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Tag Archives: Iraq

Though Isis leader al-Baghdadi is alive, this poor strategist may not be a huge threat

The reappearance of the Isis leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi has the same shock effect as that of Osama bin Laden in the aftermath of 9/11. It has all the greater impact because of claims that, with the elimination of the last territory held by Isis in March this year, that group was close to being out of business as a serious threat.

The slaughter of some 250 civilians in Sri Lanka had already showed that Isis retains its ability to take control of the international news agenda with suicide bombing attacks directed at civilians. “As for our brothers in Sri Lanka, I was overjoyed when I heard about the suicide attack, which overthrew the cradles of the Crusaders, and avenged them for our brethren in Baghouz,” al-Baghdadi said.

Just before the bombings in and around Colombo, the leader of the Isis cell had pledged allegiance to al-Baghdadi.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-leader-video-name-abu-bakr-al-baghdadi-syria-iraq-a8892081.html

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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Middle East

 

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We can end Isis terrorism – but only if western countries wind down their proxy wars in the Middle East

Western governments have been swift to pledge action to strike at Isis, as it becomes clear that the organisation was behind the suicide bombings that killed 253 people in Sri Lanka.

A video released by Isis after the attacks shows Zahran Hashim, an Islamic preacher and alleged leader of the bombers, pledging allegiance together with six other men – also thought to be bombers – to the self-declared caliph and leader of Isis, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

Western leaders, as is usual, are proposing easy or unattainable action that will do little to damage Isis capabilities – such as trying to limit its access to social media – while steering clear of potentially more effective but difficult to implement policies to eradicate Isis that might be contrary to their national interests.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/sri-lanka-bombings-blast-colombo-attack-isis-middle-east-west-proxy-wars-a8888246.html

 
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Posted by on May 10, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Trump news: This is what Iran’s man in Iraq would say to Mike Pompeo

Mike Pompeo went to put the thumbscrews on the Iraqi government this week. No more electrical power from Iran, he told them, and make sure those pesky Iranians don’t attack our boys in that great American base in Iraq which Trump was boasting about. The New York Times numbingly told us that his trip was “shrouded in secrecy” – if only it had been. Then at least the US secretary of state could have paid a visit to Iran’s most important supporter in the Iraqi parliament.

I met Hadi al-Ameri in Baghdad a few days before Pompeo turned up in town. A tough, curmudgeonly, 64-year-old bearded ex-militia leader, fluent in Persian and in the Shiite politics of Iraq, he is a personal friend of Qassem Suleimani – commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and America’s latest “super-terrorist” in the Middle East – and fought alongside Iran in its eight-year war with Saddam.

I can imagine what he might have told Pompeo, because this is what he told me over tea in his Baghdad office.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/trump-iraq-iran-pompeo-isis-terror-sunni-shia-middle-east-a8906366.html

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Middle East

 

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This is what happened when I met Haider al-Abadi, the former – and possibly future – prime minister of Iraq

There are some Middle East politicians that have always reminded me of animals. Assad senior was always the ruthless Lion of Damascus. Even the Egyptians called Hosni Mubarak “La Vache Qui Rit” from the famous French cheese of the grinning cow.

But it took a while before Haider al-Abadi could secure a place in my Aesop’s fables. Iraq’s previous prime minister – and quite possibly its next – came bounding from his chair, tubby, cheerful and pretty over-confident, I thought. And then I got it: he’s the family cat who has just opened the canary’s cage and eaten it – and he doesn’t care the slightest what anyone thinks about that.

The canary is Isis or Barack Obama, or Donald Trump or Mohammed bin Salman – or any Iraqi politician. It’s oil and the economy and, I fear, it’s also Mosul.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/haider-al-abadi-iraq-syria-isis-mosul-middle-east-robert-fisk-interview-a8896326.html

 
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Posted by on May 9, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Iraq’s Post-ISIS Campaign of Revenge

Down the hall, the aroma of Nescafé and cigarettes filled

a windowless room, where defense lawyers sat on couches, balancing stacks of paper on their laps. Most were staring at their phones; others sat in silence, arms crossed, eyes closed. In terrorism cases, lawyers are usually denied access to their clients until the hearing begins.

Shortly after ten o’clock, three judges in long black robes shuffled into Courtroom 2 and sat at the bench. Suhail Abdullah Sahar, a bald, middle-aged man with a thin, jowly face, sat in the center. There were twenty-one cases on his docket that day, sixteen related to terrorism. He quietly read out a name; a security officer shouted it down the hall to one of his colleagues, who shouted it to the guard, who shouted it into the cell. Out came a young man named Ahmed. A security officer led him to a wooden cage in the middle of the courtroom. Judge Sahar accused him of having joined ISIS in Qayyarah, a small town south of Mosul.

“Sir, I swear, I have never been to Qayyarah,” Ahmed said.

Sahar was skeptical. “I have a written confession here, with your thumbprint on it,” he said.

“Sir, I swear, I gave my thumbprint on a blank paper,” Ahmed replied. “And I was tortured by the security services.” Sahar listed Ahmed’s supposed jihadi associates; Ahmed denied knowing any of them.

