27 August 2016
English Arabic

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

As Iraqi political and military attention shifts north in the fight against the Islamic State group, the military victories that have put Iraqi forces on Mosul's doorstep have left behind shattered cities, towns and communities in Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Anbar has witnessed the most successful military phase of the ground fight against IS to date. But rather than restore government order, services and security, liberation at the hands of Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition has merely moved many Anbaris from one waiting room into another.

For Ali Athab, his most painful memory of IS rule in Fallujah was watching his daughter's health deteriorate. Born with a rare neurological disorder, his daughter Zeina had been receiving treatment at a Fallujah hospital that helped control her seizures, but once IS solidified its grip on the city less than an hour's drive from Baghdad, almost all the doctors fled.

"She was starting to get better, but now she's stopped speaking," he said, explaining that the few doctors who stayed behind were only allowed to treat IS fighters.

First the cost of medicine skyrocketed, then specialized medicine wasn't available in Fallujah at all.

Athab, 34 said he prayed for liberation, hoping once his city was retaken by Iraqi government forces his daughter would again be able to see a doctor. But more than a month after IS was pushed out of Fallujah, the city remains a ghost town and Athab and his family are stuck in a camp on the edge of Anbar province.

This year, Athab's family joined the more than 1 million other Anbaris who have been forced from their homes since 2014.

Zeina, age 8, sits politely in a corner of the family's tent, occasionally fidgeting and making sounds that don't form words.

In the small, hurriedly constructed camp on the outskirts of Amiriyah al-Fallujah, a single mobile clinic only had antibiotics and mild painkillers on hand. In Baghdad — just over 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, Zeina could have access to the care she needs, but her family — as Anbar residents — lack the legal paperwork required to cross over into Baghdad Province.

"There's an assumption that after Daesh is defeated you can put the nation back together and in essence create a new nation, but that's not what we're seeing in Anbar," said a western diplomat based in Baghdad, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym.

Instead, industry and agriculture have ground to a halt, schools are closed, electrical grids are down and many roads remain unusable. In that vacuum, tribal politics are becoming more powerful and families are adopting more conservative habits, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity due to a lack of authorization to release information to the media.

While Iraqi government security forces administer databases of information to identify possible IS fighters among civilians, much of the screening process is handed over to local Anbari officials and communities.

At one of the larger displacement camps in Amiriyah al-Fallujah, a crowd of women gathered around a humanitarian convoy calling for help, they all had sons who were detained while fleeing Fallujah. Two weeks after they were taken, the women didn't know where they were or who was holding them.

Detainees say that tribes and powerful families are accusing rivals of being IS sympathizers to settle blood feuds, unpaid debts and grievances that go back generations.

"Anyone who has a problem with someone can just accuse him of being with Daesh," said Hussein, a middle-aged man just released from a detention center, speaking on condition that only his first name is used for fear of his own security.

Anbar's residents describe feeling increasingly alienated from the central government, adrift in camps for the displaced or sharing close quarters with extended family. The vast majority of assistance that they are growing increasingly dependent on comes not from the central government, but from local political, tribal and religious leaders.

For Ahmed Fahel, 30, the fight against IS in Hit plunged his family into poverty. Living in a desolate camp further west in Anbar in the desert that lies between Hit and Ramadi, Fahel is now his extended family's only breadwinner. His brother was executed by IS fighters just days before the town was retaken by Iraqi forces and his body was dumped in the street. Fahel only had time to quickly bury his brother in the garden before they fled.

"I have nothing and I also need to provide for my sister-in-law and her children," he said, explaining he has since heard his house back in Hit was completely destroyed.

Nearly 1.3 million Anbaris are estimated to have been forced from their homes since early 2014 when IS first began to grow in power in the province, ferrying fighters and munitions through the lawless desserts along the border with neighboring Syria.

A decade ago, when the predecessor to IS had torn Anbar apart, a U.S.-led effort to stabilize the province built support against al-Qaeda by pouring enormous amounts of resources into existing local tribal leadership networks. Today, Iraq's central government — due in part to budget shortfalls sparked by the plunge in the price of oil — doesn't have the resources and the U.S.-led coalition doesn't have the appetite for such an ambitious undertaking.

Without similarly large amounts of money, putting Anbar back together again will be impossible, said Ahmed al-Dara, a religious sheikh from Fallujah. And beyond the issue of resources, he said, the fight against IS in his home province is fundamentally different from the fight against al-Qaeda after the overthrow of Saddam in 2003.

"This idea of reconciliation is not possible with Iraqis who joined Daesh," said al-Dara, explaining that recovering from this insurgency would not only drive a greater wedge between Iraq's Sunni and Shiites, but has also begun to fracture Iraq's Sunni community.

