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Iraq frees 14 PMU members detained in ‘US-dictated’ raid

Press TV – June 29, 2020

Iraq has released more than a dozen members of Popular Mobilization Units, better known as Hashd al-Shaabi, a few days after an unprecedented raid on the headquarters of Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is said to have been dictated by the US.

The PMU members were released on Monday and all charges against them were dropped, Kata’ib Hezbollah’s military spokesman Jaafar al-Husseini told AFP.

“The judge ordered their release due to a lack of evidence. The arrests shouldn’t have happened,” the spokesman said.

He said they had appeared at a Hashd military tribunal, as Iraq’s various security forces each have their own court system.

Kata’ib Hezbollah is a military unit operating under the PMU – an Iraqi umbrella group which includes more than 40 militia groups fighting Takfiri terrorism.

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces detained the Kata’ib Hezbollah members late Thursday for allegedly planning a rocket attack on Baghdad’s Green Zone, where the US and other embassies as well as state buildings are located.

Despite Washington’s accusations, Kata’ib has never claimed responsibility for the attacks.

The Thursday raid on Kata’ib headquarters raised serious questions about Iraq’s direction under the new government, as Iraqi leaders describe it as an attempt dictated by the US occupiers.

“The late Thursday night’s operation against Hashd al-Sha’abi had been dictated by the United States. There are foreign interventions and bids to harm the PMU,” Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq which is part of the PMU, said in a statement released on Friday.

He advised Iraqi officials not to engage in a confrontation with Hashd al-Sha’abi as the anti-terror group represents people from all strata of the Iraqi society.

“No one can prevent the resistance fighters from battling US forces in order to drive them out of Iraq if they do not withdraw through peaceful means,” Khazali pointed out.

He stressed that no resistance faction has ever targeted Iraqi government institutions inside Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone.

A senior official with Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba also called upon Iraqi authorities not to play into the hands of US military forces, warning against further raids on PMU headquarters.

Nasr al-Shammari, the deputy secretary-general and official spokesman of the movement, touched on numerous sacrifices made by Kata’ib Hezbollah in the campaign against Daesh terrorists, saying members of the group must not be targeted.

Shammari cited efforts by certain parties in Iraq to stoke sedition in Iraq, saying the Thursday raid was “a desperate attempt” that would have “unpredictable consequences for its planners”.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament recognized Hashd al-Sha’abi as an official force with similar rights as those of the regular army, therefore legally establishing it as part of the National Armed Forces.

The PMU has long rejected Washington’s military presence in the country as an obstacle impeding long-lasting security and stability in Iraq.

In January, the Iraqi parliament unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Iran’s top military commander, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

Iraqi resistance groups have vowed to take up arms against US forces if Washington fails to comply with a parliamentary order calling for the expulsion of US troops following the assassination.

June 29, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment

US suspected of role after headquarters of Kata’ib Hezbollah raided in Baghdad

Press TV – June 26, 2020

The headquarters of an anti-terror group within the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known as Hashd al-Sha’abi, have come under attack in Baghdad, raising suspicions about the US role in Iraq.

More than a dozen members of Kata’ib Hezbollah were reportedly detained during the raid in southern Baghdad in the early hours of Friday. Initial reports said several commanders of the anti-US group, which is integrated into Iraq’s security forces, were among those arrested.

Their fate remains unclear, with some unnamed officials saying they are in the custody of Iraqi security services. Other informed sources said some the detainees had been released.

The newly-elected prime minister of Iraq has visited the command center of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in Baghdad, wearing their uniform and calling the counter-terrorism forces a source of honor for the Iraqi nation.

An Iraqi official initially told Reuters news agency that at least three of the group’s detained commanders had been transferred over to the US military.

A number of local media outlets also reported that American forces were involved in the raid.

One tweet by a PMU member claimed that Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi had apologized to the anti-terror group’s head Hadi al-Ameri over the incident.

The Arabic-language al-Sumaria television network, citing an unnamed security source, reported on Friday that all 13 PMU members who had been detained are now free.

Back on April 6, a member of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee warned against the ulterior motives behind the redeployment of US troops to various military sites across the Arab country, saying Washington was drawing up plans to target PMU commanders.

“The withdrawal of US forces from a number of military bases does not come in line with the parliamentary resolution calling on the government to push out foreign troops from the country. It is rather part of redeployment plans for American forces inside Iraq,” Karim al-Muhammadawi told Arabic-language al-Masalah news agency in an exclusive interview at the time.

He added, “The real intention behind the redeployment of US soldiers in Iraq remains unknown. But it is assumed to be related to the deployment of the forces to fortified bases, especially after the installation of Patriot missile systems there. The US is purportedly seeking to launch precision strikes against Hashd al-Sha’abi positions and intends to assassinate commanders associated with them.”

On March 27, the New York Times newspaper reported that the Pentagon had ordered a secret directive, which called on US military commanders to prepare a campaign against Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is part of Hashd al-Sha’abi.

But the United States’ top commander in Iraq had warned that such a campaign could be bloody and counterproductive.

Lieutenant General Robert P. White wrote in a blunt memo that a new military campaign would also require that thousands more American troops be sent to Iraq.

Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters have played a major role in the liberation of areas held by Daesh terrorists ever since the Takfiri group launched an offensive in the country, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

In November 2016, the Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the PMU, which was formed shortly after the emergence of Daesh in Iraq in 2014, into the military.

The popular group, however, is a thorn in the side of the United States which is widely believed to be managing an array of militant groups, including Daesh, to advance its Israel-centric agenda in the region.

In 2009, the US State Department blacklisted Kata’ib Hezbollah and imposed sanctions on the group which has been the frequent target of American airstrikes in Iraq.

Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill on January 5, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign troops following the US assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s PMU, and their companions.

Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejected any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military’s violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.

The US has refused to withdraw its troops, with President Donald Trump balking at the idea with the threat to seize Iraq’s oil money held in bank accounts in the United States.

June 26, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , | 1 Comment

US military presence in Iraq aimed at protecting Israel’s security, interests: PMU leader

Press TV – May 25, 2020

A high-ranking official with Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), better known by the Arabic name Hashd al-Sha’abi, has strongly denounced US military presence in his country, saying such a deployment is meant to safeguard the security and interests of the Israeli regime.

“There is a national and courageous will, which rejects the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil. There have been talks of US intentions to withdraw from Iraq, but we doubt them,” Qais al-Khazali, leader of Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, which is part of the PMU, was quoted as saying by the Lebanon-based and Arabic-language al-Ahed news website on Monday.

He added, “The US [military] presence in Iraq is meant to protect the security and interests of the Israeli regime. Neither are we warlords nor thirsty for blood, but rather patriots looking for the dignity and sovereignty of the Iraqi nation.”

“If the withdrawal [of US troops] does not take place, the foreign occupier must know that Iraqis will not accept the presence of its forces. The Americans, who will open negotiations [on the extension of their presence] in June, must remember the centenary of the Great Iraqi Revolution of 1920 against British forces,” Khazali pointed out.

He also praised the sacrifices made by Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of PMU, who were assassinated along with their companions in a US airstrike authorized by President Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport early on January 3.

Iraqi lawmakers unanimously approved a bill two days later, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the targeted killings.

Later on January 9, former Iraqi prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi called on the United States to dispatch a delegation to Baghdad tasked with formulating a mechanism for the move.

The 78-year-old politician said Iraq rejected any violation of its sovereignty, particularly the US military’s violation of Iraqi airspace in the assassination airstrike.

May 25, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Wars for Israel | , , , | 5 Comments

Syrian Air Defenses Repel Israeli Missiles that Targeted a Military Site in the North of the Country

By Khaled Iskef | American Herald Tribune | May 5, 2020

On Monday night, air defenses in the Syrian army responded to an Israeli offensive that targeted military warehouses in Al-Safirah area in Aleppo eastern countryside.

Private Syrian sources reported that the attack targeted the Scientific Research Center in Aleppo eastern countryside. Syrian air defenses repelled several hostile missiles, resulting in explosions in the sky.

In turn, Syrian Ministry of Defense stated that “At 22:32 on May 4, 2020, enemy warplanes appeared on the screens of our air defenses. The warplanes came from the northeast of Athria and targeted some military warehouses in Al-Safirah area with missiles”.

Sources said that the Israeli aircraft entered the Syrian territories through Iraqi airspace and pointed out that the offensive took place through Al-Tanf base near the Syrian-Iraqi borders.

Through the war years, Israeli warplanes intentionally attacked Syria within its policy based on an attempt to weaken the capabilities of the Syrian army for the benefit of the armed groups. The last Israeli attack was on March 27, 2020 on the south of Damascus, killing three civilians and injuring three others due to shrapnel of the missiles in Adliya and Al-Hujaira. However, Syrian air defenses repelled and downed most of the missiles.

May 6, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, War Crimes | , , , , | 1 Comment

Iraq mounts counter-terrorism operations amid warnings of US-Daesh plot to split region

Press TV – May 5, 2020

Iraqi army troops and allied fighters from Popular Mobilization Forces — known as Hashd al-Sha’abi — have conducted fresh operations against Daesh militants amid warnings of collaboration between the United States and remnants of the Takfiri terror outfit in the country.

On Monday, Iraq’s Security Media Cell announced the launch of a new military campaign, dubbed ‘Desert Lions,’ against Daesh sleeper cells in the country’s desert areas.

The operation covers “Wadi Houran, Husayniyyat, Al-Kara, H2, and Wadi al-Hallcom, all the way to international borders” in Iraq’s western Anbar Province with an aim to “enhance security and stability in these areas, to pursue terrorist elements and to arrest those wanted,” it said in a statement.

The new campaign followed a string of deadly attacks by Daesh terrorists targeting Iraqi forces, among them Saturday’s assault in Salahuddin Province that killed at least 10 Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters.

On Monday, the Iraqi Army’s intelligence detained a Daesh ringleader, called Abu Hajar, in Nineveh Province.

It came one day after the arrest of another Daesh element, Abu Abdulmalik, in Nineveh’s provincial capital of Mosul, which once served as the terror group’s main bastion in the Arab country.

Also on Monday, Rudaw media network reported that an explosive-laden vehicle had gone off in Madham area in western Anbar, killing the occupants — all terrorists.

Among those slain were Daesh military commander Abu Ghasurah, the report said.

