Tag Archives: Iran

Mark Collins – Iraq: Upcoming Battle for Mosul Update

Further to this post, things could get exceedingly nasty; can Iraq stay united (and how far will the Turks go, both around Mosul and to prevent any independent Kurdistan?). At Defense One’sD-Brief“:

Iraq’s counterterrorism police of the Golden Division have reportedly departed Camp Speicher en route to positions near Mosul.
Reminder: the upcoming offensive could become a big mess, the Washington Post’s Loveday Morris warned on Wednesday [Oct. 12], reporting from Baghdad.

For a sense of just how messy it could get, here’s a broad glance at the Mosul manifest: Iraq Army; CT police; PKK; Turkey-backed tribes; Shia militia [Iran-backed]; Assyrian, Christian and Yazidi militia; and, of course, the U.S.-led coalition. That makes seven generic categories of different forces, most of which can be further broken down into more specific elements. More here.

The humanitarian toll of the offensive is going to be enormous, and could include: use of civilians as human shields, chemical weapons use, and the mass exodus of hundreds of thousands of people, the UN warns.

How’s the UN prepared for all that so far? In a word: inadequately. “In order to house and support and accommodate 1 million people at dignified standards we would be looking at an operation of $1 billion,” said Lise Grande, the U.N. Humanitarian Coordinator for Iraq [UN website here].

Reuters: “That is more than four times the $230 million the international body has received so far for the effort, funds which have only recently arrived. So far, a total of six camps have been built that can accommodate 50,000 people. Efforts are underway to construct 11 more, said Grande.”..

Lots more at MILNET.ca, scroll down to “Iraq”. And what role will the Canadian Forces’ closely assisting the Kurdish Peshmerga have in how Kurdistan matters play out? Our government should be giving that furious consideration.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Let's Not Be Beastly to an Afghan-Canadian Cabinet Minister

A retired senior Canadian diplomat makes a heart-felt case:

Monsef’s place of birth shouldn’t have ‘serious consequences’
Ferry de Kerckhove is a Former high commissioner of Canada to Pakistan [now a CGAI Fellow]

Many people have expressed sympathy for Maryam Monsef, the federal Minister for Democratic Institutions [official webpage here], since the disclosure that she was born in Iran, rather than in Afghanistan. But there have been criticisms – which I simply can’t fathom – from MPs such as Tony Clement and Michelle Rempel, who talked about “serious consequences” if the minister’s birthplace had not been accurately represented on her refugee and citizenship applications.

Do these people have any idea what region we are talking about? Does Ms. Rempel have any understanding of how volatile, porous and border-inconsequential the region was, where even dates of birth, when registered, between Muslim and Christian countries don’t match up? Does she, and those who chime in with her, realize that many Afghans sought refuge in Iran during both the Soviet occupation and the subsequent civil war culminating in the rise of the vicious Taliban regime?

The Afghan city of Herat (where Ms. Monsef’s parents married and where she believed she was born) and the Iranian city of Mashad (where she was actually born) are historically and geographically close. So Afghans would travel back and forth to Iran in times of duress; although they might have not been warmly welcomed, they were at least in a safer environment than in Afghanistan.

As a former Canadian high commissioner to Pakistan, from 1998 to 2001, I believe Ms. Monsef. Her family’s story is similar to the ones that my wife, who was an immigration officer responsible for refugees at the High Commission, heard many times. By the late 1990s, the city of Peshawar, where I had lived as a child, had mutated into a mini-Kabul, with millions of Afghan refugees, including a number of Taliban fellow travellers. People were travelling at great risk by bus, donkey and on foot for hundreds of kilometres from Afghanistan to Pakistan to try to persuade our immigration office to give them a visa while they waited in UN refugee camps.