"I know the people of Fallujah and Ramadi, they will never let a single Daesh supporter return to their cities," he said. "This conflict has taken Iraq's Sunnis back 50 years."

Athab, the Fallujah resident stuck in the tented camp on Anbar's edge, describes the past 13 years of cyclical violence as exhausting.

"This is the third time this has happened to Fallujah," he said referencing the two U.S.-led offensives against al-Qaeda insurgents in his home town in the mid-2000s. The battle against IS this year was the first to force him to flee his home and Athab vows it will be the last.

"I don't want to live in Anbar anymore," he said sucking at his front teeth. "Fallujah is finished, you can take it."

By:  susannah george, associated press

BAGHDAD — If there were one safe place in Iraq, it should be a hospital nursery, locked down for the night with dozens of babies nestled inside.

But here, not even that is a given. When a fire started late Tuesday night in the maternity wing of one of Baghdad’s main hospitals, it quickly engulfed the babies’ room. And then, in another Iraqi tragedy in a horrifying line of preventable ones, nothing worked.

Hospital workers raced to save the infants, but no one could find the keys to unlock the nursery. Inexplicably, no nurses seemed to be inside. Apparently, none of the fire extinguishers functioned. It took nearly an hour and a half for firefighters to arrive.

Some thought the initial cause may have been an oxygen tank explosion that set off an electrical fire. But on Wednesday morning, only one thing was certain: At least 13 infants were dead, and with them a small piece of Iraq’s future.

There was Yaman Muaad, a baby boy born by cesarean section on Tuesday who died a few hours later. There was Jafar Kahtan, a baby being treated for breathing difficulties. There was Zahra Hussein, a baby girl born on Monday, whose grandfather was frantically looking for her on Wednesday.

Many more were still unaccounted for. And at least 25 people, mostly infants, were being treated for burns or smoke inhalation.

All Iraqi officials could manage was what they typically do in the face of tragedy: establish a committee.

“A committee has been formed to investigate the incident, and so far we don’t know the reasons of the incident,” Dr. Ahmed al-Hadari, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “We are awaiting the results of the investigations.”

After years of unsolved tragedy and unanswered demands for improvements, hardly anyone here believes official promises anymore.

“Such tragedies have become normal to Iraqi officials, and this case will be closed, just as the other ones,” said Adnan Hussein, the acting editor in chief at Al Mada, one of Baghdad’s daily newspapers.

In their agony and tears as they gathered outside Yarmouk hospital on Wednesday morning, families of the dead babies were inconsolable. Some even made accusations of arson, though there was no evidence to support that claim.

“There was screaming,” said Mariam Thijeel, the mother of Yaman, describing the scene at the hospital early Wednesday. “The power was cut off, and then the doors got locked on us, and there was no man in the newborn section, and we could not save any babies.”

She described a scene of panic and chaos, and said that people in the hospital had tried desperately to find someone with keys to the hospital wing that was on fire, the doors of which were locked. “We asked the help of one of the employees, but she said, ‘I cannot help you with anything, because it’s a fire,’ ” Ms. Thijeel said.

Zainab Ali, Jafar’s mother, said: “Today I have come to see him and I was told, ‘A fire happened in the newborn unit, and your baby died.’” She said she had heard that none of the fire extinguishers worked.

A third mother, Shayma Husain, came to the hospital looking for her infant son, Haider Mohammad Azeez, who had not been accounted for. Angry and tearful, she compared the leaders of the government-run hospital to the militants of the Islamic State — saying, in effect, that politicians and terrorists were both responsible for Iraq’s endless trauma.

Painful reminders of the Iraqi state’s degradation are all around. The United States spent tens of billions of dollars of reconstruction money in Iraq to build hospitals and schools and improve electricity. Yet the lights are on just a few hours a day from the public grid. Generators, if Iraqis can afford them, provide the rest. Hospitals are facing deprivation not seen since the economic sanctions of the 1990s, in part because plummeting oil prices have left the government impoverished in the middle of a war against the Islamic State.

“The structure of
the system of the
state is wrongly built.”

“The structure of the system of the state is wrongly built, and there is no seriousness in building state institutions,” said Ahmed Saadawi, a prominent writer who chronicled Baghdad’s tragedies in his prizewinning novel, “Frankenstein in Baghdad.”

Many Iraqis say the state’s dysfunction is caused by a political system the Americans helped establish that is based on sectarian quotas. People are given jobs in ministries based on patronage and sect, not competence, and corruption is rampant.

And then bad things happen, like a fire breaking out in a hospital maternity ward and terrorists driving car bombs through checkpoints staffed by police officers with fake bomb detectors.

