Wednesday, March 21, 2007

Details of Iranian Control of Mahdi Army Cells in Iraq

Tehran Uses Splinter Cells Within Militia


March 21, 2007

BAGHDAD - The violent Shiite militia known as the Mahdi Army is breaking into splinter groups, with up to 3,000 gunmen now financed directly by Iran and no longer loyal to the firebrand cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, adding a potentially even more deadly element to Iraq's violent mix.

Two senior militia commanders told The Associated Press that hundreds of these fighters have crossed into Iran for training by the elite Quds force, a branch of Iran's Revolutionary Guard thought to have trained Hezbollah guerrillas in Lebanon and Muslim fighters in Bosnia and Afghanistan.

The breakup is an ominous development at a time when U.S. and Iraqi forces are working to defeat religious-based militias and secure Iraq under government control. While al-Sadr's forces have battled the coalition repeatedly, including pitched battles in 2004, they've mostly stayed in the background during the latest offensive.

The U.S. military has asserted in recent months that Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Quds force have been providing Shiite militias with weapons and parts for sophisticated armor-piercing bombs. The so called EFPs — explosively formed penetrators — are responsible for the deaths of more than 170 American and coalition soldiers since mid-2004, the military says.

In the latest such attack, four U.S. soldiers were killed March 15 by a roadside bomb in eastern Baghdad.

At the Pentagon, a military official confirmed there were signs the Mahdi Army was splintering. Some were breaking away to attempt a more conciliatory approach to the Americans and the Iraqi government, others moving in a more extremist direction, the official said.

However, the official, who was not authorized to be quoted by name on the topic, was not aware of direct Iranian recruitment and financing of Mahdi Army members.

The outlines of the fracture inside the Mahdi Army were confirmed by senior Iraqi government officials with access to intelligence reports prepared for Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

The information indicates a disintegrating organization yet a potentially even more dangerous foe, they revealed, on condition that their names not be used.

The militia commanders and al-Maliki's reports identify the leader of the breakaway faction as Qais al-Khazaali, a young Iraqi cleric who was a close al-Sadr aide in 2003 and 2004.

He was al-Sadr's chief spokesman for most of 2004, when he made nearly daily appearances on Arabic satellite news channels. He has not been seen in public since late that year.

Al-Sadr has been in Iran since early February, apparently laying low during the U.S.-Iraqi offensive, according to the U.S. military. He is not known to be close to Iran's leadership or Iraq's top Shiite cleric, Iranian-born Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

While Al-Sadr's strategy appears to be to wait out the government offensive and preserve his force, his absence has left loyal fighters unsure of his future and pondering whether they had been abandoned by their leader, the commanders said.

Al-Sadr tried to return to Iraq last month but turned back before he reached the Iraqi border upon learning of U.S. checkpoints on the road to Najaf, the Shiite holy city south of Baghdad where he lives.

"Conditions are not suitable for him to return," said an al-Sadr aide, who requested anonymity because of the sensitivity of the subject. "His safety will not be guaranteed if he returns."

The Mahdi Army commanders, who said they would be endangered if their names were revealed, said Iran's Revolutionary Guards were funding and arming the defectors from their force, and that several hundred over the last 18 months had slipped across the Iranian border for training by the Quds force.

In recent weeks, Mahdi Army fighters who escaped possible arrest in the Baghdad security push have received $600 each upon reaching Iran. The former Mahdi Army militiamen working for the Revolutionary Guards operate under the cover a relief agency for Iraqi refugees, they said.

Once fighters defect, they receive a monthly stipend of $200, said the commanders.

Alireza Jafarzadeh, a spokesman for an Iranian dissident group, told reporters in New York on Tuesday that Iraqi Shiite guerrillas and death squads were being trained in secret camps in Iran with the blessing of top Tehran government leaders and at least three senior Iraqi political figures.

Inside Iraq, the breakaway troops are using the cover of the Mahdi Army itself, the commanders said.

The defectors are in secret, small, but well-funded cells. Little else has emerged about the structure of their organization, but most of their cadres are thought to have maintained the pretense of continued Mahdi Army membership, possibly to escape reprisals.

