28 May 2017
English Arabic

IRBIL, Iraq — The U.S. Army failed to properly keep tracks of hundreds of humvees, tens of thousands of rifles and other pieces of military equipment that were sent to Iraq, according to a government audit from 2016 that was obtained by Amnesty International and released Wednesday.

The price of the equipment — meant to equip the Iraqi army, Shiite militias and the Kurdish peshmerga — totaled more than $1 billion.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the U.S. Army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher, said in an emailed statement.

The audit found that improper record-keeping, including duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and a lack of a central database to track the transfers, contributed to the report’s findings. Additionally, the audit claimed that under the Iraqi Train and Equip Fund, once the equipment was transferred to the government of Iraq, the Pentagon no longer had to monitor the material as it was no longer U.S. government property.

While likely not an issue for things such as uniform items and body armor, the lack of any post-transfer accountability on U.S. arms and munitions raises the chances for illicit diversion from the intended supply chain. Currently, the Middle East is awash in U.S. weapons and equipment, and with President Trump’s decision to equip Kurdish forces in Syria with more weapons, it is unclear whether the United States has learned from any of its past mistakes in the region.

“The need for post-delivery checks is vital,” Wilcken said. “Any fragilities along the transfer chain greatly increase the risks of weapons going astray in a region where armed groups have wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering.”

Source: Washington Post

Iraq's Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation into allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by its forces fighting the Islamic State group in Mosul.

The allegations were first reported by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine last weekend. The report, authored by an Iraqi photographer reportedly embedded with the police unit, claims he witnessed killing, torture and rape of IS suspects.

The ministry's spokesman, Brig. Gen Saad Maan, said on Tuesday that the newspaper report identifies the Emergency Response Division — an elite unit that answers to the Interior Ministry and has been closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition in the Mosul fight — as the perpetrator of the abuses. Maan did not give a time frame for the investigating but said "legal measures will be applied ... against wrongdoers."

An officer with the ERD reached by The Associated Press said his unit is not authorized to comment and that all inquiries should be directed to the Interior Ministry. In other developments, Amnesty International released a report on Wednesday saying the U.S. Army in Iraq and Kuwait failed to keep track of more a $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment provided to forces in the fight against IS, according to a 2016 Department of Defense audit obtained by the rights group.

The report "makes for especially sobering reading, given the long history of leakage of U.S. arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State," said Patrick Wilcken, a researcher with Amnesty. Iraq's ERD forces have been closely backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition in the fight to retake Mosul. Coalition forces also shared surveillance and intelligence information with the forces to aid in their advances on the city's eastern and western sides.

Following the Interior Ministry statement, Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy for the global coalition against IS, said Iraqi security forces have "bravely placed civilian protection as top priority" throughout the Mosul campaign but that "individuals or units failing to uphold that standard ... must be investigated and held accountable."

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are closing in on the last IS held neighborhoods in western Mosul nearly three years after the extremists overran almost a third of Iraq in 2014. With the help of more than 12,000 airstrikes and $12.5 billion dollars in training, logistics and support from the U.S.-led coalition, in addition to Iranian training and support, Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the territory IS once held in the country.

The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October and the city's east was declared "fully liberated" in January.

Source: abc news

Government-allied Troops Hold, Torture Mosul-Area Residents

(Erbil) —Iraqi government-allied troops arbitrarily detained at least 100 men in late April 2017, in some cases torturing them during interrogations, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Human Rights Watch interviewed three men from al-Hadar, a village 90 kilometers southwest of west Mosul, who were detained by the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi) and two local officials who had knowledge of the detention operations in the area. The men said the fighters detained them as they fled their homes because of the fighting, and held them for up to 15 days in a school building and in one case a home in an area solely under PMF control. Their captors interrogated them about possible Islamic State (also known as ISIS) links, and in two cases beat them with thick metal cables, before releasing them and a small number of other detainees. Other detainees told them they had also been beaten during interrogations.

“Given the previous track records of PMF abuse in the area of screening and detaining local men, Baghdad should treat these findings with the gravest concern,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should do all in their power to ensure that families fleeing the fighting around Mosul are able to get to safety, not tortured in secret facilities.”

Human Rights Watch heard similar accounts from other men fleeing the fighting earlier in 2017 and raised the issue with the government, but the detentions and abuse seem to have continued. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should issue a decree banning screening and detention by the PMF and hold those who have committed abuses accountable.

One man, “Hassan,” said that his family and a group of others fled al-Hadar, which was under ISIS control, on April 25, for a camp for displaced people run by the PMF. After two days there, he and 10 of his relatives were then taken to a building they said was a school and held there in a room, along with about 40 others from their village. His family group was interrogated for a week, then released.

Hassan and the other two men interviewed said that they were able to determine that they were being held in a school by speaking to fellow prisoners and guards, and by lifting their blindfolds. A government official from Tal Abta told Human Rights Watch that the PMF held the men in the Tal Abta Janubia primary school and provided the GPS coordinates. The official said that his office had documented the names of 100 men from the area who the PMF had detained as they fled, over the same period, based on calls from their families.

Ali Al-Ahmadi, director of al-Hadar district, told local media outlets on May 1, that the PMF had detained at least 160 people upon their arrival at camps for people displaced by the fighting. The same reports said that the governor of Mosul was calling for a high-level emergency session to discuss these detentions.

Earlier in the Mosul operation, Human Rights Watch documented cases of the PMF arbitrarily detainingtorturing, and executing civilians. Following a Human Rights Watch report, the PMF Commission issued a statement in early February denying that its forces had screened or detained anyone. The statement said the PMF hands over captured ISIS suspects to state security forces who have a mandate to screen suspects.

But in a meeting on February 6, a PMF Commission representative told Human Rights Watch that in limited circumstances they do detain people captured on the battlefield for at least short periods before transferring them to Iraqi authorities with a detention mandate. One man the PMF had detained for eight days and an aid worker confirmed that.

Iraqi authorities should only allow those with the requisite legal authority to screen people. The authorities should ensure that anyone detained is held in a recognized detention center accessible to independent monitors, and granted their due process rights under international and Iraqi law. All detention should be based on clear domestic law, and every detainee should be brought promptly before a judge to review the legality of their detention. Iraqi law requires authorities to take detainees before an investigative judge within 48 hours.

Human Rights Watch has also documented that Iraqi forces, including PMF forces, have used schools for security or military purposes such as for screening and as detention centers. Such use of schools can delay the re-opening of the schools to teach and provide other services to children, and damage classrooms and equipment. Iraqi forces should avoid using schools except as a last resort, when no other facilities are available.

The United Nations Convention against Torture, which Iraq ratified in 2011, obliges member countries to investigate and prosecute torture and to compensate victims.

“While there may be grounds to detain some people fleeing the fighting who are suspected of criminal acts under ISIS’s rule, they have to be given their rights under Iraqi law,” Fakih said. “That includes the right not to be ill-treated.”

Detainees’ Accounts

“Hassan”

“Hassan” said that on April 25, when the village of al-Hadar, where he lived, was still under ISIS control, his family and about 15 others managed to escape in several cars. The convoy spent two nights out in the desert just north of al-Hadar, before unidentified security forces arrived and told the families to go to Jarbua, a PMF-run camp for displaced people, 30 kilometers north of Tal Abta.

After they spent two nights at the camp, Hassan said, at around 9 p.m., a group of fighters with PMF badges rounded him up, along with 10 of his relatives, blindfolded them, then drove them to another location where they were held in a room of a large building. When he was able to, he said, he pulled down his blindfold quickly because his hands were bound in front and saw that he was in a room with about 40 other detainees, all from al-Hadar.

After seven days, guards released him and the other 10 men detained with him without explanation, he said. Throughout his detention, he said, the same guards moved him in and out of the room with the other detainees for interrogation, asking why he had remained living under ISIS, whether he had joined ISIS, and for names of ISIS fighters. Hassan said he was blindfolded throughout his captivity but said that he was held and interrogated by fighters with southern accents whom he thought were from the PMF.

“Ahmed”

“Ahmed” said that on the morning of April 26, as Iraqi forces began an operation to retake al-Hadar, more than 60 other families fled the area in cars. Six were families from al-Hadar and the rest were families previously displaced by the fighting, mostly from villages in Tal Abta district, just to the north, he said. When they were about six kilometers north of the village, they reached a base of a large number of fighters carrying flags identifying them as belonging to the PMF unit Ali al-Akbar Brigade (Liwa Ali al-Akbar), with fighters from southern Iraq.

The fighters made them wait for several hours, then checked the men’s identity cards. By then it was evening, and the fighters told them it was too late to take them to the nearest camp, which they said was at least 40 kilometers away. They told the families to stay in their cars or erect tents, he said.

At midnight, Ahmed said, he was standing with five of his relatives, including his brother, by their cars when three Ali al-Akbar fighters with PMF badges approached them and said they needed the men to come with them so they could interview them about their area. Ahmed said that the PMF fighters blindfolded him and his relatives, drove them for about five minutes, and then held them in a school, where the fighters detained them for 10 days. His hands were bound in front, so he was able to slip off the blindfold on various occasions. Ali said he saw guards bringing in about 90 men, who told him they were from al-Hadar.

For four days, Ahmed said, guards with southern accents whom he thought were PMF interrogated him blindfolded in a separate room once each day, asking why he had joined Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and beating him for about 10 minutes each time with thick metal cables. Ahmed said that twice the guards held a plastic bag over his head until he lost consciousness. He said he insisted he had not joined any extremist group. After four days of abuse, he asked the 40 or so men held in a room with him if they had confessed and all said they had, to stop the abuse, Ahmed said. He said all his relatives told him the guards also beat them with thick metal cables.

The next morning, Ahmed said, he confessed to being affiliated with ISIS. Later that afternoon, he was again brought into a separate room and a man who sounded different from his interrogators asked if his confession was true, and he admitted it had not been.

While the PMF held them, he and the other two detainees said they were only given one cup of water and limited food every day. The guards moved Ahmed among three rooms. In two he estimates there were a total of another 40 detainees, with one room full of men he did not recognize as from al-Hadar, and about 50 from al-Hadar in the other. After the other man questioned him, Ahmed said, guards loaded him and 11 other men, including his brother and other relatives into cars and drove them to a house about two hours away, where they were held in the same room and interrogated separately for another two days. At that point, guards with the same southern accents as the Ali al-Akbar fighters brought in 20 to 30 men from al-Hadar whom Ahmed recognized as also having been held at the school. One said that PMF fighters had bused all 90 to the house together.

That night, guards with southern accents took him and 10 of the other men, including four of his relatives, to al-Hadar village and let them go. They eventually made their way to displaced camps in Jadah, 54 kilometers northwest, where they rejoined their families. As of May 17, he said, his brother was still in detention.

An official from the area working on the detainees’ release told Human Rights Watch that the house the PMF detained the men in was referred to as Yaseen’s house.

“Kareem”

“Kareem” said he fled al-Hadhra on April 26, with about 10 families to a nearby village. The next day, they drove 40 kilometers to a PMF checkpoint. Four PMF fighters with badges checked the men’s identity cards. The fighters selected him and seven other men, blindfolded them, and bound their hands, then drove them to a nearby large building. Kareem said the building held many other prisoners but he was unable to count because he was afraid he would be caught if he lifted his blindfold.

He said he was held for 15 days and that guards interrogated him daily about ISIS affiliation and beat him with thick metal cables. An older man from his village held with him died from an illness that predated his detention. Kareem said he did not want to speak about what the guards had done to him, but he had visible bruising and scaring around his wrists and up his right arm when he spoke to Human Rights Watch, two days after he was released.

 Source: hrw.org

More than 50 people have been killed in a string of suicide car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, and the southern province of Basra, police have told Al Jazeera.

At least 33 people were killed on Friday in two separate blasts at checkpoints on a highway near oilfields in Basra, according to police.

The first explosion took place at the Rumeila checkpoint, and the second around one kilometre away at another checkpoint called al-Sadra.

Iraq's South Oil Company said there was no disruption to operations but oil police were put on maximum alert in response to the attack, officials told the Reuters news agency.

Baghdad attacks

Separately, two more attacks late on Friday killed at least 19 people, including security forces, and wounded 25 others in southern Baghdad.

Police sources said a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at the entrance of a checkpoint, just as another attacker blew himself up near a police station located about a 100 metres away. 

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks.

ISIL is under assault in both Iraq - in the country's second city of Mosul - and in neighbouring Syria.

The armed group took vast swaths of Iraqi territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014.

Iraqi government forces backed by a US-led international coalition have since retaken many cities, including Tikrit and Fallujah.

But as ISIL has lost ground in Iraq, it has also retained the ability to stage regular attacks in areas it does not control.

Source: Al Jazeera

EIFA statement on the eve of Arab-Islamic-American Conference in Riyadh

Call for practical and decisive action to end the Iranian regime's domination in Iraq, as the mullahs' most important base for threats to regional and global security

Confronting the Iranian regime's terrorism and its destructive meddling in the region is among the most important topics to be discussed in the summit in Riyadh. Through their warmongering, expansion of sectarianism, support of armed militias and their fostering of terrorism, the mullahs ruling Iran have become the main challenge against security and stability in the region.

Iraq, which used to be the foremost barrier against the Iranian regime prior to the invasion in 2003, has now become the most important base for it’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and for threatening other countries in the region. Parties and militias linked to the mullahs now dominate the Iraqi government and all its military and security agencies. President Trump has reiterated that the military attack on Iraq in 2003 as well as the irresponsible departure of US forces from that country in 2009 by the Obama administration was a mistake that has led to the Iranian regime's ascendancy in Iraq.

In Riyadh, it is important that all efforts are not solely concentrated on combating ISIS. The total eviction of the Iranian regime and its proxies from Iraq must be a key item on the Riyadh agenda. If not, the Iranian regime will continue to be the winner and Iraq will move towards disintegration and internal war and will turn into the main center of instability and terrorism in the region.

The Iranian regime is pursuing a shrewd post-ISIS plan. With the formation of the militant Shi’ite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force and its recognition as a legal entity in the Iraqi parliament, it has created its fighting arm and by strengthening the former venally corrupt and sectarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his affiliated parties, it has laid the groundwork for hi-jacking next year’s Iraqi elections.

