The Antichrist Will Be Killed By God (Revelation 20)


Image result for motada sadr baghdad   Iraq: Sadr Tells Supporters to Carry on the Torch Even if he is Killed

Baghdad- Top Shi’ite cleric in Iraq and leader of the Baghdad-based Sadrist movement Moqtada al-Sadr has warned, without naming a specific side, that his life is under serious threat.

Speaking to thousands of supporting demonstrators on Friday, Sadr urged the crowd and the movement to push further with what he called a “reform revolution,” even in the unfortunate event of his death.

In a clear sign of his concern over the greed of rival factions in the “Popular Mobilization Forces,” the leader of the Sadrist movement called on the Iraqi army to take the reigns over all military initiatives, demanding that only army units control areas liberated from the terror group ISIS.

“It is necessary to support the Iraqi army and security forces to complete their victories in the usurped areas,” Sadr told his followers at the rally in Baghdad as the demonstrators waved Iraqi flags and chanted support for their leader.

“They should be the only ones that hold ground after liberating it – no others, whether the occupier, foreign forces or others,” he said.

“If I was assassinated, then that would be a sacrifice for Iraq … and that is not far-fetched,” Sadr said.

Political analysts believe that Sadr’s fears are more political. They say he is concerned about rival Shi’ite militias gaining strength by taking ground in the north.

Baghdad-based political analyst Ahmed Younis said Sadr’s speech was a clear message to Shi’ite rivals.

“It’s quite a clear message for other Shi’ite armed groups not to take on the role of government forces and control lands under the pretext of fighting ISIS. Moqtada is trying to draw a line in the sand for his rivals,” he said.

Sadr, whose opinion holds sway over tens of thousands of Shi’ites -including fighters who battled US troops in 2006-7 – also threatened to boycott upcoming parliamentary elections.

He accused Iraq’s Election Commission of bias toward some parties.

The cleric is calling for a new commission and a review of the current election law, saying it allows influential parties to maintain their grip on power.

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Antichrist Holds Deadly Rally

Sadrists Hold Rally in Baghdad; 60 Killed in Iraq by — Antiwar.com

by Margaret Griffis, March 24, 2017

Followers of Shi’ite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr held a rally in Baghdad on Friday. During a televised speech to the demonstrators, he urged them to support the Iraqi military. However, Sadr also said that only the military should be in charge of recaptured territory. The comment was probably a subtle criticism toward rival militias, which have remained active in former Islamic State areas. Sadr also called on the government to institute electoral reform.

In Mosul, civilians are reporting many deaths and injuries due to Islamic State snipers targeting them as they try to escape west Mosul. Meanwhile, in the east, the slow and arduous process of rebuilding society has begun.

At least 60 were killed and 25 were wounded:

In Mosul, 20 civilians were executed for trying to evacuate. Shelling left 12 people dead and six wounded. Three suicide bombers were killed.

Clashes in Gardagli left five civilians, two militiamen, and ten militants dead. Six civilians and seven militants were wounded.

One person was killed and four were wounded in a blast in Madaen.

In Baghdad, a bomb left one policeman dead and two wounded in Hor Rajab.

Turkish warplanes struck Kurdistan Workers Party (P.K.K.) targets in the Zab region, killing three guerrillas.

Three militant leaders were killed in a strike on Qaim.

Antichrist threatens to boycott Iraq elections

Muqtada al-Sadr threatens to boycott Iraq elections

Powerful Shia leader demands changes to electoral law at Baghdad demonstration attended by thousands of supporters.

Thousands of people joined a protest in Iraq's capital, Baghdad [Reuters]
Thousands of people joined a protest in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad [Reuters]

Influential religious leader Muqtada al-Sadr has told thousands of supporters in Iraq’s capital, Baghdad, that he will boycott upcoming elections unless the country’s electoral law is changed.

Supporters of the Shia cleric have repeatedly rallied for changes to the law and the country’s electoral committee, which is dominated by affiliates of powerful political parties.

If “the law remains … this means that we will order a boycott of the elections,” Sadr said in remarks televised at Friday’s demonstration in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Iraq is set to hold holding provincial elections later this year, and parliamentary elections in 2018.

Sadr, a vocal critic of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, did not specify the specific changes he wants to take place, but the current law has been criticised as being biased towards large political parties over smaller ones.

The United Nations has backed demands for electoral reform, urging parliament last month to “finalise the ongoing review” of the election law and the electoral commission.

Sadr is the scion of a powerful clerical family who, in earlier years, raised a rebellion against US-led forces and commanded a feared militia.

He had lost some of his political influence in recent years but has brought himself back into relevance by calling for demonstrations to push for reforms.

Al Jazeera’s Stefanie Dekker, reporting from Erbil in northern Iraq, said Friday’s demonstration showed Sadr has the ability to mobilise thousands of people.

