30 June 2016
English Arabic

AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY CONDEMNED Wednesday, 29 June 2016 11:24

PRESS RELEASE- for release 29th June 2016

AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY CONDEMNED

Speaking on the eve of a major seminar in the House of Commons, Struan Stevenson, the President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) has condemned American policy in the Middle East.

Struan Stevenson said:

“For those who thought that America was stealthily pulling out of the Middle East in pursuit of a policy of gradual disengagement pursued by Obama, a shocking truth is beginning to unfold. Far from disengaging, the Obama administration has for some time now actually been forming a de facto alliance with Iran in its war against the Sunni Arabs.

“Exploiting the conflict against Daesh (ISIS) as an opportunity to ethnically cleanse the Sunni Arab population of al-Anbar and other provinces in Iraq, the Iranian regime has poured military personnel and resources into the sixty separate and predominantly Shi’ite militias operating in that country. These militias, commanded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force leader – General Qassem Soleimani – have arrested, tortured, butchered and beheaded many thousands of innocent Sunni men and even boys, during their fight to ‘liberate’ the Iraqi cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah. The few houses that are left standing, following relentless bombing by American aircraft, are being burned down by the sectarian Shi’ite militias. Iran and its so-called allies are ruthlessly razing these once great and ancient Iraqi cities to the ground and virtually annihilating their occupants.

“The leader of one of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias said last week: "There are no patriots, no real religious people in Fallujah. It's our chance to clear Iraq by eradicating the cancer of Fallujah." This is the reality of the Iranian regime, which the  Obama administration is trying to have rapprochement with; it is a regime hell-bent on a campaign of genocide across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and ultimately Saudi Arabia and Israel. Obama’s desperate push to sign the nuclear deal with Iran should have been the clearest signal to the world that he was carving out a new and dangerous alliance. The lifting of sanctions and the unfreezing of Iranian assets, released a windfall of billions of dollars that the mullah’s regime can now use to reinvest in their regional campaigns to bolster Bashar al-Assad in Syria, back the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, finance and arm Hamas in Palestine, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran exports terror and America has unlocked the funds that enables it to do so with renewed vigour.

“This week Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei dismissed, General Firoozabadi, the Chief of the armed forces and replaced him with General Bagheri. The Iranian media state that one of the goals of this change is to strengthen the Qods force.

“The next target for the Iranian-backed militias is Mosul, Iran’s second largest city and home to over two million Sunnis. American airstrikes have already begun around the outskirts. An unprecedented human catastrophe will quickly develop unless the West wakes up and exposes American duplicity. The only way to combat Daesh (ISIS) is to recruit and engage the Sunni tribes in Iraq. They are best placed to root out the Daesh terrorists who have occupied their homeland for the past two years.

“But the Sunni tribal leaders have good grounds to believe that America has now joined forces with Iran to wage war on the Sunni Arabs and they will be reluctant to help a coalition that may inevitably lead to their own destruction at the hands of sectarian Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday deemed Iran's presence in Iraq to be "helpful" to American attempts to beat back the threat of Daesh (ISIS)!

“The European Iraqi Freedom Association condemns any support for Iran and calls on a complete re-think of US Middle East policy before it is too late. Involving the Iranian regime and its militias is a big mistake which will create a greater crisis in the region”

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Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He chaired the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) in the European Parliament for over 10 years. He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

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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

Web: www.eu-iraq.org/        Facebook: www.facebook.com/EuIraq        Twitter: www.twitter.com/EuIraq

IRAQ-FALLUJAH: THE COLLAPSING CALIPHATE Tuesday, 28 June 2016 22:14

The barbaric jihadist terrorists of Daesh (ISIS) will finally be driven out of Fallujah centre this week, although it still occupies at least half of the city. Daesh has held Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, for more than two years, consolidating its position and surrounding the ancient Iraqi city with minefields and IEDs. But after four weeks of vicious fighting, Shi’ia militias and units of the Iraqi army, aided by US coalition airstrikes, are trying to clear out the rest of the city but are facing fierce resistance from Daesh.

The Shi’ia militias fighting Daesh are financed and led by the terrorist Iranian Qods Force, whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terror blacklists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah. There has been widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured and men and boys from this predominantly Sunni enclave are being ruthlessly detained and tortured by the brutal Shi’ia militias, who claim they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing the crumbling metropolis. The whole operation, directed by Tehran, has been used ruthlessly to ethnically cleanse Fallujah of Sunnis.

Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, the Iranian-led militias will turn their attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis, where Daesh has been embedded since 2014. US coalition and Iraqi airstrikes have already begun around Mosul and it is certain that Daesh will be driven from their final enclave in Iraq within months. The defeat of Daesh in Mosul, the most emblematic of their strongholds in their two-year-old ‘caliphate’, will be a blow to the jihadists who have also faced relentless recent setbacks in Syria and Libya.

Maybe it is still a little premature to predict the outcome of the battle to recapture Fallujah, but there can be no doubt that Daesh has suffered serious setbacks and is facing ultimate defeat. Nevertheless the war against the jihadists could continue for some time to come, partly because the breeding ground for the creation and growth of Daesh still exists in Iraq. The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene and their brutal repression, not least by the sixty pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias that currently operate in Iraq, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear Daesh. Indeed the eventual collapse of Daesh in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq’s crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing threats to security.

The invasion of Iraq and its consequences will be pored over in great detail by the long anticipated Chilcot Report to be published on 6th July. Chilcot will certainly lay the blame for the illegal invasion firmly on the shoulders of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but the West’s mishandling of the aftermath of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq paints an equally sorry picture. From the moment in May 2003 when the US administration appointed Paul Bremer, a man with zero Middle East experience, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, disaster was unavoidable. Bremer made some dreadful decisions that have had repercussions to this day. Firstly he dissolved Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and banned all members of the party above a certain rank from holding any position in Iraq’s public services. Secondly, he dissolved the Iraqi armed forces, sending over 300,000 heavily armed and well trained young men home without pay and at the same time ending the salary and pensions of thousands of military officers.

The insurgency that followed was as calamitous as it was inevitable. As quickly as the Americans and British had won the war they contrived to lose the peace. The West’s cack-handed attempts at imposing democracy on occupied Iraq were equally catastrophic. Embarrassed by the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, the US and UK now decided to make the imposition of democracy the key focus and justification for their invasion. But infighting quickly began between returning exiles and those who had weathered the Saddam regime. When partial sovereignty was finally handed over to the Iraqis in June 2004 with the formation of a caretaker government, followed by the election of a transitional government in May 2005, the shambolic attempts at Iraqi democracy rapidly began to unravel. The elected Council of Representatives was supposed to be the repository of power, but in fact it became a toothless talking shop. The appointed government ministers, who systematically raided the public coffers to enrich themselves and finance huge private militias that they used to intimidate and coerce political rivals, seized real power in Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki soon emerged as the Godfather of this gangster class of politicians, shoehorned into power as Iraq’s puppet Prime Minister at the insistence of the Iranian regime and meekly buttressed by the Americans. His venal corruption and genocidal policy of aggression against Iraq’s Sunni population catapulted the country into civil war and opened the door for the invasion of Daesh and their subsequent seizure of vast tracts of Iraqi territory. Maliki is still a manipulative force in Iraqi political circles using the vast wealth he accumulated during eight years in office to finance his own private army and continually to undermine his successor Haider al-Abadi. Such is the frustration and contempt of the Iraqi people with their political leaders that there have been massive demonstrations and even assaults on Baghdad’s Green Zone and Party headquarters and offices, forcing al-Abadi to replace many ministers with supposedly non-corrupt technocrats.

Political instability in Iraq has been exploited by Daesh, who have returned to their al-Qaeda roots by mounting a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks on Shi’ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other major cities, exacerbating sectarian tensions and adding to the horrendous casualty list of 175,000 deaths over the 13 years since the US and British invasion of Iraq. As al-Abadi struggles to reconcile Iraq’s Shi’ia and Sunni population, the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq will hold a referendum on independence in November this year. A breakaway Kurdish State may mark the beginning of the fragmentation of Iraq and the emergence of Iran as the ultimate victor. Iranian support for the bloody regime of Bashar al-Assad has prolonged the civil war in Syria. Their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has caused untold suffering and death. But their blatant meddling in Iraq and their clear backing for the genocide of the Iraqi Sunni population has driven the country to the brink of disintegration. The only possible solution is for Haider al-Abadi to implement real reforms, which must include the expulsion of Iran and its agents from Iraq and the disarming of the Shi’ia militias. He must re-integrate the Sunnis and other minorities into Iraqi society, completely reform the heavily politicised judiciary and stamp out corruption. Time may be running out for Daesh and its dreams of a caliphate, but time is also running out for Iraq.

Source: The Medea Express

Get ready for another Iraq War Saturday, 25 June 2016 11:48

Losing a friend in war is always hard. Losing a friend to a battle we already fought and won is worse.

That’s how my close friend Lt. Col. Ehab Hashem Moshen was killed recently by the Islamic State near Fallujah — refighting a battle in Iraq that the Marine Corps fought a decade ago. The Marines won that fight. The problem is that the Obama administration didn’t follow through on a political plan to maintain the peace.

In April, I visited some of the almost 5,000 troops that President Obama has put back in Iraq, and I witnessed a recurring theme: We have a military plan to defeat the Islamic State — and, as initial gains in Fallujah this week demonstrate, it’s going well in many respects — but we have yet to articulate a political plan to ensure Iraq’s long-term stability.

Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s 2007 or 2016. The battle plans I hear from our commanders in Iraq today are the same ones I heard at the beginning of the surge, down to the same cities and tribal alliances. My question is: How will this time be different? The silence is deafening.

Carl von Clausewitz taught us nearly 200 years ago that “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” We have to have a political endgame, or the sacrifices our troops continue to make will be in vain. It’s not the military’s job to develop that political plan — that’s where the administration comes in — but it’s painfully clear there isn’t one.

Without a long-term political strategy, we can expect to send young Americans back to Iraq every time Iraqi politics fall apart, a new terrorist group sweeps in and we find ourselves required to clean up the mess.

Let’s not forget that, fundamentally, the crisis in Iraq today is political. When the Islamic State overran much of the country, it didn’t just defeat the Iraqi army; the soldiers of the Iraqi army put their weapons down and went home because they had lost faith in then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian government. Only if we can help bring lasting change to Iraqi politics will Iraq be able to defend itself without our help.

Unfortunately, the president’s response to the Islamic State in Iraq has missed the mark: You don’t fix Iraqi politics by training Iraqi troops. We need a comprehensive military and political plan. The good news is that we now have an Iraqi prime minister who is aligned with our interests and has the support of the Iraqi people to reform their government. He faces plenty of entrenched political opposition, however, and that’s where the United States can help.

First, we can provide resources directly to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to support his agenda of reform. Second, we can help the disenfranchised Sunnis have a stronger voice in their government by encouraging them to unite politically, just as we did during the surge. Third, we must counter the malign interests of Iranian agents working to inflame sectarianism among Shiite leaders and in the Iraqi media. And fourth, we can broker a reasonable agreement between the Abadi government and our closest allies, the Kurds. All this will take a stronger diplomatic presence. We built the largest U.S. Embassy in the world in Iraq, knowing that Iraqis would need continued political mentorship, but then we left it half-empty. It’s time we fixed that.

As a four-tour Marine veteran of Iraq myself, I share the president’s deeply held wish that our continued involvement were not necessary. It would be great if we could simply hand the ball to the Iraqis and wish them well. But hope is not a strategy, and the past five years have proved that that approach doesn’t work.

Some will say that meddling in foreign politics often makes things worse, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s hard to do well. But we made tremendous political progress in Iraq during the surge. Under the strong leadership of then-Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we kept a lid on sectarianism, curtailed Iranian influence and led reconciliation among many disgruntled tribesmen. Yes, the leverage of 100,000 U.S. troops helped, but Crocker’s close coordination with his military counterpart, Gen. David Petraeus, was what mattered most; there are far more elements of U.S. power and influence we can bring to the table than boots on the ground.

More important, the alternative to robust political mentoring in Iraq is sending young Americans back again and again. Fixing Iraqi politics is difficult, but I’d much prefer having a heavy, long-term diplomatic presence than losing more lives refighting battles we already won.

My friend Ehab was a brave Iraqi soldier, one of the best officers in his generation. He died an Iraqi hero, and given how many times he put his life on the line for my team and me, I believe he’s an American hero as well. He’s a great example of our many Muslim allies who fight Islamic terrorists every day. We need more brave men like Ehab to win this long war. We must work harder to ensure his death won’t have been in vain.

Source: The Washington Post

- Seth Moulton, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts’s 6th congressional district in the House.

Men who flee the ISIL-held city are often abused, or killed, by armed groups bent on revenge.

By Salam Khoder

Amiriyat al-Fallujah, Iraq - As the Iraqi armed forces and allied militias continue their battle to take Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), a growing number of civilians have said that they were tortured after escaping the besieged city.

In one tent in the Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, which is hosting displaced people from Fallujah, three men claimed to have been tortured while held captive by sectarian militias affiliated with the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

The men, along with their families and many others, fled the al-Azraqiyah area, northwest of Fallujah, as the Iraqi military advanced towards their houses. Although they knew the road to reach the camp was not completely safe, they decided to leave out of fear of what might happen if they stayed.

"We knew that the militias might arrest or even kill us, but we had to leave," said Abu Muhammad, 57, who asked that his real name not be used. "Staying in the area meant sure death, whereas if we tried to leave, we might have the chance of surviving - or if not us, at least our families."

Since 2014, a number of sectarian militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces or al-Hashd al-Shaabi, has played a major role in assisting the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against ISIL. But they have also been accused of perpetrating human rights abuses against civilians on sectarian basis.

Abu Muhammad said he experienced "days of hell" during his detention by the militia fighters. "We saw men in uniforms with army vehicles. We thought it was the Iraqi army that was approaching. We walked towards them holding white flags to make sure they know that we are civilians and unarmed," he explained.

The families soon discovered that the men in uniforms were not army soldiers, but militiamen who belong to the mobilisation forces. "They separated women and children from the men, and put everyone in houses taken from families who had fled as the military operation started," Abu Muhammad said. After two days, the women and children were moved to the Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, while the men remained in detention.

They would put me face down, and start pulling the rope higher and higher. I felt that my limbs would be detached from my body. I lost consciousness several times during those days.

Thamer Hassoun al-Shoukor, a tortured Fallujah resident

According to Abu Muhammad, this is when the agony began.

"The militants told us: 'We know that you have fled a place which is more like hell - al-Azraqiyah - but we will send you to hell again'." 

Abu Muhammad said he was beaten repeatedly for six days. "They would beat us with water pipes; they would take turns to torture us. My hands were tied behind my back, and one of the militants sat on my chest after he got tired of beating me. He just threw himself on me. I felt my ribs breaking. I screamed in pain; I spat blood. I asked for water, but I was denied even that."

A week after their ordeal started, the Iraqi federal police arrived and moved the hundreds of detained men to the al-Mazraa military base, located east of Fallujah. They were held there for interrogation, then transferred to Amiriyat al-Fallujah.

Mahmoud al-Naji al-Shoukor, who also fled al-Azraqiyah, said he had "lost the will to live" as a result of his and his family's treatment at the hands of the sectarian militia.

"I was humiliated by my countrymen for reasons I do not comprehend until now. My two brothers, Ahmad and Hussein al-Naji al-Shoukor, along with my two cousins Muthanna and Ahmad al-Naji al-Shoukor were detained the same night. But we still have not found them; they are still missing. I think they are dead - so I have nothing left to lose."

While detained, Mahmoud said he saw civilians being slaughtered "like chicken", and that he himself was very close to being executed. "They put some of us in a line on our knees, with our eyes blindfolded," he said.

"They started taking us one by one. They killed several men before it was my turn. I could hear the men scream and beg the militia men to spare their lives - they were swearing that they never fought, and that they never joined ISIL - but that did not stop the militia fighters from killing them," Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.

"One of the fighters dragged me on the ground, saying that it is my turn to die. But at that moment I heard a voice saying that the killing has to stop, because the religious authority in al-Najaf [the religious leader of Iraq's Shia, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani] had issued an order that was circulating among the militia men to stop the executions after the news of sectarian killings had been leaked."

Mahmoud said the militiamen told them that if it weren't for Sistani's orders, all of them would have been killed in a "blink of an eye".

Removing his shirt, Mahmoud showed the marks of torture on his body: Deep wounds from beating and flogging.

The third man in the tent was Thamer Hassoun Mohammad al-Shoukor. He was unable to easily move his arms: For six days, his hands were tied behind his back from the elbow, and his legs tied together from the ankles. 

"They would put me face down, and start pulling the rope higher and higher. I felt that my limbs would be detached from my body. I lost consciousness several times during those days," Shoukor said.

One night, they heard the sound of a helicopter approaching. It was the Iraqi federal police. "If they did not show up, we could have been dead," he said.

Upon the men's arrival at the al-Mazraa military base, they were immediately given food and water, and several medical teams attended to those in urgent need of care. 

"When we arrived, lots of tribal fighters from Hashed al-Anbar, which is a Sunni militia fighting with the government forces, started comforting us and telling us that our families are safe in Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, and that we will be released once we receive medical care," Thamer said.

That same night, they received a visit from Yahia al-Ghazi, a member of parliament from the province. "We asked him about our families and about other men who were detained with us. All he had to say was that, 'we thank God that you are alive', and that our families were in the camp. But he didn't give us any information on the missing men and boys."

Sohaib al-Rawi, the governor of al-Anbar province where Fallujah is located, confirmed that civilians fleeing the city and surrounding areas had been tortured by some militias fighting alongside the Iraqi armed forces.

Rawi told Al Jazeera that "more than 49 civilians have lost their lives under torture". He added that 643 men were missing, with no information on whether they had been executed or are still in detention.

Although Rawi refused to give the name of the militia that carried out these acts, he said that "the government and the security forces were given the names of the 643 who are still missing".

Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that it had "received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city of Fallujah".

Quoting witnesses who survived the killings, the report found that "a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF [Popular Mobilisation Forces] had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops' officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy".

On Wednesday, June 15, Salama al-Khufaji, a member of the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, announced that Iraqi security forces had arrested a militia fighter in connection with the killing of the 17 civilians.

However, it is yet to be seen whether other militiamen involved in abuses will face justice.

Source: Aljazeera

 

Baghdad – While Sadr is in Iran for seclusion, a number of his followers attacked offices of certain political parties in south Iraq. The attackiers torched the offices including the photos of Khomeini and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Council member of one of the southern districts told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the attacks also targeted offices of factions and parties affiliated with Iran. The council member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said protesters also burned the photos of political leaders and religious authorities including the leaders of the Islamic republic.

