It’s time for the Antichrist’s men to lay down weapons

It’s time for Iraq’s militias to lay down weapons

Militias need war to legitimise them. That is how the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq and elsewhere in the region justify their existence. Iraq has seen plenty of war for 40 years, but the latest threat, from ISIS, has been seen off with American help, and the US will soon withdraw its troops. If there ever was a need for the militias – which is doubtful – it is no longer there. But despite all entreaties, the Iraqi militias refuse to go.

In the words of Abdul-Aziz Al Muhammadawi, also known as Abu-Fadak or Al Khal (meaning “uncle”), the armed militia he leads, the Popular Mobilisation Unit (PMU), is “more legitimate than all other armies” and will remain in existence “until God wills otherwise”.

Until then, “Uncle” will refuse the options offered by Baghdad of either disarming all militias and transforming them into political parties, or of being absorbed into Iraq’s regular military and security forces. Abu-Fadak, of course, ultimately takes his orders from another capital, and Tehran says the militias must retain their arms in order to “liberate” Iraq from “American military occupation”.

As an argument, this is extremely tenuous. The number of US troops in Iraq now is down to only 2,500. They are mostly engaged in training high-level Iraqi military personnel and no one in Washington regards their presence in Iraq as open-ended. The days of highly visible US patrols are long gone. To describe such a low-key presence as an “occupation” strains credulity.

The majority of Iraqis are heartily sick of the pro-Iran troublemakers. Conscious of public opinion and with an eye on the forthcoming elections, the prime minister, Mustafa Al Kadhimi, has called for the militias to disband. Even Grand Ayatollah Ali Al Sistani, who is regarded as the spiritual leader of Iraqi Shias, has publicly stated that it is time for them to go.

So have some of the most influential Iraqi Shias, such as Muqtada Al Sadr (cleric, politician and head of his own militia), Ammar Al Hakim (cleric and former head of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq) and even former prime minister Nouri Al Maliki, who began his career as a Shia dissident during the time of Saddam Hussein.

The elections due to be held in June are another factor concentrating Shia minds. No Shia seeking political office stands a chance against a rival who has the backing of an armed group.

Yet the PMU’s Abu-Fadak continues to insist that Iraq’s pro-Iran militias answer only to divine command and exhorts the political class and the people of Iraq to learn to live with them, just as in Tehran the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its leader, Ali Khamenei, hold the true reins of power, while the president, Hassan Rouhani, is a mere figurehead with a weak army.

Militias are all too often no more than bands of thugs. In the absence of war, they are apt to turn their sights on civilians and to organised crime, leading to civil war. Certainly, that has been the experience of other countries in the region. Consider the years of carnage wreaked by the Iran-backed Houthis of Yemen.

It is also true that when regular armies are pitted against militias, it is the regulars who come off worse. The only options in such situations seem to be either wholesale destruction of territory – as in Iraq – or precision airstrikes that only curtail the power of the militias but do not quash it completely, as in Yemen.

But this does not mean all hope is lost for Iraq. Many of the militiamen currently loyal to Iran are mostly young and malleable. If the Iraqi leadership acts wisely and harnesses the support of Al Sistani, Baghdad can outmanoeuvre, out-fund and out-gun the militias.

The task facing Iraq’s political class now is to act together against the tools of Tehran’s incessant meddling in the affairs of others. If they fail to do this and instead continue bickering and jockeying among themselves for power, they will surrender true power to the puppet-masters across the border in Iran.

— Syndication Bureau

Hussain Abdul-Hussain is the Washington bureau chief of Kuwaiti daily Al Rai and a former visiting fellow at Chatham House in London.

