Posted tagged ‘Iran in Iraq’

Tehran’s New Scheme for Iraq

July 31, 2017

Tehran’s New Scheme for Iraq, Gatestone InstituteAmir Taheri, July 31, 2017

The apparent de-sectarianization of pro-Iran Shiite parties will make it difficult for Allawi and other genuinely non-sectarian Shiite politicians, who are hostile to Iranian influence in Baghdad, to appeal to the Shiite majority on the basis of citizenship and “uruqah“.

The new “de-sectarianization” gambit will also put pressure on Kurdish parties at a time some of them are campaigning for an “independence” referendum. It would be more difficult to sell the idea of an “independent” mini-state of Kurdistan to international public opinion at a time that Iraq is seen to be moving towards a non-religious democratic and pluralist political system.


In his visit to Moscow last week, Iraqi Vice President Nuri Al-Maliki peddled what he presented as his big idea: inviting Russia to build “a significant presence” in Iraq to counter-balance that of the United States.

Since Maliki is reputed to be Tehran’s candidate as the next Iraqi Prime Minister his “invitation” to Russia cannot be dismissed as a mere personal whim.

Russian President Vladimir Putin greets Iraqi Vice President Nuri Al-Maliki in Moscow, on July 25, 2017. (Image source:

With ISIS driven out of Mosul and, hopefully, soon to be driven other pockets of territory it still controls in Iraq, the decks are being cleared for the forthcoming general election that would decide the shape of the next government in Baghdad. Fancying itself as the “big winner” in Iraq, Iran’s leadership is working on a strategy to make that fancy a reality.

That strategy has three key elements.

The first is to create a new, supposedly “liberal” and “non-sectarian” Shi’ite coalition to dominate the next parliament and, through that, the next government in Baghdad. That requires a reshuffling of political cards and the discarding of some old outfits.

In an editorial last Tuesday, the Islamic Republic of Iran’s official news agency, IRNA, argued that “old formations” that had come into being during the struggle against Saddam Hussein and the subsequent post-liberation crisis were no longer capable of dealing with “new realities in Iraq.”

It was on the basis of that analysis that Ammar al-Hakim, a leading politician-cum-cleric announced his separation from the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq and the formation of a new party named “National Wisdom Movement” (Tayar al-Hikmah al-Watani).

Hakim, who hails from an old and respected dynasty of clerics originally from Shiraz, argues that time has come to “break barriers of sects and ethnicities” in favor of the concept of “citizenship”. Thus he comes close to advocating the concept of “uruqah” (Iraqi-ness) that has long been a theme of such Iraqi Shiite politicians as Ayyad Allawi and Adel Abdul-Mahdi.

Sources in Tehran expect the “new model” to be adopted by other Shiite parties and groups. Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi is reportedly studying the creating of a new “secular” formation away from his original political home in the Ad-Da’awah (“The Call”) Party, which has always been a clearly sectarian formation.

Talks are already under way for the merger of Abadi’s support base with the Sadrist Movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr, scion of another distinguished clerical dynasty originally from Mahallat, southwest of Tehran. According to unconfirmed reports the new Abadi-Sadr coalition will be called “Freedom and Reconstruction”, a clearly non-sectarian identity.

Tehran’s hope is that Maliki will transform his wing of the Ad-Dawah into yet another “non-sectarian” outfit to support his bid for premiership, presumably with support from Hakim.

The apparent de-sectarianization of pro-Iran Shiite parties will make it difficult for Allawi and other genuinely non-sectarian Shiite politicians, who are hostile to Iranian influence in Baghdad, to appeal to the Shiite majority on the basis of citizenship and “uruqah“.

The new “de-sectarianization” gambit will also put pressure on Kurdish parties at a time some of them are campaigning for an “independence” referendum. It would be more difficult to sell the idea of an “independent” mini-state of Kurdistan to international public opinion at a time that Iraq is seen to be moving towards a non-religious democratic and pluralist political system.

The gambit will also make it more difficult for Arab Sunni sectarians to garner support in the name of resisting a Shiite sectarian takeover of government in Baghdad. Salim al-Juburi, a leading Arab Sunni politician and Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, is reportedly moving towards the creation of a non-sectarian party of his own.

The second element of the Iranian strategy is to almost oblige the clerical authority in Najaf (Marja’iyah) to endorse, even reluctantly, a Shiite political leadership clearly committed to Iran. Tehran knows that no government in Baghdad would have a chance of success without at least tacit blessing from Grand Ayatollah Ai-Muhammad Sistani.

Sistani has consistently refused to play the sectarian card and has advised politicians of all shades to think in terms of national rather than religious considerations. Thus, Tehran’s decision to “de-sectarianize” the Iraqi parties it supports will be a concession to Sistani.

