Iran, Iraq and The U.S: Is a Storm Brewing?
On the first of April, President Trump took to Twitter to threaten Iran against further attacks on American forces in Iraq. He claimed that ‘information’ had led him to believe that Iran was planning a sneak attack, and that, if this were the case, they would be paying a ‘very heavy price indeed.’
As hundreds of thousands of Americans struggle in the wake of a devastating pandemic, these threats come at an undeniably inapt time. Many were quick to speculate whether this was simply another one of Trump’s schemes to deter public attention from his failure to control the coronavirus, which has shaken the nation and put Trump’s leadership skills to the ultimate test.
Nonetheless, following the controversial assassination that almost led to war between the two nations, one should never underestimate how far Trump is willing to go when it comes to Iran.
So, in this article, I’ll discuss everything we do, and don’t, know concerning this topic, how it relates to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani, and what might have encouraged these threats in the first place.
Since General Soleimani’s death in early January, a United States military official announced that American and coalition forces at Iraqi bases had come under a small but growing number of rocket attacks.
Most of the rocket strikes had been ineffective. However, on March 11th, a volley of rockets struck a sprawling military base north of Baghdad, killing three service members, two of them Americans and one British.
In response, President Trump bombed 5 weapons facilities owned by the Iran-backed Iraqi militia ‘Kataib Hezbollah,’ angering many and escalating tensions between the two already-overwhelmed governments.
The chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces was quick to go on the defensive, claiming that these bombings were simply “a natural reaction of the people of Iraq and resistance groups in response to the assassination of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.” He confirmed that the bombings had no Iranian interference or ‘connection.’
When asked whether the Trump administration held Iran responsible for the bombings, Trump was quick to interrupt, saying: “Maybe we shouldn’t answer that.”
This, coupled with the fact that very little information has been disclosed to the public, is raising concerns on how severe the situation is or may become. The lack of transparency has been a trigger for many theories and has aggravated thousands who believe the government’s full attention should be turned to battling the coronavirus, not to sparking unnecessary conflicts.
It was also noticed that Trump’s tweet came shortly after Qasem Soleimani’s successor, Gen. Esmail Ghaani, visited Iraq’s government, in a bid to forge political unity.
Following the resignation of Iraq’s previous PM, the country has struggled to form a new government, due to incessant pressure from political parties to include their candidates in the new cabinet, and political infighting between Shiite and Kurdish parties.
Apparently, Qasem Soleimani was notorious for encouraging Iraqi factions to see eye-to-eye; a skill that would have proven vital in a situation like this. Instead, his successor, Esmail Ghaani, was sent by Iran, in hopes of resolving Iraq’s political disputes.
However, some Iraqi officials told the Associated Press that Esmail Ghaani expressed clear opposition for one of the Prime Minister designates, Adnan al-Zurif, who was previously appointed by the United States as the governor of Najaf. Adnan had also been denounced by the ‘Fatah bloc’ in parliament, on the grounds that his election was made solely by the president and without full political agreement.
Perhaps the Trump administration feared that Esmail Ghaani’s visit to Iraq would prompt other officials into resisting Adnan al-Zurif, jeopardizing America’s political control over the country as they would lose the man they had previously implanted.
However, others theorize that Ghaani’s visit to Iraqi officials was to orchestrate an attack on American bases in the country. The chief of staff of Iran’s armed forces had previously commented that “the people of Iraq and the people of the region” were against U.S. military presence in these countries.
It would be within both Iran and Iraq’s, best interest to decrease America’s military dominance in the region, making an attack on U.S. bases a likely catastrophe.
This theory was further strengthened when, following Ghaani’s visit, US intelligence officials warned of “something brewing and developing pretty seriously.” The United States then relocated its troops to larger bases throughout Iraq and transferred Patriot missiles in case of an attack.
Nevertheless, information surrounding this issue is still very cryptic and what might be happening, if anything is happening at all, is still a matter of large debate. Even so, these apparent tensions should not be the main concern of both governments.
Today, the United States holds the largest number of coronavirus infections, leaving it in a state of great vulnerability. However, it is unlikely that Iran would exploit this vulnerability as they too are preoccupied with their exponential number of infections, whilst juggling the pressure of U.S. sanctions.
Put simply, sparking mayhem should be the last of both countries’ priorities.