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06 June 2015


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alba etie

Mr Bazhad,
Thank you for a comprehensive review of the Shia militias. Would it be naive to ask is there any way at this point in the carnage that the "Clean Break Cohort " left us - to quietly walk away from this hellhole of ancient religious strife ?
How might we leave this behind us without having it follow us home ? It feels like the neocons have placed us squarely in the quagmire of the ME with no safe way home .

FB Ali


Very interesting piece. Thank you.

You say: ".... now stuck between pledging allegiance to a terrorist organisation...."

May I suggest that labelling the IS as a terrorist organization (a pejorative term), while perfectly valid as an expression of one's opinion, detracts from understanding its full dimension. It needs to be treated and understood as a serious player in the ME cauldron, not dismissed with one of those labels.

Patrick Bahzad


You're absolutely right. I edited the passage accordingly.


"the dilemma the Shia paramilitaries pose for the Iraqi government "

It has to be conceded that a majority of MPs in the Iraqi parliament support PMF. PMF is also supported by at least one VP and at least one minister.

The IRGC, which to varying levels, offers guidance and logistical support to the Shia militias, is also accepted by the Iraqi Ministry of Defense. Just last month a slew of IRGC generals was hosted at Iraqi MoD, including Iran's defense minister, an IRGC brigadier general.

The United States attempted to push away Shia militia and IRGC participation in the war against ISIL, by leveraging airstrikes during the concluding phase of Battle of Tikrit. What transpired was a command dispute that contributed towards ISIL subsequently regaining the initiative, and the fall of Ramadi. Another consequence of the command dispute is PMF has adopted the advanced defensive position for the protection of Baghdad and the holy cities, burdening Abadi and his far less effective ISF with the retaking of Ramadi. Really, without U.S. propping up, the Abadi government might have fallen following the loss of Ramadi. As it now stands, that government has been noticeably weakened.

Babak Makkinejad


The political leader of the “Badr Brigade”, assassinated on 29 August 2003, by someone in Iraq was Ayatollah Mohammad Baqir Hakim - http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Mohammad_Baqir_al-Hakim.

I do not believe that Al Qaeda was present in Iraq prior to US attack on 05/12/2003 and I cannot believe that Al Qaeda was organized in 3 months and then assassinated Ayatollah Hakim.

Someone else killed Ayatollah Hakim and attributed that to Al Qaeda.

3 days of state mourning was declared in Iran by Ayatollah Khamenei on occasion of his assassination. His assassination was clearly seen as a direct attack on the Iranian state.

This was not a little minor matter.

Patrick Bahzad


You're right, it was no little matter, it was big and that's why I mentioned it rather than other attacks that made even more victims.

Regarding the party that is responsible for it, your scenario is possible, it could have been someone else than al Qaeda in theory, but this is the kind of conspiracy theory I don't want to get suck into.

As far as al Qaeda presence in Iraq goes, key personnel was sent as early as March 2003, and they hit targets before ayatollah Hakim was killed. The Jordanian embassy bombing was in early August and the UN bombing in mid August. Both of them have clearly been established as AQ attacks. Therefore at least as far as timeline goes, your theory doesn't add up.

That being said, there still could have been another player involved in the attack of August 29th.


as far as I can tell there is little the "Iranian State" sees that it does not interpret as a direct attack on it. And who knows, there may be a lot of 'fire in all that smoke'. Or may just mostly smoke.

William R. Cumming

Thanks for this post! So exactly who are America's allies in Iraq?

Patrick Bahzad


Any question regarding local allies should be sent directly to 1600 Pennsylvania Ave, as nobody else exactly knows who these allies are. Over here we certainly didn't get the memo ... Basically we deciding on a daily basis, just to make sure we get it right at least some of the time ;-)

Babak Makkinejad

That is a trait it evidently shares with the Great Satan.

Babak Makkinejad

Ayatollah Khoei was also murdered in Imam Ali Mosque by persons unknown on April 10, 2013.

I seriously doubt that the hand of Al Qaeda in there.

Patrick Bahzad

Any idea who it might have been if not AQ or IS ?


A beginning of a war must be accompanied by formation of "government battalion" made exclusively of the close relatives of the legislative body and of ideologues from pro-war think-tanks. This battalion should be trained in combat. Perhaps when Cheneys, Kagans, and Bushies see they children and grandchildren coming limbless and brain-damaged from the wars, the country would have a more intelligent policies devised by the responsible experts and not by the war profiteers and career opportunists.

Lord Curzon

Patrick, many thanks for this insightful piece.

