by Vince Dhimos
The latest news report on the Israeli strikes on Iraq is that Baghdad believes the drone strikes on its territory were launched by Israel from territory controlled by US-backed SDF (Syrian Democratic Forces), which received funding for the strikes from Saudi Arabia. As of this writing, I was unable to find any mention of this in the Western press, which is not surprising because, if true, it is a huge embarrassment to the US and could lead to the Iraqi parliament demanding full withdrawal of US troops from Iraq. And since the stated purpose of the US presence is to defend Iraqi “security,” by allowing fighters on territory supposedly controlled by the US to launch an assault on state-authorized Iraqi fighters from there, it loses its pretext for being in the country. The usual Israeli excuse is repeated again, namely, that the strikes targeted Iranian forces. According to Middle East Eye:
“Since July, a series of explosions have hit bases, weapons depots and a convoy belonging to the Hashd al-Shaabi (PMF), a grouping of mostly Shia militias with close ties to Iran.”
“A powerful bloc in Iraq's parliament called earlier Monday for the withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
The Fatah Coalition said it holds the United States fully responsible for the alleged Israeli aggression, "which we consider to be a declaration of war on Iraq and its people." The coalition is a parliament bloc representing Iran-backed paramilitary militias known as the Popular Mobilization Forces.”
Here is why this report, if true, or if never credibly denied, is damaging to the US: The PMF is by no means an exclusively Iranian group, as Israel and the US would have us believe. Its members include Iraqi Shiites and even some Iraqi Sunnis, as well as Christians and Yazidis. Thus, and for the reasons given below, the US-Israel alliance can no longer claim the strike targeted Iranians. Besides, as a Shiite-majority nation, the Iraq people themselves have an intimate religious and cultural bond with Iran and the attempts by Israel and the US to socially engineer Iraq to separate it from Iran are hopelessly naive and will fail, as will the attempts to separate Iran/Hezbollah from Syria and Lebanon.
The whole narrative that Israel (with US blessing) has been attacking only or mostly Iranians/Hezbollah in its numerous routine attacks in Syria and now Iraq – which attacks have now been expanded to Lebanon and Iraq – is, under the present circumstances, problematic at best because
1) The Iranians and Hezbollah are fighting terrorists alongside Syrians and Iraqis and the members of the PMU are inseparable from the entire Shiite Crescent (Iran, Iraq, Alawite-dominated Syria and Lebanon, thanks to Shiite Hezbollah’s strong presence), which is a faith-based brotherhood (it is completely irrelevant that the Iranians are not Arabs).
2) The US/Israel-promoted narrative that the Iranian (para)military and Hezbollah are terrorists is untenable since both are fighting ISIS and al-Qaeda in Syria and Iraq and, needless to say, none of them have joined these terrorist groups – which are, in fact, sponsored and financed by US-ally Saudi and, clandestinely, by the US (this report details why this is so).
3) The US/Israel-promoted narrative that the whole of the Iranian defence forces are a terrorist organization is a futile attempt to convince the world that Iran is an outlaw nation. Europe wants very much to trade with Iran and generally does not believe this narrative. In fact, it wants the JCPOA – unilaterally trashed by Trump — restored. Yet Brexit UK, eager to please Donald Trump, went ahead and illegally seized the Iranian tanker Grace I based on this completely false US-generated narrative that Iran is a terrorist state and, in addition, on the equally false proposition that sending oil to Syria is a violation of an international law – a “law” not approved by the UN but unilaterally cut from whole cloth by the US (and rubber-stamped by the EU), which is, in fact itself a rogue regime that routinely flouts international law. So no, let’s admit that Iran did not violate any legitimate international law even if it had intended to sell oil to Syria. After all, the UN never declared that Syria is to be sanctioned in any way. (Let’s also admit, BTW, that the Brexit movement was not motivated by a quest for “freedom” for the UK. It made the UK an even more obsequious vassal of the US and NATO).
4) The group that was attacked by Israel, ie, Hashd al-Shaabi (People's Mobilization Forces, PMF) was formed by the Iraqi government on 15 June 2014 and, in 2016, a law passed in the Iraqi parliament incorporated the PMU into the country's armed forces. Thus, officially, the PMU cannot be considered an Iranian or Hezbollah organization (despite the presence of any Iranians in its composition) and the strike against it puts the US in a position such that it must either censure Israel – pretending it did not authorize the strike – or stick to the absurd line that the PMU is in fact an Iranian force. This contention will of course be rejected by the Iraqi parliament. Thus, because of this reckless move on Israel’s part, the US armed forces are a step closer to being ousted from Iraq.
Let us recall that, in a recent phone call, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri asked Sergey Lavrov for help with mediation with Israel. But not all the details of that phone call were made public. A recent event suggests that there may have been mention of military help. That event was the expulsion, by Russian Su-35s, of Israeli jets entering Syrian air space for a second attack in Syria last Saturday night. This bold intervention by the Russians thwarted the second attack on Syria and is a strong signal to Israel that further incursions into neighbours’ airspace may no longer be tolerated.
Since Israeli incursions into Syria are typically made by the supposedly “invisible” F-35s, this aircraft may therefore not really be invisible to Russian radar. The Russians have already said their radar can “see” the F-35. This ability of the Russian forces to track the Israeli Fu-35 would be an embarrassment to both Israel and the US and an effective advert for the Russian Su-35 and Russian radar systems. Demand for the overpriced F-35 is waning, with Turkey expressing interest in the Russian counterpart.
On June 25, Russian Security Council Secretary Nikolai Patrushev laid a bombshell on John Bolton and Benjamin Netanyahu in their 3-way joint session, saying: “Iran has always been and remains our ally and partner...”
This effectively squelched the idea of an Israeli and/or US strike on Iran and at that point, I think Israel felt it had to make a strong statement, aimed mostly at voters. The strike on Iran/Hezbollah in three different countries (4 if you include Gaza) was such a statement.
But like all Israeli military “statements” of this kind, it is fraught with risk and will have consequences. One of Israel’s problems is that it has relied heavily on the US all its national life and the US had always saved it from the consequences of its own reckless actions. I had discussed with you the statement of a ranking Israeli officer who, in an op-ed, admitted that Israel wanted to drag the US into a hot war with Iran.
The Israeli article of faith that the US would always save Israel from itself was a fatal miscalculation, not because the US has relinquished its desire to aid Israel but because it has lost the war of diplomacy to Russia. Israel has relied heavily on the US to bail it out of scrapes and many Israeli officials still cling to the old notion that it can rely on the US to fight its fights for it. They ignore to their peril the leading role of Russia in the Middle East and America’s loss of trust in the Middle East (as evidenced by the latest Arab Youth Poll).
We need to now shift our focus to Lebanon, where the government has already tried to establish military ties with Russia but has been thwarted by the US, as reported by the Arabic-language site Arabic Post (our translation to be posted soon). Russia may soon attain that coveted game-changing goal.