“We have good medical competence and good doctors, but there are problems and defects in the state administration,” Mr. Saadawi said. “They always put the wrong people in the important places.”

The last big news out of Iraq was a devastating truck bomb last month in Baghdad that killed close to 300 people, the worst terrorist attack in the capital since the American invasion of 2003. The bombing set off an inferno that engulfed a shopping mall where families and young people were celebrating one of the last nights of the holy month of Ramadan — eating with friends, shopping, watching a big soccer game on television.

In that attack, many more died from the fire than from the bomb blast, and in the aftermath officials blamed poor safety procedures and a lack of fire exits for the number of deaths.

Like the bombing, the fire at the hospital would probably have been less deadly had the government put in place adequate safety measures or responded sooner.

“I was at the incident today and saw the disaster with my own eyes,” said Mohammed al-Rubaie, a member of the security committee on Baghdad’s provincial council. “There was clear negligence from the administration of the hospital, and there were no safety measures.”

There were no protests in Baghdad on Wednesday as there were after last month’s terrorist attack, only muted outrage and a tragic sense of familiarity.

One man, Mohammed Sameer, wrote on Facebook, “A crime after a crime, death followed by death, and the government keeps silent.”

He added, “Oh my God, what a big crime today.”

There was also the usual violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, the sort that has long been a feature of the city’s routines. According to the Interior Ministry, a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in the neighborhood of Dora killed four soldiers and injured 11 people; a roadside bomb killed four people at a public market in the Nahrawan district; and a suicide bomber killed four soldiers in the Rasheed district.

Source:  The New York Times

World Bulletin / News Desk

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri resumed his official responsibilities on Wednesday after an Iraqi court dropped corruption charges against him.

"Al-Jabouri has resumed his duties as parliament speaker," his spokesman, Imad al-Khafaji said.

On Tuesday, citing a lack of evidence, a court dropped graft charges leveled earlier against al-Jabouri by Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.

Al-Khafaji said the parliament speaker’s immunity "will be restored once the corruption case is officially closed".

Earlier Tuesday, Parliament had voted to lift al-Jabouri’s immunity so that he might be investigated for alleged corruption.

The same parliamentary session -- which was chaired by al-Jabouri’s deputy, Aram al-Sheikh Ali and attended by 237 MPs -- also saw the immunity of two lawmakers from the Alliance of Iraqi Forces, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, lifted.

Late last month, al-Obeidi publicly accused al-Jabouri -- along with several MPs -- of engaging in corrupt practices.

In response, the parliament speaker filed a defamation lawsuit against the defense minister, accusing him of making "false allegations", "misleading the public" and "insulting sovereign state institutions".

The parliament speaker "will go to court Wednesday to follow up on his defamation lawsuit against the defense minister," al-Khafaji said.

Iraq ranks 161st out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s "corruption perceptions index".

Recent months have seen Iraq embroiled in political crisis, with supporters of firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr staging a series of protests to demand that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi replace his government with a team of independent "technocrats" mandated with fighting government corruption.

 

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

As Iraqi political and military attention shifts north in the fight against the Islamic State group, the military victories that have put Iraqi forces on Mosul's doorstep have left behind shattered cities, towns and communities in Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Anbar has witnessed the most successful military phase of the ground fight against IS to date. But rather than restore government order, services and security, liberation at the hands of Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition has merely moved many Anbaris from one waiting room into another.

For Ali Athab, his most painful memory of IS rule in Fallujah was watching his daughter's health deteriorate. Born with a rare neurological disorder, his daughter Zeina had been receiving treatment at a Fallujah hospital that helped control her seizures, but once IS solidified its grip on the city less than an hour's drive from Baghdad, almost all the doctors fled.

"She was starting to get better, but now she's stopped speaking," he said, explaining that the few doctors who stayed behind were only allowed to treat IS fighters.

First the cost of medicine skyrocketed, then specialized medicine wasn't available in Fallujah at all.

Athab, 34 said he prayed for liberation, hoping once his city was retaken by Iraqi government forces his daughter would again be able to see a doctor. But more than a month after IS was pushed out of Fallujah, the city remains a ghost town and Athab and his family are stuck in a camp on the edge of Anbar province.

This year, Athab's family joined the more than 1 million other Anbaris who have been forced from their homes since 2014.

Zeina, age 8, sits politely in a corner of the family's tent, occasionally fidgeting and making sounds that don't form words.

In the small, hurriedly constructed camp on the outskirts of Amiriyah al-Fallujah, a single mobile clinic only had antibiotics and mild painkillers on hand. In Baghdad — just over 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, Zeina could have access to the care she needs, but her family — as Anbar residents — lack the legal paperwork required to cross over into Baghdad Province.