Estimates of the number of Mahdi Army fighters vary wildly, with some putting the figure at 10,000 and others as many as 60,000.

The extent of al-Sadr's control over his militia has never been clear. Like many of Iraq's warring parties, it's a loosely knit force. The fiery cleric inspires loyalty with his speeches and edicts, and the Shiite gunmen are also bonded by the goal of maintaining Shiite dominance in a country long controlled by the rival Sunni Muslims, most recently Saddam Hussein.

Commanders thought to have disobeyed Mahdi Army orders or abused their power are publicly renounced during Friday prayers, a move that has forced them to quit their posts or go into hiding.

Mahdi Army militiamen also could be attracted by the cash promises of the splinter group. They don't receive wages or weapons from al-Sadr, but are allowed to generate income by charging government contractors protection money when they work in Shiite neighborhoods.

The two Mahdi Army commanders blamed several recent attacks on U.S. forces in eastern Baghdad on the splinter group. The commanders also said they believed the breakaway force had organized the attempt last week to kill Rahim al-Darraji, the mayor of Sadr City.

Al-Darraji, who is close to the Sadrist movement, was involved in talks with the U.S. military about extending the five-week-old Baghdad security sweep into Sadr City, the Mahdi Army stronghold in eastern Baghdad that was a no-go zone for American forces until about three weeks ago.

Al-Darraji was seriously wounded and two of his bodyguards were killed when gunmen ambushed their convoy in a mainly Shiite district near Sadr City. There was no claim of responsibility.

The commanders said recruitment of Mahdi Army gunmen by Iran began as early as 2005. But it was dramatically stepped up in recent months, especially with the approach of the U.S.-Iraqi security operation which was highly advertised before it began Feb. 14. Many Mahdi Army fighters are believed to have crossed the border to escape arrest.

Calls by the AP to seek comment from the Iranian Foreign Ministry have not been returned.

The Iranian recruitment of the Mahdi Army fighters appears to be an extension of its efforts to exert influence in Iraq, in part to keep the U.S. bogged down in a war that already has stretched into its fifth year. Iran already has the allegiance of the Badr Brigade, a Shiite militia founded and trained in Iran in the 1980s that maintains close links to Iraq's ruling Shiite politicians.

The Bush administration has carefully not ruled out military action against Iran, but the war in Iraq keeps U.S. ground forces at least stretched thin.


Associated Press military writer Robert Burns contributed to this report from Washington.


Monday, February 12, 2007

Iran's Men in Iraq--Who Are They??

Details of Iran's Surrogates in Iraq

Baghdad, Iraq (2/12/2007) --One of the key players in Iraq today is Iran. It is important to know how Iran operates in Iraq today. Iran works through surrogates, primarily of Iranian origin, who are usually either on Tehran’s payroll or who have ties to Iranian secret police, intelligence agencies, or military services. The vast Iranian governmental agencies bankroll and arm a handful of parties and militias in Iraq, to do their bidding in Iraq.

1) Who's Who of Iran’s Men in Iraq

Here are some of Iran’s important surrogates in Iraq:

a) “Jawad Al-Maliki” or "Nuri Al-Maliki" (real name “Nuri Kamil Al-Ali”) current Prime Minister, is a member of the Iranian-backed Dawa Party, like the previous Premier Ibrahim Jaafari Ashayqar. He comes from the village of Jalaajil, in the district of Tawayreej (Al-Hindiya), which is between the cities of Hilla (Babylon) and Karabala. Iraqi writer and historian Asir Abdel-Rahman says in his new book, in which he coined a new term, ("The Democra-Sectarianism of Iraq") reports that Nuri comes from the tribe of Graydhat (originally Beni-Quraydha). Some of the members of this tribe include the famous songwriter Salih Al-Kuwaiti (who wrote the well-known folk song “Khadiri Chai Khadiri”) who later fled to Israel, and famous news announcer Rushdi Abdel-Sahib. Nuri lived in both Iran and Syria from 1979 to 2003. Intelligent reports cited in many media sources report that Maliki was the head of the "Jihadi" operations of Dawa while in Syria, referring to terrorist attacks in Iraq and the Arab Gulf states during this period, most notably the car bomb attack on the Kuwaiti Royal Family in the 1980s.

