The Shia Crescent Forms (Daniel 8:8)

shiacrescentBaghdad and Tehran sign a deal to boost military cooperation

Mina Aldroubi
Iraq and Iran signed an agreement on Sunday to boost military cooperation days after the US imposed new sanctions against Tehran for its “malign” activity in the region.
The agreement to help “combat terrorism” was signed a day after the Iraqi prime minister Haider Al Abadi said Shiite militias backed by Iran would remain an integral part of the state.
Iranian military advisers have played a key role in the campaign to drive ISIL from territory seized by the extremist group in 2014 and the militias, known as Hashed Al Shaabi, have also fought against the extremists along with Iraq’s regular military and police.
But the militias have been accused of abuses against Sunni populations in areas recaptured by government forces and there are fears over their future role in the country.
The agreement between Iran and Iraq, which extends “cooperation and exchanging experiences in fighting terrorism” was signed in Tehran by the Iranian defence minister Hossein Dehghan and his Iraqi counterpart, Erfan Al Hiyali.
The agreement also covered border security, logistics and training, the Iranian official news agency IRNA reported.
Since the 2003 US-led invasion of Iraq, Iran’s influence in the country has increased, empowering Shiite leaders and leaving Sunni populations neglected and resentful of the central government, which contributed to the rise of ISIL.
With the extremists defeated in Mosul, the last major city under its control, many Sunnis are fearful of a sectarian backlash as the country tries to rebuild.
The role of the Hashed Al Shaabi in Iraq has been an issue of widespread contention and will be a key issue in elections next year.
The government passed a bill in November that made the Hashed a legitimate entity of Iraq’s security forces and on Saturday Mr Al Abadi declared after meeting militias commanders that “the forces are an essential and neutral security entity and will remain within the structure of the Iraqi state”.
While maintaining that “the state is the main leader” of the security structure in the country, he said the Hashed “is a neutral security establishment, and it is here to stay”.
“It is our duty to protect it, because we are one,” Mr Al Abadi added.
The announcement is the clearest sign of support from the prime minister for the Hashed’s continued role in Iraq after ISIL’s defeat. While his predecessor, Nouri Al Malaki, was widely condemned for his sectarian policies, Mr Al Abadi has been more conciliatory.
He has condemned sectarian violence carried out by the militias and tried to build ties with Sunni countries in the region. Last month, he travelled to Jeddah and met King Salman after the Saudi foreign minister visited Baghdad in February.
But the Hashed endorsement will raise concerns among Sunni leaders in Iraq.
Sarah Allawi, advisor to Iraqi vice president Ayad Allawi, said: “We thank the security forces for their efforts in liberating Mosul from ISIL – however we now are entering a new phase rebuilding Iraq post ISIL, which is aiming to achieve national reconciliation between political forces.”
The Hashed are an amalgamation of various subgroups with allegiances to Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Iraq’s top Shiite clerics Ali Al Sistani and Muqtada Al Sadr, according to a report on the militias by the Carnegie Middle East Center.
“Some subgroups have assumed political roles and will seek to leverage their roles in combatting ISIL to win votes in Iraq’s 2018 elections,” said the report.
For militia members, the legitimacy of their struggle against ISIL is a direct result of a fatwa issued by Ali Al Sistani in response to the fall of Mosul in 2014 in which he called the fight a “sacred defence”.
“As of November 2016 and the passing of the Hashed Al Shaabi law, the Hashed has become a formally institutionalised part of Iraq’s security apparatus tied to the office of the commander-in-chief,” said Fanar Haddad, senior research fellow in the National University of Singapore.
“However, unlike other security units, disbanding the Hashed would not be a straightforward administrative procedure given their immense popularity and legitimacy amongst many Iraqis and given the Hashed’s powerful backers in Iraq and Iran”.
The Hashed’s role in defeating ISIL has also given them support from other sections of Iraq and not just Shiites.
“The fact is that the Hashed will be a permanent feature of Iraq’s social, political and military landscapes for the foreseeable future,” Mr Haddad added.

Iranian Terrorism is Here to Stay
Military Intelligence head: Terrorism is here to stay
Arutz Sheva Staff, 22/06/17 19:11
The head of the IDF’s Intelligence Directorate, Major General Hertzi Halevi, spoke at the Herzliya Conference and addressed the security threats to Israel.
“Terror is here to stay,” Halevy said. “ISIS has lost territory and shrunk, but instead of an Islamic Caliphate, we see a virtual Caliphate. There is a clear connection between the pressure on Mosul and al-Raka and the wave of terrorism in Europe.”
According to him, the likelihood of an initiated war against Israel is low. “Power-building processes, especially in Gaza and Lebanon, transfer military power into irresponsible hands.Our enemies, who seek to deter Israel, are liable to bring upon themselves the next war.”
Today, Halevi said, wars begin and end differently. “These are wars with organizations. They do not start with a decision, but rather with a deterioration between the organizations. They do not end with a unilateral decision by paratroopers at the Western Wall.”
The head of Military Intelligence said that Iran, the Assad regime and Hezbollah constitute the main threat to the region, “with global funding and a major danger to the State of Israel. Iran is problematic not only because of the nuclear issue. It is in Iraq, Syria and Yemen.”
We see clearly that Hezbollah is building a military industry with Iranian knowledge, producing weapons and transferring them to southern Lebanon.
He said the terrorist attacks in Europe would continue for the foreseeable future.
Maj. Gen. Halevi said that Iran has been working in the past year to establish an infrastructure for the production of precise weapons in Yemen and in Iraq. “The nuclear agreement prohibits Iran from creating a certain weapon, but it produces other weapons. 20 countries are threatened by the deployment of Iranian Zelzal missiles.”
Addressing the recent Iranian missile strikes on ISIS targets, he said: “We saw it from medium range missiles. I think ISIS was hit hard. I ask myself: if Iran is so involved in Syria – why did not they strike from there? If it’s a show, it’s not clear it was so successful and it’s still disturbing.”
He also said that Israel has allowed more than seven million tons of construction material into Gaza in the three years since Operation Protective Edge. “How much of this has gone to the benefit of the civilians in Gaza? Do the children in Gaza receive a better education system? The answer is usually no. This is really a dilemma, since Israel has an interest in not having a crisis in Gaza.”
“The electricity dilemma reflects this well. On the one hand, the oxygen masks in the hospitals are connected to electricity, but the digging machines in the Hamas tunnels are connected to the same electricity. We have to let Hamas choose. We cannot let Hamas build an army so easily.”