Iraj Masjedi, senior deputy to the brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander General Qasem Soleimani, was recently appointed as the regime's ambassador to Iraq and is in charge of pursuing this plan. In addition, the Badr organization, which was set up by Iran's IRGC, has effectively taken control of Iraq's interior ministry and hundreds of thousands of its personnel. Qasim al-Aaraji, Iraq's Interior Minister, is the head of the Badr faction and a very close ally of Qasem Soleimani. All Iraq's security organs are in the hands of the Shi’ia Dawa party or other parties linked to the Iranian regime. Many of the areas liberated from ISIS are now under the control of militias associated with the IRGC who have prevented hundreds of thousands of displaced people from returning to their homes.

Evidence of the repressive brutality of the Shi’ia militias is overwhelming:

  • Dr. Ayad Allawi - Iraq’s Vice President - revealed at a press conference in Iraq's Babil province that the Iranian regime is preventing the return of displaced people of Jurf al-Sakhr to their home town. (Al-Jazeera, May 3).
  • Muhamed al-Karbouli – an Iraqi MP from al-Anbar province - accused Shi’ia militias of Iraqi Kata'eb Hezbollah, as part of Hashd al-Shaabi, of kidnapping 2,900 inhabitants of al-Anbar, Diyala and Babil provinces and imprisoning them in secret prisons. (Middle East Online, 12 May 2017)
  • Al-Arab daily wrote on May 15: "The reason that abduction crimes are not prosecuted in Iraq is because the same parties in charge of abductions are in charge of Iraq’s security and these same Iraqis control the Shi’ite parties that run the powerful militias and they control the key Ministries, in particular the Interior Ministry and it is these militias that are both involved in carrying out the abductions and prosecuting the culprits.”
  • Abu Mehdi al-Mohandes, the commander of Hashd al-Shaabi, emphasized publicly on Iran-associated Ofoq TV that he is a soldier of Qasem Soleimani and executes the orders of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime's supreme leader.
  • Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaeb militias that are part of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi, claimed that the militias under his command, including Iran's IRGC, the Houthi militias in Yemen, Lebanese Hezbollah and Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq will constitute the forces which he called ‘Shi’ite Badr’. He said Iraq's next prime minister must be from Hashd al-Shaabi (Al-Arabiya, May 11).
  • By forming these Shi’ia parties, Hashd al-Shaabi and the militias linked to the Iranian regime have the intention of seizing control of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Electoral Commission is under the control of Nouri al-Maliki and other pro-Iranian factions, which is why widespread demonstrations, which took place on 12 Februrary 2017, demanded the replacement of the Electoral Commission.
  • Foreign Affairs magazine wrote on 1 May 2017 that its “current plan is to focus on obtaining and maintaining a predominant position in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.… These pathways would traverse from Iran’s western borders through the Euphrates and Tigris valleys and the vast expanses of desert in Iraq and Syria, providing a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and finally ending at the edge of the Golan Heights. The two corridors would serve as chains to move military supplies or militiamen when needed.” The idea, according to several senior Iranian officials, would be to outsource the supervision of the corridors to proxy forces, such as Hezbollah and the various Shi’ite militias Iran sponsors in Iraq and Syria, in order to avoid using its own military forces to control the routes. (Iran has a long-standing aversion toward investing manpower abroad.) Tehran’s proxy militias would be able to field a force numbering 150,000 to 200,000 fighters, including 18,000 Afghani Shi’ites, 3,000 to 4,000 Pakistani Shi’ites and small Christian and Druze militias. 
  • Asharq al-Awsat wrote on May 1st: “Dozens of Quds Force (the extra-territorial wing of the IRGC) affiliated military and political bases have been formed west of Mosul, under the guise of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militia forces. Iran is attempting to establish a ground route through Mosul to Syria to provide the Assad regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah with weapons, ammunition and reinforcements, experts say.”

Obama in 2011 described al-Maliki as the leader of a democratic state. However, he was in fact Iran’s number one man in Iraq, who during his eight years in office engulfed the country in corruption and crimes against humanity, plunging Iraq into civil war. He held onto office for a second term only as a result of an agreement reached between Obama and Khamenei. With the support he enjoyed from Iran and the blind obeisance of the Obama administration, Maliki launched a massive crackdown against widespread popular protests in Iraq in April 2013, as the Iraqi masses demanded an end to corruption and the restoration of civil rights. The subsequent oppression and mass slaughter Maliki launched against peaceful demonstrations in the mainly Sunni Iraqi provinces allowed Daesh to invade the country successfully from Syria and to seize control of over one third of Iraq’s territory.

Currently, pro-Iran parties are preventing any reforms in Iraq. For example, the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi belongs to the al-Dawa Party, with a majority of its senior elite linked to Iran. He has failed to implement his pledges of reform, including his reform agenda based on which he received a confidence vote from the Iraqi Parliament back in September 2014. He also was unable to execute his reform initiative in August 2015 and failed to establish a promised cabinet of technocrats to replace his widely reviled and corrupt ministers.

Currently, the Riyadh and the Arabic-Islamic-American conference are fully aware of the dangers and consequences of previous mistakes in Iraq. To this end, expectations are high for firm practical measures to be placed on the agenda to uproot Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the region and to dismantle its swathe of Shi’ite militias. The mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards, being the main Iranian asset in the export of terrorism and insecurity across the region, should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United Nations, United States, Europe and Middle Eastern states. Furthermore, new strategies must be implemented for the war against Daesh, uprooting Iran’s influence and rebuilding Iraq.

Focus must particularly be placed on establishing a balanced political state, far from Iran’s dominance, otherwise, Iraq after the fall of Daesh, will be a cradle for terrorism and a phenomenon far more dangerous than Daesh, namely the Iran-linked militias that will emerge with even more power than before. Such an outcome will demand a far graver price to resolve the dossiers of Syria and Yemen and to continue the struggle against terrorism and insecurity.

Struan Stevenson

President

European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

 

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004-2014. www.struanstevenson.com www.eu-iraq.org

 

 

Iraq's Sunni minority is pushing for a greater say in power once the Islamic State group is defeated, reflecting growing sentiment that the country's government must be more inclusive to prevent extremism from gaining ground once again.

But so far, there's little momentum. Many Shiite politicians are wary, and the Sunni leadership is divided and disorganized. On the ground, tensions are further stoked because Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters control some mainly Sunni areas recaptured from IS militants and are resistant to withdrawing.

The danger is that Iraq will miss the chance to break the sectarian cycle that has fueled extremism for more than a decade.

Sunni resentment over disenfranchisement and the rise of Shiite power after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein fueled an insurgency and gave a foothold to al-Qaida. The U.S. military, backed by Sunni tribal fighters, largely crushed al-Qaida. But Sunni bitterness over continued discrimination by Shiites helped in the subsequent rise of the Islamic State group. Each time, the rise of militants only deepened Shiite suspicions that the Sunnis cannot be trusted.

U.S. officials backing Baghdad in the fight against IS have warned repeatedly that the same could happen again now unless the government is made more inclusive.

A prominent Sunni lawmaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said Iraq could fall apart unless a "historic compromise" is reached.

"Such compromise is a must, otherwise Iraq will be gone," the former parliament speaker told The Associated Press.

He and some Sunni factions put together a working paper outlining their stance for talks on a new system, calling for negotiations over dramatic changes to the constitution.

Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called repeatedly for unity after the defeat of IS, and Shiite politicians say they recognize the need for more inclusiveness.

"We have big concerns for the post-Daesh period," said Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Alaq, using an Arabic acronym for IS. He says proper distribution of resources and rebuilding of state institutions are key to keeping the country together.

He pointed to a referendum on independence that the Kurdish autonomous region aims to hold later this year. "We are concerned that Sunnis could demand the same," he said.

But any real talks are on hold while fighting still rages over the Islamic State group's last main urban bastion, Mosul.

And already there are fault lines over numerous issues.

SECURITY

The Sunni working paper calls for steps to address their complaints that crackdowns on militants have unfairly hurt their community. It demands a halt to "random arrests," the freeing of detainees not convicted of crimes and eventually a review of anti-terrorism laws.

Shiite politicians have long resisted those demands, pushing for a tougher fight against terrorism. Shiites — estimated at up to 60 percent of the population of more than 36 million — often suspect the Sunni minority of secret sympathies with militants and of aiming to regain power. Sunni Arabs dominated the ruling Baath Party and leadership positions during the rule of Saddam, a Sunni himself who brutally suppressed Shiites.

Long term, many Sunnis want provincial governors to have greater control over security forces on their soil, ensuring that Sunnis are patrolling Sunni regions.

Khalaf al-Hadidi, a provincial council member in Nineveh, the mainly Sunni province where Mosul is located, said local security forces need to be given a "bigger role in protecting the province. These (local) forces must be under the governor's control instead of many parties from outside the province."

But Shiite-led governments have long distrusted local Sunni security forces, at times refusing to arm or pay them. The collapse of mainly Sunni police forces in the face of the IS blitz of 2014 only reinforced Shiite fears that Sunnis would not act against militants.

———

MILITIAS

Intertwined with Sunni security demands is their deep opposition to Shiite militias, which have a major role in the fight against IS but are also accused of abuses against Sunnis. The working paper calls for the disbanding of the Hashd, the government-backed umbrella group of militias, most of them Shiite.

Far from agreeing to disband, however, the militias are pushing for greater official recognition of their power.

Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters hold significant parts of Nineveh province and other mainly Sunni areas. The Federal Police, an overwhelmingly Shiite force, is also fighting in Mosul alongside the military. Sunnis want those forces to leave quickly.

But a senior Shiite politician — Ali Adeeb, head of the State of Law coalition in parliament — said those forces cannot leave Mosul until there is "certainty that Daesh ideology will not return ... We are worried this ideology will come back and Daesh will come back to regain control."

———

DECENTRALIZATION

A main Sunni call is for greater authority and resources to be handed down to the provinces, giving Sunnis more say in areas they dominate.

A major issue would be how to distribute government funds. Sunnis have long complained that Shiite-majority areas get favored in budget spending, infrastructure development and directing of investments. That question will become particularly acute after IS's fall because billions of dollars are needed to rebuild Sunni cities destroyed in the fight against the militants — and already there is grumbling that no plan has been put together for reconstruction.

The working paper also calls for significant reforms to ensure Sunnis have a voice in the central government. It demands an end to the system of divvying up government posts that effectively turns ministries into fiefdoms of political factions, particularly Shiite ones.

But that could meet resistance from Shiite parties with entrenched interests. Shiites also say their election victories — carried by their demographic majority — give them the right to set up ruling coalitions.

In the eyes of some Shiites, Sunni complaints over Shiite domination only fuel sectarianism. In comments Tuesday, senior Shiite politician Amar Hakeem warned against agendas that "pit communities, religions and sects against each other."

"One of the cracks through which Daesh entered was by playing with the social fabric and claiming to protect one community," he said, according to Iraqi press reports.

———

THE KURDS

Iraq faces another possible conflict over the Kurds. The Kurdish autonomous region in the north has repeatedly called for a referendum on full independence from Iraq. Now, Kurdish leadership says such a vote could happen as early as September.

That is potentially more explosive because the Kurds seized extensive areas outside their self-rule zone during fighting with IS. Most notably, they hold the oil-rich central province of Kirkuk, which they have long claimed as their own but has significant Sunni Arab and ethnic Turkmen communities.

———

SUNNI DIVISIONS

Not all Sunni factions have signed onto the working paper. Since Saddam's fall in 2003, Iraq's Sunni Arabs have been wracked by divisions and lack a strong political party to press their case in Baghdad.

If a compromise is not reached with Baghdad, it could strengthen calls for Sunnis to demand outright autonomy like the Kurds. So far, that holds limited appeal among Sunnis because their provinces lack resources and would likely be squeezed out of oil wealth.

Still, Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former Nineveh governor, is one of a few calling for a self-rule region. He says the priority is the liberate Mosul, then try talks with Baghdad. But failing that, Mosul residents have the right to create their own region.

"We will still need Baghdad only to protect the borders," he said.

Source: ABC News

PRESS RELEASE

11 May 2017

Iran is preventing displaced Iraqis from returning home

Urgent Call on UN & US to stop Iran’s continuing crimes in Iraq

The Iraqi Vice President Dr. Ayad Allawi has held a press conference in Babel Province of southern Iraq revealing how for more than 2½ years following the liberation of the town of Jerf al-Sakhar from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), Iran has continued to prevent its residents from returning to their own homes. Allawi cited commanders of the Hashad al-Shabi, a conglomerate of Iraqi Shi’ite militias established with support from Iran, saying they are under Iran’s direct control and pointing to how one of their commanders had even gone to Iran for talks regarding the displaced Iraqis (Al Jazeera TV, 3 May 2017).

Jerf al-Sakhar is located in the north of Babel Province (south of Baghdad) and links Iraq’s western, central and southern provinces. The town is considered a strategic site and Iran is seeking to strengthen its control over the region. The town and its outskirts boasted a population of around 120,000 people prior to the arrival of the Iranian militias. However, following its liberation from Daesh in October 2014, the Shi’ite militias forced all locals to leave the town. Iraqi Hezbollah, who now control the town, have prevented people from returning to their homes.

The Shi’ite militias have also detained Sunni hostages from other Iraqi cities in Jerf al-Sakhar, according to Dr. Ahmed al-Massari, head of the Iraqi Forces coalition in the Iraqi Parliament, who says he has informed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi about this issue. (Bisma Press, 27 April 2017).

According to the al-Khaleej Online website of 31 May 2016: “Shi’ite militias associated with Hashad al-Shabi have turned Jerf al-Sakhar into a prison for hundreds of innocent citizens of al-Anbar Province and other areas of Iraq. Around 15,000 Iraqi Sunnis have been imprisoned in their homes and orchards in this area by Hashad al-Shabi militants; they are subjected to torture and many are being murdered with their bodies being found in local abandoned homes and washed up on riverbanks.”

The al-Khalij Online reporter interviewed a prisoner who was released by the militants after his family paid a ransom of $50,000. The former hostage said hundreds of people are imprisoned in their homes in Jerf al-Sakhar or in underground tunnels. He said they are being tortured often to death by the militias under the supervision of black-turbaned mullahs; to this day hundreds of prisoners have been killed under torture, he claimed.

