7.2 magnitude earthquake jolts Iran-Iraq border area

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE PAKISTANI NEWS AGENCY ‘DAWN’)

 

A magnitude 7.2 earthquake shook Iraq on Sunday, authorities said, without causing any casualties or major damage in the country or in neighboring Iran and Turkey where it was also felt.

The temblor was centred 32 kilometres southwest of Halabja, near the northeastern border with Iran, the US Geological Survey said.

It struck the mountainous area of Sulaimaniyah province at 9:18 pm (local time) at a depth of 33.9 kilometres (21 miles), the monitor said.

It was felt for about 20 seconds in Baghdad, and sometimes for longer in other provinces of Iraq, AFP journalists said.

In the province of Sulaimaniyah, located in Iraq’s Kurdistan region, residents ran out onto the streets at the time of the quake and some minor property damage was recorded, an AFP reporter said.

In Iran, the ISNA news agency said that the earthquake was felt in several cities in the west of the country including Tabriz.

In southeastern Turkey, the earthquake was felt “from Malatya to Van”, an AFP correspondent said. In the town of Diyarbakir, residents also left their homes before returning.

In 40 Minutes A Life Time Of Work Is Gone

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF CNN)

 

When Iraqi government forces seized control of the contested city of Kirkuk on Monday, hundreds of Kurdish families were sent scattering to nearby safe havens.

The swift military operation came just weeks after Iraqi Kurds voted overwhelmingly for independence in a controversial referendum that was condemned by the United States and Baghdad.
The loss of Kirkuk and its nearby oil fields is a setback for Kurds, who have held the city — home to more than one million people — for the last three years. The Kurds took control of the city after it was abandoned by Iraqi forces during ISIS’ lightning offensive in 2014, but it lies outside the recognized borders of the autonomous Kurdistan Regional Government.
Now, driven out of Kirkuk, with their dreams of building a separate nation in northern Iraq suffering a major setback, displaced Kurds are still reeling.

Families flee Kirkuk on the road to Erbil and Sulaymaniyah on Monday.

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From noisy cafés and bars, to the quiet of people’s homes, everyone in Erbil — the capital of the autonomous Kurdish region of northern Iraq — is trying to make sense of what happened.
Many of the Kirkuk residents who fled to Erbil for fear of potential clashes expressed their displeasure, grief, and shock that Iraqi troops — backed by Shia militias known as the Popular Mobilization Units — were able to take the city in a single day.
The same forces were later cheered on by Arab and Turkmen residents on Monday as they removed a Kurdish flag that had flown over the Kirkuk governor’s office.
“The shock is too great and I cannot imagine what happened overnight, especially after all the threat and intimidation of the Peshmerga forces against those approaching the province,” Samal Omar, a 33-year-old government employee, told CNN.
“We fled to Erbil before noon on Monday when we heard that the Popular Mobilization [Units] would enter Kirkuk for fear of aggression.”

Some residents celebrate after Iraqi forces took control of Kirkuk on Monday.

Some Kurdish civilians said they took up arms and deployed to the streets in an attempt to ward off the Iraqi army operation.
One of them, Mohamed Werya, 37, said he didn’t sleep for two consecutive days before fleeing Erbil.
“I saw officials leave and I said to myself, ‘why should I stay and danger my life and my family?'” Werya said, describing chaotic scenes as people scrambled to flee the city. “What I saw on the road I have not seen before, only during the [Kurdish] uprising of 1991.”
“Who is responsible for what happened?” he asked.
A version of the same question was echoed by other Kurds.

Kurdish forces open fire on Iraqi troops in the streets in Kirkuk on Monday.

“I cannot express my sorrow and my displeasure. But the question is, why did the Peshmerga forces withdraw? Why they did not they tell us earlier and we lived in a strong feeling that there was someone defending us?” Abu Mahmoud, 55, asked.
“I did not expect the effort of many years lost in 40 minutes,” he added.
There was still much confusion over what transpired during the clashes between Iraqi and Kurdish forces, with reports of a split between Kurdish factions. The Peshmerga General Command accused members of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, a political party within the Kurdistan region, of abandoning their posts as Iraqi forces entered, in what it described as a betrayal.

