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Iraq REJECTS US demands to expel Iranian military advisers from the country

The US is being checkmated out of Iraq.

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Yesterday, the US Secretary of State Rex Tillerson attempted to broker a meeting between Iraqi and Saudi officials in Riyadh during which he expressed American frustrations over Iran’s assistance to Iraq in the fight against terrorism.

Tillerson stated,

“Iranian militias that are in Iraq, now that the fight against … ISIS is coming to a close, those militias need to go home.

The foreign fighters in Iraq need to go home and allow the Iraqi people to regain control”.

This admonition from the United States was met by a defiant statement from the office of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi which stated that all troops fighting in Iraq, including the Popular Mobilisation Forces, are Iraqis and that furthermore, any assistance provided by foreign powers (including Iran) is welcomed and done with the consent of Iraq.

Below is a translation of the full statement, first posted on Facebook:

“A very close source expressing the strangeness of the statements attributed to the American Foreign Secretary.
=========

A source close to Prime Minister Haider Al-Abadi expressed his surprise at the statements attributed to the United States Secretary of state about the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

According to the source, the combatants of the Popular Mobilisation Forces are Iraqi nationals who have made enormous sacrifices to defend their country and the Iraqi people and answer to Iraqi leadership by the law of the house of representatives.

The source said that no party has the right to interfere in Iraqi matters.

The source confirmed that Iraqis were fighting on Iraqi territory and there were no foreign fighters in Iraq.

The source explained that the presence of the international coalition forces in Iraq or any other state was limited in preparation for training, logistical and air support and not for fighting on Iraqi territory”.

What is curious about the remarks from Tillerson and al-Abadi is that such statements took so long to be voiced in public. Iraq is unique in the world in that it counts Iran as a neighbouring ally while Iraq also cooperates with the United States. Technically, the US is in fact an Iraqi ally, even though most Iraqi citizens and even most Iraqi politicians hold Iran in much higher regard than the US. This is the case for the simple reason that all adult Iraqis have vivid memories of the destruction the US caused to Iraq starting in 2003 and furthermore, Iraq’s majority Shi’a government looks for both political and spiritual guidance to the Islamic Republic of Iran.

It was only a matter of time before the US, whose previous financing of Sunni extremists in Iraq was designed to thwart Iran’s influence in Iraq, would transform into an open political crisis in the aftermath of the defeat of most Takrifi jihadists on Iraqi soil. The fact that Iran’s assistance to Iraqi troops played a large part in the professionalisation of and moral boost too the Iraqi armed forces, has only served to further enhance Iran’s prestige in Iraq.

I previously stated that the stubborn attempts by Iraqi Kurds to carry through with a secession referendum and then insist on occupying parts of Iraq, like Kirkuk, which are not even part of the legally designated autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq, were due to a combination of arrogance from the Kurdish leader Masoud Barzani as well as tacit US approval and encouragement of Kurdish provocations.

READ MORE: 

Iraqi Kurds’ unwillingness to negotiate with Baghdad, indicates they are banking on foreign support

To this end, I have also stated that continued US attempts to meddle in Iraq and maintain a large military presence in Iraq are part of a multifaceted proxy war against Iran which thus far has been fought on Iraqi and Syrian soil, as the US is not yet mad enough to attack Iran directly.

READ MORE: 

The proxy-war against Iran is under way in Iraq and has just entered a new phase

However, in all of this, the US miscalculated the following points which are now starkly clear in the aftermath of Iraq’s rapid and mostly bloodless victories over Kurdish forces.

1. Kurdish Peshmerga militants are not as apt a fighting forces as many suspected. This indeed gives further credence to reports that rather than engage ISIS in battle, many Peshmerga leaders simply brokered deals with ISIS so that Kurds could move in to once ISIS occupied terrorises and unharmed ISIS fighters could go elsewhere in Iraq.

2. The Iraqi armed forces are more professional, loyal and more buoyant with morale than had previous been thought.

3. Iraqi Arab Sunnis and Shi’as as well as Sunni Iraqi Turkomen all united around the Iraqi flag in Kirkuk and neighbouring regions, in one of the most profound displays of Iraqi unity since prior to 2003.

