Since the US military left Iraq in December 2011, and within two months of the first national election since then, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq has quietly emerged as one of the most powerful players in the country's political and public life. Through a mix of strategic diplomacy, aggressive military operations and intimidation – signature methods of its main patron, the Iranian general Qassem Suleimani – the group is increasingly calling the shots in two countries.Those countries are Iraq and Syria. Making, as predicted by us effing hippies so long ago, Iran as the real-winner of the Iraqi invasion and occupation. Now, if we hadn't had that plan all along, this would not have happened. But of course, there is only one real plan for us now in regard to dunghills of our own making.
The top U.S. commander in Afghanistan says al-Qaida is in "survival mode," but that if all international forces left this year, the terrorist network would regroup and use the region to plan and conduct operations against the West.We must stay...forever. [cross-posted at Firedoglake]