Pepe Escobar Live From Baghdad: The Secret Of Iraq's Renaissance

Tyler Durden's picture

Authored by Pepe Escobar of The Asia Times, via RT.com,

BAGHDAD – On a sandstorm-swept morning in Baghdad earlier last week, Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the legendary deputy leader of Hashd al-Shaabi, a.k.a. People Mobilization Units (PMUs) and the actual mastermind of numerous ground battles against ISIS/Daesh, met a small number of independent foreign journalists and analysts.

This was a game-changing moment in more ways than one. It was the first detailed interview granted by Mohandes since the fatwa issued by Grand Ayatollah Sistani – the immensely respected marja (source of emulation) and top clerical authority in Iraq – in June 2014, when Daesh stormed across the border from Syria. The fatwa, loosely translated, reads, “It is upon every Iraqi capable of carrying guns to volunteer with the Iraqi Armed Forces to defend the sanctities of the nation.”

Mohandes took time out of the battlefield especially for the meeting, and then left straight for al-Qaim. He was sure “al-Qaim will be taken in a matter of days” – a reference to the crucial Daesh-held Iraqi border town connecting to Daesh stronghold Abu Kamal in Syria.

That’s exactly what happened only four days later; Iraqi forces immediately started a mop up operation and prepared to meet advancing Syrian forces at the border – yet more evidence that the recomposition of the territorial integrity of both Iraq and Syria is a (fast) work in progress.

The meeting with Mohandes was held in a compound inside the massively fortified Green Zone – an American-concocted bubble kept totally insulated from ultra-volatile red zone Baghdad with multiple checkpoints and sniffer dogs manned by US contractors.

Adding to the drama, the US State Department describes Mohandes as a “terrorist”. That amounts in practice to criminalizing the Iraqi government in Baghdad – which duly released an official statement furiously refuting the characterization.

The PMUs are an official body with tens of thousands of volunteers linked to the office of the Commander in Chief of the Iraqi Armed Forces. The Iraqi Parliament fully legalized the PMUs in November 2016 via resolution 91 (item number 4, for instance, states that “the PMU and its affiliates are subject to military regulations that are enforced from all angles.”)

Its 25 combat brigades – comprising Shi’ites, Sunnis, Christians, Yazidis, Turkmen, Shabak and Kurds – have been absolutely crucial in the fight against Daesh in Samarra, Amerli, Jalawla, Balad, Salahuddin, Fallujah (35 different battles), Shirqat and Mosul (especially over the western axis from Qayarah base to the Iraq-Syrian border, cutting off supply chains and sealing Mosul from an attempted Daesh escape to Syria).

Retaking Kirkuk “in a matter of hours”

Mohandes describes the PMUs as “an official military force” which plays a “complementary role” to the Iraqi Army. The initial plan was for the PMUs to become a national guard – which in fact they are now; “We have recon drones and engineering units that the Army does not have. We don’t mind if we are called gendarmes.” He’s proud the PMUs are fighting an “unconventional war”, holding the high ground “militarily and morally” with “victories achieved in record time”. And “contrary to Syria”, with no direct Russian support.

Mohandes is clear that Iran was the only nation supporting Iraq’s fight against Daesh. Iraq reciprocated by helping Syria, “facilitating over flights by Iranian planes.” With no Status of Forces Agreement (SOFA) between Washington and Baghdad, “the Americans withdrew companies that maintain Abrams tanks.” In 2014 “we didn’t even have AK-47s. Iran gave them to us. The US embassy had 12 Apache helicopters ready to transport diplomats if Baghdad fell to Daesh”.

One year later, “Baghdad would have been occupied” were not for the PMUs; “It’s like you’re in a hospital and you need blood. The Americans would show up with the transfusion when it was too late.”

He is adamant “the US did not provide a single bullet” in the overall fight against Daesh. And yet, Mohandes clarifies that the “US may stay in Iraq should the Iraqi government decide it. My personal opinion is well known.”

Mohandes considers the [Western] “media war waged against Hashd al-Shaabi” as “normal from the beginning”; “Countries that supported terrorism would not perceive that a popular force would emerge, and did not recognize the new political system in Iraq.” On that note, he added ruefully, “you can smell petrol”.

Mohandes was personally wounded in Halabja and also in Anfal – Saddam Hussein’s anti-Kurdish operations. He was “pleased to see Kurdistan saved after 1991”; stresses “we had martyrs who fell in Kurdistan defending them”; and considers himself a friend of the Kurds, keeping good relations with their leaders. Iranian advisors, alongside the Iraqi Army and the PMUs, also “prevented Daesh from conquering Erbil.”

Yet after a “unilateral referendum, Iraq had to assert the authority of the state”. Retaking Kirkuk – largely a PMU operation – was “a matter of hours”; the PMUs “avoided fighting and stayed only in the outskirts of Kirkuk”. Mohandes previously discussed operational details with the Peshmerga, and there was full coordination with both Iran and Turkey; “It’s a misconception that Kurdish leaders could rely on Turkey.”

Fallujah, finally secured

The PMUs absolutely insist on their protection of ethnic minorities, referring to thousands of Sabak, Yazidi and Turkmen – among at least 120,000 families – forced by Daesh rule into becoming IDPs. After liberation battles were won, the PMUs provided these families with food, clothing, toys, generators and fuel. I confirmed that many of these donations came from families of PMU fighters all across the country. PMU priorities include combat engineering teams bringing families back to their areas after clearing mines and explosives, and then reopening hospitals and schools. For instance, 67,000 families were resettled into their homes in Salahuddin and 35,000 families in Diyala.

Mohandes stresses that, “in the fight against Daesh in Salahuddin and Hawija, the brigade commanders were Sunnis”. The PMUs feature a Christian Babylon brigade, a Yazidi brigade, and a Turkmen brigade; “When Yazidis were under siege in Sinjar we freed at least 300,000 people.”

Overall, the PMUs include over 20,000 Sunni fighters. Compare it with the fact that 50 per cent of Daesh’s suicide bombers in Iraq have been Saudi nationals. I confirmed with Sheikh Muhammad al-Nouri, leader of the Sunni scholars in Fallujah, “this is an ideological battle against Wahhabi ideology. We need to get away from the Wahhabi school and redirect our knowledge to other Sunni schools.” He explained how that worked on the ground in Haditha (“we were able to control mosques”) and motivated people in Fallujah, 30 minutes away; “Fallujah is an Iraqi city. We believe in coexistence.”

After 14 years in which Fallujah was not secure, and with the Haditha experience fast expanding, Sheikh Muhammad is convinced “Iraq will declare a different war on terror.”

The inclusive approach was also confirmed by Yezen Meshaan al-Jebouri, the head of the Salahuddin PMU brigade. This is crucial because he’s a member of the very prominent Sunni Jebouri family, which was historically inimical to Saddam Hussein; his father is the current governor of Tikrit. Al-Jebouri decries “the state corruption in Sunni regions”, an “impression of injustice” and the fact that for Daesh, “Sunnis who did not follow them should also be killed.” He’s worried about “the Saudi accumulation of developed weapons. Who guarantees these won’t be used against the region?” And he refuses the notion that “we are looked upon by the West as part of the Iranian project.”

Military victory meets political victory

Far from the stereotyped “terrorist”, Mohandes is disarmingly smart, witty and candid. And a full-blooded Iraqi patriot; “Iraq now reinstates its position because of the blood of its sons. We needed to have a military force capable of fighting an internal threat. We are accomplishing a religious national and humanitarian duty.”

Soldiers apart, thousands of extra PMU volunteers do not receive salaries. Members of Parliament and even Ministers were active in the battlefield. Mohandes is proud that “we have a chain of command just like the army”; that the PMUs harbor “thousands of people with college degrees”; that they run “dozens of field hospitals, intensive care units” and have “the strongest intel body in Iraq.”

In Baghdad, I personally confirmed the narrative accusing the PMUs of being Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki’s private army is nonsense. If that was the case, Grand Ayatollah Sistani should take the blame, as he conceptually is the father of the PMUs. Hadi al-Amiri, the secretary-general of the powerful Badr organization, also extremely active in the fight against Daesh, stressed to me the PMUs are “part of the security system, integrated with the Ministry of Defense”. But now “we need universities and emphasis on education.”

Pakistani Prof. Hassan Abbas, from the College of International Security Affairs at the National Defense University in Washington, went even further, as we extensively discussed not only Iraq and Syria but also Afghanistan and Pakistan; “Iraq is now in a unique position heading towards a democratic, pluralistic society”, proving that “the best answer to sectarianism is religious harmony.” This “inclusiveness against Takfirism” must now connect in the streets “with the rule of law and a fair justice system”. Abbas points out that the base for Iraq to build up is law enforcement via scientific investigation; “Policing is the first line of defense”.

Baghdad has been able, almost simultaneously, to pull off two major game-changers; a military victory in Mosul and a political victory in Kirkuk. If Iraq stabilizes, erasing the Daesh death cult, so will Syria. As al-Jebouri notes, “now every community must have a cut of the cake.” At least 7 million jobs and pensions are paid by Baghdad. People want the return of regularly paid salaries. That starts with decent security all over the country. Mohandes was the engineer – his actual profession – of key battles against Daesh. There’s a wide consensus in Baghdad that without him Daesh would be firmly installed in the Green Zone.