b) Ibrahim “Jaafari” (real last name “Ashayqar”), previous prime minister, is from Pakistani origins. His grandfather immigrated from Pakistan. Ibrahim’s father was granted Iraqi citizenship, although he continued to maintain his Pakistani citizenship for himself and his children. Ibrahim’s sister, for instance, who lives in Babylon province, still does not have Iraqi citizenship and last year reportedly renewed her residency in Iraq as a foreigner. Ibrahim was the spokesman of the Iranian-backed Dawa Party.

c) Abdel-Aziz “Al-Hakeem” (real last name “Tabatabaee”), head of the Iranian-backed “Supreme Council on Islamic Revolution in Iraq” (SCIRI) and its Badr Militia. His grandfather Mahdi migrated from the Iranian city of Tabataba to Najaf. He practiced herbal cures for ills at the time and was labeled “Al-Hakeem” which means “physician.” Abdel-Aziz’s father Muhsin became a religious leader in Najaf but maintained his Iranian citizenship. Abdel-Aziz himself reportedly still has Iranian citizenship, and his son Ammar, who is a spokesman for SCIRI, reportedly is wanted for conscription in the Iranian Army. Two years ago, Ammar had written to former Iranian President Khatemi to grant him special permission to be excused from Iranian military service. Unlike most Iraqis, Aziz still publicly refers to the Arabian Gulf, as the "Persian Gulf" as do the Iranians.

d) “Bayan Jabr” (real name “Baqir Solagh Shishtazali”), current Finance Minister and formerly the Interior Minister under "Jaafari," is from Iranian Turkic (Azeri) origins. His father immigrated to Iraq and lived in Kadhimiya district of Baghdad. Solagh is a member of the Iranian-backed “Supreme Council on Islamic Revolution in Iraq” (SCIRI). It’s Badr militia dominate the Interior Ministry security forces.

e) “Mawafiq Al-Rubayee” (real name “Kareem Shahpoor”), current National Security Advisor, is originally from Iran, specifically from the city of Shahpoor. He was one of thousands of Iranians deported from Iraq in 1979.

f) Hussein Shahristani, current Oil Minister, is a member of the Shiite coalition. His father is Iranian and comes from the Iranian province of Shahristan. Some members of Hussein’s family still do not speak Arabic. He was a nuclear scientist in Iraq who fled to Iran just prior to the Iran-Iraq war. He was accused by former Iraqi Defense Minister Hazem Shaalan in 2005 of illegally working on the Iranian nuclear program.

g) Ali “Al-Dabbagh” (real last name “Bayajoon”), official spokesman for Prime Minister "Maliki" and former spokesman for Iranian cleric Ali Sistani and member of the Shiite coalition. His grandfather immigrated to Iraq, and settled in Najaf.

h) Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, is one of the top Shiite religious authorities in Najaf. He is Iranian from the province of Sistan, which borders Pakistan. Former Prime Minister Jaafari offered the Iranian cleric Iraqi citizenship, but Sistani refused it saying “I was born as an Iranian and will die as an Iranian.” Sistani still does not speak Arabic fluently and uses translators. He refuses to do any TV and radio interviews in order to avoid appearing to Iraqi audiences as non-Iraqi.

2) Shift in Iranian Alliances in Iraq in 2004-2005

There was been a major shift in alliances in Iraq in late 2004 and early 2005. The first major one is the Dawa-Sadr alliance. The Dawa Party is an old religious (fundamentalist) Iranian-backed Shiite party, led by the current Prime Minister "Maliki." Dawa is a small party in size, only about 400 in number, but are made of many highly educated people (doctors, lawyers, etc).

The Dawa Party made an alliance with Moqtada Sadr, the young sectarian leader who led a brief revolt in 2004. Sadr, who capitalized on his father’s and uncle’s fame has made claim to lead the militant “Sadrist movement” which claims to speak for the poor Shiite masses. The young Sadr made his fame as a result of the brief revolt he led in the summer of 2004, and established the militant “Mahdi Army” militia, which is made up mostly of poor unemployed young hoodlums who have established a reputation for brutality. They were famous for killing Shiites who became Sunnis, but recently become infamous for killing just regular Sunnis.

