Iraq after the Daesh

Although Iraq is still shaken by daily attacks, the security situation in the country has improved significantly in recent years, relatively speaking. However, two years after Mosul, the last stronghold of the “Islamic state” (arab. Daesh), the devastated cities are still largely in ruins. Little is to be seen of a reconstruction. Instead, the actions of government forces and Shiite militias once again incite hatred against the central government and create the conditions for the current resurgence of the jihadists.

Despite a change of government in October 2018, Iraqis continue to suffer from the state’s failure to provide basic services, especially water and electricity. The protests against this, as well as against the ubiquitous corruption and nepotism, take on features of local uprisings in the south every year. The economic war rekindled by the US government, combined with undisguised war threats, threatens to worsen the supply situation even further and to fuel intra-Iraqi conflicts between pro-Iranian and iran-hostile forces.

Situation in Mosul and other recaptured cities

In July 2017, Iraq’s prime minister announced the liberation of Mosul, and a few weeks later the victory over the “Islamic State”. But even two years later, most of the West and the Old Town, which formed the heart of the venerable metropolis, are still in ruins and countless dead buried under it. In an effort to minimize own losses and to liquidate as many foreign fighters of the Daesch locally as possible, the quarters west of the Tigris, in which at the beginning still approximately one Million people were enclosed, had been almost razed to the ground. According to a representative study on deaths and causes in Mosul published on 15 May 2018 in the journal PLOS Medicine, approximately 90,000 people were probably killed, 33,000 of them women and girls, most of them by airstrikes.

“It is impossible not to be overwhelmed by what you see when you stand on the roof of the DDG office in Mosul,” reported Lene Rasmussen from the Danish Deminig Group (DDG) in February of this year. “Half of this sprawling city is literally razed to the ground.”

Around 130,000 houses were destroyed, housing an estimated one Million people. The UN expects that eight million tonnes of rubble will have to be removed before reconstruction can begin. Due to the associated hazards, working with the currently available equipment and resources can take up to 10 years.

Most of the approximately 1.3 million people who fled Mosul have now returned, most of them to the less destroyed east of the city. However, according to a recent report by the International Organization for Migration (IOM), which documents the effects of the bombing by the US-led alliance, more than 350,000 still see no possibility of this happening. The east of Mosul is overcrowded and expensive and the West is largely uninhabitable, as there is a lack of water and electricity in the less destroyed districts and lack of sanitation leads to the spread of diseases. “In addition,” the report continues, “undermine reports of harassment and violence against civilians by state and non-state actors in the efforts to build trust in state institutions and authorities”. As others [observers report, attacks on Sunnis by Shiite militias that dominate large parts of the city are part of everyday life.

Not only Mosul is heavily marked. “Today, more than four years after the conquest of Mosul by the black-clad men, remains a third of the country physically and socially pulverized,” writes Aziz Ahmad, assistant to the Chairman of the security Council of the Autonomous Region of Kurdistan (ARK), whose militias were involved in the war against Daesch, in the U.S. magazine The New York Review of Books. “The entire territory recaptured by the Islamic State is covered by a patchwork of different sectarian militias, who now want to secure their foundations.”

According to the United Nations Environment Programme, 80 percent of Ramadi, the capital of the Anbar governorate, which once had around 600,000 inhabitants, is still destroyed two and a half years after the recapture. Here, too, the rubble for tens of thousands of displaced people is the main obstacle to their return. Only three out of around seven million tonnes of rubble could be removed here with the help of the UN Development Programme. As in Mosul, the work is massively complicated by the high number of unexploded ordnance and booby traps. Hardly better in the other devastated towns in Anbar, such as Fallujah, where a third of the population is still displaced, Haditha, Hit and Al Qa’im.

Twenty-two hospitals in Nineveh, Salah ad-Din and Anbar were destroyed, over 100 severely damaged, facilities which had previously supplied one-third of the population in the affected provinces.

