Posted tagged ‘Iraqi military’

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_Map

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.

ISIS Threatens Obama With ‘New Lesson’ in Beheading Video

October 31, 2015

ISIS Threatens Obama With ‘New Lesson’ in Beheading Video, Newsmax, Sandy Fitzgerald, October 31, 2015

(Video at the link. Has Obama recently decided that the Islamic State is a greater threat than climate change?– DM)

A horrifying new 15-minute video appears to show Islamic State (ISIS) terrorists beheading four captured Kurdish Peshmerga fighters — and delivering a bold warning to President Barack Obama.

The video claims to be the ISIS response to a Delta Force-Kurdish raid in northern Iraq last week that cost American Master Sgt. Joshua Wheeler his life.

“Obama, you have learned a new lesson,” a masked terrorist warns Obama in what sounds like an American accent. “Six of the soldiers of the caliphate faced 400 of your children; they killed and injured them by Allah’s grace.”

The warning was delivered before the man executes one of the prisoners, reports CNN, and the other three prisoners are also beheaded by the video’s end. Arabic text also appears onscreen, translating as “Peshmerga soldiers that Americans came to rescue.”

The video was released online Friday, and earlier in the clip, ISIS claims to show the aftermath of the raid, in which Kurdish, U.S., and Iraqi forces rescue 70 hostages from an ISIS prison in Hawija, located in Kirkuk, a province located in northern Iraq.

CNN reports that those who were set free included 20 of the Iraqi Security Forces, local residents and several ISIS fighters accused of spying. None of the hostages were Kurds.

As of Saturday morning, there had not been an official response issued from the White House on the video or the threat. But in Kurdistan, regional government spokesman Dindar Zebari told CNN that “ISIS respects no form of human rights. Our message to them is that we will finish them.”

But Kurdistan will not kill ISIS prisoners in response, Zebari said.

“We hold 215 ISIS prisoners and we treat them according to international human rights laws,” he said. “We have also freed 85 prisoners who had been suspected of association with ISIS. We do not kill our prisoners.”

The Kurdistan regional government said that more than 20 ISIS fighters were killed in last week’s raid, and six more were captured.

The Kurdish Peshmerga, which protects an autonomous region in northern Iraq, has been fighting against ISIS and its push to take Iraq and Syria and create a caliphate.

ISIS earlier this week said the Delta Force-Kurdish raid, called for by the Kurds to rescue Peshmerga fighters, was a failure.

The man who issued the threat does not appear to be the infamous “Jihadi John,” the English-speaking jihadist who has appeared in several other ISIS beheading videos.

The terrorist, whose real name is believed to be Mohammed Emwazi, is considered to be a priority target after killing American, Western, and Japanese hostages.

Meanwhile, two Syrian activists have also been killed in recent days in the Turkish town of Urfa, and their deaths are being blamed on ISIS.

According to the groups Raqqa is Being Slaughtered Silently and Eye on Homeland, activists Ibrahim Abdul Qadir and Faris Humadi the men who were shot and beheaded. ISIS has not yet claimed responsibility for their deaths.

Qadir and Humadi worked for Eye on Homeland, a Syrian media group that reports on the civil war, and Qadar also was a founding member of the Raqqa group, which posts photos, video, and other information online from the Raqqa province in Syria.

Dispatch from Iraq: the Stealth Iranian Takeover Becomes Clear

August 1, 2015

Dispatch from Iraq: the Stealth Iranian Takeover Becomes Clear, PJ Media via Middle East Forum, Jonathan Spyer, July 31, 2015

1484A Shi’a militia billboard in Baghdad

Close observation of the militias, their activities, and their links to Tehran is invaluable in understanding what is likely to happen in the Middle East following the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between the P5 + 1 powers and Tehran.

The genius of the Iranian method is that it is not possible to locate a precise point where the Iranian influence ends and the “government” begins. Everything is entwined. This pro-Iranian military and political activity depends at ground level on the successful employment and manipulation of religious fervor. This is what makes the Hashed fighters able to stand against the rival jihadis of ISIS.

The deal itself proves that Iran can continue to push down this road while paying only a minor price, so why change? Expect further manifestations of the Tehran formula in the Middle East in the period ahead.

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In late June, I traveled to Iraq with the purpose of investigating the role being played by the Iranian-supported Shia militias in that country.

Close observation of the militias, their activities, and their links to Tehran is invaluable in understanding what is likely to happen in the Middle East following the conclusion of the nuclear agreement between the P5 + 1 powers and Tehran.

An Iranian stealth takeover of Iraq is currently under way. Tehran’s actions in Iraq lay bare the nature of Iranian regional strategy. They show that Iran has no peers at present in the promotion of a very 21st century way of war, which combines the recruitment and manipulation of sectarian loyalties; the establishment and patient sponsoring of political and paramilitary front groups; and the engagement of these groups in irregular and clandestine warfare, all in tune with an Iran-led agenda.

With the conclusion of the nuclear deal, and thanks to the cash about to flow into Iranian coffers, the stage is now set for an exponential increase in the scale and effect of these activities across the region.

So what is going on in Iraq, and what may be learned from it?

Power in Baghdad today is effectively held by a gathering of Shia militias known as the Hashed al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization). This initiative brings together tens of armed groups, including some very small and newly formed ones. However, its main components ought to be familiar to Americans who remember the Iraqi Shia insurgency against the U.S. in the middle of the last decade. They are: the Badr Organization, the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, the Kataeb Hizballah, and the Sarayat al-Salam (which is the new name for the Mahdi Army of Muqtada al-Sadr).

All of these are militias of long-standing. All of them are openly pro-Iranian in nature. All of them have their own well-documented links to the Iranian government and to the Revolutionary Guards Corps.

1559Shia militiamen are becoming a fixture of daily life in the Iraqi capital.

