25 April 2017
English Arabic

Earlier in April he was spotted in the northern countryside of the central Syrian province of Hama, where the forces of President Bashar al-Assad have been battling a surprise rebel offensive and reportedly sustaining high casualties.

On Monday, according to local news reports, General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, a special forces branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was in Kirkuk, 1,000 kilometers from Hama, trying to broker a deal between Shi'ite militias and the Kurds about eventual control of the disputed northern Iraqi city.

The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a Qatari-owned pan-Arab news outlet, reported that Soleimani's visit to Iraq's Kurdish region lasted several days, and during that time the Quds Force commander stressed that Kirkuk should remain a city for all Iraqis and shouldn't be annexed by the Kurds. He said military clashes between Kurds and Shi'ites should be avoided.

As the wars have raged in Syria and Iraq, and as Iran has deepened its military involvement, Soleimani increasingly has taken on the role, according to some analysts, as Iran's viceroy in the Levant — a mixture of soldier and satrap.

Credited as strategist

Syrian rebel commanders credit the silver-haired 59-year-old with being the principal architect last year of Assad's military strategy to retake the rebel-controlled eastern half of the city of Aleppo, and of channeling rebel militias into the neighboring province of Idlib, shaping what military strategists term a "kill zone."

Analysts and Western intelligence agencies closely observe Soleimani's movements as they try to work out what Iran's longer-term goals are for Syria and Iraq. Will both be turned into what will be seen as provinces of Iran and platforms for Tehran's regional ambitions? Who will run Iraq and Syria once the Islamic State terror group is ousted from Mosul and Raqqa?

The three countries share deep religious and cultural ties, but the power of Iran now in Syria and Iraq comes with the presence of tens of thousands of Shi'ite militiamen linked to Tehran and trained and commanded by Quds Force generals and Soleimani, who reports, reputedly, directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It is thanks to Shi'ite militias and Iranian combat troops as much as to Russian airpower that battlefield fortunes have shifted in Syria to favor Assad, military observers say.

Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of the Quds Force or other IRGC units have been killed fighting in Syria — most of them Pakistani Shi'ites recruited with the lure of Iranian citizenship and cash. Several IRGC generals have died in Syria, including Hassan Shateri, a veteran of Iran's covert wars in the Middle East, whose 2013 funeral at Amir al-Momenin Mosque in Tehran was attended by Soleimani.

Some analysts estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria, as well as thousands of fighters from Lebanon's Tehran-affiliated Shi'ite militia, Hezbollah.

As the United States and Iran jostle for influence in the Levant, Iran's growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals.

"The extent of lasting Iranian influence seems to be of special concern," analyst Sam Heller noted in a recent roundtable discussion on Syria's future by scholars at the Century Foundation, a U.S.-based research organization.

Resentment in Syria, Iraq

There's alarm even among some government loyalists in Damascus and Baghdad who chafe at Iranian clout. In the summer of 2015 in Syria, there were reports of resentment among some of Assad's Syrian commanders at the influence of Quds Force generals.

In Iraq, Shi'ite militias not under control of Tehran but loyal to Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani have bristled at talk of Najaf, considered the third-holiest shrine by Shi'ite Muslims, eventually coming under Iranian sway. In the meantime, Tehran-loyal militias have branched out and extended their control of more Iraqi territory.

Last month, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the largest militias professing allegiance to Khamenei, moved its headquarters into a palace built by Saddam Hussein in a Sunni-majority neighborhood of the Iraqi capital.

Otherwise, the Quds Force-linked Shi'ite militias have been careful to observe the overall direction of Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, about the conduct of the battle against IS and have remained outside Mosul, allowing Iraq's regular security forces to battle inside the mainly Sunni city.

And they have avoided clashing with the 5,000 or so American troops now stationed in Iraq or the U.S.-backed Kurdish peshmerga forces. There were fears that following the U.S. cruise missile strike this month on a Syrian government airfield, Iran may have ordered Shi'ite militiamen in Iraq to retaliate.

In the longer term, though, it is unclear whether Tehran will accept a continued American military presence in Iraq — one the Iraqi prime minister said on a recent visit to Washington he would like to see.

Wider Shi'ite role

In March, Hashim al-Musawi, spokesman for the Iran-controlled militia known as the Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq (al-Nojaba), indicated at a news conference in Tehran that his and other Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shi'ite militias wanted to take on a more expansive role in the region once the Sunni IS militants were defeated.

He mentioned taking military action against Turkish forces based near Mosul if they didn't withdraw, and forming a brigade on the Golan Heights, controlled by the Assad government, as a means to strike at Israel. IRGC units already are thought to be stationed on the Golan Heights.

At a joint news conference April 5 in Washington with Jordan's King Abdullah, President Donald Trump was asked what he thought about the Iran-loyal militias when it comes to Syria and their support in propping up Syria's Assad.

"Will you go after them?" he was asked. "You will see," he replied. "They will have a message. You will see what message that will be."

But according to Ranj Alaaldin, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center and author of a forthcoming book on Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria, Iran and its proxies "dominate realities on the ground."

"Iranian influence cannot be eliminated," he argued, it can only be contained.

Source: VOA

By: Jamie Dettmer
 


The battle to dislodge Islamic State from the Old City of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are trapped, could turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the war against the militants, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.

About 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul's pre-war population, are trapped in the Old City, according to U.N. estimates. As many as half a million are estimated to remain overall in neighborhoods still under IS control in western Mosul.

"If there is a siege and hundreds of thousands of people don’t have water and don’t have food, they will be at enormous risk," U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict."

Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, was captured by the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in mid-2014. Iraqi government forces have taken back most of it in a U.S.-backed offensive launched in October, including the half that lies east of the Tigris River.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, countering the offensive with booby traps, suicide motorbike attacks, sniper and mortar fire, occasionally using shells filled with toxic gas.

"It is a deteriorating situation, we fear for the lives of the 400,000 people in the old city," said Grande.

"Families ... tell us that they are being shot at as they are escaping. It’s terrifying."

es are trying to capture the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanningparts of Iraq and Syria nearly three years ago.

Troops have had the mosque, with its leaning minaret, in their sights since last month. But their progress has been painstakingly slow as the militants are dug in among civilians.

The narrow alleyways of the Old City restrict the use of suicide cars by the militants and tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees by the government forces.

The fighting has killed several thousands among civilians and fighters on both sides, according to aid organizations. More than 327,000 have fled in the past six months.

"The security forces know the situation on the ground and they need to decide how this is best done, whether by evacuating civilians or protecting them in their homes or opening routes they can escape through," said Grande.

Source: Reuters

A representative of prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad, Ibrahim al-Jabri, said on Friday that former Iraqi Prime Minister “Nouri al-Maliki is behind the current crises that have hit Iraq,” adding: “Maliki handed over several Iraqi provinces to ISIS.”

Jabri said “Maliki cannot do anything about the suffering of the Iraqi people because he caused the suffering and the killing of our sons by security forces at the Speicher base.”

Camp Speicher, officially known as the Tikrit Air Academy, is an air installation near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

With Iraqi forces all but certain to defeat ISIS in Mosul this year, Sadr has begun mobilizing his supporters ahead of two elections, for provincial councils in September and the crucial parliamentary vote, by April 2018.

His main rival is former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian politician who started positioning himself last year as a possible kingmaker or even for a return to the premiership itself.

Maliki's eight-year rule ended in 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an ISIS offensive, forcing him to hand over power to current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Both men are members of the Shiite Dawa party.

He now holds the ceremonial position of vice president but still wields considerable influence, chairing the Dawa party which controls the largest bloc in parliament.

Source: Alarabiya

Erbil, Iraq - The garden of the emergency hospital in Iraq's northern city of Erbil is a lush, well-tended oasis full of vivid spring colours. Under the shadow of a tree, the relatives of patients try to rest after the anguished hours of waiting.

"How can I sleep? They are alive by miracle," said an exhausted Tareq Ahmad as he sat on the grass. A mortar shell seriously injured his son, Rayan, and nephew, Abdallarmeh, leaving them both paralysed from the waist down.

When the incident happened they were playing football in al-Muthanna, an area of eastern Mosul that the Iraqi government had recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). Now the boys are lying next to each other in a hospital bed. Neither will ever walk again.

"The Iraqi army told us to stay and not to leave. I thought it was safe and I told my children to go to play in front of the house," said Ahmad. "I was in the army in 2003 and I know how the army works. If a place is not safe, I would tell people to 'be careful, don't go out'. This is our life - am I wrong? Who will give them their lives back? They had to tell us that it was not safe," the father repeated as he covered his tearful eyes with his hands.

Mosul, Iraq's second-most populous city, fell to an ISIL blitzkrieg in June 2014. The group's fighters poured over the border from Syria, seizing large swaths of northern Iraq. Two years later, the Iraqi army - backed by local militias, Kurdish forces and air strikes carried out by an international coalition - began an operation to drive ISIL out of the city.

The Iraqi army told us to stay and not to leave. I thought it was safe, and I told my children to go to play in front of the house. Who will give them their lives back? They had to tell us that it was not safe.

Because hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in Mosul, anti-ISIL forces have had to limit their use of aerial attacks and artillery in the city. Nevertheless, hundreds of civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes and shelling, as well as in the counter-attacks launched by ISIL.

Inside the hospital, most of the victims - half of whom are women and children - were wounded due to the fighting in Mosul. "Who knows who was shooting? We were in the middle of the fighting and we couldn't go out for six days," said Chad, a 19-year-old woman whose leg was injured in a mortar strike in Mosul's Wadi Hajjar district.