The Obama administration’s policy of appeasement of the Iranian regime, allowed them to turn a blind-eye to the crimes being committed by the brutal Iraqi militias and paved the way for those militias to carry out a campaign of genocide against the Sunni population of al-Anbar, Fallujah, Salahadin and Mosul in the name of fighting Daesh. The US even misguidedly provided air support for these forces, enabling them to redouble their efforts supported by the Iraqi Army and government.

Now, in a final gesture of defiance to the West, Iran’s mullahs have organized these militias into the notorious Hashad al-Shabi movement, establishing it as an official organ of the Iraqi government. As a result, Hashad al-Shabi enjoys official Iraqi government funding while advancing Iranian policies, provoking religious wars and threatening the security of countries in the zone including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This group is also now sending militants to support the blood-soaked regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and is involved in the killings of Syrian civilians.

The crimes of these militias, condemned time and again by international organizations, simply fuels Daesh and other terrorist and fundamentalist groups who claim they are the only people able to protect the besieged Sunnis.

In an interview on 1 April 2017 with the Iranian state-run Ofogh TV, Hashad al-Shabi’s commanding officer - Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes - claimed proudly that he is a soldier under the command of the Iranian IRGC’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, carrying out orders issued directly by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) strongly condemns the crimes of the Shi’ite militias linked to Iran’s IRGC against the people of Jerf al-Sakhar and other Iraqi areas who have been victims of Daesh. The EIFA calls on the UN and US to impel the Iraqi government to stop Hashad al-Shabi’s crimes and dissolve this and all other Iraqi Shi’ite militias.

Struan Stevenson

President - European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is a lecturer on Middle East policy and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

--

European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA),  1050 Brussels, Belgium

President: Struan Stevenson, Chairman of European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014), Members of the board: Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament (1999-2014); Stephen Hughes, 1st Vice-President of European Parliament Socialist Group (2009-2014),  Giulio Terzi, Former Foreign Minister of Italy; Ryszard Czarnecki,Vice-President of the European Parliament; Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC; Paulo Casaca MEP (1999-2009); Kimmo Sasi, MP (Finland), Honorary members include Tariq al-Hashemi, former Vice President of Iraq , Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Prime Minister of Algeria

Webwww.eu-iraq.org/        Facebookwww.facebook.com/EuIraq        Twitterwww.twitter.com/EuIraq

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.

Both officials underlined that the discussions are ongoing and that nothing is finalized. But the talks point to a consensus by both governments that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of American troops in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once the militants are driven out.

"There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on," the U.S. official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The talks involve U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over "what the long-term U.S. presence would look like," the American official said, adding that discussions were in early stages and "nothing has been finalized."

U.S. forces in Iraq would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq's border with Syria, the Iraqi government official said. They would continue to be designated as advisers to dodge the need for parliamentary approval for their presence, he said.

He said al-Abadi is looking to install a "modest" Iraqi military presence in Mosul after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded along with a small number of U.S. forces. The forces would help control security in the city and oversee the transition to a political administration of Mosul, he said.

The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troops levels would be "several thousand ... similar to what we have now, maybe a little more."

Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. The forces include troops training Iraqi forces, coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, and special forces operating on the front lines.

The news comes as Iraqi forces are struggling to push IS fighters out of a cluster of neighborhoods in western Mosul that mark the last patch of significant urban terrain the group holds in Iraq, nearly three years after the militants overran nearly a third of the country.

Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the U.S. into a deepening role in Iraq.

At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 to combat sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces' need for support.

During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.

"I imagine we'll be in this fight for a while and we'll stand by each other," Mattis said.

Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the United States will stay in Iraq. But, he said, "I don't anticipate that we'll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul." He added, "I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul."

The talks over a longer-term U.S. presence has greatly concerned Iran, which in turn is increasing support to some of Iraq's Shiite militia forces, said Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia group with close ties to Iran.

"Iraq's security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (mostly Shiite militia groups) have the ability to protect (Iraq's) internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?" al-Hussein asked.

Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq's dependence on both the U.S. and Iran. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East.

Over the nearly three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition. But Iraq's military is still in the process of rebuilding and reorganizing after it was largely gutted by widespread corruption under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Source: ABC NEWS

HAMAM AL-ALILIraq — The road to Mosul is littered with the detritus from almost three years of war: burned M1117 armored vehicles, sandbagged berms and trenches from defensive positions once manned against Islamic State fighters, houses pancaked by airstrikes. The long supply line of the Iraqi army stretches through villages, with bulldozers, camouflaged trucks and temporary base camps.

Particularly noticeable are the frequent checkpoints manned by young armed men. But the fighters often aren’t from the Iraqi army or the Federal Police, but are members of various Iran-supported Shiite militias in the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units.

While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 

Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month.

A tour of these areas shows that Shiite militias and Iran have been empowered in the fight and that Iraq remains a state even more divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The battle for Mosul, once a city of more than 2 million residents, began in mid-October. In a lightning assault in 2014, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Muslim group, took the city, expelled Christians and massacred Shiite and other minorities, and dynamited shrines and archaeological sites as part of its Salafi policy. When the Iraqi army began its campaign last fall, Mosul’s population had been reduced to around 1 million people.

Source: The Washington Times

Former Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance Hoshyar Zebari said that the kidnapping of the Qatari hunters represented a defeat for Iraq’s sovereignty and institutions, knowing that it was not the first time it had happened. Turkish workers had also been kidnapped while working on the construction of a football field in al-Sadr city in Baghdad. Both crimes were conducted by a militia affiliated with Iran.

Is it possible that, upon Iran’s directives, armed militias abduct a group of Qatari visitors who legally entered Iraq with visas and were under the protection of Iraqi security forces?

Iran-linked militia Iraqi Hezbollah dared to publically challenge the government by kidnapping Qatari civilians for 18 months and, on behalf of Iranians, negotiated their release un conditions.

Iran is doing today in Iraq what it did in Lebanon during the 1980’s. It transferred Lebanon into an arena against the West, and at the time Iranian territories were secured, Lebanon was a target for Israeli occupation, US bombardment, and the Syrian troops for looting. Until this day, Lebanon is suffering within a semi-sovereign state.

Tehran’s regime was active in Iraq over the past few years establishing multiple militias to subdue other Iraqi forces. The largest of all the militias is the Popular Mobilization Forces which became a militia equivalent to the army in order to weaken the centralized Iraqi authorities, just like it did in Lebanon.

But, can the Iranian regime abolish the Iraqi state with its enormous resources and which is larger than Lebanon and has a far more important strategic value?

Iran is trying to control Iraq in a big battle where different Iraqi parties are fighting power and dominance. This is all happening amid difficult circumstances. The government in Baghdad remains silent, avoiding confrontation without any objections to Iran’s continuous interventions and breach of sovereignty.

In case Iranian intelligence manages to control Iraqi official and other institutions, the expected result will be the division of the country.

Kurdistan region can’t remain a part of a frail state run by Tehran. Kurds have always complained that Baghdad is no longer the center of the state because of its weak institutions. Similarly, the five Sunni governorates would refuse to be under the jurisdiction of Baghdad even though over the past eight years, Iran managed to recruit several leaderships, members of parliaments and media figures of those governorates.

It is not unlikely that most Iraqi voices rejecting the Iranian control and its militias in governorates of Shiite majority is because of direct control attempts.

During the years that followed the withdrawal of US troops, Iran managed to infiltrate and control the institutions of the Iraqi states. Tehran went as far to enforce its own interpretation of the Algiers border agreement between Iran and Iraq, changed the stream of Arabian Sea, and forced the Iraqi government to fund its militias in Iraq and Syria claiming they were fighting terrorist organizations.

Because of its area, Iraq won’t be as easy as Lebanon for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Weakening Baghdad will create a dangerous vacuum which will affect the region’s security, including that of Iran.

Iraq is a very important country for superpowers like US and Russia and none of these countries will allow the regional countries, be it Iran or any other, to dominate Iraq without a direct or indirect confrontation.

The repetitive Iranian acts of abduction and extortions in Iraq pose a clear threat to Iraq’s security, stability, and unity.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

IRBIL, Iraq — The U.S. Army failed to properly keep tracks of hundreds of humvees, tens of thousands of rifles and other pieces of military equipment that were sent to Iraq, according to a government audit from 2016 that was obtained by Amnesty International and released Wednesday.

The price of the equipment — meant to equip the Iraqi army, Shiite militias and the Kurdish peshmerga — totaled more than $1 billion.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the U.S. Army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher, said in an emailed statement.

The audit found that improper record-keeping, including duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and a lack of a central database to track the transfers, contributed to the report’s findings. Additionally, the audit claimed that under the Iraqi Train and Equip Fund, once the equipment was transferred to the government of Iraq, the Pentagon no longer had to monitor the material as it was no longer U.S. government property.

While likely not an issue for things such as uniform items and body armor, the lack of any post-transfer accountability on U.S. arms and munitions raises the chances for illicit diversion from the intended supply chain. Currently, the Middle East is awash in U.S. weapons and equipment, and with President Trump’s decision to equip Kurdish forces in Syria with more weapons, it is unclear whether the United States has learned from any of its past mistakes in the region.

“The need for post-delivery checks is vital,” Wilcken said. “Any fragilities along the transfer chain greatly increase the risks of weapons going astray in a region where armed groups have wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering.”

Source: Washington Post

Iraq's Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation into allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by its forces fighting the Islamic State group in Mosul.

The allegations were first reported by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine last weekend. The report, authored by an Iraqi photographer reportedly embedded with the police unit, claims he witnessed killing, torture and rape of IS suspects.

The ministry's spokesman, Brig. Gen Saad Maan, said on Tuesday that the newspaper report identifies the Emergency Response Division — an elite unit that answers to the Interior Ministry and has been closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition in the Mosul fight — as the perpetrator of the abuses. Maan did not give a time frame for the investigating but said "legal measures will be applied ... against wrongdoers."

An officer with the ERD reached by The Associated Press said his unit is not authorized to comment and that all inquiries should be directed to the Interior Ministry. In other developments, Amnesty International released a report on Wednesday saying the U.S. Army in Iraq and Kuwait failed to keep track of more a $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment provided to forces in the fight against IS, according to a 2016 Department of Defense audit obtained by the rights group.

The report "makes for especially sobering reading, given the long history of leakage of U.S. arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State," said Patrick Wilcken, a researcher with Amnesty. Iraq's ERD forces have been closely backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition in the fight to retake Mosul. Coalition forces also shared surveillance and intelligence information with the forces to aid in their advances on the city's eastern and western sides.

Following the Interior Ministry statement, Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy for the global coalition against IS, said Iraqi security forces have "bravely placed civilian protection as top priority" throughout the Mosul campaign but that "individuals or units failing to uphold that standard ... must be investigated and held accountable."

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are closing in on the last IS held neighborhoods in western Mosul nearly three years after the extremists overran almost a third of Iraq in 2014. With the help of more than 12,000 airstrikes and $12.5 billion dollars in training, logistics and support from the U.S.-led coalition, in addition to Iranian training and support, Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the territory IS once held in the country.

The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October and the city's east was declared "fully liberated" in January.

Source: abc news

Government-allied Troops Hold, Torture Mosul-Area Residents

(Erbil) —Iraqi government-allied troops arbitrarily detained at least 100 men in late April 2017, in some cases torturing them during interrogations, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Human Rights Watch interviewed three men from al-Hadar, a village 90 kilometers southwest of west Mosul, who were detained by the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi) and two local officials who had knowledge of the detention operations in the area. The men said the fighters detained them as they fled their homes because of the fighting, and held them for up to 15 days in a school building and in one case a home in an area solely under PMF control. Their captors interrogated them about possible Islamic State (also known as ISIS) links, and in two cases beat them with thick metal cables, before releasing them and a small number of other detainees. Other detainees told them they had also been beaten during interrogations.

“Given the previous track records of PMF abuse in the area of screening and detaining local men, Baghdad should treat these findings with the gravest concern,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should do all in their power to ensure that families fleeing the fighting around Mosul are able to get to safety, not tortured in secret facilities.”

Human Rights Watch heard similar accounts from other men fleeing the fighting earlier in 2017 and raised the issue with the government, but the detentions and abuse seem to have continued. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should issue a decree banning screening and detention by the PMF and hold those who have committed abuses accountable.

One man, “Hassan,” said that his family and a group of others fled al-Hadar, which was under ISIS control, on April 25, for a camp for displaced people run by the PMF. After two days there, he and 10 of his relatives were then taken to a building they said was a school and held there in a room, along with about 40 others from their village. His family group was interrogated for a week, then released.

Hassan and the other two men interviewed said that they were able to determine that they were being held in a school by speaking to fellow prisoners and guards, and by lifting their blindfolds. A government official from Tal Abta told Human Rights Watch that the PMF held the men in the Tal Abta Janubia primary school and provided the GPS coordinates. The official said that his office had documented the names of 100 men from the area who the PMF had detained as they fled, over the same period, based on calls from their families.

Ali Al-Ahmadi, director of al-Hadar district, told local media outlets on May 1, that the PMF had detained at least 160 people upon their arrival at camps for people displaced by the fighting. The same reports said that the governor of Mosul was calling for a high-level emergency session to discuss these detentions.

Earlier in the Mosul operation, Human Rights Watch documented cases of the PMF arbitrarily detainingtorturing, and executing civilians. Following a Human Rights Watch report, the PMF Commission issued a statement in early February denying that its forces had screened or detained anyone. The statement said the PMF hands over captured ISIS suspects to state security forces who have a mandate to screen suspects.

But in a meeting on February 6, a PMF Commission representative told Human Rights Watch that in limited circumstances they do detain people captured on the battlefield for at least short periods before transferring them to Iraqi authorities with a detention mandate. One man the PMF had detained for eight days and an aid worker confirmed that.

Iraqi authorities should only allow those with the requisite legal authority to screen people. The authorities should ensure that anyone detained is held in a recognized detention center accessible to independent monitors, and granted their due process rights under international and Iraqi law. All detention should be based on clear domestic law, and every detainee should be brought promptly before a judge to review the legality of their detention. Iraqi law requires authorities to take detainees before an investigative judge within 48 hours.

Human Rights Watch has also documented that Iraqi forces, including PMF forces, have used schools for security or military purposes such as for screening and as detention centers. Such use of schools can delay the re-opening of the schools to teach and provide other services to children, and damage classrooms and equipment. Iraqi forces should avoid using schools except as a last resort, when no other facilities are available.