The Hashed al-Shaabi was founded on June 15, 2014, following a fatwa by venerated Iraqi Shia cleric Ali al-Sistani a day earlier. Sistani called for a limited jihad at a time when the forces of ISIS were juggernauting toward Baghdad. The militias came together, under the auspices of Quds Force kingpin Qassem Suleimani and his Iraqi right-hand man Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Because of the parlous performance of the Iraqi Army, the Shia militias have become in effect the sole force standing between ISIS and the Iraqi capital.

Therein lies the source of their strength. Political power grows, as another master strategist of irregular warfare taught, from the barrel of a gun. In the case of Iraq, no instrument exists in the hands of the elected government to oppose the will of the militias. The militias, meanwhile, in their political iteration, are also part of the government.

In the course of my visit, I travelled deep into Anbar Province with fighters of the Kataeb Hizballah, reaching just eight miles from Ramadi City. I also went to Baiji, the key front to the capital’s north, accompanying fighters from the Badr Corps.

1469Asaib Ahl al-Haq fighters operating in Baiji in June

In all areas, I observed close cooperation between the militias, the army, and the federal police. The latter are essentially under the control of the militias. Mohammed Ghabban, of Badr, is the interior minister. The Interior Ministry controls the police. Badr’s leader, Hadi al-Ameri, serves as the transport minister.

In theory, the Hashd al-Shaabi committee answers to Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al Abadi. In practice, no one views the committee as playing anything other than a liaison role. The real decision-making structure for the militias’ alliance goes through Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and Hadi al-Ameri, to Qassem Suleimani, and directly on to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.

No one in Iraq imagines that any of these men are taking orders from Abadi, who has no armed force of his own, whose political party (Dawa) remains dominated by former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his associates, and whose government is dependent on the military protection of the Shia militias and their political support. When I interviewed al-Muhandis in Baiji, he was quite open regarding the source of the militias’ strength: “We rely on capacity and capabilities provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran.”

1482Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (right) with Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani

The genius of the Iranian method is that it is not possible to locate a precise point where the Iranian influence ends and the “government” begins. Everything is entwined. This pro-Iranian military and political activity depends at ground level on the successful employment and manipulation of religious fervor. This is what makes the Hashed fighters able to stand against the rival jihadis of ISIS. Says Major General Juma’a Enad, operational commander in Salah al-Din Province: “The Hashed strong point is the spiritual side, the jihad fatwa. Like ISIS.”

So this is Tehran’s formula. The possession of a powerful state body (the IRGC’s Quds Force) whose sole raison d’etre is the creation and sponsorship of local political-military organizations to serve the Iranian interest. The existence of a population in a given country available for indoctrination and mobilization. The creation of proxy bodies and the subsequent shepherding of them to both political and military influence, with each element complementing the other. And finally, the reaping of the benefit of all this in terms of power and influence.

This formula has at the present time brought Iran domination of Lebanon and large parts of Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. Current events in Iraq form a perfect study of the application of this method, and the results it can bring. Is Iran likely to change this winning formula as a result of the sudden provision of increased monies resulting from the nuclear deal? This is certainly the hope of the authors of the agreement. It is hard to see on what it is based.

The deal itself proves that Iran can continue to push down this road while paying only a minor price, so why change? Expect further manifestations of the Tehran formula in the Middle East in the period ahead.

Is Obama Supporting a Shiite ISIS?

June 12, 2015

Is Obama Supporting a Shiite ISIS?, Front Page Magazine, Daniel Greenfield, June 12, 2015

Asaib-ahl-alhaq_logo-450x300Asaib Ahl al-Haq logo.

Obama had campaigned vocally against the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment which designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the hidden force behind Asaib Ahl al-Haq and much of the Shiite terrorist infrastructure, a terrorist organization. He had accused its sponsors of “foolish saber rattling.”

While we focused on ISIS, its Shiite counterparts were building their own Islamic State by burrowing from within to hollow out the Iraqi institutions that we had put into place. ISIS is a tool that Iran is using to force international approval of its takeover of Iraq and its own nuclear program.

Like ISIS, its Shiite counterparts envision an apocalyptic struggle in which the other branch of Islam will be destroyed, along with all non-Muslims, leading to regional and global supremacy. Iraq is only one of the battlefields on which this war is being fought and Obama’s inept mix of appeasement and regime change, abandoning allied governments while aiding enemy terrorists has helped make it possible.

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Staff Sgt. Ahmed Altaie was the last American soldier to come home from Iraq. His body was turned over by Asaib Ahl al-Haq or The League of the Righteous; a Shiite terrorist group funded and trained by Iran.

Altaie had been kidnapped, held for ransom and then killed.

It was not Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s only kidnapping and murder of an American soldier. A year after Altaie’s kidnapping, its terrorists disguised themselves as Americans and abducted five of our soldiers in Karbala. The soldiers were murdered by their Shiite captors after sustained pursuit by American forces made them realize that they wouldn’t be able to escape with their hostages.

Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s obsession with American hostages was a typically Iranian fixation. Iran’s leaders see the roots of their international influence in the Iran hostage crisis. Its terrorist groups in Lebanon had abducted and horrifically tortured Colonel William R. Higgins and William Francis Buckley.

Higgins had been skinned alive.

Most Americans have never heard of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, sometimes referred to as the Khazali Network after its leader, even though it has claimed credit for over 6,000 attacks on Americans. Its deadliest attacks came when the Democrats and their media allies were desperately scrambling to stop Bush from taking out Iran’s nuclear program. Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s ties to Iran were so blatant that the media could not allow it to receive the kind of coverage that Al Qaeda did for fear that it might hurt Iran.

Obama had campaigned vocally against the Kyl-Lieberman Amendment which designated Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the hidden force behind Asaib Ahl al-Haq and much of the Shiite terrorist infrastructure, a terrorist organization. He had accused its sponsors of “foolish saber rattling”.

