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Iraq: Bad Habits

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Iraq: Bad Habits Empty Iraq: Bad Habits

Post by GirlBye on Thu Sep 24, 2020 11:38 am

The new prime minister (Mustafa al Kadhimi) is decidedly hostile to Iran. He has ordered the removal of many pro-Iran commanders in the security services and disbanded some units that were dangerously pro-Iran. Kadhimi went to the U.S. in late August to meet with the American leader and discuss improving U.S.-Iraq relations. Such a meeting was important because Kadhimi is the first post-Saddam (2003) prime minister that is not heavily influenced/controlled by Iran.


Kadhimi is not dependent on political parties and became prime minister because of that and the fact that he was anti-Iran, a former director of national intelligence and on good terms with the United States. He fled Iraq in 1985 as a teenager because of his opposition to Saddam. He ended up in Britain where he became a citizen, completed his education and began a successful career as a journalist. He returned to Iraq in 2003 and was eventually offered high-level government jobs in Iraq because he was seen as capable, not beholden to any political party and not corrupt.


Kadhimi is expected to block Iranian efforts to control Iraq and reduce the crippling corruption. While Kadhimi has a lot of popular support for both of these policies, carrying them out is difficult and dangerous. The Iranians will kill troublesome foreign politicians if they have the opportunity. There is plenty of opportunity in Iraq. 


Corruption in Iraq is driven by party politics and the need for cash to buy votes and supporters. Party officials and the many party members who depend on corrupt deals to sustain they lifestyles will not change without a fight. Kadhimi has one very effective weapon here, his good relations with the Americans. That means U.S. officials made it clear that if anything happens to Kadhimi, the U.S. would cut or end most of its economic and military aid. While the corrupt politicians want to hang onto their plunder, they could lose it all if Iran becomes too powerful in Iraq and the Americans leave.


Many Iraqis proclaim their dislike for the United States, but their animosity towards Iran, Turkey and their Arab neighbors is even greater. Then again Iraq has been self-destructive in the past and bad habits like that are difficult to shed.


The Iranian Threat
Iran still has enough loyal (to Iran) Iraqi militias to be a threat to the Iraqi government. Most Iraqi politicians and voters want less Iranian influence. Iran wants fewer foreign troops in Iraq. That is a point of contention because Iraqis realize the foreign troops offer some assurance that Western and Arab states would actively assist Iraq if Iran sought to take control via a civil war or invasion. Civil war is the more likely option, but only in an emergency, such as Iraq appearing to succeed in disbanding all the pro-Iran militias.


Iran has ordered its associates in Iraq to try terror, as in kidnapping and assassination, to extract cooperation from Iraqi officials. Iran also ordered its militiamen to fire on demonstrators who were protesting corruption in Iraq. In response to that the prime minister officially announced that the security forces had orders to not shoot at protestors but to use force against anyone who is harming protestors. Iran was not mentioned but this announcement made it clear that anyone shooting at protestors was working for Iran.


Same with the growing number of kidnappings and assassinations. Some of these are the work of ISIL (Islamic State in Iraq and the Levant) but a growing number are carried out by pro-Iran Iraqis. If the victim has been speaking out against Iran it means the attacker wasn’t Islamic terrorists and Iran was probably responsible.


Reduced support for Iran within the Iran-backed Iraqi PMF militias crippled the Iranian attack plan against American forces in Iraq. This Iranian campaign began in October and has included over fifty attacks so far. Few of these efforts did any damage and caused even fewer casualties. General Soleimani, commander of Iranian terror operations in Iraq, was trying to fix that when the American got to him in January 2020. Iran expected the death of Soleimani would trigger more anti-American anger among Iraqis. Didn’t happen.


Most Iraqis saw Soleimani as more of a threat than the Americans. Iran was next door and forever threatening. The Americans were far away and had left once before, in 2011, and had to be asked to return in 2014 to deal with the ISIL invasion. The Americans are again eager to leave, the Iranians are not. Most Iranians want less money spent on subverting Iraq and more spent on building the Iranian economy and raising the standard of living. That is not a priority with the IRGC (Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps) and its Quds Force that specializes in destabilizing other countries, like Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.


The Turkish Threat


For several months Iran and Turkey have been cooperating in a military effort to get Kurdish separatists out of northern Iraq. The current Turkish campaign began June 16 and is still active, more so than any previous campaign against PKK activity in northern Iraq. Turkey has established about 30 temporary bases on the Iraqi side of the border indicating that Turkish ground forces, which have already advanced as far as 40 kilometers inside Iraq, will be in Iraq for a while.


The Turks consider the current operation a continuation of a smaller cross border offensive that began at the end of May. Turkish warplanes, armed UAVs and artillery hit nearly a thousand targets in a combat zone extending from border areas of Dohuk province (on the Syrian border) to Hakurk, the mountainous region where the borders of Iraq, Turkey and Iran meet. There were also airstrikes against a refugee camp outside Erbil, the capital of the autonomous Kurdish north. Iran cooperated in this operation by attacking PKK and local Iranian Kurd separatists found inside Iran opposite the Iraqi Hakurk region.


By early August the June offensive killed or captured 320 Kurdish separatists in northern Iraq. Troops raided over 320 locations, about 15 percent of them caves and seized a lot of weapons and equipment. Turkey declared that most of the ground (search and seize) operations were completed and Turkish troops would begin withdrawing. The Turks warn that unless the Iraqi Kurds are more effective in keeping Turkish and Syrian Kurd separatists out, the Turks will be back.





 Read More at: https://www.strategypage.com/qnd/iraq/articles/20200908.aspx
GirlBye
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