IRAQ TRACKER 8 JUL: CoR reconvened; IS suicide bomber in S Samarra; IS executes tribal forces in Azwya;

BLUF: Parliament set a new date–July 12th–for its second session, after delaying it until August 12th yesterday. The speaker pro tem still does not expect quorum. An IS suicide car bomber struck south of Samarra at a security checkpoint/recruitment center. IS overran the town of Azwya and reportedly executed 50 tribal fighters who had attempted to resist their advance. That movement may have prompted the bombing of the Azwya Bridge by IQAF Su-25s yesterday.

In Salah ad-Din, an IS suicide car bomber targeted a security checkpoint, killing two ISF members and two civilians. The checkpoint may have been near a recruitment center in Raqqa village, just south of Samarra.  Masalah claims that fighting between IS and Jubour tribe members took place in Baiji late last night, while Shafaq claims that IS overran Azwya and executed 50 tribal fighters upon taking the town, later continuing their DDR campaign that began right after their gains in northern Salah ad-Din.

In Diyala, a local official in Udhaim said that self-defense forces continue to organize in the city, both against insurgent elements and to tamp down looting. He oddly added that IS elements had established a cemetery in Salman Beg. A similar report, this time from a provincial National Reconcilation official, claims that IS had appropriated 20,000 sheep from areas in Salah ad-Din and Ninewa to sell in outlying areas in Diyala. The same source stated that IS had demanded fees from Udahim wheat farmers in exchange for marketing their product, a tactic that may have factored into the town’s decision to turn against the organization and collaborate with ISF and AAH elements.

In Baghdad, an executed body was found in the Fahama area north of the city. Ghazaliyah continues to experience high levels of violence relative to the rest of the city, with gunmen killing a policeman and detonating an IED in the area today.

In Anbar, clashes between a joint SWAT/Sahwa force and insurgents took place near the Albu Farraj Bridge north of the city, indicating that Anbar Operations Command remains effectively under siege. Masalah claims that Jaysh al-Mujahideen and others left Fallujah following a demand for allegiance by IS in the city. I’ll wait for confirmation on that one, but IS has always preferred the city proper, while other armed groups are more comfortable among the suburbs and outlying villages.

In Babil, the first reported Su-25 strike took place in Jurf al-Sakhar, killing 24 militants. The addition of more capable close air support is unlikely to rate a decisive factor in the COIN campaign there.

Politically, DPM Shaways, FM Zebari, and ISCI leader Hakim met, presumably to discuss a non-Maliki future for the country. Sadr met with Saraya al-Salam’s military leadership; he likely wants to telegraph, if not exert, control over his militia, which had in past years eluded him. Chalabi’s INC met and demanded parliament’s meeting take place ASAP.

Pressure from various political parties, not least of which the SLC, factored into Hafez’s decision to move the second CoR session to July 12th instead of August 12th. Still, Hafez has already distanced himself from the session, stating that it won’t reach quorum. The AFP report cites no mainline of evidence of Hafez’s decisionmaking, but I suspect that pressure from individual parties coalesced; the SLC has a political interest in speeding up formation, while others do not want to be tarred as anti-constitutional or stray from the clerical line, which has been in lockstep with adherence to the constitution so far.

Maliki surrogates continue to stress the INA’s adherence to the constitutional “largest bloc, first try at formation” formula.

The notoriously unreliable Bas News cites sources stating that an Iranian delegation asked Gorran to cede the post of Sulaymaniyah governor to PUK to avoid PUK’s losing power relative to KDP in the wider intra-KRG fight; Iran reportedly wants a united KRG front against ISIS, complete with cooperation with Maliki on a third term and outright military operations with the ISF. More reliably, Shafaq reports that the latest negotiations over whether Gorran’s Haval Abu Bakr or PUK’s Aso Mohammed would take the governorship had failed; in Sulaymaniyah Gorran won 12 seats in the provincial elections, while PUK won 11–one will get the governorship, the other the provincial council chairmanship.

Elsewhere in the KRG, Barzani will reportedly name leading PUK figure Barham Salih as KRG’s nominee for the post of Iraqi president; Salih served as DPM in the Iraqi Interim Government at the onset of the Iraq War and has more recently battled the Talabani family and Kosrat Rasul Ali for control of the PUK. From KDP’s standpoint, the choice could reflect either the desire for a powerful consensus pick or the desire to split off PUK factions more sympathetic to wider KDP aims for Iraqi Kurdistan.

In his BBC interview, Qaiz al-Khazali sounded many familiar themes–distrust of the US and West, accusations of Gulf support for ISIS, and most simple aggrandizement for AAH, which he said had prevented IS from taking Baghdad since it had gained critical experience in Syria. Khazali’s comments about Iran hew to the nationalistic side, which allows him to tap into more Iraq-focused Shi’a while simultaneously downplaying the outsized role of Iran in Baghdad.


