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Ed Webb

From Iraq to Lebanon, Iran Is Facing a Backlash - 0 views

  • Since the outbreak of the protests in early October, various security forces, including Iranian-backed Shiite militias, have killed more than 400 Iraqis and wounded some 20,000 others. Not only is there good reason to believe that much of the brutality has taken place at the behest of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Qassem Suleimani, the notorious commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force, but the available evidence seems to confirm it. Aware of the anti-Iranian mood on the Iraqi streets—exemplified by protesters beating their shoes against portraits of Khamenei, just as they had done with former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein in 2003—an unnerved Khamenei did not hesitate to intervene.
  • Suleimani called for a heavy-handed approach to deal with people on the streets, reportedly saying, “we in Iran know how to deal with protests,” an implicit reference to prior violent suppressions of peaceful demonstrations in Iran and, more aggressively, in Syria. The death toll in Iraq surpassed 100 the day after his departure, confirming the power of Iran’s word.
  • Tehran has invested heavily in hard and soft power tools to expand its influence in Iraq. This investment has eventually paid dividends. Some of the most prominent individuals in Iraq today—including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Hadi al-Amiri, former government officials and leaders of the most powerful Iranian-backed militias—were initially recruited by the IRGC in the early 1980s to spread the Islamic Revolution into Iraq
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  • Tehran planned to replicate its “Hezbollah model” in Iraq: nurturing militancy to gain control of territory, while encouraging these militants to take advantage of a newly created democracy as a way to penetrate political institutions. These efforts were bolstered by close cross-border clerical and personal relationships.
  • Leaked Iranian intelligence cables shed light on the scale and nature of Iran’s systematic and deep-rooted interference in Iraq, from its network of militant agents to its oversight of political institutions. The cables confirm what protesters already knew: Tehran has been committing enormous resources to imposing a command-and-control structure on Baghdad. Viewed within the broader context of worsening economic conditions and unresponsive, corrupt governance, protesters see Iran as the source of their grievances, fuelling anti-Iranian sentiment on the streets.
  • The protests in Lebanon, which have been uniquely secular despite the fragile sectarian composition of its population, are driven by charges of corruption and a desire to replace a rigid and unresponsive establishment—of which Hezbollah has become an intrinsic part.
  • A recent Asda’a BCW survey suggests that two-thirds of young Arabs consider Iran an enemy of their country.
  • The soaring levels of public discontent in Iran have been consistently overlooked by policymakers and commentators. The most recent protests in Iran, which were brutally repressed by the regime, caught many in the West off guard—but signs of widespread discontent have been in place for many years.
  • In 2009, there was a genuine belief that the Islamic Republic could be reformed, expressed primarily in the demand that Mir Hossein Mousavi, the reformist presidential candidate, be installed as president. Now, the moderate pro-reform slogans that were heard on Iranian streets in 2009 have been replaced with more hostile chants, such as “Death to Khamenei” and “Mullahs have to get lost”—signaling a broader rejection of the entire Islamic revolutionary system.
  • as protesters in Iraq chant, “Iran out, Baghdad free,” in Iran they cry, “no to Gaza, no to Lebanon, I give my life only for Iran”—reflecting a growing desire in both countries for governments that put domestic interests above regional considerations
  • The IRGC and Iran’s Shiite proxies will not stand down without a fight. While the combination of pressure in Iraq, Lebanon, and Iran may help weaken the regime in Tehran, it will probably be a deadly affair.
Ed Webb

Iraqis rise up against 16 years of 'made in the USA' corruption | openDemocracy - 1 views

  • Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi has announced he will resign, and Sweden has opened an investigation against Iraqi Defense Minister Najah Al-Shammari, who is a Swedish citizen, for crimes against humanity.
  • Out of 198 contracts reviewed by the inspector general, only 44 had documentation to confirm the work was done.
  • while Iran has gained enormous influence and is one of the targets of the protests, most of the people ruling Iraq today are still the former exiles that the US flew in with its occupation forces in 2003, “coming to Iraq with empty pockets to fill” as a taxi-driver in Baghdad told a Western reporter at the time.
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  • The corruption of both US and Iraqi officials during the US occupation is well documented. UN Security Council resolution 1483 established a $20 billion Development Fund for Iraq using previously seized Iraqi assets, money left in the UN’s “oil for food” program and new Iraqi oil revenues. An audit by KPMG and a special inspector general found that a huge proportion of that money was stolen or embezzled by US and Iraqi officials.
  • According to Al Jazeera, “protesters are demanding the overthrow of a political class seen as corrupt and serving foreign powers while many Iraqis languish in poverty without jobs, healthcare or education.” Only 36% of the adult population of Iraq have jobs, and despite the gutting of the public sector under US occupation, its tattered remnants still employ more people than the private sector, which fared even worse under the violence and chaos of the US's militarized shock doctrine.
  • The US Congress also budgeted $18.4 billion for reconstruction in Iraq in 2003, but apart from $3.4 billion diverted to "security," less than $1 billion of it was ever disbursed. Many Americans believe US oil companies have made out like bandits in Iraq, but that’s not true either. The plans that Western oil companies drew up with Vice President Cheney in 2001 had that intent, but a law to grant Western oil companies lucrative “production sharing agreements” (PSAs) worth tens of billions per year was exposed as a smash and grab raid and the Iraqi National Assembly refused to pass it.
  • Ayad Allawi and the INA were the instrument for the CIA’s hopelessly bungled military coup in Iraq in 1996. The Iraqi government followed every detail of the plot on a closed-circuit radio handed over by one of the conspirators and arrested all the CIA’s agents inside Iraq on the eve of the coup. It executed thirty military officers and jailed a hundred more, leaving the CIA with no human intelligence from inside Iraq.
  • Allawi and the INA are still involved in the horse-trading for senior positions after every election, despite never getting more than 8% of the votes - and only 6% in 2018.
  • The cost of rebuilding Mosul, Fallujah and other cities and towns is conservatively estimated at $88 billion. But despite $80 billion per year in oil exports and a federal budget of over $100 billion, the Iraqi government has allocated no money at all for reconstruction. Foreign, mostly wealthy Arab countries, have pledged $30 billion, including just $3 billion from the US, but very little of that has been, or may ever be, delivered.
Ed Webb

Iranian protesters strike at the heart of the regime's revolutionary legitimacy - 0 views

  • If the unofficial reports of dead and wounded are anywhere near accurate, this might be the most deadly uprising since the 1979 revolution.
  • Iran’s turmoil is not driven by U.S. policies, nor is it merely some circumstantial spasm. The protests are the latest salvo in the Iranian struggle for accountable government that stretches back more than a century. And the fury and desperation of the Iranians on the streets this week strikes at the heart of the legitimacy of the revolutionary system.
  • After the monarchy was ousted, collective action — both spontaneous and opportunistic — was a primary mechanism for gaining advantage in the chaotic struggle for power.
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  • Most infamously, this led to a student-led seizure of the American embassy in Tehran 40 years ago this month, an action that toppled Iran’s liberal-leaning provisional government and permanently escalated tensions between Washington and Tehran.
  • Over the course of the past 40 years, Iran has routinely witnessed all varieties of rallies and riots; sit-ins by families of political prisoners; labor strikes by teachers, truckers, and factory workers; student demonstrations over everything from free speech to dormitory conditions and cafeteria food; soccer riots; and marches and sit-ins sparked by localized grievances. These manifestations have never been limited by geography or class.
  • The durability of the Islamic Republic is perhaps the most important legacy of 1979 revolution. None of the extraordinary developments within or around Iran over the course of the past 40 years has managed to significantly alter it — not the considerable evolution of Iranian society, nor the country’s steady reengagement with the world, nor the incremental reforms advanced by various factions within the establishment. In many respects, the structure of power in the Islamic Republic seems even more firmly embedded today than it was at any point since its precarious creation.
  • if war, internal upheaval, regional turmoil, natural disasters, crippling economic sanctions, and near-constant infighting among the political establishment have failed to weaken theocratic authority, perhaps any hope for change is simply futile
  • Iran’s “lost generation” is now approaching the age of the revolution itself, and the absence of a promising political or economic horizon has become painfully acute — and not simply for elites, but for the larger population of Iran’s post-revolutionary youth. These Iranians have benefited from the revolution’s dramatic expansion of educational opportunities and broader social welfare infrastructure. That legacy and the regime’s populist promises have shaped their expectations for a better life and sense of political entitlement to a functioning, responsive government.
  • The Iran Human Rights Documentation Center recorded more than 1,200 labor actions related to non-payment of wages between January 2017 and November 2018. The apex came in the final days of 2017 and early 2018, when what apparently began as a provincial political stunt quickly flared into a spasm of furious demonstrations. Within 48 hours, protests were convulsing in at least 80 cities, and the refrains of the demonstrators had catapulted from economic grievances to explicit denunciations of the system and the entirety of its leadership
  • It is clear from Tehran’s reaction to the latest eruption of protests that the leadership is unnerved, and for good reasons: the rapid progression from mundane, localized demands to radical rejection of the system as a whole; the transmission and coordination of protests via social media rather than mediated through the more manageable traditional press; the engagement of the government’s core constituency, the rising middle class; and the near-instantaneous dispersion from local to national.
  • In each of Iran’s most significant turning points over the past 150 years — the Tobacco Revolt, the Constitutional Revolution, the oil nationalization crisis, the 1979 revolution — financial pressures intensified and expedited the political challenge to the status quo.
  • Tehran today is facing an epic, interconnected set of crises: the crisis of unmet expectations, which feeds a crisis of legitimacy for a system whose waning ideological legitimacy has been supplanted by reliance on a more prosaic emphasis on state performance and living standards. Iran’s predicament is exacerbated by the uncertainties surrounding leadership succession, both with respect to the position of the supreme leader, who marked his 80th birthday earlier this year, and the legions of senior officials from the same generation who helped shape the post-revolutionary state from its inception.
  • Eventually, as happened 40 years ago in Iran, even the most well-fortified regime will shatter.
Ed Webb