Nancy Pelosi joined the Democratic Party’s pro-Iranian turn, rejected a vote on the amendment and sneered that if the kidnapping and murder of American soldiers was “a problem to us and our troops in Iraq, they should deal with it in Iraq.” Earlier that year, she had visited Syria’s Assad to stand with him against President Bush even while Assad was aiding the terrorists massacring American soldiers.

Once Obama took power, coverage of the war was scaled down so that Americans wouldn’t realize that the rising power of ISIS and Asaib Ahl al-Haq were already making a mockery of his withdrawal plans.

But Asaib Ahl al-Haq was not merely an anti-American terrorist group; it was an arm of the Shiite theocracy. As a Shiite counterpart to what would become ISIS, it had most of the same Islamic goals.

While Obama was patting himself on the back for the end of the Iraq War and gay rights, Asaib Ahl al-Haq was throwing those men and women it suspected of being gay from the tops of buildings.

When buildings weren’t available, it beat them to death with concrete blocks or beheaded them.

Its other targets included shelters for battered women, which the Islamist group deemed brothels, men who had long hair or dressed in dark clothing. And even while its Brigades of Wrath were perpetrating these atrocities, Obama and the Shiite Iraqi government embraced the murderous terrorist group.

Qais al-Khazali, the leader of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, and his brother Laith al-Khazali along with a hundred other members of the terror group were freed during Obama’s first year in office. (But to provide equal aid and comfort to the other side, Obama also freed the future Caliph of ISIS in that same year.)

“We let a very dangerous man go, a man whose hands are stained with US and Iraqi blood. We are going to pay for this in the future,” an unnamed American officer was quoted as saying. “This was a deal signed and sealed in British and American blood.”

“We freed all of their leaders and operatives; they executed their hostages and sent them back in body bags.”

The releases were part of Obama’s grand strategy of reconciliation for Iraq. The miserable reality behind the upbeat language was that Obama was handing over Iraq to ISIS, Iran and its Shiite militias.

Last year, Maliki had made Asaib Ahl al-Haq and other Shiite terror groups into the Sons of Iraq that were to protect and defend Baghdad. Asaib Ahl al-Haq and its leader were now the Iraqi security forces. The Shiite death squads were in charge even while they continued carrying out ISIS-style massacres.

Obama belatedly decided to respond to ISIS, but his war strategy depends on Asaib Ahl al-Haq.

Officially his strategy is to provide training and air support for the Iraqi military. But the Iraqi military’s Shiite officers conduct panicked retreats in the face of ISIS attacks while abandoning cities and equipment. The goal of these retreats is to make Asaib Ahl al-Haq and other Shiite militias into the only alternative to ISIS for the United States. Even though he pays lip service to Sunni and Kurdish resistance to ISIS, Obama shows that he has accepted Iran’s terms by refusing to arm and support them.

While we focused on ISIS, its Shiite counterparts were building their own Islamic State by burrowing from within to hollow out the Iraqi institutions that we had put into place. ISIS is a tool that Iran is using to force international approval of its takeover of Iraq and its own nuclear program.

An Iraqi official last year was quoted as saying that Asaib Ahl al-Haq’s men give orders to the police and military. “Before they were just around, now they are high-ranking officers in the military.”

Some defense experts wonder if the Iraqi military even exists. The bulk of the forces in Tikrit were Shiite Jihadists and they are armed with American weapons that they receive from the Iraqi government. Asaib Ahl al-Haq boss Qais al-Khazali claims that soldiers and Shiite militia members both wear Iraqi military uniforms.

The capture of Tikrit became an opportunity for the Shiite terrorist groups and Qasem Soleimani, their Iranian terror boss, to boast about their victory and loot and terrorize the local Sunni residents.

Obama’s official plan to arm and train the Iraqi military and security forces is a dead end because like the mythical moderate Syrian rebels, they are fronts for moving money and weapons to Jihadists. We are arming ghost armies and funding fake political institutions and the money and weapons end up going to bands of Islamic terrorists, militias and guerrillas that are actually calling the shots.

By aiding Shiite militias in Iraq and Sunni militias in Syria, we’re backing both sides of an Islamic civil war.

Obama turned over Iraq to the Shiites and then backed the Muslim Brotherhood’s efforts to force the Shiites out of power in Syria. The Sunni-Shiite civil wars tearing the region apart were caused by those two decisions. His solution to the wars is to continue backing the same forces responsible for them.

Despite assorted denials, Obama’s real ISIS strategy is to have Iran do the fighting for him in Iraq.

But Obama is backing one ISIS against another ISIS. Why is a Shiite Islamic state that kidnaps and kills Americans, throws gays off buildings and massacres women better than a Sunni Islamic state that does the same things? Not only is the Obama strategy morally dubious, but it’s also proven to be ineffective.

The rise of ISIS has helped Iran tighten its hold on Shiite areas in Iraq and Syria. Iran does not need to beat ISIS. Its interests are best served by maintaining a stalemate in which ISIS consolidates Sunni areas while Iran consolidates Shiite areas. The more Obama aids Iran and its terrorist forces as a counterweight to ISIS, the more Iran sees keeping ISIS around as being vital to its larger strategy.

By aiding Iran, Obama is really aiding ISIS.

Despite depending on our air support, Asaib Ahl al-Haq and its leaders are threatening to attack American planes and soldiers making it clear that they view the fight against ISIS and for Assad as part of a larger struggle for achieving Iran’s apocalyptic Shiite ambitions for the region and the world.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei recently gave a speech in which he warned that, “We must prepare the country’s conditions, the region’s conditions, and, Allah willing, the world’s conditions for the reappearance [of Imam Mahdi] will spread justice.”

Like ISIS, its Shiite counterparts envision an apocalyptic struggle in which the other branch of Islam will be destroyed, along with all non-Muslims, leading to regional and global supremacy. Iraq is only one of the battlefields on which this war is being fought and Obama’s inept mix of appeasement and regime change, abandoning allied governments while aiding enemy terrorists has helped make it possible.

