Thursday, July 24, 2008

Talabani Rejects the Provincial Election Law

Disagreement erupted between the parliament and presidency council over the provincial elections law. After the parliament passed the law with 127 votes out of 140 that attended the session, president Talabani and VP Adbul Mahdi rejected the law and returned it to the parliament for revision.

The key point of disagreement is an article that provides guidelines for the future of Kirkuk. Spokesman of parliament Mahmoud Mashhadani ordered a secret vote for this particular article, the thing that outraged Kurdish MPs and some Shiite MPs who then decided to boycott the vote.

No wonder Kurds reject the article. I’ve translated the important parts of the article, which was posted on Azzaman, that are the most likely source of disagreement:

2-Authority shall be divided among the three main constituencies by giving them (Arabs, Kurds, and Turkmen) 32% each and 4% to Christians. Authority means [posts in] all military and civilian institutions as well as the top three posts (The chairman of the province council, the governor, and the deputy governor).

3-During the mission of the committee mentioned in (4) below, security responsibility in Kirkuk province shall be assigned to military units deployed from central and southern Iraq, that will replace existing units. This is to ensure the professionalism and freedom of the committee and to end the presence of security forces affiliated with political parties.

4-A committee shall be formed to oversee the implementation of (2) above and (5) below. Each major constituency will have 4 representatives in the committee. Christians will have 1 representative. The committee makes decision by a majority vote. The prime minister nominates officials from the trade, planning and interior (citizenship department) ministries for membership in the committee. This is to be done under supervision by the UN and Arab League who will provide support, advice and inspection. The committee should be formed and embark on its mission by October 1, 2008.

5-The duties of the committee include:
a)Setting a mechanism for power-sharing.
b)Identifying violations of public and private property that took place in Kirkuk province after April 9, 2008.
c)The committee submits recommendations to the electoral commission to update voter records based on the finding.
d)Provincial elections in Kirkuk will be held after the committee submits all findings and recommendations.
e)The federal government provide necessary security and resources for the committee to conduct its duties.
f)In case of obstruction or incompletion of the committee’s mission, provincial elections will be held on basis of [a fixed quota of] 10 seats to each of the major constituencies and 2 to the minorities no later than December 31, 2008.

Anyone familiar with Kurdish ambitions in Kirkuk and their current weight in the province can agree that the above points are not even close to anything the Kurds are willing to accept. Particularly (3) and (5-b) are in my estimation out of question for the Kurds. These points if approved would mean that Kurds would have to end the presence of the Peshmerga in all of Kirkuk province and reverse the influx of thousands of Kurdish people settled in the province since 2003. The latter is one of the most controversial issues when it comes to Kirkuk. Kurds claim that those people were simply reclaiming homes and farms from which they were displaced by Saddam in earlier times, while Arabs and Turkmen claim that Kurds are working to change the demographics of the province to ensure winning in elections.

Objectively, the document represents over the top demands of powers opposed to Kurdish domination in Kirkuk.

A source in the UIA speaking on condition of anonymity to Azzaman described what happened as a “tactical rift in the UIA…prominent members walked out and didn’t vote on the legislation while other major factions remained and voted including Badr organization, independent MPs and part of the SIIC and Da’awa Party” and added that “friction between the UIA and Kurdistan Alliance has reached a dangerous zone that may well change the future of this coalition”.
Another source, this time from the Kurdistan Alliance said “we had signed an agreement with the UIA prior to the vote. We signed an agreement with Ali Adeeb and representatives from the SIIC, the independent group, Badr and Da’aw not to pass the law, but we were surprised [by the result]”

What became evident from both the wording of the document and the results of the vote is that the capacity of the Kurdish-UIA coalition, that dominated Iraq’s decision-making process for several years, to pass legislation is being seriously challenged; especially with the disintegration of the UIA.

I think this experience represents a milestone in the redistribution of political power amid constantly changing conditions on the ground. On the one hand there is the rise of Sunni Arab tribes as an influential legitimate player with the expanding power of Awakening councils and the return of the Accord Front to the cabinet, and on the other hand there’s the fact that the Kurds’ main ally-the UIA-now controls dozens of seats less than it did in the past.

