by Bilal Wahab and Barbara Leaf  –  PolicyWatch 3020 – September 21, 2018

An abrupt realignment of partners has moved the government formation process forward, but the next step could be messy given intra-Kurdish feuding.

On September 15, the Iraqi Council of Representatives cast secret ballots to elect a new speaker of parliament and two deputy speakers. Sunni politician and former governor of Anbar province Mohammed al-Halbousi secured 169 out of 298 votes, beating his better-known rival, former defense minister Khalid al-Obeidi.

With the vote, Iraq’s constitutional clock began ticking on a ninety-day deadline to form the next government. Parliament must now elect a president by the end of September. The new president will then call on the largest parliamentary bloc to name a prime minister and form a cabinet. All of these pieces should be in place by mid-November if all goes as planned, but various complications are already brewing.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BERICHT: WAS DIE BUNDESWEHR FÜR DIE KURDISCHEN PESCHMERGAE TUT – Von der Leyen sichert kurdischen Peschmerga-Kämpfern im Irak weitere Hilfe zu

THE GERMAN CHAPTER –  17.09.2018 – mesop / afp – Bundesverteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen (CDU) hat den kurdischen Peschmerga-Kämpfern im Nordirak die weitere Unterstützung Deutschlands zugesichert. Nach dem erfolgreichen Kampf gegen die Dschihadistenmiliz Islamischer Staat (IS) konzentriere sich die Hilfe der Bundeswehr nun aber auf Bereiche wie Logistik, Minenabwehr und medizinische Versorgung, sagte von der Leyen am Montag bei einem Besuch in Erbil. Die Bundeswehr hatte in den vergangenen Jahren Peschmerga-Kämpfer ausgebildet und ihnen auch Waffen geliefert.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS REPORT : Ursula von der Leyen auf Werbetour am Tigris

Gepostet am 18.09.2018 um 14:34 Uhr – Haupstadtstudio  ARD

Wie wichtig ist das Engagement der Bundeswehr im Nordirak? Rund einen Monat bevor der Bundestag über das Mandat abstimmt, besuchen Verteidigungsministerin Ursula von der Leyen und Abgeordnete aller Fraktionen die Region. Ein bisschen mag sich Ursula von der Leyen wie auf einem Fototermin in der Heimat gefühlt haben – die Ministerin im Kreise von jungen, lächelnden Soldatinnen. Nur dass es diesmal keine Werbekampagne für Gleichberechtigung in den Streitkräften ist, sondern ein Besuch bei den Peschmerga im Nordirak.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : GERMAN’S VON DER LEYEN & Kurdistan Premier, German Defence Minister Discuss Berlin Support for Erbil Basnews English – 17/09/2018 – 17:29 – ERBIL — Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received on Monday German Defense Minister von der Leyen and her accompanying delegation in Erbil to discuss further coordination and extended support from Germany to the Kurdistan Region. According to an official readout on the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) website, von der Leyen valued the role of Erbil in sheltering millions of Iraqi IDPs and Syrian refugees who escaped their homes after the emergence of Islamic State (IS) terrorist group. The German delegation, which included a number of lawmakers from the country’s defence committee, vowed to continue the flow of aid to the IDPs and refugees remaining in the Kurdistan Region. Barzani, on his turn, thanked Berlin for standing with the Kurdistan Region throughout years of the battle against IS. He noted that the cooperation between Erbil and Berlin should step into a new phase as the IS is militarily defeated, but its extremist ideology persists. Von der Leyen earlier the day paid a visit to German military advisors stationed in the Kurdistan Region to train the Peshmerga.

Basnews English –  17/09/2018 – 17:29 –  ERBIL — Kurdistan Region Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani received on Monday German Defense Minister von der Leyen and her accompanying delegation in Erbil to discuss further coordination and extended support from Germany to the Kurdistan Region.

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Anti-West, Pro-Iran Remarks by PUK Official Boom on Social Media

Basnews English  – 17/09/2018 – 13:25  – ERBIL — Remarks by a senior official of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) has recently re-surfaced on the social media, and led to sharp and telling criticisms against his party for the pro-Iranian and anti-west position he takes.

Ahmed Barzanji, a senior adviser to PUK secretary-general, appears at an event in Sulaymaniyah where he gives a speech to mark the Quds Day.

Also known as “Jerusalem Day”, the last Friday of Muslims’ holy month of Ramadan was initiated by the founder of the Islamic Republic of Iran, Ruhollah Khomeini, in 1979. It is intended to support Palestine against Israel.Barzanji, in his remarks, lends total support of his party to Iran, saying that the Quds Day is an opportunity, as intended by Komeini, to unify the world of Islam against “oppressors and invaders”.