Babak,Patrick my understanding is he was trying to protect a Baathist who had sought sanctuary in the shrine. However, a group of people killed him and then the Baathist. Whether they were affiliated to anyone or merely enraged civvies is unknown.

different clue

Patrick Bahzad,

I remember reading semi-shortly after the Khoei murder, that Muqtada al-Sadr was theorized as having a role in it, to eliminate Khoei as some kind of rival. I remember having read that al Sadr was driven by the murder scene to watch Khoei dying, and then was driven away. I can't remember where I read that.


Dear Patrick Bahzad,

An excellent summary. I recall when the media trumpeted the "El Salvador" option, drawing all the wrong lessons from (If the US had a theocratic fundamentalist best buddy in Latin America, then useful analogies could have been drawn, but the history of Central America would have been very different). Instead, rather than stabilizing the situation, it destabilized towards worsening sectarian strife. Most annoyingly, the purveyors of this series of disastrous decisions are accorded honored discussion debates in village Potemkin. Perhaps they felt that no matter how much carnage was created the might of the US military could always sort it out. And if not, denial was the fallback plan.

Patrick Bahzad

Sorry have not paid enough attention, this is the murder that took place in 2003. Indeed muqtada al-Sadr still is considered the main suspect in this case, you're right.

Patrick Bahzad

The talk about Salvador option came up after it was first mentioned by then VP dick Cheney . Col. James Steele was sent in capacity as advisor to new police forces who were already being infiltrated by Badr brigades and other sectarian groups. This will be the subject of a separate piece.


Thanks ISL,

Wikipedia has this quote from Newsweek.


"An article published by Newsweek in January 2005 that explored the notion of the "Salvador Option" quoted anonymous military insiders but did not specify the precise origin of the phrase or explicitly say that those words were actually used by Pentagon sources.

According to Newsweek:
...one Pentagon proposal would send Special Forces teams to advise, support and possibly train Iraqi squads, most likely hand-picked Kurdish Peshmerga fighters and Shiite militiamen, to target Sunni insurgents and their sympathizers, even across the border into Syria, according to military insiders familiar with the discussions. It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation. The current thinking is that while U.S. Special Forces would lead operations in, say, Syria, activities inside Iraq itself would be carried out by Iraqi paramilitaries."

Link to Newsweek article on Archive.Org



"It remains unclear, however, whether this would be a policy of assassination or so-called "snatch" operations, in which the targets are sent to secret facilities for interrogation' More sanctimonious BS, are you aware that there is a war to be fought on behalf of all the people in the ME who do not want to be taken back to the Middle Ages? pl


The Shiite militia is now armed, very heavily armed.

Interesting that this heavy weaponry went to a militia and not to the Iraqi Army (which should decrease the likelyhood of ISIS getting their hands on them).


Eliot Abrams was among the NeoCons who made their bones in our Dirty War in Central America, getting cozy with the more traditional (waspy) Republican hawks like Cheney, Rumsfeld, etc.

This bright idea - pretending that what "worked" in El Salvador would be even better in Iraq - smells to me like the work of the NeoCons moles in the Pentagon.

Damn their eyes.


Pat, my intention wasn't to suggest that the article should be read as a clear/unclouded mirror of reality.

"are you aware that there is a war to be fought on behalf of all the people in the ME who do not want to be taken back to the Middle Ages?"

I wish I knew the ideology to the extend you do. I cannot help but see a bit of hypocrisy. The misuse of religion. Identity politics related to the-will-to-power. Not very different from extreme Western position: you have to live according to my dictate.

In other words, I deeply distrust the religious cover.



Your mind is contaminated by the secularism of Western culture. How many times must you be told that for the Islamists and for all Muslims to the extent that they are not contaminated by Western culture, there IS NO DIFFERENCE or distinction among the different aspects of life. Religion (as you understand it, a matter of lifecycle rituals)economics, war, politics, etc. for them these are all the sane thing and are aspects of a holistic view of life in which your idea that religion can be a screen is simply blasphemy. Islam is religion of the Middle Ages that has never been "reformed" successfully and that resists "reformation." IS and Nusra are merely the most recent evidence of that resistance. pl


"Your mind is contaminated by the secularism of Western culture. "

It no doubt is. As European I am even more suspect of being a secularist then the average American.

"How many times must you be told ..."

Without any doubt I have a mystic core that for a very, very long time tried avoid political realities: "economics, war, politics, etc."

But there is also a skeptic a secularist:
"IS and Nusra are merely the most recent evidence of that resistance."

And this secularist wonders to what extend, admittedly without any knowledge, purely based on my very, very limited intellectual capacities, or knowledge on the issue at hand, how this resistance to the mills-of-time came about?

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