Tag Archives: Iraq

What is behind the killings in Basra?

On August 17, Iraqi activists Lodia Remon, Abbas Subhi and Fahd al-Zubaidi were heading to the mourning ceremony for fellow activist Tahseen Oussama, who was killed in the southern city of Basra three days earlier, when armed men attacked them. Remon was shot in the leg and Subhi in the chest.

“I survived by a miracle. I still cannot stand on my feet and until now I am in shock,” Remon told Al Jazeera. Subhi, who required surgery, also survived.

Two days later, Reham Yacoub, a close friend of Remon and a fellow activist, was shot dead in her car, sparking public anger and demonstrations in several Iraqi cities. The murder attempt and the death of close friends have taken a toll on Remon, who is a member of Basra’s small Christian community.

“I think that I have lost a large part of my dreams and my aspirations for the first time in my life. I feel I have lost my courage and fear has taken over. The psychological pain is so much worse than the physical pain,” she said.

Activists and protest organisers have been targeted this month in several other southern and central provinces, which have witnessed anti-government protests for more than a year. An estimated 700 protesters have been killed and dozens of activists and government critics murdered.

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Posted by on September 8, 2020 in Middle East



Iraq will be hit harder by the oil price drop than by coronavirus or Isis

The shadowy figures of well-armed Isis gunmen can be seen making an attack in the plains of northern Iraq on an outpost held by paramilitary fighters loyal to the Iraqi government.

Some four of the latter are killed by a roadside bomb. Isis specialises in publicising its successful military actions online to show that it remains a force to be feared, despite the destruction of the so-called caliphate and the killing last year of its leader, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

The appalling atrocities committed by Isis at the height of its power ensure that any sign that the movement is back in business creates a thrill of horror at home and abroad. But, while it is true that Isis has been launching an increased number of pin-prick guerrilla actions in Iraq and Syria in recent months, the effect of these can be exaggerated. The assaults are still very limited compared to what happened in the years leading up to Isis’s capture of Mosul in 2014, along with much of western Iraq and eastern Syria. Without the advantage of surprise this time around and with no military vacuum to fill, it is unlikely that Isis can resurrect itself.

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Posted by on May 12, 2020 in Middle East



Trump should have the guts to call his troop movements in Iraq a retreat

Few can forget the words of Tony Blair’s government aide hours after the World Trade Center was destroyed on 9/11. “It is now a very good day to get out anything we want to bury,” wrote Jo Moore. Donald Trump obviously thought the same thing.

As the coronavirus pandemic sweeps over America, he has ordered US troops to abandon three vital military bases in Iraq – to spare them further attacks from Iranian-supported Iraqi Shia fighters.

Trump has always boasted of the need for withdrawals – but this was a retreat. The official line – that the US was “repositioning [sic] troops from a few smaller bases” – was almost as laughable as the final US marine abandonment of Beirut in 1984 after months under fire from Shia militias. Almost four decades ago, the Americans said they were “redeploying to ships offshore”.


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Extraction Rebellion

The largest civil protests in Iraq’s history began on October 1 and are poised to enter their third month with no sign of slowing down. Hundreds of thousands in cities and in the provinces have poured into the streets, often risking their lives to demand the complete dismantling of the current government. In their extraordinary scale and fervor, the protests might suggest a new Arab Spring. But to see them solely as a movement for political reform—as the small number of Western media reports have framed them—is to miss the point. The protesters’ rallying cry—“We Want a Country”—is, first and foremost, a demand by Iraq’s youth for a sustainable future. Their protests are at the vanguard of global climate change activism.

Those leading the protests represent the majority in a country of forty million where the median age is twenty. As their generation was learning to walk, American and American-trained soldiers manned the roads all around them, poised to shoot if passersby failed to properly stop at a crossing. The private spaces of their homes were invaded by military searches all the time, without warning, day or night. Marked by checkpoints and concrete blast walls, their public spaces—restaurants, schools, parks, hospitals—were subject to the spontaneous terror of abductions and car bombs that dominated post-invasion life. They are the children of the wars for oil extraction waged on their land, a toll imposed on their maturing bodies.

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Posted by on February 26, 2020 in Middle East, Reportages


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‘I just wanted to die’: the torture of an Iraqi protester

As the sun began to set, the evening of 14 December seemed destined to be no different to any other for Hayder, a former military medic in Baghdad. After leaving the protest camp in Tahrir Square, where he had been treating the wounds of injured anti-government demonstrators, he went out for dinner with friends in the neighbouring district of Karrada.

Like thousands of other young Iraqis, Hayder first took to the streets two months earlier on 1 October. He was chanting slogans demanding better services and denouncing the corrupt ruling parties when security forces opened fire on the crowd. He stood on a highway leading to Tahrir Square and saw young, unarmed protesters fall around him, some dead, others injured.

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Posted by on February 25, 2020 in Middle East


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The Middle Eastern Problem Soleimani Figured Out

The Iranian general Qassem Suleimani is dead, and tensions with Iran appear to be simmering down. But the landscape he helped build is still very much a problem for the United States.

Since his killing in a U.S. drone strike last week, experts have been rushing to explain just why Soleimani mattered so much to Iran’s ambitions—and what consequences his death really holds for the region. One simple way to think about it: He was the one man who had mastered the new landscape of the Middle East.