My first diplomatic posting was to Iran, and I have a lot of sympathy for the decision of Ms. Monsef’s mother to seek refuge there…

Read on. And this would be ridiculous:

Maryam Monsef could be stripped of her citizenship without a hearing after revealing she was born in Iran

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Homa Hoodfar, or, the Iran the Canadian Government Wants to Engage

First the case of the Iranian-Canadian (also Irish) professor imprisoned in Iran:

…A renowned anthropologist, Professor Hoodfar has published widely on gender and development, Islamic family law, refugees, informal economies, Muslim dress codes, and women’s political participation. She has conducted fieldwork in multiple countries across the Middle East and North America. Her work is best known for interrogating Western stereotypes about Muslim women, and has earned her the reputation as one of the most respected scholars working in the field of Middle Eastern women’s studies…

Now an article by “Maziar Bahari…an Iranian-Canadian journalist and filmmaker [website here] and the founder of the ‘Not a Crime’ campaign to end official educational discrimination against Iran’s Baha’i religious minority” [see end here]:

A Humane Voice for a Cruel Regime

Seven years ago, I heard the name of a prominent Iranian diplomat, Mohammad Javad Zarif, at least 118 times. That was how many days I spent imprisoned in Iran for doing my job as a journalist — and how many days I was beaten by an intelligence officer in the hard-line Revolutionary Guards. He demanded that I falsely confess to being a C.I.A. agent and invent false stories that Mr. Zarif had connections to Western intelligence agencies. Rather than cooperate, I somehow withstood the daily torture.

This month Mr. Zarif, now Iran’s foreign minister, has been in New York for the annual United Nations General Assembly meeting, alongside other Iranian diplomats and President Hassan Rouhani. Together, they have tried to give Iran’s government a humane face as champions of Middle East stability, while denying its human rights abuses.

Theirs is a thankless task: They must know they are lying. Iranian diplomats are caught between their desire to join the modern world and the reality of the government they represent. They also know their own rights are at risk if they don’t follow the wishes of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader.

In 2006, when the hard-liner Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was president, one diplomat told me he had one of the world’s most unenviable jobs. I won’t endanger him by naming him, so I’ll call him Amir. He told me: “If you’re a conscientious man who tries to help his country by changing the system from within, you can’t stop feeling suicidal. When you work for this government you can see how corrupt the system is and how erratically the Guards and the judiciary system can behave. And all this happens on the supreme leader’s watch.”

Amir was jailed not long after that…

In Evin prison, my torturer told me the enemies who “deserved to die” were the diplomats, reformist politicians and officials who dared to try to change the Islamic Republic — people like the imprisoned former statesmen who had visited New York regularly before that spring.

I had been the accredited reporter for Newsweek magazine for 11 years, and had made documentary films about Iran for British television. Soon after my first interrogation, I realized that the sole purpose of my incarceration and torture was to force me into a false narrative, concocted by the Guards, of espionage and betrayal of Iran by myself and its reformist politicians. I refused.

…Mr. Zarif laughs off questions about human rights abuses. Last year he told Charlie Rose: “We do not jail people for their opinions.” Certainly, he knows he is lying. He knows that many people, like Amir, have been imprisoned for their ideas…

Over to you foreign minister Dion. Engage on with foreign minister Zarif et al.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – US Treasury OKs Boeing, Airbus Airliner Sales to Iran (nothing for Bombardier)

Big commercial fruits of the nuclear deal look like coming through for some as POTUS gambles on the Iranian “moderates” (see end of quote below):

The United States on Wednesday [Sept. 21] removed a final hurdle for Western aircraft manufacturers to sell planes to Iran, a country desperately in need of hundreds of new aircraft.

The Treasury Department granted the aviation giants Airbus and Boeing licenses to deliver planes to Tehran. The decision is a boon not only for the two companies but also for Iranian politicians who want to expand Iran’s engagement with the world now that sanctions linked to Iran’s nuclear program have been lifted.

A spokesman for Boeing said the license covered the sale of 80 planes to Iran’s national carrier, Iran Air. Airbus confirmed that it received a license for an initial sale of 17 planes, part of a larger deal that involves a total of 118 planes.

The green light for aircraft sales allows Iran, a country of 80 million, to start rebuilding its aging fleet of Boeing and Airbus planes and other secondhand aircraft purchased clandestinely from other countries. Over the past four decades, hundreds of Iranians have died in crashes caused by malfunctioning or poorly maintained aircraft.

