25 September 2016
English Arabic

Press release- 9 September 2016

A big victory for the Iranian opposition PMOI as the last remaining members in Camp Liberty, leave Iraq for Albania


This afternoon the main Iranian opposition PMOI, moved their remaining members who were previously trapped in Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport. This successful huge transfer took place while the Iranian regime planned to either eliminate or rip apart its main enemy while they were still in Iraq.

This final round of departures marks the successful conclusion of the process of relocating members of the PMOI to countries of safety outside Iraq despite the Iranian regime’s conspiracies, obstruction and threats, which continued until the very last day.

I was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq during my final 5-year mandate. I was able to learn at first hand about the Iraqi government’s repeated attempts to annihilate the defenceless PMOI refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, under the guidance of the Iranian regime.

Since the American occupying forces transferred control and jurisdiction for the residents of Ashraf to the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki seven years ago, there was a constant state of intense siege imposed by the Iraqi government, puppets of the mullahs in Tehran, which continued to the last day. This siege involved the complete imprisonment of the residents of Camp Liberty in a small compound vulnerable to repeated rocket attacks. The residents suffered a sporadic blockade against fuel, food and essential equipment and a determined resistance by the Iraqi authorities against the provision of protective concrete T-walls inside the camp. In addition a medical blockade of the camp cost many lives and much suffering and there was constant psychological torture involving bogus so-called ‘family members’ from Iran, who were allowed to penetrate the security perimeter and shout abuse and threats at the residents through loudspeakers, while carrying out reconnaissance missions to prepare for further rocket attacks.

These serial violations of the basic human rights of the civilian residents of Camp Liberty were ignored by the UN. Three massacres at Camp Ashraf, five missile attacks on Camp Liberty, two cases of abduction of defenceless residents, and the imposition of a fully-fledged eight-year siege, which left 177 residents dead, constituted parts of this vicious, although ultimately futile, plan.

As far as the mullahs are concerned they wanted to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or to make them give up and surrender. This did not happen due to the courage and resistance of PMOI members who stood up against numerous conspiracies, as well as the inspiring leadership of Mrs Maryam Rajavi and the  active backing of thousands of parliamentarians and Iranian communities all around the world.

The victorious transfer of the PMOI members and the regime’s ultimate major defeat in this regard, opens a new chapter for the Iranian people and its Resistance. Now that the main organized democratic opposition is safely out of Iraq, we need to focus on the human rights situation, the end of executions and a democratic change; a free Iran. We also need to redouble legal efforts to bring those to justice in Iraq who orchestrated the serial abuse and murder of the Ashraf and Liberty residents and who looted their property worth tens of millions of dollars.

Struan Stevenson

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup from 2005-2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

An Iraqi Shi'ite militia said on Wednesday it had dispatched more than 1,000 fighters to the frontline in neighboring Syria, escalating foreign involvement in the battle for Aleppo, the biggest prize in five years of relentless civil war.

New footage emerged of civilians choking in the aftermath of an apparent attack with poison chlorine gas on an opposition-held district as the battle for Syria's biggest city approaches what could be a decisive phase.

Aleppo has been divided for years into government and rebel sectors, but President Bashar al-Assad's army has put the opposition areas under siege and now hopes to capture the whole city in what would be a devastating blow to his enemies.

Government forces are backed by Russian air power and battle-hardened Lebanese and Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters under the apparent oversight of an Iranian general.

The arrival of reinforcements from Iraq, where Shi'ite militia are fighting their own war against the Islamic State group, shows how the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts have leapt borders, to become a broad sectarian war across the Middle East.

Hashim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shi'ite militia Harakat al-Nujab, said its fighters would reinforce areas captured from the rebels in southern Aleppo.

The militia's Twitter account showed pictures of its fighters at the Syrian front with Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for the elite Revolutionary Guards, who has led operations by Tehran's allies in both Syria and Iraq.

Rebel commanders said they are preparing to launch their own counter-offensive aimed at breaking the siege of the city, which was reimposed in recent days following weeks of intense fighting around a military complex.

Rebels lost the complex of military colleges to pro-government forces on Sunday near the Ramousah area of southwestern Aleppo, where they had opened a way into the city.

Five years after the multi-sided war began, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 11 million - half of Syria's pre-war population - displaced. But there is little sign that any party is poised for victory or can restore stability, and foreign powers are becoming more involved.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent its troops across the border to combat Islamic State and Kurdish fighters. The United States, which is trying to negotiate a ceasefire with Russia, has backed Kurdish forces advancing against Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the plight of some 250,000 civilians trapped in rebel-held districts of Aleppo has spurred international efforts to agree a new humanitarian truce. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have not reached agreement over the details of a ceasefire.

POISON GAS

Western countries, Turkey and most Arab states oppose both Assad's government and Islamic State, while supporting other anti-Assad factions. Russia and Iran support Assad.

The latest apparent poison gas attack adds to a litany of what Assad's opponents say is deliberate targeting of civilians, often with banned weapons, to force rebels to surrender.

Footage of the apparent chlorine gas attack on the Sukari district, near Aleppo's main battlefield in the city's southwest, showed crying children being doused with water and then lying on hospital beds and breathing through respirators.

Rescue workers in the rebel-held area said army helicopters had dropped the chlorine in incendiary barrel bombs, an accusation the government has rejected.

"We have not and will not use at any point this type of weapon," a Syrian military source said, accusing rebels of making false accusations to distract attention from their defeats.

However, the government has a history of being accused of similar attacks. An inquiry by the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) seen by Reuters last month said the Syrian army had been responsible for two chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015.

In 2013 Western countries accused Assad's government of attacking a Damascus suburb with nerve gas. At the time, Assad fended off a threatened U.S. bombing campaign only by agreeing to give up his arsenal of chemical weapons, later destroyed by the OPCW. But Syria still possesses chlorine, which is used for water purification and other legitimate industrial processes.

Ramousah, its surroundings, and the countryside between it and the village of Khan Touman seven km (four miles) to its southwest were the site of intense bombardment by Russian jets and attacks by Shi'ite militias in recent weeks, rebels say.

On Tuesday night, jets bombed Khan Touman and neighboring areas, and intense clashes took place in Ramousah and its surroundings, with rebels targeting an army tank, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor reported.

Rebels also shelled government-held residential districts in western Aleppo, the Observatory reported.

"All the (rebel) factions are trying to prepare themselves to launch a new attack on the regime positions in Ramousah. It's not over," a senior source in the insurgency said.

Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD — Iraq's Foreign Ministry said the government on Sunday formally requested that the Saudi ambassador in Baghdad be replaced after he claimed that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are plotting to assassinate him.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal told The Associated Press that the government sent a formal request to Saudi Arabia to replace the kingdom's ambassador in Baghdad, Thamer al-Sabhan. Jamal said al-Sabhan's reported comments are untrue and harm relations between the two countries. He said the allegations are considered interference in Iraq's internal affairs and that al-Sabhan has not provided the ministry with any proof or evidence of these claims.

Shiite-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia are regional rivals and broke off diplomatic ties in January after several years of frayed relations. In 2011, U.S. authorities said they had disrupted an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at the time.

Al-Sabhan was quoted as telling the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper that Iraqi intelligence provided him with information about the assassination plans. He said this was happening as Iran tries to block reform efforts in Iraq and other Arab countries.

Al-Sabhan was also quoted by the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel saying "sectarian radical groups" are behind the threats. The channel, quoting unnamed sources, alleged that Iranian-backed senior figures in Iraq's Popular Mobilization Committee are among those behind the assassination plots and that they had given the Iraqi Foreign Ministry a deadline to expel al-Sabhan.

In the Saudi-owned Ashraq al-Awsat newspaper, an unnamed Iraqi official was quoted as saying militias were planning to attack the ambassador's armored cars with rocket-propelled grenades.

In an interview aired on Iraqi channel Wesal TV, Aws al-Khafaji, who heads the Iraqi militia group Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, said many factions in Iraq want to target al-Sabhan.

"If al-Sabhan was killed in Iraq, any factions involved would admit it, especially because he is wanted ... We clearly stated that we do not want al-Sabhan in Iraq." he said, before adding that if he were assassinated, "it will be an honor and will be proudly admitted."

AUG. 28, 2016

These days, Gen. David Petraeus is far from the battlefield. Petraeus, who retired in 2011, works in New York as a partner at the private equity firm KKR and is chairman of the KKR Global Institute. In his spare time, the retired four-star general is a professor at the City University of New York and the University of Southern California and a senior fellow at Harvard. But his mind is never far from the global issues that confront the United States. The former CIA director, who served 37 years in the Army, described the fight against the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) as a “generational struggle” that will define American foreign policy for decades to come – “as long as is necessary.”

But he’s worried about how that fight is going. Petraeus told us that, while the Islamic State may be “losing ground from its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it is increasing its activity in a few other locations and continues to be very dangerous, conducting and inspiring attacks in numerous countries well beyond the Middle East and North Africa.”

 

“It has taken the U.S. and its coalition partners longer than it ideally should have, but the military approach that has evolved is impressive, has made considerable progress, and will make more in the months ahead,” he said. “I am concerned, however, that the plans for post-ISIS governance in Mosul [an ISIS-held city in Iraq] and the desired endstate for Syria are not particularly clear at this point.”

An October surprise could be coming: “The surprise could be that Mosul falls earlier than had been predicted. And that means that Iraqi authorities need to accelerate the plans for subsequent governance in Mosul city and Ninevah Province, both of which are arguably the most complex in ethnic, sectarian, and tribal makeup in Iraq (as I explained in a recent piece in the Washington Post) ... I learned a lot about the ‘human terrain’ in Ninevah during our first year in Iraq when I was privileged to command the 101st Airborne Division in that area; there are enormous challenges there, and it is going to be an exceedingly difficult task for the Iraqi government, even with full coalition support, to resolve those challenges to ensure that conditions are not set that lead to the rise of ISIS 3.0.”

On the politicization on some retired generals like John Allen and Michael Flynn, who have endorsed presidential candidates: “I am not going to second-guess my old battlefield comrades from Iraq and Afghanistan; each has his own reason for what he has done. Having said that, my personal decision has been to try to be as nonpartisan as is possible, and thus I have refused to endorse or contribute to any candidate, though I have offered my thoughts to a number of candidates for a variety of positions, from both parties, in recent years when asked to do so.”

The Khan controversy: “I don’t comment directly on actions or statements of candidates. I will note, however, that our country obviously has an enormous obligation to our Gold Star families -- families that have lost a loved one in combat while in uniform; indeed, that obligation includes recognizing and honoring and supporting the families of those who, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, gave ‘the last full measure of devotion’ in the service of our nation.”

His biggest geopolitical worry: “Beyond ISIS, Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine, disputes between China and other countries in the South and East China Seas, cyber crime, and the slowdown in global growth, I am concerned by the extent to which the political, financial, security, and legal organizations, norms, and principles established in the previous century after two world wars and the Great Depression are being challenged by a variety of countries and non-state actors. These institutions and norms stood the world in quite good stead, and it is important that we ensure their evolution is pursued in a thoughtful, pragmatic, and principled manner.”

What Petraeus does now: “I have been very fortunate in the three-and-half years since leaving government to build a portfolio of business, academic, speaking, and non-profit endeavors that provide intellectual stimulation, interesting travel, and an opportunity to continue to contribute to the major debates of the day — as well as to spend time with my family and run and cycle!”


Source: Politico

By: Daniel Lippman

 

Portugal’s government is considering asking Iraq to remove its diplomatic immunity from the sons of its ambassador after they allegedly attacked a 15-year-old boy.

The request will depend on the outcome of a police investigation into the matter.

The 17-year-old twin sons, who may have already fled Portugal, are suspected of carrying out a brutal attack following a row in a bar.

The teenager who has been named locally as Rubin was air lifted to a hospital in Lisbon where he is said to be in a coma.

One of the twin brothers allegedly ran the victim over with a car registered to the Iraqi embassy and the other punched and kicked him on the ground,

The incident took place in the town of Ponte de Sor, where one of the twins is training to become a pilot at a nearby air base.