Consequently, a number of parties and forces in Amarah district gave the Sadrist movement 24 hours to denounce the members that burned down their offices.

Of the parties protesting: Badr Organization, Dawa Party Head Office, al-Jihad wa Binaa Movement, Islamic Supreme Council, Dawa Party, League of Righteous, Khorasani Brigades, Imam’s Soldiers’ Battalions, Imam Ali Brigades, and Abu Fadhal al-Abbas Brigades.

Meanwhile, Sadrist Movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for excluding Najaf from protests after a wave of office attacks of several Shi’ite parties in the country’s south and center. When asked by his followers, Sadr said in a statement issued Friday: “Yes exclude Najaf from protests for its sanctity. Who wants to protest shall go to Baghdad.”

He added that protests against corrupt parties should be peaceful whether in Najaf or any other district.

Earlier, Sadr called for postponing protests demanding reform during the month of Ramadan. He considered protests a kind of prayer and devotion.

Following a series of attacks on political parties, fears have risen of inter-Shi’ite clashes in the country’s central and southern districts. Security forces blocked all roads and bridges leading to the Liberation Square in central Baghdad where protests have been ongoing for over a year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi warned of the “reckless” behavior that targets public facilities or any political office.

Abadi urged in his statement political leaders to reject such heinous acts and called on patriotic demonstrators to distance themselves from such acts of extremism.

Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced it had taken all required measures to protect state institutions.

MoI pledged in a statement to protect all public and private institutions, headquarters of political parties, and other organizations.

The statement added that the ISIS strategy is to keep security forces occupied to alleviate the pressure from Fallujah and whoever wants reform should resort to peaceful protests.

Commander of Civil Democratic Alliance Jasem Halfi said that the weekly protests in Baghdad are done in coordination with many parties including the Sadrist Movement. He added that the protests are peaceful and aim to achieve reform.

Halfi confirmed they will carry on with the peaceful protests unified under Iraqi flag.

Friday prayer Imam of Najaf Sadr Din Qabbanji warned of a Shi’ite-Shi’ite conflict after a series of offices in several districts have been torched. He added that the government is responsible of protecting the public institutions, while denouncing the anonymous groups that attacked the public institutions. Qabbanji said: “While we are preparing to liberate Fallujah, some are trying to create a Shiite – Shiite strife.

Qabbanji explained that religious leaders are with protests but attacking offices is not acceptable.

Source: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

RESS RELEASE

For immediate release 10th June 2016

IRAQ: INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IGNORING ETHNIC CLEANSING IN FALLUJAH

Horrific sectarian atrocities are being committed in the final push to ‘liberate’ the ancient city of Fallujah, 43 miles from Baghdad. Iranian-led Shi’ite militias who form the main part of the force fighting to re-capture the city from Daesh (ISIS) are systematically arresting Sunni men and women fleeing the besieged city. Many are being tortured and executed.

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association said today: “The international community must stop this barbaric crime against innocent civilians. The Shi’ite militias are financed and led by the Iranian terrorist Qods Force whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terrorist lists. Soleimani is spearheading the attack on Fallujah. His presence was confirmed in an astonishing statement by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari on 7th June, when he said:  “Qasem Soleimani provides military advice on Iraqi soil and this is with the complete awareness of our government.”

“Iran is exploiting their role in ousting Daesh (ISIS) as a means for implementing their genocidal policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. They claim that they have to detain all people fleeing from the city in case some of them may be Daesh jihadists. But this is simply an excuse to perpetrate barbaric atrocities on innocent Sunnis.

On 7th June the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said: “Eyewitnesses have described how armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces are intercepting people fleeing the conflict, separating the men and teenage boys from the women and children, and detaining the males for ‘security screening’, which in some cases degenerates into physical violations and other forms of abuse, apparently in order to elicit forced confessions. There are even allegations that some individuals have been summarily executed by these armed groups.”

“The same thing happened during the so-called liberation of Ramadi, a city of over one million predominantly Sunni people, which was reduced to dust and rubble. Barely a single building has been left intact and the male population has simply disappeared. This scenario is being repeated in Fallujah, where mass graves have already been discovered in some of the nearby Sunni villages containing bodies that have been burned, stabbed and brutalised.

“The United Nations on Wednesday 8th June revised significantly their estimate of the number of civilians believed trapped in besieged Fallujah, raising the figure to 90,000 from a previous estimate of 50,000. It seems clear that there has been a deliberate attempt by Iraqi forces to provide a lower figure for the civilian population in Fallujah, in order to hide the inevitable death toll arising from the savage bombardment of residential areas, as well as the active participation of the Iranian regime's Qods Force and its affiliated militias.

“Tehran is relentlessly strengthening its grip over Iraq. Corruption and poor training has rendered the Iraqi army almost useless, leaving a vacuum, which the Iranian regime has been quick to fill, pressurising Iraq’s Prime Minister into allowing the Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, combined with a directionless and dysfunctional American foreign policy, has paved the way for the fascist Iranian mullah-led regime to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

“The European Iraqi Freedom Association has repeatedly warned of the dangers of allowing the Iranian-funded Shi’ite militias to have free reign in Iraq and our warnings have been ignored. The Iraqi Sunnis of al-Anbar have paid a heavy price for international complacency. Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, Tehran will turn its attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis. Daesh has held Mosul for more than two years and its ethnic cleansing features highly on the Iranian regime’s priority list.

“How much longer can the international community remain silent in the face of such crimes against humanity? The Iranian-funded and led militias are now guilty of crimes every bit as horrific as the terrorist Daesh jihadists who they are supposed to be trying to defeat. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, US President Barack Obama and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini must speak out now and demand an end to these atrocities and an end to Iranian meddling in Iraq.”

Office of Struan Stevenson
President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
Brussels

 

(Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.)

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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

Investigate Government Command Responsibility; ISIS Stops Civilians From Fleeing

(Beirut) – The announced investigation into allegations of abuse of civilians around Fallujah by Iraqi government forces is a test for the government’s ability to hold abusive forces accountable. Judicial officials should conduct this investigation transparently and impartially, assess co

mmand responsibility, and ensure protection for victims and witnesses.

Ahead of the offensive in Fallujah against forces of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that his government had taken measures to protect civilians. Human Rights Watch, however, has received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city, since May 23. On June 4, 2016, in response to allegations of abuse, al-Abadi launched an investigation into abuses in Fallujah and issued orders to arrest those responsible for “transgressions” against civilians. On June 7, al-Abadi announcedthe “detention and transfer of those accused of committing violations to the judiciary to receive their punishment according to the law.”

“The Iraqi government needs to control and hold accountable its own forces if it hopes to claim the moral upper hand in its fight against ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “It’s high time for Iraqi authorities to unravel the web of culpability underlying the government forces’ repeated outrages against civilians.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed grave concern about reports of ISIS preventing civilians from fleeing Fallujah and allegedly executing and shooting at those who attempted to do so. Human Rights Watch is concerned about the presence of ISIS fighters among civilians inside Fallujah, perhaps amounting to human shielding, a war crime. But the presence of fighters among civilians does not absolve forces fighting ISIS from the obligation to target only military objectives and to take all feasible measures to avoid civilian harm, Human Rights Watch said. ISIS forces should allow civilians to leave areas under their control and not use civilians to shield its military objectives from attack, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch directed questions about the composition of the investigative committee, its authority, and relation to the judiciary to five Iraqi government institutions in addition to the human rights section of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq. A member of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee told Human Rights Watch that the committee had started its own investigation and was liaising with the investigation by the prime minister’s office, which remained secret. The other officials contacted did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On June 3, Human Rights Watch received information alleging that members of the Federal Police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an auxiliary fighting force created after ISIS advanced in June 2014, and that includes many pre-existing Shia militias, had executed more than a dozen civilians from the Jumaila tribe fleeing Sajar, a village north of Fallujah. Human Rights Watch spoke to five people, including two officials from Anbar governorate, who said they were protecting three surviving witnesses to the executions.

Three of those interviewed confirmed the account that a survivor gave on Tigris (Dijla) Channel television that a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops’ officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy. One person said that the incident took place on June 2. The PMF are, at least nominally, under the command of the prime minister.

One of the Anbar governorate officials provided Human Rights Watch with a list of names of those killed and said that the incident happened near the Sharhabil school in Al-Bu Sudaira neighborhood in the northern outskirts of Fallujah. The other Anbar official said that the witnesses met with senior Iraqi government officials on June 5, following which he said Prime Minister al-Abadi launched an investigation into the incident. A former Iraqi government official with good contacts in the security forces told Human Rights Watch, on June 5, that the investigation had already led to the arrest of a police officer whom survivors could name.

Another person who said he was in the Sajar area, 7 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, at the time told Human Rights Watch that on May 28, he saw Federal Police and PMF, including dozens of fighters from the Badr Brigades and Hezbollah (two prominent Shia militias in the PMF), fatally shoot civilians with white flags raised fleeing toward the government forces that day. He said that a fighter told him his superior officer had ordered the shootings. He also told Human Rights Watch he was in Saqlawiya around May 30. This person said a villager and several PMF fighters in the area told him that PMF fighters stabbed dozens of villagers to death with knives.

On June 6, an Anbar governorate official who provided the names for those killed from the Jumaila tribe was visiting a camp for internally displaced people in Amiriyat Fallujah, a town south of Fallujah itself, when he spoke to Human Rights Watch. More than 600 men whom Hezbollah and the Badr Brigades, among other PMFs, had released from detention the day before had just arrived in Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital, he said. He added that the militias had detained the men, most from the al-Mahamda tribe, since the beginning of the operation in homes and other buildings in the Hayy al-Shuhada area in Saqlawiya, only releasing them on June 5. He said that he saw hundreds of people among the former detainees who showed signs of torture, including rape, burns, knife cuts, and bruising from beatings. He said the men who were released told him that they saw the PMF fighters take away another at least 600 al-Mahamda men.

A Baghdad resident told Human Rights Watch on June 6 that during a visit to Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital on June 5, she saw hundreds of visibly injured men. Five of the men she spoke to said that PMF forces detained them in groups as they recaptured Saqlawiya over the previous or two weeks. The men told her that the PMF had altogether arrested 1,700 men, whom they beat and dragged bound to a moving car by a rope (sahl) before releasing 605 men to receive medical treatment on June 5. The woman said the men told her that four men died from beatings and from being dragged behind cars. She told Human Rights Watch that hospital staff in Amiriyat Fallujah said a fifth man died on June 5 in the hospital. Human Rights Watch reviewed a video of three injured men stepping out of an ambulance at what the person said was Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital, in addition to pictures of half a dozen injured men being treated in the hospital’s garden.

On May 24, Human Rights Watch viewed a video, uploaded on May 23, in which a commander tells a room filled with fighters that Fallujah had been a bastion of terrorism since 2004 and that no civilians or true Muslims were left inside the city. The video bore the logo of Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, one of the brigades within the Leagues of the Righteous militia that is part of the PMF. On May 27, Iraqi activists sent Human Rights Watch two videos they said were filmed on the outskirts of Fallujah over the previous days depicting abuses against local residents by government forces: one showed armed men in a mix of civilian and military dress driving two pickup trucks, each dragging a corpse behind them; the second showed armed men surrounding a pile of corpses and severed heads. In the clip a commander counted 16 decapitated bodies and heads. Human Rights Watch was not able to verify the origins of either video. On June 3, Human Rights Watch viewed a widely circulated video on Facebook, uploaded on June 3, which shows a man in a military-type uniform beating at least nine men lying on the ground with a large wooden stick while accusing them of collaborating with ISIS in “Fallujah”. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify the exact location and time of the videos.

A local sheikh from Karma, a town northeast of Fallujah, told Human Rights Watch that within the first few days of the military operation to retake the city, the Iraq Security Forces, PMF, police, and Sunni forces forced civilians living there to leave. During the exodus, at least 70 young men disappeared, he said, and the families have no information as to their whereabouts. The sheikh said that on June 1, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Salim al-Jiburi, had come to the area to speak to local elders and the military. A member of Anbar governorate council, who also provided information about the launch of the prime minister’s investigation, confirmed the number of missing men to Human Rights Watch and said that the government had opened investigations to determine where they are.

The military routinely separates men from women and takes the men for security screenings to determine their involvement with ISIS forces, according to all witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed. The authorities may impose reasonable and proportionate security measures, but should do so under judicial supervision and in a transparent manner, Human Rights Watch said. The families of anyone detained should know where they are being held, and all persons detained should promptly be brought before a judge to determine the legality of their detention.

All suspected crimes, including torture, murder, and other abuses, committed by members of any side in the conflict, should be investigated by the criminal justice authorities, speedily, transparently, and effectively, up to the highest levels responsible. When evidence of criminal responsibility emerges, prosecutions should follow. Those conducting such criminal investigations and making decisions about prosecutions should be independent of those being investigated, including being outside any military chain of command and being free from political interference in their decisions. The authorities should ensure the safety of all witnesses. At the same time, a commission of inquiry or equivalent should be created to examine the wider concerns about whether such crimes and abuses are being committed in a widespread or systematic way.

On June 3, the highest Shia religious authority, Ayatollah al-Sistani “cautioned” that fighters must not attack non-combatants materially or psychologically. On June 5, Hadi al-Amiri, the commander of the Badr Brigades, vowedto hold those responsible for abuse accountable.

“I acknowledge that there were mistakes,” al-Abadi told Iraqi state television on June 4, “but they were not systematic and we will not cover up any [of them].”

“The government should not stand idly by while fighters commit atrocities in its name,” Stork said. “Political, security, and judicial officials should work together transparently to establish the truth about what has happened around Fallujah and why.”

The Fallujah Operation
On May 23, Iraqi security forces began operations to retake Fallujah, where UN officials estimate about 50,000 civilians, including 20,000 children, remain. Those forces include the elite US-trained military Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), local and federal police, militias under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) umbrella, Sunni fighters from Anbar province, and Iraqi and US-led coalition air forces.

ISIS captured the city in early 2014. Government forces cut off supply routes into the city after recapturing nearby Ramadi in late December 2015 and the al-Jazira desert area north of Fallujah in March 2016. In late March, a medical source in Fallujah told Human Rights Watch that each day starving children were arriving at the local hospital and most foodstuffs were no longer available at any price. In April, Iraqi activists in touch with families inside Fallujah told Human Rights Watch that conditions had reduced families to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups from grass. A man who fled Fallujah in 2014 said in late May that sources in the city told him people who escaped from Fallujah in May 2016 were dropping plastic bags and water bottles filled with medical supplies into the Euphrates upstream for trapped residents to recover from the river as it ran through the city.

Human Rights Watch has not had access to Fallujah, but obtained information on conditions inside the city from relatives, journalists, officials, and humanitarian workers who said they had been in touch with people remaining there.

In recent years Human Rights Watch has documented extensive laws of war violations by the ISIS as well as by Iraqi military and the largely Shia militias that make up the Popular Mobilization Forces, including summary executions, disappearances, torture, use of child soldiers, widespread demolition of buildings, indiscriminate attacks, and unlawful restrictions on the movement of people fleeing the fighting.

Trapped Civilians
On May 22, the Iraqi government called on civilians inside the city, 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, to leave through unspecified secured routes. Fourteen thousand people have managed to escapethe areas surrounding the city center and reach displacement camps in the neighboring town of Amiriyat Fallujah.

Since the government offensive began on May 23, there have been regular reports of ISIS executing or shooting at civilians attempting to flee. A foreign correspondent told Human Rights Watch that Shia militiamen holding positions in Saqlawiya, a town northwest of the city, said they witnessed civilians carrying white flags make several failed attempts to escape from areas still under ISIS control. In each instance, ISIS opened fire on the militia positions the civilians were attempting to reach, forcing them to turn back. They said they had not seen ISIS firing directly on the civilians.

In early May, ISIS retook Hassi and Al-Bu Huwa, two villages south of Fallujah, for a few days. An engineer from Al-Bu Huwa who was able to escape to Baghdad said that, on May 10, ISIS ordered residents to evacuate the villages for Fallujah. Members of Al-Bu Isa tribe gathered their fighters together and refused the order, he said. He also said he had heard that two Al-Bu Isa women committed suicide. ISIS responded by executing 25 Al-Bu Isa men. The engineer said he saw the bodies of the executed men as he left the village. He said he escaped from ISIS as he was being transferred to Fallujah.

Intermingling with Civilians
ISIS is also exposing civilians to harm by placing their fighters among them, Human Rights Watch said. A man whose family is still in Fallujah with intermittent access to a phone said they told him that ISIS forced all civilians in the city, including his family, to relocate to the center, among its fighters.

In northern Iraq, on the Makhmur front line, the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga and volunteer National Mobilization Forces, a group of volunteers within the Popular Mobilization Forces, are battling ISIS near Qayyara. Local residents who escaped Mahana, Kudila, Kharabarut and other villages near there told Human Rights Watch in late May that ISIS forces had fired from in between houses they said were inhabited by civilians at the time, which were then hit by return artillery fire.

Attacks on Civilian Objects
One man with family inside Fallujah showed Human Rights Watch photographs that he said a Fallujah General Hospital staff member sent him after an attack on the hospital at 8 p.m. on May 25. The hospital worker wrote that an airstrike damaged the emergency room and other parts of the facility. He said that ISIS fighters had been occupying the second floor of the hospital for months. The man was unable to confirm the extent of the damage or whether any civilians were wounded or killed in the attack.

A doctor who used to work at Fallujah hospital but left the city in 2015 sent Human Rights Watch footage of damage to the building and interviews with patients who said they had been wounded in the attack, but that it had been Iraqi forces’ shelling rather than an airstrike. He said the emergency room had been able to continue functioning despite the damage.

The hospital staff member said he was unaware of either the Iraqi military or the coalition informing patients and staff of an impending strike, such as through public messages or dropping flyers.

Under the laws of war, applicable to the armed conflict in Iraq, all hospitals and other medical facilities, whether civilian or military, have special protection. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters. Medical facilities remain protected unless they are used to commit hostile acts that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. It is a violation for armed forces or groups to occupy medical facilities.


Source:Human Rights Watch

Iraq: Authorities must rein in Fallujah forces amid allegations of torture and deaths in custody

Iraqi authorities must rein in all forces participating in the recapture of Fallujah said Amnesty International today, amid reports that men and boys fleeing the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated by government-backed militias and at least three have died as a result.