"There was a sniper on the rooftop of our house and then a mortar hit us. I lost my brother. I don't remember much," she told Al Jazeera as she waited to undergo an operation on her leg.

For those like Chad, the lines separating the "good guys" from the "bad guys" are fading away. The human cost of the campaign to take Mosul has increased since Iraqi forces advised civilians to stay in their homes. The reason: the Iraqi military wants to limit the amount of human displacement as it tries to push ISIL out of the city. Despite its calls, though, 200,000 people have fled since the start of the operation to retake the western half of Mosul. With government forces bogged down in vicious street-to-street fighting, ISIL has sought to exploit the strategy of "civilian protection".

 "Civilians are being manipulated [by ISIL] to slow down the military operation," said Michela Paschetto, a nurse and medical coordinator for Emergency, an Italian NGO that runs the Erbil hospital. "Families are being taken by ISIL to fill the buildings where [their units] are hiding and they use them as human shields."

Sabrina's house in western Mosul was hit by a mortar fired by ISIL, killing her husband and two children and wounding her. "I stayed at home for weeks with my mother, who took care of my wound. I could not run away because there were [ISIL units], but the Iraqi army told us to stay in the house and I lost my family."

Since October 2016, when the Mosul campaign began, more than 6,000 wounded - over half of them civilians - have been sent to hospitals in Erbil and liberated eastern Mosul, as well as to field hospitals around the city.

In February and March alone, Emergency's hospital treated more than 500 civilians coming from field hospitals, where medical teams work to stabilise patients before they are transferred to better-equipped hospitals nearby.

Inside the emergency room, another father is trying to alleviate his daughter's pain. "We are the victims of this war. Look with your eyes: Is she an infidel? She is only a girl," said Abu Shams Ali, as he stroked his daughter's forehead and wiped away her feverish sweat.

A mortar strike wounded Lina in her abdomen two weeks ago in western Mosul's al-Jadida neighbourhood.

"Our house was close to the front line and ISIL forced us to move inside another house. As soon as we got inside, I heard a loud explosion near me," said 14-year-old Lina as she laid in the hospital, her face pale due to an infection. "ISIL treated us harshly. We were forced to wear the full-length hijab; men couldn't smoke or wear trousers," she recalled.

Like Lina, most of the patients treated at the Emergency hospital were wounded by shells and bullets. The doctors call these "dirty wounds".

"All the wounds of war are dirty by definition," said Marco Pegoraro, Emergency's surgeon. "This is because all the shell fragments, everything on the ground - stones, metal - is projected inside the body. But they are also dirty because the first victims of wars are civilians caught between the fire [from both sides]."

Due to the difficulty in escaping from areas where heavy fighting is taking place, thousands of wounded civilians have been unable to access timely medical care - leading to an increase in the number of amputated limbs. One of these is Gazban, who waited hours before an ambulance was able to reach him.

"I said, 'please do not cut my legs', and then they anaesthetised me. And when I woke up, my legs were gone," said Gazban, 19, as he sat in a wheelchair at the entrance of the hospital.

Sitting close by was his mother, Amira, who recalled the day of the incident in detail. "On February 26, at 9 o'clock, my son was in front of the door and a mortar hit our house. I heard the explosion and I ran outside. I saw my son bleeding and without legs. I tried to unite the bones and the parts of his legs," she said.

Most of the relatives and patients interviewed said that although they were grateful that the Iraqi army had come to retake Mosul, they do not want revenge. Instead, they all said that they simply want to return to a peaceful, normal life.

"I would like to start school again, go to college and continue my life," said Gazban. "Even if it will not be the same anymore."

Source: Aljazeera

13 April 2017 – Using satellite imagery and local researches, the most recent evaluation confirms that western Mosul has undergone extensive destruction, “far greater than in the east,” according to a senior United Nations aid official in the country.

“The level of damage in western Mosul is already far greater than in the east, even before the battle to retake the Old City begins,” said Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, in a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With more than 1,140 housing sites having been destroyed across the city, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) confirms that damage to houses in western Mosul is two and a half times greater than in the eastern districts with one-third of the residential devastation reported to have occurred in the Al Jadeda neighbourhood.

Ms. Grande pointed out that nearly 300,000 civilians have already fled western Mosul and “hundreds of thousands more may in the days and weeks ahead.”

She stressed that homes are being destroyed, schools and health centres damaged and that crucial public infrastructure, including electricity and water stations, are in ruins.

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and limit damage to civilian infrastructure. Nothing is more important,” concluded the Humanitarian Coordinator.

 Source: United Nations

 

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a U.S. general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Government forces have retaken much of Iraq's second-largest city since January but have been trying since then to dislodge the Sunni Muslim militants from the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, their last Iraqi stronghold.

"Iraqi security forces continue to progress as they liberate the western side of Mosul," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, head of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said by telephone.

He declined to say whether the militants would be defeated rather within weeks or months, saying: "It's hard to tell because the terrain changes literally every day."

Martin said Iraqi forces had surrounded Islamic State positions but it was not always possible to move vehicles into all parts of the Old City with its narrow streets.

"Some days like yesterday (there was) significant amount of progress, other days there is not much progress but progress nevertheless," he said.

Iraqi officers have said snipers have slowed them down in western Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"It's very complicated," Martin said. "The terrain literally changes from neighborhood to neighborhood ... the nature of the enemy, how the population reacts."

He also said coalition forces continued to provide air support for Iraqi forces despite an explosion that followed an air strike that was believed to have killed scores of civilians on March 17.

The U.S. military has said a U.S.-led coalition strike had hit an Islamic State-held area where residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.

"Nothing has changed in terms of air support. It's been consistent," he said.

He declined to discuss any involvement of the coalition in the explosion but said Islamic State was "very creative in exploiting the human element" by using hospitals, schools, churches, homes and mosques as hideouts or weapons caches.

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been trapped in western Mosul with U.N. camps filling up with people fleeing the violence.

Daily suicide attacks and roadside bombs, along with snipers and mortars, have been the most lethal Islamic State tactics in resisting the 100,000-strong Iraqi force.

"It's clear that their (Islamic State) competence, their cohesion and their effectiveness continues to wane over time," he said.

But he said the militants would fight to the end and there were no signs they would run out of ammunition anytime soon after preparing for the battle for two and half years.

"Don't underestimate the ammunition," he said. "But the outcome is very, very clear. They are going lose and the Iraqis will win."

Source: Reuters

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a U.S. general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Government forces have retaken much of Iraq's second-largest city since January but have been trying since then to dislodge the Sunni Muslim militants from the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, their last Iraqi stronghold.

"Iraqi security forces continue to progress as they liberate the western side of Mosul," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, head of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said by telephone.

He declined to say whether the militants would be defeated rather within weeks or months, saying: "It's hard to tell because the terrain changes literally every day."

Martin said Iraqi forces had surrounded Islamic State positions but it was not always possible to move vehicles into all parts of the Old City with its narrow streets.

"Some days like yesterday (there was) significant amount of progress, other days there is not much progress but progress nevertheless," he said.

Iraqi officers have said snipers have slowed them down in western Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"It's very complicated," Martin said. "The terrain literally changes from neighborhood to neighborhood ... the nature of the enemy, how the population reacts."

He also said coalition forces continued to provide air support for Iraqi forces despite an explosion that followed an air strike that was believed to have killed scores of civilians on March 17.

The U.S. military has said a U.S.-led coalition strike had hit an Islamic State-held area where residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.

"Nothing has changed in terms of air support. It's been consistent," he said.

He declined to discuss any involvement of the coalition in the explosion but said Islamic State was "very creative in exploiting the human element" by using hospitals, schools, churches, homes and mosques as hideouts or weapons caches.

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been trapped in western Mosul with U.N. camps filling up with people fleeing the violence.

Daily suicide attacks and roadside bombs, along with snipers and mortars, have been the most lethal Islamic State tactics in resisting the 100,000-strong Iraqi force.

"It's clear that their (Islamic State) competence, their cohesion and their effectiveness continues to wane over time," he said.

But he said the militants would fight to the end and there were no signs they would run out of ammunition anytime soon after preparing for the battle for two and half years.

"Don't underestimate the ammunition," he said. "But the outcome is very, very clear. They are going lose and the Iraqis will win."

Source: Reuters

In his March 24 Washington Forum commentary, “Iraq needs more help,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged the United States to cooperate across the board with Iraq, from reconstruction to investment after the Islamic State is defeated. The United States should. Iraq likely has two-thirds of the hydrocarbon reserves of Saudi Arabia, a functioning democracy, and with U.S. support could block a resurgence of the Islamic State or Iranian expansion. 

But to avoid yet another emergency U.S. military intervention, the United States should link assistance to stationing a U.S. military contingent there. It would train Iraqi forces and help keep Baghdad independent of Iran. But as seen in 2011, Iran would likely pressure Baghdad against U.S. troops. The United States could overcome this, however; in fighting the Islamic State, the Iraqis learned how weak their military is without the United States, and the U.S. presence could be made palatable to most Iraqis (small size, international cover, no separate bases or formal legal immunities). 

To counter Iranian resistance, Iraqis must understand that cooperation in other realms depends on a serious security relationship.

