Sunday, May 31, 2015

Iran-backed PMF weapons and vehicles of ‘Operation Labaik Ya Iraq’ (2)

Video stills depicting Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) weapons and vehicles of "Operation Labaik Ya Iraq," videos posted 29 and 30 May 2015 (complete videos embedded end of post).

U.S.-supplied Iraqi Army M1A1M main battle tank with Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces operating U.S.-supplied HMMWV bearing unit markings of Iraqi Army 30th Mechanized Brigade, 8th Division.

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces with U.S.-supplied M113A2 armored personnel carriers bearing unit markings of Iraqi Army 30th Mechanized Brigade, 8th Division.

U.S.-supplied M113A2 locally modified variant bearing markings of Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces

U.S.-supplied M113A2 locally modified variant bearing markings of Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces

U.S.-supplied M113A2 locally modified variant bearing markings of Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces

Mixed force of AFVs and PMF infantry reflective of previous IRGC-QF operation during Battle of Tikrit, as developed by IRGC-QF in Syrian theater of operations.

Iran-backed Kata'ib Hezbollah paramilitary forces advancing with assistance of wheel loader improvised armored combat engineer vehicle.

T-72M type main battle tank bearing markings of Iran-backed Badr forces

Iran-backed Badr mobile communications vehicle utilizing Toyota Land Cruiser J70 series pickup truck platform

U.S.-supplied Iraqi Army M1A1M main battle tanks with Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force militiamen

BMP-1 infantry fighting vehicle with Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force militiamen

Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force militiamen operating 9M133 Kornet anti-tank guided missile

Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force militiamen operating M40 type recoilless rifle mounted to Iran-supplied Safir ("Ambassador") tactical vehicle.

Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force militiamen operating 107mm MRLS mounted to Iran-supplied Safir ("Ambassador") tactical vehicle.

Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Force militiaman operating SPG-9 Kopye (“Spear”) recoilless gun

Iran-backed Kata'ib Sayyid al-Shuhada paramilitary force firing Arkan-1 rocket

IRGC-QF Commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Solemani photographed this week in Anbar conferring with Iran-backed Badr President Hadi Al-Amiri.

Photo of IRGC-QF Commander Maj. Gen. Qasem Solemani in Anbar, depicted rendering military leadership during ‘Operation Labaik Ya Iraq’.

Photo of IRGC officer and "Imposed War" veteran Jassem Nouri, reportedly KIA on 28MAY15 in fighting against ISIL near the Iraqi city of Ramadi.


Saturday, May 30, 2015

Kerry, Zarif Meet in Geneva - UPDATE

UPDATE: It was a shorter than usual meeting between Kerry and Zarif. There were no reports of progress after the meeting. Kerry just tweeded that the meeting was “another chance to speak directly with FM Zarif.” The talks will resume in Vienna on Thursday at deputies and experts level.

Kerry later described the latest round of talks with Zarif as "very constructive."

Speaking after Kerry-Zarif meeting, DFM Araqchi said, “All issues reviewed, but differences still remain.”


Secretary of State John Kerry and the Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif are meeting today in Geneva to address issues that could prevent a final nuclear agreement by the 30 June deadline. IAEA on Friday issued a harshly worded report saying its probe into possible military dimensions (PMD) of the Iranian nuclear program has been stalled, raising questions if it could produce its findings on the issue before 30 June.

Meanwhile, Iran’s deputy foreign minister and senior nuclear negotiator Abbas Araqchi told Iran’s state TV today that IAEA’s inspections of military sites are “out of questions,” reiterating earlier warnings by Ayatollah Khamenei, the country’s supreme leader. The problem is the IAEA might require the access to military sites suspected of carrying work on nuclear weapons in order to issue its findings on PMD allegations; and those findings are needed before a final agreement is reached. It’s a problem.

But both sides have said they hope to reach the final agreement by next month, although Araqchi today warned that the deadline might need to be extended.

Photo credit: Secretary of Sate John Kerry and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif at Geneva’s Hotel Intercontinental, 30 May 2015 (Twitter/@JohnKerry)

Friday, May 29, 2015

IAEA Says Iran Probe is Stalled

IAEA reported on Friday that work on its assessment of allegations that Iran worked on nuclear weapons, the so-called possible military dimension (PMD) of Iran’s nuclear program, remains essentially stalled. As part of a final nuclear deal, or JCPOA, IAEA needs to report its PMD findings. Without such report, reaching JCPOA would not be possible.

IAEA reiterated in today’s report that more cooperation is needed by Iran for fully clarify on its present activities. Without it, the IAEA said, it cannot “conclude that all nuclear material in Iran is in peaceful activities.” (AP, 29 May)

Iran and IAEA agreed in November 2013 on a protocol to probe PMD. Washington insists that reaching a final agreement with Iran depends on IAEA’s ability to thoroughly probe all allegations related to PMD and deliver an assessment on its findings.