The Dawa views the Sadrists as their grassroots, while Sadrists view the Dawa party as their leadership. Both ex-premier Jaafari and Sadr were invited to Tehran in 2004 and reported to have received millions of dollars to do Iran’s bidding in Iraq. This was an about face for Sadr who was very vocal (in 2003 and 2004) and critical of Iran’s meddling in Iraq and the Iraqi Shiite movement. But obviously everyone has his or her price. Sadr's Mahdi Army Militia (also known as JAM by the US military) is now controlled and directed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, Quds Force division, and is directed by the senior Iranian commander, Qasim Sulaymani.

That new Sadr-Dawa alliance was a slight to Iran’s traditional proxy, the “Supreme Council on Islamic Revolution in Iraq” (SCIRI) and their Badr Militia led by Abdel-Aziz “Hakeem” Tabatabi. Hakeem’s group, which became notorious for torturing and massacring Sunnis, had lost its popularity among most Iraqis because of its cooperation with the US military. They recently lost favor with Iran (although they are still financed by Tehran), due to their previous cooperation with the U.S. They now play seconds to Dawa-Sadrists.

This would be similar to a first girlfriend who loses favor with her boyfriend to some newer prettier girl; she tries to win her boyfriend back. That’s why Hakeem proposed the US-Iran talks, to prove to Iran that they are still useful to Tehran. Iran strongly backed a Dawa candidate (e,g, Jaafari or Maliki) as Prime Minister. The Shiite Alliance of Dawa, Sadrists, and SCIRI narrowly voted for Jaafari, but the alliance only has 47% of the Parliament seats (so much for the myth of the “Shiite Majority”). The prime minister needs 67% of the votes in parliament to form a government. The majority of the Parliament opposed Jaafari, that's why they had to pick Maliki.

After the Samarra dome attack in February, Sadr’s Mahdi Army militia went on a bloody rampage and bombed and torched about 150 Sunni mosques throughout Baghdad and the South, killed tens of Sunni religious leaders (Imams), and rounded up thousands of Sunnis in mixed neighborhoods and killed them in cold blood. Since this happened under Jaafari’s reign (along with the Badr Death Squads operating from the Interior Ministry), the Sunni Arabs stand totally opposed to his leadership. The death squads have continued their reign of terror under Maliki as well. Everyday, on an average of 150 bodies of Sunnis show up on the street or morgue tortured to death by the Mahdi Army militia or Badr militia.

There are rumors in Washington and Baghdad that Maliki has only until the end of May of 2007 to clean up his act and stop covering up for the militias doing the sectarian killings. After that word is that the SCIRI leader, current VIce-President Adel Abdel-Mahdi (real last name “Muntafaji”) might be picked as an alternative prime minister. He was a former Baathist in 1960’s and 1970’s like Ayad Allawi and worked in the Iraqi Embassy in Paris under the Baathist government. He later quit and became a Communist in the 1970’s. Then in the 1980’s he became religious and joined Hakeem’s group (SCIRI).

There are not too many choices left, especially since the tensions with Iran, the puppet controller of these leaders, is increasing.

After the U.S. military began the Baghdad security operation in February, 2007, Sadr and thousands of his Mahdi Army militiamen fled to Iran, to hide from possible arrest. This opens the door to fresh new Iranian elements to take over militia activity in Iraq.


Thursday, February 8, 2007

Iraq--Background and History

Based on the book, Blockade & Desctruction of Iraq by Mohammed Alomari, 2002, with few updates

September 26, 2015

Country Profile

Iraq, a country about the size of California, is located in the southwestern portion of Asia known as the Middle East. Iraq has a very small coastline (58 km) at the head of the Arabian Gulf, located in the southern tip of the country. Iraq is bordered on the east by Iran, on the north by Turkey, to the west by Syria and Jordan, and to the south by Saudi Arabia and Kuwait.
Iraq has two natural flowing rivers, the famous Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, which meet together in the south to form another waterway known as Shatt-al-Arab. Iraq also has small lakes in the center of the country as well as mountainous regions in the north. The central and southern portions are for the most part flatlands. The southwestern portion of the country is mostly arid and essentially a desert.