“What we’re seeing really has to do with internal Iraqi politics. [Sadr‘s] been campaigning on an anti-corruption platform – how politicians and the electoral commission are corrupt. This is important because Iraq will have provincial elections later this year.

“He’s been highlighting this for over a year now but since the Mosul offensive [against ISIL] … it’s slowed down and attention has shifted.

“So this is an apparent effort by him to re-launch his campaign and remind people of his message – and thousands are heeding his call.”

Rallies demanding improved services and opposing widespread corruption broke out in the summer of 2015, drawing pledges from authorities that reforms would be made that ultimately led to little in the way of lasting change.

Last year, his supporters broke into Baghdad’s fortified Green Zone area on several occasions, where the government is headquartered, while clashes at a Baghdad protest in February left seven people dead.

Antichrist Continues To Dictate Iraq

Muqtada al-Sadr preaches to demonstrators in Baghdad on Friday. Photo: Rudaw TV
Muqtada al-Sadr preaches to demonstrators in Baghdad on Friday. Photo: Rudaw TV

BAGHDAD, Iraq — Influential Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr gathered today with hundreds of thousands of his supporters in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square, where he said could be assassinated, but encouraged them to continue their demonstrations and protests in the capital until all corrupt government officials are removed from their posts.
“No matter what ethnic or religious group the corrupt belong to, we will stop them and shake their seats,” Sadr said. “The seats of those who enriched themselves at your expense.”

Sadr told his cheering supporters that government and party officials tried to manipulate the election law in order to stay in power and warned that unless the laws and commission presiding over the elections are changed his party and people will boycott the next vote.

“In next elections, never vote for the corrupts,” Sadr told his supporters amid chants of “Yes, yes to Iraq” and “Your vote is for freedom and your demonstrations will be their end.”

Iraq is scheduled to hold provincial elections this year and general elections next year. However, the displacement of some 3 million Iraqis because of the fight against ISIS complicates the process.
“They try to manipulate the election law. But I tell you to vote for the clean ones and those against corruption and sectarianism, Sadr said.

“I want you to do a revolution through the ballet box.”

As he had done on several occasions before, Sadr voiced strong criticism of Iraq’s election commission, saying: “The existence of this election commission is a crime because they will keep these corrupt faces in power. Unless they change these faces we will not take part in the elections if they don’t make changes.”

On Friday, he advised the crowds that he may one day be killed or silenced but that they must continue their demonstrations and “reform revolution.”

“Iraq’s corrupt leaders are not corrupt alone they also have money and arms,” Sadr said. “They will do their best to sow the seed of sectarian strife.”

Demonstrators in January called on Sadr to resume leadership of the protests.

“But we are not cowed by threats and death,” he went on. “Many tried that before and failed.”

He said that “If they succeeded in assassinating me” his followers should continue “the reform revolution without fear or exhaustion. No one should say Muqtada is gone there will be no reform.”

“It will be for God and the country,” Sadr insisted.

Previously, riot police have been used to disperse the crowds and some protestors were reportedly arrested.

“Also keep the peacefulness of your gatherings and demonstrations to the end,” he added. “Iraq should not go back to square one.”

The Antichrist Will Unify Iraq (Revelation 13)

As Mosul falls, a new threat to peace looms

Mona Alami

Fighters from the Popular Mobilisation Units after recapturing a village near Mosul from IS [AFP]

Date of publication: 23 March, 2017

Comment: The war on IS has partially suppressed disagreements among the different Shia blocs in Iraq, but as victory draws closer, tensions are rising once again, writes Mona Alami.

As the war against the Islamic State group (IS) appears to be entering its final stages in the city of Mosul, Iraq seems more divided than ever.

Yet the post-IS phase may be marked not only by increasing ethnic and sectarian strife, but also by internal communitarian struggles, particularly among Shias.

Divisions among the Shia community in Iraq are echoed in the country’s fractured nature as a whole.

The fight to push out the Islamic State group looks likely to end successfully in the next few months. But the military victory may be mitigated by dissent among the various Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) factions attempting to capitalise on the terror organisation’s losses, each with differing views of what the next phase should entail.

The PMU Shia militias were formed at the behest of grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who called on Shia volunteers to rise against IS advances in Iraq in 2014.

The respected cleric insisted that the formation of the militias should be temporary, to be disbanded once IS had been crushed.

Last year, a new law passed by the Iraqi parliament designated the PMU an official military force, operating in parallel to other security forces. In addition, PMU militias appear to have been eyeing Iraq’s upcoming local elections, and the 2018 federal elections, with tensions rising between the three main PMU blocs.

The first is led by Sayed Muqtada al-Sadr, a respected Iraqi cleric who has placed himself at the vanguard of the war on corruption. Sadr has also been pushing his Initial Solutions plan, a national reconciliation proposal for post-IS Iraq which is backed by many Sunnis.