The United Nations Convention against Torture, which Iraq ratified in 2011, obliges member countries to investigate and prosecute torture and to compensate victims.

“While there may be grounds to detain some people fleeing the fighting who are suspected of criminal acts under ISIS’s rule, they have to be given their rights under Iraqi law,” Fakih said. “That includes the right not to be ill-treated.”

Detainees’ Accounts

“Hassan”

“Hassan” said that on April 25, when the village of al-Hadar, where he lived, was still under ISIS control, his family and about 15 others managed to escape in several cars. The convoy spent two nights out in the desert just north of al-Hadar, before unidentified security forces arrived and told the families to go to Jarbua, a PMF-run camp for displaced people, 30 kilometers north of Tal Abta.

After they spent two nights at the camp, Hassan said, at around 9 p.m., a group of fighters with PMF badges rounded him up, along with 10 of his relatives, blindfolded them, then drove them to another location where they were held in a room of a large building. When he was able to, he said, he pulled down his blindfold quickly because his hands were bound in front and saw that he was in a room with about 40 other detainees, all from al-Hadar.

After seven days, guards released him and the other 10 men detained with him without explanation, he said. Throughout his detention, he said, the same guards moved him in and out of the room with the other detainees for interrogation, asking why he had remained living under ISIS, whether he had joined ISIS, and for names of ISIS fighters. Hassan said he was blindfolded throughout his captivity but said that he was held and interrogated by fighters with southern accents whom he thought were from the PMF.

“Ahmed”

“Ahmed” said that on the morning of April 26, as Iraqi forces began an operation to retake al-Hadar, more than 60 other families fled the area in cars. Six were families from al-Hadar and the rest were families previously displaced by the fighting, mostly from villages in Tal Abta district, just to the north, he said. When they were about six kilometers north of the village, they reached a base of a large number of fighters carrying flags identifying them as belonging to the PMF unit Ali al-Akbar Brigade (Liwa Ali al-Akbar), with fighters from southern Iraq.

The fighters made them wait for several hours, then checked the men’s identity cards. By then it was evening, and the fighters told them it was too late to take them to the nearest camp, which they said was at least 40 kilometers away. They told the families to stay in their cars or erect tents, he said.

At midnight, Ahmed said, he was standing with five of his relatives, including his brother, by their cars when three Ali al-Akbar fighters with PMF badges approached them and said they needed the men to come with them so they could interview them about their area. Ahmed said that the PMF fighters blindfolded him and his relatives, drove them for about five minutes, and then held them in a school, where the fighters detained them for 10 days. His hands were bound in front, so he was able to slip off the blindfold on various occasions. Ali said he saw guards bringing in about 90 men, who told him they were from al-Hadar.

For four days, Ahmed said, guards with southern accents whom he thought were PMF interrogated him blindfolded in a separate room once each day, asking why he had joined Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and beating him for about 10 minutes each time with thick metal cables. Ahmed said that twice the guards held a plastic bag over his head until he lost consciousness. He said he insisted he had not joined any extremist group. After four days of abuse, he asked the 40 or so men held in a room with him if they had confessed and all said they had, to stop the abuse, Ahmed said. He said all his relatives told him the guards also beat them with thick metal cables.

The next morning, Ahmed said, he confessed to being affiliated with ISIS. Later that afternoon, he was again brought into a separate room and a man who sounded different from his interrogators asked if his confession was true, and he admitted it had not been.

While the PMF held them, he and the other two detainees said they were only given one cup of water and limited food every day. The guards moved Ahmed among three rooms. In two he estimates there were a total of another 40 detainees, with one room full of men he did not recognize as from al-Hadar, and about 50 from al-Hadar in the other. After the other man questioned him, Ahmed said, guards loaded him and 11 other men, including his brother and other relatives into cars and drove them to a house about two hours away, where they were held in the same room and interrogated separately for another two days. At that point, guards with the same southern accents as the Ali al-Akbar fighters brought in 20 to 30 men from al-Hadar whom Ahmed recognized as also having been held at the school. One said that PMF fighters had bused all 90 to the house together.

That night, guards with southern accents took him and 10 of the other men, including four of his relatives, to al-Hadar village and let them go. They eventually made their way to displaced camps in Jadah, 54 kilometers northwest, where they rejoined their families. As of May 17, he said, his brother was still in detention.

An official from the area working on the detainees’ release told Human Rights Watch that the house the PMF detained the men in was referred to as Yaseen’s house.

“Kareem”

“Kareem” said he fled al-Hadhra on April 26, with about 10 families to a nearby village. The next day, they drove 40 kilometers to a PMF checkpoint. Four PMF fighters with badges checked the men’s identity cards. The fighters selected him and seven other men, blindfolded them, and bound their hands, then drove them to a nearby large building. Kareem said the building held many other prisoners but he was unable to count because he was afraid he would be caught if he lifted his blindfold.

He said he was held for 15 days and that guards interrogated him daily about ISIS affiliation and beat him with thick metal cables. An older man from his village held with him died from an illness that predated his detention. Kareem said he did not want to speak about what the guards had done to him, but he had visible bruising and scaring around his wrists and up his right arm when he spoke to Human Rights Watch, two days after he was released.

 Source: hrw.org

More than 50 people have been killed in a string of suicide car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, and the southern province of Basra, police have told Al Jazeera.

At least 33 people were killed on Friday in two separate blasts at checkpoints on a highway near oilfields in Basra, according to police.

The first explosion took place at the Rumeila checkpoint, and the second around one kilometre away at another checkpoint called al-Sadra.

Iraq's South Oil Company said there was no disruption to operations but oil police were put on maximum alert in response to the attack, officials told the Reuters news agency.

Baghdad attacks

Separately, two more attacks late on Friday killed at least 19 people, including security forces, and wounded 25 others in southern Baghdad.

Police sources said a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at the entrance of a checkpoint, just as another attacker blew himself up near a police station located about a 100 metres away. 

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks.

ISIL is under assault in both Iraq - in the country's second city of Mosul - and in neighbouring Syria.

The armed group took vast swaths of Iraqi territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014.

Iraqi government forces backed by a US-led international coalition have since retaken many cities, including Tikrit and Fallujah.

But as ISIL has lost ground in Iraq, it has also retained the ability to stage regular attacks in areas it does not control.

Source: Al Jazeera

EIFA statement on the eve of Arab-Islamic-American Conference in Riyadh

Call for practical and decisive action to end the Iranian regime's domination in Iraq, as the mullahs' most important base for threats to regional and global security

Confronting the Iranian regime's terrorism and its destructive meddling in the region is among the most important topics to be discussed in the summit in Riyadh. Through their warmongering, expansion of sectarianism, support of armed militias and their fostering of terrorism, the mullahs ruling Iran have become the main challenge against security and stability in the region.

Iraq, which used to be the foremost barrier against the Iranian regime prior to the invasion in 2003, has now become the most important base for it’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and for threatening other countries in the region. Parties and militias linked to the mullahs now dominate the Iraqi government and all its military and security agencies. President Trump has reiterated that the military attack on Iraq in 2003 as well as the irresponsible departure of US forces from that country in 2009 by the Obama administration was a mistake that has led to the Iranian regime's ascendancy in Iraq.

In Riyadh, it is important that all efforts are not solely concentrated on combating ISIS. The total eviction of the Iranian regime and its proxies from Iraq must be a key item on the Riyadh agenda. If not, the Iranian regime will continue to be the winner and Iraq will move towards disintegration and internal war and will turn into the main center of instability and terrorism in the region.

The Iranian regime is pursuing a shrewd post-ISIS plan. With the formation of the militant Shi’ite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force and its recognition as a legal entity in the Iraqi parliament, it has created its fighting arm and by strengthening the former venally corrupt and sectarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his affiliated parties, it has laid the groundwork for hi-jacking next year’s Iraqi elections.

Iraj Masjedi, senior deputy to the brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander General Qasem Soleimani, was recently appointed as the regime's ambassador to Iraq and is in charge of pursuing this plan. In addition, the Badr organization, which was set up by Iran's IRGC, has effectively taken control of Iraq's interior ministry and hundreds of thousands of its personnel. Qasim al-Aaraji, Iraq's Interior Minister, is the head of the Badr faction and a very close ally of Qasem Soleimani. All Iraq's security organs are in the hands of the Shi’ia Dawa party or other parties linked to the Iranian regime. Many of the areas liberated from ISIS are now under the control of militias associated with the IRGC who have prevented hundreds of thousands of displaced people from returning to their homes.

Evidence of the repressive brutality of the Shi’ia militias is overwhelming:

  • Dr. Ayad Allawi - Iraq’s Vice President - revealed at a press conference in Iraq's Babil province that the Iranian regime is preventing the return of displaced people of Jurf al-Sakhr to their home town. (Al-Jazeera, May 3).
  • Muhamed al-Karbouli – an Iraqi MP from al-Anbar province - accused Shi’ia militias of Iraqi Kata'eb Hezbollah, as part of Hashd al-Shaabi, of kidnapping 2,900 inhabitants of al-Anbar, Diyala and Babil provinces and imprisoning them in secret prisons. (Middle East Online, 12 May 2017)
  • Al-Arab daily wrote on May 15: "The reason that abduction crimes are not prosecuted in Iraq is because the same parties in charge of abductions are in charge of Iraq’s security and these same Iraqis control the Shi’ite parties that run the powerful militias and they control the key Ministries, in particular the Interior Ministry and it is these militias that are both involved in carrying out the abductions and prosecuting the culprits.”
  • Abu Mehdi al-Mohandes, the commander of Hashd al-Shaabi, emphasized publicly on Iran-associated Ofoq TV that he is a soldier of Qasem Soleimani and executes the orders of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime's supreme leader.
  • Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaeb militias that are part of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi, claimed that the militias under his command, including Iran's IRGC, the Houthi militias in Yemen, Lebanese Hezbollah and Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq will constitute the forces which he called ‘Shi’ite Badr’. He said Iraq's next prime minister must be from Hashd al-Shaabi (Al-Arabiya, May 11).
  • By forming these Shi’ia parties, Hashd al-Shaabi and the militias linked to the Iranian regime have the intention of seizing control of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Electoral Commission is under the control of Nouri al-Maliki and other pro-Iranian factions, which is why widespread demonstrations, which took place on 12 Februrary 2017, demanded the replacement of the Electoral Commission.
  • Foreign Affairs magazine wrote on 1 May 2017 that its “current plan is to focus on obtaining and maintaining a predominant position in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.… These pathways would traverse from Iran’s western borders through the Euphrates and Tigris valleys and the vast expanses of desert in Iraq and Syria, providing a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and finally ending at the edge of the Golan Heights. The two corridors would serve as chains to move military supplies or militiamen when needed.” The idea, according to several senior Iranian officials, would be to outsource the supervision of the corridors to proxy forces, such as Hezbollah and the various Shi’ite militias Iran sponsors in Iraq and Syria, in order to avoid using its own military forces to control the routes. (Iran has a long-standing aversion toward investing manpower abroad.) Tehran’s proxy militias would be able to field a force numbering 150,000 to 200,000 fighters, including 18,000 Afghani Shi’ites, 3,000 to 4,000 Pakistani Shi’ites and small Christian and Druze militias. 
  • Asharq al-Awsat wrote on May 1st: “Dozens of Quds Force (the extra-territorial wing of the IRGC) affiliated military and political bases have been formed west of Mosul, under the guise of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militia forces. Iran is attempting to establish a ground route through Mosul to Syria to provide the Assad regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah with weapons, ammunition and reinforcements, experts say.”

Obama in 2011 described al-Maliki as the leader of a democratic state. However, he was in fact Iran’s number one man in Iraq, who during his eight years in office engulfed the country in corruption and crimes against humanity, plunging Iraq into civil war. He held onto office for a second term only as a result of an agreement reached between Obama and Khamenei. With the support he enjoyed from Iran and the blind obeisance of the Obama administration, Maliki launched a massive crackdown against widespread popular protests in Iraq in April 2013, as the Iraqi masses demanded an end to corruption and the restoration of civil rights. The subsequent oppression and mass slaughter Maliki launched against peaceful demonstrations in the mainly Sunni Iraqi provinces allowed Daesh to invade the country successfully from Syria and to seize control of over one third of Iraq’s territory.

Currently, pro-Iran parties are preventing any reforms in Iraq. For example, the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi belongs to the al-Dawa Party, with a majority of its senior elite linked to Iran. He has failed to implement his pledges of reform, including his reform agenda based on which he received a confidence vote from the Iraqi Parliament back in September 2014. He also was unable to execute his reform initiative in August 2015 and failed to establish a promised cabinet of technocrats to replace his widely reviled and corrupt ministers.

Currently, the Riyadh and the Arabic-Islamic-American conference are fully aware of the dangers and consequences of previous mistakes in Iraq. To this end, expectations are high for firm practical measures to be placed on the agenda to uproot Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the region and to dismantle its swathe of Shi’ite militias. The mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards, being the main Iranian asset in the export of terrorism and insecurity across the region, should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United Nations, United States, Europe and Middle Eastern states. Furthermore, new strategies must be implemented for the war against Daesh, uprooting Iran’s influence and rebuilding Iraq.

Focus must particularly be placed on establishing a balanced political state, far from Iran’s dominance, otherwise, Iraq after the fall of Daesh, will be a cradle for terrorism and a phenomenon far more dangerous than Daesh, namely the Iran-linked militias that will emerge with even more power than before. Such an outcome will demand a far graver price to resolve the dossiers of Syria and Yemen and to continue the struggle against terrorism and insecurity.

Struan Stevenson

President

European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

 

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004-2014. www.struanstevenson.com www.eu-iraq.org

 

 

Iraq's Sunni minority is pushing for a greater say in power once the Islamic State group is defeated, reflecting growing sentiment that the country's government must be more inclusive to prevent extremism from gaining ground once again.

But so far, there's little momentum. Many Shiite politicians are wary, and the Sunni leadership is divided and disorganized. On the ground, tensions are further stoked because Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters control some mainly Sunni areas recaptured from IS militants and are resistant to withdrawing.

The danger is that Iraq will miss the chance to break the sectarian cycle that has fueled extremism for more than a decade.

