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  1. Hi cutter7, I am fine. Thank you for asking. I have been busy working on business things. I miss all of you and tend to check in every once in a while.
  2. Iraq to Arrest 3 People Involved in Assassination Attempt on Prime Minister, Reports Say 7 hours ago © AFP 2021 / AHMAD AL-RUBAYE MOSCOW (Sputnik) - The Iraqi authorities have agreed on the arrest of three people involved in the attack on the home of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, the Shafaq News agency reported on Tuesday, citing a political source. The decision came after Al-Kadhimi said that those behind the assassination attempts on him were well known to him and would be exposed. The arrest was agreed on during the prime minister's meeting with President Barham Salih, President of the Supreme Judicial Council Faiq Zaidan and Secretary-General of the Hezbollah Brigades Abu Hussein Al-Hamidawi, the news agency said. Those subject to arrest are three men belonging to an armed Shiite faction, Shafaq News said, adding they will be referred to the competent courts. The assassination attempt was undertaken early on Sunday when a drone targeted Al-Kadhimi's residence in Baghdad. An Al Arabiya correspondent reported that the prime minister was taken to hospital with slight injuries. The prime minister later tweeted that he was fine. Several of his security guards were reportedly injured as well.
  3. 3 people linked to failed assassination of Iraqi PM arrested TEHRAN, Nov. 09 (MNA) – Iraqi security forces had arrested three individuals linked to the failed assassination of the Iraqi Prime Minister, an Arabic source reported. Iraqi security forces identified and arrested three individuals linked to the attempted assassination of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi, Russia Today reported, quoting an Iraqi official. The source did not provide further details over the identities of those arrested. On 7 November 2021, the Iraqi Armed Forces reported that Prime Minister of Iraq Mustafa Al-Kadhimi survived an assassination attempt that morning. An explosive-laden drone attacked his Baghdad residence. Several members of his security personnel were injured. It is rumoured that this assassination attempt was connected to the Baghdad clashes which occurred 2 days before. RHM/84534591
  4. World 2021-November-7 16:11 Iraqi Official: Experts Should Explain Why US Defense Systems Didn't Work in Assassination Attempt TEHRAN (FNA)- The Spokesman for the Iraqi Joint Operations Command raised questions about the inactivation of the US military’s C-RAM systems used to detect and destroy incoming rockets and flying objects, as a drone laden with explosives targeted the residence of Prime Minister Mustafa Al-Kadhimi in Baghdad’s high-security Green Zone. “We are currently discussing the matter with the American side and officials from the US embassy. This is an issue that experts should throw light on and explain,” Major General Tahsin Al-Khafaji stated on Sunday. A statement released by the Security Media Cell, affiliated with the Iraqi prime minister’s office, said Kadhimi was subjected to a failed assassination attempt with a booby-trapped drone early Sunday. The statement added the drone attack targeted his residence, but the Iraqi prime minister was “unharmed” and is “in good health”. Some observers and analysts say there are indications that suggest the failed attempt is distrustful. The purported assassination attempt against Al-Kadhimi involved three drones, the nation’s Interior Ministry has said, branding the act a “terrorist attack”. Two of the drones that targeted Al-Kadhimi’s residence in Baghdad’s Green Zone were downed and one reached the house, the ministry added. Some members of his security detail were injured, but the senior official was unharmed. The ministry will conduct “a wide investigation” and use “all resources and efforts to get the perpetrators”, Major General Saad Maan, who heads its media department, told the Iraqi press.
