The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance 391

For the United States to abandon proxy warfare and directly kill one of Iran’s most senior political figures has changed international politics in a fundamental way. It is a massive error. Its ramifications are profound and complex.

There is also a lesson to be learned here in that this morning there will be excitement and satisfaction in the palaces of Washington, Tel Aviv, Riyadh and Tehran. All of the political elites will see prospects for gain from the new fluidity. While for ordinary people in all those countries there is only the certainty of more conflict, death and economic loss, for the political elite, the arms manufacturers, the military and security services and allied interests, the hedge funds, speculators and oil companies, there are the sweet smells of cash and power.

Tehran will be pleased because the USA has just definitively lost Iraq. Iraq has a Shia majority and so naturally tends to ally with Iran. The only thing preventing that was the Arab nationalism of Saddam Hussein’s Ba’ath Socialist Party. Bush and Blair were certainly fully informed that by destroying the Ba’ath system they were creating an Iranian/Iraqi nexus, but they decided that was containable. The “containment” consisted of a deliberate and profound push across the Middle East to oppose Shia influence in proxy wars everywhere.

This is the root cause of the disastrous war in Yemen, where the Zaidi-Shia would have been victorious long ago but for the sustained brutal aerial warfare on civilians carried out by the Western powers through Saudi Arabia. This anti-Shia western policy included the unwavering support for the Sunni Bahraini autocracy in the brutal suppression of its overwhelmingly Shia population. And of course it included the sustained and disastrous attempt to overthrow the Assad regime in Syria and replace it with pro-Saudi Sunni jihadists.

This switch in US foreign policy was known in the White House of 2007 as “the redirection”. It meant that Sunni jihadists like Al-Qaida and later al-Nusra were able to switch back to being valued allies of the United States. It redoubled the slavish tying of US foreign policy to Saudi interests. The axis was completed once Mohammad Bin Salman took control of Saudi Arabia. His predecessors had been coy about their de facto alliance with Israel. MBS felt no shyness about openly promoting Israeli interests, under the cloak of mutual alliance against Iran, calculating quite correctly that Arab street hatred of the Shia outweighed any solidarity with the Palestinians. Common enemies were easy for the USA/Saudi/Israeli alliance to identify; Iran, the Houthi, Assad and of course the Shia Hezbollah, the only military force to have given the Israelis a bloody nose. The Palestinians themselves are predominantly Sunni and their own Hamas was left friendless and isolated.

The principal difficulty of this policy for the USA of course is Iraq. Having imposed a rough democracy on Iraq, the governments were always likely to be Shia dominated and highly susceptible to Iranian influence. The USA had a continuing handle through dwindling occupying forces and through control of the process which produced the government. They also provided financial resources to partially restore the physical infrastructure the US and its allies had themselves destroyed, and of course to fund a near infinite pool of corruption.

That US influence was balanced by strong Iranian aligned militia forces who were an alternative source of strength to the government of Baghdad, and of course by the fact that the centre of Sunni tribal strength, the city of Falluja, had itself been obliterated by the United States, three times, in an act of genocide of Iraqi Sunni population.

Through all this the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi had until now tiptoed with great care. Pro-Iranian yet a long term American client, his government maintained a form of impartiality based on an open hand to accept massive bribes from anybody. That is now over. He is pro-Iranian now.

Such precarious balance as there ever was in Iraq was upset this last two months when the US and Israelis transported more of their ISIL Sunni jihadists into Iraq, to escape the pincer of the Turkish, Russian and Syrian government forces. The Iranians were naturally not going to stand for this and Iranian militias were successfully destroying the ISIL remnants, which is why General Qassem Suleimani was in Iraq, why a US mercenary assisting ISIL was killed in an Iranian militia rocket attack, and why Syrian military representatives were being welcomed at Baghdad airport.

It is five years since I was last in the Green Zone in Baghdad, but it is extraordinarily heavily fortified with military barriers and checks every hundred yards, and there is no way the crowd could have been allowed to attack the US Embassy without active Iraqi government collusion. That profound political movement will have been set in stone by the US assassination of Suleimani. Tehran will now have a grip on Iraq that could prove to be unshakable.