Sunni resentment over disenfranchisement and the rise of Shiite power after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein fueled an insurgency and gave a foothold to al-Qaida. The U.S. military, backed by Sunni tribal fighters, largely crushed al-Qaida. But Sunni bitterness over continued discrimination by Shiites helped in the subsequent rise of the Islamic State group. Each time, the rise of militants only deepened Shiite suspicions that the Sunnis cannot be trusted.

U.S. officials backing Baghdad in the fight against IS have warned repeatedly that the same could happen again now unless the government is made more inclusive.

A prominent Sunni lawmaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said Iraq could fall apart unless a "historic compromise" is reached.

"Such compromise is a must, otherwise Iraq will be gone," the former parliament speaker told The Associated Press.

He and some Sunni factions put together a working paper outlining their stance for talks on a new system, calling for negotiations over dramatic changes to the constitution.

Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called repeatedly for unity after the defeat of IS, and Shiite politicians say they recognize the need for more inclusiveness.

"We have big concerns for the post-Daesh period," said Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Alaq, using an Arabic acronym for IS. He says proper distribution of resources and rebuilding of state institutions are key to keeping the country together.

He pointed to a referendum on independence that the Kurdish autonomous region aims to hold later this year. "We are concerned that Sunnis could demand the same," he said.

But any real talks are on hold while fighting still rages over the Islamic State group's last main urban bastion, Mosul.

And already there are fault lines over numerous issues.

SECURITY

The Sunni working paper calls for steps to address their complaints that crackdowns on militants have unfairly hurt their community. It demands a halt to "random arrests," the freeing of detainees not convicted of crimes and eventually a review of anti-terrorism laws.

Shiite politicians have long resisted those demands, pushing for a tougher fight against terrorism. Shiites — estimated at up to 60 percent of the population of more than 36 million — often suspect the Sunni minority of secret sympathies with militants and of aiming to regain power. Sunni Arabs dominated the ruling Baath Party and leadership positions during the rule of Saddam, a Sunni himself who brutally suppressed Shiites.

Long term, many Sunnis want provincial governors to have greater control over security forces on their soil, ensuring that Sunnis are patrolling Sunni regions.

Khalaf al-Hadidi, a provincial council member in Nineveh, the mainly Sunni province where Mosul is located, said local security forces need to be given a "bigger role in protecting the province. These (local) forces must be under the governor's control instead of many parties from outside the province."

But Shiite-led governments have long distrusted local Sunni security forces, at times refusing to arm or pay them. The collapse of mainly Sunni police forces in the face of the IS blitz of 2014 only reinforced Shiite fears that Sunnis would not act against militants.

———

MILITIAS

Intertwined with Sunni security demands is their deep opposition to Shiite militias, which have a major role in the fight against IS but are also accused of abuses against Sunnis. The working paper calls for the disbanding of the Hashd, the government-backed umbrella group of militias, most of them Shiite.

Far from agreeing to disband, however, the militias are pushing for greater official recognition of their power.

Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters hold significant parts of Nineveh province and other mainly Sunni areas. The Federal Police, an overwhelmingly Shiite force, is also fighting in Mosul alongside the military. Sunnis want those forces to leave quickly.

But a senior Shiite politician — Ali Adeeb, head of the State of Law coalition in parliament — said those forces cannot leave Mosul until there is "certainty that Daesh ideology will not return ... We are worried this ideology will come back and Daesh will come back to regain control."

———

DECENTRALIZATION

A main Sunni call is for greater authority and resources to be handed down to the provinces, giving Sunnis more say in areas they dominate.

A major issue would be how to distribute government funds. Sunnis have long complained that Shiite-majority areas get favored in budget spending, infrastructure development and directing of investments. That question will become particularly acute after IS's fall because billions of dollars are needed to rebuild Sunni cities destroyed in the fight against the militants — and already there is grumbling that no plan has been put together for reconstruction.

The working paper also calls for significant reforms to ensure Sunnis have a voice in the central government. It demands an end to the system of divvying up government posts that effectively turns ministries into fiefdoms of political factions, particularly Shiite ones.

But that could meet resistance from Shiite parties with entrenched interests. Shiites also say their election victories — carried by their demographic majority — give them the right to set up ruling coalitions.

In the eyes of some Shiites, Sunni complaints over Shiite domination only fuel sectarianism. In comments Tuesday, senior Shiite politician Amar Hakeem warned against agendas that "pit communities, religions and sects against each other."

"One of the cracks through which Daesh entered was by playing with the social fabric and claiming to protect one community," he said, according to Iraqi press reports.

———

THE KURDS

Iraq faces another possible conflict over the Kurds. The Kurdish autonomous region in the north has repeatedly called for a referendum on full independence from Iraq. Now, Kurdish leadership says such a vote could happen as early as September.

That is potentially more explosive because the Kurds seized extensive areas outside their self-rule zone during fighting with IS. Most notably, they hold the oil-rich central province of Kirkuk, which they have long claimed as their own but has significant Sunni Arab and ethnic Turkmen communities.

———

SUNNI DIVISIONS

Not all Sunni factions have signed onto the working paper. Since Saddam's fall in 2003, Iraq's Sunni Arabs have been wracked by divisions and lack a strong political party to press their case in Baghdad.

If a compromise is not reached with Baghdad, it could strengthen calls for Sunnis to demand outright autonomy like the Kurds. So far, that holds limited appeal among Sunnis because their provinces lack resources and would likely be squeezed out of oil wealth.

Still, Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former Nineveh governor, is one of a few calling for a self-rule region. He says the priority is the liberate Mosul, then try talks with Baghdad. But failing that, Mosul residents have the right to create their own region.

"We will still need Baghdad only to protect the borders," he said.

Source: ABC News

PRESS RELEASE

11 May 2017

Iran is preventing displaced Iraqis from returning home

Urgent Call on UN & US to stop Iran’s continuing crimes in Iraq

The Iraqi Vice President Dr. Ayad Allawi has held a press conference in Babel Province of southern Iraq revealing how for more than 2½ years following the liberation of the town of Jerf al-Sakhar from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), Iran has continued to prevent its residents from returning to their own homes. Allawi cited commanders of the Hashad al-Shabi, a conglomerate of Iraqi Shi’ite militias established with support from Iran, saying they are under Iran’s direct control and pointing to how one of their commanders had even gone to Iran for talks regarding the displaced Iraqis (Al Jazeera TV, 3 May 2017).

Jerf al-Sakhar is located in the north of Babel Province (south of Baghdad) and links Iraq’s western, central and southern provinces. The town is considered a strategic site and Iran is seeking to strengthen its control over the region. The town and its outskirts boasted a population of around 120,000 people prior to the arrival of the Iranian militias. However, following its liberation from Daesh in October 2014, the Shi’ite militias forced all locals to leave the town. Iraqi Hezbollah, who now control the town, have prevented people from returning to their homes.

The Shi’ite militias have also detained Sunni hostages from other Iraqi cities in Jerf al-Sakhar, according to Dr. Ahmed al-Massari, head of the Iraqi Forces coalition in the Iraqi Parliament, who says he has informed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi about this issue. (Bisma Press, 27 April 2017).

According to the al-Khaleej Online website of 31 May 2016: “Shi’ite militias associated with Hashad al-Shabi have turned Jerf al-Sakhar into a prison for hundreds of innocent citizens of al-Anbar Province and other areas of Iraq. Around 15,000 Iraqi Sunnis have been imprisoned in their homes and orchards in this area by Hashad al-Shabi militants; they are subjected to torture and many are being murdered with their bodies being found in local abandoned homes and washed up on riverbanks.”

The al-Khalij Online reporter interviewed a prisoner who was released by the militants after his family paid a ransom of $50,000. The former hostage said hundreds of people are imprisoned in their homes in Jerf al-Sakhar or in underground tunnels. He said they are being tortured often to death by the militias under the supervision of black-turbaned mullahs; to this day hundreds of prisoners have been killed under torture, he claimed.

The Obama administration’s policy of appeasement of the Iranian regime, allowed them to turn a blind-eye to the crimes being committed by the brutal Iraqi militias and paved the way for those militias to carry out a campaign of genocide against the Sunni population of al-Anbar, Fallujah, Salahadin and Mosul in the name of fighting Daesh. The US even misguidedly provided air support for these forces, enabling them to redouble their efforts supported by the Iraqi Army and government.

Now, in a final gesture of defiance to the West, Iran’s mullahs have organized these militias into the notorious Hashad al-Shabi movement, establishing it as an official organ of the Iraqi government. As a result, Hashad al-Shabi enjoys official Iraqi government funding while advancing Iranian policies, provoking religious wars and threatening the security of countries in the zone including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This group is also now sending militants to support the blood-soaked regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and is involved in the killings of Syrian civilians.

The crimes of these militias, condemned time and again by international organizations, simply fuels Daesh and other terrorist and fundamentalist groups who claim they are the only people able to protect the besieged Sunnis.

In an interview on 1 April 2017 with the Iranian state-run Ofogh TV, Hashad al-Shabi’s commanding officer - Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes - claimed proudly that he is a soldier under the command of the Iranian IRGC’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, carrying out orders issued directly by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) strongly condemns the crimes of the Shi’ite militias linked to Iran’s IRGC against the people of Jerf al-Sakhar and other Iraqi areas who have been victims of Daesh. The EIFA calls on the UN and US to impel the Iraqi government to stop Hashad al-Shabi’s crimes and dissolve this and all other Iraqi Shi’ite militias.

Struan Stevenson

President - European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is a lecturer on Middle East policy and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

--

European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA),  1050 Brussels, Belgium

President: Struan Stevenson, Chairman of European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014), Members of the board: Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament (1999-2014); Stephen Hughes, 1st Vice-President of European Parliament Socialist Group (2009-2014),  Giulio Terzi, Former Foreign Minister of Italy; Ryszard Czarnecki,Vice-President of the European Parliament; Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC; Paulo Casaca MEP (1999-2009); Kimmo Sasi, MP (Finland), Honorary members include Tariq al-Hashemi, former Vice President of Iraq , Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Prime Minister of Algeria

Webwww.eu-iraq.org/        Facebookwww.facebook.com/EuIraq        Twitterwww.twitter.com/EuIraq

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.

Both officials underlined that the discussions are ongoing and that nothing is finalized. But the talks point to a consensus by both governments that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of American troops in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once the militants are driven out.

"There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on," the U.S. official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The talks involve U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over "what the long-term U.S. presence would look like," the American official said, adding that discussions were in early stages and "nothing has been finalized."

U.S. forces in Iraq would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq's border with Syria, the Iraqi government official said. They would continue to be designated as advisers to dodge the need for parliamentary approval for their presence, he said.

He said al-Abadi is looking to install a "modest" Iraqi military presence in Mosul after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded along with a small number of U.S. forces. The forces would help control security in the city and oversee the transition to a political administration of Mosul, he said.

The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troops levels would be "several thousand ... similar to what we have now, maybe a little more."

Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. The forces include troops training Iraqi forces, coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, and special forces operating on the front lines.

The news comes as Iraqi forces are struggling to push IS fighters out of a cluster of neighborhoods in western Mosul that mark the last patch of significant urban terrain the group holds in Iraq, nearly three years after the militants overran nearly a third of the country.

Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the U.S. into a deepening role in Iraq.

At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 to combat sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces' need for support.

During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.

"I imagine we'll be in this fight for a while and we'll stand by each other," Mattis said.

Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the United States will stay in Iraq. But, he said, "I don't anticipate that we'll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul." He added, "I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul."

The talks over a longer-term U.S. presence has greatly concerned Iran, which in turn is increasing support to some of Iraq's Shiite militia forces, said Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia group with close ties to Iran.

"Iraq's security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (mostly Shiite militia groups) have the ability to protect (Iraq's) internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?" al-Hussein asked.

Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq's dependence on both the U.S. and Iran. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East.

Over the nearly three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition. But Iraq's military is still in the process of rebuilding and reorganizing after it was largely gutted by widespread corruption under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Source: ABC NEWS

HAMAM AL-ALILIraq — The road to Mosul is littered with the detritus from almost three years of war: burned M1117 armored vehicles, sandbagged berms and trenches from defensive positions once manned against Islamic State fighters, houses pancaked by airstrikes. The long supply line of the Iraqi army stretches through villages, with bulldozers, camouflaged trucks and temporary base camps.

Particularly noticeable are the frequent checkpoints manned by young armed men. But the fighters often aren’t from the Iraqi army or the Federal Police, but are members of various Iran-supported Shiite militias in the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units.

While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 

Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month.

A tour of these areas shows that Shiite militias and Iran have been empowered in the fight and that Iraq remains a state even more divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The battle for Mosul, once a city of more than 2 million residents, began in mid-October. In a lightning assault in 2014, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Muslim group, took the city, expelled Christians and massacred Shiite and other minorities, and dynamited shrines and archaeological sites as part of its Salafi policy. When the Iraqi army began its campaign last fall, Mosul’s population had been reduced to around 1 million people.

Source: The Washington Times

Former Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance Hoshyar Zebari said that the kidnapping of the Qatari hunters represented a defeat for Iraq’s sovereignty and institutions, knowing that it was not the first time it had happened. Turkish workers had also been kidnapped while working on the construction of a football field in al-Sadr city in Baghdad. Both crimes were conducted by a militia affiliated with Iran.

Is it possible that, upon Iran’s directives, armed militias abduct a group of Qatari visitors who legally entered Iraq with visas and were under the protection of Iraqi security forces?

Iran-linked militia Iraqi Hezbollah dared to publically challenge the government by kidnapping Qatari civilians for 18 months and, on behalf of Iranians, negotiated their release un conditions.

Iran is doing today in Iraq what it did in Lebanon during the 1980’s. It transferred Lebanon into an arena against the West, and at the time Iranian territories were secured, Lebanon was a target for Israeli occupation, US bombardment, and the Syrian troops for looting. Until this day, Lebanon is suffering within a semi-sovereign state.

Tehran’s regime was active in Iraq over the past few years establishing multiple militias to subdue other Iraqi forces. The largest of all the militias is the Popular Mobilization Forces which became a militia equivalent to the army in order to weaken the centralized Iraqi authorities, just like it did in Lebanon.

But, can the Iranian regime abolish the Iraqi state with its enormous resources and which is larger than Lebanon and has a far more important strategic value?