One serious limitation that will face attempts to resolve the issue is time. The parliament is due to have its month-long summer recess on August 1st. According to Al-Sabah, political leaders want the parliament to rework the draft law and agree on a version more acceptable to all blocs so that a second vote can be made in seven days. Otherwise holding provincial elections on time will be unlikely.

However, the document offers a lot of leeway for the parties that endorsed it to make acceptable concessions in future negotiations, which offers a good ‘emergency exit’ to avoid a deadlock. If this is combined with a Kurdish respect for peaceful ways and acceptance of the changes in political balance of power, then a compromise may ultimately be possible.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Obama's Fact-Fudging Mission in Iraq

Obama arrived in Iraq on Monday for what is described as a fact-finding mission. However, it’s hard to believe Obama is actually searching for facts in Iraq, nor will the facts he finds change his position. The position he chose for himself, as well as all the comments he has made so far about Iraq, reflect a disregard for facts, and there is no reason to expect a change now.

This visit, for Obama, is just a necessary evil — part of an electoral campaign and not a sincere fact-finding mission. The fact that Obama made Afghanistan his first stop (after arriving in Kuwait, just next door to Iraq) suggests that it’s his electoral campaign that sets his priorities when it comes to the war on terrorism, not the actual map and course of the war.

Obama is lucky in that his host, Prime Minister Maliki, is also going through an election season. He’s even luckier that Maliki has been convinced by the close circle around him that Obama is going to win the American presidential race.

The state-owned Al-Sabah quoted a senior official, who spoke on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the subject, as saying: “The change in the prime minister’s position has to do with his own perception of the political developments in the United States…Maliki thinks that Obama is most likely to win in the presidential election and that he will withdraw his country’s troops from Iraq as he pledged in his campaign.” The official added that Maliki sees that “he’s got to take preemptive steps before Obama gets to the White House.”

This is why both men have appeared to be in perfect harmony recently; one lending generous support to the other. But this is not solid harmony because both men are acting like this due to mere speculations and/or flawed advice from their aides during critical moments in election seasons. Maliki, for example, knows very well that had Obama’s vision for Iraq been adopted two years ago, he wouldn’t be enjoying the position and power he does today, and the progress in Iraq wouldn’t have been achieved.

The call for disengagement in the way Obama proposes (and Maliki cautiously endorses) is based on a vision that goes no further than the upcoming elections in both countries and thus an indicator of dangerous selfishness. The two men are gambling with victory against true enemies of their nations in the hope of achieving victory against personal electoral foes. The obvious confusion in Maliki’s recent statements forced government spokesmen and top officials to appear several times to correct or retract what he said. This indicates that much of what Maliki is saying these days is for personal/partisan electoral purposes and does not represent the strategy of the state of Iraq.

The problem with Obama’s vision for the future of America’s role in the region is that his understanding of the war and the consequences of victory or defeat is stagnant and superficial. He hasn’t changed his proposed policy despite all the changes on the ground over the course of the war. He says that Afghanistan, not Iraq, is the main front in the war on terror and backs this claim with the recent increase in violence over there. This raises the question of why he didn’t see Iraq as the main front when Al-Qaeda was wreaking havoc on Iraq and not only redirected almost all of its resources and fighters to the country but even declared it an Islamic state.

“The road to Quds [Jerusalem] passes through Karbala,” Khomeini said in the 1980s. “We must not forget that Jerusalem is a stone’s throw from Baghdad,” Zawahiri said two years ago.

History proves that every terrorist and extremist in the region sees Iraq as the epicenter of their war. Neither Khomeini nor Zawahiri had Jerusalem as a priority. The priority has always been Iraq; that’s why one wanted to export the revolution and the other sought to establish the Caliphate in Iraq.
Obama insists that he wants to end the war, as if that would achieve victory. This too indicates a lack of understanding of the nature of the war. Victory in a war on terror requires first and foremost that the ideology of extremists be made unattractive in the hearts and minds of the peoples of the region. The people are the center of gravity in a war of this type, and the winner is the one that attracts the people to his side. This goal can only be achieved by presenting a successful model for stability, liberty, and prosperity; a model that proves beyond a doubt that the people have a path that can lead to a bright future — a choice other than status-quo dictatorships and suicidal ideologies of extremism.

