strongholds that fought America, Iraqis fear US departure

FALLUJAH, Feb. 6, 2021: Abu Arkan Ibrahim picked up a rifle and joined the Iraqi insurgency against US troops when they occupied his hometown of Fallujah in 2003. He was badly burned in the fighting. Now, he fears the departure of the Americans he once battled. Over the past 17 years, the municipal employee has watched his city fall to the US, Al-Qaeda, Daesh and, most recently, Iraqi forces fighting alongside Iran-backed paramilitaries.

Ibrahim said the presence of US troops in recent years helped suppress remaining Daesh militants and rein in the Iran-backed militias — mutual foes accused by Iraqi officials of attacking locals. The US troop drawdown is creating a security vacuum, Ibrahim said, making Fallujah more dangerous. “I’d rather have the Americans here than the alternatives,” the 37-year old said. Ibrahim’s assessment is shared by many security officials, former fighters and residents in north and west regions of the country that comprise up to a third of Iraqi territory, former insurgent strongholds once loyal to Sunni dictator Saddam Hussein.

They say Daesh and the Iran-backed paramilitaries stand to gain most from Washington’s troop reduction. They point to an increase in attacks by Daesh, and fear the Iran-backed militias will use this violence to justify entrenching themselves. Last month, the US completed a reduction of its forces in Iraq to 2,500 troops. That’s about half the level of less than a year ago.

Recent months have witnessed more than 25 deadly attacks that Iraqi officials attribute to Daesh militants. Last month, the group staged its biggest attack in years with a suicide bombing in the capital Baghdad that killed more than 30 people. The administration of President Joe Biden has given no indication it intends to significantly reverse the drawdown started under predecessor Donald Trump.

Iraq issues arrest warrant for Trump over Soleimani killing

BAGHDAD, Jan 8, 2021(AP): An arrest warrant was issued Thursday for outgoing President Donald Trump in connection with the killing of an Iranian general and a powerful Iraqi militia leader last year, Iraq’s judiciary said. The warrant was issued by a judge in Baghdad’s investigative court tasked with probing the Washington-directed drone strike that killed Gen. Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the court’s media office said. They were killed outside the capital’s airport last January.

Al-Muhandis was the deputy leader of the state-sanctioned Popular Mobilization Forces, an umbrella group composed of an array of militias, including Iran-backed groups, formed to fight the Islamic State group. Soleimani headed the expeditionary Quds force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard Corps. The arrest warrant was for a charge of premeditated murder, which carries the death penalty on conviction. It is unlikely to be carried out but symbolic in the waning days of Trump’s presidency.

The decision to issue the warrant “was made after the judge recorded the statements of the claimants from the family of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis,” according to a statement from the Supreme Judicial Council. The investigation into the killings is ongoing, the court said. The killings sparked a diplomatic crisis and strained U.S.-Iraq ties, drawing the ire of Shiite political lawmakers who passed a non-binding resolution to pressure the government to oust foreign troops from the country. Iran-backed groups have since stepped up attacks against the American presence in Iraq, leading to threats by Washington to shutter its Baghdad diplomatic mission.

BCF To Build 1,000 Houses for Yezidis After Implementation of Erbil-Baghdad Agreement in Sinjar

BAGHDAD, Dec 17, 2020:: The Barzani Charity Foundation (BCF) is planning to build 1,000 houses for the Yezidi families returning from camps to their hometown of Sinjar after the implementation of the Erbil-Baghdad agreement, an official said. The Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) and the federal government of Iraq inked a landmark agreement last October to stabilize Sinjar and restore federal government’s administration in the region. Pir Dayan, head of BCF office in Sinjar said that his organization is waiting for the implementation of the agreement, after which it will start building 1,000 houses for the Yezidi families who lost their homes during the ISIS rampage.

According to Dayan, other local and international aid organizations are also awaiting for the restoration of order in Sinjar to be able to deliver more aid and lay the ground for the people to return to their homes. However, the BCF official said the implementation of the Erbil-Baghdad agreement, which is primarily at the hands of the federal government, has not progressed on the ground as the illegitimate forces are still present there in disguised uniforms.