Word or Deeds: Antichrist Pledges to Restore Iraqi Christians

Word or Deeds: Shiite Firebrand Pledges to Restore Iraqi Christian Property Christians welcome the “solidarity” of controversial anti-American politician and militia leader in advance of expected visit by Pope Francis. Jayson CasperJanuary 21, 2021 12:48 PM Image: Fadel Senna / AFP / Getty Images An Iraqi Christian prays in a church in Qaraqosh, a city in the Nineveh Plains near Mosul, in May 2017. If Pope Francis can avoid the complications of COVID-19 travel and get to Iraq in March, he will hear a lot about stolen property. Muqtada al-Sadr, a leading Shiite politician fiercely opposed to the US military presence, has told Christians he will do something about it. The issue is not new. As Iraq’s pre-Gulf War Christian population of 1.25 million dwindled to about 250,000 today, opportunistic non-Christians laid claim to their unoccupied homes and lands. The city of Mosul, next to the traditionally Christian Nineveh Plains—where Pope Francis is scheduled to visit— located 220 miles north of Baghdad, provides telling examples of the problem. In 2010, in the waning days of official US occupation, Ashur Eskrya’s father decided to sell his family home. Years of chaos had depleted the once 60,000-strong Christian population of Iraq’s second-largest city, representing 10 percent of its total. Property values were plummeting. Especially in hindsight, Eskrya felt fortunate to get 25 percent of its market value. Four years later, his neighbor got nothing. ISIS invaded Mosul, putting its Christian population to flight. In 2015, the International Organization for Migration (IOM) surveyed 240 individuals displaced by the fighting throughout Iraq. Nearly 9 in 10 (89%) had their homes confiscated. A 2014 study estimated that ISIS made more money from selling stolen real estate than it did from oil revenue. After the liberation of Mosul, some Christians returned, including Eskrya’s neighbor. While 42 percent had lost their property documentation altogether, according to IOM, the neighbor was able to enter a lengthy legal process and eventually regain ownership of his home. But uncomfortable with the security situation, he returned to Erbil, 55 miles east of Mosul in Iraqi Kurdistan, where thousands of displaced Christians still reside. He lives there today with his children, which is more than a third family can say. This neighbor benefited from Mosul’s earlier oil boom, and lived in a home valued at $1.2 million in one of the plush city districts. But in 2006, his daughter was kidnapped and killed. In 2012, another daughter tried to emigrate through Syria, and was killed there. The parents eventually moved to Australia—with the deed to their home. But last year, they were stunned to receive news from neighbors about new renovations. A company was redesigning the home, and presented a deed of ownership. The case is now being adjudicated in court. “There are many cases like these,” said Eskrya, president of Assyrian Aid Society–Iraq. “False papers are sold by those connected to influential figures in the justice ministry, who oversee the real estate market.” Even prior to ISIS, the IOM study noted at least 600 confirmed cases of property seizure in Mosul, mostly from Christian owners residing in the diaspora. Justice Ministry issues began as early as 2006. The official Iraq Property Claim Commission has only been able to enforce 8 percent of its final rulings. Both the church and the government have tried to rectify things, Eskrya said. As a safeguard for Christian property, in 2010 a regulation was established requiring sales to be signed by either a church representative or Christian member of parliament. And in 2017, after the defeat of ISIS, the government created a commission with official church representation that was able to resolve some cases. “The government is very busy with the elections, the problem of security and militias, as well as the pandemic and the economy,” Raphael Sako, patriarch of the Chaldean Catholic Church based in Baghdad, told CT. “For them, this is something marginal, and we understand that.” Recognized as the second-most influential religious figure in Iraq through a study conducted by the US Institute of Peace, Sako consistently meets with national leaders to urge the application of citizenship and rule of law. Last year, he canceled Christmas to object to the killing of nonsectarian protesters demonstrating against corruption. But this past Christmas, the government honored his longstanding petition, making the holiday a permanent national celebration. Sadr, the Shiite cleric, sent a representative to offer congratulations, who presented Sako with a new initiative. Head of the largest political alliance with 16 percent of the parliament’s seats, Sadr also commands the allegiance of many Shiite militia groups. Following the US killing of Iranian general Qassem Suleimani, he led hundreds of thousands of demonstrators to peacefully call for Iraq to expel the American military. Sadr’s envoy provided Sako with details of how Christians can submit their ownership documents electronically, pledging to achieve justice for their claims. He emphasized this includes properties involving his aligned militias. “This is the job of the government, not Sadr or a political party,” Sako said, while welcoming the initiative. “But it is a good sign of solidarity.” Eskrya agreed. “Sadr alone is not enough, it has to be adopted by parliament and all the parties,” he said. “But we are happy with anyone who tries to help, and I hope that in the end it will show Christians that they still have a place in Iraq.” Prior to Christmas, Bashar Warda lamented the frustrating lack of progress. “There is no redress for those who have lost properties, homes, and businesses,” stated the Chaldean Catholic archbishop of Erbil. “[Many] Christians have nothing to show for their lives’ work, in places where their families have lived, maybe, for thousands of years.” Given Sadr’s connection to the militias, his initiative has been met with some skepticism. And the US State Department’s International Religious Freedom Report noted another member of parliament who actively facilitated the relocation of Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites into Christian areas, through aligned militias But as early as 2016, Sadr was speaking out on behalf of Christian properties. It may be that he can make a difference. “This committee shows he is serious, and gives a message to the other militias,” Eskrya said. “And while it has raised awareness of the issue, it is still a sort of gang system, and people suffer if they don’t have good connections.” As a politician, Sadr has been wily. Often alternating his alliances and political stances, he first supported the nonsectarian protests against corruption, then sent his supporters to attack them. While this action contributed to the eventual petering out of the movement, the demonstrations still forced the resignation of the prime minister and early parliamentary elections. Both Eskrya and Sako suspected the initiative may be part of Sadr’s effort to position himself as a neutral figure, eyeing next year’s vote. Sako told CT his lawyer is currently working with the government on about 1,250 cases of confiscated property. Only 50 have been solved so far, though other private initiatives have reported some success. Several of these files were shared with Sadr. “They will try,” said Sako. “But we are expecting deeds, and not only words.” Meanwhile, the patriarch awaits the visit of Pope Francis. The pontiff has now put his trip to Iraq in doubt, wary of COVID-19 transmission among the expected large crowds. But last week, the Vatican issued an official logo and motto for the visit: “You are All Brothers,” taken from Matthew 23. “Pope Francis will encourage Christians to persevere, to hope, and to trust their neighbors,” said Sako. “But he will also speak with political and religious authorities about harmonious coexistence. “They must take care of these Christian issues—as they should for all citizens.”

