By Richard Walker
If we have learned anything from the United States’ Middle East wars it is that we never tread carefully and, as the assassination of the Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani will soon demonstrate, we create martyrs and place a bullseye on every American.
The claims by President Donald Trump and those around him that Soleimani deserved to die is an argument we have heard many times to advance our roles in the deaths of Middle East leaders. It has hardly served America’s best interests in that part of the world or globally.
This assassination is more significant than most because Soleimani was a revered figure whom the Israelis, who rarely shrink from killing their enemies, chose never to assassinate. They knew that the consequences were not worth the price that they would have to pay. It would, they calculated, unleash tit-for-tat killings for years. It would also breach an unwritten rule that you do not target major figures like the Quds force leader because Iran will later target your leaders. But make no mistake about it, the Israelis and the Saudis will be thrilled that Trump did something for them that they were not prepared to do.
The additional claim from some in the Trump administration that Soleimani’s demise will weaken Iran’s potential to strike back is without foundation. It will also not adversely impact Iran’s activities across the region. One of the interesting aspects of the decision to kill the Iranian commander was that two days earlier, Trump talked about peace with Iran, yet within 48 hours Soleimani was dead after a drone strike at Baghdad airport.
America’s allies were not informed in advance, and neither were congressional leaders.
Vice President Mike Pence even linked Soleimani to the 9/11 attacks for which there is absolutely no evidence. In fact, after 9/11, Iran offered to help America defeat al Qaeda and the Taliban, though President George W. Bush and Vice President Dick Cheney turned down the offer.
Also killed in the Baghdad drone strike was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis who was revered by Iraqis for his role in fighting against Saddam Hussein and later for leading Kata’ib Hezbollah, a pro-Iranian militia that is part of the Iraqi army, in the defeat of ISIS.
He fought alongside U.S. troops in many battles with ISIS. Soleimani also worked closely with the U.S. military to destroy ISIS in Iraq and Syria.
The major issue now facing many in the Middle East is the prospect of a new battlefield in which Iran and the U.S. will be engaged in a proxy war on Iraqi soil. If that happens, one of the unfortunate outcomes of the Soleimani assassination is that it may seriously weaken U.S.-Iraqi relations.
As expected, there is now a push within Iraq to demand that the U.S. pull its troops out of Iraq, which is a majority Shia country, just like Iran.
There have long been signs that Trump, at the prodding of neocons in his administration, has been anxious for a pretext to get into a shooting war with Iran, something that would please his close friends, Saudi leader Mohammed bin-Salman and Israel’s Benjamin Netanyahu, who is under criminal indictment and is seeking a third term in office.
The pretext presented itself with the killing of an American mercenary on an Iraqi army base near the Syrian border where U.S. contractors were operating. Trump responded by ordering the bombing of five Iraqi army installations that housed the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, killing 25 of its members and wounding 50.
The bombings resulted in the now well-televised protests at Baghdad’s Green Zone, the site of America’s largest embassy in the world with a staff of thousands, including CIA and military. It is so large that it has often been compared to Vatican City. The very fact that we need such a large installation confirms how important Iraq is to our Middle East policy. So why jeopardize our
presence in Iraq? The answer may be hard to come by because we rarely get the truth about our overseas operations. One thing that is certain is that Iran will strike back, and we will be in a new war of retaliation and terror.
This all happened after 500 young people demonstrating on the streets of Iraq between October and Christmas were killed for chanting “Out with Iran” and “Out with the Iraqi government.” Their chants now will likely be “Out with America.”
Soleimani’s killing will galvanize anti-American elements and silence Iraqi millennials, who wanted change. In Iran, the killing will have the same effect on young people opposed to the regime.
Contrary to his many promises about getting the U.S. out of the Middle East, Trump is dragging the country back in by doing the bidding of the Israelis and Saudis and by sending even more troops to Saudi Arabia, all actions that appear designed to get an Iranian response.
Since last May, an additional 20,000 troops have been sent to the Middle East. Our standing in the region is at an all-time low after we abandoned Kurdish allies to the mercy of Turkish forces, and, yet, here we are again, walking like blind men into another potential war.
Richard Walker is the nom de plume of a former New York mainstream news producer who grew tired of seeing his articles censored by his bosses.