Concerns rise about Daesh-US collaboration

Meanwhile, Mahmoud al-Rubaye, spokesman of Iraq’s Asaib Ahl al-Haq group, which is part of the Hashd al-Sha’abi, said that the US has long been supporting terrorists in Iraq and Syria and that Daesh is part of Washington’s scheme to disintegrate the region.

The US, he added, plans to settle Palestinians in western Anbar under President Donald Trump’s self-proclaimed “deal of the century.”

Rubaye also emphasized that the Americans should honor the Iraqi parliament’s resolution on the withdrawal of foreign forces from the country. The resolution was passed in January following the US assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and senior Hashd commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in addition to several other comrades.

The US is evacuating its bases in Iraq and amassing its troops at Ain al-Assad and Harir bases, situated in Anbar and Kurdistan’s regional capital of Erbil, respectively, in the face of the outrage of the Iraqi people and popular forces, he pointed out.

Asaib spokesman further warned of armed resistance if the US refuses to leave Iraq and settles in the country’s remote areas.

Additionally, Iraq’s Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba, which is also part of Hashd al-Sha’abi, said the US has been planning to transfer senior Daesh commanders from eastern Syria to neighboring Iraq.

“Washington is insisting on the implementation of a plot to return the terrorists to Iraq by transferring a large number of ISIS (Daesh) commanders and militants from the eastern Euphrates and other parts of Syria,” it said in an online statement.

The group also described the Americans as “occupiers,” noting, “We stress that the Islamic Resistance of Iraq is monitoring all your destructive plots to prevent the dangers which threaten the Iraqi provinces.”

Daesh began a terror campaign in Iraq in 2014, overrunning vast swathes in lightning attacks.

Hashd al-Sha’abi fighters played a major role in reinforcing the Iraqi army, which had suffered heavy setbacks against the Takfiri elements.

Iraq declared victory over Daesh in December 2017 after a three-year counter-terrorism military campaign, which also had the support of neighboring Iran.

May 5, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , | 2 Comments

US seeking to replace Iraq’s PMU in the western Anbar province bordering Syria: Analyst

Press TV – April 26, 2020

An Iraqi military advisor and analyst has said that the US is seeking to replace Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units in the western Anbar province bordering Syria with its own forces.

Speaking to Iraq’s al-Maloumah news agency on Sunday, Safa al-A’ssam said that Washington seeks to force the PMU out of the province’s al-Qaim border region by fanning sectarian tensions.

“The plan is to redeploy American forces to the al-Qaim region on the pretext of countering Deash terrorist attacks and filling the security vacuum following a PMU withdrawal,” he added.

The PMU formed shortly after the emergence of the Daesh terrorist group in Iraq in mid-2014.

The group played a major role pushing back and ultimately defeating the terrorist forces which had taken control of a large swathes of the country.

The Iraqi parliament voted to integrate the PMU into the Iraqi military in 2016, effectively placing the force under the command of the prime minister and granting the group a standing similar to that of other branches of Iraqi security forces.

Fazel Jaber, an Iraqi lawmaker affiliated with the Fatah Alliance, has also warned of attempts by certain Iraqi groups to undermine the PMU’s presence in the province despite being deployed under the command of Iraq’s federal government.

He said the attempts to weaken the PMU were led by Washington, which fears the group’s presence.

The PMU has long rejected Washington’s military presence in the country as an obstacle impeding long-lasting security and stability in Iraq.

In January, Washington assassinated the group’s deputy commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, alongside Iran’s top anti-terror Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in the capital city Baghdad.

Iraqi resistance groups have vowed to take up arms against US forces if Washington fails to comply with a parliamentary order calling for the expulsion of US troops following the assassination.

April 26, 2020 Posted by | Ethnic Cleansing, Racism, Zionism, Illegal Occupation, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

US main stumbling block to Iraq’s possession of advanced air defense systems: Lawmaker

Press TV – April 23, 2020

A member of the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee has blamed the United States for opposing Baghdad’s acquisition of sophisticated air defense missile systems to protect its airspace against any possible act of aggression.

“Since 2014, Americans have acted as the major stumbling block to Iraq’s procurement of an advanced air defense system. Repeated attempts to sign contracts with a number of countries, including Russia, have been unsuccessful because of Washington’s interference,” Kata’ al-Rikabi told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency in an exclusive interview on Wednesday night.

Rikabi added, “Americans installed Patriot [missile] systems in Ain al-Assad [air base] and other bases, where their forces are currently deployed in violation of [Iraq’s] national sovereignty and without the approval of the government. The presence of foreign forces [on Iraqi soil] is indeed an act of aggression, let alone the establishment of bases and deployment of systems and military hardware.”

Last week, the Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee submitted an in-depth study to the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, requesting the procurement of the Russian-built long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defense system.

“The committee has presented a comprehensive study to the prime minister, demanding approval for the purchase of the advanced S-400 air defense system. The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the premier’s agreement,” Badr al-Ziyadi, a member of the committee, told Arabic-language al-Sabaah newspaper on April 18.

He emphasized that the purchase of the S-400 missile system, with the aim of boosting the country’s defense capabilities, will be finalized once the next Iraqi government is formed and it ratifies procurement of the system.

The United States has already warned Iraq of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia, and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly S-400 missile systems.