The Iranian Horn In Iraq (Daniel 8:4)

US officials: Up to 100,000 Iran-backed fighters now in Iraq
By Lucas Tomlinson
Published August 16, 2016
As many as 100,000 Iranian-backed Shiite militia are now fighting on the ground in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials — raising concerns that should the Islamic State be defeated, it may only be replaced by another anti-American force that fuels further sectarian violence in the region.
The ranks have swelled inside a network of Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Since the rise of Sunni-dominated ISIS fighters inside Iraq more than two years ago, the Shiite forces have grown to 100,000 fighters, Col. Chris Garver, a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, confirmed in an email to Fox News. The fighters are mostly Iraqis.
Garver said not all the Shia militias in Iraq are backed by Iran, adding: “The [Iranian-backed] Shia militia are usually identified at around 80,000.”
According to some experts, this still is an alarmingly high number.
The effect of the Obama administration’s policy has been to replace American boots on the ground with the Iranian’s. As Iran advances, one anti-American actor is being replaced with another,” Thomas Joscelyn, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, said in a recent phone interview.
Garver said other Popular Mobilization fighters also consist of Sunni tribal fighters from Anbar and Nineveh provinces in Iraq.
Whether the force size is 80,000 or 100,000, the figures are the first-known estimates of the Iranian-backed fighters. The figure first surfaced in a recent Tampa Bay Times article and marks the latest evidence of Tehran’s deepening involvement in the war against ISIS, with the U.S. military also confirming that Russian bombers are now flying into Syria from a base in Iran. The growth also could create greater risk for Americans operating in the country, as at least one Iran-backed group vowed earlier this year to attack U.S. forces supporting the Iraqis.
Even more troubling to the U.S. military are reports that Qassem Soleimani, an Iranian general who commands the Islamic Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force, is now on the ground outside Mosul ahead of an expected operation to retake Iraq’s second-largest city which has been under ISIS control for the past two years.
According to the Long War Journal, a spokesman for the Iranian-backed forces said earlier this month that Soleimani is expected to play a “major role” in the battle for Mosul.
When asked about Shia militias participating in the liberation of Sunni-dominated Mosul, the top U.S. military commander in Iraq said last week, “The government of Iraq is in charge of this war. We’re here to support them. So, who they [want in] the campaign is really their decision.”
A U.S. military official could not confirm Soleimani’s presence in Mosul, but said Soleimani had been seen throughout Iraq and Syria in the past two years coordinating activities.
Garver stressed Tuesday there is no coordination between the U.S. and Iranians. “We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way, we are not working with them in any way,” he said during a press conference, adding: “However the government of Iraq comes up with the plan, we are supporting [their] plan for the seizure of Mosul.”
Last August, Fox News first reported Soleimani’s visit to Moscow 10 days after the landmark nuclear agreement in July to meet with Russian President Vladimir Putin and top Russian officials to plan Russia’s upcoming deployment to Syria in late September.
Soleimani is banned from international travel through United Nations Security Council resolutions. He was first designated a terrorist and sanctioned by the U.S. in 2005. In October 2011, the U.S. Treasury Department tied Soleimani to the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. Soleimani’s Quds Force is the special forces external wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, responsible for supporting terrorist proxies across the Middle East.
At his confirmation hearing last year, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Joseph Dunford was asked how many Americans were killed by Iranian-backed forces under the command of Soleimani.
“The number has been recently quoted as about 500. We weren’t always able to attribute the casualties we had to Iranian activity, although many times we suspected it was Iranian activity even though we didn’t necessarily have the forensics to support that,” Dunford said.
The threat to American troops remains. Last month, firebrand Shia cleric Muqtada al-Sadr — responsible for attacks against U.S. troops in Iraq a decade ago – once again called for his supporters to kill American troops.
“[U.S. forces] are a target for us,” he said on his website.
In March, one Iranian-backed group said it would attack U.S. forces after the Pentagon announced that hundreds of U.S. Marines were supporting Iraqi forces with artillery fire.
“If the U.S. administration doesn’t withdraw its forces immediately, we will deal with them as forces of occupation,” Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (AAH) said on its TV channel.
The Iranian-backed group has claimed responsibility for over 6,000 attacks against U.S. forces in Iraq since 2006 and operates under the supervision of Soleimani, according to a report by the Institute for the Study of War.
Meanwhile, there are more indications that Russia and Iran are expanding their military ties. The U.S. military has confirmed that Russian bombers flying from a base in Iran have bombed three areas in Syria.
In addition to the up to 100,000 Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, there are thousands of Iranian-backed forces in Syria as well in support of President Bashar al-Assad. Some of these Iranian-backed forces come from as far as Afghanistan and hundreds have recently died fighting Syrian rebels in the city of Aleppo, according to recent reports.
Lucas Tomlinson is the Pentagon and State Department producer for Fox News Channel. You can follow him on Twitter: @LucasFoxNews

Why Iraqis Hate Babylon The Great

Some Iraqis Still Hate America More Than ISIS

By Gilad Shiloach
Jul 18, 2016 at 11:50 AM ET

Muqtada al-Sadr doesn’t want U.S. troops in Iraq, even to fight ISIS. — REUTERS

A leading Shiite cleric in Iraq said U.S. troops would be targeted by Shiite militias, a threat prompted by last week’s announcement that the Obama administration plans to deploy additional troops to the country to help local forces take on ISIS.

