The so-called “Islamic State” has sent a video message to the “Sunnis of Bahrain”. The lengthy message came in four parts:

·         Calling on Bahrainis to join ISIS

·         Inciting Bahrainis against their leadership for participating in the anti-ISIS alliance

·         Inciting Bahraini Sunnis against the “infidel” Shia

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Hypocrite! – President Rouhani in New York

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The contradictory behaviour of Iran’s President Rouhani at the UN in New York reflects the paradoxes of Iranian policy in the Middle East region and the confusion of Western nations in trying to re-balance their relations with Iran in the light of new regional realities.

On one hand, we have Rouhani and British Prime Minister David Cameron, all smiles in front of the cameras in the first such high level meeting between British and Iranian leaders in living memory. Then once David Cameron’s back is turned Rouhani is interviewed, attacking the British and their allies for conducting bombing campaigns in Syria against the terrorist group ISIS – an organization that Iranian generals are supposedly leading the fight against in Iraq.

Rouhani’s public statements make it very clear that Iran would love to be the West’s number one port of call in fighting ISIS. However, because their advances have been rebuffed, Iran’s leaders are resolved to declare the entire enterprise to be illegal and illegitimate.

President Rouhani says “there is no legal basis in international law” for allied air strikes in Syria. Okay Mr. Rouhani; let’s consider some other maneuvers that may have no legal basis:

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Bahrain’s National Dialogue: A breakthrough?

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After several months with few public announcements about the National Dialogue process, it is reassuring to discover that progress has been made which goes a long way to addressing the opposition’s concerns.

There are to be five “core elements” where the next rounds of Dialogue are to be focused:

Electoral reform:  “Redefining electoral districts to ensure greater representation and measures to further enhance electoral oversight”.

Legislative authority: “A revised appointment process for members of the Shura Council” and new measures to “protect the legislative cycle from interruption, and the ability for Parliament to question the actions of ministers, including the Prime Minister and his deputies”.

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With the US reluctant to put “boots on the ground” in Iraq and Kurdish fighters focused on defending the Kurdistan region; hopes are staked on Shia fighters “liberating” the areas of Iraq captured by ISIS.

The reliance on these militias is seen as particularly crucial, given the almost total collapse of the Iraqi army after the fall of Mosul earlier in the year. In areas where the Iraqi army is still operating, reports consistently portray it as dysfunctional and divided, playing a secondary role to the Shia militias funded and trained by Iran.

The head of Iraq’s powerful Qods force, Qassem Soleimani has recently been on the front lines in Iraq and the Qods Force and Republican Guard are training and expanding these militias, as well as keeping them well supplied with weapons. Hundreds of Iranian Republican Guards are embedded within these militias as “leaders and advisors” according to on-the-ground reports.

As is the case in Lebanon, where Hezbollah are a far better equipped and stronger force than the Lebanese army and in Syria where Bashar Al-Assad is effectively an Iranian puppet kept in place through Iranian financial and military power – these pro-Iran militias are becoming the dominant military entity in Iraq.

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