Source: The Washington Post

PRESS RELEASE - for immediate release – 7 April 2017

Iraq: Disturbing confession by Hashd al-Shaabi commander confirms it is a proxy of Iran

The shocking Confessions of Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi forces, in a televised interview with a governmental Iranian television station - “Ofogh” (Horizon) on 1st April 2017, once again proves that Hashd al-Shaabi is a force comprised of militias linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), whose officers are under the direct command of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the terrorist Qods force, which in turn executes the orders of the Iranian regime's supreme leader - Ali Khamenei in Iraq.

Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, (Jamal Jafar Mahmoud Ibrahim), is one of the co-founders of the Dawa Party, led by the former Iraqi Prime Minister - the corrupt and viciously sectarian Nouri al-Maliki. Mohandes was sentenced to death for his participation in the bombing of the US and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983 and is wanted by Interpol. In 1984 he fled to Iran and became a member of the IRGC. After the Iran/Iraq War, he was responsible for the transfer and return of thousands of Iraqi agents of the IRGC from Iran to Iraq. He is one of the confidants of Maliki and was one of the candidates on his electoral list.

In an interview with “Ofogh” television he stated: "We have a very close relationship with Iran and the Islamic Republic, which we should be proud of," regarding his relationship with Qasem Soleimani, he added: "Yes, I am proud to be a soldier of Haj Qassem. Being a soldier of Haj Qasim is an honor, it’s a blessing from God." In response to the question: "Do you fight for Iran or Iraq?" he Answered: "Iran and Iraq, there is no contradiction between the two. Iran is our epicenter. We have no reservations in saying so.” In response to the question who does he like most in Iran he replied: "Clearly, Khamenei is not only Iranian, he belongs to us all and after him it would be Haj Qasem." As commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes admits in this interview that: "The most important commanders of Hashd al-shaabi are from the Badr Brigade". Regarding the establishment of the Badr Brigade in Iran by the IRGC he states: “After going to Iran, immediately we joined the jihadi forces, which were named the Badr Brigade. Shahid Daghayeghi and Shahid Esmaeili (two IRGC commanders) launched the Badr Brigade. They were the founders of the Badr Brigade"

He confessed to taking part in the bombing of one of the Iranian opposition, PMOI/MEK bases in Basra named “Habib” in 2000 and stated: “The most important operation was the operation against the Habib base in which they said 13 were killed, but the building was practically completely destroyed”.

Abu Mahdi, who became a pawn of the IRGC in 1984, was the commander of the Badr Brigade for three years. His name was among the list of 32,000 agents on the payroll of the Qods force, which was revealed by the NCRI ten years ago. He was identified with the serial number 3829770 and his bank account number is registered as 50100460275.

In 2005, after the discovery of the Jaderyeh torture chambers by US forces in Baghdad, it became evident that Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and a number of other IRGC officers were running the facility and they had tortured and killed former Iraqi army officers.

In light of the current situation, where political figures and the Iraqi people, especially in areas which have been liberated from ISIS have called for the dissolution of Hashd al-Shaabi and have described their crimes as worse than ISIS, it is deeply disturbing that on 1st April this year, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi voiced his support for the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and threatened that he would “cut the hand” of anyone who takes a stance against the Hashd al-Shaabi militias.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) calls on the US government and the EU to make all future aid to Iraq conditional on the dissolution of the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and to put  Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and other pawns of the IRGC and its extra-territorial wing - the Qods force  in the international terrorists lists. They are mere tools for the domination of the Iranian regime in Iraq.

Struan Stevenson, President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

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

 
-- 

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

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

 

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

This is not the first time that an Iraqi political leader or government official has hinted that the judiciary has taken too long to look into cases or neglected them or finalized them via making decisions which do not comply with all the conditions of justice.

On Friday, Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council, called on the judicial institution to look into all the cases submitted to it and take action. He added that the judiciary must specifically look into cases, which obstruct implementation of justice – particularly cases related to terrorism, accountability, justice and administrative and financial corruption.

During a recent visit to the Iraqi Commission of Integrity, it seemed to me that the major complaint was related to the delays in finalizing these cases. Some of these cases are dangerous and significant as well. However, the judiciary has failed to address them despite the availability of conclusive evidence such as documents and confessions.

Obstacle of corruption

Administrative and financial corruption is now the biggest obstacle, which hinders the prospects of stability, peace and rooting out of terrorism. Achieving all this would mean pursuing economic development that can overcome the financial, economic and social crises the society struggles from.

Administrative and financial corruption within the system of the Iraqi state has been one of the major sources of terrorism during the past 10 years.

The judiciary is not seriously and appropriately dealing with the gravity of these cases and this is probably because it is being pressured by prominent political figures and statesmen

Adnan Hussein

The Commission of Integrity’s data stipulates that there are cases linked to prominent officials in the government or to businessmen who have strong ties to influential politicians and officials. The judiciary is not seriously and appropriately dealing with the gravity of these cases and this is probably because it is being pressured by prominent political figures and statesmen.

Some judges claim that the delay is due to the number of cases they have to look into even as others suddenly decide that they are not convinced by the commission’s investigation or the evidence provided by it.

Commission of Integrity

The Commission of Integrity, however, makes strenuous efforts to provide the required information, and it is only an institution that conducts investigations as its role ends once cases are transferred to the judiciary whose only governor is the judge’s conscience.

To resolve this problem, demands have been raised for establishing a department that deals with cases linked to integrity. These demands are not without a reason as they deal with administrative disputes. It is represented in the administrative court that is not affiliated with the judicial authority but with the ministry of justice.

Establishing specialized integrity courts that deal with cases relevant to administrative and financial corruption and that have strong ties to the Commission of Integrity will speed up the process of looking into and finalizing these cases.

This will mean restoring tens of billions of dollars stolen from people which has hindered the country’s economic and social development and the achievement of peace.

Source: Al Arabiya

Earlier in April he was spotted in the northern countryside of the central Syrian province of Hama, where the forces of President Bashar al-Assad have been battling a surprise rebel offensive and reportedly sustaining high casualties.

On Monday, according to local news reports, General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, a special forces branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was in Kirkuk, 1,000 kilometers from Hama, trying to broker a deal between Shi'ite militias and the Kurds about eventual control of the disputed northern Iraqi city.

The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a Qatari-owned pan-Arab news outlet, reported that Soleimani's visit to Iraq's Kurdish region lasted several days, and during that time the Quds Force commander stressed that Kirkuk should remain a city for all Iraqis and shouldn't be annexed by the Kurds. He said military clashes between Kurds and Shi'ites should be avoided.

As the wars have raged in Syria and Iraq, and as Iran has deepened its military involvement, Soleimani increasingly has taken on the role, according to some analysts, as Iran's viceroy in the Levant — a mixture of soldier and satrap.

Credited as strategist

Syrian rebel commanders credit the silver-haired 59-year-old with being the principal architect last year of Assad's military strategy to retake the rebel-controlled eastern half of the city of Aleppo, and of channeling rebel militias into the neighboring province of Idlib, shaping what military strategists term a "kill zone."

Analysts and Western intelligence agencies closely observe Soleimani's movements as they try to work out what Iran's longer-term goals are for Syria and Iraq. Will both be turned into what will be seen as provinces of Iran and platforms for Tehran's regional ambitions? Who will run Iraq and Syria once the Islamic State terror group is ousted from Mosul and Raqqa?

The three countries share deep religious and cultural ties, but the power of Iran now in Syria and Iraq comes with the presence of tens of thousands of Shi'ite militiamen linked to Tehran and trained and commanded by Quds Force generals and Soleimani, who reports, reputedly, directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It is thanks to Shi'ite militias and Iranian combat troops as much as to Russian airpower that battlefield fortunes have shifted in Syria to favor Assad, military observers say.

Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of the Quds Force or other IRGC units have been killed fighting in Syria — most of them Pakistani Shi'ites recruited with the lure of Iranian citizenship and cash. Several IRGC generals have died in Syria, including Hassan Shateri, a veteran of Iran's covert wars in the Middle East, whose 2013 funeral at Amir al-Momenin Mosque in Tehran was attended by Soleimani.

Some analysts estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria, as well as thousands of fighters from Lebanon's Tehran-affiliated Shi'ite militia, Hezbollah.

As the United States and Iran jostle for influence in the Levant, Iran's growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals.

"The extent of lasting Iranian influence seems to be of special concern," analyst Sam Heller noted in a recent roundtable discussion on Syria's future by scholars at the Century Foundation, a U.S.-based research organization.

Resentment in Syria, Iraq

There's alarm even among some government loyalists in Damascus and Baghdad who chafe at Iranian clout. In the summer of 2015 in Syria, there were reports of resentment among some of Assad's Syrian commanders at the influence of Quds Force generals.

In Iraq, Shi'ite militias not under control of Tehran but loyal to Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani have bristled at talk of Najaf, considered the third-holiest shrine by Shi'ite Muslims, eventually coming under Iranian sway. In the meantime, Tehran-loyal militias have branched out and extended their control of more Iraqi territory.

Last month, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the largest militias professing allegiance to Khamenei, moved its headquarters into a palace built by Saddam Hussein in a Sunni-majority neighborhood of the Iraqi capital.

Otherwise, the Quds Force-linked Shi'ite militias have been careful to observe the overall direction of Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, about the conduct of the battle against IS and have remained outside Mosul, allowing Iraq's regular security forces to battle inside the mainly Sunni city.

And they have avoided clashing with the 5,000 or so American troops now stationed in Iraq or the U.S.-backed Kurdish peshmerga forces. There were fears that following the U.S. cruise missile strike this month on a Syrian government airfield, Iran may have ordered Shi'ite militiamen in Iraq to retaliate.

