How Iran, the Mideast’s new superpower, is expanding its footprint across the region – and what it means

raqi Shiites of the Mahdi Army militia vow to fight ISIS in a show of strength in a 2014 military parade in Baghdad. (Scott Peterson/Getty Images/The Christian Science Monitor)

 

Iran has achieved milestones of leverage and influence that rival any regional power in the past half-century. While there are limits to how far it can extend its authority, Tehran’s rapid rise poses new challenges to the US, Israel, and Saudi Arabia as it undermines their previous dominance. How far can Tehran extend its reach?

With opulent furnishings and the finest cut-crystal water glasses in Baghdad, the new offices of the Iranian-backed Shiite militia exude money and power – exactly as they are meant to. At one end of the meeting room is a set built for TV interviews, with gilded chairs and an official-looking backdrop of Iraqi and militia flags, lit by an ornate glass chandelier. Continue reading

US New Moves: War with Iran May Be Much Closer Than We Think

US New Moves: War with Iran May Be Much Closer Than We Think

 

The US does not intend to end or even curtail its military presence in Iraq (as well as Syria) after the defeat of the Islamic State. It is planning to turn Iraq into a major theater of confrontation with Iran. There are signs that a war with Iran may be much closer than we think.

CIA director Mike Pompeo, an official known for his staunch opposition to Iran, has warned Tehran that the United States would hold it accountable for any attacks it conducted on American interests. Addressing high-ranking US military and security officials on Saturday, Dec. 2, at a defence forum at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation and Institute in Simi Valley, California, Pompeo said that he had sent the letter to General Qassem Suleimani, a leader of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and elite Quds. “What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold him and Iran accountable… and we wanted to make sure that he and the leadership of Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear,” the CIA director explained. Continue reading

New US military moves in the Mid-East & Israel’s Syria air raid were coordinated

 

The US hands-off to Iran’s top general in Iraq, Ali Abdullah Saleh’s changeover of sides in the Yemen war and Trump’s’ thinking on Jerusalem – all signal a new, proactive US strategy for the region.

Central Intelligence Agency chief Mike Pompeo was uncharacteristically frank when he addressed high-ranking US military and security officials on Saturday, Dec. 2, at the Reagan Presidential Foundation. He revealed that he had sent a note to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Al Qods chief, Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and explained: “I sent it because he had indicated that forces under his control might in fact threaten US interests n Iraq.” Continue reading

Pentagon Responds: “US Pilots Will Defend Themselves If Attacked By Russians”

One wouldn’t know it by looking at the market, but the biggest developing story today was Russia’s threat to intercept any aircraft – including US – flying in the area of operations of the Russian Aerospace Forces in Syria, and “be followed as targets” after yesterday’s downing by a US F-18 of a Syrian Su-22 fighter jet. Moments ago the US responded to this unmistakable deterioration in relations between the two nations, when a Pentagon spokesman said U.S. pilots over Syria will defend themselves if attacked by Russians. Continue reading

Future of Iraq

WASHINGTON/BERLIN/BAGHDAD (Own report) – A strategy paper prepared by the US Atlantic Council think tank – with the assistance of Germany’s CDU-affiliated Konrad Adenauer Foundation – is proposing measures for Western powers to take to insure their continued influence in Iraq following the fall of Mosul. According to the paper, published a few days ago, US military forces should remain in Iraq for the foreseeable future, train and equip Iraqi forces to prevent IS from regrouping and recovering after its expected defeat. To push back Iran’s influence, measures should also be taken to help the country’s economic development. In Baghdad, a government “strongly inclined to cooperate closely with the United States” is needed, the paper states, and calls for US allies – particularly European countries – to engage in Iraq to “tackle sensitive areas in which the United States is not seen as neutral.” Berlin is already using this opportunity to build its own base of influence in Iraq and is supporting the reconstruction of towns recaptured from the IS. Insuring western control of Iraq is considered all the more urgent, since Russia could successfully obtain major influence in Damascus following the anticipated end of the Syrian war.

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Iraqi officers land in Syria, stir Israeli concern

Iraq switching sides to the Iranian-Syrian-Russian axis is now official:

 

Israeli security chiefs were gravely concerned Wednesday, May 17, when they learned that a high-ranking Iraqi military delegation had arrived in Damascus, the first in decades during which the Iraqi and Syrian ruling regimes were at odds, for a discussion on the situation unfolding on the Syrian-Iraqi border – in particular the Al-Tanf crossing.

DEBKAfile’s military sources reported on May 15 and May 16 on the potential for a clash of arms over this strategic crossing, which is situated at the intersection of the Jordanian, Iraq, and Syrian borders and commands the No.1 Route linking Baghdad with Damascus and the Jordanian capital of Amman. Continue reading

US, UK, Jordanian forces enter S. Syria

 

US special forces, together with British and Jordanian elite troops, moved into southern Syria late Sunday, May 14. They were acting to counter the Syrian-Iranian scheme to nullify the American plan for posting Jordanian forces in southeastern Syria, which timed for the days before US President Donald Trump’s trip to the Middle East.