Terrorism cannot be defeated by killing Bin Laden or even killing every single existing member of Al-Qaeda, especially considering the decentralized structure of terrorist organizations. Terrorism can be defeated by offering a model for a bright future that gives people who have suffered for so long hope and saves them from despair.

Iraq is now closer than ever to becoming this model, and victory in this chapter of the war is within hand…unless Obama succeeds in ending the war his way.

Monday, July 21, 2008

In the Midle East, Diplomacy = Weakness

In a matter of just a few days several important developments have taken place in the Middle East, all likely to have negative repercussions on the already tense situation in the region.

The first development was the awkward prisoner exchange between Israel and Hezbollah. Then there were the unprecedented decisions by the American administration to take part directly in negotiations with Iran over its nuclear program, and reportedly to resume some level of diplomatic ties with the country. Finally, we had the White House agreeing to set a “time horizon” for troop withdrawal from Iraq.

Such decisions may be viewed by many in the West as steps in the right direction since they offer more room for diplomacy in resolving outstanding issues in the Middle East. And in Iraq, this “time horizon” may be seen by the public as a reassertion of progress towards restoring full sovereignty, and by Maliki as an easy PR gain in election season.

But the regime in Tehran and its surrogates in the region view them very differently: as concessions by the enemy and as an episode of successful employment of salami tactics. Even some of the powers and politicians who are against Iran and its allies will probably read the news in the same way Iran did.
When I saw Lebanon’s president and the parliamentary majority leaders (among whom are the most outspoken rivals of Hezbollah and the staunchest figure of opposition to Iranian and Syrian influence) welcome convicted murderer Samir Quntar home, I was certain it was fear from the effect of these concessions on the balance of power that made them do that, rather than actual respect for Hezbollah.

I particularly hope that these developments will not affect the nascent move for peace talks with Israel that Syria has recently shown. Although I don’t trust the Syrian regime, I think they are now closer than ever to starting serious peace talks. And there are indicators that Assad is now considering jumping off the Iranian wagon. Assad is, after all, a young president who isn’t excited about ending up like Saddam Hussein, and doesn’t share the apocalyptic visions of Ahmadinejad and the elderly clerics of Qom. I think two factors made Assad consider taking a path different from that of Iran. First, he may have realized that Iran will be doomed if it insists on going nuclear. Also, the persistence of the international court in investigating Syria’s role in assassinations in Lebanon may have played a role. Dialogue and diplomacy can be successful with a scared young Assad. I only hope the recent sequence of “victories” does not send Syria back to Iran’s lap.

What I want to say here is that the Middle East has a different understanding of diplomacy than the West. Acceptance of demands or opening up to dialogue can very well be mistaken for weakness. On one hand, it will frighten America’s allies and those sitting on the fence. On the other hand, it will embolden Iran and will most likely lead to further more ambitious demands.

Dialogue and giving diplomacy a chance is not a bad idea, but understanding the mentality of the people sitting across the table is an important prerequisite.

Saturday, July 19, 2008

Najaf tribes to compete against religious parties in provincial elections

A large coalition of tribes in Najaf conferred and made a decision similar to that by the Anbar tribes last week.

In televised interviews, tribal chiefs said they will join forces with technocrats and enter the upcoming provincial elections in slates independent from existing religious parties.
The sheiks voiced their frustration with the outcome of previous elections in which religious parties prevailed. They also criticized the current political class for “ripping apart” the fabric of Iraq’s society, pushing the country to the brink of civil war and failure to provide services to the people.

Friday, July 11, 2008

IAF using Iraqi airspace?

