance as ‘Shia,’ where in fact they are mainly Zaidis, who are in many ways closer to Hanafi Sunnis and who pray in Sunni mosques. As Iran and its regional axis support anti-imperialism, they are naturally more aligned to the Yemeni resistance, who are almost always now labelled as ‘Iran-backed’ or ‘Shia’ for their resistance against decades of exploitation and subjugation by Saudi Arabia.

    For the divisive case of Syria, supporting the sovereignty and territorial integrity of the state against the aggressions of hostile states has also been cast as a ‘Shia’ cause, despite the fact that Syria’s Shia community – not to be confused with the Alawites – form a very small minority in the majority-Sunni country. Yet when contextualized as an important actor in the Axis of Resistance, in particular as a transit point between Iran and Lebanon and occupied Palestine, the sectarian designation becomes apparent.

    The common denominator for these conflicts is that there is an opposing force to the Axis of Normalization and its US backer. It has become imperative, especially for the burgeoning Sunni Arab-Israeli alliance, for these forces to be deliberately cast as ‘Iranian-supported Shia proxies’ in order to dampen their own populations’ support for popular resistance.

    Arab and Muslim populations everywhere would otherwise likely support operations to purge western military interventionism and Israel’s aggressions from West Asia. But say ‘Iran,’ ‘Persia’ or ‘Shia’ and the Arab Sunni elite manage to confuse and quash mass popular resentment of their own malign behaviors.

    The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

    ‘Israeli’ Operatives in Kurdistan Region Will Drag Iraq into War: Kataib Hezbollah

    March 21, 2022

    By Staff, Agencies

    The Iraqi Kataib Hezbollah [Brigades] resistance movement said the presence of operatives affiliated to the ‘Israeli’ spy agency Mossad in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region will drag the Arab country into a military confrontation.

    Speaking in an interview with Beirut-based al-Mayadeen TV network, the resistance group’s spokesman Jafar al-Husseini warned against attempts aimed at turning Iraq into a launchpad for attacks on regional countries and stated that such bids will exacerbate the existing tensions.

    He noted there is substantial evidence that ‘Israeli’ operatives are freely active in the Kurdistan region, and that the Kurdistan Regional Government [KRG] exports crude oil to the ‘Israeli’-occupied territories.

    The spokesman of Kataib Hezbollah, part of the Popular Mobilization Units [PMU] or better known by Arabic name of Hashd al-Shaabi, underscored that the Palestinian cause remains a cornerstone of Iraqi resistance groups’ doctrine, stating that the forces are coordinating with their Palestinian and Lebanese comrades.

    Husseini went on to say that Iraqi resistance forces are on the great march of progress and are expanding their capabilities to defend the country’s airspace.

    Last week, the spokesman for Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] said the elite military force will not hesitate to strike other Zionist bases in the Iraqi Kurdistan region if its officials do not dismantle them.

    “It is our natural right to destroy any base from which any attack is carried out against the security of Iran and this is a red line” for us, Brigadier General Ramezan Sharif told Yemen’s al-Masirah network on March 17.

    According to Sharif, Iran’s ambassador to Iraq Iraj Masjedi had on several occasions warned the Iraqi Kurdistan region about the presence of the Mossad base, which was recently attacked by the IRG, and two other similar bases.

    “If Iraqi officials do not take action to remove other bases of Zionists in this country while our security continues to be threatened from this region, we will respond without hesitation,” the IRG’s spokesman added.

    Days earlier, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq had said the latest IRG missile strike on secret Mossad bases in the semi-autonomous Kurdistan region was strictly necessary, as operations against Iran’s security were being plotted and orchestrated there.

    Masjedi said ‘Israeli’ operatives used the Iraqi Kurdistan region to plot and launch operations against Iran’s security, emphasizing that Iranian officials had time and again warned the KRG authorities against their activities, but to no avail.

    The Iranian diplomat highlighted that the missile attack was carried out in order to safeguard Iran’s security, “and was neither intended to violate Iraq’s sovereignty nor was meant to insult the Arab country and its nation.”

    In the early hours of March 13, a dozen ballistic missiles hit secret Mossad bases in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil, reportedly leaving several Zionist operatives dead.

    In a statement issued later in the day, the IRG indicated that the operation was in response to a recent ‘Israeli’ airstrike on the Syrian capital of Damascus, in which two IRG officers were martyred.

    The IRG identified the two officers as colonels Ehsan Karbalaipour and Morteza Saeidnejad, warning that the Tel Aviv regime would pay for this crime.