The Islamic State Is Here to Stay

June 5, 2015

The Islamic State Is Here to Stay, VICE NewsAhmed S. Hashim, June 6, 2015

(Please see also, The Kurd-Shia War Behind the War on ISIS. — DM)

The victories against IS in early 2015 have proven ephemeral — or have been nullified by IS gains elsewhere. On Sunday, CIA director John Brennan said on Face the Nation, “I don’t see this being resolved anytime soon.” Assad’s vaunted offensives of February 2015 have fallen short as the regime faced stiff resistance from a wide variety of opposition fighters, including elements from IS. The failure was alarming in part because the campaign was designed and aided by both Hezbollah and the Iranians, two seemingly ascendant Shia powers.

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Just a few months ago, analysts and policy-makers were certain that the defeat of Islamic State (IS) forces was simply a matter of time.

Coalition airstrikes would degrade the group’s capabilities and eventually allow Iraqi forces and Kurdish Peshmerga — though discredited by their poor military showing in mid-2014 — to push back the extremists. And indeed, IS fighters were ejected from Tikrit in March 2015 by the Iraqi army and thousands of motivated fighters from Shia militias. In Kobani in northern Syria, IS fighters were defeated by Syrian Kurdish fighters. Elsewhere in the country, the regime of Bashar al-Assad was going on the offensive with help from Hezbollah and advisers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guard.

The Islamic State, however, rose like a phoenix from the ashes of every setback. And today, the situation is not so rosy.

The victories against IS in early 2015 have proven ephemeral — or have been nullified by IS gains elsewhere. On Sunday, CIA director John Brennan said on Face the Nation, “I don’t see this being resolved anytime soon.” Assad’s vaunted offensives of February 2015 have fallen short as the regime faced stiff resistance from a wide variety of opposition fighters, including elements from IS. The failure was alarming in part because the campaign was designed and aided by both Hezbollah and the Iranians, two seemingly ascendant Shia powers.

The situation in Iraq is just as complicated, something that the Obama administration appears either oblivious to or reluctant to acknowledge. Much of the US strategy continues to hinge on what is increasingly a mirage: a unified, albeit federal, Iraq under the control of Baghdad. Meanwhile, the resilience of IS is greatly enhanced by the ability of its military forces to innovate and adapt faster on the ground than its lackluster opponents.

In light of the constant aerial strikes by the US and its allies, IS has dispersed and made its forces more mobile, no longer presenting dense concentrations of fighting men as it did when it seized Mosul in mid-2014. Instead, when IS seized Ramadi in May 2015, it made use of inclement weather and sent several small units from different directions simultaneously into the city aided by suicide bombers. Moreover, the fact that the group faced ill-equipped and poorly motivated Sunni fighters in and around Ramadi did not do anything for Baghdad’s standing with the country’s already alienated Sunni community, which had pleaded for arms while caught between the unfathomable brutality of IS and revengeful Shia militias.

Many Sunnis are now angling for their own “super-region,” one that would have considerable independence from Baghdad. The problem? In order to have it, the Sunnis would need to first defeat IS. Currently, they’re unable to do so because they lack the resources; despite all the talk from Baghdad and Washington about arming Sunni tribes, Baghdad is not actually keen to do so.

And besides, the Sunnis seem relatively ambivalent about defeating IS. They took an unequivocal stance between late 2006 and 2009, when they joined with the Americans and the Iraqi government to deal the Islamist militants what was then seen as a decisive blow. Now, however, despite Sunnis’ resentment and fear of IS, the Islamists’ existence is seen as a kind of insurance policy against Shia revanchism should Baghdad succeed in retaking the three Sunni provinces of Anbar, Salahuddin, and Ninevah.

(Please see video at the link. — DM

The “victory” of the Iraqi government in Tikrit was more propaganda than reality; a few hundred IS fighters managed to inflict considerable damage on the Shia militias that had been mobilized to fight alongside the Iraqi army, then withdrew because they were outnumbered and wished to avoid being surrounded. The IS forces in Tikrit simply felt that they had done enough damage; there was no need to waste further assets in an untenable situation.

Militarily, the Iraqi Shia militias are better motivated and more dedicated than the regular army. Anecdotal information out of Baghdad suggests that Iraqi Shias are wondering whether the government should invest more effort building these forces into an effective and more organized parallel army. Even that parallel army, however, might be reluctant to commit to any significant long-term offensive to reclaim provinces full of “ungrateful” Sunnis.

But the Shia are willing to die to defend what they have, and there is increased sentiment among the Shia in central Iraq and Baghdad, along with the southern part of the country, that they would be better off without the Sunnis. There also exists the belief that the Kurds have more or less opted out of the Iraqi state despite the fact that they maintain a presence within the government in Baghdad. The Shia would seemingly not be sorry to see them exit the government in a deal that would settle as best as possible divisions of resources and territory. However, whether the Kurds would take the plunge and opt for de jure rather than de facto independence is a question that is subject to regional realities — How would Ankara and Tehran react? — rather than merely a matter of a deal between Baghdad and Erbil.

The Islamic State will continue to be a profound geopolitical problem for the region and the international community, and a long battle lies ahead. Syria and Iraq are more or less shattered states; it is unlikely that they will be put back together in their previous shapes. If Assad survives 2015, it will be as head of a rump state of Alawites and other minorities protected by Hezbollah, Iran, and Alawite militias. Shia Iraq will survive, and will possibly dissociate itself from the nettlesome Sunni regions. The Kurds will go their own way step by step. The international community is currently at a loss for how to stem the flow of foreign fighters to the IS battlefields — and even more serious is the growing sympathy and admiration for the group in various parts of the world among disgruntled and alienated youth.

If the US is serious about defeating IS, it needs to take on a larger share of the fight on the ground. This means more troops embedded with regular Iraqi forces in order to bring about better command, control, and coordination. It also means advisors who can continue to train these forces so that they improve over time. If this is not done, the regular Iraqi military will continue to be nothing more than an auxiliary to the more motivated — and pro-Iranian — Shia militias. Currently, militia commanders are giving orders to the regular military; that cannot be good for morale.