IAEA is reportedly focused on 12 alleged activities that point to Iranian attempts to make nuclear weapons, including suspicions that Tehran worked on the development on a nuclear payload for missiles. Iran denies it has ever worked on nuclear weapons.

Today report by the IAEA increases doubts that the nuclear watchdog agency could issue substantive findings on PMD before the 30 June deadline for reaching the final agreement or JCPOA.

The IAEA report, issued to the agency’s board of governors and the UN Security Council, said the agency remains “concerned about the possible existence in Iran of undisclosed nuclear-related activities involving military-related organizations, including activities related to the development of a nuclear payload for missiles,.” (AP, 29 May)

Newly acquired A346 aircraft in Mahan Air livery

Airbus A340-642 aircraft acquired by Mahan Air on 08MAY15 now seen painted with Mahan Air livery:
Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft, cn 391 now registered EP-MMH. Aircraft photographed in front of Fars Co. MRO facility at THR on 22MAY15 by Majid Khodaei.

Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft, cn 416 now registered EP-MMR. Aircraft photographed at IKA on or about 17MAY15.

Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft, cn 449 now registered EP-MMI. Aircraft photographed by Majid Tavakoli on or about 19MAY15.

Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft now registered EP-MMQ. Aircraft photographed by Majid B. Bajelan on or about 19MAY15.

Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft, cn 391 now registered EP-MMH. Interior photograph by Nariman Minusepehr on or about 19MAY15.

Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft, cn 383 now registered EP-MMG. Interior photograph taken on or about 23MAY15.

Mahan Air Airbus A340-642 aircraft, cn 383 now registered EP-MMG. Interior photograph taken on or about 23MAY15.

U.S., Allies Target ISIL with 24 Airstrikes in Iraq and Syria

The US-led Coalition conducted 20 airstrikes in Iraq and four in Syria targeting ISIL insurgents since early on Thursday, the Combined Joint Task Force (CJTF) announced. (Reuters, 29 May)

In Iraq, airstrikes carried out near Baiji, supporting the Iran-led coalition offensive to retake the oil refinery, and in Ramadi, Fallujah, Baghdadi, Makhmur, Sinjar and Tel Afar. In Syria, airstrikes hit targets near Al Hasakah and Kobani.

The airstrikes were conducted between 8 a.m. on Thursday and 8 a.m. on Friday local time, CJTF said. All aircraft returned to base safely.

File photo: F-16 Fighting Falcon (USAF/DoD/AFP)

Thursday, May 28, 2015

Battle to Retake Baiji Refinery

Iran-led Shia militias accompanied by Iraqi security forces (ISF) are involved in heavy fighting today to retake the country’s largest oil refinery in Baiji. ISIL holds large section of the sprawling refinery complex.

“We stormed a building inside the Baiji refinery with the support of Hashid Shaabi [Iran-led Popular Mobilization Forces – PMF]. As you can see, we are inside the refinery now. God willing, within the coming few hours, we will liberate the whole refinery and the area outside the refinery with the help of Almighty God,” a member of Iraqi security forces told Al Jazeera TV. (Al Jazeera, 28 May)

Smoke could be seen as the PMF and ISF forces advanced toward the facility, Al Jazeera reported

PMF officials said earlier today that an area of 50km south of the town of Baiji has been retaken. Control of the refinery has been hotly contested for months. Iraqi forces have recaptured the refinery twice before, but lost it to ISIL. This time the Iran-led coalition forces are to recapture and hold the refinery.

File photo: Smoke rising from Baiji Oil Refinery (CNN)

Iraq Renames Operation to Retake Ramadi

Iraqi officials Wednesday changed the codename for the offensive operation to retake Ramadi from “Labbaik Ya Hossein” (We Are Here for You, Ya Hossein) to “Labbaik Ya Iraq” (We Are Here for You, Iraq). The name change came after considerable criticism within Iraq and from abroad greeted the original title. (LA Times, 28 May)

Note: Iraqi government should be applauded for its action. The fight to liberate Ramadi is for preserving the Iraqi sovereignty and not for sectarian gain by extremist groups within the anti-ISIL coalition.

Photo credit: An Iraqi militiaman holds a position during an operation aimed at cutting off ISIL positions in Anbar province. (Ahmed al-Rubaye/AFP/Getty Images/LA Times)

Wednesday, May 27, 2015

Nuclear Talks in Geneva

The latest round of the nuclear talks that had started on Wednesday in Geneva continued today, primarily at technical level, and will continue through tomorrow. On Saturday, Secretary of State John Kerry will travel to Geneva to meet with Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif.

The negotiators have a self-imposed deadline to strike a final deal by 30 June. Today State Department spokesman Jeff Rathke told reporters in Washington today that the U.S. is not contemplating any extension of talks beyond 30 June.