"There's an assumption that after Daesh is defeated you can put the nation back together and in essence create a new nation, but that's not what we're seeing in Anbar," said a western diplomat based in Baghdad, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym.

Instead, industry and agriculture have ground to a halt, schools are closed, electrical grids are down and many roads remain unusable. In that vacuum, tribal politics are becoming more powerful and families are adopting more conservative habits, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity due to a lack of authorization to release information to the media.

While Iraqi government security forces administer databases of information to identify possible IS fighters among civilians, much of the screening process is handed over to local Anbari officials and communities.

At one of the larger displacement camps in Amiriyah al-Fallujah, a crowd of women gathered around a humanitarian convoy calling for help, they all had sons who were detained while fleeing Fallujah. Two weeks after they were taken, the women didn't know where they were or who was holding them.

Detainees say that tribes and powerful families are accusing rivals of being IS sympathizers to settle blood feuds, unpaid debts and grievances that go back generations.

"Anyone who has a problem with someone can just accuse him of being with Daesh," said Hussein, a middle-aged man just released from a detention center, speaking on condition that only his first name is used for fear of his own security.

Anbar's residents describe feeling increasingly alienated from the central government, adrift in camps for the displaced or sharing close quarters with extended family. The vast majority of assistance that they are growing increasingly dependent on comes not from the central government, but from local political, tribal and religious leaders.

For Ahmed Fahel, 30, the fight against IS in Hit plunged his family into poverty. Living in a desolate camp further west in Anbar in the desert that lies between Hit and Ramadi, Fahel is now his extended family's only breadwinner. His brother was executed by IS fighters just days before the town was retaken by Iraqi forces and his body was dumped in the street. Fahel only had time to quickly bury his brother in the garden before they fled.

"I have nothing and I also need to provide for my sister-in-law and her children," he said, explaining he has since heard his house back in Hit was completely destroyed.

Nearly 1.3 million Anbaris are estimated to have been forced from their homes since early 2014 when IS first began to grow in power in the province, ferrying fighters and munitions through the lawless desserts along the border with neighboring Syria.

A decade ago, when the predecessor to IS had torn Anbar apart, a U.S.-led effort to stabilize the province built support against al-Qaeda by pouring enormous amounts of resources into existing local tribal leadership networks. Today, Iraq's central government — due in part to budget shortfalls sparked by the plunge in the price of oil — doesn't have the resources and the U.S.-led coalition doesn't have the appetite for such an ambitious undertaking.

Without similarly large amounts of money, putting Anbar back together again will be impossible, said Ahmed al-Dara, a religious sheikh from Fallujah. And beyond the issue of resources, he said, the fight against IS in his home province is fundamentally different from the fight against al-Qaeda after the overthrow of Saddam in 2003.

"This idea of reconciliation is not possible with Iraqis who joined Daesh," said al-Dara, explaining that recovering from this insurgency would not only drive a greater wedge between Iraq's Sunni and Shiites, but has also begun to fracture Iraq's Sunni community.

"I know the people of Fallujah and Ramadi, they will never let a single Daesh supporter return to their cities," he said. "This conflict has taken Iraq's Sunnis back 50 years."

Athab, the Fallujah resident stuck in the tented camp on Anbar's edge, describes the past 13 years of cyclical violence as exhausting.

"This is the third time this has happened to Fallujah," he said referencing the two U.S.-led offensives against al-Qaeda insurgents in his home town in the mid-2000s. The battle against IS this year was the first to force him to flee his home and Athab vows it will be the last.

"I don't want to live in Anbar anymore," he said sucking at his front teeth. "Fallujah is finished, you can take it."

By:  susannah george, associated press

BAGHDAD — If there were one safe place in Iraq, it should be a hospital nursery, locked down for the night with dozens of babies nestled inside.

But here, not even that is a given. When a fire started late Tuesday night in the maternity wing of one of Baghdad’s main hospitals, it quickly engulfed the babies’ room. And then, in another Iraqi tragedy in a horrifying line of preventable ones, nothing worked.

Hospital workers raced to save the infants, but no one could find the keys to unlock the nursery. Inexplicably, no nurses seemed to be inside. Apparently, none of the fire extinguishers functioned. It took nearly an hour and a half for firefighters to arrive.

Some thought the initial cause may have been an oxygen tank explosion that set off an electrical fire. But on Wednesday morning, only one thing was certain: At least 13 infants were dead, and with them a small piece of Iraq’s future.

There was Yaman Muaad, a baby boy born by cesarean section on Tuesday who died a few hours later. There was Jafar Kahtan, a baby being treated for breathing difficulties. There was Zahra Hussein, a baby girl born on Monday, whose grandfather was frantically looking for her on Wednesday.

