2 January 2020   Leave a comment

The immediate crisis over the US Embassy in Iraq seems to have subsided. The protesters who breached the compound–with the apparent complicity of Iraqi security forces–have pulled back after US President Trump talked with the Iraqi government and send additional troops to Iraq. But that clam is entirely misleading. Dov S. Zakheim has written a short essay for The National Interest which argues that the protesters, who are proxies for the Iranian government, seem to be intent on forcing the US to respond militarily to their provocations. The belief among the protesters is that the use of force will give greater legitimacy to the presence of Iranian forces in Iraq. Zakheim asserts that the American people will not tolerate the necessary military presence to pose a real threat to the Iranian militias who operate in Iraq and that President Trump will ultimately be obliged to back down.

U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper said in a press conference today that the Pentagon expects more challenges from Iran in Iraq and that “In the last two [months] alone we’ve [had] nearly a dozen attacks against U.S. forces, against our coalition partners. So do I think they may do something [else?] Yes. And they will likely regret it. And we are prepared to exercise self-defense, and we are prepared to deter further bad behavior from these groups, all of which are sponsored, and directed and rescued by Iran.” The rhetoric suggests that the US is committed to confronting Iran in Iraq, a tactic that will inevitably aggravate the already difficult tensions within the Iraqi government. The US has about 5,200 troops in Iraq, but President Trump has ordered additional troops into the country: “The Defense Department has already sent about 100 Marines with a Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force to the embassy and about 700 paratroopers from the 1st Brigade Combat Team, 82nd Airborne Division, to Kuwait in case they are needed in Iraq.” Even though there are many in Iraq who wish to diminish Iranian influence, strong military action by the US would be considered a more serious threat to Iraqi sovereignty by most Iraqis.

Both the US and Iran have stepped up their hostile rhetoric:

“US President Donald Trump and other top US officials have blamed Iran for attacks on US forces and for storming the embassy compound.

“’They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat,’ Trump wrote on Twitter, adding ‘Happy New Year!’

“Iran’s supreme leader Wednesday condemned US strikes on Iraq and warned that his country was ready to hit back.

“’I and the government and the nation of Iran strongly condemn this American crime,’ Ayatollah Ali Khamenei said in a speech broadcast on state television.

“’If the Islamic Republic decides to oppose or fight against a country, it will do this explicitly,’ he said.”

I cannot discern what the US objective is. The current policy is driving the Iraqis into the hands of the Iranians, exactly the opposite from what the US objective should be.

Damage to the US Embassy Compound in Baghdad

The US State Department has released its annual report, “World Military Expenditures and Arms Transfers, 2019 edition”. It is a very valuable resource for those who wish to analyze how much the world is spending on military power. By way of summary:

” From 2007 through 2017, in constant 2017 U.S. dollar terms, the annual value of world military expenditures appears to have risen about 11% – 33%, from about $1.51 – 2.15 trillion in 2007 to about $1.77 – 2.88 trillion in 2017, and to have averaged between $1.72 and $2.61 trillion for the 11-year period….

“During the eleven-year period, for the world, the share of GDP to which military expenditure was equivalent – an indicator sometimes called “the military burden” – appears to have averaged between 1.9% and 2.5%, peaking at between 2.2% and 2.8% in 2009 and trending downward thereafter to between 1.7% and 2.2% in 2017….

“From 2007 to 2017, the global annual value of international arms transfer deliveries appears to have averaged about $181 billion in constant 2017 U.S. dollar terms, and to have risen by about 65%, from about $119 billion to about $195 billion, despite declining after 2012 from a peak of $206 billion in that year. The arms trade’s share of world trade in goods and services appears to have ranged from about 0.6% to about 0.9%, averaging about 0.8% and trending upward until 2009 but thereafter declining, recovering and staying at its 2009 level of about 0.9%. During the eleven-year period, about 79% of the world arms trade, by value, appears to have been supplied by the United States, about 10% by the European Union, about 5% by Russia, and less than 2% by China. There was no clear trend in either the U.S., the Russian, or the Chinese market share during the period.”

There are a very large number of tables and charts, broken down by geographic region, economic status, and political groupings. The charts and tables are in spreadsheet format and easily accessible.

Posted January 2, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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