Muqtada al-Sadr, whose Mahdi Army was instrumental in the civil war that erupted in Iraq in 2006-2008, was asked in a letter by a follower to respond to U.S. Defense Secretary Ashton Carter announcement that Washington would dispatch 560 more troops to help Iraqi forces retake the northern city of Mosul from ISIS, which has held it since August 2013.

On Sunday, Sadr posted this ominous answer to his official Facebook page: “They are a target for us.” The popular cleric didn’t elaborate further, but his followers have been hugely supportive of this apparent threat, which circulated on social media and in Facebook groups and pages that back him. Dozens on Facebook and Twitter answered with the slogan “No, no to America,” and posted an image of Sadr alongside a burned U.S military tank. Users on a pro-Sadr group page shared the threat, quoting the Quranic verse: “if you return [to sin], We will return [to punishment]. We will shake the land beneath their feet.” Others said: “We are at your service Muqtada,” and posted images allegedly showing American troops being targeted in Iraq.

Sadr has been fiercely anti-American since the U.S.-led military invasion ousted former Iraqi leader Saddam Hussein in 2003. Since then, Sadr and his many followers have battled coalition forces across Iraq and he has continually pressed to have all U.S. and Western influence removed from the country.

Sadr’s followers said “America is the great Satan, no, no to America” and dismissed the announcement as “a new occupation, one time in the excuse of Saddam, and later because of ISIS.” Another said “America is actually ISIS.” An Iraqi user tweeted that “Sadr’s threat to target American forces in Mosul is a wise decision because the Iraqis can liberate their land, Iraq isn’t a colony.”
Alongside the support, several social media users in Arabic also criticized Sadr’s new threat and mocked him. “Are you kidding? Without America you and your corrupt government wouldn’t be able to last a day in Iraq,”one user wrote. Another criticized Sadr “like he doesn’t know that Americans are taking part in the liberation of his country while bombing ISIS day and night,” or that “without America, Sadr would become chicken food.”

كلا كلا امريكا…كلا كلا اسرائيل

— صوت العراق الناطق (@sawtalaraq) July 18, 2016
No, no to America. No, no to Israel

According to Reuters, other Shiite militias have made similar pledges to attack U.S. soldiers in the past year, but any casualties that have struck the U.S. have come during battles with ISIS fighters in the north.

Iran Continues Its Hegemony In Iraq (Daniel 8:3)

Tehran Is Launching Attacks on Iranian Dissidents in Iraq

Raymond Tanter | July 10, 2016

On July 4, 2016 (8:35 pm Iraqi time), over 50 missiles were fired against Camp Liberty. Because of the proximity of Tehran’s militias in range of Camp Liberty, it appears as if they were launched by those affiliated with the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Damage assessment reveals that parts of the camp were completely destroyed. As many as 40 residents were injured, and astonishingly no one was killed during this massive attack.

Nevertheless, each time the oppressors of Liberty get away with attacking the camp it increases the likelihood of even more hostile assaults in the future.

Once several opponents of Iran left for safety in Iraq, Tehran sought to destroy them there. Several factors coincide to explain why Tehran is assaulting its dissidents in Iraq—members of the Mujahedeen-e-Khalq (MEK), the main resistance group that rejects clerical rule, and espouses a secular, democratic, and nonnuclear Iran.

The regime is using the upcoming anniversary of the nuclear deal with Iran on July 14, 2016, as a time to crack down on its opponents. Washington has placed the deal with Tehran over the security of those aligned with the United States and have the capacity to place pressure on the regime on behalf of the Iranian people.

In 2014, Washington agreed to a four-month extension of ongoing nuclear talks until Nov. 24. This period was a time of peril for opponents of Iran because they were and are of great value in revealing intelligence about its nuclear cheating.

Contrary to Iran’s disingenuous offers to be transparent in nuclear talks of Jan. 17, 2005 and Mar. 23, 2005, MEK intelligence revealed in late 2005 that Iran may have been engaged in nuclear-related work at an underground site near the city of Qom.

Three Western allies disclosed on Sept. 25, 2009 intelligence about the Qom site during a G-8 economic summit in Pittsburgh, implicitly validating a resistance disclosure of the same site four years earlier. And by January 2012, Iran acknowledged it had begun enrichment at that heavily fortified site, now known as the Fordow Fuel Enrichment Plant.

A case of retaliation as it relates to nuclear revelations came on September 1, 2013. The organization had in previous years uncovered a number of undeclared nuclear sites and announced them in a series of press conferences, e.g., in Washington during July.

Tehran retaliated to take advantage of ongoing secret nuclear talks with Washington, which let the regime off the hook by saying very little about the assault. Yet in October 2013, the resistance disclosed additional intelligence about suspect weaponization activities by Iran. Another missile attack was waged on Camp Liberty in December 2013, killing four and wounding dozens.
On top of the upcoming nuclear anniversary, there are the deteriorating political-military situation in Iraq and Tehran’s increasing problems with its discontented population. Iran uses such moments as times to crack down on its opponents at home and abroad.

In June of 2009, the regime put down country-wide demonstrations in which dissidents tied to the MEK participated. Iraqi forces acting on behalf of Tehran then attacked MEK members located at that time in Camp Ashraf, Iraq during July of that year. Iraqis killed 13, held 36 as hostages, and only released them in October under intense international pressure.

On April 8, 2011, a day after a major nuclear revelation in Washington by the dissidents, Camp Ashraf came under a major assault by the Iraqi Security Forces, leaving 36 dead, and hundreds wounded, in what was described as “Massacre” by then Senate Foreign Relations chair, John Kerry.
A year after moving to Camp Liberty, on Feb. 9, 2013, rocket and mortar shells fell on the dissidents, killing 9 and wounding over fifty. The United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees called these attacks, “a despicable act of violence,” describing residents as asylum seekers entitled to international protection.

The Way Forward

Hark back to the nuclear deal with Iran agreed on July 14, 2015. Senators Robert Menendez (D-NJ) and Mark Kirk (R-IL) introduced legislation to extend the sanctions law for 10 years. Other members are exploring the possibility of introducing bills that focus on the Iranian regime’s financial infrastructure involved in terrorism, missile development, and human rights abuses.