Tehran is offering yet another concession to Sistani by abandoning its campaign to influence the Grand Ayatollah’s succession. The initial Iranian candidate for succession, Ayatollah Mahmoud Shahrudi, a former senior official of the Islamic Republic, has been quietly cast aside and is reported to be in declining health.

Without formally saying so, Iran now admits that the issue of Sistani’s succession must be sorted out by the “howzah” (seminary) in Najaf possibly with some input from Qom and certainly not through diktat from Tehran.

The third element of the strategy is to draw Russia into Iraq as a façade for Iranian influence.

Iranian leaders know that the vast majority of Iraqis resent the emergence of Iran as arbiter of their destiny. Russia, however, is seen as remote enough not to pose a direct threat to the internal balance of power in Iraq. Yet, because Russia has no local support base in Iraq, it would have to rely on Iranian guidance and goodwill to play a leading role there.

A new Baghdad government composed of “non-sectarian” Shiite leaders, promising a better deal for Arab Sunnis and Kurds, and backed by Russia, will be a better cover for the spread and consolidation of Iranian influence in Iraq.

There is, of course, no guarantee that the new Iranian strategy will work. Many Iraqis, including some among those reputedly close to Iran, believe that Iraq itself can and must aspire after becoming a major player in the Middle East rather than playing Sancho Panza to the “Supreme Guide” in Tehran.

Iraqi leaders also see no logic in turning the United States and Arab states into enemies just to suit Tehran’s doomed empire-building project, especially at a time that the Islamic Republic seems to be heading for the choppy waters of Ayatollah Khamenei’s succession.


The best laid schemes o’ mice an’ men
Often go awry
And leave us nought but grief and pain,
For promised joy.

Amir Taheri, formerly editor of Iran’s premier newspaper, Kayhan, before the Iranian revolution of 1979, is a prominent author based on Europe. He is the Chairman of Gatestone Europe.

This article first appeared in Asharq Al Awsat and is reprinted here with the kind permission of the author.

Get to Know Iran’s Terrorist ‘Ambassador’ to Iraq

January 25, 2017

Get to Know Iran’s Terrorist ‘Ambassador’ to Iraq, Clarion Project, Shahriar Kia, January 25, 2017

(Please see also The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Has Become More Influential and Powerful. — DM)

iran-revolutionary-guards-atta-kenare-afp-getty-with-ira-masjed-640-320iIranian Revolutionary Guards. (Photo: © ATTA KENARE/AFP/Getty Images). Inset: Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi (Photo: Twitter)

In contrast to international political norms, Iran’s embassy in Iraq is not under foreign ministry authority. The IRGC enjoys complete hegemony over this diplomatic post.

Iran’s new ambassador appointment in Iraq provides a clear insight into the terrorist nature of the mullahs’ intentions, and Tehran’s specific objectives of continuing a policy of lethal meddling in Iraq — while using the country as a springboard for further intervention in Syria and beyond.

This is a challenge the new U.S. administration and Congress should meet with a firm policy calling to end Iran’s destructive role in the Middle East.


Iran’s new ambassador to Iraq is part of a terrorist network, an advisor of the notorious Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) Quds Force. Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi replaces Hassan Danaii Far, himself a senior IRGC member.

“The Iranian embassy in Baghdad is considered a strategic post outside the country and the ambassador is a highly important figure,” notes the state-run Asre Iran daily.

Masjedi is often quoted by Iran’s media as a senior advisor to the terrorist Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, also sanctioned by the West and under a travel ban.

According to the Saudi news site Al Arabiya, “The Revolutionary Guards considers the Iranian embassy in Baghdad of strategic importance within the states that are subject to Iranian influence.

“Since the fall of the former Iraqi regime in 2003, all the ambassadors of Iran to Iraq were members of the Revolutionary Guards.”

In contrast to international political norms, Iran’s embassy in Iraq is not under foreign ministry authority. The IRGC enjoys complete hegemony over this diplomatic post.

Far’s specific mission in Iraq was literally to purge all members of the Iranian opposition, the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK), through attacks launched by the Quds Force and affiliated Iraqi proxy groups. The MEK was able to resettle all its members to Europe (which is a different discussion).

Masjedi has a dark record of playing a major role in suppressing the Iraqi people and specifically leading genocidal attacks targeting locals of Diyala Province, a melting pot bordering Iran where Sunnis, Shiites, Kurds and others used to live in peace prior to Iran’s covert occupation of Iraq from 2003 onward.

