Iraq: Still Firmly in Iran’s Grasp
“The killing by [United States] air strike of Qassem Suleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis struck right at the core of the Iranian and militia projects in Iraq,” wrote Michael Knights in the January 2020 ctc Sentinel produced by the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point. He called these two leaders the “central nervous system” of Iran’s strategy in Iraq. Many believed the Iranian threat would collapse after the U.S. drone strike; however, recent events show that Iran’s reign over Iraq is far from over.
On January 26, five 107-mm Katyusha rockets with 45-kilogram warheads were launched at the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad; three rockets struck the compound and one rocket made a direct hit on the Embassy’s dining facility. According to Reuters, security sources say three people were injured in the barrage. The rocket launcher was found by Iraqi police in a nearby neighborhood.
Attacks on the Embassy have been ongoing since May 2019. Previous rocket attacks occurred on January 8, January 5, October 31, September 23 and May 19, in addition to several rocket attacks on Iraqi military bases housing American soldiers. The U.S. evacuated all nonessential personnel in May 2019 when rocket attacks began.
The Iran-backed Kataib Hezbollah militia, responsible for the attack that killed an American contractor in late December, claimed responsibility for the rocket attack by broadcasting a video on their telegram channel less than three hours after the attack. Most of the text is in Arabic; however, one frame briefly flashes a sentence in Farsi, leaving no confusion that the militia is pro-Iran.
Mike Scott Doran from the Hudson Institute think tank provided a rough translation of the warning to the U.S.:
We are the swords of honor. If we ever give up on anything, it won’t be on the demands of vengeance for your blood. The great leaders of Islam were assassinated, and so were the heroes [Suleimani and Muhandis] of the fight against isis—by the U.S. military. So friend and foe should know, the line of jihad and resistance will continue with determination and redoubled will. Harsh vengeance awaits the criminals. So prepare your coffins.
This was the third attack on the Embassy after Muhandis’s and Suleimani’s deaths. This shows the Iranian problem has not gone away, but rather is much deeper and more consequential than anticipated.
Since October 1, Iraqis have been protesting in the hundreds of thousands against Iranian control of the government and against U.S. military presence. Sunday’s rocket attack came after another wave of protests.
Popular Iraqi cleric and political leader Moqtada al-Sadr called for a “million-man march” on Friday in hopes of ousting American troops from Iraqi soil. At least tens of thousands of protesters turned up over the weekend.
Videos show protesters holding up posters of American soldiers being hung at the gallows. According to bbc, one protester said, “We hope Donald Trump is listening. American troops need to leave the country.”
However, once protests took an anti-Iran direction, Sadr withdrew his support for the protest on Saturday. Many believe Sadr has been working to hijack the protests to advance his own anti-U.S. agenda. Some say it looks like he may have even made a deal with the Iranians.
One protester told Al-Jazeera that he didn’t vote for the Iranian government and that he was protesting against the corrupt Iran-backed militias (see video below).
After Sadr withdrew his support for the protests, the Iraqi security forces, filled with Iran-backed militiamen from the Popular Mobilization Units integration, were deployed to suppress the protests. Security forces fired live rounds and set fire to protesters’ tents.
According to the Times of Israel, more than 20 protesters were killed in the resulting crackdown; since protests began in October, nearly 500 people have been killed in the unrest. In a statement on Monday, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the rocket attack was “an attempt to distract Iraqi and international attention away from the brutal suppression of peaceful Iraqi protesters by Iran and its proxies.”
A Puppet Government
In the ctc Sentinel, Knights called Iraq “a puppet civilian government” controlled by Iran’s military governor. Iran has managed to grab significant economic, political and military control of the nation.
The Iran-backed Shiite militias political coalition, the Fatah Alliance, has the second largest number of seats in parliament, second only to Sadr’s Sairoon bloc. Several of the Popular Mobilization Units militias created political wings to serve in the government. For example, Asaib Ahl al-Haq has 15 members in parliament. The militia is a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization, and its leader, Qais Khazali, who is also a member in parliament, was made a Specially Designated Global Terrorist on January 3. Muhandis was also a member of parliament.