Kirkuk residents cross a Kurdish checkpoint in Altun Kupri on Monday.

“No one understands what exactly happened,” said Fouad Aziz, 40, who fled Kirkuk for Sulaymaniyah, while his brother went to Erbil. “There are accusations against the Kurdish parties in the region, some accused of deception and leaving the fighting sites.”
“We were welcomed by the people of Erbil and Sulaymaniyah in a way we did not expect,” he added.
Dozens of young people lined the road to Erbil on Monday, handing out food and water to those fleeing, while other Erbil residents opened their doors to those displaced by the fighting.
Abu Nebez, 55, said he hosted dozens in his home.
“I welcomed in my house seven families consisting of 37 people, 14 of whom we do not know,” Nebez said. “They were on the main road in a deplorable condition when they fled from Kirkuk to Erbil.”

Locals wave to Iraqi forces as they arrive in southern Kirkuk on Monday.

On Tuesday, some Kurdish residents began to trickle back into Kirkuk, wary of what might come next.
Qais Book, a Kurdish blogger and social media consultant who lives in Kirkuk, stayed behind as others fled on Monday.
He watched the celebration in the governor’s square, as Arab and Turkmen residents celebrated.
“There are many different feelings in the city now,” Book said. “Some people feel disappointed about what happened, especially the Kurdish people, and some of the Arabs, because they were loyal to the Kurds here. And they feel sorry because many Kurdish families left their houses here and fled to Kurdistan.”
“The city is calm now, but people are waiting to see what happens next.”

Middle-East Plans Genocide Against Kurdish People: World Stays Silent

Genocide Is Being Planed Against The Kurdish People

 

The President of Turkey, Mr. Erdogan has for a long time been committing mass murder against the thousands of Kurdish people who live within the borders of Turkey. He and his government consider these people as his  enemy when these people really only want peace and a small piece of the land they already live on, to be their own. The Kurdish people are the fifth largest ethnicity in the middle-east, yet they technically have no homeland.

 

Now that the Kurdish people in Iraq have voted to ‘take’ the piece of land they already live on as their own Nation, more than just Erdogan’s hate has been turned upon these people. There are millions of Kurdish people who live in the region of Iran, Iraq, Syria and Turkey so now these countries leaders are going to ban together against the Kurdish people also.

 

Hypocrisy Against The Kurd’s

 

Particularly in Iraq the Kurdish people have helped the Government in Baghdad to stay alive, and in power. Even the governments in Iran and Syria have greatly benefited from the Kurdish people fighting against the oppression of ISIS. Particularly in Iraq the governments military ran like scalded dogs when they were attacked by Isis. If not for the Kurdish fighters the ISIS fighters would right now have Baghdad as their Caliphate capitol. The government in Baghdad owes the Kurdish people their very lives yet they collude with Asps in Iran, Syria and Turkey to eliminate them. If it had not been for the Kurdish fighters all of these aforementioned countries would have had to have spent billions of more dollars and thousands of their won lives in defeating ISIS and kicking them out of their own countries. There are two other groups that I have not yet mentioned in this situation and that is the Hezbollah government in Lebanon and the government in Washington D.C..

 

Personally I first remember hearing of the Kurdish people in about 1990. What I have learned during this time is that the U.S. Government has used them in a ‘proxy since’ for at least this long and before it. We have used them and their desire for freedom and democracy as a tool of the CIA to fight against extremest in that area of the world. We make promises to them over and over again, then turn and walk away from them when they need us the most. Today, we send them items like military trucks and some small arms in their fight for their won right to life as a free people. The United States and the U.N. should at this very moment be working out a plan with the other countries in this region to create a Kurdish homeland, one homeland, not a ‘homeland’ inside all of the different countries.

 

Does the U.N. and the United States just stand by and allow a total elimination of millions of people whose only crime is wanting to be a free people? It is just my opinion but to me this whole region would be better served, the people of all of these countries would be better served with a peaceful Kurdistan as a neighbor, than to have another un-needed war. Give to these people the land they already possess as a thank you for the sacrifices they have given to help keep these other governments in power, especially concerning Iraq. It is the only intelligent path to be taken, one of free trade with all their neighbors along with friendship between the people and the governments. The other path leads only to genocide and if this is the chosen path that the War Drums beat, the leaders of the U.N. and in Washington should be taken to Times Square and flogged publicly with the tongues of the World for their hypocrisy. Then deported to live with their friends in Gaza City.