Many more were still unaccounted for. And at least 25 people, mostly infants, were being treated for burns or smoke inhalation.

All Iraqi officials could manage was what they typically do in the face of tragedy: establish a committee.

“A committee has been formed to investigate the incident, and so far we don’t know the reasons of the incident,” Dr. Ahmed al-Hadari, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “We are awaiting the results of the investigations.”

After years of unsolved tragedy and unanswered demands for improvements, hardly anyone here believes official promises anymore.

“Such tragedies have become normal to Iraqi officials, and this case will be closed, just as the other ones,” said Adnan Hussein, the acting editor in chief at Al Mada, one of Baghdad’s daily newspapers.

In their agony and tears as they gathered outside Yarmouk hospital on Wednesday morning, families of the dead babies were inconsolable. Some even made accusations of arson, though there was no evidence to support that claim.

“There was screaming,” said Mariam Thijeel, the mother of Yaman, describing the scene at the hospital early Wednesday. “The power was cut off, and then the doors got locked on us, and there was no man in the newborn section, and we could not save any babies.”

She described a scene of panic and chaos, and said that people in the hospital had tried desperately to find someone with keys to the hospital wing that was on fire, the doors of which were locked. “We asked the help of one of the employees, but she said, ‘I cannot help you with anything, because it’s a fire,’ ” Ms. Thijeel said.

Zainab Ali, Jafar’s mother, said: “Today I have come to see him and I was told, ‘A fire happened in the newborn unit, and your baby died.’” She said she had heard that none of the fire extinguishers worked.

A third mother, Shayma Husain, came to the hospital looking for her infant son, Haider Mohammad Azeez, who had not been accounted for. Angry and tearful, she compared the leaders of the government-run hospital to the militants of the Islamic State — saying, in effect, that politicians and terrorists were both responsible for Iraq’s endless trauma.

Painful reminders of the Iraqi state’s degradation are all around. The United States spent tens of billions of dollars of reconstruction money in Iraq to build hospitals and schools and improve electricity. Yet the lights are on just a few hours a day from the public grid. Generators, if Iraqis can afford them, provide the rest. Hospitals are facing deprivation not seen since the economic sanctions of the 1990s, in part because plummeting oil prices have left the government impoverished in the middle of a war against the Islamic State.

“The structure of
the system of the
state is wrongly built.”

“The structure of the system of the state is wrongly built, and there is no seriousness in building state institutions,” said Ahmed Saadawi, a prominent writer who chronicled Baghdad’s tragedies in his prizewinning novel, “Frankenstein in Baghdad.”

Many Iraqis say the state’s dysfunction is caused by a political system the Americans helped establish that is based on sectarian quotas. People are given jobs in ministries based on patronage and sect, not competence, and corruption is rampant.

And then bad things happen, like a fire breaking out in a hospital maternity ward and terrorists driving car bombs through checkpoints staffed by police officers with fake bomb detectors.

“We have good medical competence and good doctors, but there are problems and defects in the state administration,” Mr. Saadawi said. “They always put the wrong people in the important places.”

The last big news out of Iraq was a devastating truck bomb last month in Baghdad that killed close to 300 people, the worst terrorist attack in the capital since the American invasion of 2003. The bombing set off an inferno that engulfed a shopping mall where families and young people were celebrating one of the last nights of the holy month of Ramadan — eating with friends, shopping, watching a big soccer game on television.

In that attack, many more died from the fire than from the bomb blast, and in the aftermath officials blamed poor safety procedures and a lack of fire exits for the number of deaths.

Like the bombing, the fire at the hospital would probably have been less deadly had the government put in place adequate safety measures or responded sooner.

“I was at the incident today and saw the disaster with my own eyes,” said Mohammed al-Rubaie, a member of the security committee on Baghdad’s provincial council. “There was clear negligence from the administration of the hospital, and there were no safety measures.”

There were no protests in Baghdad on Wednesday as there were after last month’s terrorist attack, only muted outrage and a tragic sense of familiarity.

One man, Mohammed Sameer, wrote on Facebook, “A crime after a crime, death followed by death, and the government keeps silent.”

He added, “Oh my God, what a big crime today.”

There was also the usual violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, the sort that has long been a feature of the city’s routines. According to the Interior Ministry, a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in the neighborhood of Dora killed four soldiers and injured 11 people; a roadside bomb killed four people at a public market in the Nahrawan district; and a suicide bomber killed four soldiers in the Rasheed district.

Source:  The New York Times

World Bulletin / News Desk

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri resumed his official responsibilities on Wednesday after an Iraqi court dropped corruption charges against him.