But the plan seems incompatible with the views of another major Shia player, former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Sadr’s initiative encompasses a UN-supported entity focusing on human rights and minorities, and calls for a dialogue among political players and the dissolution of the PMU – with their integration into the standard national security forces.

Sadr also argues for the expulsion of “occupying” as well as “friendly” forces. The Sadrist movement has also called for electoral reforms, which would put an end to Maliki’s political hegemony.

This puts Sadr at odds with Maliki, Iran’s man in Iraq. A controversial figure, accused of rampant corruption and of contributing to the country’s divide – facilitating the rise of IS – Maliki still has ambitions for the premiership. Building on his role in the creation of the PMU, he feels a certain entitlement after the victories in the war on IS.

The third major Shia bloc is led by the head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Ammar Hakim. Hakim has been arguing for a large-scale reconciliation process that remains somewhat vague and does not, as yet, seem to have seduced the Sunni constituency.

The war on IS has, to an extent, suppressed disagreements among the different blocs vying for regional and political power, without preventing clashes. Last February, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s procession was attacked by pro-Sadrist university students in Kut. According to some, Sadr accused former Prime Minister Maliki of being behind the attack, claiming it was motivated by a desire to distort the Sadrist movement’s image.

Last April, pro-Sadrist crowds stormed parliament, with Shia factions coming close to direct paramilitary confrontation. The takeover of the parliament came after rival political groups blocked parliamentary approval of a new cabinet made up of independent technocrats.

The political infighting marked by intermittent episodes of violence offers a glimpse of what may lie ahead for Iraq in the post-IS phase. The prospect of domestic strife risks taking centre stage, with a resurgence in the struggle for dominance among the Shia constituency.

Mona Alami a non-resident fellow with the Atlantic council covering Middle East politics with a special interest in radical organizations. Follow her on Twitter: @monaalami

Opinions expressed in this article remain those of the author and do not necessarily represent those of The New Arab, its editorial board or staff.

Antichrist Prepares To Unify Iraq

Isis defeat in Mosul could spark ‘genocide’

The defeat of Isis in Mosul could spark “genocide” in Iraq as sectarian groups clash, a Shia leader has warned.

Muqtada al-Sadr, a powerful cleric, political figurehead and warlord, believes divisions between Sunni and Shia Muslims will worsen when Iraqis lack a common enemy.

“I’m afraid that the defeat of Daesh [Isis] is only the start of a new phase,” he told Middle East Eye.

“My proposal is inspired by fear of sectarian and ethnic conflict after Mosul’s liberation,

The influential role Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has in Iraq

“I want to avoid this. I am very proud of Iraq’s diversity but my fear is that we may see a genocide of some ethnic or sectarian groups.”

Mr Sadr is calling for dialogue between Iraq’s Shia-led government and Sunni politicians, as well as Arab and Kurdish representatives to avoid new conflict.

He previously warned of a “dark future” for Iraq in an interview with The Independent in 2013, when he predicted that its people would “disintegrate” amid worsening sectarian hostility between Sunni and Shia Muslims.

Mr Sadr had little hope of tensions easing after decades of a “constant cycle of violence” seeing Saddam Hussein’s rule followed by the US invasion and then the rise of al-Qaeda in Iraq and its successor Isis, which frequently bombs Shia civilians.

It is staging a last stand in western Mosul – its last city stronghold in Iraq – after months of advances by international forces that face residential areas ridden with guerilla fighters and explosives.

Mr Sadr wants wants all militias, including his own anti-Isis Saraya al-Salam militia to be disbanded after their expected victory. It is the successor of Mr Sadr’s Mahdi Army, which he stood down in 2007 following alleged atrocities as the group fought against the US occupation of Iraq.

They are not among the groups fighting alongside Iraqi government forces, Kurdish Peshmerga and foreign allies to drive Isis out of the city of Mosul.

The most prominent militia is the predominantly Shia Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU), who were formally integrated into government forces in November but have been continually accused of war crimes against Sunni civilians.

Warlord: The rise of Muqtada al-Sadr

Troops from Britain, America and other members of the US-led coalition are also on the ground in Iraq, as well as militias backed by the Iranian government.

In a document detailing Mr Sadr’s proposal for peace, he demands Iraq “must request all invading and friendly forces to leave Iraq”, regardless of their affiliation.

His family were enemies of the Saddam regime, which assassinated his father and two brothers in 1999.

Mr Sadr was put under house arrest until the US invasion, which he then fought to oppose.

One battleground was Basra, where his Mahdi Army seized parts of the city from British forces in 2004 and forced the UK to withdraw in 2007 while battling in other parts of Iraq.

While still opposing all foreign intervention, Mr Sadr has now restyled himself as a peacemaker and politician, leading huge and occasionally violent anti-corruption protests in Baghdad.