  5. SUN, 07 NOV, 2021 - 11:25 QASSIM ABDUL-ZAHRA, ASSOCIATED PRESS Troops deployed around Baghdad on Sunday following a failed assassination attempt that targeted the residence of Iraq’s prime minister with armed drones. The attack significantly ramped up tensions sparked by the refusal of Iran-backed militias to accept last month’s parliamentary election results. Seven of Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s security guards were injured in the attack by at least two armed drones in Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone area, according to two Iraqi officials. Mr al-Kadhimi was unharmed, and later appeared on Iraqi television, seated behind a desk in a white shirt, looking calm and composed. His left hand appeared to be wrapped in a bandage, and an aide confirmed he had suffered a light cut. “Cowardly rocket and drone attacks don’t build homelands and don’t build a future,” he said. Later on Sunday, he received Iraqi President Barham Salih and headed a government security meeting. Damage caused by the drone attack on the home of Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/AP) Residents of Baghdad heard the sound of an explosion followed by heavy gunfire from the direction of the Green Zone, which houses foreign embassies and government offices. Handout photos showed the damage in Mr al-Kadhimi’s residence, including smashed windows and doors blown off their hinges. There was no claim of responsibility for the attack, but suspicion immediately fell on Iran-backed militias who had been publicly attacking Mr al-Kadhimi and issuing threats. It came amid a stand-off between security forces and the pro-Iran Shiite militias whose supporters have been camped outside the Green Zone for nearly a month after they rejected the results of Iraq’s parliamentary elections, in which they lost around two-thirds of their seats. Dark times ahead for Iraq: Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhami has been attacked by Iran-aligned Shiite militias. For context, I wrote this for @BrookingsFP on why these are desperate times for Iran & its militias, & why this escalation has been in the making. — Ranj Alaaldin (@RanjAlaaldin) November 7, 2021 “The assassination attempt is a dramatic escalation, crossing a line in unprecedented fashion that may have violent reverberations,” wrote Ranj Alaaldin, a non-resident fellow at the Brookings Institution, in a post on Twitter. Protests turned deadly on Friday when the demonstrators tried to enter the Green Zone. Security forces used tear gas and live ammunition. There was an exchange of fire in which one protester affiliated with the militias was killed, Dozens of security forces were injured. Mr al-Khadimi ordered an investigation to determine what sparked the clashes and who violated orders not to open fire. Some of the leaders of the most powerful militia factions loyal to Iran openly blamed Mr al-Kadhimi for Friday’s clashes and the protester’s death. “The blood of martyrs is to hold you accountable,” said Qais al-Khazali, leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia, addressing Mr al-Kadhimi at a funeral held for the protester on Saturday. “The protesters only had one demand against fraud in elections. Responding like this (with live fire) means you are the first responsible for this fraud.” The funeral was attended by leaders of the mostly Shiite Iran-backed factions who together are known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or Hashd al-Shaabi in Arabic. Security forces prevent protesters denouncing election results from storming the heavily fortified Green Zone during a protest in Baghdad on Saturday (Hadi Mizban/AP) Mr al-Khazali, in a statement on Sunday, suggested the militias were being framed, calling for an investigation and for the punishment of the perpetrators. The 54-year-old was Iraq’s intelligence chief before becoming prime minister in May last year. He is considered by the militias to be close to the US, and has tried to strike a balance between Iraq’s alliances with both the US and Iran. Prior to the elections, he hosted several rounds of talks between regional foes Iran and Saudi Arabia in Baghdad in a bid to ease regional tensions. Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Saeed Khatibzadeh in a briefing on Sunday condemned the assassination attempt onMr al-Khadimi and indirectly blamed the US. He said to be aware of “the conspiracies that target the security and progress of Iraq”, without elaborating. Mr Khatibzadeh said such incidents “are in the interests of those parties that have invaded the stability, security, independence and territorial integrity of Iraq over the past 18 years”. The USstrongly denounced the attack. “This apparent act of terrorism, which we strongly condemn, was directed at the heart of the Iraqi state,” said State Department spokesman Ned Price. Damage caused by the armed drone attack on the home of Iraqi premier Mustafa al-Kadhimi in Baghdad’s Green Zone (Iraqi Prime Minister Media Office/AP) Egypt’s President Abdel Fattah el-Sissi also condemned the assassination attempt. Writing on Facebook, he called on all sides in Iraq to “calm down, renounce violence and join forces to preserve the country’s stability”. Saudi Arabia issued a statement of support for stability in Iraq and said it strongly condemned the “cowardly terrorist attack that targeted Iraq’s prime minister”. The US, the UN Security Council and others have praised the October 10 election, which was mostly violence-free and without major technical glitches. But, following the vote, militia supporters pitched tents near the Green Zone, rejecting the election results and threatening violence unless their demands for a recount were met. The unsubstantiated claims of voter fraud have cast a shadow over the vote. The stand-off with the militia supporters has also increased tensions among rival Shiite factions that could spill into violence and threaten Iraq’s newfound relative stability. Iraqi security forces close the heavily fortified Green Zone as they tighten security measures after an assassination attempt on Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi (Hadi Mizban/AP) The election was held months ahead of schedule in response to mass protests in late 2019, which saw tens of thousands in Baghdad and predominantly Shiite southern provinces rally against endemic corruption, poor services and unemployment. They also protested against the heavy-handed interference of neighbouring Iran in Iraq’s affairs through Iran-backed militias. The militias have lost some popularity since the 2018 vote, when they made big election gains. Many hold them responsible for suppressing the 2019 protests, and for challenging the state’s authority. The biggest gains were made by influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who won the largest number of parliament seats – 73 out of 329. While he maintains good relations with Iran, he publicly opposes external interference in Iraq’s affairs.
