September 7, 2016


Shiite alliance against Saudis grows tighter (Ali Mamouri, September 6, 2016, Al Monitor)

In his annual message addressed to pilgrims on Sept. 5, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei attacked the Saudi alliance and described the Saudi leaders as strife instigators in the region. He blamed them for the chaos and destruction across the Muslim world, naming Iraq, Syria, Bahrain, Yemen and Libya as affected areas.

Iran had made an announcement about forming a Shiite liberation army to face Saudi and Israeli threats, as Iran believes the two countries are allies. On Aug. 18, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Ali Falaki, a commander of the Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) who spearheaded several operations in Syria, announced the formation of a Shiite liberation army including men of different nationalities -- Iraqis, Afghans and Lebanese, among others.

He said that Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the head of Iran's elite Quds Force, will lead the army whose forces are currently fighting in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. Soleimani hopes to open new fronts in other regions in the Middle East.

Iraq is playing a key role in the formation of the Shiite alliance against Saudi Arabia. To seek Shiite support against Saudi Arabia, a high-ranking Houthi Yemeni delegation, including official Ansarullah spokesman Mohamed Abdel Salam, visited Iraq between Aug. 27 and Sept. 1. The delegation held intensive talks with Iraqi officials, and it met with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, who expressed his country's firm refusal of Saudi military intervention in Yemen. Prime Minister Haider al-Abadi later welcomed the delegation and said, "Iraq has supported the Yemeni people since the beginning and objected to their oppression and to unjustified aggression on Yemen."

Abadi revealed during the talks that Iraq sent aid to the Houthis during Saudi Arabia's attacks on Yemen. The delegation also met with President Fuad Masum before leaving Iraq for Muscat. The delegation is also planning on visiting Lebanon and Iran as part of its regional tour.

Meetings were also held with leaders and figures affiliated with Shiite militias under the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), such as the militant known as Abu Azrael. The visit was clearly sectarian, as the delegation did not meet with any Sunni Arabs, such as Iraqi parliament Speaker Salim al-Jabouri. The delegation was not interested in meeting with Sunni figures, and Sunni political leaders resented the meetings that negatively affected the friendly relations with Saudi Arabia.

Posted by at September 7, 2016 2:18 PM