MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS COMMENTARY  –  RESPONDING TO IRANIAN HARASSMENT OF U.S. FACILITIES IN IRAQ

by Michael Knights  – PolicyWatch 3125 – May 21, 2019

Tehran has reportedly told its militia proxies to be ready for escalation, so Washington must prepare to maintain a full presence in Iraq even under potentially increased fire.

On May 19, Iraqi Shia militia members fired a rocket from east Baghdad toward the International Zone, the capital’s diplomatic and governmental center. The munition missed the U.S. embassy and joint U.S.-Iraqi military facilities by a wide berth, but the strike’s timing sent an unmistakable message: that Iranian militia proxies have full operational freedom to send warnings to the United States, regardless of Iraqi government pleas for restraint. The nonlethal incident should not be blown out of proportion, but it does underline the need to stay focused on the militia threat, continue sending strong deterrent messages, and be prepared to operate under these conditions without further evacuations of U.S. personnel.

RECENT IRANIAN PROXY ATTACKS

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL : Former intelligence officer: Here is how the U.S. could confront Iran

Pregent’s map shows a variety of pressure points where Iran, its allies and proxies are present.

By Seth J. Frantzman   May 21, 2019 19:49 – JERUSALEM POST -The US has many options to confront the Iranian regime and its proxies in the Middle East, according to former US Army intelligence officer Michael Pregent.

A senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, Pregent published a map on Monday that shows the way the US can strike at Iran without needing to put any “boots on the ground” in Iran itself.“I made this to counter the narratives of ‘war with Iran’” he says. In recent days, amid the rising tensions between Washington and Tehran, western media have argued that US President Donald Trump and his National Security Advisor John Bolton are rushing into a conflict with Iran. Rumors have swirled of plans to send 120,000 US forces to the Middle East.

The US administration has downplayed these stories and said it is not seeking war.

“I wanted to show where and how Iran could hit the US and allies and what a measured response would be,” Pregent says.

In the last week, four oil tankers were sabotaged in the Gulf of Oman, Iranian-backed Houthis used drones to attack Saudi oil facilities and a rocket was fired near the US Embassy in Baghdad. The US has warned that any attack by Iran or its proxies would result in retaliation.

How might that retaliation look?

Pregent’s map shows a variety of pressure points where Iran, its allies and proxies are present. Iran is spread out over a huge arc that begins in the Bab el-Mandeb straits area all the way to Syria and Lebanon. Starting in Yemen, US allies – particularly the Saudis and Emiratis – could strike at the Houthis. In addition, the US or allies could strike at the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps in the area.

Michael Pregent's map of possible military actions that could be taken by the US to confront Iran, based on different threat scenarios. (photo credit: MICHAEL PREGENT) Michael Pregent’s map of possible military actions that could be taken by the US to confront Iran, based on different threat scenarios. (photo credit: MICHAEL PREGENT)

If Americans are targeted in Iraq, the US could hit back at any of the Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias in Iraq. This includes Asaib Ahl al-Haq which is led by Qais Khazali, a one-time detainee of the Americans. Also Kata’ib Hezbollah, which is led by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who the US views as a terrorist, could be targeted. Harakat Hezbollah al-Nujaba could also be targeted. The Iraqi political leader Muqtada al-Sadr already opposes these groups and many voices in Iraq want the Shi’ite militias to be reduced in their influence. Since the rocket attack near the US Embassy, these groups have sought to distance themselves from anti-American statements because they fear conflict.