Suleimani and Muhandis installed Quds Force official Abu Jihad as the chief of staff in the Iraqi prime minister’s office—and had a large part in installing the prime minister. Several Quds Force-vetted Iraqi militiamen were installed as security and office workers in the prime minister’s office.
According to Knights, pro-Iran militiamen also gained control of the Ministry of Communications, the Ministry of Interior’s Rapid Response Division, the Iraqi Civil Aviation Authority and the Baghdad International Airport. “At least four private banks run by militia-controlled businessmen continue to use Central Bank of Iraq dollar auctions to secure hard currency for Iran,” Knights said. The militia managed to retrieve access to Iraq’s QiCard system, allowing them to access government funds. They also control small oil fields and several logistics and shipping companies.
The Iran-backed militias used this control to begin closing airspace to U.S. surveillance flights, to provide cover for the smuggling of sanctioned Iranian crude oil, to lead the Iraqi security forces, and to remove many of Iraq’s most admired soldiers who posed a threat to the Iranian regime, such as Counter Terrorism Command’s Staff Lt. Gen. Abd’al-Wahab al-Saadi.
Knights noted that the “mounting series of nonlethal militia rocket strikes” against bases housing American soldiers “forces the coalition into a less active, more protective posture,” which enabled Iran to focus on achieving deeper infiltration in the Iraqi government while the U.S. and coalition forces were distracted.
Even though the U.S. eliminated two of Iran’s most influential leaders, the pro-Iranian infrastructure is still in place within the Iraqi government. In many ways, Iraq has become a puppet state of Iran.
This is a trend Watch Jerusalem, and our sister publication, the Trumpet, have been warning about since 1994. In December that year, Watch Jerusalem editor in chief Gerald Flurry asked, “Is Iraq going to fall to Iran?” That was while Iraqi President Saddam Hussein was still in power. “The stage is being set for another group of nations, almost certainly going to be led by Iran,” Mr. Flurry wrote. “Iran has a foreign policy that has a lot of push.”
In June 2003, Mr. Flurry wrote, “It may seem shocking, given the U.S. presence in the region now, but prophecy indicates that in pursuit of its goal, Iran will probably take over Iraq.”
Today, we can see that forecast has been proved true.
In his free booklet The King of the South, Mr. Flurry writes, “Iran is working through standard political and diplomatic channels to position itself to be able to hold stock in the new Iraq, working with the Iraqi government, cementing economic ties and exploiting other diplomatic channels.”
Ever since Saddam Hussein was ousted, Iran has worked feverishly to infiltrate the Iraqi government. Nearly 17 years later, Iran’s control has become so substantial that months of protests, international condemnation, and U.S. air strikes and drone strikes can’t pry Iraq from Iran’s grip.
Mr. Flurry accurately predicted this Iranian takeover of Iraq nearly three decades ago because he based his predictions on Bible prophecy.
Daniel 11:40 says, “And at the time of the end shall the king of the south push at him: and the king of the north shall come against him like a whirlwind, with chariots, and with horsemen, and with many ships; and he shall enter into the countries, and shall overflow and pass over.”
Mr. Flurry has identified radical Islamic extremism, led by Iran, as this prophesied Middle Eastern power bloc. He writes in The King of the South, “The king of the south is about state-sponsored terrorism. That is how Iran become king! … Iran is extremely radical—the king over radical Islam. Where is this nation’s pushiness leading? To war!”
The more control Iran gains in Iraq, the more powerful it becomes. But it’s not just confined to Iraq; Iran seeks to export its radical Islamist beliefs and extend its control over nations in North Africa. Mr. Flurry writes, “The radical Islamic movement, led by Iran, is very strong in Egypt, Algeria, Libya and Ethiopia. This religion will probably take control of these countries very soon. Iran appears to be on the verge of becoming a world superpower.”
Iran is pushing its way around the Middle East and into North Africa. But soon it will push too far. Daniel 12 calls the resulting conflict “a time of trouble” worse than anything the world has ever seen. But there is good news. This catastrophic world war leads directly to the coming of the Messiah, who will put an end to all war and usher in an era of peace and prosperity.
For more information, read and study The King of the South, by Gerald Flurry.