Nevertheless, Tel Aviv and Riyadh will also be celebrating today at the idea that their dream of the USA destroying their regional rival Iran, as Iraq and Libya were destroyed, is coming closer. The USA could do this. The impact of technology on modern warfare should not be underestimated. There is a great deal of wishful thinking that fantasises about US military defeat, but it is simply unrealistic if the USA actually opted for full scale invasion. Technology is a far greater factor in warfare than it was in the 1960s. The USA could destroy Iran, but the cost and the ramifications would be enormous, and not only the entire Middle East but much of South Asia would be destabilised, including of course Pakistan. My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen. We all have to pray it does not.

There will also today be rejoicing in Washington. There is nothing like an apparently successful military attack in a US re-election campaign. The Benghazi Embassy disaster left a deep scar upon the psyche of Trump’s support base in particular, and the message that Trump knows how to show the foreigners not to attack America is going down extremely well where it counts, whatever wise people on CNN may say.

So what happens now? Consolidating power in Iraq and finishing the destruction of ISIL in Iraq will be the wise advance that Iranian statesman can practically gain from these events. But that is, of course, not enough to redeem national honour. Something quick and spectacular is required for that. It is hard not to believe there must be a very real chance of action being taken against shipping in the Straits of Hormuz, which Iran can do with little prior preparation. Missile attacks on Saudi Arabia or Israel are also well within Iran’s capability, but it seems more probable that Iran will wish to strike a US target rather than a proxy. An Ambassador may be assassinated. Further missile strikes against US outposts in Iraq are also possible. All of these scenarios could very quickly lead to disastrous escalation.

In the short term, Trump in this situation needs either to pull out troops from Iraq or massively to reinforce them. The UK does not have the latter option, having neither men nor money, and should remove its 1400 troops now. Whether the “triumph” of killing Suleimani gives Trump enough political cover for an early pullout – the wise move – I am unsure. 2020 is going to be a very dangerous year indeed.


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391 thoughts on “The USA Doubles Down on its Saudi Allegiance

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    • SA

      He was not assisting ISIS but was part of a joint Iraqi US base fighting against ISIS
      “As many as 30 rockets were launched into the military base on Friday afternoon. K1 houses a coalition of US and Iraqi military forces engaged in the fight against the “Islamic State” (IS) militant group in the region.”

  • N_

    This is a good article; my only quibble would be to observe that the Arab “street” (i.e. public opinion, which isn’t quite so stupid as in Britain and the US) may be anti-Shia but it is not pro-Saudi against Iran. The Saudi and other Gulf oil monarchies are despised throughout most of the Arab world, including across the whole of North Africa.

    • Ruth

      Most Libyans are very grateful to the help given by UAE in support of the war against MB/Islamist extremists

  • Republicofscotland

    LBC radio taking a US stance on the narrative that Suleimani was a terrorist, and that the US was right to take him out at Baghdad airport.

    It’s interesting to note that any person or nation that does not confirm to US foreign policy is a terrorist or terrorist harbouring state. Killing Suleimani if he were an American general in Iraq would undoubtedly be considered by Washington as an act of war.

    The downside of all this is that you can expect more attacks in the Western hemisphere, in the ME and South East Asia, on Americans and their allies in retaliation for the murder of Suleimani.

    However the US has such a formidable military machine that no direct confrontation will come from Iran.

    • wendy

      LBC is fash radio. It is highly islamophobic and pro Israel. It was a driving force for the alt right and the anti immigration and anti muslim narratives. their position is extremist. there are no exception on that station other than nick abbot.

      • Herbie

        Is Nick Abbot still at it.

        Used to listen to him pre-internet days.

        Funny guy.

        Had Chris Morris type tendencies.

        IQ too high for the bigtime.

        Love him for that.

        Kooda been a contenda.

    • Dungroanin

      See my post earlier about how LBC has doubled its campaign against Corbyn byn in the last week citing PATRIOTISM!

      • Bramble

        The last resort of the scoundrel, that’s Patriotism, now as always. Just as Nationalism does as much to divide and mutually antagonise segments of a community as religion.

    • N_

      (…) more attacks in the Western hemisphere, in the ME and South East Asia, on Americans and their allies in retaliation for the murder of Suleimani” – including perhaps some big-time false flag action against civilians. Daesh wants greater US military involvement in the Middle East.

      Israel probably controls a lot of the Daesh network in the West. Remarkable that they are involved in “deradicalisation” in Cambridge and in British prisons, when there is no such concept in the Israeli “justice” system.