Democrats and Republicans are unhappy with the lack of change in the behavior of the Iranian regime, are considering tougher measures. A Democratic senator who voted for the Iran deal said it is not America’s responsibility to promote foreign investment in Iran, despite efforts by Secretary of State Kerry to encourage investment there. Delaware Senator Chris Coons said on June 23, 2016, “I don’t think it’s our job to act as the chamber of commerce for Tehran.”

Nearly a year after the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement, Iranian dissidents in Iraq are more vulnerable than ever to Tehran-sponsored assaults by its militias in Iraq. To prevent them from intensifying attacks on Camp Liberty, Washington could use its diplomatic leverage with Baghdad to protect Iranian oppositionists and expedite their resettlement out of Iraq to Albania. On June 29, 2016, Senator John McCain introduced a bill (S.3114), which calls for the safety and security of Camp Liberty residents as well as their safe and the expeditious resettlement to Albania. Absent political pushback against Iranian militias from the executive branch, such congressional initiatives are a welcome path forward.

The Large Horn Continues To “Help” Itself To The Smaller Horn (Daniel 8:3)

07/06/2016 10:23 am ET | Updated 7 hours ago
  • Amb. Marc Ginsberg Fmr. U.S. Ambassador to Morocco; White House Middle East Adviser
  • As Henry Kissinger once said, Iran needs to decide whether it is “a nation or a cause.” The Ayatollah Khamenei stubbornly prefers Iran remain a “cause.”
    The record of meddlesome, terror-laden interference throughout the Middle East by Tehran is growing longer by the day. The oppressive military dictatorship may be fronted by a so-called “moderate” President Rouhani, but Iran is undeniably under the control of the Revolutionary Guards and their political hacks within the Ayatollah Khamenei’s clerical politburo. As it stubbornly clings to the cause of belligerence and revolution the regime has been resuscitated and emboldened by a nuclear agreement that has imposed nary a speed bump on its road to fulfilling its regional ambitions.
    Cases in point: the incendiary and venomous anti-Israel/anti-Semitic rhetoric emanating from the highest reaches of the regime have become more dangerous and more provocative than ever. The terror-funding money laundered cash flowing into Hezbollah and Hamas coffers has accelerated, fueled in part, from U.S. and European unfrozen asset transfers and sanctions relief. Elie Weisel’s passing was met with another Holocaust-denying tirade from several high level hardliners. The number of Iranians hanging from the gallows under President Rouhani has reached tallies higher than under his predecessor: the notorious Ahmadinejad. Oppression has escalated against average Iranians as the regime stomps hard on any effort to leverage assets relief for fear of breathing new life into Iran’s suppressed democratic movement.
    In the Middle East, Iran is waging a proxy war in Yemen against the U.S. and Saudi-backed government. Its provocative and destabilizing ballistic missile tests — intended to directly threaten Israel and our Sunni Arab allies — are deemed by the UN to be in violation of existing Security Council resolutions. And let us not forget, the “atomic ayatollahs” have never ever given up on their ambition to build a bomb; the nuclear agreement merely postpones its capacity for doing so for ten years, and will have all arms sanctions lifted against it in about 7 years.
    Ground zero on Iran’s revolutionary menu is Syria and Iraq. It is the Ayatollah’s “front line” against all of the real and imagined foes of the regime. The Revolutionary Guard is massively deployed inside Syria defending fellow Shiite Bashar al Assad, and Iranian-backed Shiite militias are deployed in ISIS battle zones in northern Iraq. If only those deployments were for the cause of peace and stability in the Middle East. They are not. On the contrary, those deployments are part and parcel of Iranian designs to prevent the emergence of a stable Iraq and to prevent a restoration of a durable UN-sponsored cease-fire in Syria.
    The Iranian government’s propaganda arm is running at warp speed warning Iranians that should Assad’s regime fall ISIS will soon be on Tehran’s doorstep. The Farsi-language media is relentlessly pounding this nonsense into every crevice of Iranian society. Iran, in other words, is figuratively and literally getting away with murder in both Iraq and Syria “in defense of Iran.”
    The regime’s apologists demand patience and excoriate those who question any effort to hold Iran accountable for these actions. Soon the regime, they argue, will inevitably bend to the winds of globalization and confront the exigencies required of a “proper” nation state. After all, Boeing just signed a major deal with Iran. More such deals will surely follow. Isn’t that evidence, they assert, that the Ayatollah’s iron grip will weaken under the weight of western investment.
    Hope springs eternal.
    A new, more moderate regime, the Iranian amen choir chant, will surely emerge. Just give it time. The great Iranian gamble is buttressed by U.S. assurances that it is doing everything possible to challenge Iran’s expansionism. Not true! What are we to make then of Secretary of State’s recent comments that Iran’s presence in Iraq to be “helpful” to American attempts to beat back the threat of ISIS, given their common enemy?