Reconstruction delayed

The remaining residents and returnees waited in vain for help from Baghdad. Reconstruction costs for Anbar, where the poverty rate has doubled to 40 percent since 2014, are estimated at at least $ 5 billion. In the Iraqi budget for 2019 with a total volume of 112 billion dollars, only 116 million are planned for this. Nineveh, whose capital is Mosul, is to receive 120 million. This means that the greater Mosul area, where one tenth of the Iraqi population lives, will only receive one percent of the already insufficient budget for the provinces.

How much is actually flowing in the reconstruction, remains to be seen. As it became known in July, the ex-governor of Nineveh, Nawfel Akub, who was deposed in the spring and is now a fugitive, had embezzled 10 million dollars intended for the renovation of two hospitals in Mosul. Already three months before, several of his employees had been caught, who had diverted a total of 64 million dollars.

Of the funds, the international donor ? from the European Union to the World Bank to the United States – at a conference in Kuwait last year, which pledged a total of 30 billion dollars for reconstruction throughout Iraq, little was achieved on the ground. The problem lies in Baghdad, according to potential donors. The government of Abdul Mahdi has so far been simply too incompetent or too little committed to present a plan for the necessary activities.

Basis for the resurgence of Daesh created

Many observers see the lack of commitment as a Basis for the resurgence of Daesch. This was by no means defeated by the reconquest of its strongholds, but has regrouped in the provinces of Kirkuk, Diyala, Salahaddin and parts of the Anbar region. The UN estimates its current strength at 15,000 to 20,000 fighters.

According to Aziz Ahmad, hundreds of Daesh attacks have taken place in the last fifteen months in areas officially liberated from him. The ambushes against Iraqi security forces had assumed a scale that had not been observed for years. The jihadists have evolved and taken advantage of the mood among the millions of people who have been forced to flee their homes or are now under the rule of Shiite militias.

According to observations by the Kurdish security council, the Iraqi government forces are again using the practices that had fueled anger against the central government and paved the way for it before Daesh’s invasion. In recent months, for example, the number of arrests based on the infamous anti-Terror law, which allows arbitrary arrests based on vague allegations and is mainly used against Sunnis, has risen sharply. In 2012-2013, the abolition of this law was one of the central demands of the mass protests in northern and central Iraq. In the huge detention camps, new arrivals now meet thousands of prisoners who were already detained under this law, many of them locked up indefinitely without trial.

About 100,000 refugees, who are considered supporters of Daesh, are being held in overcrowded Camps in the desert. International human rights groups accuse the security forces of torture and murder in these Camps. Human Rights Watch recently published a new report on the inhumane conditions in which children, young people and women are held. The camps are so overcrowded that prisoners have no room to lie down or sit comfortably. There are no mattresses for lack of space. A photo taken in Tal Kayf prison shows dozens of sitting and kneeling women with small children packed so tightly into a cell that nothing can be seen from the ground.

However, even more than the state security forces, Shiite militias, which in fact operate outside the control of the government, are intensifying bitterness and anger against the Regime. Since many were founded to fight against Daesh, they are grouped under the term “Popular Mobilization Units” (Arabic “Hashd al-Shaabi”, usually abbreviated PMU). They had acted with extreme brutality in the recapture of the Daesh-occupied territories, also against the remaining Sunni population. UN and human rights organizations have documented numerous massacres, looting and arson attacks. Raids by these correspondingly hated and feared militias as well as humiliating treatment of the locals at Checkpoints and during house searches are still commonplace in the Daesh-liberated areas. Human rights organizations continue to report on frequent stand-alone shootings and other violent crimes committed by them.

At the same time, the militias use their position of power for profitable transactions, such as customs duties at Check Points, trade in looted goods and oil smuggling. Locals refer to the militias referred to here only as “Hashd” as “Mafia”, whose business is a “public secret”. The outrage culminated in March of that year, after the sinking of a ferry in Mosul, in which 120 people died, in violent protests, when it became known that Asa’ib Ahl al-Haqq (“League of the righteous”), one of the major PMU militias, was a co-owner of the criminally negligent ferry company.

At the same time, Shiite religious institutions with the support of the large militias are appropriating Land and real estate in the predominantly Sunni city. In the East, a new market with 60 Shops of Shiite traders was created, named after “Imam Hussein”, the most revered descendant of Muhammad by Shiites.