 

 

Why a Referendum Won’t Solve Iraqi Kurdistan’s Problems

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE SAUDI NEWS AGENCY ASHARQ AL-AWSAT)

 

Opinion

Why a Referendum Won’t Solve Iraqi Kurdistan’s Problems

There’s a lingering impression in Washington that Iraqi Kurdistan is what it was five years ago, before the rise of ISIS: a peaceful, prospering, emerging pro-Western democracy whose aspirations for full independence from Iraq are increasingly hard to ignore.

Unfortunately, a great deal has changed since then, thanks to war, the US retreat from the region and the Kurds’ own dysfunctions. As the ISIS slowly crumbles to its south and west, Kurdistan is politically and economically broken. President Masoud Barzani remains in office four years after his term ended, and parliament has not met in almost two years. The government is deeply in debt and can scarcely afford to pay the three-quarters of the workforce who are state employees. The army and security services are divided into rival factions.

Barzani’s reaction to this distress has been to schedule a referendum on Kurdish independence for Sept. 25. The initiative has been rejected not just by the Iraqi federal government, but also by Kurdistan’s powerful neighbors Iran and Turkey, as well as the United States. More significantly, it is being viewed even by staunchly pro-independence Kurds as evidence that the region’s politics have reached a dangerous dead end.

The referendum is “an excuse by Kurdish leaders to remain in power,” says Shaswar Abdulwahid Qadir, the owner of Kurdistan’s independent NRT television network. “The younger generation doesn’t know anything about their fight in the mountains against Saddam Hussein. So the old leaders need another excuse to run the country for another 26 years.”

Those bitter words reflect Qadir’s perspective as one of a rising generation of Kurds — and Iraqis — struggling over how to create stable political institutions and a working economy amid the mess of sectarian conflicts, extremist movements and corrupt establishments littered across the post-ISIS landscape.

An independent television network is, at least, a place to start. While most Iraqi media are controlled by the government or political parties, Qadir is one of Kurdistan’s few self-made magnates: Born in the city of Sulaymaniyah, he started peddling electronic games as a teenager and became one of Kurdistan’s largest real estate developers before founding NRT in 2011, at the age of 32.

Launched under the slogan “courage, balance, truth,” the network saw its first office attacked and burned within a week of opening; Qadir blames militants from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the region’s two historical political forces. Two years later he survived an assassination attempt. Kurdish authorities have closed NRT’s offices and arrested its journalists on multiple occasions. Yet it has persisted and flourished: It now has two Kurdish channels, an Arabic channel covering all of Iraq, and an English-language website.

A referendum, Qadir says, might prompt Turkey to shut down that pipeline, through which Kurdistan exports the relative trickle of petroleum that is its only reliable revenue. It also might cause the Turks and Iran to back opposing factions of the army, which is divided between the PUK and Barzani’s Kurdistan Democratic Party, triggering a resumption of the civil war they fought in the 1990s.

“What kind of Kurdistan would we have?” Qadir asked. “Would we have South Korea or South Sudan?”


The Washington Post

From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

(THIS ARTICLE IS COURTESY OF THE HINDUSTAN TIMES)

From ‘caliph’ to fugitive: Islamic State leader Baghdadi’s new life on the run

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him ‘to justice’.

WORLD Updated: Jun 12, 2017 22:05 IST

Islamic State
A man purported to be the reclusive leader of the militant Islamic State Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi making what would have been his first public appearance, at a mosque in the centre of Iraq’s second city, Mosul.(Reuters File)

Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi is on the brink of losing the two main centres of his ‘caliphate’ but even though he is on the run, it may take years to capture or kill him, officials and experts said.

Islamic State fighters are close to defeat in the twin capitals of the group’s territory, Mosul in Iraq and Raqqa in Syria, and officials say Baghdadi is steering clear of both, hiding in thousands of square miles of desert between the two.