 

Source: Euro News

Sources have told Al Arabiya.net that Iraqi Shiite militias belonging to Iran planned to target the Saudi ambassador in Iraq Thamer Al Sabhan, through the members of “Mourtadha Abboud Ellami” group at the behest of “Abu Mahdi Al Mouhandis” and the leaders of “Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq” and especially the groups led by Akram al-Kaabi.

The sources added that members of Mourtadha Abboud Ellami’s group, reported the plan to the Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari, giving him a deadline to expel the Saudi ambassador from the country.

Al Sabhan told Al Arabiya News these threats would not prevent him from helping Iraqi people, adding he was continuing his duties as normal, “even more than before.”

He said the Saudi embassy had taken the necessary actions and reported the issue to the Iraqi government, leaving it to bear its responsibility before the international community and its commitments.

From its part, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper said Iran was plotting to assassinate Al Sabhan using RPJ7 rockets on his armored car.

Informed sources said Iraqi Shiite militias have three plots to attack and that the militias were directly-linked to Iran.
Of these militias the sources revealed Khorasan Battalions and another group that works with the Secretary General of Abu Fadl al-Abbas Forces Ous al-Khafaji.

A source told the newspaper that each plot was different, but the operation is set to happen as soon as possible. He explained that Khorasan Battalions’ plot was uncovered, while the plot of Abu Fadl al-Abbas Forces was revealed in the past few days.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi security official revealed information that one of the assassination plots was to get rid of the ambassador, stopping his statements against Iran and its followers in Iraq. This action would therefore create a political and diplomatic issue between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the official added.

The official, who is currently visiting Beirut, said security forces were able to track the plot set by Khorasan. “We tracked phone calls between members of this militia and personnel at Baghdad International Airport who belong to the Khorasan battalions. They were alerting them about the ambassador’s travel plans from and to Baghdad.”

The official said the plan also included using fake plates matching that of the Ministry of Interior to intercept the Saudi ambassador’s barricade on the airport’s road.

The assassination was to be carried out using RPG7 missiles since the ambassador’s cars were armored. Then the cars would escape to the Sunni area Al Radwaneyye to hide its identity and blame ISIS for the attack.

The person at the airport working with "Khorasan battalion" has been captured. The official said they weren’t able to reach the whole group consisting of eight members who were in two cars.

Source: Al Arabiya

 

A member confessed that an Iranian officer had come up with the plan and overlooked the execution. ,

Iraq said on Sunday it had hanged 36 militants sentenced to death over the mass killing of hundreds of mainly Shi'ite soldiers at a camp north of Baghdad two years ago.

It is the highest number of militants executed in one day by the Iraqi government since Islamic State fighters took control of parts of northern and western Iraq in 2014.

The executions were carried out at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, state television quoted the Justice Ministry as saying.

As many as 1,700 soldiers were killed two years ago after they fled from Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base just north of Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, when it was overrun by Islamic State, the ultra-hardline Sunni group.

The government came under increased pressure from local Shi'ite politicians to execute militants sentenced to death after a massive bombing that targeted a shopping street in Baghdad on July 3, killing at least 324 people.

Claimed by Islamic State, the truck bomb that blew up in the Karrada district was the deadliest since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraq's Justice Ministry announced days later that 45 death sentences had been carried out since the beginning of the year.

The United Nations said on Aug. 1 that Iraq's efforts to speed up the execution of militants could result in innocent people being put to death.

An estimated 1,200 people are on death row in Iraq, including possibly hundreds who have exhausted appeals, the U.N. statement said.

"Given the weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, and the current environment in Iraq, I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in the statement.


Source: Reuters

 

U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group, American and Iraqi officials told ABC News. Some Iraqi units have already been cut off from U.S. assistance over "credible" human rights violations, according to a senior military official on the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq's most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.

The videos and photos are part of a trove of disturbing images that ABC News discovered has been circulating within the dark corners of Iraqi social media since last summer. In some U.S. military and Iraqi circles, the Iraqi units and militias under scrutiny are referred to as the "dirty brigades."

“As the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and militias reclaim territory, their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL [ISIS] fighters,” said a statement to ABC News from the U.S. government. “If these allegations are confirmed, those found responsible must be held accountable."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, along with international human rights advocates and military experts, called the photos evidence of Iraqi "war crimes."

"I guarantee you ultimately we get blamed for it whether we did it or not," Leahy predicted.

Under what is known as the Leahy Law, the U.S. is required to cut off funds to any foreign military unit when there is “credible evidence” of human rights violations. In Iraq the responsibility of determination falls to the Department of Defense. In recent Senate testimony, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the Iraqi investigation had been ordered and said the Leahy Law applies to units operating alongside the many militias also fighting in Iraq against ISIS.

"I would say that involves the Leahy Law," Leahy recently told ABC News after viewing the shocking imagery. “And I'd argue that we should be withholding money."

According to the Pentagon, the U.S. already has. In a statement to ABC News, the Joint Staff official revealed that in the months since the U.S. began airstrikes and military assistance to Iraq last August, “We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specific units.”

In Washington today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers the U.S. military is keeping a close eye on the militias as well.

"What we are watching carefully is whether the militias -- they call themselves the popular mobilization forces -- whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing," he said.

An Iraqi government spokesperson previously said while the dozens of photos could be ISIS propaganda, a full investigation was warranted.

“Yes, of course we will investigate these pictures,” the spokesperson, Gen. Saad Maan, said in an interview in Baghdad as he viewed a selection of images provided by ABC News.

"We don't have anything to hide,” the general said. “We don't have anything to be in, let's say, in a black corner."

The Iraqi military is key to the U.S. strategy to fight ISIS and stop its atrocities, which have outraged the world. The U.S. is shipping almost $1 billion in weapons, as well as providing U.S. military trainers to instruct new Iraqi recruits. A special operations official in Baghdad, however, said it’s the government of Iraq that decides — not the Pentagon — which Iraqi units get U.S.-donated weapons, such as 43,000 M4 rifles and thousands of other light infantry weapons Congress approved for shipment in December. American troops are not known to be operating on the ground in combat in Iraq or Syria. No Americans are shown in the images or footage ABC News has found, nor have any Americans been implicated in any of the alleged atrocities.

Officials from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who reviewed the library of horrors assembled in the ABC News investigation said it is rare to see so much visual evidence of human rights abuses.

"Usually when forces commit such crimes they try to hide them. What we are seeing here is a brazen, proud display of these terrible crimes," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Executive Director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview as she and the group's lead investigator in Iraq, Erin Evers, surveyed the carnage.

ABC News came upon the first such images last September, when a reporter following personal Instagram accounts of Iraqi counter-terrorism troops spotted a video of a handcuffed prisoner shot in the head by a man in camouflage -- which more than 600 users "liked." The English and Arabic captions by a self-identified member of the Iraqi security forces said, “We have arrested this terrorist yesterday and we killed him after completion of interrogation."

A separate photo posted in September showed the severed head of a long-haired and bearded alleged ISIS fighter lashed to the grill of a U.S.-donated Humvee bearing an Iraqi Army license plate. A second related photo eventually surfaced of what appeared to be an Iraqi Army soldier holding up the same severed head next to the gun truck. Desecration of war dead and extrajudicial killings are violations of the Geneva Conventions.

"You don’t behead someone and place their head on the front of your Humvee. That’s unacceptable -- because it’s a war crime. And it’s an atrocity," retired U.S. Army Special Forces Lt. Col. James Gavrilis told ABC News.

As a senior officer in 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq a decade ago, Gavrilis was deeply involved in counterinsurgency during the U.S. war and creating Iraqi counter-terrorism units from Special Forces and special police teams.

"I think it’s horrible. I think this really shows a failure of our policy for Iraq," Gavrilis said, confirming that the imagery looked authentic and too plentiful online to be faked.

"Both sides are committing war crimes," he said. "This is widespread, it’s endemic."

In another video posted online in October, two unarmed civilians are shot to death after being questioned, and denying, whether they were part of ISIS. When the camera pans to one man with a gun, he appears to be wearing a uniform and shoulder patch of Iraqi Special Forces, with Iraqi Army officers also nearby observing the atrocity.

Fighters who appear to be a mix of militia and army appearing in a separate 78-second video circulating in January — including some wearing Iraqi flags and Iraqi Special Forces patches — take pictures of a captured teenaged boy who appears terrified. “Didn’t you just shoot?” demands one fighter. The handcuffed boy, shoved to the ground, insists, “No, no, I did not shoot a single bullet.”

The men argue over whether to kill him, some asking the others to calm down, but they shoot him to death anyway as the sound of mortars and gunfire nearby punctuate the crime. “This is to avenge the martyrs,” one man says.

“I've seen all sorts of horrible things over the years... but I have never seen anything this bad in my life,” said Ali Khedery, an American former diplomat in Baghdad who advised five U.S. ambassadors in the Iraqi capital and three generals overseeing Middle East operations at U.S. Central Command.

Khedery recently wrote in Foreign Policy about another video, where a man was beaten and machine gunned to death by a gang who appeared to be both militias and Iraqi Special Forces with U.S.-donated M4A1 rifles. He said the video slaughter of the Iraqis accused by their killers of smuggling weapons for ISIS was far worse, because Iraqi government troops were present.

“It was the shooting of unarmed men. This is a U.S.-backed government. They carried U.S. weapons,” he said.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say they have been working to fully authenticate the content posted online on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter connected to the Iraqi military. The uniforms and insignia of Iraqi Special Operations Forces under the command of Baghdad’s Counter-Terrorism Forces as well as special police and Emergency Response units from the Ministry of the Interior are clearly identifiable in many of the photos and videos, which include many severed heads and corpses dragged behind humvees.

Gen. Maan, the Iraqi government spokesperson, claimed the patches identifying Iraqi military units could be bought on Iraqi streets and that the gruesome images could be a clever ploy by ISIS to discredit the Iraqi military.

"It does not look like ISIS propaganda at all," Gavrilis said. "I don’t know how we could support them, if they are spearheading a lot on the front lines alongside these militias, and if they are conducting these kinds of atrocities as well... These Shi’a militias are just as barbaric as ISIS."

Some militias take pride in their atrocities and appear to often be calling the shots on the battlefield, not the government forces, BloombergView columnist Eli Lake found when he recently visited the front lines north of Baghdad.

Officials said that the State Department's human rights observers and military intelligence had viewed examples of Iraqi Security Forces posting atrocities on personal social media for over a year. But one knowledgeable U.S. official said that since ABC News began asking about the many disturbing images last fall, the atrocities allegations against Iraq’s fighting forces have grown “more severe” and the “very concerning” allegations are being raised at high levels in Baghdad.

The Pentagon spokesperson told ABC News the U.S. military has "discussed with Iraqi leaders the paramount importance of maintaining high standards of conduct and protecting civilian populations of all sects."

"The actions of a small minority, if left unchecked, could do serious harm to the efforts of the Iraqi government," the spokesperson said.

With several thousand American troops back in Iraq as trainers, the alleged atrocities by Iraqi troops puts U.S. military commanders in the unenviable position of having to sort out which units are clean or dirty, Gavrilis said.

 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last month released a report on Iraq that both condemned ISIS for its campaign of killings verging on genocide, but also criticized Iraqi Security Forces for military operations that "which may have amounted to war crimes."

Last March, the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor also issued its own damning report on Iraq, stating that government officials under then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki committed "extrajudicial killings" -- meaning battlefield executions of ISIS suspects and killing individuals in custody without trial.

"Ministry of Interior officials tortured detainees to death, according to reports from multiple government officials and human rights organizations," read the annual report. The Bureau explicitly fingered the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces and Interior Ministry's special police units -- which the U.S. established, trained and armed from 2003-2011, and whose troops are seen in many of the atrocities images.

But the State report was issued before the U.S. began airstrikes in Iraq last August to assist security forces in successfully retaking the Mosul Dam, and long before President Obama deployed thousands of American infantrymen, special operations forces and enablers back into Iraq beginning last fall to assist the Iraqis in fighting ISIS. A new report is expected soon, officials said.

