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Iraq’s Worst Fears Have Come True – a Proxy War Is on Its Doorstep
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Iraqis have a well-honed instinct about approaching danger which stems from their grim experience during 40 years of crisis and war. Three months ago, I asked a friend in Baghdad how she and her friends viewed the future, adding Iraq seemed to me to be more peaceful than at any time since the US and British invaded in 2003.

She replied that the general mood among people she knew was gloomy because they believed that the next war between the US and Iran might be fought out in Iraq. She said: “Many of my friends are so nervous about a US-Iran war that they are using their severance pay on leaving government service to buy houses in Turkey.” She was thinking of doing the same thing.

My Iraqi friends turned out to have been all too right in their depressing prognosis: the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone at Baghdad airport is an act of escalation by President Donald Trump that ensures that Iraq faces a violent future. It may not lead to a full-scale military conflict, but Iraq will be the political and military arena where the US-Iranian rivalry will be fought out. The Iranians and their Iraqi allies may or may not carry out some immediate retaliatory act against the US, but their most important counter-stroke will be to pressure the Iraqi government, parliament and security forces into pushing the US entirely out of Iraq.

Ever since the overthrow of Saddam Hussein, Iran has generally come out ahead of the US in any struggle for influence within Iraq. The main reason for this is has been that Shia community in Iraq, two-thirds of the population and politically dominant, has looked to its fellow Shia in Iran for support against its enemies. Ironically, Iranian influence and popularity had been seriously damaged because of General Soleimani overseeing the brutal efforts by pro-Iranian security forces and paramilitary groups to crush Iraqi street protests, killing at least 400 protesters and injuring another 15,000.

Mounting Iraqi popular rage against Iran for its interference in Iraq’s internal affairs is now likely to be counter-balanced by the even more blatant assault on Iraq’s national sovereignty by the US. It is difficult to think of a grosser act of interference by a foreign state than killing a foreign general who was openly and legally in Iraq. Also killed by the drone was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, the powerful pro-Iranian paramilitary group. The US may consider paramilitary commanders like him to be evil terrorists, but for many Shia Iraqis they are the people who fought against Saddam Hussein and defended them against Isis.

I was speaking to my pessimistic friend in Baghdad in late September in what turned out to be the last peaceable days before violence returned to Iraq. I interviewed a number of paramilitary commanders from the Hashd al-Shaabi, the popular mobilisation forces, who all claimed that the US and Israel were escalating attacks on them inside the country. I wondered how much of this was paranoia.

I spoke to Abu Alaa al-Walai, the leader of Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, a splinter group of Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of whose camps had been destroyed by a drone attack in August. He said that 50 tonnes of weapons and ammunition had been blown up, blaming the Israelis and the Americans acting in concert. Asked if his men would attack US forces in Iraq in the event of a US-Iran war, he said: “Absolutely yes.” Later I visited the camp, called al-Saqr, on the outskirts of Baghdad where a massive explosion had gutted sheds and littered the burned-out compound with shattered pieces of equipment.

I saw other pro-Iranian paramilitary leaders at this time. The drone attacks had made them edgy, but I got the impression that they did not really expect a US-Iran war. Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, told me that he did not think there would be a war “because Trump does not want one.” As evidence of this, he pointed to the failure of Trump to retaliate after the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities earlier in September that Washington had been blamed on Iran.

In fact, events developed very differently from what both I and the paramilitary commanders expected. A few days after I had spoken to them, there was a small demonstration in central Baghdad demanding jobs, public services and an end to corruption. The security forces and the pro-Iranian paramilitaries opened fire, killing and wounding many peaceful demonstrators. Though Qais al-Khazali later claimed that he and other Hashd leaders were trying to thwart a US-Israeli conspiracy, he had said nothing to me about it. It seemed likely that General Soleimani, wrongly suspected that the paltry demonstrations were a real threat and had ordered the pro-Iranian paramilitaries to open fire and put a plan for suppressing the demonstrations into operation.