This month, the Islamic State celebrates the first anniversary of its self-declared caliphate. The group has little reason to fear it will be the last.

The Kurd-Shia War Behind the War on ISIS

June 5, 2015

The Kurd-Shia War Behind the War on ISIS, The Daily BeastMat Wolf, June 5, 2015

1433495718557.cachedAhmed Jadallah/Reuters

“We could see outright civil war,” Farhan Siddiqi, a research fellow on international politics and national security at the Middle East Research Institute (MERI), tells The Daily Beast. Siddiqi says he believes the Kurds and the Shia central government would face domestic and international pressure to avoid such a conflict, but if cooler heads failed a hypothetical conflict could escalate into something even worst than the current ISIS war.

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In a dusty town near the Iranian border, the terror group was defeated, but the victors are at each other’s throats.

JALAWLA, Iraq — Behind Iraq’s front lines against the so-called Islamic State, Kurdish and Shia factions already are drawing a blueprint for what could be the region’s next major conflict.

In the city of Jalawla in Iraq’s Diyala province, near the Iranian border approximately 80 miles east of Baghdad, Kurdish forces have given the boot to the Shia militia they previously allied with to take the city from ISIS in a bloody November battle. Last month, the commanding Kurdish Peshmerga general in Jalawla threatened to start shooting if the Shia refused to leave the city immediately.

“This area is ours now, and that’s not changing,” Brig. Gen. Mahmoud Sangawi told The Daily Beast. He added that Jalawla, an abandoned city that previously had 83,000 people and was 80 percent Sunni Arab in 2003, would soon have a Kurdish mayor. Sangawi bragged that henceforth the city would also be called by its new Kurdish moniker, “Golala.”

Not so fast, say the Shia militias. They were recruited in the name of a fatwa from Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in June 2014, following the Iraqi army’s humiliating loss of Mosul, Iraq’s second largest city, virtually without a fight. Many are trained and advised by Iranians, and they have been the spearhead of Baghdad’s efforts to recover lost territory in the name of the national government.

The Kurds, meanwhile, have fought hard to protect, consolidate and indeed expand areas they consider “their” territory.

“They [the Kurds] need to recognize this region is Iraq,” says Ali Khorasani, the commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi militias that Sangawi’s Peshmerga expelled from Jalawla. Hashd al-Shaabi is the Arabic term for Popular Mobilization Units, the name preferred by the volunteer Shia militias.

Khorasani said the Kurds “are strong, and they’re very organized, and our relationship was good, but now our relationship has problems.” And that appears to be an understatement. When asked if Kurdish moves in the region might lead to another war, Khorasani replied tersely: “Maybe.”

For now, Khorasani’s unit has been dispersed to the south of Jalawla around a town called Sadiya. It’s only a five-minute drive from Jalawla, but Kurdish forces are limiting access to Sadiya and prevented us from going there. Khorasani spoke to The Daily Beast by phone.

The ISIS blitz of northern and central Iraq one year ago sent the on-paper highly trained and well-equipped Iraqi army scrambling, and led to the sacking of controversial Shia Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. He was widely criticized for his sectarian policies that alienated the country’s Sunni Arabs, who are now the main support base for ISIS.

The Iraqi army’s retreat also opened the door for Kurdish forces to seize large swaths of territory abandoned by government forces.

Now, the central government’s inability to deal decisively with ISIS in Anbar province and its loss of the Anbar provincial capital Ramadi has seen the Kurds acting even more brazenly in anticipation of an independence push. Iraqi Kurdistan President Masoud Barzani has promised a long-awaited Kurdish independence referendum.

“Certainly an independent Kurdistan is coming,” Barzani said on a visit to Washington D.C. on May 6. “It will take place when the security situation is better and when the fight against ISIS is over.”

“We could see outright civil war,” Farhan Siddiqi, a research fellow on international politics and national security at the Middle East Research Institute (MERI), tells The Daily Beast. Siddiqi says he believes the Kurds and the Shia central government would face domestic and international pressure to avoid such a conflict, but if cooler heads failed a hypothetical conflict could escalate into something even worst than the current ISIS war.

Since the summer of 2014, the Kurds have increased their territory by 40 percent, most notably around the oil-rich city of Kirkuk, often called the “Kurdish Jerusalem.” Today Kirkuk has a Kurdish population of around 50 percent combined with large groups of Arabs and Turkmens. The city and its outlying territories were frequent targets of “Arabization” by the Saddam Hussein regime, a policy meant to shift the ethnic balance of power there as he waged a genocidal war against the rebellious Kurds. Now they want the city back, but Arab families who have lived there for decades have no place to go.

Areas like Jalawla are a different matter. It is closer to Baghdad than to the Iraqi Kurdish capital Erbil. It, too, was the target of waves of Arabization, but it has been a majority Arab city for decades. By Sangawi’s own admission the population was less than 10 percent Kurdish in 2003.

“The Baath regime had a process of oppressing the Kurdish people. They had to change their names to Arab names or leave the city,” Sangawi says. “When filling out forms they had to register as Arab. In 1970, 32 percent of this city was Kurdish. The city was only 8 percent Kurdish at the time of the American invasion in 2003. The Arabs tried to rob the Kurds of their land.”

Today, Jalawla has been completely abandoned by its civilian inhabitants, many of whom supported ISIS, according to Sangawi. Feral dogs dart in front of Peshmerga convoys and Kurdish graffiti proclaims the city part of Kurdistan. The immediate surrounding area of the town—dusty flat fields speckled with palm groves—clashes with the green, mountainous terrain often associated with Kurdistan, and syncs up more with stereotypically Arab lands.

