Archive for the ‘Iranian Revolutionary Guard’ category

Qassem Soleimani sends minion on odyssey from Iraq to the Lebanese-Israeli border

December 12, 2017

Qassem Soleimani sends minion on odyssey from Iraq to the Lebanese-Israeli border, DEBKAfile, December 12, 2017

It took Soleimani’s Iraqi minion and his heavily armed convoy a couple of days to cover 300km from Iraq to Beirut. This is exactly the distance Iranian and Hizballah forces cover on their way from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The tour that wound up Khazali’s trip took place on the south Lebanese road parallel to Israel’s northern border. That road is just 65km long. At several points on his itinerary from Iraq, he must have been sighted. It is hard to understand why no American force in Syria and no eyes along the Israeli-Lebanese border missed sighting his armored convoy and failed to take him out – and so cut short Tehran’s deadly, well-advanced conspiracy to unleash thousands of ferocious Iraqi Shiite militiamen against Israel.

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By reaching the Lebanese-Israeli border on Dec. 2, Iraqi Shiite militia chief Qais al-Khazali embodied the consummation of Iran’s open land bridge to the Mediterranean.

The mission that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleini entrusted to  Khazali and his militia, Asaib Ahl al-Haq (the League of Believers), embodies Iran’s success in gaining its great ambition of an overland corridor under its control through Iraq up to the Mediterranean coast. In line with that mission, the militia chief was guided along the Lebanese-Israeli border on Dec. 2, for a sight at close hand Israel’s border towns from Admit in the west to Metullah in the east. He needed this information in order to mark out the military positions he would assign to his Khalazi network at Tehran’s behest.

This event most of all highlighted American and Israeli inertia in letting Iran consummate its prime strategic goal of opening up new fronts against Israel from Lebanon and the Syrian Golan. They are to be manned not just by Hizballah, but by many thousands of battle-hardened Iraqi militiamen devoted to Tehran, as the Khazali odyssey has revealed.

DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources tracked his itinerary from the crossing into Syria from Iraq on Thursday, Nov. 30. His first stop was at Soleimani’s headquarters east of Abu Kamal. There, he conferred with the Al Qods chief and his operational staff, as well as with officers of his own militia who were fighting in Syria. They discussed ways and means of transferring 15,000 militiamen from Iraq to Lebanon via Syria for taking up deployment in southern Lebanon along the Israeli border.

On Dec. 1, when these matters were settled, Khazali set out for Damascus, escorted now by Hizballah in a heavily-armored convoy. There, he reported to the new headquarters set up by his militia in partnership with the Iraqi Kata’ib Hezbollah, the backbone of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU). It is commanded by Soleimani’s deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Our sources report that this headquarters was recently established in Damascus to coordinate the Syrian- based Shiite militias, including those imported from Pakistan and Afghanistan, for a concerted campaign against Israel.

Khazali’s convoy then drove west, crossed the Syrian border into Lebanon and drove on to Beirut for a meeting with Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah. The two terror chiefs ironed out all the details pertaining to the disposition of the Assaib Ahl al-Haq militia in southern Lebanon across from northern Israel’s Galilee. Our military sources report that that the militia chief was then taken on his tour by Hizballah for surveillance of Israeli military formations on the other side of the border, so as to arrange the positioning of his forces accordingly when they arrived in Lebanon.

The tour began at the Hizballah position facing Israel’s Admit, continued to Houla, west of which Hizballah has planted a position opposite Israel’s Manara ridge and the IDF post located there. His next stop was Kafr Kela, just one and a half kilometers from the northernmost Israeli town of Metula. From a nearby Hizballah position, he was able to view the Golan and Hermon slopes. The voice of a Hizballah officer could be heard on a video clip released in Iraq on the militia chief’s tour. He was saying: “This is Golan. It is nearly 10 kilometers from here.” Khazali then proceeded on foot with his escorts to the Fatima Gate on the Lebanese-Israeli border outside Metula.

It took Soleimani’s Iraqi minion and his heavily armed convoy a couple of days to cover 300km from Iraq to Beirut. This is exactly the distance Iranian and Hizballah forces cover on their way from Iraq to the Mediterranean. The tour that wound up Khazali’s trip took place on the south Lebanese road parallel to Israel’s northern border. That road is just 65km long. At several points on his itinerary from Iraq, he must have been sighted. It is hard to understand why no American force in Syria and no eyes along the Israeli-Lebanese border missed sighting his armored convoy and failed to take him out – and so cut short Tehran’s deadly, well-advanced conspiracy to unleash thousands of ferocious Iraqi Shiite militiamen against Israel.

