The Moderation of the Antichrist

The moderation of Muqtada al-Sadr

James Snell
Iraqi Shia cleric Moqtada al-Sadr delivers a speech to his supporters, Najaf, April 2015 [AFP]
Date of publication: 9 May, 2017
Comment: Paradoxically, the threat of IS has created a new politics, putting nationalism before sectarianism. James Snell asks if a more moderate Sadr could provide the stability Iraq has lacked?
The name Muqtada al-Sadr used to inspire fear. His brand of Shia sectarianism contributed greatly to the turmoil following the deposition of Saddam Hussein in 2003. His militia, the Mahdi Army, fought against the United States and the forces of the reconstituted Iraqi state. It also engaged in street violence and intimidation.
For the American authorities, Sadr was a rabble-rouser and a barrier to peace, a hostile religious figure whose influence was significant and malign.
But times change, and now Sadr is cutting a more conciliatory figure. He may even be an essential participant in mainstream politics; undergoing a process of moderation himself.
Notably, his militia, now revived and renamed Saraya al-Salam, is participating in the fight against the Islamic State (IS). This conflict has put many disparate factions and forces within Iraq on the same side, for IS has given them a common enemy. This anti-IS campaign has the potential to become a war of Iraqi national unification.
Sadr’s place in all this could be difficult to pin down. But recent developments suggest that he is undergoing something approaching a process of moderation.
Gareth Browne, a journalist currently covering the Mosul campaign, wrote an important piece in February this year suggesting the same.
I contacted Browne to ask whether more recent events confirm his thesis. He said that there is a sense that “some Sunni leaders recognise [Sadr] isn’t going anywhere, and are willing to consider his olive branch”. Browne added that “there is talk of launching a cross-sectarian party in time for next year”, though this is “just talk at the moment”.
Sadr’s sympathies are nationalist, meaning that he rejects much regional Shia chauvinism, which is associated with Iran, and takes a more specifically Iraqi tack. He is therefore a strong critic of Nouri al-Maliki, formerly Iraq’s prime minister, who is seen by many as Iran’s man in Baghdad.
As ever, the fate of more than one nation is involved. Iranian intervention in Syria, which nakedly promotes regional sectarian interests, complicates matters. And opinions are frequently divided along sectional interest rather than secular political lines.
An important part of Sadr’s apparent moderation is his stance on Syria. Recently, Sadr called upon Bashar al-Assad, Syria’s dictator, to resign. This was, tweeted Middle East analyst Nibras Kazimi, a “first for organised Shiism”.
Sadr went against the grain among Shia figures, and against the idea of a rigid sectarian division in the Middle East in general, and the Levant in particular.
This speaks to Sadr’s independence from Iran. Iranian forces support the Assad regime to the hilt, to the extent that it has effectively become an Iranian proxy, operating alongside numerous Iranian-backed organisations, such as Lebanese Hizballah and other Shia militias.
Asked whether Sadr represented a significant check on Iranian power within Iraq, Kazimi replied that “his presence, along with Sistani’s, already acts as a check on Iran’s influence within Iraq”. This remains, therefore, “a static situation”.
Then I inquired more about Sadr’s repositioning.
“I do think that part of this is a sincere reorientation of his thinking”, he said.
[Sadr] didn’t need the aggravation of mid-2012 when he joined the bid to unseat Maliki, even after reaching a detente with the latter for the 2010 elections. The reasons Sadr laid out for joining the anti-Maliki camp were very progressive if measured against what the larger Shia “establishment” was willing to say about the “oppression” of Sunnis.
“Sadr could have easily competed with Maliki for the Shia chauvinist constituency, given that he had a track record of beating up on Sunnis, or even to use that to cement his alliance with Maliki. Rather, Sadr chose to go the other way.”
This points to a sincere reorientation of Sadr’s politics.
Other analysts are less optimistic. Some think Sadr is simply jockeying for internal political power, repositioning himself as a reasonable figure and an honest broker in a bid to make himself indispensible.
There is some evidence to suggest this. And it cannot be forgotten that he is a man who led a sectarian insurgency against the new post-Saddam Iraq. His violent past cannot be swiftly forgotten.
At the same time, however, the conflict with IS has changed the state of play. Baghdad came close to capture. Many Iraqis have been killed, either in the face of IS’ rapid advance, or in course of the slow, grinding campaign which has retaken so much of the country from the caliphate.
These things tend to focus minds.
So too has the looming prospect of Iranian interference in Iraqi politics. Iran-supporting militias have, by dint of their numbers and the relative weakness of the Iraqi state’s armed forces, taken a large role in the anti-IS campaign.
For Iraqi figures such as Sadr, this could have seemed distinctly alarming. He is, as Browne says, a “staunch nationalist”. His politics is Iraqi before it is Shia. He has no atavistic loyalty to Iran.
Sadr’s militias represent a nationalist, Iraqi alternative to forces organised from the outside. None of them operate in Syria, unlike many Iranian-backed forces, which happily range across the border between the two countries.
His ambition is to diminish Iranian influence in Iraqi politics, and in doing so he may become an important moderating figure. Sadr could use his high profile and significant support to do something very important.
Even if he’s doing much of this for selfish reasons, Sadr’s purported change of heart is still for the good. Iraqi needs moderates, just as its politics needs to moderate. Sadr can counter Iranian influence while also promoting non-sectarian politics.
The Iraqi state has not been truly stable in many years. Paradoxically, the threat of IS has created a new political reality, one in which moderation may win the day, and with it, the sort of stability few thought possible. Sadr could be an essential influence on this new politics. His moderation is an important and positive step. It can only be welcomed.
James Snell is a writer and blogger whose work has appeared in National Review, Prospect, CapX, NOW News, Middle East Eye, History Today and Left Foot Forward – among others.
Follow him on Twitter: @James_P_Snell
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.