"Al-Jabouri has resumed his duties as parliament speaker," his spokesman, Imad al-Khafaji said.

On Tuesday, citing a lack of evidence, a court dropped graft charges leveled earlier against al-Jabouri by Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.

Al-Khafaji said the parliament speaker’s immunity "will be restored once the corruption case is officially closed".

Earlier Tuesday, Parliament had voted to lift al-Jabouri’s immunity so that he might be investigated for alleged corruption.

The same parliamentary session -- which was chaired by al-Jabouri’s deputy, Aram al-Sheikh Ali and attended by 237 MPs -- also saw the immunity of two lawmakers from the Alliance of Iraqi Forces, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, lifted.

Late last month, al-Obeidi publicly accused al-Jabouri -- along with several MPs -- of engaging in corrupt practices.

In response, the parliament speaker filed a defamation lawsuit against the defense minister, accusing him of making "false allegations", "misleading the public" and "insulting sovereign state institutions".

The parliament speaker "will go to court Wednesday to follow up on his defamation lawsuit against the defense minister," al-Khafaji said.

Iraq ranks 161st out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s "corruption perceptions index".

Recent months have seen Iraq embroiled in political crisis, with supporters of firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr staging a series of protests to demand that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi replace his government with a team of independent "technocrats" mandated with fighting government corruption.

 

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

As Iraqi political and military attention shifts north in the fight against the Islamic State group, the military victories that have put Iraqi forces on Mosul's doorstep have left behind shattered cities, towns and communities in Iraq's Sunni heartland.

Anbar has witnessed the most successful military phase of the ground fight against IS to date. But rather than restore government order, services and security, liberation at the hands of Iraqi forces closely backed by the U.S.-led coalition has merely moved many Anbaris from one waiting room into another.

For Ali Athab, his most painful memory of IS rule in Fallujah was watching his daughter's health deteriorate. Born with a rare neurological disorder, his daughter Zeina had been receiving treatment at a Fallujah hospital that helped control her seizures, but once IS solidified its grip on the city less than an hour's drive from Baghdad, almost all the doctors fled.

"She was starting to get better, but now she's stopped speaking," he said, explaining that the few doctors who stayed behind were only allowed to treat IS fighters.

First the cost of medicine skyrocketed, then specialized medicine wasn't available in Fallujah at all.

Athab, 34 said he prayed for liberation, hoping once his city was retaken by Iraqi government forces his daughter would again be able to see a doctor. But more than a month after IS was pushed out of Fallujah, the city remains a ghost town and Athab and his family are stuck in a camp on the edge of Anbar province.

This year, Athab's family joined the more than 1 million other Anbaris who have been forced from their homes since 2014.

Zeina, age 8, sits politely in a corner of the family's tent, occasionally fidgeting and making sounds that don't form words.

In the small, hurriedly constructed camp on the outskirts of Amiriyah al-Fallujah, a single mobile clinic only had antibiotics and mild painkillers on hand. In Baghdad — just over 40 kilometers (25 miles) away, Zeina could have access to the care she needs, but her family — as Anbar residents — lack the legal paperwork required to cross over into Baghdad Province.

"There's an assumption that after Daesh is defeated you can put the nation back together and in essence create a new nation, but that's not what we're seeing in Anbar," said a western diplomat based in Baghdad, referring to the Islamic State group by its Arabic acronym.

Instead, industry and agriculture have ground to a halt, schools are closed, electrical grids are down and many roads remain unusable. In that vacuum, tribal politics are becoming more powerful and families are adopting more conservative habits, said the diplomat, speaking on condition of anonymity due to a lack of authorization to release information to the media.

While Iraqi government security forces administer databases of information to identify possible IS fighters among civilians, much of the screening process is handed over to local Anbari officials and communities.

At one of the larger displacement camps in Amiriyah al-Fallujah, a crowd of women gathered around a humanitarian convoy calling for help, they all had sons who were detained while fleeing Fallujah. Two weeks after they were taken, the women didn't know where they were or who was holding them.

Detainees say that tribes and powerful families are accusing rivals of being IS sympathizers to settle blood feuds, unpaid debts and grievances that go back generations.

"Anyone who has a problem with someone can just accuse him of being with Daesh," said Hussein, a middle-aged man just released from a detention center, speaking on condition that only his first name is used for fear of his own security.

Anbar's residents describe feeling increasingly alienated from the central government, adrift in camps for the displaced or sharing close quarters with extended family. The vast majority of assistance that they are growing increasingly dependent on comes not from the central government, but from local political, tribal and religious leaders.