Parts of Jalawla, especially the former ISIS command center on high ground overlooking the city, have been reduced to rubble. However, a spring bloom of un-manicured pink desert roses has overrun the walls and sidewalks, offsetting the many bullet holes and craters that otherwise dot the settlement.

“One-hundred and ten Peshmerga died in the fighting. When ISIS came in here they left many IEDs and explosives on the roads,” says Sangawi.

But the November fighting wasn’t the area’s first battle, and likely not its last. The Kurdish-Arab rift in the city goes back over a millennium.

Golala, Jalawla’s Kurdish name, means the “land of flowers.” Its Arabic title’s etymology is more grisly. In 637 AD, Arab Muslim forces during the early Islamic conquest of the Middle East won a decisive battle here against a Zoroastrian Persian force. A popular tale in the region holds the Arabs named the location Jalawla from an Arabic verb meaning to cover or to fill, as so many Zoroastrian corpses filled the landscape.

Sangawi knows this tale, and says he considers the Zoroastrians the Kurds’ forebears before Arabs took their territory—a perfect and historically convenient parable for Kurdish claims on the region.

Dark haired with a round face, thick droopy mustache and rosy cheeks, the 63-year-old Sangawi at first comes across as a friendly grandfatherly type, albeit one who travels with an entourage equipped with RPGs and machine guns. And most grandfathers don’t blithely threaten former heads of state.

“We’ve killed lots of people, a lot of them like Maliki,” he says of the former Iraqi prime minister, who said in a TV interview last month that anyone wishing to break up Iraq would create a “river of blood.”

“Maliki can eat shit,” Sangawi chuckles.

Sangawi’s been with the Peshmerga since the 1970s and has jumped around the Kurds’ various political parties, at one point even becoming a Marxist before joining up with the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), the party of former Iraqi President Jalal Talabani.

Compared to Sangawi’s stance of bold antagonism, Khorasani is more conciliatory. The 45-year-old says he was in the legal profession before volunteering for the militia, and he makes a point of saying how the liberation of Jalawla was a joint effort. Even before then, he adds, the Kurds and Shia Arabs could find common cause.

“This is Iraq. We used to be united. They opposed the former regime and so did we,” he laments. “We were one.”

But Sangawi counters: “We were both against Saddam Hussein. We fought together. However, when the Shias came to power they treated us the same as Saddam Hussein, that’s why we don’t have a good relationship now.”

Siddiqi, at the Middle East Research Institute, says that the new Baghdad government under Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has shown a willingness to negotiate and be more accommodating to Iraq’s minorities, but the country’s age-old tensions still run deep.

“Saddam Hussein is gone, but his authoritarianism still survives along all levels of Iraqi society,” Siddiqi says. “It remains to be seen if the government becoming more accommodating will reduce calls for independence.”

If a conflict were to occur, he adds, the Hashd al-Shaabi would be at the forefront of any government pushback against the Kurds. “The central government could easily call on the Shia militias it’s currently using against ISIS, using religious pretexts and slogans to drive them forward,” he says.

The central Iraqi government has already come under fire for its use of the militias, whose religious zealotry exacerbates sectarian tensions in Iraq. The government’s operation to retake the Sunni-majority Ramadi was originally named “At Your Service, Hussein,” in honor of a major Shia historical and religious figure. Human Rights Watch has also raised concerns that the Hashd al-Shaabi have committed serious human rights abuses while ostensibly fighting ISIS.

Siddiqi says the international community, including the central government’s main ally, Iran, would be wary of seeing another war in the region. “Iran wants peace, it does not want Iraq to become another Syria or another Yemen,” he says, adding that although opposed on many issues, the U.S. and Iran have tacit tactical cooperation in Iraq these days, and neither would support a Shia-Kurd conflict.

If a fight did occur, Siddiqi says he believes world powers would do their best to take a “hands-off” approach to avoid further escalation. If Kurdish independence were to succeed, he continues, it would only be accomplished via an agreement with Baghdad, not another war.

But far from Tehran and the beltway, on the dusty plains of disputed Jalawla, Sangawi says he’s ready for that war, drawing little distinction between Shia Hashd al-Shaabi and Sunni ISIS, and viewing them both as his people’s ancient enemies.

“The Shia militias believe if they kill ISIS they’re going to heaven, and ISIS believes if they kill the Shia people they are going to go to heaven,” Sangawi declares. “They fight over religion, not for land.”

“For me, if they attack me I will attack them, because this is my land. If they come to this land, of course I will fight them.”

Iraq Lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul, Prime Minister Says

May 31, 2015

Iraq Lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul, Prime Minister Says, Defense News, May 31, 2015

HumveesMembers of Iraqi security forces gather around a military vehicle on March 28 outside the western entrance of Tikrit during a military operation to retake the northern Iraqi city from Islamic State group jihadists. (Photo: Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

The militants gained ample arms, ammunition and other equipment when multiple Iraqi divisions fell apart in the country’s north, abandoning gear and shedding uniforms in their haste to flee.

IS has used captured Humvees, which were provided to Iraq by the United States, in subsequent fighting, rigging some with explosives for suicide bombings.

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BAGHDAD — Iraqi security forces lost 2,300 Humvee armored vehicles when the Islamic State jihadist group overran the northern city of Mosul, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said on Sunday.

“In the collapse of Mosul, we lost a lot of weapons,” Abadi said in an interview with Iraqiya state TV. “We lost 2,300 Humvees in Mosul alone.”

While the exact price of the vehicles varies depending on how they are armored and equipped, it is clearly a hugely expensive loss that has boosted IS’ capabilities.

Last year, the State Department approved a possible sale to Iraq of 1,000 Humvees with increased armor, machine guns, grenade launchers, other gear and support that was estimated to cost $579 million.

Clashes began in Mosul, Iraq’s second city, late on June 9, 2014, and Iraqi forces lost it the following day to IS, which spearheaded an offensive that overran much of the country’s Sunni Arab heartland.

The militants gained ample arms, ammunition and other equipment when multiple Iraqi divisions fell apart in the country’s north, abandoning gear and shedding uniforms in their haste to flee.