In the longer term, though, it is unclear whether Tehran will accept a continued American military presence in Iraq — one the Iraqi prime minister said on a recent visit to Washington he would like to see.

Wider Shi'ite role

In March, Hashim al-Musawi, spokesman for the Iran-controlled militia known as the Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq (al-Nojaba), indicated at a news conference in Tehran that his and other Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shi'ite militias wanted to take on a more expansive role in the region once the Sunni IS militants were defeated.

He mentioned taking military action against Turkish forces based near Mosul if they didn't withdraw, and forming a brigade on the Golan Heights, controlled by the Assad government, as a means to strike at Israel. IRGC units already are thought to be stationed on the Golan Heights.

At a joint news conference April 5 in Washington with Jordan's King Abdullah, President Donald Trump was asked what he thought about the Iran-loyal militias when it comes to Syria and their support in propping up Syria's Assad.

"Will you go after them?" he was asked. "You will see," he replied. "They will have a message. You will see what message that will be."

But according to Ranj Alaaldin, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center and author of a forthcoming book on Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria, Iran and its proxies "dominate realities on the ground."

"Iranian influence cannot be eliminated," he argued, it can only be contained.

Source: VOA

By: Jamie Dettmer
 


The battle to dislodge Islamic State from the Old City of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are trapped, could turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the war against the militants, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.

About 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul's pre-war population, are trapped in the Old City, according to U.N. estimates. As many as half a million are estimated to remain overall in neighborhoods still under IS control in western Mosul.

"If there is a siege and hundreds of thousands of people don’t have water and don’t have food, they will be at enormous risk," U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict."

Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, was captured by the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in mid-2014. Iraqi government forces have taken back most of it in a U.S.-backed offensive launched in October, including the half that lies east of the Tigris River.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, countering the offensive with booby traps, suicide motorbike attacks, sniper and mortar fire, occasionally using shells filled with toxic gas.

"It is a deteriorating situation, we fear for the lives of the 400,000 people in the old city," said Grande.

"Families ... tell us that they are being shot at as they are escaping. It’s terrifying."

es are trying to capture the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanningparts of Iraq and Syria nearly three years ago.

Troops have had the mosque, with its leaning minaret, in their sights since last month. But their progress has been painstakingly slow as the militants are dug in among civilians.

The narrow alleyways of the Old City restrict the use of suicide cars by the militants and tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees by the government forces.

The fighting has killed several thousands among civilians and fighters on both sides, according to aid organizations. More than 327,000 have fled in the past six months.

"The security forces know the situation on the ground and they need to decide how this is best done, whether by evacuating civilians or protecting them in their homes or opening routes they can escape through," said Grande.

Source: Reuters

A representative of prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad, Ibrahim al-Jabri, said on Friday that former Iraqi Prime Minister “Nouri al-Maliki is behind the current crises that have hit Iraq,” adding: “Maliki handed over several Iraqi provinces to ISIS.”

Jabri said “Maliki cannot do anything about the suffering of the Iraqi people because he caused the suffering and the killing of our sons by security forces at the Speicher base.”

Camp Speicher, officially known as the Tikrit Air Academy, is an air installation near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

With Iraqi forces all but certain to defeat ISIS in Mosul this year, Sadr has begun mobilizing his supporters ahead of two elections, for provincial councils in September and the crucial parliamentary vote, by April 2018.

His main rival is former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian politician who started positioning himself last year as a possible kingmaker or even for a return to the premiership itself.

Maliki's eight-year rule ended in 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an ISIS offensive, forcing him to hand over power to current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Both men are members of the Shiite Dawa party.

He now holds the ceremonial position of vice president but still wields considerable influence, chairing the Dawa party which controls the largest bloc in parliament.

Source: Alarabiya

Erbil, Iraq - The garden of the emergency hospital in Iraq's northern city of Erbil is a lush, well-tended oasis full of vivid spring colours. Under the shadow of a tree, the relatives of patients try to rest after the anguished hours of waiting.

"How can I sleep? They are alive by miracle," said an exhausted Tareq Ahmad as he sat on the grass. A mortar shell seriously injured his son, Rayan, and nephew, Abdallarmeh, leaving them both paralysed from the waist down.

When the incident happened they were playing football in al-Muthanna, an area of eastern Mosul that the Iraqi government had recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). Now the boys are lying next to each other in a hospital bed. Neither will ever walk again.

"The Iraqi army told us to stay and not to leave. I thought it was safe and I told my children to go to play in front of the house," said Ahmad. "I was in the army in 2003 and I know how the army works. If a place is not safe, I would tell people to 'be careful, don't go out'. This is our life - am I wrong? Who will give them their lives back? They had to tell us that it was not safe," the father repeated as he covered his tearful eyes with his hands.

Mosul, Iraq's second-most populous city, fell to an ISIL blitzkrieg in June 2014. The group's fighters poured over the border from Syria, seizing large swaths of northern Iraq. Two years later, the Iraqi army - backed by local militias, Kurdish forces and air strikes carried out by an international coalition - began an operation to drive ISIL out of the city.

The Iraqi army told us to stay and not to leave. I thought it was safe, and I told my children to go to play in front of the house. Who will give them their lives back? They had to tell us that it was not safe.

Because hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in Mosul, anti-ISIL forces have had to limit their use of aerial attacks and artillery in the city. Nevertheless, hundreds of civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes and shelling, as well as in the counter-attacks launched by ISIL.

Inside the hospital, most of the victims - half of whom are women and children - were wounded due to the fighting in Mosul. "Who knows who was shooting? We were in the middle of the fighting and we couldn't go out for six days," said Chad, a 19-year-old woman whose leg was injured in a mortar strike in Mosul's Wadi Hajjar district.

"There was a sniper on the rooftop of our house and then a mortar hit us. I lost my brother. I don't remember much," she told Al Jazeera as she waited to undergo an operation on her leg.

For those like Chad, the lines separating the "good guys" from the "bad guys" are fading away. The human cost of the campaign to take Mosul has increased since Iraqi forces advised civilians to stay in their homes. The reason: the Iraqi military wants to limit the amount of human displacement as it tries to push ISIL out of the city. Despite its calls, though, 200,000 people have fled since the start of the operation to retake the western half of Mosul. With government forces bogged down in vicious street-to-street fighting, ISIL has sought to exploit the strategy of "civilian protection".

 "Civilians are being manipulated [by ISIL] to slow down the military operation," said Michela Paschetto, a nurse and medical coordinator for Emergency, an Italian NGO that runs the Erbil hospital. "Families are being taken by ISIL to fill the buildings where [their units] are hiding and they use them as human shields."

Sabrina's house in western Mosul was hit by a mortar fired by ISIL, killing her husband and two children and wounding her. "I stayed at home for weeks with my mother, who took care of my wound. I could not run away because there were [ISIL units], but the Iraqi army told us to stay in the house and I lost my family."

Since October 2016, when the Mosul campaign began, more than 6,000 wounded - over half of them civilians - have been sent to hospitals in Erbil and liberated eastern Mosul, as well as to field hospitals around the city.

In February and March alone, Emergency's hospital treated more than 500 civilians coming from field hospitals, where medical teams work to stabilise patients before they are transferred to better-equipped hospitals nearby.

Inside the emergency room, another father is trying to alleviate his daughter's pain. "We are the victims of this war. Look with your eyes: Is she an infidel? She is only a girl," said Abu Shams Ali, as he stroked his daughter's forehead and wiped away her feverish sweat.

A mortar strike wounded Lina in her abdomen two weeks ago in western Mosul's al-Jadida neighbourhood.

"Our house was close to the front line and ISIL forced us to move inside another house. As soon as we got inside, I heard a loud explosion near me," said 14-year-old Lina as she laid in the hospital, her face pale due to an infection. "ISIL treated us harshly. We were forced to wear the full-length hijab; men couldn't smoke or wear trousers," she recalled.

Like Lina, most of the patients treated at the Emergency hospital were wounded by shells and bullets. The doctors call these "dirty wounds".

"All the wounds of war are dirty by definition," said Marco Pegoraro, Emergency's surgeon. "This is because all the shell fragments, everything on the ground - stones, metal - is projected inside the body. But they are also dirty because the first victims of wars are civilians caught between the fire [from both sides]."

Due to the difficulty in escaping from areas where heavy fighting is taking place, thousands of wounded civilians have been unable to access timely medical care - leading to an increase in the number of amputated limbs. One of these is Gazban, who waited hours before an ambulance was able to reach him.

"I said, 'please do not cut my legs', and then they anaesthetised me. And when I woke up, my legs were gone," said Gazban, 19, as he sat in a wheelchair at the entrance of the hospital.

Sitting close by was his mother, Amira, who recalled the day of the incident in detail. "On February 26, at 9 o'clock, my son was in front of the door and a mortar hit our house. I heard the explosion and I ran outside. I saw my son bleeding and without legs. I tried to unite the bones and the parts of his legs," she said.

Most of the relatives and patients interviewed said that although they were grateful that the Iraqi army had come to retake Mosul, they do not want revenge. Instead, they all said that they simply want to return to a peaceful, normal life.

"I would like to start school again, go to college and continue my life," said Gazban. "Even if it will not be the same anymore."

Source: Aljazeera

13 April 2017 – Using satellite imagery and local researches, the most recent evaluation confirms that western Mosul has undergone extensive destruction, “far greater than in the east,” according to a senior United Nations aid official in the country.

