It’s increasingly clear that – short of QAnon’s wild idea that it’s all about engineering total US withdrawal from the Middle East – no coherent plan was behind the Trump administration’s cold-blooded murder of Qassem Soleimani.
It was an act of pure stupid. A dumb ‘miscalculation’. Another example of the ignorant hubris in the US State Department that almost brought them into direct conflict with Russia in February 2014, when they failed to comprehend the strategic and cultural significance of Crimea and tried to migrate the Kiev ‘Maidan’ coup to Sevastopol.
Few people to this day realise how close that call was. And now here we are again, facing untold consequences from imperial idiocy:
“Yā li-Thārāt al-Ḥusayn”, roughly translating to “O’ the avengers of Hussein.”
I can pretty much guarantee none of those who advised Trump to assassinate Qassem Suleimani saw this coming. Suleimani has been elevated in status to a martyr on the level of Hussein. https://t.co/xUl7Q5x4BG
— Scott Ritter (@RealScottRitter) January 4, 2020
This one, while posing a less imminent risk of superpower confrontation, is potentially disastrous for US interests in the region, and risks monumental loss of life in any resultant conflict between Iranian and US military forces.
It seems many people are not yet grasping the seismic shifts going on, and are still thinking in terms of this being the prelude to another imperial regime-change operation like those in Iraq, Libya and the failed attempt in Syria.
It isn’t. Not even slightly. It is a whole new and unknown situation, and where it ends is currently anyone’s guess.
Threats from the ever bombastic fool Trump, like these towards Iran’s culture…
….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 4, 2020
…and towards Iraq, might bolster the impression that the empire has the initiative and many cards to play, but does it?
What actually can it do against a military far more well-funded and well-supported than anything it has confronted in recent years? Especially now in a situation where almost the entire Shia Middle East has become united in wanting US forces out of the region.
Far from this being imperial business as usual, the Saker, often an insightful analyst, is predicting this crisis will result in nothing less than the end of the empire:
Folks, this is the beginning of the end for the Empire. Yes, I know, this sounds incredible, yet this is exactly what we are seeing happening before our eyes. The very best which the US can hope for now is a quick and complete withdrawal from the Middle-East.
This is pretty extreme, and I’m not entirely convinced he’s correct here, but he shows his reasoning, and it’s fairly compelling, and I urge you to read this linked article and others in his recent output for a point of view that goes beyond the less than adequate “bloody Americans doing it again” narrative we are getting from some sources.
Iran must retaliate for this outrage perpetrated against them. The US is compelled by its own rhetoric and self-perception as invincible to respond to this retaliation with disproportionate force.
Conflict of some kind seems inevitable, and, as the Saker sees it, this will be a conflict the US can’t ultimately win:
So what next? A major war against Iran and against the entire “Shia crescent”? Not a good option either. Not only will the US lose, but it would lose both politically and militarily. Limited strikes? Not good either, since we know that Iran will retaliate massively. A behind-the-scenes major concession to appease Iran? Nope, ain’t gonna happen either since if the Iranians let the murder of Soleimani go unpunished, then Hassan Nasrallah, Bashar al-Assad and even Ayatollah Ali Khamenei will be the next ones to be murdered. A massive air campaign? Most likely, and initially this will feel good (lots of flagwaving in the USA), but soon this will turn into a massive disaster.
Over at RT, in an article titled Iran holds all the cards in coming Middle East conflict with US – unless Trump is ready to drop a tactical NUKE, ex-US Marine intelligence officer, Scott Ritter offers a similar scenario. Like the Saker, he thinks, beyond the bluster and Trump’s rather foolish willy-waving tweets, US military options are limited (our emphasis):
Trump’s threat, however, rings hollow. First, his tweet constitutes de facto evidence of a war crime (Section 5.16.2 of the US Department of Defense Law of War Manual prohibits threats to destroy cultural objects for the express purpose of deterring enemy operations), and as such would likely not be implemented by US military commanders for whom niceties such as the law of war, which forbids the execution of an unlawful order, are serious business.
Of more relevance, however, is the fact that Trump has been down this road before, when he threatened massive military retaliation against Iran for shooting down an unarmed drone over the Strait of Hormuz last May. At that time, he was informed by his military commanders that the US lacked the military wherewithal to counter what was expected to be a full-spectrum response by Iran if the US were to attack targets inside Iran.
In short, Iran was able to inflict massive harm on US and allied targets in the Middle East region, and there was nothing the US could do to prevent this outcome.
Ritter thinks the recent announcement by Iran that it is committed to ending all restrictions on uranium enrichment might give the US a pretext to attack using the one clear advantage it has – nuclear weapons.
Trump has hinted that any future war with Iran would not be a drawn-out affair. And while the law of war might curtail his commanders from executing any retaliation that includes cultural sites, it does not prohibit the US from using a nuclear weapon against a known nuclear facility deemed to pose a threat to national security.
