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US released senior Iranian Qods Force commander

By Bill RoggioJuly 27, 2009 1:50 AM

***CHECK OUT Bill’s Chart in the above link to the update***


US releases Iranian Qods Force agents

By Bill Roggio — July 9, 2009 2:50 PM

The US military recently released five Iranian Qods Force agents who had posed as diplomats and were detained in northern Iraq in late 2006. The Iranian agents were released to the Iraqi government, which is expected to promptly turn them back over to Iran.

In January 2007, the five Iranian agents were detained by US forces in the Kurdish city of Irbil. Iran claimed the men were part of a diplomatic mission in Irbil, and protested the arrest. The men were operating from a liaison office that did not enjoy diplomatic privileges, however.

The US military accused the five Iranians of being Qods Force agents assigned to help support Shia terror groups inside Iraq.

“The five detainees are connected to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard – Qods Force (IRGC-QF), an organization known for providing funds, weapons, improvised explosive device technology and training to extremist groups attempting to destabilize the Government of Iraq and attack Coalition forces,” noted Multinational Forces Iraq in press release announcing the arrest in mid-January 2007.

Now these Qods Force agents have been released to the Iraqi government and will be turned over to the embassy in Baghdad, according to Ambassador Hassan Kazemi Qomi.

“The five Iranian diplomats abducted in Iraq were handed over by the occupying US forces to the Iraqi prime minister (Nuri al-Maliki),” Qomi said.

Qomi himself had been accused of being a Qods Force agent by General David Petraeus back in November 2007 while he commander of Multinational Forces Iraq. Petraeus now heads US Central Command.

The campaign against Iran’s terror network in Iraq kicked off with the capture of Iranian agents in Baghdad in December 2006 and the detention of the Qods Force agents in Irbil the following month. The US and Iraqi militaries cracked down hard on the Ramazan Corps, the command set up by Qods Force to direct operations inside Iraq. The campaign culminated in a major operation led by the Iraqi security forces to dismantle the Iranian-backed Mahdi Army and allied Special Groups in Baghdad and central and southern Iraq.

030413_war_10_jpgThe recent release of the Irbil Five, as they came to be known, was preceded by the release last month of Laith Qazali, the brother of Qais Qazali.

Qais Qazali was the commander of the Qazali network, which is better known as the Asaib al Haq, or the League of the Righteous. Qais was a spokesman and senior aide to Mahdi Army leader Muqtada al Sadr. The terror group, which was part of the Mahdi Army until the spring of 2008, has received extensive financial and military support from Iran’s Qods Force.

The League of the Righteous was directly implicated by General David Petraeus as being behind the January 2007 attack on the Provincial Joint Coordination Center in Karbala, as well as other high-profile terror attacks in Iraq. Five US soldiers were killed during the Karbala attack and subsequent kidnapping attempt. After US and Iraqi security forces closed in on the assault team, the terrorists executed the five US soldiers.

Laith was later released as part of negotiations to free five British contractors taken captive by Qais’ group shortly after their leader had been detained. The League of the Righteous responded to Laith’s release by turning over the bodies of two of the hostages and demanding the return of all of the group’s leadership before releasing any other captives. The two hostages were murdered months before their bodies were turned over to the British.

As power is transferred back to the Iraqi government, the US will continue to release the Iranian and Hezbollah agents captured in Iraq.

US intelligence officials who directly deal with the Iranian threat in Iraq are dismayed by the release of the Qods Force agents, and say the release of more is in the pipeline.

“If you didn’t like the release of Laith and the Irbil Five, you’d better get used to it,” one official told The Long War Journal in disgust.

“We worked hard to catch these bastards, now we’re cutting them loose with little thought to the consequences of doing this.”

Iraq-CLC-Map-thumb-largeIraqi military boss predicts years of attacks

By Christopher Torchia – The Associated Press
Posted : Sunday Jul 12, 2009 13:51:30 EDT

BAGHDAD — The Iraqi military Sunday predicted that insurgent attacks, though declining, could continue for a few years, raising the prospect of militant violence after the scheduled withdrawal of all U.S. troops by the end of 2011.

The comments by Gen. Babaker B. Shawkat Zebari, the army chief of staff, came several hours after gunmen fatally shot a government financial officer in northern Iraq and one day after bombs in Baghdad and a village near Mosul killed 10 people.