Amid growing talk of a power struggle with Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi in December, the pair met in December and agreed to cooperate on political reforms after “fruitful” talks.

Antichrist Unifies Iraq (Daniel 8)

Mahdi army leader turned Iraqi peacemaker speaks to MEE of disbanding militias, defeating IS … and welcoming Brexit

Last update:
Tuesday 21 March 2017 12:34 UTC
NAJAF, Iraq – The beard has gone grey, the eyes are less stern but, above all, his ideas have changed dramatically

Muqtada al-Sadr, once dubbed “the radical firebrand cleric” in every Western media article that mentioned him, presents himself today, at the age of 43, as a promoter of sectarian tolerance and Iraqi national reconciliation.

I am very proud of Iraq’s diversity but my fear is that we may see a genocide of some ethnic or sectarian groups

Muqtada al-Sadr

In his first interview with a foreign journalist for three years, the man who created a Shia militia which fought the Americans and the British for several years of their occupation, told Middle East Eye that he wants all militias, including his own, to be disbanded.

He also said he favours urgent dialogue with Iraq’s Sunni politicians so as to prevent clashes between Sunni and Shia, as well as Arabs and Kurds, once the country no longer has an enemy to unite against.

“I’m afraid that the defeat of Daesh [Islamic State] is only the start of a new phase. My proposal is inspired by fear of sectarian and ethnic conflict after Mosul’s liberation,” he said.

“I want to avoid this. I am very proud of Iraq’s diversity but my fear is that we may see a genocide of some ethnic or sectarian groups.”

The interview took place in the upper floor of Sadr’s two-storey home in Najaf, a pilgrimage city which houses the shrine of Imam Ali, sacred to Shias around the world.

The reception room was small and almost intimate by the lavish standards of most Iraqi VIPs’ audience chambers. While some like to keep their guests waiting, Sadr was already in a chair when MEE was ushered in.

He listened to questions intently, smiling frequently, including during one surprise diversion when, unprompted, he suddenly said: “I’m very happy to see Britain leaving the European Union.”

Asked why, he said the EU echoed US foreign policy. When I said that Britain also did on many issues, he replied with another smile: “I will bless you if you separate from the United States.”

Muqtada al-Sadr in his home in Najaf (MEE/Jonathan Steele)

From militia chief to peacemaker

During 2005 and 2006 Sadr’s self-styled Mahdi army was involved in the sectarian killings which engulfed Baghdad. Hundreds of Sunnis were murdered by militias loyal to various Shia leaders. Hundreds of Shias were murdered in return.

The transformation from those days to Sadr’s current desire for reconciliation with Sunnis is remarkable. But the seeds were planted earlier. Sadr is reviving the stance he took in the first two years of the US-led occupation when he sent aid to the Sunni city of Fallujah after it came under attack from US marines in April 2004.

At the time Sadr’s supporters carried banners saying: “Not Sunni, not Shia. We are all Iraqis.”

Sadr is also following the line of his soft-spoken but passionately patriotic father, Grand Ayatollah Mohammad Sadeq al-Sadr, who was murdered by agents of Saddam Hussein in 1999.

Muqtada al-Sadr’s overtures to Sunnis are having a positive effect. “He is the Shia who is closest to Sunnis. Of all the Shia leaders he is the most open to dialogue,” Mahmoud Mashhadani, a former speaker of the Iraqi parliament, told MEE. For the last decade the job has always been held by a Sunni.

Many ordinary Sunnis echo Mashhadani’s view. A Sunni translator in Baghdad, who did not want to give his name, recounted three cases in the last three years where Sunnis whom he knew had come under threat from Shia militias. They turned to Sadr’s militia who intervened and prevented further abuse.

Sadr had put his Mahdi army on ice in 2007, keeping it in reserve for future use. When IS seized Mosul in June 2014, he brought it back under the new name Saraya al-Salam [Peace Brigades].

Some 40,000 volunteers from the brigade are deployed north of Baghdad, mainly defending an important Shia shrine in Samarra. They are not engaged in the campaign to regain Mosul.

Sadr’s Peace Brigades were set up to defend Shia shrines in Iraq (AFP)

Mobilising for the future

As Iraqis begin to discuss the country’s post-Mosul future, the role of the various militias is a top priority. A particular problem is the Hashd al-Shaabi (Popular Mobilisation Units or PMU) which pledge allegiance to rival Shia politicians and have been accused of atrocities against Sunni civilians in cities liberated from IS.

Parliament passed a law in November to integrate the PMUs into the Iraqi army but it is not yet decided whether they will go in as individual soldiers or as whole units. If it is the latter, they could act independently again.

