Powerful Iraqi party leader Hadi al-Amiri embraces visit by Iranian president, opposes US bases in Iraq
Protesters gather near the main provincial government building in Basra, Iraq July 15, 2018.. (photo credit: ESSAM AL-SUDANI/ REUTERS)
Two Shi’ite militia leaders spoke out over the weekend, with one threatening the US, and the other demanding American troops leave Iraq.
Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba spokesman Hashim al-Mousawi slammed the US and Israel after the US last week designated the group as a terrorist threat.
Iraqi Transportation Minister Hadi al-Amiri said he was looking forward to a visit by Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, and that he opposes the continued US presence in Iraq.
On March 5, the US Treasury Department’s Office of Foreign Assets Control placed Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba on its Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons List, under what the office calls its Counter Terrorism Designation.
The US pointed to the organization itself and its leader as a threat, saying it has “committed, or poses a significant risk of committing acts of terrorism.”
The group, which is closely linked to Iran, in 2017 said US troops were a legitimate target. In February 2018, the group vowed to support Hezbollah in Lebanon in a war against Israel.
Last year, Iraqi MP Karim Alawi said the US was spying on Shi’ite militias in Iraq. Iran’s PressTV sought to argue that the move was dangerous and that Harakat Hezbollah had played a key role in the war on ISIS.
Mousawi told Fars News that the region faces a variety of US-driven plots, including a push for normalization with the “Zionist regime” and economic pressure on Iran. He argued that the Iranian backed “axis of resistance,” of which Harakat Hezbollah is a part, has defeated these plots, including attempts by the US to loot Syrian resources.
“Hezbollah [in Lebanon] today represents a large part of the Lebanese people and an integral part of Lebanon,” he boasted. He said the commanders of Harakat Hezbollah were prepared for a confrontation with the US. “We will not retreat in the face of any country that violates Iraqi sovereignty.”
Mousawi also said the group would use parliamentary means first, but that it viewed the conflict as a regional struggle. He made a point of condemning the US role in the Gulf and said the group had its own “Golan unit” to fight against Israel.
The presence of Shi’ite militias in Iraq, some of which fought the US after the 2003 toppling of Saddam Hussein, and most of which are closely linked to Iran, raises questions about the continued presence of US troops in Iraq. US forces returned to Iraq to help fight ISIS in 2014.
Initially that footprint was small, but it had grown with the war on ISIS, and to provide logistic support for US forces in Syria. When US President Donald Trump in December 2017 said the US would withdraw from Syria, he also told US forces at Al Asad Air Base in Iraq that the US would pull troops back to Iraq and “watch” Iran. This comes in the context of a US push against Iran’s role in the region and new sanctions rolled out last year.
Iraqi officials have rejected the US using Iraq to “watch” Iran. Iraqi President Barham Salih has said at least three times in the last two months that Iraq must not become a center of the Iran-US power struggle.
He and other Iraqi officials reiterated this statement at the Sulaimani Forum last week. Iraqi officials have said it is up to parliament to decide if US forces will stay. Hadi al-Amiri, the head of the Fatah Alliance, the second largest party in parliament, has indicated that he opposes the US presence in Iraq. Amiri, a former fighter alongside the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the 1980s during the Iran-Iraq war, is head of the Badr Organization, one of the largest of the Shi’ite militias which became part of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) in 2014.
The PMU helped defeat ISIS and became an official Iraq paramilitary group in 2016. In 2017, then-US secretary of state Rex Tillerson caused controversy in Iraq when he said the Shi’ite-dominated PMU should “go home” now that the war on ISIS was over.
Haider al-Abadi, then prime minister of Iraq, told Tillerson that the PMU were the hope for the future of Iraq and the region. Their regional role has been on display as many of these Shi’ite units are not only closely allied to Iran, but also to Hezbollah. Qais Khazali, of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq, visited the Lebanese border near Israel, and indicated he would support Hezbollah in a war with Israel. This is part of Iran’s plan to create a “road to the sea,” or a network of allied groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon that are either part of the state, or work as a parallel states supporting Iran and local armed groups.
The US sees this as a threat but doesn’t know how to confront it. US officials, such as National Security Adviser John Bolton, have called for the US to stay in Syria to counterbalance these Iranian-allied groups. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo will travel to Lebanon this month, according to reports. This will raise tensions with Hezbollah.
The issue of US bases in Iraq is also coming to a head this year. Amiri was quoted in Tasnim News over the weekend as saying he disagreed with any US presence. He also said he welcomed the visit of Iran’s president to Iraq.
The overall picture in Iraq is one in which the US faces an uphill struggle to maintain its presence as ISIS is defeated. The pro-Iranian parties sense that they are in control. Although the Kurdistan autonomous region has tended to support the US staying in Iraq to help fight ISIS remnants, the tensions with pro-Iranian Shi’ite parties and armed groups is growing.
