What comes next in the Middle East
Summary: Our brutal neo-colonial policy in the Middle East – without goals, reason, or even respect for our “allies” in the region – may be entering a new phase. Trump’s stupidity might start a disastrous war, but it was doomed to fail catastrophically. Eventually.
Before predictions, clearly see the present
When reading the news, remember that US government officials usually lie. As Daniel Larson explains in “Lying Us Into War With Iran.” Much of the coverage of these events by the mainstream media has reprinted US government propaganda. The NYT perfectly captures this folly by asking “can the United States maintain a cooperative security relationship with Iraq given the upheaval the assassination has provoked?” A more rational question is can the US treat its allies with respect, not as colonies and puppet regimes? They quote Richard N. Haass, president of the Council on Foreign Relations and a former American diplomat.
“One sure result of the U.S. strike is that the era of U.S.-Iraq cooperation is over. …The U.S. diplomatic & mil presence will end b/c Iraq asks us to depart or our presence is just a target or both. The result will be greater Iranian influence, terrorism and Iraqi infighting.”
This assumes that US influence leads to regional stability. History shows that to be delusionally false. The US requires its puppet regimes to act contrary to their people’s interests, which evaporates their legitimacy and leads to domestic instability. Even more delusional is this, by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo.
“We have every expectation that people, not only in Iraq but in Iran, will view the American action last night as giving them freedom.”
For an excellent analysis of the situation in Iraq by Medea Benjamin and Nicolas J. S. Davies. Benjamin is the author of Blood on Our Hands: The American Invasion and Destruction of Iraq. Follow her on Twitter. Davies is the author of Inside Iran: The Real History and Politics of the Islamic Republic of Iran. Follow him on Twitter.
Also see Mohammad Ali Shabani‘s “Donald Trump’s assassination of Qassem Suleimani will come back to haunt him.” He is a PhD student at Soas University of London, where he focuses on implications of the Shi’a ascent to power in Iraq.
“By 2014, when he successfully halted Islamic State’s attempt to overrun Iraq, Suleimani was being feted as a hero among Iraqis alongside the local commanders, including al-Muhandis. The same response was evident in Iran, where he quickly became a household name and was rumoured to be a potential future president – a trend strengthened by the Trump administration’s unilateral withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal in 2018.
“So the US has not merely killed an Iranian military commander but also a highly popular figure, viewed as a guardian of Iran even among secular-minded Iranians. And with the assassination of al-Muhandis, the Trump administration has put itself in the position of having killed the operational commander of a large branch of the Iraqi armed forces. …For all his crowing about the decisive blow dealt to an insolent enemy, Trump may be about to discover that the problem with martyrs is that they live forever.”
What will Iran do in response?
The news overflows with guessing by people without a clue. For a rare sensible analysis, see this by Scott Ritter: “Iranian Revenge Will Be A Dish Best Served Cold.” He is the author of 7 books; his most recent is Deal of the Century: How the Iranian Nuclear Agreement Was Won, Then Lost, and the Possible Consequences (2018).
The more likely consequences are that we are ejected from Iraq again, the Iraq – Iran alliance grows tighter, and that Iran’s regime grows stronger. I doubt anyone can predict the larger and longer-term responses. Those guessing about Iran’s response usually assume that its government will respond to popular pressure with a small but dramatic gesture. Or that they might act with cool rationality – playing the long game, using America’s aggressions to unify the region against its foreign infidel invaders.
Or this might be like July 1914, when decades of tensions unexpectedly ignite geopolitical fires that none can extinguish except with the blood of millions.
What would we do?
What would Americans do if treated by a superpower as we have treated Iran? Daniel Larison is one of the few to ask that question.
“Imagine how angrily we would respond if a foreign government assassinated a high-profile, well-liked military officer while he was traveling inside an allied country, and that might give us some idea of how Iranians perceive this attack. That matters because it means that there will be tremendous pressure on the Iranian government to respond to the attack, and it also means that there will be political support for retaliation. If the administration wanted to find a way to trigger a war with Iran that bolsters the Iranian government’s standing at home, this is how to do it.”
But that’s a tame perspective. Go back to the beginning. In 1953 the CIA’s Operation Ajax helped overthrow Iran’s elected government (Wikipedia) and installed a tyrant. The US government long denied it, admitting it in 2017. Of course, the people of Iran already knew; only Americans were still ignorant.
That tyrant remained in power with our support and his brutal secret police (SAVAK). He was ejected in a 1979 Revolution. We waged continuous war against Iran after their revolution. Justified by lies – such as claims that they were building nukes (Fear Iran’s nukes, coming very soon since 1984). We used these claims to justify economic warfare against them, assassinating their scientists, supporting insurgent terrorists (MEK), and probably more things not yet public.
Iran’s response to these attacks has been mild. They did push back to America’s occupation of Iraq, mildly compared to America’s military enforcement of its Monroe Doctrine. This points to the core aspect of this geopolitical struggle for control of the Middle East: our hypocrisy. No matter how often or brutally we attack Iran – who threatens only our imperial dreams – we see ourselves as the noble victims.
Imagine if the roles were reversed. How would America respond to a nation attacking them as we attacked Iran? Rivers of blood would flow.
A response to America’s imperial wars
We are bombing and killing people around the world 24-7, year after year. I worry that eventually we will kill one or more people whose relatives organize intelligently conducted terrorism against America. Not with political or monetary goals, just killing for revenge. Mindless killing, just as historians will see our operations around the world today. Imagine a 9/11 every month or so. Imagine copycats, dumb but numerous, doing similar operations – drawing on the millions of people we have angered.
Or something else will happen that is equally unexpected and catastrophic. I doubt we can contine our operations without some kind of bad ending for America.
“Sooner or later everyone sits down to a banquet of consequences.”
— Attributed to Robert Lewis Stevenson.
This is a follow-up to yesterday’s important post: Let’s cheer another successful assassination!
How dare Iran do what America routinely does for the same reasons! See “Suleimani’s assassination and the muddled moralism behind it” by Robert Wright at NonZero (which has much interesting and provocative material).
About the legal doctrine used by America and Israel for its attacks: “Lies, the Bethlehem Doctrine, and the Illegal Murder of Soleimani” by former British diplomat Craig Murray.
Jeremy Scahill at The Intercept. He is an investigative reporter and author of two books, including Dirty Wars: The World Is a Battlefield
“Trump campaigned on belligerence toward Iran and trashing the Obama-led Iran nuclear deal, and he has followed through on those threats, filling his administration with the most vile, hawkish figures in the U.S. national security establishment. …
“Much as the neoconservatives came to power in 2001 after the election of George W. Bush with the goal of regime change in Iraq, Trump in his bumbling way assembled a team of extremists who viewed him as their best chance of wiping the Islamic Republic of Iran off the map.
“While Barack Obama provided crucial military and intelligence support for Saudi Arabia’s scorched earth campaign in Yemen, which killed untold numbers of civilians, Trump escalated that mass murder in a blatant effort to draw Iran militarily into a conflict. That was the agenda of the gulf monarchies and Israel, and it coincided neatly with the neoconservative dreams of overthrowing the Iranian government.”