      • Republicofscotland

        Yes indeed Iranian retaliation, whether it did it, or if its a staged event, will be blamed on them.

        Taking out Suleimani (identified for removal by his finger) by US drones, which I think contains state of the art equipment designed and built at Haifa in Israel, which the US has designated as one of the top priorty protection building around the world, will allow them to blame Iran for all sorts of terrorist attack from now on even if Iran hasn’t participated in such events.

        Though I’d imagine Esmail Ghaani the new head of the Iranian Quds force estimated to have a strength of 20,000 personnel will want revenge through such attacks in the near future.

  • Tom Welsh

    Craig, I don’t believe there will be any “rejoicing” in Tehran or anywhere else in Iran. Far from being wicked terrorists plotting the downfall of the USA, Iranians are mostly peaceful religious people just wishing to be left alone.

    However, they do have pride, and justifiably so.

    Neither should there be any rejoicing in Washington or elsewhere in the West. Modern war against a serious enemy would be unimaginably horrible – mitigated only by its extreme shortness. I have been keeping up with this topic for some years, and cannot give a useful summary in a reasonable space here. If anyone is interested, let them try:

    There is a mass of helpful information on the blogs of John Helmer, The Saker, Andrei Martyanov and others. For anyone wishing to see a little more in-depth explanation of why the US armed forces are hopelessly outmatched in any modern war, I recommend Andrei Martyanov’s books:

    “Losing Military Supremacy: The Myopia of American Strategic Planning”


    “The (Real) Revolution in Military Affairs”.

    • craig Post author

      Tom, you have an increasing tendency recently to take umbrage owing to not reading carefully what I actually wrote.

      I specifically stated there would be rejoicing in the palaces, not amongst ordinary people. And I contrasted the interests of the elite, arms manufacturers etc – in all the countries involved – with those of ordinary folk.

      • Tom Welsh

        With respect, Craig – and I actually mean that – I DID read what you wrote quite carefully. My comments referred specifically to the people in the “palaces”.

  • Pardeep

    I wouldn’t over egg it about the power of the USA, they have overwhelming military power but most of it is of little use and is mainly over priced weaponary that comoanies over charge the Pentagon for. They haven’t been able to defeat the Taliban in20 years in Afghanistan, Iranian army is well trained and equipped and would simply wage a never ending gorilla war against any invading force for decades and decades knowing this will sap the will of the American military and also be unpopular with the American public.

    • Tom Welsh

      “I wouldn’t over egg it about the power of the USA, they have overwhelming military power…”

      Have you read Andrei Martyanov’s books, Pardeep? They explain in detail exactly why the USA does NOT have “overwhelming military power”.

  • Hatuey

    Good article but I disagree with the idea that the US will either withdraw or massively increase its presence in Iraq.

    The focus will shift to the straits of Hormuz and the US will steadily kill and neutralise anyone in Iraq who threatens its goals and interests there — that story won’t make the news. The US has a massive base right in the middle of Iraq and it was never going anywhere.

    This whole thing is more or less fake news. The essential dynamics of relationships in the region are unchanged and unlikely to change.

    Iran is a political threat, not a military threat. Nobody knows that better than the Iranians and they won’t do anything outside of token gestures that might lead to military escalation. This isn’t intended as criticism. It would be suicidal for Iran to confront the US and its allies militarily.

    Rising tensions suit a few people. For America it’s a pretext to “defend” Iraq and other countries and for the Iranian government it provides the illusion of standing up to the great Satan, undermining the claims of their opponents and militants who say they are too weak and timid.

    The situation has all the same dynamics of the Cold War which from a western perspective was an excuse to invest billions in its military and stamp out democracy in the former colonies. It’ll rumble on for a few days or weeks until everybody gets bored and moves on to some other fake news story.

      • Hatuey

        The US basically controls the whole political system. I’d be willing to bet that a US military presence there is guaranteed in some constitutional decree. It was the US that drafted their political system and constitution, you can guarantee it gives them veto power and all sorts of leverage.

        • Laguerre

          Not exactly. The US is in the middle of losing its acceptability. There isn’t a legal document, it’s all ad hoc. They certainly did have a right of veto over the choice of PM, but that presumes that the Iraqi public were willing to acquiesce, and turn a blind eye. And now they’re not, as a result of what’s happened recently.

          • pretzelattack

            yeah, the empire is losing influence, and people are heartened by the success of russia and assad. interesting times ahead as the empire tries to maintain itself and others move to exploit the power loss.