Since the government does little for reconstruction and does not want or can not rein in the Shiite militias, the Daesh wins, according to many observers, for the fight against pro-Iranian organizations, the government in Baghdad and its foreign supporters. “The rubble that remains in Mosul “could become” fertile ground for an IS Revival, " according to the US newspaper Christian Science Monitor. The jihadists, who are once again spreading into the countryside, are also convinced by the Kurdish security council that they will use the new fertile ground to sneak into Sunni villages at night, replenish supplies and place bombs at roadsides and checkpoints – with the tacit consent of vengeful locals.

If one wanted to counter his resurgence somewhat, one would have to change the political framework conditions in addition to measures for a rapid reconstruction and restoration of acceptable living conditions. One of the central necessary measures, which is also demanded by the Kurdish analyst Ahmad, would be the transfer of police powers to local police units, which are occupied by locals. Generous amnesties and reduction of prison sentences, as well as the suspension of the death penalty, would also make sense. Some of the anger and bitterness could probably also be defused by generous and unbureaucratic payments to the families who were badly hit by the war against Daesch. Official Compensation claims take years to be processed by the ineffective and corrupt legal system. So far, not a single claim of such victims has been clarified.

Bundeswehr - part of the problem

The German government uses the continuing threat posed by Daesch to justify the planned extension of the Bundeswehr deployment in Iraq. This consists on the one hand in supporting the air war of the US-led anti-IS alliance, on the other hand in training Iraqi units, primarily Kurdish Peshmerga, in connection with the supply of weapons and ammunition. By playing a central role in the bombings with its aerial reconnaissance, the Bundeswehr as well as Berlin Bear a high degree of responsibility for the destruction caused and the large number of victims. In the fight against Daesh, however, Iraq does not need a continuation of the air war, but support in rebuilding the houses and infrastructure in the bombed-out cities as well as in overcoming the deep divisions between the population groups.

In its efforts to gain influence in the country, the German government relies mainly on the Iraqi Kurds, more precisely on the dominant Kurdish party, the KDP led by the Barzani Clan. By concentrating military support above all on their peshmerga, is it unilaterally taking sides for them ? both in the internal Kurdish conflict with the rival other parties, as well as in the conflict with the central government and other population groups.

Little progress after change of government

The rest of the country is still suffering from the conditions created by war and occupation. Around 7 million Iraqis, including 3.3 million children, are dependent, according to the UN Organisation for the coordination of humanitarian Affairs UNOCHA humanitarian assistance. One in five children is retarded in development due to chronic malnutrition.

The entire health system is desolate. According to a study by the International Committee of the Red Cross, around 20,000 doctors have emigrated from Iraq since 2003. According to the world health organization, WHO, is it ? Status 2017 ? only nine doctors per 10,000 people in Iraq, a third of the number in neighboring Kuwait and even half as much as in Libya torn apart by the Nato war.

The success of the reform Alliance “Sairun” (We are marching) at the elections in may 2018, had aroused many hopes for Overcoming of the corrupt and sectarian regime. It was born out of the protest movement, which developed from 2015 from nationwide mass protests against corruption and incompetence of government and administration. The strongest force is the movement of the influential cleric Muqtada Al-Sadr. Despite its Shiite background, it is primarily nationalist politically, i.e. aimed at enforcing the interests of the population of the country. Also included are left groupings, incl. the Communist party of Iraq. The program of the Alliance includes, among others, a more effective and inclusive government and administration in which Offices are no longer to ethnic-confessional proportional representation and Patronage, but according to competence will be awarded and previously disadvantaged population groups, such as the Sunnis are better represented. At the same time, their demands are directed against any external interference and the presence of foreign troops.