Some Shi’ite militias have attempted to interrupt US patrols in Anbar Province and Mosul in recent months. US Inspector-General reports at the Defense Department also frequently mention these pro-Iranian groups as a threat in Iraq. That the leaders of the groups say they will use parliament for now to oppose the US presence means they seek a political solution at the moment, and are wary of an armed confrontation.
A 2008 protest by ver.di Jugend in Karlsruhe, Germany. Photo: Wikipedia commons.
A German youth organization affiliated with the country’s second largest trade union has disavowed the Palestinian-led boycott, divestment, and sanctions (BDS) campaign against Israel, as well as an anti-Zionist group that endorses a “one state” solution.
In a Facebook post on Saturday, ver.di Jugend announced that it passed a motion at its annual conference to reject BDS and FOR-Palestine, a group that advocates for a Palestinian-majority state in lieu of Israel and strongly opposes Zionism — the movement that supports the Jewish people’s right to national self-determination.
And the many peoples shall go and say: “Come, Let us go up to the Mount of Hashem, To the House of the God of Yaakov; That He may instruct us in His ways, And that we may walk in His paths.” For instruction shall come forth from Tzion, The word of Hashem from Yerushalayim. Isaiah 2:3 (The Israel Bible™)
One year following the opening of the U.S. embassy in Jerusalem, leaders from the White House Faith Initiative, along with Evangelical and Latin American leaders, gathered in Israel’s Knesset to promote dialogue and foster relations between Christians and Jews, as well as the United States, Latin America and Israel.
“I will bless those who bless you And curse him that curses you; And all the families of the earth Shall bless themselves by you.” Genesis 12:3 (The Israel Bible™)
An ICEJ delegation visited Israeli communities along the Gaza border and viewed a new specially designed ATV security vehicle donated through the ICEJ to a local moshav. Credit: ICEJ.
After Israel absorbed as many as 700 rockets fired from the Gaza Strip over the weekend, the International Christian Embassy Jerusalem (ICEJ) sent a delegation to the western Negev region on Monday to assess the updated security needs of local Israeli communities and how best to help them prepare for any future escalations.
A replica of the golden menorah in front of Titus’ Arch in Rome. (Courtesy)
“He said to me, “What do you see?” And I answered, “I see a menorah all of gold, with a bowl above it. The lamps on it are seven in number, and the lamps above it have seven pipes;” Zechariah 4:2 (The Israel Bible™)
A small group of Christians’ remarkable act of faith has ambitious aspirations: to fix the theft of the golden menorah from the Temple by Titus in 70 CE. In addition, they are seeking to return some of the Divine love that has sustained Germany despite the horrific crimes perpetrated on the Jews in the Holocaust.
U.S. Jews are more likely than Christians to say that U.S. President Donald Trump favors Israelis more than the Palestinians, according to a Pew Research poll released on Monday.
Some 42 percent of American Jews say Trump is favoring Israelis more than the Palestinians, while 47 percent of them say he has been striking the right balance between the two.
Apr 30, 2019 0Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) was accused of launching a long-range rocket from northern Gaza at Israel on Monday evening, in an attempt at provoking a heavy response from the Israel Defense...
Only three-quarters of a century after Der Stürmer incentivized the mass murder of Jews by dehumanizing them, we see a revival of such bigoted caricatures.
I do not believe in free speech for me, but not for thee. But I do believe in condemning those who hide behind the First Amendment to express anti-Semitic, anti-Muslim, homophobic, sexist or racist views.
One of the most influential newspapers in the world, the Jewish-owned New York Times decided to present the Jews with a gift in honor of the last day of Passover – a major Jewish holiday – an antisemitic caricature. The controversial cartoon shows US President Donald Trump as a blind man with a skullcap on his head, being led by a dog that looks like Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu. And to make sure the reader knows it is indeed the Israeli premier, the dog has a Star of David dangling from its collar.
Last week, Jared Kushner, one of the administration’s point men on the Middle East, dispensed with the term “two-state solution” in its impending peace plan for Israel and the Palestinians. “The two-state solution has failed,” he said.
The “two-state solution” does not appear in the 1993 Oslo Accords, which called only for “interim self-government” for the Palestinians. The goal was a negotiated final status agreement, in which independence was not specified.
Religious fervor always picks up before the Jewish holidays. Not surprisingly, Israeli undercover police arrested Jewish activists from the Hozrim L’Har (Returning to the Mount) organization early Friday afternoon, just before the onset of the Passover holiday, after an apparent attempt to bring a young goat on to the Temple Mount for a self-proclaimed sacrificial rite. Indeed, this drama plays itself out every year, but according to Jerusalem police, this year a record of at least twelve members of the organization were arrested throughout the course of the day on counts of disturbing the peace.
Every year when Passover eve arrives, I do my best not to think about that night; to allow the joy of cherished rituals meant to renew our family’s tribal history and faith envelop us in its warm glow as whoever among the kids and grandkids it’s our turn to host partake of the matzoh, bitter herbs, and wine. Often – actually most often – I succeed.