          • Herbie

            The Empire is moving East.

            They’ve done this before.

            What you’re seeing is the removal vans.

      • Goose

        The US invited itself into Syria without permission. The US obeys no international laws and sees itself as having an exceptional extraterritoriality right around the globe. The only limiting factor being a country’s ability to resist US presence. The world’s ultimate bully boys. If ever they lose their status as top dog expect expect a full pile on.

        And the largely US funded UN and US handpicked head is completely useless.

      • Paul Amery

        Do you think the US would withdraw its bases from the UK if the UK government asked it to?

        • Goose

          @Paul Amery

          Probably, but they would be mighty vindictive about the whole thing; intel sharing would end as would military cooperation( (GPS support + Trident).

          The US and their incredibly well resourced intel apparatus + military are certainly better to have as a friend rather than an enemy. I think most western politicians are probably terrified of upsetting the Americans more than say the Russians or Chinese.

    • Laguerre

      Well, I disagree with that. The US is going to have difficulty staying in Iraq, without the country’s acquiescence. They had that until now, but have now lost it. You only have to look at what happened to the US in Iraq during the post 2003 occupation, and the number of US troops then was far higher than now. It would be very difficult for Trump to put in a comparable number of troops today. His electoral base wouldn’t tolerate it, and the numbers of body-bags coming back.

  • lysias

    If Iran’s response is cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, will Iran be able to conceal its authorship of the attacks?

    • Tom Welsh

      “If Iran’s response is cyberattacks on U.S. infrastructure, will Iran be able to conceal its authorship of the attacks?”

      I think so. However, that doesn’t matter as Washington would blame the Iranians anyway – just as it blamed them for the anger of Iraqis after an illegal invasion, 16 years of occupation, a million dead, and government and infrastructure destroyed. Rather as if the Nazis had blamed the Swiss government for the French Resistance.

      • Jack

        as Tom Welsh said, cyber attack is probably not even contemplated by iranians.

        Iran might perhaps return fire by attacking american troops in the region, killing diplomats as a response. Might also be carried out on american targets in europe.

      • MJ

        “Washington would blame the Iranians anyway”

        Yes, the way a retaliation is being trumpeted it might be an opportune moment for a little false-flag stunt.

      • John Pretty

        Are cyberattacks even being contemplated? Have the Iranians even the capability to disrupt US infrastructure in such a way?

        I don’t think anyone knows. The question seems to me to be pure speculation Tom and Lysias.

    • N_

      In 1987 when the Great Satan attacked the Iranian navy and an invasion was thought imminent, Iran triggered a major financial crash, featuring the largest one-day drop the Dow Jones Industrial Average has ever experienced, 22.6%.

      • Kempe

        Yes of course they did. The crash was preceded by significant drops in the prior week so it seems those cunning Iranians knew the attack, on a couple of redundant oil platforms, was coming well in advance!

        • Andyoldlabour

          The US attack on the Iranian navy – Operation Preying Mantis – took place in March 1988, with 1 Iranian frigate, 1 gunboat and 3 speedboats sunk, 1 frigate crippled and 2 oil platforms destroyed.
          In July 1988, USS Vincennes shot down Iran Air flight 655, an Airbus A300 with 290 passengers and crew on board, whilst it was climbing over the Straights of Hormuz.
          Between 1980 and 1988 there were between 50,000 and 100,000 Iranian casualties caused by Iraqi chemical weapons attacks, which were enabled using US logistical support.

      • Node

        … featuring the largest one-day drop the Dow Jones Industrial Average has ever experienced, 22.6%.

        … ie, the super rich sold their stock and bought it back later at a 22.6% discount.
        “Hey, let’s do it again!”

  • Yalt

    “My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen.”

    Wasn’t the point of impeachment to force Trump’s hand here? It’s always worth remembering who, within the Democratic party, initiated the proceedings.

      • Yalt

        I think you need to look elsewhere. Those three know full well it’s a political disaster. Pelosi, in particular, was explicitly opposed to the idea until September’s drone attack and the pro-impeachment Washington Post op-ed that followed, written by seven newly-elected Democratic congresswomen and -men, every one of whom was former CIA or military. (The quite extraordinary proportion of the latter among Democratic candidates in the 2018 midterms deserves more attention than it’s gotten IMO.)