“The level of damage in western Mosul is already far greater than in the east, even before the battle to retake the Old City begins,” said Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, in a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With more than 1,140 housing sites having been destroyed across the city, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) confirms that damage to houses in western Mosul is two and a half times greater than in the eastern districts with one-third of the residential devastation reported to have occurred in the Al Jadeda neighbourhood.

Ms. Grande pointed out that nearly 300,000 civilians have already fled western Mosul and “hundreds of thousands more may in the days and weeks ahead.”

She stressed that homes are being destroyed, schools and health centres damaged and that crucial public infrastructure, including electricity and water stations, are in ruins.

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and limit damage to civilian infrastructure. Nothing is more important,” concluded the Humanitarian Coordinator.

 Source: United Nations

 

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a U.S. general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Government forces have retaken much of Iraq's second-largest city since January but have been trying since then to dislodge the Sunni Muslim militants from the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, their last Iraqi stronghold.

"Iraqi security forces continue to progress as they liberate the western side of Mosul," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, head of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said by telephone.

He declined to say whether the militants would be defeated rather within weeks or months, saying: "It's hard to tell because the terrain changes literally every day."

Martin said Iraqi forces had surrounded Islamic State positions but it was not always possible to move vehicles into all parts of the Old City with its narrow streets.

"Some days like yesterday (there was) significant amount of progress, other days there is not much progress but progress nevertheless," he said.

Iraqi officers have said snipers have slowed them down in western Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"It's very complicated," Martin said. "The terrain literally changes from neighborhood to neighborhood ... the nature of the enemy, how the population reacts."

He also said coalition forces continued to provide air support for Iraqi forces despite an explosion that followed an air strike that was believed to have killed scores of civilians on March 17.

The U.S. military has said a U.S.-led coalition strike had hit an Islamic State-held area where residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.

"Nothing has changed in terms of air support. It's been consistent," he said.

He declined to discuss any involvement of the coalition in the explosion but said Islamic State was "very creative in exploiting the human element" by using hospitals, schools, churches, homes and mosques as hideouts or weapons caches.

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been trapped in western Mosul with U.N. camps filling up with people fleeing the violence.

Daily suicide attacks and roadside bombs, along with snipers and mortars, have been the most lethal Islamic State tactics in resisting the 100,000-strong Iraqi force.

"It's clear that their (Islamic State) competence, their cohesion and their effectiveness continues to wane over time," he said.

But he said the militants would fight to the end and there were no signs they would run out of ammunition anytime soon after preparing for the battle for two and half years.

"Don't underestimate the ammunition," he said. "But the outcome is very, very clear. They are going lose and the Iraqis will win."

Source: Reuters

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a U.S. general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Government forces have retaken much of Iraq's second-largest city since January but have been trying since then to dislodge the Sunni Muslim militants from the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, their last Iraqi stronghold.

"Iraqi security forces continue to progress as they liberate the western side of Mosul," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, head of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said by telephone.

He declined to say whether the militants would be defeated rather within weeks or months, saying: "It's hard to tell because the terrain changes literally every day."

Martin said Iraqi forces had surrounded Islamic State positions but it was not always possible to move vehicles into all parts of the Old City with its narrow streets.

"Some days like yesterday (there was) significant amount of progress, other days there is not much progress but progress nevertheless," he said.

Iraqi officers have said snipers have slowed them down in western Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"It's very complicated," Martin said. "The terrain literally changes from neighborhood to neighborhood ... the nature of the enemy, how the population reacts."

He also said coalition forces continued to provide air support for Iraqi forces despite an explosion that followed an air strike that was believed to have killed scores of civilians on March 17.

The U.S. military has said a U.S.-led coalition strike had hit an Islamic State-held area where residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.

"Nothing has changed in terms of air support. It's been consistent," he said.

He declined to discuss any involvement of the coalition in the explosion but said Islamic State was "very creative in exploiting the human element" by using hospitals, schools, churches, homes and mosques as hideouts or weapons caches.

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been trapped in western Mosul with U.N. camps filling up with people fleeing the violence.

Daily suicide attacks and roadside bombs, along with snipers and mortars, have been the most lethal Islamic State tactics in resisting the 100,000-strong Iraqi force.

"It's clear that their (Islamic State) competence, their cohesion and their effectiveness continues to wane over time," he said.

But he said the militants would fight to the end and there were no signs they would run out of ammunition anytime soon after preparing for the battle for two and half years.

"Don't underestimate the ammunition," he said. "But the outcome is very, very clear. They are going lose and the Iraqis will win."

Source: Reuters

In his March 24 Washington Forum commentary, “Iraq needs more help,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged the United States to cooperate across the board with Iraq, from reconstruction to investment after the Islamic State is defeated. The United States should. Iraq likely has two-thirds of the hydrocarbon reserves of Saudi Arabia, a functioning democracy, and with U.S. support could block a resurgence of the Islamic State or Iranian expansion. 

But to avoid yet another emergency U.S. military intervention, the United States should link assistance to stationing a U.S. military contingent there. It would train Iraqi forces and help keep Baghdad independent of Iran. But as seen in 2011, Iran would likely pressure Baghdad against U.S. troops. The United States could overcome this, however; in fighting the Islamic State, the Iraqis learned how weak their military is without the United States, and the U.S. presence could be made palatable to most Iraqis (small size, international cover, no separate bases or formal legal immunities). 

To counter Iranian resistance, Iraqis must understand that cooperation in other realms depends on a serious security relationship.

Source: The Washington Post

PRESS RELEASE - for immediate release – 7 April 2017

Iraq: Disturbing confession by Hashd al-Shaabi commander confirms it is a proxy of Iran

The shocking Confessions of Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi forces, in a televised interview with a governmental Iranian television station - “Ofogh” (Horizon) on 1st April 2017, once again proves that Hashd al-Shaabi is a force comprised of militias linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), whose officers are under the direct command of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the terrorist Qods force, which in turn executes the orders of the Iranian regime's supreme leader - Ali Khamenei in Iraq.

Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, (Jamal Jafar Mahmoud Ibrahim), is one of the co-founders of the Dawa Party, led by the former Iraqi Prime Minister - the corrupt and viciously sectarian Nouri al-Maliki. Mohandes was sentenced to death for his participation in the bombing of the US and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983 and is wanted by Interpol. In 1984 he fled to Iran and became a member of the IRGC. After the Iran/Iraq War, he was responsible for the transfer and return of thousands of Iraqi agents of the IRGC from Iran to Iraq. He is one of the confidants of Maliki and was one of the candidates on his electoral list.

In an interview with “Ofogh” television he stated: "We have a very close relationship with Iran and the Islamic Republic, which we should be proud of," regarding his relationship with Qasem Soleimani, he added: "Yes, I am proud to be a soldier of Haj Qassem. Being a soldier of Haj Qasim is an honor, it’s a blessing from God." In response to the question: "Do you fight for Iran or Iraq?" he Answered: "Iran and Iraq, there is no contradiction between the two. Iran is our epicenter. We have no reservations in saying so.” In response to the question who does he like most in Iran he replied: "Clearly, Khamenei is not only Iranian, he belongs to us all and after him it would be Haj Qasem." As commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes admits in this interview that: "The most important commanders of Hashd al-shaabi are from the Badr Brigade". Regarding the establishment of the Badr Brigade in Iran by the IRGC he states: “After going to Iran, immediately we joined the jihadi forces, which were named the Badr Brigade. Shahid Daghayeghi and Shahid Esmaeili (two IRGC commanders) launched the Badr Brigade. They were the founders of the Badr Brigade"

He confessed to taking part in the bombing of one of the Iranian opposition, PMOI/MEK bases in Basra named “Habib” in 2000 and stated: “The most important operation was the operation against the Habib base in which they said 13 were killed, but the building was practically completely destroyed”.

Abu Mahdi, who became a pawn of the IRGC in 1984, was the commander of the Badr Brigade for three years. His name was among the list of 32,000 agents on the payroll of the Qods force, which was revealed by the NCRI ten years ago. He was identified with the serial number 3829770 and his bank account number is registered as 50100460275.

In 2005, after the discovery of the Jaderyeh torture chambers by US forces in Baghdad, it became evident that Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and a number of other IRGC officers were running the facility and they had tortured and killed former Iraqi army officers.

In light of the current situation, where political figures and the Iraqi people, especially in areas which have been liberated from ISIS have called for the dissolution of Hashd al-Shaabi and have described their crimes as worse than ISIS, it is deeply disturbing that on 1st April this year, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi voiced his support for the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and threatened that he would “cut the hand” of anyone who takes a stance against the Hashd al-Shaabi militias.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) calls on the US government and the EU to make all future aid to Iraq conditional on the dissolution of the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and to put  Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and other pawns of the IRGC and its extra-territorial wing - the Qods force  in the international terrorists lists. They are mere tools for the domination of the Iranian regime in Iraq.

Struan Stevenson, President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

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

 
-- 

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

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

 

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

This is not the first time that an Iraqi political leader or government official has hinted that the judiciary has taken too long to look into cases or neglected them or finalized them via making decisions which do not comply with all the conditions of justice.

On Friday, Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council, called on the judicial institution to look into all the cases submitted to it and take action. He added that the judiciary must specifically look into cases, which obstruct implementation of justice – particularly cases related to terrorism, accountability, justice and administrative and financial corruption.