  6. Iraq PM Survives Drone Assassination Attempt BY TYLER DURDEN SATURDAY, NOV 06, 2021 - 10:25 PM Iraq’s Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi was targeted in a “failed assassination attempt” after an explosive-laden drone struck his residence in Baghdad, Iraqi military said early Sunday. Kadhimi was unharmed in the attack and is in good health, the military said, adding that it was taking the necessary measures in connection with the failed attempt. Two government officials said Kadhimi's residence had been hit by at least one explosion and confirmed to Reuters that the prime minister was safe. Security sources told Reuters that six members of Kadhimi's personal protection force stationed outside his residence had been injured. Kadhimi took to Twitter soon after the attack and said he was fine and called for calm and restraint from the public. “The rockets of treachery will not discourage the believers… The steadfastness and insistence of our heroic security forces will not falter as they work to preserve the security of the people, achieve justice and enforce the law,” he said. “I am fine, praise be to God, among my people, and I call for calm and restraint. The attack which injured several members of Kadhimi's personal protection, came after protests in the Iraqi capital over the result of a general election last month turned violent, according to Reuters which cited security sources. The groups leading protests and complaints about the result of the October vote are heavily-armed Iran-backed militias which lost much of their parliamentary power in the election. They have alleged voting and vote-counting irregularities. No group immediately claimed responsibility for the attack on Kadhimi's residence in Baghdad's fortified Green Zone, which houses government buildings and foreign embassies. Western diplomats based nearby in the Green Zone said they heard explosions and gunfire in the area. Supporters of Iran-aligned militia groups which have grown their power in parliament and government in recent years have alleged voter fraud and irregularities in counting the results of the Oct. 10 election. Protests by supporters of parties who dispute the results of the vote turned violent on Friday when demonstrators pelted police with stones near the Green Zone, injuring several officers. The police responded with tear gas and live gunfire, killing at least one demonstrator, according to security and hospital sources in Baghdad. Independent analysts say the election results were a reflection of anger towards the Iran-backed armed groups, which are widely accused of involvement in the killing of nearly 600 protesters who took the street in separate, anti-government demonstrations in 2019.
  7. Iraq on high alert as militias prepare to protest election results MENA 2 min read The New Arab Staff 05 November, 2021 Iraqi security forces have deployed heavily around Baghdad’s Green Zone as militias prepare to protest election results which gave them a low number of seats in the new Iraqi parliament. Iraqi security forces deployed near Baghdad's Green Zone [Getty] Iraqi security forces deployed heavily around Baghdad’s Green Zone in the early hours of Friday morning as pro-Iran militias prepared to protest the results of recent parliamentary elections. The Green Zone, a fortified area in central Baghdad, contains Iraqi government offices and Western diplomatic missions. Iraq held parliamentary elections on October 10 and the Sairoon Alliance, led by Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, emerged as the largest party winning 73 seats in the 329 seat parliament. Al-Sadr has previously had an ambivalent relationship with Iran. By contrast the Fatah Alliance, which is linked to pro-Iran militias, performed relatively poorly, winning only 17 seats. The militias, most of whom are part of the state-sponsored Popular Mobilization Forces coalition, have accused the Iraqi government of falsifying results and “stealing” the election. They have called on their supporters to take to the streets on Friday, calling the planned protests “The Friday of the Last Chance”. Dozens of military vehicles carrying security personnel were seen entering the Green Zone late on Thursday night and early on Friday morning. Eyewitnesses told The New Arab’s Arabic-language service that the security forces had entered via the Green Zone’s Qadissiyah Gate and then positioned themselves there and at the other gates leading to the area. An officer in the Baghdad Joint Operations Command also told The New Arab’s Arabic language service that “hundreds of security forces are taking part” in a plan to protect the Green Zone. He added that they had set up barriers in the Karrada and Jadiriya areas near the zone, as well as in Tahrir Square. “Orders have emphasised avoiding clashes with the protesters while preventing them from reaching the gates of the Green Zone,” the officer said. Earlier, Qais Al-Khazali, the leader of the Asa’ib Ahl Al-Haq militia said, “The results of the elections are rejected by those who took part in them and this is based on evidence.” “Demonstrations will continue until people get their rights and falsifying results is unacceptable,” he added. Following previous threats from militias the Iraqi High Election Commission revised previously declared results although it later denied that the revisions had been made in response to threats. On Friday the Election Commission announced that it had finished recounting votes in several Iraqi provinces in response to challenges from candidates and would begin recounting votes in Baghdad in response to similar challenges.