The IDF and Iraq’s defense ministry deny that Israeli air force is using Iraqi airspace to prepare for attacks on Iran.
The claim is obviously part of Iran’s propaganda campaign which is based on deterrence through threats to expand the war. After all, to travel the 200 miles that separate Iraq’s most southern territory from Bushehr in five minutes means that aircraft will have to fly at the speed of Mach 3. This is technically impossible, and it gets even more impossible if the presumed airbases from which Israeli aircraft are supposed to operate (like Assad and Tallil) are many miles farther to the northwest in Iraq.

Anyway, if I were the PM of Iraq, I would gladly allow the Israeli air force to use the desert south of Samawa as a forward operating base-Tehran’s threat to Israel’s long-established democracy and to Iraq’s fledgling democracy must be stopped at all costs.

Anbar tribes to enter politics

The Anbar Salvation Council announces plan to nominate candidates for the upcoming provincial elections and accuses the Islamic Party of plotting electoral fraud:

Chief of the Anbar Salvation council sheik Hameed Hayis announced the formation of “The Democratic Bloc of Anbar” that will enter the upcoming provincial elections in November and later general elections in 2009.
Hayis said the salvation council will work to expose plots by the Islamic Party that is trying to sideline technocrats and intellectuals, manipulate election results and establish a one-party reign “this we shall not allow”.
Hayis affirmed that “the Islamic Party lost its voter base in Anbar because it [the party] was not here for the people of Anbar and was busy minding its partisan interests…the Islamic Party has gone bankrupt”
Hayis expressed concerns that “provincial elections in Anbar will see a lot of fraud by the Islamic Party…we in the Salvation council believe that the Islamic Party has no other means than fraud to save face and occupy some seats in Anbar’s province council. [they can do that] because the elections commission in Anbar is completely taken over by the Islamic Party and most commission officials are members of the [Islamic] Party”

From following the course of security and political events in Anbar, it appears that this particular province will witness the most dramatic political reshuffle when provincial elections take place later this year.

The situation in Anbar is unique when compared to other parts of the country, especially the north and south. The latter regions are going to only see a redistribution of political power among existing religious/ethnic parties because until this moment, and elections are only a few months away, no new competitors emerged. Only in Anbar there’s a formidable challenge to Islamic powers represented by the Awakening and Salvation councils.

While these powers are overwhelmingly tribal in nature, they had never identified themselves as Islamic and they are showing signs of modernization by adding professional technocrats and intelligentsia to their ranks.

Iran sends "sticky IEDs" to terorists in Iraq

First, it was flying IEDs...Now, sticky IEDs

Iraqi newspaper Al-Madad reports:

The government is taking measures to prevent assassinations by magnetic IEDs that militant groups have been using to target members of security forces, judges and civilians.
A source in the government said the cabinet asked all state officials to take utmost caution and to constantly inspect their vehicles before traveling even if the vehicle was left unattended for a short period of time.
The statement comes amid increasing attacks with sticky IEDs against government officials of various levels. Military analysts in Baghdad see that the successful operations by security forces in many parts of the country forced militants to change their tactics and switch to sticky IEDs that can be remotely detonated and do not require teams to place.

General Qasim Ata had accused Iran last April of supplying large amounts of sticky IEDs to militant groups. Ata also confirmed the discovery of such Iran-made sticky IEDa in different parts of Baghdad.
Security sources told Al-Mada yesterday that counter-explosives services proceeded to offer lectures to inform security personnel and government officials [about these devices] and distributed posters that show samples of these sticky/magnetic bombs.

Whether you're looking for 2,000km rockets, 150 meter flying IEDs, or palm-sized sticky IEDs...Iran is the one-stop-shop for all sorts of terrorist gear.

Coalition forces, US embassy ban Iranian media from accessing coalition bases

Coalition forces and the US embassy decided to ban reporters working with Iranian media from accessing coalition bases and American offices in Iraq.

Coalition forces media advisor Abdul Latif Rayan said security concerns are behind the decision and added “From a security standpoint, we think it’s inappropriate to grant Iranian networks or their employees the permission to access American or coalition bases and offices in Iraq”...Source: Radio Sawa.