All this could have been disastrous for Iranian influence in Iraq. Soleimani had made the classic mistake of a successful general in imaging that “a whiff of grapeshot” will swiftly repress any signs of popular discontent. Sometimes this works, often it does not – and Iraq turned out to belong to the second category.

General Soleimani died in the wake of his greatest failure and misjudgement. But the manner of his killing may convince many Shia Iraqis that the threat to Iraqi independence from the US is greater than that from Iran. The next few days will tell if the protest movement, that has endured the violence used against it with much bravery, will be deflated by the killings at Baghdad airport.

ORDER IT NOW

Wars are reputedly won by generals who make the least mistakes. General Soleimani made a bad mistake over the last three months by turning a modest protest into something close to a mass uprising. Trump may have made an even worse mistake by killing General Soleimani and making Iraq, a place where Iran has far more going for it than the US, the arena in which the rivalry between these two powers will be fought out. I can see now that my friend in Baghdad may well have been right three months ago in suggesting that retirement to Turkey might be the safest option.

(Republished from The Independent by permission of author or representative)
 
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  1. Though Qais al-Khazali later claimed that he and other Hashd leaders were trying to thwart a US-Israeli conspiracy, he had said nothing to me about it. It seemed likely that General Soleimani, wrongly suspected that the paltry demonstrations were a real threat and had ordered the pro-Iranian paramilitaries to open fire and put a plan for suppressing the demonstrations into operation.

    Dear Patrick,
    When have these “peaceful demonstrations” of any size, anywhere, ever been organic? It is always “peaceful demonstrations” that are the beginning of the Colour (or Cedar, Umbrella, etc) Revolutions. Perhaps Qais al-Khazali didn’t mention it, because they weren’t part of it. In Syria, where unknown agents on rooftops were shooting at both sides, that was the excuse used against the Assad. This is no more than another “Saddam/Assad gassed his own people” using paid protestors, scam.

    Of course the Israelis are involved. The question is, how much of the intelligence provided to Trump on Iran’s involvement anywhere in Iraq, has been filtered by the Israelis, and although known to be false by the occupied US Military higher echelons, passed on anyway? Eretz Yisroel must be completed, and Benny’s just the man to do it. A certain “anti-Semitic” cartoon involving a blind man walking a Dachshund seems fitting.

    Yours truly,
    Curmudgeon

    • Agree: John Chuckman
  2. Swaggy says:

    America plays war games in the Middle East like an Israeli owned pin ball machine. Pin ball machines are now outmoded. So is the Bible.

    • Replies: @Gleimhart Mantooso
  3. @Swaggy

    Those of us who understand that the Bible is the Holy Word of God and hardly outmoded also know that the U.S. should never have become involved in the stupid feud between the Zionists and the Muslims. Just let them kill each other to their hearts’ content.

  4. unit472 says:

    I don’t disagree but Iran has its own problems and a big one is how to continue to fund Soleimani’s evil empire in the face of US ‘maximum pressure’ sanctions and not have an even bigger problem at home.

    The US at least gets paid for its arms exports to its client states. Does Hamas, Hezbollah, the Houthis and Iraqi militiamen pay Iran for theirs? I think not. See the problem? Iran without oil exports can’t afford Soleimani’s ’empire’ and the Iranian people are not going to tolerate sending what few resources Iran has left off to Gaza, Yemen, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq while they sink deeper into poverty especially if all it gets them is a war with Israel or the US.

    • Replies: @barr
    , @Cameljockey
  5. mr meener says:
    @Gleimhart Mantooso

    the jews “god” in the bible is the devil and he controls the world thru his spawn the jews. take your Buy-Bull and shove it

  6. Sean says:

    General Soleimani died in the wake of his greatest failure and misjudgement.

    He made an even bigger mistake than that, but not with his public image in Iran, A few days after John Bolton was sacked as Trump’s national security adviser, Soleimani mounted what was a blatantly Iranian (actually launched from Iran) drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, which Pompeo called an act of war.

