By Robert A. Vella
On Friday, I asserted that:
Trump is playing a very dangerous game here. He is not only waging a de facto war against Iran, he is also forcing two key Middle East nations to choose sides. [i.e. Iraq and Lebanon]
While Lebanon is still trying to find a way out of this new crisis in the Middle East, Iraq has already made its choice. Its parliament voted yesterday to expel all U.S. troops from the country. The U.S. military presence there has been in place since the 2003 Iraq War which dethroned Saddam Hussein and the Sunni Muslim Ba’ath Party. Since then, Iran has been steadily gaining influence by exploiting Iraq’s large Shiite Muslim majority. While President George W. Bush’s military invasion was ill-conceived and based on a false premise (i.e. the disproven claim that Hussein possessed weapons of mass destruction), President Trump’s provocation of Iran by assassinating one of its top generals has now abruptly pushed Iraq firmly towards the Iranians.
In another serious ramification, Iran has announced that it is withdrawing indefinitely from the nuclear non-proliferation agreement it signed in 2015 with the United Nations Security Council permanent members – the U.S., U.K., Russia, France, and China plus Germany and the European Union. That hard-won deal, one of the widely-acclaimed achievements of the Obama administration, is now effectively dead. Iran will surely restart its nuclear program in order to deter foreign aggression and the U.S., Israel, and Saudi Arabia will be equally determined to prevent it from doing so. I cannot overstate the grave risk here. This is how world wars start.
These are the exact opposite results of what Trump ostensibly wanted and what American foreign policy experts have been trying to accomplish in the region for decades. This is what happens when inexperienced or incompetent political leaders get in way over their heads on the world stage. They typically fail very badly, and the consequences can be very costly to a great many people. Unfortunately, Trump’s egomania will prevent his learning from this terrible mistake and the situation is likely to deteriorate much further.
WASHINGTON — For three years, President Trump’s critics have expressed concern over how he would handle a genuine international crisis, warning that a commander in chief known for impulsive action might overreach with dangerous consequences.
In the angry and frenzied aftermath of the American drone strike that killed Iran’s top general, with vows of revenge hanging in the air, Mr. Trump confronts a decisive moment that will test whether those critics were right or whether they misjudged him.
“The moment we all feared is likely upon us,” Senator Christopher S. Murphy, Democrat of Connecticut and vocal critic of Mr. Trump, wrote on Twitter over the weekend. “An unstable President in way over his head, panicking, with all his experienced advisers having quit, and only the sycophantic amateurs remaining. Assassinating foreign leaders, announcing plans to bomb civilians. A nightmare.”
BAGHDAD (AP) — The U.S. military presence in the Middle East was thrown into jeopardy Sunday, as Iraq’s parliament voted to expel U.S. troops from their country while the leader of Lebanon’s Hezbollah group said the U.S. military across the region “will pay the price” for killing a top Iranian general.
Hassan Nasrallah said that U.S. bases, warships and soldiers in the Middle East were all fair targets after the U.S. drone strike that killed Gen. Qassem Soleimani, the architect of many of Iran’s regional military campaigns in recent years.
The two developments were new signs of the backlash from Friday’s killing of Soleimani and a number of top Iraqi officials at the Baghdad airport, and further heightened tensions in a region already on high alert and bracing for an Iranian retaliation.
Later Sunday, at least three explosions shook the Iraqi capital and sirens sounded across the Tigris River. The blasts appeared to be mortars or rockets that landed inside the heavily fortified Green Zone where the U.S. and other embassies are based, as well as the seat of Iraq’s government. There was no immediate word on casualties. It was the second such attack in two days.
When President Trump withdrew the United States from the Iran nuclear deal in May 2018, he justified his unilateral action by saying the accord was flawed, in part because the major restrictions on Iran ended after 15 years, when Tehran would be free to produce as much nuclear fuel as it wanted.
But now, instead of buckling to American pressure, Iran declared on Sunday that those restrictions are over — a decade ahead of schedule. Mr. Trump’s gambit has effectively backfired.
Iran’s announcement essentially sounded the death knell of the 2015 nuclear agreement. And it largely re-creates conditions that led Israel and the United States to consider destroying Iran’s facilities a decade ago, again bringing them closer to the potential of open conflict with Tehran that was avoided by the accord.
Two senior US officials on Sunday described widespread opposition within the administration to targeting cultural sites in Iran should the United States launch retaliatory strikes against Tehran, despite President Donald Trump saying a day before that such sites are among dozens the US has identified as potential targets.
“Nothing rallies people like the deliberate destruction of beloved cultural sites. Whether ISIS’s destruction of religious monuments or the burning of the Leuven Library in WWI, history shows targeting locations giving civilization meaning is not only immoral but self-defeating,” one of the officials told CNN.
“The Persian people hold a deeply influential and beautiful history of poetry, logic, art and science. Iran’s leaders do not live up to that history. But America would be better served by leaders who embrace Persian culture, not threaten to destroy it,” they added.
US-led forces helping Iraqi troops fight jihadists have scaled back operations, a US defence official told AFP Saturday, a day after an American strike killed top Iranian and Iraqi commanders.
“Our first priority is protecting coalition personnel,” the official said, saying the US-led force had “limited” their training and other anti-jihadist operations.
Reports of Iranians and Iranian-Americans being detained for questioning upon entering the U.S. kicked off a furor on Sunday from Washington state to Washington, D.C., marking a new domestic blowback to the Trump administration’s targeted killing of a key Iranian leader.
In other news:
Three Americans were killed in Sunday’s terror attack in Kenya.
The Americans — a US service member and two civilian contractors working for the Defense Department — were killed in the attack carried out by Al-Shabaab, US Africa Command, which is responsible for military relations with nations on the continent, confirmed to CNN. Two DOD members wounded in the attack are now in stable condition and are being evacuated, Africa Command said.
The attack occurred at a Kenya Defense Force in Manda Bay, Kenya. Sources have previously told CNN that the base was used by US Special Operations forces working with the Kenyans.