    Israel declares state of emergency after largest cyber attack in history

    March 14 2022

    (Photo credit: Oman Observer)

    ByNews Desk

    The cyber attack comes a day after Iran launched a retaliatory strike against a Mossad base in Erbil, Iraq

    Multiple Israeli government websites went down on 14 March in what Israeli government sources claim is the largest cyber attack in their history, according to statements given to Haaretz.

    The ministries of health, justice, welfare, interior, and the Prime Minister’s Office were all hit by this attack. Even the site for the organization responsible for cyber security was subject to this attack.

    Notably, the Mossad website also came under attack.

    Haaretz also reported that their sources believe this attack was the work of a state actor or large organization, although they have not yet determined who is responsible.

    Telegram channels believed to be associated with the IRGC made a post with a single word “surprise” repeated in Farsi, English, and Hebrew. However, as of now the Islamic Republic of Iran has not officially claimed responsibility for the event.

    Israel has declared a state of emergency in order to determine if the attacks extended beyond public websites into secure websites as well as infrastructure such as electric and water systems.

    Israeli military establishment sources reported that all websites with the .gov.il domain extension were affected by the cyber attack.

    Despite not taking responsibility for this latest attack, it is believed that the Islamic Republic of Iran may have likely been behind this in order to retaliate against the recent murder of two IRGC officers by the Israeli Air Force in Syria a few days ago.

    Iran publicly took responsibility for a retaliatory strike against a Mossad base in Erbil, Iraq on 13 March, which left several Israeli officers dead and injured.

    A senior Iranian security source, speaking exclusively to The Cradle, has revealed that “this operation [in Erbil] sends a message to all countries in the region that Iran is sensitive to the Israeli regime’s activities near its borders and does not tolerate it.”

    The source noted that the Erbil strike was not in retaliation for Israel’s killing of two IRGC members in an airstrike near Damascus on 8 March, as reported by various foreign media outlets. He said Iran has reserved the right to retaliate for that incident at a later date.

    previous cyber attack on Israeli media websites took place on the second anniversary of the assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces General Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in 2022.

    More on the Topic

    EXCLUSIVE: IRGC strike on Mossad base in Iraq targets 10 Israeli operatives, issues regional warning

    March 14 2022

    Sources say the missile attack serves as a message to regional states that Iran will not tolerate foreign military operations on its borders

    ByNews Desk

    Photo Credit: The Cradle

    Three targets are dead and seven others have sustained critical injuries in Iranian missile strikes on a secret Israeli Mossad compound in Erbil early in the morning of 13 March, a senior Iranian security source, speaking exclusively to The Cradle, has revealed.

    “This operation sends a message to all countries in the region that Iran is sensitive to the Israeli regime’s activities near its borders and does not tolerate it.”

    The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp (IRGC) salvo of 12 Fateh Iranian missiles struck the Mossad base at 1:20am, “at a symbolic hour when the resistance commanders were assassinated,” says the source – a reference to the US/Israeli assassinations of Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani and Iraqi Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes on 3 January 2020.

    “The operation has so far killed three people, two of them senior officers, and estimates show seven wounded, some of whom are probably in critical condition,” he said.

    Shortly after the operation, the source says an air ambulance was requested from Stuttgart, Germany, which landed in Qatar due to security concerns. US forces reportedly used a C130 aircraft to transport the bodies and wounded to the ambulance.

    The Iranian security source claims that the IRGC operation was conducted in direct retaliation for a 14 February Israeli attack on an IRGC-operated drone base in the Mahidasht district of Kermanshah, inside Iran. “Fortunately, we did not have any casualties, but once the source of this [Israeli] attack was identified as originating from Iraq, [Sunday’s] operation was put on the agenda.”

    The Iranian source says Iraqi officials were warned that military operations targeting Iran were taking place within Iraq’s borders – in two official meetings, with evidentiary documents in hand.

    He says IRGC Quds Force Commander Esmail Qaani had already warned the leaders of the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) region about these cases.

    The source also confirmed that the missile strikes were not in retaliation for Israel’s killing of two IRGC members in an airstrike near Damascus on 8 March, as reported by various foreign media outlets. He said Iran has reserved the right to retaliate for that incident at a later date.

    The source describes the Mossad base in Erbil as “unofficial and hidden – in the form of two villas that had a normal appearance.” Iranian reconnaissance had observed several things in the lead up to the operation; however, the source adds:

    “The structure of these two villas had two roofs that completely protected it from 240mm missiles. An explosion-proof engineering roof under a shock-absorbing roof that had two layers under the gable roof.”

    The source says that post-operation images confirm this assessment. The building, despite being hit by 12 missiles, maintained its structural integrity.