The Antichrist Claims Mosul

Iraqi forces gain foothold in Mosul after new push
06.05.2017 Madeline Patrick
In his statement, Haider Al-Abadi emphasized that there are no foreign combat troops on Iraqi soil and that any American troops who stay on once Daesh militants are defeated will be advisers working to train Iraq’s security forces to maintain “full readiness” for any “future security challenges”.
“[The source said] that these were people that were fleeing the clashes, the fighting [that is] going on between Iraqi security forces and ISIL in that neighbourhood of western Mosul, and that they had taken refuge in a “school house” in that area”, Al Jazeera’s Mohammed Jamjoon, reporting from Erbil in northern Iraq, said.
It would represent a major symbolic setback for the group whose unprecedented experiment in jihadist statehood was heralded by the conquest of Mosul in June 2014.
Colonel Dorrian told Rudaw recently that their estimates show that there are fewer than 1,000 ISIS militants left in Mosul, down from at least some 6,000 militants when the Iraqis launched the Mosul offensive last October.
The US and its allies have been providing aerial support to the Iraqi forces backed by Shia paramilitary Popular Mobilization Units (PMU).
A US -led worldwide coalition is providing key air and ground support to the offensive on Mosul, Islamic State’s de facto capital in Iraq, which started in October. “There are defences in place”, he said.
The Mosul neighborhoods under ISIS control are still home to hundreds of thousands of people. Gen. Joseph Martin, commander of ground forces for the US -led coalition.
The Bush administration negotiated the 2011 withdrawal of United States forces from Iraq, but the Obama administration failed to reach an agreement with the Iraqis to provide United States forces with protections to stay beyond that date.
Since then, a highly publicized surge in civilian casualties, likely the result of increasing US airstrikes coupled with ISIS’s broadened use of human shields, has slowed the Iraqi momentum.
Members of the Iraqi Army clash with Daesh at a frontline in north west of Mosul, Iraq, May 5, 2017.
Iraqi army soldiers took over Mosul’s airport, providing them a gateway to the western part of the city.
Influential Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr has long criticised the presence of USA troops in Iraq, even going so far as to describe them as a potential targetfor his supporters.
“I am looking at trying to strike right in front of him as well as deep, even into Old Mosul“.
Meanwhile, Iraqi security forces have made territorial gains on the outskirts of Mosul, located some 400 kilometers (250 miles) north of the capital Baghdad.

Iraq Will Soon Be Handed Over To The Antichrist (Revelation 13)