        Trump had already demonstrated that he couldn’t be trusted to pull the trigger when requested; the drones made that a matter of some urgency to “serious people.” Impeachment’s a way of providing the necessary leverage.

        I can’t think of another explanation. Impeachment makes no sense as a political maneuver; all it’s doing is solidifying Trump’s base, as was well understood in advance (by Pelosi in particular). It can’t be explained as a serious attempt to remove the man–they wouldn’t have settled for such a laughable bill of charges in that case. The only thing that could possibly flip enough Republican senators to make it a threat is war…or rather, it’s absence when desired. Both sides of the aisle can always get on board with a war; all the more so when it’s to Israel’s advantage.

        We’ll know soon enough. The general opinion is that the Senate proceedings will go very quickly; my prediction is that they’ll linger until the attack’s been launched. It wouldn’t surprise me in the least to find out that the apparent conflict over procedural issues is a stage-managed effort by the two sides to keep things going as long as necessary. (OK, it would surprise me to find that out; it wouldn’t surprise me if it were true.)

  • Mary

    Craig referred to the Palestinians as Sunni followers.

    ‘Islam is a major religion in Palestine, being the religion of the majority of the Palestinian population. Muslims comprise 85% of the population of the West Bank, when including Israeli settlers, and 99% of the population of the Gaza Strip. Palestinian Muslims primarily practice Shafi’i Islam, which is a branch of Sunni Islam.’

    We, the British, have been all over the Middle East for aeons.

  • Piotr Berman

    My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk …

    Sure, one can discern differences between varieties of crazed war hawks. Clinton is a “good student”; political science has several types of professors, but carrier minded students take classes from crazed war hawks. Trump is not, but loves bellicose style of Bolton, trusts his family and thus Netanyahu etc.

    • Goose

      Dangerous assumption from Craig.

      Hillary Clinton may have had a lower threshold for triggering conflict, yes she’s more hawkish per se. But she’d a damn sight smarter than Trump in the conducting or prosecution of any military action. The concern with Trump with his language of ‘nuking’ his fascination with ‘nukes’ and talk of total annihilation is, he’d be calling for nuclear weapons to be used should there be a single large loss of US lives in any war.

      Example from 1991 Iraq war. from the New York Times : “In the most devastating Iraqi stroke of the Persian Gulf war, an Iraqi missile demolished a barracks housing more than 100 American troops on Monday night, killing 27 and wounding 98, the American military command in Riyadh said early today.”

      How would Trump respond to a similar incident?

      • pretzelattack

        i think clinton was a greater threat than trump to get us into a nuclear war with russia, so i don’t agree she would be smarter.

        • Goose

          Her no-fly zone plan for Syria was barmy, I agree, and could have easily led to direct confrontation in the skies and escalation. Although Putin is rational; look how he responded to first Turkey then Israel shooting down Russian planes.

          Whereas Trump is crazy, just read his Twitter account. He’s vindictive and prone to strange childish temper tantrums. The idea of UK joining a war with him as commander in chief is horrifying and the MoD top brass should see the flashing warning lights a mile off.

      • Rhys Jaggar

        27 dead is acceptable collateral damage when you murder 1 million Iraqis.

        Anything less than 27,000 and my attitude is ‘Could I care less?’

        The answer is no: Americans are now legitimate targets, anywhere in the world. There are 5 million+ American dead needed to even up the score since Kennedy was assassinated, so it is high time they got what was coming to them.

        Americans will never learn though appeals to decency. They do no possess the capability for decency in Foreign Affairs. 20 years this century people have appealed to their decency: they proved again and again that it does not exist.

        The sole question now is what method of taking them out is most appropriate for the rest of the world….and my view is the sooner all US corporations are banned from trading outside the US, the sooner no US passport holder is allowed to work anywhere outside the US, the better.

        And the sooner the Bombing Barbaric Cult of Wood Lane is exposed as the MI6 substation it is, festering and interfering to foment war the world over, the better………

    • Republicofscotland

      Clinton was just a crazed as the rest of them reinforcing, and extending sanctions on Iraq, that led to thousands of deaths. Clinton also deployed Cruise missiles in the Sudan to destroy a pharmaceutical complex, the resulting destruction killed at least 20,000 people.