    Iranian intel had also observed, over a period of time, that non-Israelis were not allowed to enter the area and that only the external protection of the area was conducted by “regional security forces,” identified by the source as Parastin, the Kurdish intel security forces. Kurds were otherwise forbidden access to the facilities.

    The source adds: “This facility was a place of entertainment for the [Israeli] regime’s officers and cyber-electronic staff based in the region, so there was not much traffic during the week, and we mostly saw their presence on the weekends.”

    At the time of the IRGC’s missile strike last weekend, he says, “more than 10 people had entered the facility.”

    Iraq does not allow Israeli nationals to visit the country and has strict laws, reinforced last year, that prohibit any Iraqi interaction with the state of Israel.

    Russia Warns Washington Is Sending ISIS Fighters to Ukraine

    March 06, 2022

    Global Research,

    By The Cradle

    The Cradle 5 March 2022

    All Global Research articles can be read in 51 languages by activating the “Translate Website” drop down menu on the top banner of our home page (Desktop version).

    To receive Global Research’s Daily Newsletter (selected articles), click here.

    Visit and follow us on Instagram at @globalresearch_crg and Twitter at @crglobalization.

    Today, the dangers of military escalation are beyond description.

    What is now happening in Ukraine has serious geopolitical implications. It could lead us into a World War III scenario.

    It is important that a peace process be initiated with a view to preventing escalation. 

    Global Research condemns Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

    A Bilateral Peace Agreement is required.

    The foreign intelligence service of Russia (SVR RF) warned on 4 March that the US and NATO countries are sending ISIS fighters from Syria to Ukraine.

    The ISIS members, who are reportedly headed to Ukraine, underwent special training at the US army’s Al-Tanf military base in Syria.

    The SVR also stated that similar extremist groups are being recruited throughout West Asia and North Africa. The militants will allegedly enter Ukraine through Poland.

    Video: NATO Too Weak to Face Russia? Scott Ritter on Russian Offensive

    The SVR statement detailed the history of the secret operation they uncovered, saying in a statement: “At the end of 2021, the Americans released from prisons … several dozen Daesh terrorists, including citizens of Russia and CIS countries. These individuals were sent to the US-controlled Al-Tanf base, where they have undergone special training in subversive and terrorist warfare methods with a focus on the Donbass region.”

    The US claims that the illegal presence of their troops in northeast Syria is to protect the country’s vast oilfields from falling under the control of ISIS.

    Neither Moscow nor Damascus believe this official explanation, with the latter accusing the US of using it as an excuse to steal Syrian oil.

    However, ISIS fighters are not the only foreign militants to be recruited to join the fight against Russia in Ukraine.

    According to Russian Defense Ministry spokesman Igor Konashenkov, private military contractors have poured into Ukraine from around the world.

    “US military intelligence has launched a large scale propaganda campaign to recruit PMC [private military company] contractors to be sent to Ukraine. First of all, employees of the American PMCs, Academi, Cubic, and Dyn Corporation are being recruited. […] Only last week, about 200 mercenaries from Croatia arrived through Poland, and joined one of the nationalist battalions in the southeast of Ukraine,” Konashenkov said.

    Both Iraq and Syria have accused the US of supporting and transferring ISIS fighters within the region.

    Earlier this year, The Cradle reported that US forces transferred dozens of ISIS detainees, including high-ranking commanders, to Deir Ezzor governorate, which is close to the Iraqi border. This was reportedly an attempt to “revive ISIS” for the purposes of destabilizing a region that had recently been liberated by the Syrian Arab Army (SAA) with the help of Russian troops.

    In August last year, similar reports surfaced after a high-ranking officer from Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) reported that their thermal cameras detected US military helicopters transferring ISIS fighters to different locations around the country.

    Russia launched a special military operation in Ukraine on 24 February after responding to the call for assistance by the newly-recognized republics of Dontesk and Luhansk.

    Despite recognition of their independence by Russia, Ukrainian armed forces continued to shell civilian targets and to breach the borders of the two republics, prompting the leaders of the republics to formally ask Russia for military assistance.


    Note to readers: Please click the share buttons above or below. Follow us on Instagram, @globalresearch_crg and Twitter at @crglobalization. Forward this article to your email lists. Crosspost on your blog site, internet forums, etc.

    The original source of this article is The Cradle

    Copyright © The CradleThe Cradle, 2022

    Will Ukraine become a headquarters for ISIS in the world? And any repercussions for Europe?
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    President Assad Welcomes Head of Iraq’s PMF

    March 2, 2022

    President Bashar al-Assad on Wednesday received Head of the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq Faleh al-Fayyad .