The highly-respected, Saudi-founded pan-Arab news outlet Asharq Al-Awsat writes, “…commanders of the Quds Force who supervise the Shi’ite militia leadership in Iraq are Brigadier Generals Mohammed Shahlaei, Mojtaba Abtahi, Iraj Masjedi and Ahmad Forouzandeh, who are all directly supervised by the Quds Forces Commander Qasem Soleimani.”

Masjedi is a loathed figure in Iraq for his efforts to completely restructure the province’s social fabric. He is known for his remarks justifying Iran’s military presence in Iraq.

“The enemy charged towards Iraqi cities and reached Samara and Karbala, and near Iran’s borders in Diyala. And you expect us to remain silent?” he said.

“We must strategically deepen our struggle,” Masjedi explained on January 31t, 2015, shedding light into the dangerous mentality of an individual now appointed as Iran’s top diplomat in Iraq.

This statement is significant when taken together with the fact that Iran remains designated as the leading state sponsor of terrorism and has taken advantage of the Obama administration’s failed policy of delivering Mesopotamia on a silver platter to Tehran’s mullahs.

The IRGC has stationed around 7,000 armed Quds Force-affiliated elements in various cities across Iraq.

Masjedi strongly agrees with senior Iranian officials who underscore the necessity for Iran to support Syrian dictator Bashar Assad and send troops and Shiite militias to the Levant.

“War in that region [i.e., Syria] is in ways providing security for [Iran],” he said.

The people of Aleppo and Diyala have no doubts about the active role that Iran, the IRGC and the Quds Force are playing in the region.

Masjedi is also known for his comments regarding the battle for the city of Fallujah, a former Islamic State stronghold west of Baghdad, emphasizing, “The involvement of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards in the battle of Fallujah was in order to preserve Iran’s status as a Shiite center in the world. We are defending Iran and its borders.”

“The next step of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps was been the formation of the massive Basij [mobilization] force that is faithful and a friend of Islamic Iran, such as the Iraqi Hashd al Shabi [PMF], which has been established as a powerful army with our organizing and our experience in the Sacred Defense [Iran-Iraq War],” Masjedi said according to a Long War Journal report.

“Many of the militias that are part of the PMF remain hostile to the United States, and some have threatened to attack U.S. interests in the region. One of the more influential militias within the PMF, Hezbollah Brigades, is listed as a Foreign Terrorist Organization. Several influential PMF leaders, including the operational leader of the PMF, are listed by the U.S. as global terrorists,” the LWJ report adds.

Iran’s new ambassador appointment in Iraq provides a clear insight into the terrorist nature of the mullahs’ intentions, and Tehran’s specific objectives of continuing a policy of lethal meddling in Iraq — while using the country as a springboard for further intervention in Syria and beyond.

This is a challenge the new U.S. administration and Congress should meet with a firm policy calling to end Iran’s destructive role in the Middle East.

“The regime in Tehran is the source of the crisis in the region and killings in Syria; it has played the greatest role in the expansion and continuation of ISIS. Peace and tranquility in the region can only be achieved by evicting this regime from the region,”said Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi, President of the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI).

Pro-Iranian Shiites ready to lead Mosul operation

October 28, 2016

Pro-Iranian Shiites ready to lead Mosul operation, DEBKAfile, October 28, 2016


The US-led coalition offensive for liberating Mosul from ISIS suffered two ominous downturns on its 10th day

Friday, Oct. 28, DEBKAfile’s military sources report. One: Pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiites stand ready to assume a lead role, sparking the threat of sectarian violence in the mainly Sunni city; and, two, the Islamic State is poised to launch surface missiles with a range of 500km against Baghdad, as well as Jordan and Israel.

Friday, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shiite paramilitary groups the Bader Brigades and the Population Mobilization Force announced that their advance toward the Islamic State-held town of Tal Afar, about 55 km west of Mosul, was imminent.

These militias are fighting under the command of the Iranian Al Qods chief, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, who takes his orders from Tehran.

The capture of Tal Afar – a mix of Sunni and Shiite ethnic Turkmen until the Islamic State’s takeover two years ago – would cut off ISIS-held Mosul from Syria.

Turkey, Iraq’s northern neighbor, and the Kurds are seriously alarmed by the Shiite groups’ initiative.

The Shiites, who are not part of the main coalition fighting body preparing to storm Mosul, are about to strike ISIS from the north.

DEBKAfile’s military sources note that coalition commanders erred by not taking Tal Afar in the early stage of the Mosul offensive and so blocking ISIS supply lines.

The offensive was hobbled two days day earlier by the Kurdish decision to withdraw Peshmerga fighters from the operation to retake Mosul. President Masoud Barzani of the autonomous Kurdish Regional Government stated Wednesday, Oct. 26, that his army had ended its role in the warfare, after cleansing dozens of mostly uninhabited villages on the road to Mosul, and did not intend to enter the city at this time.