Amnesty has spoken to victims who described the torture and other ill-treatment meted out to them in detention and who claim to have witnessed killings.

Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said:

“Civilians risking their lives to escape from IS atrocities must be protected and given the humanitarian aid they desperately need. Instead it seems that some are having to run the gauntlet of being subjected to further abuse and reprisal attacks.”

Local officials in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, told Amnesty that on Sunday (5 June), 605 men and boys were handed over to the provincial council and that many of them had injuries including fractures, contusions, welts and open wounds as a result of beatings. Three bodies were also handed over, and another detainee is believed to have died after his transfer to the city of Amariyat al-Fallujah.

The detainees were from Saqlawiya, some 9km north-west of Fallujah, and had been held captive for several days by individuals belonging to government-backed and predominantly Shi’a militias known as Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU).

Amnesty spoke to several survivors who described being held at a military base in Anbar province known as Mazra’at Tarek (Tarek’s farm) for about four days after they fled IS fighters on 2 June. 

One detainee in his forties told Amnesty International:

“The treatment was very bad… we had nothing to drink or eat… Some people drank their urine. About four or five men would come into the room, and beat people with sticks and metal pipes. I don’t know what happened to my brother and two nephews detained with me. I don’t know if they are among the dead or still detained at the farm or transferred to another place… Even those released are suffering from wounds and dehydration. Some have lost consciousness.” 

The detainees described being crammed into small rooms with their hands tied behind their backs, insulted for allegedly supporting IS, and kicked and beaten with various objects including rubber hoses and metal bars. They said they were also deprived of food, water and sanitation facilities.

Several claimed that a number of detainees died as a result of beatings, including with sharp metal objects on the head.

The detainees are now being held in Amariyat al-Fallujah for further security screening and investigations. Several reported that their identification documents had been confiscated by the PMU.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi acknowledged in a televised interview with Iraqiya TV that “mistakes” had been committed by some fighters participating in the battle for Fallujah and vowed not to tolerate human rights violations.

His spokesperson later announced the establishment of a human rights committee to investigate abuses.

Philip Luther said:

“The promise of investigations into human rights abuses is a welcome first step; but more needs to be done to prevent further abuses and bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility.

“Any security procedures carried out by Iraqi forces must comply with international human rights law and all those deprived of their liberty must be protected from enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment. Those who are reasonably suspected of having committed criminal offences should be promptly referred to judicial authorities and receive a fair trial that meets international standards. The rest must be released.”

Amnesty is calling on the Iraqi authorities to conduct full, impartial and independent investigations into allegations of torture and unlawful killings by members of the PMU with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.

Pending investigations and prosecutions, all those reasonably suspected of committing abuses should be removed from the ranks. The fate and whereabouts of those who have been disappeared must be immediately revealed.

Background

Since the start of the military offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the city of Fallujah from IS on 23 May, an estimated 10,000 people have managed to escape mainly from the city’s outskirts according to UN agencies.

About 50,000 civilians are believed to still be trapped in the city amid reports of shelling and starvation. Civilians who fled told Amnesty that IS fighters have been preventing civilians from central Fallujah from leaving, and have forcibly moved some civilians from the outskirts to the centre of the city.

Reports have also emerged regarding the alleged unlawful killings of 17 men and boys from Karma, about 20km north-east of Fallujah, which Amnesty is investigating.

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release 3rd June 2016

 THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS

Catastrophe in Fallujah

 

Western policy in Iraq is aiding and abetting the slaughter of the innocents in Fallujah. This is the controversial view of Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). Speaking as the operation to ‘liberate’ Fallujah from Daesh (ISIS) fanatics enters its second week, Mr Stevenson said: “We seem to have learned no lessons from the fate of Ramadi, which was ‘liberated’ from Daesh earlier this year, but the final onslaught during the battle for its recapture saw virtually every building in the city destroyed; only a handful of women, children and elderly men remained. Some estimates state that the population of Ramadi was reduced by the conflict from over one million inhabitants to less than 1,000. Thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives. The ruthless Shi’ia militias waged a genocidal campaign against the predominantly Sunni population of that city, torturing, burning and butchering men, women and children at will. They will do the same in Fallujah. Thousands of civilians will be killed. The UN estimates that up to 20,000 children are trapped in Fallujah; Daesh is using some as human shields, while others are being forced to fight; the Shi’ia militias will mercilessly butcher them.

“Militias affiliated with the Iranian regime, under the command of the Iranian terrorist Quds force leader Qassem Soleimani, are unilaterally leading the offensive and killing and slaughtering innocent civilians and burning houses and mosques and even beheading people in Fallujah. Seventeen militia groups under Iran’s command including the terrorist Badr organization with six thousand men, Asa'ib al-Haq with five thousand men, Kata'ib Hezbollah with four thousand men, Kata'ib Imam Ali with three thousand men are taking part in this operation. Footage posted online shows militias chanting sectarian slogans after beheading 17 people in the Garmeh neighbourhood of Fallujah.

“This is while according to official figures, only four thousand Sunni troops, close to the government, are taking part in this battle. The Sunni forces do not have heavy arms and are therefore deployed mainly on the side-lines of the battle. The only way to defeat Daesh and free al-Anbar Province is to organize and arm the Sunni tribes and involve them directly in the liberation of their own territories. However, the influence from Iran, which now dominates Iraq, is preventing this from happening.

“Qais al-Khazali the head of the Asa'ib militias whose crimes have been repeatedly condemned by the international community has described Fallujah and its inhabitants as “a source of terrorism” describing it as a “cancerous tumour that must be uprooted.” The former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, under whose term in office the sectarian genocide began, has described Fallujah as the “head of the snake.”

“Now the defenceless people of Fallujah are stuck between Daesh and the Iraqi militias. While the sectarian barbarities committed by the militias have created widespread condemnation both in Iraq and internationally, the al-Abadi government has unfortunately remained silent in dealing with these crimes. Sadly, the West has seen fit to assist in this holocaust by providing air strikes and bombing raids on the city. American & British airstrikes assisted in the recapture of Ramadi, crushing most of the city’s buildings and infrastructure to dust. Now warplanes from a US-led international coalition have begun bombing raids on Daesh targets around Fallujah.

“Western intervention in Iraq is being widely applauded by the mullah-led Iranian regime, which is financing, training and commanding many of the Shi’ia militias engaged in the battle against Daesh. The Iranian regime regards Daesh as a convenient vehicle for implementing its objective of ethnically cleansing the Iraqi Sunni population. By condoning this strategy, the West is relentlessly pushing Iraq’s hounded and oppressed Sunnis into an invidious position where they can either choose to support Daesh or die at the hands of the Shi’ia militias. We need to re-think Western policy and embrace Iraq’s Sunnis in a new and inclusive, Western-trained military force. The Iranian-led Shi’ia militias should be disbanded without delay and Iranian meddling in Iraq outlawed.”

Struan Stevenson

President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014

BAGHDAD — American commandos are on the front lines in Syria in a new push toward the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa, but in Iraq it is an entirely different story: Iran, not the United States, has become the face of an operation to retake the jihadist stronghold of Falluja from the militant group.

On the outskirts of Falluja, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police officers and Shiite militiamen backed by Iran are preparing for an assault on the Sunni city, raising fears of a sectarian blood bath. Iran has placed advisers, including its top spymaster, Qassim Suleimani, on the ground to assist in the operation.

The battle over Falluja has evolved into yet another example of how United States and Iranian interests seemingly converge and clash at the same time in Iraq. Both want to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. But the United States has long believed that Iran’s role, which relies on militias accused of sectarian abuses, can make matters worse by angering Sunnis and making them more sympathetic to the militants.

While the battle against the Islamic State straddles the borders of Iraq and Syria, the United States has approached it as two separate fights. In Syria, where the government of Bashar al-Assad is an enemy, America’s ally is the Kurds.

But in Iraq, where the United States backs the central government, and trains and advises the Iraqi Army, it has been limited by the role of Iran, the most powerful foreign power inside the country.

That United States dilemma is on full display in Falluja as the fighting intensifies.

Inside the city, tens of thousands of Sunni civilians are trapped, starving and lacking medicine, according to activists and interviews with residents. Some were shot dead by the Islamic State as they tried to flee, and others died under buildings that collapsed under heavy military and militia artillery bombardment in recent days, according to the United Nations.

The few civilians who have made it to safety have escaped at night, traveling through the irrigation pipes.

In an extraordinary statement on Wednesday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the world’s pre-eminent Shiite religious leader, who lives in Najaf in southern Iraq and is said to be concerned by Iran’s growing role in Iraq, urged security forces and militia to restrain themselves and abide by “the standard behaviors of jihad.”

The grim sectarian tableau in Falluja — starving Sunni civilians trapped in a city surrounded by a mostly Shiite force — provides the backdrop to a final assault that Iraqi officials have promised will come soon.

The United States has thousands of military personnel in Iraq and has trained Iraqi security forces for nearly two years, yet is largely on the sidelines in the battle to retake Falluja. It says its air and artillery strikes have killed dozens of Islamic State fighters, including the group’s Falluja commander. But it worries that an assault on the city could backfire — inflaming the same sectarian sentiments that have allowed the Islamic State to flourish there.

Already, as the army and militiamen battled this past week in outlying areas, taking some villages and the center of the city of Karma, to the northeast, the fight has taken on sectarian overtones.

Militiamen have plastered artillery shells with the name of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric close to Iran whose execution this year by Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power, deepened the region’s sectarian divide, before firing them at Falluja.

A Shiite militia leader, in a widely circulated video, is seen rallying his men with a message of revenge against the people of Falluja, whom many Iraqi Shiites believe to be Islamic State sympathizers rather than innocent civilians. Falluja is also believed to be a staging ground for suicide bombers targeting the capital, Baghdad, about 40 miles to the east. The decision to move on the city was made after several recent attacks in Baghdad killed nearly 200 people.

“Falluja is a terrorism stronghold,” said the militia leader, Aws al-Khafaji, the head of the Abu Fadhil al-Abbas militia. “It’s been the stronghold since 2004 until today.”

He continued: “There are no patriots, no real religious people in Falluja. It’s our chance to clear Iraq by eradicating the cancer of Falluja.”

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has stressed that civilians must be protected in the operation and ordered that humanitarian corridors be opened to allow civilians to leave the city safely, disavowed the militia leader’s comments.

Reflecting these concerns of sectarianism, and the deep sense of foreboding surrounding a battle for the city, a chorus of voices in Iraq and abroad has urged restraint.

In his statement, Ayatollah Sistani said: “The Prophet Muhammad used to tell his companions before sending them to fight, to go forward in the name of Allah, with Allah and upon the religion of the messenger of Allah. Do not kill the elderly, children or women, do not steal the spoils but collect them, and do not cut down trees unless you are forced to do so.”

The concern was amplified in a second statement, released during Friday prayers by a representative for the ayatollah, saying that “saving an innocent human being from dangers around him is much more important than targeting and eliminating the enemy.”

Accounts of dire conditions in Falluja have emerged from the few residents who managed to escape in recent days, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. She said that some residents had been killed for refusing to fight for the jihadists, and that those inside were surviving on old stacks of rice, a few dates and water from unsafe sources such as drainage ditches.


Source: The New York Times


AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY CONDEMNED Wednesday, 29 June 2016 11:24

PRESS RELEASE- for release 29th June 2016

AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY CONDEMNED

Speaking on the eve of a major seminar in the House of Commons, Struan Stevenson, the President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) has condemned American policy in the Middle East.

Struan Stevenson said:

“For those who thought that America was stealthily pulling out of the Middle East in pursuit of a policy of gradual disengagement pursued by Obama, a shocking truth is beginning to unfold. Far from disengaging, the Obama administration has for some time now actually been forming a de facto alliance with Iran in its war against the Sunni Arabs.

“Exploiting the conflict against Daesh (ISIS) as an opportunity to ethnically cleanse the Sunni Arab population of al-Anbar and other provinces in Iraq, the Iranian regime has poured military personnel and resources into the sixty separate and predominantly Shi’ite militias operating in that country. These militias, commanded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force leader – General Qassem Soleimani – have arrested, tortured, butchered and beheaded many thousands of innocent Sunni men and even boys, during their fight to ‘liberate’ the Iraqi cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah. The few houses that are left standing, following relentless bombing by American aircraft, are being burned down by the sectarian Shi’ite militias. Iran and its so-called allies are ruthlessly razing these once great and ancient Iraqi cities to the ground and virtually annihilating their occupants.

“The leader of one of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias said last week: "There are no patriots, no real religious people in Fallujah. It's our chance to clear Iraq by eradicating the cancer of Fallujah." This is the reality of the Iranian regime, which the  Obama administration is trying to have rapprochement with; it is a regime hell-bent on a campaign of genocide across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and ultimately Saudi Arabia and Israel. Obama’s desperate push to sign the nuclear deal with Iran should have been the clearest signal to the world that he was carving out a new and dangerous alliance. The lifting of sanctions and the unfreezing of Iranian assets, released a windfall of billions of dollars that the mullah’s regime can now use to reinvest in their regional campaigns to bolster Bashar al-Assad in Syria, back the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, finance and arm Hamas in Palestine, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran exports terror and America has unlocked the funds that enables it to do so with renewed vigour.

“This week Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei dismissed, General Firoozabadi, the Chief of the armed forces and replaced him with General Bagheri. The Iranian media state that one of the goals of this change is to strengthen the Qods force.

“The next target for the Iranian-backed militias is Mosul, Iran’s second largest city and home to over two million Sunnis. American airstrikes have already begun around the outskirts. An unprecedented human catastrophe will quickly develop unless the West wakes up and exposes American duplicity. The only way to combat Daesh (ISIS) is to recruit and engage the Sunni tribes in Iraq. They are best placed to root out the Daesh terrorists who have occupied their homeland for the past two years.

“But the Sunni tribal leaders have good grounds to believe that America has now joined forces with Iran to wage war on the Sunni Arabs and they will be reluctant to help a coalition that may inevitably lead to their own destruction at the hands of sectarian Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday deemed Iran's presence in Iraq to be "helpful" to American attempts to beat back the threat of Daesh (ISIS)!

“The European Iraqi Freedom Association condemns any support for Iran and calls on a complete re-think of US Middle East policy before it is too late. Involving the Iranian regime and its militias is a big mistake which will create a greater crisis in the region”

--
Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He chaired the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) in the European Parliament for over 10 years. He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA).

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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

Web: www.eu-iraq.org/        Facebook: www.facebook.com/EuIraq        Twitter: www.twitter.com/EuIraq

IRAQ-FALLUJAH: THE COLLAPSING CALIPHATE Tuesday, 28 June 2016 22:14

The barbaric jihadist terrorists of Daesh (ISIS) will finally be driven out of Fallujah centre this week, although it still occupies at least half of the city. Daesh has held Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, for more than two years, consolidating its position and surrounding the ancient Iraqi city with minefields and IEDs. But after four weeks of vicious fighting, Shi’ia militias and units of the Iraqi army, aided by US coalition airstrikes, are trying to clear out the rest of the city but are facing fierce resistance from Daesh.

The Shi’ia militias fighting Daesh are financed and led by the terrorist Iranian Qods Force, whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terror blacklists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah. There has been widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured and men and boys from this predominantly Sunni enclave are being ruthlessly detained and tortured by the brutal Shi’ia militias, who claim they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing the crumbling metropolis. The whole operation, directed by Tehran, has been used ruthlessly to ethnically cleanse Fallujah of Sunnis.

Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, the Iranian-led militias will turn their attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis, where Daesh has been embedded since 2014. US coalition and Iraqi airstrikes have already begun around Mosul and it is certain that Daesh will be driven from their final enclave in Iraq within months. The defeat of Daesh in Mosul, the most emblematic of their strongholds in their two-year-old ‘caliphate’, will be a blow to the jihadists who have also faced relentless recent setbacks in Syria and Libya.

Maybe it is still a little premature to predict the outcome of the battle to recapture Fallujah, but there can be no doubt that Daesh has suffered serious setbacks and is facing ultimate defeat. Nevertheless the war against the jihadists could continue for some time to come, partly because the breeding ground for the creation and growth of Daesh still exists in Iraq. The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene and their brutal repression, not least by the sixty pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias that currently operate in Iraq, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear Daesh. Indeed the eventual collapse of Daesh in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq’s crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing threats to security.

The invasion of Iraq and its consequences will be pored over in great detail by the long anticipated Chilcot Report to be published on 6th July. Chilcot will certainly lay the blame for the illegal invasion firmly on the shoulders of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but the West’s mishandling of the aftermath of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq paints an equally sorry picture. From the moment in May 2003 when the US administration appointed Paul Bremer, a man with zero Middle East experience, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, disaster was unavoidable. Bremer made some dreadful decisions that have had repercussions to this day. Firstly he dissolved Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and banned all members of the party above a certain rank from holding any position in Iraq’s public services. Secondly, he dissolved the Iraqi armed forces, sending over 300,000 heavily armed and well trained young men home without pay and at the same time ending the salary and pensions of thousands of military officers.

The insurgency that followed was as calamitous as it was inevitable. As quickly as the Americans and British had won the war they contrived to lose the peace. The West’s cack-handed attempts at imposing democracy on occupied Iraq were equally catastrophic. Embarrassed by the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, the US and UK now decided to make the imposition of democracy the key focus and justification for their invasion. But infighting quickly began between returning exiles and those who had weathered the Saddam regime. When partial sovereignty was finally handed over to the Iraqis in June 2004 with the formation of a caretaker government, followed by the election of a transitional government in May 2005, the shambolic attempts at Iraqi democracy rapidly began to unravel. The elected Council of Representatives was supposed to be the repository of power, but in fact it became a toothless talking shop. The appointed government ministers, who systematically raided the public coffers to enrich themselves and finance huge private militias that they used to intimidate and coerce political rivals, seized real power in Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki soon emerged as the Godfather of this gangster class of politicians, shoehorned into power as Iraq’s puppet Prime Minister at the insistence of the Iranian regime and meekly buttressed by the Americans. His venal corruption and genocidal policy of aggression against Iraq’s Sunni population catapulted the country into civil war and opened the door for the invasion of Daesh and their subsequent seizure of vast tracts of Iraqi territory. Maliki is still a manipulative force in Iraqi political circles using the vast wealth he accumulated during eight years in office to finance his own private army and continually to undermine his successor Haider al-Abadi. Such is the frustration and contempt of the Iraqi people with their political leaders that there have been massive demonstrations and even assaults on Baghdad’s Green Zone and Party headquarters and offices, forcing al-Abadi to replace many ministers with supposedly non-corrupt technocrats.