“From today, we will have safe planes,” President Hassan Rouhani of Iran promised in January when the accord between Iran and six world powers, including the United States, became fully operational.

Under that deal, Iran has given up parts of its nuclear program in exchange for sanctions relief. Since then the country has managed to increase its oil sales, but it has not been able to sign major deals with Western companies because of continuing banking restrictions related to non-nuclear sanctions.

While the United States has relaxed many of its sanctions against Iran, Washington still demands that even non-American manufacturers wishing to sell to Iran obtain an export license if their products include materials made in the United States. Airbus, based in Europe, buys more than 40 percent of all its aircraft parts in the United States.

The granting of the licenses is likely to draw protests from some members of Congress, who have noted that Iranian commercial aircraft have been used to transport troops and weapons into Syria. Representative Peter Roskam, Republican of Illinois, said in a statement that the Obama administration “has once again made a political decision to appease Iran at the expense of our national security.” He said Congress was committed to making the process of delivering the planes as difficult and expensive as possible.

Western political analysts who specialize in Iran said the Treasury’s decision reflected an effort by the Obama administration to help Mr. Rouhani, who staked much of his political reputation on promised economic dividends from the termination of nuclear sanctions…

As for Bombardier:

1) January 2016:

[Canadian] Minister sees Iran thaw as opportunity for Canadian aerospace industry

2) September 2016:

Iran is also negotiating with Brazilian jetmaker Embraer, a senior Iranian official said. It is in negotiations with the rail-making unit of Canada’s Bombardier, although not with its aircraft unit, he told Reuters…

Oh well, our delusional foreign minister (‘Justin Trudeau has emerged as “the most prominent and popular political figure on the planet…'”) better just intensify that engagement effort with the ayatollahs.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – "A Peek into French Signals Intelligence"–with a Canada/CSE Angle

Very interesting, will our media notice what’s at 2.?

France’s former top SIGINT spy confirms an advanced persistent threat and muses about a merger with German intelligence [the foreign intelligence service BND’s website is here–they also do SIGINT as does their French equivalent DGSE, see next para].

Something remarkable happened a few months ago. Bernard Barbier, the former head of signals intelligence (SIGINT) between 2006 and 2014 at France’s foreign intelligence agency (DGSE [website here]), gave a speech at one of France’s top engineering schools in which he reflected on his career and imparted some of his wisdom to students. He also said some things that he probably shouldn’t have, like confirming that France was behind the Animal Farm advanced persistent threat, commenting on the SIGINT capabilities of European allies, and reacting to the revelation that the U.S. National Security Agency (NSA [website here]) had compromised the networks of the French presidency.

Last week, Barbier’s speech surfaced on YouTube but was quickly taken down. However, it was up long enough for French daily Le Monde to transcribe some of the highlights. Here they are, paraphrased and translated from the original French…

2. “And yes, it was a Frenchman”

In 2014, Le Monde published documents from the Snowden archive revealing that Canada’s SIGINT agency, the Communications Security Establishment (CSE [website here]), suspected that Paris was behind a cyber espionage campaign that began in 2009 targeting Iran’s nuclear program but also targeting computers in Canada. CSE was able to attribute the campaign to the French based on some reverse engineering revealing that the malware developer used references to a French children’s cartoon character, Babar the Elephant. That reference also led Kaspersky [US  website here] to baptise the malware Animal Farm. Barbier recalls that CSE “concluded that he [the malware author] was French. And yes, it was a Frenchman.”..

Canadian media do not seem to have noticed these revelations at the time. Lots more on  SIGINT here.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is  a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Syria Update: Bomb, Bomb, Bomb by Russia (help from Iran) and Assad

The Moscow-Damascus-Tehran axis continues to flex muscles (with help from Baghdad which is permitting Russian bombing overflights to Syra). Two at Defense One’s “D-Brief”:

August 16:

Russia is now bombing Syria from Iran, giving it two strategic air bases in the Middle East. “In a move underscoring Moscow’s increasingly close ties with Tehran, long-range Russian Tupolev-22M3 bombers [really big mothers] and Sukhoi-34 fighter bombers used Iran’s Hamadan air base [in northwest Iran] to strike a range of targets in Syria,” Reuters reports. The move is also “thought to be the first time that Iran has allowed a foreign power to use its territory for military operations since the 1979 Islamic revolution.”