Former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on February 22, 2018 that Washington has contacted many countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and possible consequences that would arise in the wake of defense agreements with Moscow.

On August 2, 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the CAATSA that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

April 23, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , | Leave a comment

Iraqi parliament demands Baghdad’s procurement of Russia’s S-400 missile system

Press TV – April 18, 2020

The Iraqi parliament’s security and defense committee has submitted an in-depth study to the country’s caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, requesting the procurement of the Russian-built long-range, surface-to-air S-400 missile defense system.

“The committee has presented a comprehensive study to the prime minister, demanding approval for the purchase of the advanced S-400 air defense system. The issue has already been discussed with relevant figures at the General Command of Armed Forces, and now awaits the premier’s agreement,” Badr al-Ziyadi, a member of the committee, told Arabic-language al-Sabaah newspaper.

He emphasized that the purchase of the S-400 missile system, with the aim of boosting the country’s defense capabilities, will be finalized once the next Iraqi government is formed and it ratifies procurement of the system.

“The approval to acquire such a sophisticated system requires large financial allocations and a political decision in order to diversify the sources to get the weapons as we cannot just rely on the Western camp, but rather need to incline towards the Eastern camp as well,” Ziyadi pointed out.

The Iraqi lawmaker went on to say that his parliamentary committee “will support the next Iraqi government’s decisions in this regard, and will present relevant proposals and pieces of advice to it.”

Back on March 18, Ziayadi said US and Israeli arms firms were putting pressure on the Baghdad government not to discuss the purchase of sophisticated military equipment with other states, and sign arms contracts with them.

“There are companies and traders pushing to prevent Iraq from concluding contracts to purchase weapons from developed countries,” he told Arabic-language al-Maalomah news agency in an exclusive interview at the time.

The same Iraqi parliamentarian said on January 20 that the Baghdad government was planning to send delegations to Russia, China and Ukraine to hold negotiations over the acquisition of advanced air defense missile systems to protect its territory from any possible act of aggression.

“The delegations intend to visit countries like Russia, China and Ukraine to negotiate the purchase of modern systems to protect Iraq’s airspace,” he told al-Sabaah daily then.

The lawmaker added, “The Iraqi parliament is right now forming a joint executive and legislative delegation to visit developed countries and sign contracts on procuring advanced weapons.”

The United States has already warned Iraq of the consequences of extending military cooperation with Russia, and striking deals to purchase advanced weaponry, particularly S-400 missile systems.

Former US State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said on February 22, 2018 that Washington has contacted many countries, including Iraq, to explain the significance of the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act (CAATSA), and possible consequences that would arise in the wake of defense agreements with Moscow.

On August 2, 2017, US President Donald Trump signed into law the CAATSA that imposed sanctions on Iran, North Korea, and Russia.

April 18, 2020 Posted by | Aletho News | , , , , | 1 Comment

Buying Punishment for “Terrorists”: Washington’s Reward Program Is Largely Ineffective

By Philip Giraldi | American Herald tribune | April 15, 2020

Many people worldwide are aware of the fact that the United States government offers cash rewards to informants who provide information on individuals and groups that it chooses to define as terrorists. The program is referred to as the Rewards for Justice Program (RFJ). It was established in 1984 as part of the Act to Combat International Terrorism and is run by the Department of State’s Diplomatic Security Service (DS). The rewards can be substantial, up to the $25 million that was offered for Osama bin Laden, and they sometimes include resettlement in another country with a new identity for informants whose security is threatened by their cooperation.

The program relies on information provided by local people, referred to on the RFJ website as “tips.” The website itself is accessible in a number of languages and, in its English version, features a headline that promotes its mission as: “Stop a Terrorist Save Lives. The most important reasons to stop a terrorist are all around you. Terrorism kills innocent people in every walk of life. By providing information that prevents a terrorist act, you save lives, protect families, and preserve peace. The United States is offering a reward for information leading to the arrest of persons engaged in terrorism. If you have information that can help, please submit a tip now. Submit a Tip.”

RFJ elaborates its role in very broad terms as “… offering rewards for information that prevents or favorably resolves acts of international terrorism against U.S. persons or property worldwide. Rewards also may be paid for information leading to the arrest or conviction of terrorists attempting, committing, conspiring to commit, or aiding and abetting in the commission of such acts. The Rewards for Justice Program has paid more than $145 million for information that prevented international terrorist attacks or helped bring to justice those involved in prior acts.

After a slow start in which the program was first called the Counter Terror Rewards Program and then HEROES, by 1997 the site was processing over one million contacts per year. Admittedly, many of the “tips” were little more than bids to obtain cash and resettlement from the American government, but the State Department’s periodic evaluations of the program have considered it to be a success.

Critics note, however, that the reward for bin Laden attracted thousands of calls but no substantive information was obtained. Nor has RFJ been very effective against Islamic radical groups, considered to be its primary target. The website identifies top terrorist targets, but apart from Ramzi Ahmed Yousef, the World Trade Center bomber of 1993 who was also involved in various plots involving airliners in the Philippines, no one important has been identified and arrested through information developed by way of the program. Ramzi was arrested in Pakistan in 1995 after an informant identified him. He is currently in prison in Colorado.