Iran`s Director Of Foreign Affairs Says Trump Administration Is `Confused`

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS WEEKLY IRAN / KURDISTAN REPORT   

21 May 2019 – Two Kurdish border porters known as Kolbars lost their lives and another two were injured last week. On Tuesday, a Kolbar died after drowning in a river near Oshnavieh. 17-year-old Azad Shwana was attempting to cross the river with goods en route to the Gadar border crossing with Iraqi Kurdistan. On Sunday, Iranian border guards attacked a group of Kolbars in Baneh, killing one. Iranian border guards also ambushed a group of Kolbars and wounded two near Piranshahr. The injured Kolbars were transferred to Iraqi Kurdistan for treatment. At least 33 Kolbars have been killed in 2019.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : NATIONAL SECURITY & DEFENSE  – The U.S. Is Outplaying Iran in a Regional Chess Match

BY Seth J. Frantzman – THE NATIONAL REVIEW  – 21 May 2019

In the first two weeks of May, U.S.–Iran tensions appeared to be careening toward war. In an escalating series of warnings, the U.S. asserted that an attack by Iran would be met with unrelenting force. Iran eventually responded with its usual bluster about being prepared for a full confrontation with Washington. But on the ground the Middle East looks more like a chessboard, with Iran and its allies and proxies facing off against American allies. This state of affairs was brought into sharp relief when Iranian-backed Houthi rebels launched a drone attack on Saudi Arabia and a rocket fell near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS FOCUS : Iranian commander: We are ready to confront the enemy

He claimed that the country’s northwestern region was prepared for any attacks.  – By Seth J. Frantzman – JERUSALEM POST – May 20, 2019

A day after a rocket was fired at the Green Zone in Baghdad near the US embassy, Iranian commander Ali Hajilou said that the US and “enemies” of Iran were incapable of defeating the country. He asserted that the US currently does not have the military power to strike at Iran, a claim that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) said last week as well. He claimed that the country’s northwestern region was prepared for any attacks.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS Reports: Iran quadruples production of enriched uranium

NASSER KARIMI and JON GAMBRELL – Associated Press May 20, 2019

TEHRAN, Iran (AP) — Iran has quadrupled its production of enriched uranium amid tensions with the U.S. over Tehran’s unraveling nuclear accord, two semi-official news agencies reported Monday, an announcement that came just after President Donald Trump and Iran’s foreign minister traded threats and taunts.

While the reports said the production is of uranium enriched only to the 3.67% limit set by the 2015 nuclear deal that Tehran reached with world powers, it means that Iran soon will go beyond the stockpile limitations established by the accord.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INSIDER: Complementary reports of Baghdad rocket attack near U.S. Embassy –   by irancommentary

 

20 May 2019 – A U.S. State Department official told Sky News on Monday that an improvised missile had struck the Green Zone near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad without causing any casualties. The official said none of the U.S. installations had been damaged.”We are in constant contact with Iraqi officials regarding the incident and we are investigating the circumstances,” he added.

“We take what happened in Iraq very seriously,” he said. “We have made clear in the past two weeks and we reiterate that attacks on US citizens or facilities will not be tolerated and will be answered in a decisive manner.”

The U.S. official told Sky News, “We will hold Iran responsible if any of these attacks are carried out by any militia, and we will respond to Iran accordingly.”

In Britain, the Foreign Office has warned British-Iranians not to travel to the country in case they are detained.

Two SBS teams joined UK registered oil tankers transiting in the Persian Gulf through the Strait of Hormuz, where they will be monitoring Iranian activity around the island of Qesham – home to Iranian naval gunboats. Both teams will collate information as the ships move south through the Strait of Hormuz and into the Gulf of Oman, where it is understood they will be airlifted off by Royal Navy Merlin helicopters operating out of Oman.

British Foreign Secretary Jeremy Hunt warned Tehran about threatening U.S. interests, emphasizing Washington will respond in such a scenario.

Sen. Graham, briefed by U.S. National Security Advisor John Bolton, says it is clear “Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations…” This is a referral to a sabotage attack against four oil tankers off the UAE coast and last week’s Houthi drones attack on two Saudi oil pump stations.

Just received a briefing from National Security Advisor Bolton about escalating tensions with Iran.

It is clear that over the last several weeks Iran has attacked pipelines and ships of other nations and created threat streams against American interests in Iraq.

— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) May 20, 2019

These remarks also reiterate threats against U.S. personnel & interests in Iraq.

