After the January 3 assasination of Iran’s General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq’s Baghdad and the following ‘mysterious strikes’ on nearby Camp Taji, the United States and Iran are balancing on the brink of an open military conflict in the Middle East.
The United States is deploying new troops and equipment apparently preparing for further military actions. Washington has already sent nearly 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East from the 82nd Airborne Division. This is almost one of three Airborne Brigade Combat Teams that compound the 82nd Airborne Division. These troops will be reportedly deployed in Iraq and Kuwait.
Since May, the US has already deployed about 14,000 additional troops to the Middle East.
While the US sides tries to present these moves as a kind of defensive action needed to respond to expected ‘Iranian agression’, in fact, this move looks more like a prepartion for the war.
Various maps and infographics showing ‘Iranian proxies’ in the Middle East became especially popular in mainstream media:
On January 3, Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations described the US killing of General Soleimani as an act of war and said that the response to a military action is a military action.
“In fact, it was an act of war on the part of the United States against the Iranian people,” Majid Takht-e Ravanchi told CNN’s OutFront program. The attack was “a new chapter, which is tantamount to opening a war against Iran.”
“The response for a military action is a military action,” he said. “By whom? By… when? Where? That is for the future to witness.”
"The response for a military action is a military action,” Iran’s ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, tells @ErinBurnett. “By whom? By… when? Where? That is for the future to witness.” pic.twitter.com/XR6mCrLbys
— OutFrontCNN (@OutFrontCNN) January 4, 2020
On January 4, hundreds of thousands of Iraqi mourners turned out in Baghdad for the funeral of General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units, as well as other Iraqi and Iranian officers killed in US strikes on Baghdad.
Soon, the Iraqi Parliament is expected to vote on a bill expelling around 5,200 US troops deployed in the country. US National Adviser Robert O’Brien commented on this possibility by warning the Iraqi Parliament against such a ‘hostile’ move. Even if the Parliament votes to put an end to the US military presence in Iraq, it’s unlikely that Washington will obey to this decision. The US troops will remain in Iraq as an official occupation force.
US top officials and diplomats are fiercely working to demonize the killed people and justify the recent act of aggression against Iran and Iraq.
A quote from the State Department press briefing on the situation in Iraq (source):
SENIOR STATE DEPARTMENT OFFICIAL ONE: We did – this was a defensive strike that was taken and supported by very solid intelligence, and I’ve seen all the intelligence. This was strongly supported by everything that we were seeing that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks against American diplomats and our armed forces members in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria, and in the region.
Given – so Soleimani is the major architect. He is the architect of Iran’s major terrorist attacks over the last 20 years. He’s killed 608 Americans in Iraq alone. And so when we start seeing extensive and very solid intelligence that he is plotting imminent attacks against the United States, the President, as Commander-in-Chief, has a duty to take decisive action.
That decisive action has been threatened for a year and a half, since September 11th of 2018, when the White House put out a statement saying that there – this is after the rocket attacks on our diplomatic facilities in Iraq, and he said we are going to deny Iran the fiction of deniable attacks; we’re not going to honor the distinction, the false distinction between Iran and the regime and its proxies, and if the regime or its proxies strike at American interests or personnel they’ll – there will be decisive action. Secretary Pompeo said it on December 13th. We’ve said it more times than I can count. The Iranians just didn’t believe us. And the Iranians met the condition of the threat.
And as – and so – and I’ll also say this: If we had not taken this action, and hundreds of Americans were dead, you would be asking me, “Why didn’t you take out Soleimani when you had the chance?” I get all these questions about, “Oh, aren’t you – isn’t this the beginning of something bigger?” and everything else. This was – the conditions were met to take decisive action to eliminate a very, very, very effective terrorist in the heart of the Middle East to save hundreds of American lives.
Assisted in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.
— Mike Pence (@Mike_Pence) January 3, 2020
The US President also works to justify the killing of one of the key persons behind the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria:
— The White House (@WhiteHouse) January 3, 2020
The Popular Mobilization Units is an official part of the Iraqi Armed Forces. This does not stop Washington from designation its factions as terrorist groups.
On January 3, the State Department officially designated the PMU’s Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq (one of the biggest groups within the organziation) and its leaders as terrorists (source):
Today, the Secretary of State announced his intent to designate Aas’ib Ahl al-Haq — also known as AAH — as a Foreign Terrorist Organization (FTO) under section 219 of the Immigration and Nationality Act. Additionally, the Secretary has designated AAH and two of its leaders, brothers Qays and Laith al-Khazali, as Specially Designated Global Terrorists (SDGT) under Executive Order (E.O.) 13224.
“AAH and its leaders are violent proxies of the Islamic Republic of Iran,” said Secretary of State Mike Pompeo. “Acting on behalf of their masters in Tehran, they use violence and terror to further the Iranian regime’s efforts to undermine Iraqi sovereignty.” AAH is extensively funded and trained by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, an entity that was part of the IRGC designation as an FTO in April 2019.
These designations seek to deny AAH and its leadership the resources to plan and carry out terrorist attacks. Among other consequences of designations, all of AAH and the al-Khazali brothers’ property and interests that are within the United States or that come within the United States or that come within the possession or control of U.S. persons, are blocked, and U.S. persons are generally prohibited from engaging in any transactions with them. In addition, as a designated FTO, it is a federal crime to knowingly provide, or attempt or conspire to provide, material support or resources to AAH.
AAH, led by Qays and Laith al-Khazali, is an Iran-backed, militant organization that has claimed responsibility for more than 6,000 attacks against U.S. and Coalitions forces since its creation in 2006. AAH has carried out highly sophisticated operations, including mortar attacks on an American base, the downing of a British helicopter, and an attack on the Karbala Provincial Headquarters that resulted in the capture and murder of five American soldiers.
Today’s designations follow an action taken by the U.S. Department of the Treasury on December 6, 2019, to designate Qays and Laith al-Khazali pursuant to E.O. 13818 for their involvement in serious human rights abuses in Iraq, including approving the use of lethal force against protesters for the purpose of public intimidation. The FTO designation of AAH will take effect after a statutory 7-day congressional notification period. The SDGT designations of AAH and the al-Khazali brothers are effective immediately.
Today’s actions notify the U.S. public and the international community that this group is a terrorist organization and its leaders, the Khazali brothers, who have participated in its terrorist acts, are SDGTs. Terrorist designations expose and isolate entities and individuals, and deny them access to the U.S. financial system. Moreover, designations can assist the law enforcement activities of U.S. agencies and other governments.
Commenting on the ongoing escalation, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said that the US is ready for any Iranian answer and the Trump’s administration is ready to do all what is needed to ‘protect Americans’. Therefore, Washington will see any Iranian response or any action by Iranian allies like Hezbollah or Ansar Allah (the Houthis) as an act of war by Iran and will carry out more military actions against the country.
MORE ON THE TOPIC: