Bgg roundtable 8/7/15 Part 1 of 2
WELCOME TO BGG ROUNDTABLE AT DINARUPDATES.COM
BGG: Great to see all you peeps here for our Round Table (mid-day) Chat...
BGG: To start with I wish to point out my current level of optimism with where we are right now. There seem to be significant reforms coming for Iraq, there are several critical laws "on deck" very soon...
BGG: and there seems to be a significant current of "independence" brewing in Iraq. This is good - because much of the ugliness going on there is influenced from outside.
BGG: I like it.
BGG : In fact, having said as much - why don't we start with that Huffpo article firefly just posted??
BGG says to _firefly_: would you mind bringing that for us again??
_firefly_ : Sure .. it is long !
BGG says to _firefly_: No problem.
_firefly_ : WASHINGTON -- Iran has for years exerted tremendous influence over Iraq, turning it into essentially a Shiite-led client state under former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.
But a new protest movement in the country's Shiite-dominated south is a key sign that Tehran's power is waning, as Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani and Maliki's U.S.-backed successor, Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi, make forceful moves to reclaim Iraqi independence.
Much of Iraq is no longer under the control of the central government in Baghdad. The Islamic State militant group rules large swathes of the Sunni region to the west, and Kurds control their own autonomous region in the northeast.
In the Shiite-majority sections of Iraq, however, including Baghdad and the areas to its south and east, a political confrontation with Iran is underway just as the Islamic Republic is engaging the international community like never before through a historic nuclear agreement Iraq watchers believe that a popular protest movement calling on Abadi to better handle public services and government corruption is a subtle indication that Iraqis want to beat back Iranian influence in their country.
Sistani's position is a key indicator to follow, those watchers told The Huffington Post. U.S. officials have, in secret documents released in 2011 by Wikileaks, spoken of Sistani as the "greatest political roadblock" for Iranian operatives in Iraq.
The Iranian-born ayatollah has unquestioned authority in Iraq and a very different approach to politics from his Iranian counterparts, disavowing their view of a theocratic government or "Wilayat al-Faqih," the rule of the Islamic jurist.
Sistani's position is a key indicator to follow, those watchers told The Huffington Post. U.S. officials have, in secret documents released in 2011 by Wikileaks, spoken of Sistani, Sistani is based in Najaf, the spiritual capital of the Shiite branch of Islam.
After the Iranian revolution of 1979, influence over the global Shiite community shifted from Najaf to Iran's chief religious center of Qom -- in large part because Iraq was ruled by a Sunni minority regime led by Saddam Hussein.
But following the U.S. invasion in 2003, power -- and what's thought to be millions in funds from religious tourism and Shiite devotees around the world -- began to flow back to Najaf, historically the more significant site. Sistani and Iran have had a fragile alliance in the years since, one that's been threatened recently because the Iraqi ayatollah has implied that he blames the Iranian client Maliki for losing ground to the Islamic State.
An American source who has worked for years with the Iraqi government said that frustration with Iran helps to explain Sistani's groundbreaking decision last year to call up Shiite "volunteers" to join militias battling Islamic State forces.
"One of the reasons Sistani called up the militias was to keep the Iranians out," the source told HuffPost. "He's also trying to push Iranians out of the governance structures."
Iran's clout manifests itself in many ways. They include Tehran's control of a number of the Shiite militias in Iraq, the role of top Iranian General Qassem Suleimani in providing arms for those militias and for the Iraqi army, and Iranian support for a number of top Shiite political figures.
"He's also trying to push Iranians out of the governance structures."For Sistani and other players in Iraq who would like to see that influence diminished, the protest movement has created an opening, according to an Iraqi government official who spoke to HuffPost on condition of anonymity.
"It's clear that Najaf is very determined to maintain its independence from Iran. Najaf felt it was an opportunity to ride off the back" of the protest movement, the official said.
Sistani called on Abadi last month to respond to the protest movement's demands in a message delivered in an important Friday sermon. Sistani called on Abadi last month to respond to the protest movement's demands in a message delivered in an important Friday sermon.
"The government listens to every word of what Najaf says very, very carefully. Every Friday, everyone is listening very closely" to Sistani's prayer message, the Iraqi official told HuffPost.
And Abadi has responded, eliminating a number of government positions -- including that of vice president, costing Maliki the job he gained after U.S. pressure and opposition at home led to his resignation last year.
In the Iraqi parliament, there have been calls for Maliki to face trial over his loss of the city of Mosul to Islamic State forces. Every Friday, everyone is listening very closely" to Sistani's prayer message, the Iraqi official told HuffPost.
And Abadi has responded, eliminating a number of government positions -- including that of vice president, costing Maliki the job he gained after U.S. pressure and opposition at home led to his resignation last year. In the Iraqi parliament, there have been calls for Maliki to face trial over his loss of the city of Mosul to Islamic State forces. Iran's powerful proxies in Iraq are pushing back.
The leaders of two of the most powerful and brutal Shiite militias, the Iraqi Hezbollah and the Badr Organization, visited the chief judicial authority recently, reports Kimberly Kagan of the Institute for the Study of War.