    It appears that Mr. Kerry, whose inclination is to sugar-coat anything that may give rise to criticism of Iran, has turned a blind eye to what U.S. commanders in Iraq are reporting up their chains of command to the Pentagon. Moreover, Mr. Kerry’s limited interest in the future of Iraq’s independence and integrity reflect the Obama Administration’s own indifference to Iraq’s long term future.
    Time will tell whether U.S. national security interests can sustain the gamble, but given Iran’s international and regional conduct in recent months, Mr. Kerry may need to adjust his assessment if Iraq’s future stability is of consequence to the U.S.
    U.S. commanders stationed on the ground in both the battles to liberate Falluja and Ramadi from ISIS forces have expressed alarm that rogue Iranian-commanded Shiite militias (aka The Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs)) are moving into these towns after their liberation and committing sectarian abuses against Sunnis, thus making refugee and displaced persons more sympathetic to the remnants of ISIS operatives in the region. The New York Times reported a few weeks ago that a Shiite militia leader, in a widely circulated video, was seen rallying his men with a message of revenge against the imprisoned civilians of Falluja, whom they accuse of being sympathizers of ISIS: “Falluja is a terrorist stronghold,” said Iranian-backed militia leader Aws al-Khafaji, the head of the Abu Fadhil al-Abbas militia.
    Make no mistake about it, the awful, painstaking battles being waged to liberate Iraqi territory from ISIS are intended eventually by Iran to gain more control north of Baghdad at the expense of Iraqi sectarian reconciliation and U.S. national security interest. Incorporating Iraq and Syria (as well as Lebanon) into a Shiite Crescent under the thumb of Tehran is so evident it’s as if the Ayatollah has hung out a neon light declaring it so. Is this Shiite Crescent an outcome which Mr. Kerry considers an acceptable consequence of U.S. retrenchment, inadequate strategy, and Iranian expansionism?
    As Iraq reels from a grave escalation of ISIS-inspired terrorism across the country in recent days, Iran-backed Shiite militiamen (often with the connivance of the Iraqi leadership) have used the growing chaos inside Iraq to launch a series of attacks against Iranian adversaries in Iraq, including a heinous attack yesterday against innocent civilian Iranian dissidents imprisoned against their will at Camp Liberty, wounding more than 40 residents. There is no doubt that this attack, as previous ones on Camp Liberty, are the work of Iranian controlled forces operating virtually at will, both covertly and overtly in Iraq. All the while, Iran is doing everything possible to fallaciously present itself as the ultimate and only reliable savior of the truncated Iraqi state.
    Iran’s meddling in Iraq is incessant, albeit with mixed results. Tehran’s goals are overt and evident: subjugate the central government to its whim while marginalizing the minority Sunni population without driving it back into the hands of whatever remnants of ISIS remains after it is driven from the all-important city of Mosul. A balancing act? Surely. But isn’t Iran really interested in having Iraq disintegrate – leaving it gobble up as much of Iraq’s territory as possible up to the very frontier of the Sunni heartland?
    Iran is determined to resist a revitalized and reinvigorated American effort to politically, militarily, and financially stabilize a pro-secular, reform-minded Iraqi central government. Iran takes an extraordinarily dim view of national Iraqi reconciliation, and will apparently do everything possible to sabotage that goal – a goal 180 degrees opposite to U.S. policy.
    Who wins in the end from Iran’s deviousness in Iraq? ISIS, or whatever remnants there are of ISIS. Tehran’s machinations, intended to force Baghdad and the south to fall directly under its sway, will doom any hope for national reconciliation among Iraq’s three major sects (Sunnis, Kurds, and Shiites) – giving rise to ISIS 2.0 inside of Iraq. That is the hope of any future ISIS leadership…living to fight another day to restore the Caliphate in northern Iraq…and the cycle of terror will find yet another home from which to reconstitute itself.
    The next president faces an extraordinary challenge again in Iraq, and it all goes back to Iran and its loathsome, meddling regional militant strategy to stir as much terrorism and instability as possible to thwart any semblance of normalcy and stability.
    The people of Iran deserve a government that is democratic, transparent, and willing to be a nation, rather than a cause. Unfortunately, as we see in Iraq, in Syria, in Yemen, and in Palestine, the regime in Tehran is determined to break our will, and the will of the Iranian people in the bargain, to create its vaunted “Shiite Crescent” any cost, no matter the how many innocent lives perish in the bargain.
    The next president will have to reconstruct that very missing regional strategy, but at a severe disadvantage given how much the Obama Administration intentionally dropped the ball – brushing aside all the warnings to avoid empowering Iran to at the expense of core American national security interests in the Middle East.