Ex-Hezbollah leader slams Iran Supreme Leader for Iraq, Lebanon protest deaths - Middle... - 0 views

  • Former Secretary-General of Lebanon’s Shia Hezbollah movement, a key ally of Iran, criticised Iran’s supreme leader Sunday for being behind corruption in Lebanon and Iraq, where anti-government and corruption protests are ongoing.Subhi al-Tufayli, speaking to Arab and social media, delivered remarks on recent mass protests held in Lebanon and Iraq.
  • In 1988, Al-Tufayli, one of the founding members of Hezbollah, who is a religious scholar, survived an assassination attempt, which is suspected to have been conducted by Israel and the USHezbollah and he diverged paths after the former took part in 1992 general elections of Lebanon.
  • Already facing the worst economic crisis since the 1975-90 civil war, Lebanon has been pitched deeper into turmoil since October 17 by a wave of rallies against the ruling elite that led Saad al-Hariri to resign as prime minister on October  29.
Ed Webb

As PMU gets involved in Iraqi protests, rumors about military coup spread - 0 views

  • With anti-Iranian sentiments growing, the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) have gotten involved in the protests, accusing the West and its regional and local allies of being behind the unrest.
  • A high-ranking security figure who attended the meeting with Soleimani told Al-Monitor that he advised the attendees to not show any weakness to the protesters, otherwise they would not stop taking to the streets. Referring to the Green Movement's protests in 2009, he said, “In Iran we know how to deal with protesters; we found ourselves in that situation before and succeeded in overcoming it.”
  • As both the protesters and the government are unwilling to reduce the tension and reach an agreement, it seems the situation in Iraq could escalate further in the next few weeks. This would trigger more violence and cause the country further damage, and open up an opportunity for the PMU to take the security dossier into its hands and deepen its influence in the Iraqi state.
Ed Webb

Protests in Lebanon and Iraq Show That Iran Is Losing the Middle East Through Bad Gover... - 0 views

  • For the Shiite communities in Iraq and Lebanon, Tehran and its proxies have failed to translate military and political victories into a socioeconomic vision; simply put, Iran’s resistance narrative did not put food on the table.
  • Today, Iran seems to be winning the long game. Its proxy in Lebanon prevailed in last year’s parliamentary elections. In Syria, Iran managed to save its ally, President Bashar al-Assad. In the past several years, Iran has also gained a lot more power in Baghdad through its proxies, including the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the Shiite militias created to fight the Islamic State.
  • Hezbollah’s costly involvement in the Syrian war and pressure from U.S. sanctions on Iran have forced the party to cut salaries and services, widening the gap between the rich and the poor within its own community. Meanwhile, the party also drafted mostly Shiites from poor neighborhoods to go fight in Syria, while its officials benefited from the war riches, causing much resentment.
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  • all these victories failed to translate into public well-being. Iran might have benefited, but Shiites in Lebanon got more isolated than ever. That is why it is so meaningful that the Shiite community, by joining the protests, is now attempting to claim its Lebanese identity rather than the religious one that has, so far, failed it
  • tens of thousands of Iraqis in Baghdad and other Shiite-majority parts of southern Iraq came out in protest over the failures of the Iraqi political class to provide basic services and reduce unemployment and corruption. The crackdown was swift and aggressive, resulting in the deaths of more than 100 protesters. Reuters published a story more than a week into the protests confirming that Iran-backed militias had deployed snipers on Baghdad rooftops to deliberately kill protesters
  • Some Sunnis and Kurds in Iraq have expressed support for the Shiite protesters but have hesitated to get involved in order to avoid having the protesters labeled as members of the Islamic State, an excuse that Iran has used in both Iraq and Syria to attack uprisings.
  • Hezbollah will try not repeat the Iraqi PMF’s mistake of responding with violence. That’s why its military units have been training a number of non-Hezbollah members to join what it calls the Lebanese Resistance Brigades. The role of these brigades is precisely to deal with domestic challenges and allow Hezbollah to deny responsibility. Already, in an attempt to create a counter-revolution, hundreds of young men carrying the flags of Amal and Hezbollah attacked the protesters in a number of cities. So far, the Lebanese Army has stopped them from getting too close to the protests, but they have managed to physically hurt and terrorize people outside Beirut, mainly in Shiite towns and cities
  • Shiism does not belong to Iran
Ed Webb