Sadr expressed concern in his MEE interview. “It’s difficult. Saraya al-Salam will be disbanded. But there’s a law that has been made for Hashd al-Shaabi so I can see that Iraq will be under the control of militia groups,” he said.

“Accordingly we need a strong attitude from the government [to resist this]. Security should be exclusively under the Iraqi army.”

He favours the disbanding of the PMUs but is not against individual members transferring to the army.

With IS on the run, some PMU leaders advocate Iraq forces going into Syria to finish them off in their capital, Raqqa. There is even talk of sending Shia militias to Yemen to help the Houthis resist Saudi forces.

Sadr opposes this, as well as a recent decision by Iraq to use its US-trained airforce against IS targets in Syria.

“Conflict in Syria may increase,” he said. “We can see this from Abadi’s decision to conduct air strikes in Syria. Many Hashd al-Shaabi leaders have talked of wanting to intervene in Syria and Yemen.

“I’m afraid conflicts may spill over into Iraq from neighbouring countries. My view is that we should not intervene in others’ affairs just as others should not intervene in ours. We want to save our blood. Enough has been wasted already.”

Sadr’s fears about an Iraqi intervention in Syria arise in part from recent statements by Abu Mohandis, a PMU leader who is close to Iran. He called for the PMUs to cross into Syria to pursue IS. Iraq’s former prime minister, Nouri al-Maliki, is also reported to favour this.

Sadr said foreign powers should not interfere in Iraq’s affairs (AFP)

Future solutions

Sadr’s proposals for Iraq’s political future after Mosul is liberated were first elaborated in November in a 29-point document, called Initial Solutions.

Apart from obvious humanitarian issues, like helping internally displaced people to go home and have electricity and other public services resumed, the document suggests tribal delegations from the largely Shia south and the centre of Iraq should be sent to the mainly Sunni liberated areas and vice versa, so as to work on eliminating sectarian tensions.

It advocates a UN fund for reconstruction and a UN-supported commission to monitor human rights and the protection of minorities. There should be a mechanism to investigate war crimes.

It says “an honest Iraqi judge” should be appointed to investigate people suspected of having collaborated with IS, but “making sure not to count geographically based bias or misinformation from secret informants”.

This is designed to avoid score-settling or the assumption that every Sunni supported IS in the huge areas of Iraq which the group controlled.

It suggests turning the headquarters of Saraya al-Salam and the PMU into educational and cultural centres.

As for the future of foreign troops, Sadr’s document says the government “must request all invading and friendly forces to leave Iraq”.

Sadr has different views on Iranian and American motives for being in Iraq, but he wants Iranian revolutionary guards and advisers to go just as much as he wants American troops to leave.

The prime minister, Haider al-Abadi, has said he wants a reduction in the current contingent of 5,000 US troops, but needs US trainers to remain.

In his MEE interview, Sadr rejected this. “I refuse every aspect of the US army in Iraq,” he said. He also declines to meet any US government official or British officials because “they represent the views of the US”.

While reaching out to Sunni politicians, Sadr has recently developed a surprisingly close working relationship with secular leaders from Iraq’s left-wing and progressive parties.

It began in 2015 after the secular movements started weekly protests against corruption and for reform and social justice in Baghdad’s Tahrir Square.

Raid Fahmi, the general secretary of the Iraqi Communist party, told MEE Sadrists asked to join the protests but conditions were set.

“Only national slogans, no pictures of personalities, and non-violence,” he told MEE. “We are calling for a civic state, electoral reform and moves against corruption. We talk of a civic state and a civic movement, rather than secular ones, because in Iraq secular sounds atheist or anti-religious.”

Fahmi took encouragement from another dramatic step in Sadr’s political evolution.

Iraqi Shia leaders do not advocate turning Iraq into a religious state, as Iran’s Shias have done, but they always used to be vague about their preferred model for the country. “In 2015 Sadr started calling for a civic state,” Fahmi said.

Sadr in a protest inside the Iraqi government compound in Baghdad in March last year (screengrab)

The civic movements hope that parties in Iraq will eventually abandon politics based on identity and adopt ones based on programmes and policies. There could then be “trans-confessional” co-operation in parliament and even coalitions to contest elections together.

Fahmi noted that even Ammar al-Hakim, head of the sectarian Shia party, the Islamic Supreme Council, sent a message of greeting to the recent Communist Party congress, whereas his father, an ayatollah, had issued a fatwa against communism some years ago.

There is a long way to go in establishing trust. On both sides there are discussions and doubts about the wisdom of co-operation, Fahmi said.

Some people in the civic movement were concerned that developments in Iraq could echo what happened in the Iranian revolution of 1979 where the new religious leadership first worked with secular parties before turning brutally against them.

For their part, Fahmi said, some people in the Sadrist movement worried that the unity of the Shia community, the so-called Beit Shii [Shia House] would be weakened. They feared Sadr was moving too fast.