  8. More than 2,100 shipments of coalition military equipment evacuated from Iraq International coalition delivers over 1,800 armored vehicles to Iraqi forces Dilara Hamit |05.11.2021 ANKARA The Iraqi Joint Operations Command said Thursday that more than 2,100 shipments of US military equipment have been evacuated from Iraq and that the international coalition had delivered more than 1,800 armored vehicles, cranes and water tankers to Iraqi forces. "The participating sides identified how the coalition will continue to support the Iraqi security forces through its role in advice, assistance and empowerment and agreed to re-evaluate progress in their relationship on a quarterly basis,” it said. The command also noted "the successful transfer of ownership of equipment to the Iraqi side during the past months, which included more than 1,800 armored wheels, cranes, water tanks and other vehicles, which contributed to increase the mobility of the Iraqi security forces and enabling them to protect Iraqi citizens from ISIS.” It said the Iraqi government affirmed its commitment once again to protect the members of the international coalition who provide advice, assistance and empowerment to the Iraqi security forces. It added that the members of the coalition are present at the invitation of Iraq in accordance with Iraqi sovereignty and international laws and norms. "The parties agreed to continue holding their regular sessions through future meetings with the Iraqi Security Coordination Group for the purpose of completing the discussion of the remaining steps to complete the transition of the coalition forces to the non-combat role by the time specified for it at the end of this year," the statement said. Coalition forces of more than 60 states under the leadership of the US have been supporting Iraqi forces in their fight against Daesh/ISIS since 2014. The Baghdad and Washington administrations agreed on July 26 that US combat forces would withdraw from the country by the end of the year.
  9. Iraq, a rich nation where people go hungry Iraqi children collect recyclable garbage at a dump, amid the spread of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19), in the holy city of Najaf, Iraq. (REUTERS) The strange paradox is that at the time it was besieged, Iraq did not go hungry; while now, a rich Iraq sees it people falling into the throes of hunger. Friday 05/11/2021 When the international embargo was imposed on Iraq in 1990 after the occupation of Kuwait, its aim was to put international pressure on the regime by starving the Iraqi people. This unannounced measure was revealed by the dire realities of the time. However, the regime was able to achieve a great breakthrough through the introduction of rationing. Without that introduction, living conditions would have deteriorated in record time and the regime would not have been able to withstand thirteen difficult years of pressure until it was overthrown after the US invasion, which paved the way for the emergence of a different sort of Iraq. Before 2003, the state was characterised by discipline. Integrity was also a quality that could not be taken lightly. The rationing plan succeeded in saving many groups of Iraqis from falling into the abyss of abject hunger. If things had continued to be managed with discipline and austerity, the living conditions of these same groups of Iraqis, supposedly protected by the rationing cards, would not have sunk to the bottom of the poverty line, as a result of the gratuitous behaviour of the state as led by the president’s entourage and relatives. What is of interest here is that Iraq had gone through harsh circumstances in the past where its people escaped starvation, thanks to sound patriotic thinking and disciplined behaviour, even after the state’s financial resources were reduced to zero. Compared to that complex period, what is happening today in Iraq seems like a form of madness. It is shocking that the International Food Programme has declared Iraq a hunger-stricken country. But the strange paradox is that at the time it was besieged, Iraq did not go hungry; while now, a rich Iraq sees it people falling into the throes of hunger. There is no better indication than this, that Iraq is now a failed state. It is ironic that the Iraqi government disagreed with the World Food Programme about the definition of poverty and whether that definition means that the percentage of hungry people in Iraq has increased or decreased. As international organisations rely on official documents, the report of the World Food Programme was very shocking. It indicated that more than 30 percent of Iraqis live below the poverty line, while 40 percent or more of the population are poor. From the point of view of the Iraqi government, which does not deny these figures, poverty is varied and in some of its manifestations will not inevitably lead to hunger. Considering Iraq to be a country most of whose population is threatened by hunger, is a reality that is likely to strike a raw political nerve, which the rulers of Iraq will not be able to easily dismiss. Reality does not lie. There are Iraqis today looking for food in the dumpsters. That is an undeniable fact. It is not the creation of some hostile or sick mind. The issue is not related to the definition of the many types of poverty, but rather goes beyond that to the stage of sub-poverty. The report of the World Food Programme confirms that Iraq is among the seven most hunger-stricken countries in the world. At the same time, Iraq boasts a financial surplus of $16 billion. A catastrophic paradox that is hard to believe. However, what Iraq witnessed after 2003, in terms of humanitarian disasters, puts this contradiction into the context of a state that was shattered and engulfed in corruption. A third of Iraqis are hungry because there is whole class of new rich who found a way to seize the bulk of Iraq’s money. The rest of Iraqi funds is distributed in the form of salaries that keep the employees in the dizzying search for solutions amid generalised corruption that is socially-normalised, culturally-accepted and religiously endorsed by cheap fatwas. In light of the sectarian tensions that Iraq is experiencing, the number of hungry people is not expected to decrease, but will inevitably rise. This does not constitute an obstacle to the advocates of reform who defend a democracy where they seek the votes of the hungry, without heeding the crushing storm that these votes could eventually unleash on them. Iraq is a hungry country. This is a tragic sentence. But it could be the tragedy that paves the way for salvation.