“Enough evidence,” the prosecutor said. “I ask for a guilty verdict.”

https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2018/12/24/iraqs-post-isis-campaign-of-revenge

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Middle East

 

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An interview with an Iraqi scholar has led me to think very differently about Brexit and extremism in Europe

Sayed Mohamed-Hussain el-Hakeem is one of the most prominent Shia scholars in Iraq. When Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani eventually dies, Hakeem’s father Mohamed Sayeed is likely to inherit his role as the principal cleric in the land – and then, so they say, the mantle will fall to Hakeem’s brother, Riyadh. So this discreet man “speaketh of what he knoweth” and, in his precise way, he comes across as a supporter of humanism rather than mere theology. When you sit opposite him, you know you are listening to a voice that matters in the battered land of Iraq.

Dozens of Sayeds and turbaned students push out of the iron door to his lecture hall only a few hundred metres from the golden-domed shrine of the Imam Ali, cousin of the Prophet Mohamed. But Sayed Hakeem does not mince his words – neither political nor spiritual. No, you realise, Iran does not govern the minds of Iraq’s Shia. Nor does any fear of Isis. Or the west. Saddam haunts our conversation – as he does still all of Iraq – but so does the Shah, even the Ottoman Empire.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/brexit-extremism-europe-sayed-mohamedhussain-elhakeem-iraq-a8877501.html

 
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Posted by on April 23, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Iraq’s wounded and grief-stricken tell a disturbing tale of a divided country after the ‘defeat’ of Isis

The moment the 54-year old walked up to the car, it was obvious that something was terribly wrong. The way he dragged his feet, then stamped them on the ground and marched forward like a toy soldier, head lowered; then the way he looked up at you from beneath dark brows, in both greeting and concern. Taamy Wahab Mohamed el-Yasaari should have returned from the Isis battlefront to a land fit for heroes.

For the Shiite Muslims of southern Iraq, he counts among the heroes. When I ask him when he was wounded, he looks and stares at the wall in a distressed way, dark eyes framed by thick black hair but white beard.

“Several times I was wounded,” al-Yasaari says. And you can tell that the bullets and shrapnel have framed a diary in his mind. “On 28 April 2015 at Bayji, on 3 July 2015, again at Bayji, on 5 May 2016 on the Makhoul mountains near Tikrit, then on 3 July 2017 at Khalidiya in Anbar province.” It was the last wound which did for him.

https://www.independent.co.uk/voices/isis-defeat-iraq-war-wounded-shia-sunni-shiite-militia-a8875926.html

 
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Posted by on April 18, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Isis caliphate defeated: How the Islamic State’s brutal project was finally overthrown, and what might come next

Up to its dying days the self-declared Islamic State has retained the ability to top the news agenda, even as its fighters were losing their last battle for bomb-shattered villages in the deserts of eastern Syria. When their spokesman promised retaliation for the massacre of Muslims in the Christchurch mosques his threat was taken seriously.

Given the record of Isis atrocities it is not surprising that nobody can discount its ability to exact revenge through existing adherents, new converts or those using its name to spread terror. This is not just western paranoia: in Syria and Iraq people speak continually of Isis sleeper cells waiting to emerge and exact revenge.

There is a largely sterile debate about whether or not Isis – whose territory once stretched from the outskirts of Baghdad to the hills overlooking the Mediterranean – is dead and buried, as Donald Trump claims. Could it be reborn if the pressure against it is relaxed? The answer is simple enough: Isis is defeated as a state apparatus that once ruled eight million people, but it can persist as a terrorist and guerrilla organisation.

https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/middle-east/isis-defeat-caliphate-isamic-state-territory-syria-iraq-victory-terror-a8781626.html

 
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Posted by on March 26, 2019 in Middle East

 

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Moqtada al-Sadr, Iraq’s savvy strategist

In recent months, the Iraqi Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr has refused, repeatedly, American overtures for talks. Academics and journalists offering to serve as go-betweens have also been turned away. Yet a Reuters report claimed that after years of opposing the US presence in Iraq, sometimes violently, the populist cleric had finally agreed to speak to the Americans; but before the ink was dry, an erratum was issued. Was it a misunderstanding? Or just wishful thinking by the Americans to imagine that the most influential group on the Iraqi political scene, which supposedly opposes Iranian meddling in Iraq, would finally shake hands with the US, just when American influence in Baghdad is waning?

Sadr’s political representative and former head of the Ahrar parliamentary bloc, Dhiaa al-Asadi, explained that Sadr could not engage in talks with the Americans because it would go against the very principles of the movement: ‘As long as American foreign policy remains unchanged, Sadrists cannot and will not speak to them,’ he said, referring to US positions on Iraq, Palestine and elsewhere. ‘Interviews with journalists or discussions with academics are another matter.’

https://mondediplo.com/outsidein/moqtada-al-sadr-iraq-s-savvy-strategist

 
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Posted by on December 18, 2018 in Middle East

 

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Barbie wannabes and Iraqi women activists at risk

Shimaa Qassem, a former Miss Iraq, started to receive death threats days after the drive-by killing in Baghdad of a social media star who had been a runner-up in that same beauty pageant.

The killing of 22-year-old Tara al-Fares followed the gunning down in September of a women’s rights activist in Basra. That killing followed the unexplained death in August of two women involved with the beauty business in Baghdad.

Qassem subsequently said prominent Iraqi women “are being slaughtered like chickens” and Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi acknowledged the pattern of killings suggests “a plan.”

https://thearabweekly.com/barbie-wannabes-and-iraqi-women-activists-risk

 
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Posted by on October 23, 2018 in Middle East

 

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