This decision by the KRG in Irbil was not published.

Since the Kurds and the Shiite militias are out of it, who is left to finish the job and go into Mosul?

The mission which started out as a grand coalition enterprise has been left now to US forces and the Iraqi army.

However, Iraq’s elite 9th Golden Division and its federal anti-terror police unit have not made much headway in their advance against ISIS forces east of Mosul. Their commanders now warn the government in Baghdad that they can’t go any further without reinforcements.

But there are no Iraqi military reserves to draw on, without stripping any more main Iraqi towns of their defenses and laying them open to Islamists assaults, like those ISIS staged successfully last week on the oil city of Kirkuk, the Kurdish town of Sinjar and Rutba near the Jordanian border.

The long and short of it is that the Mosul offensive has virtually ground to a halt.

ISIS meanwhile is compounding its atrocities and gearing up for escalation.

1. The UN Human Rights agency reported Friday that, since the Mosul offensive began on Oct. 17, Islamic State forces in Iraq have abducted tens of thousands of men, women and children from areas around Mosul and are using them as “human shields” in the city as Iraqi government troops advance.

They shot dead at least 232 people on Wednesday, including 190 former Iraqi troops and 42 civilians when they refused to obey their orders.

2.  ISIS has plans to use chemical weapons against the coalition forces advancing any further towards Mosul.

3.  Following their raids on key Iraqi cities, the Islamist State is preparing to launch surface missiles against Baghdad.

4. ISIS may not confine its missile attacks to targets in Iraq. Our military sources report that the jihadists have laid hands on Syrian and Iraqi ground-to-ground missiles with a range of 500km and are holding them ready for attacks on Iraq’s neighbors, which could be Jordan. Israel too is in their sights.

MOSUL: Iraqi Military Displays Shi’ite Flags In Advance on Sunni Region

October 24, 2016

MOSUL: Iraqi Military Displays Shi’ite Flags In Advance on Sunni Region, Counter Jihad, October 24, 2016


Shi’a flags above Iraq’s army as it proceeds into Mosul means that no peace is possible regardless of the outcome of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).  This is the endorsement of a sectarian war by the official arm of the Baghdad government.  Even if ISIS loses, the Sunnis will have to fight on in order to avoid being subjugated by a central government that has become their actual enemy.


Here are CounterJihad we have been warning for some time about the growing influence of Shi’a militias within Iraq, as they proclaim that their first loyalty is to Iran and its clerical leadership.  The power that these sectarian militas are exercising within Iraq makes it difficult to believe that the government in Baghdad will be able to remain independent from Iran, as the militias are a dagger pressed at Baghdad’s throat.

This story is worse than that.  This story is about the flying of sectarian flags by Baghdad’s own official state military.

Iraqi soldiers fighting to retake the largely Sunni city of Mosul from Islamic State are mounting Shiite flags on their vehicles and raising them atop buildings, stoking the sectarian divisions that Iraq’s government has vowed to repair….  Flying on tanks or over government checkpoints and homes in recently reclaimed Sunni villages, they often dwarf Iraqi flags next to them.

The flags are rankling Sunnis as well as Kurdish Peshmerga fighters taking part in the assault. Sunnis said the display undermines the message of national unity against Islamic State and reinforces their long-held impression that they don’t belong in Iraq’s state and security structure.

Further testing the alliance, Iraqi Shiite militias said Friday they were set to join the battle to dislodge Islamic State from Mosul.

This development underlines just how we got to a caliphate in western Iraq to begin with.  The Sunni forces fighting against the Baghdad government were brought to the peace table out of an outrage with al Qaeda in Iraq’s brutality against them.  They agreed to support the Baghdad government in return for fair treatment, instead of being suppressed as an ethnic minority.

The US military, which in those days had multiple divisions within Iraq, conducted patient negotiation with militants formerly aligned with al Qaeda in Iraq.  The agreements the US military negotiated for the Sunnis were designed to effect a reconciliation between the government and the tribes.  Agreements included promises of jobs, assistance for communities recovering from the war, and many other things that the government agreed to provide in return for the support of these former enemies.  The United States helped to negotiate all these agreements, and promised to see that they would be kept faithfully.

Instead, our Secretary of State — one Hillary Clinton — failed to produce either a new Status of Forces agreement that would permit US troops to remain in Iraq, or an agreement that would allow State Department personnel to move about the country safely to observe whether agreements were being kept.  In the wake of the precipitous withdrawal of US forces, Prime Minister Maliki moved to arrest Sunni leaders in government, and broke all his promises to the tribes.

The result was that the western part of Iraq once again became fertile ground for an Islamist insurgency.