    Iranian Hegemony In Iraq (Daniel 8:4)

    The Iranian Fingerprints on Iraq’s Fallujah Plan

    Disunity from abroad, tensions at home allowed Tehran to pressure Baghdad into a dramatic departure from the American war strategy.

    By Paul D. Shinkman | Senior National Security Writer
    June 2, 2016, at 5:00 a.m.

    Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi’s decision to engage the Islamic State group in Fallujah is about more than defeating the terrorist network. It’s about more than establishing safety in Baghdad, and it’s even about more than securing his own political future.
    His abrupt departure from America’s script for the war against the Islamic State group, which prioritizes above all else the liberation of Iraq’s second-largest city, Mosul, shows the strength of the other major international influence in Iraq, and its sway on Baghdad.
    Iran has reportedly been pressuring Abadi for weeks, if not months, to prioritize Fallujah. But now domestic tensions in Baghdad and disunity among the world powers that have involved themselves in the conflict have cleared the way for the Islamic republic to have more potency than the U.S., Russia, Turkey or any other world power involved in the conflict.
    “Tehran has more influence on Abadi’s focus, whether on Fallujah or anywhere else, than Moscow, Washington and Ankara combined,” says a former U.S. combat commander with extensive experience working with Iraq’s senior leaders. “The political disarray in Baghdad, the strangely wandering American political strategy, and the opaque rationale for what American forces we will commit to what tasks in the worst form of gradual escalation, combine to leave decisions open to a host of inputs from military and civilian policy makers from Baghdad to Tehran, before even considering the enemy’s vote.”
    The U.S. has spent the week since Abadi announced his new battlefield priorities downplaying the sudden shift, despite reports that the Iraqis provided only scant notice of the campaign to their American military counterparts. Reports have also emerged that U.S. officials privately don’t agree and are concerned about what opening a new front might mean for the overall success of the war if Iraqi forces get bogged down in a protracted battle.
    It became immediately clear this week the fight would not mirror previous liberations of some Iraqi towns where disenfranchised Islamic State group presence almost immediately fled. As Pentagon officials point out, Fallujah serves as the extremist network’s last haven in Iraq’s massive Anbar province, and they won’t withdraw easily.
    Iraqi forces began capturing villages on the outskirts of Fallujah soon after the fighting began on Monday but have since been met with fierce resistance from the extremist group’s fighters.
    “They intend to put up a fight for it, and we definitely have seen intense fighting for those two days,” Pentagon spokesman Navy Capt. Jeff Davis said Tuesday.
    After acknowledging before the effort began that Fallujah offers no tactical benefit in recapturing Mosul, U.S. officials have since publicly backed the new campaign and minimized inconsistencies with the larger strategy. Defense Secretary Ash Carter said last week “we are obviously supportive of this operation” and that the U.S. was very much aware of Iraq’s intentions to shift toward Fallujah, despite claims to the contrary from defense officials who spoke to U.S. News.
    Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, insisted the Iraqi military could continue preparing for the Mosul operation and simultaneously pursue a detour in Fallujah. Army Col. Steve Warren, speaking from the coalition’s headquarters in Baghdad’s Green Zone on Friday, confirmed that the need to retake Fallujah is driven by “political calculus for the civilian leadership of Iraq” and said success there would ease political pressure on Baghdad before refocusing on Mosul.
    That pressure, however, is intense. Shiite protesters loyal to powerful cleric and militia leader Muqtada al-Sadr have stormed the central Green Zone where the Iraqi government and most foreign embassies are based. Outraged by a lack of reform, protesters in April capped months of popular street demonstrations by occupying and ultimately ransacking the parliament building amid fears the government could collapse.
    “We often tend to underestimate the degree of threats to Abadi, particularly from other Shiites,” says Stephen Biddle, formerly an adviser to Gens. Stanley McChrystal and David Petraeus who is now with the Council on Foreign Relations. “For most governments like Iraq, internal threats loom larger than external threats, and you can’t just ignore them and treat them as electoral noise. Because that’s how you get killed in a coup d’etat.”
    Underscoring concerns that the political instability could hamper the fight against the extremists, the Islamic State group in recent weeks has staged a series of car bombs and suicide attacks in Shiite neighborhoods that marked the group’s return to the terror tactics of its roots, as al-Qaida in Iraq, and exacerbated sectarian tensions.
    The long-stalled Mosul operation optimistically appears months away, so targeting Fallujah provides a temporary quick-fix for Abadi politically, using the urgency of the campaign to prove to Iraqis he’s acting to keep them safe. Successfully liberating Fallujah, which is predominantly Sunni, could also earn Abadi some good faith among that constituency nationwide.
    But some say that, tactically, his attention is likely misplaced. Fallujah, about 40 miles west of Baghdad, is indeed an Islamic State group haven and source of much of its bomb-making capabilities. However, most of the recent attacks on Baghdad have originated from the north, not the west as would be the case if they came from Fallujah, according to the Institute for the Study of War, which regularly analyzes battle rhythms in Iraq.
    Other forces are also at play behind the decision, including influences from Tehran that would like the Shiite majority in Iraq’s government to protect Baghdad from what it sees as the threat posed by the proximity of Sunni extremists, like the Islamic State group, while also solidifying its hold on power.
    “Iran does not see a government of Iraq that has a Sunni presence in it,” says Scott Mann, who retired as a lieutenant colonel after 18 years as a U.S. Army Special Forces officer with deployments to Iraq and Afghanistan. “This is a way to further divide those ethnicities, between Persians and Arabs, and between Sunni and Shiite, and create a more polarized environment around that conflict.
    “They know it, and they’re going to seize any opportunity they can to do that. And ISIS is going to do exactly the opposite. They’re going to create those situations, because they know how Iran is going to play it.”
    The overwhelmingly Sunni Muslim city of Fallujah has long been associated with combat in Iraq. It served as a headquarters for al-Qaida in Iraq during the last war and witnessed some of the most gruesome fighting, as U.S. forces in two separate campaigns in 2004 engaged in bloody, door-to-door combat to clear the town of the extremist presence.
    Complicating the campaign, the Iraqi government has had to rely on overwhelmingly Shiite Muslim militia forces, known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, in part due to the the U.S.-led coalition’s limitations on providing ground forces, which leaves Baghdad with few other options for the sheer numbers of fighters it needs. These forces are supposed to remain outside the city, where they help prevent extremists’ lines of escape or reinforcement.
    Pictures emerged last week of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ Qassem Soleimani’s meeting with leaders from the local Shiite militias, one of the first times he had appeared in public media since his visit to Aleppo, Syria – another central focus of Iran’s fight against enemy forces in the region. That the shadowy Quds Force commander would publicize his whereabouts further emphasizes the degree to which Iran now prioritizes Fallujah.
    Iranian proxy forces, like some of the militias, are a critical component to any chance of success in defeating the Islamic State group. They have contributed to most of the fighting to secure the area around Fallujah, particularly to the north, clearing the way for Baghdad’s announcement late Monday that its U.S.-trained counterterrorism commandos had begun the arduous work of actually entering the city to clear it of the Islamic State group presence. This use of various kinds of military forces has produced a winning combination in the past, like for the liberation of Ramadi. But now it faces its most serious challenge as the few hundred Islamic State group fighters in Fallujah dig in and and use the estimated 50,000 local residents held there as human shields.
    The U.S. military argues none of the conventional forces used for the Fallujah campaign would be needed in Mosul. Most experts agree, but that doesn’t mean the sudden detour won’t affect America’s fundamental plans for the battlespace.
    “Operations like this chew through resources,” says Patrick Martin, research analyst for Iraq with the Institute for the Study of War. “It’s just going to delay everything.”
    He cites reports that the U.S.-trained Counter Terrorism Service – considered the most effective Iraqi fighting force on the ground – has grown exhausted by the continuous demand for troops to lead the way in clearing Islamic State group positions.
    And fundamental questions about the future of Fallujah remain, Martin says, particularly following widespread concerns that the Shiite militias wish to exact revenge on Sunni populations for their perceived complicity toward the Islamic State group – a key reason why the U.S. refuses to provide air support to ground operations involving the militias. Shiite militias also have reportedly prevented Sunnis from returning to homes they helped liberate.
    “We shouldn’t kid ourselves,” Martin says. “This is what pushes the Mosul operation into delaying it indefinitely, because there are still other questions that haven’t been answered yet.”
    All sides agree that liberating Fallujah is simply a matter of time. The effect, though, of an Iranian sponsored victory may only further complicate the total war against the Islamic State group.
    The heavy presence of Shiite militia encircling Fallujah provide prime fodder for the extremist network to convince their fellow Sunni Muslims that the Iraqi government is beholden to Iran and has no intention of including them among the ruling classes.
    “All they have to say is, ‘Look who’s coming. This is your government that is allowing this to happen, backed by the American Air Force. Only we can help you.’ And they do this brilliantly,” says Mann, the former special forces lieutenant colonel.
    “In the short term, will it be effective? Probably. It will force ISIS to go to ground. It may kill some and displace some of them,” Mann says. “In my assessment, this is nothing more than mowing the grass.”
    At this point, it isn’t clear how much say the U.S. will have in that.

