RAMZY BAROUD AND ROMANA RUBEO • JANUARY 6, 2020 • 1,500 WORDS
The Unz Review
It is no secret that Israel is itching for a war against Iran. Yet all of Tel Aviv’s efforts have failed to bring about US-led war similar to the Iraq invasion in 2003. The most that Netanyahu could achieve in terms of US support in that regard was a decision by the Trump administration to renege on the US commitment to the international community by withdrawing from the Iran Nuclear Treaty in May 2018.
That coveted Israeli war seemed assured when Iran, after various provocations and the slapping by Washington of yet more sanctions, shot down a US unmanned aerial vehicle that, as Iran maintained, violated the country’s airspace, on June 20, 2019.
Even then, the US response fell short of achieving the all-out war that Netanyahu has been so frantically seeking.
But much has happened since then, including a repeat of Netanyahu’s failure to win a decisive election, thus securing another term in office, compounding the Israeli Prime Minister’s fully justified fear that he could eventually find himself behind bars for operating a massive racket of bribes and misuse of power.
Trump, too, has his own political woes, thus his own reasons to act erratically and irresponsibly. His official impeachment by the US House of Representatives on December 18 was the last of such bad news. He too needed to up the political ante.
If there is one thing that many Democratic and Republican lawmakers have in common is their desire for more Middle East military interventions and to maintain a stronger military presence in the oil and gas-rich region. This was reflected in the near-celebratory tone that US officials, generals, and media commentators have used following the assassination of the Iranian commander in Baghdad.
Israeli officials too were visibly excited. Immediately following the killing of General Soleimani, Israeli leaders and officials issued statements and tweets in support of the US action.
For his part, Netanyahu declared that “Israel has the right to defend itself. The US has the same right exactly.” “Soleimani,” he added, “is responsible for the deaths of innocent US citizens and many others. He was planning further attacks.”
The last statement in particular, “he was planning further attacks,” points to the obvious joint intelligence and information sharing between Washington and Tel Aviv.
Benny Gantz, mistakenly celebrated for being a “centrist”, was no less militant in his views. When it comes to matters of national security, “there is no coalition and opposition,” he stated.
“The killing of Soleimani is a message to all the head of global terror: on your own heads be it,” the Israeli general, responsible for the death of thousands of innocent Palestinians in Gaza and elsewhere, also added.
Iran will certainly respond, not only against American targets but Israeli targets as well, for Teheran is convinced that Israel has played a major role in the operation. The pressing questions are more about the nature and the timing of the Iranian response: How far will Iran go to send even a stronger message back to Washington and Tel Aviv? and could Teheran communicate a decisive message without granting Netanyahu his wish of an all-out war between Iran and the United States?
Recent events in Iraq – the mass protests and attempt by unarmed protesters to storm the US embassy in Baghdad on December 31 – were, to some extent, a game changer. Initially, they were understood as an angry response to US airstrikes on an Iranian-backed militia group on Sunday, but the protests had unintended consequences as well, particularly dangerous from a US military and strategic perspective. For the first time since the phony US ‘withdrawal’ from Iraq under the previous administration of Barack Obama in 2012, a new collective understanding began maturing among ordinary Iraqis and their representatives that the US must leave the country for good.
Acting quickly, the US, with palpable Israeli giddiness, assassinated Soleimani to send a clear message to Iraq and Iran that demanding or expecting an American withdrawal is a red line that cannot be crossed – and to the whole Middle East that the evident US retreat from the region will not be duplicated in Iraq.
The great game is afoot
Soleimani’s assassination was followed by yet more US airstrikes on Iran’s allies in Iraq, as to also emphasize the level of US seriousness and willingness to seek violent confrontation as a matter of course.
While Iran is now weighing in its responses, it must also be aware of the geostrategic consequences of its decisions. An Iranian move against US-Israeli interests would have to be convincing from the point of view of Iran and its allies, yet, again, without engaging in an all-out war.
Either way, Iran’s next move will define the Iranian-US-Israeli relations in the region for years to come and will further intensify the ongoing regional and international “Great Game” on full display throughout the Middle East.
Soleimani’s assassination could also be understood as a clear message to both Russia and China as well, that the US is prepared to set the whole region on fire, if necessary, in order to maintain its strategic presence and to serve its economic interests – which mostly lie in Iraqi and Arab oil and gas.
This comes at the heel of a joint Russian, Chinese and Iranian naval drill in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman, starting on December 27. The news of the military exercises must have been particularly alarming to the Pentagon, as Iran, which was meant to be isolated and browbeaten, is increasingly becoming a regional access point to the emergent and resurfacing Chinese and Russian military powers respectively.
Soleimani was an Iranian commander, but his massive network and military alliances in the region and beyond made his assassination a powerful message sent by Washington and Tel Aviv that they are ready and unafraid to up their game.
The ball is now in the court of Iran and its allies.
Judging by past experiences, it is likely that Washington will regret assassinating the Iranian general for many years to come.
LD (comment) : As we all know by now, WWIII has fizzled out with a pathetic whimper after Iran got its “severe revenge” on the Great Satan by a missile attack on two US bases in Iraq. This caused some light damage to property, with no American lives being lost. Indeed, warning of the attack was helpfully provided by the Iranians in advance, enabling American servicemen to get out of the way and watch the symbolic rap-on-the-knuckles from a safe distance.
De-escalation on a dramatic scale has obviously occurred in the interests of both parties. How disappointing for the doomsayers! Fear porn will have to take a back seat until next week.
Here are a few pertinent comments by the Saker on Donald Trump’s role in this affair. They are worth considering. The Saker’s point is a simple one and it will not please the Trump supporters. It is this. The Jews are calling the shots. They always have been and Trump is their willing puppet, only too happy to do their bidding if it helps him survive. The Jews will use him and discard him at the first opportunity. No matter what Trump does—the right thing or the wrong thing—it’s a win-win situation for the Jews. Thus spake the Saker.
Here he is in his own words:
Ever since Trump made it into the White House, we saw him brown-nose the Israel Lobby with a delectation which is extreme even by US standards. I suppose that this calculation goes something along the lines of “with the Israel Lobby behind me, I am safe in the White House”. He is obviously too stupidly narcissistic to realize that he has been used all along. To his (or one of his key advisor’s) credit, he did NOT allow the Neocons to start a major war against Russia, China, the DPRK, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, etc. However, Iran is a totally different case as it is the “number one” target the Neocons and Israel wanted to strike and destroy. The Neocons even had this motto “boys go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran”.
Now that Uncle Shmuel has lost all his wars of choice, now that the US armed forces have no credibility left, now is the time to restore the “macho” self-image of Uncle Shmuel and, indeed, “go to Tehran” so to speak.
I have always claimed that Donald Trump is a “disposable President” for the Neocons. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Neocons have used Trump to do all sorts of truly fantastically dumb things (pretty much ALL his policy decisions towards Israel and/or Syria) for a very simple reason. If Trump does something extremely dumb and dangerous, he will either get away with it, in which case the Neocons will be happy, or he will fail and the consequences of his decisions will be catastrophic, at which point the Neocons will jettison him and replace him by an even more subservient individual (say Pence or Pelosi).
In other words, for the Neocons to have Trump do something both fantastically dangerous and fantastically stupid is a win-win situation!