IS has used captured Humvees, which were provided to Iraq by the United States, in subsequent fighting, rigging some with explosives for suicide bombings.

Iraqi security forces backed by Shiite militias have regained significant ground from IS in Diyala and Salaheddin provinces north of Baghdad.

But that momentum was slashed in mid-May when IS overran Ramadi, the capital of Anbar province, west of Baghdad, where Iraqi forces had held out against militants for more than a year.

ISIS Wins No Matter What Happens Next

May 28, 2015

ISIS Wins No Matter What Happens Next, The Daily BeastMichael Weiss, May 28, 2015

1432804506635.cachedAhmad Al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty

Usama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq’s vice presidents and the former parliamentary speaker, pointed out that recent missteps by the militias has squandered incipient good will for Sunni reconciliation. Yesterday, during a parliamentary session, the Sunni governor of Diyala province was fired—and replaced with a Shia. “This is a real threat and a very negative message to Iraqis. This is considered a break to the rules and it contradicts what has been agreed,” Nujaifi said. “The majority in Diyala are Sunnis.”

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The latest planned attack on the terror army could be playing right into their hands.

The Obama administration is being slammed from all sides for its failing strategy against ISIS—and rightly so. But amid all the scorn, one question has yet to be asked about the resiliency of the terror army, which, actually goes to the heart of its decade-old war doctrine. Namely: does ISIS actually win even when it loses?

This isn’t an academic issue. America’s allies in the ISIS war are gearing up for a major counteroffensive against the extremist group. That assault that could very well play right into ISIS’ hands.

Having superimposed its self-styled “caliphate” over a good third of Iraq’s territory, in control of two provincial capitals, ISIS is today in strongest position it has ever been for fomenting the kind of sectarian conflagration its founding father, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, envisioned as far back as 2004.

Zarqawi’s end-game was simple: by waging merciless atrocities against Iraq’s Shia majority population (and any Sunnis seen to be conspiring with it), Zarqawi’s jihadists would have only to stand back and watch as radicalized Shia militias, many of whose members also served in various Iraqi government and security roles, conducted their own retaliatory campaigns against the country’s Sunni minority. Internecine conflict would have the knock-on effect of driving Sunnis desperately into the jihadist fold, whether or not they sympathized with the ideology of al-Qaeda in Iraq, Zarqawi’s franchise and the earliest incarnation of what we now call the Islamic State.

Indeed, in the mid-2000s, the Jordanian jihadist nearly got what he wished for by waging spectacular terror attacks against Shia civilians and holy sites, such as the Golden Mosque in Samarra, a strategy which quickened devolved Iraq’s violence from a primarily anti-American insurgency into all-out civil war. The only stopgap for a truly apocalyptic or nation-destroying result was the presence of nearly 200,000 U.S. and coalition troops. Today, however, absent such a foreign and independent military presence, the main actors left in Iraq are the same extremists —Shia militias and ISIS.

This fact was only driven home last week after thousands of U.S.-trained Iraqi Security Force personnel, including the elite counterterrorist Golden Division, fled from Ramadi, allowing the city fall to a numerically modest contingent of ISIS jihadists. Having been initially instructed by Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to refrain from defending the city (no doubt at the prompting of Washington) the Hashd al-Shaabi, the umbrella organization for these Shia militias, now say they are prepping a massive counteroffensive to retake Ramadi. It promises to be a drawn-out and highly fraught counteroffensive, pitting paramilitaries—which have been accused of war crimes and atrocities by Human Rights Watch, Amnesty International and United Nations Human Rights Commission—against genocidal ISIS militants.

Many Iraqis fear, with good reason, that this counteroffensive will also extend to Sunni civilians who will now be branded “collaborators” of ISIS, as they have in previous Hashd-led operations. The result: torture, extrajudicial killing, and ethnic cleansing. Nothing would better serve the ISIS narrative or legitimate its claim to be the last custodian and safeguard of Sunni Muslims in the Middle East. Such an outcome might even precede the eventual disintegration of the modern state of Iraq into warring ethno-religious enclaves. That this was ISIS’s plan all along adds yet another grim paragraph to the obituary of American-hatched adventurism in the Middle East.

True, Hashd al-Shaabi has routed ISIS elsewhere before, namely in Amerli and Jurf al-Sakhar and Tikrit. In the aftermath, the militia was accused of committing human rights abuses, but those accusations didn’t tear the country apart.

The difference with Ramadi, however, is one of both scale and symbolism. This city of close to 200,000 is dead center in the Sunni heartland of Iraq, where ISIS has the home advantage. Ramadi was also, not coincidentally, the cynosure of the so-called “Anbar Awakening,” which saw hundreds of thousands of Sunni tribesmen rise up against ISIS’s predecessor, al-Qaeda in Iraq, in a cautious but fruitful partnership with American soldiers in the mid-2000s, a grassroots counterinsurgency whose gains were then solidified by the “surge” orchestrated by U.S. commander General David Petraeus. This time, absent any American combat forces, there are Shia Islamists who have never before tread into Ramadi. Many Iraqis dread the consequences.

“Iraq is not unified,” Iraq’s former Deputy Prime Minister Rafe Essawi, a senior Sunni political leader originally from Anbar, told The Daily Beast. “50 percent of the country belongs either to Kurds or ISIS, and 50 percent belongs to the Shia militias backed by Iran. We said too many times to our friends the Americans that we do not need to see the militias in Ramadi because this will lead to sectarian conflict.”

Yet the Americans have little on offer by way of an alternative. U.S. training efforts are still months off from fielding military units able to join the fight. With Iraq’s future resting on them, Hashd is seen as the only ready bulwark against further ISIS encroachments, though its conduct in Anbar may paradoxically purge the province of ISIS’s hard power while underwriting its soft version.