Meanwhile, French Foreign Minister Laurent Fabius has said on Wednesday that France will not no deal with Iran if the inspection of military sites suspected of carrying possible nuclear work are blocked.

“France will not accept a deal if it is not clear that inspections can be done at all Iranian installations, including military sites,” Fabius told French lawmakers at the national assembly in Paris. (AP, 28 May)

Laurent’s comments came a week after Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei made clear that he will not allow the Iranian negotiating team to accept inspections of military sites.

“We have already said that we will not allow any inspections of military sites by foreigners,” Khamenei said last week. (IRNA, 20 May)

Iran-backed PMF weapons & vehicles of 'Operation Labyek Ya Hossein'

Imagery from 26MAY15 of Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) weapons and vehicles at al-Nibaie during "Operation Labyek Ya Hossein":

U.S.-supplied M1114 up-armored HMMWV and M113A2 APC among Iran-led Badr forces. M1114 appears to bear unit markings of Iraqi Army 30th Commando (Motorised) Brigade, 8th Division, while adorned with image of Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei.

U.S.-supplied M1114 up-armored HMMWV among Popular Mobilization Forces, bearing markings of Iran-led Badr forces and image of Ayatollah Sistani.

U.S.-supplied M1114 up-armored HMMWV transporting squad-sized elements of Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces.

Iran-backed Badr forces operating Caiman 6x6 MRAP Mine Resistant Armor Protected vehicle, of a late type among 250 units delivered to Iraqi Army through United States Army Security Assistance Command by 30JAN15.

Iran-supplied T-72S main battle tank operated by what may be Popular Mobilization Forces

Iran-supplied Safir ("Ambassador") 4x4 tactical vehicles equipped with 107 mm MLRS, operated by Badr forces

Iran-supplied Type 73 light machine gun (far left), manned by Badr forces

Badr towed ZU-23-2 "Sergey" 23 mm anti-aircraft twin-barreled autocannon

Iran-backed Badr President Hadi Al-Amiri, among U.S.-supplied armored vehicles of Iraqi Security Forces

Tuesday, May 26, 2015

Iran Coalition Begins Push to Retake Ramadi

Iran-led Shia militias are leading the fight to retake Ramadi from ISIL. The city fell on 15 May after the Iraqi army fled the scene before the Islamic State fighters arrived, even though the pro-government forces vastly outnumbered the insurgents. Baghdad announced that some army units would accompany the militias in the operation to liberate Ramadi.

“The operation to liberate Anbar has started with the cooperation of the Iraqi Army and the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF),” said Iraqi Defense Minister in a statement broadcast on state television Tuesday, referring to the umbrella organization for predominantly Iran-led Shia militias. (The New York Times, 26 May)

It was not immediately clear if the PMF would accept continued United States airstrikes in the area and close air support to the militia and Iraqi forces. In the last phase of the Battle of Tikrit in late March, the Iranians pulled out from the battle to protest Iraqi government’s decision to invite U.S. air support after the Iran-led offensive had stalled for more than three weeks. 

Note: In an unfortunate sectarian move by the militias, the operation to liberate the predominantly Sunni city of Ramadi was codenamed “Labbaik Ya Hossein,” (We Are Here for You, Ya Hossein), calling for Imam Hossein, the revered Shia Imam, and a battle cry of Shias (against Sunnis). Sectarianism might win battles against ISIL, including in Ramadi, but if the Iran-led coalition wants to win the support of the Sunni populace and with it the war against Sunni extremism, it cannot act in such divisive way. Extremists cannot be defeated by extremism. Preserving the sovereignty of Iraq should be the goal, not what happened in Karbala some 1,400 years ago.

Photo credit: Shia militias during an operation at Baiji Oil Refinery; 25 May 2015 (Ahmad Al-Rubaye/AFP)

Russia: Not ‘Right Time’ to Deliver Missiles to Iran

Russia said today it would not deliver high-end air defense missiles to Iran in the near future. Russia had signed a contract with Iran for the sale of S-300 missile system in 2007. Last month, President Putin lifted an embargo on delivering such weapons. Now the delivery is postponed indefinitely.

“The right time to make such deliveries has not yet come,” Yevgeny Lukyanov, deputy head of Russia’s security council, said on Tuesday in Moscow. (Financial Times, 26 May)

Russia appears to be balancing its growing relationship with Iran against its ties with Israel and Arab countries.

Iranian Defense Minister Gen. Hossein Dehghan said on a visit to Moscow last month that he expected the S-300 contract to be reviewed within a month and deliveries to happen before the end of this year.

Oleg Bochkharyov, deputy head of Russia’s military-industrial commission, the government organ overseeing the defense industry, told a media conference in Kazan that Moscow needs to build a new S-300 system for Iran, Financial Times reported.

“That means a delay to be measured not in months but possibly in years,” a person close to the defense ministry toll the Times.

File photo: S-300 air defense system (