14 March 2020   Leave a comment

Iranian-backed militias in Iraq have launched a series of attacks on US military bases in Iraq. The attacks are part of a series of attacks and counterattacks between the US and Iran after the US assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani. On Thursday, the US attacked a military base which it considered a base of operations for Kataib Hezbollah, an Iranian militia group in Iraq. In the attack, the US killed “three Iraqi army soldiers, two policemen and a civilian worker”, placing the Iraqi government in a very difficult position. The Iranian objective in these attacks is clear: it wishes to put the Iraqi government in a position where it has no choice but to ask the US to leave Iraq. Up to this point, the US has managed to deflect such demands by threatening to withhold vital military assistance and cash payments. But these attacks on Iraqi sovereignty cannot be ignored much longer: Iran is very close and the US is very far away. The Irish Times describes the tension:

“Around 5,000 US troops remain in Iraq, most in an advisory capacity, as part of a wider international coalition formed to help Iraq drive back and defeat Islamic State militants.

“But the Iraqi military said the new US air attack went against ‘any partnership’ under the coalition. ‘It will have consequences that subject everyone to the most serious dangers.’

“Iran’s foreign ministry said on Friday that the ‘presence and behavior’ of US and allied forces in Iraq was to blame for attacks against them.

“Iranian-backed paramilitary groups have regularly rocketed and shelled bases in Iraq that host US forces and the area around the US embassy in Baghdad.

“The United States, which believes Iran wants to drive it from the region, has conducted several strikes inside Iraq, killing top Iranian general Qassem Suleimani and Kataib Hizbullah founder Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in January.

“Many Iraqis say it is they who stand to suffer most from US-Iranian tensions and some, including caretaker prime minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, have called for US troops to withdraw.”

Iraq does not wish to be the battlefield in a war between the US and Iran. There is no likelihood that Iran will attack the US, nor does it need to to fulfill its strategic objectives. The question is whether the US will decide that the only effective course of action to deter future Iranian attacks is an attack on Iran itself. There seems to be no viable alternative given US objectives.

Posted March 14, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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