This is the worst-case scenario of any tit-for-tat retaliation between Iran and the US, and it is not as far-fetched as one might believe.
The Saker also considers it quite possible the US or Israel would resort to nuclear weapons, but thinks this also would be ultimately self-defeating:
US/Israeli nukes: yes, unlike Iran, they have nukes. But what they lack are good targets. Oh sure, then can (and will) strike at some symbolic, high-visibility, targets and they can nuke cities. But “can” does not mean that this is a smart thing to do. The truth is that Iran does not offer any good targets to hit with nukes so using nukes against Iran will only make the determination of Iranians (and they allies) go from “formidable” to “infinite”. Not smart.
Whether or not we agree this is the beginning of the end of empire, a messy open-ended conflict seems highly probable as things currently stand. Corporate war profiteers might rub their hands at this, but if the chaos spreads will even they be able to reap real benefits? Will this be the cue for them to up sticks from the foundering Exceptional Nation and re-locate elsewhere in the unending quest for exploitation?
After all it can be argued the British Empire, like the Nazis, didn’t die, but just had to move – somewhere a little further west. Maybe, if we’re cynical, the same thing is about to happen again. Maybe China is about to inherit the earth with the help of some ex-pat neocons.
But that’s speculation for another day.
Another perspective worth reading is that of the Veterans Intelligence Professionals for Sanity, whose open ‘Memorandum for the President’ is published over at Consortium News.
Signed by numerous distinguished intelligence professionals, including Philip Giraldi and Daniel Ellsberg, it urges the Trump admin to “avoid doubling down on catastrophe”.
The drone assassination in Iraq of Iranian Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani evokes memory of the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914, which led to World War I. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei was quick to warn of “severe revenge.” That Iran will retaliate at a time and place of its choosing is a near certainty. And escalation into World War III is no longer just a remote possibility, particularly given the multitude of vulnerable targets offered by our large military footprint in the region and in nearby waters.
What your advisers may have avoided telling you is that Iran has not been isolated. Quite the contrary. One short week ago, for example, Iran launched its first joint naval exercises with Russia and China in the Gulf of Oman, in an unprecedented challenge to the U.S. in the region.
Interestingly the corporate media seem currently far from united, or even coherent, in their response to this latest crisis. Threaded through the usual knee jerk demonising of the monster du jour, are unusual elements of skepticism toward the pro-war narrative.
This, for example, on CNN yesterday, in a piece titled Skepticism mounts over evidence of ‘imminent’ threat that Trump says justified Soleimani killing (our emphasis)
Washington (CNN) – Top US national security officials continue to defend the Trump administration’s claim that it killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani in response to an impending threat to American lives, but the lack of evidence provided to lawmakers and the public has fueled lingering skepticism about whether the strike was justified.
And this from the Guardian titled Donald Trump defends threat to hit cultural sites in Iran (our emphasis)
Donald Trump has defended his threat to target Iranian cultural sites – widely seen as a war crime – if Tehran retaliates for the killing of General Qassem Suleimani.
On bellicose form, the US president also lashed out at Iraq following its parliament’s demand for American troops to be expelled from that country, and vowed to respond with crippling sanctions.
This uncertainty probably reflects the awareness, also evident in some of the State Department’s statements, that this is not a fight anyone should have started.
An awareness also reflected in the lame bleatings for restraint emanating from the FCO and Downing Street, including a grovelly plea today from BoJo personally to pretty please let UK troops stay in Iraq?
Of course, these tacit admissions that this is a policy disaster are tempered with the usual mainstream media war rhetoric from those too stupid to get it or valiantly pursuing the dream of imperial conquest to the last.
And in the Guardian a robotic idiot writes column inches of nonsense wrapped around the central premise than anyone who thinks the murder of Soleimani will ignite WW3 is just silly – because Iran is just a little country and we’ve seen it all before.
It will not be a new world war – that kind of talk only shows how effective the American propaganda machine has been in manufacturing the impression that there is an annihilating threat from Tehran…What will happen instead of world war three is an escalation in which Iran, without the ability to retaliate on US soil, will seek to reassert its dominance in the region.
Yes. Great analysis there. Strong comprehension of geopolitics, strategic interests and how conflicts operate. Just what we’ve come to expect from an outlet that describes Carole Cadwalladr, transcriber-in-chief of GCHQ garbage, as an ‘investigative journalist.’
Sadly, we don’t share the very very stupid and bizarrely cosy optimism that this is going to be more of the same old middle east stuff for us all to deplore at a safe distance and for morally vacuous reasons.
While a confrontation between nuclear superpowers as a result of this latest US idiocy is currently highly unlikely, there is still a lot of room for a regional conflict to erupt of a breadth and savagery not seen since WW2, and to quickly escalate.
Once that happens Russia may at some future time be dragged into such a direct confrontation against its will and despite all efforts to avoid it.
And at that point our little Guardian robot might find her comfy little Guardian expense-account, free air miles world of smuggery isn’t quite as apocalypse-proof as she’s been told.