By Robert A. Vella
Last night, Iran launched intermediate-range ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases shared by U.S. forces primarily engaged in operations against the Islamic State (a.k.a. ISIS). Concurrently, Iranian officials issued public statements broadcast on the country’s news networks declaring that dozens of U.S. soldiers were killed in the attack. American media rushed to report it with the proviso that the information was unconfirmed, but the headlines alone were enough to trigger a firestorm of overreaction from politicians, pundits, and bloggers including some on this social media platform. However, there were apparently no casualties from the attack. Let this be a lesson I’ve been trying to educate people about for many years. Do not take political rhetoric literally. You will be misled, and you will be fooled.
Before explaining that further, let’s examine what actually happened last night.
As I postulated on Saturday, Iranian retaliation for the assassination of one of its top military officials (ordered by President Trump) wouldn’t likely take the form of a direct confrontation with superior American forces and instead would likely involve selective attacks against more vulnerable targets (e.g. high-profile figures, business interests, etc.). Such strategic deliberativeness requires time to identify prospective targets and to plan the operations. But, that kind of retaliation produces no immediate results. Since the Iranian people have been quite restless in recent months and were understandably outraged by the assassination, Iran’s leaders were compelled to take quick action to quell that public angst. Yesterday’s attack seems to satisfy that need while also avoiding a rapid escalation of this still dangerous international conflict.
Additionally, it puts more pressure on the U.S. to withdraw its forces from Iraq while exerting more influence over that troubled country and region. Although I don’t have any tangible evidence to cite, I do suspect that world leaders were notified of the Iranian attack beforehand; and, that may be why several western nations had already begun withdrawing their troops from Iraq as well as why Trump’s reaction so far has been uncharacteristically muted. I also suspect that Russian president Vladimir Putin was actively involved.
Getting back to the lesson on rhetoric, I urge readers to understand that politicians make public statements for effect and not necessarily to be candid or honest. When Iran’s leaders proclaimed that their attack killed 80 American soldiers, it was intended to boost morale among its citizens and not a statement of fact (which they couldn’t have known precisely anyhow). Had it been true, the U.S. would’ve responded swiftly and powerfully. Experienced politicians and political analysts understand the use of rhetoric, and that’s why there was no such response. However, I do not attribute such awareness to Donald Trump. This de-escalation, if that’s indeed what transpired, should be rightly credited to others and not to him.
Final note: In case you’ve been wondering, this is why I refrain from quoting political rhetoric on this blog.
Here’s today’s news:
BAGHDAD — Iran attacked two bases in Iraq that house American troops with a barrage of missiles early Wednesday, Iranian official news media and United States officials said, fulfilling Tehran’s promise to retaliate for the killing of a top Iranian commander.
Iraqi military officials said that Iran had fired 22 missiles at two military bases in Iraq where American troops are stationed. United States officials initially said there were no immediate indications of American casualties, and senior Iraqi officials later said that there were no American or Iraqi casualties in the strikes.
Two people close to the Revolutionary Guards said that if the United States did not strike, Iran would also de-escalate. But if the United States did attack, then Iran was preparing for at least a limited conflict.
The missile attacks don’t make sense if Tehran’s goal was to really hurt US troops in large numbers — as some had been pledging to do.
They do make sense, however, as the execution of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s order to strike back openly, military-to-military, in response to the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
WASHINGTON — After storming to the edge of a cliff this week, early indications suggest that the United States and Iran apparently have decided they do not want to jump, at least not yet.
Iran’s foreign minister announced early Wednesday that the nation had “concluded proportionate measures” in its retaliation for the killing of the country’s most revered military general in an American drone strike last week.
But with Iran’s leadership demanding anew that the United States must leave the region, it is expected that attacks by Tehran’s proxy forces will continue, and Iran’s leadership can, at a time of its choosing, decide whether to launch additional, asymmetrical strikes, especially cyberattacks, against Western interests. And that could bring both countries back to the edge of the cliff again.
There was visible relief among some officials at the Pentagon that the highway to a larger war on which the administration appeared to be speeding may have provided an off-ramp.
For all of the public chest-thumping in the last week, both sides took measures to de-escalate.
Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., said on Tuesday that he has enough Republican votes to start the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump without the support of Democrats, who have been demanding witness testimony.
The announcement by McConnell means that once House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calf., transmits the two articles of impeachment against Trump — abuse of power and obstruction of Congress — the trial would begin in the Senate with rules in place under which the question of whether witnesses are allowed to testify would not be dealt with until later in the trial.
NEW YORK (AP) — Federal prosecutors on Tuesday charged a major donor to President Donald Trump’s inaugural committee with obstructing a federal investigation into whether foreign nationals unlawfully contributed to the inaugural celebrations.
The donor, Imaad Zuberi, recently pleaded guilty in a separate case in Los Angeles to campaign finance violations, tax evasion and failing to register as a foreign agent.