Political instability in Iraq has been exploited by Daesh, who have returned to their al-Qaeda roots by mounting a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks on Shi’ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other major cities, exacerbating sectarian tensions and adding to the horrendous casualty list of 175,000 deaths over the 13 years since the US and British invasion of Iraq. As al-Abadi struggles to reconcile Iraq’s Shi’ia and Sunni population, the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq will hold a referendum on independence in November this year. A breakaway Kurdish State may mark the beginning of the fragmentation of Iraq and the emergence of Iran as the ultimate victor. Iranian support for the bloody regime of Bashar al-Assad has prolonged the civil war in Syria. Their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has caused untold suffering and death. But their blatant meddling in Iraq and their clear backing for the genocide of the Iraqi Sunni population has driven the country to the brink of disintegration. The only possible solution is for Haider al-Abadi to implement real reforms, which must include the expulsion of Iran and its agents from Iraq and the disarming of the Shi’ia militias. He must re-integrate the Sunnis and other minorities into Iraqi society, completely reform the heavily politicised judiciary and stamp out corruption. Time may be running out for Daesh and its dreams of a caliphate, but time is also running out for Iraq.

Source: The Medea Express

Get ready for another Iraq War Saturday, 25 June 2016 11:48

Losing a friend in war is always hard. Losing a friend to a battle we already fought and won is worse.

That’s how my close friend Lt. Col. Ehab Hashem Moshen was killed recently by the Islamic State near Fallujah — refighting a battle in Iraq that the Marine Corps fought a decade ago. The Marines won that fight. The problem is that the Obama administration didn’t follow through on a political plan to maintain the peace.

In April, I visited some of the almost 5,000 troops that President Obama has put back in Iraq, and I witnessed a recurring theme: We have a military plan to defeat the Islamic State — and, as initial gains in Fallujah this week demonstrate, it’s going well in many respects — but we have yet to articulate a political plan to ensure Iraq’s long-term stability.

Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s 2007 or 2016. The battle plans I hear from our commanders in Iraq today are the same ones I heard at the beginning of the surge, down to the same cities and tribal alliances. My question is: How will this time be different? The silence is deafening.

Carl von Clausewitz taught us nearly 200 years ago that “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” We have to have a political endgame, or the sacrifices our troops continue to make will be in vain. It’s not the military’s job to develop that political plan — that’s where the administration comes in — but it’s painfully clear there isn’t one.

Without a long-term political strategy, we can expect to send young Americans back to Iraq every time Iraqi politics fall apart, a new terrorist group sweeps in and we find ourselves required to clean up the mess.

Let’s not forget that, fundamentally, the crisis in Iraq today is political. When the Islamic State overran much of the country, it didn’t just defeat the Iraqi army; the soldiers of the Iraqi army put their weapons down and went home because they had lost faith in then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian government. Only if we can help bring lasting change to Iraqi politics will Iraq be able to defend itself without our help.

Unfortunately, the president’s response to the Islamic State in Iraq has missed the mark: You don’t fix Iraqi politics by training Iraqi troops. We need a comprehensive military and political plan. The good news is that we now have an Iraqi prime minister who is aligned with our interests and has the support of the Iraqi people to reform their government. He faces plenty of entrenched political opposition, however, and that’s where the United States can help.

First, we can provide resources directly to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to support his agenda of reform. Second, we can help the disenfranchised Sunnis have a stronger voice in their government by encouraging them to unite politically, just as we did during the surge. Third, we must counter the malign interests of Iranian agents working to inflame sectarianism among Shiite leaders and in the Iraqi media. And fourth, we can broker a reasonable agreement between the Abadi government and our closest allies, the Kurds. All this will take a stronger diplomatic presence. We built the largest U.S. Embassy in the world in Iraq, knowing that Iraqis would need continued political mentorship, but then we left it half-empty. It’s time we fixed that.

As a four-tour Marine veteran of Iraq myself, I share the president’s deeply held wish that our continued involvement were not necessary. It would be great if we could simply hand the ball to the Iraqis and wish them well. But hope is not a strategy, and the past five years have proved that that approach doesn’t work.

Some will say that meddling in foreign politics often makes things worse, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s hard to do well. But we made tremendous political progress in Iraq during the surge. Under the strong leadership of then-Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we kept a lid on sectarianism, curtailed Iranian influence and led reconciliation among many disgruntled tribesmen. Yes, the leverage of 100,000 U.S. troops helped, but Crocker’s close coordination with his military counterpart, Gen. David Petraeus, was what mattered most; there are far more elements of U.S. power and influence we can bring to the table than boots on the ground.

More important, the alternative to robust political mentoring in Iraq is sending young Americans back again and again. Fixing Iraqi politics is difficult, but I’d much prefer having a heavy, long-term diplomatic presence than losing more lives refighting battles we already won.

My friend Ehab was a brave Iraqi soldier, one of the best officers in his generation. He died an Iraqi hero, and given how many times he put his life on the line for my team and me, I believe he’s an American hero as well. He’s a great example of our many Muslim allies who fight Islamic terrorists every day. We need more brave men like Ehab to win this long war. We must work harder to ensure his death won’t have been in vain.

Source: The Washington Post

- Seth Moulton, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts’s 6th congressional district in the House.

Men who flee the ISIL-held city are often abused, or killed, by armed groups bent on revenge.

By Salam Khoder

Amiriyat al-Fallujah, Iraq - As the Iraqi armed forces and allied militias continue their battle to take Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), a growing number of civilians have said that they were tortured after escaping the besieged city.

In one tent in the Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, which is hosting displaced people from Fallujah, three men claimed to have been tortured while held captive by sectarian militias affiliated with the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

The men, along with their families and many others, fled the al-Azraqiyah area, northwest of Fallujah, as the Iraqi military advanced towards their houses. Although they knew the road to reach the camp was not completely safe, they decided to leave out of fear of what might happen if they stayed.

"We knew that the militias might arrest or even kill us, but we had to leave," said Abu Muhammad, 57, who asked that his real name not be used. "Staying in the area meant sure death, whereas if we tried to leave, we might have the chance of surviving - or if not us, at least our families."

Since 2014, a number of sectarian militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces or al-Hashd al-Shaabi, has played a major role in assisting the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against ISIL. But they have also been accused of perpetrating human rights abuses against civilians on sectarian basis.

Abu Muhammad said he experienced "days of hell" during his detention by the militia fighters. "We saw men in uniforms with army vehicles. We thought it was the Iraqi army that was approaching. We walked towards them holding white flags to make sure they know that we are civilians and unarmed," he explained.

The families soon discovered that the men in uniforms were not army soldiers, but militiamen who belong to the mobilisation forces. "They separated women and children from the men, and put everyone in houses taken from families who had fled as the military operation started," Abu Muhammad said. After two days, the women and children were moved to the Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, while the men remained in detention.

They would put me face down, and start pulling the rope higher and higher. I felt that my limbs would be detached from my body. I lost consciousness several times during those days.

Thamer Hassoun al-Shoukor, a tortured Fallujah resident

According to Abu Muhammad, this is when the agony began.

"The militants told us: 'We know that you have fled a place which is more like hell - al-Azraqiyah - but we will send you to hell again'." 

Abu Muhammad said he was beaten repeatedly for six days. "They would beat us with water pipes; they would take turns to torture us. My hands were tied behind my back, and one of the militants sat on my chest after he got tired of beating me. He just threw himself on me. I felt my ribs breaking. I screamed in pain; I spat blood. I asked for water, but I was denied even that."

A week after their ordeal started, the Iraqi federal police arrived and moved the hundreds of detained men to the al-Mazraa military base, located east of Fallujah. They were held there for interrogation, then transferred to Amiriyat al-Fallujah.

Mahmoud al-Naji al-Shoukor, who also fled al-Azraqiyah, said he had "lost the will to live" as a result of his and his family's treatment at the hands of the sectarian militia.

"I was humiliated by my countrymen for reasons I do not comprehend until now. My two brothers, Ahmad and Hussein al-Naji al-Shoukor, along with my two cousins Muthanna and Ahmad al-Naji al-Shoukor were detained the same night. But we still have not found them; they are still missing. I think they are dead - so I have nothing left to lose."

While detained, Mahmoud said he saw civilians being slaughtered "like chicken", and that he himself was very close to being executed. "They put some of us in a line on our knees, with our eyes blindfolded," he said.

"They started taking us one by one. They killed several men before it was my turn. I could hear the men scream and beg the militia men to spare their lives - they were swearing that they never fought, and that they never joined ISIL - but that did not stop the militia fighters from killing them," Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.

"One of the fighters dragged me on the ground, saying that it is my turn to die. But at that moment I heard a voice saying that the killing has to stop, because the religious authority in al-Najaf [the religious leader of Iraq's Shia, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani] had issued an order that was circulating among the militia men to stop the executions after the news of sectarian killings had been leaked."

Mahmoud said the militiamen told them that if it weren't for Sistani's orders, all of them would have been killed in a "blink of an eye".

Removing his shirt, Mahmoud showed the marks of torture on his body: Deep wounds from beating and flogging.

The third man in the tent was Thamer Hassoun Mohammad al-Shoukor. He was unable to easily move his arms: For six days, his hands were tied behind his back from the elbow, and his legs tied together from the ankles. 

"They would put me face down, and start pulling the rope higher and higher. I felt that my limbs would be detached from my body. I lost consciousness several times during those days," Shoukor said.

One night, they heard the sound of a helicopter approaching. It was the Iraqi federal police. "If they did not show up, we could have been dead," he said.

Upon the men's arrival at the al-Mazraa military base, they were immediately given food and water, and several medical teams attended to those in urgent need of care. 

"When we arrived, lots of tribal fighters from Hashed al-Anbar, which is a Sunni militia fighting with the government forces, started comforting us and telling us that our families are safe in Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, and that we will be released once we receive medical care," Thamer said.

That same night, they received a visit from Yahia al-Ghazi, a member of parliament from the province. "We asked him about our families and about other men who were detained with us. All he had to say was that, 'we thank God that you are alive', and that our families were in the camp. But he didn't give us any information on the missing men and boys."

Sohaib al-Rawi, the governor of al-Anbar province where Fallujah is located, confirmed that civilians fleeing the city and surrounding areas had been tortured by some militias fighting alongside the Iraqi armed forces.

Rawi told Al Jazeera that "more than 49 civilians have lost their lives under torture". He added that 643 men were missing, with no information on whether they had been executed or are still in detention.

Although Rawi refused to give the name of the militia that carried out these acts, he said that "the government and the security forces were given the names of the 643 who are still missing".

Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that it had "received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city of Fallujah".

Quoting witnesses who survived the killings, the report found that "a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF [Popular Mobilisation Forces] had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops' officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy".

On Wednesday, June 15, Salama al-Khufaji, a member of the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, announced that Iraqi security forces had arrested a militia fighter in connection with the killing of the 17 civilians.

However, it is yet to be seen whether other militiamen involved in abuses will face justice.

Source: Aljazeera

 

Baghdad – While Sadr is in Iran for seclusion, a number of his followers attacked offices of certain political parties in south Iraq. The attackiers torched the offices including the photos of Khomeini and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Council member of one of the southern districts told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the attacks also targeted offices of factions and parties affiliated with Iran. The council member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said protesters also burned the photos of political leaders and religious authorities including the leaders of the Islamic republic.

Consequently, a number of parties and forces in Amarah district gave the Sadrist movement 24 hours to denounce the members that burned down their offices.

Of the parties protesting: Badr Organization, Dawa Party Head Office, al-Jihad wa Binaa Movement, Islamic Supreme Council, Dawa Party, League of Righteous, Khorasani Brigades, Imam’s Soldiers’ Battalions, Imam Ali Brigades, and Abu Fadhal al-Abbas Brigades.

Meanwhile, Sadrist Movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for excluding Najaf from protests after a wave of office attacks of several Shi’ite parties in the country’s south and center. When asked by his followers, Sadr said in a statement issued Friday: “Yes exclude Najaf from protests for its sanctity. Who wants to protest shall go to Baghdad.”

He added that protests against corrupt parties should be peaceful whether in Najaf or any other district.

Earlier, Sadr called for postponing protests demanding reform during the month of Ramadan. He considered protests a kind of prayer and devotion.

Following a series of attacks on political parties, fears have risen of inter-Shi’ite clashes in the country’s central and southern districts. Security forces blocked all roads and bridges leading to the Liberation Square in central Baghdad where protests have been ongoing for over a year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi warned of the “reckless” behavior that targets public facilities or any political office.

Abadi urged in his statement political leaders to reject such heinous acts and called on patriotic demonstrators to distance themselves from such acts of extremism.

Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced it had taken all required measures to protect state institutions.

MoI pledged in a statement to protect all public and private institutions, headquarters of political parties, and other organizations.

The statement added that the ISIS strategy is to keep security forces occupied to alleviate the pressure from Fallujah and whoever wants reform should resort to peaceful protests.

Commander of Civil Democratic Alliance Jasem Halfi said that the weekly protests in Baghdad are done in coordination with many parties including the Sadrist Movement. He added that the protests are peaceful and aim to achieve reform.

Halfi confirmed they will carry on with the peaceful protests unified under Iraqi flag.

Friday prayer Imam of Najaf Sadr Din Qabbanji warned of a Shi’ite-Shi’ite conflict after a series of offices in several districts have been torched. He added that the government is responsible of protecting the public institutions, while denouncing the anonymous groups that attacked the public institutions. Qabbanji said: “While we are preparing to liberate Fallujah, some are trying to create a Shiite – Shiite strife.

Qabbanji explained that religious leaders are with protests but attacking offices is not acceptable.

Source: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

RESS RELEASE

For immediate release 10th June 2016

IRAQ: INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IGNORING ETHNIC CLEANSING IN FALLUJAH

Horrific sectarian atrocities are being committed in the final push to ‘liberate’ the ancient city of Fallujah, 43 miles from Baghdad. Iranian-led Shi’ite militias who form the main part of the force fighting to re-capture the city from Daesh (ISIS) are systematically arresting Sunni men and women fleeing the besieged city. Many are being tortured and executed.

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association said today: “The international community must stop this barbaric crime against innocent civilians. The Shi’ite militias are financed and led by the Iranian terrorist Qods Force whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terrorist lists. Soleimani is spearheading the attack on Fallujah. His presence was confirmed in an astonishing statement by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari on 7th June, when he said:  “Qasem Soleimani provides military advice on Iraqi soil and this is with the complete awareness of our government.”

“Iran is exploiting their role in ousting Daesh (ISIS) as a means for implementing their genocidal policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. They claim that they have to detain all people fleeing from the city in case some of them may be Daesh jihadists. But this is simply an excuse to perpetrate barbaric atrocities on innocent Sunnis.

On 7th June the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said: “Eyewitnesses have described how armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces are intercepting people fleeing the conflict, separating the men and teenage boys from the women and children, and detaining the males for ‘security screening’, which in some cases degenerates into physical violations and other forms of abuse, apparently in order to elicit forced confessions. There are even allegations that some individuals have been summarily executed by these armed groups.”

“The same thing happened during the so-called liberation of Ramadi, a city of over one million predominantly Sunni people, which was reduced to dust and rubble. Barely a single building has been left intact and the male population has simply disappeared. This scenario is being repeated in Fallujah, where mass graves have already been discovered in some of the nearby Sunni villages containing bodies that have been burned, stabbed and brutalised.

“The United Nations on Wednesday 8th June revised significantly their estimate of the number of civilians believed trapped in besieged Fallujah, raising the figure to 90,000 from a previous estimate of 50,000. It seems clear that there has been a deliberate attempt by Iraqi forces to provide a lower figure for the civilian population in Fallujah, in order to hide the inevitable death toll arising from the savage bombardment of residential areas, as well as the active participation of the Iranian regime's Qods Force and its affiliated militias.

“Tehran is relentlessly strengthening its grip over Iraq. Corruption and poor training has rendered the Iraqi army almost useless, leaving a vacuum, which the Iranian regime has been quick to fill, pressurising Iraq’s Prime Minister into allowing the Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, combined with a directionless and dysfunctional American foreign policy, has paved the way for the fascist Iranian mullah-led regime to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

“The European Iraqi Freedom Association has repeatedly warned of the dangers of allowing the Iranian-funded Shi’ite militias to have free reign in Iraq and our warnings have been ignored. The Iraqi Sunnis of al-Anbar have paid a heavy price for international complacency. Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, Tehran will turn its attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis. Daesh has held Mosul for more than two years and its ethnic cleansing features highly on the Iranian regime’s priority list.

“How much longer can the international community remain silent in the face of such crimes against humanity? The Iranian-funded and led militias are now guilty of crimes every bit as horrific as the terrorist Daesh jihadists who they are supposed to be trying to defeat. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, US President Barack Obama and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini must speak out now and demand an end to these atrocities and an end to Iranian meddling in Iraq.”

Office of Struan Stevenson
President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
Brussels

 

(Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.)

-- 

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

Investigate Government Command Responsibility; ISIS Stops Civilians From Fleeing

(Beirut) – The announced investigation into allegations of abuse of civilians around Fallujah by Iraqi government forces is a test for the government’s ability to hold abusive forces accountable. Judicial officials should conduct this investigation transparently and impartially, assess co

mmand responsibility, and ensure protection for victims and witnesses.

Ahead of the offensive in Fallujah against forces of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that his government had taken measures to protect civilians. Human Rights Watch, however, has received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city, since May 23. On June 4, 2016, in response to allegations of abuse, al-Abadi launched an investigation into abuses in Fallujah and issued orders to arrest those responsible for “transgressions” against civilians. On June 7, al-Abadi announcedthe “detention and transfer of those accused of committing violations to the judiciary to receive their punishment according to the law.”

“The Iraqi government needs to control and hold accountable its own forces if it hopes to claim the moral upper hand in its fight against ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “It’s high time for Iraqi authorities to unravel the web of culpability underlying the government forces’ repeated outrages against civilians.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed grave concern about reports of ISIS preventing civilians from fleeing Fallujah and allegedly executing and shooting at those who attempted to do so. Human Rights Watch is concerned about the presence of ISIS fighters among civilians inside Fallujah, perhaps amounting to human shielding, a war crime. But the presence of fighters among civilians does not absolve forces fighting ISIS from the obligation to target only military objectives and to take all feasible measures to avoid civilian harm, Human Rights Watch said. ISIS forces should allow civilians to leave areas under their control and not use civilians to shield its military objectives from attack, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch directed questions about the composition of the investigative committee, its authority, and relation to the judiciary to five Iraqi government institutions in addition to the human rights section of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq. A member of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee told Human Rights Watch that the committee had started its own investigation and was liaising with the investigation by the prime minister’s office, which remained secret. The other officials contacted did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On June 3, Human Rights Watch received information alleging that members of the Federal Police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an auxiliary fighting force created after ISIS advanced in June 2014, and that includes many pre-existing Shia militias, had executed more than a dozen civilians from the Jumaila tribe fleeing Sajar, a village north of Fallujah. Human Rights Watch spoke to five people, including two officials from Anbar governorate, who said they were protecting three surviving witnesses to the executions.