    Who Will Take Over The Iranian Horn?

    Controversy Rising on Khamenei’s Successor in Iran


    London- Ongoing dispute on who will run for the third Supreme Leader has been razing through the corners of the Iranian decision-making body for months now.

    The controversy on who would succeed Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei first sparked in light of his deteriorating health. According to “Majalla” reports, which Asharq Al-Awsat newspaper publishes parts of, debate lately went public and was a highlight in Khamenei’s recent speeches.
    Referring to Kamenei’s speech at which he emphasized the necessity of the next Supreme Leader to be “revolutionary”, the Tehran Friday preacher and cleric Ahmad Jannati said that the Assembly of Experts has to arrive to a revolutionary decision.

    Jannati’s undertone pointed out to the requirement of moving towards electing a successor to Supreme Leadership. Iranian politicians, prior the February General Assembly elections, had participated in open discussions on the name which would fill the post.

    Observers keeping an eye on future Iranian supreme leadership developments assume that Khamenei’s underlining the aspect “revolutionary” as a characteristic to his successor validates two assumptions; one, Khamenei wishes to push forward for electing his successor while he is still alive, and perhaps he would play a personal role in who would be chosen; two, rumors on Khamenei suffering from cancer and his nearing death are true.

    Many names are being proposed for candidacy, the most prominent of them include Mojtaba Khamenei, son of current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei; Hassan Khomeini, grandson of the first ever Iranian Supreme Leader and president of all institutions belonging to the Khomeini family; Mahmoud Hashemi Shahroudi, born in Najaf, Iraq; Sadeq Larijani, Head of Iranian Judicial Authorities; and the current Iranian President Hassan Ruohani.

    The Antichrist And The Mahdi (Revelation 13)

    This threat is worse than ISIS: Once again, we don’t understand the real enemy 

    Terrorism is a form of communication. Through public spectacles of violence, it attempts to convey a message from relatively powerless groups — usually nonstate actors — to more powerful groups — usually states.

    Without a doubt, the Islamic State has mastered the art of this form of communication. They’ve beheaded and burned alive captives, thrown homosexuals off the top of buildings, stoned women for being raped, and produced an online magazine that uses stunning high-quality images to convey their propaganda message. The Islamic State has also embraced an apocalyptic narrative that makes it highly attractive to young men looking for adventure and a sense of meaning in life. In fact, their recruitment campaign has been extremely successful, with tens of thousands of foreigners flocking to Iraq and Syria from all around the world.

    For such recruits, what could be more exciting than fighting the infidels at the very terminus of world history? What could be more thrilling than clearing the way for Jesus to descend over the Umayyad Mosque in Damascus before he hunts down the Antichrist and slaughters him in the modern-day town of Lod, in Israel? (This is what the Islamic State actually believes.)

    In the pursuit of fulfilling what it believes is God’s wish for humanity, the Islamic State has openly fantasized about acquiring a nuclear weapon from Pakistan (which has a history of leaking nuclear secrets), shipping it across the Atlantic, smuggling it through the “porous borders” of South America, and detonating it in a U.S. city. It’s also pondered the possibility of weaponizing the bubonic plague, and even trying to spread Ebola by infecting some of its own members and them putting them on an airplane. While the Islamic State’s initial aim was provincial — to build a caliphate in Iraq and Syria — it later expanded its ambitions with coordinated attacks outside its territories, such as in Paris on Nov. 13, 2015. And there’s evidence that an attack on the American homeland may be one of the Islamic State’s resolutions for the new year. As Vincent Stewart, who directs the Defense Intelligence Agency, testified on Capitol Hill earlier this month, the Islamic State “will probably attempt to conduct additional attacks in Europe, and attempt to direct attacks on the U.S. homeland in 2016.”
    So the threat is real and ongoing. As President Obama correctly noted back in 2009, even a single nuclear device exploding somewhere on Earth “would badly destabilize our security, our economies, and our very way of life.” An exactly similar thing could be said about a bioterrorism attack, which the former secretary-general of the U.N. Kofi Annan describes as “the most important, under-addressed threat relating to terrorism.” The stakes are high today — in fact, higher than they’ve been in the past.

    But the Islamic State probably isn’t the greatest long-term threat to the Middle East — or to the West. While it’s managed to gain a monopoly of media attention because of its theatrical exhibitionism, many experts believe that there are even more dangerous nonstate actors lurking in the shadows. For example, former director of the CIA David Petraeus has claimed that Shia militia in Iraq threaten the “long-term stability and the broader regional equilibrium” of the Middle East more than the Islamic State.

    An early militia of this sort was the Mahdi Army. It was formed by the influential Iraqi leader Muqtada al-Sadr for the express purpose of driving out the invading Western forces, and its religious ideology had an important apocalyptic twist to it. As the Islamic scholar David Cook writes, the Mahdi Army probably believed that “the purpose of the US-led invasion was to initiate an apocalyptic war — in this case, to find the Mahdi and to kill him.” The Mahdi is the end-of-days messianic figure of both Sunni and Shia Islam, although his role in each tradition is considerably different.

    While this may sound like a pedantic detail of the Mahdi Army’s worldview, I’d argue, quite vigorously, that those of us in the West simply can’t understand what’s going on in the Middle East today without some sense of the eschatological beliefs that animate so many Sunnis and Shi’ites in the region.