    Talks during the meeting dealt with the standing cooperation between the two countries, particularly the joint security issues which related to controlling the borders and combating the terrorist organizations existed in that area.

    The two sides stressed the importance of intensifying efforts in facing what the countries sponsoring terrorism are doing through their attempts to revive these organizations and the return to blow the stability that was achieved by the Syrian and Iraqi armies on both sides of the borders.

    Source: SANA

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    Why does Turkey have 38 illegal bases in northern Iraq?

    January 28 2022

    The illegal Turkish military presence in Iraq is a blatant violation of that country’s territorial integrity. While Ankara claims it is a national security priority, it actually uses this military cover to influence and manage Iraqi and regional affairs

    By Erman Çete

    Almost 100 years after the Treaty of Ankara (1926), Iraq-Turkey relations remain fraught. Despite various disputes over water rights, territorial violations, unlawful oil trades, and alliances, the overriding reason for tensions remains the problem of Kurdistan.

    Today, media headlines across Turkey continue to reflect the nation’s antagonism with the armed groups of the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) inside Iraq, a neighboring state in which the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launch military operations with impunity.

    But despite the repeated protests of the Iraqi government over these violations of its sovereignty, Turkish presence and operations in northern Iraq continue unabated.

    In May last year, Turkish Defense Minister Hulusi Akar visited the Turkish military base Biliç Hill Base in northern Iraq to supervise Turkish troops deployed for an ongoing operation against the PKK.

    Furious about the visit, Baghdad summoned the Turkish diplomatic envoy in Baghdad to express displeasure at Akar’s presence inside Iraq without providing prior notice.

    Official numbers concerning the presence of TSK in northern Iraq are unclear. According to an Anadolu Agency article back in 2017, TSK had a battalion in the Bamarni Airport, near Duhok, as well as commando units in Kani Masi and Begova in northern Iraq.

    In accordance with Ankara’s goal of unilaterally creating a 40km-deep security belt in northern Iraq, TSK has established new bases in the Iraqi regions of Hakurk and Metina.

    One source claims that the number of Turkish troops in Iraq has risen to over 10,000, but a news outlet aligned with Turkey’s ruling Justice and Development Party (AKP) says there are only 2,000 troops, with approximately 500 of them mechanized units in Bamarni, and 400 of them from Bolu Commando Brigade in Kani Masi.

    It also claims that there are 130 Special Forces as liaison officers in Erbil, Zaho, Dohuk, Batufa, Sulaymaniyah, and Amadiya. In the town of Simele, Turkish intelligence units are reinforced with new recruits, while military tanks, recently updated by Israel, are deployed in Bashiqa base.

    In a rare move, Turkey’s Directorate of Communications published a map in 2020 which showed the positions of Turkish troops in northern Iraq. The map has since been removed.

    According to the map, from Zakho to Hakurk in the west–east axis and from Avashin to Erbil in the north–south axis, Turkey has 38 military posts or bases in northern Iraq.

    Source: Turkey’s Directorate of Communications, 2020

    Bargaining chips in northern Iraq and wars on terror

    It is quite significant that pro-Justice and Development Party (AKP) news outlets portray Iraqi resistance against the US presence – many of them pro-Iran – as an indirect threat to Turkey.

    Moreover, it appears that the US has given Turkish military operations a green light inside Iraqi territory, but attempted to create a schism between the PKK and its Syrian militia affiliate, the People’s Defence Units (YPG), with which Washington has common cause – to Turkey’s detriment.

    Ankara, which enjoys cordial diplomatic and robust economic relations with Iran, can be just as opportunistic. According to the US’s former Syria special representative James Jeffrey, Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan had personally told him twice that he too “considers Iran a threat.”

    Such expressions reflect a constant principle within Turkish foreign policy: If you have problems with the west, turn to the east to create bargaining chips.

    In this regard, Turkish hard power instruments in Iraq and Syria work against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), developing elements of pressure against Damascus and Tehran, and creating new opportunities to negotiate with Washington.

    A new era for Turkey

    During the 1980s, Turkey stepped into a new era marked by two intertwined developments.

    The first development occurred when the Stabilization Decisions of 24 January 1980 changed the country’s existing economic model. The external debt of Turkey during the 1970s had triggered a ‘balance of payment’ crisis. The Turkish bourgeoisie desperately needed both foreign exchange and to transform import-substitution industrialization into an export-oriented economic policy.

    Second, the dissolution of the USSR and the end of the Cold War created a sense of opportunity for Turkey. Neo-Ottomanism entered the Turkish political scene when the newly established Central Asian and Caucasian republics were seen as ‘Turkic hinterland’ for the post-Soviet order.