Historically, Iraq has been the center of some of the most ancient civilizations in the world. Iraq was also the home of two major Biblical/Quranic prophets, Noah and Abraham.
The name, Iraq, literally means in Arabic, “the land between two rivers.” The first recorded history of the use of the name of Iraq to the country is in the early 630’s AD when the Islamic caliphs began referring to the area as Iraq.

Earlier (pre-Islamic) historians based their writings on the ancient Greek writers who referred to Iraq as “Mesopotamia,” which in Greek also meant, “land between two rivers.”
Prior to the ancient Greek civilization, the Iraq was referred to by the names of the various civilizations.

The ancient history of Iraq goes back to about 7,000 years ago, around 5,000 BC to the Sumerian civilization. The Sumerians had a collection of many different city-states in the southern plains of Iraq.

The Sumerians are credited for many of the inventions we take for granted today, such the invention of the wheel, which all modern land transportation depends on today. The Sumerians also divided the day into 24 hours, and the hour into 60 minutes and the minute into 60 seconds. In addition, the Sumerians are credited for having the oldest known written language, known as cuneiform.

The Sumerians were later succeeded by the Akkadian civilization. The Akkadian period is also sometimes referred to as the Sumerian-Akkadian civilization, because it combined the high culture and scientific achievements of the Sumerians with the military nature of the Akkadians. The Akkadians concentrated on military conquests and forged an empire around in and around Iraq. The most renowned Akkadian king was Sargon I.

The Akkadians were later succeeded by the Babylonians, who came from the southern Iraqi city of Babylon. During this early Babylonian period, the civilization became known for the arts and sciences. One famous Babylonian king, Hammurabi, was the first ruler to publish laws for all the citizens to read. The written law gave the citizens an opportunity to publicly learn about the laws, rather than live in fear of what may or may not please the ruler.

Later the Babylonians were succeeded by the Assyrians who came from the northern Iraqi city of Ashur. The Assyrian Empire was much more militaristic than the early Babylonian period. The Assyrians established a sizeable empire in and around Iraq. One of the most famous Assyrian kings was Sargon II.

Later, the Babylonians were able to fight off the Assyrians, and successfully destroyed the Assyrian Empire. Although the second Babylonian period was much more militaristic than the first, the Neo- Babylonian civilization nevertheless still had an interest in the arts and sciences, like the first. This Neo-Babylonian period is also sometimes referred to as the Chaldean period.
The Neo-Babylonians also forged an empire in and around Iraq. One of the most famous Neo-Babylonian kings was Nebuchadnezzar.

After the fall of the Babylonian civilization, various empires swept through Iraq including the Persians, the Greeks, and the Romans.

It wasn’t until the Islamic period that Iraq regained its independence where it eventually became the center of civilization. By the time of the Abbasid dynasty (750-1258 AD), Baghdad had become the capital of the Islamic caliphate. The most famous Abbasid caliph was Harun Ar-Rasheed.

During the Abbasid period, Iraq was the center of learning and trade around the world. This golden era saw the development of universities, medical research, arts, and the sciences. Many students of learning around the world (even Europeans) traveled to Iraq to study there. Many merchants flocked to Iraq to buy and sell goods.

After the fall of Baghdad in 1258 by the Mongols, Iraq sunk into chaos, bloodshed, backwardness, and neglect. It wasn’t until the Ottomans conquered Iraq in the 1500’s that peace and order was re-established in Iraq. Ottoman rule over Iraq lasted until World War I (1914-1918) when Britain conquered Iraq.

After the British conquered much of the Middle East, they re-drew much of the boundaries not according to the Ottoman rule or to ethnic lines, but rather according to strategic adjectives and various political agreements with France (such as the Sykes-Picot Agreement).

As a result, much of the border issues that developed later in the twentieth century, such as between Iraq and Kuwait, between Iran and Iraq, and even between Syria and Turkey, were results of the British and French colonial powers drawing of the borders.