    The Mahdi Army actively fought the Coalition forces for more than half a decade, but in 2008 it spawned, and was replaced by, another Shia militia revealingly named the Promised Day Brigade. This group has since emerged as “one of the most prominent … Shiite militias operating primarily in and around Sadr City and Baghdad,” which the Islamic State failed to capture because of Shia militia resistance. (Sadr City is a suburb of Baghdad.) The Promised Day Brigade is also known to “receive training, funding and direction from Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force,” an elite special forces unit that the U.S. has classified as a terrorist organization since 2007. The fact that the Promised Day Brigade is actively supported by Iran — one of the major regional powers — is why Petraeus has worried that, “Longer term, Iranian-backed Shia militia could emerge as the preeminent power in [Iraq], one that is outside the control of the government and instead answerable to Tehran.”

    The Sons Of Esau Continue To War (Genesis 27)

    Shiites vs Sunnis: A region at war

    Israel Hayom
    The most important event is the removal of sanctions from Iran. As part of a process that began when the agreement on its nuclear program was signed, Iran is returning to the world with an American stamp of approval as a regional power. Iranian intellectuals understood this as soon as the interim deal was signed between Iran and the world powers in November 2013 and explained at conferences throughout the world that that recognition was a clear right of the Iranians given their country’s importance, strength, history, and achievements in the region in general and in the nuclear negotiations in particular.
    Doubtless, this sense of power and international legitimacy in Iran jumped following the final nuclear deal and the removal of sanctions this week. This means that from now on, Iran will keep growing economically and militarily while living up to the agreement, as least until its economy improves significantly.
    During this upcoming period, Iran will behave like a regional power, and anyone who does not accept its status will have to deal with its increasing power and the strength of its emissaries in the region. The American move in making the deal, and its ramifications for Iran’s stature, serve as a kind of proof for the Sunnis of an American decision to align with the Shiite side of the struggle.
    The second-most important event was the response of the Saudis, who executed a Shiite preacher who was imprisoned after a trial (the sentence was handed down a year and a half ago) to send a clear message to the Iranians, as well as to Saudi Arabia’s own allies in the Sunni world, that they would not give up on their fight against the Iranian Shiites — certainly not when it comes to Iran’s attempts to attack Saudi Arabia’s intactness by stirring up its Shiite minority.
    This decision was similar in principle to an earlier Saudi decision to employ force in Yemen and battle against the Houthis, whom the Saudis perceived as agents of Iran.
    Saudi Arabia has undoubtedly changed its behavior under its new king, Salman bin Abdul-Aziz Al Saud, and steered by his son Mohammed‎ bin Salman, the country’s 30-year-old defense minister. This means that Saudi Arabia is prepared to take risks and pay prices that it was not prepared to pay in the past. In this case, the price of severing relations with Iran,a step the Saudis decided to take after Iranian demonstrators set fire to the Saudi embassy in Tehran in protest over the execution of the Shiite preacher.
    Other Sunni states followed, breaking off relations with Iran — the United Arab Emirates, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, and Sudan –– while Egypt, which is receiving substantial economic aid from Saudi Arabia, has not. Sudan, which had former ties to Iran, has actually cut it off entirely.
    The Saudis are spearheading a Sunni challenge to the Shiite efforts of the past 35 years, which the Sunnis have thus far been able to check. The results are clear in Iraq and Lebanon, and are the underlying cause of the ongoing war in Syria and the conflict in Yemen.
    The third event slipped under the radar of most of the Israeli media. This was an announcement by Pakistan made during a visit to that country by the Saudi defense minister and heir to the throne. The host declared that Pakistan would respond severely to any attack on Saudi Arabia.
    Whether or not that is true, the Pakistani threat comprises an interesting development. Thus far, Pakistan’s nuclear weapons have been portrayed as an element of the conflict between Pakistan and India, and now all of a sudden they’re being used in a Middle Eastern context, in a conflict between the Shiite superpower and the entity who wants to be perceived as its Sunni counterpart.
    This is a real change in the balance of power throughout the entire Middle East. If Pakistan moves from a one-time declaration to actual intervention in these tussles, the regional balance of power will change, but past experience indicates that they will be very careful about committing themselves.
    What will be the ramifications of the intensifying conflict? First, it is quite clear that it will be much harder to deal with the war in Syria properly. That war is not just a civil war between different factions of Syrian society. It is a war between Shiites and Sunnis, with Iran standing behind one side and Saudi Arabia and the Gulf states, and Turkey, to a certain extent, backing the other.
    Even if there were some agreement in Syria about peace talks, which is unlikely to happen in the foreseeable future, Iran and Saudi Arabia will not take any steps toward each other, so the Syria war will continue. The Iranians will also seek out Saudi Arabia’s soft underbelly, probably via the many Shiites in Saudi Arabia and in some Gulf states, and the Saudis will respond with all their strength, mainly through economic and other forms of aid to anyone in the Middle East who opposes the Shiites.
    The Saudis’ success in winning Sudan’s heart and removing it from Iran’s circle of influence should be noted and is very important, to Israel as well, because Sudan was a key stop on the weapons smuggling route from Iran to the Gaza Strip.
    The very possibility that a nuclear nation will join this bitter struggle raises serious questions and concerns about the consequences of a possible deterioration, since it’s very hard to control endless battles colored by religion.
    Pakistan moving its attention to the heart of the Middle East does not bode well for an already complex and conflicted region. A Pakistani change like this one, if it is not a one-time case of lip service for its Saudi friend, could make the regional reality even more complicated and could eventually turn out to be very influential for the region. In the meantime, it appears to be a one-time event, not a turning point, even if it is important in and of itself. It will be necessary to keep constant tabs on whether Pakistan is headed toward that kind of direct intervention.
    The lesson Israel should learn from all these recent events is clear: Israel must not be drawn into such a complex and deep-running battle as the intra-Islamic conflict between Shiites and Sunnis, or between the Arabs and Persians in the Gulf region. Israel must take care to safeguard its own interests, including taking a risk if force should be exerted, but after great consideration, without arrogance, and with precision.