    Today, among left-wing circles inside Turkey, it is still widely believed that the 12 September 1980 coup d’état was initiated to apply these economic policies.

    As a result, the Turkish state re-evaluated its foreign policy in two broad ways: via the economic prism – diversifying export destinations to bolster and transform the economy; and via identity politics, transforming Turkey from a ‘secular’ state and society into a country in which Turkish and Islamic identities were promoted forcefully by the putschist government of the 1980s.

    Turgut Ozal, the first post-coup prime minister, and later the eighth President of the Republic of Turkey, implemented these policies to ‘re-orient’ the new Turkey.

    Mixed occasionally with both pan-Turkist and pan-Islamist ideologies, neo-Ottomanism became increasingly attractive for Turkey in furthering its economic and political visions.

    It is no surprise then, that Erdogan views Ozal as his role model for Turkey. Both figures bind export–growth economic policies with proactive foreign policy adventures.

    Along with other neighbors of Turkey, northern Iraq was now being viewed as strategically significant in this new political context. Iraq was the bridge through which Turkey could reach the Persian Gulf. Turkish state and foreign policy were thus restructured along this line in the early 1990s.

    The First Gulf War, according to Ozal, was an opportunity for Turkey’s new foreign policy realignments. The president went on to join the US-led anti-Saddam Hussein coalition and began publicly championing the theme of a ‘Greater Turkey’ as the protector of Turkomen and Kurds in northern Iraq.

    Although the Turkish army and foreign ministry resisted Ozal’s efforts, Ankara allowed the Poised Hammer force – an aviation unit consisting of American, Australian, British, Dutch and French troops – to deploy in Silopi, Şırnak and operate on Turkish soil.

    In the meantime, Turkey continued its armed operations against the “terrorist threat of the PKK,” alongside efforts to legitimize its presence in northern Iraq, which are assessed by the Iraqi government as illegal.

    There were two large operations in northern Iraq in the 1990s. In 1995, the Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) launched Operation Steel, during which over 35,000 Turkish troops crossed the border.

    The second operation, in 1997, was Operation Hammer, and it had two goals: to destroy PKK camps and to strengthen the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) against the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) in the Kurdish civil war.

    The anti-PUK strategy overlapped with the PUK’s so-called ‘pro-Iranian’ stance. This was another reason for Turkey to support the KDP against the Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK), and occasionally against the PUK, and it has been the repertoire of the Turkish state ever since.

    Alongside irredentist claims over Iraq, Turkey began to exploit the post-Soviet world around it, exporting cheap and relatively high-tech Turkish goods to new destinations assessed as crucial areas.

    The tide turned in 2008. The Justice and Development Party (AKP), with its neo-Ottoman figures like former Prime Minster Ahmet Davutoglu, reversed the Turkish course in Iraq. Ankara started to handpick Sunnis to take under its wings, and to develop solid relations with the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG).

    Energy cooperation, particularly oil and natural gas investments, were primary motivations for both these governments. In 2004, Turkey’s exports to Iraq were less than two billion dollars, but by 2013, it had risen over 10 billion dollars, and the destination was the KRG, in particular.

    Turkish construction companies earned lucrative contacts in the KRG. Erbil Airport was built by Cengiz İnsaat, which is owned by one of Erdogan’s closest allies, Mehmet Cengiz.

    In 2014, despite the protests of Baghdad, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) started to sell its oil through Turkish ports.

    The new Turkey makes a retreat

    After 2016, however, Turkish policy towards northern Iraq underwent a re-assessment.

    One of the reasons was due to domestic political shifts. The pro-Kurdish People’s Democratic Party (HDP) acquired strong support in the June 2015 general elections, and AKP lost its majority for the first time in 13 years, bringing an abrupt end to the AKP’s so-called ‘Kurdish opening.’

    There were strong clashes between pro-Kurdistan Workers Party (PKK) forces and Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) in southern parts of Turkey, which paved the way for a return to the old counter-insurgency TSK tactics in regard to the Kurdish question.

    Then, on 15 July 2016, a failed coup d’état triggered a further restructuring of the Turkish state.

    Another reason for the change in Turkish policy towards Iraq was that foreign policy failures and disappointments had taken their toll on Ankara.

    The Arab Spring and the Muslim Brotherhood’s brief regional ascendence were snuffed out in Egypt and Tunisia, sending shockwaves throughout the Turkish government, and ending the rise of the Turkish model of a modern Muslim state throughout West Asia.

    The Syrian government, with its allies Hezbollah, Iran, and Russia, held its ground and the US-backed regime change operation in Syria fell apart.