The RFJ program has also claimed several executions of claimed terrorists, to include the killing of two leaders of the Filipino radical group Abu Sayyaf. Many more terrorist leaders, like ISIS head Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, were killed without any input from RFJ. The relative lack of success against actual militants from groups recognized generally as terrorist, inevitably led to a broadening of the target pool. On December 22, 2011, RFJ offered a $10 million for information leading to Ezedin Abdel Aziz Khalil, the alleged organizer of an al-Qaeda fundraising operation in Iran that sent money to Pakistan and Afghanistan. It was the first listing of what was claimed to be a terrorist financier.

Two major current targets of RFJ are, in fact, financiers and fund-raising mechanisms related to Lebanese Hizballah and the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC). To include them on the list, the United States declared both organizations to be Foreign Terrorist Groups (FTOs) in 1997 and 2019 respectively. Regarding Hizballah, the RFJ website includes “Rewards for Justice is offering a reward of up to $10 million for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of Lebanese Hizballah. Terrorist groups such as Hizballah rely on financing and facilitation networks to sustain operations and launch attacks globally. Hizballah earns almost one billion dollars annually through direct financial support from Iran, international businesses and investments, donor networks, corruption, and money laundering activities. The group uses those funds to support its malign activities throughout the world, including: Deployment of its militia members to Syria in support of the Assad dictatorship; alleged operations to conduct surveillance and gather intelligence in the American homeland; and enhanced military capabilities to the point that Hizballah claims to possess precision-guided missiles. These terrorist operations are funded through Hizballah’s international network of financial supporters and activities — financial enablers and infrastructure that form the lifeblood of Hizballah.”

Regarding the IRGC, the RFJ site includes “The U.S. Department of State’s Reward for Justice Program is offering a reward of up to $15 million for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its branches, including the IRGC-Qods Force (IRGC-QF). The IRGC has financed numerous terrorist attacks and activities globally. The IRGC-QF leads Iran’s terrorist operations outside Iran via its proxies, such as Hizballah and Hamas… Since its founding 40 years ago, the IRGC has been involved in terrorist plots and supports terrorism worldwide. The IRGC is responsible for numerous attacks targeting Americans and U.S. facilities, including those that killed U.S. citizens. The IRGC has supported attacks against U.S. and allied troops and diplomatic missions in Iraq and Afghanistan.”

The first thing that strikes the casual reader of the descriptions of the cases made against both Hizballah and the IRGC is that much of the “evidence” is unsubstantiated, fabricated or exaggerated. To be sure, neither group is a friend of the United States or of Israel, but the descriptions of worldwide terror operations is largely made up, particularly the claims about attacks against Americans which have been credibly attributed to ISIS, not to Iranian sources or proxies. That Lebanese Hizballah has been gathering intelligence on the “American homeland,” presumably to stage an attack, is complete nonsense.

To cite only one example of how the RFJ is primarily a vehicle for attacking individuals and groups that the U.S. and Israel do not like, one might cite Muhammad Kawtharani. Informants would be rewarded for information on the “… activities, networks, and associates of Muhammad Kawtharani, a senior Hizballah military commander. This announcement is part of the Department’s standing reward offer for information leading to the disruption of the financial mechanisms of the terrorist organization Lebanese Hizballah. Muhammad Kawtharani is a senior leader of Hizballah’s forces in Iraq and has taken over some of the political coordination of Iran-aligned paramilitary groups formerly organized by Qassim Soleimani after Soleimani’s death in January. In this capacity, he facilitates the actions of groups operating outside the control of the Government of Iraq that have violently suppressed protests, attacked foreign diplomatic missions, and engaged in wide-spread organized criminal activity. As a member of Hizballah’s Political Council, Kawtharani has worked to promote Hizballah’s interests in Iraq, including Hizballah efforts to provide training, funding, political, and logistical support to Iraqi Shi’a insurgent groups.”

Well, RFJ gets Kawtharani’s name right and he is a Hizballah commander, but from that point on the story is pure spin and disinformation. The militia groups that Kawtharani presumably associates with and that have been attacked by U.S. forces are not “outside control of the government,” nor are they “insurgents.” They are, in fact, integrated into the Iraqi army. Nor have attacks on foreign diplomatic missions been demonstrated to be their responsibility as the rage against U.S. presence in Iraq is widespread across sectarian lines. Kawtharani is present in Iraq as a guest of the government in Baghdad, as was Qassim Soleimani before him, largely to assist in the fighting against ISIS. And if he is in Iraq to promote Hizballah interests in that country, why should it surprise anyone? In short, his being featured in RFJ is part of a plan to create a major incentive to kill him, little more. If he committed an actual terrorism crime or act, where is it?

Rewards for Justice is not about justice at all, unless one is promoting vigilante justice, as virtually no one who appears on its site is actually arrested and tried. It is a kill list providing the United States with one more tool to target and eliminate political opponents from countries with which Washington is not at war. As it has now been expanded to include the targeting of organizations and funding mechanisms of groups that are considered hostile, it is a mechanism for widening the hideous global war on terror that has done such terrible damage to American democracy while also killing hundreds of thousands and upending whole countries worldwide.