Hashd al-Shaabi is already an Iraqi pop phenomenon, reflected in this huge hit by superstar Ali al-Delfi. From pop to politics is another matter entirely. Mohandes is adamant the PMUs won’t get involved in politics, “and directly won’t contest elections. If someone does, and many individuals are now very popular, they have to leave Hashd.”

From hybrid warfare to national renewal

After days talking to Hashd al-Shaabi personnel and observing how they operate a complex hybrid warfare battlefield coupled with an active recruitment process and heavy presence in social media, it’s clear the PMUs are now firmly established as a backbone underpinning Iraqi state security, an array of stabilization programs – including much needed medical services – and most of all, introducing a measure of efficiency Iraq was totally unfamiliar for almost three decades.

It’s a sort of state-building mechanism springing out of a resistance ethic. As if the ominous Daesh threat, which may have led to as many as 3.1 million IDPs, shook up the collective Iraqi subconscious, awakened the Iraqi Shi’ite proletariat/disenfranchised masses, and accelerated cultural decolonization. And this complex development couldn’t be further from religious bigotry.

Amid Wilsonian eulogies and references to the Marshall Plan, Foreign Minister Ebrahim al-Jaafari is also a staunch defender of the PMUs, stressing it as “an experiment to be studied”, a “new phenomenon with a humane basis operating on a legal framework”, and “able to break the siege of solitude Iraq has suffered for years.”

Referring to the Daesh offensive, Jaafari insisted “Iraq did not commit a crime” in the first place, but hopefully there’s “a new generation of youth capable of reinforcing the experiment”.

The emphasis now, following reconciliation, is on “an era of national participation”. He’s adamant that “families of Daesh members should not pay for their mistakes.” Daesh informers will be duly put on trial.

I asked the Foreign Minister if Baghdad did not fear being caught in a lethal crossfire between Washington and Tehran. His response was carefully measured. He said he had enough experience of dealing with “radical” neocons in D.C. And at the same time he was fully aware of the role of the PMUs as well as Iran in Iraq’s reassertion of sovereignty. His warm smile highlighted the conviction that out of the ashes of a cultish black death, the Iraqi renaissance was fully in effect.

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I Write Code's picture

Many interesting details here, especially if they're true.  I'm still curious about exactly who is really driving here.

Juggernaut x2's picture

It's no wonder the hebes in Israel are getting nervous- their Mid-East Project isn't exactly going the way they want it to with Iran and Iraq getting chummy and Assad regaining the upper hand in Syria- and the Saudis aren't worth a squirt of piss as military allies.

bobcatz's picture

Hebes? They're NOT Hebrews. All Hebrews are Dead.

http://biblicisminstitute.wordpress.com/2014/09/10/a-brief-history-of-th...

But yes you are right my friend. Greater Israhell project is in the shitter.

And radical neocons is CODE for radical Jews or Zionist Jews.

Manthong's picture

 

Sometimes a real leader emerges…

There might be some analogies on this side of the pond.

eforce's picture

Saudi army a threat? They can't even beat the flip-flop army in Yemen.

SWRichmond's picture

The Militia Act of 1792, Passed May 8, 1792, providing federal standards for the organization of the Militia.

An ACT more effectually to provide for the National Defence, by establishing an Uniform Militia throughout the United States.

I. Be it enacted by the Senate and House of Representatives of the United States of America, in Congress assembled, That each and every free able-bodied white male citizen of the respective States, resident therein, who is or shall be of age of eighteen years, and under the age of forty-five years (except as is herein after excepted) shall severally and respectively be enrolled in the militia, by the Captain or Commanding Officer of the company, within whose bounds such citizen shall reside, and that within twelve months after the passing of this Act. And it shall at all time hereafter be the duty of every such Captain or Commanding Officer of a company, to enroll every such citizen as aforesaid, and also those who shall, from time to time, arrive at the age of 18 years, or being at the age of 18 years, and under the age of 45 years (except as before excepted) shall come to reside within his bounds; and shall without delay notify such citizen of the said enrollment, by the proper non-commissioned Officer of the company, by whom such notice may be proved. That every citizen, so enrolled and notified, shall, within six months thereafter, provide himself with a good musket or firelock, a sufficient bayonet and belt, two spare flints, and a knapsack, a pouch, with a box therein, to contain not less than twenty four cartridges, suited to the bore of his musket or firelock, each cartridge to contain a proper quantity of powder and ball; or with a good rifle, knapsack, shot-pouch, and powder-horn, twenty balls suited to the bore of his rifle, and a quarter of a pound of powder; and shall appear so armed, accoutred and provided, when called out to exercise or into service, except, that when called out on company days to exercise only, he may appear without a knapsack. That the commissioned Officers shall severally be armed with a sword or hanger, and espontoon; and that from and after five years from the passing of this Act, all muskets from arming the militia as is herein required, shall be of bores sufficient for balls of the eighteenth part of a pound; and every citizen so enrolled, and providing himself with the arms, ammunition and accoutrements, required as aforesaid, shall hold the same exempted from all suits, distresses, executions or sales, for debt or for the payment of taxes.