Stopping potential spies from entering sensitive facilities is a long overdue decision. It makes perfect sense!

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Why Iraq Is Changing Its Tune on Withdrawal

In a surprising development, Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki and his national security advisor Mowaffak al-Rubaie made a dramatic shift in their positions in the SOFA negotiations with the US.
By referring to the negotiated deal as a “memorandum of understanding” instead of using its official name, they are signaling that they are doing more than just taking a tougher stand: they are scrapping all that has been negotiated since February and starting new negotiations for a whole new deal.

In other words, Maliki is saying that he wants to negotiate the withdrawal of US forces, not their presence, after the UN mandate expires.
In order to understand why Maliki made this sharp turn from his formerly pragmatic neutral position, we need to examine three issues: the timing of the statements, the place from which they were made, and the parties that made them.

As to their source, it is noteworthy that the statements came from only religious Shiite leaders. Sunnis and Kurds who have been close to the negotiations and often spoke about the progress and obstacles concerning SOFA do not seem to share Maliki’s new demand.

The timing and location somewhat overlap with Maliki’s visit to the UAE, and almost coincides with Rubaie’s visit to Ayatollah Sistani in Najaf.
In my opinion, the only reason that Maliki made his demand from the UAE and not from Baghdad is that he wanted to send a message of reassurance to Tehran: basically to reassure the Iranians that recent reinforcement of ties with Arab states and the planned reopening of their embassies does not necessarily mean that Iraq has become part of a US-Arab alliance against them.

Of course the message was not received by Iranians only. Some Arab leaders may have seen this message as a sign of Maliki’s possible insincerity towards them. At least one of them (King Abdullah II of Jordan) postponed his planned visit to Baghdad — and I doubt “security concerns” are truly behind the decision.
As I predicted in an earlier post, Maliki waited before making adjustments in his position towards the deal. However, the change came more dramatically than expected. Maliki apparently yielded to Shiite pressure from Najaf and made his choice. He made two mistakes here.

First, he forgot that while he feels that he’s got to listen to what Najaf says, America does not. Neither do Sunnis, Kurds or even many among Shiite Iraqis. Second, by making unrealistic and unacceptable demands he put himself in an embarrassing position. He may have thought that America needs the deal so badly that it will be willing to make huge concessions that he can exploit in order to please Tehran and Najaf.

Something must have made Maliki and his security advisor think that they have the upper hand in the negotiations. After all, they declared: “Our stance in the negotiations under way with the American side will be strong… We will not accept any memorandum of understanding that doesn’t have specific dates to withdraw foreign forces from Iraq”
Here, we’re facing a typical case of the manifestations of the dual loyalties of many Iraqi politicians. The government as a whole has made achievements, especially in terms of security improvements. But these achievements have now been turned into a check that is being cashed to serve the sect and its allies.

For a long time, when the government was very weak, Maliki and Rubaie (especially Rubaie) were clearly against the idea of setting timetables, at least in public. What has changed now is that these politicians have gone to the Ayatollah and told him that their domestic foes have been more or less neutralized and that they are ready to use these gains for the benefit of the sect.
What I am saying here is that the statement “we are strong” does not reflect the Iraq-US balance of power in terms of two states negotiating a deal. It reflects the presumed balance of power between Shiite faith (in its regional context) on the one hand and the US, Sunni Arabs and Kurds on the other.

This calculation is obviously flawed. Maintaining the presence of American troops is crucial for the survival of Maliki and the future of Iraq — it is not as crucial for America. If America insists on a position of refusing to include a timetable for withdrawal in the agreement, it will be Maliki who will have to make concessions.
That will be very bad for his image.
People make mistakes, but the mistake here is aggravated by the fact that Iraq’s leader has allowed his misperceptions to drive him into making demands that are not in the best interest of his country.

Frankly, I’m disappointed by Maliki’s unjustified maneuver. Gambling with the future of nation and its people is an insult that will cast a shadow on his record as a leader of Iraq.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Support Freedom of Speech

Our friends and readers remember the Arabic blogging tool that we helped develop nearly 4 years ago. It was a pioneer project in making blogging easy for Arabic speakers in the Middle East. It’s been a story of exceptional success in dangerous times. Only with the strong will of good Iraqis and Americans the idea became solid reality.