Although Sairun won the most seats, with 54 of the 329 parliamentary seats, the influence remained limited and the kontne alliance did not achieve any significant improvements in the formation of a government. After five months of negotiations, a compromise candidate was once again elected prime minister with Adel Abd al-Mahdi, with whom both Tehran and Washington can live well. Al-Mahdi, who ran as an independent in these elections, is considered a technocrat and a man of the middle, but has been active in leading positions of the regime installed by the United States since 2003. He co-founded the Supreme Council for the Islamic Revolution in Iraq (SCIRI), which was established in Iran in 1982 and supported the US-led Invasion, and was a leading member of its successor organization until 2017. He was minister of Finance from 2004 to 2006, vice-president from 2005 to 2011 and oil minister from 2014 to 2016. Al-Mahdi, whom Pepe Escobar described in 2005 as a Maoist turned free-market economist, had helped to implement the neoliberal measures imposed by US governor Paul Bremer at the beginning of the occupation, which were intended to completely deregulate the Iraqi economy and open it up to foreign capital. He was seen as the man to guarantee the continuation of Bremer’s work.

In view of this, progressive reforms were hardly to be expected from him. In any case, its scope as an independent without its own Basis is very limited. He had enormous problems to occupy his Cabinet. By blocking candidates with too close ties to Iran, Sairun left the ministerial posts of military and Home Affairs vacant until recently.

The victory over Daesh has made the lines of conflict between the country’s three major ethnic groups, the Shiite-Arab majority, the Sunni-Arab minority and the Kurds even sharper. The new government also failed to overcome the country’s divisions.

State within a state?

Not least the large Shiite militias are blocking Baghdad’s approach to the Sunnis. In the course of their rearmament in the fight against Daesh, they became a central power factor. Due to their large share in the success against the jihadists, their prestige increased enormously in large parts of the Shiite population despite their atrocities. Their leaders are almost worshiped. This paid off in the elections. The Fatah list, which they joined under the leadership of the head of the Badr Brigades, Hadi al-Amiri, won the second most seats. There are no official statistics on the strength of the more than 40 paramilitary organizations, but the number of their fighters is generally estimated at more than 130,000 men. They form a state within a state and also play an important role in the suppression of social protests. Activists accuse some of the militias of having shot and killed fellow soldiers in the street. Women were particularly affected by the killings of activists in southern and central Iraq.

After his predecessor failed, Al-Mahdi now makes a second attempt to bring the PMU under government control by ordering it to be integrated into the regular armed forces. In doing so, he also meets a central demand of the reform camp. More important, however, is the pressure of the US government, which they do not wrongly regard as a strong factor for Iranian influence on Iraqi politics and as a military threat in the event of a war against Iran. US Secretary of state Mike Pompeo had threatened Iraqi leaders in a surprise visit to Baghdad in may that the United States itself would intervene with force of arms, if they would keep the Iranian-backed militias under control.

Iranian aid troops, which Tehran could deploy in the event of an escalation from Yemen to Iraq and Lebanon, are a frequently deployed Scenario. In fact, the Houthis mentioned are fighting their own war in Yemen and the Lebanese Hezbollah aligns its policy primarily with national interests. Of course, this also includes the support of allies against common enemies.

The situation in Iraq is similar. Although relations with Iran are present with some of the major Shiite militias, they too are mainly Iraqi organizations and not puppets, which Tehran has only to pull from. After all, they had no Problem to ally themselves with the USA in the fight against Daesh. Of course, in the event of war, they would also, out of self-interest, side with Iran and oppose the power that seeks to assert its supremacy in the alliance with Israel and Saudi Arabia.

Under al-Mahdi’s predecessors, the militias were formally declared regular units under the authority of the Iraqi Ministry of the interior. However, this has been led for years by members of the Badr Bridagen (or organization) and their independence has hardly been touched.

The chances that the new prime minister can actually force them under government control are slim. Some of the militias have angrily announced resistance. Another, including the large associations, such as Badr, has signalled a willingness to join the army, but without having their independence restricted. Thus their domestic Position would be strengthened and they would have some protection from reprisals from Washington as part of the regular armed forces.

Social Explosives: Supply Problems

In the summer heat of last year, the annual protests against the inadequate supply of electricity and water, unemployment and miserable living conditions in general, as well as the mismanagement and corruption responsible for it, in the south of the country had assumed features of an uprising. State buildings, party headquarters and offices of Shiite militias were attacked and partially set on fire. Security forces had shot dozens of demonstrators.