MEE observed the two movement’s slightly nervous collaboration at the regular protest meeting in Tahrir square last Friday.

Demonstration in Tahrir Square, Baghdad last weekend (MEE/Jonathan Steele)

Streets were cordoned off with razor wire and scores of police were diverting traffic. Young Sadrist marshals on the stage wore caps with the national Iraq emblem.

Others ran the body checks on everyone coming into the square to prevent suicide bombers from infiltrating. Women in black abayas (long cloaks) huddled in a group at the front of the crowd of some 3,000, waving Iraqi flags.

The civic democrats tended to stand separately. Several carried the same banner, saying “Yes for a Civic State and Democracy. No to the system of sharing the spoils of power.”

There were shouts of: “Thieves, thieves. They [the current political leadership] have stolen your money, people.”

The speakers at the microphone came from both movements. There was also a Shia tribal leader in traditional headdress and robes.

Saraya al-Salam was formed to protect shrines. Once security is re-established, there will be no need

– Ahmed Abu Warith, Sadr supporter

“I’ve been coming here every Friday for two years,” said Ahmed Abu Warith, a clerk in a government office.

“I’m honoured to be a Sadrist. The Mahdi army was formed to fight the occupation. Saraya al-Salam was formed to protect the shrines. Once security is re-established, there will be no need for it.”

Louay Salman, a shopkeeper, said: “I come most Fridays to protest against corruption. We have so much natural wealth in Iraq yet our neighbours live better.

“We have strong religious currents in society but strong civic ones too. We’re working side by side.”

Then he added with a half-smile: “Ten years ago I would never have imagined I would be protesting alongside Sadrists. People evolve all the time.”

Antichrist Calls for Fresh Protests

 

Sadr calls for fresh protests on Friday condemning “corruption”

The Iraqi Cleric Muqtada al-Sadr. File photo.
Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) 

Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has called for fresh protests next Friday in Baghdad condemning what he views as corruption in the government and disregard to his proposed political settlement initiatives.

“Speeding events Iraqis are witnessing between a decisive battle with terrorism powers from Daesh (Islamic State) and the terrorists of politics, perpetrators of corruption that has worn out the state and consumed the people’s energy, requires to sustain the impetus of the reform project,” he said In a statement late Saturday.

He said he planned to deliver a speech to his supporters during the rallies scheduled in Baghdad’s central Tahrir Square.

Protests urged by Sadr in February, condemning political influence over the formation of the country’s electoral commission, had developed into violent clashes that left five dead and dozens wounded, including security members.

Sadr’s parliamentary bloc has recently boycotted meetings by the country’s leading, Shia-led political alliance, the National Iraqi Alliance for allegedly ignoring a proposed political settlement and reform project submitted by al-Sadr.

Al-Sadr has been a central player in the political and militancy scene in Iraq, and had for sometime, following the 2003 U.S. invasion of Iraq, been branded an enemy to the United States, being an ardent opponent to foreign military presence in the country.

His settlement proposal, besides providing for U.N.-sponsored elections and sureties for minority rights, conditioned withdrawal of foreign,especially American, troops.

The Antichrist’s Iraqi Solution

Trump, here’s a solution for Iraq after the defeat of IS

The defeat of the Islamic State (IS) in Iraq alone is unlikely to bring stability and security to the country.

More than three million Iraqis have been displaced as a result of the war against IS, many of whom now live in deplorable conditions, forced to move from camp to camp, brave cold weather, without healthcare, education or other basic necessities.

The defeat of IS in Iraq alone is unlikely to bring stability and security to the country

After IS is defeated, conditions for those displaced – and for all Iraqis – will only improve if the political will is maintained to promote transitional justice, coordinate the reconstruction of destroyed areas, ensure weapons remain in the hands of the military (and not sectarian ethnic militias), build unbiased state institutions that respect all citizens, and decentralise power in order to give local communities the freedom to pursue their own interests.

Earlier this year, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi emphasised the need for “social reconciliation” after the fall of IS and the importance of community reconciliation in Iraq, a point he reaffirmed at the Munich Security Conference in February

Along with political, economic and social reforms carried out by the Iraqi government, many Iraqis believe that, between two recently proposed agreements – one from a major Shia electoral bloc and a pro-Sunni proposal published for the first time here – a middle ground can be found that will free Iraqi society from its sectarian conflicts and bring about a peaceful social order.

But how do we get from the fall of IS to a final agreement?

A brief history of reconciliation efforts

Cohesion is missing in Iraq for many reasons, mainly the hampering of the country’s political system by ethnic sectarian conflicts between Iraqi communities and the interventions of neighbouring countries.

In recent months, there have been serious discussions among members of several different political factions in Iraq about the possibility of a political reunification settlement after the defeat of IS.