    The so-called ‘Friends of Syria’ group splintered into Qatar-Turkey vs. Saudi Arabia-UAE, and started to fight each other.

    The outward flows of Syrian refugees heightened tensions within Turkish society, and fueled both anti-AKP and anti-refugee sentiment.

    Importantly, the YPG occupation of northern Syria, and its partnership with the US ‘anti-ISIS’ coalition supported by the PKK, created a ‘national threat’ for the Turkish government.

    Turkey then set about modifying its policy on Syria. The result was a retreat from the aim of toppling Syrian President Bashar al-Assad to the more humble goal of “eliminating the terror corridor alongside [Turkey’s] southern border.”

    The paranoia of ‘Iranian influence’

    As a result of its hard power policies over the years, Turkey has been denied access via Syria and Iraq to the lucrative markets of the Persian Gulf’s Arab states. These policies include Turkey’s too-cozy relationship with Iraq’s KRG, as well as its economic and sometimes military competition with Iran in Iraq.

    Soaring inflation in Turkey also decreased the competitiveness of Turkish goods in regional markets, and the Iraqi government’s protective policies have slowed down Iraq–Turkey trade volume. At the same time, Iranian trade with Iraq began to increase.

    Strategic calculations have also played their part. Turkey’s eagerness to wipe out Kurdish militias from northern Iraq’s Sinjar region has caused tensions with both Baghdad and Tehran.

    When TSK launched a military operation against the PKK in Gara, northern Iraq, in February 2021, Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, or Hashd al-Shabi) deployed forces in the Sinjar area against Turkish troops.

    Turkish Armed Forces (TSK) have also been training anti-PKK Iraqi politician Osama al-Nujaifi’s Hashd al-Watani forces in a Turkish base in Bashiqa, near Mosul. In Sinjar, a tacit alliance between the PMU and PKK-affiliated Sinjar Resistance Units (YBS) confronted the TSK-backed Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).

    For Turkey, this confrontation represents an unholy alliance between Iran and the PKK. When Iran’s ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, criticized Turkish operations in northern Iraq, then Turkish envoy Fatih Yıldız hit back, saying Masjedi should be “the last person to lecture Turkey.”

    Ambitious goals, ambiguous future

    Today, officially and firstly, TSK claims that its troops and bases are in northern Iraq for ‘fighting against terrorism’ and maintaining national security.

    Secondly, as in the case of Bashiqa, Turkey lays claim to Iraqi Sunnis and legitimizes its assets by exploiting the sectarian fragmentation of Iraqi politics.

    Thirdly, as long as the US remains in Iraq and maintains its ‘countering Iran’ policy in West Asia, Turkey will present its policy towards the KRG as a counterbalancing act against the so-called ‘Iranian influence.’

    It appears that the KRG, and Sinjar in particular, will be the current focal point for the quarrel between Iran and Turkey. As a distant aim, in the event of the fragmentation of Iraq, Turkey would likely explore the annexation of northern Iraq, where it believes it has historic claims.

    With respect to the Iraqi government, options against Turkey’s breaches of sovereignty and territorial integrity are limited. Ankara will remain as a big trading partner for Baghdad, with a staggering trade deficit to the detriment of the latter.

    Turkey’s deep reach inside the KRG and warm relations with the ruling Barzani family will allow it to use northern Iraq as a bargaining chip with Baghdad in the post-US era – both unilaterally, and for the benefit of its NATO alliance.

    Lastly, the recent thaw between Turkey, some Gulf states, and Israel may force Baghdad to accept the Turkish fait accompli in northern Iraq.

    In short, Turkish troops in northern Iraq are useful for three things: Influencing the Kurdish question and directly tackling its PKK problem; boosting Turkish regional ambitions; and establishing a bargaining chip with its western allies.The views expressed in this article do not necessarily reflect those of The Cradle.

    Iraqi resistance leader stresses factions are independent from Iran, warns of foreign attempts to incite sectarian conflict

    January 20 2022

    The leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq says that, while Tehran has remained a close ally, the decisions made by the resistance groups are completely independent

    (Photo credit: AP)

    ByNews Desk- 

    During an interview with BBC Farsi, Iraqi resistance leader Qais al-Khazali spoke at length about the political crisis gripping Iraq, and highlighted that the recent re-election of Mohammed al-Halbousi as Speaker of Parliament served as “proof” of resistance groups’ independence from Iran.

    “The fact that the Iranian parliament speaker congratulated the speaker of the Iraqi parliament has not affected our positions and [we continue] to reject the election results, and whether or not the Iranian parliament speaker congratulates us has no effect on our positions, and this is proof of our independence,” Khazali told the interviewer.