Now that the alleged war crimes of the U.S.-backed forces have become public, the Iraqi spokesman stressed that his government will not tolerate “bad behavior.”

Using the Arabic slang for ISIS, Gen. Maan said, "We do not allow any person to be a savage like Daesh."

Source: ABC News

 

 

 

BRUSSELS, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Preparations for the battle of Mosul are well underway. Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city with a population of around 2 million.

It has been held by the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, since 2014 and is hailed by the terrorist group as the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. Now Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-coalition airstrikes and with technical support from 500 American troops, have recaptured four villages on the outskirts of Mosul -- Tal Hamid, Qarqasha, Abzakh and Qura Takh -- and are already constructing an airbase near the village of Qayyara, which will be used as a staging post for the impending assault on the city.

However, following the successful recapture of Ramadi and Fallujah from IS, sectarian tensions are on the rise. Shi'ite militias armed and commanded by the Iranian regime spearheaded the so-called 'liberation' of these major Iraqi cities, exploiting the opportunity to exact a brutal campaign of revenge against the predominantly Sunni population.

The Shi'ia-dominated Iraqi government has launched an investigation into allegations of executions and torture of Sunni civilians and the disappearance of over 1,000 Sunni men.

The forces gathered around Mosul include the Kurdish Peshmerga, some fighters loyal to the pro-Sunni former governor of the city and a number of Shi'ia militias who make up the popular mobilization movement. Leaders of the Peshmerga have expressed fears that the political objectives of the diverse military forces poised to recapture Mosul are widely contradictory.

Sheikh Lukhman Sharawani, a Kurdish military commander, says the Sunni population of Mosul fear they will face the same fate as their brothers and sisters in Ramadi and Fallujah. They fear that the Iranian-led Shi'ia militias are taking advantage of the war against IS to implement a ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing in Iraq's Sunni provinces.

Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch asked Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to exclude the Shi'ia militias from the battle for Mosul. But there is little hope that this will happen, as the Iraqi military is so riven with corruption that few believe it has the capacity to mount an effective offensive against IS without the assistance of the militias. Abadi, a puppet of the theocratic Iranian regime, has allowed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Gen. Qasem Soleimani to take command of the Shi'ia militias inside Iraq.

Soleimani and the IRGC are listed as international terrorists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah, which led to widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured and men and boys were ruthlessly rounded up and tortured by the brutal Shi'ia militias, who claimed they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing from the crumbling metropolis.

The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene in Iraq and their brutal repression led by the 63 separate pro-Iranian Shi'ia militias, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear IS. Indeed the eventual collapse of IS in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq's crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing sectarian threats to security.

But U.S. pledges of airstrike and logistical support for the Shi'ia militias surrounding Mosul may prove to be a costly mistake with the price being paid by innocent Sunni men, women and children who face imminent death and destruction. The real victors will be the mullahs in Tehran who will forever thank U.S. President Barack Obama for helping them to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its Sunni population and to enable their theocratic Iranian regime to extend its evil influence exponentially across the Middle East.

By defeating IS in Mosul, Obama wants to leave a good foreign policy legacy for himself or at least to decrease his disastrous legacy of failure in Iraq and Syria. But this cannot happen by using Shi'ia militias affiliated to the Quds force at the expense of the Iraqi Sunni population. America's ominous cooperation with the criminal Shi'ia militias, even if it ultimately leads to the expulsion of IS from Mosul, will strengthen the jihadists in the long term and as soon as the U.S. military and air force leave Iraq, IS will return.

If he wants to preserve any kind of reputation in the Middle East, Obama needs to do several things. Firstly he must insist on the expulsion of the Shi'ia militias from Nineveh province; they can be replaced by actively recruiting and organizing local Sunni tribes and forces in Mosul and its suburbs. The United States should arm and train these recruits and treat them as an equal partner in the liberation of Mosul, as they are the only ones who can keep IS out of Nineveh Province in the long term.

Secondly, the United States should strengthen the Iraqi army, purging it of all pro-Iranian elements.

Thirdly, Obama must be seen to support al-Abadi in his bid to carry out radical reforms.

No one can expect a miracle in Iraq. But leaving a wrecked and devastated Iraq will not be a sound legacy for Obama. If he adopts the correct strategy, he still has time. Even if by Jan. 20, the battle for Mosul is still raging, it will be a just and honorable battle to the credit of Obama. But a shattered Mosul, 2 million homeless Sunni men, women and children and IS waiting in the wings to re-emerge, will not be an honor or distinction for anyone. 

Source:: UPI

BY: Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association,

Mr Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.

Iran-backed Shiite fighters in Iraq now number up to 100,000 fighters, the first-known estimate of their size, according to the US military. It was earlier reported that Iran’s Syria-based commander is preparing to retake the Iraqis city of Mosul.

In what appears to be a deepening role played by Iran in the fight against Islamic State (IS, ISIS/formerly ISIL), the forces’ estimates range anywhere from 80,000 up to 100,000, according to spokesman Colonel Chris Garver, who confirmed the figure to Fox after it was first floated by the head of US Central Command, Army General Joe Votel in late July, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

According to Garver, not all Shiite fighters making up the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are Iran-backed – that figure usually stands at about 80,000. The rest of the figure is a mashup of Sunni tribal fighters from Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, also rising up against the IS threat.

The new estimates coincide with Moscow’s confirmation that it is now launching anti-IS operations in Syria from an Iranian military base for the first time on Tuesday. Tu-22M3 and Su-34 bombers took off from the Hamedan Airbase, striking IS and Al-Nusra Front facilities in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib. They were covered by Su-30m and Su-35 fighters, which took off from Russia’s Syria-based Kheimim Airbase.

Aside from the PMF, another Iranian outfit – the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force – is now forecast to play a massive role over in Iraq’s Mosul, which has been in IS’ grip since 2014.

During a Tuesday press conference, Garver commented on the prospect of Shiite militias participating in the liberation of the Sunni-dominated Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. This was upon hearing reports from the PMF that Iran’s prominent military commander from the Syrian theater of operations, General Qassem Soleimani, has moved his troops on the outskirts of Mosul to gear up for the operation. This was reported by the Long War Journal after remarks translated from the Fars News Agency.

However Garver, according to Fox, also stated: “We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way, we are not working with them in any way.” He added that “the government of Iraq comes up with the plan, we are supporting [their] plan for the seizure of Mosul.”

Soleimani is said to be planning a coordinated operation with Iraqi government forces and the PMF.

This multi-pronged approach to fighting IS in Syria and Iraq also got a new player in the face of China, as Beijing announced Damascus’s blessing to have the Chinese military provide humanitarian aid to Syria while also training Syrian personnel, Xinhua reported following word from a high-ranking People’s Liberation Army officer.

Source: rt.com

Press release- 9 September 2016

A big victory for the Iranian opposition PMOI as the last remaining members in Camp Liberty, leave Iraq for Albania


This afternoon the main Iranian opposition PMOI, moved their remaining members who were previously trapped in Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport. This successful huge transfer took place while the Iranian regime planned to either eliminate or rip apart its main enemy while they were still in Iraq.

This final round of departures marks the successful conclusion of the process of relocating members of the PMOI to countries of safety outside Iraq despite the Iranian regime’s conspiracies, obstruction and threats, which continued until the very last day.

I was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq during my final 5-year mandate. I was able to learn at first hand about the Iraqi government’s repeated attempts to annihilate the defenceless PMOI refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, under the guidance of the Iranian regime.

Since the American occupying forces transferred control and jurisdiction for the residents of Ashraf to the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki seven years ago, there was a constant state of intense siege imposed by the Iraqi government, puppets of the mullahs in Tehran, which continued to the last day. This siege involved the complete imprisonment of the residents of Camp Liberty in a small compound vulnerable to repeated rocket attacks. The residents suffered a sporadic blockade against fuel, food and essential equipment and a determined resistance by the Iraqi authorities against the provision of protective concrete T-walls inside the camp. In addition a medical blockade of the camp cost many lives and much suffering and there was constant psychological torture involving bogus so-called ‘family members’ from Iran, who were allowed to penetrate the security perimeter and shout abuse and threats at the residents through loudspeakers, while carrying out reconnaissance missions to prepare for further rocket attacks.

These serial violations of the basic human rights of the civilian residents of Camp Liberty were ignored by the UN. Three massacres at Camp Ashraf, five missile attacks on Camp Liberty, two cases of abduction of defenceless residents, and the imposition of a fully-fledged eight-year siege, which left 177 residents dead, constituted parts of this vicious, although ultimately futile, plan.

As far as the mullahs are concerned they wanted to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or to make them give up and surrender. This did not happen due to the courage and resistance of PMOI members who stood up against numerous conspiracies, as well as the inspiring leadership of Mrs Maryam Rajavi and the  active backing of thousands of parliamentarians and Iranian communities all around the world.

The victorious transfer of the PMOI members and the regime’s ultimate major defeat in this regard, opens a new chapter for the Iranian people and its Resistance. Now that the main organized democratic opposition is safely out of Iraq, we need to focus on the human rights situation, the end of executions and a democratic change; a free Iran. We also need to redouble legal efforts to bring those to justice in Iraq who orchestrated the serial abuse and murder of the Ashraf and Liberty residents and who looted their property worth tens of millions of dollars.

Struan Stevenson

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup from 2005-2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

An Iraqi Shi'ite militia said on Wednesday it had dispatched more than 1,000 fighters to the frontline in neighboring Syria, escalating foreign involvement in the battle for Aleppo, the biggest prize in five years of relentless civil war.

New footage emerged of civilians choking in the aftermath of an apparent attack with poison chlorine gas on an opposition-held district as the battle for Syria's biggest city approaches what could be a decisive phase.

Aleppo has been divided for years into government and rebel sectors, but President Bashar al-Assad's army has put the opposition areas under siege and now hopes to capture the whole city in what would be a devastating blow to his enemies.

Government forces are backed by Russian air power and battle-hardened Lebanese and Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters under the apparent oversight of an Iranian general.

The arrival of reinforcements from Iraq, where Shi'ite militia are fighting their own war against the Islamic State group, shows how the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts have leapt borders, to become a broad sectarian war across the Middle East.

Hashim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shi'ite militia Harakat al-Nujab, said its fighters would reinforce areas captured from the rebels in southern Aleppo.

The militia's Twitter account showed pictures of its fighters at the Syrian front with Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for the elite Revolutionary Guards, who has led operations by Tehran's allies in both Syria and Iraq.

Rebel commanders said they are preparing to launch their own counter-offensive aimed at breaking the siege of the city, which was reimposed in recent days following weeks of intense fighting around a military complex.

Rebels lost the complex of military colleges to pro-government forces on Sunday near the Ramousah area of southwestern Aleppo, where they had opened a way into the city.

Five years after the multi-sided war began, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 11 million - half of Syria's pre-war population - displaced. But there is little sign that any party is poised for victory or can restore stability, and foreign powers are becoming more involved.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent its troops across the border to combat Islamic State and Kurdish fighters. The United States, which is trying to negotiate a ceasefire with Russia, has backed Kurdish forces advancing against Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the plight of some 250,000 civilians trapped in rebel-held districts of Aleppo has spurred international efforts to agree a new humanitarian truce. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have not reached agreement over the details of a ceasefire.

POISON GAS

Western countries, Turkey and most Arab states oppose both Assad's government and Islamic State, while supporting other anti-Assad factions. Russia and Iran support Assad.

The latest apparent poison gas attack adds to a litany of what Assad's opponents say is deliberate targeting of civilians, often with banned weapons, to force rebels to surrender.

Footage of the apparent chlorine gas attack on the Sukari district, near Aleppo's main battlefield in the city's southwest, showed crying children being doused with water and then lying on hospital beds and breathing through respirators.

Rescue workers in the rebel-held area said army helicopters had dropped the chlorine in incendiary barrel bombs, an accusation the government has rejected.