Violence is sharply down in the war that began with the U.S.-led invasion in 2003, but militants still carry out lethal attacks on a regular basis. The U.S. military completed a withdrawal of combat forces from Iraqi cities to outlying bases last month as part of a plan to let Iraq take the lead on ensuring its own security.

Zebari said insurgents once held sway in cities and provinces, but had been whittled down to a few highly dangerous cells that he expected would continue attacks for “a year or two or three.” He said the Iraqi military would get help from American forces if needed, but would also rely on assistance from its own citizens.

“To face terrorism, the Iraqi army does not need tanks or armored vehicles, but needs intelligence, fast communication and people’s support,” he said “The government has to coordinate with the population to get information about the terrorist cells.”

The army chief spoke after meeting Iraq’s top Shiite cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani, in the holy Shiite city of Najaf, south of Baghdad. Al-Sistani enjoys massive support among Iraq’s majority Shiites, and the Iraqi military sees the backing of religious leaders as vital to its legitimacy and success.

While violence has diminished since 2007, insurgents exact a steady toll with bombs and targeted killings that would amount to a crisis in most other countries.

In the northern city of Kirkuk, gunmen with silencers in a car waited outside the house of Aziz Rizqo Nisan, head of the provincial audit department, and shot him as he drove to work Sunday morning. His death was confirmed by local police and the national government’s media office in Baghdad.

The motive for the killing of Nisan, a Christian, was unclear. Insurgents commonly target Iraqi government officials and security forces. Ethnic and sectarian tension is high in Kirkuk, a disputed city that Kurds want to annex into their northern region despite Arab opposition.

South of Baghdad, a member of a Sunni militia that is overseen by the Shiite-led government was found dead with gunshot wounds in his chest in Jurf al-Sakhar, a police officer said on condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the media.

The militias, known as Awakening Councils, include many former insurgents who joined forces with the Americans and promised to fight al-Qaida in Iraq. The movement was considered a key factor in a drop in violence over the past two years, but militia members have complained about missed payments and crackdowns on leaders since the Iraqi government took control late last year.

030417_postwar_05_jpgIn the capital, three bombs exploded about 4:30 p.m. near churches, injuring eight civilians, police said. Two bombs that were planted in a church in western Baghdad exploded at midnight Saturday, causing some damage but no injuries, police said. Iraqi Christians have often been attacked by Islamic extremists, and many have fled the country.

Half a dozen lawmakers demanded that a general census planned later this year be postponed until after parliamentary elections in January. They argued that the upheaval of war had caused radical change in the ethnic and sectarian makeup of many areas and the results could ignite fresh tension.

Lawmaker Osama al-Nujaifi, a Sunni Arab from the northern city of Mosul, noted that large numbers of Kurds had moved into the oil-rich Kirkuk area amid Arab concerns that they seek to take control. In Baghdad, sectarian violence between Sunni and Shiite Arabs altered the face of neighborhoods as people fled their homes or quit the city altogether.

“The form for the census has an item about the ethnicity of the person, and that would lead to shocking results,” al-Nujaifi said at a news conference.


Mullen_tv_21may09_210Top US Officer Says Iraqis Ready for Handover

By Al Pessin  Warsaw 28 June 2009

The United States’ top military officer says he believes Iraqi forces are ready to take full control of their country’s cities on Tuesday, as called for in the U.S.-Iraq security agreement. Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Admiral Mike Mullen spoke to reporters traveling with him in Europe.

In a conversation with a small group of reporters, Admiral Mike Mullen was asked whether he is confident the Iraqi forces can handle the duties they are about to take on.

“I am, and I take that from not only my own interaction there, which is infrequent, but really the reports I get back routinely and the leaders I talk to, not just General Odierno but others that have that confidence as well,” Mullen said. “They’re going to need some support. They’re going to need some enablers. But the United States military leadership in Iraq is confident that they can do that.”

U.S. and other international forces will continue to provide air support to the Iraqi forces, as well as help with logistics, reconnaissance and other functions that enable combat troops and local police to do their jobs.

Al-Qaida and other insurgent groups have already begun an expected surge in attacks to challenge the new arrangement. Admiral Mullen says he is concerned, but his commander in Iraq, and the former commander who now heads all U.S. military operations in the region, tell him the Iraqi forces are ready.