"The Iranian-backed militias, including Kata’ib Hezbollah, the Badr Organization, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq, all have a vested interest in thwarting PM Abadi’s reforms, especially the attempt to eliminate the vice presidential positions and thereby expel VP Nouri al-Maliki, who has been aligning himself with the militias for months," Kagan wrote in a Sept. 3 post.
Kagan, a former adviser to U.S. generals in Iraq and Afghanistan, suggested that the Iranian-backed militia leaders hoped to pressure Iraq's judiciary and its president into stalling the reforms.
But it looks like Sistani, Abadi and other Iran skeptics are gathering a loose coalition of their own to resist these efforts. Not all of Iraq's Shiite militias support Iran, noted Phillip Smyth, an expert on Shiite militias at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy and the founder of Jihadology.net.
Many agree with Sistani in opposing the Iranian ideology of theocratic rule. That presents an opportunity for the American military planners who are closely watching Iraq as they to identify which partners to work with against the Islamic State -- and who have for months been worried, U.S. officials told HuffPost, that their personnel in Iraq would be vulnerable not only to Islamic State forces but to Iran-backed militants.
"It wouldn't surprise me if those in the Department of Defense are looking to liaise if not offer some support for [militias] which are both truly Iraqi nationalist and are not proxies of Tehran," Smyth told HuffPost in an email.
But it looks like Sistani, Abadi and other Iran skeptics are gathering a loose coalition of their own to resist these efforts. ‘
The Iraqi population itself may now be galvanized by the latest protest movement to start thinking about the interests of their state rather than those of the various sects, said Iraqi-American activist Zainab Al-Suwaij.
As the executive director of the American Islamic Congress, Al-Suwaij runs conflict resolution centers in Iraq and is in touch with political actors on the ground.
"After the demonstrations in Baghdad and elsewhere throughout the country, the sectarian issue between the Sunnis and the Shiites has become less than before," Al-Suwaij told HuffPost. "It's not about feeling that the Shiites are in control -- the Shiites are also complaining about corruption."
BGG: .....the Iranian-backed militia leaders hoped to pressure Iraq's judiciary and its president into stalling the reforms...
_firefly_ : Major political parties have been forced to bow to street pressure and rush to enact reforms, she noted. And she predicted that this time, unlike in the past, Iran will not be able to protect them from popular dissent. "Iran is no longer as strong as they used to be," Al-Suwaij said.
"Iran is no longer as strong as they used to be," Al-Suwaij said. "Iran is no longer as strong as they used to be," Al-Suwaij said. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/...b03784e27603d0
BGG: ...But it looks like Sistani, Abadi and other Iran skeptics are gathering a loose coalition of their own to resist these efforts...
BGG: ..."It's not about feeling that the Shiites are in control -- the Shiites are also complaining about corruption."...
_firefly_ says to BGG: Exactly
_firefly_ says to BGG: HUGE and telling article
BGG: And all of the above is generally the source and basis for my current optimism...
BGG: this is it - they want their country back and seem willing to beat back Iran and the corruption. I really think Abadi wanted to all along - but this big push by Sistani is giving him the "street cred" he needed to get it done...
BGG: it's a miracle - really, without Sistani - Abadi might still be "whittling away" at Maliki's underpinnings of influence - taking "who-knows-how-long" to get there...
BGG : and that has been his approach for the last year - taking out leg by leg until he had Maliki in a weak enough place to deal with him - it looks to have gotten moved forward greatly - just recently.
BGG: al - IMHO
firefly_ says to BGG: Sistani has more power than any politician in Iraq. When he talks EVERYBODI listens ...... it is law
BGG : they have a standing Militia because he told them to.
BGG : "He said so..."
_firefly_ says to BGG: So yes Sistani backing Abadi is HUGE
BGG: this is legit - real - non-jibberish, News.
BGG : Thank you firefly.
_firefly_ says to BGG: Exactly !!!!!!!!
BGG: Sorry it took so long folks - I thought it important.
Pablo says(12:27 PM):Sistani should demand Maliki and Alalak's head on a platter.
Carxpress: So, do you feel that Sistani is the driving-force behind the organized protests (and what they protest about) as well?
BGG says to carxpress: of course - Sadr has jumped in here at the end as well...
BGG says to carxpress: Hakim is on board but he seems to have a closer relationship with Tehran than the others.
BGG says to carxpress: and I suspect they (Iraq) have left Hakim's status with Tehran intact on purpose...
Apollo12: Do you feel that this will "Speed" things up or was this possibly the plan all along? Thx
BGG says to Apollo12: no question - it is moving things ahead exponentially...
Pablo: Now that this has happened, what do you think that chances are of an RV before the end of the month?
BGG says to Pablo: far better than had it not - that's for sure.
5BGG says to Pablo: I have seen this brewing for some time now..
BGG says to Pablo: and this is about as I have had it pegged. So it isn't an overnight occurrence, but it's good news. That they are speaking openly about it.
_firefly_ : Sistani and Abadi have thrown it into 6th gear !
Comments may be made at the end of Part 2 Thank You