The Baghdad government is responsible for the actions that undermined Sunni faith in the system it represented.  It compounded the problem by allowing these Iranian-backed Shi’a militias to conduct punitive war crimes against Sunni villages that had supported Saddam’s regime.  At least the militias were plausibly acting on their own, however, rather than as agents of the state.

Shi’a flags above Iraq’s army as it proceeds into Mosul means that no peace is possible regardless of the outcome of the fight against the Islamic State (ISIS).  This is the endorsement of a sectarian war by the official arm of the Baghdad government.  Even if ISIS loses, the Sunnis will have to fight on in order to avoid being subjugated by a central government that has become their actual enemy.

The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS

October 19, 2016

The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS, DebkaFile, October 19, 2016


Less than a day after its launch, the big Mosul offensive prepared for more than a year by the US, the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and others, ground to a halt Tuesday Oct. 17, DEBKAfile’s military sources report – although none of the parties admitted as much.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said his troops were busy opening up corridors for some million civilians to escape, while US sources suggested that the Islamic State would use primitive chemical weapons against the advancing Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Both had the ring of cover stories to account for the spearhead forces, the Iraq army’s 9th Armored Division and the Federal Police special anti-terror units, being thrown back Tuesday on their way to Mosul from the east and the south, while still 10-15km short of the city. They sustained heavy losses in lives and hardware.

The 9th Division and its newly-supplied heavy US Abrahams tanks were stopped at al-Hamdaniyah outside Mosul and retreated, recalling a previous defeat at ISIS hands in June 2014, when troops of the same division fled under Islamist attack, leaving their tanks behind.

The Iraqi anti-terror force withdrew from the village of al-Houd outside Mosul, a move which left the Kurdish Peshmerga no option but to stop its sweep of the villages around the city or expose their flanks to ISIS suicide and car bomb assaults.

Tuesday night, both Iraqi and Kurdish commanders announced a pause in their advance and said they would meet Wednesday to decide how to proceed.

The Kurdish Peshmerga’s role in the battle of Mosul has run into a further major impediment, which likewise has not been publicly aired. It turned out Tuesday that at least 3,000 of the 12,000 Kurdish fighters taking part in the offensive came from the banned Turkish underground PKK (Kurdish Workers Party) which is fighting the Turkish government. They came down from their northern Iraqi strongholds in the Sinjar and Qandil mountains. Ankara thereupon warned Washington and Baghdad in a strong ultimatum that unless those fighters were pulled off the field, Turkish troops would step in to attack them.

A second front within a front would effectively torpedo the entire Mosul liberation campaign against ISIS before it gets underway.

The first bricks of the military Tower of Babel predicted by DEBKAfile in the background report below were set in place sooner than expected.

Sunday night, Oct. 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, supported by a bevy of generals, announced that the military operation to recapture Mosul from its two-year occupation by the Islamic State had begun.

Three formally approved participants are taking part in the operation, DEBKAfile’s military sources report:

1. American special operations, artillery and engineering units – equipped with floating bridges for crossing the Tigris River – plus the US air force for massive bombardment to crush enemy resistance.

2. Iraqi army armored divisions, special ops forces, regular troops and anti-terror police units.

3. The Iraqi Kurds’ Peshmerga.

The Iraqi prime minister pledged formally that only Iraqi fighters would enter Mosul, i.e. no Americans, Kurds or other non-Iraqi forces.

It was a pledge that neither the Iraqi Sunni and Shiite combatants nor the Kurdish and Turkmen fighters trusted him to uphold, after similar promises went by the wayside in the US-led coalition battles fought in the past two years to retake the Iraqi towns of Ramadi, Tikirit, Baiji and Fallujah from ISIS.

The first forces to enter those cities were by and large pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias, especially the Bader Brigades and the Popular Mobilization Units, under Iran’s supreme Middle East commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Nonetheless, despite the ravages they wrought in those Sunni cities, US air support was forthcoming for their advance, while in Washington US officials pretended they were helping Iraqi government army units.

With regard to the Mosul campaign, Obama administration officials and military officers, like the Iraqi prime minister, insist there will be no repetition of the Iranian-backed Shiite invasion and conquest of yet another Sunni city, where a million inhabitants still remain.


They don’t explain how this will be prevented when those same pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite forces are already massing northeast of Mosul, near the Iraqi-Syria border, and standing by for the order to advance into the city.

Tehran quite obviously has no intention of being left out of the epic capture of Mosul.