April 16, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Wars for Israel | , , , , | 1 Comment

Why the US wouldn’t Ease Iran Sanctions

By Salman Rafi Sheikh – New Eastern Outlook – 09.04.2020

The past two weeks have seen US officials moving first from issuing an alert to their military commanders to make plans for a retaliatory strike against Iranian targets to talking about ‘easing’ sanctions on Iran if Iran ‘wants it.’ It’s obvious that there is no reason why the Iranians wouldn’t want to see sanctions against them being eased up. Yet, Trump’s desire for a formal request about this issue shows the latent intention of ignoring it, while using the whole scenario to its advantage i.e., let the situation exacerbate to an extent whereby the Iranian regime becomes unstable and incapable of rescuing its people from the virus, and thus collapse ultimately.

This would surely serve US interests, along with those of Saudi Arabia and Israel, which have been pushing hard to do a “regime change” in Tehran. In their calculation, the unprecedented crisis caused by the COVID-19 seems to have given them yet another opportunity to attain their ultimate objective.

Indeed, this was the intention when the US asked its military commanders to make plans for a retaliatory strike on Iran in response to an imaginary Iranian attack on US military bases—an attack that had neither been planned nor was it foreseen by anybody. But the fact that the US was going to ‘directly attack the Iranian forces’ in the wake of Iran supported militias attacking US troops shows that the intention was, as Trump himself said, to go “up the food chain”, thus creating a scenario that would be extremely difficult for Tehran to address.

Accordingly, as a part of US ‘war preparations’, the US military officials disclosed, seemingly on purpose, to the western media that Patriot air defence systems have been deployed to two Iraqi military bases and that the same systems were going to be deployed across two more bases.

While manufacturing a military crisis is one thing, executing it is another. Accordingly, even if the US ‘had a plan’, it doesn’t mean it was going to work due to multiple factors, including lack of support from US allies in Europe, who were already in the middle of operationalising Instex to start economic and financial transactions with Iran, bypassing US sanctions and showcasing their ‘independent’ approach towards Iran in the wake of widening gap between the US and Europe/NATO.

But the US sanctions are still intact; for easing sanctions will allow, in the US calculation, the Iranian regime to better tackle the COVID-19 crisis and thus stabilise itself politically and economically. This would thus undermine the very purpose of the US sanctions i.e., forcing the Iranian regime to implode and collapse.

Indeed, a collapse followed by a massive crisis in the Middle East, particularly one that involves Iran, is something that the US would welcome rather than desist. It shows why the US imposed new sanctions on Iran instead of removing the old ones.

It has happened recently when Iran, out of the necessity to cope with monetary shortfall, requested 5 billion dollars from the International Monetary Fund (IMF). While this was always obvious that the request will not be granted without US acquiescence, the US actually responded by announcing new sanctions on Iran’s oil industry, one of its very few remaining foreign exchange earners. The intention was to make life even more difficult for the Iranians.

Also, it explains why Washington has so far taken no serious steps to actually ease the sanctions on its own, even though sufficient conditions for doing so undoubtedly exist, including Iran’s response whereby they called for a halt to “warmongering during the coronavirus outbreak” and further warned that US military activities could create “instability and disaster”. On April 2, Foreign Minister Javad Zarif, addressing the US president, tweeted, “Don’t be misled by usual warmongers, AGAIN. Iran starts no wars, but teaches lessons to those who do.”

Notwithstanding the ‘progressive’ US rhetoric about easing sanctions if Iran asks for it, the fact of the matter remains that the US strategic aim in this part of the world remains a “regime change” in Iran, although it is also becoming clear with every day passing that this objective can never be achieved.

Europe has already started Instex, although it is yet to produce productive economic results and engage in economic and financial activity beyond the support for COVID-19. The Chinese have yet again come out against US war aggression, and the Russians remain a bulwark against any US adventure in the Middle East, particularly against Iran.

None of this, of course, means that the US will end its sanctions. On the other hand, it will continue to add more to the pool as it did a few days ago; after all, ‘Iranian crisis’ is the linchpin of the US military presence in the region and the key source of wealth for its military-industrial complex.

Salman Rafi Sheikh is a research-analyst of International Relations and Pakistan’s foreign and domestic affairs.

April 9, 2020 Posted by | False Flag Terrorism, Wars for Israel | , , , , , | 1 Comment

France, Czechs, & Other US Allies Exit Iraq Over COVID-19 Fears

By Tyler Durden – Zero Hedge – 03/27/2020

The United States has shown itself willing to both keep up its ‘maximum pressure’ campaign on Iran and its proxies while riding roughshod over Iraqi sovereignty by remaining in the country even as Baghdad leaders and the broader population demand a final exit.

But in another sign Europe is ready to divorce itself from US aims in the region, France has abruptly withdrawn its forces from the country after being there for five years. Interestingly the prime reason given was troop safety concerns over the coronavirus outbreak, but we imagine European leaders likely now see an opportunity to make a swift and easy exit without provoking the ire of their US counterparts.

International correspondents say this includes French withdrawal from six bases, with a small contingent of about 100 troops remaining in the country. The Czech Ministry of Defense also announced the exit of its forces Wednesday, which followed a large contingent of British forces leaving last week, also on fears of coronavirus exposure during the mission.