In October, according to the most recent UN secretary-general report, Jan Kubis, the appointed special representative for Iraq, met with Iraqi interlocutors, including “the parliamentary majority bloc, the National Alliance, and its newly elected chair, Ammar al-Hakim, to advance national reconciliation”.

Kubis stressed that sustainable peace and security could be achieved only through tolerance, cooperation and a reconciliation plan based on equality and justice.

Later that month, the National Iraq Alliance (NIA), a major Shia electoral bloc consisting of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq (ISCI) and other Shia political parties, authored a document called the “historical settlement”.

It described their plan for national reconciliation after the defeat of IS and designated the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq (UNAMI) as the would-be mediator between all Iraqi sub-groups.

At the request of Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi, UNAMI pledged to rally political support for the proposed settlement and to involve the Arab League, Islamic organisations and the governments of nearby states in the process.

UNAMI, for its part, still has no vision for a reconciliation programme of its own, but would only function as a courier carrying proposals from one faction to another.

The expected turbulence

But these positive efforts towards dialogue were damaged when the Iraqi government passed the Popular Mobilisation Units (PMU) law on 26 November, which designated Shia militias – mainly Iranian-backed militias – as part of the official, independent Iraqi army.

The majority does not have the right to determine the fate of everyone else

Sunni politicians protested the passing of the law, citing the PMUs’ incompetence and their inability to provide sufficient security in the country.

“I believe this committee has been politically motivated and it will have a similar impact as Iran’s Revolutionary Guards,” Raad al-Dahlaki, a Sunni member of parliament, said after the law passed. “(It) aims to weaken the Iraqi army.”

Iraq’s Sunni vice president, Osama al-Nujaifi, said that the Shia faction had not listened to Sunni objections to the law.

“The majority does not have the right to determine the fate of everyone else,” Nujaifi said.

In an act of defiance, he refused to receive the National Alliance’s “historical settlement” proposal.

In February, Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr presented his own reconciliation proposal – “Initial Solutions“, a proposal that has been criticised and rejected by the National Iraq Alliance (NIA). Having already proposed their own agreement and already working towards mobilising it, the NIA believe Al-Sadr’s proposal will not work with their comprehensive solution.

On the other hand, al-Nujaifi believes Al-Sadr could be a better friend to the Sunni groups than the NIA and his proposal could easily meet the major demands of the Sunni blocs such as his stance against the PMU law.

The Sunni vision

Despite these tensions, other Sunnis in Iraq are still willing to cooperate and work towards reconciliation.

Independent Iraqi politician and former member of the Iraqi Council of Representatives, Hussein al-Falluji, authored a pro-Sunni reconciliation proposal, which has since been leaked to Iraqi officials.

The Sunnis advocated repealing the country’s anti-terrorism laws, which they believe have been abused along sectarian lines

When I spoke to him in Amman early this January, al-Falluji said that the “historical settlement” should be based on two pillars: the construction of state institutions based on the concept of Iraqi citizenship, and a historic compromise between all the components of Iraqi society in order to overcome its structural imbalances.

“The Sunni Arabs,” he added, “have a clear vision … for ensuring unanimous decisions on political, social, economic, and security-related issues.”

Mohammad al-Karbouli, chairman of the Al-Hal parliamentary bloc, claimed in a phone interview with an Iraqi newspaper in January that the leaked document is similar to the final version which will be handed over soon to the UN. He added that the paper represented the opinions of most politicians in the Sunni faction, including Osama al-Najaifi, Iraq’s vice president.

The Sunnis advocated repealing the country’s anti-terrorism laws, which they believe have been abused along sectarian lines and which served as justification for the arrest of thousands of innocent people.

The Sunni proposal also requests the enactment of a new general amnesty law and several constitutional amendments including a mixed parliamentary system that shares power equally between the president and parliament, the return of displaced Iraqis to their homes, a moratorium on the establishment of new autonomous regions until a political settlement has been reached, the adoption of fairer election laws, and the transfer of the “accountability and justice law” to a judicial body to reinstate jobs and pensions to low-ranking members of the ousted Baath Party.

Trump’s plan in Iraq?

President Donald Trump’s adviser to the Middle East, Walid Phares, should seize this opportunity to initiate a dialogue with the Sunni groups and become better acquainted with their positions.

IS is unlikely to weaken unless there are region-wide reforms

Phares is now planning to meet with representatives of Iraq’s Christian community to determine the future of the Nineveh Plains, a region located north of Mosul with a large Christian population.

Mouayad al-Windawi, retired major-general of the Iraqi General Security Directorate and a former political officer with UNAMI, said in an interview that Iraqis “badly need the support of international professional institutions, crisis management teams and peacebuilding and transitional justice-related organisations”.

The UN Security Council’s support will also be required, he said.

Ideally, this support would ensure more equitable distribution of power and resources, meaning that all Iraqi communities would be fairly represented in a future ruling government.