During a recent visit to the Iraqi Commission of Integrity, it seemed to me that the major complaint was related to the delays in finalizing these cases. Some of these cases are dangerous and significant as well. However, the judiciary has failed to address them despite the availability of conclusive evidence such as documents and confessions.

Obstacle of corruption

Administrative and financial corruption is now the biggest obstacle, which hinders the prospects of stability, peace and rooting out of terrorism. Achieving all this would mean pursuing economic development that can overcome the financial, economic and social crises the society struggles from.

Administrative and financial corruption within the system of the Iraqi state has been one of the major sources of terrorism during the past 10 years.

The judiciary is not seriously and appropriately dealing with the gravity of these cases and this is probably because it is being pressured by prominent political figures and statesmen

Adnan Hussein

The Commission of Integrity’s data stipulates that there are cases linked to prominent officials in the government or to businessmen who have strong ties to influential politicians and officials. The judiciary is not seriously and appropriately dealing with the gravity of these cases and this is probably because it is being pressured by prominent political figures and statesmen.

Some judges claim that the delay is due to the number of cases they have to look into even as others suddenly decide that they are not convinced by the commission’s investigation or the evidence provided by it.

Commission of Integrity

The Commission of Integrity, however, makes strenuous efforts to provide the required information, and it is only an institution that conducts investigations as its role ends once cases are transferred to the judiciary whose only governor is the judge’s conscience.

To resolve this problem, demands have been raised for establishing a department that deals with cases linked to integrity. These demands are not without a reason as they deal with administrative disputes. It is represented in the administrative court that is not affiliated with the judicial authority but with the ministry of justice.

Establishing specialized integrity courts that deal with cases relevant to administrative and financial corruption and that have strong ties to the Commission of Integrity will speed up the process of looking into and finalizing these cases.

This will mean restoring tens of billions of dollars stolen from people which has hindered the country’s economic and social development and the achievement of peace.

Source: Al Arabiya

Earlier in April he was spotted in the northern countryside of the central Syrian province of Hama, where the forces of President Bashar al-Assad have been battling a surprise rebel offensive and reportedly sustaining high casualties.

On Monday, according to local news reports, General Qassem Soleimani, commander of Iran's elite Quds Force, a special forces branch of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was in Kirkuk, 1,000 kilometers from Hama, trying to broker a deal between Shi'ite militias and the Kurds about eventual control of the disputed northern Iraqi city.

The London-based Al-Araby Al-Jadeed, a Qatari-owned pan-Arab news outlet, reported that Soleimani's visit to Iraq's Kurdish region lasted several days, and during that time the Quds Force commander stressed that Kirkuk should remain a city for all Iraqis and shouldn't be annexed by the Kurds. He said military clashes between Kurds and Shi'ites should be avoided.

As the wars have raged in Syria and Iraq, and as Iran has deepened its military involvement, Soleimani increasingly has taken on the role, according to some analysts, as Iran's viceroy in the Levant — a mixture of soldier and satrap.

Credited as strategist

Syrian rebel commanders credit the silver-haired 59-year-old with being the principal architect last year of Assad's military strategy to retake the rebel-controlled eastern half of the city of Aleppo, and of channeling rebel militias into the neighboring province of Idlib, shaping what military strategists term a "kill zone."

Analysts and Western intelligence agencies closely observe Soleimani's movements as they try to work out what Iran's longer-term goals are for Syria and Iraq. Will both be turned into what will be seen as provinces of Iran and platforms for Tehran's regional ambitions? Who will run Iraq and Syria once the Islamic State terror group is ousted from Mosul and Raqqa?

The three countries share deep religious and cultural ties, but the power of Iran now in Syria and Iraq comes with the presence of tens of thousands of Shi'ite militiamen linked to Tehran and trained and commanded by Quds Force generals and Soleimani, who reports, reputedly, directly to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.

It is thanks to Shi'ite militias and Iranian combat troops as much as to Russian airpower that battlefield fortunes have shifted in Syria to favor Assad, military observers say.

Since January 2013, more than 1,000 members of the Quds Force or other IRGC units have been killed fighting in Syria — most of them Pakistani Shi'ites recruited with the lure of Iranian citizenship and cash. Several IRGC generals have died in Syria, including Hassan Shateri, a veteran of Iran's covert wars in the Middle East, whose 2013 funeral at Amir al-Momenin Mosque in Tehran was attended by Soleimani.

Some analysts estimate that about 10,000 Iranian combat troops are in Syria, as well as thousands of fighters from Lebanon's Tehran-affiliated Shi'ite militia, Hezbollah.

As the United States and Iran jostle for influence in the Levant, Iran's growing power in Syria and Iraq is causing unease in Western capitals.

"The extent of lasting Iranian influence seems to be of special concern," analyst Sam Heller noted in a recent roundtable discussion on Syria's future by scholars at the Century Foundation, a U.S.-based research organization.

Resentment in Syria, Iraq

There's alarm even among some government loyalists in Damascus and Baghdad who chafe at Iranian clout. In the summer of 2015 in Syria, there were reports of resentment among some of Assad's Syrian commanders at the influence of Quds Force generals.

In Iraq, Shi'ite militias not under control of Tehran but loyal to Iraq's Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani have bristled at talk of Najaf, considered the third-holiest shrine by Shi'ite Muslims, eventually coming under Iranian sway. In the meantime, Tehran-loyal militias have branched out and extended their control of more Iraqi territory.

Last month, Asaib Ahl al-Haq, one of the largest militias professing allegiance to Khamenei, moved its headquarters into a palace built by Saddam Hussein in a Sunni-majority neighborhood of the Iraqi capital.

Otherwise, the Quds Force-linked Shi'ite militias have been careful to observe the overall direction of Iraq's prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, about the conduct of the battle against IS and have remained outside Mosul, allowing Iraq's regular security forces to battle inside the mainly Sunni city.

And they have avoided clashing with the 5,000 or so American troops now stationed in Iraq or the U.S.-backed Kurdish peshmerga forces. There were fears that following the U.S. cruise missile strike this month on a Syrian government airfield, Iran may have ordered Shi'ite militiamen in Iraq to retaliate.

In the longer term, though, it is unclear whether Tehran will accept a continued American military presence in Iraq — one the Iraqi prime minister said on a recent visit to Washington he would like to see.

Wider Shi'ite role

In March, Hashim al-Musawi, spokesman for the Iran-controlled militia known as the Islamic Resistance Movement in Iraq (al-Nojaba), indicated at a news conference in Tehran that his and other Iranian-affiliated Iraqi Shi'ite militias wanted to take on a more expansive role in the region once the Sunni IS militants were defeated.

He mentioned taking military action against Turkish forces based near Mosul if they didn't withdraw, and forming a brigade on the Golan Heights, controlled by the Assad government, as a means to strike at Israel. IRGC units already are thought to be stationed on the Golan Heights.

At a joint news conference April 5 in Washington with Jordan's King Abdullah, President Donald Trump was asked what he thought about the Iran-loyal militias when it comes to Syria and their support in propping up Syria's Assad.

"Will you go after them?" he was asked. "You will see," he replied. "They will have a message. You will see what message that will be."

But according to Ranj Alaaldin, an analyst at the Brookings Doha Center and author of a forthcoming book on Shi'ite militias in Iraq and Syria, Iran and its proxies "dominate realities on the ground."

"Iranian influence cannot be eliminated," he argued, it can only be contained.

Source: VOA

By: Jamie Dettmer
 


The battle to dislodge Islamic State from the Old City of Mosul, where hundreds of thousands of Iraqi civilians are trapped, could turn into the worst humanitarian catastrophe in the war against the militants, the United Nations warned on Tuesday.

About 400,000 civilians, or a quarter of Mosul's pre-war population, are trapped in the Old City, according to U.N. estimates. As many as half a million are estimated to remain overall in neighborhoods still under IS control in western Mosul.

"If there is a siege and hundreds of thousands of people don’t have water and don’t have food, they will be at enormous risk," U.N. humanitarian coordinator for Iraq Lise Grande told Reuters in a telephone interview.

"We could be facing a humanitarian catastrophe, perhaps the worst in the entire conflict."

Mosul, the largest city in northern Iraq, was captured by the ultra-hardline Sunni Muslim fighters in mid-2014. Iraqi government forces have taken back most of it in a U.S.-backed offensive launched in October, including the half that lies east of the Tigris River.

The militants are now surrounded in the northwestern quarter including the historic Old City, countering the offensive with booby traps, suicide motorbike attacks, sniper and mortar fire, occasionally using shells filled with toxic gas.

"It is a deteriorating situation, we fear for the lives of the 400,000 people in the old city," said Grande.

"Families ... tell us that they are being shot at as they are escaping. It’s terrifying."

es are trying to capture the Grand al-Nuri Mosque in the Old City, from where Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi declared a "caliphate" spanningparts of Iraq and Syria nearly three years ago.

Troops have had the mosque, with its leaning minaret, in their sights since last month. But their progress has been painstakingly slow as the militants are dug in among civilians.

The narrow alleyways of the Old City restrict the use of suicide cars by the militants and tanks, armored personnel carriers and Humvees by the government forces.

The fighting has killed several thousands among civilians and fighters on both sides, according to aid organizations. More than 327,000 have fled in the past six months.

"The security forces know the situation on the ground and they need to decide how this is best done, whether by evacuating civilians or protecting them in their homes or opening routes they can escape through," said Grande.

