Baghdad, Basra by Elijah J. Magnier: @ejmalrai
The US-Iran tug of war is falling heavily on Iraq, a country which is fragile and which has not been allowed to breathe since the occupation of Iraq in 2003, right up until today. First came US total control of Mesopotamia, and then al-Qaeda in Iraq metamorphosed into the lethal ISIS which was supported by neighbouring countries. The US at best turned a blind eye towards the growth of ISIS, a cancer which cost the country hundreds of billions of dollars in the war which had to be waged against its terrorism. When ISIS had a third of Iraq under its control in 2014, domestic unrest started to take off in the south, offering an opportunity for demagogues, so-called “hyena politicians”, to show their influence over the population when a country is without a government.
The real battle is taking place between the US presidential envoy Brett McGurk and the Iranian IRGC General Qassem Soleimani. Both are in Baghdad striving to influence the composition of the new Iraqi government. This is giving birth to a new “Iraqi resistance”, but this time the resistance is directed not only against US forces in Iraq but also against those Iraqis taking shelter under Trump’s wings. Foremost among these is the Iraqi Prime Minister ad interim Haidar Abadi described by some as the “future Mohammad Morsi of Iraq”- an indication of the fate he might expect in the near future.
The first warning, or wake-up call, against US involvement in Iraqi politics was launched when rockets hit the Green Zone not far from the US embassy in the Iraqi capital. The rockets, fired by experienced hands, fell on abandoned ground, aiming to cause no casualties but to send a direct message to the Americans: “hands-off Iraq!”, as a decision maker in the Iraqi resistance put it.
Meanwhile, the situation in Basra is giving an opportunity for Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr to show his total control of the unrest in the streets of southern Iraqi, a capacity he inherited from his late father and has used on several occasions in the past.
There is no doubt that Iraq currently has no other political leader who can control the street as Moqtada does. However, his impulsive reactions to demonstrate this control show no strategic purpose; they only spread fear among politicians, allies and opponents alike.
In the 2000s, when al-Sadr’s office was set on fire, Moqtada ordered – according to a cleric from his inner circle –all offices of BADR in the south of Iraq to be burned (BADR was led by Hadi al-Ameri). Although he does not avow responsibility for such attacks, Moqtada never misses an opportunity to show the power of his street mobs. Despite the fact that his role behind these attacks is no secret, he relies on the restraint of other Shia groups who are unwilling to stand up to him since they fear a Shia-Shia struggle in Iraq.
The burning of the municipality building in Basra a few days ago was the reaction of an angry mob asking for basic needs of life (drinkable water, electricity, job opportunities, infrastructure) that have been lacking for more than three decades. Twice in the past, the offices of AsaebAhl al-Haq, Kataeb Hezbollah, BADR, Sayyed al-Shuhada’, Fadila and the other groups who fought against and defeated ISIS have been burned. All of this arson is believed to have been perpetrated on the orders of Moqtada.
The “Sayyed wa’Ibn al-Sayyed” (Moqtada, son of Mohammad al-Sadr), as he is called, wrongly believes he can defeat all groups opposed to him at once, simply because they have no will to engage in an inter-Shia war (like that in Lebanon in the 80s between Hezbollah and the Amal movement). They are expected to accept material and moral damage, thus allowing Moqtada to fan his peacock tail.
In his last communiqué, Moqtada “warned all parties to refrain from any interference and to allow the security forces to deal with the Basra unrest”, adding “I will show the unexpected”. Basically what Moqtada is saying: “What I am going to do, no-one is expecting! You will all be surprised!”.
Moqtada, naturally, didn’t include himself as one of these non-official parties. He believes that he is entitled to spearhead the people’s demands while he – and his lieutenants – enjoy a lavish life in Najaf.
He has made a confused alliance with the US candidate, Haidar Abadi. It was Moqtada after all who fought against US forces in Iraq for years, and believed they were out to assassinate him (he escaped to Iran for this reason), and called for the withdrawal of all foreign forces from Iraq.
Abadi, according to a leader within the Iraqi resistance, is likely to “end up in jail, like Egyptian president Mohammad Morsi, for collaborating with the enemies of Iraq”.
“It cannot be excluded that the resistance decides to take the situation in Iraq in hand against a prime minister ad interim who insists on remaining in power with US support and leverage. Even members of parliament who support the US may lose their immunity if they are considered to be acting against their country and in favour of the occupier. No US bases will be allowed in Iraq and no prime minister will be given the right to allow any foreign force to dictate their policies to Iraq”, said the well-known leader– who asks for anonymity.
In reference to the claim that Iran has delivered ballistic missiles to Hashd al-Shaabi, the source said: “It is the US’s style to make allegations in order to “future justify” aggression against Hashd and the groups who fought ISIS. Israel, with US support, has already bombed Hashd HQ on the borders once. The Iraqi resistance will respond to any future aggression by attacking US bases in Iraq. We don’t need ballistic missiles to chase the occupier from Iraq”.
All the same, an unstable political situation in Iraq or a civil war would fall to the advantage of the US and not Iran. Many Iraqi leaders are well aware of this. It is unclear how the anti-US camp can succeed in thwarting the US attempt to bring their man into the prime ministership, and at the same time manage that essential damage limitation.
Proofread by: Maurice Brasher and C.B.
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