To these ends, the Iraqi government should cooperate with the international community and establish ethnic, national, and regional solidarity against future threats to Iraq and the region.

The United States, under the Trump administration, should similarly advocate regional peace and security, as the presence of the IS group is unlikely to weaken unless there are region-wide reforms.

– Khairuldeen al-Makhzoomi holds a degree in Political Science and Near Eastern Languages and Literature from UC Berkeley. He is currently working on research into obstacles to national reconciliation in Iraq. He is a contributor to the Huffington Post, his articles also appeared in The Arab Weekly, Foreign Policy Journal and Berkeley Political Review.

The views expressed in this article belong to the author and do not necessarily reflect the editorial policy of Middle East Eye.

Handing Over Iraq to the Antichrist

Fighting Daesh: a test for US-Iraq relations?

The writer is a Senior Research Fellow at Area Study Centre for Europe, University of Karachi

Block American citizens from entering our country! This was echoed in the political circles of Iraq soon after US President Donald Trump’s executive order of January 2017. The order banned travel of citizens of seven Muslim-majority countries including Iraq to the US. The Iraqi legislators in a tit-for-tat move voted to demand their government for a retaliatory measure. The proposal was to bar American citizens from entering Iraq if the US did not withdraw the travel ban against Iraqi travelers.

Though Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi refused to strike back, the request by the Iraqi parliament’s foreign affairs committee to deal reciprocally in ‘all’ issues with the US is enough for Washington to contemplate over its policy towards Iraq. The reasons are numerous. It is the same parliament which US reinstated after its Iraq invasion of 2003. Within a few years of its re-establishment, instead of being under US influence, many powerful lawmakers are urging their government to take measures against Americans. In spite of the fact that Washington is providing considerable aid, arms and training to Iraqi soldiers in their tough battle of Mosul, such criticism shows the resentment against Trump’s decision. It was taken as an insult by Iraqis who are sacrificing their lives for battle against terrorism.

The travel ban order also strengthened the anti-US narrative of prominent anti-American forces. Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential cleric, swiftly issued a statement on his website saying: “It would be arrogant for you to enter freely Iraq [sic] and other countries while barring them the entrance to your country … and therefore you should get your nationals out”. Similarly, Iraq’s pro-government Popular Mobilisation Forces, Hashd al-Sha’abi, urged the government not just to stop the entrance of Americans but also send back US citizens already present in Iraq. Troops of Hashd al-Sha’abi are fighting along with Iraqi army and Kurdish Peshmerga forces in the battle to recapture the northern city of Mosul. Hashd fighters have played an instrumental role in the liberation of city of Tikrit, Fallujah city in the western province of al-Anbar and many other areas in Iraq. Hence, Hashd is considered a vital and powerful voice.

For much of the worry of Washington, such a move has provided its rival Tehran another opening to influence Baghdad. According to Dr Renad Mansour, “those that closely aligned with Iran might think this is a good idea – an opportunity to remove American influence from Iraq once and for all.”

Iran is already providing key advice to Iraq. Iranian generals are on the frontlines in the war against Daesh and Al-Qaeda in Iraq and Syria. When Daesh reached near the border of Kurdistan, Iran was the first to provide aid to Kurds. US and the Western supplies arrived later. Iran’s military advisors are deeply involved in planning the battles against terrorist groups but keeping Iran’s national interest in mind. For example, the assault on Mosul was planned by the US keeping a western flank open to allow militants an escape to Syria. However, that could strengthen Syrian militants who were locked in a tough fight in Aleppo against forces of Bashar al-Assad, another ally of Iran.

Haider al-Abadi after 11 days of Mosul offensive moved Hashd to block this western escape route. It is believed that other than Iran and Russia, France – an opponent of Assad – was also not willing to allow terrorists to flee. French President Francois Hollande, vary of the situation, said that amid the people fleeing from Mosul, hundreds of terrorists linked to Paris and Brussels attacks would try to enter Raqqa.

US-Iraq relations have a history of oscillating — from being cordial to tense. The recent American decision to send its advisers, soldiers and aid to Iraq in the wake of Daesh’s invasion has regained the trust of Iraqi people and its leadership. However, Trump’s announcement destroyed this trust. The delicate Iraq-US relations have now taken a nosedive. Trump’s revised executive order of March 2017, excluding Iraq from travel ban, may be an attempt to regain the trust.

Has US influence started eroding from Iraq? This would be clear with the passage of time and with the changing ground situation in Mosul. The Iraqi forces have reached close to west Mosul. Its jets have recently attacked terrorist positions inside neighbouring Syria for the first time, in ‘complete coordination’ with Damascus. Travel ban or any other American decision of this sort, as lawyer Thomas Donovan rightly puts, would make Americans more vulnerable.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 14th, 2017