Iran is trying to control Iraq in a big battle where different Iraqi parties are fighting power and dominance. This is all happening amid difficult circumstances. The government in Baghdad remains silent, avoiding confrontation without any objections to Iran’s continuous interventions and breach of sovereignty.

In case Iranian intelligence manages to control Iraqi official and other institutions, the expected result will be the division of the country.

Kurdistan region can’t remain a part of a frail state run by Tehran. Kurds have always complained that Baghdad is no longer the center of the state because of its weak institutions. Similarly, the five Sunni governorates would refuse to be under the jurisdiction of Baghdad even though over the past eight years, Iran managed to recruit several leaderships, members of parliaments and media figures of those governorates.

It is not unlikely that most Iraqi voices rejecting the Iranian control and its militias in governorates of Shiite majority is because of direct control attempts.

During the years that followed the withdrawal of US troops, Iran managed to infiltrate and control the institutions of the Iraqi states. Tehran went as far to enforce its own interpretation of the Algiers border agreement between Iran and Iraq, changed the stream of Arabian Sea, and forced the Iraqi government to fund its militias in Iraq and Syria claiming they were fighting terrorist organizations.

Because of its area, Iraq won’t be as easy as Lebanon for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Weakening Baghdad will create a dangerous vacuum which will affect the region’s security, including that of Iran.

Iraq is a very important country for superpowers like US and Russia and none of these countries will allow the regional countries, be it Iran or any other, to dominate Iraq without a direct or indirect confrontation.

The repetitive Iranian acts of abduction and extortions in Iraq pose a clear threat to Iraq’s security, stability, and unity.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

IRBIL, Iraq — The U.S. Army failed to properly keep tracks of hundreds of humvees, tens of thousands of rifles and other pieces of military equipment that were sent to Iraq, according to a government audit from 2016 that was obtained by Amnesty International and released Wednesday.

The price of the equipment — meant to equip the Iraqi army, Shiite militias and the Kurdish peshmerga — totaled more than $1 billion.

“This audit provides a worrying insight into the U.S. Army’s flawed — and potentially dangerous — system for controlling millions of dollars’ worth of arms transfers to a hugely volatile region,” Patrick Wilcken, Amnesty International’s Arms Control and Human Rights researcher, said in an emailed statement.

The audit found that improper record-keeping, including duplicated spreadsheets, handwritten receipts and a lack of a central database to track the transfers, contributed to the report’s findings. Additionally, the audit claimed that under the Iraqi Train and Equip Fund, once the equipment was transferred to the government of Iraq, the Pentagon no longer had to monitor the material as it was no longer U.S. government property.

While likely not an issue for things such as uniform items and body armor, the lack of any post-transfer accountability on U.S. arms and munitions raises the chances for illicit diversion from the intended supply chain. Currently, the Middle East is awash in U.S. weapons and equipment, and with President Trump’s decision to equip Kurdish forces in Syria with more weapons, it is unclear whether the United States has learned from any of its past mistakes in the region.

“The need for post-delivery checks is vital,” Wilcken said. “Any fragilities along the transfer chain greatly increase the risks of weapons going astray in a region where armed groups have wrought havoc and caused immense human suffering.”

Source: Washington Post

Iraq's Interior Ministry said it launched an investigation into allegations of human rights violations perpetrated by its forces fighting the Islamic State group in Mosul.

The allegations were first reported by Germany's Der Spiegel magazine last weekend. The report, authored by an Iraqi photographer reportedly embedded with the police unit, claims he witnessed killing, torture and rape of IS suspects.

The ministry's spokesman, Brig. Gen Saad Maan, said on Tuesday that the newspaper report identifies the Emergency Response Division — an elite unit that answers to the Interior Ministry and has been closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition in the Mosul fight — as the perpetrator of the abuses. Maan did not give a time frame for the investigating but said "legal measures will be applied ... against wrongdoers."

An officer with the ERD reached by The Associated Press said his unit is not authorized to comment and that all inquiries should be directed to the Interior Ministry. In other developments, Amnesty International released a report on Wednesday saying the U.S. Army in Iraq and Kuwait failed to keep track of more a $1 billion worth of arms and other military equipment provided to forces in the fight against IS, according to a 2016 Department of Defense audit obtained by the rights group.

The report "makes for especially sobering reading, given the long history of leakage of U.S. arms to multiple armed groups committing atrocities in Iraq, including the armed group calling itself the Islamic State," said Patrick Wilcken, a researcher with Amnesty. Iraq's ERD forces have been closely backed by airstrikes from the U.S.-led coalition in the fight to retake Mosul. Coalition forces also shared surveillance and intelligence information with the forces to aid in their advances on the city's eastern and western sides.

Following the Interior Ministry statement, Brett McGurk, U.S. envoy for the global coalition against IS, said Iraqi security forces have "bravely placed civilian protection as top priority" throughout the Mosul campaign but that "individuals or units failing to uphold that standard ... must be investigated and held accountable."

U.S.-backed Iraqi forces are closing in on the last IS held neighborhoods in western Mosul nearly three years after the extremists overran almost a third of Iraq in 2014. With the help of more than 12,000 airstrikes and $12.5 billion dollars in training, logistics and support from the U.S.-led coalition, in addition to Iranian training and support, Iraqi forces have retaken more than half of the territory IS once held in the country.

The operation to retake Mosul was launched in October and the city's east was declared "fully liberated" in January.

Source: abc news

Government-allied Troops Hold, Torture Mosul-Area Residents

(Erbil) —Iraqi government-allied troops arbitrarily detained at least 100 men in late April 2017, in some cases torturing them during interrogations, Human Rights Watch said today. 

Human Rights Watch interviewed three men from al-Hadar, a village 90 kilometers southwest of west Mosul, who were detained by the Popular Mobilization Forces (known as the PMF or Hashd al-Sha'abi) and two local officials who had knowledge of the detention operations in the area. The men said the fighters detained them as they fled their homes because of the fighting, and held them for up to 15 days in a school building and in one case a home in an area solely under PMF control. Their captors interrogated them about possible Islamic State (also known as ISIS) links, and in two cases beat them with thick metal cables, before releasing them and a small number of other detainees. Other detainees told them they had also been beaten during interrogations.

“Given the previous track records of PMF abuse in the area of screening and detaining local men, Baghdad should treat these findings with the gravest concern,” said Lama Fakih, deputy Middle East director at Human Rights Watch. “Authorities should do all in their power to ensure that families fleeing the fighting around Mosul are able to get to safety, not tortured in secret facilities.”

Human Rights Watch heard similar accounts from other men fleeing the fighting earlier in 2017 and raised the issue with the government, but the detentions and abuse seem to have continued. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi should issue a decree banning screening and detention by the PMF and hold those who have committed abuses accountable.

One man, “Hassan,” said that his family and a group of others fled al-Hadar, which was under ISIS control, on April 25, for a camp for displaced people run by the PMF. After two days there, he and 10 of his relatives were then taken to a building they said was a school and held there in a room, along with about 40 others from their village. His family group was interrogated for a week, then released.

Hassan and the other two men interviewed said that they were able to determine that they were being held in a school by speaking to fellow prisoners and guards, and by lifting their blindfolds. A government official from Tal Abta told Human Rights Watch that the PMF held the men in the Tal Abta Janubia primary school and provided the GPS coordinates. The official said that his office had documented the names of 100 men from the area who the PMF had detained as they fled, over the same period, based on calls from their families.

Ali Al-Ahmadi, director of al-Hadar district, told local media outlets on May 1, that the PMF had detained at least 160 people upon their arrival at camps for people displaced by the fighting. The same reports said that the governor of Mosul was calling for a high-level emergency session to discuss these detentions.

Earlier in the Mosul operation, Human Rights Watch documented cases of the PMF arbitrarily detainingtorturing, and executing civilians. Following a Human Rights Watch report, the PMF Commission issued a statement in early February denying that its forces had screened or detained anyone. The statement said the PMF hands over captured ISIS suspects to state security forces who have a mandate to screen suspects.

But in a meeting on February 6, a PMF Commission representative told Human Rights Watch that in limited circumstances they do detain people captured on the battlefield for at least short periods before transferring them to Iraqi authorities with a detention mandate. One man the PMF had detained for eight days and an aid worker confirmed that.

Iraqi authorities should only allow those with the requisite legal authority to screen people. The authorities should ensure that anyone detained is held in a recognized detention center accessible to independent monitors, and granted their due process rights under international and Iraqi law. All detention should be based on clear domestic law, and every detainee should be brought promptly before a judge to review the legality of their detention. Iraqi law requires authorities to take detainees before an investigative judge within 48 hours.

Human Rights Watch has also documented that Iraqi forces, including PMF forces, have used schools for security or military purposes such as for screening and as detention centers. Such use of schools can delay the re-opening of the schools to teach and provide other services to children, and damage classrooms and equipment. Iraqi forces should avoid using schools except as a last resort, when no other facilities are available.

The United Nations Convention against Torture, which Iraq ratified in 2011, obliges member countries to investigate and prosecute torture and to compensate victims.

“While there may be grounds to detain some people fleeing the fighting who are suspected of criminal acts under ISIS’s rule, they have to be given their rights under Iraqi law,” Fakih said. “That includes the right not to be ill-treated.”

Detainees’ Accounts

“Hassan”

“Hassan” said that on April 25, when the village of al-Hadar, where he lived, was still under ISIS control, his family and about 15 others managed to escape in several cars. The convoy spent two nights out in the desert just north of al-Hadar, before unidentified security forces arrived and told the families to go to Jarbua, a PMF-run camp for displaced people, 30 kilometers north of Tal Abta.

After they spent two nights at the camp, Hassan said, at around 9 p.m., a group of fighters with PMF badges rounded him up, along with 10 of his relatives, blindfolded them, then drove them to another location where they were held in a room of a large building. When he was able to, he said, he pulled down his blindfold quickly because his hands were bound in front and saw that he was in a room with about 40 other detainees, all from al-Hadar.

After seven days, guards released him and the other 10 men detained with him without explanation, he said. Throughout his detention, he said, the same guards moved him in and out of the room with the other detainees for interrogation, asking why he had remained living under ISIS, whether he had joined ISIS, and for names of ISIS fighters. Hassan said he was blindfolded throughout his captivity but said that he was held and interrogated by fighters with southern accents whom he thought were from the PMF.

“Ahmed”

“Ahmed” said that on the morning of April 26, as Iraqi forces began an operation to retake al-Hadar, more than 60 other families fled the area in cars. Six were families from al-Hadar and the rest were families previously displaced by the fighting, mostly from villages in Tal Abta district, just to the north, he said. When they were about six kilometers north of the village, they reached a base of a large number of fighters carrying flags identifying them as belonging to the PMF unit Ali al-Akbar Brigade (Liwa Ali al-Akbar), with fighters from southern Iraq.

The fighters made them wait for several hours, then checked the men’s identity cards. By then it was evening, and the fighters told them it was too late to take them to the nearest camp, which they said was at least 40 kilometers away. They told the families to stay in their cars or erect tents, he said.

At midnight, Ahmed said, he was standing with five of his relatives, including his brother, by their cars when three Ali al-Akbar fighters with PMF badges approached them and said they needed the men to come with them so they could interview them about their area. Ahmed said that the PMF fighters blindfolded him and his relatives, drove them for about five minutes, and then held them in a school, where the fighters detained them for 10 days. His hands were bound in front, so he was able to slip off the blindfold on various occasions. Ali said he saw guards bringing in about 90 men, who told him they were from al-Hadar.

For four days, Ahmed said, guards with southern accents whom he thought were PMF interrogated him blindfolded in a separate room once each day, asking why he had joined Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and beating him for about 10 minutes each time with thick metal cables. Ahmed said that twice the guards held a plastic bag over his head until he lost consciousness. He said he insisted he had not joined any extremist group. After four days of abuse, he asked the 40 or so men held in a room with him if they had confessed and all said they had, to stop the abuse, Ahmed said. He said all his relatives told him the guards also beat them with thick metal cables.

The next morning, Ahmed said, he confessed to being affiliated with ISIS. Later that afternoon, he was again brought into a separate room and a man who sounded different from his interrogators asked if his confession was true, and he admitted it had not been.

While the PMF held them, he and the other two detainees said they were only given one cup of water and limited food every day. The guards moved Ahmed among three rooms. In two he estimates there were a total of another 40 detainees, with one room full of men he did not recognize as from al-Hadar, and about 50 from al-Hadar in the other. After the other man questioned him, Ahmed said, guards loaded him and 11 other men, including his brother and other relatives into cars and drove them to a house about two hours away, where they were held in the same room and interrogated separately for another two days. At that point, guards with the same southern accents as the Ali al-Akbar fighters brought in 20 to 30 men from al-Hadar whom Ahmed recognized as also having been held at the school. One said that PMF fighters had bused all 90 to the house together.

That night, guards with southern accents took him and 10 of the other men, including four of his relatives, to al-Hadar village and let them go. They eventually made their way to displaced camps in Jadah, 54 kilometers northwest, where they rejoined their families. As of May 17, he said, his brother was still in detention.

An official from the area working on the detainees’ release told Human Rights Watch that the house the PMF detained the men in was referred to as Yaseen’s house.

“Kareem”

“Kareem” said he fled al-Hadhra on April 26, with about 10 families to a nearby village. The next day, they drove 40 kilometers to a PMF checkpoint. Four PMF fighters with badges checked the men’s identity cards. The fighters selected him and seven other men, blindfolded them, and bound their hands, then drove them to a nearby large building. Kareem said the building held many other prisoners but he was unable to count because he was afraid he would be caught if he lifted his blindfold.

He said he was held for 15 days and that guards interrogated him daily about ISIS affiliation and beat him with thick metal cables. An older man from his village held with him died from an illness that predated his detention. Kareem said he did not want to speak about what the guards had done to him, but he had visible bruising and scaring around his wrists and up his right arm when he spoke to Human Rights Watch, two days after he was released.

 Source: hrw.org

More than 50 people have been killed in a string of suicide car bomb attacks in Iraq's capital, Baghdad, and the southern province of Basra, police have told Al Jazeera.

At least 33 people were killed on Friday in two separate blasts at checkpoints on a highway near oilfields in Basra, according to police.

The first explosion took place at the Rumeila checkpoint, and the second around one kilometre away at another checkpoint called al-Sadra.

Iraq's South Oil Company said there was no disruption to operations but oil police were put on maximum alert in response to the attack, officials told the Reuters news agency.

