The Saudi owned site alarabiya.net is reporting that in the southern (Shi’a) city of
al-Basra, members of the Iraqi Hizbollah, which is one of the heshd sha’bi (popular mobilization) units directed by the late Qaseem Sulaimani and his Iraqi deputy
al-Muhandess, drove pick-ups into a crowd of anti-Iranian demonstrators, in an attempt to break up the protests. Later the protestors burned one of the trucks belonging to the Hizbollah group.
In Nasriyyah, another southern Iraqi Shi’a city, Iraqi Hizbollah units fired live rounds against anti-Iranian protestors when the protestors refused to engage in even “symbolic” mourning for al-Muhandess. The protestors then burned the local Hizbollah HQ.
Alarabiya is also reporting that an IRGC asset, who had worked directly under Solaimani in the failiq al-quds brigade, was killed in Yemen. The report, which came originally from Iranian sources, did not mention where he was killed, or how.
Alarabiya.net is also reporting this morning that the leaders of the Iraqi popular mobilization units have told their people to avoid public appearances and to change their phone numbers, in the wake of the Solaimani killing.
U.S. news sources are reporting that the Somali al-Qaeda franchise, al-shabaab attacked an airfield in Kenya where U.S. troops were training Kenyan troops. One U.S. serviceman and two U.S. contractors were killed, before Kenyan security forces could react and kill five of the attackers while driving the rest of them off.
COMMENT: Since al-Qaeda is closely allied to Iran (as well as Qatar and Turkey), it is tempting to see this attack as Iran’s first counter-punch for the Solaimani killing.
On a lighter note, Sarah Dhamdhawi, who hosts a show on al-arabiyya TV called tafaalkom and in which she talks about what is currently lighting up the Arabic social media accounts, commented on the after affects of the Solaimani killing saying that the vehicle bearing the bodies of Solaimani and al-Muhandess through the streets of Bagdad, after the killing, was the subject of lots of sarcasm on twitter. This is because the vehicle bearing their bodies was a Chevy, an American-made vehicle.
She also reported on the photos of Solaimani that the Lebanese Hizbollah distributed around Beirut in hopes of eliciting sympathy, instead it became also the subjects of sarcasm, though she didn’t say why.
Both al-arabiyya TV and alarabiya.net are reporting this morning Erdogan’s stooge, Fayez Sirraaj (head of the “government” in Tripoli), along with the Turkish Foreign Minister, visited Algiers in hopes of inducing Algeria to also intervene on behalf of the Sirraaj Government. So far, no go on that account.
Also this morning alarabiya.net is reporting that General Haftar’s Libyan National Army now has complete control of the city of Sirte, which was one of the only two major cities still allied to the Tripoli faction. The LNA then announced that they will move on Misratta next (which is the other city allied to Tripoli).
The capture of Sirte was later confirmed by al-arabiyya TV. The Libyan source interviewed by the TV news anchor said that the LNA entered the city from five different directions and it took them only four hours to put down all opposition and establish complete control of the city.
Sirte and Misratta are both located on Libya’s Mediterranean coast on the far west side of the country, near Tripoli. When the LNA’s battle for Tripoli began last Spring, I thought that they had made a huge strategic mistake by trying to go after Tripoli first before taking out Tripoli’s smaller allies first.
My fears proved well founded as during the summer and fall, whenever the LNA began to make progress in Tripoli, fighters from Misratta would come out and hit them in the flanks forcing a retreat. Also, Turkey alternately used the ports of Sirte and Misratta for landing supplies and terrorists from other countries which would then be slipped into Tripoli to aid the Sirraaj government.
This shift in strategy by the LNA to do what they should have done in the first place, might be traced to the influence of their Russian “advisors” from the Wagner company.
Erdogan’s plans to step-up Turkey’s involvement with regular Turkish troops may have also convinced the LNA of the need to take out Sirte and Misratta.
Barry Webb has logged a 25-year career as an Arabist for the NSA, has two MA degrees in related subject matter, and is currently a Senior Fellow with Americans for Intelligence Reform www.intelreform.org. He is the author of Confessions of an (ex) NSA spy: Why America and its Allies are Losing the War on Terror. His website is www.barrywebbauthor.com