Zvi Bar’el
25.02.2017 | 01:59
The battle for western Mosul is intended not only to liberate the city from the clutches of the Islamic State group, Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi declared recently. It is also the battle that could be the turning point in ISIS’ status in Iraq and the entire region.
When Mosul is completely freed, after 2.5 years of ISIS control, the organization will have to make a strategic decision, perhaps the most important in its brief history: Should it regroup in the areas it controls in northeastern Syria? Or should it start scattering its forces into other Arab countries and revert to Al-Qaida’s modus operandi – a method that relies on a structure of branches and cells, and drops the strategy of occupying territories?
According to the most recent estimates in Iraq, it seems that ISIS forces in Mosul number no more than 2,500 fighters (compared with earlier estimates that ranged from 5,000 to 7,000). The earlier estimates may have been erroneous due to intelligence difficulties. But it is more reasonable to assume that Islamic State has already thinned out its forces and transferred some to Syria.
At the same time, many fighters – mostly Iraqis – have dropped out of the organization; they have simply taken off their uniforms, hidden their weapons and become ordinary citizens.
Despite the lower ISIS numbers, the expectation is that the war in western Mosul will last for many weeks, if not months.
This is a difficult urban arena: Some 750,000 civilians live in crowded conditions, in narrow lanes amid dozens of neighborhoods. These make it difficult to wage an air or artillery war, and hamper the ability of armored vehicles to maneuver.
The Iraqi strategy, coordinated with the U.S. Army, is built on sending in many infantry soldiers and pushing ISIS into neighborhoods where it is easier to attack it from the air.
If the usual desired ratio between attacking and attacked forces is 5:1, in Mosul the Iraqi army is aiming for a ratio of 20:1. So, even if the number of Islamic State fighters stands at 2,000, the Iraqi force could number between 40,000 and 50,000 soldiers.
The Iraqi army, which is working together with local militias, does not have any great difficulty in achieving this numerical advantage, and the air cover at its disposal will be nearly unlimited. However, what remains to be seen is the nature of the fight ISIS will put up.
In eastern Mosul – which was liberated last month – the level of resistance was relatively muted. Even so, it still took three months of fighting to liberate that part of the city. From reports on civilian websites, it appears that the organization is well prepped for the second part of the battle: It has reportedly set up high concrete roadblocks; laid mines in hundreds of locations; placed sniper positions along essential routes; and stockpiled shoulder–launched anti-tank missiles and anti-aircraft machine guns.
The major concern is about the use of civilians as human shields, which could lead to an unprecedented number of dead. However, there is also the possibility that ISIS will not fight to the last bullet, and will instead withdraw its forces in early stages of the fighting.
To allow for this possibility, the Iraqi army has started using intensive psychological warfare, including radio and television broadcasts, distributing photos of slain ISIS fighters lying in the streets, and disseminating information about the magnitude of the deployment expected to enter the city.
In the meantime, it is not clear which of the options the Islamic State leadership will choose.
The actual war inside the city has yet to begin. However, on its northern and southern outskirts, the Iraqi army has successfully taken some important strategic positions. According to statements by high-ranking Iraqi commanders, the army is expected to enter the city within a week.
But as the end of the military campaign draws nearer, concerns are increasing about happens the day afterward.
The inhabitants of the western part of the city are extremely frightened by events in the eastern part, in which there were many cases of soldiers abusing civilians. There are also reports of accounts being settled with people suspected of having collaborated with Islamic State. Many civilians are trying to flee from western Mosul, but are afraid to return to the eastern part because of unbridled rampaging by militia members and even soldiers from elite units.
In Sadr’s 29-point plan, he stresses the need to preserve the unity of the state; to bring about a national reconciliation between all religious and ethnic groups; and make law and order subject to the authority of the state, not local militias. He also demands that all foreign forces leave after the war ends – not only the Americans, but also the Iranians and others. He also calls for establishing international bodies to supervise the rehabilitation of the city and raise the tremendous amounts of money needed for this.
This fascinating document even proposes putting together delegations of heads of tribes, which will move from southern Iraq to Mosul in order to bring the different groups closer together. Sadr is demanding that the Shi’ite militias (which operate under the auspices of Iran) are absorbed into the regular Iraqi army, in order to prevent a situation in which there are a number of different armies operating in the region.
If the retaking of Mosul will, to a large extent, determine the fate of Islamic State, the way the city operates after the war will determine Iraq’s political future. Thus far, apart from Sadr’s document, no orderly plan has been formulated that clarifies the arrangements for rehabilitation, sources of funding and, above all, the division of control within the city.
In comparison to Syria, where at least one world power – Russia – is able to dictate at least the structure of government, dealing with these questions in Iraq will fall exclusively on the shoulders of the government. And although it is showing unity and determination in the war against ISIS, it has yet to succeed in enlisting the trust of the Sunnis.

Antichrist’s Men Martyred By ISIS (Rev 13:18)

Shia families told ‘don’t weep for our martyrs’ as fathers and sons die in holy war against Isis

Thousands rushed to fight jihadis in Mosul, but their friends and families are expected not to mourn
By  in Karbala
December 29, 2016 13:25 GMT