Soleimani’s particular skill was in controlling what’s known as “nonstate actors”—a dry name that, in the Middle East, covers the fractious group of militias, religious groups and tribal forces that actually wield power in much of the region. These groups have grown vastly in importance in the past 20 years, confounding traditional diplomats and statecraft, and Soleimani not only exploited but empowered them in Iran’s interests. His absence might help the U.S. in the short term, but it also shows just how deep a challenge the region will pose in the near future—and why our adversaries, whether Iran or Russia, still enjoy a significant and unpredictable advantage in exerting power.

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Posted by on January 20, 2020 in Middle East


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Blundering into War

At the time of his assassination, General Qasem Soleimani’s strat­egy in Iraq and other countries in the Middle East with large Shia populations had become counterproductive. He is now guaranteed the status of a great Iranian warrior and a Shia martyr, in spite of the mistakes he made in the last years of his life. The violent repression, orchestrated by Soleimani, of small-scale protests in Iraq last October provoked something close to a mass uprising by the Shia community. Iran and its proxies were blamed for the deaths of more than five hundred protesters and injuries to another fifteen thous­and; demonstrators chanting anti­-Iranian slogans burned the Iranian consulates in the Shia holy cities of Kerbala and Najaf. Later the same month in Lebanon, vast crowds filled the streets of Beirut, demanding an end to a political status quo that Hizbullah, Iran’s local ally, has fought for decades to create. In Iran itself, protests over fuel price rises were ruthlessly suppress­ed in November: according to Amnesty International 304 people were killed. At home and abroad, the Shia coalition built up by Iran with immense effort since the revolution of 1979 was falling apart; the Iranian state and its two most powerful reg­ional allies, Hizbullah in Lebanon and the Hashd al-Shaabi (the Popular Mobilisat­­ion Forces) in Iraq, were losing their legit­imacy as defenders of their communities and opponents of foreign interference in their countries.

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Posted by on January 13, 2020 in Middle East


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In the midst of this dangerous showdown, the voices of Iraqis must be heard

For those of us in Iraq who get the latest news from WhatsApp groups, the dawn of 3 January was filled with apprehension and fear. It felt like the huge events of the recent past: the night of the declaration of war in 2003, the news of Saddam Hussein’s arrest, the day of his execution, or the day the Iraqi military collapsed in the face of Islamic State’s occupation of Mosul.

To this list we can now add: the day the Americans killed General Qassem Suleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chief of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), an umbrella group of Iran-backed militias.

Everyone had heard the news before the sun had even risen, with horrific images circulating of the remains of the dead bodies.

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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in Middle East



A Dangerous New Era in the Middle East

U.S. President Donald Trump was determined to get revenge. But on Dec. 28, he still wasn’t sure exactly how to go about it. Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Mark Milley traveled from Washington, D.C. to Florida, where Trump was vacationing in his luxury property, Mar-a-Lago. Outside, tourists were strolling along the beach. Inside, U.S. leadership was discussing how best to effectively punish Iran.

The day before, Tehran allies had carried out a rocket attack on a military base in northern Iraq, killing an American. The U.S. was certain that Tehran had ordered Kataib Hezbollah, one of the Shiite militias Iran cooperates with, to carry out the assault.

U.S. military leaders prepared a retaliatory attack and presented Trump with several options, most of them conventional military targets such as, according to an account in the New York Times, ships, missile facilities or Kataib Hezbollah positions. But as they generally do, the Pentagon officials also included a more extreme option: killing General Qassem Soleimani, the second-most powerful man in Iran and the country’s chief military strategist.
Soleimani had long been considered untouchable due to his senior position in Tehran. As commander of the Quds Force, he was in large part responsible for Iranian activities in the Middle East. Trump’s predecessors in the White House, George W. Bush and Barack Obama, had both rejected the idea of killing Soleimani due to the very real risk of it triggering an uncontrollable war with Iran.

Trump, too, was initially wary of making such a move, instead authorizing the Air Force to bomb Kataib Hezbollah positions on Dec. 29. But that did little to quell the burgeoning crisis. On the contrary, Islamists attacked the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad two days later, again likely at the behest of Iranian leaders.

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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in Middle East, North America, Reportages


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US is not willing to withdraw troops from Iraq, says Pompeo

Washington is not willing to bow to Iraqi demands to withdraw its troops and any future discussions with Baghdad will be purely confined to the future structure of its forces in the country, the US state department has said.

The recommitment to US troops in Iraq defies an Iraqi parliament vote last week demanding all US forces leave in the wake of the killing of the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani by a drone strike in Baghdad. The US secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, said the US was only willing to discuss force reconfiguration with the Iraqis, and a greater contribution by Nato forces.

Pompeo, still under pressure about the legality of the attack, defended the breach of Iraqi sovereignty inherent in the killing by insisting there was clear evidence that Suleimani “had been plotting a large-scale imminent attack on US facilities throughout the region, including US embassies”.

Later, Donald Trump teased some more details in a manner unlikely to satisfy sceptics. “We will tell you probably it was going to be the embassy in Baghdad,” the president told Fox News. “I can reveal that I believe it would have been four embassies.”

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Posted by on January 11, 2020 in Middle East, Uncategorized


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