Editor’s Note: This is the third of a four-part series on predictions for Middle East security by former US Army soldier Curtis Nelson.
In the first two sections of this series, I framed my analysis and outlined my predictions for the rise of a “Shia Caliphate” in the Middle East. Below is an abbreviated review of a series of articles that support the various assertions and conclusions presented in the earlier two articles.
Conclusion: “Baghdad will deal with the day to day governing of Iraq. When Tehran wants something from Iraq, Baghdad will be obligated to give in to Iran’s demands. Iraq will basically be turned into a client state of Iran.”
Energy: Iran, Iraq sign agreements to boost cooperation in oil, gas sectors
June 4th, 2012
Iran and Iraq reiterated their cooperation in various areas such as refining, increasing exports of oil and gas products as well as development of shared fields, local news agencies reported Monday. The agreements were reached during a three-day visit by Iranian oil minister Rostam Ghasemi to Iraq.
Iraq discusses Iran drilling its oil, gas fields
May 22nd, 2015
A high-ranking Iraqi delegation has visited Tehran and discussed oil and gas drilling by Iranian companies in the Arab country, the Mehr news agency says. The closed-door talks were held between director general of the state-run Iraq Drilling Co. Idriss Mohsin al-Yasiri and CEO of Iran’s North Drilling Company Hedayatollah Khademi, it said. The visit took place with the aim of “ceding some oil and gas drilling projects” by Iraq to the Iranian side, Mehr said.
Labor: Iraq, Iran labor ministers sign MoU to improve workers’ rights
May 12th, 2015
Labor Ministers of Iraq and Iran have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU), emphasizing the necessity of more cooperation and coordination between the two countries for the promotion of workers’ rights.
Defense: Iraq’s new Defense Minister seeks to cancel military cooperation with Iran
Oct 29, 2014
Baghdad (IraqiNews.com) On Wednesday, Iraqi Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi declared his plans to cancel all military cooperation with Iran that was agreed upon at the time of former Iraqi PM Nouri Al-Maliki, according to the Kuwaiti newspaper, Al-Siyasah.
U.S.-backed Iraq signs military accord with Iran as ‘strategic necessity’
Jan 5th, 2015
Iraq, a major recipient of U.S. aid, has signed a military cooperation accord with neighboring Iran. Iran and Iraq have signed a memorandum of understanding meant to rebuild Baghdad’s military. Officials said the MoU would focus on forming Iranian-trained Iraq Army units that would battle Islamic State of Iraq and Levant.
Iraqi Defense Minister: Iraq in dire need of Iran’s help
Baghdad, May 18, 2015
IRNA — Iraqi Defense Minister Khalid al-Obeidi on Monday appreciated Iranian defense assistance to Iraq and
said under the current sensitive situation, Baghdad is in dire need of Iranian defense assistance. Al-Obeidi made the remarks in a meeting with Iran’s visiting Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan. Al-Obeidi hoped that Iraq will be able to overcome enemies of Iraqi nation through Iran’s assistance. ‘We hope will bring abundant blessing for both Iran and Iraq, leading to further expansion of Tehran-Baghdad relations.’
Assessment: Defense Minister Khaled al-Obeidi was sent to Iran to sign this agreement. This calmed troubled waters created by his declaration of intentions in October to cancel military co-operation between Iran and Iraq.
With confidence: Iraq has become a client state by accepting Iran’s assistance against ISIS. Sending a minority Sunni Defense Minister to majority Shia led Iran shows minority Sunni’s in Iraq will be forced to accept Shia dominance in Iraq for the foreseeable future. Signing this labor agreement further solidifies Iranian influence in Iraq.
Conclusion: “Iraq’s leaders have quietly established a long term relationship with Iran. In Arab culture- power is hundreds of years of relationships between families and the ability to project power through those relationships.”
Qasem Soleimani: Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force. Most likely located in Syria, with trips back to Tehran and Baghdad maintaining relationships connecting many of the individuals and events mentioned below
During a series of battles between the US and Iraqi army on one side and Shia militias on the other, he sent an SMS message to the US commander, General David Petraeus. It read: “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. The ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds force member.”
The Shadow Commander “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, former C.I.A. officer in Iraq. When Suleimani appears in public—often to speak at veterans’ events or to meet with Khamenei—he carries himself inconspicuously and rarely raises his voice, exhibiting a trait that Arabs call khilib, or understated charisma. “He is so short, but he has this presence,” a former senior Iraqi official told me. “There will be ten people in a room, and when Suleimani walks in he doesn’t come and sit with you. He sits over there on the other side of room, by himself, in a very quiet way. Doesn’t speak, doesn’t comment, just sits and listens. And so of course everyone is thinking only about him. Suleimani’s greatest achievement may be persuading his proxies in the Iraqi government to allow Iran to use its airspace to fly men and munitions to Damascus. The flights are overseen by the Iraqi transportation minister, Hadi al-Amri who is an old ally of Suleimani’s.”
General Suleimani’s Estimated Myers-Briggs Personality Traits: INTP/J- Introverted, Intuition, Thinking and a balance of Perceiving and Judging giving him the ability to organize and apply details without losing sight of the big picture. His promotion in his 20’s to the rank of “General” during the Iraq-Iran war was due to his exceptional leadership skills.