No further delays to elections ‘as long as I live’: the Antichrist

No further delays to elections ‘as long as I live’: Sadr

ERBIL, Kurdistan Region — Muqtada al-Sadr, an influential Shiite cleric and leader of the Iraqi parliament’s largest bloc, has said that he will not allow Iraq’s parliamentary elections to be further postponed as long as he lives.

“I will not allow another postponement of the elections as long as I live,” Sadr said a Tuesday tweet. “During this period, it is everyone’s duty to work in a patriotic way toward the success and completion of the elections in the best way and away from quarrels and clashes.”

Sadr also warned against “corruption” and “plots against the election laws and interference in the commission’s job.”

Earlier in the day, Iraq’s Council of Ministers voted to postpone the elections – scheduled for June, a year earlier than originally planned – until October 10.

Early elections were one of the key demands of protests that began in October 2019 across central and southern Iraq.  Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, who took office in May last year, asked the  Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) in November to take “all necessary measures” to ensure the elections will be held as scheduled, and “continuously work to guarantee a successful election.”

The IHEC said in August it would be ready to hold early elections in June provided the government and parliament meet certain demands, including passing a new electoral law and allocating a budget for the vote.

Iraqi President Barham Salih in November officially signed the electoral reforms into law, dividing provinces into smaller voting constituencies for the elections.

The postponement of elections from June 6 to October 10 “is not a deviation from the principle of an early election, for it will happen in any case, and we have not compromised on early elections for it is popular demand supported by the Marja [Iraq’s highest Shiite authority] and it is part of the government’s program,” Kadhimi said, according to a statement published on the PM office’s Telegram channel.

The IHEC decided on Tuesday to extend the registration period of political alliances after calling for the elections to be moved to October.

The decision was made as a result of low registration numbers, it said.

Sadr said on Monday that he hoped the reason behind the electoral commission’s request to postpone elections is a “professional decision taken purely to complete all election mechanisms and conduct them with acceptable procedure.”

Sadr has been a firm supporter of early elections. In November, Sadr said he intends to run for prime minister if the elections result in a Sadrist majority.

Early elections have wide support among the political parties. All parties in parliament agree that early elections should be held this year, Sabah Talubi, a member of the Sairoon Alliance told state media on January 8.

Antichrist calls for Iraq to find alternative for Iran gas: Daniel 8

Leader of Iraq’s Sadrist Movement, Muqtada Al-Sadr [Twitter]

Shia cleric calls for Iraq to find alternative for Iran gas

January 14, 2021 at 10:40 am

Influential Shia Cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr has called for Iraq to find an alternative to Iranian gas used to operate electricity plants after imports were halted due to the debt crisis, Anadolu reported yesterday.

On 27 December, Iran reduced gas exports to Iraq by 40 per cent due to the accumulated debts which Iraq has not settled.

Months earlier, in June, Iraq announced it had paid $400 million towards its $5 billion debts to Iran.

Iraq produces 19,000 Megawatt of electricity, while it needs, according to officials, over 30,000. The country suffers from severe shortages of electricity due to the continuous sieges and wars.

Al-Sadr went on to stress the need to end what he described as the presence of “occupation forces” in Iraq and prevent external interference because it weakens the state.

The Antichrist warns of postponing early elections

Iraqi Shiite cleric warns of postponing early elections

BAGHDAD, Jan. 13 (Xinhua) — Iraqi prominent Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr warned on Wednesday of postponing the early parliamentary elections slated for June 6, after local media reports said that some political blocs are seeking to delay the early elections.

“There are some voices raised to cancel or postpone early elections, but we warn against postponing them, and we hope that everyone to show wisdom and work together for the success of these elections,” Haider al-Jaberi, head of al-Sadr’s media office, said in a statement.

Al-Sadr called on citizens to expedite the updates of voter registration records in registration centers across the country, the statement added.

Al-Sadr’s statement came in response to local media reports, which said earlier that some Iraqi political parties are seeking to delay early elections from June 6 to November.

Meanwhile, the Iraqi Independent High Electoral Commission (IHEC) confirmed its commitment to holding the early elections as stated on June 6.

“The commission is working continuously for the elections, and Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi directed the state institutions as well as international and local organizations to work together to help the electoral commission,” the official Iraqi News Agency quoted Jumana al-Ghalai, an IHEC member, as saying.

She pointed out that the electoral commission had set a timetable until June 6, 2021, for holding the elections.

Last July, Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi set June 6, 2021, as the date for the early elections, which came in response to the anti-government protests and was designed to make it easier for independent politicians to win a seat in the parliament.

The previous parliamentary elections in Iraq were held on May 12, 2018, and the next elections were originally scheduled to take place in 2022. Enditem

Antichrist’s protests turn deadly in Iraq, again

Violent protests turn deadly in Iraq, again

NASIRIYAH, IRAQ–A policeman was killed Sunday in Iraq, the army said, as security forces fired to disperse a third consecutive day of protests in the city of Nasiriyah, according to medics.

The policeman was “killed by a bullet to the head,” a medic in the city 300 kilometres south of the capital Baghdad said.

The army confirmed the death.

“Thirty-three other policemen were wounded in the events of the day,” the military added, without elaborating.

Medical sources said several protesters were wounded.

Witnesses said security forces opened fire to disperse demonstrators — including some throwing stones — from a city square that served as an epicentre of a widespread protest movement that began in October 2019.

Reoccupying Habbubi Square

A sprawl of tents in Habbubi Square had remained in place until November 2020, when eight people were killed in clashes between anti-government protesters and followers of the Shia leader Moqtada al-Sadr.

Anti-government protesters reoccupied the square on Friday, demanding the release of peers who have been arrested in recent weeks.

Security forces repeatedly fired in the air and launched smoke grenades towards the protesters, whose movement for the first time penetrated other parts of the city.

A spokesman for the protesters said that 13 demonstrators who had been arrested were released, adding that authorities had promised other detainees would be released the next day.

Vicious circle

Iraq’s protests fizzled out last year due to the COVID-19 pandemic and a crackdown that left nearly 600 dead and 30,000 wounded.

However, kidnappings, targeted killings and arrests of protest leaders have continued.

Alongside demanding an end to political corruption, protesters want jobs and improved public services.

But the state’s ability to finance these demands is hamstrung by an economic crisis, including a yawning fiscal deficit.

Iraq, which relies on oil sales to finance more than 90% of its budget, is set to see its economy shrink by 11% this year, while poverty doubles to 40% of the country’s 40 million residents, according to International Monetary Fund (IMF) estimates.

Antichrist Restores “Peace” in Iraq: Revelation 13

Islamic leader in Iraq launches initiative to restore Christians’ property

A leading Islamic cleric and politician in Iraq has begun a movement that might lead to the repatriation of property that was taken from Christian citizens in recent years.

Shiite leader Muqtada al Sadr, head of the Sadrist political group, has ordered the creation of a committee in charge of collecting and verifying complaints of illegal expropriations from Christian property owners in Iraq. 

Many Christians lost property when they were forced to leave their homes in Mosul and the Nineveh Plain as Islamic State forces invaded and established their “caliphate.”

A statement published earlier this month listed members of  the committee that Christians will be able to contact, sending them proof of ownership of houses and land that had been taken from them.

“The intention of the operation launched by the Shiite leader is to restore justice and end violations of the property rights of the ‘Christian brothers,’ including those for which members of the Shiite movement led by al Sadr were responsible,” reported Fides, the information service of the Pontifical Mission Societies:

The request to report cases of illegal expropriations suffered is also addressed to families of Christians who have left the country in recent years. Complaints about abuse against Christian property owners can be sent to the committee by the end of next Ramadan.