Neither is another uninvited party, Turkish President Tayyip Erdogan. He too has positioned a Turkish military concentration in Iraq, in defiance of strong objections from Washington and Baghdad. Turkish troops stand ready to move forward to do Erdogan’s will and achieve three strategic goals:

a) To actively frustrate Kurdish Peshmerga entry to Mosul, although its 15,000 fighters out of the 25,000 invasion force are a vital element of the spearhead thrust into the city. Ankara has warned that if Kurds set foot in Mosul, Turkish troops will follow.

b)  To block the path of Syrian Kurdish YPG militiamen from entering Iraq and linking up with their Iraqi brothers-in-arms.

c) To provide backing, including Turkish air support, for the Iraqi Turkmen militias still present in the Turkmen quarter of Mosul.

DEBKAfile’s military sources count six assorted military groupings taking part in the liberation of Mosul. They have nothing in common aside from their determination to drive the Islamic State out.

They are utterly divided on the two main aspects of the offensive: How to achieve their common goal and what happens to Mosul after the Islamist invaders are gone.

The underlying US rationale for embarking on this high-wire operation is President Barack Obama’s aspiration to achieve Mosul’s liberation before his departure from the White House in January, in the hope that this landmark success will provide a major distraction from his administration’s failed policies in Syria.

The Islamic State might have been expected to take advantage of the prior warning of the offensive for a stand in defense of the Iraqi capital of Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi’s caliphate and so exploit the conflicting interests of the invading force.

But ISIS leaders decided against waiting for the combined offensive. Indeed, according to DEBKAfile’s sources, thousands of jihadis made tracks out of the city two or three months ago, relocating the bulk of their combat strength and institutions in two new locations: in the western Iraqi desert province of Anbar at a site between the Jordanian and Saudi borders and eastern Syria. Several hundred fighters were left behind in Mosul to harass the US-Iraq-Kurdish armies as they advance into the city and exploit the invaders’ discord to retain a foothold in Mosul.

How US gave Fallujah’s Sunnis into Iranian hands

June 20, 2016

How the US gave Fallujah’s Sunnis into Iranian hands, DEBKAfile, June 20, 2016

Displaced_Sunni__Iraqis_from_Fallujah_6.16Sunni refugees

In the last few days, the Western press has been full of harrowing reports on the death and destruction wrought by the Islamic State in Fallujah, western Iraq. But no media outlet is covering the still ongoing human disaster in which tens of thousands of the city’s Sunni residents are fleeing for their lives, including many elderly people, women and children. Some are escaping the intense fighting or because their homes were destroyed. But many Sunnis are fleeing in dread of their ‘liberators,” the pro-Iranian Iraqi Shiite militias that captured the eastern and central parts of Fallujah.

These militias, the Popular Mobilization Forces and the Badar Forces, take their orders from Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Al Qods Brigades, and Brig. Gen. Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the Revolutionary Guard Corps ground forces.

There is not much difference between the barbarous acts perpetrated by ISIS and the savagery of Shiite militiamen against the Sunni dwellers of the Iraqi city. In many cases it is even worse. The pro-Iranian fighters are burning down and blowing up houses, murdering and raping women, and executing children and the elderly with bayonets or gunfire.

The Iraqi Special Republican Guard, also called the Golden Division, which participated in the capture of the city center, withdrew from the parts of Fallujah that the pro-Iranian fighters entered. They did so even though Iraqi Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi had promised the US via Douglas Ollivant, White House aide in charge of Iraq, that the SRG would protect the city’s Sunni population from the Shiite militias. What happened in fact was that the Iraqi soldiers opened the door for the atrocities.

American sources in Washington and Baghdad reported on Monday, June 20, that President Barack Obama and his top aides are furious with Al-Abadi for not keeping his promise. But DEBKAfile’s military and intelligence sources point out that none of this would not have happened were it not for US military involvement in the war on the side of the Iranians.

The pro-Iranian militias were enabled to reach central Fallujah and overwhelm ISIS by the massive bombing raids carried out by US AV-8B Harrier II jets, which flew in from bases in the Persian Gulf, and F/A-18 Hornets from the USS Harry S. Truman aircraft carrier in the eastern Mediterranean.

Even the urgent American calls on Prime Minister Al-Abadi over the last few days to halt the murders and other outrages against the Sunnis population were pointless. Washington knows that he has no authority over the Iranian generals or commanders of the Shiite militias for halting the slaughter.

DEBKAfile’s military and counterterrorism sources point to an especially grave repercussion coming as a direct result of the war crimes allowed to occur in Fallujah. Washington will be hard put to enlist any local Sunni allies for the capture of the two main ISIS strongholds, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria.

Some of the American field commanders may believe they can dispense with Sunni support and rely on other local forces, such as the Kurds, to step forward. But they must take into account that many young Sunnis, after witnessing pro-Iranian atrocities in Fallujah may well opt to side with ISIS as the lesser evil.