Source: Reuters

A representative of prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr in Baghdad, Ibrahim al-Jabri, said on Friday that former Iraqi Prime Minister “Nouri al-Maliki is behind the current crises that have hit Iraq,” adding: “Maliki handed over several Iraqi provinces to ISIS.”

Jabri said “Maliki cannot do anything about the suffering of the Iraqi people because he caused the suffering and the killing of our sons by security forces at the Speicher base.”

Camp Speicher, officially known as the Tikrit Air Academy, is an air installation near Tikrit in northern Iraq.

With Iraqi forces all but certain to defeat ISIS in Mosul this year, Sadr has begun mobilizing his supporters ahead of two elections, for provincial councils in September and the crucial parliamentary vote, by April 2018.

His main rival is former Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, a pro-Iranian politician who started positioning himself last year as a possible kingmaker or even for a return to the premiership itself.

Maliki's eight-year rule ended in 2014, when the Iraqi army collapsed in the face of an ISIS offensive, forcing him to hand over power to current Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi. Both men are members of the Shiite Dawa party.

He now holds the ceremonial position of vice president but still wields considerable influence, chairing the Dawa party which controls the largest bloc in parliament.

Source: Alarabiya

Erbil, Iraq - The garden of the emergency hospital in Iraq's northern city of Erbil is a lush, well-tended oasis full of vivid spring colours. Under the shadow of a tree, the relatives of patients try to rest after the anguished hours of waiting.

"How can I sleep? They are alive by miracle," said an exhausted Tareq Ahmad as he sat on the grass. A mortar shell seriously injured his son, Rayan, and nephew, Abdallarmeh, leaving them both paralysed from the waist down.

When the incident happened they were playing football in al-Muthanna, an area of eastern Mosul that the Iraqi government had recaptured from the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS). Now the boys are lying next to each other in a hospital bed. Neither will ever walk again.

"The Iraqi army told us to stay and not to leave. I thought it was safe and I told my children to go to play in front of the house," said Ahmad. "I was in the army in 2003 and I know how the army works. If a place is not safe, I would tell people to 'be careful, don't go out'. This is our life - am I wrong? Who will give them their lives back? They had to tell us that it was not safe," the father repeated as he covered his tearful eyes with his hands.

Mosul, Iraq's second-most populous city, fell to an ISIL blitzkrieg in June 2014. The group's fighters poured over the border from Syria, seizing large swaths of northern Iraq. Two years later, the Iraqi army - backed by local militias, Kurdish forces and air strikes carried out by an international coalition - began an operation to drive ISIL out of the city.

The Iraqi army told us to stay and not to leave. I thought it was safe, and I told my children to go to play in front of the house. Who will give them their lives back? They had to tell us that it was not safe.

Because hundreds of thousands of civilians are trapped in Mosul, anti-ISIL forces have had to limit their use of aerial attacks and artillery in the city. Nevertheless, hundreds of civilians have been killed by coalition air strikes and shelling, as well as in the counter-attacks launched by ISIL.

Inside the hospital, most of the victims - half of whom are women and children - were wounded due to the fighting in Mosul. "Who knows who was shooting? We were in the middle of the fighting and we couldn't go out for six days," said Chad, a 19-year-old woman whose leg was injured in a mortar strike in Mosul's Wadi Hajjar district.

"There was a sniper on the rooftop of our house and then a mortar hit us. I lost my brother. I don't remember much," she told Al Jazeera as she waited to undergo an operation on her leg.

For those like Chad, the lines separating the "good guys" from the "bad guys" are fading away. The human cost of the campaign to take Mosul has increased since Iraqi forces advised civilians to stay in their homes. The reason: the Iraqi military wants to limit the amount of human displacement as it tries to push ISIL out of the city. Despite its calls, though, 200,000 people have fled since the start of the operation to retake the western half of Mosul. With government forces bogged down in vicious street-to-street fighting, ISIL has sought to exploit the strategy of "civilian protection".

 "Civilians are being manipulated [by ISIL] to slow down the military operation," said Michela Paschetto, a nurse and medical coordinator for Emergency, an Italian NGO that runs the Erbil hospital. "Families are being taken by ISIL to fill the buildings where [their units] are hiding and they use them as human shields."

Sabrina's house in western Mosul was hit by a mortar fired by ISIL, killing her husband and two children and wounding her. "I stayed at home for weeks with my mother, who took care of my wound. I could not run away because there were [ISIL units], but the Iraqi army told us to stay in the house and I lost my family."

Since October 2016, when the Mosul campaign began, more than 6,000 wounded - over half of them civilians - have been sent to hospitals in Erbil and liberated eastern Mosul, as well as to field hospitals around the city.

In February and March alone, Emergency's hospital treated more than 500 civilians coming from field hospitals, where medical teams work to stabilise patients before they are transferred to better-equipped hospitals nearby.

Inside the emergency room, another father is trying to alleviate his daughter's pain. "We are the victims of this war. Look with your eyes: Is she an infidel? She is only a girl," said Abu Shams Ali, as he stroked his daughter's forehead and wiped away her feverish sweat.

A mortar strike wounded Lina in her abdomen two weeks ago in western Mosul's al-Jadida neighbourhood.

"Our house was close to the front line and ISIL forced us to move inside another house. As soon as we got inside, I heard a loud explosion near me," said 14-year-old Lina as she laid in the hospital, her face pale due to an infection. "ISIL treated us harshly. We were forced to wear the full-length hijab; men couldn't smoke or wear trousers," she recalled.

Like Lina, most of the patients treated at the Emergency hospital were wounded by shells and bullets. The doctors call these "dirty wounds".

"All the wounds of war are dirty by definition," said Marco Pegoraro, Emergency's surgeon. "This is because all the shell fragments, everything on the ground - stones, metal - is projected inside the body. But they are also dirty because the first victims of wars are civilians caught between the fire [from both sides]."

Due to the difficulty in escaping from areas where heavy fighting is taking place, thousands of wounded civilians have been unable to access timely medical care - leading to an increase in the number of amputated limbs. One of these is Gazban, who waited hours before an ambulance was able to reach him.

"I said, 'please do not cut my legs', and then they anaesthetised me. And when I woke up, my legs were gone," said Gazban, 19, as he sat in a wheelchair at the entrance of the hospital.

Sitting close by was his mother, Amira, who recalled the day of the incident in detail. "On February 26, at 9 o'clock, my son was in front of the door and a mortar hit our house. I heard the explosion and I ran outside. I saw my son bleeding and without legs. I tried to unite the bones and the parts of his legs," she said.

Most of the relatives and patients interviewed said that although they were grateful that the Iraqi army had come to retake Mosul, they do not want revenge. Instead, they all said that they simply want to return to a peaceful, normal life.

"I would like to start school again, go to college and continue my life," said Gazban. "Even if it will not be the same anymore."

Source: Aljazeera

13 April 2017 – Using satellite imagery and local researches, the most recent evaluation confirms that western Mosul has undergone extensive destruction, “far greater than in the east,” according to a senior United Nations aid official in the country.

“The level of damage in western Mosul is already far greater than in the east, even before the battle to retake the Old City begins,” said Lise Grande, Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq, in a news release issued by the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

With more than 1,140 housing sites having been destroyed across the city, the UN Human Settlements Programme (UN-Habitat) confirms that damage to houses in western Mosul is two and a half times greater than in the eastern districts with one-third of the residential devastation reported to have occurred in the Al Jadeda neighbourhood.

Ms. Grande pointed out that nearly 300,000 civilians have already fled western Mosul and “hundreds of thousands more may in the days and weeks ahead.”

She stressed that homes are being destroyed, schools and health centres damaged and that crucial public infrastructure, including electricity and water stations, are in ruins.

“Under international humanitarian law, parties to the conflict are obliged to do everything possible to protect civilians and limit damage to civilian infrastructure. Nothing is more important,” concluded the Humanitarian Coordinator.

 Source: United Nations

 

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a U.S. general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Government forces have retaken much of Iraq's second-largest city since January but have been trying since then to dislodge the Sunni Muslim militants from the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, their last Iraqi stronghold.

"Iraqi security forces continue to progress as they liberate the western side of Mosul," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, head of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said by telephone.

He declined to say whether the militants would be defeated rather within weeks or months, saying: "It's hard to tell because the terrain changes literally every day."

Martin said Iraqi forces had surrounded Islamic State positions but it was not always possible to move vehicles into all parts of the Old City with its narrow streets.

"Some days like yesterday (there was) significant amount of progress, other days there is not much progress but progress nevertheless," he said.

Iraqi officers have said snipers have slowed them down in western Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"It's very complicated," Martin said. "The terrain literally changes from neighborhood to neighborhood ... the nature of the enemy, how the population reacts."

He also said coalition forces continued to provide air support for Iraqi forces despite an explosion that followed an air strike that was believed to have killed scores of civilians on March 17.

The U.S. military has said a U.S.-led coalition strike had hit an Islamic State-held area where residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.

"Nothing has changed in terms of air support. It's been consistent," he said.

He declined to discuss any involvement of the coalition in the explosion but said Islamic State was "very creative in exploiting the human element" by using hospitals, schools, churches, homes and mosques as hideouts or weapons caches.

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been trapped in western Mosul with U.N. camps filling up with people fleeing the violence.

Daily suicide attacks and roadside bombs, along with snipers and mortars, have been the most lethal Islamic State tactics in resisting the 100,000-strong Iraqi force.

"It's clear that their (Islamic State) competence, their cohesion and their effectiveness continues to wane over time," he said.