Gaius Frakkin' Baltar's picture

Any peace in the Middle East is temporary.

Give it a few years, a generation at the most, and it's back to the same old game.

Meanwhile, we still still don't know how many violent ISIS fighters fled to Europe with the other sandniggers. As long as they're able to rape White whores while getting free shit they are pacified, but take that away and there's a problem...

Volkodav's picture

      No

      Ten Tribes lost, very much living

      known by other names

      There were total of four Assyrian captiviities.

      All Israel and much Judah taken, but soon escaped

      http://stevenmcollins.com/html/scythians.html

 

 

BorraChoom's picture

Those false flag Hezzies backfired on the Mossad by turning into a Nationlist force.

Who would have ever thought that Hassan Nasrallah would become such a force.

flapdoodle's picture

In the eyes of the US State Department, all of these are "terrorists".

 

State Deparment Quiz Time Question: How can you tell if someone is a "terrorist"?

Answer: If they scare the neocons, they are a "terrorist". If they scare Netanyahoo, they are a "terrorist". If they scare the IDF, they are a "terrorist". If it is convenient for them to be labeled "terrorist" to maintain the Deep State narrative, they are a"terrorist".

Easy to apply example. See if you can use the above rules to see if Al Qaeda is "terrorist". Hmmm. These are the guys who blew up the World Trade Center building 1,2 & 7, right?

...but by the same token, they are allies against the Deep State narrative defined ISIS "terrorists".

 

So, they are terrorists, no?

 

BZZZZT. Wrong answer. Al Qaeda are NOT terrorists, as they are not designated as such by the Deep State narrative, and are allies in the "war against ISIS".

 

How about Iran? They have never invaded anyone so they must not be "terrorists".

 

BZZZT. Wrong answer. They are the "greatest terrorists on earth". Just ask any member of the Deep State (unfortunately, they won't be able to provide any concrete examples backed up by evidence)

 

 

 

veritas semper vinces's picture

Haha! I 've read that  Saudi  Arabia is "sharing" intelligence with the Tribe.

As if Saudi Arabia has any "intelligence"

LOL

DownWithYogaPants's picture

The Saudi's are in charge of the towels.  

07564111's picture

Self Interest/Self Preservation ? you call it as you will.

It's now open and fully acknowledge that certain forces desire the destruction of Iraq as well as Syria and Lebanon as a means to an end,,that end being the annihilation of Iran. Egypt must also figure in the plan to fulfill the Greater Israel project.

Jimmy-456's picture

Escobar's always interesting.

BorraChoom's picture

I always love to hear Escobar on CrossTalk. The Man is sharp and honest.

Laughing.Man's picture

It's too bad Peter can't shut up and let his guests finish what they wanted to say.

mkkby's picture

A press release from a militia leader. Why is that interesting? He has a political agenda just like all the rest.

Pepe, pepe, pepe -- you are fake news mi amigo.

Laughing.Man's picture

Totally disgusted with those assholes that started this mess.

Scornd's picture

actually its been predicted for thousands of years. they know what they are doing. blame them. do you know who? the Pharacee and Romeish Church? THE BANK? you willing to go there? who can fight that?

Sonder's picture

Why must everything be coated in the veneer of prophecy? Why can't we just admit humans are flawed and greedy. The disaster America and Israel have created for the Middle East and the rest of the West is the product of short-sighted ambition and foolhardiness. 

Mustafa Kemal's picture

" is the product of short-sighted ambition and foolhardiness."

It may have been foolhardy, but it certainly was not short-sighted.  The creation of the state of Israel was a long-sighted plan which began in the late 19th century.  Eurpopean Zionists together with their American Evangelicals worked on it for quite a long time. See Cyrus Schofield, his transformation of the Apocolyptic vision in his Scofield reference bible and his membership in the Lotos club under the invitation of Untermeyer. Untermyer not only was a leading Zionist, he was part of the creation of the Fed, creation of Balfour declaration and part of the blackmail which got Brandeis his spot on the SC.