Domestic unrest: Iran’s worst nightmare

November 23, 2017

Domestic unrest: Iran’s worst nightmare, American Thinker, Keyvan Salami, November 23, 2017

President Donald Trump has in the United Nations General Assembly and his October 13th Iran policy speech communicated solidarity with the Iranian population, describing them as the first victims of the regime’s atrocities.

“…we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people. The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders. The Iranian people long to — and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.”

As seen on a daily basis, the Iranian people are voicing their discontent and defiance of this regime, and especially Rouhani’s hollow promises. A repeat of the 2009 uprising is a nightmare from the ruling regime’s point of view.

It is time for the international community to take advantage of this great opportunity and support the Iranian people’s demands to establish a true government based on freedom, human rights, and democracy.

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The threats posed by Iran in the Middle East through its support for terrorism, extremism and Islamic fundamentalism are undeniable. Its continued backing of various militias has established for Tehran a so-called Shiite crescent across the region. Growing domestic unrest, especially after the recent quake that shook western Iran, is plaguing the regime and showing the international community Iran’s main chink in the armor.

This was also witnessed on October 29th as the regime launched a massive crackdown effort to prevent any gathering marking International Cyrus Day, in memory of an ancient Persian ruler known to be the author of the world’s first human rights charter.

Reports indicate that Iran deployed thousands of Revolutionary Guards (IRGC), Basij, and Intelligence Ministry members alongside hordes of plainclothes agents to prevent any possible gathering mirroring the 2016 scenario on this same day.

Iran also resorted to a media campaign inside the country and abroad, claiming to have quelled a plot by “foreign-based dissidents and currents opposing the establishment,” as explained in a leaflet distributed by state police warning against any rallies.

Further domestic unrest is witnessed in the growing number of protests by ordinary investors seeing their life savings in state-run institutes plundered. Protests are mushrooming in cities across the country, responded to by the regime with arrests and harsh measures against crowds whose numbers are growing with each rally.

The Iranian regime has usurped billions from ordinary people’s investments to fuel its wars across the region. After 38 years, this has left the Iranian populace suffering tremendously with no light at the end of the tunnel.

“The middle-class in Iran has been all but extinguished,” a report indicates, adding that a large majority of Iran’s 80-million populace currently lives in poverty. City walls across the country are being filled with offers of people willing to sell various body parts, such as kidneys for $2,000, to literally make ends meet.

Iran is also widely known for its practice of repressing ethnic and religious minorities, involving harsh persecution, cruel discrimination, and ongoing cultural and economic marginalization. Tehran’s regime also resorts to a higher level of human rights violations in issuing long prison terms, imposing torture, public hangings, and even mass executions.

Iran’s “moderate” Hassan Rouhani is known to have carried out over 3,100 executions during his tenure as the regime’s president.

Iran is forced to such measures, knowing clearly it lacks any social base. One such case was witnessed when Rouhani’s top diplomat Mohammad Javad Zarif tweeted about all Iranians being IRGC following the force’s blacklisting by Washington.

The response by Iranians mostly inside the country was a display of sheer defiance against the regime, and how people view the IRGC as an entity terrorizing not only nations throughout the Middle East, but also Iranians at home.

Developments across the globe in the past year or so have made Iranians realize times are changing. For eight years Iran’s regime fed off the engagement policy adopted by the Obama administration. This gave a green light to Tehran for domestic crackdowns and foreign meddling. While Obama turned his back on the Iranian people, especially during the 2009 uprisings, the U.S. administration under President Donald Trump has time and again voiced their support and solidarity with Iranian people.

On three different occasions, U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson has voiced the Iranian people’s desire for freedom.

“There are strong feelings and values inside of Iran that we want to promote in terms of one day the Iranian people being able to retake control of their government,” he said during his late October trip to India.

President Donald Trump has in the United Nations General Assembly and his October 13th Iran policy speech communicated solidarity with the Iranian population, describing them as the first victims of the regime’s atrocities.

“…we stand in total solidarity with the Iranian regime’s longest-suffering victims: its own people. The citizens of Iran have paid a heavy price for the violence and extremism of their leaders. The Iranian people long to — and they just are longing, to reclaim their country’s proud history, its culture, its civilization, its cooperation with its neighbors.”

As seen on a daily basis, the Iranian people are voicing their discontent and defiance of this regime, and especially Rouhani’s hollow promises. A repeat of the 2009 uprising is a nightmare from the ruling regime’s point of view.

It is time for the international community to take advantage of this great opportunity and support the Iranian people’s demands to establish a true government based on freedom, human rights, and democracy.