“British, French, Australian and Czech troops who were coaching Iraqi counterparts were being temporarily sent home as Baghdad had put a hold on training operations to prevent the spread of COVID-19,” reports the AFP this week.

All had been there to support coalition anti-ISIL operations led by Washington. But as the US mission to defeat the Islamic State has lately become less relevant given the demise of the terror group, Washington’s focus became Iranian influence inside Iraq – far beyond the original mission scope.

The US itself had been reportedly drawing down from certain bases, but is not expected to ultimately depart given the current high state of tensions with Iran-backed militias in the country.

But Iran and Iraq’s ‘counter-pressure’ campaign is only set to continue, as on Thursday two rockets slammed into the Iraqi capital’s high-security Green Zone early in the morning, in an incident that’s become almost a monthly occurrence. There were no reports of injuries.

Middle East regional correspondent and analyst Elijah Magnier observes of the rapid draw down: “Coronavirus is offering an opportunity for the world to detach itself from US dominance and reshuffle alliances.”

Indeed this will likely be the outcome in geopolitical hot spots and even economies around the globe.

March 29, 2020 Posted by | Illegal Occupation | , , | 4 Comments

Pompeo and Netanyahu paved a path to war with Iran, and they’re pushing Trump again

By Gareth Porter | The Grayzone | March 20, 2020

Though it narrowly averted war with Iran this January, the Trump administration is still pushing for all-out military conflict. The architects of the drive to war, Mike Pompeo and Benjamin Netanyahu, have relied on a series of cynical provocations to force Trump’s hand.

The US may escape the most recent conflict with Iran without war, however, a dangerous escalation is just over the horizon.  And as before, the key factors driving the belligerence are not outraged Iraqi militia leaders or their allies in Iran, but Trump’s secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, who has long sought to draw the US into a military confrontation with Iran.

Throughout the fall of 2019, Netanyahu ordered a series of Israeli strikes against Iranian allies in Iraq and against Lebanese Hezbollah units. He and Pompeo hoped the attacks would provoke a reaction from their targets that could provide a tripwire to outright war with Iran. As could have been expected, corporate US media missed the story, perhaps because it failed to reinforce the universally accepted narrative of a hyper-aggressive Iran emboldened by Trump’s failure to “deter” it following Iran’s shoot-down of a U.S. drone in June, and an alleged Iranian attack on Saudi oil facility in September.

Pompeo and John Bolton set the stage for the tripwire strategy in May 2019 with a statement by national security adviser John Bolton citing “troubling and escalatory indications and warnings,” implying an Iranian threat without providing concrete details. That vague language echoed a previous vow by Bolton that “any attack” by Iran or “proxy” forces “on United States interests or on those of our allies will be met with unrelenting force.”

Then came a campaign of leaks to major news outlet suggesting that Iran was planning attacks on U.S. military personnel. The day after Bolton’s statement, the Wall Street Journal reported that unnamed U.S. officials cited “U.S. intelligence” showing that Iran “drew up plans to target U.S. forces in Iraq and possibly Syria, to orchestrate attacks in the Bab el-Mandeb strait near Yemen through proxies and in the Persian Gulf with its own armed drones…”

The immediate aim of this campaign was to gain Trump’s approval for contingency plans for a possible war with Iran that included the option of sending as many as 120,000 U.S. troops into region.  Trump balked at such war-planning, however, complaining privately that Bolton and Pompeo were pushing him into a war with Iran. Following Iran’s shoot-down of the U.S. drone over the Strait of Hormuz on June 20, Pompeo and Bolton suggested the option of killing Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani in retaliation. But Trump refused to sign off on the assassination of Iran’s top general unless Iran killed an American first, according to current and former officials.

From that point on, the provocation strategy was focused on trying to trigger an Iranian reaction that would involve a U.S. casualty.  That’s when Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu interjected himself and his military as a central player in the drama. From July 19 through August 20, the Israeli army carried out five strikes against Iraqi militias allied with Iran, blowing up four weapons depots and killing as many Shiite militiamen and Iranian offcers, according to press accounts.

The Israeli bombing escalated on August 25, when two strikes on the brigade headquarters of a pro-Iranian militia and on a militia convoy killed the brigade commander and six other militiamen, and a drone strike on Hezbollah’s headquarters in south Beirut blew the windows out of one of Hezbollah’s media offices.

Netanyahu and Pompeo sabotage Trump and Macron’s attempt at diplomacy

Behind those strikes was Netanyahu’s sense of alarm over Trump toying with the idea of seeking negotiations with Iran. Netanyahu had likely learned about Trump’s moves toward detente from Pompeo, who had long been his primary contact in the administration. On August 26, French President Emanuel Macron revealed that he was working to broker a Trump-Rouhani meeting. Netanyahu grumbled about the prospect of U.S.-Iranian talks “several times” with his security cabinet the day before launching the strikes.

Two retired senior Israeli generals, Gen. Amos Yadlin and Gen. Assaf Oron, criticized those strikes for increasing the likelihood of harsh retaliation by Iran or one of its regional partners. The generals complained that Netanyahu’s attacks were “designed to prod [Iran] into a hasty response” and thus end Trump’s flirtation with talking to Iran. That much was obviously true, but Pompeo and Netanyahu also knew that provoking an attack by Iran or one of its allies might cause one or more of the American casualties they sought. And once American blood was spilled, Trump would have no means to resist authorizing a major escalation.