    It was difficult to see what Soleimani was doing to further national Iranian objectives during his last few months. He became a victim of his own success, addicted to the popular acclaim. A capable military organiser, as was Trotsky. Like the Soviet Union if Trotsky if he had become leader, Iran under Soleiman would have ended up in all out conflict with the West. I don’t enjoy hearing about anyone’s untimely death, but perhaps it was as well Soleiman went when he did. Live by the sword.

  7. The grimmest scenario is: at some point they must fight directly. Then will come the proxy war between the US, its allies, and a Sino-Russian alliance. That proxy will end with World War Three.
    https://www.ghostsofhistory.wordpress.com/

  8. @Sean

    “Soleimani mounted what was a blatantly Iranian (actually launched from Iran) drone attack on Saudi oil facilities, ”

    Last I heard, there was no public consensus on who launched that attack on Saudi oil facilities. Asking “cui bobno” leads one to suspect the U.S. and/or Israel.

    Do you have any evidence that it was launched by Iran? Just asking.

    • Replies: @Sean
  9. @Gleimhart Mantooso

    Your Biblically ignorant comment has been noted and discarded. Scripture shall remain, and there’s nothing you or anyone else will ever be able to do about it.

  10. … he did not think there would be a war “because Trump does not want one.” As evidence of this, he pointed to the failure of Trump to retaliate after the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities earlier in September that Washington had been blamed on Iran.

    It kind of weakened the US case that the wreckage of the drone landed in Iranian territorial waters, so Trump could easily pull the plug on his handlers for that one; not so easily when a US person was actually harmed.

  11. Sean says:
    @flashlight joe

    Houthis rebels in Yemen said they did it. I agree that if Soleimani ordered the Sept 2019 attack on Saudi oil facilities it would seem he did something that Iran was not going to benefit from. However, being Iran’s greatest hero could have developed a lust for glory in him. He might acted out of desire for his own personal aggrandisement rather than the interests of his country. For all I know it might be have been people in the Iranian leadership who set him up, or at least hoped he would get himself killed in Iraq.

    • Replies: @A123
  12. @Sean

    Do you really think Iran is so much more advanced than the USA? An attack that was not detected by the 2 Aegis class US destroyers in the Persian Gulf nor Saudi Arabia’s civil and military radars nor by the Patriot systems defending Saudi oil facilities? Think really high tech. Think Toyota utility and a close range attack. The Houthis really do outclass the US Patriot system but that’s not a permanent superiority. The Yanks can still build anti-aircraft guns though the Toyota utility would still provide the Houthis with technological superiority. Fortunately for the Saudis, the Houthis are few and poor and can only mount tiny attacks.

    The Patriot is designed to hit ballistic missiles like a Scud and is useless against a Houthi low level attack. The Saudis think more expensive means better. To protect themselves against a punch in the nose, they’d buy the best quality bullet proof vests. The Yanks love such dumb customers; it’s not really their fault if the attack is successful and it doesn’t mean the Patriot doesn’t work as intended. [email protected]

    • Replies: @Amerimutt Golems
  13. A123 says:
    @Sean

    For all I know it might be have been people in the Iranian leadership who set him up, or at least hoped he would get himself killed in Iraq.

    It is certainly possible, but there is no way to obtain proof either way.

    Soleimani was much more popular that Khameni, so is it a case of, “Who shall rid me of this troublesome General?”

    Why did he publicly travel near U.S.forces? Soleimani has been on the U.S. Military most-wanted list for some time. It would have been risky at any time, and seems foolhardy with the embassy provocation.

    PEACE 😇

    • Replies: @Sean
    , @Kali
  14. Sean says:
    @A123

    Yes a sitting duck. He was extremely popular and that can go to anyone’s head. Became a victim of his own success and publicity it would seem. Mobile phone intercepts and signal tracking, possibly of someone who acted as his driver, is the most likely way that they would know what car he was in.