"We have not and will not use at any point this type of weapon," a Syrian military source said, accusing rebels of making false accusations to distract attention from their defeats.

However, the government has a history of being accused of similar attacks. An inquiry by the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) seen by Reuters last month said the Syrian army had been responsible for two chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015.

In 2013 Western countries accused Assad's government of attacking a Damascus suburb with nerve gas. At the time, Assad fended off a threatened U.S. bombing campaign only by agreeing to give up his arsenal of chemical weapons, later destroyed by the OPCW. But Syria still possesses chlorine, which is used for water purification and other legitimate industrial processes.

Ramousah, its surroundings, and the countryside between it and the village of Khan Touman seven km (four miles) to its southwest were the site of intense bombardment by Russian jets and attacks by Shi'ite militias in recent weeks, rebels say.

On Tuesday night, jets bombed Khan Touman and neighboring areas, and intense clashes took place in Ramousah and its surroundings, with rebels targeting an army tank, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor reported.

Rebels also shelled government-held residential districts in western Aleppo, the Observatory reported.

"All the (rebel) factions are trying to prepare themselves to launch a new attack on the regime positions in Ramousah. It's not over," a senior source in the insurgency said.

Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD — Iraq's Foreign Ministry said the government on Sunday formally requested that the Saudi ambassador in Baghdad be replaced after he claimed that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are plotting to assassinate him.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal told The Associated Press that the government sent a formal request to Saudi Arabia to replace the kingdom's ambassador in Baghdad, Thamer al-Sabhan. Jamal said al-Sabhan's reported comments are untrue and harm relations between the two countries. He said the allegations are considered interference in Iraq's internal affairs and that al-Sabhan has not provided the ministry with any proof or evidence of these claims.

Shiite-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia are regional rivals and broke off diplomatic ties in January after several years of frayed relations. In 2011, U.S. authorities said they had disrupted an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at the time.

Al-Sabhan was quoted as telling the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper that Iraqi intelligence provided him with information about the assassination plans. He said this was happening as Iran tries to block reform efforts in Iraq and other Arab countries.

Al-Sabhan was also quoted by the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel saying "sectarian radical groups" are behind the threats. The channel, quoting unnamed sources, alleged that Iranian-backed senior figures in Iraq's Popular Mobilization Committee are among those behind the assassination plots and that they had given the Iraqi Foreign Ministry a deadline to expel al-Sabhan.

In the Saudi-owned Ashraq al-Awsat newspaper, an unnamed Iraqi official was quoted as saying militias were planning to attack the ambassador's armored cars with rocket-propelled grenades.

In an interview aired on Iraqi channel Wesal TV, Aws al-Khafaji, who heads the Iraqi militia group Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, said many factions in Iraq want to target al-Sabhan.

"If al-Sabhan was killed in Iraq, any factions involved would admit it, especially because he is wanted ... We clearly stated that we do not want al-Sabhan in Iraq." he said, before adding that if he were assassinated, "it will be an honor and will be proudly admitted."

AUG. 28, 2016

These days, Gen. David Petraeus is far from the battlefield. Petraeus, who retired in 2011, works in New York as a partner at the private equity firm KKR and is chairman of the KKR Global Institute. In his spare time, the retired four-star general is a professor at the City University of New York and the University of Southern California and a senior fellow at Harvard. But his mind is never far from the global issues that confront the United States. The former CIA director, who served 37 years in the Army, described the fight against the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) as a “generational struggle” that will define American foreign policy for decades to come – “as long as is necessary.”

But he’s worried about how that fight is going. Petraeus told us that, while the Islamic State may be “losing ground from its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it is increasing its activity in a few other locations and continues to be very dangerous, conducting and inspiring attacks in numerous countries well beyond the Middle East and North Africa.”

 

“It has taken the U.S. and its coalition partners longer than it ideally should have, but the military approach that has evolved is impressive, has made considerable progress, and will make more in the months ahead,” he said. “I am concerned, however, that the plans for post-ISIS governance in Mosul [an ISIS-held city in Iraq] and the desired endstate for Syria are not particularly clear at this point.”

An October surprise could be coming: “The surprise could be that Mosul falls earlier than had been predicted. And that means that Iraqi authorities need to accelerate the plans for subsequent governance in Mosul city and Ninevah Province, both of which are arguably the most complex in ethnic, sectarian, and tribal makeup in Iraq (as I explained in a recent piece in the Washington Post) ... I learned a lot about the ‘human terrain’ in Ninevah during our first year in Iraq when I was privileged to command the 101st Airborne Division in that area; there are enormous challenges there, and it is going to be an exceedingly difficult task for the Iraqi government, even with full coalition support, to resolve those challenges to ensure that conditions are not set that lead to the rise of ISIS 3.0.”

On the politicization on some retired generals like John Allen and Michael Flynn, who have endorsed presidential candidates: “I am not going to second-guess my old battlefield comrades from Iraq and Afghanistan; each has his own reason for what he has done. Having said that, my personal decision has been to try to be as nonpartisan as is possible, and thus I have refused to endorse or contribute to any candidate, though I have offered my thoughts to a number of candidates for a variety of positions, from both parties, in recent years when asked to do so.”

The Khan controversy: “I don’t comment directly on actions or statements of candidates. I will note, however, that our country obviously has an enormous obligation to our Gold Star families -- families that have lost a loved one in combat while in uniform; indeed, that obligation includes recognizing and honoring and supporting the families of those who, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, gave ‘the last full measure of devotion’ in the service of our nation.”

His biggest geopolitical worry: “Beyond ISIS, Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine, disputes between China and other countries in the South and East China Seas, cyber crime, and the slowdown in global growth, I am concerned by the extent to which the political, financial, security, and legal organizations, norms, and principles established in the previous century after two world wars and the Great Depression are being challenged by a variety of countries and non-state actors. These institutions and norms stood the world in quite good stead, and it is important that we ensure their evolution is pursued in a thoughtful, pragmatic, and principled manner.”

What Petraeus does now: “I have been very fortunate in the three-and-half years since leaving government to build a portfolio of business, academic, speaking, and non-profit endeavors that provide intellectual stimulation, interesting travel, and an opportunity to continue to contribute to the major debates of the day — as well as to spend time with my family and run and cycle!”


Source: Politico

By: Daniel Lippman

 

Portugal’s government is considering asking Iraq to remove its diplomatic immunity from the sons of its ambassador after they allegedly attacked a 15-year-old boy.

The request will depend on the outcome of a police investigation into the matter.

The 17-year-old twin sons, who may have already fled Portugal, are suspected of carrying out a brutal attack following a row in a bar.

The teenager who has been named locally as Rubin was air lifted to a hospital in Lisbon where he is said to be in a coma.

One of the twin brothers allegedly ran the victim over with a car registered to the Iraqi embassy and the other punched and kicked him on the ground,

The incident took place in the town of Ponte de Sor, where one of the twins is training to become a pilot at a nearby air base.

 

Source: Euro News

Sources have told Al Arabiya.net that Iraqi Shiite militias belonging to Iran planned to target the Saudi ambassador in Iraq Thamer Al Sabhan, through the members of “Mourtadha Abboud Ellami” group at the behest of “Abu Mahdi Al Mouhandis” and the leaders of “Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq” and especially the groups led by Akram al-Kaabi.

The sources added that members of Mourtadha Abboud Ellami’s group, reported the plan to the Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari, giving him a deadline to expel the Saudi ambassador from the country.

Al Sabhan told Al Arabiya News these threats would not prevent him from helping Iraqi people, adding he was continuing his duties as normal, “even more than before.”

He said the Saudi embassy had taken the necessary actions and reported the issue to the Iraqi government, leaving it to bear its responsibility before the international community and its commitments.

From its part, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper said Iran was plotting to assassinate Al Sabhan using RPJ7 rockets on his armored car.

Informed sources said Iraqi Shiite militias have three plots to attack and that the militias were directly-linked to Iran.
Of these militias the sources revealed Khorasan Battalions and another group that works with the Secretary General of Abu Fadl al-Abbas Forces Ous al-Khafaji.

A source told the newspaper that each plot was different, but the operation is set to happen as soon as possible. He explained that Khorasan Battalions’ plot was uncovered, while the plot of Abu Fadl al-Abbas Forces was revealed in the past few days.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi security official revealed information that one of the assassination plots was to get rid of the ambassador, stopping his statements against Iran and its followers in Iraq. This action would therefore create a political and diplomatic issue between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the official added.

The official, who is currently visiting Beirut, said security forces were able to track the plot set by Khorasan. “We tracked phone calls between members of this militia and personnel at Baghdad International Airport who belong to the Khorasan battalions. They were alerting them about the ambassador’s travel plans from and to Baghdad.”

The official said the plan also included using fake plates matching that of the Ministry of Interior to intercept the Saudi ambassador’s barricade on the airport’s road.

The assassination was to be carried out using RPG7 missiles since the ambassador’s cars were armored. Then the cars would escape to the Sunni area Al Radwaneyye to hide its identity and blame ISIS for the attack.

The person at the airport working with "Khorasan battalion" has been captured. The official said they weren’t able to reach the whole group consisting of eight members who were in two cars.

Source: Al Arabiya

 

A member confessed that an Iranian officer had come up with the plan and overlooked the execution. ,

Iraq said on Sunday it had hanged 36 militants sentenced to death over the mass killing of hundreds of mainly Shi'ite soldiers at a camp north of Baghdad two years ago.

It is the highest number of militants executed in one day by the Iraqi government since Islamic State fighters took control of parts of northern and western Iraq in 2014.

The executions were carried out at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, state television quoted the Justice Ministry as saying.

As many as 1,700 soldiers were killed two years ago after they fled from Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base just north of Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, when it was overrun by Islamic State, the ultra-hardline Sunni group.

The government came under increased pressure from local Shi'ite politicians to execute militants sentenced to death after a massive bombing that targeted a shopping street in Baghdad on July 3, killing at least 324 people.

Claimed by Islamic State, the truck bomb that blew up in the Karrada district was the deadliest since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraq's Justice Ministry announced days later that 45 death sentences had been carried out since the beginning of the year.

The United Nations said on Aug. 1 that Iraq's efforts to speed up the execution of militants could result in innocent people being put to death.

An estimated 1,200 people are on death row in Iraq, including possibly hundreds who have exhausted appeals, the U.N. statement said.

"Given the weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, and the current environment in Iraq, I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in the statement.


Source: Reuters

 

U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group, American and Iraqi officials told ABC News. Some Iraqi units have already been cut off from U.S. assistance over "credible" human rights violations, according to a senior military official on the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq's most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.

The videos and photos are part of a trove of disturbing images that ABC News discovered has been circulating within the dark corners of Iraqi social media since last summer. In some U.S. military and Iraqi circles, the Iraqi units and militias under scrutiny are referred to as the "dirty brigades."

“As the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and militias reclaim territory, their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL [ISIS] fighters,” said a statement to ABC News from the U.S. government. “If these allegations are confirmed, those found responsible must be held accountable."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, along with international human rights advocates and military experts, called the photos evidence of Iraqi "war crimes."

"I guarantee you ultimately we get blamed for it whether we did it or not," Leahy predicted.

Under what is known as the Leahy Law, the U.S. is required to cut off funds to any foreign military unit when there is “credible evidence” of human rights violations. In Iraq the responsibility of determination falls to the Department of Defense. In recent Senate testimony, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the Iraqi investigation had been ordered and said the Leahy Law applies to units operating alongside the many militias also fighting in Iraq against ISIS.

"I would say that involves the Leahy Law," Leahy recently told ABC News after viewing the shocking imagery. “And I'd argue that we should be withholding money."

According to the Pentagon, the U.S. already has. In a statement to ABC News, the Joint Staff official revealed that in the months since the U.S. began airstrikes and military assistance to Iraq last August, “We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specific units.”

In Washington today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers the U.S. military is keeping a close eye on the militias as well.

"What we are watching carefully is whether the militias -- they call themselves the popular mobilization forces -- whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing," he said.

An Iraqi government spokesperson previously said while the dozens of photos could be ISIS propaganda, a full investigation was warranted.