ISIS last stronghold in Syria Abu Kamal falls to Hizballah-Iraqi Shiite force

November 10, 2017

ISIS last stronghold in Syria Abu Kamal falls to Hizballah-Iraqi Shiite force, DEBKAfile, November 9, 2017

Since both Hizballah and the PMU were fighting under the same officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, their victory presented Tehran with full control over the central segment of the Syrian-Iraqi border. One of its prime strategic objectives in Syria has been to open up an overland bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean via Iraq.

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The Syrian town of Abu Kamal was captured from ISIS Thursday, Nov. 8, by a non-Syrian army – a combined Hizballah-Iraqi Shiite militia force fighting under Iranian command, DEBKAfile’s military sources report.

The last push into the fallen ISIS bastion was conducted by Hizballah units, which first crossed the Syrian border and headed east into Iraq to fight jihadist targets in the Iraqi province of Anbar.

Crossing in the opposite direction, from east to west into Syria, were the Iraqi Shiite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU). They joined Hizballah and together mopped up the last remnants of ISIS resistance in the Syrian-Iraqi border area (which bisects the Euphrates Valley).

Hizballah played the dominant role in this operation. A Syrian commander in the eastern sector praised Hizballah as “the foundation in the battle of Abu Kamal.” He also attested to the hundreds of elite troops of the Iran-backed Shiite group who took part in the battle.

While the commander hailed Syria’s victory over the Islamist terrorists, he refrained from spelling out the fact that the Lebanese Hizballah constitutes 80 percent of the fighting strength in the east. Our military sources report that this force consists of the Lebanese Shiite group’s Al-Amin Brigade and Radwan Elite Force.

Since both Hizballah and the PMU were fighting under the same officers of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, their victory presented Tehran with full control over the central segment of the Syrian-Iraqi border. One of its prime strategic objectives in Syria has been to open up an overland bridge from Iran to the Mediterranean via Iraq.

Israeli leaders, who declare tirelessly that Iran and its proxies will not be permitted to deepen their military grip on Syria, made no effort to thwart this achievement and have yet to respond.

Our military sources note that the Abu Kamal victory has placed the Hizballah terrorist organization’s feet on the Syrian-Iraqi border in the east as well as the Syrian-Lebanese border running through the Qalamun range in the west. (see map.) Hizballah now acts as doorkeeper on two of Syria’s borders.

The attached map also depicts how Iran and its Hizballah and Iraqi militias now stand foursquare along the central segment of the Syrian-Iraqi border

New US Policy Confronts Iranian Regime, Opening up New Opportunities for Change

November 4, 2017

New US Policy Confronts Iranian Regime, Opening up New Opportunities for Change, Iran News Update, November 4, 2017

It appears that the only options left with Iranian authorities are confronting, retreating, or buying time until the end of the Trump presidency. Still, the regime must face the other factors at work against it, like the social disaffection within Iran towards the regime, and the recognition of the main opposition movements — the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) — by US and its allies in the region.

There is now an opportunity, with the current international situation, for the Iranian people and its main opposition movement (NCRI and PMOI), as well as for the people of Middle East and the whole world, for these factors that can lead to regime change and put an end to Iran’s destabilization activities in the Middle East.

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INU – Saudi Arabia and Egypt, important countries in the region, concerned about the destabilizing activities of the Iranian regime in the Arab world, have strongly welcomed the October 13th announcement by US President Trump his regarding his new policy against the destabilizing behavior of Iran in the Middle East, particularly its missile activities. The new policy emphasized making the Middl#$e East a region without weapons of mass destruction.

The Iranian opposition movement and its President-elect, Maryam Rajavi, is leading a campaign to isolate the regime in Tehran. It welcomes the new White House strategy that delegitimizes the Iranian regime. Rajavi called on Trump and the international community to work toward “the ultimate solution”, regime overthrow and the establishment of freedom and democracy in Iran.

By refusing to give approval to the nuclear deal, and designating the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on the list of terrorist organizations, the new US policy is targeting at the heart of the Iranian regime. According to the Washington Post the strategy marks an important change in US policy on the Middle East: a shift from focusing on war against ISIS and towards the end of Iran’s expansionism in the region.

The steps taken by the White House to carry out this policy include the visit by US Secretary of State to Saudi Arabia and other countries in the region, imposition of sanctions on Hezbollah for being the military wing of IRGC in Lebanon, and sanctions on companies, financial institutions and individuals related to the regime’s ballistic missiles programs.

According to F. Mahmoudi, Kurdish-Iranian political and human rights activist, in his Al Arabiya article, “Therefore, there is no reason for any objection by European countries to the new White House policy. European states are only thinking of securing their financial and economic interests with Iran, as not only the political and military power of the Iranian regime but also economic control lie in the hands of the IRGC.”