    He went on to add that, in the event of a disagreement in the formation of a government by Muqtada al-Sadr, the Coordination Framework is considering its options of whether to boycott the political process or join the opposition.

    Khazali, the leader of resistance faction Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, also spoke at length about the ongoing presence of US troops in Iraqi soil, despite the announcement last year by US President Joe Biden and Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Khadimi that all combat troops would leave the nation by 31 December.

    In this regard, he said that “as long as the occupying forces are present, there [will be a] resistance,” but also pointed out that “whether we have tension with them or reduce the level of tension is a tactic based on the interests of the resistance groups.”

    “I reiterate that our decision is independent of Iran’s decision, the Iranians are allies… and because of our good relations, the Iranians have the right to comment and advise, but the final decision [lies] with us, even about the resistance,” Khazali said before adding: “I say frankly that even if the Vienna talks are concluded, the Iraqi resistance operation will not stop.”

    He also pointed out that, over recent months, resistance groups in Iraq and Yemen have reached a stage where they can produce their own heavy weapons, especially drones.

    During the interview, Khazali went on to reveal he had information about foreign plans to drag Iraq into a “Shia-Shia war” by taking advantage of the post-election crisis, and that some media outlets were fueling this fire.

    The resistance leader expressed confidence that the existence of a supreme Shia authority in Iraq would likely prevent such a conflict. Nonetheless, Khazali believes that, due to all of these tensions, the future government “is unlikely to succeed.”

    Since last October, Iraq has been mired in a political crisis over the results of parliamentary elections which saw a majority of Shia parties allied with the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) end up with a meager representation in parliament.

    Most recently, the leader of the winning coalition, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, has been meeting with all political actors in the country as he attempts to form what he has described as a “national majority government.”

    The prospective Iraqi government is vacillating between the options of the majority and the opposition

    IRG Chief: Totally Defeated Enemies Are Not Safe Anywhere

    January 10, 2022

    By Staff, Agencies

    Chief Commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guard [IRG] Major General Hossein Salami said there is no safe territory for the enemies, as “they have been defeated in all their conspiracies and have been rendered helpless, tired, and disappointed.”

    General Salami made the remarks while addressing a ceremony in Tehran on Sunday evening, saying, “We are victorious today and this is what the facts of the field say.”

    “Today, the swords of the Muslims to fight the enemies have been unsheathed, and [therefore], there is no safe territory for the enemies,” he said.

    Salami further underscored that Iran’s missile strikes against US military bases in Iraq in retaliation for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRG Quds Force, was a “slap on the face” of the US, which saw itself as the world emperor.

    “Whose face was this slap delivered on?” he asked, rhetorically. “It was a stinging slap on the face to the United States, which considered itself the emperor of the world and did not stop making threats of tit-for-tat retaliations.”

    General Salami also noted that unlike the Americans, “we did not assassinate a defenseless and unarmed commander, who was fighting terrorism across the Muslim world and had traveled to Iraq at an official invitation, with a drone and in the dead of the night.”

    General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s world-renown counter-terrorism commander, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units [PMU], and their companions were killed in a US drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020.

    Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that requires the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by the US in the country.

    Both commanders were highly revered across the Middle East because of their key role in fighting the Daesh [Arabic for ‘ISIS/ISIL’] Takfiri terrorist group in the region, particularly in Iraq and Syria.

    On January 8, 2020, the IRG targeted the US-run Ain al-Assad in Iraq’s western province of Anbar by launching a volley of missiles in retaliation.

    According to the Pentagon, more than 100 American forces suffered “traumatic brain injuries” during the counterstrike on the base.

    Iran has described the missile attack on Ain al-Assad as a “first slap.”

    Elsewhere in his remarks, General Salami asserted that Iran’s enemies have been defeated.

    “Depression and despair can now be seen on the faces of officials from our enemies since they cannot advance their policies,” he noted.

    “If we had not resisted, they [enemies] would have taken away our identity, prestige, honor, security, and dignity. The United States, the Zionist regime, some European countries, and reactionary regimes in the region cannot stand the Iranian nation’s stability, splendor, and strength,” the IRG chief added.

    Iran Blacklists 51 US Officials, Cmdrs. for Involvement in Soleimani Assassination

    Jan 09 2022

    By Staff, Agencies

    Tehran has updated the list of American individuals it blacklisted for involvement in the US assassination of top Iranian counter-terrorism commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and his companions, adding 51 US officials and commanders to the list.

    In a statement released on Saturday, Iran’s Foreign Ministry said the United States, by conducting the “callous terrorist act,” acted in glorification of terrorism and in violation of the fundamental human rights.