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Iraq to deploy federal guards in Kurdistan along border with Turkey

17 Sept 2018- BAGHDAD,— The Iraqi government decided on Sunday to deploy federal guards along the border between Iraq’s semi-autonomous region of Kurdistan and Turkey. The decision was made during a government security meeting chaired by outgoing Prime Minister Haider Abadi, according to a statement by Abadi’s office.The deployment by the Ministerial Council for National Security aims to “protect the border areas and prevent any violations,” the statement said.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS SOUTH KURDISTAN (IRAQ) CDJ members criticize Barham Salih for attempt to reunite with PUK, Iraqi Kurdistan

15 Sept 2018 – MESOP – SULAIMANI, Iraq’s Kurdistan region,— Five founding members of the Coalition for Democracy and Justice (CDJ) wrote on Thursday an open letter to the coalition head, Barham Salih, strongly criticizing him for “diluting justice” by attempting to reconcile with the PUK.

The open letter was titled “Why did we support CDJ and why did we quit?” by the members of the coalition’s general council Razaw Mahmoud, Jawad Saed and Rezan Arif as well as the Kurdish MP Gasha Dara and former Kurdish MP Sarwar Abdullah.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS Analysis: Iranian Missile Strikes Against Kurdish Dissidents in Iraq

Over the weekend, Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) fired seven short-range ballistic missiles (SRBMs) at the headquarters of Iranian Kurdish dissidents in northern Iraq. The move follows an uptick in violence between Tehran’s security establishment and Kurdish insurgents, allegations about foiled terror plots in the country’s Kurdish-heavy west, as well as the recent execution of three Iranian Kurdish males imprisoned for allegedly having ties to terror groups.

Iran’s use of tactical SRBMs against such foreign targets warrants a larger discussion about the country’s missile capabilities and willingness to use them. It also requires an accurate assessment of what occurred on the ground and in the media space on this issue since September 8.

Who were the targets of the attack?

English-language Kurdish outlets like Kurdistan 24 reported that two Iranian Kurdish groups, the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan (PDKI/KDPI) and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP-I), were the regime’s intended targets. The assault, dated September 8, was against the groups’ headquarters in the Iraqi Kurdish city of Koya (also known as Koy Sanjaq/Koysinjaq). The PDKI is Iran’s oldest Kurdish nationalist group, having attempted everything from armed struggle to a cold peace with central Iranian authorities since the group’s founding in the 1940s. The KDP-I however, split from the PDKI in 2006 over contesting the Iranian government. Hostilities between Iran and armed Kurdish groups continues, and escalated this year.

Iran’s semi-official Fars News Agency reveals that Tehran had specific Kurdish facilities in mind, including the “KDP-I’s political bureau, the PDKI’s training center, and a Peshmerga complex.” The PDKI’s Twitter account added that Iran also targeted “adjacent refugee camps in Koya, Iraqi Kurdistan.” Iran’s semi-official Tasnim News Agency published a list of 11 names that were killed in the attack. Reuters reported that the strike “killed at least 11 people” while AFP and the PDKI official statement report 15 persons killed. Rudaw reported 16 dead.

What sort of ‘attack’ took place?

According to English-language Kurdish sources, Iran’s missile strikes were precipitated by or concurrent with an aerial or artillery attack, alleging that the headquarters in Koya was shelled as well. These same sources were the first to claim that the IRGC “fired six ground-to-ground missiles,” which are also known as surface-to-surface missiles, or SSMs. While the claim about the type of missile – SSMs – can now be treated as accurate given additional reporting, once the IRGC took responsibility for the strike, Persian-language sources put the number of missiles launched at seven, not six.

Footage carried by early Iranian reporting – likely from a handheld device – shows at least five-to-six missiles streaking through the air, creating white plumes of smoke. The video then pans to the target area showing three-to-four clouds of dark smoke rising from a building, hinting at impact without showing the moment of impact. Persian-language outlets later carried clips from Iranian TV that provided footage from an unnamed type of Iranian drone that was circling the area. These clips show at least three separate explosions at the facility, indicating that at least some missiles hit their target. Photos from the headquarters on Kurdish outlets show a collapsed ceiling, the point where at least one missile would have likely fallen.

What type of missile was reportedly launched?