“All the engagement I’ve had with General (Ray) Odierno and General (David) Petraeus is (that) the Iraqi security forces are ready to do this,” Mullen said. “We’ve been out of many of the cities for, I think, well over a year. Baghdad and Mosul are the two biggest challenges that we have right now. We’re in a tough fight in Mosul, but the leaders have a plan to get through that. And I think we will.”

Admiral Mullen accepted some harsh comments by Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, who referred to the coming handover of the cities as a victory over occupiers. But the admiral was more focused on the prime minister’s comments after the recent attacks, in which he did his best to prevent al-Qaida from sparking another outbreak of sectarian violence.

“I was happy to see the prime minister respond so strongly because I think that leadership is critical, and the leadership of the Iraqi security forces,” Mullen said. “And if we’re going to get this right in the future, it’s clearly going to be up to them.”

Admiral Mullen notes that, overall, violence in Iraq is down substantially from recent years, but he acknowledges more violence is possible.

“I’m optimistic, not naïve, about the challenges,” Mullen said. “There are lots of them. And we need to not lose focus on Iraq in any way, shape or form.”

That will be a key challenge for the admiral and other U.S. officials, as they stress that their priority now is Afghanistan, where U.S.forces are just starting to implement a new strategy aimed at applying hard lessons learned through years of bloodshed in Iraq to what has been a difficult and even longer fight.


Film Review: The Hurt Locker

by Ed Morrissey @Hot Air

Like most good war films, The Hurt Locker does not pull punches. War is not glamorous but instead alternates between terrifying and tedious, and in one excellent scene is both. The men dread what they may face, although they do not shrink from it, which makes their courage even more apparent. Unlike all of the other films about Iraq, The Hurt Locker does not take a position on the politics of the war; instead, it focuses on high-tension situations for an occupying force and the populace, and the dangers of fighting an insurgency. It almost gives a sense of suffocating paranoia, especially in the early sequences of the movie. In that sense, the audience can appreciate The Hurt Locker without the rancor of the war debate influencing it.

last_journeyLast Journey: A Father and Son in Wartime by Darrell Griffin Sr., Darrell “Skip” Griffin Jr.

# Publisher: Atlas & Co. — Pub. Date: June 2009 — ISBN-13: 9781934633168

The Barnes & Noble Review

The best books succeed because they offer the reader a glimpse into a world that might otherwise be unknown, or unknown to most of us. The book at hand, Last Journey: A Father and Son in Wartime, is one of those books. The number of parents who have lost children in the current American wars in Iraq and Afghanistan is a small, albeit growing, number. The distinction is an awful one, the mark of experience that tears families apart, that leaves a wake of grief, anger, and remorse.

Last Journey is by Darrell Griffin Sr. and Darrell “Skip” Griffin Jr., a self-educated and widely read staff sergeant in the U.S. Army. His areas of interest were philosophy and theology. From his high school years and to the moment of his death, he devoured the giant works of the canon, books by Kierkegaard, Hume, and Nietzsche as well as more esoteric works such as Aristotle and the Arabs: The Aristotlean Tradition in Islam, by F. E. Peters.

The reader can’t help but think that if senior members of the Bush administration had been as hungry for knowledge about the Middle East as Staff Sergeant Griffin the war would have turned out differently or might never have been fought. Skip’s journal entries range from questions of being and justice to mind searing renderings of the suffering of Iraqi civilians and the deaths of fellow soldiers.

One of the aspects of memoir writing that is most satisfying for the writer is the temporary illusion that she has most of it figured out from the start: she had crazy alcoholic parents who abandoned her and then she made it to the Ivy league; he was raised by wolves and only suffered minor injuries; he backpacked across Nepal and met some cool people and experienced transformative moments while looking at the abyss and is now home to write about it.

The unsatisfying thing about writing memoir is that just because you know the story, the story isn’t necessarily known: the tale of one’s experience has a way of expanding once begun, creating traps that the memoirist might never have imagined — just as characters sometimes barge unwanted into novels, events sometimes barge unwanted into memoirs.

The elder Mr. Griffin and his son had been engaged in a decades-long debate that they called “The Great Conversation.” The senior Griffin guided his son’s reading when the boy was younger and then was led by the son as he grew older and hungrier for knowledge. The men decided that when Skip returned from Iraq after his second tour they would write a book together, based on their intellectual engagement. One father wants to take his son to a bar; another wants to write a book with his son. This fact alone is rather remarkable.