The British established a kingdom in Iraq in 1921 and ruled under a mandate granted by the League of Nations. Britain chose the Hashemite family from Mecca (now in Saudi Arabia) to be the royal family in Iraq. The first king of Iraq was Faisal bin Hussein.

Britain then granted Iraq its official independence in 1932, but with a special Anglo-Iraq Treaty guaranteeing Britain that Iraq could never adopt any policy deemed “unfavorable” to the British.
Iraq became a constitutional monarchy with two houses of parliament, a nominated senate or House of Appointees and an elected House of Representatives. The members of the House of Appointees were appointed by the king, while the members of the House of Representatives were elected by the citizens.

Iraq's policies were closely aligned with Britain. After the sudden death of King Faisal I in 1933, he was succeeded by his young son, Ghazi. Ghazi was more of an Arab nationalist and began to distinguish his rule from his father by distancing himself from Britain. He also planned to build a huge port in the neighboring Kuwait which was under British rule. He also supported the Palestinian resistance to the British rule and Zionist plans for Palestine. King Ghazi ruled from 1933 until 1939, when he was killed in an automobile crash. Many later accused the British for killing the king and the British consulate was attacked in Mosul.

Since King Ghazi’s son, Faisal II was still a boy at the time of his death, Faisal’s uncle, Abdel-Ilah ruled on his behalf, as the Regent. Abdel-Ilah realigned Iraq's policies closer to Britain. For the brief exception of 1941 where the Prime Minister Rashid Ali Al-Gailani revolted and rebelled against the British, most of the period under Abdel-Ilah's rule (1939-1953) saw close ties with Britian.  In 1948, Iraq sent army units to fight along the other Arab nations to protect the Palestinian areas after the Zionists declared the nation of Israel on areas it took over in Palestine. The Iraqi Army was famed for defending the West Bank areas from the Zionist forces.

After turning 18, Faisal II officially was crowned king in 1953. During this period Faisal II began to build closer ties with the United States. The King visited the United States and met with President Eisenhower. Many felt that Iraq was moving away from Britain in favor of the U.S. In February of 1958, Iraq and Jordan officially became united into one nation, called the Hashemite Union. Iraq also founded the Baghdad Pact with neighboring nations Iran and Turkey as a bulwark against Communism.

Later that year (July, 1958), Hashemite rule was overthrown in Iraq by local army officers in a bloody revolution. Both King Faisal II and Crown Prince Abdel-Ilah were killed.

The union with Jordan was summarily dissolved. Both houses of parliament (House of Appointees and House of Representatives) were dissolved. Iraq withdrew from the Baghdad Pact.

Iraq ceased to be a kingdom in 1958, and although it was officially called a republic, it was not functionally set up as a republic. Rather, the presidency was a powerless three-man council, whereby the prime minister held all the real power. There was no parliament.

The leader of the 1958 revolution was Army General Abdel-Karim Qassim, who became the prime minister. His second in command was Army officer Abdel-Salam Arif. Qassim and Arif later split due to their political differences. Arif was an Arab nationalist, where Qassim was Iraq-centered. Arif was later arrested, tried, and released.

Qassim made many changes to the governmental institutions and civil law. He also realigned Iraq's foreign policy from the Western nations to the Soviet bloc nations. He also made claims on neighboring Kuwait in 1962. Premier Qassim was later overthrown and killed in another bloody revolution in March of 1963, also led by army officers.

After 1963, Iraq later became functionally more like a republic, where the power was transferred from the prime minister to the president.

The leader of the 1963 revolution was General Abdel-Salam Arif, who later became the president. His second in command was Army officer Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr, who was also the leader of the Arab Baath Socialist Party, an Arab ultra-nationalist party. Arif became the President and Bakr became the prime minister. Arif, fearing a takeover by the Baath Party, later in November of 1963 moved against the Baathists including Bakr. Arif realigned Iraq's foreign policies to be closer with Egypt and Syria. Arif also improved the relations with the U.S. President Arif was killed in a helicopter crash in 1966, and was succeeded by his brother General Abdel-Rahman Arif.  He was known to be very mild mannered and freed many political prisoners. Iraq participated in the Arab-Israeli war of 1967, and cut ties with the U.S. as a result of that war. President Arif was later overthrown in July of 1968, in yet another revolution, also led by army officers.