“Yes, of course we will investigate these pictures,” the spokesperson, Gen. Saad Maan, said in an interview in Baghdad as he viewed a selection of images provided by ABC News.

"We don't have anything to hide,” the general said. “We don't have anything to be in, let's say, in a black corner."

The Iraqi military is key to the U.S. strategy to fight ISIS and stop its atrocities, which have outraged the world. The U.S. is shipping almost $1 billion in weapons, as well as providing U.S. military trainers to instruct new Iraqi recruits. A special operations official in Baghdad, however, said it’s the government of Iraq that decides — not the Pentagon — which Iraqi units get U.S.-donated weapons, such as 43,000 M4 rifles and thousands of other light infantry weapons Congress approved for shipment in December. American troops are not known to be operating on the ground in combat in Iraq or Syria. No Americans are shown in the images or footage ABC News has found, nor have any Americans been implicated in any of the alleged atrocities.

Officials from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who reviewed the library of horrors assembled in the ABC News investigation said it is rare to see so much visual evidence of human rights abuses.

"Usually when forces commit such crimes they try to hide them. What we are seeing here is a brazen, proud display of these terrible crimes," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Executive Director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview as she and the group's lead investigator in Iraq, Erin Evers, surveyed the carnage.

ABC News came upon the first such images last September, when a reporter following personal Instagram accounts of Iraqi counter-terrorism troops spotted a video of a handcuffed prisoner shot in the head by a man in camouflage -- which more than 600 users "liked." The English and Arabic captions by a self-identified member of the Iraqi security forces said, “We have arrested this terrorist yesterday and we killed him after completion of interrogation."

A separate photo posted in September showed the severed head of a long-haired and bearded alleged ISIS fighter lashed to the grill of a U.S.-donated Humvee bearing an Iraqi Army license plate. A second related photo eventually surfaced of what appeared to be an Iraqi Army soldier holding up the same severed head next to the gun truck. Desecration of war dead and extrajudicial killings are violations of the Geneva Conventions.

"You don’t behead someone and place their head on the front of your Humvee. That’s unacceptable -- because it’s a war crime. And it’s an atrocity," retired U.S. Army Special Forces Lt. Col. James Gavrilis told ABC News.

As a senior officer in 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq a decade ago, Gavrilis was deeply involved in counterinsurgency during the U.S. war and creating Iraqi counter-terrorism units from Special Forces and special police teams.

"I think it’s horrible. I think this really shows a failure of our policy for Iraq," Gavrilis said, confirming that the imagery looked authentic and too plentiful online to be faked.

"Both sides are committing war crimes," he said. "This is widespread, it’s endemic."

In another video posted online in October, two unarmed civilians are shot to death after being questioned, and denying, whether they were part of ISIS. When the camera pans to one man with a gun, he appears to be wearing a uniform and shoulder patch of Iraqi Special Forces, with Iraqi Army officers also nearby observing the atrocity.

Fighters who appear to be a mix of militia and army appearing in a separate 78-second video circulating in January — including some wearing Iraqi flags and Iraqi Special Forces patches — take pictures of a captured teenaged boy who appears terrified. “Didn’t you just shoot?” demands one fighter. The handcuffed boy, shoved to the ground, insists, “No, no, I did not shoot a single bullet.”

The men argue over whether to kill him, some asking the others to calm down, but they shoot him to death anyway as the sound of mortars and gunfire nearby punctuate the crime. “This is to avenge the martyrs,” one man says.

“I've seen all sorts of horrible things over the years... but I have never seen anything this bad in my life,” said Ali Khedery, an American former diplomat in Baghdad who advised five U.S. ambassadors in the Iraqi capital and three generals overseeing Middle East operations at U.S. Central Command.

Khedery recently wrote in Foreign Policy about another video, where a man was beaten and machine gunned to death by a gang who appeared to be both militias and Iraqi Special Forces with U.S.-donated M4A1 rifles. He said the video slaughter of the Iraqis accused by their killers of smuggling weapons for ISIS was far worse, because Iraqi government troops were present.

“It was the shooting of unarmed men. This is a U.S.-backed government. They carried U.S. weapons,” he said.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say they have been working to fully authenticate the content posted online on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter connected to the Iraqi military. The uniforms and insignia of Iraqi Special Operations Forces under the command of Baghdad’s Counter-Terrorism Forces as well as special police and Emergency Response units from the Ministry of the Interior are clearly identifiable in many of the photos and videos, which include many severed heads and corpses dragged behind humvees.

Gen. Maan, the Iraqi government spokesperson, claimed the patches identifying Iraqi military units could be bought on Iraqi streets and that the gruesome images could be a clever ploy by ISIS to discredit the Iraqi military.

"It does not look like ISIS propaganda at all," Gavrilis said. "I don’t know how we could support them, if they are spearheading a lot on the front lines alongside these militias, and if they are conducting these kinds of atrocities as well... These Shi’a militias are just as barbaric as ISIS."

Some militias take pride in their atrocities and appear to often be calling the shots on the battlefield, not the government forces, BloombergView columnist Eli Lake found when he recently visited the front lines north of Baghdad.

Officials said that the State Department's human rights observers and military intelligence had viewed examples of Iraqi Security Forces posting atrocities on personal social media for over a year. But one knowledgeable U.S. official said that since ABC News began asking about the many disturbing images last fall, the atrocities allegations against Iraq’s fighting forces have grown “more severe” and the “very concerning” allegations are being raised at high levels in Baghdad.

The Pentagon spokesperson told ABC News the U.S. military has "discussed with Iraqi leaders the paramount importance of maintaining high standards of conduct and protecting civilian populations of all sects."

"The actions of a small minority, if left unchecked, could do serious harm to the efforts of the Iraqi government," the spokesperson said.

With several thousand American troops back in Iraq as trainers, the alleged atrocities by Iraqi troops puts U.S. military commanders in the unenviable position of having to sort out which units are clean or dirty, Gavrilis said.

 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last month released a report on Iraq that both condemned ISIS for its campaign of killings verging on genocide, but also criticized Iraqi Security Forces for military operations that "which may have amounted to war crimes."

Last March, the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor also issued its own damning report on Iraq, stating that government officials under then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki committed "extrajudicial killings" -- meaning battlefield executions of ISIS suspects and killing individuals in custody without trial.

"Ministry of Interior officials tortured detainees to death, according to reports from multiple government officials and human rights organizations," read the annual report. The Bureau explicitly fingered the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces and Interior Ministry's special police units -- which the U.S. established, trained and armed from 2003-2011, and whose troops are seen in many of the atrocities images.

But the State report was issued before the U.S. began airstrikes in Iraq last August to assist security forces in successfully retaking the Mosul Dam, and long before President Obama deployed thousands of American infantrymen, special operations forces and enablers back into Iraq beginning last fall to assist the Iraqis in fighting ISIS. A new report is expected soon, officials said.

Now that the alleged war crimes of the U.S.-backed forces have become public, the Iraqi spokesman stressed that his government will not tolerate “bad behavior.”

Using the Arabic slang for ISIS, Gen. Maan said, "We do not allow any person to be a savage like Daesh."

Source: ABC News

 

 

 

BRUSSELS, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Preparations for the battle of Mosul are well underway. Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city with a population of around 2 million.

It has been held by the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, since 2014 and is hailed by the terrorist group as the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. Now Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-coalition airstrikes and with technical support from 500 American troops, have recaptured four villages on the outskirts of Mosul -- Tal Hamid, Qarqasha, Abzakh and Qura Takh -- and are already constructing an airbase near the village of Qayyara, which will be used as a staging post for the impending assault on the city.

However, following the successful recapture of Ramadi and Fallujah from IS, sectarian tensions are on the rise. Shi'ite militias armed and commanded by the Iranian regime spearheaded the so-called 'liberation' of these major Iraqi cities, exploiting the opportunity to exact a brutal campaign of revenge against the predominantly Sunni population.

The Shi'ia-dominated Iraqi government has launched an investigation into allegations of executions and torture of Sunni civilians and the disappearance of over 1,000 Sunni men.

The forces gathered around Mosul include the Kurdish Peshmerga, some fighters loyal to the pro-Sunni former governor of the city and a number of Shi'ia militias who make up the popular mobilization movement. Leaders of the Peshmerga have expressed fears that the political objectives of the diverse military forces poised to recapture Mosul are widely contradictory.

Sheikh Lukhman Sharawani, a Kurdish military commander, says the Sunni population of Mosul fear they will face the same fate as their brothers and sisters in Ramadi and Fallujah. They fear that the Iranian-led Shi'ia militias are taking advantage of the war against IS to implement a ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing in Iraq's Sunni provinces.

Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch asked Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to exclude the Shi'ia militias from the battle for Mosul. But there is little hope that this will happen, as the Iraqi military is so riven with corruption that few believe it has the capacity to mount an effective offensive against IS without the assistance of the militias. Abadi, a puppet of the theocratic Iranian regime, has allowed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Gen. Qasem Soleimani to take command of the Shi'ia militias inside Iraq.

Soleimani and the IRGC are listed as international terrorists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah, which led to widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured and men and boys were ruthlessly rounded up and tortured by the brutal Shi'ia militias, who claimed they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing from the crumbling metropolis.

The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene in Iraq and their brutal repression led by the 63 separate pro-Iranian Shi'ia militias, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear IS. Indeed the eventual collapse of IS in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq's crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing sectarian threats to security.

But U.S. pledges of airstrike and logistical support for the Shi'ia militias surrounding Mosul may prove to be a costly mistake with the price being paid by innocent Sunni men, women and children who face imminent death and destruction. The real victors will be the mullahs in Tehran who will forever thank U.S. President Barack Obama for helping them to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its Sunni population and to enable their theocratic Iranian regime to extend its evil influence exponentially across the Middle East.

By defeating IS in Mosul, Obama wants to leave a good foreign policy legacy for himself or at least to decrease his disastrous legacy of failure in Iraq and Syria. But this cannot happen by using Shi'ia militias affiliated to the Quds force at the expense of the Iraqi Sunni population. America's ominous cooperation with the criminal Shi'ia militias, even if it ultimately leads to the expulsion of IS from Mosul, will strengthen the jihadists in the long term and as soon as the U.S. military and air force leave Iraq, IS will return.

If he wants to preserve any kind of reputation in the Middle East, Obama needs to do several things. Firstly he must insist on the expulsion of the Shi'ia militias from Nineveh province; they can be replaced by actively recruiting and organizing local Sunni tribes and forces in Mosul and its suburbs. The United States should arm and train these recruits and treat them as an equal partner in the liberation of Mosul, as they are the only ones who can keep IS out of Nineveh Province in the long term.

Secondly, the United States should strengthen the Iraqi army, purging it of all pro-Iranian elements.

Thirdly, Obama must be seen to support al-Abadi in his bid to carry out radical reforms.

No one can expect a miracle in Iraq. But leaving a wrecked and devastated Iraq will not be a sound legacy for Obama. If he adopts the correct strategy, he still has time. Even if by Jan. 20, the battle for Mosul is still raging, it will be a just and honorable battle to the credit of Obama. But a shattered Mosul, 2 million homeless Sunni men, women and children and IS waiting in the wings to re-emerge, will not be an honor or distinction for anyone. 

Source:: UPI

BY: Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association,

Mr Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.

Iran-backed Shiite fighters in Iraq now number up to 100,000 fighters, the first-known estimate of their size, according to the US military. It was earlier reported that Iran’s Syria-based commander is preparing to retake the Iraqis city of Mosul.

In what appears to be a deepening role played by Iran in the fight against Islamic State (IS, ISIS/formerly ISIL), the forces’ estimates range anywhere from 80,000 up to 100,000, according to spokesman Colonel Chris Garver, who confirmed the figure to Fox after it was first floated by the head of US Central Command, Army General Joe Votel in late July, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

According to Garver, not all Shiite fighters making up the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are Iran-backed – that figure usually stands at about 80,000. The rest of the figure is a mashup of Sunni tribal fighters from Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, also rising up against the IS threat.