November 6, 2014
Amiri is the leader of the Badr Organization, a Shiite militia infamous during Iraq’s civil war for its brutal tactics, which has now transformed into a political party that maintains a military wing. He described Suleimani as “a friend, a good man and a good fighter,” and said that his organization is “proud” of its alliance with Tehran. The Iraqi government has been forced to rely on his Shiite fighters in the war against the Islamic State. His rise illustrates one way the struggle against the jihadi group is transforming politics in Baghdad: He is unabashedly pro-Iranian, focused on building up his network of Shiite loyalists rather than reconciling with his Sunni enemies.
Haider al-Abdi: Prime Minister of Iraq, Shia Muslim
Iraqi premier is undercut in own sect
May 19, 2015
Baghdad: As Shiite militiamen began streaming toward Ramadi on Monday to try to reverse the loss of the city to Daesh, the defeat has given new momentum to Prime Minister Haider Al Abadi’s rivals within his own Shiite political bloc.
At the urging of US officials who sought to sideline the militias, Al Abadi had, in effect, gambled that the combination of US air strikes and local Sunni tribal fighters would be able to drive Daesh fighters out of the city as fighting intensified in recent weeks.
The hope was that a victory in Ramadi could also serve as a push for a broader offensive to retake Al Anbar province. But as the setback brought the militias, and their Iranian backers, back into the picture in Al Anbar, intensified Shiite infighting appeared to leave the prime minister more vulnerable than ever. And it presented a new example of how developments on the Iraqi battlefield have sometimes instantly shifted political currents in the country.
Conclusion: Looking westward: Syria. With continued Iranian support, Assad can bide his time for a weakened ISIS to re-establish dominance.
Bashar Assad: President of Syria, extensive ties to Russia and Iranian sponsored Hezbollah in Lebanon. Currently provides facilities in Damascus for Qassem Suleimani to command operations.
Qassem Suleimani: “Suleimani has been a faithful supporter of Assad. To save Assad, Suleimani has called on Iranian assets ranging from Qods Force, Hezbollah fighters, Shiite militiamen from around the Arab world, and extensive financing from the Iranian Government. In a recent speech before the Assembly of Experts—the clerics who choose the Supreme Leader—he spoke about Syria in fiercely determined language. “We do not pay attention to the propaganda of the enemy, because Syria is the front line of the resistance and this reality is undeniable,’’ he said. “We have a duty to defend Muslims because they are under pressure and oppression.” Suleimani was fighting the same war, against the same foes, that he’d been fighting his entire life; for him, it seemed, the compromises of statecraft could not compare with the paradise of the battlefield. “We will support Syria to the end,”
Conclusion: “We can safely conclude Syria’s chemical weapons are not completely destroyed.”
Exclusive: Weapons inspectors find undeclared sarin and VX traces in Syria – diplomats
May 8, 2015
International inspectors have found traces of sarin and VX nerve agent at a military research site in Syria that had not been declared to the global chemical weapons watchdog, diplomatic sources said on Friday. Samples taken by experts from the Organization for the Prohibition and Chemical Weapons (OPCW) in December and January tested positive for chemical precursors needed to make the toxic agents, the sources told Reuters on the condition of anonymity because the information is confidential. “This is a pretty strong indication they have been lying about what they did with sarin,” one diplomatic source said. “They have so far been unable to give a satisfactory explanation about this finding.”
The finding of VX and sarin supports assertions by Western governments that Assad withheld some of his stockpile, or did not disclose the full extent of Syria’s chemical capability or arsenal to the OPCW, according to diplomats and analysts.
Israeli official: Syria hid chemical weapons after giving up raw materials
Sep. 18, 2014
REUTERS- Israel believes Syria has retained caches of combat-ready chemical weapons after giving up raw materials used to produce such munitions under pressure from foreign powers, a senior Israeli official said on Thursday.
Summarizing Israeli intelligence estimates that were previously not disclosed to avoid undermining the Syrians’ surrender of their declared chemical arsenal, the official said they had kept some missile warheads, air-dropped bombs and rocket-propelled grenades primed with toxins like sarin. “There is, to my mind, still in the hands of Syria a significant residual capability … that could be used in certain circumstances and could be potentially very serious,” the official told Reuters on condition of anonymity. International diplomats told Reuters this week that Syria had revealed a previously undeclared research and development facility and a laboratory to produce the ricin poison.
Assad plans to transfer chemical weapons to Hezbollah: Syrian defected general
September 19th, 2012
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad would transfer the chemical weapons to the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah, a Syrian defected general told the Times of London. Former Syrian general turned defector, Major-General Adnan Sillu, said that aside from plans to transfer weapons to Hezbollah, Syria had planned to use chemical weapons on the Syrian people, “as a last resort,” a report on the Israeli online edition of Haaretz said, quoting the Times.“ We were in a serious discussion about the use of chemical weapons, including how we would use them and in what areas,” Sillu said.
Those disclosures appeared to support Western assertions in recent months that the Assad regime had not been fully transparent in detailing its chemical weapons program. The Israeli official said the 1,300 tons of mustard gas and precursors for sarin and VX surrendered by Syria largely matched Israeli assessments of its total stockpile of such materials. The shelf-life of any deployable munitions held back was limited given the chemicals’ deterioration, he added.
Those assessments appear to contribute to overall Israeli relief at the Syrian chemical disarmament, even if Assad has reneged in part. The Israeli official voiced confidence that “our deterrence” – usually a coded reference to Israel’s superior military and assumed nuclear arsenal – would continue to keep Damascus in check.
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