Iraq’s Al-Sadr reportedly summoned to Tehran

May 5, 2016

Iraq’s Al-Sadr reportedly summoned to Tehran, Middle East Monitor, May 5, 2016

muqtada-al-sadrMuqtada al-Sadr

Iraq’s Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr was summoned to Tehran “for bashing and rebuke”, a Lebanon-based Shia cleric said.

Secretary General of the Arab Islamic Council in Lebanon Mohammad Ali Husseini said that the Iranian embassy in Baghdad informed Al-Sadr that he was summoned to Tehran because “his followers crossed red lines by criticizing and insulting clerical rule at a time when the Iranian regime is facing noticeable political and military decline among the countries of the region”.

Husseini told Okaz newspaper that Al-Sadr “will be subjected to much blame, censure and pressure” and he will be “redirected to serve Iran’s interest”.

Al-Sadr has mobilized followers to take to the streets to demand reforms and the replacement of ministers belonging to the parties dominating power in Baghdad.

Supporters of Al-Sadr stormed Baghdad’s Green Zone on Saturday before forcing their way into the parliament building where they broke windows and smashed furniture.

Mosul Campaign Hampered by Fear of Iraq’s Shia Army

April 7, 2016

Mosul Campaign Hampered by Fear of Iraq’s Shia Army, Washington Free Beacon, April 7, 2016

FILE - In this Saturday, March 26, 2016 photo, Iraqi security forces fire at Islamic State militants positions from villages south of the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul, Iraq. The Iraqi military backed by U.S.-led coalition aircraft on Thursday launched a long-awaited operation to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, a military spokesman said. (AP Photo, File)

FILE – In this Saturday, March 26, 2016 photo, Iraqi security forces fire at Islamic State militants positions from villages south of the Islamic State group-held city of Mosul, Iraq. The Iraqi military backed by U.S.-led coalition aircraft on Thursday launched a long-awaited operation to recapture the northern city of Mosul from Islamic State militants, a military spokesman said. (AP Photo, File)

The grinding village-to-village war against ISIS in Northern Iraq has been weighed down by public complaints from Kurdish officials and military commanders who fear that the Shia-dominated Iraqi army will provoke stiffer resistance from ISIS defenders in Mosul.

Sunni, Shia, and Kurd units all want the political capital that goes with liberating a city of a million people and the capital of Sunni Iraq from ISIS, according to military observers.

A see-saw battle between elements of the predominantly Shia 15th Iraqi Army Division and ISIS fighters over control of abandoned villages on the Makhmour Front 40 miles southwest of Mosul took a turn for the worse on Monday, April 4, according to sources near the front. Last week the Iraqi Army, supported by Kurdish Peshmerga forces, captured four villages, including Al Nasr, but an ISIS counterattack recovered the village and left 20 soldiers dead, Rudaw reported.

Of these casualties, six were Peshmerga soldiers killed by a suicide vehicle that passed through the front line, said Ali Awni, a Kurdish Democratic Party leader in the Shekhan District north of Mosul.

The Shia soldiers reportedly abandoned their posts in the recent combat, according to Awni. “They left behind many guns, ammunition, and equipment for ISIS,” Awni said.

The campaign to retake the Iraq’s northern province of Nineweh started on March 24, according to the Iraqi Defense Ministry. That day, Iraqi Security forces backed by the Peshmerga and anti-ISIS Sunni tribal fighters recaptured four villages west of Makhmour.

Iraqi military spokesmen hailed the operations as “heroic,” but military observers say there is no sign of the final offensive to retake the city. The Iraqi defense minister has promised that the campaign to capture Mosul will start no later than May.

The array of armed forces ready and eager to retake the city of Mosul includes the Shia brigades of the Iraqi Security Forces, the Peshmerga army of the Kurdish Regional Government, the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Units, and Sunni-tribal fighters from Nineweh itself.

Until now, however, the Iranian-backed forces have not been allowed to join the campaign to recapture Mosul due to the high aversion to them by Sunni citizens in the north of Iraq.

The Iraqi Army has approximately 4,500 soldiers in the current campaign, not nearly an adequate force to secure the city, according to Michael Pregent, a career Army intelligence officer and former adviser to the Peshmerga in Mosul during 2005-06, who now serves as an adjunct scholar at the Hudson Institute in Washington.

“The force to retake Mosul has not been built yet. It must be a majority-Sunni unit to be accepted by the population,” Pregent said, adding that the defending force of ISIS fighters has been weakened and could be defeated by a patient, intelligence-heavy counter-insurgency campaign.

“There are more than 4,000 reluctant ISIS fighters in Mosul who don’t want to be there, who as soon as an operation begins may dwindle down to 1,500 or 2,000 as they melt into the population to wait the offensive out,” Pregent told a closed briefing at the Westminster Institute in Mclean, VA recently.