4. Turkey would not stand by and allow Kurdish secession to take place in Iraq (or elsewhere) without making preparations to intervene, including militarily, in order to stop it. This point was in fact easy to anticipate, but nevertheless, the US acted either as though it did not know or did not care about this point.

The US cannot realistically re-supply Iraqi Kurds for a would-be rematch with Iraq forces, without taking on the Iraqi armed forces directly. This would clearly end what little good will remains between Baghdad and Washington. Alternatively, the US could violate the Turkish no fly-zone which has been established over northern Iraq with the cooperation of Baghdad. This option would have an even uglier result for the US.

Therefore, because the US has few realistic (even by US standards) military options at its disposal to foment further proxy wars against Iraq and its Iranian ally, the US has resorted to open threats, which in reality amount to little more than begging Iraq to sever ties with what is today, a natural ally.

Iraq said no to the US, in a sign that Iraq is finally emerging from the shadows of 21st century western colonialism and is looking to re-establish its dignity and sovereignty. It must be said that as a large neighbouring ally, Iran has in fact played an important role in achieving this.

In a formal sense, the US has been checkmated out of Iraq, even while its personnel are still very much inside the country.

The US proxy wars against Iran and others which are currently winding up in both Iraq and Syria is however, not going to end anytime soon. It is simply going to enter an even more devious phase. The anti-Kurdish alliance which includes Iraq, Iran and Turkey, is now a supreme target for US proxy aggression. Syria, an ally of both Iran and Iraq, can for strategic purposes, also be included in this new alliance (in spite of having no relations with Turkey at present), as Syria shares the common enemy of Kurdish nationalists whose loyalty largely belongs to the US and Israel. Each country is now invested in maintaining the territorial unity of the other countries. This is a far more sound foundation for an alliance than ideology or worse yet, ambition.

Turkey is in many ways, the strongest among the aforementioned countries and with Takfiri jihadism on the wane, so far as military strength is concerned, all eyes will be on Turkey as the most ardently anti-Kurdish state in the region and the one most vigorously opposed to Kurdish ethno-nationalism in the region.

As I wrote earlier,

“In Iraq, Kurdish provocations backfired, as Iraq was emboldened to take the necessary steps to fully reinstate its legal control over its own territory, including Kirkuk, a city and region which has never been part of the Kurdish autonomous zone in northern Iraq, in spite of a three year period of Kurdish occupation which Iraq has now ended.

In Syria, would be ethno-nationalist Kurds could be in for an even more difficult time than their Iraqi brethren. While the Kurdish factions in Iraq historically have poor relations with the Turkish PKK, Syria’s YPG is often seem by Turkey, as little more than a regional offshoot of the PKK. The Turkish narrative has been backed up by YPG forces celebrating the US reduction of Raqqa by hoisting large photos of jailed PKK leader Abdullah Ocalan over the smouldering remains of the city.

This will be viewed in Ankara as a direct threat to Turkish security and unlike Iraq, Turkey already has a number of troops in Syria territory, including that which is claimed by Kurds. In this sense, the equivalent of the Iraqi push-back of Kurds could be even more resounding in Syria, not least because Turkey, in spite of its non-relations with Damascus, would likely do the heavy fighting.

However much the US wants to use Syrian Kurds to divide, occupy or even annex parts of Syria, the truth of the matter is that without fighting Turkey, the US will have hit a brick wall. With Turkey all but ejected from the position of a US ally, many pragmatists (by US standards) in Washington will urge caution before openly defying the stated security concerns of a large and powerful longtime NATO member. In the short term, these voices of caution will likely win the argument in the Pentagon.

Because of this, the US will almost certainly try and use both Kurdish and Takfiri terrorists to try and slow the progress of Syria and her allies in liberating the remaining 15% of the country that is not back under government protection.  Beyond this, the US and Israel are caught between a rock and a hard place. Both Israel and the United States would like nothing more than a Kurdish puppet state in Syria, but both know that taking on Turkey is a step too far, even by their aggressive standards.