The Ramadi offensive hardly got off to a promising start. On Tuesday, Hashd spokesmen announced that the name for their Anbar offensive was, “Labeyk Ya Hussein,” a slogan roughly translated as “At your service, Hussein,” in tribute to a venerated Shia religious figure. The connotations were therefore of holy war — not exactly the multi-sectarian, pan-Iraqi message Baghdad has preferred to telegraph to international audiences.

On Wednesday, in response to criticism from U.S. officials and some Iraqi leaders—including demagogic Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr (who has fallen out with Iran and has since platformed himself as a nationalist politician)—the operation’s name was changed to to more universal: “Labeyk Ya Iraq.” But the public relations rethink has not addressed underling concerns about the Hashd’s intentions, nor allayed Sunni anxieties.

“I think the careful examiner of the facts on the ground will see de facto borders are being drawn whether by design or by circumstance,” said one former Iraqi official who spoke to The Daily Beast on the condition of anonymity. “The militias have effectively cleared the Baghdad belts to the south of Sunnis, and with the Ramadi operation I expect the same will happen westward but it will entail a lot more fighting and possibly much more instability.”

This is because the war for the future Iraq isn’t being waged first and foremost by Iraqis but by their self-interested next-door neighbor, Iran, led by its elite Revolutionary Guards Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated terrorist entity in its own right.

Iraq’s sectarian division, whereby Sunnis have been forced out of Shia-controlled areas under the auspices of fighting ISIS, reflects the fact that the Hashd operates more according to Tehran’s geo-strategic and ideological interests, the former official said. “I feel that Iran and some of its erstwhile allies have reached a realization that they have lost a significant ally in Syria and therefore need to buffer the ‘Shia’ zones in Iraq to protect them while paying lip service to the notion of a unified state.”

It certainly does not help matters that America’s unacknowledged ally in the anti-ISIS coalition is the IRGC-QF, whose commander, Major General Qassem Suleimani, not only blamed U.S. incompetence for the fall of Ramadi this week but labeled the United States an “accomplice” of the jihadists—a conspiratorial view of ISIS’s secret patronage widely shared amongst the Hashd rank-and-file.

The scenario described by Essawi and the ex-official is more common among the Sunni political class that either Washington or Baghdad care to acknowledge. Whether it is credible will depend on how the Hashd conducts itself on hostile terrain and whether it can break with precedence of collective punishment. If the militias act as a nationalist reserve army, under the command and control of Haider al-Abadi—something the White House has insisted as a precondition of U.S. air support—then they may be able to recruit Sunnis to their efforts, or at least earn their respect and admiration.

Essawi argues that Hashd has so far relied on coercion rather than a savvy hearts-and-minds approach for winning over Sunnis. “The Sunni tribes used to be against ISIS after [their] crimes,” he said. “Definitely there are some local supporters of ISIS, but the tribes generally speaking —almost all of them — are committed to fight. It is the government that refuses to strengthen them. So some very weak tribes have been coerced into accepting this bad choice: it’s either Hashd al-Shaabi or ISIS.”

Saleh al-Mutlaq, a Sunni deputy prime minister under Abadi, disagreed.

He emphasized that the Hashd should henceforth operate under the Iraqi flag rather than the host of competing standards their constituent militias currently brandish (including those bearing the images of Iranian ayatollahs Khomeini and Khamenei). But Mutlaq is hopeful of greater Sunni support for the Hashd. He pointed out that there are currently volunteer camps established near Ramadi to incorporate Sunnis volunteers and Iraqi policemen who fled the city into the broader counteroffensive.

“The government will give them training and weapons,” a statement issued by Mutlaq’s office read, without offering specifics. As for Shia sloganeering deemed alienating the Anbari support base, he doesn’t think this has had too dire an impact. “The Sunnis were conflicted about the intervention from the Hashd al-Shaabi because they were worried about reprisal attacks. But the Hashd is less harmful than ISIS. At least, these people are Iraqis and we can deal with them later on, but we can’t with ISIS.”

Nevertheless, Mutlaq wonders just what form a pro-government success may take and what happens the day after ISIS is routed from Ramadi. “His concern is whether Ramadi will undergo demographic changes,” his office said. “Will Sunnis be forced to relocate to others areas and will there will be any revenge attacks and conflicts between the Hashd and the tribes?”

Usama al-Nujaifi, one of Iraq’s vice presidents and the former parliamentary speaker, pointed out that recent missteps by the militias has squandered incipient good will for Sunni reconciliation. Yesterday, during a parliamentary session, the Sunni governor of Diyala province was fired—and replaced with a Shia. “This is a real threat and a very negative message to Iraqis. This is considered a break to the rules and it contradicts what has been agreed,” Nujaifi said. “The majority in Diyala are Sunnis.”

ISIS is counting on such political heavy-handedness to indemnify its own savagery. “It is that enemy, composed of Shiites joined by Sunni agents, who are the real danger with which we are confronted, for it is our fellow citizens, who know us better than anyone,” Zarqawi wrote in a 2004 letter, correctly foreseeing that the U.S. military occupation would be fleeting and incidental to the future of Iraq.

In other words, he wanted the Shia militias, principally the Badr Corps — now first among equals in the Hashd— to commit anti-Sunni atrocities as payback for Zarqawi’s own scorched-earth war against the Shia. “If we manage to draw them onto the terrain of partisan war, it will be possible to tear the Sunnis away from their heedlessness, for they will feel the weight of the imminence of danger and the devastating threat of death wielded by these Sabeans.”

If Iraq does fall apart, it will have been because Zarqawi’s apocalyptic plan got realized a decade after his death.

WH Admits Need To ‘Adapt Our Strategy’ Against IS, Contradicts Previous Admin Statements

May 27, 2015

WH Admits Need To ‘Adapt Our Strategy’ Against IS, Contradicts Previous Admin Statements, Washington Free Beacon via You Tube, May 27, 2015

(“It’s more complicated than that.” Wash, rinse and repeat– DM)