For Ahmed Fahel, 30, the fight against IS in Hit plunged his family into poverty. Living in a desolate camp further west in Anbar in the desert that lies between Hit and Ramadi, Fahel is now his extended family's only breadwinner. His brother was executed by IS fighters just days before the town was retaken by Iraqi forces and his body was dumped in the street. Fahel only had time to quickly bury his brother in the garden before they fled.

"I have nothing and I also need to provide for my sister-in-law and her children," he said, explaining he has since heard his house back in Hit was completely destroyed.

Nearly 1.3 million Anbaris are estimated to have been forced from their homes since early 2014 when IS first began to grow in power in the province, ferrying fighters and munitions through the lawless desserts along the border with neighboring Syria.

A decade ago, when the predecessor to IS had torn Anbar apart, a U.S.-led effort to stabilize the province built support against al-Qaeda by pouring enormous amounts of resources into existing local tribal leadership networks. Today, Iraq's central government — due in part to budget shortfalls sparked by the plunge in the price of oil — doesn't have the resources and the U.S.-led coalition doesn't have the appetite for such an ambitious undertaking.

Without similarly large amounts of money, putting Anbar back together again will be impossible, said Ahmed al-Dara, a religious sheikh from Fallujah. And beyond the issue of resources, he said, the fight against IS in his home province is fundamentally different from the fight against al-Qaeda after the overthrow of Saddam in 2003.

"This idea of reconciliation is not possible with Iraqis who joined Daesh," said al-Dara, explaining that recovering from this insurgency would not only drive a greater wedge between Iraq's Sunni and Shiites, but has also begun to fracture Iraq's Sunni community.

"I know the people of Fallujah and Ramadi, they will never let a single Daesh supporter return to their cities," he said. "This conflict has taken Iraq's Sunnis back 50 years."

Athab, the Fallujah resident stuck in the tented camp on Anbar's edge, describes the past 13 years of cyclical violence as exhausting.

"This is the third time this has happened to Fallujah," he said referencing the two U.S.-led offensives against al-Qaeda insurgents in his home town in the mid-2000s. The battle against IS this year was the first to force him to flee his home and Athab vows it will be the last.

"I don't want to live in Anbar anymore," he said sucking at his front teeth. "Fallujah is finished, you can take it."

By:  susannah george, associated press

BAGHDAD — If there were one safe place in Iraq, it should be a hospital nursery, locked down for the night with dozens of babies nestled inside.

But here, not even that is a given. When a fire started late Tuesday night in the maternity wing of one of Baghdad’s main hospitals, it quickly engulfed the babies’ room. And then, in another Iraqi tragedy in a horrifying line of preventable ones, nothing worked.

Hospital workers raced to save the infants, but no one could find the keys to unlock the nursery. Inexplicably, no nurses seemed to be inside. Apparently, none of the fire extinguishers functioned. It took nearly an hour and a half for firefighters to arrive.

Some thought the initial cause may have been an oxygen tank explosion that set off an electrical fire. But on Wednesday morning, only one thing was certain: At least 13 infants were dead, and with them a small piece of Iraq’s future.

There was Yaman Muaad, a baby boy born by cesarean section on Tuesday who died a few hours later. There was Jafar Kahtan, a baby being treated for breathing difficulties. There was Zahra Hussein, a baby girl born on Monday, whose grandfather was frantically looking for her on Wednesday.

Many more were still unaccounted for. And at least 25 people, mostly infants, were being treated for burns or smoke inhalation.

All Iraqi officials could manage was what they typically do in the face of tragedy: establish a committee.

“A committee has been formed to investigate the incident, and so far we don’t know the reasons of the incident,” Dr. Ahmed al-Hadari, a spokesman for the Health Ministry, said at a news conference on Wednesday. “We are awaiting the results of the investigations.”

After years of unsolved tragedy and unanswered demands for improvements, hardly anyone here believes official promises anymore.

“Such tragedies have become normal to Iraqi officials, and this case will be closed, just as the other ones,” said Adnan Hussein, the acting editor in chief at Al Mada, one of Baghdad’s daily newspapers.

In their agony and tears as they gathered outside Yarmouk hospital on Wednesday morning, families of the dead babies were inconsolable. Some even made accusations of arson, though there was no evidence to support that claim.

“There was screaming,” said Mariam Thijeel, the mother of Yaman, describing the scene at the hospital early Wednesday. “The power was cut off, and then the doors got locked on us, and there was no man in the newborn section, and we could not save any babies.”

She described a scene of panic and chaos, and said that people in the hospital had tried desperately to find someone with keys to the hospital wing that was on fire, the doors of which were locked. “We asked the help of one of the employees, but she said, ‘I cannot help you with anything, because it’s a fire,’ ” Ms. Thijeel said.