The project did not wait for or receive any support from the Iraqi or US government; the success was only the fruit of cooperation between enthusiastic supporters of free speech in both countries.

It was a long journey to help introduce the idea of dialogue over the internet and activism to the Iraqi people. It’s been a real challenge on a land that witnesses the most brutal attacks of terrorism. However this did not discourage the volunteers who continued to move across the country offering training and promoting the culture of blogging and free speech. That journey reached even some of the most remote villages and most volatile zones. During that we lost two dear colleagues on what was known back then as the ‘death road’.

The project was built with generous donations and enthusiastic volunteer work, and above all blood. Today we’re proud that the blogging network has more than 2,300 users using the tool to express themselves and interact with one another. The community received more than 20 million readers since its inception three years ago and the average hits today reaches as many as 25,000 and continues to rise. The network of users expanded beyond Iraq to the rest of the Middle East where hundreds of blogger are now using the network, adding new dimensions to it by connecting all these bloggers, activists and NGOs.

On behalf of all the people using the service, I'd like to thank all those who took part in the first fund raising campaign that Spirit of America led which our dear readers and many respectable bloggers had an honorable role in. also thanks to Cato Institute and Dr. Tom Palmer for covering the expenses of the service for a full year, and to all the Iraqi volunteers who still manage the main site for free.

This project is now facing the danger of being shut down because we couldn’t find resources to pay the firm that hosts the service…the network will no longer exist by the end of the month, unless we find a way to save it.

We hope that the lovers and supporters of free speech and democracy will help us find the resources necessary to keep the project alive.
The managing and editing of the main site, as well as occasional Arabic-English translation are taken care of by Iraqi volunteers free of charge. What the service needs to survive are the expenses of the hosting firm and sufficient legal expertise to help with the negotiations and oversee the financial issues.

At a cost of less than $2,000 a month we can keep 2,300 bloggers online, their 25,000 daily readers informed and keep the doors open for many more to join. Please spread the word and email us in case you know individuals or groups that might be willing to offer assitance.

Related links and previous stories:
Friends of Democracy Home Page
Blogs Directory
Activities made possible by the network

Thursday, July 03, 2008

Iran and the Coming War

The possibility of military action against Iran’s nuclear facilities is increasing every day: some even expect it could happen as early as the end of this year.

The strange thing is that Iran has been directing most of its recent rhetoric not against the most likely attacker — Israel — but against the United States.
On Monday, General Meer Faisal Baqir Zadeh of Iran’s armed forces general command declared that Iran will be digging 320,000 graves in a number of provinces bordering Iraq and the Gulf to bury dead American attackers. One wonders: why Americans and not Israeli attackers?

The answer to this question - and why the US is clearly worried about the threats - becomes apparent after examining the likely scope and nature of such a confrontation that takes all of the potential actors into account.
The most likely starting point is a quick and intensive Israeli air strike targeting Iran’s uranium enrichment plants and other nuclear facilities crucial to the Islamic Republic’s nuclear program. What would follow remains unclear right now. However, a logical path can be deduced from the initial action given the declared and implicit policies, fears, and ambitions of Iran.

According to the chief of the IRGC General Mohammed Ali Jaafari, Iran would seal off the Strait of Hormuz and the Gulf if attacked. It will even attack any countries from which an American attack comes.
Iran has long wanted to believe that America can’t take action against it because of America’s involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan and the U.S. public’s distaste for opening yet another front. Iran is trying to use this presumed situation to deter an Israeli attack by threatening to force the U.S. to participate in a large-scale operation against it should such an attack occur.

Tehran is thus strategically threatening to expand the war beyond the presumed limits of a) the American public’s tolerance or b) the price the U.S. is ready to pay to eliminate a threat to Israel, the Gulf, and maybe European — but not American — soil.
Iran has also threatened to use its surrogates in the Middle East to escalate operations against Israeli and U.S. troops. This means that Iran wants to have concerned countries apply pressure on Israel not to attack by threatening open war in the Middle East.