Longsighted and masterfully played.  They think the rapture is going to be fun.

lakecity55's picture

Israel would be great if we locked them ALL up in there with no communications and no access to business or banking.

 

anonymike's picture

Yep, the mass murdering psychopathic criminal gang who call themselves US government are the lowest form of vile excrement ever pushed out of any disgusting ass hole. The world will be able to become a better place after they self destruct in moral and financial bankruptcy. Hopefully, people will correlate the improvement with less central government and dismantle all of them until the only remaining government is at the most local level and serves only to "secure these rights" of life, liberty and property.

Starve the beast and spread disrespect of it every way you can.

lester1's picture

Iraqi women are hot.

BorraChoom's picture

Iranian without the Burka are hotter!

Russian Women are Queens to be loved and FEARED.

God Bless Mother Russia

Able Ape's picture

I would rather have a platoon of Russian women than a battalion of American troops...

RationalLuddite's picture

Citation required (with images please)

Scornd's picture

After Trump said "Peace and Safety" all nervous like last nite i figured a multi-denominational religious war would ensue.

Juggernaut x2's picture

Trump is nervous because his jewish daddy, Bibi, seems to be beating the war drums and Trump doesn't want to go down the road that W Bush did. All Trump cares about is money and power and he doesn't want to see a bunch of US boys in body bags coming back from overseas.

ParticularlyStupidHumanoid's picture

Oh, you are sorely mistaken. Trump desires something you could never understand, not in a million years. You and your sicko kind, the Al Franken types, wow, sick, and let me tell you, always after the sins of the flesh, money. You'll never get it. You'll never know. Now go slither back into your hole.

totenkopf88's picture

What does Orange Jesus desire, O Wise One?

ParticularlyStupidHumanoid's picture

AHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAHAH.

> probing question. it weeeel wuuurk

> didn't work

besnook's picture

trump desires a greater israel. he is just another defeated zionazi.

RationalLuddite's picture

ParticularlyStupid - perhaps you need familiarize yourself with the concept of "persuasion". 

Looking down upon you with regards,

Luddy.

BorraChoom's picture

All I can say is that Trump is better than Killary, and that is not saying much.

new game's picture

shit or shitier. no thanks, exactly why i opted out. just observing that the majority open their mouths and let the world know how stupid they are.

hence

the 

saying

dummy the fuk up...

shhh

lol.

not another word

ParticularlyStupidHumanoid's picture

Anybody that believes there is a bright future for Iraq is stupid. They were doomed the day oil was discovered there. Why Iran? Golly we have chanced upon a formula totally never before explained!!!!11 I real all1!!111!!

"Proved oil reserves in Iran, according to its government, rank fourth largest in the world at approximately 150 billion barrels (24×109 m3) as of 2013, although it ranks third if Canadian reserves of unconventional oil are excluded. This is roughly 10% of the world's total proven petroleum reserves. At 2006 rates of production, Iran's oil reserves would last 98 years if no new oil was found." https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Oil_reserves_in_Iran

besnook's picture

i never ever thought i would be so happy to see the usa lose a war so decisively. it's no wonder nutandyahoo and israel are shitting falafel in their pants.

Sonder's picture

Right? I'm an American, I consider myself a nationalist and I'm thrilled Washington and Israel got their asses handed to them. 

Youri Carma's picture

I humbly greed and applaud the people of Iraq and Syria who have a history going back many years but were infested with a big cancer called the U.S. Time to heal.

viator's picture

Takfirism - a term to contemplate and remember.

webmatex's picture

Soldiers apart, thousands of extra PMU volunteers do not receive salaries. Members of Parliament and even Ministers were active in the battlefield.

hmmm

Sonder's picture

Of course, Washington branded an Iraqi patriot and militia leader a terrorist, they're pissed he killed all their mercenaries. 

mendigo's picture

A heart warming tale of murder and intrigue.

But I dont believe anything I read anymore.

Son of Captain Nemo's picture

Where it all wind up?... Nobody knows other than it being apocalyptic given the "usual suspects" who are LOSERS that simply refuse to admit they have "LOST"!

From the Saker (http://www.unz.com/tsaker/israel-saudi-arabia-setting-preconditions-for-...). I believe the author is far too kind when he references those in the U.S. military on the "fence" considering what they've done to the neighborhood based on "aiding and abetting" this (https://www.wikispooks.com/wiki/9-11/Israel_did_it) for 16 going on 17 years!