And the resulting collaboration might have been a fine product by a father and son that loved and respected one another and their shared learning. But, in March of 2007, Skip was killed in Iraq by a sniper’s bullet as he rode air guard in the rear hatch of his Stryker combat vehicle. And his father went on to write what must be the first of its kind (I can think of no other model): a book started in fragments — journal entries, emails, and the occasional blog entry — by a son, and finished, after the son’s death at combat, by the father.

Griffin Sr. has crafted more than a simple testimony to a lost son. The early pages of the book that narrate the father’s hardscrabble upbringing in the poor Okie regions of the central California Delta evoke a world not so finely rendered since Leonard Gardner’s Fat City. The names of towns like Turlock and Stockton, to those who know them, conjure poverty and neglect. It’s a world so poor and bleak that Raymond Carver’s characters would split town upon peering in a few living room windows:

At times there were eleven people living in Grandma and Grandpa’s house. Every few years my father would come around and get me and my sisters excited with all of his empty promises, only to disappear again. He still owes me a bike.

This deadpanning, along with clear-headed prose, is what raises the book above a simple reminiscence. The book is a testament to reading and education as social ladder. The poor people Skip comes from — his mother, pregnant with him in high school, disappeared by the time he was four — make up a large portion of the enlisted ranks of our military. But the senior Griffin worked his way up through college and a graduate degree and off of the welfare rolls, and he taught his son to love books.

Skip won a Bronze Star with a V for valor. He seems, by all testimony, to have been a stellar and selfless leader of men. He also managed to get himself in trouble occasionally: upon arrival for his second tour another soldier ratted him out, telling the command that he’d brought his own M-4 and Beretta pistol. “By bringing in his own weapons Skip violated some pretty serious Army regulations,” his father notes. For any other soldier this might have meant a demotion or even a dishonorable discharge, but the sheer number of Skip’s peers and commanders who were willing to come forward to testify to his combat worth and command abilities convinced his unit to go easy on him: they sent him to the Tactical Operations Center for six months before he could return to leading men in combat. “This punishment would prove to be a valuable learning experience for Skip.”

Skip sounds to me like one of those men that everyone in the battalion knew and trusted and wanted on their side, whether it be for a game of hoops or a combat mission. He’s the leader who was willing to trade pistols for whiskey with Iraqi army units and could also articulate the complexities of the Iraqi religious and political structures in long talks with subordinates and peers, as well as in the journal entries that make up much of his contribution to Last Journey.

The book that he helped his father write from the grave is a testimony to the brave brand of thinking, skeptical soldier who does his job no matter what. One of Skip’s lieutenants later told the elder Griffin that regardless of the mission Skip always said, “Screw it, we gotta do it, we gotta do it.” It might have been the elder Griffin’s mantra while writing this book for and about his son. And the literature of war is richer for it. –Anthony Swofford

Anthony Swofford is the author of Jarhead, a memoir of his experiences serving in the Marine Corps in Iraq during the first Gulf War, and Exit A, a novel. He is contributor to numerous publications, including The New York Times, Harper’s, Men’s Journal, and The Iowa Review.

From the Publisher

Staff Sergeant Darrell “Skip” Griffin, Jr. was killed in action on March 21, 2007, during his second tour of duty in Iraq. He was awarded the Purple Heart and the Bronze Star with Valor for dragging a comrade to safety through enemy gunfire. He was also in the middle of writing a book. Tentatively titled The Great Conversation, it was an attempt to describe and make sense of the destruction he had seen in Iraq. His father, Darrell Griffin, Sr., was going to help him finish writing it when he returned home in July. In the face of Skip’s death, Darrell, Sr. vowed to finish the book himself. He traveled to Iraq, witnessing the war close up and meeting his son’s comrades. Driven by a conviction that  Americans do not know enough about the war they have been fighting for the past six years, Last Journey is a first-hand account of everyday life for soldiers in Iraq; it’s also an intimate portrait of a lost son, a meditation on faith, and finally a tribute to the lively philosophical debates the Griffins used to share. Included is email correspondence with Skip during the weeks before he died as well as original photographs from the frontlines. Passionate and inspiring, Last Journey serves as a tragic reminder of the human cost of war.


Related Links

Michelle Malkin:  “We really are just focused on what lies ahead.”

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Red Country:  Iraq – The Forgotten War