  10. Al-Amiri’s dismissal looms after Shiite Forces’ Coordination Framework approaches the verge of irrevocable disintegration ReportAl-FatahHadi Al-Amiri 2021-10-31 04:04 A-AA+ Shafaq News / The Coordination Framework is on the verge of complete disintegration, a source from inside the consortium of the Iraqi Shiite forces revealed, as the hope of a comeback from the early parliamentary elections' defeat fades with the approach of the announcements of the final results. The Coordination Framework comprises the Shiite forces that do not recognize the October 10 election results, for many of which did not secure the number of seats they expected. Hadi al-Amiri's al-Fatah Alliance, which serves as a political umbrella for influential Shiite factions closely linked to Iran, is at the helm of these forces. The Alliance of National State Forces, led by Ammar al-Hakim and Haidar al-Abadi, and the State of Law Coalition, led by Nouri al-Maliki, are also parts of the Framework. "The crack of the Coordination Framework emerged with the Electoral Commission's announcement that the results of the manual recount are consistent with the electronic results in some constituents, on which most of the losing forces relied," the source, who spoke on condition of anonymity, told Shafaq News agency. "The Sadrist Movement's delegation visit to meet with the National Wisdom Movement's leader Ammar al-Hakim to discuss the Sadrists' strategy in forming the next government has deepened the features of disintegration," the source said, "the Coordination Framework will disband after the announcement of the approval of the election results." They are disappointed with the results of the primaries, calling them "fabricated," and demanding a manual recount of the ballots across the country. The Electoral Commission declined the nationwide manual recount but approved manually recounting the votes of 2,000 Electronic Voting Machines (EVMs) from a total of 55,041 contested. Manual counting, according to the Electoral Commission, is 100% synonymous with the electronic results in governorates where the manual counting has been completed. On dismissing Hadi al-Amiri from al-Fatah Alliance’s presidency and replacing him by Faleh al-Fayyad, the source stated, “the proposal was put forward since the Coordination Framework's first day. The proposal has evolved into more of a recommendation that shall be implemented, with al-Amiri declaring his willingness to accept the consequences and sacrificing smaller losses to keep bigger gains in allocations, important positions, and ministerial portfolios.” The source continued, "al-Amiri's continuance on the head of the bloc is contingent upon the failure of a Sadrist candidate to take over the government." The allegations, according to Ali Fadlallah, spokesperson for Hezbollah's Hoquq Movement, are failed attempts to confuse the Framework's performance, "what some are pushing about the framework's collapse are failed attempts to mislead its performance, which renews its commitment to the right to manually recount all EVMs in the country.” On the other hand, Regulators such as the United Nations and the European Union has recognized Iraq's election. In contrast, the losing groups and factions had threatened to resort to violence if the announced results were adopted, prompting fears of extensive internal warfare.
  11. ORDER FROM CHAOS Muqtada al-Sadr’s problematic victory and the future of Iraq Ranj AlaaldinThursday, October 28, 2021 ORDER FROM CHAOS Iraq’s parliamentary elections rarely produce surprises. But the elections that were held this month constituted a potential make-or-break moment amidst widespread social unrest, systemic violence against civilians, and an existential economic crisis. Ranj Alaaldin Nonresident Fellow - Foreign Policy, Center for Middle East Policy @RanjAlaaldin Muqtada al-Sadr’s victory is an example of strategic acumen within a movement that continues its transition from insurgency to government, propelled by a yearning for respite and leadership, and by rampant destitution within Iraqi society. Almost 32% of Iraq’s population could soon be impoverished. But it is precisely this despair that has resulted in the emergence of a protest movement that considers Sadr and his militia to be part of the problem, and complicit in the bloodshed that has engulfed the country, including violence against protesters. In its electoral debut, the bloc representing the protesters, Imtidad, secured 10 seats out of 329, a remarkable feat for a movement that is subjected to systemic assassinations and contested the elections amid unprecedented voter apathy. There will consequently be tricky waters for President Joe Biden’s administration to navigate. Now is the moment for the administration to double down on its diplomatic efforts to develop and exercise a political strategy for a shifting political landscape, one that requires managing two prevailing contradictions that represent Iraq’s reality for decades to come: the superiority of militias in Baghdad and a protest movement that yearns for democratic rights and good governance. IMPLICATIONS FOR IRAN Some observers will see these elections as an opportune moment to combat Iran’s influence. Iran’s proxies within the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) — the umbrella militia organization established to fight the self-proclaimed Islamic State — saw their seats reduced to 17, down from the 57 they won in 2018. The organization’s defeat contrasts with the success of their foremost rivals, the Sadrists, who won 74 seats (an increase from the 54 they won in 2018). But Sadr should not be complacent. While Sadr will reign politically supreme for the foreseeable future, he