“In the end, he will either be killed or captured, he will not be able to remain underground forever,” said Lahur Talabany, the head of counter-terrorism at the Kurdistan Regional Government, the Kurdish autonomous region in northern Iraq. “But this is a few years away still,” he told Reuters.

One of Baghdadi’s main concerns is to ensure those around him do not betray him for the $25 million reward offered by the United States to bring him “to justice”, said Hisham al-Hashimi, who advises Middle East governments on Islamic State affairs.

“With no land to rule openly, he can no longer claim the title caliph,” Hashimi said. “He is a man on the run and the number of his supporters is shrinking as they lose territory.”

Iraqi forces have retaken much of Mosul, the northern Iraqi city the hardline group seized in June 2014 and from which Baghdadi declared himself “caliph” or leader of all Muslims shortly afterwards. Raqqa, his capital in Syria, is nearly surrounded by a coalition of Syrian Kurdish and Arab groups.

Damaged cars are seen stacked in the middle of a road in western Mosul’s Zanjili neighbourhood on June 9, 2017, during ongoing battles to try to take the city from Islamic State (IS) group fighters. (AFP Photo)

The last public video footage of him shows him dressed in black clerical robes declaring his caliphate from the pulpit of Mosul’s medieval Grand al-Nuri mosque back in 2014.

Born Ibrahim al-Samarrai, Baghdadi is a 46-year-old Iraqi who broke away from al-Qaeda in 2013, two years after the capture and killing of the group’s leader Osama bin Laden.

He grew up in a religious family, studied Islamic Theology in Baghdad and joined the Salaafi jihadist insurgency in 2003, the year of the US-led invasion of Iraq. He was caught by the Americans who released him about a year later as they considered him then as a civilian rather than a military target.

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Bounty

He is shy and reserved, Hashimi said, and has recently stuck to the sparsely populated Iraq-Syria border where drones and strangers are easy to spot.

The US Department of State’s Counter-Terrorism Rewards Program had put the same $25 million bounty on Bin Laden and Iraqi former president Saddam Hussein and the reward is still available for Bin Laden’s successor, Ayman al-Zawahiri.

Neither Saddam nor Bin Laden were voluntarily betrayed, but the bounties complicated their movements and communications.

“The reward creates worry and tension, it restricts his movements and limit the number of his guards,” said Fadhel Abu Ragheef, a Baghdad-based expert on extremist groups. “He doesn’t stay more than 72 hours in any one place.”

Baghdadi “has become nervous and very careful in his movements”, said Talabany, whose services are directly involved in countering Islamic State plots. “His circle of trust has become even smaller.”

His last recorded speech was issued in early November, two weeks after the start of the Mosul battle, when he urged his followers to fight the “unbelievers” and “make their blood flow as rivers”.

US and Iraqi officials believe he has left operational commanders behind with diehard followers to fight the battles of Mosul and Raqqa, to focus on his own survival.

It is not possible to confirm his whereabouts.

Baghdadi does not use phones and has a handful number of approved couriers to communicate with his two main aides, Iyad al-Obaidi, his defence minister, and Ayad al-Jumaili, in charge of security. There was no confirmation of an April 1 Iraqi state TV report that Jumaili had been killed.

Baghdadi moves in ordinary cars, or the kind of pick-up trucks used by farmers, between hideouts on both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border, with just a driver and two bodyguards, said Hashimi.

The region is well known to his men as the hotbed of the Sunni insurgency against U.S. forces that invaded Iraq and later the Shia-led governments that took over the country.

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At the height of its power two years ago, Islamic State ruled over millions of people in territory running from northern Syria through towns and villages along the Tigris and Euphrates river valleys to the outskirts of the Iraqi capital Baghdad.

It persecuted non-Sunnis and even Sunnis who did not agree with its extreme version of Islamic law, with public executions and whippings for violating strict controls on appearance, behaviour and movement.

But the group has been retreating since in the face of a multitude of local, regional and international forces, driven into action by the scores of deadly attacks around the world that it has claimed or inspired.

A few hundred thousand people now live in the areas under the group’s control, in and around Raqqa and Deir al-Zor, in Syria’s east, and in a few pockets south and west of Mosul. Hashimi said Islamic State was moving some fighters out of Raqqa before it was encircled to regroup in Deir al-Zor.