Sanctions against the Iranian regime, IRGC and Hezbollah will put European companies and banks in serious danger if they deal with this regime and its affiliates.

Additionally, the sanctions and the terrorist designation of IRGC have put Hasan Rouhani, who earlier presented himself to the West as a moderate, in a position of fully supporting the IRGC.

Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, reacting to the new US strategy, defended the IRGC’s presence in Iraq, Syria and Yemen and asked Europeans to stand strongly against Trump’s policy. However, it is believed that Europe will eventually choose the US instead of Iran and it will not sacrifice billion of dollars in trade benefits with the US. Additionally, Europe cannot accept the risk of Trump’s threat of leaving NATO.

It appears that the only options left with Iranian authorities are confronting, retreating, or buying time until the end of the Trump presidency. Still, the regime must face the other factors at work against it, like the social disaffection within Iran towards the regime, and the recognition of the main opposition movements — the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) and People’s Mujahideen of Iran (PMOI) — by US and its allies in the region.

There is now an opportunity, with the current international situation, for the Iranian people and its main opposition movement (NCRI and PMOI), as well as for the people of Middle East and the whole world, for these factors that can lead to regime change and put an end to Iran’s destabilization activities in the Middle East.

Newt Gingrich: State Dept. Has Listened to Iran More Than to ‘The Resistance’

October 24, 2017

Newt Gingrich: State Dept. Has Listened to Iran More Than to ‘The Resistance’, BreitbartPenny Starr, October 23, 2017

Paul Morigi/Getty Images for Dentons

Gingrich detailed the Iran’s aspirations in a chilling laundry list:

You have a repressive dictatorship which projects power now all the way to the Mediterranean, has plans to build a port in Lebanon that it would control, has plans to build missile factories in both Syria and Lebanon, ultimately designed to destroy Israel, already has helped Hezbollah get something on the order of 75,000 to 100,000 missiles, creating I think a much bigger problem on the northern front for Israel than anybody has come to grips with yet.

“And it’s all going to get worse,” he added.

Gingrich also praised President Donald Trump on his decision to decertify the JCPOA nuclear deal, calling it “just about exactly the right path” and said that the president’s public remarks about Iran have been bold.

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WASHINGTON, DC – Former House Speaker Newt Gingrich (R-GA) spoke to the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) on Friday about the danger posed by Iran and accused the U.S. State Department of listening to that dictatorship more than to those who seek a free and democratic Iran.

Gingrich said he has lobbied for the Iranian resistance movement in the U.S. and the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) since he was the top Republican in the House.

Gingrich said:

Because basically the Iranian dictatorship ran a false flag operation to set up a totally phony designation, which the State Department and bureaucracy went along with, so for a long period of time we were willing to listen to the actual dictatorship while not listening to the resistance, even though the resistance was trying to tell us the truth about the dictatorship, which was lying to us.

Gingrich acknowledged that Iranians have suffered in exile in Iraq at Camp Liberty and Camp Ashraf where thousands of members and sympathizers of MEK have been living for the past 25 years:

In my experience, the elements of the National Council of Resistance of Iran who are still inside Iran — and there are thousands of people who are obviously highly quiet about this otherwise they would be picked up by the secret police and killed — but they have been the best source of information on the nuclear program consistently, and have found things when the CIA has been telling us they didn’t exist.

Gingrich said, “And I hope that this administration will now be part of this process of beginning to unravel both the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps  (IRGC) and then, ultimately, the dictatorship.”

That unraveling should include the U.S. designating the IRGC a terrorist organization, which would have a direct impact on the Iranian economy, according to Gingrich.

Gingrich said in his remarks that the extent of the danger posed by Iran cannot be understated.

“As long as that dictatorship is in power, as long as it’s able to spend money, as long as it is able to project terrorism around the world, it is ultimately a mortal danger to the United States,” Gingrich said. “And of course, it was a terrible thing for the Iranian people.”

“A dictatorship which, in 1988, killed 30,000 people, something which for some reason The New York Times and The Washington Post don’t find to be horrifying,” Gingrich said.

Gingrich detailed the Iran’s aspirations in a chilling laundry list:

You have a repressive dictatorship which projects power now all the way to the Mediterranean, has plans to build a port in Lebanon that it would control, has plans to build missile factories in both Syria and Lebanon, ultimately designed to destroy Israel, already has helped Hezbollah get something on the order of 75,000 to 100,000 missiles, creating I think a much bigger problem on the northern front for Israel than anybody has come to grips with yet.

“And it’s all going to get worse,” he added.