With Lebanon making fragile progress, now is the wrong time to pull US assistance - 0 views

  • The proxies of Iran and Syria in Lebanon, after years of solidarity, show tentative signs of diverging. With even Shia protesters on the street, and with Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah’s calls to disperse unheeded, Hezbollah’s façade of invincibility is showing cracks. The Lebanese army and security forces have responded with admirable courage, restraint, and independence in defying calls by Hezbollah leaders and private pleas from the presidential palace to clear the streets. In contrast with unprecedented and overt criticism of Hezbollah, public support for the Lebanese Armed Forces (LAF) is soaring.
  • rather than reinforcing them, the White House, in an astonishingly ill-timed decision, suspended $105 million in U.S. security assistance to the very institutions that have defied Hezbollah’s demands to end the protests
  • gives both Damascus and Tehran the gift of a unifying message to the Lebanese about America’s unreliability as a partner.
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  • LAF pride and capabilities, both linked to years of sustained U.S. support, endanger Hezbollah’s “resistance” narrative.
  • For years, Iranian and Syrian interests and tactics in Lebanon have largely coincided: They seek to discredit and divide the so-called “March 14” movement that emerged against Damascus and Tehran in the aftermath of the murder of former Prime Minister Rafiq Hariri in 2005; “resist” U.S. and French efforts to bolster’s Lebanon’s sovereignty and independence; and use Lebanon to threaten Israel.
  • Hezbollah has expanded its influence in, and in some cases control over, Lebanon’s domestic institutions via its 2006 memorandum of understanding with the Free Patriotic Movement (FPM), a Christian party.
  • Since 2006, Aoun and his son-in-law, Foreign Minister Gebran Bassile, have been reliable fronts for Hezbollah’s and thus Iran’s interests in Lebanon
  • some of Syria’s traditional allies in Lebanon, including Bashar al-Assad’s childhood friend Sleiman Franjieh, have remained conspicuously silent or even sent relatives to join the demonstrations
  • The value of Hezbollah’s FPM-provided Christian veneer has declined precipitously, with Bassile now a favorite target of the protesters as a symbol of everything that ails Lebanon
  • it would not be the first time that regional actors used Lebanon as the theater for their competition
  • Two Lebanese politicians speculated about a connection to what is happening in the Alawite regions of Syria, where Bashar al-Assad may view Iranian influence and Shia proselytizing as a threat to his secular, Alawite base
  • Assad, who would have considered Hezbollah a junior partner during the pre-2005 Syrian occupation of Lebanon, may also resent the current strength and presence of Hezbollah in Syria: Who’s the junior partner now? How much control can Assad exert over Hezbollah inside Syria? Given that Assad still needs Iran’s and Hezbollah’s help in Syria, he can, according to this theory, use Lebanon to send a message.
  • The presumed candidacy of Lebanese Army Commander Joseph Aoun, with his enhanced credibility for independence, would be more aligned with the sentiments of the street. But the Lebanese president is elected by parliament, not the people. While the current Lebanese parliament reflects the very establishment that the protesters wish to topple, one hopes that the members of parliament will think about protesters’ views if they are put in a position as to whether to choose between Damascus, Tehran, or their own Lebanese constituents.
  • There’s an argument for the United States maintaining a low profile, to undercut Nasrallah’s predictable arguments about a U.S. conspiracy, and a guiding principle should always be “do no harm” when trends emerge that are clearly in U.S. interests. Instead, the White House suspension of security assistance at this of all times, gives Damascus’ and Tehran’s Lebanese allies a message around which to re-unite: that the United States is an unreliable partner and that the LAF will not get needed assistance, meaning Hezbollah’s arsenal remains essential to Lebanon’s security. American officials who are seeking to promote U.S. interests in Lebanon face a strange set of bedfellows — Iran, Syria, Hezbollah, and apparently the White House — and face the difficult task of pushing back against all four.
Ed Webb