The decision also embroils Iraq a bit more in the conflict since planes will most likely have to use some of its airspace — meaning they’re flying over ISIS to bomb anti-Assad forces.

Coming soon: More Russian cruise missiles in Syria. That news follows a report from Russia’s Interfax news agency Monday announcing Moscow’s defense ministry “last week sent requests to Iraq and Iran to use the airspace of these countries for the passage of cruise missiles.”..

August 18:

In another alleged first for Syria’s war, Assad jets bombed YPG facilities in northeastern Syria, Kurdish news and Reuters report this morning from an attack that so far has reportedly killed one civilian and injured two-dozen others. “The bombardment came after clashes broke out in the city on Tuesday between the Syrian Kurdish Security forces (Asayish) and the militias affiliated with the Syrian government,” Kurdistan24 News reports.

A bit of context via Reuters: “The YPG controls wide areas of northeastern Syria, where Kurdish groups have established an autonomous government, exploiting the unraveling of central state authority over the country since the start of the conflict. The Syrian government still has footholds in the cities of Qamishli and Hasaka, both in Hasaka governorate, co-existing largely peacefully with YPG-held swathes of territory.”

A hospital was among the targets hit, Kurdish security forces said.  Here’s some video of the aftermath, via Kurdish Rudaw News. More from Syria below the fold…

Lovely. POTUS sure is being outplayed badly by Bad Vlad.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds

Mark Collins – Iraq and ISIS, Mosul and After: Who'll be Killing Whom?

Even with ISIS losing ground–the Caliphate has just been ousted from strategically important Manbij in Syria by, mainly, the local Kurds–the prospects for a serious peace in Iraq (and Syria) may be  pretty dim:

With ISIS on the run, new wars could erupt in Iraq

TUZ KHURMATU, Iraq — The front line south of this bleak and dusty town looks much as it did two years ago, when the Islamic State was the enemy and controlled a village less than a mile away.

Now, however, the Kurdish peshmerga fighters holed up behind sandbags and barbed wire are peering across the line at Shiite militias, ostensibly their allies in the fight against the Islamic State.

Whether their alliance will outlast the Islamic State is in question. The militants’ defenses have been crumbling fast across Iraq. An offensive for the city of Mosul, the Islamic State’s last major stronghold in Iraq, is likely by the end of the year, U.S. commanders and Iraqi officials say.

If the battle goes well, the defeat of the Islamic State’s self-proclaimed caliphate in Iraq, at least in terms of the territory it controls, is on the horizon.

And so, too, are new problems — and potentially new conflicts. For the past two years, Kurdish peshmerga, Iraqi army forces, Shiite militias and some Sunni ones have largely overlooked long-standing differences to confront the menace facing them. But their feuds and grievances — over vital issues such as the distribution of power, land, money and oil — have not been resolved.

The manner in which the war has been fought — by an assortment of locally armed groups with often competing agendas — has compounded the existing problems with new and potentially more intractable disputes. Among them are the questions of who will govern the areas vacated by the Islamic State, which is also known as ISIS, and how.

“The moment there is what you might call victory against ISIS, then you are up against all the problems that caused this crisis in the first place,” said Yezid Sayigh of the Carnegie Middle East Center

More on the players and their agendas follows. Recall that the Canadian military is deeply involved in the campaign, even if no longer actually fighting and that our forces on the ground act largely on behalf of the Kurds. How will that fit in if things start going blooey between the Kurdistan Regional Government–with its eye on independence–and Baghdad? Some clear and hard forward thinking is warranted. And by quite a few governments besides our own (oddly enough this story does not mention Canadian troops).

By the way the famous “who whom” (кто кого) is rather different from what most of us thought.

Mark Collins, a prolific Ottawa blogger, is a Fellow at the Canadian Global Affairs Institute; he tweets @Mark3Ds