The remaining danger is therefore that the US could pivot its jihadist proxy war against Turkey. Although Turkey has its own share of jihadist proxies in Syria who typically fly under the largely meaningless FSA banner, it is not beyond the realm of possible, that the US could use other jihadist proxies to create attacks and disturbances on Turkish soil. Some in Turkish media have attested that recent jihadist attacks in Turkey are a result of shadow US proxies, althoguh others argue that it is merely the phenomenon of jihadist blow-back from disgruntled former Turkish proxies.

Even more importantly in respect of upsetting Turkey’s internal political situation, with US links to the illegal terrorist organisation of Fethullah Gulen becoming ever clearer, the possibility of Washington using Gulenists to destabilise Erdogan’s Turkey is also very much on the table. Turkey continues to blame Gulenists with deep US connections for the failed 2016 coup against Erdogan and recent events, such as the US willingness to de-facto defend consular employees arrested by Turkey for being Gulenist terrorists, serve to bolster Erdogan’s version of events.

It is not without precedent for the US to wage war of one kind or another against a former or even current “ally”. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq worked closely with the west during the Iran-Iraq War of the 1980s. Likewise, Panama’s leader Manuel Noriega was on the CIA payroll before the US deposed and imprisoned Noriega.

An even better example of the phenomenon of the US working to undermine a so-called ally can be seen in the last several decades of America’s relationship with Pakistan. While the US considers Pakistan an ‘ally’, the US has constantly worked to undermine the security situation in Pakistan. Even more worryingly, the US has contradicted Pakistan’s concerns in neighbouring Afghanistan, while the US continues to provide India with heavy weapons. Furthermore, the US continually meddles in Pakistan’s important and very real alliance with China. These are just the most strident examples of how the US works to undermine Pakistan all while calling Islamabad an “ally”. The popularity of anti-American parties and movements in Pakistan, is a testament to the fact that many ordinary Pakistanis are fully fed up with Washington’s abuse of Pakistan.

The future of US-Turkey relations could begin to look very similar. While the US does not want to fully alienate Turkey or Pakistan, it is doing everything it can to do so, albeit with a “lead from behind strategy”. Just as Pakistan’s relationship with China and now Russia also, has only been strengthened due to Islamabad’s frustrations with the US, the same now holds for Turkey’s new partnerships with Russia, Iran and also China.

The US cannot stop Turkey from exercising its security prerogative in the region, but the US can work to undermine Turkey while pretending to still be an ally. For anyone who thought that Ankara’s relationship with Russia and Iran was not sincere, events on the ground have made such a relationship even more than sincere: they have made it inevitable and necessary”.

Turkey is next in line to be a Pakistan style “frenemy” of the US

Thus, while Iraq moves closer to Iran, the US will simply pivot its proxy war against Iran to new and uncharted territory, all while trying its hardest to encourage havoc in the places that have long been home to US led proxy wars.

 

 

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BREAKING: Explosion in Crimea, Russia kills many, injuring dozens, terrorism suspected

According to preliminary information, the incident was caused by a gas explosion at a college facility in Kerch, Crimea.

The Duran

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“We are clarifying the information at the moment. Preliminary figures are 50 injured and 10 dead. Eight ambulance crews are working at the site and air medical services are involved,” the press-service for the Crimean Ministry of Health stated.

Medics announced that at least 50 people were injured in the explosion in Kerch and 25 have already been taken to local hospital with moderate wounds, according to Sputnik.

Local news outlets reported that earlier in the day, students at the college heard a blast and windows of the building were shattered.

Putin Orders that Assistance Be Provided to Victims of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The president has instructed the Ministry of Health and the rescue services to take emergency measures to assist victims of this explosion, if necessary, to ensure the urgent transportation of seriously wounded patients to leading medical institutions of Russia, whether in Moscow or other cities,” Kremlin spokesman Dmitriy Peskov said.

The president also expressed his condolences to all those affected by the tragic incident.

Manhunt Underway in Kerch as FSB Specialists Investigate Site of Explosion – National Anti-Terrorist Committee

The site of the blast that rocked a city college in Kerch is being examined by FSB bomb disposal experts and law enforcement agencies are searching for clues that might lead to the arrest of the perpetrators, the National Anti Terrorism Committee said in a statement.

