Friday, January 03, 2020

Now What?

Yesterday, the American military targeted and killed Quassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard Quds Force. Donald Trump has been itching for a fight with Iran. Now he'll get one. The only question is how far will the repercussions go?  Daniel Byman writes:

Attacks on US forces and facilities in Iraq are particularly likely. Tehran has spent over 15 years building up extensive networks among militia groups and politicians in Iraq. Earlier this week, before Suleimani’s death, Iran was able to rapidly mobilize local proxies to violently demonstrate at the US Embassy in Baghdad, creating a grave security risk to personnel there, even as Tehran’s local allies avoided killing more Americans. Now the gloves are likely to come off.
In the strike that killed Suleimani, the United States also reportedly took out the head of the pro-Iran militia Kataib Hezbollah, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and several other senior pro-Iran figures in Iraq. Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for numerous attacks on US and Iraqi forces, often at Iran’s behest. This, too, will not go unpunished: In addition to wanting to please Iran, pro-Iran militias in Iraq will be angered by al-Muhandis’s death and the arrests of their leaders and eager to avenge them.

The blowback will be felt in Iraq, Afghanistan and Syria:

US military forces in Afghanistan and Syria are also at risk, though both are already well defended due to threats from ISIS, the Taliban, and other dangerous groups. The IRGC and its proxies may also strike at official US embassies and other government-related targets. In 1983, the Iranian-backed Lebanese Hezbollah blew up the US Embassy in Beirut as well as the Marine barracks there, killing 220 Marines, and dozens of other Americans. Civilians too may be in the crosshairs. Some of Iran’s proxies lack the skill to strike at well-defended official targets, so Tehran may also seek to send a broader message in order to intimidate the United States.

The trouble, of course, is that Donald Trump doesn't think things through -- if he thinks at all:

Deliberative thinking is not a strong suit of the Trump administration, and it is easy to focus on the immediate gratification that comes from killing an archenemy responsible for many American and allied deaths than thinking through the long-term implications of the strike.

And Trump has alienated the allies he needs now:

What the United States most needs is allies. They are necessary to deter Iran, support further military operations against it if deterrence fails, help guard US facilities, and otherwise share the burden. Unfortunately, the Trump administration has spurned many traditional allies, thumbing its nose at NATO, Australia, and others.
In the Middle East, the administration refused to retaliate after Iran attacked a Saudi oil facility, a traditional red line, sending a message that the Kingdom was on its own for its security. It has also stood by as Qatar, Saudi Arabia, Turkey, and the UAE have worked at cross-purposes in countries like Syria and Libya, rather than trying to create a common position that would increase US influence and bargaining power in conflict with Iran. It is unclear if allies will now rally to Washington’s banner, and even if they do they may not be eager to stand by the United States.

Trump is mentally ill and he's not very bright. He has -- again -- made the world a much  more dangerous place.

Image: BBC


Anonymous said...

After being lied I into war with Iraq during Dubya's regime, I wish the media would report Pentagon claims with caution. Things like "Kataib Hezbollah was responsible for numerous attacks on US and Iraqi forces," should be prefaced by "the Pentagon claims that..." Same with "after Iran attacked a Saudi oil facility."

In the first case, Kataib Hezbollah is one of six Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) that form part of the Iraqi military. The idea that they would attack Iraqi military bases is ludicrous and denied by the PMF. But the US is always happy to blame Shia militias and claim they acted on orders from Iran. In the second case, if indeed Iran launched the drones that damaged the SA oil facilities, they would have flown over the Persian Gulf completely undetected by 70-odd ships of the US Fifth Fleet and their state-of-the-art Aegis antimissile systems. So either the drones came from Yemen or the Aegis system is not as effective as claimed. In either case, the US has never presented any evidence that Iran was to blame, yet the media continue to report Pentagon claims as fact, just as they've done since the days of the "5 O'Clock Follies."

This looks a lot like a "wag the dog" scenario. We've got an unpopular and impeached president seeking re-election in the fall. As Trump himself tweeted in 2013, "I predict that President Obama will at some point attack Iran in order to save face!" It's always projection with this guy!


Owen Gray said...

With Trump, it's always about two things, Cap -- projection and distraction. And those two things always produce the same result -- chaos.

The Disaffected Lib said...

I think the dynamics of this reach well beyond Shiite Iran and Iraq. There are other players in the region now. Last week Russian and Chinese naval units conducted joint exercises with the Iranian navy in the Indian Ocean and Gulf of Oman. Russia is supplying its reportedly world-beating S400 missile batteries to Turkey. Erdogan acted in complete defiance of US and NATO objections. In June Russia said it would not supply the S400 to Iran out of concern tht might destabilize the region. That bet may be off as of now. Syria is also hosting the S400, perhaps manned by Russian soldiers.

