Hundreds of Thousands of Iranians Take to Streets in Protest/Mourning of Soleimani’s Death; More U.S. Strikes Kill Iraqi Militia Commanders; Iraqi Gov’t to Hold Emergency Session on U.S. Presence While Al-Sadr Announces Reactivation of His Army

In the wake of the U.S. drone assassination of the head of the Iran’s IRGC, Qassem Soleimani, hundreds of thousands of Iranians took to the streets in protest of Soleimani’s death amid the official 3 days of mourning, uniting a sometimes fractured country. Common Dreams reported yesterday:

Hundreds of thousands of Iranians flooded the streets of Tehran and other cities across the country Friday to condemn the U.S. assassination of military leader Qassem Soleimani, discrediting Secretary of State Mike Pompeo’s prediction that the people of Iran would “view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”

Images and videos of massive rallies circulated on social media as Iranians gathered following Friday prayers to denounce Soleimani’s killing, which was ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump and carried out via drone strike Thursday night.

Soleimani’s assassination, according to Al-Jazeera, “triggered a wave of emotions and garnered a response of solidarity and retribution across the otherwise divided Iranian political spectrum.”

Iranians rally in the capital Tehran on January 3, 2020 following the assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Major General Qasem Soleimani in a U.S. strike on his convoy at Baghdad international airport. (Photo: Atta Kenare/AFP via Getty Images)

The Iraqi parliament is set to hold an emergency meeting today to consider the expulsion of U.S. troops from the country. The two largest political blocs in parliament, which don’t always agree, will likely unite behind giving U.S. forces – which had a specific mandate of fighting ISIS to justify their presence – the boot.

Meanwhile, the leader of one of those blocs. Moqtada Al-Sadr, has announced reactivation of his once formidable army. According to Antiwar.com:

Influential Shi’ite cleric and leader of the top political bloc in Iraq Moqtada al-Sadr has announced Friday that he is reactivating his paramilitary group, the Mahdi Army, issuing a statement on Twitter telling them to “be ready.”

The Mahdi Army was a major faction from the US occupation of Iraq in 2003 until 2007, when they made a deal with the Iraqi government to disband. Sadr has at times suggested he would reform the militia to ensure the US complied with pullout dates.

Sadr has long opposed the Iraqi government’s reliance on both Iran and the US, and the reconstitution of the Mahdi Army is a response to recent US attacks against other Shi’ite militias.

Washington has not been content to rest since it’s deadly attack on Soleimani’s convoy on Thursday. It followed up with another drone attack on a convoy of Iraqi militia leaders in northern Baghdad yesterday. Zerohedge reports:

Less than 24 hours after a US drone shockingly killed the top Iranian military leader, Qasem Soleimani, resulting in equity markets groaning around the globe in fear over Iranian reprisals (and potentially, World War III), the US has gone for round two with Reuters and various other social media sources reporting that US air strikes targeting Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units umbrella grouping of Iran-backed Shi’ite militias near camp Taji north of Baghdad, have killed six people and critically wounded three, an Iraqi army source said late on Friday.

Iraqi official media has also confirm that two vehicles were targeted north of Baghdad, carrying commanders of the pro-Iran militias in the PMUs.

The Pentagon also announced yesterday that it’s sending 3.500 more troops to the Middle East, most likely Kuwait.

Some of you may have heard Soleimani referred to as someone with “blood on his hands” and responsible for the deaths of Americans. Award-winning journalist and expert on Iran, Gareth Porter, has debunked those claims. Linking to an article he wrote recently for Truthout, Porter announced on Twitter:

Big media are all repeating the Trump-Pompeo justification that #Soleimani was responsible for killing 600 American boys in Iraq. But as I’ve documented in great detail, that was a completely fabricated story Cheney was using to justify an attack on Iran.

In the article from July of 2019, Porter explains how this claim made by Trump administration officials this past summer was a repackaging of claims made by vice president Dick Cheney during the Bush II administration:

The history of the myth begins with Vice President Dick Cheney’s determination to attack Iran sometime before the end of the George W. Bush administration. Cheney had contemplated a campaign of U.S. airstrikes on Iran, to be justified by charging that Iran was trying to produce a nuclear weapon. But that rationale for a U.S. military strike on Iran was unanimously rejected by the Joint Chiefs of Staff in a December 13, 2006, meeting with Cheney and President George W. Bush, according to a report by political columnist Joe Klein in TIME magazine.

After that rebuff, Cheney began to focus on another rationale for war on Iran: the alleged Iranian role in killing U.S. troops in Iraq. On January 10, 2007, President George W. Bush gave a speech that included language accusing Iran of “providing material support for attacks on American troops.” Although Bush did not threaten in that speech to retaliate against Iran, his words established a legal and political basis for a possible future attack, according to Hillary Mann Leverett, former National Security Council staff director for the Persian Gulf, in an interview with me in 2008.

After Gen. David Petraeus took over as commander of coalition forces in Iraq in January 2007, the command went all out to support Cheney’s strategy. Its main argument was that Iran was providing Shiite militias with the powerful roadside bombs called Explosively Formed Penetrators (EFPs) that were causing increasing number of U.S. casualties in Iraq.

But the evidence proved otherwise. Hezbollah — not Iran — had been well known as the world’s most knowledgeable designer and user of EFPs. Michael Knights, who had been following the role of EFPs in Iraq for nearly three years for a private security company in London, told me in an exclusive interview in January 2007 that it was Hezbollah that had transferred EFPs and components for manufacture to Palestinian militants after the second intifada began in 2000. He also observed in a detailed account in Jane’s Intelligence Review in 2006 that the first EFPs to appear in Iraq in 2004 were believed to have come from Hezbollah.

Newsday had reported on August 12, 2005, moreover, that Shiite militiamen had begun copying Hezbollah techniques for building as well as using EFPs, based on Lebanese and Iraqi official sources.

The U.S. military intelligence chief in Iraq had claimed in September 2006 that the C-4 explosive used in EFPs in Iraq bore the same batch number as the C-4 found on a Hezbollah ship said by Israeli officials to be bound for Palestinian fighters in 2003. But Knights observed this statement showed that Iran wasn’t shipping the materials for EFPs to Shiites in Iraq. If Iran had been shipping the C-4 to Iraq the previous year, he pointed out, the batch number would have been different from the one given to Hezbollah at least four years earlier.

Read the full article here.

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  1. This is an excellent blog. Your pieces are always very timely and well researched. A very valuable resource. Thanks.

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