“Acting on orders from the head of the NAC’s local headquarters, FSB, Interior Ministry, Russian Guards and Emergency Ministry units have arrived at the site. The territory around the college has been cordoned off and the people inside the building evacuated… Mine-disposal experts are working at the site and law enforcement specialists are investigating,” the statement said.

Terrorist Act Considered as Possible Cause of Blast in Kerch – Kremlin Spokesman

“The tragic news that comes from Kerch. Explosion. The president was informed … The data on those killed and the number of injured is constantly updated,” Peskov told reporters.

“[The version of a terrorist attack] is being considered,” he said.

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10 percent of American F-22 fighter jets damaged by Hurricane Michael

Part of the reason the F-22’s were left in the path of the storm is that they were broken and too expensive to fix or fly.

Seraphim Hanisch

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Note to the wise: When a hurricane comes, move your planes out of the way. Especially your really expensive F-22 fighter planes. After all, those babies are $339 mil apiece. Got the message?

Apparently the US Air Force didn’t get this message. Or, did they find themselves unable to follow the message?

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The Washington Times reported Tuesday that between 17 and 20 of these top-of-the-line fighter jets were damaged, some beyond the point of repair, when Hurricane Michael slammed ashore on Mexico Beach, Florida, not far from the Tyndall Air Force Base in the same state. The Times reports that more than a dozen of the F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the extremely fierce storm:

President Trump’s tour Monday of devastation wrought by Hurricane Michael took him close to Florida’s Tyndall Air Force Base, where more than a dozen F-22 Raptor stealth fighter jets were damaged after being left in the path of the powerful storm.

The pricey fighter jets — some possibly damaged beyond repair — were caught in the widespread destruction that took at least 18 lives, flattened homes, downed trees and buckled roads from Florida to Virginia.

The decision to leave roughly $7.5 billion in aircraft in the path of a hurricane raised eyebrows, including among defense analysts who say the Pentagon’s entire high-tech strategy continues to make its fighter jets vulnerable to weather and other mishaps when they are grounded for repairs.

“This becomes sort of a self-defeating cycle where we have $400 million aircraft that can’t fly precisely because they are $400 million aircraft,” said Dan Grazier, a defense fellow at Project on Government Oversight. “If we were buying simpler aircraft then it would be a whole lot easier for the base commander to get these aircraft up and in working order, at least more of them.”

This is quite a statement. The F-22 is held to be the tip of the American air defense sword. A superb airplane (when it works), it can do things no other plane in the world can do. It boasts a radar profile the size of a marble, making it virtually undetectable by enemy radars. It is highly maneuverable with thrust-vectoring built into its engines.

However, to see a report like this is simply stunning. After all, one would expect that the best military equipment ought to be the most reliable as well. 

It appears that Hurricane Michael figuratively and physically blew the lid off any efforts to conceal a problem with these planes, and indeed with the hyper-technological basis for the US air fighting forcesThe Times continues:

Reports on the number of aircraft damaged ranged from 17 to 22 or about 10 percent of the Air Force’s F-22 fleet of 187.

The Air Force stopped buying F-22s, considered the world’s most advanced fighter jets, in 2012. The aircraft is being replaced by the F-35, another high-tech but slightly less-expensive aircraft.

Later in the tour, at an emergency command center in Georgia, Mr. Trump said the damage to the F-22s couldn’t be avoided because the aircraft were grounded and the storm moved quickly.

“We’re going to have a full report. There was some damage, not nearly as bad as we first heard,” he said when asked about the F-22s, which cost about $339 million each.

“I’m always concerned about cost. I don’t like it,” Mr. Trump said.

Still, the president remains a fan of the high-tech fighter jet.

“The F-22 is one of my all-time favorites. It is the most beautiful fighter jet in the world. One of the best,” he said.

The Air Force managed to fly 33 of the F-22s to safety, but maintenance and repair issues kept 22 of the notoriously finicky aircraft on the ground when the powerful storm hit the base.

About 49 percent of the F-22s are out of action at any given time, according to an Air Force report this year.

This is a stunning statistic. This means that of the 187 planes in existence, 90 of them are not working. At their cost, that means that over thirty billion dollars worth of military equipment is sitting around, broken, just in airplanes alone.

