Portrait of a General
The Intercept, Jan. 5, 2020IN THE FOUR DECADES since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, few Iranian leaders have achieved the global profile attained by Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the military commander killed in an American airstrike on Thursday. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Suleimani emerged as the United States’s most capable adversary in that country. His American counterpart at a key point during the occupation, Gen. David Petraeus, described Suleimani as “a truly evil figure” in a letter to Robert Gates, then the U.S. defense secretary. Over the years, Suleimani gained a reputation as a fearsome military leader who controlled a network of ideologically driven militia proxies across the Middle East.
A more nuanced portrait of Suleimani emerges from a leaked archive of secret Iranian spy cables obtained by The Intercept. The documents were generated by officers from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, or MOIS, stationed in Iraq between 2013 and 2015, when the Iranian war against the Islamic State was at its height, and Suleimani was running the show.
The reports reveal how Suleimani was perceived in some corners of the Iranian intelligence establishment, and the picture that emerges does not always align with the carefully crafted public image of the general as an indomitable strategist. While the Iranian-led war against ISIS was raging, Iranian spies privately expressed concern that the brutal tactics favored by Suleimani and his Iraqi proxies were laying the groundwork for major blowback against the Iranian presence in Iraq. Suleimani was also criticized for his own alleged self-promotion amid the fighting. Photos of the Iranian commander on battlefields across Iraq had helped build his image as an iconic military leader. But that outsized image was also turning him into a figure of terror for many ordinary Iraqis.
Some of the cables chronicle Suleimani’s battlefield appearances and meetings with senior Iraqi officials, while others describe the activities of his militia proxies in Iraq. As commander of the elite Quds Force, the external operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Suleimani belonged to a more powerful institutional rival of Iran’s intelligence ministry. In some documents, intelligence officers criticize Suleimani for alienating Sunni Arab communities and helping to create the circumstances that justified a renewed American military presence in Iraq.
A 2014 MOIS document lamented that, partly because Suleimani broadcasted his role as commander of many of the Iraqi Shia militias fighting ISIS, Iraqi Sunnis blamed the Iranian government for the persecution that many were suffering at the hands of these same forces. The document discussed a recent assault by Iran-backed forces against ISIS fighters in the Sunni farming community of Jurf al-Sakhar. The attack had included a number of Shia militia groups, including a notorious outfit known as Asaib ahl al-Haq. The militias succeeded in routing the Islamic State, but their victory soon gave way to a generalized slaughter of locals, transforming the sweetness of Iran’s triumph into “bitterness,” in the words of one case officer.
“It is mandatory and necessary to put some limits and borders on the violence being inflicted against innocent Sunni people in Iraq and the things that Mr. Suleimani is doing. Otherwise, the violence between Shia and Sunni will continue,” the MOIS report continued. “At the moment, whatever happens to Sunnis, directly or indirectly, is seen as having been done by Iran even when Iran has nothing to do with it.” … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
How Soleimani’s Killing Could Make a Stronger Iraq
Politico, Jan. 5, 2020
The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s most senior militiamen, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, justified by their orchestration of the deaths of hundreds of Americans, has led to a widespread fear of an imminent war with Iran that could cause untold loss of life and further destabilize an already devastated region.
How Iran might respond is impossible to know (much less how the U.S. would react in turn), but I see the potential for a success in Iraq—if the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government can focus on their shared interests and continue to purge Iran’s malign influence.
As someone who has worked in Iraq with every U.S. administration since 2003, I felt a deep sense of satisfaction and relief when Soleimani and Muhandis were killed, reflecting my own odyssey in Iraq, the friends and colleagues lost there to militia attacks, and the growing impunity of militia kingpins. I know that this feeling was shared across the U.S. government policymaking, military and intelligence communities dealing with Iraq. Most of us have a long history with Iraq and, indirectly, with the likes of Soleimani and Muhandis. Indeed, Soleimani’s outsize influence in the region had been so great for so long, that we convened a roundtable last spring that imagined what might happen if he were no longer in power.
The last two years witnessed Soleimani and Muhandis’ shared victory in Iraq. Soleimani picked the prime minister and made sure he did not get in the way while Muhandis ran anything that mattered in the country. It felt good to break their stride, especially coming hot on the heels of popular protests in Iraq, Iran and Lebanon that indicated they may have overreached.
Now the U.S. needs to bank the win and adopt more-measured policies that show Washington’s ability to pause, reflect on shared interests with Iraq and the coalition, and let the dust settle. And while careful deliberation and playing well with others are not the hallmarks of this administration, there are some signs for optimism.
The deaths of Soleimani and Muhandis arguably brings about the end of the post-2014 era of Iraqi-invited strategic and military partnership. On Sunday, Iraq’s Parliament and prime minister each agreed in principle that the presence of U.S. combat forces should be ended, albeit without a clear process or timeline.
