Some interesting images have been circulating on social media regarding the Fallujah operation currently under way in Iraq.
This photo was reportedly shared yesterday by Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba (which emerged from Asa’b Ahl al-Haq), bearing the group’s logo and stating that it was taken ‘near Fallujah’. It shows Iranian Quds Force commander (the ‘Iranian Karla’ in the Western imagination) Qassem Soleimani (blue trousers, cigar in mouth); to his right, Hadi al-Amiri (Badr Org commander), and directly opposite with hands on knees, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (Jamal al-Ibrahimi), reputedly commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah umbrella group and operational commander of Hashd. Central, in combat fatigues and hat, is Akram al-Kaabi, commander of Harakat al-Nujaba. The photo is reported as being the operational command room for the attack on Fallujah.
This photo was circulating yesterday. It shows PM al-Abadi, Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, and Hadi al-Amiri (again). Gen. Al-Saadi is officially overseeing the operation…
Many different actors will be keen to take credit for a successful operation in Fallujah. The only participant who seems keen not to draw attention to their role is the Americans. US forces are involved, carrying out a sustained air campaign (apparently halted today), and reports yesterday from eye witnesses stated that US Apache helicopters were attacking ISIS sniper positions and armoured vehicles. This morning Iraqi daily, al-Mada, reported the story of a daring “mission impossible” raid by Iraqi counter-terrorism forces which took out ISIS sniper positions. No mention of US involvement was made, but one suspects the two stories are related.
It is being widely reported that the US will be embarrassed and humiliated by the Soleimani photo. I suspect, to the contrary, that the US is both unsurprised and supremely relaxed about the whole thing (at least the Obama administration, if not the foreign policy establishment he apparently reviles which will be getting in a tizz). Relaxed is unlikely to be the response from certain quarters in the Arab world, someone (I can no longer find the account to credit here unfortunately) tweeted the front page of al-Hayat where the Soleimani story and photo takes centre stage.
It seems this image may become the enduring symbol of the Fallujah operation in some quarters. Interestingly, there is a hashtag trending on twitter right now – “my flag – my identity” (#علمي_هويتي) which seems to have been prompted by the spreading of the Soleimani photo and by stories of Iranian flags being flown in Baghdad. There are also reports of protests being organised against “the Iranian intervention”. I haven’t had a chance to look into these stories and the accounts posting this material yet, but below are a couple of examples:
Caption reads: “If you were ignorant of my identity, I am Iraqi in passion, heart beat [literally, pulse] and ancestry.” and was posted on facebook with the accompanying message: ردا على بعض الأشخاص الذين رفعوا إعلام ايران في بغداد “a response to some of those people who raised the Iranian flag in Baghdad”