Three of those interviewed confirmed the account that a survivor gave on Tigris (Dijla) Channel television that a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops’ officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy. One person said that the incident took place on June 2. The PMF are, at least nominally, under the command of the prime minister.

One of the Anbar governorate officials provided Human Rights Watch with a list of names of those killed and said that the incident happened near the Sharhabil school in Al-Bu Sudaira neighborhood in the northern outskirts of Fallujah. The other Anbar official said that the witnesses met with senior Iraqi government officials on June 5, following which he said Prime Minister al-Abadi launched an investigation into the incident. A former Iraqi government official with good contacts in the security forces told Human Rights Watch, on June 5, that the investigation had already led to the arrest of a police officer whom survivors could name.

Another person who said he was in the Sajar area, 7 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, at the time told Human Rights Watch that on May 28, he saw Federal Police and PMF, including dozens of fighters from the Badr Brigades and Hezbollah (two prominent Shia militias in the PMF), fatally shoot civilians with white flags raised fleeing toward the government forces that day. He said that a fighter told him his superior officer had ordered the shootings. He also told Human Rights Watch he was in Saqlawiya around May 30. This person said a villager and several PMF fighters in the area told him that PMF fighters stabbed dozens of villagers to death with knives.

On June 6, an Anbar governorate official who provided the names for those killed from the Jumaila tribe was visiting a camp for internally displaced people in Amiriyat Fallujah, a town south of Fallujah itself, when he spoke to Human Rights Watch. More than 600 men whom Hezbollah and the Badr Brigades, among other PMFs, had released from detention the day before had just arrived in Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital, he said. He added that the militias had detained the men, most from the al-Mahamda tribe, since the beginning of the operation in homes and other buildings in the Hayy al-Shuhada area in Saqlawiya, only releasing them on June 5. He said that he saw hundreds of people among the former detainees who showed signs of torture, including rape, burns, knife cuts, and bruising from beatings. He said the men who were released told him that they saw the PMF fighters take away another at least 600 al-Mahamda men.

A Baghdad resident told Human Rights Watch on June 6 that during a visit to Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital on June 5, she saw hundreds of visibly injured men. Five of the men she spoke to said that PMF forces detained them in groups as they recaptured Saqlawiya over the previous or two weeks. The men told her that the PMF had altogether arrested 1,700 men, whom they beat and dragged bound to a moving car by a rope (sahl) before releasing 605 men to receive medical treatment on June 5. The woman said the men told her that four men died from beatings and from being dragged behind cars. She told Human Rights Watch that hospital staff in Amiriyat Fallujah said a fifth man died on June 5 in the hospital. Human Rights Watch reviewed a video of three injured men stepping out of an ambulance at what the person said was Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital, in addition to pictures of half a dozen injured men being treated in the hospital’s garden.

On May 24, Human Rights Watch viewed a video, uploaded on May 23, in which a commander tells a room filled with fighters that Fallujah had been a bastion of terrorism since 2004 and that no civilians or true Muslims were left inside the city. The video bore the logo of Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, one of the brigades within the Leagues of the Righteous militia that is part of the PMF. On May 27, Iraqi activists sent Human Rights Watch two videos they said were filmed on the outskirts of Fallujah over the previous days depicting abuses against local residents by government forces: one showed armed men in a mix of civilian and military dress driving two pickup trucks, each dragging a corpse behind them; the second showed armed men surrounding a pile of corpses and severed heads. In the clip a commander counted 16 decapitated bodies and heads. Human Rights Watch was not able to verify the origins of either video. On June 3, Human Rights Watch viewed a widely circulated video on Facebook, uploaded on June 3, which shows a man in a military-type uniform beating at least nine men lying on the ground with a large wooden stick while accusing them of collaborating with ISIS in “Fallujah”. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify the exact location and time of the videos.

A local sheikh from Karma, a town northeast of Fallujah, told Human Rights Watch that within the first few days of the military operation to retake the city, the Iraq Security Forces, PMF, police, and Sunni forces forced civilians living there to leave. During the exodus, at least 70 young men disappeared, he said, and the families have no information as to their whereabouts. The sheikh said that on June 1, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Salim al-Jiburi, had come to the area to speak to local elders and the military. A member of Anbar governorate council, who also provided information about the launch of the prime minister’s investigation, confirmed the number of missing men to Human Rights Watch and said that the government had opened investigations to determine where they are.

The military routinely separates men from women and takes the men for security screenings to determine their involvement with ISIS forces, according to all witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed. The authorities may impose reasonable and proportionate security measures, but should do so under judicial supervision and in a transparent manner, Human Rights Watch said. The families of anyone detained should know where they are being held, and all persons detained should promptly be brought before a judge to determine the legality of their detention.

All suspected crimes, including torture, murder, and other abuses, committed by members of any side in the conflict, should be investigated by the criminal justice authorities, speedily, transparently, and effectively, up to the highest levels responsible. When evidence of criminal responsibility emerges, prosecutions should follow. Those conducting such criminal investigations and making decisions about prosecutions should be independent of those being investigated, including being outside any military chain of command and being free from political interference in their decisions. The authorities should ensure the safety of all witnesses. At the same time, a commission of inquiry or equivalent should be created to examine the wider concerns about whether such crimes and abuses are being committed in a widespread or systematic way.

On June 3, the highest Shia religious authority, Ayatollah al-Sistani “cautioned” that fighters must not attack non-combatants materially or psychologically. On June 5, Hadi al-Amiri, the commander of the Badr Brigades, vowedto hold those responsible for abuse accountable.

“I acknowledge that there were mistakes,” al-Abadi told Iraqi state television on June 4, “but they were not systematic and we will not cover up any [of them].”

“The government should not stand idly by while fighters commit atrocities in its name,” Stork said. “Political, security, and judicial officials should work together transparently to establish the truth about what has happened around Fallujah and why.”

The Fallujah Operation
On May 23, Iraqi security forces began operations to retake Fallujah, where UN officials estimate about 50,000 civilians, including 20,000 children, remain. Those forces include the elite US-trained military Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), local and federal police, militias under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) umbrella, Sunni fighters from Anbar province, and Iraqi and US-led coalition air forces.

ISIS captured the city in early 2014. Government forces cut off supply routes into the city after recapturing nearby Ramadi in late December 2015 and the al-Jazira desert area north of Fallujah in March 2016. In late March, a medical source in Fallujah told Human Rights Watch that each day starving children were arriving at the local hospital and most foodstuffs were no longer available at any price. In April, Iraqi activists in touch with families inside Fallujah told Human Rights Watch that conditions had reduced families to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups from grass. A man who fled Fallujah in 2014 said in late May that sources in the city told him people who escaped from Fallujah in May 2016 were dropping plastic bags and water bottles filled with medical supplies into the Euphrates upstream for trapped residents to recover from the river as it ran through the city.

Human Rights Watch has not had access to Fallujah, but obtained information on conditions inside the city from relatives, journalists, officials, and humanitarian workers who said they had been in touch with people remaining there.

In recent years Human Rights Watch has documented extensive laws of war violations by the ISIS as well as by Iraqi military and the largely Shia militias that make up the Popular Mobilization Forces, including summary executions, disappearances, torture, use of child soldiers, widespread demolition of buildings, indiscriminate attacks, and unlawful restrictions on the movement of people fleeing the fighting.

Trapped Civilians
On May 22, the Iraqi government called on civilians inside the city, 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, to leave through unspecified secured routes. Fourteen thousand people have managed to escapethe areas surrounding the city center and reach displacement camps in the neighboring town of Amiriyat Fallujah.

Since the government offensive began on May 23, there have been regular reports of ISIS executing or shooting at civilians attempting to flee. A foreign correspondent told Human Rights Watch that Shia militiamen holding positions in Saqlawiya, a town northwest of the city, said they witnessed civilians carrying white flags make several failed attempts to escape from areas still under ISIS control. In each instance, ISIS opened fire on the militia positions the civilians were attempting to reach, forcing them to turn back. They said they had not seen ISIS firing directly on the civilians.

In early May, ISIS retook Hassi and Al-Bu Huwa, two villages south of Fallujah, for a few days. An engineer from Al-Bu Huwa who was able to escape to Baghdad said that, on May 10, ISIS ordered residents to evacuate the villages for Fallujah. Members of Al-Bu Isa tribe gathered their fighters together and refused the order, he said. He also said he had heard that two Al-Bu Isa women committed suicide. ISIS responded by executing 25 Al-Bu Isa men. The engineer said he saw the bodies of the executed men as he left the village. He said he escaped from ISIS as he was being transferred to Fallujah.

Intermingling with Civilians
ISIS is also exposing civilians to harm by placing their fighters among them, Human Rights Watch said. A man whose family is still in Fallujah with intermittent access to a phone said they told him that ISIS forced all civilians in the city, including his family, to relocate to the center, among its fighters.

In northern Iraq, on the Makhmur front line, the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga and volunteer National Mobilization Forces, a group of volunteers within the Popular Mobilization Forces, are battling ISIS near Qayyara. Local residents who escaped Mahana, Kudila, Kharabarut and other villages near there told Human Rights Watch in late May that ISIS forces had fired from in between houses they said were inhabited by civilians at the time, which were then hit by return artillery fire.

Attacks on Civilian Objects
One man with family inside Fallujah showed Human Rights Watch photographs that he said a Fallujah General Hospital staff member sent him after an attack on the hospital at 8 p.m. on May 25. The hospital worker wrote that an airstrike damaged the emergency room and other parts of the facility. He said that ISIS fighters had been occupying the second floor of the hospital for months. The man was unable to confirm the extent of the damage or whether any civilians were wounded or killed in the attack.

A doctor who used to work at Fallujah hospital but left the city in 2015 sent Human Rights Watch footage of damage to the building and interviews with patients who said they had been wounded in the attack, but that it had been Iraqi forces’ shelling rather than an airstrike. He said the emergency room had been able to continue functioning despite the damage.

The hospital staff member said he was unaware of either the Iraqi military or the coalition informing patients and staff of an impending strike, such as through public messages or dropping flyers.

Under the laws of war, applicable to the armed conflict in Iraq, all hospitals and other medical facilities, whether civilian or military, have special protection. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters. Medical facilities remain protected unless they are used to commit hostile acts that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. It is a violation for armed forces or groups to occupy medical facilities.


Source:Human Rights Watch

Iraq: Authorities must rein in Fallujah forces amid allegations of torture and deaths in custody

Iraqi authorities must rein in all forces participating in the recapture of Fallujah said Amnesty International today, amid reports that men and boys fleeing the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated by government-backed militias and at least three have died as a result.

Amnesty has spoken to victims who described the torture and other ill-treatment meted out to them in detention and who claim to have witnessed killings.

Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said:

“Civilians risking their lives to escape from IS atrocities must be protected and given the humanitarian aid they desperately need. Instead it seems that some are having to run the gauntlet of being subjected to further abuse and reprisal attacks.”

Local officials in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, told Amnesty that on Sunday (5 June), 605 men and boys were handed over to the provincial council and that many of them had injuries including fractures, contusions, welts and open wounds as a result of beatings. Three bodies were also handed over, and another detainee is believed to have died after his transfer to the city of Amariyat al-Fallujah.

The detainees were from Saqlawiya, some 9km north-west of Fallujah, and had been held captive for several days by individuals belonging to government-backed and predominantly Shi’a militias known as Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU).

Amnesty spoke to several survivors who described being held at a military base in Anbar province known as Mazra’at Tarek (Tarek’s farm) for about four days after they fled IS fighters on 2 June. 

One detainee in his forties told Amnesty International:

“The treatment was very bad… we had nothing to drink or eat… Some people drank their urine. About four or five men would come into the room, and beat people with sticks and metal pipes. I don’t know what happened to my brother and two nephews detained with me. I don’t know if they are among the dead or still detained at the farm or transferred to another place… Even those released are suffering from wounds and dehydration. Some have lost consciousness.” 

The detainees described being crammed into small rooms with their hands tied behind their backs, insulted for allegedly supporting IS, and kicked and beaten with various objects including rubber hoses and metal bars. They said they were also deprived of food, water and sanitation facilities.

Several claimed that a number of detainees died as a result of beatings, including with sharp metal objects on the head.

The detainees are now being held in Amariyat al-Fallujah for further security screening and investigations. Several reported that their identification documents had been confiscated by the PMU.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi acknowledged in a televised interview with Iraqiya TV that “mistakes” had been committed by some fighters participating in the battle for Fallujah and vowed not to tolerate human rights violations.

His spokesperson later announced the establishment of a human rights committee to investigate abuses.

Philip Luther said:

“The promise of investigations into human rights abuses is a welcome first step; but more needs to be done to prevent further abuses and bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility.

“Any security procedures carried out by Iraqi forces must comply with international human rights law and all those deprived of their liberty must be protected from enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment. Those who are reasonably suspected of having committed criminal offences should be promptly referred to judicial authorities and receive a fair trial that meets international standards. The rest must be released.”

Amnesty is calling on the Iraqi authorities to conduct full, impartial and independent investigations into allegations of torture and unlawful killings by members of the PMU with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.

Pending investigations and prosecutions, all those reasonably suspected of committing abuses should be removed from the ranks. The fate and whereabouts of those who have been disappeared must be immediately revealed.

Background

Since the start of the military offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the city of Fallujah from IS on 23 May, an estimated 10,000 people have managed to escape mainly from the city’s outskirts according to UN agencies.

About 50,000 civilians are believed to still be trapped in the city amid reports of shelling and starvation. Civilians who fled told Amnesty that IS fighters have been preventing civilians from central Fallujah from leaving, and have forcibly moved some civilians from the outskirts to the centre of the city.

Reports have also emerged regarding the alleged unlawful killings of 17 men and boys from Karma, about 20km north-east of Fallujah, which Amnesty is investigating.

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release 3rd June 2016

 THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS

Catastrophe in Fallujah

 

Western policy in Iraq is aiding and abetting the slaughter of the innocents in Fallujah. This is the controversial view of Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). Speaking as the operation to ‘liberate’ Fallujah from Daesh (ISIS) fanatics enters its second week, Mr Stevenson said: “We seem to have learned no lessons from the fate of Ramadi, which was ‘liberated’ from Daesh earlier this year, but the final onslaught during the battle for its recapture saw virtually every building in the city destroyed; only a handful of women, children and elderly men remained. Some estimates state that the population of Ramadi was reduced by the conflict from over one million inhabitants to less than 1,000. Thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives. The ruthless Shi’ia militias waged a genocidal campaign against the predominantly Sunni population of that city, torturing, burning and butchering men, women and children at will. They will do the same in Fallujah. Thousands of civilians will be killed. The UN estimates that up to 20,000 children are trapped in Fallujah; Daesh is using some as human shields, while others are being forced to fight; the Shi’ia militias will mercilessly butcher them.

“Militias affiliated with the Iranian regime, under the command of the Iranian terrorist Quds force leader Qassem Soleimani, are unilaterally leading the offensive and killing and slaughtering innocent civilians and burning houses and mosques and even beheading people in Fallujah. Seventeen militia groups under Iran’s command including the terrorist Badr organization with six thousand men, Asa'ib al-Haq with five thousand men, Kata'ib Hezbollah with four thousand men, Kata'ib Imam Ali with three thousand men are taking part in this operation. Footage posted online shows militias chanting sectarian slogans after beheading 17 people in the Garmeh neighbourhood of Fallujah.

“This is while according to official figures, only four thousand Sunni troops, close to the government, are taking part in this battle. The Sunni forces do not have heavy arms and are therefore deployed mainly on the side-lines of the battle. The only way to defeat Daesh and free al-Anbar Province is to organize and arm the Sunni tribes and involve them directly in the liberation of their own territories. However, the influence from Iran, which now dominates Iraq, is preventing this from happening.

“Qais al-Khazali the head of the Asa'ib militias whose crimes have been repeatedly condemned by the international community has described Fallujah and its inhabitants as “a source of terrorism” describing it as a “cancerous tumour that must be uprooted.” The former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, under whose term in office the sectarian genocide began, has described Fallujah as the “head of the snake.”

“Now the defenceless people of Fallujah are stuck between Daesh and the Iraqi militias. While the sectarian barbarities committed by the militias have created widespread condemnation both in Iraq and internationally, the al-Abadi government has unfortunately remained silent in dealing with these crimes. Sadly, the West has seen fit to assist in this holocaust by providing air strikes and bombing raids on the city. American & British airstrikes assisted in the recapture of Ramadi, crushing most of the city’s buildings and infrastructure to dust. Now warplanes from a US-led international coalition have begun bombing raids on Daesh targets around Fallujah.

“Western intervention in Iraq is being widely applauded by the mullah-led Iranian regime, which is financing, training and commanding many of the Shi’ia militias engaged in the battle against Daesh. The Iranian regime regards Daesh as a convenient vehicle for implementing its objective of ethnically cleansing the Iraqi Sunni population. By condoning this strategy, the West is relentlessly pushing Iraq’s hounded and oppressed Sunnis into an invidious position where they can either choose to support Daesh or die at the hands of the Shi’ia militias. We need to re-think Western policy and embrace Iraq’s Sunnis in a new and inclusive, Western-trained military force. The Iranian-led Shi’ia militias should be disbanded without delay and Iranian meddling in Iraq outlawed.”

Struan Stevenson

President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014

BAGHDAD — American commandos are on the front lines in Syria in a new push toward the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa, but in Iraq it is an entirely different story: Iran, not the United States, has become the face of an operation to retake the jihadist stronghold of Falluja from the militant group.

On the outskirts of Falluja, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police officers and Shiite militiamen backed by Iran are preparing for an assault on the Sunni city, raising fears of a sectarian blood bath. Iran has placed advisers, including its top spymaster, Qassim Suleimani, on the ground to assist in the operation.

The battle over Falluja has evolved into yet another example of how United States and Iranian interests seemingly converge and clash at the same time in Iraq. Both want to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. But the United States has long believed that Iran’s role, which relies on militias accused of sectarian abuses, can make matters worse by angering Sunnis and making them more sympathetic to the militants.