While Iranian outlets did report on September 8 that SSMs were launched against Kurdish insurgents in Iraq from a distance of 220 kilometers (km), it was only on September 9 that the missile’s name was revealed. According to Tasnim News Agency, Iran launched the Fateh-110B, an upgrade to the Fateh-110 SRBM. Tasnim’s use of the modifier “B” is odd, since unlike Western sources, Iranian sources tend not to distinguish between various versions of the Fateh-110 itself. Instead, Iranian outlets usually omit reference to the Fateh-110’s upgrades unless they are reporting on a new missile variant from the same family (see Table 1) with improved capabilities. When Iran has used English letters to denote missile variants before, it has opted to do so – at least publicly – with its medium-range ballistic missiles (MRBMs), like the Ghadr-F and Ghadr-H.


Table 1: Fateh-110 Variants Reported With Different Names

Name of Missile Missile Type Propellant
Fateh-313 SRBM Solid
Zulfiqar SRBM Solid
Fateh Mobin SRBM Solid
Hormuz 1 and 2 Anti-Ship Ballistic Missile (ASBM) Solid
Khalij-e Fars ASBM Solid


The Fateh-110B has a range of 300 km and is propelled by solid fuel. This type of propellant is preferred for its battlefield flexibility and requires relatively little prep time prior to launch, making it ideal in a surprise attack weapon. All of Iran’s SRBMs rely on solid propellant, and, like the Fateh-110B, all of Iran’s SRBMs are single-stage systems with a reported separating warhead. Although Tasnim did not report the weight of the warhead this missile could carry, independent experts put this weight at 450500 kg, however, the lower number is probably more accurate.

Another feature of the Fateh-110 and its variants (see Table 1) is that they are billed as Iran’s most accurate missiles. While this a tall order for a country whose ballistic missile arsenal is usually derided because of their relatively low-accuracy, a comparatively lower (and thus modestly more accurate) circular-error probable (CEP) for Iran’s solid-fuel SRBMs makes them a natural choice for such missions. Changes in Iranian ballistic missile accuracy have been identified by scholars as a measure of evolving Iranian missile power. This evolution stands to enable new strategies for Iran, such as coercion.

Why do these missile launches matter?

In general, ballistic missile launches – either flight-tests or operations – matter because they provide states with crucial data about the operational reliability and readiness of its missile arsenal. Launches also offer officials qualitative and quantitative information about each missile’s functional range, accuracy, battlefield effectiveness, and usefulness for political signaling, deterrence, and coercion. Given the injunction against missile testing and transfers in UN Security Council Resolution (UNSCR) 2231 which codifies the Iran nuclear deal, such launches carry additional significance. In 2018, Iran reportedly launched as many as 10 SSMs with a ballistic trajectory (see Table 2). Since agreeing to the nuclear deal in July 2015, Iran has launched as many as 33 ballistic missiles.


Table 2: Reported Iranian SSM Launches in 2018

Date Name of Missile Missile Type Propellant Launch Type Number Launched
January 2018 Scud Variant (likely Shahab-1, Shahab-2, or Qiam-1) SRBM Liquid Test 1
January 2018 Shahab-3 Variant (likely Ghadr-1/101, Ghadr-F, Ghadr-H, or less likely, Emad) MRBM Liquid Test 1
August 2018 Fateh Mobin SRBM Solid Test 1
September 2018 Fateh-110B SRBMs Solid Operation 7


However, these most recent launches are particularly significant because they are part of a renewed trend in Iranian ballistic missile use to retaliate against regional adversaries from Iranian territory. In June 2017, Iran fired as many as six SRBMs from its own territory (a combination of what this author assumes to be five Zulfiqars and one Qiam-1) at Islamic State (ISIS) positions in eastern Syria to respond to their terror attack within Iran. That strike was historically significant because the last time Iran fired a ballistic missile in a military operation outside its borders was against the base of an Iranian opposition group in Iraq in 2001 (see Table 3 for all post-Iran-Iraq War ballistic missile strikes outside Iran).


Table 3: Reported Non-Wartime SSM Launches Against Foreign Targets

Date Name of Missile Missile Type Propellant Number of Missiles Launched Entities Targeted
November 1994 Shahab (likely 1 or 2) SRBM Liquid 3 Mujahideen-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI)
November 1994 Scud (likely Shahab 1 or 2) SRBM Liquid 3 MEK
June 1999 Scud-B SRBM Liquid N/A MEK
November 1999 Scud (likely Shahab 1 or 2) SRBM Liquid N/A MEK
April 2001 Scud (likely Shahab 1 or 2) SRBM Liquid 44 – 77 MEK
June 2017 Zulfiqar and Qiam-1 SRBM Solid (Zulfiqar), Liquid (Qiam-1) 6 ISIS
September 2018 Fateh-110B SRBM Solid 7 PDKI and KDP-I


Traditionally, Iran has opted to proliferate weapons like small arms, rockets, SRBMs, and anti-tank and anti-ship missiles to its proxies and partners to stymie and bleed its regional adversaries, as well as disguise its hand. But well publicized missile launches from Iranian territory against foreign targets along with an attempt to provide audiences with video or images from the strike as a battle-damage assessment is altogether new, and indicative of at least five phenomenon:

1) A growing confidence in the accuracy of the regime’s missile force.