The new estimates coincide with Moscow’s confirmation that it is now launching anti-IS operations in Syria from an Iranian military base for the first time on Tuesday. Tu-22M3 and Su-34 bombers took off from the Hamedan Airbase, striking IS and Al-Nusra Front facilities in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib. They were covered by Su-30m and Su-35 fighters, which took off from Russia’s Syria-based Kheimim Airbase.

Aside from the PMF, another Iranian outfit – the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force – is now forecast to play a massive role over in Iraq’s Mosul, which has been in IS’ grip since 2014.

During a Tuesday press conference, Garver commented on the prospect of Shiite militias participating in the liberation of the Sunni-dominated Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. This was upon hearing reports from the PMF that Iran’s prominent military commander from the Syrian theater of operations, General Qassem Soleimani, has moved his troops on the outskirts of Mosul to gear up for the operation. This was reported by the Long War Journal after remarks translated from the Fars News Agency.

However Garver, according to Fox, also stated: “We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way, we are not working with them in any way.” He added that “the government of Iraq comes up with the plan, we are supporting [their] plan for the seizure of Mosul.”

Soleimani is said to be planning a coordinated operation with Iraqi government forces and the PMF.

This multi-pronged approach to fighting IS in Syria and Iraq also got a new player in the face of China, as Beijing announced Damascus’s blessing to have the Chinese military provide humanitarian aid to Syria while also training Syrian personnel, Xinhua reported following word from a high-ranking People’s Liberation Army officer.

Source: rt.com

Press release- 9 September 2016

A big victory for the Iranian opposition PMOI as the last remaining members in Camp Liberty, leave Iraq for Albania


This afternoon the main Iranian opposition PMOI, moved their remaining members who were previously trapped in Camp Liberty near Baghdad airport. This successful huge transfer took place while the Iranian regime planned to either eliminate or rip apart its main enemy while they were still in Iraq.

This final round of departures marks the successful conclusion of the process of relocating members of the PMOI to countries of safety outside Iraq despite the Iranian regime’s conspiracies, obstruction and threats, which continued until the very last day.

I was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and President of the Delegation for Relations with Iraq during my final 5-year mandate. I was able to learn at first hand about the Iraqi government’s repeated attempts to annihilate the defenceless PMOI refugees in Camp Ashraf and Camp Liberty, under the guidance of the Iranian regime.

Since the American occupying forces transferred control and jurisdiction for the residents of Ashraf to the Iraqi government under Nouri al-Maliki seven years ago, there was a constant state of intense siege imposed by the Iraqi government, puppets of the mullahs in Tehran, which continued to the last day. This siege involved the complete imprisonment of the residents of Camp Liberty in a small compound vulnerable to repeated rocket attacks. The residents suffered a sporadic blockade against fuel, food and essential equipment and a determined resistance by the Iraqi authorities against the provision of protective concrete T-walls inside the camp. In addition a medical blockade of the camp cost many lives and much suffering and there was constant psychological torture involving bogus so-called ‘family members’ from Iran, who were allowed to penetrate the security perimeter and shout abuse and threats at the residents through loudspeakers, while carrying out reconnaissance missions to prepare for further rocket attacks.

These serial violations of the basic human rights of the civilian residents of Camp Liberty were ignored by the UN. Three massacres at Camp Ashraf, five missile attacks on Camp Liberty, two cases of abduction of defenceless residents, and the imposition of a fully-fledged eight-year siege, which left 177 residents dead, constituted parts of this vicious, although ultimately futile, plan.

As far as the mullahs are concerned they wanted to eliminate all of the people in Liberty or to make them give up and surrender. This did not happen due to the courage and resistance of PMOI members who stood up against numerous conspiracies, as well as the inspiring leadership of Mrs Maryam Rajavi and the  active backing of thousands of parliamentarians and Iranian communities all around the world.

The victorious transfer of the PMOI members and the regime’s ultimate major defeat in this regard, opens a new chapter for the Iranian people and its Resistance. Now that the main organized democratic opposition is safely out of Iraq, we need to focus on the human rights situation, the end of executions and a democratic change; a free Iran. We also need to redouble legal efforts to bring those to justice in Iraq who orchestrated the serial abuse and murder of the Ashraf and Liberty residents and who looted their property worth tens of millions of dollars.

Struan Stevenson

Struan Stevenson was a Member of the European Parliament representing Scotland (1999-2014). He was President of the Parliament’s Delegation for Relations with Iraq (2009-2014) and Chair of Friends of a Free Iran Intergroup from 2005-2014. He is now President of the European Iraqi Freedom Association (EIFA)

An Iraqi Shi'ite militia said on Wednesday it had dispatched more than 1,000 fighters to the frontline in neighboring Syria, escalating foreign involvement in the battle for Aleppo, the biggest prize in five years of relentless civil war.

New footage emerged of civilians choking in the aftermath of an apparent attack with poison chlorine gas on an opposition-held district as the battle for Syria's biggest city approaches what could be a decisive phase.

Aleppo has been divided for years into government and rebel sectors, but President Bashar al-Assad's army has put the opposition areas under siege and now hopes to capture the whole city in what would be a devastating blow to his enemies.

Government forces are backed by Russian air power and battle-hardened Lebanese and Iraqi Shi'ite militia fighters under the apparent oversight of an Iranian general.

The arrival of reinforcements from Iraq, where Shi'ite militia are fighting their own war against the Islamic State group, shows how the Syrian and Iraqi conflicts have leapt borders, to become a broad sectarian war across the Middle East.

Hashim al-Moussawi, a spokesman for the Iraqi Shi'ite militia Harakat al-Nujab, said its fighters would reinforce areas captured from the rebels in southern Aleppo.

The militia's Twitter account showed pictures of its fighters at the Syrian front with Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of foreign operations for the elite Revolutionary Guards, who has led operations by Tehran's allies in both Syria and Iraq.

Rebel commanders said they are preparing to launch their own counter-offensive aimed at breaking the siege of the city, which was reimposed in recent days following weeks of intense fighting around a military complex.

Rebels lost the complex of military colleges to pro-government forces on Sunday near the Ramousah area of southwestern Aleppo, where they had opened a way into the city.

Five years after the multi-sided war began, hundreds of thousands of people have been killed and 11 million - half of Syria's pre-war population - displaced. But there is little sign that any party is poised for victory or can restore stability, and foreign powers are becoming more involved.

In recent weeks, Turkey has sent its troops across the border to combat Islamic State and Kurdish fighters. The United States, which is trying to negotiate a ceasefire with Russia, has backed Kurdish forces advancing against Islamic State.

Meanwhile, the plight of some 250,000 civilians trapped in rebel-held districts of Aleppo has spurred international efforts to agree a new humanitarian truce. But Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry have not reached agreement over the details of a ceasefire.

POISON GAS

Western countries, Turkey and most Arab states oppose both Assad's government and Islamic State, while supporting other anti-Assad factions. Russia and Iran support Assad.

The latest apparent poison gas attack adds to a litany of what Assad's opponents say is deliberate targeting of civilians, often with banned weapons, to force rebels to surrender.

Footage of the apparent chlorine gas attack on the Sukari district, near Aleppo's main battlefield in the city's southwest, showed crying children being doused with water and then lying on hospital beds and breathing through respirators.

Rescue workers in the rebel-held area said army helicopters had dropped the chlorine in incendiary barrel bombs, an accusation the government has rejected.

"We have not and will not use at any point this type of weapon," a Syrian military source said, accusing rebels of making false accusations to distract attention from their defeats.

However, the government has a history of being accused of similar attacks. An inquiry by the United Nations and Organization for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons (OPCW) seen by Reuters last month said the Syrian army had been responsible for two chlorine gas attacks in 2014 and 2015.

In 2013 Western countries accused Assad's government of attacking a Damascus suburb with nerve gas. At the time, Assad fended off a threatened U.S. bombing campaign only by agreeing to give up his arsenal of chemical weapons, later destroyed by the OPCW. But Syria still possesses chlorine, which is used for water purification and other legitimate industrial processes.

Ramousah, its surroundings, and the countryside between it and the village of Khan Touman seven km (four miles) to its southwest were the site of intense bombardment by Russian jets and attacks by Shi'ite militias in recent weeks, rebels say.

On Tuesday night, jets bombed Khan Touman and neighboring areas, and intense clashes took place in Ramousah and its surroundings, with rebels targeting an army tank, the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a U.K.-based war monitor reported.

Rebels also shelled government-held residential districts in western Aleppo, the Observatory reported.

"All the (rebel) factions are trying to prepare themselves to launch a new attack on the regime positions in Ramousah. It's not over," a senior source in the insurgency said.

Source: Reuters

BAGHDAD — Iraq's Foreign Ministry said the government on Sunday formally requested that the Saudi ambassador in Baghdad be replaced after he claimed that Iranian-backed Shiite militias are plotting to assassinate him.

Foreign Ministry spokesman Ahmed Jamal told The Associated Press that the government sent a formal request to Saudi Arabia to replace the kingdom's ambassador in Baghdad, Thamer al-Sabhan. Jamal said al-Sabhan's reported comments are untrue and harm relations between the two countries. He said the allegations are considered interference in Iraq's internal affairs and that al-Sabhan has not provided the ministry with any proof or evidence of these claims.

Shiite-led Iran and Sunni-led Saudi Arabia are regional rivals and broke off diplomatic ties in January after several years of frayed relations. In 2011, U.S. authorities said they had disrupted an Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to Washington at the time.

Al-Sabhan was quoted as telling the Saudi-owned al-Hayat newspaper that Iraqi intelligence provided him with information about the assassination plans. He said this was happening as Iran tries to block reform efforts in Iraq and other Arab countries.

Al-Sabhan was also quoted by the Saudi-owned al-Arabiya news channel saying "sectarian radical groups" are behind the threats. The channel, quoting unnamed sources, alleged that Iranian-backed senior figures in Iraq's Popular Mobilization Committee are among those behind the assassination plots and that they had given the Iraqi Foreign Ministry a deadline to expel al-Sabhan.

In the Saudi-owned Ashraq al-Awsat newspaper, an unnamed Iraqi official was quoted as saying militias were planning to attack the ambassador's armored cars with rocket-propelled grenades.

In an interview aired on Iraqi channel Wesal TV, Aws al-Khafaji, who heads the Iraqi militia group Abu al-Fadhl al-Abbas, said many factions in Iraq want to target al-Sabhan.

"If al-Sabhan was killed in Iraq, any factions involved would admit it, especially because he is wanted ... We clearly stated that we do not want al-Sabhan in Iraq." he said, before adding that if he were assassinated, "it will be an honor and will be proudly admitted."

AUG. 28, 2016

These days, Gen. David Petraeus is far from the battlefield. Petraeus, who retired in 2011, works in New York as a partner at the private equity firm KKR and is chairman of the KKR Global Institute. In his spare time, the retired four-star general is a professor at the City University of New York and the University of Southern California and a senior fellow at Harvard. But his mind is never far from the global issues that confront the United States. The former CIA director, who served 37 years in the Army, described the fight against the Islamic State (also known as ISIL or ISIS) as a “generational struggle” that will define American foreign policy for decades to come – “as long as is necessary.”

But he’s worried about how that fight is going. Petraeus told us that, while the Islamic State may be “losing ground from its caliphate in Syria and Iraq, it is increasing its activity in a few other locations and continues to be very dangerous, conducting and inspiring attacks in numerous countries well beyond the Middle East and North Africa.”

 

“It has taken the U.S. and its coalition partners longer than it ideally should have, but the military approach that has evolved is impressive, has made considerable progress, and will make more in the months ahead,” he said. “I am concerned, however, that the plans for post-ISIS governance in Mosul [an ISIS-held city in Iraq] and the desired endstate for Syria are not particularly clear at this point.”

