MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS OPINION : HOW SOLEIMANI’S KILLING COULD MAKE A STRONGER IRAQ

by Michael Knights  – Politico – January 5, 2020

As Iraq signals its willingness to evict U.S. forces following the airstrike, the time has come for discipline and a focus on shared interests.

The targeted killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani and Iraq’s most senior militiamen, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, justified by their orchestration of the deaths of hundreds of Americans, has led to a widespread fear of an imminent war with Iran that could cause untold loss of life and further destabilize an already devastated region. How Iran might respond is impossible to know (much less how the U.S. would react in turn), but I see the potential for a success in Iraq—if the U.S.-led coalition and the Iraqi government can focus on their shared interests and continue to purge Iran’s malign influence.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS IRAQ : Iraq can’t survive a US-Iran war

 
By AL MONITOR  5 Jan 2020   The US killing of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani, as well as four other IRGC commanders and a top Iraqi militia leader, places Iraq at greater risk of instability or even collapse.

 

Already shaken by a protest movement and relentless Iranian pressure and interference, and with the threat of a resurgent Islamic State (IS), the Iraqi government’s future hinges on what happens next between the United States and Iran.

 
How we got here: Iran rejects negotiations in favor of “sustained campaign” in Iraq

 

 
 

 

 
It was just last month, on Dec. 7, that US President Donald Trump celebrated Princeton graduate student Xiyue Wang’s release from an Iranian jail in exchange for Iranian scientist Masoud Soleimani, with a tweet saying, “Thank you to Iran on a very fair negotiation. See, we can make a deal together!”

 

The “Swiss track” had promise for further hostage negotiations, but Iran-backed Iraqi militias, despite US warnings, continued to mount what Gen. Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the top US military official, called a “sustained campaign” against US assets and interests in Iraq. On Dec. 27, the Iranian-backed Iraqi militia Kataib Hezbollah (Brigades of the Party of God) attacked an Iraqi military base near Kirkuk killing an American contractor and injuring four US soldiers, prompting a US retaliatory strike on Kataib Hezbollah two days later. This seems to have been the catalyst for Trump’s decision to take out Soleimani.

 

Iranian-backed militias stormed the US Embassy compound on Dec. 31, in response to the US strike on Kataib Hezbollah bases. The drone attack on Soleimani’s convoy Jan. 3 was labelled “a defensive action” to prevent additional “imminent” attacks, as Jack Detsch reports.

 
Iraq as ground zero
 

 

 

 

 
There is a range of speculation about when and where Iran may decide to respond. Iran, with its dilapidated navy and air force, would probably be hesitant to provoke a response that allowed the United States to take out its air and naval capabilities, as happened in 1988, accelerating Iran’s decision to end the Iran-Iraq War. Nor is it the Iranian style to prepare for land armies to clash on the battlefield, which is not the present style of warfare in the region.

Iran’s preference is asymmetry — car bombs, assassinations and other irregular tactics — taking its time and avoiding fingerprints. Recall the 1992 attack on the Israeli Embassy in Buenos Aires. Iran still denies its role in the drone/missile attack on Aramco facilities in September 2019.

The United States has bolstered its dominant military assets in the region, adding 15,000 troops since May, including 750 Marines and soldiers sent to protect the Baghdad embassy this week, as well as another 3,000 deployed to Kuwait.

The take here is therefore that Iran’s first move would likely be to secure its base — Iraq, Syria and Lebanon — before making its next move. These are the countries where Iran has invested the most, and where they can’t afford to lose.

Iraqi leaders call for restraint

While condemning the killings as violations of Iraqi sovereignty and lauding Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Units leader Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, also known as Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, as martyrs and heroes, Iraq’s top leaders — including Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani, Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, President Barham Salih, populist cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, as well as most other parties and factions — all issued statements rallying around Iraqi unity and restraint, as Ali Mamouri explains.

The Iraqi parliament may seek to legislate the withdrawal of the approximate 5,000 US forces from Iraq — a longstanding objective of Iran. If so, the loser will the Iraqi Security Forces and the winner will be IS.

If it happens, the Trump administration may seek to reposition some or all US forces in Iraqi Kurdistan, which in principle would be welcomed by the Kurdistan Regional Government. With such a deployment, the Kurdistan Region could become more vulnerable, not less, to Iranian intrigues.