Displaced Iraqi children gather behind a fence at the Hasan Sham camp for internally displaced people on June 10, 2017. (AFP Photo)

Mosul, with pre-war population of 2 million, was at least four times the size of any other the group has held. Up to 200,000 people are still trapped in the Old City, Islamic State’s besieged enclave in Mosul, lacking supplies and being used as human shields to obstruct the progress of Iraqi forces by a US-led international coalition.

The Syrian Democratic Forces, made of Kurdish and Arab groups supported by the US-led coalition, began to attack Raqqa last week, after a months-long campaign to cut it off.

The militants are also fighting Russian and Iranian-backed forces in Syria loyal to President Bashar al-Assad, and mainly Sunni Muslim Syrian rebels backed by Turkey.

The last official report about Baghdadi was from the Iraqi military on Feb. 13. Iraqi F-16s carried out a strike on a house where he was thought to be meeting other commanders, in western Iraq, near the Syrian border, it said.

Overall, Islamic State has 8,000 fighters left, of which 2,000 are foreigners from other Arab states, Europe, Russia and central Asia, said Abu Ragheef.

“A small number compared to the tens of thousands arrayed against them in both countries, but a force to be reckoned with, made up of die-hards with nothing to lose, hiding in the middle of civilians and making extensive use of booby traps, mines and explosives,” he said.

The US government has a joint task force to track down Baghdadi which includes special operations forces, the CIA and other US intelligence agencies as well as spy satellites of the National Geospatial Intelligence Agency.

It will take more than that to erase his influence, Talabany said. “He is still considered the leader of ISIL and many continue to fight for him; that hasn’t changed drastically,” he said, using one of Islamic State’s acronyms.

Even if killed or captured, he added, “his legacy and that of ISIL will endure unless radical extremism is tackled.”

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Iran’s Supreme Leader Khomeini Shows His Love For All Non Shiite’s

 

Special Dispatch Memri
Iranian General Discusses Shi’ite Liberation Army Under Command Of Qassem Soleimani, Who Is Subordinate To Supreme Leader Khomeini September 15, 2016 Special Dispatch No.6611

On August 18, 2016, Ali Falaki, a retired general in Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who commanded a brigade in the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq War and claims to have volunteered to fight in Syria, gave an interview to the Iranian website Mashregh, which is close to the IRGC. In it, he spoke of the “Shi’ite Liberation Army” that Iran has deployed on its three battlefronts in the Middle East – in Syria, Iraq, and Yemen – stating that it comprises divisions based on ethnicity that Iran has established for this purpose. These divisions, he said, are the Afghan division (Fatemiyoun), the Pakistani division (Zaynabiyoun) and the Iraqi division (Hayderiyoun), in addition to the Lebanese Hezbollah division that is operating in Lebanon and Syria. Falaki explained that these divisions comprise the Shi’ite Liberation Army that operates according to the ethnic model adopted by Iran in the Iran-Iraq war.[1]


Ali Falaki (Image: Farsnews.com)

Falaki stressed that while the Shi’ite Liberation Army forces on the various fronts are divided by ethnicity, their command structure is Iranian, and is headed by IRGC officers under the command of Qassem Soleimani, head of the IRGC’s elite Qods Force, which operates outside Iran’s borders. He added that Soleimani answers directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini.

Falaki, who said that he maintains direct contact with the top echelons of the Iranian Army and IRGC, proudly reported that he had commanded, as part of the Afghan division, many Iranian Army soldiers who had volunteered to fight in Syria since February 2016. He said that it had been decided that they would be incorporated into the Afghan division of the Shi’ite Liberation Army as commanders. Falaki appears to be referring to February reports that Iran had replaced IRGC officers in Syria with Iranian Army soldiers and to relations between the IRGC and the Iranian Army, which have had their ups and downs.

Like other Iranian spokesmen, Falaki stressed that Iran is not sending Iranian forces to directly fight on the various fronts in the Middle East, but is creating local fighting forces that it provides with “guidance, organization, and management” by means of IRGC officers, and, when necessary also reinforces with the ethnic divisions of the Shi’ite Liberation Army. Wherever “there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized and supplied with the necessary forces,” he said. He added that the Shi’ite Liberation Army was established “because of the existence of Israel,” which Khamenei has vowed will cease to exist in about 20 years, though in practice the Shi’ite Liberation Army is fighting against Sunnis in the Middle East.