Baghdad attacks

Separately, two more attacks late on Friday killed at least 19 people, including security forces, and wounded 25 others in southern Baghdad.

Police sources said a suicide car bomber detonated explosives at the entrance of a checkpoint, just as another attacker blew himself up near a police station located about a 100 metres away. 

The Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS) armed group claimed responsibility for the Baghdad attacks.

ISIL is under assault in both Iraq - in the country's second city of Mosul - and in neighbouring Syria.

The armed group took vast swaths of Iraqi territory north and west of Baghdad in 2014.

Iraqi government forces backed by a US-led international coalition have since retaken many cities, including Tikrit and Fallujah.

But as ISIL has lost ground in Iraq, it has also retained the ability to stage regular attacks in areas it does not control.

Source: Al Jazeera

EIFA statement on the eve of Arab-Islamic-American Conference in Riyadh

Call for practical and decisive action to end the Iranian regime's domination in Iraq, as the mullahs' most important base for threats to regional and global security

Confronting the Iranian regime's terrorism and its destructive meddling in the region is among the most important topics to be discussed in the summit in Riyadh. Through their warmongering, expansion of sectarianism, support of armed militias and their fostering of terrorism, the mullahs ruling Iran have become the main challenge against security and stability in the region.

Iraq, which used to be the foremost barrier against the Iranian regime prior to the invasion in 2003, has now become the most important base for it’s support for the Assad regime in Syria and for threatening other countries in the region. Parties and militias linked to the mullahs now dominate the Iraqi government and all its military and security agencies. President Trump has reiterated that the military attack on Iraq in 2003 as well as the irresponsible departure of US forces from that country in 2009 by the Obama administration was a mistake that has led to the Iranian regime's ascendancy in Iraq.

In Riyadh, it is important that all efforts are not solely concentrated on combating ISIS. The total eviction of the Iranian regime and its proxies from Iraq must be a key item on the Riyadh agenda. If not, the Iranian regime will continue to be the winner and Iraq will move towards disintegration and internal war and will turn into the main center of instability and terrorism in the region.

The Iranian regime is pursuing a shrewd post-ISIS plan. With the formation of the militant Shi’ite Hashd al-Shaabi paramilitary force and its recognition as a legal entity in the Iraqi parliament, it has created its fighting arm and by strengthening the former venally corrupt and sectarian Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki and his affiliated parties, it has laid the groundwork for hi-jacking next year’s Iraqi elections.

Iraj Masjedi, senior deputy to the brutal Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commander General Qasem Soleimani, was recently appointed as the regime's ambassador to Iraq and is in charge of pursuing this plan. In addition, the Badr organization, which was set up by Iran's IRGC, has effectively taken control of Iraq's interior ministry and hundreds of thousands of its personnel. Qasim al-Aaraji, Iraq's Interior Minister, is the head of the Badr faction and a very close ally of Qasem Soleimani. All Iraq's security organs are in the hands of the Shi’ia Dawa party or other parties linked to the Iranian regime. Many of the areas liberated from ISIS are now under the control of militias associated with the IRGC who have prevented hundreds of thousands of displaced people from returning to their homes.

Evidence of the repressive brutality of the Shi’ia militias is overwhelming:

  • Dr. Ayad Allawi - Iraq’s Vice President - revealed at a press conference in Iraq's Babil province that the Iranian regime is preventing the return of displaced people of Jurf al-Sakhr to their home town. (Al-Jazeera, May 3).
  • Muhamed al-Karbouli – an Iraqi MP from al-Anbar province - accused Shi’ia militias of Iraqi Kata'eb Hezbollah, as part of Hashd al-Shaabi, of kidnapping 2,900 inhabitants of al-Anbar, Diyala and Babil provinces and imprisoning them in secret prisons. (Middle East Online, 12 May 2017)
  • Al-Arab daily wrote on May 15: "The reason that abduction crimes are not prosecuted in Iraq is because the same parties in charge of abductions are in charge of Iraq’s security and these same Iraqis control the Shi’ite parties that run the powerful militias and they control the key Ministries, in particular the Interior Ministry and it is these militias that are both involved in carrying out the abductions and prosecuting the culprits.”
  • Abu Mehdi al-Mohandes, the commander of Hashd al-Shaabi, emphasized publicly on Iran-associated Ofoq TV that he is a soldier of Qasem Soleimani and executes the orders of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Iranian regime's supreme leader.
  • Qais al-Khazali, the leader of the Asaeb militias that are part of Iraq's Hashd al-Shaabi, claimed that the militias under his command, including Iran's IRGC, the Houthi militias in Yemen, Lebanese Hezbollah and Hashd al-Shaabi in Iraq will constitute the forces which he called ‘Shi’ite Badr’. He said Iraq's next prime minister must be from Hashd al-Shaabi (Al-Arabiya, May 11).
  • By forming these Shi’ia parties, Hashd al-Shaabi and the militias linked to the Iranian regime have the intention of seizing control of the Iraqi government. The Iraqi Electoral Commission is under the control of Nouri al-Maliki and other pro-Iranian factions, which is why widespread demonstrations, which took place on 12 Februrary 2017, demanded the replacement of the Electoral Commission.
  • Foreign Affairs magazine wrote on 1 May 2017 that its “current plan is to focus on obtaining and maintaining a predominant position in Iraq, Lebanon, and Syria.… These pathways would traverse from Iran’s western borders through the Euphrates and Tigris valleys and the vast expanses of desert in Iraq and Syria, providing a link to Hezbollah in Lebanon, and finally ending at the edge of the Golan Heights. The two corridors would serve as chains to move military supplies or militiamen when needed.” The idea, according to several senior Iranian officials, would be to outsource the supervision of the corridors to proxy forces, such as Hezbollah and the various Shi’ite militias Iran sponsors in Iraq and Syria, in order to avoid using its own military forces to control the routes. (Iran has a long-standing aversion toward investing manpower abroad.) Tehran’s proxy militias would be able to field a force numbering 150,000 to 200,000 fighters, including 18,000 Afghani Shi’ites, 3,000 to 4,000 Pakistani Shi’ites and small Christian and Druze militias. 
  • Asharq al-Awsat wrote on May 1st: “Dozens of Quds Force (the extra-territorial wing of the IRGC) affiliated military and political bases have been formed west of Mosul, under the guise of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) militia forces. Iran is attempting to establish a ground route through Mosul to Syria to provide the Assad regime and the Lebanese Hezbollah with weapons, ammunition and reinforcements, experts say.”

Obama in 2011 described al-Maliki as the leader of a democratic state. However, he was in fact Iran’s number one man in Iraq, who during his eight years in office engulfed the country in corruption and crimes against humanity, plunging Iraq into civil war. He held onto office for a second term only as a result of an agreement reached between Obama and Khamenei. With the support he enjoyed from Iran and the blind obeisance of the Obama administration, Maliki launched a massive crackdown against widespread popular protests in Iraq in April 2013, as the Iraqi masses demanded an end to corruption and the restoration of civil rights. The subsequent oppression and mass slaughter Maliki launched against peaceful demonstrations in the mainly Sunni Iraqi provinces allowed Daesh to invade the country successfully from Syria and to seize control of over one third of Iraq’s territory.

Currently, pro-Iran parties are preventing any reforms in Iraq. For example, the current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi belongs to the al-Dawa Party, with a majority of its senior elite linked to Iran. He has failed to implement his pledges of reform, including his reform agenda based on which he received a confidence vote from the Iraqi Parliament back in September 2014. He also was unable to execute his reform initiative in August 2015 and failed to establish a promised cabinet of technocrats to replace his widely reviled and corrupt ministers.

Currently, the Riyadh and the Arabic-Islamic-American conference are fully aware of the dangers and consequences of previous mistakes in Iraq. To this end, expectations are high for firm practical measures to be placed on the agenda to uproot Iran’s influence in Iraq and across the region and to dismantle its swathe of Shi’ite militias. The mullahs’ Revolutionary Guards, being the main Iranian asset in the export of terrorism and insecurity across the region, should be designated as a foreign terrorist organization by the United Nations, United States, Europe and Middle Eastern states. Furthermore, new strategies must be implemented for the war against Daesh, uprooting Iran’s influence and rebuilding Iraq.

Focus must particularly be placed on establishing a balanced political state, far from Iran’s dominance, otherwise, Iraq after the fall of Daesh, will be a cradle for terrorism and a phenomenon far more dangerous than Daesh, namely the Iran-linked militias that will emerge with even more power than before. Such an outcome will demand a far graver price to resolve the dossiers of Syria and Yemen and to continue the struggle against terrorism and insecurity.

Struan Stevenson

President

European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

 

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009- 2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) from 2004-2014. www.struanstevenson.com www.eu-iraq.org

 

 

Iraq's Sunni minority is pushing for a greater say in power once the Islamic State group is defeated, reflecting growing sentiment that the country's government must be more inclusive to prevent extremism from gaining ground once again.

But so far, there's little momentum. Many Shiite politicians are wary, and the Sunni leadership is divided and disorganized. On the ground, tensions are further stoked because Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters control some mainly Sunni areas recaptured from IS militants and are resistant to withdrawing.

The danger is that Iraq will miss the chance to break the sectarian cycle that has fueled extremism for more than a decade.

Sunni resentment over disenfranchisement and the rise of Shiite power after the 2003 ouster of Saddam Hussein fueled an insurgency and gave a foothold to al-Qaida. The U.S. military, backed by Sunni tribal fighters, largely crushed al-Qaida. But Sunni bitterness over continued discrimination by Shiites helped in the subsequent rise of the Islamic State group. Each time, the rise of militants only deepened Shiite suspicions that the Sunnis cannot be trusted.

U.S. officials backing Baghdad in the fight against IS have warned repeatedly that the same could happen again now unless the government is made more inclusive.

A prominent Sunni lawmaker, Mahmoud al-Mashhadani, said Iraq could fall apart unless a "historic compromise" is reached.

"Such compromise is a must, otherwise Iraq will be gone," the former parliament speaker told The Associated Press.

He and some Sunni factions put together a working paper outlining their stance for talks on a new system, calling for negotiations over dramatic changes to the constitution.

Shiite Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has called repeatedly for unity after the defeat of IS, and Shiite politicians say they recognize the need for more inclusiveness.

"We have big concerns for the post-Daesh period," said Shiite lawmaker Ali al-Alaq, using an Arabic acronym for IS. He says proper distribution of resources and rebuilding of state institutions are key to keeping the country together.

He pointed to a referendum on independence that the Kurdish autonomous region aims to hold later this year. "We are concerned that Sunnis could demand the same," he said.

But any real talks are on hold while fighting still rages over the Islamic State group's last main urban bastion, Mosul.

And already there are fault lines over numerous issues.

SECURITY

The Sunni working paper calls for steps to address their complaints that crackdowns on militants have unfairly hurt their community. It demands a halt to "random arrests," the freeing of detainees not convicted of crimes and eventually a review of anti-terrorism laws.

Shiite politicians have long resisted those demands, pushing for a tougher fight against terrorism. Shiites — estimated at up to 60 percent of the population of more than 36 million — often suspect the Sunni minority of secret sympathies with militants and of aiming to regain power. Sunni Arabs dominated the ruling Baath Party and leadership positions during the rule of Saddam, a Sunni himself who brutally suppressed Shiites.

Long term, many Sunnis want provincial governors to have greater control over security forces on their soil, ensuring that Sunnis are patrolling Sunni regions.

Khalaf al-Hadidi, a provincial council member in Nineveh, the mainly Sunni province where Mosul is located, said local security forces need to be given a "bigger role in protecting the province. These (local) forces must be under the governor's control instead of many parties from outside the province."

But Shiite-led governments have long distrusted local Sunni security forces, at times refusing to arm or pay them. The collapse of mainly Sunni police forces in the face of the IS blitz of 2014 only reinforced Shiite fears that Sunnis would not act against militants.

———

MILITIAS

Intertwined with Sunni security demands is their deep opposition to Shiite militias, which have a major role in the fight against IS but are also accused of abuses against Sunnis. The working paper calls for the disbanding of the Hashd, the government-backed umbrella group of militias, most of them Shiite.

Far from agreeing to disband, however, the militias are pushing for greater official recognition of their power.

Shiite militias and Kurdish fighters hold significant parts of Nineveh province and other mainly Sunni areas. The Federal Police, an overwhelmingly Shiite force, is also fighting in Mosul alongside the military. Sunnis want those forces to leave quickly.

But a senior Shiite politician — Ali Adeeb, head of the State of Law coalition in parliament — said those forces cannot leave Mosul until there is "certainty that Daesh ideology will not return ... We are worried this ideology will come back and Daesh will come back to regain control."

———

DECENTRALIZATION

A main Sunni call is for greater authority and resources to be handed down to the provinces, giving Sunnis more say in areas they dominate.

A major issue would be how to distribute government funds. Sunnis have long complained that Shiite-majority areas get favored in budget spending, infrastructure development and directing of investments. That question will become particularly acute after IS's fall because billions of dollars are needed to rebuild Sunni cities destroyed in the fight against the militants — and already there is grumbling that no plan has been put together for reconstruction.

The working paper also calls for significant reforms to ensure Sunnis have a voice in the central government. It demands an end to the system of divvying up government posts that effectively turns ministries into fiefdoms of political factions, particularly Shiite ones.

But that could meet resistance from Shiite parties with entrenched interests. Shiites also say their election victories — carried by their demographic majority — give them the right to set up ruling coalitions.

In the eyes of some Shiites, Sunni complaints over Shiite domination only fuel sectarianism. In comments Tuesday, senior Shiite politician Amar Hakeem warned against agendas that "pit communities, religions and sects against each other."

"One of the cracks through which Daesh entered was by playing with the social fabric and claiming to protect one community," he said, according to Iraqi press reports.

———

THE KURDS

Iraq faces another possible conflict over the Kurds. The Kurdish autonomous region in the north has repeatedly called for a referendum on full independence from Iraq. Now, Kurdish leadership says such a vote could happen as early as September.

That is potentially more explosive because the Kurds seized extensive areas outside their self-rule zone during fighting with IS. Most notably, they hold the oil-rich central province of Kirkuk, which they have long claimed as their own but has significant Sunni Arab and ethnic Turkmen communities.