Iraqis mourn over a coffin
25 August 2016: Iraqis mourn over a coffin during the Najaf funeral of members of the Iraqi government forces and Shia fighters who were killed in the Khalidiyah area of Iraq’s Anbar provinceHaidar Hamdani/AFP
Just 15 minutes drive from the upscale homes and modern shopping centres of southern Iraqi city Karbala, Saif Saad’s streets are lined with houses built with breeze blocks and corrugated iron. One of the poorest neighbourhoods in Karbala, mounds of litter lie in heaps on the side of dusty dirt roads, some smouldering with acrid black smoke. Trucks and lorries, abandoned and rusting, dot the landscape.
Thirteen-year-old Obeida rides around Saif Saad on a sky-blue bicycle. On the bike, just a little too big for him, he passes a poultry shop and a tyre yard, where workers sit on seats salvaged from scrapped cars, as he returns home.
The house Obeida shares with his mother Raqwa and his four siblings stands apart from other nearby structures, and would be unremarkable were it not for the sign which dominates its front entrance.
It shows a serious-looking man holding a mounted automatic rifle. Above him flies the Iraqi national flag and below is depicted the Shia shrine of Imam Hussein and blossoming flowers. ‘The martyred hero Waleed Mohammed Hamed’, a red Arabic script reads next to the picture.
Obeida is the martyr’s son.
Raqwa remembers the night Waleed was killed with a sense of detachment, staring off into the middle distance as she retells the events. “At 1am they called me and they said he was wounded. They didn’t tell me that he was martyred then,” she says. “Then they called me again and asked to speak to his brother, and they told him about his martyrdom.”
Waleed suffered catastrophic injuries when, during the battle of Bayji in May 2015, he walked into a house rigged with an Islamic State (Isis) IED. He later died in hospital. He was a volunteer in the Shia Imam Ali Brigade and received no payment other than a one-off sum of 400,000 ID ($330).

Saif Saad
Obeida (centre), 13, stands with his younger brother and sister in their home in Saif SaadIBTimes UK

That is all that is to be said of Waleed Hamed’s death, as far as Raqwa is concerned, other than that he, like the hundreds of other Shia paramilitary fighters killed fighting Isis, died a hero in the eyes of his family and the community.
This is the first response of most from Iraq’s southern Shia heartlands when asked about paramilitary fighters killed by Isis.
Obeida remembers how his father, a labourer, would give him money to go to school. Otherwise, he says little more about him, apart from than that he is proud he died fighting Isis and defending Iraq. However, snippets of the hardship the family has endured since Hamed was killed is occasionally revealed.
“First we asked him to leave the Hashid Shabi [PMF] because he was a volunteer and we were unable to make ends meet on their own. I was forced to send my sons to sell gum on the road,” Raqwa says. “But he always said no.”
By the accounts of his family, Waleed was a deeply devout man, and apart from work his principal interest was in participating religious events regarding Karbala’s holy shrine to Imam Hussein, the Shia faith’s third Imam. He considered a pivotal fatwa called for by Iraq’s Shia religious leader Ayatollah Sistani in June 2014 to fight the Isis principal of faith. “He would say we should protect our families, we should liberate our cities and respond to the fatwa,” Raqwa says.
On the rough concrete wall of the family’s house adorned with decoration, Waleed’s photo hangs next to images of Shia devotion: pictures of Ayatollah Sistani, the religion’s highly revered imams and its holy places. Raqwa has to survive in the leaky house on her own, relying on religious charity to keep going.

Shia fighters sit in a
Shia fighters sit in a vehicle driving through a sandstorm near the village of Al-Boutha al-Sharqiyah, west of Mosul, on 2 December 2016, during the offensive to retake the city from Islamic StateAhmad al-Rubaye/AFP

“Many families have sent money to the brigade to support us,” she says. “The children go to schools related to the shrine. They get money from the Shia organisations and rely on their charity,” Raqwa adds.
On the walls of a room set aside in the Karbala headquarters of the Shia PMF, the Ali Akbar Brigade, pictures of martyrs stare down at visitors. The scores of killed, looking straight down the lens of the camera, died across Saladin province, Anbar and Nineveh. The battles and their names are written in white lettering on the black plastic posters.
The brigade’s base is in the former Ministry of Transport building and the fighting group’s flags fly alongside a fleet of government buses. Inside, base co-ordinator Naif Ahmed explains that in their most recent battles at Tal Afar, where the brigade was fighting to cut Isis supply lines, four men were killed by Isis. He says that Isis has inflicted most casualties through IEDs and suicide attacks, adding that these are the tactics of a fighting force in retreat.
Ahmed says martyrs are only to be celebrated, not mourned. If he is killed fighting – he expects to rejoin the battle against Isis in Mosul as he did in Saladin province (he has already arranged to have his son come and replace him) – he would consider it a blessing. An officer in the Iraqi army for two decades, his decision to join the PMU is a deeply religious one.
“I could have joined the Iraqi army and earned $2000 per month … but I decided to join the PMU because of its affiliation with my faith. [My faith] is much more important than my family because it is what keeps my family protected and secure,” he adds.