Gingrich also praised President Donald Trump on his decision to decertify the JCPOAnuclear deal, calling it “just about exactly the right path” and said that the president’s public remarks about Iran have been bold.

That includes Trump’s speech to the United Nations, which Gingrich said was “probably the strongest condemnation of Iran, of the Iranian dictatorship, ever uttered in the United Nations.”

Maryam Rajavi, president-elect of NCRI, has welcomed the new U.S. policy to “condemn the IRGC’s gross violations of human rights” in Iran and “to deny the Iranian regime and especially the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) funding for its malign activities, and oppose IRGC activities that extort the wealth of the Iranian people.”

She said acknowledgment that supreme leader Ali Khamenei “oppresses its people, abuses their rights,” and “exports violence, destabilizes its neighbors, and sponsors terrorism abroad,” is a recognition of the illegitimacy of the Iranian regime.

The event was sponsored by the Organization of Iranian American Communities in the U.S.

Iran has given US ‘slap in the face’ with Kirkuk: expert

October 19, 2017

Iran has given US ‘slap in the face’ with Kirkuk: expert, RudawRebaz Ali, October 17, 2017

Iran has delivered the US a “slap in the face” by backing Hashd al-Shaabi’s march on Kirkuk within just 60 hours of US President Donald Trump’s speech, says Michael Pregent.

Speaking to Rudaw’s Rebaz Ali on Monday as events were unfurling in Kirkuk, Pregent expressed frustration over Washington’s stance on the Kurds, believing Washington is too close to the ruling Dawa party of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and former prime minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Answering questions from the media later in the day, Trump refused to take sides, simply stating “We don’t like the fact that they’re clashing. We’re not taking sides, but we don’t like the fact that their clashing.”

A Middle East analyst, Pregent is a former intelligence officer for the US Departments of Defense and State. He embedded as an advisor to the Peshmerga in Mosul in 2005-2006

Rudaw: Why is the US so silent on the situation happening in Kirkuk and Hashd al-Shaabi using American weapons against Peshmerga?

Michael Pregent: We’re surprised. We issued an order, not an order but a warning to Baghdad not to use military force against Kurdish positions in and around Kirkuk. Secretary Mattis said that, the president gave a very strong speech on Friday designating the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a terrorist organization and the Hashd al-Shaabi are commanded by IRGC affiliates, Revolutionary Guard Corps affiliates. We pay money to the Iraqi Ministry of Interior and they’re shifting American resources and equipment to these Iranian-led militias. We had a statement today that the Baghdad spokesman said Qassem Soleimani is an advisor to the Hashd al-Shaabi.

We are watching. I know we’re watching. The DoD (Department of Defense) is aware, the Pentagon’s aware and we’re going to see the results tomorrow morning in DC of what happened in the last six hours and through the night. We’re likely to see that this is exactly what the United States cannot allow. But more importantly, this just shows that we’re losing leverage with Baghdad. If you warn Baghdad and they do it anyway, it’s because Tehran is telling them to do it and they are okay with it, they agree. But this is an opportunity now for the United States, especially after the president’s speech, where he was very tough on Iran, to do something because this is testing American resolve by a Qassem Soleimani-led force moving against our allies, allies we’ve had since the Gulf War, even before that, moving against our allies less than 60 hours after the president designated them a terrorist group*.

So tomorrow, Washington DC will wake up and see what happens and everybody hopefully holds their positions tonight, the Iraqi security forces stop, the Hashd al-Shaabi are declared an illegal military, an illegal militia and moved out. But tomorrow, veterans of the Iraq war, myself and others, veterans in Congress that I speak to will be making our voices as loud as we can for the US to do something. This is, as an American who fought with the Peshmerga, to see this is… uh… I don’t have any words. So, we’ll see what happens tomorrow.

We just saw a statement from the Pentagon asking both sides to be calm and to restrain from using violence, but in fact, it’s the Hashd al-Shaabi who started attacking the Peshmerga and they started the violence that the Pentagon is talking about. What do you think about that?

Well, I saw the statement and the language I didn’t like was ‘we urge both sides to stop, yet we still condemn the Kurdish referendum’. That language actually gives Tehran, Baghdad, and Ankara a green light to do these types of actions. The United States needs to have a strong statement. The vote was a democratic vote. The vote was not an illegal vote. It should not be met with force. It should not be met with violence. I don’t believe that that was crafted by Mattis. I believe it was crafted by the DoD communications department, because the language is not Mattis-like. The language is very Brett McGurk-like… and [it’s a problem].

So people like yourself, the veterans, how do you think they’re going to respond to this? You fought against this in Iraq for years and now you see this happening. This must be frustrating for you and people like yourself. What do you think you need to do? 