Kataib Hezbollah and other pro-Iran Iraqi militias blamed the United States for the wave of lethal Israeli attacks on their fighters. These militias responded in September by launching a series of rocket attacks on Iraqi government bases where U.S. troops were present. They also struck targets in the vicinity of the U.S. Embassy.

The problem for Netanyahu and Pompeo, however, was that none of those strikes killed an American. What’s more, U.S. intelligence officials knew from NSA monitoring of communications between the IRGC and the militias that Iran had explicitly forbidden direct attacks on US personnel.

Netanyahu was growing impatient. For several days in late October and early November, he met with his national security cabinet to discuss a new Israeli attack to precipitate a possible war with Iran, according to reports by former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren. Oren hinted at how a war with Iran might start. ‘[P]erhaps Israel miscalculates,” he suggested, “hitting a particularly sensitive target,” which, in his view, could spark “a big war between Israel and Iran.”

But on December 27, before Netanyahu could put such a strategy into action, the situation changed dramatically. A barrage of rockets slammed into an Iraqi base near Kirkuk where U.S. military personnel were stationed, killing a U.S military contractor. Suddenly, Pompeo had the opening he needed. At a meeting the following day, Pompeo led Trump to believe that Iranian “proxies” had attacked the base, and pressed him to “reestablish deterrence” with Iran by carrying out a military response.

In fact, U.S. and Iraqi officials on the spot had reached no such conclusion, and the investigation led by the head of intelligence for the Iraqi federal police at the base was just beginning that same day. But Pompeo and his allies, Defense Secretary Mark Esper and Chairman of Joint Chiefs Gen. Mark A Milley, were not interested in waiting for its conclusion.

A deception brings the US and Iran to the brink of war

The results of a subsequent Iraqi investigation revealed that the rocket barrage had been launched from a Sunni area of Kirkuk with a strong Islamic State presence, and that IS fighters had carried out three attacks not far from the base on Iraqi forces stationed there in the previous ten days. US signals intercepts found no evidence that Iraqi militias had shifted from their policy of avoiding American casualties at all cost.

Kept in the dark by Pompeo about these crucial facts, Trump agreed to launch five airstrikes against Kataib Hezbollah and another pro-Iran militia at five locations in Iraq and Syria that killed 25 militiamen and wounded 51. He may have also agreed in principle to the killing of Soleimani when the opportunity presented itself.

Iran responded to the attacks on its Iraqi militia allies by approving a violent protest at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad January 31. The demonstrators did not penetrate the embassy building itself and were abruptly halted the same day. But Pompeo managed to persuade Trump to authorize the assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s second most powerful figure, presumably by hammering on the theme of “reestablishing deterrence” with Iran.

Soleimani was not only the second most powerful man in Iran and the main figure in its foreign policy; he was idolized by millions of the most strongly nationalist citizens of the country. Killing him in a drone strike was an open invitation to the military confrontation Netanyahu and Pompeo so desperately sought.

During the crucial week from December 28 through January 4, while Pompeo was pressing Trump to retaliate against Iran not just once but twice, it was clear that he was coordinating closely with Netanyahu.  During that single week, he spoke by phone with Netanyahu on three separate occasions.

What Pompeo and Netanyahu could not have anticipated was that Iran’s missile attack on the U.S. sector of Iraq’s sprawling al-Asad airbase in retaliation would be so precise that it scored direct hits on six U.S. targets without killing a single American. (The US service members were saved in part because the rockets were fired after the Iraqi government had passed on a warning from Iran to prepare for it). Because no American was killed in the strike, Trump again decided against further retaliation.

Towards another provocation

Although Pompeo and Netanyahu failed to ignite a military conflict with Iran, there is good reason to believe that they will try again before both are forced to leave their positions or power.

In an article for the Atlantic last November, former Israeli Ambassador Michael Oren, channeled Netanyahu when he declared it would be “better for conflict [with Iran] to occur during the current [Trump] administration, which can be counted on to provide Israel with the three sources of American assistance it traditionally receives in wartime,” than to “wait until later.”

Oren was not the only Israeli official to suggest that Israeli is likely to go even further in strikes against Iranian and Iranian allies targets in 2020. After listening to Israeli army Chief of Staff Aviv Kochavi speak in late December, Haaretz military correspondent Amos Harel reported that the Israeli army chief conveyed the clear impression that a “more serious confrontation with Iran in the coming year as an almost unquestionable necessity.” His interviews with Israeli military and political figures further indicated that Israel would “intensity its efforts to hit Iran in the northern area.”

Shockingly, Pompeo has exploited the Coronavirus pandemic to impose even harsher sanctions on Iran while intimidating foreign businesses to prevent urgently needed medical supplies from entering the country. The approaching presidential election gives both Pompeo and Netanyahu a powerful reason to plot another strike, or a series of strikes aimed at drawing the US into a potential Israeli confrontation with Iran.

Activists and members of Congress concerned about keeping the US out of war with Iran must be acutely aware of the danger and ready to respond decisively when the provocation occurs.

March 20, 2020 Posted by | Deception, Mainstream Media, Warmongering, Wars for Israel | , , , , , , , , | 2 Comments