But he said the militants would fight to the end and there were no signs they would run out of ammunition anytime soon after preparing for the battle for two and half years.

"Don't underestimate the ammunition," he said. "But the outcome is very, very clear. They are going lose and the Iraqis will win."

Source: Reuters

Iraqi forces are making progress in their offensive to expel Islamic State from Mosul but face a "very complicated" urban battle as the militants hide in mosques, homes and hospitals, a U.S. general told Reuters on Wednesday.

Government forces have retaken much of Iraq's second-largest city since January but have been trying since then to dislodge the Sunni Muslim militants from the densely populated Old City in western Mosul, their last Iraqi stronghold.

"Iraqi security forces continue to progress as they liberate the western side of Mosul," U.S. Army Major General Joseph Martin, head of ground forces for the U.S.-led coalition fighting Islamic State, said by telephone.

He declined to say whether the militants would be defeated rather within weeks or months, saying: "It's hard to tell because the terrain changes literally every day."

Martin said Iraqi forces had surrounded Islamic State positions but it was not always possible to move vehicles into all parts of the Old City with its narrow streets.

"Some days like yesterday (there was) significant amount of progress, other days there is not much progress but progress nevertheless," he said.

Iraqi officers have said snipers have slowed them down in western Mosul in the biggest ground operation in Iraq since the 2003 U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein.

"It's very complicated," Martin said. "The terrain literally changes from neighborhood to neighborhood ... the nature of the enemy, how the population reacts."

He also said coalition forces continued to provide air support for Iraqi forces despite an explosion that followed an air strike that was believed to have killed scores of civilians on March 17.

The U.S. military has said a U.S.-led coalition strike had hit an Islamic State-held area where residents and officials say as many as 200 civilians may have been killed.

"Nothing has changed in terms of air support. It's been consistent," he said.

He declined to discuss any involvement of the coalition in the explosion but said Islamic State was "very creative in exploiting the human element" by using hospitals, schools, churches, homes and mosques as hideouts or weapons caches.

Some 400,000 people are believed to have been trapped in western Mosul with U.N. camps filling up with people fleeing the violence.

Daily suicide attacks and roadside bombs, along with snipers and mortars, have been the most lethal Islamic State tactics in resisting the 100,000-strong Iraqi force.

"It's clear that their (Islamic State) competence, their cohesion and their effectiveness continues to wane over time," he said.

But he said the militants would fight to the end and there were no signs they would run out of ammunition anytime soon after preparing for the battle for two and half years.

"Don't underestimate the ammunition," he said. "But the outcome is very, very clear. They are going lose and the Iraqis will win."

Source: Reuters

In his March 24 Washington Forum commentary, “Iraq needs more help,” Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi urged the United States to cooperate across the board with Iraq, from reconstruction to investment after the Islamic State is defeated. The United States should. Iraq likely has two-thirds of the hydrocarbon reserves of Saudi Arabia, a functioning democracy, and with U.S. support could block a resurgence of the Islamic State or Iranian expansion. 

But to avoid yet another emergency U.S. military intervention, the United States should link assistance to stationing a U.S. military contingent there. It would train Iraqi forces and help keep Baghdad independent of Iran. But as seen in 2011, Iran would likely pressure Baghdad against U.S. troops. The United States could overcome this, however; in fighting the Islamic State, the Iraqis learned how weak their military is without the United States, and the U.S. presence could be made palatable to most Iraqis (small size, international cover, no separate bases or formal legal immunities). 

To counter Iranian resistance, Iraqis must understand that cooperation in other realms depends on a serious security relationship.

Source: The Washington Post

PRESS RELEASE - for immediate release – 7 April 2017

Iraq: Disturbing confession by Hashd al-Shaabi commander confirms it is a proxy of Iran

The shocking Confessions of Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi forces, in a televised interview with a governmental Iranian television station - “Ofogh” (Horizon) on 1st April 2017, once again proves that Hashd al-Shaabi is a force comprised of militias linked to Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), whose officers are under the direct command of General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the terrorist Qods force, which in turn executes the orders of the Iranian regime's supreme leader - Ali Khamenei in Iraq.

Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, (Jamal Jafar Mahmoud Ibrahim), is one of the co-founders of the Dawa Party, led by the former Iraqi Prime Minister - the corrupt and viciously sectarian Nouri al-Maliki. Mohandes was sentenced to death for his participation in the bombing of the US and French embassies in Kuwait in 1983 and is wanted by Interpol. In 1984 he fled to Iran and became a member of the IRGC. After the Iran/Iraq War, he was responsible for the transfer and return of thousands of Iraqi agents of the IRGC from Iran to Iraq. He is one of the confidants of Maliki and was one of the candidates on his electoral list.

In an interview with “Ofogh” television he stated: "We have a very close relationship with Iran and the Islamic Republic, which we should be proud of," regarding his relationship with Qasem Soleimani, he added: "Yes, I am proud to be a soldier of Haj Qassem. Being a soldier of Haj Qasim is an honor, it’s a blessing from God." In response to the question: "Do you fight for Iran or Iraq?" he Answered: "Iran and Iraq, there is no contradiction between the two. Iran is our epicenter. We have no reservations in saying so.” In response to the question who does he like most in Iran he replied: "Clearly, Khamenei is not only Iranian, he belongs to us all and after him it would be Haj Qasem." As commander of Iraq’s Hashd al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes admits in this interview that: "The most important commanders of Hashd al-shaabi are from the Badr Brigade". Regarding the establishment of the Badr Brigade in Iran by the IRGC he states: “After going to Iran, immediately we joined the jihadi forces, which were named the Badr Brigade. Shahid Daghayeghi and Shahid Esmaeili (two IRGC commanders) launched the Badr Brigade. They were the founders of the Badr Brigade"

He confessed to taking part in the bombing of one of the Iranian opposition, PMOI/MEK bases in Basra named “Habib” in 2000 and stated: “The most important operation was the operation against the Habib base in which they said 13 were killed, but the building was practically completely destroyed”.

Abu Mahdi, who became a pawn of the IRGC in 1984, was the commander of the Badr Brigade for three years. His name was among the list of 32,000 agents on the payroll of the Qods force, which was revealed by the NCRI ten years ago. He was identified with the serial number 3829770 and his bank account number is registered as 50100460275.

In 2005, after the discovery of the Jaderyeh torture chambers by US forces in Baghdad, it became evident that Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and a number of other IRGC officers were running the facility and they had tortured and killed former Iraqi army officers.

In light of the current situation, where political figures and the Iraqi people, especially in areas which have been liberated from ISIS have called for the dissolution of Hashd al-Shaabi and have described their crimes as worse than ISIS, it is deeply disturbing that on 1st April this year, the Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi voiced his support for the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and threatened that he would “cut the hand” of anyone who takes a stance against the Hashd al-Shaabi militias.

The European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA) calls on the US government and the EU to make all future aid to Iraq conditional on the dissolution of the Hashd al-Shaabi militias and to put  Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes and other pawns of the IRGC and its extra-territorial wing - the Qods force  in the international terrorists lists. They are mere tools for the domination of the Iranian regime in Iraq.

Struan Stevenson, President, European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

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

 
-- 

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

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

 

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

This is not the first time that an Iraqi political leader or government official has hinted that the judiciary has taken too long to look into cases or neglected them or finalized them via making decisions which do not comply with all the conditions of justice.

On Friday, Ammar al-Hakim, head of the Islamic Supreme Council, called on the judicial institution to look into all the cases submitted to it and take action. He added that the judiciary must specifically look into cases, which obstruct implementation of justice – particularly cases related to terrorism, accountability, justice and administrative and financial corruption.

During a recent visit to the Iraqi Commission of Integrity, it seemed to me that the major complaint was related to the delays in finalizing these cases. Some of these cases are dangerous and significant as well. However, the judiciary has failed to address them despite the availability of conclusive evidence such as documents and confessions.

Obstacle of corruption

Administrative and financial corruption is now the biggest obstacle, which hinders the prospects of stability, peace and rooting out of terrorism. Achieving all this would mean pursuing economic development that can overcome the financial, economic and social crises the society struggles from.

Administrative and financial corruption within the system of the Iraqi state has been one of the major sources of terrorism during the past 10 years.

The judiciary is not seriously and appropriately dealing with the gravity of these cases and this is probably because it is being pressured by prominent political figures and statesmen

Adnan Hussein

The Commission of Integrity’s data stipulates that there are cases linked to prominent officials in the government or to businessmen who have strong ties to influential politicians and officials. The judiciary is not seriously and appropriately dealing with the gravity of these cases and this is probably because it is being pressured by prominent political figures and statesmen.

Some judges claim that the delay is due to the number of cases they have to look into even as others suddenly decide that they are not convinced by the commission’s investigation or the evidence provided by it.

Commission of Integrity

The Commission of Integrity, however, makes strenuous efforts to provide the required information, and it is only an institution that conducts investigations as its role ends once cases are transferred to the judiciary whose only governor is the judge’s conscience.

To resolve this problem, demands have been raised for establishing a department that deals with cases linked to integrity. These demands are not without a reason as they deal with administrative disputes. It is represented in the administrative court that is not affiliated with the judicial authority but with the ministry of justice.

Establishing specialized integrity courts that deal with cases relevant to administrative and financial corruption and that have strong ties to the Commission of Integrity will speed up the process of looking into and finalizing these cases.

This will mean restoring tens of billions of dollars stolen from people which has hindered the country’s economic and social development and the achievement of peace.

Source: Al Arabiya

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