  15. barr says:
    @Gleimhart Mantooso

    U.S. should never have become involved” ???? WTF

    Butt kissing of the jews define America. How did you forget this? Judeo Christian values has become Judo between US and the rest . How did you miss it ? How do you miss that the referee is Israel who is never happy with US’s sacrifice.

    Now that thing is 2000 yr’ old concept derived abstraction . But what about current butt kissing Pelosi Clinton Bush Cheney Trump , Pompeo , Bushsr Thatcher Regan LBJ Truman Wilson and media like NYT CNN Fox , Yale Harvard Stanford universities , Pentagon and Statae Dept and churches and ministries scattered across America ???

  16. barr says:
    @unit472

    Iranian people are not going to tolerate sending what few resources”
    How are the Americans tolerating the dole and handout to Israel despite 40 % living below poverty line and having less than 300 dollars in bank? Other 59 % don’t have time to learn anything beyond what the minister in church says and beyond what Fox tells because they have to work 2 jobs to earn a living wage . How are they so oblivious? Whats happening to the money from the rams sales ? Is it somehow going back to Sheldson Adelsohn or Singer or Marcus or Barbara Feinsetin’s husband?

  17. @unit472

    Iran isn’t selling stuff in American dollars anymore

  18. barr says:

    Its the same reason . It has not changed. Iran has to go . Because this narrative Israel is a villa in the middle of a jungle has so much of appeal that even the Romans would be looking for the resurrected Jesus to preserve the shining prosperous Snehahdrin tranquility shared by Pharisee .

    This is the reason:

    “ Saddam is not like the Saudi Princes who spend bulk of their lives outside of their country ,and who fritters away Kingdom’s oil profits on prostitutes and bottles of champagne in Paris . No, Saddam is building railways! Creating electrical networks! Highways and other important elements of a serious State infrasctructures1 After eight years of war he needs to demobilize his Republican Guard which incorporates so many of his technical elite ,in order to rebuild .If they are put to work ,Iraq would become most advanced power in the region.

    We cant allow that to happen “—Dr Edward Luttwak , author ,lecturer, military strategist and Pentagon consultant also well known in political circle in Italy .

    By Maurizio Blondet in p 30 ,chapter 3 of neo-CONNED AGAIN
    Hypocrisy Lawlessness and the Rape of Iraq.

  19. @Donald A Thomson

    The Saudi war against Houthis actually resembles a previous engagement.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Toyota_War

  20. obvious says:

    There is no “dole”or handout to Israel, is probably the best answer. The “official” U.S. government spending in 2019 was “4.3 trillion dollars”. Aid to Israel was 1/10th of one percent, so what would anybody care or even notice? It is 100% military aid from the American war industry, a drop in the bucket of all war spending. It is national policy, and favored by a huge majority.

    Is it really “ten times” that number? Ok then it would be 1%, still a small fraction against the other 99%. This is what happens when you get “Jew on the Brain” syndrome. Minor people become grossly magnified contrary to all proportion. You just hate the Jews because it means your own religion is wrong.

    • Replies: @Kali
  21. Kali says:
    @A123

    I read in either Saker or PCR column this morning that he was there on a diplomatic mission, invited BY the USA.

  22. Kali says:
    @obvious

    First you say there is “no dole out” to the entity “israel”. Then you go on to describe the grotesquely obscene amont of Henereds of BILLIONS of Dollars which it DOES take.

    That that incomprehesible to most people amount of hundreds of billions is itself a Tiny Fraction of a Planet Killing Four Point Three TRILLION dollars!

    Whilst servicemen die in the streets of the people from whom that currency is taken.

    And you would pretend that this is nothing?

    Your misdirection is showing, “obvious”.

    Kali.

  23. Hehehe. I hope the Saudi royals are paying attention. When they’re no longer useful, they get the chop.

    As with individuals, so with countries: Past behaviour is the best indicator of future behaviour. Remember Colonel Qaddafi, your majesties.

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