———

SUNNI DIVISIONS

Not all Sunni factions have signed onto the working paper. Since Saddam's fall in 2003, Iraq's Sunni Arabs have been wracked by divisions and lack a strong political party to press their case in Baghdad.

If a compromise is not reached with Baghdad, it could strengthen calls for Sunnis to demand outright autonomy like the Kurds. So far, that holds limited appeal among Sunnis because their provinces lack resources and would likely be squeezed out of oil wealth.

Still, Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former Nineveh governor, is one of a few calling for a self-rule region. He says the priority is the liberate Mosul, then try talks with Baghdad. But failing that, Mosul residents have the right to create their own region.

"We will still need Baghdad only to protect the borders," he said.

Source: ABC News

PRESS RELEASE

11 May 2017

Iran is preventing displaced Iraqis from returning home

Urgent Call on UN & US to stop Iran’s continuing crimes in Iraq

The Iraqi Vice President Dr. Ayad Allawi has held a press conference in Babel Province of southern Iraq revealing how for more than 2½ years following the liberation of the town of Jerf al-Sakhar from Daesh (ISIS/ISIL), Iran has continued to prevent its residents from returning to their own homes. Allawi cited commanders of the Hashad al-Shabi, a conglomerate of Iraqi Shi’ite militias established with support from Iran, saying they are under Iran’s direct control and pointing to how one of their commanders had even gone to Iran for talks regarding the displaced Iraqis (Al Jazeera TV, 3 May 2017).

Jerf al-Sakhar is located in the north of Babel Province (south of Baghdad) and links Iraq’s western, central and southern provinces. The town is considered a strategic site and Iran is seeking to strengthen its control over the region. The town and its outskirts boasted a population of around 120,000 people prior to the arrival of the Iranian militias. However, following its liberation from Daesh in October 2014, the Shi’ite militias forced all locals to leave the town. Iraqi Hezbollah, who now control the town, have prevented people from returning to their homes.

The Shi’ite militias have also detained Sunni hostages from other Iraqi cities in Jerf al-Sakhar, according to Dr. Ahmed al-Massari, head of the Iraqi Forces coalition in the Iraqi Parliament, who says he has informed Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi about this issue. (Bisma Press, 27 April 2017).

According to the al-Khaleej Online website of 31 May 2016: “Shi’ite militias associated with Hashad al-Shabi have turned Jerf al-Sakhar into a prison for hundreds of innocent citizens of al-Anbar Province and other areas of Iraq. Around 15,000 Iraqi Sunnis have been imprisoned in their homes and orchards in this area by Hashad al-Shabi militants; they are subjected to torture and many are being murdered with their bodies being found in local abandoned homes and washed up on riverbanks.”

The al-Khalij Online reporter interviewed a prisoner who was released by the militants after his family paid a ransom of $50,000. The former hostage said hundreds of people are imprisoned in their homes in Jerf al-Sakhar or in underground tunnels. He said they are being tortured often to death by the militias under the supervision of black-turbaned mullahs; to this day hundreds of prisoners have been killed under torture, he claimed.

The Obama administration’s policy of appeasement of the Iranian regime, allowed them to turn a blind-eye to the crimes being committed by the brutal Iraqi militias and paved the way for those militias to carry out a campaign of genocide against the Sunni population of al-Anbar, Fallujah, Salahadin and Mosul in the name of fighting Daesh. The US even misguidedly provided air support for these forces, enabling them to redouble their efforts supported by the Iraqi Army and government.

Now, in a final gesture of defiance to the West, Iran’s mullahs have organized these militias into the notorious Hashad al-Shabi movement, establishing it as an official organ of the Iraqi government. As a result, Hashad al-Shabi enjoys official Iraqi government funding while advancing Iranian policies, provoking religious wars and threatening the security of countries in the zone including Jordan, Saudi Arabia and Bahrain. This group is also now sending militants to support the blood-soaked regime of Bashar al-Assad in Syria and is involved in the killings of Syrian civilians.

The crimes of these militias, condemned time and again by international organizations, simply fuels Daesh and other terrorist and fundamentalist groups who claim they are the only people able to protect the besieged Sunnis.

In an interview on 1 April 2017 with the Iranian state-run Ofogh TV, Hashad al-Shabi’s commanding officer - Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes - claimed proudly that he is a soldier under the command of the Iranian IRGC’s Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, carrying out orders issued directly by the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) strongly condemns the crimes of the Shi’ite militias linked to Iran’s IRGC against the people of Jerf al-Sakhar and other Iraqi areas who have been victims of Daesh. The EIFA calls on the UN and US to impel the Iraqi government to stop Hashad al-Shabi’s crimes and dissolve this and all other Iraqi Shi’ite militias.

Struan Stevenson

President - European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014), President of the Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-14) and Chairman of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (2004-14). He is a lecturer on Middle East policy and President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

--

European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA),  1050 Brussels, Belgium

President: Struan Stevenson, Chairman of European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014), Members of the board: Alejo Vidal-Quadras, Vice President of the European Parliament (1999-2014); Stephen Hughes, 1st Vice-President of European Parliament Socialist Group (2009-2014),  Giulio Terzi, Former Foreign Minister of Italy; Ryszard Czarnecki,Vice-President of the European Parliament; Lord Carlile of Berriew, QC; Paulo Casaca MEP (1999-2009); Kimmo Sasi, MP (Finland), Honorary members include Tariq al-Hashemi, former Vice President of Iraq , Sid Ahmed Ghozali, former Prime Minister of Algeria

Webwww.eu-iraq.org/        Facebookwww.facebook.com/EuIraq        Twitterwww.twitter.com/EuIraq

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi is in talks with the Trump administration to keep American troops in Iraq after the fight against the Islamic State group in the country is concluded, according to a U.S. official and an official from the Iraqi government.

Both officials underlined that the discussions are ongoing and that nothing is finalized. But the talks point to a consensus by both governments that, in contrast to the U.S. withdrawal in 2011, a longer-term presence of American troops in Iraq is needed to ensure that an insurgency does not bubble up again once the militants are driven out.

"There is a general understanding on both sides that it would be in the long-term interests of each to have that continued presence. So as for agreement, yes, we both understand it would be mutually beneficial. That we agree on," the U.S. official said.

Both officials spoke on condition of anonymity in line with regulations.

The talks involve U.S. Secretary of Defense Jim Mattis and Iraqi officials over "what the long-term U.S. presence would look like," the American official said, adding that discussions were in early stages and "nothing has been finalized."

U.S. forces in Iraq would be stationed inside existing Iraqi bases in at least five locations in the Mosul area and along Iraq's border with Syria, the Iraqi government official said. They would continue to be designated as advisers to dodge the need for parliamentary approval for their presence, he said.

He said al-Abadi is looking to install a "modest" Iraqi military presence in Mosul after the fight against the Islamic State group is concluded along with a small number of U.S. forces. The forces would help control security in the city and oversee the transition to a political administration of Mosul, he said.

The U.S. official emphasized that there were no discussions of creating independent American bases in Iraq, as such a move would require thousands more personnel. He said the troops levels would be "several thousand ... similar to what we have now, maybe a little more."

Currently, the Pentagon has close to 7,000 U.S. troops in Iraq, many not publicly acknowledged because they are on temporary duty or under specific personnel rules. The forces include troops training Iraqi forces, coordinating airstrikes and ground operations, and special forces operating on the front lines.

The news comes as Iraqi forces are struggling to push IS fighters out of a cluster of neighborhoods in western Mosul that mark the last patch of significant urban terrain the group holds in Iraq, nearly three years after the militants overran nearly a third of the country.

Such an agreement would underscore how the fight against IS has drawn the U.S. into a deepening role in Iraq.

At the height of the surge of U.S. forces in 2007 to combat sectarian violence that nearly tore Iraq apart, there were about 170,000 American troops in the country. The numbers were wound down eventually to 40,000 before the complete withdrawal in 2011.

The U.S. intervention against the Islamic State group, launched in 2014, was originally cast as an operation that would largely be fought from the skies with a minimal footprint on Iraqi soil. Nevertheless, that footprint has since grown given Iraqi forces' need for support.

During a visit to Iraq in February, Mattis and Lt. Gen. Stephen Townsend, the top U.S. commander in Iraq, described an enduring partnership between the U.S. and Iraq.

"I imagine we'll be in this fight for a while and we'll stand by each other," Mattis said.

Townsend, who was standing by Mattis, declined to say how long the United States will stay in Iraq. But, he said, "I don't anticipate that we'll be asked to leave by the government of Iraq immediately after Mosul." He added, "I think that the government of Iraq realizes their very complex fight, and they're going to need the assistance of the coalition even beyond Mosul."

The talks over a longer-term U.S. presence has greatly concerned Iran, which in turn is increasing support to some of Iraq's Shiite militia forces, said Jafar al-Husseini, a representative from Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi Shiite militia group with close ties to Iran.

"Iraq's security forces and the Popular Mobilization Forces (mostly Shiite militia groups) have the ability to protect (Iraq's) internal roads and borders, so why is al-Abadi using American security partners?" al-Hussein asked.

Al-Abadi has long struggled to balance Iraq's dependence on both the U.S. and Iran. Both countries are key security and economic partners for Iraq, yet are often at odds with each other when it comes to regional politics and security in the greater Middle East.

Over the nearly three-year-long fight against IS, Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition have retaken some 65 percent of the territory the extremists once held in the country, according to the U.S.-led coalition. But Iraq's military is still in the process of rebuilding and reorganizing after it was largely gutted by widespread corruption under former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Source: ABC NEWS

HAMAM AL-ALILIraq — The road to Mosul is littered with the detritus from almost three years of war: burned M1117 armored vehicles, sandbagged berms and trenches from defensive positions once manned against Islamic State fighters, houses pancaked by airstrikes. The long supply line of the Iraqi army stretches through villages, with bulldozers, camouflaged trucks and temporary base camps.

Particularly noticeable are the frequent checkpoints manned by young armed men. But the fighters often aren’t from the Iraqi army or the Federal Police, but are members of various Iran-supported Shiite militias in the Hashd al-Shaabi, or Popular Mobilization Units.

While taking part in the U.S.-backed assault on the Islamic State group’s last major stronghold in Iraq, many of these units fly flags celebrating Shiite religious figures such as the Imam Hussein, and some have posters of Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

 

Life in those areas under control of the Shiite militias provides a window into Iran’s influence and the sectarian tensions that still dog Iraq as the campaign for Mosul enters its seventh grinding month.

A tour of these areas shows that Shiite militias and Iran have been empowered in the fight and that Iraq remains a state even more divided along religious and ethnic lines.

The battle for Mosul, once a city of more than 2 million residents, began in mid-October. In a lightning assault in 2014, the Islamic State, a radical Sunni Muslim group, took the city, expelled Christians and massacred Shiite and other minorities, and dynamited shrines and archaeological sites as part of its Salafi policy. When the Iraqi army began its campaign last fall, Mosul’s population had been reduced to around 1 million people.

Source: The Washington Times

Former Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs and Finance Hoshyar Zebari said that the kidnapping of the Qatari hunters represented a defeat for Iraq’s sovereignty and institutions, knowing that it was not the first time it had happened. Turkish workers had also been kidnapped while working on the construction of a football field in al-Sadr city in Baghdad. Both crimes were conducted by a militia affiliated with Iran.

Is it possible that, upon Iran’s directives, armed militias abduct a group of Qatari visitors who legally entered Iraq with visas and were under the protection of Iraqi security forces?

Iran-linked militia Iraqi Hezbollah dared to publically challenge the government by kidnapping Qatari civilians for 18 months and, on behalf of Iranians, negotiated their release un conditions.

Iran is doing today in Iraq what it did in Lebanon during the 1980’s. It transferred Lebanon into an arena against the West, and at the time Iranian territories were secured, Lebanon was a target for Israeli occupation, US bombardment, and the Syrian troops for looting. Until this day, Lebanon is suffering within a semi-sovereign state.

Tehran’s regime was active in Iraq over the past few years establishing multiple militias to subdue other Iraqi forces. The largest of all the militias is the Popular Mobilization Forces which became a militia equivalent to the army in order to weaken the centralized Iraqi authorities, just like it did in Lebanon.

But, can the Iranian regime abolish the Iraqi state with its enormous resources and which is larger than Lebanon and has a far more important strategic value?

Iran is trying to control Iraq in a big battle where different Iraqi parties are fighting power and dominance. This is all happening amid difficult circumstances. The government in Baghdad remains silent, avoiding confrontation without any objections to Iran’s continuous interventions and breach of sovereignty.

In case Iranian intelligence manages to control Iraqi official and other institutions, the expected result will be the division of the country.

Kurdistan region can’t remain a part of a frail state run by Tehran. Kurds have always complained that Baghdad is no longer the center of the state because of its weak institutions. Similarly, the five Sunni governorates would refuse to be under the jurisdiction of Baghdad even though over the past eight years, Iran managed to recruit several leaderships, members of parliaments and media figures of those governorates.

It is not unlikely that most Iraqi voices rejecting the Iranian control and its militias in governorates of Shiite majority is because of direct control attempts.

During the years that followed the withdrawal of US troops, Iran managed to infiltrate and control the institutions of the Iraqi states. Tehran went as far to enforce its own interpretation of the Algiers border agreement between Iran and Iraq, changed the stream of Arabian Sea, and forced the Iraqi government to fund its militias in Iraq and Syria claiming they were fighting terrorist organizations.

Because of its area, Iraq won’t be as easy as Lebanon for the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Weakening Baghdad will create a dangerous vacuum which will affect the region’s security, including that of Iran.

Iraq is a very important country for superpowers like US and Russia and none of these countries will allow the regional countries, be it Iran or any other, to dominate Iraq without a direct or indirect confrontation.

The repetitive Iranian acts of abduction and extortions in Iraq pose a clear threat to Iraq’s security, stability, and unity.

Source: Asharq Al-Awsat

EIFA WARNS ABOUT GROWING PRESENCE OF SEC...

EIFA - Press releaseThere are alarming and escalating reports about the presence...

Exclusive: Biography and record of Hadi Farhan Abdullah al-Ameri

Exclusive: Biography and record of Hadi ...

-European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)- Hadi Farhan Abdullah al-Ameri, know...

Iraq: We must stop meddling by Iran and its criminal militias

Iraq: We must stop meddling by Iran and ...

Brussels, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) press release - The continui...