U.S. CENTCOM issued a statement saying no members of the U.S. military or international coalition forces stationed in Iraq were harmed in Sunday night’s attack.

A Katyusha-type rocket targeted the Green Zone, which includes embassies and government buildings in the Iraqi capital Baghdad, without causing any casualties.

Two diplomats, based in Baghdad, said they heard the blast near the heavily fortified Green Zone. A security source said that the missile launcher was found near the Technological University in the Amana area of ​​Baghdad.

Iraqi security forces began combing the Green Zone and its environs, Iraqi sources said.

Reports also claim Iran-backed militia groups in Iraq were involved in the rocket attack, launching the Katyusha rocket from “Al Rashid Base” where Asaeb al-Haq, Nojaba, Iraqi Hezbollah, Khorasani, Jund al-Imam and Badr forces are stationed under the pretext of Hashd al-Shabi (Popular Mobilization Force – PMF) units.

The Daily Beast cited an Iraqi counter-terrorism official saying the Iran-backed Katayeb Hezbollah was involved in the rocket launching.

As tensions continue to escalate, reports indicate Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) began transiting S-300 air defense batteries on Sunday in the city of Asaluyeh, Bushehr Province, southern Iran.

#BREAKING
UNCONFIRMED REPORT

Many Iranian accounts on Twitter are posting this video saying #Iran‘s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) are transiting a large number of S-300 air defense missile systems.
Video date: May 19, 2019

Seeking confirmation & input pic.twitter.com/2HNXMdyRYQ

— Heshmat Alavi (@HeshmatAlavi) May 20, 2019

 

MESOP NEWS : TRUMP’S LAST WARNING !

TOP OF THE AGENDA – U.S.-Iran Tensions Flare After Rocket Landing

U.S. President Donald J. Trump warned Iran (Twitter) on Sunday not to threaten the United States, tweeting that a clash with the United States would be the “official end of Iran.”

The threat came after a rocket landed (AP) less than a mile from the U.S. embassy in Baghdad without causing damage. There was no immediate claim of responsibility (WaPo). The incident came days after the U.S. State Department ordered nonessential diplomatic staff to leave Iraq, citing unspecified threats from Iran. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif wrote on Twitter that “economic terrorism and genocidal taunts” would not end Iran and called on Washington to “try respect.”

ANALYSIS

“Iran is still not interested in unraveling the [2015 nuclear agreement]. It just wants to make clear that the status quo, in which the country endures maximum pressure without any tangible benefit in return, is no longer sustainable,” Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi writes for Foreign Policy.

“Since the President reneged on the Iran nuclear deal last year, the administration’s policies have been geared towards provoking Iran into retaliation to give cover for a perilous escalation favored by administration hawks,” said Jamal Abdi of the National Iranian American Council.

CFR’s Philip H. Gordon examines the prospects for Washington and Tehran to resolve their differences or raise the risk of a military altercation

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL – Iran: IRGC brigadier general, 122 other members arrested for espionage / by irancommentary  19 May 2019

On May 5, Iranian Intelligence Minister Seyed Mahmoud Alavi, along with a number of his deputies, held a meeting with Major General Hossein Salami, head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), reports indicate. The meeting lasted over seven hours, according to sources.

The session, held at the request of regime’s Intelligence Minister, was also attended by his deputies in anti-terrorism affairs, international affairs, anti-espionage, social affairs and technical matters.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : PREFERING SELECTED  STRIKES ! US Reports: Trump Might Declare War on Iran Without Congress Approval

EAST KURDISTAN (IRAN)

Sunday, 19 May, 2019 – 11:30 – Washington- Atef Abdullatif  – ASHARQ AL AWSAT  – US administration could launch a military strike against Iran without congressional approval, according to US media reports. The administration is relying on key elements drawing links between al-Qaeda and Iran and casting Iran as a terrorist threat to the US.Sources in the reports indicated that these elements will give Donald Trump’s administration the justification it needs to fight Iran under the still-in-effect 2001 use-of-force resolution without congressional approval.

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