Well, the thing we’ve been fighting for for two years is the designation of the Revolutionary Guard corps as a terrorist organization and the decertification of the Iran deal. We got that Friday. That needs to mean something. Our Sunni regional allies heard the president’s message. It was very strong. This should restore confidence in our regional allies.

Pillar number one is to neutralize the Revolutionary Guard Corps’ destabilizing activities across the region. The Kirkuk operation is a destabilizing activity. You can’t give a tough speech and then allow Iran less than 60 hours later to move against an ally. So I would hope that veterans are upset as well, civilians alike.

The Kurdish people are built for western democracy support. They’re built for democratic support. They’re tolerant, they’re accepting, and I find it ironic that the United Nations and other non-government organizations choose to operate out of Kurdistan in order to help Iraqis throughout. When there’s instability in Baghdad, when ISIS invaded Iraq, people go to Kurdistan. Why do they go to Kurdistan? Because it’s an accepting region, it takes care of its own security. It’s an ally of the West. There’s problems, yes, but let’s talk about the problems. We don’t use military action to solve them.

We saw the speech by the president on Iran, but now we see that Qassem Soleimani has been going around in Iraq, meeting with the prime minister and ordering the Hashd al-Shaabi and other militias against the Kurdish Peshmerga, as you said, less than 60 hours after the president’s speech. What does that say about the US involvement in Iraq? Do you think after this or tomorrow, are we going to see less support for the government of Iraq and Prime Minister Abadi from the US government, after what they have seen in the last couple of days, the Iraqis dealing with Qassem Soleimani and the IRGC?

Well, this shows the president that the Iranians didn’t take him seriously. They heard the speech and they’re scoffing at it. This is a slap in the face to a US president by conducting these types of activities after this speech.

Baghdad is part of this, so Baghdad is doing the same thing. I don’t know what’s going on behind closed doors, but I do know that Secretary Mattis issued a statement and Abadi promised the United States he would not conduct an offensive operation against the Kurds. That operation is ongoing now. I truly believe that even if Abadi didn’t want to do it, the Iranians could still make this happen. The Quds force commander on the ground, I don’t know his name, but he actually told KDP officials and PUK officials, “Listen, either work with us or we can bring the whole Iraqi army here.”

So this is an Iranian commander telling Kurdish political parties that we can tell the Iraqi army what to do, we can tell the Iraqi government what to do. And I think that everybody believes that, because we’re seeing it. We’re witnessing it.

So you said this is a slap in the face for President Trump. How do you think President Trump would react to this slap in the face? Do you think that he’s going to accept it?

I don’t think President Trump knows he’s been slapped in the face. The president needs to know who the Kurds are. The president needs to know that the Kurds have been our strongest US ally in Iraq. That the Kurds have helped us fight ISIS, they helped us decimate al-Qaeda. They’ve protected Sunnis, Christians, Shiite nationalists from reprisal attacks from Shia militias as civilians fled to Kurdistan after the violence in Baghdad in 2005-06.

I was actually in Duhok and a family came up to me and said, ‘We can’t talk to you in Baghdad, and thank you, because we’ll get targeted, but thank you for being here.’ I didn’t know who they were. I said ‘Where are you from?’ They said, ‘We’re from Sadr city.’ So that means something.

But I think the president needs to know who the Kurds are and I don’t think he does. [Secretary James] Mattis does, H.R. McMaster does, I don’t think [Rex] Tillerson does. And I think Brett McGurk knows exactly who the Kurds are, but he’s already picked sides. And that’s not coming from me necessarily. That’s coming from everybody I’ve talked to on the ground in Iraq, from Sunni nationalists, Kurdish nationalists, Shiite nationalists, they say the biggest problem is the US government is listening more to the Dawa party than they are to anybody else in Iraq.

What’s happening now is all going on in front of the US government’s eyes. They see how Prime Minister Abadi and the government of Iraq have been declining calls for negotiation from the KRG in order to avoid violence. There has been a blockade, international flights have been banned. And the KRG have been trying to do everything to start negotiations in order to avoid violence, but Prime Minister Abadi and the government in Iraq have declined that. What do you think the United States should do? Why have they been so silent against this?

I think the biggest problem is we’ve given the Iraq portfolio to a man from the Department of State – to Brett McGurk. Now Brett McGurk told DC, Baghdad, Tehran, and Ankara that he could stop the Kurdish people from voting, that the US had enough leverage with the Kurds to get them to stop. Last night, he probably told DC that he had enough leverage with Baghdad to get Baghdad to stop, to not go into Kirkuk. Either that, or he’s signaled some sort of green light.