Awni, the Kurdish official, says the residents of Mosul despise the Popular Mobilization Units and will fight hard to resist them. “The people of Mosul believe the PMU will destroy the city with artillery and air strikes the way they did Ramadi a few months ago and Tikrit last year. When they entered Tikrit the looted houses and killed many people,” Awni says, adding: “the Mosul residents say if Shia militia are joining the fight, they will fight with ISIS, but if not, they will support the Coalition forces.”

Col. Tariq Ahmed Jaff, deputy commander of the 9th Combat Brigade of Peshmerga based in Kirkuk said in an email, “After ISIS we may have to fight the PMU. These guys pretend to be heroes but they intimidate elderly men, women, and children.” Sectarian war is a pervasive threat throughout Iraq’s territory south of Kurdistan’s borders. Hundreds of thousands of Iraqis have died in sectarian fighting that worsened after the U.S. invasion of 2003.

“Wherever there is PMU, there is Baghdad, and where there is Baghdad there is Tehran,” observed Ernie Audino, a retired U.S. Army brigadier general and a Senior Military Fellow at the London Center for Policy Research.

“All three are Shia, all three are allies to some degree, and all three vigorously support the concept of a unified Iraq, by force if necessary,” said Audino, who spent a year as an embed with the Pershmerga.  “Consequently, Shia militias cadred by Iranian Quds Forces, and Shia-dominated Iraqi Army units have pressed into Kurdish areas in and around Jalawla and Tuz Khurmatu to directly challenge Peshmerga control. Their continuing presence is seen by Kurds as a hammer waiting to fall.”

US-Iranian-Russian-Iraqi offensive launched to recover Ramadi from ISIS

December 22, 2015

US-Iranian-Russian-Iraqi offensive launched to recover Ramadi from ISIS, DEBKAfile, December 22, 2015


Ramadi, the capital of the vast Anbar Province, was the second major Iraqi city to fall to the Islamic State after the devastating loss of Mosul. The importance of the offensive launched Tuesday, Dec. 22 for its recapture from ISIS lies chiefly in the makeup of the assault force, which is unique in contemporary Syrian and Iraqi conflicts.

DEBKAfile’s military sources name its partners as US and Russian army and air force elements, two varieties of Iraqi militia – Shiites under Iranian command and Sunnis, as well as the regular Iraqi army.

The Iraqi army is depicted as leading the assault. But this is only a sop to its lost honor for letting this Sunni city fall in the first place. The real command is in the hands of US Special Operations officers alongside Iraqi troops, and the Russian officers posted at the operational command center they established last month in Baghdad.

This Russian war room is in communication with US military headquarters in the Iraqi capital. It is from the Russian war room that the top commanders of the pro-Iranian militias send their orders. The most prominent is Abu Mahadi al-Muhandis, who heads the largest Iraqi Shiite militia known as the Popular Mobilization Committee.

Noting another first, our military sources disclose that Iranian officers liaise between the Americans and Russians on the front against ISIS. If this combination works for Ramadi, it will not doubt be transposed to the Syrian front and eventually, perhaps next summer, serve as the format for the general offensive the Americans are planning for wresting Mosul from the Islamic State.

When US Defense Secretary Ashton Carter was in Baghdad last week to review the final preparations for the Ramadi operation, US officials were still insisting that the Iraqi army was fit for the heavy lifting after being trained by American instructors.

By Tuesday, US sources were admitting that pro-Iranian militias were also part of the operation.

DEBKAfile’s military sources report on the division of tasks as follows:

Iraqi army forces are attacking the Ramadi city center from the north; Shiite militias from the south. The US air force is pounding ISIS targets inside the town in order to cripple its ability to fight off the oncoming forces. The Russian air force is standing by, ready to destroy any ISIS reinforcements attempting to cross in from Syria to aid their comrades in beleaguered Ramadi.

Experts keeping track of the offensive have no doubt that it will end in success. The jihadists holding Ramadi are few in number – 400-500 fighters at most. However, cleansing the town after victory will presents a daunting difficulty. In Tikrit and the refinery town of Baiji, ISIS split its defense structure into two levels – one on the surface and the second hidden underground.

The top level was thinly manned by fighting strength, but crawling with mines, booby-trapped trucks and IEDs detonated by remote control.

The lower level, consisting of deeply-dug interconnected tunnel systems, was where ISIS fighters hid out and jump out at night for attacks. According to the experience gained in other Iraqi battle arenas against ISIS, neither the Iraqi army nor local Shiite militias have been able to plumb and destroy these tunnel systems. And so they could never really purge the Islamic State from “liberated” towns.

Ramadi will face the same quandary.