The leader of the 1968 revolution was General Ahmed Hassan Al-Bakr, who became the president. Although there were different non-party officers involved in the 1968 revolution, the Baath Party moved against them and ruled the country alone. The party ruled the country for almost 35 years.

After the 1968 revolution, the army officers established a Revolutionary Command Council (RCC) as the chief executive authority in the country. The president of the republic has also been the chairman of the RCC.

In 1972, Iraq nationalized all its oil resources, which were previously controlled by foreign multinational oil companies. In 1973, Iraq sent army units to neighboring Syria to participate in the Arab-Israeli war. The Iraqi Army was famed for defending the Syrian capital of Damascus from Israeli occupation.

As the vice-chairman of the RCC at the time, Saddam Hussein began consolidating his power base in the government. He was instrumental in granting autonomy rights to the Kurdish minority in the north in 1974. Saddam also engineered the deal with the Shah of Iran to end the border dispute and the insurgency in the north in 1975. Saddam gradually became the real power in the government. President Al-Bakr resigned from his posts in 1979, citing poor health, although many feel he was pushed out of power. Saddam became the chairman of the RCC and the president of Iraq.

Also in 1979, after the Iranian revolution, the leader in Tehran Ayatollah Khomeini called for the overthrow of the Iraqi government and border clashes erupted in 1980.  Iraq fought a major war with Iran for eight years (1980-1988) over several issues, including a political struggle for dominance of the region and some border issues dating back to British colonial times.

In 1990, Iraq conquered its southern neighbor Kuwait over many political, economic, and strategic issues, and to a lesser degree, a few border issues, also dating back to the British colonial period. The United Nations place a comprehensive trade ban on Iraq, as a result.

In 1991, a coalition of almost thirty nations, including the United States, Britain, and France, led a devastating war against Iraq. That war destroyed Iraq's civilian infrastructure (electricity, water, sewage treatment, etc). Iraq was forced to withdraw from Kuwait in 1991.

Iraq is still suffering from the effects of the devastation of the 1991 Gulf War and the almost 13-year UN embargo, which prevented Iraq from rebuilding its electric power grid, water pumping stations, sewage treatment plants, schools, hospitals, etc.

On March 19, 2003, the U.S. led a massive invasion of Iraq from neighboring Kuwait, on the claim that Iraq still had banned weapons. The UN Security Council refused to authorize any military action against Iraq due to the lack of evidence that Iraq violated any UN resolution, and the fact that Iraq was in fact cooperating with UN Weapons Inspectors.

The massive U.S. and British military assualt on Iraq severly overwhelmed the Iraqi military, and the Baghdad government completely collapsed on April 9, 2003.

The fact that Iraq did not use any of the supposed banned weapons it was accused of having, added to the fact that even after several months of a massive U.S.-UK military occupation, no banned weapons were ever found in Iraq, it became quite clear that Iraq in fact did not have these weapons. The pretext for the invasion was in fact just that, a pretext. Later after the 2003 invasion and occupation, the Bush Administration admitted that in fact there were no supposed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq.

The U.S. and British forces established military rule over Iraq, under the Coalition Provisional Authority (CPA). Although the CPA established an Interim Iraqi Council, the CPA held all the power and issued all the laws and decrees. The first head of the CPA was retired General Jay Garner. He was soon replaced by Ambassador Paul Bremer, who became the defacto ruler of Iraq until June of 2004.

In June of 2004, nominal sovereignty was handed over to Prime Minister Ayad Allawi, a secularist, who formed a cabinet of mixed religious and secular parties, to over see the first set of elections in January of 2005. The result of the January elections, which was boycotted by an important segment of society, was used to form an interim government to over see the writing of a constitution, hold a plebiscite, and conduct final elections in December 2005 for a permanent government.

After the January 2005 interim elections, Prime Minister Allawi handed power to Ibrahim Al-Ashayqar, who went by the title of "Jaafari." Jaafari, from the religious Al-Dawa Party, formed a new cabinet and ruled over a period which saw the drafting of the constitution and the elections of December 2005.