While the battle against the Islamic State straddles the borders of Iraq and Syria, the United States has approached it as two separate fights. In Syria, where the government of Bashar al-Assad is an enemy, America’s ally is the Kurds.

But in Iraq, where the United States backs the central government, and trains and advises the Iraqi Army, it has been limited by the role of Iran, the most powerful foreign power inside the country.

That United States dilemma is on full display in Falluja as the fighting intensifies.

Inside the city, tens of thousands of Sunni civilians are trapped, starving and lacking medicine, according to activists and interviews with residents. Some were shot dead by the Islamic State as they tried to flee, and others died under buildings that collapsed under heavy military and militia artillery bombardment in recent days, according to the United Nations.

The few civilians who have made it to safety have escaped at night, traveling through the irrigation pipes.

In an extraordinary statement on Wednesday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the world’s pre-eminent Shiite religious leader, who lives in Najaf in southern Iraq and is said to be concerned by Iran’s growing role in Iraq, urged security forces and militia to restrain themselves and abide by “the standard behaviors of jihad.”

The grim sectarian tableau in Falluja — starving Sunni civilians trapped in a city surrounded by a mostly Shiite force — provides the backdrop to a final assault that Iraqi officials have promised will come soon.

The United States has thousands of military personnel in Iraq and has trained Iraqi security forces for nearly two years, yet is largely on the sidelines in the battle to retake Falluja. It says its air and artillery strikes have killed dozens of Islamic State fighters, including the group’s Falluja commander. But it worries that an assault on the city could backfire — inflaming the same sectarian sentiments that have allowed the Islamic State to flourish there.

Already, as the army and militiamen battled this past week in outlying areas, taking some villages and the center of the city of Karma, to the northeast, the fight has taken on sectarian overtones.

Militiamen have plastered artillery shells with the name of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric close to Iran whose execution this year by Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power, deepened the region’s sectarian divide, before firing them at Falluja.

A Shiite militia leader, in a widely circulated video, is seen rallying his men with a message of revenge against the people of Falluja, whom many Iraqi Shiites believe to be Islamic State sympathizers rather than innocent civilians. Falluja is also believed to be a staging ground for suicide bombers targeting the capital, Baghdad, about 40 miles to the east. The decision to move on the city was made after several recent attacks in Baghdad killed nearly 200 people.

“Falluja is a terrorism stronghold,” said the militia leader, Aws al-Khafaji, the head of the Abu Fadhil al-Abbas militia. “It’s been the stronghold since 2004 until today.”

He continued: “There are no patriots, no real religious people in Falluja. It’s our chance to clear Iraq by eradicating the cancer of Falluja.”

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has stressed that civilians must be protected in the operation and ordered that humanitarian corridors be opened to allow civilians to leave the city safely, disavowed the militia leader’s comments.

Reflecting these concerns of sectarianism, and the deep sense of foreboding surrounding a battle for the city, a chorus of voices in Iraq and abroad has urged restraint.

In his statement, Ayatollah Sistani said: “The Prophet Muhammad used to tell his companions before sending them to fight, to go forward in the name of Allah, with Allah and upon the religion of the messenger of Allah. Do not kill the elderly, children or women, do not steal the spoils but collect them, and do not cut down trees unless you are forced to do so.”

The concern was amplified in a second statement, released during Friday prayers by a representative for the ayatollah, saying that “saving an innocent human being from dangers around him is much more important than targeting and eliminating the enemy.”

Accounts of dire conditions in Falluja have emerged from the few residents who managed to escape in recent days, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. She said that some residents had been killed for refusing to fight for the jihadists, and that those inside were surviving on old stacks of rice, a few dates and water from unsafe sources such as drainage ditches.


Source: The New York Times


AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY CONDEMNED Wednesday, 29 June 2016 11:24

PRESS RELEASE- for release 29th June 2016

AMERICAN MIDDLE EAST POLICY CONDEMNED

Speaking on the eve of a major seminar in the House of Commons, Struan Stevenson, the President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) has condemned American policy in the Middle East.

Struan Stevenson said:

“For those who thought that America was stealthily pulling out of the Middle East in pursuit of a policy of gradual disengagement pursued by Obama, a shocking truth is beginning to unfold. Far from disengaging, the Obama administration has for some time now actually been forming a de facto alliance with Iran in its war against the Sunni Arabs.

“Exploiting the conflict against Daesh (ISIS) as an opportunity to ethnically cleanse the Sunni Arab population of al-Anbar and other provinces in Iraq, the Iranian regime has poured military personnel and resources into the sixty separate and predominantly Shi’ite militias operating in that country. These militias, commanded by the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps Qods Force leader – General Qassem Soleimani – have arrested, tortured, butchered and beheaded many thousands of innocent Sunni men and even boys, during their fight to ‘liberate’ the Iraqi cities of Tikrit, Ramadi and Fallujah. The few houses that are left standing, following relentless bombing by American aircraft, are being burned down by the sectarian Shi’ite militias. Iran and its so-called allies are ruthlessly razing these once great and ancient Iraqi cities to the ground and virtually annihilating their occupants.

“The leader of one of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias said last week: "There are no patriots, no real religious people in Fallujah. It's our chance to clear Iraq by eradicating the cancer of Fallujah." This is the reality of the Iranian regime, which the  Obama administration is trying to have rapprochement with; it is a regime hell-bent on a campaign of genocide across Iraq, Syria, Libya, Lebanon, Palestine, Yemen, Bahrain and ultimately Saudi Arabia and Israel. Obama’s desperate push to sign the nuclear deal with Iran should have been the clearest signal to the world that he was carving out a new and dangerous alliance. The lifting of sanctions and the unfreezing of Iranian assets, released a windfall of billions of dollars that the mullah’s regime can now use to reinvest in their regional campaigns to bolster Bashar al-Assad in Syria, back the Shi’ite militias in Iraq, finance and arm Hamas in Palestine, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Iran exports terror and America has unlocked the funds that enables it to do so with renewed vigour.

“This week Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Khamenei dismissed, General Firoozabadi, the Chief of the armed forces and replaced him with General Bagheri. The Iranian media state that one of the goals of this change is to strengthen the Qods force.

“The next target for the Iranian-backed militias is Mosul, Iran’s second largest city and home to over two million Sunnis. American airstrikes have already begun around the outskirts. An unprecedented human catastrophe will quickly develop unless the West wakes up and exposes American duplicity. The only way to combat Daesh (ISIS) is to recruit and engage the Sunni tribes in Iraq. They are best placed to root out the Daesh terrorists who have occupied their homeland for the past two years.

“But the Sunni tribal leaders have good grounds to believe that America has now joined forces with Iran to wage war on the Sunni Arabs and they will be reluctant to help a coalition that may inevitably lead to their own destruction at the hands of sectarian Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias. US Secretary of State John Kerry on Tuesday deemed Iran's presence in Iraq to be "helpful" to American attempts to beat back the threat of Daesh (ISIS)!

“The European Iraqi Freedom Association condemns any support for Iran and calls on a complete re-think of US Middle East policy before it is too late. Involving the Iranian regime and its militias is a big mistake which will create a greater crisis in the region”

--
Struan Stevenson was a Conservative MEP representing Scotland in the European Parliament from 1999 until his retirement in 2014. He chaired the Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup (Caucus) in the European Parliament for over 10 years. He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014. He is now 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

Web: www.eu-iraq.org/        Facebook: www.facebook.com/EuIraq        Twitter: www.twitter.com/EuIraq

IRAQ-FALLUJAH: THE COLLAPSING CALIPHATE Tuesday, 28 June 2016 22:14

The barbaric jihadist terrorists of Daesh (ISIS) will finally be driven out of Fallujah centre this week, although it still occupies at least half of the city. Daesh has held Fallujah, 40 miles from Baghdad, for more than two years, consolidating its position and surrounding the ancient Iraqi city with minefields and IEDs. But after four weeks of vicious fighting, Shi’ia militias and units of the Iraqi army, aided by US coalition airstrikes, are trying to clear out the rest of the city but are facing fierce resistance from Daesh.

The Shi’ia militias fighting Daesh are financed and led by the terrorist Iranian Qods Force, whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terror blacklists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah. There has been widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians have been killed and injured and men and boys from this predominantly Sunni enclave are being ruthlessly detained and tortured by the brutal Shi’ia militias, who claim they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing the crumbling metropolis. The whole operation, directed by Tehran, has been used ruthlessly to ethnically cleanse Fallujah of Sunnis.

Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, the Iranian-led militias will turn their attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis, where Daesh has been embedded since 2014. US coalition and Iraqi airstrikes have already begun around Mosul and it is certain that Daesh will be driven from their final enclave in Iraq within months. The defeat of Daesh in Mosul, the most emblematic of their strongholds in their two-year-old ‘caliphate’, will be a blow to the jihadists who have also faced relentless recent setbacks in Syria and Libya.

Maybe it is still a little premature to predict the outcome of the battle to recapture Fallujah, but there can be no doubt that Daesh has suffered serious setbacks and is facing ultimate defeat. Nevertheless the war against the jihadists could continue for some time to come, partly because the breeding ground for the creation and growth of Daesh still exists in Iraq. The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene and their brutal repression, not least by the sixty pro-Iranian Shi’ia militias that currently operate in Iraq, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear Daesh. Indeed the eventual collapse of Daesh in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq’s crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing threats to security.

The invasion of Iraq and its consequences will be pored over in great detail by the long anticipated Chilcot Report to be published on 6th July. Chilcot will certainly lay the blame for the illegal invasion firmly on the shoulders of George W. Bush and Tony Blair, but the West’s mishandling of the aftermath of the invasion and the occupation of Iraq paints an equally sorry picture. From the moment in May 2003 when the US administration appointed Paul Bremer, a man with zero Middle East experience, as head of the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA) in Baghdad, disaster was unavoidable. Bremer made some dreadful decisions that have had repercussions to this day. Firstly he dissolved Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Party and banned all members of the party above a certain rank from holding any position in Iraq’s public services. Secondly, he dissolved the Iraqi armed forces, sending over 300,000 heavily armed and well trained young men home without pay and at the same time ending the salary and pensions of thousands of military officers.

The insurgency that followed was as calamitous as it was inevitable. As quickly as the Americans and British had won the war they contrived to lose the peace. The West’s cack-handed attempts at imposing democracy on occupied Iraq were equally catastrophic. Embarrassed by the failure to find any weapons of mass destruction, the US and UK now decided to make the imposition of democracy the key focus and justification for their invasion. But infighting quickly began between returning exiles and those who had weathered the Saddam regime. When partial sovereignty was finally handed over to the Iraqis in June 2004 with the formation of a caretaker government, followed by the election of a transitional government in May 2005, the shambolic attempts at Iraqi democracy rapidly began to unravel. The elected Council of Representatives was supposed to be the repository of power, but in fact it became a toothless talking shop. The appointed government ministers, who systematically raided the public coffers to enrich themselves and finance huge private militias that they used to intimidate and coerce political rivals, seized real power in Iraq.

Nouri al-Maliki soon emerged as the Godfather of this gangster class of politicians, shoehorned into power as Iraq’s puppet Prime Minister at the insistence of the Iranian regime and meekly buttressed by the Americans. His venal corruption and genocidal policy of aggression against Iraq’s Sunni population catapulted the country into civil war and opened the door for the invasion of Daesh and their subsequent seizure of vast tracts of Iraqi territory. Maliki is still a manipulative force in Iraqi political circles using the vast wealth he accumulated during eight years in office to finance his own private army and continually to undermine his successor Haider al-Abadi. Such is the frustration and contempt of the Iraqi people with their political leaders that there have been massive demonstrations and even assaults on Baghdad’s Green Zone and Party headquarters and offices, forcing al-Abadi to replace many ministers with supposedly non-corrupt technocrats.

Political instability in Iraq has been exploited by Daesh, who have returned to their al-Qaeda roots by mounting a series of devastating suicide bomb attacks on Shi’ite neighbourhoods in Baghdad and other major cities, exacerbating sectarian tensions and adding to the horrendous casualty list of 175,000 deaths over the 13 years since the US and British invasion of Iraq. As al-Abadi struggles to reconcile Iraq’s Shi’ia and Sunni population, the autonomous Kurdish region in Northern Iraq will hold a referendum on independence in November this year. A breakaway Kurdish State may mark the beginning of the fragmentation of Iraq and the emergence of Iran as the ultimate victor. Iranian support for the bloody regime of Bashar al-Assad has prolonged the civil war in Syria. Their support for Hezbollah in Lebanon, Hamas in Palestine and the Houthi rebels in Yemen, has caused untold suffering and death. But their blatant meddling in Iraq and their clear backing for the genocide of the Iraqi Sunni population has driven the country to the brink of disintegration. The only possible solution is for Haider al-Abadi to implement real reforms, which must include the expulsion of Iran and its agents from Iraq and the disarming of the Shi’ia militias. He must re-integrate the Sunnis and other minorities into Iraqi society, completely reform the heavily politicised judiciary and stamp out corruption. Time may be running out for Daesh and its dreams of a caliphate, but time is also running out for Iraq.

Source: The Medea Express

Get ready for another Iraq War Saturday, 25 June 2016 11:48

Losing a friend in war is always hard. Losing a friend to a battle we already fought and won is worse.

That’s how my close friend Lt. Col. Ehab Hashem Moshen was killed recently by the Islamic State near Fallujah — refighting a battle in Iraq that the Marine Corps fought a decade ago. The Marines won that fight. The problem is that the Obama administration didn’t follow through on a political plan to maintain the peace.

In April, I visited some of the almost 5,000 troops that President Obama has put back in Iraq, and I witnessed a recurring theme: We have a military plan to defeat the Islamic State — and, as initial gains in Fallujah this week demonstrate, it’s going well in many respects — but we have yet to articulate a political plan to ensure Iraq’s long-term stability.

Sometimes it’s impossible to tell whether it’s 2007 or 2016. The battle plans I hear from our commanders in Iraq today are the same ones I heard at the beginning of the surge, down to the same cities and tribal alliances. My question is: How will this time be different? The silence is deafening.

Carl von Clausewitz taught us nearly 200 years ago that “War is a mere continuation of politics by other means.” We have to have a political endgame, or the sacrifices our troops continue to make will be in vain. It’s not the military’s job to develop that political plan — that’s where the administration comes in — but it’s painfully clear there isn’t one.

Without a long-term political strategy, we can expect to send young Americans back to Iraq every time Iraqi politics fall apart, a new terrorist group sweeps in and we find ourselves required to clean up the mess.

Let’s not forget that, fundamentally, the crisis in Iraq today is political. When the Islamic State overran much of the country, it didn’t just defeat the Iraqi army; the soldiers of the Iraqi army put their weapons down and went home because they had lost faith in then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s sectarian government. Only if we can help bring lasting change to Iraqi politics will Iraq be able to defend itself without our help.

Unfortunately, the president’s response to the Islamic State in Iraq has missed the mark: You don’t fix Iraqi politics by training Iraqi troops. We need a comprehensive military and political plan. The good news is that we now have an Iraqi prime minister who is aligned with our interests and has the support of the Iraqi people to reform their government. He faces plenty of entrenched political opposition, however, and that’s where the United States can help.

First, we can provide resources directly to Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to support his agenda of reform. Second, we can help the disenfranchised Sunnis have a stronger voice in their government by encouraging them to unite politically, just as we did during the surge. Third, we must counter the malign interests of Iranian agents working to inflame sectarianism among Shiite leaders and in the Iraqi media. And fourth, we can broker a reasonable agreement between the Abadi government and our closest allies, the Kurds. All this will take a stronger diplomatic presence. We built the largest U.S. Embassy in the world in Iraq, knowing that Iraqis would need continued political mentorship, but then we left it half-empty. It’s time we fixed that.

As a four-tour Marine veteran of Iraq myself, I share the president’s deeply held wish that our continued involvement were not necessary. It would be great if we could simply hand the ball to the Iraqis and wish them well. But hope is not a strategy, and the past five years have proved that that approach doesn’t work.

Some will say that meddling in foreign politics often makes things worse, and I’ll be the first to say that it’s hard to do well. But we made tremendous political progress in Iraq during the surge. Under the strong leadership of then-Ambassador Ryan Crocker, we kept a lid on sectarianism, curtailed Iranian influence and led reconciliation among many disgruntled tribesmen. Yes, the leverage of 100,000 U.S. troops helped, but Crocker’s close coordination with his military counterpart, Gen. David Petraeus, was what mattered most; there are far more elements of U.S. power and influence we can bring to the table than boots on the ground.

More important, the alternative to robust political mentoring in Iraq is sending young Americans back again and again. Fixing Iraqi politics is difficult, but I’d much prefer having a heavy, long-term diplomatic presence than losing more lives refighting battles we already won.

My friend Ehab was a brave Iraqi soldier, one of the best officers in his generation. He died an Iraqi hero, and given how many times he put his life on the line for my team and me, I believe he’s an American hero as well. He’s a great example of our many Muslim allies who fight Islamic terrorists every day. We need more brave men like Ehab to win this long war. We must work harder to ensure his death won’t have been in vain.

Source: The Washington Post

- Seth Moulton, a Democrat, represents Massachusetts’s 6th congressional district in the House.

Men who flee the ISIL-held city are often abused, or killed, by armed groups bent on revenge.

By Salam Khoder

Amiriyat al-Fallujah, Iraq - As the Iraqi armed forces and allied militias continue their battle to take Fallujah from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), a growing number of civilians have said that they were tortured after escaping the besieged city.

In one tent in the Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, which is hosting displaced people from Fallujah, three men claimed to have been tortured while held captive by sectarian militias affiliated with the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

The men, along with their families and many others, fled the al-Azraqiyah area, northwest of Fallujah, as the Iraqi military advanced towards their houses. Although they knew the road to reach the camp was not completely safe, they decided to leave out of fear of what might happen if they stayed.

"We knew that the militias might arrest or even kill us, but we had to leave," said Abu Muhammad, 57, who asked that his real name not be used. "Staying in the area meant sure death, whereas if we tried to leave, we might have the chance of surviving - or if not us, at least our families."

Since 2014, a number of sectarian militias, collectively known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces or al-Hashd al-Shaabi, has played a major role in assisting the Iraqi armed forces in the fight against ISIL. But they have also been accused of perpetrating human rights abuses against civilians on sectarian basis.

Abu Muhammad said he experienced "days of hell" during his detention by the militia fighters. "We saw men in uniforms with army vehicles. We thought it was the Iraqi army that was approaching. We walked towards them holding white flags to make sure they know that we are civilians and unarmed," he explained.