National Journal’s Clara Ritger writes about the frankly embarrassing continued support for Ahmed Chalabi among former Bush administration officials, namely Richard Perle and Paul Wolfowitz here.

McClatchy’s John Zarocostas reports that IS executed 13 Sunni imams upon taking control of Mosul to stifle moderate dissent immediately; residents say IS now dictates the content of Friday prayers.

Reuters reports that IS rounded up 25-60 fmr. IA officers and Baathists [JRTN, likely] to head off challenges; in other news, Mosul governor-in-exile Athil al-Nujaifi estimates that IS gained 2,000 recruits from Mosul so far. Those arrested included fmr Iraqi SOF commander GEN Waad Hannoush and Baath party leader Saifeddin al-Mashhadani.

Egyptian President Sisi’s somewhat surprising support for Iraqi unity earned him congratulations from PM Maliki today.

Former ambassador Robert Ford pens a Foreign Policy piece that essentially calls for either hard partition or some form of enticing the Sunni community with such talk. Rather a non-starter, both because Baghdad can’t imagine such a plan; oh, and, this “Sunni region” has not economy to speak of. Iraqi Sunni political leaders have made very specific demands, none of which Ford includes.


recalibrating hope: panahi’s “this is not a film” and davoodi’s “red, white, and the green”

“Will you be voting tomorrow?” “What will you do if you wake up the morning after the election and your candidate has lost?” Documentary filmmaker Nader Davoodi’s Red, White, and The Green revolves around these two central questions. Davoodi’s hour-long impressionistic account of the 2009 Iranian presidential elections maintains a focus on Mousavi voters—the entirety of footage is selectively desaturated, shot in black and white with only green objects retaining their hue–yet he fairly represents viewpoints proffered by Ahmadinejad supporters. Still, the film’s understated bedrock are the cynical, the disillusioned—jaded liberal boycotters who in some eyes lost the 2005 election.

A second striking aspect of Davoodi’s interviews and footage presides in the widespread exuberance shown by young Mousavi supporters. A feeling of inevitability permeated their social circles, a wholesale placement of hope in the perfectly coiffed former prime minister. Continue reading

problems of degree: a review of azar nafisi’s “reading lolita in tehran”

“There was not much difference between our jailers and Cincinnatus’s executioners,” writes Azar Nafisi, comparing the plight of ordinary Iranians (and women in particular) to the arbitrary execution of a man in Nabokov’s Invitation to a Beheading. Many incredible explorations of totalitarian states exist—1984, The Trial, Darkness at Noon—and Nafisi would have us believe her Reading Lolita in Tehran belongs on the list. It doesn’t.

Nafisi, a former Iranian professor of literature, left her post following Continue reading

causes of the “islamic” revolution

The Islamic Revolution of 1978-9 caught nearly everyone—expert and non—by surprise, yet in retrospect the signs appear obvious. Why? It seems to me the “magical Khomeini” view runs rampant today,

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini smiling.

Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini smiling.

but the idea that a singular force of history seduced ordinary Iranians into revolution is wrong. In fact, I think the Iranian Revolution probably would have happened in the absence of a titanic leader figure, and exploring why will shed some light on how contemporary personality-based electoral analyses aren’t particularly apposite in Iran. Bluntly: no one really cared who Khatami or Mousavi were before their presidential runs, political figures are generated quite messily, and they’re often pulled by the electorate rather vice versa.

In many ways, the revolution was unlikely, and statements to that effect from the mid-to-late 70s should not be discounted if we earnestly desire to learn anything from their oversights. Dozens of authors have offered disparate accounts of the revolution, each placing emphasis on certain factors. In the interest of analytical clarity, these long and overlapping lists of factors should be divided into structural and proximate causes; that is, the long-term prevailing conditions that made amenable the population to revolution combined with specific triggers or tactical mistakes made by the Shah.

Fakhreddin Azimi, in examining the history of democratic agitation in Iran, Continue reading

a brief old note on savushun

Set in the tumultuous, disorienting years of 1942 and 1943, Savushun weaves together disparate threads of Iranian consciousness during the World War II occupation of Iran by Great Britain and the USSR. Equal parts political novel, classical tragedy, and clarion call of an emergent feminist movement, Daneshvar’s magnum opus aptly captures the zeitgeist in a manner lending itself to lasting relevance.

Holy shit! You guessed right! It’s Simin Daneshvar!

Savushun was published in 1969—nearly a quarter-century after its fictional events—but would have been immediately relatable to Iranians coping with the increasingly autocratic tendencies of Shah Reza Pahlavi. Its plot swirls around the essential question of whether and/or how to react to foreign occupation, or, in the Shah’s case, foreign occupation with an Iranian face. Four main axes of response are offered by Daneshvar, each given voice through an individual character. Continue reading