This year, Ramadan, the Muslim month of fasting, ends on May 11.

Fides said that on January 3, al Sadr sent a delegation to present Chaldean Patriarch Louis Raphael Sako with a copy of the document with which the Shiite politician set up the committee. The Patriarch thanked al Sadr for the initiative, Fides said.

Pope Francis is due to visit Iraq in March.

Gunmen assassinate Antichrist’s military leader in Iraq

Shia cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr (R) [File photo]

Gunmen assassinate pro-Sadr military leader in Iraq

December 30, 2020 at 10:38 am

Unidentified gunmen have assassinated a senior official in Shia leader Muqtada Al-Sadr’s Peace Brigades in Diwaniyah Governorate in southern Iraq.

Police Captain in Diwaniyah, Jamal Al-Din Al-Sudairy, said the gunmen shot Rami Al-Shabani killing him instantly, adding that authorities have opened an investigation into the attack.

There was no official comment made by the Peace Brigades or the Sadrist movement on the attack.

The Peace Brigades is an influential Shia faction operating under the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF)’s command and follows the Sadrist movement led by Muqtada al-Sadr.

The incident came after Al-Sadr sparked controversy earlier this week calling on the United States and Iran to distance Iraq from their conflict.

Later on Monday, a spokesman for the Iranian Foreign Ministry, Saeed Khatibzadeh described Al-Sadr’s remarks as “suspicious and misleading”.

Antichrist fears Iraq will be battleground for Iran US conflicts

Op-Ed: Al-Sadr fears Iraq will be battleground for Iran US conflicts

TRT World Now

Thousands of Muqtada al Sadr’s supporters protest in Baghdad

Sadr wants to appear as a neutral nationalist Sadr said: “Iraq and the Iraqis are not a party to the conflict.” Sadr warned that both sides should distance their Iraq ties to US and Iranian mutual conflicts. Since the 2003 invasion and occupation by the US, Iraq has been dominated politically by groups loyal either to Iran or the US. Sadr tweeted: “Iraq has become a victim to the U.S.-Iranian conflict and has been greatly affected as if it is an arena for their conflicts.Therefore, I call on Iran to distance Iraq from its conflict, and I warn the (U.S.) occupier against continuing its conflict … Iraq and the Iraqis are not a party to the conflict”.

Protest movements have pushed the groups towards more autonomy heading into the vote next June. Sadr is trying to look to be more autonomous and more nationalist compared to those supported by Iran or the US. US assassination of Iranian general fueled tensions In early January this year the US assassinated a top Iranian general as reported by the BBC: “Iran’s most powerful military commander, Gen Qasem Soleimani, has been killed by a US air strike in Iraq.The 62-year-old spearheaded Iranian military operations in the Middle East as head of Iran’s elite Quds Force.” This greatly increased the tension between Iran and the US almost starting a war. The drone attack was in Baghdad near the airport. This set the stage for Iraq being the scene for conflict between Iran-supported militia in Iraq and US forces throughout the year.

Only two days after the US attack the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution for the government to end the presence of foreign forces in the country. No action has been taken to do so yet. Sadr’s party not part of protest movement While Sadr’s party has not been part of the protests against the government of which his party is part he still may gain support in his desire for Iraq to have an autonomous foreign policy and not the locus of conflicts between Iran and US.

The Antichrist Warns Iran, US Not To Involve Iraq In Proxy Conflict

Iraq’s Sadr Warns Iran, US Not To Involve Iraq In Proxy Conflict

Influential Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr is warning both Iran and the United States against further involving Iraq in any of their conflicts, saying Iraq has been “greatly affected” by being treated as an arena for proxy fighting.

“Iraq and the Iraqis are not a party to the conflict,” Sadr warned, saying both sides should distance their Iraq ties from their mutual hostilities. Fear of being the battleground for a US-Iran conflict has been a defining part of Iraqi policy for years.

Since the 2003 US invasion and occupation, Iraq has been politically dominated by factions loyal to the US or Iran. Protest movements have pushed for autonomy heading into the June vote, and Sadr’s party is also trying to position itself as such a party, more nationalist than most.

In early January, the US assassinated a top Iranian general in Baghdad. This almost started a war, and culminated with Iran retaliating against US forces stationed on an Iraqi base. This set the stage for 2020 as a year where Iraq’s worst fears came to the fore.

While Sadr’s political bloc has somewhat alienated the protest movement in Iraq, they may still gain a lot from being a reflection of Iraqi desires for an autonomous foreign policy and not being a battleground for rival powers.