If Iran’s deterrence plan fails — and it most likely will since the threat is existential to Israel — it will clearly still try to expand the conflict. Dragging the U.S. into a war that cannot be won would provide Tehran with a propaganda victory that could be used to relieve the pain of losing their nuclear program. Not a bad trade, especially that Israel is going to bomb it anyway.
Seeking to expand the breadth of such a war could also help Tehran save face if, as seems likely, severe blows are dealt to its war machine.

Appearing helpless in the face of an offensive by a small state like Israel would severely damage the image of the regime among the population beyond the inflicted material loss. But losing in battle to a coalition of several states including the world’s sole superpower could be used to turn a defeat into a domestic propaganda victory that revolves around the survival of the regime.
Iran is relatively better positioned for something like this than Saddam was in 1991, at least in the sense that the nuclear program is seen as a more legitimate cause among Iranians than Saddam’s invasion of Kuwait was among Iraqis.

Iran could claim that the U.S. Air Force took part in the strikes, or at least that it provided logistical support to the waves of Israeli fighter jets. Such involvement, in their thinking, would justify attacks on U.S. bases in Iraq and the Gulf region, inviting American retaliation.
Tehran will be betting on the following as a plan to avoid the toppling of their regime:

First, the declared and internationally to-be-accepted objective of an Israeli/American strike is to stop Iran from going nuclear, much like the declared objective of Desert Storm was to liberate Kuwait. Toppling regimes is something that coalitions weren’t supportive of in 1991 and won’t support in the coming war.
Second, Iran has mastered the ways of guerrilla war. They may be justified in their belief that if their surrogates in Lebanon and Iraq can continue to survive Israel’s attacks or disrupt post-invasion efforts, then their own similarly trained forces in the IRGC would be able to perform even more spectacularly. The chaos could be multiplied if accompanied by simultaneous escalations against U.S. forces in Iraq and against Israel.

Furthermore, Iran believes it has a better organized and more loyal military than Saddam had in 2003 and that its nuclear and vital command-and-control facilities are considered more challenging targets than Saddam’s were.
The Tehran regime has chosen to set itself on a crash course with the rest of the world. They know war is coming and they hope they can escape with minimal damage to the regime.
A dictator’s mentality sees anything else as expendable.

Sadr movement, Mahdi army shrink under pressure

Special Analysis for The Long War Journal

Over the space of several days in early June, Muqtada al Sadr has issued two consequential orders that will affect the future of his movement and that of Iraq. Sadr has ordered the reorganization of his infamous Mahdi Army and has forbidden the Sadrist movement from participating in the upcoming provincial elections.

Sadr’s first declaration addressed the organization and operations of the Mahdi Army, the military arm of the Sadrist movement. Sadr ordered his militiamen to halt the fighting and announced that a small, specialized unit will have the exclusive right to fight the “occupier.” The unit, ironically called the “special groups,” is forbidden to attack Iraqi security forces or government officials.

Sadr’s second declaration addressed how the Sadrist movement would participate in the upcoming provincial elections, tentatively scheduled for October of this year. In the second order, Sadr told his followers not compete directly in elections that take place under “occupation” but said the movement would support “technocrat and independent politicians” to prevent rival Shiite parties from dominating provincial governments.

The two orders show that Sadr is being forced to scale down both his political and military ambitions as the Iraqi government and Iraqi security forces continue to pacify Mahdi Army strongholds during a series of offensives that started in Basrah at the end of March, and moved through Sadr City and the wider Shia South. Operations in Maysan, a Mahdi Army bastion, are currently in progress. The Maysan operations so far resulted in the capture of 354 wanted militiamen and the discovery of hundreds of rockets, artillery rounds, RPGs and surface to air missiles and various other weapons and munitions. More than two hundred militiamen also surrendered to the Iraqi security forces, according to Ministry of Interior spokesman Abdul Karim Khalaf.

Continue Reading...