The dust is settling somewhat over the latest and strangest act of imperial hubris in the Middle East, and a few things are becoming clearer – though no less strange.
Trump held a slightly bizarre presser at his vacation resort in Florida, wherein he tried to assure the media he had no wish to provoke either war with or regime change in Iran, saying
We took action last night to stop a war. We do not take action to start a war.”
Even the slavering warhound, Pompeo was taking a more conciliatory tone, and the word ‘de-escalation’ began featuring prominently in his Twitter feed.
Russian Foreign Minister Sergei Lavrov and I discussed the decisive defensive action @realDonaldTrump employed in Baghdad to protect American lives. I emphasized that de-escalation is the United States’ principal goal.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020
In my conversation today with @masrour_barzani, we discussed yesterday’s defensive action and our commitment to de-escalation. I thanked him for his steadfast partnership. We agreed on the need for continued, close cooperation.
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020
UK Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab, is also urging “all parties de-escalate” – for what that’s worth.
At the same time early claims by the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Force (PMF) that the US had launched another air strike against them north of Baghdad were later retracted. According to RT:
The Iraqi Army, however, later denied that an airstrike took place there. In a statement quoted by local media, the military urged everyone to be “careful” about spreading unverified information and “rumors” in the future.
Some of this implies an attempt on both sides (Iraq and the US at least) to pull back. But while this may be welcome it does nothing to explain why the US administration escalated in the first place, in what still looks like a suicidally self-defeating move.
What is the empire up to at this point? Does it have a plan? is it coherent? is it even sane?
The Saker took a look yesterday at The Soleimani murder – what could happen next . He thinks, as he has said before, that Trump is regarded as a disposable asset by his Deep State handlers and is being used as a front man for risky policy actions that he can be scapegoated for if/when they go wrong:
I have always claimed that Donald Trump is a “disposable President” for the Neocons. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Neocons have used Trump to do all sorts of truly fantastically dumb things (pretty much ALL his policy decisions towards Israel and/or Syria) for a very simple reason. If Trump does something extremely dumb and dangerous, he will either get away with it, in which case the Neocons will be happy, or he will either fail or the consequences of his decisions will be catastrophic, at which point the Neocons will jettison him and replace him by an even more subservient individual (say Pence or Pelosi). In other words, for the Neocons to have Trump do something both fantastically dangerous and fantastically stupid is a win-win situation!
I tend to agree with this. When Clinton was dumped last minute as POTUS (too crazy, too weird), and the Deep State pivoted to Trump, it was clear from very early on he – the unwanted outsider – was going to be used just as Saker says, as a handy scapegoat; and it’s interesting to note in this regard that he is indeed being blamed in many places today (Spiked, the Guardian etc), as the sole architect of the Soleimani murder.
That he is in any way solely, or even directly, responsible is of course vanishingly improbable. US presidents don’t, in real terms, have that kind of power now, if they ever did. It’s far more likely Trump just rubber stamped an action urged by Pompeo and his war-crazed backers, or even that he only knew about it after it was done.
But that’s just detail. The fact Trump is being scapegoated implies that – at least for now – those really responsible are backtracking and thinking better of the venture.
But what was the venture? What the desired outcome? No one seems to have a very satisfactory answer to that right now.
As we said yesterday, war with Iran has been the auto-erotic fixation for the hardcore war nuts in Washington for years, and imminent confrontation has been predicted regularly since at least 2005.
But it’s never become a reality because the non-crazies in Washington know the risks outweigh the benefits for US interests.
Sure, we know in recent times the Trump administration has been ramping up the tensions again. Tearing up the nuclear deal, re-imposing sanctions, sabre-rattling, making threats. But this has all been within the familiar framework that always just stops short of actual conflict.
The murder of Soleimani is orders of magnitude beyond anything they have ever risked before. Good analysts like the Saker and Moon of Alabama have pointed out that the US has basically defeated its own aims, all but destroyed itself in the region. In MoA’s words:
The U.S. has won nothing with its attack but will feel the consequences for decades to come. From now on its position in the Middle East will be severely constrained. Others will move in to take its place.
Even if this turns out too dire and sweeping a prediction, the truth still is clear that the US have apparently gained nothing from this venture and lost a great deal.
Of course both the US and Israel now have carte blanche to stage as much false flag ‘terrorism’ as they want and blame it on Iranian ‘revenge’. Whatever else happens, we can almost certainly look forward to some of that.
And, there is the bonus of being able to drive the US homeland even further toward fascism in the guise of ‘preparing’ for new waves of terror attacks. The Mayor of New York is already doing his own narrative preparation for this, claiming, per the Jerusalem Post that
We have to assume this action puts us in a de facto state of war
But all this seems small gains for massive losses. The question ‘what were you thinking?’ hangs there, currently unanswered. If this was clever geopolitical chess it’s currently so deep as to defeat all analysis.
Claims that the US is just doing Israel’s bidding don’t even cut it. If the US loses its hold on the ME as a result of an ill-judged war with Iran, how will this benefit Israel? Does it believe it can inherit the imperial mantle? If so, it’s deluded. Without US protection Israel would not last long in its current form.
Some have suggested it’s a ‘clever’ plot to hike up oil prices. But really? There are much lower risk ways of doing that than launching a war and forcing Iran to close the Straits of Hormuz.
The QAnon crowd have even suggested it’s an ultra smart way of getting the US out of Iraq. Well, we have to admit that could be the result. But does anyone really believe that was the plan?
No one has yet, to my knowledge, put out the US simply goofed and are now desperately trying to cover themselves – but that is at least as likely as some of the above.
The major question really though is – will this backtracking and odd claims of wanting de-escalation actually do anything to de-escalate? Will it persuade Iran not to seek retaliation, supposing this is now what Pompeo et al want?
Currently the answer to that looks like a ‘no.’ In fact Iran has just now issued a list of potential retaliation targets related to the US. Even if this is mostly posturing, it’s hard to see how Iran can avoid some form of response to this heinous act of frank terrorism. Even if the US administration’s ‘de-escalation’ stance is genuine, it may well be pointless.
And how long will the US remain in a ‘de-escalation’ mindset anyhow? It’s become a commonplace to describe US foreign policy as ‘insane’, and it’s an apposite description. But the murder of Soleimani takes the evident insanity to new and self-defeating levels.
Who can say what the empire’s next moves will be in the coming days or weeks? More utterly lunatic ‘defensive’ missile strikes are entirely possible.
And at that point all bets will be off.