I’m frustrated by this, because this does not bode well for the relationships we’ve established with Kurds. The Peshmerga that I know, I’ve known for almost 12 years now, and I don’t ever want to put a time limit on a friendship or an alliance. And I think this is a moment where the United States… you know we got the strong statement on Iran, we got a designation of the IRGC, we’re talking about their destabilizing activities. This is what it looks like less than 60 hours after the speech. This is a provocation. This is a slap in the face.

How do you envision the future relationship between the US and the Kurdish government after what’s happening now? A lot of people believe that they have been betrayed by the US government.

Well if this continues and Baghdad conducts a military operation like they have against ISIS-held territory, if you start seeing mortars and artillery like we’re seeing tonight in – what’s the name of the city?

Tuz.

Yes. We’re seeing that now. I would hope that this gets taken care of tomorrow, that this stops. But our relationship with Kurdistan – basically, every US soldier that has ever worked with a Peshmerga is now looking to our US government, saying ‘Don’t do this to this ally of ours, you can’t do it.’ I don’t even have the words for this.

* On Friday, President Trump authorized sanctions on the IRGC for its support of terrorism, but stopped short of designating the force a terror organization.

Iran Plays Chess, We Play Checkers

October 17, 2017

Iran Plays Chess, We Play Checkers, FrontPage MagazineKenneth R. Timmerman, October 17, 2017

I am not dissing the new Iran strategy the President rolled out on Friday, far from it. My Iranian dissident friends drew much encouragement from the President’s willingness to take an all fronts approach against the Iranian regime, not just focus on its nuclear weapons program. The fact that he mentioned the regime’s dreadful record of human rights abuses and political repression was significant.

But does it really mean the U.S. is finally ready to provide material support to a pro-freedom coalition in Iran to spark a popular uprising against the regime?

Don’t hold your breath. The Deep State would never abide by it.

Barzani himself has made bad moves. He has recklessly endangered his Queen (Kirkuk), while not defending his King (Erbil). And while doing so, he has tweaked the nose of his only committed ally, the United States, and alienated his local rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3.

Barzani appears to have realized he has overstepped with his ill-timed and poorly-prepared referendum, and has agreed to cede the K-1 airbase and other positions south of Kirkuk to Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces south of Kirkuk.

It’s time for the United States to face facts and recognize that an independent, united Iraq ceased to exist several years ago, and that the only way for us to check Iranian domination of the region is to support a united, independent and democratic Kurdistan, with U.S. military bases in Kirkuk and Erbil.

To get there will require a great deal of hands-on diplomacy, because Barzani has shown himself to be reckless, unreliable and undemocratic. We need to working the ground, aligning the players.

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And the Kurds pay the price for our mistakes.

The Iranian-backed attack in Iraqi Kurdistan is nothing short of disastrous for the United States, for U.S. interests and U.S. allies in the region, and for American prestige.

It’s a hockey-style power play by Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander Qassem Suleymani, and a direct challenge to President Trump, coming just hours after the President announced a new get tough policy on Iran.

A U.S. ally in Baghdad is attacking another U.S. ally in Kurdistan using U.S. weapons, including M1-A2 Abrams tanks, paid for with U.S. taxpayer dollars. And they are doing so under the watchful eyes of U.S. and coalition drones and fighter jets, which continue to control the skies over Iraq.

How in the world did we get here?

Even Democrats should be ready to admit by now that the American withdrawal from the Middle East under Obama and the Iran nuclear deal have emboldened the Iranian regime, while removing much of the hard-won leverage over Iran that sanctions had won for us.

Today, if we want to get tough on Iran, we can no longer call on our European allies to shut down Iran’s access to the international financial system. We can no longer impose gargantuan fines on a French or a German bank to punish them for violating those sanctions and to deter them from doing it again.

Today, our main leverage over Iran is military. We can bomb their forces in Iraq. We can intercept their ships. Eventually, we could take out their nuclear weapons production facilities.

If that sounds an awful lot like war, it’s because it is.

As Thomas Jefferson reportedly said in relation to the Barbary Pirates, an earlier jihadi Muslim confederacy that declared war on America: sanctions are the only option between appeasement and war. Obama just removed sanctions. QED.

But the Trump administration is not without blame.

The President instructed his national security team to take a fresh look at our overall strategy toward the Islamic State of Iran early in his presidency. To show how serious the administration was, national security advisor Michael Flynn “put Iran on notice” in an on-record briefing on Feb. 1.

And then, something happened. Rather than continue the “get tough” policy by decertifying the Iran nuclear deal, imposing new sanctions and other measures as Flynn was recommending, the President fired Flynn and other hard-line advisors, and everything turned to mush.