In the spring of 2006, due to opposition from other parties and coalitions in the new parliament for poor performance, Premier Jaafari was forced to hand over power to another colleague in the Dawa Party, Nuri Kamil Al-Maliki. Maliki then proceeded to form a new cabinet based on the parliament's various new coalitions.

Later after years of sectarian policies polarizing the communities in Iraq and massive demonstrations throughout the central and northern cities, calls for Al-Maliki to resign became un-ignore-able. In 2014, after the parliamentary elections, Al-Maliki's Dawa Party was forced to pick another candidate to become prime minister. The party picked Haidar Al-Abadi, who formed a new government. The Dawa Party has ruled Iraq for almost ten years. In addition, after President Jalal Talabani suffered a stroke, Fuad Masum was picked to become the president.

Monday, February 5, 2007

People of Iraq

Based on the book, Blockade & Desctruction of Iraq by Mohammed Alomari, 2002, with few updates

January 9, 2015

The statistical information used in this book of the makeup of the Iraqi population is based primarily on official U.S. government reports, including ones from the U.S. Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), which periodically produces country profiles and fact books, and the UN Oil-for-Food program.

According to these reports, Iraq’s population is estimated at just over 32.6 million (2014), and is made up of various ethnic and religious groups. The overwhelming ethnic group is the Arabic majority whom comprise approximately 80% of the population. The largest single ethnic minority is the Kurdish minority, who are mainly in the northern regions bordering Turkey and Iran.

Other smaller ethnic minorities include the Turkomans (who speak an older form of Turkish), Assyrians and Chaldeans (who speak Syriac), and Armenians.

The overwhelming majority of Iraqis are Muslims, comprising about 97% of the population, and consisting of both Sunnis and Shiites. The single largest religious minority is the Christian community, consisting of Catholics, Protestants, and Orthodox Christians. The other much smaller religious minorities include the Mandean Sabians, Yazidis, and Jews.*

Due to Iraq's unique makeup of different denominations and ethnic groups, it is noteworthy to mention some percentages of the ethnic/religious makeup.

The 2003 Census by the Iraqi Ministry of Trade, as approved by the UN, offers a break-down of the sectarian make-up of Iraq.

In Iraq, as previously mentioned, 97% of Iraqis are Muslims, both Shiites and Sunnis. The Shiites in Iraq are primarily Arabs, although some are of Iranian origin, and some very small numbers are Kurdish Faylis and some Turkoman Shabak. The Sunnis in Iraq are primarily Arabs, although many are Kurds and Turkomans.

Many people when mentioning the Sunni-Shiite percentage in Iraq make the mistake of comparing only the Shiite Arabs to the Sunni Arabs, where in fact the Kurds and Turkomans compromise a sizeable portion of the Sunni population. Shiite Arabs are more than Sunni Arabs, but not all Sunnis. Sunnis althogether, which include Arabs, Kurds and Turkomans, althogether compromise almost 60 % of the Iraqi people.

We know for instance the south is not all Shiite as some mistakenly believe. In fact, half of Basra is Sunni, southern towns like Zubair and Fao are predominately Sunni, and so on. That is in addition to major cities like Baghdad which is majority Sunni, and Mosul, etc. To put these percentages in their proper perspective, here are some figures:

Total Sunnis ----------- 58%
Total Shiites ----------- 40%

Arab Shiites ----------- 39%
Arab Sunnis ----------- 36%
Kurdish Sunnis ------- 16%
Turkoman Sunnis ----- 5%
Christians --------------- 1.5%
Other Shiites ---------
(Feylis, Shabak, etc) --- 1%
Sabians, Yazidis, oth --- 0.5%

Finally, one note that needs to be made is that in spite of this unique makeup, inter-marriage between these groups is very wide-spread. In fact major tribes like Al-Jabbour, Al-Shammar, Al-Taaee, and Al-Tameemi are divided into both Sunni and Shiite parts. In addition, there is much inter-marriage between Arabs, Kurds, and Turkomans.

The hope of most Iraqis is that they can overcome the ethnic and religious differences and forge a unified state that puts an emphasis on capabilities over denomination. A true democracy will secure the rights of all and promote the principle of plurality.