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SEPTEMBER 2020

United States Opened ‘Pandora’s Box’ In Middle East

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United States Opened 'Pandora's Box' In Middle East

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Actions of the United States have, once again, thrown the Middle East into a state of chaos, and there’s significant risk of a new open military conflict, involving Washington and Tehran.

It all began when on January 3rd, a US strike in Baghdad killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU). Several other Iranian and Iraqi officers were also killed.

Qassem Soleimani achieved infamy as one of the officials most responsible for the defeat of ISIS in Iraq and Syria. At the same time, the PMU are part of Iraq’s Armed Forces, and they are an important party in the fight against ISIS, that took the brunt of the fighting in Iraq. The US, essentially, struck the individuals who were leading the fight against ISIS and deserved a fair share of the credit, as well as its formal ally Iraq.

The official US position was published in a US Department of Defense press release.

“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.

This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

The strike was ordered by US President Donald Trump, allegedly without even consulting the US Congress. US House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said that Trump’s actions had been taken without Congressional Approval.

“American leaders’ highest priority is to protect American lives and interests. But we cannot put the lives of American servicemembers, diplomats and others further at risk by engaging in provocative and disproportionate actions,” said House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

“Tonight’s air strike risks provoking further dangerous escalation of violence. America – and the world – cannot afford to have tensions escalate to the point of no return,” she added. “The Administration has conducted tonight’s strikes in Iraq targeting high-level Iranian military officials and killing Iranian Quds Force Commander Qasem Soleimani without an Authorization for Use of Military Force (AUMF) against Iran. Further, this action was taken without the consultation of the Congress.”

The US embassy in Baghdad urged all American citizens to leave the country “immediately”. According to some reports, the US is evacuating all its oil field staff from Iraq.

And Trump made the astounding announcement that Iran “had never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!”

The strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis followed a recent riot near the US Embassy in Baghdad and its subsequent storming by protesters. The riot itself, was in response to US airstrikes that hit 5 positions of Kata’ib Hezbollah in Syria and Iraq, killing upwards of 25. The airstrikes were warranted because the group, part of the Popular Mobilizations Units allegedly carried out shelling on army bases with US troops in Iraq.

The January 3 strike caused a series of anti-US and pro-Iranrallies in Iran, Bahrain and also Iraq.

Iranian state TV described Soleimani’s killing as “the biggest miscalculation by the US” since WWII. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay,” it said.

Iran’s Supreme leader Ayatollah Khamenei immediately appointed a new commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Qods Force – Brig. Gen. Esmail Gha’ani.

In an official statement, Khamenei noted that Gha’ani was one of the prominent commanders during the war with Iraq and that he accompanied Maj. Gen. Soleimani in the past several years in the region.

“The plan of the force will exactly be the same as the plan during martyr Soleimani’s tenure,” the statement reads.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called for three days of mourning, saying Major General Soleimani’s killing will double the motivation of the resistance against the US and Israel. According to Iranian state television, Khamenei said harsh revenge awaits “criminals” who killed Soleimani.

Iraq’s Shiite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr has reactivated his widely-known anti-US occupation force, the Mahdi Army, nearly a decade after he dissolved it.

Iraq’s Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani has strongly condemned the US assassination of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani and his comrades, calling them the “heroes of the fight against the ISIS” terrorist group.

“From the criminal aggression against Iraqi forces’ positions in the city of al-Qaim, which killed and wounded tens of our combatant children to the regrettable events Baghdad witnessed during the past few days and the Thursday night’s cruel aggression near the Baghdad International Airport … all serve as a warning that the country is at very difficult conditions,” Sistani said.

Grand Ayatollah al-Sistani denounced as “cruel” the overnight attack. Ayatollah Sistani described the attack as a violation of Iraq’s national sovereignty and international charters.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi condemned the US attack, warning of devastating consequences for Iraq.

Lebanese pro-Hezbollah newspaper Al-Akhbar reported the death of Qassem Soleimani, with a simple message “It is War.”

Leonid Slutsky, head of the Russian Parliament’s committee on international affairs said that the situation around the assassination of Qassem Soleimani may need to be discussed in the UNSC.

“The lawless killing of Soleimani is a barbaric provocation of the United States. It will lead to nothing but an escalation of tension in the region. The Americans have crossed the red line, and this time the consequences may be most serious. Iran has already promised to take revenge and give a crushing answer, ” Slutsky said.

At the same time, the head of the committee believes that “it is important for Tehran to avoid further steps that could lead to a sharp deterioration in the situation in the region and act in the legal field.”

Russian Foreign Ministry provided condemned the US operation in Iraq:

“The world is faced with a new reality – the killing of a state official by another state”

China appealed for restraint from all sides, “especially the United States,” following the killing. Chinese foreign ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said:

“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations. We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”

He said Iraq’s sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity must be respected.

Iran is likely to begin priming its forces for a retaliatory attack, the Supreme National Security Council convened in an emergency meeting, but there’s little news as of its decisions yet.

Israel’s Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu cut his visit to Greece short and convened an emergency meeting with defense chiefs due to fears of Iranian striking Israel in response to the US aggression.

The US itself has heavy military presence in the region, with troops and equipment in many countries, notably in Qatar, the UAE, Saudi Arabia, and approximately 5,000 troops in Iraq.

The killing of Qassem Soleimani is a political assassination, by all accounts. The US bombed an Iranian delegation that arrived Iraq, as well as top Iraqi military personnel.

A new, and hot conflict in the Middle East is an opportunity for US President Donald Trump to remain in power, amid the upcoming presidential elections in 2020, as well as the impeachment proceedings that are taking place. It is, furthermore, a step aimed at strengthening the Trump’s administration position among the pro-Israeli lobby and the military industrial complex.

Taking the above in mind, the White House could be interested in escalation and will push even further in the case of a strong response by Iran.

Trump is trying to explain the US stance in Twitter:

Iran’s response may vary. However, it is unlikely that Iran would carry out an open strike on US military targets in the region. Thus, there are a number of options:

  • Tehran may attempt to organize a reciprocal and symmetrical political assassination within the US.
  • Iran can block the Strait of Hormuz and limit shipping in the Persian Gulf, as it has repeatedly threatened to do so in case the US goes too far. The killing of Qassem Solemani led to a rise in oil prices, they will grow even further if Iran undertakes such actions.
  • Iran can employ proxy forces and its allies to strike American infrastructure, both in the Middle East and beyond. It can also involve its proxy forces, as well as allies to strike Saudi Arabian infrastructure.
  • At the same time, Tehran can take advantage of the situation within Iraq to make the US presence there impossible, or at least nearly so by way of ambushes of convoys, rocket attacks on military facilities, and shooting downs of US aircraft.
  • An attack on Israeli targets is also possible, but at this point in the conflict between Tehran and Washington it would be unlikely, since striking Israel would not allow Iran to achieve its primary goal of delivering a blow to the US.

Iran’s possible actions in the situation come down to speculation, but one thing is certain – the Middle East was once again thrown into chaos, and primarily through the actions of Washington.

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