Iran’s heavy hand in Iraq hasn’t been able to stifle a distinct and growing nationalist trend among Iraqi leaders and protesters. Salih has been trying to build a consensus among Iraqi politicians and the pro-democracy/anti-Iran movement anchored in Tahrir Square to chart a course for reform, although this task just got a lot harder. Salih’s efforts, and Sistani’s calls for moderation, remain vital to keep Iraq together, if the United States and Iran can avoid further hostilities. Sadr, for his part, has rallied his militia, the Mahdi Army, and supporters, and will look to position himself as a broker between Tehran, the government and the street.

Iran’s flagging reputation in Iraq, and fear of further US actions, might give it pause if it is considering a violent response, as signaled by Iran and some of its proxies in Iraq. This powerful Iraqi nationalist and anti-Iranian trend can’t be dismissed. If Iran pushes too hard, the consequences of state collapse will redound negatively to it and its proxies. The Iranian-backed militias’ siege of the US Embassy compound was a flop inside Iraq. “Public opinion has turned against Iranian forces in Iraq, especially since the beginning of anti-government protests on Oct. 1, which militias close to Iran were accused of being involved in killing protesters and abducting large numbers of them,” Ali Mamouri reports. The Tahrir Square protesters denounced the Green Zone siege, saying, “We are not a part of these protests and we will continue protesting against the government until they fulfill their demands.”

Iran also took the Trump administration’s restraint for granted. The killing of Soleimani and his comrades was brilliant execution by US Special Operations Forces. The burden of fear for further US retaliation should weigh heavily in Iran.

Time to deconflict in Iraq … before it’s too late

Trump said today he does not “seek regime change” and US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo has made clear that the United States is looking to de-escalate the situation with Iran. Tehran should pause rather than lash out, however strong the passions may be in Iran.

There has been a fair bit of shuttling and backchanneling among the United States, Iran and regional powers — including by Japan, Oman, Pakistan and Switzerland, as well as Iraq itself — and these good offices should be utilized, as the International Crisis Group suggests, to work out a modus vivendi around “a stable Iraq that neither fully controls as a buffer between them.”

 

The Trump administration and the Iranian government should keep the door open for diplomacy, or at a minimum, to convey messages with Iran for deconfliction in Iraq.

That may seem aspirational, or even unrealistic given events of the last 24 hours, but it’s a worthy cause, if a thin reed. The United States has invested over $1 trillion and over 5,000 lives in Iraq. The Iraqi protests are an inspiration to the region, and the Iraqi people deserve a chance to chart a course free of regional conflicts.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS LATEST BAGHDAD : Rocket lands near U.S. embassy in Baghdad as Soleimani funeral kicks off

No casualties were reported, according to Iraqi police. Other reports claim that three people were injured.

By LEON SVERDLOV   JANUARY 4, 2020 20:52  JERUSALEM POST

A siren sounded in the US embassy in Baghdad following a reported rocket attack on Baghdad’s heavily fortified Green Zone which houses government buildings and foreign missions, Reuters reported Saturday evening. Two loud blasts were heard early Saturday evening shortly after IRGC Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani’s funeral kicked off, after having been assassinated during a US airstrike in Baghdad International Airport.

It was not immediately possible to confirm the causes or locations.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS TODAYS OPINION :  Donald Trump showed restraint, then resolve, in killing of Iran’s Qassem Soleimani

James S. Robbins Opinion columnist – USA TODAY – Published EST Jan 4, 2020

Qassem Soleimani was a violent man who lived a violent life. The Iranian major general lived by the sword and died by the drone. Soleimani’s death was a long time coming, and it is chiefly mourned by those who are seeking a similar end.

We can dispense with questions over whether the attack that killed Soleimani was an illegal assassination as opposed to a legitimate act in the war on terrorism. The United States has been conducting such strikes for years, and President Barack Obama faced no serious pushback for using drones to prosecute the conflict.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : AFTER SOLEIMANI – BUSINESS GOES ON !

Iraqi oil sector holds fast amid storm of U.S.-Iran conflict  -Production and exports so far unaffected as some foreign oil workers evacuate, following the U.S. assassination of Qassim Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis.

 

By Staff of Iraq Oil Report  Published Friday, January 3rd, 2020

BASRA – Iraq’s oil sector is operating without disruption, despite the evacuation of some foreign oil workers in the aftermath of the U.S. assassination of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassim Soleimani and Iraqi paramilitary leader Abu Mahdi al-Mohandis.

“The ministry confirms that the situation is normal at oil fields in Iraq, and production and exports have not been affected,” the Oil Ministry said in a statement Friday.

 

 

 

 

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : THAT’S THE QUESTION ! – How will Iran retaliate for the assassination of Qasem Suleimani?

 

JERUSALEM POST  3. Jan 2020 – “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more,” the Pentagon claimed, noting that the Iranian leader had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months, “including the attack on December 27th, cculminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.

“General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” the Pentagon added, clarifying that the strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.

“The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world,” the statement concluded.

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 MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : THE FAREWELL OF THE MASTERMIND OF MIDEAST TERROR / PROMINENT US VOICES

Lindsey Graham @LindseyGrahamSC   3 Jan 2019

  • 7h Wow – the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically. Major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands. Soleimani was one of the most ruthless and vicious members of the Ayatollah’s regime. He had American blood on his hands.

Lindsey Graham @LindseyGrahamSC

 

I appreciate President @realDonaldTrump’s bold action against Iranian aggression. To the Iranian government: if you want more, you will get more.

Marco Rubio @marcorubio

 

  • 8h Facing repeated #IRGC attacks the U.S. & @potus exercised admirable restraint while setting clear red lines & the consequences for crossing them#Iran’s Quds Force chose the path of escalation

    They are entirely to blame for bringing about the dangerous moment now before us.

Marco Rubio @marcorubio

The defensive actions the U.S. has taken against #Iran & its proxies are consistent with clear warnings they have received

They chose to ignore these warnings because they believed @POTUS was constrained from acting by our domestic political divisions

They badly miscalculated

03:18 – 3. Jan. 2020

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : DETAILED & COMPLET E NEWS SAMPLER / INTERNATIONAL REACTIONS ON QASSEM SOLEIMANI’S FAREWELL

Iran vows ‘retaliation’ after US kills top general in Iraq — live updates – 3Jan 2020

The US Department of State has urged Americans in Iraq to leave “immediately” after Tehran vowed to “retaliate” over a US airstrike in Baghdad that targeted the leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani.

All updates in Coordinated Universal Time (UTC)

09:38 The threats from Iran should be taken “deadly seriously,” said senior lawmaker for the Germany’s Green Party, Omid Nouripour. He called for immediate evacuation of German soldiers currently stationed in Iraq.

“When not even the US embassy can be protected, it shows that members of Bundeswehr must also be evacuated,” said the opposition lawmaker.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : THE IRAQI DILEMMA IN TOTAL !

“Solving Iraq’s Federal Dilemma” by Samir Sumaidaie

Iraq’s federal government is facing several challenges as people start to grow uneasy about the imbalance between Iraqis and the Kurds. While the Kurdish representatives vote for issues within the Kurdistan region as well as all of Iraq, the Iraqi representatives only have a say in their perspective regions and do not have an influence in the Kurdistan region.

One proposed solution suggests that the provinces be divided in a way that allows Kurdish representatives to only weigh in on issues within their region. The Kurdistan Region will be enlarged and the rest of Iraq shall be placed into a single region. While all citizens will have the equal right to participate in the federal government, only those in their respective regions will be able to participate in those government structures.

The Arab Weekly (Washington, D.C.), December 27, 2019.

 

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MESOPOTAMA NEWS : CHAOS & TURMOIL IN IRAQ AND THE KURDS

“Barham Resignation Would Bring More Chaos to Iraq” by Dana Taib Menmy

On December 26, Iraqi President Barham Salih presented parliamentary speaker Mohammed al-Halbusi with a letter announcing his intention to resign, rather than nominate Asaad al-Eidani as prime minister. This announcement comes on the heels of President Salih’s refusal to approve the nominations of both Qusay al-Suhail and Mohammed Shia al-Sudani for the position of Minister of Higher Education.

Salih’s refusal resulted in a failure to form a new government within the 15-day constitutional deadline. Protesters have called for both Salih and Halbusi’s resignations, accusing them of failing to adhere to the constitutional deadlines and of being too ingrained within Iraqi political parties. Protesters demand that the new prime minister be independent of foreign intervention and political party pressure, meaning that Salih would be pushed out because of his deep ties to the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) and the likelihood of his becoming the new head of the party. Unless an adequate candidate is found, both Salih and Halbusi may be forced to resign, and political protests will continue throughout the country.

 

al-Monitor (Sulaymaniyah), December 28, 2019.

 

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