'All of them means all of them': Who are Lebanon's political elite? | Middle East Eye - 0 views

  • From Tripoli to Tyre, and Beirut to Baalbek, Lebanese have been chanting the same slogan: “All of them means all of them.” Since its independence, Lebanon has been ruled by a clique of politicians and political families who have used sectarianism, corruption and clientelism to cling to power and amass incredible wealth. Now protesters are calling for them all to be removed, from Hezbollah’s Hassan Nasrallah to Prime Minister Saad Hariri, with nervous responses from the leaders themselves. Middle East Eye takes a quick look at some of the more prominent figures and parties in the protesters’ sights.
  • The Hariri family was once the darling of Saudi Arabia, but apparently no longer
  • Aoun is one of Lebanon’s many leaders who played an active and violent part in the country’s 1975-90 civil war. As head of the army in the war’s latter years, Aoun fought bitter conflicts with the occupying Syrian military and the Lebanese Forces paramilitary headed by his rival, Samir Geagea. In 1989, Aoun found himself besieged in the presidential palace in Baabda, where he now resides as president, and fled Syrian troops to the French embassy, which granted him exile.
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  • The Amal Movement was founded in 1974 by Lebanese-Iranian cleric Musa Sadr to represent Lebanon’s Shia, who had long been marginalised as one of the country’s poorest sections of society. Though originally notable for its efforts to pull Shia Lebanese out of poverty, during the civil war it became one of the country’s most effective militias and controlled large parts of the south.
  • Amal is a close ally of fellow Shia party Hezbollah, and their politicians have run on the same list in elections. However, they occasionally diverge in opinion.
  • Birthed from the resistance movement that followed Israel’s 1982 invasion of Lebanon, Hezbollah has since become the most powerful political and military force in Lebanon. Iran-backed and Syria-allied, the movement was the only militia to keep its arms at the end of the civil war, as it waged a deadly guerilla war against the Israeli occupation of south Lebanon.
  • Though Israel was forced out in 2000, Hezbollah’s military capabilities have only increased, and its war against Israel in 2006 and ongoing involvement in the Syrian conflict have divided opinion among the Lebanese. The movement and its allies did well at the ballot box in 2018 and Hezbollah now has two ministers in the cabinet.
  • Hassan Nasrallah lives in hiding due to the constant fear of Israeli assassination.
  • Known as “al-Hakim” (the doctor), Geagea is a medically trained warlord-turned-politician. During the 1975-90 civil war, Geagea was one of the most notorious militia leaders, heading the Christian Lebanese Forces. He was a close ally of Bashir Gemayel, who was assassinated days before being sworn into the presidency in 1982 with Israeli support
  • he was convicted of involvement in a number of assassinations and attempted murders in widely condemned trials. Geagea was kept in a solitary windowless cell for 11 years until his pardon in 2005 following the Syrian pullout
  • The Lebanese Forces, which is an offshoot of the right-wing Kataeb party, is the second-largest Christian party after the FPM. Its three ministers resigned early in the protest movement, and the party has now attempted to join the demonstrators and help block roads, though many protesters have rejected its overtures.
  • Feudal lord and socialist, advocate of de-sectarianising Lebanese politics but also a fierce defender of his Druze sect, Jumblatt is a difficult man to pin down. Often described as Lebanon’s kingmaker, his allegiances have swung several times, a trick that may have helped keep him alive.
  • The Kataeb party has fallen a long way since its civil war heyday. Also known as the Phalangists, the party used to be the dominant Christian party, and was inspired by its founder Pierre Gemayel’s trips to the 1936 Berlin Olympics and Franco’s fascist party in Spain. The Gemayel family has suffered a series of assassinations, most notably president elect Bashir Gemayel in 1982. Bashir’s brother Amin then went on to claim the presidency, and Amin’s son Sami is now heading the party. In recent years however the Kataeb party has struggled to attract votes from its offshoot the Lebanese Forces and the FPM
Ed Webb

Ahmed Shihab-Eldin: Egypt's American-Made Military: More Mistakes Than Morsi - 0 views

  •  
    Pretty solid
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