still has political rivals that the PMF and its allies, with Iran’s support, can exploit to manage the fallout from their loss. These rivals include Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq’s former prime minister and leader of the Islamic Dawa Party who was responsible for the collapse of the army in 2014 when ISIS took control of Mosul. He has long been at odds with Muqtada and his State of Law coalition won 34 seats in the elections. Hence, even with Sadr’s impressive victory, the current state of play can hardly be described as insurmountable for the PMF and Iran. Iran and its proxies can find ways to cope. But Iraq is entering a new phase in its political history that the PMF and its Iranian sponsors are ill-equipped to manage, one in which coercive power may not be sufficient. Together with Iran, the PMF is learning the hard way that power through the barrel of a gun is not sustainable. Its brutality has alienated supporters and large segments of the society that once thought of them as battle-field heroes in the campaign against ISIS. While the Sadrist movement is also complicit in human rights abuses, the movement can draw on its decades of support to the destitute and disenfranchised, a legacy that preceded their transition to an insurgency in the aftermath of the 2003 invasion and established the infrastructure that has been so critical to their ascension. The PMF’s key factions, on the other hand, have yet to make that transition from militias that emerged from the ruins of the invasion to credible social movements or political actors that can provide at least some sections of the society with a stake in the future of their country. THE PMF’S VULNERABILITIES HAVE BEEN EXPOSED The PMF is vulnerable. After its Iran-aligned militias turned their guns on Iraqi civilians, factions within the organization that were not aligned with Iran — namely, the groups aligned with Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani — withdrew last year and now constitute direct rivals. The PMF must also manage the emergence of a protest movement that is becoming a political force committed to shifting the tide of public opinion against the PMF and Iran. The PMF is contesting the electoral results. Militia heads have issued threats against the officials that oversaw the elections. The factions that comprise the PMF collectively secured more votes than the Sadrists, but they lacked a viable strategy and consequently struggled to secure as many seats. These are desperate times for the PMF: it does not constitute a cohesive political force or social movement, and has been in a state of tumult. Its leading factions are widely disdained because of their atrocities and their defeat in this election is symbolically catastrophic and could set the tone for their future political contestations. If the PMF views its challenges as existential, the immediate future is dangerous. In practice, that means losing access to the $2.6 billion budget allocated to it as a state-sanctioned auxiliary force, a designation that is detached from reality since the PMF operates outside of the state, and has threatened and attacked the military, U.S. personnel, and Kurdistan. A reduced budget could be a red line, since it effectively means losing patronage networks and a diminished capacity to mobilize fighters. It imposes extra pressure on Iran’s finances and ability to maintain its militia network in Iraq. Tehran has struggled to prop up this network since the Trump administration’s maximum pressure campaign and the onset of the pandemic. NAVIGATING TRICKY WATERS This is an opportune moment. The reverberations of the PMF’s defeat will intensify the organization’s internal disarray and makes it highly unlikely that the organization will ever reclaim popular support. Since the PMF first emerged in 2014, U.S. policymakers have formulated policies around the idea that the PMF enjoys substantial grassroots support and social legitimacy. U.S. sanctions or airstrikes, for example, have been dismissed as viable policies or undertaken in limited fashion on the basis that such measures could embolden the PMF locally and swell its ranks. But such reasoning is no longer plausible. The U.S. and its European allies must reconsider how they develop strategic relations with Iraq’s political actors. Beyond the PMF, there are others who fan the flames of ethnic and sectarian tensions. The National State Forces Alliance led by Haidar al-Abadi of the Islamic Dawa Party and Ammar al-Hakim of the Hikma Movement, managed only five seats. Abadi’s political irrelevance notwithstanding, al-Hakim still commands a strong support base and has been a voice of moderation in a toxic environment of demagogues and militants. Abadi, on the other hand, far from attempting to calm tensions, attempted to deflect focus away from his poor performance by celebrating his infamous decision to attack the Peshmerga in the wake of the Kurdish independence referendum in 2017 when he was prime minister, which, ironically, was undertaken to improve his prospects of winning the 2018 elections. He came third. It is here that Washington can put the pieces of a strategy together, focused in equal measure on the protest movement, moderate actors, and Western interests in Iraq. The U.S. should underpin its Iraq policy with the fact that its allies now command a significant chunk of the political landscape, with the Kurdistan Democratic Party securing 32 seats and the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan winning 17 seats (for a combined total of 49 seats). The Taqadum party led by parliament speaker Mohammed al-Halbousi won 37 seats. A coalition of moderates — comprised of Kurdistan, Halbousi, al-Hakim