Although many billions have been invested since 2003, according to the Iraqi electricity ministry, only 15,000 megawatts of power is available in the country, which is distributed over a dilapidated, loss-making network. However, the demand is 24,000 megawatts, and could rise to 30,000 megawatts in the summer, when the mercury climbs to 50 degrees Celsius. Due to population growth, demand continues to grow at an annual rate of 7 percent.

A better power supply was therefore a central promise of al-Mahdi. Not surprisingly, he wants to achieve this through their privatization, but here he encounters resistance in Parliament and widespread dislike among the population. Privatization, according to the more widely held view, is nothing more than giving “a small group of wealthy individuals the opportunity” to “acquire economic assets at the expense of the poor masses,” especially in the context of widespread corruption.

At the same time, the government is concentrating on getting major projects already targeted by the predecessor into motion. In autumn, it signed a basic agreement with Siemens to repair the power supply and increase capacity by 11 gigawatts. In view of an order volume of up to 13 billion euros, it was hailed in German media as the group’s largest Deal. However, Baghdad almost simultaneously concluded a similar agreement with its US competitor General Electrics. Siemens had already concluded an “energy partnership” with Baghdad in 2016, in which the state of the country’s power plants and power grids were examined and the solutions were summarized in a “Roadmap”. Washington, in turn, is trying to exert considerable pressure on GE. Baghdad is struggling to divide up the overall package. So far, only one contract for a new gas-fired power plant has been awarded to Siemens for 700 million dollars. However, the additional 500 megawatts will not be available until next summer at the earliest.

The poor supply of water is almost an even bigger Problem. This is partly related to the power outages, but is also a consequence of poor sanitation and water treatment, drained rivers and low water levels.

In recent decades, Iraqi authorities have failed to provide the residents of Basra with enough clean drinking water, HRW criticizes in a report published in July. Government projects to improve water quality have become stuck due to mismanagement and corruption. 300,000 residents are still not connected to the water and sewage network. The Situation has now escalated into an acute water crisis, which last year brought at least 118,000 people to hospital in the province of Basra due to illnesses. Viruses (e.g. Norovirus), parasites, bacteria (e.g. Coli) and toxic metals from wastewater have been identified as possible causes.

Investment in energy and water supply, as well as other infrastructure, will remain modest under the new government, despite a 45 percent increase in this year’s budget from 2018 to $ 112 billion. The highest US $ 28 billion from export revenues, which have increased with the recovery of the oil price, will be allocated to investments throughout the country, including the construction of a new plant in the city of San Francisco. Oil industry and economic projects. The IMF estimates that demand in the Daesch-liberated areas alone is 88 billion euros.

Renewed Protests

Since the Situation of the population has not changed, ordinary citizens continue to receive electricity from the grid for an average of only 2 hours a day at new record temperatures, the protests in the country have also flared up again since June 2019. There were major demonstrations in Basra, Muthanna and Dhi Qar provinces on June 19 and in Maysan, Muthanna, Dhi Qar, Diwaniya and Basra provinces on June 21. Moqtada al-Sadr called his followers to a meeting in Baghdad.

Muqtada al-Sadr suggested that the power for officials and executives within the “Green Zone” of Baghdad to shut off, so you can feel the plight of the people, once his own body-and emergency lines, in the future, only their homes but also to hospitals and schools. He attacked the parties and PMU militias that control the electricity ministry and rejected the claims of its minister, Luay al-Khatib, about alleged improvements to the electricity supply. He called for the establishment of a Committee of inquiry to investigate the “rampant corruption” in the electricity sector.

The reaction of the government is similar to last year. On the one hand promises to meet the demands of the activists, on the other use of tear gas and firearms to disperse demonstrators. The police chief of Basra threatened to arrest any journalist who would report on demonstrations without permission. In May, at least four people were killed and 17 injured when the blockade of a large shopping centre in Najaf, carried out as part of a three-day campaign to disrupt the business of corrupt companies called for by Muqtada al-Sadr, was violently broken up.

The problems with the water supply could increase, since Turkey has apparently begun to partially fill the controversial Ilisu dam on the Tigris.

