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.”


Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

Updated 24 January 2020

Militant sentenced to 19 years for role in Benghazi attacks

  • Al-Imam is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens and three other American personnel
  • The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison

NEW YORK: A federal judge on Thursday sentenced a Libyan militant to more than 19 years in prison for his role in the 2012 Benghazi attacks that killed four Americans, including the US ambassador.
A jury convicted Mustafa Al-Imam last year of conspiring to support the extremist militia that launched the fiery assaults on the US compounds but deadlocked on 15 other counts.
The attacks, aimed at killing American personnel, prompted a political fracas in which Republicans accused the Obama administration of a bungled response.
Al-Imam was sentenced to a total of 236 months behind bars. He is the second militant convicted in the attacks that killed Ambassador Chris Stevens, communications specialist Sean Smith and security officers Tyrone Snowden Woods and Glen Anthony Doherty.
The head of the extremist militia who directed the siege, Ahmed Abu Khattala, was convicted in 2017 on terrorism-related charges and sentenced to 22 years in prison.
Khattala was accused of driving to the diplomatic mission on Sept. 11, 2012, and breaching the main gate with militants who attacked with assault rifles, grenades and other weapons.
The initial attack killed Stevens and Smith and set the mission ablaze. Woods and Doherty were later killed at a CIA annex.
On Thursday, federal prosecutors in Washington asked US District Judge Christopher Cooper to send a message to others contemplating attacks on Americans overseas, saying Al-Imam deserved the maximum 35-year sentence.
“In the current geopolitical environment, terrorists must understand that there are harsh consequences for attacking diplomatic posts and harming US personnel — particularly a US ambassador,” Assistant US Attorney John Cummings wrote in a court filing.
Defense attorneys said Al-Imam made a “tremendous mistake” by damaging and looting US property after the attacks. But they insisted there was no evidence he intended to harm any Americans, noting jurors could not reach a verdict on the murder charges Al-Imam faced.
“Mustafa Al-Imam is a frail, uneducated and simple man,” they wrote in a court filing. “He is not a fighter, an ideologue or a terrorist. He is a former convenience store clerk whose main loves in life are soccer and family.”
Al-Imam was tried in a civilian court despite the Trump administration’s earlier contention that such suspects are better sent to Guantanamo Bay. His arrest, five years after the attack, was the first publicly known operation since President Donald Trump took office targeting those accused of involvement in Benghazi.
Prosecutors acknowledged there was no evidence that Al-Imam “directly caused” the killings at the US compounds. But they said he aligned himself with Khattala and acted as his “eyes and ears” at the height of the attacks.
During a four-week trial in Washington, prosecutors pointed to phone records that showed Al-Imam was in the vicinity of the mission and placed an 18-minute call to Khattala during a “pivotal moment” of the attacks.
Al-Imam also entered the US compound, prosecutors said, and took sensitive material that identified the location of the CIA annex about a mile away from the mission as the evacuation point for Department of State personnel.
In interviews with law enforcement following his 2017 capture in Misrata, Libya, he admitted stealing a phone and map from the US mission.