Monday, January 6, 2020

Iran's State Sponsored Terrorism on the Rise!

Interesting Article: "Muqtada al-Sadr reactivates his Mahdi Army in Iraq" by Ken Hanly. Jan 6 2020. Digital Journal.

An interesting article mentioned that Moqtada al-Sadr, the influential Shia cleric and leader of a large bloc in the Iraqi parliament announced Friday that he will be reactivating his military group the Mahdi Army telling them to be ready.

Would you like to know more about Shia Terrorism?




In the wake of the U.S. airstrike that killed Iranian Qods Force commander Qassem Soleimani and important militia leader Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, radical Shiite cleric Muqtada al Sadr has reactivated two of his longstanding militia forces in Iraq.

In his statement released online, Sadr says that “As an official of the great Iraqi national resistance, I order the mujahideen, particularly the Mahdi Army and the Promised Day Brigade, and whoever commands of us of the resistance factions, to be ready to fully protect Iraq.” The core of the supposedly disbanded Mahdi Army became the Promised Day Brigades. It was tasked with targeting U.S. forces only; however, it is known to have carried out many of the functions of the Mahdi Army.
Sadr formed Saraya al Salam in 2014 to combat the Islamic State as Iraqi forces in northern, central, and western Iraq disintegrated in its wake. In 2017, Sadr’s propagandist released videos of the deployment of its so-called “Rapid Intervention Brigade” in Salahadin province. Saraya al Salam fighters were driving tanks and other military vehicles.

The killing of the general – Iran’s second in command and head of the elite Quds Force – marks a major escalation in the standoff between Washington and Iran, which has careened from one crisis to another since President Donald Trump withdrew from the 2015 nuclear deal and imposed crippling sanctions. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei warned that a ‘harsh retaliation is waiting’ for the US after the airstrike, calling Soleimani the ‘international face of resistance.’ Khamenei declared three days of public mourning for the general’s death. Iran also summoned the Swiss charges d’affaires, who represents US interests in Tehran, to protest the killing.

Iraqi parliament voted on a resolution to ask the Iraqi government to end the presence of the US-led Global Coalition against Islamic State (ISIS) forces.

Sadr slammed the vote as a “pitiful response” in comparison to America’s violations of Iraq’s sovereignty, “and its public announcement of enmity to religion and sect”. He called for a host of stronger measures, including the closure of the US embassy in Iraq, expulsion of US forces “in a humiliating manner”, and a boycott of US products. Iraq is currently playing battlefield to skyrocketing US-Iran tensions, with the US conducting airstrikes on Iranian and Iran-backed targets in Iraq in response to a spate of rocket attacks against bases hosting US forces in the country.
Sadr became the founding leader of southern Iraq’s Mahdi Army in 2003, during US occupation of the country. His militia killed and injured scores of American servicemen. He disbanded the militias in 2008 until now. Iran-backed proxies, including Hezbollah in Lebanon and older factions within Iraq’s PMF, have for nearly a decade presented themselves as the “Axis of Resistance” against American interventionism.

Many Iraqi factions, such as al-Nujaba paramilitary group – designated a terrorist organization by the US - have already fought alongside Afghan and Pakistani Shiite militias and Hezbollah in Syria, to prop up Bashar al-Assad’s regime. Abo Alaa al-Walae, head of the PMF’s Kataib Sayid al-Shuhada faction thanked Sadr for the proposal, using the hashtag “towards international resistance to defeat America.”

Other militia leaders such as Kataib Imam Ali’s Shibl al-Zaidy have also pledged allegiance to the proposal.

Hassan Nasrallah, head of Hezbollah, vowed to expel US troops from Iraq in a speech made on Sunday.

Sadr’s call to arms means the two major Shiite parties, who hold over 100 out of 329 parliamentary seats, are now threatening US forces with military action.

It is also important to take a minute to understand who was killed in the airstrike. Qassim Suleimani - The commander - helped direct wars in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen, and he became the face of Iran’s efforts to build a regional bloc of Shiite power.

He changed the shape of the Syrian civil war and tightened Iran’s grip on Iraq. He was behind hundreds of American deaths in Iraq and waves of militia attacks against Israel. And for two decades, his every move lit up the communications networks — and fed the obsessions — of intelligence operatives across the Middle East. In the past decade, Soleimani turned terrorism into an effective instrument of Iran’s imperial expansion by marshaling a transnational Shia expeditionary force that has prevailed in conflicts across the Middle East.

In its first decades in power, after the 1979 revolution, the Islamic Republic focused its furies on Israel. It nurtured Palestinian rejectionist groups and, most important, created the militant group Hezbollah in Lebanon. A grim record of suicide bombings, assassinations and kidnappings soon made Hezbollah a terrorist organization with an impressive global reach. Even before the rise of al-Qaeda, Hezbollah had assumed a prominent place in the world of fundamentalism; it not only introduced new tactics, such as suicide bombings, to Islamist resistance, but also ingeniously used religion to justify its indiscriminate violence. Still, however lethal Iran and its clients might have been, their violence was generally targeted, with Israel as the preferred prey.