An October surprise could be coming: “The surprise could be that Mosul falls earlier than had been predicted. And that means that Iraqi authorities need to accelerate the plans for subsequent governance in Mosul city and Ninevah Province, both of which are arguably the most complex in ethnic, sectarian, and tribal makeup in Iraq (as I explained in a recent piece in the Washington Post) ... I learned a lot about the ‘human terrain’ in Ninevah during our first year in Iraq when I was privileged to command the 101st Airborne Division in that area; there are enormous challenges there, and it is going to be an exceedingly difficult task for the Iraqi government, even with full coalition support, to resolve those challenges to ensure that conditions are not set that lead to the rise of ISIS 3.0.”

On the politicization on some retired generals like John Allen and Michael Flynn, who have endorsed presidential candidates: “I am not going to second-guess my old battlefield comrades from Iraq and Afghanistan; each has his own reason for what he has done. Having said that, my personal decision has been to try to be as nonpartisan as is possible, and thus I have refused to endorse or contribute to any candidate, though I have offered my thoughts to a number of candidates for a variety of positions, from both parties, in recent years when asked to do so.”

The Khan controversy: “I don’t comment directly on actions or statements of candidates. I will note, however, that our country obviously has an enormous obligation to our Gold Star families -- families that have lost a loved one in combat while in uniform; indeed, that obligation includes recognizing and honoring and supporting the families of those who, in Abraham Lincoln’s words, gave ‘the last full measure of devotion’ in the service of our nation.”

His biggest geopolitical worry: “Beyond ISIS, Russian actions in Syria and Ukraine, disputes between China and other countries in the South and East China Seas, cyber crime, and the slowdown in global growth, I am concerned by the extent to which the political, financial, security, and legal organizations, norms, and principles established in the previous century after two world wars and the Great Depression are being challenged by a variety of countries and non-state actors. These institutions and norms stood the world in quite good stead, and it is important that we ensure their evolution is pursued in a thoughtful, pragmatic, and principled manner.”

What Petraeus does now: “I have been very fortunate in the three-and-half years since leaving government to build a portfolio of business, academic, speaking, and non-profit endeavors that provide intellectual stimulation, interesting travel, and an opportunity to continue to contribute to the major debates of the day — as well as to spend time with my family and run and cycle!”


Source: Politico

By: Daniel Lippman

 

Portugal’s government is considering asking Iraq to remove its diplomatic immunity from the sons of its ambassador after they allegedly attacked a 15-year-old boy.

The request will depend on the outcome of a police investigation into the matter.

The 17-year-old twin sons, who may have already fled Portugal, are suspected of carrying out a brutal attack following a row in a bar.

The teenager who has been named locally as Rubin was air lifted to a hospital in Lisbon where he is said to be in a coma.

One of the twin brothers allegedly ran the victim over with a car registered to the Iraqi embassy and the other punched and kicked him on the ground,

The incident took place in the town of Ponte de Sor, where one of the twins is training to become a pilot at a nearby air base.

 

Source: Euro News

Sources have told Al Arabiya.net that Iraqi Shiite militias belonging to Iran planned to target the Saudi ambassador in Iraq Thamer Al Sabhan, through the members of “Mourtadha Abboud Ellami” group at the behest of “Abu Mahdi Al Mouhandis” and the leaders of “Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq” and especially the groups led by Akram al-Kaabi.

The sources added that members of Mourtadha Abboud Ellami’s group, reported the plan to the Iraqi foreign minister Ibrahim Al Jaafari, giving him a deadline to expel the Saudi ambassador from the country.

Al Sabhan told Al Arabiya News these threats would not prevent him from helping Iraqi people, adding he was continuing his duties as normal, “even more than before.”

He said the Saudi embassy had taken the necessary actions and reported the issue to the Iraqi government, leaving it to bear its responsibility before the international community and its commitments.

From its part, Asharq Al Awsat newspaper said Iran was plotting to assassinate Al Sabhan using RPJ7 rockets on his armored car.

Informed sources said Iraqi Shiite militias have three plots to attack and that the militias were directly-linked to Iran.
Of these militias the sources revealed Khorasan Battalions and another group that works with the Secretary General of Abu Fadl al-Abbas Forces Ous al-Khafaji.

A source told the newspaper that each plot was different, but the operation is set to happen as soon as possible. He explained that Khorasan Battalions’ plot was uncovered, while the plot of Abu Fadl al-Abbas Forces was revealed in the past few days.

Meanwhile, an Iraqi security official revealed information that one of the assassination plots was to get rid of the ambassador, stopping his statements against Iran and its followers in Iraq. This action would therefore create a political and diplomatic issue between Iraq and Saudi Arabia, the official added.

The official, who is currently visiting Beirut, said security forces were able to track the plot set by Khorasan. “We tracked phone calls between members of this militia and personnel at Baghdad International Airport who belong to the Khorasan battalions. They were alerting them about the ambassador’s travel plans from and to Baghdad.”

The official said the plan also included using fake plates matching that of the Ministry of Interior to intercept the Saudi ambassador’s barricade on the airport’s road.

The assassination was to be carried out using RPG7 missiles since the ambassador’s cars were armored. Then the cars would escape to the Sunni area Al Radwaneyye to hide its identity and blame ISIS for the attack.

The person at the airport working with "Khorasan battalion" has been captured. The official said they weren’t able to reach the whole group consisting of eight members who were in two cars.

Source: Al Arabiya

 

A member confessed that an Iranian officer had come up with the plan and overlooked the execution. ,

Iraq said on Sunday it had hanged 36 militants sentenced to death over the mass killing of hundreds of mainly Shi'ite soldiers at a camp north of Baghdad two years ago.

It is the highest number of militants executed in one day by the Iraqi government since Islamic State fighters took control of parts of northern and western Iraq in 2014.

The executions were carried out at a prison in the southern Iraqi city of Nasiriya, state television quoted the Justice Ministry as saying.

As many as 1,700 soldiers were killed two years ago after they fled from Camp Speicher, a former U.S. military base just north of Saddam Hussein's home town of Tikrit, when it was overrun by Islamic State, the ultra-hardline Sunni group.

The government came under increased pressure from local Shi'ite politicians to execute militants sentenced to death after a massive bombing that targeted a shopping street in Baghdad on July 3, killing at least 324 people.

Claimed by Islamic State, the truck bomb that blew up in the Karrada district was the deadliest since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003.

Iraq's Justice Ministry announced days later that 45 death sentences had been carried out since the beginning of the year.

The United Nations said on Aug. 1 that Iraq's efforts to speed up the execution of militants could result in innocent people being put to death.

An estimated 1,200 people are on death row in Iraq, including possibly hundreds who have exhausted appeals, the U.N. statement said.

"Given the weaknesses of the Iraqi justice system, and the current environment in Iraq, I am gravely concerned that innocent people have been and may continue to be convicted and executed, resulting in gross, irreversible miscarriages of justice," U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Zeid Ra'ad al-Hussein said in the statement.


Source: Reuters

 

U.S.-trained and armed Iraqi military units, the key to the American strategy against ISIS, are under investigation for committing some of the same atrocities as the terror group, American and Iraqi officials told ABC News. Some Iraqi units have already been cut off from U.S. assistance over "credible" human rights violations, according to a senior military official on the Pentagon's Joint Staff.

The investigation, being conducted by the Iraqi government, was launched after officials were confronted with numerous allegations of “war crimes,” based in part on dozens of ghastly videos and still photos that appear to show uniformed soldiers from some of Iraq's most elite units and militia members massacring civilians, torturing and executing prisoners, and displaying severed heads.

The videos and photos are part of a trove of disturbing images that ABC News discovered has been circulating within the dark corners of Iraqi social media since last summer. In some U.S. military and Iraqi circles, the Iraqi units and militias under scrutiny are referred to as the "dirty brigades."

“As the ISF [Iraqi Security Forces] and militias reclaim territory, their behavior must be above reproach or they risk being painted with the same brush as ISIL [ISIS] fighters,” said a statement to ABC News from the U.S. government. “If these allegations are confirmed, those found responsible must be held accountable."

Sen. Patrick Leahy, D-Vermont, along with international human rights advocates and military experts, called the photos evidence of Iraqi "war crimes."

"I guarantee you ultimately we get blamed for it whether we did it or not," Leahy predicted.

Under what is known as the Leahy Law, the U.S. is required to cut off funds to any foreign military unit when there is “credible evidence” of human rights violations. In Iraq the responsibility of determination falls to the Department of Defense. In recent Senate testimony, Secretary of State John Kerry confirmed the Iraqi investigation had been ordered and said the Leahy Law applies to units operating alongside the many militias also fighting in Iraq against ISIS.

"I would say that involves the Leahy Law," Leahy recently told ABC News after viewing the shocking imagery. “And I'd argue that we should be withholding money."

According to the Pentagon, the U.S. already has. In a statement to ABC News, the Joint Staff official revealed that in the months since the U.S. began airstrikes and military assistance to Iraq last August, “We have withheld assistance from certain Iraqi units on the basis of credible information in the past. Due to the sensitive nature of our security assistance, we are unable to discuss specific units.”

In Washington today, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Gen. Martin Dempsey told lawmakers the U.S. military is keeping a close eye on the militias as well.

"What we are watching carefully is whether the militias -- they call themselves the popular mobilization forces -- whether when they recapture lost territory, whether they engage in acts of retribution and ethnic cleansing," he said.

An Iraqi government spokesperson previously said while the dozens of photos could be ISIS propaganda, a full investigation was warranted.

“Yes, of course we will investigate these pictures,” the spokesperson, Gen. Saad Maan, said in an interview in Baghdad as he viewed a selection of images provided by ABC News.

"We don't have anything to hide,” the general said. “We don't have anything to be in, let's say, in a black corner."

The Iraqi military is key to the U.S. strategy to fight ISIS and stop its atrocities, which have outraged the world. The U.S. is shipping almost $1 billion in weapons, as well as providing U.S. military trainers to instruct new Iraqi recruits. A special operations official in Baghdad, however, said it’s the government of Iraq that decides — not the Pentagon — which Iraqi units get U.S.-donated weapons, such as 43,000 M4 rifles and thousands of other light infantry weapons Congress approved for shipment in December. American troops are not known to be operating on the ground in combat in Iraq or Syria. No Americans are shown in the images or footage ABC News has found, nor have any Americans been implicated in any of the alleged atrocities.

Officials from Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International who reviewed the library of horrors assembled in the ABC News investigation said it is rare to see so much visual evidence of human rights abuses.

"Usually when forces commit such crimes they try to hide them. What we are seeing here is a brazen, proud display of these terrible crimes," Sarah Leah Whitson, Middle East Executive Director at Human Rights Watch, said in an interview as she and the group's lead investigator in Iraq, Erin Evers, surveyed the carnage.

ABC News came upon the first such images last September, when a reporter following personal Instagram accounts of Iraqi counter-terrorism troops spotted a video of a handcuffed prisoner shot in the head by a man in camouflage -- which more than 600 users "liked." The English and Arabic captions by a self-identified member of the Iraqi security forces said, “We have arrested this terrorist yesterday and we killed him after completion of interrogation."

A separate photo posted in September showed the severed head of a long-haired and bearded alleged ISIS fighter lashed to the grill of a U.S.-donated Humvee bearing an Iraqi Army license plate. A second related photo eventually surfaced of what appeared to be an Iraqi Army soldier holding up the same severed head next to the gun truck. Desecration of war dead and extrajudicial killings are violations of the Geneva Conventions.

"You don’t behead someone and place their head on the front of your Humvee. That’s unacceptable -- because it’s a war crime. And it’s an atrocity," retired U.S. Army Special Forces Lt. Col. James Gavrilis told ABC News.

As a senior officer in 5th Special Forces Group in Iraq a decade ago, Gavrilis was deeply involved in counterinsurgency during the U.S. war and creating Iraqi counter-terrorism units from Special Forces and special police teams.

"I think it’s horrible. I think this really shows a failure of our policy for Iraq," Gavrilis said, confirming that the imagery looked authentic and too plentiful online to be faked.

"Both sides are committing war crimes," he said. "This is widespread, it’s endemic."

