Grind for January 13th
“Poetry is when an emotion has found its thought and the thought has found words.”
– Robert Frost
Iraqi Parliament votes to expel foreign troops after airstrike
Iraq’s parliament this weekend voted to expel all US troops from the country following an airstrike that killed two prominent military leaders on Friday.
The resolution, which is non-binding, calls on Iraq’s Prime Minister to withdraw an invitation sent to US forces when ISIS took hold of the country in 2014.
There are roughly 5,000 US troops stationed in Iraq.
Complicating matters is Prime Minister Adel-Abdul Mahdi’s current function as leader of a caretaker government following his resignation last year.
Analysts say Iraq’s parliament would need to pass a law to force foreign troops out of the country and that the current government is unable to do so. Others say the troops will be forced out because the US lacks a formal agreement to occupy Iraq.
“In any case, the constitution, laws, processes have been ignored so many times before that it really doesn’t matter to focus on technicalities,” explains Sajad Jiyad, managing director of the Bayan Center think tank in Baghdad. “It’s a case of will the government be bold enough to take the initiative, or does it want to draw this out and pass the buck around?”
Speaking to reporters this weekend, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said he is confident that the Iraqi people appreciate the ongoing presence of US soldiers, but that the Prime Minister is under pressure from Iran.
In the meantime, the US-led coalition in Iraq has suspended the training of local security forces as it braces for revenge attacks related to the airstrike.
On Saturday, President Trump warned Iran it would be “hit very fast and very hard” if it moves against American soldiers or assets.
In addition to threats, Iran’s government has responded to the airstrike by discussing its next move away from the 2015 nuclear deal, which it warns will be ‘bigger than planned.’
Quds Force announces new leader following death of General Soleimani
Iran’s expeditionary Quds Force announced a new leader this weekend hours after General Qassem Soleimani was killed during an airstrike ordered by President Trump.
The Quds Force is an elite branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) that works with armed groups in other countries to further Tehran’s reach. Partners include Hezbollah, Shiite militias in Iraq and Afghanistan, the Houthi rebels, and possibly the Taliban.
The IRGC is a military force separate from the regular army that reports directly to Iran’s Supreme Leader; its primary function is to protect Iran’s Islamic government.
The IRGC and Quds Force were labeled terrorist organizations by the United States last year.
Assuming leadership of the Quds Force as it vows revenge for Soleimani’s death is Esmail Ghaani, 62, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war who once claimed the United States would have “burned the whole region” if there were no Islamic Republic.
Ghaani joined the IRGC in 1980 and was an early recruit to the Quds Force. He was appointed Deputy Commander of the Quds Force in 1997, a role that gave him control over financial disbursements to foreign allies.
In 2007, President George W. Bush claimed the Quds Force sold weapons to Shia militants to be used against American forces. Four years later, the Quds Force sent operatives to Syria to support President Bashar al-Assad.
“What Quds does is very specialized, the most dangerous work, operating underground,” says Mahan Abedin, an Iran expert at the London-based Center for the Study of Terrorism.
Ghaani has been on the Specially Designated Nationals and Blocked Persons (SDN) list since 2012. This Friday, he warned there would soon be “bodies of Americans all over the Middle East.”
GOOD TO THE LAST DROP:
Did you know… Nutmeg is extremely poisonous if injected intravenously.