It should be mentioned that Falaki uses the term “Shi’ite Liberation Army” to mean two things: one, that its mission is to liberate Shi’ites, and two, that it is itself distinctly Shi’ite.

Following are excerpts from Falaki’s interview on the Mashregh website:[2]

“The First Seed Of The Shi’ite And Muslim Liberation Army Was Germinated In Syria”

“We have certain weaknesses in Syria that I do not wish to currently discuss, but some of them stem from a weakness we have in Iran. From here [in Iran], we come to South Lebanon and support the Shi’ites there; we come to Bahrain and Yemen at great expense and support the Shi’ites there.

“In Lebanon, we found [Hizbullah secretary-general] Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah, but here [in Iran], we could find no leader among all the active revolutionary [Afghan] clerics willing to be on the frontlines [like he is], nor could we organize such large forces [as Hizbullah]. We were not able to properly support the three million Shi’ite Afghans [living in Iran as refugees], and it is very unfortunate that for 30 years we ignored Afghan Shi’ites who, despite their oppression, resisted the arrogance of the east [Russia] and the West [the U.S.] in Afghanistan. We saw them as mere laborers waiting [for work] at intersections or as criminals. This generation [of Afghans in Iran] stepped up and showed heroism, altruism, courage, and daring in Syria. They shone under the command of the Iranian forces…

“Under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem [Soleimani], the Afghans prevented Zaynabiyya, Damascus, and the airport from falling [to the Syrian rebels]… We must not think that we [Iranians] are fighting in Syria, [but rather that] the Afghans are being courageous there under our command…

“The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ refers to explicit aid from God. The name ‘Fatemiyoun’ produced two great events… [for Iran] in the world of Islam. First, during the [Iran-Iraq] War, we were tasked with creating unity among [ethnic] sects [in Iran] – Lors, Kurds, Baluchis, Persians, and Arabs – [albeit] in separate frameworks,  [which all fought] the Ba’ath Party [in Iraq]. We transformed all the [ethnic] sects into military divisions, and during the war never dared to say that some of the brothers were Sunnis and some were [Shi’ite] Afghans.

“The Fatemiyoun banner was raised, and thus the first seed of the liberation army of Shi’ites and Muslims was germinated in Syria. Today we have the privilege [of forming the Shi’ite Liberation Army] because back then, we created the unity among the [ethnic] sects; now, we have created international [Shi’ite] unity. The [Pakistani] Zaynabiyoun division comprises Pakistanis under the command of IRGC officers. The [Afghan] Fatemiyoun division has several brigades comprising Afghans, and even has some Sunni members. IRGC [officers] guide this division. These divisions include IRGC commanders and [Afghani] commanders, from squad commanders to staff officers. These divisions have a single uniform and a single banner. They come under a single umbrella organization and fight on a single battlefront. We also have the Hayderiyoun division, which comprises Iraqis. We also have a Hezbollah division, which is divided into two: one part is Hezbollah in Lebanon and the other is Hezbollah in Syria, which comprises the people of Damascus, Nubl, and Al-Zahraa.

“The [Shi’ite] Liberation Army was formed because, with God’s help, in 23 years there should be no such thing as Israel. These divisions are on the Israeli border. The Fatemiyoun have laid the groundwork for this fight.

“The second thing, that we are happy to see is spreading to everyone, is that our previous [patronizing] view of these [Afghan] brothers has changed…”

“Wherever There Is A Need For This Army, The People In That Region Will Be Organized And Supplied With Necessary Forces”

“The Shi’ite Liberation Army was established, and it is currently under the command of [Qods Force head] Haj Qassem Soleimani, who obeys the leader [Khomeini]. One of this army’s fronts is in Syria, another is in Iraq, and yet another is in Yemen. The forces in this army are not meant to be only Iranian; [instead], wherever there is a need for this army, the people in that region will be organized [to form it] and supplied with the necessary forces…