Then came Qassem Soleimani—the shadowy commander of the elite Quds Force within the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps—and the convulsions that transformed the Middle East. Soleimani was the right man for the times. In the aftermath of the 9/11 tragedies, the Middle East state system essentially collapsed, creating its share of vacuums and opportunities. Iraq imploded in the midst of a sectarian conflict that Iran did much to inflame. Syria was destroyed by a civil war that Iran prolonged. And the Gulf states’ princely class seemed petulant yet vulnerable. The Islamic Republic wanted to take advantage of all this, but despite its grand pretensions, it was still a second-rate power with a mismanaged economy. If Iran was to embark on an expansionist venture, it had to be imperialism on the cheap. Soleimani did not pioneer the use of proxies, but he took that age-old practice to a new level.

Under the watchful eye of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, Soleimani began expanding Iran’s imperial frontiers. For the first time in its history, Iran became a true regional power, stretching its influence from the banks of the Mediterranean to the Persian Gulf. Soleimani understood that Persians would not be willing to die in distant battlefields for the sake of Arabs, so he focused on recruiting Arabs and Afghans as an auxiliary force. He often boasted that he could create a militia in little time and deploy it against Iran’s various enemies. In Iraq, that meant killing and maiming nearly 1,000 American service members. In Syria, that meant terrorizing civilians and enabling President Basher Assad’s killing machine. The use of proxies gave Iran a measure of immunity, as it could score strategic victories without being directly complicit.

Soleimani was adept at public relations, posting pictures of himself on battlefields with adoring followers. But while often thought of in the West as a potential political leader, he had no such sway among the Iranian people; the regime’s enforcers are not held in high esteem for having wasted Iran’s meager resources on Arab wars. Soleimani’s misjudgments were also noteworthy. He did not foresee the rise of the Islamic State in Iraq, a nation whose politics he claimed to have mastered. The massive protests by Iraqi Shias against Iranian influence in the past month were a further blow to his presumptions about that country. His attempt to build a land bridge across Iraq and Syria has been decimated by Israeli airstrikes. He wrongly assumed he could operate on the frontiers of Israel with impunity, a misapprehension that cost the lives of many of his foot soldiers.

Past is often prologue in Iran. When a truculent Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, Iran hastily released the American diplomats it had held hostage for 444 days. When George W. Bush’s shock and awe campaign quickly displaced the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Iran responded by suspending its nuclear program. The mullahs relish assaulting America but are circumspect when facing a tough-minded, unpredictable president. The Islamic Republic had already pledged to retreat further from its nuclear obligations by next week. A move in that direction seems more likely at this point, as opposed to blowing up American diplomatic and military outposts.
As the commemoration ceremonies begin in Iran, it is important to stress that the imperial edifice that Soleimani built was already stressed. The sanctions reimposed by the Trump administration after its abrogation of the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal have depleted Iran’s economy, calling into question its foreign policy imperatives. In November, Iran was rocked by massive demonstrations as the regime had to curtail its onerous fuel subsidies. An uneasy path lies ahead for the clerical oligarchs. The last thing they need is a costly confrontation with a president willing to do things they once considered unimaginable.

In addition, please note that until a month ago, Iran was secretly dealing with violent protests to their own regime due to inflation. 

After days of protests across Iran last month, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appeared impatient. Gathering his top security and government officials together, he issued an order: Do whatever it takes to stop them. That order, confirmed by three sources close to the supreme leader’s inner circle and a fourth official, set in motion the bloodiest crackdown on protesters since the Islamic Revolution in 1979. About 1,500 people were killed during less than two weeks of unrest that started on Nov. 15. The toll, provided to Reuters by three Iranian interior ministry officials, included at least 17 teenagers and about 400 women as well as some members of the security forces and police. The toll of 1,500 is significantly higher than figures from international human rights groups and the United States. A Dec. 16 report by Amnesty International said the death toll was at least 304. The U.S. State Department, in a statement to Reuters, said it estimates that many hundreds of Iranians were killed, and has seen reports that number could be over 1,000. The figures provided to Reuters, said two of the Iranian officials who provided them, are based on information gathered from security forces, morgues, hospitals and coroner’s offices.

What began as scattered protests over a surprise increase in gasoline prices quickly spread into one of the biggest challenges to Iran’s clerical rulers since the 1979 Islamic Revolution.

By Nov. 17, the second day, the unrest had reached the capital Tehran, with people calling for an end to the Islamic Republic and the downfall of its leaders. Protesters burned pictures of Khamenei and called for the return of Reza Pahlavi, the exiled son of the toppled Shah of Iran, according to videos posted on social media and eyewitnesses.

