Trump’s act of desperation in Iraq to avoid conviction and get re-elected may have thrilled many low-info American voters but it had unintended but perfectly predictable consequences – at least for keen Middle East watchers. And the re-election bid may not have been the main motive for killing Soleimani, who was about to deliver a message that could have ended the old feud with Saudi Arabia – an outrageous and unthinkable proposition for Israel and the US Establishment, whose whole world revolves around war and chaos in the Middle East.
Iraqi lawmakers were already seriously considering uninviting the US military, which was there at their pleasure. The vote to oust them was on the table. But once the US outrageously swooped in and brutally murdered the most capable Iranian general in Iraq, who had fought ISIS with wisdom and valour, and the deputy of Iraqi militias Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis along with several others, Iraqis, many Iraqi fence sitters who were willing at least to tolerate the US presence, had had enough.
American military officials and elected officials in the Senate and Congress and in the White House, as well as media reps, simplistically think of foreign officials and fighters as pieces on a chessboard. But removing chess pieces in a game does not leave widows and orphans behind and does not leave entire nations to mourn the loss of beloved leaders, and hence, does not lead to smouldering resentment, political responses and retaliation.
After the Iraqi parliament vote The Trump administration put on the usual bold face and grimly insisted it would not withdraw the troops, even threatened sanctions if the Iraqis tried to follow through and oust them. Then some US officials said it would not “stay indefinitely.” But now we have reports like the one from Al-Masdar below. It was no surprise.
Foreword and notes [in brackets] are by Vince Dhimos.
US troops already begun withdrawing from Iraq: lawmaker
February 10, 2020
US soldiers have already started withdrawing from 15 Iraqi military bases and leaving the country, member of the parliamentary Security and Defence Commission, Ali al-Qameni, was quoted as saying by the daily Baghdad Today.
The lawmaker reportedly added that Washington is still insisting on building up forces in the Ayn al-Asad and Erbil military bases, but noted that the Iraqi Parliament opposes this notion.
Iraqi lawmakers voted for a non-binding motion to end all foreign military deployments in the country, including the American contingent, on 5 January following a US airstrike that killed major Iranian General, Qassem Soleimani, without discussing or clearing the operation with the country’s authorities. The general was visiting the country to pass on the suggestion for normalising relations to Saudi Arabia, with which Tehran currently has no diplomatic ties (emphasis added). [There is the old wives tale that Iran and Saudi are both too stubborn and hot-headed to come to the bargaining table. Israeli and US propagandists teach this. But in fact, Soleimani was sent by Iran to open up a conversation with Saudi. And after the devastating missile attack on Saudi Aramco, Saudi – which got an object lesson in the utter failure of the US air defence system it had installed at the facility – did in fact show humility toward Iran after its saw that the US and Israel were not about to attack Iran in response. Now the fact that Soleimani was on his way to deliver the olive branch would have disturbed the narrative of Iranian recalcitrance and would have enraged Israel, which has always been stirring hate and contention in the background, seconded by its loyal comrade in Washington, supported in turn by grassroots “Christian” Zionists. Thus the US felt that Soleimani had to be stopped before, gasp!, peace broke out in the Middle East. It seems likely that Saudi Arabia is ready to negotiate with Iran at this point, given the failure of the US to provided effective air defences for the Kingdom and the US’s hesitance to start a full-fledged war with Iran. I suspect Soleinani’s olive branch would have borne fruit]
Washington’s reaction to the news was mixed: while the US State Department said it was not intending to negotiate the withdrawal of forces, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated three days later that the two countries would discuss the reduction of American troops in Iraq. Additionally, US Defense Secretary Mark Esper revealed that American troops will not be stationed in in Iraq “interminably”, but failed to clarify when they will leave.
The US also defended the actions that led to Soleimani’s killing on 3 January and resulted in an escalation of tensions with Iran and the latter’s retaliatory missile strikes on bases hosting American forces in Iraq. Washington believes that the airstrike was legitimate, while Iraqi lawmakers disagreed.
Nonetheless, if any reader still thinks the US wants peace in the Middle East, or at least is still confused by the contradictory narratives between the high-paid propagandists on the US side and reports from the Middle East and elsewhere, the report appearing below, also from Al-Masdar will hopefully disabuse you of fantasies.
Russia accuses US of hindering peace talks with Syrian gov’t and Kurds
February 2, 2020
BEIRUT, LEBANON (4:00 P.M.) – The Russian ambassador to Syria, Alexander Yevimov, said on Monday that the armed American presence on the eastern bank of the Euphrates and the Al-Tanf region is hindering dialogue between Damascus and Syrian Democratic Council (SDC), and that dialogue cannot lead to positive results under the current circumstances.
Yevimov said in an interview with Sputnik Arabic: “Concerning the Kurds specifically, there are subtle differences, that the idea of dialogue with them, as far as we can understand it, is not rejected by the leadership of the country, in the end they are Syrians. However, there is an influence of the external factor. First and foremost, it is the Americans, who, despite all previous statements from Washington, and the rules and principles of international law, still maintain their armed and illegal presence on the eastern bank of the Euphrates, as well as the area of Al-Tanf.”
The Russian ambassador emphasized that “the dialogue between Damascus and the Kurds continues in one way or another, but does not lead to positive results under the current circumstances. We proceed from the belief that things will improve if Syrian sovereignty over northeast Syria and the Euphrates is restored, and the complete withdrawal of foreign forces from there.”
In a related context, an informed Syrian source denied the possibility of joint action against the “Kurdish People’s Protection Units”, stressing that the recent (Russian-Syrian-Turkish) tripartite talks were confined to the Turkish withdrawal from all Syrian lands.