and a selection of independents whose interests and values are aligned with those of the West — is the best hope of transforming the PMF’s decline into an opportunity. The U.S. must work out what it wants. The political elimination of the PMF is not possible, but containing it is, and there will be no better moment for Biden to signal steadfast U.S. commitment and support by convening the coalition of Iraqi moderates. Such support could improve the Iraqis’ ability to work with each other, and enhance their negotiating position to contain the PMF’s attempts to re-assert itself. At the least, Secretary of State Antony Blinken should undertake a visit to Iraq at the earliest opportunity. Iraq’s political transition may take many months, but the contours of the post-election environment are shaped early on. Empowering a robust Western-aligned coalition will ease the West’s job of engaging the Sadrists, a bloodstained movement with a total disregard for basic human rights but that nevertheless represents Iraq’s reality for the foreseeable future. A strong coalition would improve U.S.-aligned Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi’s prospects of securing another term and imposes political costs on the PMF if it opts to coerce its rivals. Critically, it could insulate the protesters from violence by providing them with political cover, without which the militias will have carte blanche. It could empower the protesters to make the crucial transition into a viable political force. Iraq’s political system might be impervious to major restructuring, but the protest movement can still engage with some of Iraq’s most established political actors as they navigate dangerous waters.
  12. In the absence of al-Maliki, the Coordination Framework to convene with the Sadrist movement Iraq NewsSadrist movement 2021-10-28 05:22 A-AA+ Shafaq News/ A delegation from the Coordination Framework will convene with the Sadrist movement's negotiation committee to discuss prospects for the upcoming federal cabinet. A source inside Ammar al-Hakim, the leader of al-Hekma movement, revealed that the meeting will be held next week in the absence of the State of Law Coalition. "The head of the State of Law Coalition, Nouri al-Maliki, or whoever represents him will not be a part of the delegation because the Sadrists refuse to discuss the current situation or the government formation with al-Maliki, or who represents him," the source elaborated. The Coordination Framework, an umbrella body set up in the aftermath of the anti-establishment protests that emerged in Oct. 2019, brings together key Shiite political blocs. Key members include former premiers Nouri Al-Maliki (2006-14) and Haidar Al-Abadi (2014-18), in addition to al-Fatah Alliance leader Hadi al-Ameri, al-Hekma Movement chief Ammar al-Hakim, and al-Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilization Forces-PMF) chairman Falih Al-Fayyadh. Of note, Muqtada al-Sadr left the Coordination Framework in July this year. The Sadrist movement has assigned four members to a negotiating committee that will form the Iraqi government following its anticipated victory in the early parliamentary elections. Al-Sadr has granted the committee chaired by Hussein al-Athari "full power" in matters related to political and parliamentary alliances. The Sadrists are the main force in the cabinet's lineup that is expected to be assembled after the Supreme Federal Court ratifies the final results of the polls. Al-Sadr has already laid the foundations for the policies the government will pursue.
  13. The dead hand of America: Iraq vote won’t solve the failures of West’s nation-building 18 years after Saddam’s removal 9 Oct, 2021 12:04 Get short URL SHARIYA, IRAQ, on October 8, 2021. © AFP / Ismael ADNAN By James Fox, a British journalist and writer at RT. He has written a doctoral thesis on local content in resource economies and has contributed to academic work on global supply chains. Iraqis take to the polls on Sunday for an early election, however it promises to bring nothing but disappointment for the thousands who demanded it, as America’s failed nation-building project continues to underdeliver. Two years ago, thousands of Iraqis took to the streets to demand an end to corruption, misgovernance and a sectarian political system, imposed by the United States after the fall of Saddam Hussein, that allows for the systematic plundering of the state and its national resources. The system, known as ‘muhasasa,’ was developed by Saddam’s opposition in exile in anticipation of a post-Ba’athist Iraq and was adopted by the conquering US forces who believed balancing sectarian demands would allow for the creation of a stable political settlement. But while muhasasa was devised to divvy up political positions and power on the basis of sectarian or ethnic quotas, it has become a cypher for politically sanctioned corruption and the continued enrichment of elites and their followers. READ MORE Shocking report exposes how US defense contractors have wasted trillions through fraud and corruption Ministries and state bodies are also apportioned according to factional lines, further enhancing the capacity for nepotism. As such, muhasasa has contributed to the creation of a bloated civil service, whose salaries account for around a quarter of the country’s GDP, as ministries and key administrative bodies trade jobs and contracts for support. The state currently pays the salaries or pensions of some 11 million people (Iraq has a total population of 40 million), including half-a-million so-called ‘ghost workers’ who don’t work anywhere but still receive a salary. Reports from 2020 suggested that the government was paying around 