That evening at his official residence in a fortified compound in central Tehran, Khamenei met with senior officials, including security aides, President Hassan Rouhani and members of his cabinet.
At the meeting, described to Reuters by the three sources close to his inner circle, the 80-year-old leader, who has final say over all state matters in the country, raised his voice and expressed criticism of the handling of the unrest. He was also angered by the burning of his image and the destruction of a statue of the republic’s late founder, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

“The Islamic Republic is in danger. Do whatever it takes to end it. You have my order,” the supreme leader told the group, one of the sources said.

Khamenei said he would hold the assembled officials responsible for the consequences of the protests if they didn’t immediately stop them. Those who attended the meeting agreed the protesters aimed to bring down the regime. “The enemies wanted to topple the Islamic Republic and immediate reaction was needed,” one of the sources said. The fourth official, who was briefed on the Nov. 17 meeting, added that Khamenei made clear the demonstrations required a forceful response.  “Our Imam,” said the official, referring to Khamenei, “only answers to God. He cares about people and the Revolution. He was very firm and said those rioters should be crushed.”  Tehran’s clerical rulers have blamed “thugs” linked to the regime’s opponents in exile and the country’s main foreign foes, namely the United States, Israel and Saudi Arabia, for stirring up unrest. Khamenei has described the unrest as the work of a “very dangerous conspiracy.”

A Dec. 3 report on Iran’s state television confirmed that security forces had fatally shot citizens, saying “some rioters were killed in clashes.” Iran has given no official death toll and has rejected figures as “speculative.” For decades, Islamic Iran has tried to expand its influence across the Middle East, from Syria to Iraq and Lebanon, by investing Tehran’s political and economic capital and backing militias. But now it faces pressure at home and abroad.

In recent months, from the streets of Baghdad to Beirut, protesters have been voicing anger at Tehran, burning its flag and chanting anti-Iranian regime slogans. At home, the daily struggle to make ends meet has worsened since the United States reimposed sanctions after withdrawing last year from the nuclear deal that Iran negotiated with world powers in 2015.

The protests erupted after a Nov. 15 announcement on state media that gas prices would rise by as much as 200% and the revenue would be used to help needy families.

Within hours, hundreds of people poured into the streets in places including the northeastern city of Mashhad, the southeastern province of Kerman and the southwestern province of Khuzestan bordering Iraq, according to state media. That night, a resident of the city Ahvaz in Khuzestan described the scene by telephone to Reuters.

The protests reached more than 100 cities and towns and turned political. Young and working-class demonstrators demanded clerical leaders step down. In many cities, a similar chant rang out: “They live like kings, people get poorer,” according to videos on social media and witnesses.
By Nov. 18 in Tehran, riot police appeared to be randomly shooting at protesters in the street “with the smell of gunfire and smoke everywhere,” said a female Tehran resident reached by telephone. People were falling down and shouting, she added, while others sought refuge in houses and shops.
Khamenei, the three sources said, was especially concerned with anger in small working-class towns, whose lower-income voters have been a pillar of support for the Islamic Republic. Their votes will count in February parliamentary elections, a litmus test of the clerical rulers’ popularity since U.S. President Donald Trump exited Iran’s nuclear deal — a step that has led to an 80% collapse in Iran’s oil exports since last year. Squeezed by sanctions, Khamenei has few resources to tackle high inflation and unemployment. According to official figures, the unemployment rate is around 12.5% overall. But it is about double that for Iran’s millions of young people, who accuse the establishment of economic mismanagement and corruption. Khamenei and other officials have called on the judiciary to step up its fight against corruption. The U.S. State Department has said it has received videos of the Revolutionary Guards opening fire without warning on protesters in Mahshahr. And that when protesters fled to nearby marshlands, the Guards pursued them and surrounded them with machine guns mounted on trucks, spraying the protesters with bullets and killing at least 100 Iranians.

Please note that with the killing of this general Khamenei has figured out a way to unite the country against a common "enemy", by and large the protesters have dispersed, replaced by those that are pledging allegiance to him and his government. To believe they are mourning at a state level is simply not true.

Iran is trying to save itself and using the death of a known terrorist to quash the unrest and unite the nation. 

Iran will continue to state sponsor terrorist organizations like Hezbollah and the Quds Force. It is our job to ensure that these organizations and their leaders do not thrive but are simply wiped off the face of the earth.

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References:
https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/01/muqtada-al-sadr-reactivates-mahdi-army-promised-day-brigade.php
https://metro.co.uk/2020/01/03/shia-cleric-reactivates-powerful-anti-us-army-airstrike-kills-iran-general-11993996/
https://www.nst.com.my/world/world/2020/01/553155/iraqs-sadr-reactivates-anti-us-mahdi-army-after-strike
https://www.rudaw.net/english/middleeast/iraq/060120201
https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/03/obituaries/qassem-soleimani-dead.html
https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iran-protests-specialreport/special-report-irans-leader-ordered-crackdown-on-unrest-do-whatever-it-takes-to-end-it-idUSKBN1YR0QR
https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-50980093

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