There are many procedural hurdles that Iraqi politicians have used to hold off such actions in the past, and Sunday’s parliamentary session was notable for the absence of all Kurdish MPs and most Sunnis. Other supporters of ongoing security cooperation with the U.S.-led coalition include Iraqi moderates, military professionals, technocrats, and (quietly) even a good proportion of Shiites. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
‘His Mother Wept For Hours’: The Stories Behind Iraq’s Deadly Mass Protests
Rasha Al Aqeedi
Independent, Oct. 27, 2019
What started as a relatively small gathering in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square on 1 October to protest unemployment, corruption and social injustice has morphed into some of the largest mass demonstrations that Iraq has seen in recent time, spawning a bloody crackdown by security forces.
At least 69 Iraqis were killed and hundreds wounded on Friday and Saturday as part of a second wave of protests. At least 225 people have been killed this month.
A government investigation, released last week to seemingly try and calm tensions, acknowledged the use of live ammunition by security forces and the deaths of 149 civilians and eight security personnel. The report said that 70 per cent of deaths were caused by shots to chest and head. Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mehdi ordered several officers and security officials to be relieved of their posts while announcing a number of others would face trial.
Teargas and hot water cannons have also been used, with a number of people dying after being hit by tear gas canisters fired by government forces. Thousands have continued to take to the streets into the weekend across the country from Baghdad to Nasiriya in the south, with government buildings being set on fire.
Some clerics have tried to denounce protesters as being links to the Baath Party, Isis or Israel, but in reality each of those protesting has their own reasons for taking to the streets. Here are the stories behind some of those who have lost their lives.
Amjad Al Budairi, 22
Amjad Al Budairi owned a tea cart selling Iraq’s famous “chai” for less than 25 cents per cup. In September 2018, authorities in province of Diwaniya ordered all carts and wagons selling wares and edibles in public removed. Though unemployment was a huge problem across the the province and basic services such as electricity and running water were a luxury, authorities believed that removing “illegal” carts was a practical solution. Social media pages posted video footage of municipality workers struggling with Amjad as his cart was confiscated.
Budairi began working as a waiter in a local restaurant for $6 a day. The owner allowed him to keep a chai cart nearby for some additional income. On 2 October Budairi participated in the protests in Diwaniyah province. Arrested, he was later released around midnight. He rejoined the protests around 5pm the next day and never made it home. Amjad’s brother Ahmed al Budairi told the Irfaa Sawtak website that he has shown the committee investigating the death of his brother footage of him being shot. But authorities were said to have been unconvinced that security forces deliberately targeted Amjad and might have been “aiming for the wall”.
Budairi enjoyed taking selfies with friends and writing melancholic posts on social media, like one of his last ones: “Maybe I should love my own sorrow, so it leaves me just as everything I love has”. … [To read the full article, click the following LINK – Ed.]
For Further Reference:
Lindsey Graham: Iran Is Trying To Take Over Iraq, America Is Not The Bad Guy: Realclearpolitics, YouTube, Jan. 5, 2020 — Sen. Lindsey Graham spoke about Iran in an interview with Fox News host Maria Bartiromo on “Sunday Morning Futures” today.
Iraq Scales Down Threats to Expel US Forces after Trump Reaction: Martin Chulov, The Guardian, Jan. 6, 2020 — Officials in Iraq have stepped back from threats to expel US forces after Donald Trump threatened to impose sanctions over the Iraqi parliament’s vote for a retaliation for the killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani in Baghdad by a US drone strike.
What Iran Lost with Soleimani’s Killing: Ali Hashem, Al-Monitor, Jan. 3, 2020 — The United States’ killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, Iran’s most influential military commander, left his country in shock; this wasn’t an expected scenario in the middle of a crisis that was thought to be under control between Tehran and Washington in the aftermath of the latter’s withdrawal from the nuclear deal in May 2018.
People in Iran and Across the Globe Celebrate Qassem Soleimani’s Death: NCRI, Sedighe Shahrokhi, Jan. 4, 2020 — Iranians, supporters of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI, Mujahedin-e Khalq or MEK), and the people of Syria and Iraq, are rejoicing after the death of the Iranian regime’s notorious General, Qassem Soleimani, who was responsible for the death of hundreds of thousands of people both inside and outside Iran.
Kata’ib Hezbollah: United Against Nuclear Iran — Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) is an Iranian-sponsored, anti-American Shiite militia operating in Iraq with ancillary operations in Syria. During the U.S.-led war in Iraq that began in 2003, KH earned a reputation for planting deadly roadside bombs and using improvised rocket-assisted mortars (IRAMs) to attack U.S. and coalition forces.