Zainab Ali, Jafar’s mother, said: “Today I have come to see him and I was told, ‘A fire happened in the newborn unit, and your baby died.’” She said she had heard that none of the fire extinguishers worked.

A third mother, Shayma Husain, came to the hospital looking for her infant son, Haider Mohammad Azeez, who had not been accounted for. Angry and tearful, she compared the leaders of the government-run hospital to the militants of the Islamic State — saying, in effect, that politicians and terrorists were both responsible for Iraq’s endless trauma.

Painful reminders of the Iraqi state’s degradation are all around. The United States spent tens of billions of dollars of reconstruction money in Iraq to build hospitals and schools and improve electricity. Yet the lights are on just a few hours a day from the public grid. Generators, if Iraqis can afford them, provide the rest. Hospitals are facing deprivation not seen since the economic sanctions of the 1990s, in part because plummeting oil prices have left the government impoverished in the middle of a war against the Islamic State.

“The structure of
the system of the
state is wrongly built.”

“The structure of the system of the state is wrongly built, and there is no seriousness in building state institutions,” said Ahmed Saadawi, a prominent writer who chronicled Baghdad’s tragedies in his prizewinning novel, “Frankenstein in Baghdad.”

Many Iraqis say the state’s dysfunction is caused by a political system the Americans helped establish that is based on sectarian quotas. People are given jobs in ministries based on patronage and sect, not competence, and corruption is rampant.

And then bad things happen, like a fire breaking out in a hospital maternity ward and terrorists driving car bombs through checkpoints staffed by police officers with fake bomb detectors.

“We have good medical competence and good doctors, but there are problems and defects in the state administration,” Mr. Saadawi said. “They always put the wrong people in the important places.”

The last big news out of Iraq was a devastating truck bomb last month in Baghdad that killed close to 300 people, the worst terrorist attack in the capital since the American invasion of 2003. The bombing set off an inferno that engulfed a shopping mall where families and young people were celebrating one of the last nights of the holy month of Ramadan — eating with friends, shopping, watching a big soccer game on television.

In that attack, many more died from the fire than from the bomb blast, and in the aftermath officials blamed poor safety procedures and a lack of fire exits for the number of deaths.

Like the bombing, the fire at the hospital would probably have been less deadly had the government put in place adequate safety measures or responded sooner.

“I was at the incident today and saw the disaster with my own eyes,” said Mohammed al-Rubaie, a member of the security committee on Baghdad’s provincial council. “There was clear negligence from the administration of the hospital, and there were no safety measures.”

There were no protests in Baghdad on Wednesday as there were after last month’s terrorist attack, only muted outrage and a tragic sense of familiarity.

One man, Mohammed Sameer, wrote on Facebook, “A crime after a crime, death followed by death, and the government keeps silent.”

He added, “Oh my God, what a big crime today.”

There was also the usual violence on Tuesday and Wednesday, the sort that has long been a feature of the city’s routines. According to the Interior Ministry, a suicide car bombing at a checkpoint in the neighborhood of Dora killed four soldiers and injured 11 people; a roadside bomb killed four people at a public market in the Nahrawan district; and a suicide bomber killed four soldiers in the Rasheed district.

Source:  The New York Times

World Bulletin / News Desk

Iraqi Parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri resumed his official responsibilities on Wednesday after an Iraqi court dropped corruption charges against him.

"Al-Jabouri has resumed his duties as parliament speaker," his spokesman, Imad al-Khafaji said.

On Tuesday, citing a lack of evidence, a court dropped graft charges leveled earlier against al-Jabouri by Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi.

Al-Khafaji said the parliament speaker’s immunity "will be restored once the corruption case is officially closed".

Earlier Tuesday, Parliament had voted to lift al-Jabouri’s immunity so that he might be investigated for alleged corruption.

The same parliamentary session -- which was chaired by al-Jabouri’s deputy, Aram al-Sheikh Ali and attended by 237 MPs -- also saw the immunity of two lawmakers from the Alliance of Iraqi Forces, the largest Sunni bloc in parliament, lifted.

Late last month, al-Obeidi publicly accused al-Jabouri -- along with several MPs -- of engaging in corrupt practices.

In response, the parliament speaker filed a defamation lawsuit against the defense minister, accusing him of making "false allegations", "misleading the public" and "insulting sovereign state institutions".

The parliament speaker "will go to court Wednesday to follow up on his defamation lawsuit against the defense minister," al-Khafaji said.

Iraq ranks 161st out of 168 countries on Transparency International’s "corruption perceptions index".

Recent months have seen Iraq embroiled in political crisis, with supporters of firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr staging a series of protests to demand that Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi replace his government with a team of independent "technocrats" mandated with fighting government corruption.

 

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