In another video posted online in October, two unarmed civilians are shot to death after being questioned, and denying, whether they were part of ISIS. When the camera pans to one man with a gun, he appears to be wearing a uniform and shoulder patch of Iraqi Special Forces, with Iraqi Army officers also nearby observing the atrocity.

Fighters who appear to be a mix of militia and army appearing in a separate 78-second video circulating in January — including some wearing Iraqi flags and Iraqi Special Forces patches — take pictures of a captured teenaged boy who appears terrified. “Didn’t you just shoot?” demands one fighter. The handcuffed boy, shoved to the ground, insists, “No, no, I did not shoot a single bullet.”

The men argue over whether to kill him, some asking the others to calm down, but they shoot him to death anyway as the sound of mortars and gunfire nearby punctuate the crime. “This is to avenge the martyrs,” one man says.

“I've seen all sorts of horrible things over the years... but I have never seen anything this bad in my life,” said Ali Khedery, an American former diplomat in Baghdad who advised five U.S. ambassadors in the Iraqi capital and three generals overseeing Middle East operations at U.S. Central Command.

Khedery recently wrote in Foreign Policy about another video, where a man was beaten and machine gunned to death by a gang who appeared to be both militias and Iraqi Special Forces with U.S.-donated M4A1 rifles. He said the video slaughter of the Iraqis accused by their killers of smuggling weapons for ISIS was far worse, because Iraqi government troops were present.

“It was the shooting of unarmed men. This is a U.S.-backed government. They carried U.S. weapons,” he said.

U.S. and Iraqi authorities say they have been working to fully authenticate the content posted online on sites such as Facebook, Instagram and Twitter connected to the Iraqi military. The uniforms and insignia of Iraqi Special Operations Forces under the command of Baghdad’s Counter-Terrorism Forces as well as special police and Emergency Response units from the Ministry of the Interior are clearly identifiable in many of the photos and videos, which include many severed heads and corpses dragged behind humvees.

Gen. Maan, the Iraqi government spokesperson, claimed the patches identifying Iraqi military units could be bought on Iraqi streets and that the gruesome images could be a clever ploy by ISIS to discredit the Iraqi military.

"It does not look like ISIS propaganda at all," Gavrilis said. "I don’t know how we could support them, if they are spearheading a lot on the front lines alongside these militias, and if they are conducting these kinds of atrocities as well... These Shi’a militias are just as barbaric as ISIS."

Some militias take pride in their atrocities and appear to often be calling the shots on the battlefield, not the government forces, BloombergView columnist Eli Lake found when he recently visited the front lines north of Baghdad.

Officials said that the State Department's human rights observers and military intelligence had viewed examples of Iraqi Security Forces posting atrocities on personal social media for over a year. But one knowledgeable U.S. official said that since ABC News began asking about the many disturbing images last fall, the atrocities allegations against Iraq’s fighting forces have grown “more severe” and the “very concerning” allegations are being raised at high levels in Baghdad.

The Pentagon spokesperson told ABC News the U.S. military has "discussed with Iraqi leaders the paramount importance of maintaining high standards of conduct and protecting civilian populations of all sects."

"The actions of a small minority, if left unchecked, could do serious harm to the efforts of the Iraqi government," the spokesperson said.

With several thousand American troops back in Iraq as trainers, the alleged atrocities by Iraqi troops puts U.S. military commanders in the unenviable position of having to sort out which units are clean or dirty, Gavrilis said.

 The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights last month released a report on Iraq that both condemned ISIS for its campaign of killings verging on genocide, but also criticized Iraqi Security Forces for military operations that "which may have amounted to war crimes."

Last March, the State Department's Bureau of Democracy, Human Rights and Labor also issued its own damning report on Iraq, stating that government officials under then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki committed "extrajudicial killings" -- meaning battlefield executions of ISIS suspects and killing individuals in custody without trial.

"Ministry of Interior officials tortured detainees to death, according to reports from multiple government officials and human rights organizations," read the annual report. The Bureau explicitly fingered the Iraqi Counter-Terrorism Forces and Interior Ministry's special police units -- which the U.S. established, trained and armed from 2003-2011, and whose troops are seen in many of the atrocities images.

But the State report was issued before the U.S. began airstrikes in Iraq last August to assist security forces in successfully retaking the Mosul Dam, and long before President Obama deployed thousands of American infantrymen, special operations forces and enablers back into Iraq beginning last fall to assist the Iraqis in fighting ISIS. A new report is expected soon, officials said.

Now that the alleged war crimes of the U.S.-backed forces have become public, the Iraqi spokesman stressed that his government will not tolerate “bad behavior.”

Using the Arabic slang for ISIS, Gen. Maan said, "We do not allow any person to be a savage like Daesh."

Source: ABC News

 

 

 

BRUSSELS, Aug. 17 (UPI) -- Preparations for the battle of Mosul are well underway. Mosul is Iraq's second-largest city with a population of around 2 million.

It has been held by the Islamic State, also known as Daesh, since 2014 and is hailed by the terrorist group as the capital of its self-proclaimed caliphate. Now Iraqi forces, backed by U.S.-coalition airstrikes and with technical support from 500 American troops, have recaptured four villages on the outskirts of Mosul -- Tal Hamid, Qarqasha, Abzakh and Qura Takh -- and are already constructing an airbase near the village of Qayyara, which will be used as a staging post for the impending assault on the city.

However, following the successful recapture of Ramadi and Fallujah from IS, sectarian tensions are on the rise. Shi'ite militias armed and commanded by the Iranian regime spearheaded the so-called 'liberation' of these major Iraqi cities, exploiting the opportunity to exact a brutal campaign of revenge against the predominantly Sunni population.

The Shi'ia-dominated Iraqi government has launched an investigation into allegations of executions and torture of Sunni civilians and the disappearance of over 1,000 Sunni men.

The forces gathered around Mosul include the Kurdish Peshmerga, some fighters loyal to the pro-Sunni former governor of the city and a number of Shi'ia militias who make up the popular mobilization movement. Leaders of the Peshmerga have expressed fears that the political objectives of the diverse military forces poised to recapture Mosul are widely contradictory.

Sheikh Lukhman Sharawani, a Kurdish military commander, says the Sunni population of Mosul fear they will face the same fate as their brothers and sisters in Ramadi and Fallujah. They fear that the Iranian-led Shi'ia militias are taking advantage of the war against IS to implement a ruthless policy of ethnic cleansing in Iraq's Sunni provinces.

Last month, New York-based Human Rights Watch asked Iraq's Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi to exclude the Shi'ia militias from the battle for Mosul. But there is little hope that this will happen, as the Iraqi military is so riven with corruption that few believe it has the capacity to mount an effective offensive against IS without the assistance of the militias. Abadi, a puppet of the theocratic Iranian regime, has allowed the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Gen. Qasem Soleimani to take command of the Shi'ia militias inside Iraq.

Soleimani and the IRGC are listed as international terrorists. Soleimani directed the attack on Fallujah, which led to widespread destruction, with most buildings in the city damaged or destroyed. Thousands of civilians were killed and injured and men and boys were ruthlessly rounded up and tortured by the brutal Shi'ia militias, who claimed they are trying to identify Daesh militants fleeing from the crumbling metropolis.

The widespread purge of Sunnis from the political scene in Iraq and their brutal repression led by the 63 separate pro-Iranian Shi'ia militias, means that many Sunnis fear the sectarian militias more than they fear IS. Indeed the eventual collapse of IS in Iraq will not herald a new dawn of peace and safety for the beleaguered Iraqi people. Such is the corrupt and decrepit state of Iraq's crumbling political system that any vacuum created by the removal of Daesh may be quickly filled by new and menacing sectarian threats to security.

But U.S. pledges of airstrike and logistical support for the Shi'ia militias surrounding Mosul may prove to be a costly mistake with the price being paid by innocent Sunni men, women and children who face imminent death and destruction. The real victors will be the mullahs in Tehran who will forever thank U.S. President Barack Obama for helping them to ethnically cleanse Iraq of its Sunni population and to enable their theocratic Iranian regime to extend its evil influence exponentially across the Middle East.

By defeating IS in Mosul, Obama wants to leave a good foreign policy legacy for himself or at least to decrease his disastrous legacy of failure in Iraq and Syria. But this cannot happen by using Shi'ia militias affiliated to the Quds force at the expense of the Iraqi Sunni population. America's ominous cooperation with the criminal Shi'ia militias, even if it ultimately leads to the expulsion of IS from Mosul, will strengthen the jihadists in the long term and as soon as the U.S. military and air force leave Iraq, IS will return.

If he wants to preserve any kind of reputation in the Middle East, Obama needs to do several things. Firstly he must insist on the expulsion of the Shi'ia militias from Nineveh province; they can be replaced by actively recruiting and organizing local Sunni tribes and forces in Mosul and its suburbs. The United States should arm and train these recruits and treat them as an equal partner in the liberation of Mosul, as they are the only ones who can keep IS out of Nineveh Province in the long term.

Secondly, the United States should strengthen the Iraqi army, purging it of all pro-Iranian elements.

Thirdly, Obama must be seen to support al-Abadi in his bid to carry out radical reforms.

No one can expect a miracle in Iraq. But leaving a wrecked and devastated Iraq will not be a sound legacy for Obama. If he adopts the correct strategy, he still has time. Even if by Jan. 20, the battle for Mosul is still raging, it will be a just and honorable battle to the credit of Obama. But a shattered Mosul, 2 million homeless Sunni men, women and children and IS waiting in the wings to re-emerge, will not be an honor or distinction for anyone. 

Source:: UPI

BY: Struan Stevenson, president of the European Iraqi Freedom Association,

Mr Struan Stevenson was a member of the European Parliament from 1999 to 2014 and was president of the European Parliament's Delegation for Relations with Iraq from 2009 to 2014.

Iran-backed Shiite fighters in Iraq now number up to 100,000 fighters, the first-known estimate of their size, according to the US military. It was earlier reported that Iran’s Syria-based commander is preparing to retake the Iraqis city of Mosul.

In what appears to be a deepening role played by Iran in the fight against Islamic State (IS, ISIS/formerly ISIL), the forces’ estimates range anywhere from 80,000 up to 100,000, according to spokesman Colonel Chris Garver, who confirmed the figure to Fox after it was first floated by the head of US Central Command, Army General Joe Votel in late July, according to the Tampa Bay Times.

According to Garver, not all Shiite fighters making up the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) are Iran-backed – that figure usually stands at about 80,000. The rest of the figure is a mashup of Sunni tribal fighters from Iraqi provinces of Anbar and Nineveh, also rising up against the IS threat.

The new estimates coincide with Moscow’s confirmation that it is now launching anti-IS operations in Syria from an Iranian military base for the first time on Tuesday. Tu-22M3 and Su-34 bombers took off from the Hamedan Airbase, striking IS and Al-Nusra Front facilities in the provinces of Aleppo, Deir ez-Zor and Idlib. They were covered by Su-30m and Su-35 fighters, which took off from Russia’s Syria-based Kheimim Airbase.

Aside from the PMF, another Iranian outfit – the Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force – is now forecast to play a massive role over in Iraq’s Mosul, which has been in IS’ grip since 2014.

During a Tuesday press conference, Garver commented on the prospect of Shiite militias participating in the liberation of the Sunni-dominated Mosul, Iraq’s second-largest city. This was upon hearing reports from the PMF that Iran’s prominent military commander from the Syrian theater of operations, General Qassem Soleimani, has moved his troops on the outskirts of Mosul to gear up for the operation. This was reported by the Long War Journal after remarks translated from the Fars News Agency.

However Garver, according to Fox, also stated: “We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way, we are not working with them in any way.” He added that “the government of Iraq comes up with the plan, we are supporting [their] plan for the seizure of Mosul.”

Soleimani is said to be planning a coordinated operation with Iraqi government forces and the PMF.

This multi-pronged approach to fighting IS in Syria and Iraq also got a new player in the face of China, as Beijing announced Damascus’s blessing to have the Chinese military provide humanitarian aid to Syria while also training Syrian personnel, Xinhua reported following word from a high-ranking People’s Liberation Army officer.

Source: rt.com

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