The families soon discovered that the men in uniforms were not army soldiers, but militiamen who belong to the mobilisation forces. "They separated women and children from the men, and put everyone in houses taken from families who had fled as the military operation started," Abu Muhammad said. After two days, the women and children were moved to the Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, while the men remained in detention.

They would put me face down, and start pulling the rope higher and higher. I felt that my limbs would be detached from my body. I lost consciousness several times during those days.

Thamer Hassoun al-Shoukor, a tortured Fallujah resident

According to Abu Muhammad, this is when the agony began.

"The militants told us: 'We know that you have fled a place which is more like hell - al-Azraqiyah - but we will send you to hell again'." 

Abu Muhammad said he was beaten repeatedly for six days. "They would beat us with water pipes; they would take turns to torture us. My hands were tied behind my back, and one of the militants sat on my chest after he got tired of beating me. He just threw himself on me. I felt my ribs breaking. I screamed in pain; I spat blood. I asked for water, but I was denied even that."

A week after their ordeal started, the Iraqi federal police arrived and moved the hundreds of detained men to the al-Mazraa military base, located east of Fallujah. They were held there for interrogation, then transferred to Amiriyat al-Fallujah.

Mahmoud al-Naji al-Shoukor, who also fled al-Azraqiyah, said he had "lost the will to live" as a result of his and his family's treatment at the hands of the sectarian militia.

"I was humiliated by my countrymen for reasons I do not comprehend until now. My two brothers, Ahmad and Hussein al-Naji al-Shoukor, along with my two cousins Muthanna and Ahmad al-Naji al-Shoukor were detained the same night. But we still have not found them; they are still missing. I think they are dead - so I have nothing left to lose."

While detained, Mahmoud said he saw civilians being slaughtered "like chicken", and that he himself was very close to being executed. "They put some of us in a line on our knees, with our eyes blindfolded," he said.

"They started taking us one by one. They killed several men before it was my turn. I could hear the men scream and beg the militia men to spare their lives - they were swearing that they never fought, and that they never joined ISIL - but that did not stop the militia fighters from killing them," Mahmoud told Al Jazeera.

"One of the fighters dragged me on the ground, saying that it is my turn to die. But at that moment I heard a voice saying that the killing has to stop, because the religious authority in al-Najaf [the religious leader of Iraq's Shia, Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani] had issued an order that was circulating among the militia men to stop the executions after the news of sectarian killings had been leaked."

Mahmoud said the militiamen told them that if it weren't for Sistani's orders, all of them would have been killed in a "blink of an eye".

Removing his shirt, Mahmoud showed the marks of torture on his body: Deep wounds from beating and flogging.

The third man in the tent was Thamer Hassoun Mohammad al-Shoukor. He was unable to easily move his arms: For six days, his hands were tied behind his back from the elbow, and his legs tied together from the ankles. 

"They would put me face down, and start pulling the rope higher and higher. I felt that my limbs would be detached from my body. I lost consciousness several times during those days," Shoukor said.

One night, they heard the sound of a helicopter approaching. It was the Iraqi federal police. "If they did not show up, we could have been dead," he said.

Upon the men's arrival at the al-Mazraa military base, they were immediately given food and water, and several medical teams attended to those in urgent need of care. 

"When we arrived, lots of tribal fighters from Hashed al-Anbar, which is a Sunni militia fighting with the government forces, started comforting us and telling us that our families are safe in Amiriyat al-Fallujah camp, and that we will be released once we receive medical care," Thamer said.

That same night, they received a visit from Yahia al-Ghazi, a member of parliament from the province. "We asked him about our families and about other men who were detained with us. All he had to say was that, 'we thank God that you are alive', and that our families were in the camp. But he didn't give us any information on the missing men and boys."

Sohaib al-Rawi, the governor of al-Anbar province where Fallujah is located, confirmed that civilians fleeing the city and surrounding areas had been tortured by some militias fighting alongside the Iraqi armed forces.

Rawi told Al Jazeera that "more than 49 civilians have lost their lives under torture". He added that 643 men were missing, with no information on whether they had been executed or are still in detention.

Although Rawi refused to give the name of the militia that carried out these acts, he said that "the government and the security forces were given the names of the 643 who are still missing".

Last week, Human Rights Watch issued a report stating that it had "received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city of Fallujah".

Quoting witnesses who survived the killings, the report found that "a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF [Popular Mobilisation Forces] had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops' officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy".

On Wednesday, June 15, Salama al-Khufaji, a member of the Iraqi Commission for Human Rights, announced that Iraqi security forces had arrested a militia fighter in connection with the killing of the 17 civilians.

However, it is yet to be seen whether other militiamen involved in abuses will face justice.

Source: Aljazeera

 

Baghdad – While Sadr is in Iran for seclusion, a number of his followers attacked offices of certain political parties in south Iraq. The attackiers torched the offices including the photos of Khomeini and Iran’s Supreme Leader Khamenei.

Council member of one of the southern districts told Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper that the attacks also targeted offices of factions and parties affiliated with Iran. The council member, who preferred to remain anonymous, said protesters also burned the photos of political leaders and religious authorities including the leaders of the Islamic republic.

Consequently, a number of parties and forces in Amarah district gave the Sadrist movement 24 hours to denounce the members that burned down their offices.

Of the parties protesting: Badr Organization, Dawa Party Head Office, al-Jihad wa Binaa Movement, Islamic Supreme Council, Dawa Party, League of Righteous, Khorasani Brigades, Imam’s Soldiers’ Battalions, Imam Ali Brigades, and Abu Fadhal al-Abbas Brigades.

Meanwhile, Sadrist Movement leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for excluding Najaf from protests after a wave of office attacks of several Shi’ite parties in the country’s south and center. When asked by his followers, Sadr said in a statement issued Friday: “Yes exclude Najaf from protests for its sanctity. Who wants to protest shall go to Baghdad.”

He added that protests against corrupt parties should be peaceful whether in Najaf or any other district.

Earlier, Sadr called for postponing protests demanding reform during the month of Ramadan. He considered protests a kind of prayer and devotion.

Following a series of attacks on political parties, fears have risen of inter-Shi’ite clashes in the country’s central and southern districts. Security forces blocked all roads and bridges leading to the Liberation Square in central Baghdad where protests have been ongoing for over a year.

Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Abadi warned of the “reckless” behavior that targets public facilities or any political office.

Abadi urged in his statement political leaders to reject such heinous acts and called on patriotic demonstrators to distance themselves from such acts of extremism.

Ministry of Interior (MoI) announced it had taken all required measures to protect state institutions.

MoI pledged in a statement to protect all public and private institutions, headquarters of political parties, and other organizations.

The statement added that the ISIS strategy is to keep security forces occupied to alleviate the pressure from Fallujah and whoever wants reform should resort to peaceful protests.

Commander of Civil Democratic Alliance Jasem Halfi said that the weekly protests in Baghdad are done in coordination with many parties including the Sadrist Movement. He added that the protests are peaceful and aim to achieve reform.

Halfi confirmed they will carry on with the peaceful protests unified under Iraqi flag.

Friday prayer Imam of Najaf Sadr Din Qabbanji warned of a Shi’ite-Shi’ite conflict after a series of offices in several districts have been torched. He added that the government is responsible of protecting the public institutions, while denouncing the anonymous groups that attacked the public institutions. Qabbanji said: “While we are preparing to liberate Fallujah, some are trying to create a Shiite – Shiite strife.

Qabbanji explained that religious leaders are with protests but attacking offices is not acceptable.

Source: ASHARQ AL-AWSAT

RESS RELEASE

For immediate release 10th June 2016

IRAQ: INTERNATIONAL COMMUNITY IGNORING ETHNIC CLEANSING IN FALLUJAH

Horrific sectarian atrocities are being committed in the final push to ‘liberate’ the ancient city of Fallujah, 43 miles from Baghdad. Iranian-led Shi’ite militias who form the main part of the force fighting to re-capture the city from Daesh (ISIS) are systematically arresting Sunni men and women fleeing the besieged city. Many are being tortured and executed.

Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association said today: “The international community must stop this barbaric crime against innocent civilians. The Shi’ite militias are financed and led by the Iranian terrorist Qods Force whose senior commander General Qasem Soleimani is on the EU and US terrorist lists. Soleimani is spearheading the attack on Fallujah. His presence was confirmed in an astonishing statement by Iraq’s Foreign Minister Ibrahim Jafari on 7th June, when he said:  “Qasem Soleimani provides military advice on Iraqi soil and this is with the complete awareness of our government.”

“Iran is exploiting their role in ousting Daesh (ISIS) as a means for implementing their genocidal policy of ethnic cleansing to annihilate the Sunnis in Iraq’s al-Anbar Province. They claim that they have to detain all people fleeing from the city in case some of them may be Daesh jihadists. But this is simply an excuse to perpetrate barbaric atrocities on innocent Sunnis.

On 7th June the UN High Commissioner for Refugees said: “Eyewitnesses have described how armed groups operating in support of the Iraqi security forces are intercepting people fleeing the conflict, separating the men and teenage boys from the women and children, and detaining the males for ‘security screening’, which in some cases degenerates into physical violations and other forms of abuse, apparently in order to elicit forced confessions. There are even allegations that some individuals have been summarily executed by these armed groups.”

“The same thing happened during the so-called liberation of Ramadi, a city of over one million predominantly Sunni people, which was reduced to dust and rubble. Barely a single building has been left intact and the male population has simply disappeared. This scenario is being repeated in Fallujah, where mass graves have already been discovered in some of the nearby Sunni villages containing bodies that have been burned, stabbed and brutalised.

“The United Nations on Wednesday 8th June revised significantly their estimate of the number of civilians believed trapped in besieged Fallujah, raising the figure to 90,000 from a previous estimate of 50,000. It seems clear that there has been a deliberate attempt by Iraqi forces to provide a lower figure for the civilian population in Fallujah, in order to hide the inevitable death toll arising from the savage bombardment of residential areas, as well as the active participation of the Iranian regime's Qods Force and its affiliated militias.

“Tehran is relentlessly strengthening its grip over Iraq. Corruption and poor training has rendered the Iraqi army almost useless, leaving a vacuum, which the Iranian regime has been quick to fill, pressurising Iraq’s Prime Minister into allowing the Iranian-funded militias to take control of military operations. Political disarray in Baghdad, combined with a directionless and dysfunctional American foreign policy, has paved the way for the fascist Iranian mullah-led regime to consolidate its hold in Iraq.

“The European Iraqi Freedom Association has repeatedly warned of the dangers of allowing the Iranian-funded Shi’ite militias to have free reign in Iraq and our warnings have been ignored. The Iraqi Sunnis of al-Anbar have paid a heavy price for international complacency. Once they have achieved their sectarian objectives in Fallujah, Tehran will turn its attention to Mosul, Iraq’s second biggest city with a population of more than two million Sunnis. Daesh has held Mosul for more than two years and its ethnic cleansing features highly on the Iranian regime’s priority list.

“How much longer can the international community remain silent in the face of such crimes against humanity? The Iranian-funded and led militias are now guilty of crimes every bit as horrific as the terrorist Daesh jihadists who they are supposed to be trying to defeat. UN Secretary General Ban Ki Moon, US President Barack Obama and EU High Representative for Foreign Affairs and Security Federica Mogherini must speak out now and demand an end to these atrocities and an end to Iranian meddling in Iraq.”

Office of Struan Stevenson
President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)
Brussels

 

(Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.)

-- 

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

Investigate Government Command Responsibility; ISIS Stops Civilians From Fleeing

(Beirut) – The announced investigation into allegations of abuse of civilians around Fallujah by Iraqi government forces is a test for the government’s ability to hold abusive forces accountable. Judicial officials should conduct this investigation transparently and impartially, assess co

mmand responsibility, and ensure protection for victims and witnesses.

Ahead of the offensive in Fallujah against forces of the Islamic State (also known as ISIS), Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi said that his government had taken measures to protect civilians. Human Rights Watch, however, has received credible allegations of summary executions, beatings of unarmed men, enforced disappearances, and mutilation of corpses by government forces over the two weeks of fighting, mostly on the outskirts of the city, since May 23. On June 4, 2016, in response to allegations of abuse, al-Abadi launched an investigation into abuses in Fallujah and issued orders to arrest those responsible for “transgressions” against civilians. On June 7, al-Abadi announcedthe “detention and transfer of those accused of committing violations to the judiciary to receive their punishment according to the law.”

“The Iraqi government needs to control and hold accountable its own forces if it hopes to claim the moral upper hand in its fight against ISIS,” said Joe Stork, deputy Middle East director. “It’s high time for Iraqi authorities to unravel the web of culpability underlying the government forces’ repeated outrages against civilians.”

Human Rights Watch also expressed grave concern about reports of ISIS preventing civilians from fleeing Fallujah and allegedly executing and shooting at those who attempted to do so. Human Rights Watch is concerned about the presence of ISIS fighters among civilians inside Fallujah, perhaps amounting to human shielding, a war crime. But the presence of fighters among civilians does not absolve forces fighting ISIS from the obligation to target only military objectives and to take all feasible measures to avoid civilian harm, Human Rights Watch said. ISIS forces should allow civilians to leave areas under their control and not use civilians to shield its military objectives from attack, Human Rights Watch said.

Human Rights Watch directed questions about the composition of the investigative committee, its authority, and relation to the judiciary to five Iraqi government institutions in addition to the human rights section of the United Nations Assistance Mission to Iraq. A member of the parliamentary Human Rights Committee told Human Rights Watch that the committee had started its own investigation and was liaising with the investigation by the prime minister’s office, which remained secret. The other officials contacted did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

On June 3, Human Rights Watch received information alleging that members of the Federal Police and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an auxiliary fighting force created after ISIS advanced in June 2014, and that includes many pre-existing Shia militias, had executed more than a dozen civilians from the Jumaila tribe fleeing Sajar, a village north of Fallujah. Human Rights Watch spoke to five people, including two officials from Anbar governorate, who said they were protecting three surviving witnesses to the executions.

Three of those interviewed confirmed the account that a survivor gave on Tigris (Dijla) Channel television that a group consisting of Federal Police and PMF had separated men from women, marched the men to where the troops’ officers were, lined them up, and shot at least 17 of them, including one teenage boy. One person said that the incident took place on June 2. The PMF are, at least nominally, under the command of the prime minister.

One of the Anbar governorate officials provided Human Rights Watch with a list of names of those killed and said that the incident happened near the Sharhabil school in Al-Bu Sudaira neighborhood in the northern outskirts of Fallujah. The other Anbar official said that the witnesses met with senior Iraqi government officials on June 5, following which he said Prime Minister al-Abadi launched an investigation into the incident. A former Iraqi government official with good contacts in the security forces told Human Rights Watch, on June 5, that the investigation had already led to the arrest of a police officer whom survivors could name.

Another person who said he was in the Sajar area, 7 kilometers northeast of Fallujah, at the time told Human Rights Watch that on May 28, he saw Federal Police and PMF, including dozens of fighters from the Badr Brigades and Hezbollah (two prominent Shia militias in the PMF), fatally shoot civilians with white flags raised fleeing toward the government forces that day. He said that a fighter told him his superior officer had ordered the shootings. He also told Human Rights Watch he was in Saqlawiya around May 30. This person said a villager and several PMF fighters in the area told him that PMF fighters stabbed dozens of villagers to death with knives.

On June 6, an Anbar governorate official who provided the names for those killed from the Jumaila tribe was visiting a camp for internally displaced people in Amiriyat Fallujah, a town south of Fallujah itself, when he spoke to Human Rights Watch. More than 600 men whom Hezbollah and the Badr Brigades, among other PMFs, had released from detention the day before had just arrived in Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital, he said. He added that the militias had detained the men, most from the al-Mahamda tribe, since the beginning of the operation in homes and other buildings in the Hayy al-Shuhada area in Saqlawiya, only releasing them on June 5. He said that he saw hundreds of people among the former detainees who showed signs of torture, including rape, burns, knife cuts, and bruising from beatings. He said the men who were released told him that they saw the PMF fighters take away another at least 600 al-Mahamda men.

A Baghdad resident told Human Rights Watch on June 6 that during a visit to Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital on June 5, she saw hundreds of visibly injured men. Five of the men she spoke to said that PMF forces detained them in groups as they recaptured Saqlawiya over the previous or two weeks. The men told her that the PMF had altogether arrested 1,700 men, whom they beat and dragged bound to a moving car by a rope (sahl) before releasing 605 men to receive medical treatment on June 5. The woman said the men told her that four men died from beatings and from being dragged behind cars. She told Human Rights Watch that hospital staff in Amiriyat Fallujah said a fifth man died on June 5 in the hospital. Human Rights Watch reviewed a video of three injured men stepping out of an ambulance at what the person said was Amiriyat Fallujah Hospital, in addition to pictures of half a dozen injured men being treated in the hospital’s garden.

On May 24, Human Rights Watch viewed a video, uploaded on May 23, in which a commander tells a room filled with fighters that Fallujah had been a bastion of terrorism since 2004 and that no civilians or true Muslims were left inside the city. The video bore the logo of Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, one of the brigades within the Leagues of the Righteous militia that is part of the PMF. On May 27, Iraqi activists sent Human Rights Watch two videos they said were filmed on the outskirts of Fallujah over the previous days depicting abuses against local residents by government forces: one showed armed men in a mix of civilian and military dress driving two pickup trucks, each dragging a corpse behind them; the second showed armed men surrounding a pile of corpses and severed heads. In the clip a commander counted 16 decapitated bodies and heads. Human Rights Watch was not able to verify the origins of either video. On June 3, Human Rights Watch viewed a widely circulated video on Facebook, uploaded on June 3, which shows a man in a military-type uniform beating at least nine men lying on the ground with a large wooden stick while accusing them of collaborating with ISIS in “Fallujah”. Human Rights Watch was unable to verify the exact location and time of the videos.

A local sheikh from Karma, a town northeast of Fallujah, told Human Rights Watch that within the first few days of the military operation to retake the city, the Iraq Security Forces, PMF, police, and Sunni forces forced civilians living there to leave. During the exodus, at least 70 young men disappeared, he said, and the families have no information as to their whereabouts. The sheikh said that on June 1, the Iraqi Parliament Speaker, Salim al-Jiburi, had come to the area to speak to local elders and the military. A member of Anbar governorate council, who also provided information about the launch of the prime minister’s investigation, confirmed the number of missing men to Human Rights Watch and said that the government had opened investigations to determine where they are.