I am not dissing the new Iran strategy the President rolled out on Friday, far from it. My Iranian dissident friends drew much encouragement from the President’s willingness to take an all fronts approach against the Iranian regime, not just focus on its nuclear weapons program. The fact that he mentioned the regime’s dreadful record of human rights abuses and political repression was significant.

But does it really mean the U.S. is finally ready to provide material support to a pro-freedom coalition in Iran to spark a popular uprising against the regime?

Don’t hold your breath. The Deep State would never abide by it.

But Qassem Suleymani wasn’t going to wait to find out. Perhaps assuming – correctly – that the U.S. President was leaning out over his skis, he decided to act decisively to test the President’s resolve.

Want to get tough on the Iranian regime, Mr. President? Then bomb the Iranian-backed militias attacking our Kurdish allies in Northern Iraq and send U.S. special forces to capture Maj. Gen. Qassem Suleymani, a war criminal who has the blood of more than a thousand U.S. soldiers on his hands. (Watch a video of how Iran killed our soldiers in Iraq here).

Because that’s what Suleymani is daring you to do. And he’s betting, you won’t lift a finger to help the Kurds or to threaten him in any way.

In Middle East parlance, that makes Suleymani – not Donald Trump – the strong horse, the one to be feared and respected.

To be fair to Suleymani, he has been advancing his pieces like a brilliant chess player, springing his trap on us at precisely the moment when it would cause us the most damage.

First, in 2014 as ISIS was preparing its assault on Mosul and the Assyrian Christian and Kurdish regions of Northern Iraq, he instructed his puppet, then Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, to order the Iraqi army to withdraw from Mosul ahead of the ISIS advance.

That left Mosul defenseless and accounts for why ISIS was able to take over the city in a matter of hours without a fight.

Maliki fled briefly to Iran after his role in the abandon of Mosul was revealed in the Iraqi media, and was soon replaced by Qassem Suleymani’s new front man, Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi.

Same puppet-master, new puppet.

Next, he recruited 100,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters into the Hasht-e Shahbi militia, known in English as the Popular Mobilization Units, or PMU. They might be Iraqis, but they are owned by Qassem Suleymani and his Quds Force.

When the U.S. decided to rearm the Iraqi military to join the fight against ISIS, Suleymani positioned PMU units to fill the vacuum when ISIS left.

As I learned in July while on a reporting mission to northern Iraq, the PMU faced off with the Kurdish peshmerga all across the Nineveh Plain and was already threatening to confront them in Kirkuk.

As the U.S.-backed Iraqi army drove ISIS out of Iraq, Suleymani’s PMU raced to the border with Syria, opening a land bridge for Iran into Syria and Lebanon, putting Iran on Israel’s northern border directly for the first time.

Today, Suleymani and his strategy ally, Turkish president Erdogan, want to jerk the leash of Iraqi Kurdish president Massoud Barzani to make him realize who really calls the shots in the region.

Guess what: for all of Donald Trump’s welcome bravoura, it’s not the United States.

One immediate goal both the Turks and Iranians share is to eliminate safe havens in Iraqi Kurdistan for the PKK and PJAK, Turkish and Iranian Kurdish dissident groups. Both have reiterated that demand in recent days.

Beyond that, they want to make Barzani kneel as a vassal to his suzerain, and abandon all hopes for Kurdish independence. That can only happen if the United States drops its support for the KRG.

Barzani himself has made bad moves. He has recklessly endangered his Queen (Kirkuk), while not defending his King (Erbil). And while doing so, he has tweaked the nose of his only committed ally, the United States, and alienated his local rivals, the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan of former Iraqi president, Jalal Talabani, who died on October 3.

Barzani appears to have realized he has overstepped with his ill-timed and poorly-prepared referendum, and has agreed to cede the K-1 airbase and other positions south of Kirkuk to Iranian-backed Iraqi government forces south of Kirkuk.

So far, the Pentagon is pretending that nothing is happening, just a bit of maneuvering among friends.

This is not just embarrassing, it is dangerous, wrong-headed, and will lead to total disaster. We’ve already lost Iraq, thanks to Obama’s withdrawal in 2011. Now we are about to lose the last ally on the ground that we have, the Kurds.

It’s time for the United States to face facts and recognize that an independent, united Iraq ceased to exist several years ago, and that the only way for us to check Iranian domination of the region is to support a united, independent and democratic Kurdistan, with U.S. military bases in Kirkuk and Erbil.

To get there will require a great deal of hands-on diplomacy, because Barzani has shown himself to be reckless, unreliable and undemocratic. We need to working the ground, aligning the players.

We need to be playing chess, not checkers.