400% more in salaries than it had been 15 years ago. Muhasasa was meant to prevent a single faction or ethnic group oppressing others in the way that Saddam had done, but Washington’s masterplan instead engendered a kind of political deadlock, whereby the divided parliament and its precariously positioned prime ministers struggled to deliver, even when they tried. As a result, it was no surprise mass protests erupted in 2019; the system wasn’t delivering. In May 2020, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi came to power in the wake of the protests (also known as the Tishreen or October movement) which prompted the collapse of the previous government. But while the former journalist and intelligence chief seemingly heard the call for an early ballot, he won’t be presiding over wholescale political and electoral reform. Al-Kadhimi has brought the 2022 election forward to this Sunday and has overseen some electoral reform, but critics, of which there are many, contend this reform doesn’t go anywhere near far enough and may further entrench the US-imposed muhasasa. Despite some headline reforms, the supposed improvements don’t address the failing system. In a change from the last election, Iraq’s fifth vote since the US conquest will see elections conducted in 83 multi-member local constituencies. Nine of the house’s 329 seats are reserved for minority groups, including five for Christians, and 25% of seats are reserved for women. The displeasure at the extent of the reforms is manifest in the widespread calls for Iraqis to boycott the election; even those who demanded the vote are split on whether to take part. However, universal abstention is likely to be avoided after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, the spiritual leader of the Iraqi Shia, issued a statement encouraging people to come forward and exercise their democratic right, despite the election’s “shortcomings.” Regardless of the electoral changes, experts and forecasters are predicting more of the same; a divided parliament in which no party comes even close to having a majority. Newcomers from the Tishreen movement could get between 18 and 26 seats, an impressive achievement considering the divided nature of the parliament, but only a fraction of the house’s 329 seats. So, despite this early election, the question remains: who, if anyone, is going to rid Iraq of this US-imposed system for democracy which has brought only deadlock and corruption. And, after all, al-Kadhimi’s leadership is a product of the power-sharing agreement in which the divided parliament was forced to elect not the best man for the job, but the candidate which was least offensive to all factions. Al-Kadhimi’s successor, unless he continues in the role after the election, will be chosen in the same fashion. It’s also worth remembering that many Iraqis have never known anything else. With more than 60% of the country’s population under the age of 25, many are too young to remember the Ba’athist years, a socialist regime which was at first characterized by soaring economic growth but also brutal repression, war and Saddam’s cult of personality. Instead, many Iraqis have grown up only experiencing intense factionalism, associated rampant corruption and misgovernance perpetuated by the US-imposed sectarian political system. For this youth, the Iraq rebuilt by the West offers very little unless things radically change. To add insult to injury, the US troops which oversaw Saddam’s fall from power and the creation of a new Iraq have still not left the country 18 years after they first arrived on the premise that the Ba’athist ruler had amassed Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMDs). Although, as we all know, no WMDs were ever found, leading some to wonder whether there was another reason for the Western invasion. Earlier this year, Baghdad and Washington agreed that all US combat troops would be withdrawn from the country by the end of the year. And on Thursday the Iraqi army confirmed that the mission to withdraw about 2,500 remaining US troops had finally begun. But while Iraq may soon be free of American forces, it is unlikely that Iraqis will be able to shake off an ill-judged political system introduced by the US, which, as nearly two decades has shown us, serves only the few at the expense of the many. Think your friends would be interested? Share this story!
  14. Iraq and France’s Total to Work on Gas Production, Solar Deals By Khalid Al Ansary July 24, 2021, 10:56 AM CDT Updated on July 25, 2021, 5:14 AM CDT Sign up for our Middle East newsletter and follow us @middleeast for news on the region. Iraq’s cabinet gave approval for TotalEnergies SE to develop a natural-gas field and help boost the country’s oil output. The French energy company aims to capture and process 600 million standard cubic feet a day of gas from the Ratawi field, the Iraqi News Agency said, citing a government spokesman. Total will also build a 1,000 megawatt solar power plant and start work on a seawater-injection project that aims to increase oil output from southern fields. The Oil Ministry signed an initial agreement with Total in March and was waiting on the cabinet’s approval before proceeding. Iraq Signs Heads of Pact With Total on Energy Projects: Ministry Iraq is spending billions of dollars to ramp up gas production and reduce its reliance on imports from Iran. It uses the fuel largely to power its electricity plants. Supply disruptions as well as mismanagement have caused severe power outages in the past year. Baghdad is also trying to boost its oil-production capacity beyond today’s level of around 4.5 million barrels a day.
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