“We [Iranians] are not meant to come [to Syria] as forces operating [on the ground]. We want [Iranian] elements who know how to teach, organize, and manage to come to Syria. This way, the forces in that region can spring into action…

“Some of the commanders of the army [of the Syrian regime] fled abroad, and some of its bases were captured. The crushed Syrian army units have today regrouped with renewed strength. Therefore, there is no need for us [in Iran] to send an army there. We can stand alongside the Syrian army, organize Syrian forces, and prepare them for battle. [In the future] we can remove the enemy occupation of Syria, just as we did in [Iranian] Kurdistan, which took a year or two – but controlling foreign incursions into Syria is up to the Syrians themselves and we cannot prevent it.

“Regime change and changes of president can happen only when the enemy is no longer [in Syria]…  For example, we succeeded, within two years, to expel the enemy presence in Kurdistan in western [Iran], but it took us years to impose law and order there… Today, this region is considered one of the safest in Iran… even though 20 years ago, they were beheading IRGC personnel with pottery shards…”

The Iranian Army Felt It Had A Roll To Fulfill In Syria

“The Iranian army felt that it had to fulfill a role in this [Syrian] arena. According to my knowledge, the army told Qassem Soleimani that it wants to fulfill its duty in this matter [i.e. fighting in Syria]. Qassem Soleimani told this to the leader [Khomeini], and the leader gave his blessing… Some volunteers from various military units, who were mostly experts in aerial combat, were sent to Syria in mid-February 2016.

“These [Iranian army] forces were competent enough to operate independently, but we decided that they would operate as part of the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun [division]. God rewarded me by placing me in command of them as part of the Fatemiyoun [division]. I placed them in charge of the area and transferred means to them, and after a short period, the [Afghan] unit was placed under their command. Neither their rank nor their weapons in Iran were the same as they were [after they joined] the Fatemiyoun [in Syria]. But due to their presence in Syria and after a short time fighting alongside the [Afghan] Fatemiyoun brothers, they became one organization, wore the same uniform, and fought in the same trenches. They became fast friends.

“I also told [Iranian ground forces commander] Amir Pourdastan that I was proud to fight along with the brothers from the [Iranian] army on one of the global battlefront outside of Iran, just like during the sacred defense period [the Iran-Iraq War]. [Back then] there was no difference [between us and them] and they were like the Basij boys [of the IRGC].

“I spoke with the commander who was tasked with sending [Iranian soldiers to Syria] and he said: ‘One of my concerns is to curb the wave of volunteers who want to be sent [to Syria]. According to the needs of the [Iranian] General Staff, we only send the necessary amount of forces [to Syria]. Had I allowed it, we would have had several divisions of [Iranian] volunteers [in Syria].’

“The presence of these forces has been hugely beneficial [in the Syrian arena]. They also suffered martyrdoms and injuries, but this did not damage their morale or make them less determined. They were experienced, brave, and passionate…

“The [volunteers] coming from Iran to Syria are given a monthly stipend of $100.”

“We Do Not Wish To Produce An Atomic Bomb… [But Rather] Prove… That [We] Can Reach Higher Than France [And] England… In All Fields… Even On The Military Level”

“Until our power grows, the world of the arrogance [the U.S.] will never let us be. Some wonder why there is a need for tension between us and the Western world. I must say that if we tolerate this tension for a while, we will be a match for [the enemy] and then they will no longer dare fight us. We do not wish to produce an atomic bomb. We only want to prove that our people and country can reach higher than France, England, Austria, and Denmark in all fields – humanities, science, economy, technology, as well as human rights, and even on the military level.

“If we destroy the enemy that is currently mobilizing against us, there will be no room for any other country [to mobilize against us]. When we show our true might, they will no longer be able to do anything against us…”

 

End notes:

 

[1] In the first part of the interview Falaki refers to the problem of the Afghan refugees in Iran, who number some 3,000,000. The Iranian regime recruits young men from among these refugees to fight in Syria as part of the Afghan division. The fighters receive a monthly stipend and, if they fall in battle, their families’ social status is enhanced.

[2] Fars (Iran), August 18, 2016. It should be mentioned that the interview was deleted from the Mashregh website shortly after publication.