Nothing would suit China better than to see the US embroiled in another Middle Eastern war as that weakens the Pentagon's shift to East Asia and Asia Pacific. How Russia and China might cooperate with Tehran and Baghdad remains to be seen but it could be a great opportunity to fracture America's decades-old hegemony over the region. Worse yet, if this drives Baghdad even closer to Tehran that shifts the entire power balance in the region out of American influence.

Trump is, as you've mentioned, mentally infirm. He is incapable of grasping knock-on effects including blowback. He cannot achieve any meaningful result without resorting to a much larger conflict.

The Great Game, Mk. 2.

Owen Gray said...

Trump is incapable of calculating consequences, Mound -- small or large. All he sees is someone or something that stands in his way. The March of Folly continues.

Toby said...

It is increasingly important that Canada back away from US foreign policy. The last thing we need is to let ourselves get dragged into a Trump war. And we certainly don't need to be seen by foreigners as a Trump ally.

Owen Gray said...

Trump is a disease, Toby. We may not be able to quarantine him. But there's no reason to invite him into our house.

e.a.f. said...

Trump ought to be charged with murder. he had the number 2 official of Iran murdered. Now what if other countries decided to kill Pence because they didn't like how he did his job? what if another country who the Americans were not at war with, decided some of the American Generals were getting too good at their jobs and they needed to be removed. Suleimani was good at his job. It was his job to protect his country's interests and promote their "brand". the U.S.A. has been doing it for a very long time also. Wonder what the U.S.A. would say if Iran or North Korea decided to shoot and kill Pence?

It is doubtful NATO or other countries are going to attend the war that Trump seems determined to hold. Chretien declined with thanks when invited to another one and I trust Trudeau will do the same. The way Trump has spoken to and about NATO countries it is doubtful they'll be in any mood to join him for the dance.

What Iran does next, we will have to wait and see. It is doubtful they will take the U.S.A. head on, but their proxies will do damage and I would not like to be a Trump mega donor right now. if you don't like Trump how better to "influence' him than by cutting off his cash. Wouldn't want to stay at any of his hotels either.

Trump's actins puts him in the same league as Putin, who has people he doesn't like murdered. Its about time the Court in the Hague starts to deal with this type of thing. We may not have liked Suleimani but he had not been charged, arrested, or tried for any crimes. the U.S.A. was not at war with Iran, so their actions are simply unacceptable.

The Disaffected lib makes several good points. Wouldn't be surprised if Russia leant Iran some of those new, in testing "smarter" little nukes they've bragged about.

Would not be surprised if China and North Korea put off any meetings and/or signing of contracts. Wouldn't want to get into a room with Trump, who knows he might have you killed. The man is clearly unhinged.

Owen Gray said...

Trump is increasingly difficult to work with, e.a.f. If he expects to find allies, he's mistaken. This is not a man who inspires confidence.

John B. said...

"General Qassem Soleimani has killed or badly wounded thousands of Americans over an extended period of time, and was plotting to kill many more ... but got caught!"

And just in time I'll bet.

Let Trump's detractors swallow that one. Not only will this courageous and decisive action by a vigilant administration make it nigh impossible that the mullahs in Tehran find a qualified candidate to replace Soleimani, but the effect on the morale of suicide bombers and their proxies' ability to recruit them is likely to be devastating, given that those who may have been considering this career option may now hesitate in fear of meeting a fate similar to the General's.

America can breath a sigh of relief.

Owen Gray said...

That's the line, John. And lots of people will drink the Kool Aide.

e.a.f. said...

America can breath a sigh of relief. I trust that is sarcasm because 8 of the leading experts on the middle east gave their thoughts on the subject. it was not comforting.

previous American Presidents thought of murdering Saleimani, but decided it would create too many problems and that included Bush 2. Whether you like him or not Saleimani was a brilliant General and defended his country. Remember the U.S.A. is not a nice country. they have been meddling in the middle east for decades. the americans have killed and tortured, etc. If we want to talk who is worse, it might be a tight race between the Americans and Iran. What do you think the CIA does around the world.

if the U.S.A. hadn't "fucked' with Iran to begin with, they wouldn't have created the need for Sulkeimani. Remember it was the U.S.A. who installed the shah of Iran and we saw what that led to, the Revolution. The U.S.A. couldn't get over that and kept poking around. From there we have Trump pulling out of the nuclear deal the other countries signed with Iran and then sanctioned them. For what? What has the U.S.A., Russia, China been doing running around the world these past 60 years, being good little spreaders of joy and peace?

We just saw Trump grant pardons to American war criminals. He is no better. And I'm sure we don't know a fraction of what goes on in war zones because they usually keep the media out of them. They just "embed' a few to restrict the news.

Owen Gray said...

Trump's huffing and puffing, e.a.f, is just the pot calling the kettle black.