Members of Iraqi security forces
Members of Iraqi security forces and Shia militia fighters make their way in vehicles from Samarra to the outskirts of Tikrit on 28 February 2015Reuters

The Ali Akbar Brigade was formed immediately after the fatwa by Ayatollah Sistani and the first aspect of its fighters’ training is doctrinal. It is directly linked to the shrine in Karbala and it places the city’s religious authority above that of PMF command in Baghdad. Ahmed explains that, if called, to he would go to protect Shia shrines in Syria. Although all of Ali Akbar Brigade’s fighters remain in Iraq, Iraqi fighters have travelled to defend the shrine of Sayyidah Zaynab. Ahmed says he revers Zaynab as he does Hussein. “The only difference is Hussein is here close to us; she is far,” he explains.
The call to arms, for Ahmed, is far more important than the effect the war has had on his family, his absence and his reduced wages. “Right now I have two children in school and they are not doing very well because I am not teaching them,” he explains. “This is the priority. Even though they are not doing well in school, this is my priority. This much more important than my children’s education,” he says.
Outside the great mosque in Kufa, 80km south of Karbala, the tension between the loss of those killed fighting Isis and the political necessity of their heroism plays out once more. In one of the mosque’s central courtyards two young men are weeping over the coffin of their fallen friend, killed in the Mosul operation.
The wooden box is plastered with military adornments. The plastic coverings flash in the sun, yellow with the emblem of the PMF, red, white, green and black for the Iraqi flag and green and black for the Saraya al-Salam Brigade, Muqtada al-Sadr’s paramilitary organisation, the latest iteration of the Mahdi Army which fought the US invasion.
Approaching the two crying friends, their heads pressed on the coffin, an older man chastises them in front of a slowly forming group. “Why are you upset?” he asks. “You’ve had good news. Your friend is a martyr, he fought for this country.”

Kufa Mosque
Mourners gather around the coffin of a fighter killed in the Mosul offensive outside the Great Mosque of KufaIBTimes UK

How the Antichrist’s men are disrupting national unity

BAGHDAD — Iraq’s parliament is divided over a proposal designed to unite the country.
Iraq’s passage of a law establishing the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) as an official security force threw a wrench into efforts to adopt a national settlement proposal — basically a grand plan to abolish sectarian and ethnic quotas in parliament and “put an end to the monopoly of power by the Shiite parties, as opposed to the marginalization of the Sunni sect.” The proposal says it will involve “all segments of Iraqi society and ethnic and religious communities, including women, youth and civil society organizations.”
The parliament’s Sunni blocs don’t think empowering the PMU, an umbrella organization of dozens of predominately Shiite groups, is a good example for ending that monopoly. Since the PMU was formed in 2014, it has been seen by many as a band of outlaw militias accused of human rights violations against Sunni civilians in the areas where it has been fighting the Islamic State (IS).
When the PMU law passed Nov. 26, the Sunni blocs walked out of the parliamentary session as a show of opposition. Now the Sunni blocs have walked away from the national settlement proposal. Saleh al-Mutlaq, the head of the Iraqi Front for National Dialogue, called the PMU law the final destruction of the settlement.
Sheikh Khamis al-Khanjar, an influential Sunni leader, also rejected the national settlement proposal after meeting Dec. 6 with Jan Kubis, the head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq. Kubis had tried to convince him to participate in the settlement.
The Sunni blocs now have three options. According to Ahmad al-Sulmani, a member of the Sunni Union of Nationalist Forces, the first option is to challenge the PMU law in federal court; the second option is to negotiate amendments. Muqtada al-Sadr, the head of the Shiite national Sadrist movement, has presented proposed amendments to the PMU law to Iraqi President Fuad Masum and parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri.
If both of those options fail, the Sunni blocs would have to resort to completely boycotting the national settlement project, which has been embraced by the largely Shiite Iraqi National Alliance, headed by Ammar al-Hakim.
Sulmani told Al-Monitor, “The Sunni blocs in the Iraqi parliament were hoping to find a solution to the PMU and integrate it within the army and police force. However, after the National Alliance insisted on turning the PMU into an institution, we agreed so long as it would be accepted by all parties and passed by consensus.”