    “The Islamic Republic of Iran underlines that the heinous terrorist act will not in any manner diminish the resolute determination and resolve of the Islamic Republic of Iran in following the path of the revered General Soleimani in fighting terrorism and terrorist groups, in particular, the US-backed terrorist groups,” the statement read.

    On January 3, 2020, the US military conducted an air operation under Trump’s order targeting General Soleimani near Baghdad International Airport after his arrival. The attack also killed the general’s companions, including Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Units [PMU] Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

    The following is the full text of the Iranian Foreign Ministry’s statement and the name of the individuals freshly blacklisted:

    The Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Islamic Republic of Iran, in accordance with the “Act on Countering Violations of Human Rights and Adventurist and Terrorist Actions of the United States of America in the Region”, particularly, Articles 4 and 5, and in addition to the American individuals including Donald Trump, Michael Pompeo, John Bolton, Mark Esper, Gina Haspel, Christopher Miller and Steven Mnuchin and also Matthew Tueller, Steven Fagin and Rob Waller, who were listed respectively on 19 January 2021 and 23 October 2020, identifies and imposes sanctions as set forth in the abovementioned Act on the following persons for the role they played in the terrorist act of the United States against Martyr General Qassem Soleimani and his companions, in glorification of terrorism and in violating the fundamental human rights. The said persons, as the case may be, have taken part in decision-making, organizing, financing, and carrying out the terrorist act or have otherwise justified terrorism which is a threat to the international peace and security through supporting such egregious terrorist attack.

    It is reiterated that the United States, by conducting the callous terrorist act, has flagrantly breached its international legal obligations in countering terrorism and terrorism-financing, in particular, the obligation to refrain and desist from organizing and participating in terrorist acts and the obligation to respect, protect and fulfill human rights which constitute internationally wrongful acts entailing the international responsibility of the United States. As such, the Islamic Republic of Iran, in conformity and compliance with its human rights obligations and also duties in combating terrorism and countering terrorism financing, in particular the state terrorism perpetrated by the United States and to ensure the international peace and security, imposes the sanctions as stipulated in the Act on the said persons on a reciprocal basis.

    The Islamic Republic of Iran underlines that the heinous terrorist act will not in any manner diminish the resolute determination and resolve of the Islamic Republic of Iran in following the path of the revered General Soleimani in fighting terrorism and terrorist groups, in particular, the US-backed terrorist groups.

    In the light of the above and taking into account the provisions of the “Act on Countering Violations of Human Rights and Adventurist and Terrorist Actions of the United States of America in the Region”, all relevant national authorities will take appropriate measures for effective implementation of the sanctions set forth in the Act.

    The freshly designated Americans are:

    Mark Alexander Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Robert Charles O’brien Jr., former national security advisor, Paul M. Nakasone, director of the National Security Agency [NSA] and commander of United States Cyber Command, Robert Greenway, former deputy assistant to the president and senior director for Middle Eastern and North African Affairs at the National Security Council, Victoria C. Gardner Coates, former deputy national security advisor, Matthew F. Pottinger, former deputy national security advisor, Joseph Keith Kellogg Jr., former national security advisor to the vice president, Frank Dixon Whitworth, director for Intelligence of the Joint Staff, Andrew P. Poppas, former director of operations of the Joint Staff, Kenneth Franklin McKenzie Jr., commander of the United States Central Command [CENTCOM], Richard Douglas Clarke, commander of the United States Special Operations Command [SOCOM], Scott Alan Howell, former commander of Joint Special Operations Command [JSOC], James C. Slife, commander of Air Force Special Operations Command [AFSOC], Joseph Thomas Guastella, former commander of United States Air Forces Central Command, David L. Goldfein, former chief of staff of the Air Force, Stephen R. Jones, Jason B.Bell, Andre T. Johnson, Kevin Auger, Jordan Smith, Abishai Giles, Landon Quan, Mark R. August, Bradley Chance Saltzman, Mark Holmes Slocum, Nathan Andrew Mead, Timothy Garland, Staci Coleman, Kurt A. Wendt, Alexus Gregory Grynkewich, Daniel H. Tulley, Rodney Lee Simpson, Allen Ray Henderson, Jason Colon, Brenden Endrina, Tayler Arbaugh, Ryan Kuhn, Jordan Cornelius, Korbin Steinwehr, Antonio Dorce, Charles Seth Corcoran, James Neal Blue, Linden Stanely Blue, Michael Anthony D’andrea, John M. Keane, Reuel Mark Gerecht, Andrew Croft, Nimarta Nikki Haley, John Michael Mulvaney, and Erik Dean Prince.

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