The US-led armored force with British and Jordanian units crossed from northern Jordan through the Tanf Border-Crossing between the Hashemite Kingdom, Iraq and Syria, and took up positions capable of consolidating their control of the main road between Palmyra and Baghdad. Some of their moves were coordinated with Israel. Continue reading

Russian jets mistakenly bomb US-backed forces in Syria: US

Syrian army tanks are positioned on the eastern outskirts of the northern Syrian city of Aleppo on February 17, 2017 (AFP Photo/George OURFALIAN)

 

Washington (AFP) – Russian warplanes bombed US-backed fighters in several small villages in northern Syria after they mistakenly thought Islamic State group forces were in the area, a US general said Wednesday.

Army Lieutenant General Stephen Townsend said Russian and Syrian regime aircraft attacked the villages to the south and east of Al-Bab in Aleppo province on Tuesday, resulting in an unspecified number of casualties.

The Russians apparently had observed Islamic State fighters moving from the area and wrongly assumed that other forces remaining were jihadists. Continue reading

Fiercely resistant ISIS seizes two Iraqi cities

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US soldiers were Monday ordered to use gas masks after ISIS poured oil on a sulfur mine 70km south of Mosul that continues to burn near the US and Iraqi military center at Qayyarah.One obstacle after another – often unforeseen – is slowing the coalition’s advance on Mosul – as debkafile was the first publication to reveal last week. It is becoming obvious that ISIS is following a plan to circle around Mosul in a wide radius and pouncing on important spots for diversionary attacks:

Last week, they overran Kirkuk; this week, Sinjar and Rutba. Continue reading

Get Ready to Walk Away from Incirlik

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An F-15E Strike Eagle from the 48th Fighter Wing at Royal Air Force Lakenheath, England, lands at Incirlik Air Base, Turkey, Nov. 12, 2015. (U.S. Air Force / Airman 1st Class Cory W. Bush)

 

As U.S.-Turkey relations cool, retaining access to the air base will require ending our dependence on it.

Turkey’s Incirlik airbase has supported America’s most vital strategic needs for more than a half century, first during the Cold War and more recently in the fight against terrorists. Now, as its host country becomes less stable and less friendly to the United States, the best way to ensure continued access to this large and well-located base is to prepare to do without it.

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The big Mosul offensive is stuck, halted by ISIS

Less than a day after its launch, the big Mosul offensive prepared for more than a year by the US, the Iraqi army, Kurdish forces and others, ground to a halt Tuesday Oct. 17, debkafile’s military sources report – although none of the parties admitted as much.  Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi said his troops were busy opening up corridors for some million civilians to escape, while US sources suggested that the Islamic State would use primitive chemical weapons against the advancing Iraqi and Kurdish forces.

Both had the ring of cover stories to account for the spearhead forces, the Iraq army’s 9th Armored Division and the Federal Police special anti-terror units, being thrown back Tuesday on their way to Mosul from the east and the south, while still 10-15km short of the city. They sustained heavy losses in lives and hardware.

The 9th Division and its newly-supplied heavy US Abrahams tanks were stopped at al-Hamdaniyah outside Mosul and retreated, recalling a previous defeat at ISIS hands in June 2014, when troops of the same division fled under Islamist attack, leaving their tanks behind. Continue reading

Iraq threatens WAR with Turkey over military occupation

Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi threatens to initiate a regional war if Turkey does not withdraw its military forces from Northern Iraq.

(BAGHDAD/ANKARA) Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi has warned Turkey that it risks triggering a regional war by keeping troops in Iraq, as each summoned the other’s ambassador in a growing row.

Relations between the two regional powers are already broadly strained by the Syrian war and the rise of the Islamic State militant group. Continue reading

US officials: Up to 100,000 Iran-backed fighters now in Iraq

As many as 100,000 Iranian-backed Shiite militia are now fighting on the ground in Iraq, according to U.S. military officials — raising concerns that should the Islamic State be defeated, it may only be replaced by another anti-American force that fuels further sectarian violence in the region.

The ranks have swelled inside a network of Shiite militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces. Since the rise of Sunni-dominated ISIS fighters inside Iraq more than two years ago, the Shiite forces have grown to 100,000 fighters, Col. Chris Garver, a Baghdad-based U.S. military spokesman, confirmed in an email to Fox News. The fighters are mostly Iraqis. Continue reading

US, Iran holding secret talks to stabilize situation in Baghdad: sources

Sources close to the contacts report that the Americans and the Iranians have agreed to support the continuation of the tenures of Iraqi Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi and the Iraqi parliament’s speaker, Salim Al Jabouri. Continue reading

Iraqi Parliament Collapses, Lawmakers Flee Baghdad

Baghdad is in a state of emergency after protestors led by Shi’ite clergyman Muqtada al-Sadr entered the parliament building in the International Zone Saturday, forcing lawmakers to flee.

On Sunday morning, the demonstrators gathered in front of the now-empty parliament building and in what is known as the zone’s “Celebration Square.” Later, they announced they would temporarily leave the area. In a statement, Sadr’s office said the decision was made because a major Shi’ite religious observance is taking place. Continue reading

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