The military routinely separates men from women and takes the men for security screenings to determine their involvement with ISIS forces, according to all witnesses Human Rights Watch interviewed. The authorities may impose reasonable and proportionate security measures, but should do so under judicial supervision and in a transparent manner, Human Rights Watch said. The families of anyone detained should know where they are being held, and all persons detained should promptly be brought before a judge to determine the legality of their detention.

All suspected crimes, including torture, murder, and other abuses, committed by members of any side in the conflict, should be investigated by the criminal justice authorities, speedily, transparently, and effectively, up to the highest levels responsible. When evidence of criminal responsibility emerges, prosecutions should follow. Those conducting such criminal investigations and making decisions about prosecutions should be independent of those being investigated, including being outside any military chain of command and being free from political interference in their decisions. The authorities should ensure the safety of all witnesses. At the same time, a commission of inquiry or equivalent should be created to examine the wider concerns about whether such crimes and abuses are being committed in a widespread or systematic way.

On June 3, the highest Shia religious authority, Ayatollah al-Sistani “cautioned” that fighters must not attack non-combatants materially or psychologically. On June 5, Hadi al-Amiri, the commander of the Badr Brigades, vowedto hold those responsible for abuse accountable.

“I acknowledge that there were mistakes,” al-Abadi told Iraqi state television on June 4, “but they were not systematic and we will not cover up any [of them].”

“The government should not stand idly by while fighters commit atrocities in its name,” Stork said. “Political, security, and judicial officials should work together transparently to establish the truth about what has happened around Fallujah and why.”

The Fallujah Operation
On May 23, Iraqi security forces began operations to retake Fallujah, where UN officials estimate about 50,000 civilians, including 20,000 children, remain. Those forces include the elite US-trained military Counter-Terrorism Service (CTS), local and federal police, militias under the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) umbrella, Sunni fighters from Anbar province, and Iraqi and US-led coalition air forces.

ISIS captured the city in early 2014. Government forces cut off supply routes into the city after recapturing nearby Ramadi in late December 2015 and the al-Jazira desert area north of Fallujah in March 2016. In late March, a medical source in Fallujah told Human Rights Watch that each day starving children were arriving at the local hospital and most foodstuffs were no longer available at any price. In April, Iraqi activists in touch with families inside Fallujah told Human Rights Watch that conditions had reduced families to eating flat bread made with flour from ground date seeds and soups from grass. A man who fled Fallujah in 2014 said in late May that sources in the city told him people who escaped from Fallujah in May 2016 were dropping plastic bags and water bottles filled with medical supplies into the Euphrates upstream for trapped residents to recover from the river as it ran through the city.

Human Rights Watch has not had access to Fallujah, but obtained information on conditions inside the city from relatives, journalists, officials, and humanitarian workers who said they had been in touch with people remaining there.

In recent years Human Rights Watch has documented extensive laws of war violations by the ISIS as well as by Iraqi military and the largely Shia militias that make up the Popular Mobilization Forces, including summary executions, disappearances, torture, use of child soldiers, widespread demolition of buildings, indiscriminate attacks, and unlawful restrictions on the movement of people fleeing the fighting.

Trapped Civilians
On May 22, the Iraqi government called on civilians inside the city, 65 kilometres west of Baghdad, to leave through unspecified secured routes. Fourteen thousand people have managed to escapethe areas surrounding the city center and reach displacement camps in the neighboring town of Amiriyat Fallujah.

Since the government offensive began on May 23, there have been regular reports of ISIS executing or shooting at civilians attempting to flee. A foreign correspondent told Human Rights Watch that Shia militiamen holding positions in Saqlawiya, a town northwest of the city, said they witnessed civilians carrying white flags make several failed attempts to escape from areas still under ISIS control. In each instance, ISIS opened fire on the militia positions the civilians were attempting to reach, forcing them to turn back. They said they had not seen ISIS firing directly on the civilians.

In early May, ISIS retook Hassi and Al-Bu Huwa, two villages south of Fallujah, for a few days. An engineer from Al-Bu Huwa who was able to escape to Baghdad said that, on May 10, ISIS ordered residents to evacuate the villages for Fallujah. Members of Al-Bu Isa tribe gathered their fighters together and refused the order, he said. He also said he had heard that two Al-Bu Isa women committed suicide. ISIS responded by executing 25 Al-Bu Isa men. The engineer said he saw the bodies of the executed men as he left the village. He said he escaped from ISIS as he was being transferred to Fallujah.

Intermingling with Civilians
ISIS is also exposing civilians to harm by placing their fighters among them, Human Rights Watch said. A man whose family is still in Fallujah with intermittent access to a phone said they told him that ISIS forced all civilians in the city, including his family, to relocate to the center, among its fighters.

In northern Iraq, on the Makhmur front line, the Iraqi army, Kurdish Peshmerga and volunteer National Mobilization Forces, a group of volunteers within the Popular Mobilization Forces, are battling ISIS near Qayyara. Local residents who escaped Mahana, Kudila, Kharabarut and other villages near there told Human Rights Watch in late May that ISIS forces had fired from in between houses they said were inhabited by civilians at the time, which were then hit by return artillery fire.

Attacks on Civilian Objects
One man with family inside Fallujah showed Human Rights Watch photographs that he said a Fallujah General Hospital staff member sent him after an attack on the hospital at 8 p.m. on May 25. The hospital worker wrote that an airstrike damaged the emergency room and other parts of the facility. He said that ISIS fighters had been occupying the second floor of the hospital for months. The man was unable to confirm the extent of the damage or whether any civilians were wounded or killed in the attack.

A doctor who used to work at Fallujah hospital but left the city in 2015 sent Human Rights Watch footage of damage to the building and interviews with patients who said they had been wounded in the attack, but that it had been Iraqi forces’ shelling rather than an airstrike. He said the emergency room had been able to continue functioning despite the damage.

The hospital staff member said he was unaware of either the Iraqi military or the coalition informing patients and staff of an impending strike, such as through public messages or dropping flyers.

Under the laws of war, applicable to the armed conflict in Iraq, all hospitals and other medical facilities, whether civilian or military, have special protection. They may not be targeted, even if being used to treat enemy fighters. Medical facilities remain protected unless they are used to commit hostile acts that are outside their humanitarian function. Even then, they are only subject to attack after a warning has been given setting a reasonable time limit, and after such warning has gone unheeded. It is a violation for armed forces or groups to occupy medical facilities.


Source:Human Rights Watch

Iraq: Authorities must rein in Fallujah forces amid allegations of torture and deaths in custody

Iraqi authorities must rein in all forces participating in the recapture of Fallujah said Amnesty International today, amid reports that men and boys fleeing the armed group calling itself Islamic State (IS) have been tortured and otherwise ill-treated by government-backed militias and at least three have died as a result.

Amnesty has spoken to victims who described the torture and other ill-treatment meted out to them in detention and who claim to have witnessed killings.

Philip Luther, Director of Amnesty International’s Middle East and North Africa Programme, said:

“Civilians risking their lives to escape from IS atrocities must be protected and given the humanitarian aid they desperately need. Instead it seems that some are having to run the gauntlet of being subjected to further abuse and reprisal attacks.”

Local officials in Anbar province, where Fallujah is located, told Amnesty that on Sunday (5 June), 605 men and boys were handed over to the provincial council and that many of them had injuries including fractures, contusions, welts and open wounds as a result of beatings. Three bodies were also handed over, and another detainee is believed to have died after his transfer to the city of Amariyat al-Fallujah.

The detainees were from Saqlawiya, some 9km north-west of Fallujah, and had been held captive for several days by individuals belonging to government-backed and predominantly Shi’a militias known as Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU).

Amnesty spoke to several survivors who described being held at a military base in Anbar province known as Mazra’at Tarek (Tarek’s farm) for about four days after they fled IS fighters on 2 June. 

One detainee in his forties told Amnesty International:

“The treatment was very bad… we had nothing to drink or eat… Some people drank their urine. About four or five men would come into the room, and beat people with sticks and metal pipes. I don’t know what happened to my brother and two nephews detained with me. I don’t know if they are among the dead or still detained at the farm or transferred to another place… Even those released are suffering from wounds and dehydration. Some have lost consciousness.” 

The detainees described being crammed into small rooms with their hands tied behind their backs, insulted for allegedly supporting IS, and kicked and beaten with various objects including rubber hoses and metal bars. They said they were also deprived of food, water and sanitation facilities.

Several claimed that a number of detainees died as a result of beatings, including with sharp metal objects on the head.

The detainees are now being held in Amariyat al-Fallujah for further security screening and investigations. Several reported that their identification documents had been confiscated by the PMU.

On Sunday, Iraqi Prime Minister Haydar al-Abadi acknowledged in a televised interview with Iraqiya TV that “mistakes” had been committed by some fighters participating in the battle for Fallujah and vowed not to tolerate human rights violations.

His spokesperson later announced the establishment of a human rights committee to investigate abuses.

Philip Luther said:

“The promise of investigations into human rights abuses is a welcome first step; but more needs to be done to prevent further abuses and bring to justice those suspected of criminal responsibility.

“Any security procedures carried out by Iraqi forces must comply with international human rights law and all those deprived of their liberty must be protected from enforced disappearance, torture and other ill-treatment. Those who are reasonably suspected of having committed criminal offences should be promptly referred to judicial authorities and receive a fair trial that meets international standards. The rest must be released.”

Amnesty is calling on the Iraqi authorities to conduct full, impartial and independent investigations into allegations of torture and unlawful killings by members of the PMU with a view to bringing those responsible to justice in fair trials.

Pending investigations and prosecutions, all those reasonably suspected of committing abuses should be removed from the ranks. The fate and whereabouts of those who have been disappeared must be immediately revealed.

Background

Since the start of the military offensive by Iraqi forces to retake the city of Fallujah from IS on 23 May, an estimated 10,000 people have managed to escape mainly from the city’s outskirts according to UN agencies.

About 50,000 civilians are believed to still be trapped in the city amid reports of shelling and starvation. Civilians who fled told Amnesty that IS fighters have been preventing civilians from central Fallujah from leaving, and have forcibly moved some civilians from the outskirts to the centre of the city.

Reports have also emerged regarding the alleged unlawful killings of 17 men and boys from Karma, about 20km north-east of Fallujah, which Amnesty is investigating.

PRESS RELEASE

For immediate release 3rd June 2016

 THE SLAUGHTER OF THE INNOCENTS

Catastrophe in Fallujah

 

Western policy in Iraq is aiding and abetting the slaughter of the innocents in Fallujah. This is the controversial view of Struan Stevenson, President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA). Speaking as the operation to ‘liberate’ Fallujah from Daesh (ISIS) fanatics enters its second week, Mr Stevenson said: “We seem to have learned no lessons from the fate of Ramadi, which was ‘liberated’ from Daesh earlier this year, but the final onslaught during the battle for its recapture saw virtually every building in the city destroyed; only a handful of women, children and elderly men remained. Some estimates state that the population of Ramadi was reduced by the conflict from over one million inhabitants to less than 1,000. Thousands of innocent civilians lost their lives. The ruthless Shi’ia militias waged a genocidal campaign against the predominantly Sunni population of that city, torturing, burning and butchering men, women and children at will. They will do the same in Fallujah. Thousands of civilians will be killed. The UN estimates that up to 20,000 children are trapped in Fallujah; Daesh is using some as human shields, while others are being forced to fight; the Shi’ia militias will mercilessly butcher them.

“Militias affiliated with the Iranian regime, under the command of the Iranian terrorist Quds force leader Qassem Soleimani, are unilaterally leading the offensive and killing and slaughtering innocent civilians and burning houses and mosques and even beheading people in Fallujah. Seventeen militia groups under Iran’s command including the terrorist Badr organization with six thousand men, Asa'ib al-Haq with five thousand men, Kata'ib Hezbollah with four thousand men, Kata'ib Imam Ali with three thousand men are taking part in this operation. Footage posted online shows militias chanting sectarian slogans after beheading 17 people in the Garmeh neighbourhood of Fallujah.

“This is while according to official figures, only four thousand Sunni troops, close to the government, are taking part in this battle. The Sunni forces do not have heavy arms and are therefore deployed mainly on the side-lines of the battle. The only way to defeat Daesh and free al-Anbar Province is to organize and arm the Sunni tribes and involve them directly in the liberation of their own territories. However, the influence from Iran, which now dominates Iraq, is preventing this from happening.

“Qais al-Khazali the head of the Asa'ib militias whose crimes have been repeatedly condemned by the international community has described Fallujah and its inhabitants as “a source of terrorism” describing it as a “cancerous tumour that must be uprooted.” The former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri Al-Maliki, under whose term in office the sectarian genocide began, has described Fallujah as the “head of the snake.”

“Now the defenceless people of Fallujah are stuck between Daesh and the Iraqi militias. While the sectarian barbarities committed by the militias have created widespread condemnation both in Iraq and internationally, the al-Abadi government has unfortunately remained silent in dealing with these crimes. Sadly, the West has seen fit to assist in this holocaust by providing air strikes and bombing raids on the city. American & British airstrikes assisted in the recapture of Ramadi, crushing most of the city’s buildings and infrastructure to dust. Now warplanes from a US-led international coalition have begun bombing raids on Daesh targets around Fallujah.

“Western intervention in Iraq is being widely applauded by the mullah-led Iranian regime, which is financing, training and commanding many of the Shi’ia militias engaged in the battle against Daesh. The Iranian regime regards Daesh as a convenient vehicle for implementing its objective of ethnically cleansing the Iraqi Sunni population. By condoning this strategy, the West is relentlessly pushing Iraq’s hounded and oppressed Sunnis into an invidious position where they can either choose to support Daesh or die at the hands of the Shi’ia militias. We need to re-think Western policy and embrace Iraq’s Sunnis in a new and inclusive, Western-trained military force. The Iranian-led Shi’ia militias should be disbanded without delay and Iranian meddling in Iraq outlawed.”

Struan Stevenson

President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was President of the European Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014

BAGHDAD — American commandos are on the front lines in Syria in a new push toward the Islamic State’s de facto capital in Raqqa, but in Iraq it is an entirely different story: Iran, not the United States, has become the face of an operation to retake the jihadist stronghold of Falluja from the militant group.

On the outskirts of Falluja, tens of thousands of Iraqi soldiers, police officers and Shiite militiamen backed by Iran are preparing for an assault on the Sunni city, raising fears of a sectarian blood bath. Iran has placed advisers, including its top spymaster, Qassim Suleimani, on the ground to assist in the operation.

The battle over Falluja has evolved into yet another example of how United States and Iranian interests seemingly converge and clash at the same time in Iraq. Both want to defeat the Islamic State, also known as ISIS or ISIL. But the United States has long believed that Iran’s role, which relies on militias accused of sectarian abuses, can make matters worse by angering Sunnis and making them more sympathetic to the militants.

While the battle against the Islamic State straddles the borders of Iraq and Syria, the United States has approached it as two separate fights. In Syria, where the government of Bashar al-Assad is an enemy, America’s ally is the Kurds.

But in Iraq, where the United States backs the central government, and trains and advises the Iraqi Army, it has been limited by the role of Iran, the most powerful foreign power inside the country.

That United States dilemma is on full display in Falluja as the fighting intensifies.

Inside the city, tens of thousands of Sunni civilians are trapped, starving and lacking medicine, according to activists and interviews with residents. Some were shot dead by the Islamic State as they tried to flee, and others died under buildings that collapsed under heavy military and militia artillery bombardment in recent days, according to the United Nations.

The few civilians who have made it to safety have escaped at night, traveling through the irrigation pipes.

In an extraordinary statement on Wednesday, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the world’s pre-eminent Shiite religious leader, who lives in Najaf in southern Iraq and is said to be concerned by Iran’s growing role in Iraq, urged security forces and militia to restrain themselves and abide by “the standard behaviors of jihad.”

The grim sectarian tableau in Falluja — starving Sunni civilians trapped in a city surrounded by a mostly Shiite force — provides the backdrop to a final assault that Iraqi officials have promised will come soon.

The United States has thousands of military personnel in Iraq and has trained Iraqi security forces for nearly two years, yet is largely on the sidelines in the battle to retake Falluja. It says its air and artillery strikes have killed dozens of Islamic State fighters, including the group’s Falluja commander. But it worries that an assault on the city could backfire — inflaming the same sectarian sentiments that have allowed the Islamic State to flourish there.

Already, as the army and militiamen battled this past week in outlying areas, taking some villages and the center of the city of Karma, to the northeast, the fight has taken on sectarian overtones.

Militiamen have plastered artillery shells with the name of Sheikh Nimr al-Nimr, a Shiite cleric close to Iran whose execution this year by Saudi Arabia, a Sunni power, deepened the region’s sectarian divide, before firing them at Falluja.

A Shiite militia leader, in a widely circulated video, is seen rallying his men with a message of revenge against the people of Falluja, whom many Iraqi Shiites believe to be Islamic State sympathizers rather than innocent civilians. Falluja is also believed to be a staging ground for suicide bombers targeting the capital, Baghdad, about 40 miles to the east. The decision to move on the city was made after several recent attacks in Baghdad killed nearly 200 people.

“Falluja is a terrorism stronghold,” said the militia leader, Aws al-Khafaji, the head of the Abu Fadhil al-Abbas militia. “It’s been the stronghold since 2004 until today.”

He continued: “There are no patriots, no real religious people in Falluja. It’s our chance to clear Iraq by eradicating the cancer of Falluja.”

Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, who has stressed that civilians must be protected in the operation and ordered that humanitarian corridors be opened to allow civilians to leave the city safely, disavowed the militia leader’s comments.

Reflecting these concerns of sectarianism, and the deep sense of foreboding surrounding a battle for the city, a chorus of voices in Iraq and abroad has urged restraint.

In his statement, Ayatollah Sistani said: “The Prophet Muhammad used to tell his companions before sending them to fight, to go forward in the name of Allah, with Allah and upon the religion of the messenger of Allah. Do not kill the elderly, children or women, do not steal the spoils but collect them, and do not cut down trees unless you are forced to do so.”

The concern was amplified in a second statement, released during Friday prayers by a representative for the ayatollah, saying that “saving an innocent human being from dangers around him is much more important than targeting and eliminating the enemy.”

Accounts of dire conditions in Falluja have emerged from the few residents who managed to escape in recent days, Melissa Fleming, a spokeswoman for the United Nations refugee agency, told reporters in Geneva on Friday. She said that some residents had been killed for refusing to fight for the jihadists, and that those inside were surviving on old stacks of rice, a few dates and water from unsafe sources such as drainage ditches.


Source: The New York Times


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