As a point of comparison, the entire Russian military budget for 2017 was $61 billion, with that budget producing hypersonic missiles, superb fighter aircraft and tanks. Russian fighter planes are known for being able to take harsh landing and take-off conditions that would cripple the most modern American flying machines.

It would seem that Hurricane Michael exposed a serious problem with the state of readiness of American armed forces. Thankfully that problem did not arise in combat, but it is no less serious.

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Saudi Arabia trying to squirm free of Khashoggi murder (Video)

The Duran Quick Take: Episode 2.

Alex Christoforou

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RT CrossTalk host Peter Lavelle and The Duran’s Alex Christoforou take a quick look at Saudi Arabia’s possible admission to killing journalist Jamal Khashoggi…accidentally, while they were torturing the man inside the consulate in Istanbul.

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Via Zerohedge

Even before the publication of last night’s Saudi trial balloon hinting that the kingdom would soon acknowledge that the extrajudicial killing of Jamal Khashoggi – the insider-turned dissident journalist who walked into the Saudi consulate in Istanbul last week and never walked back out – was the result of a “botched” kidnapping attempt carried out by “rogue killers” (despite reports that the US intelligence community knew that Khashoggi was being “targeted”), two realities had become increasingly clear. One: That the Saudis would avoid responsibility for the killing by pinning it on some unfortunate underling, and two: that there would be few, if any, lasting diplomatic repercussions.

And as more media organizations confirmed reports about Saudi’s plans to spin Khashoggi’s murder as a botched interrogation (we can only imagine what was said in that room to justify the use of such extreme violence), CNN calculated the Secretary of State Mike Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman in Riyadh for approximately 15 minutes early Tuesday, following his 12-hour-plus flight to the kingdom.

US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s meeting with King Salman of Saudi Arabia lasted no more than 15 minutes, CNN estimates based on the time the top US diplomat’s motorcade arrived at the royal court and departed.

The motorcade arrived at the royal court at 11:42 a.m. (4:42 a.m. ET) and left 26 minutes later. There is a fair distance to walk from where the motorcade dropped Pompeo off to where he met the king.

While Trump said on Monday that Pompeo would travel to Turkey “if necessary”, the Saudi’s decision to “come clean” about Khashoggi’s death pretty much rendered Pompeo’s fact-finding mission unnecessary.More important are developments in Turkey, where the joint Saudi-Turkish “investigation” is turning its attention toward the home of the Saudi consul, where a black diplomatic van that departed the Saudi consulate just under two hours after Khashoggi entered was captured on camera disappearing into a garage. Some speculate that this is where the killers finished disposing of Khashoggi’s body. This comes after a “nine-hour” search of the Saudi consulate building that, according to leaks published in Al-Jazeera, turned up “evidence of tampering” by the Saudis. On Tuesday, Turkey’s foreign minister clarified that Saudi had yet to admit its role in Khashoggi’s disappearance and probable death.

Turkish investigators will carry out a search of the Saudi Consul General’s residence on Tuesday as the probe into the disappearance of journalist Jamal Khashoggi continues, according to a Turkish diplomatic source.

CCTV footage released to the media from the day the Washington Post writer vanished show movement of vehicles from the consulate building to the Consul General’s residence nearby.

As speculation mounts that the incident could unseat the increasingly authoritarian Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman (who has already marginalized or incapacitated nearly every threat to his rule), it’s looking more likely that neither the US nor the rest of the Western world will do much to punish the world’s most important oil exporter, which can “weaponize” the oil market seemingly on a whim.

Any punishment for this flagrant violation of human rights will need to come, therefore, from the private sector, which, according to Bloomberg, could sabotage MbS’s grand Vision 2030 plan, which aims to remake the Saudi economy via a flood of foreign direct investment:

The economic strategy of Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman, known as MBS, is to make investment the main engine of economic growth instead of government spending, but the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi could frustrate these ambitions. Foreign direct investment, a key part of the plan to reinvent Saudi Arabia’s economy, declined sharply in 2017 and is unlikely to return to previous levels, leaving the government’s target for 2020 beyond reach, according to analysis by Bloomberg Economics. Increased policy uncertainty and, after the Khashoggi incident, the risk of reputational damage to foreign companies working in Saudi Arabia won’t help.

 

 

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