2) A continued desire to signal to foreign and domestic audiences that its missile capabilities are evolving.

3) That the threshold for firing a ballistic missile into another states’ backyard in the Middle East is dropping.

4) That the regime is confident such action will not invite a destabilizing kinetic reprisal on the Iranian homeland.

5) That Iran’s missiles do much more than bolster the regime through deterrence.

Therefore, Iran’s decision to fire ballistic missiles from its territory against regional adversaries matters because it is an indicator of what the Middle East has in store as Tehran marches towards a potentially effective conventional ballistic missile capability. Iranian attestations that its most recent strike on Iranian Kurdish groups in Iraq was aided by intelligence – and then broadcast and reported back via drones – means that such a force is already being explored by the Iranian leadership. To that effect, a hardline Iranian outlet, Defa Press, recently quoted an Iranian security official in a headline as saying “Whomever wants to threaten Iran’s security will be faced with a missile response.” Perhaps now more than ever, this Iranian threat has the capability of being carried out.

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a Research Fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies (FDD)

Behnam Ben Taleblu is a Research Fellow focusing on Iran at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies.


The U.S. Can Defuse Iraq’s Crisis – Help prevent a civil war among the Shiites by providing water, energy and medical assistance.


 By Kimberly Kagan and Frederick W. Kagan  –  Sept. 12, 2018 6:56 p.m. ET   THE WALL STREET JOURNAL

Iraq may be on the brink of its biggest crisis since 2006, when a civil war threatened to topple its nascent democratic system. Government formation talks have dragged out as pro- and anti-Iranian factions jockey for influence. Corruption and basic governance failures have triggered mass protests—particularly in Basra, Iraq’s second-largest city and primary oil-export hub. Armed militia factions are mobilizing. Iranian proxies have fired the first shots at the U.S. Embassy since 2014, showing their intent to use force to accomplish political goals. All this raises the prospect of an intra-Shiite civil war.

Such a conflict could lead to the collapse of the Iraqi state and allow Islamic State to re-emerge. It also could allow Tehran to consolidate control over the government in Baghdad while targeting American personnel throughout the country.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Iraq’s Next War – Rival Shiite Factions Could Be Headed Toward Disaster

By Ranj Alaaldin – FOREIGN AFFAIRS  13 Sept 2018 – When Iraq and the international community liberated Mosul last year, the Iraqi government declared victory: the three-year conflict against jihadist terrorists who had seized much of the country’s north was over. But the declaration was premature. ISIS remains a major threat, not only because of its own acumen as an insurgent movement but because Iraq’s ruling elites have failed to address the conditions that enabled ISIS in the first place. Their failure to address the basic needs of a deeply destitute and conflict-weary population, to remedy political and social divisions, and to forge a common national framework that unifies the country could soon pave the way for yet another devastating civil war as rival groups compete for control of the Iraqi state.

After the parliamentary elections in May 2018, Iraq was supposed to turn the page to a new, post-ISIS, even post-sectarian chapter, in which politicians would remedy the country’s polarization, endemic corruption, and violent instability. Yet things are getting worse, not better, for Iraq. Iraq’s weakened Prime Minister, Haider al-Abadi, who came in third in the elections, put forward a series of tokenistic anti-corruption initiatives that failed to convince Iraqis who are impatient with piecemeal, symbolic reforms. Corruption can take years to remedy, Iraq’s politicians explain—patronizing a population that has already waited more than fifteen years for reform.

The elections were followed by mass demonstrations in much of southern Iraq, including Basra, where protestors burned provincial council buildings and the Iranian consulate and stormed the offices of political parties. Iraq’s security forces and government-sanctioned Shiite militias responded with deadly force and human rights abuses. Basra holds Iraq’s largest oil reserves, accounts for 80 percent of the country’s oil exports, and provides more than $7 billion a month to the government coffers. It should be Iraq’s richest province, but it is among its poorest. Like much of Iraq, the city

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