The most important amendments that the Union of Nationalist Forces wants to make to the PMU law include preventing individuals accused of violating the rights of civilians from being integrated within the PMU institution, leaving the task of controlling areas liberated from IS to the army, not the PMU, and raising the percentage of Sunni fighters in PMU ranks to 40%. PMU spokesman Ahmed al-Asadi said in November that there were some 9,000 Sunni fighters — only 8% of the PMU total force of about 110,000.
“Sunni parties refused to receive the draft … from the National Alliance and agreed among themselves not to be part of this settlement as long as [the Shiite parties] do not show good intentions, particularly in amending the PMU law,” Sulmani added.
The National Alliance said it aims to involve all parties in the Iraqi national settlement project, to resolve outstanding issues and disagreements and eliminate all political issues for the post-IS phase.
However, not only did passing the PMU law by majority — without the consent of all political parties in parliament — make Sunni parties doubt the seriousness of the “settlement,” it also raised the ire of Sadrists, who object to the law in its current form.
He noted in a statement that he has urged the three presidencies to “integrate the PMU within the official security forces.” He added, “To avoid all sectarian, political and security issues, I believe it would be best to take into consideration all proposals, especially after the parliament agreed on this integration.”
In addition, Sadr stressed in his recommendation “the need to keep all those who wish to stir sectarian strife at an arm’s length, along with those who sold out two-thirds of Iraq.” He was referring to former Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, under whose management two-thirds of the country was lost to IS.
This Sadrist-Sunni rapprochement will keep the debate over the PMU institution going for quite a while if changes aren’t drafted by the president or the federal court. That would mean that Saraya al-Salam (Peace Brigades), the Sadrist movement’s military wing under the PMU umbrella, would not remain with the PMU. A Sunni division would emerge between parties that do wish to join the PMU and political parties objecting to the PMU’s current form. This tense situation also threatens the settlement project.
For his part, Salim Shawki, a member of the Al-Mouwaten bloc, headed by Hakim, told Al-Monitor, “The real problem facing the national settlement project does not lie in the PMU law at all; it is rather represented by the large number of parties wishing to be part of this project.”
He added, “Many parties claim to be representing Sunnis, which is turning into the biggest obstacle for the settlement. … Most parties agreed on the PMU law, and those that objected only want to amend a few of its provisions.”
Despite the long discussions conducted before the PMU law was passed, critics said its provisions were too general and lacked details. For instance, the law does not specify the number of fighters who would officially join the PMU, although Asadi had noted there will be 142,000 fighters, including 30,000-40,000 Sunnis.
It would be a first for an Iraqi security institution to be divided according to sects. This is why the law avoided mentioning ratios. However, all concerned parties noted that Sunnis and Shiites will control the liberated areas according to certain percentages, under the command of Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi.
In this context, Abadi noted in a statement approving the PMU law: “Under the law, the PMU has come under the direct leadership of the general commander of the armed forces. This law will represent all Iraqi people and defend Iraqis wherever they are. This will not please those seeking chaos who tried to impede the law for a long time.”
For the first time ever, Shiite factions will officially be under government administration, and perhaps the state will be able to adjust their activities and follow up on their actions, allowing it to pursue and hold accountable the factions and armed groups that are not affiliated with the PMU.
However, one cannot tell how the prime minister will deal with Saraya al-Salam if they decide not to join the PMU under the law, as well as other Sunni factions such as the National Mobilization, headed by Atheel al-Nujaifi, the former governor of Ninevah province. It remains uncertain how the law would be able to integrate all PMU factions and isolate them from their previous leaderships.
Most importantly, many observers wonder what position the government would take if the PMU decides — either officially or unofficially — to participate in the battles in Syria, especially since Maliki had announced that the PMU would be heading to Syria after liberating Mosul.