However, the demonstrators are not primarily blaming lower water volumes from Turkey for the shortage, but rather the incapacity and self-enrichment of the regime established in the course of the US occupation. Initially established as an ethnic-confessional System, it has evolved into a Patronage System of the established parties, according to Iraqi experts at a symposium of the Washington Middle East Institute on last year’s wave of protests. In the new government some technocrats took over the leadership of ministries. In each ministry, however, there are still a few hundred so-called “representatives” who look after the interests of their parties. Al-Mahdi had promised to end this System, but the majority in Parliament has so far been able to block all steps towards Reform.

However, other experts also point to the harmful external influence of Western governments and corporations. After all, two sides are always involved in corruption. Not only during the direct occupation, but also in the years after that, US corporations in particular have profusely enriched themselves by doing business in Iraq without actually fulfilling the services within the Agreed Framework. Al-Sadr therefore calls, among other things, for the energy sector to be returned to Iraqi hands in a fully nationalized form, instead of in the hands of foreign “occupying companies”. Competent committees with experience and high integrity would have to be formed that develop a comprehensive strategy to solve the electricity problem in Iraq without politicizing it.

The Iraqi experts at the aforementioned Symposium foresaw a further escalation of the protest movement this summer. The demonstrations last year cost the former prime minister his Job.

US economic war and threats of war against Iran

Since Iraq imports most of its natural gas from Iran, as well as more than 1000 megawatts of electricity (according to the Middle East Eye even currently 35 to 40 percent), the economic embargo imposed by the United States on Iran could make a dash through all bills. In May, Washington exempted Iraq for a third time for 90 days from the obligation to participate in the Blockade, but the chances of finding a replacement by then are slim. There is no gas pipeline to any country other than Iran and the nearest potential supplier, Qatar, is a good distance away. Years will pass before Iraq can use Gas from its own sources.

Washington’s efforts to force all states to join its Embargo on Iran generally puts Iraq in a very delicate position. On the one hand, the country is also heavily dependent on trade with its eastern neighbour in other areas, which grew to 12 billion US dollars last year. On the other hand, it exacerbates the conflict between the pro-Iranian forces and the pro-Western, as well as the Sunni and Arab nationalist forces. Tehran hopes bilateral trade will reach € 20 billion. He has agreed with Baghdad numerous plans to expand economic cooperation. Are planned including industrial parks on the border and the joint development of gas fields. As part of a broader plan, the expansion and interconnection of the rail networks of both countries is also planned, which should also enable Iran to transport goods to Syria and its Mediterranean ports. Iraqi President Barham Saleh has already spoken of his country becoming “the heart of a new Silk Road to the Mediterranean”.

Tehran is obviously keen to mitigate the consequences of the US embargo with Iraqi help, and Baghdad hopes that Washington will not dare to force Iraq to stop doing business with Iran, knowing that because of the precarious supply situation and unstable political conditions, the Situation could explode at any moment. To be on the safe side, the two countries have also set up a payment system away from the dollar, with which they want to protect their economic cooperation from us coercive measures. It is similar to the European Special Purpose Vehicle INSTEX, which was founded by the EU to allow its companies to do business with Iran past the US restrictions.

As a warning that Washington is closely monitoring business relations between Iran and Iraq, recent reprisals have been directed against a Baghdad company for selling weapons to Iraqi militias backed by the Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC). Last year, an Iraqi Bank was fined for having participated in the transfer of IRGC funds to Hezbollah in Lebanon.

USA and Israel against pro-Iranian militias

As expected, these reprisals were strongly condemned by spokesmen of the Shiite militias. The tone between them and the Trump Administration is becoming increasingly harsh anyway. The latter suspected Iraqi pro-Iranian militias of being behind the attacks on Saudi tankers and infrastructure, and withdrew all personnel from Iraq that were not necessarily needed. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo warned during his surprise visit on 7 May. May 2019 in Baghdad, the Iraqis that the United States will assume the right to respond to attacks “by Iran or its agents in Iraq,” military.

News from the same day that a $ 53 billion contract to exploit oil fields in southern Iraq with Exxon Mobil and PetroChina was about to be signed reminded that, as always, the US is also pursuing economic interests in Iraq. Pompeo’s statements that such large “Energy Deals” with US corporations are also about reducing dependence on Iranian energy supplies show that Iran is also being attacked as an economic competitor.

