Iran’s top Al-Quds officials in Baghdad to support Abdul Mahdi

Demonstrators run after they set fire during the ongoing protests in Baghdad on Saturday. Nationwide rallies have brought Iraq to a standstill. (Reuters)
Updated 10 November 2019

Iran’s top Al-Quds officials in Baghdad to support Abdul Mahdi

  • Solutions proposed include a ministerial change involving more than half of the Iraqi Cabinet
  • More than 300 demonstrators have been killed and 15,000 wounded since Oct. 1

BAGHDAD: Qassim Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s Quds Force and field commander in charge of Iran’s operations in Iraq, has been in Baghdad for 11 days to manage the crisis and provide direct support to Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, two of Suleimani’s associates told Arab News on Saturday.

Baghdad and nine southern Shiite-dominated provinces have witnessed anti-government mass demonstrations since Oct. 1.

More than 300 demonstrators have been killed and 15,000 wounded, mostly in Baghdad, with tear gas and live bullets used by Iraqi forces to quell the protests, while scores of activists and journalists have been arrested.

Suleimani and his deputy, Maj. Gen. Hamed Abdollahi, are in Baghdad “to provide the necessary moral and logistical support” to Abdul Mahdi, whose dismissal has become the first demand of the protesters, a prominent Shiite leader told Arab News.
The general, or Abu Duaa, as his closest allies call him, attends almost daily meetings in Baghdad with leaders of Iranian-backed political forces in an attempt to dismantle the crisis and prolong the time Abdul Mahdi remains in office.
“Abu Duaa has been in Baghdad for 11 days. He is here to provide the necessary support to Abdul Mahdi,” one of the top Iraqi Shiite leaders told Arab News.
“The demonstrations will end soon in one way or another. There is money spent generously to get some engines (organizers of demonstrations) out of the scene, at the same time there are other means (arrests and kidnapping).
“The carrot and stick policy has been operational for weeks and is beginning to bear fruit.”
The dismissal or resignation of Abdul Mahdi, which has become one of the most important demands of the demonstrators, is not put forward as one of the solutions for Suleimani and his allies, and the military solution is also not on the table.
Suleimani’s ally said some Iraqi military leaders were demanding military intervention to end the demonstrations, especially in Tahrir Square where most demonstrators are gathering in Baghdad.
“They demanded the intervention of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMU), but Suleimani rejected this option in principle.
“He clearly said that this is an American trap to drag the PMU factions to clash with the demonstrators and then demand their dissolution.”

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300 - demonstrators have been killed and 15,000 wounded, mostly in Baghdad.

The PMU factions have not intervened as combat troops, “but that does not mean it (PMU) did not intervene as intelligence or security support,” the ally said.
Suleimani’s ally said that the solutions offered do not include the dismissal or resignation of Abdel Mahdi, although everyone knows that the cause of the current problem is him and his private office manager Abu Jihad.
“Our problem with the Americans, Sadr and Najaf is caused by Abu Jihad,” he said.
“Adel Abdul Mahdi has not taken any real decision since he became prime minister and all the decisions were made by Abu Jihad.
“Those two (Abdul Mahdi and Abu Jihad) are protected and their protector (Suleimani) insists that there is no real problem worth sacrificing them.
“He (Suleimani) does not deal with Iraq as a single country, but rather as part of a system that includes Iran, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Palestine, so any suggested solutions that exclude Adel or Abu Jihad are not acceptable (by Suleimani).
“The Iranians are not like Americans. They do not give up their ally easily, so they will continue to support Abdul Mahdi until the very last moment.”
The solutions proposed by Suleimani and agreed by the majority of key political players include a ministerial change involving more than half of the Cabinet, and to gradually vote on a number of important laws, accelerate the adoption of constitutional amendments to be ready for a referendum in April, vote to reduce the number of members of the Parliament to half, the abolition of the provincial councils, “which represent the vicious circle of corruption in the provinces,” change the election law “to allow the rise of individuals and small lists” and change the High Electoral Commission, the source said.
Changing the system from parliamentary to presidential may be included in the constitutional amendments but will not be passed as the Kurds, Sunnis and Najaf reject this system “because it is the key to sliding into dictatorship.”
“Now we are worried about Najaf (Grand Ayatollah Ali Al-Sistani) because it is really upset. This is really our last chance. (If not taken) then people will come out in an armed revolution,” Suleimani’s ally said.
“I’m not optimistic because the tools are the same. Real solutions mean big losses and no one is willing to take any losses.
“The situation will calm down and people (demonstrators) will return to their homes, but they will return to the street later.”


Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

Updated 21 January 2020

Will Turkey abide by provisions of Berlin Summit?

  • Expert says sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in Libyan conflict unlikely

JEDDAH: With the conclusion of the Libya peace summit in Berlin on Sunday, it remains to be seen whether Turkey is willing to implement the provisions of the final communique and stay out of the conflict.

Ankara is accused of sending Syrian fighters to the Libyan battlefront in support of Fayez Al-Sarraj’s Tripoli-based Government of National Accord (GNA) against military commander Khalifa Haftar’s forces.

During the summit, French President Emmanuel Macron voiced concerns over the arrival of Syrian and other foreign fighters in Tripoli, saying: “That must end.” 

Samuel Ramani, a geopolitical analyst at Oxford University, speculates that Turkey will not deploy more troops.  

But he told Arab News that a sudden end to Ankara’s intervention in the Libyan conflict is unlikely for the moment as Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said his country will remain present “until the GNA’s future is secured.”

Noting the difficulty of enforcing the Berlin agreement, Ramani said Turkey might not be the first mover in breaching a cease-fire in Libya.

But he added that Turkey will not hesitate to deploy forces and upend the agreement if Haftar makes any moves that it considers “provocative.”

The summit called for sanctions on those who violate the UN Security Council arms embargo on Libya.

Turkish opposition MPs recently criticized the expanded security pact between Ankara and the GNA, saying the dispatch of materials and equipment to Libya breaches the UN arms embargo.

Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.

Micha’el Tanchum, Analyst

The summit does not seem to have resolved ongoing disputes regarding the Eastern Mediterranean pipeline, a planned natural gas pipeline connecting eastern Mediterranean energy resources to mainland Greece via Cyprus and Crete.

The Cypriot presidency accused Turkey of being a “pirate state,” citing Ankara’s recent drilling off its coasts just a day after Brussels warned Turkey that its plans were illegal.

Erdogan dismissed the warning and threatened to send to the EU some 4 million refugees that Turkey is hosting.

Turkey dispatched its Yavuz drillship to the south of Cyprus on Sunday, based on claims deriving from the maritime delimitation agreement with the GNA.

Turkey’s insistence on gas exploration in the region may be subject to sanctions as early as this week, when EU foreign ministers meet in Brussels on Monday.

Aydin Sezer, an Ankara-based political analyst, drew attention to Article 25 of the Berlin final communique, which underlined the “Libyan Political Agreement as a viable framework for the political solution in Libya,” and called for the “establishment of a functioning presidency council and the formation of a single, unified, inclusive and effective Libyan government approved by the House of Representatives.”

Sezer told Arab News: “Getting approval from Libya’s Haftar-allied House of Representatives would be a serious challenge for Ankara because Haftar recently considered all agreements with Turkey as a betrayal. This peace conference once more showed that Turkey should keep away from Libya.”

Many experts remain skeptical about the possible outcome of the summit. 

Micha’el Tanchum, a senior fellow at the Austrian Institute for European and Security Policy, said: “Until we see what specific cease-fire monitoring and enforcement mechanisms will be implemented and by which foreign powers, we don’t know what arrangements, if any, have been agreed upon.”