Trying to Keep the Antichrist’s Men Under Control

The military capability and reach of Islamic State has deteriorated so much over the past year that the Iraqi government will now need to think long and hard about the day after. Iraq’s Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and his ministers in Baghdad have focused most of their resources and attention on the immediate priorities of pushing Islamic State out of Mosul, consolidating the gains made by the Iraqi security forces, and preparing the international community with the immense financial burden that will be required to reconstruct the country once the war is over.
The Iraqi Council of Representatives took a major step forward on the “day after” question last month when it passed a law that Sunni lawmakers are vehemently citing as further proof that the Shia-dominated parliament is intent on dragging Iraq towards a sectarian future. Thanks to the power of numbers, the Shia blocs were able to ram a law through the parliament that would incorporate [3] the roughly 140,000 fighters of the Popular Mobilization Units into the regular Iraqi armed forces. Prime Minister Abadi is fully supportive of the plan, calling it a much-deserved recognition of the PMUs’ instrumental success on behalf of the Iraqi state against ISIS. Sunnis who have been in the militias’ line of fire are naturally taking a much different position, a testament to the group’s often indiscriminate tactics on the battlefield and its habit of sweeping through liberated areas like a destructive freight train.
Human rights organizations inside and outside of Iraq have documented numerous times when PMU militias—the vast majority of which were formed after Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani issued a call to young men to help the army take the country back—abused their authority and practiced vindictive harassment on Sunni civilians. Human Rights Watch has released several reports detailing the PMUs’ retributive behavior, primarily directed against Sunni towns and cities that once boasted an ISIS presence. Tikrit was the most illustrative example of how out of control these units can be; according to HRW [4], “militia forces looted, torched, and blew up hundreds of civilian houses and buildings in Tikrit and the neighboring towns of al-Dur, al-Bu ‘Ajil and al-Alam along the Tigris River, in violation of the laws of war.” Hundreds of residents were also detained, based on nothing more than their Sunni sectarian identity and the unfortunate fact that they happened to live under ISIS’s dominion.
In virtually every operation that the PMUs have participated in, chaos and war crimes have not only been conducted, but left unpunished. In Fallujah, up to seven hundred men and boys [5] streaming out of the city were detained by the militias, questioned, and presumably imprisoned or perhaps even executed. Months after these people were taken into custody, relatives and friends were still at a loss as to where they were being held or whether they were still alive. It’s the kind of track record that convinced Prime Minister Abadi that the PMUs should be left outside of Mosul’s city limits, and why the U.S. Air Force has refused to provide air support to militias outside of Baghdad’s command.
Yet as vicious as the PMUs have proven to be in the past, it would be foolish not to admit that they haven’t been detrimental to ISIS’s strength. When multiple divisions of the Iraqi Army and police force collapsed in 2014, it was the irregular militias that served as the crack force to stop ISIS’s ascent to Baghdad. Indeed, if it weren’t for the presence of these militias, it’s doubtful that the newly rebuilt and retrained Iraqi Army would have been able to drive ISIS away from Baghdad’s suburbs without high casualties. In fact, ISIS may have even been able to control the cities of Tikrit and Fallujah for a much longer period.
Like it or not, the PMUs provide the Iraqi government with critical manpower, just as the regular armed forces are hard at work attempting to finish ISIS off in Mosul.
There is therefore a certain logic to Prime Minister Abadi’s endorsement of reintegrating the PMUs into the Iraqi chain of command. The question, though, is whether this can be done without alienating the very Sunni community in Iraq that Baghdad will need if it genuinely wants to heal the sectarian fissures that have torn the country apart for the past thirteen years.
Before the militias are brought into the armed forces, Abadi should call on the parliament to clarify that any reintegration will only take effect if certain conditions are met.
First, before any PMU is formalized into Iraq’s security structure, these units must sever any and all contact with alternative lines of authority, particularly partnerships with Iran and Lebanese Hezbollah—two actors that have aided the more troublesome militias in the past. Financing for the PMUs should be controlled by the Iraqi government and not by a neighboring state with their own interests in mind.
Secondly, Abadi should appoint a technocratic commission supervised by his office that is responsible for overseeing the legalization of the PMUs. The duties of the commission should include a review of the units’ performance in the field, and whether those units are cooperating constructively with the Iraqi high command and following orders; the creation of a set of guidelines that will hold PMU commanders and fighters accountable if they misappropriate government funds; and the launching of investigations to ensure that any abuses against civilians are prevented and severely punished through prosecution, disbandment, or the withholding of state financing.
Thirdly, Prime Minister Abadi must make it clear that any unauthorized operations conducted by PMU units will result in censure. The Iraqi government cannot afford sectarian militias running amok and annexing specific parts of the country for their own parochial purposes. Iraq, in other words, need not return to 2004–08, when clerics like Muqtada al-Sadr were administering entire cities.
Finally, the Iraqi parliament should reopen the prospect of Sunni-majority provinces taking more ownership of their own security, perhaps through the establishment of tribal or provincial national guards (these national guards could also be legalized as an official branch of the Iraqi security forces). If this idea is too politically traumatizing for Shia MPs to consider, then they should at least amend the current PMU law in order to stipulate that Sunnis, Kurds, Turkmen, Christians and Yazidis have just as much of a right to be incorporated into the Iraqi security forces as the Shia.
Filling out the details will be the difference between rewarding militias that have engaged in violations of the Geneva Conventions (making reconciliation with Sunni populations in Iraq even more difficult in the process) and granting the PMUs the opportunity to become a responsible segment of Iraq’s security architecture.
This story was originally published by The National Interest
Daniel R. DePetris is an analyst at Wikistrat, Inc., a geostrategic consulting firm, and a freelance researcher. He has also written for, Small Wars Journal and The Diplomat.