The PMU, on the other hand, strongly oppose the US’s aggressive policy on Iran and warn it against trying to use its military and civilian forces in the country to take action against the neighbouring country.

In this they are supported by most parties in Parliament. Tens of thousands of demonstrators also responded to al-Sadr’s call for anti-war rallies in Tahrir Square in Baghdad and several other cities, addressing both the war threats from Washington and the danger of Iraq becoming “a battlefield in such a war.” If it breaks out, " it could mean the end of Iraq.”

Foreign troops is undesirable

The presence of American troops has met with more massive resistance since the official victory over Daesh. Officially there are 5,200 US soldiers in the country, plus an unknown number of mercenaries. Although their operation against the jihadists was officially at the invitation of Baghdad, their presence is seen by many as a continuation of the occupation. Al-Sadr, who can mobilize millions of followers, has long demanded the withdrawal of all foreign troops. The PMU and its parliamentary Arm, Fatah, also support the demand. The previous parliament had already adopted a Resolution in March 2018, which demanded a timetable for the withdrawal of the government.

Trump’s announcement on December 26, 2018, during an unannounced troop visit to the Ain Al-Asad base in Anbar, that he would not withdraw US troops and that he would “keep an eye on Iran” from this “excellent base” gave an additional boost to the cause. The snubbing, without consultation and without meeting with government members by direct flight, and the clear confirmation that Washington has its military in the country by no means only as an aid force against Daesh, led to a broad wave of outrage. Together with Fatah and other parties, Sairun then launched a legislative initiative in January, threatening to use force against foreign troops if necessary. In mid-May, the vote on it was finally scheduled to take place in parliament, but it was postponed again.

Should the Initiative succeed, the presence of the Bundeswehr in the country would no longer have any legal basis. In the discussion about an extension of the mandate in Berlin, however, this does not play a role so far, as little as the majority attitude of the Iraqis towards the presence of German troops has so far.

In addition, the PMU has threatened a “harsh response” if US troops from Iraqi soil take action against them or against Iran. In order to reinforce their threats, PMU spokesmen have repeatedly stressed that they have accurate information regarding the locations, distribution and activities of US troops. But they would not be the ones to initiate a confrontation.

When US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo made it clear to Prime Minister al-Mahdi that they would not stand in the way of Israeli attacks, PMU representatives also intensified their tone. “The American forces are in range of the fire of the Islamic resistance groups,” according to Jawad Al-Talibawy, a leading member of the “League of the Righteous”, “and if the PMU or the resistance factions of Israel or America will be attacked, the answer will be painful”.

The threat posed by Israel is by no means hypothetical. In July, fighter jets attacked bases of Shiite militias twice. Although no country has claimed responsibility for the bombings, everything, according to credible reports, indicates that they were carried out by F35 stealth bombers of the Israeli Air Force. The same applies to two drone strikes on August 12 on the al-Sakr military base near Baghdad and on August 20 near the al-Balad military airport north of Baghdad, which were also attributed to Israel by two leading US officials. In June, a kata’ib Hezbollah base in Syria was bombed directly on the Iraqi border.

Tel Aviv does not usually comment on reports of Israeli airstrikes, but regularly stresses its determination to “defend itself” by targeting positions of Iran and Hezbollah. In his speech to the UN General Assembly last September, which is currently shown in campaign clips, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu threatened that Israel would continue to take action against Iranian forces in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. In view of the attack of 20.8. according to the AP news agency, Al-Balad said: “there is no immunity for Iran, nowhere.“Israel will act,” and we will act against them now, wherever it is necessary.” The minister of Regional Cooperation, Tzachi Hanegbi, boasted a few days after the first attacks in Iraq, in parallel with several others in Syria, that Israel was the only country in the world that had already “killed Iranians.”

The PMU militias to see Washington behind the attacks on their bases. The Trump Administration has always denied involvement in the attacks, but admitted to having been informed in advance about the two in July. Even if it can have little interest in an open confrontation in Iraq, the situation in Iraq can explode at any time with further such attacks. The units of the Bundeswehr are then in the middle of it.

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