Antichrist’s Men Integrate Into Iraq Politics

02 December 2016
Key Points
The passage of law making the Hashd al-Shaabi part of Iraq’s armed forces will not increase government oversight or influence over Shia militias.
However, the legislation will safeguard militias against pressure to demobilize following the conclusion of military operations against the Islamic State and facilitate such groups’ future participation in elections.
Sunni opposition to the law threatens to derail the project for national reconciliation.
As with the army, Hashd al-Shaabi fighters, which comprise approximately 110,000 soldiers will receive salaries and pensions. This will probably be in addition to ongoing funding from Iran received by many of the Iran-aligned component groups. The Hashd al-Shaabi comprises groups of varied political affiliations and loyalties; its leading components – the Badr Organisation, Kata’eb Hizbullah and Asai’ib Ahl al-Haq – are closely aligned with Iran and their operations on the ground are co-ordinated by the head of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani. Shia leader Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Peace Brigades are another component, had until recently maintained an openly antagonistic stance towards these groups and distanced himself from association with the Hashd al-Shaabi as an entity and its Iranian backers. The final component comprises those groups that answer directly to the Shia religious establishment in Iraq’s holy cities of Najaf and Karbala, including the Ali Al Akhbar Brigade and the Abbas Division; these receive donations from Iran, but do not receive training from, and are not otherwise close to, the IRGC. Although the Hashd al-Shaabi will be funded from the Ministry of Defence budget, the law did not specify under whose operational command it would fall; and this may be, on paper, the Iraqi chiefs of staff/minister of defence, it is likely that in reality it will be answerable directly to the prime minister, with Iran exercising a controlling influence.
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The Antichrist’s Men (Revelation 13:28)

 MIDEAST > US concerned over Shiite militia joining Iraqi army
US concerned over Shiite militia joining Iraqi army
The Iraqi government’s effort to integrate a Shiite militia, the al-Hashd al-Shaabi, into the country’s security forces is concerning as it might increase Iran’s influence with Baghdad, a U.S. general said on Nov. 30.
“It will increase obviously Shia – potentially Iranian – influence over the government of Iraq and we have to be concerned about it,” the head of Central Command, Gen. Joseph Votel, said during a panel discussion at the Foreign Policy Initiative, a neoconservative Washington-based think tank, state-run Anadolu Agency reported.
The Iraqi Parliament passed a law last weekend that formally recognized the controversial Iran-backed al-Hashd al-Shaabi as an “independent military entity” operating within the Iraqi army.
Votel said he believes that the nuclear deal inked between world powers and Iran last year did not prompt change in “Tehran’s sponsoring of terror groups and fueling of sectarian conflicts.”
“[The nuclear deal] is implemented appropriately but it addresses only one of our concerns,” he said of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, adding that since the deal Iran has sponsored more than 100,000 Shiite militias in conflicts, including in Yemen and Iraq.
“I would probably say there is a little bit of uptick,” he said.
Meanwhile, Iraqi special forces fighting the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) militants on the eastern side of Mosul have retaken 19 neighborhoods from the extremist group since the battle for the city began last month, Brig. Gen. Haider Fadhil of the special forces told The Associated Press on Nov. 30.
Fadhil said his men were now about four kilometers (2.5 miles) from the Tigris river, which slices the city in half. He said the 19 neighborhoods constituted less than 30 percent of the part of the city east of the Tigris.

The Antichrist represents the Shiite paramilitary force

“Maliki does not represent Hashd al-Shaabi and has nothing to do with this foundation,” said Ibrahim Jabri, media officer to Sadr. He said the force was established under a religious decree by Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Iraq’s top Shiite cleric.
“Maliki is far from the Hashd al-Shaabi. Go ask him how many members of his family have been martyred alongside the Hashd al-Shaabi,” he asked.
The Hashd al-Shaabi was formed by the Iraqi Interior Ministry when Maliki was in power to fight ISIS after the group’s takeover of a third of Iraq in mid-2014. The group was since then reportedly taking orders from Maliki.
On many occasions Maliki has supported the Shiite paramilitaries as being an active force in the fight against ISIS.
The parliamentary decree also stipulates that members of all of Iraq’s ethnic and religious groups will have the right to the join the Hashd, which will be reorganized by the military following the ongoing Mosul operation against ISIS.
“Hashd al-Shaabi represents all Iraqi groups. Politicians should not impose their hegemony on it. And we are for changing the name to Hashd al-Watani,” which means nationalist force in Arabic, Jabri said.

Antichrist Seeks Reforms For His Men (Revelation 13:18)

Al Arabiya
In step 24 hours after Iraqi Parliament passed a bill recognizing Popular Mobilization militias as a government entity, Muqtada al Sadr, head of al Sadrist movement, proposed reforms to regulate and organize the Shiite militia fighters.
A delegation from al Sadrist movement handed over the reform manuscript to Iraqi president, Fuad Masum and the Speaker of the Parliament, Salem al Jabouri, on Sunday.
On the other hand, Al Jabouri emphasized the magnitude of unification of all Iraqi parties in order to accomplish a comprehensive national reconciliation that will contribute to the stabilization of their country.
On Saturday, the Iraqi parliament has passed the bill recognizing the Popular Mobilization Forces as a government body operation alongside the military, amid the opposition of some Sunni lawmakers, who said the law would intensify the division and the rift within the Iraqi society particularly following the violations attributed to these militias in some areas of Iraq.
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Last Update: Monday, 28 November 2016 KSA 14:16 – GMT 11:16