      If another country took out a pharmaceutical complex in the US with missiles the Americans would’ve seen that as an act of war. Clinton also ignored completely prior to his tenure as POTUS UN resolutions, calling them obsolete and anachronistic also under Clinton tenure as POTUS Israeli illegal settlements on occupied Palestinian lands increased significantly.

  • Squeeth

    “…which Iran can do with little prior preparation.”

    try “which Iran can do with little preparation.”

    • John Pretty

      Cheerful, Tony. I’m not sure we’re at that stage as yet are we?

      I can remember as a child being terrorised by our media who were promoting Russophobia by repeatedly warning us that the Russians were about to attack us with nuclear bombs. It didn’t happen.

      I think this is basically just more MSM propaganda to keep us scared.

    • Dungroanin

      The Groaniad has dispensed with it’s Friday Poitics Live Readers edition!

      Almost as if they knew… only one artice was open and that shut down already.

      The Mail is keeping the terror high in their faithful. Why bother?

      • Goose

        You do wonder why these intel types think a tightly controlled ‘on message’ media is a good thing.

        What the hell are they trying to achieve, in the Integrity initiative etc? Do they even know anymore?

        If they are fighting to protect freedom, controlling journos is certainly an odd way of going about it.

        It seems totally OTT for the imaginary enemies they’ve created.

        • pretzelattack

          the money was allocated so they keep spending it whether it makes sense or not. they just know they like to control things.

      • Tom74

        What a surprise. i haven’t read the Guardian since the election but I always used to know when something ‘important’ had happened as they shut down the comments section. The next stage was to repoen the comments but remove all views that they didn’t agree with and/or bring in their troll army to argue with all dissenters. A terrible newspaper that is just as poisonous as the Mail.

        • Goose

          The Mail online and its btl uninformed rubbish is a different level of bad.

          But the guardian’s moderation policies are certainly terrible. They’ll allow no criticism of Israel’s behaviour. It’s as if comments are auto removed without assessment. They produce editorials about alleged antisemitism, claiming legitimate criticism of Israeli state actions must always be allowed. Then they don’t practice what they preach in their own moderation policies.

  • Sarge

    Faith in Trump not being an unhinged war hawk is likely to prove just as badly misplaced as it was with Barack Obama. Trump has already twice bombed the Assad regime in Syria; reduced Mosul and Raqqa to rubble; vetoed a congressional attempt to end U.S. involvement in the Saudi bombardment of Yemen; massively ramped up military aid to neo-Nazis in Ukraine and missile implacements and troop manoeuvres on Russia’s border; overseen a coup in Bolivia; attempted one in Venezuela; and overseen a five-fold increase in drone strikes throughout the region and beyond. That’s a five-fold increase in drone assassinations on the Drone King himself – Obama, whose blood lust eventually led him into the debacle in Libya and almost Syria too.

    Trump was elected in part, like the Drone King, on the basis of antiwar platitudes. But the Drone King had not spent decades before assuming office panting for a confrontation with Iran. Nor was he ever a cornered rat at home, tormented and boxed in, seeking a huge distraction and needing validation as a war president.

    • pretzelattack

      trump isn’t a cornered rat, impeachment helps him. nor is he in any way consistent.

    • slammy

      Yes, Craig does seem a bit lost regarding Trump’s warlike tendencies relative to the Clinton war hawks. This Soleimani drone offing is a fine example of Trump/Pompeo’s war cred.

  • tunde

    I’m of the opinion that Iran may stay her hand till deeper into the US election campaign. There is lots of evidence that the leadership is deeply unpopular domestically and heaping more misery on the populace may fatally deepen their unpopularity.
    Those asking how Soulemani was targeted should know that he has been a visible presence around the battlefields of Iraq and Syria in the fight against IS. The various Iranian allied militia have posted his visits from Damascus to Aleppo to Palmyra to Mosul to Tikrit for at least two or three years (you can see posting referring to him visiting troops @ over that time period iirc). The curious thing to me is that Israel, under Netanyahu, never attempted to target him whilst he visited Syria numerous times. But Trump chose to whilst he visited Baghdad.
    As to the retaliatory route Iran might take, I’d hazard they will strike at US troops in Afghanistan. American vigilance in Iraq and Syria will be high and sustained. Afghanistan, with plenty of willing actors fighting US troops would present a better target of opportunity.
    Or Putin may call and urge them to stay their hand in much the same way he held fire after the Russian fighter shoot down and the assassination of the Russian ambassador in Turkey.

    • Jack

      Exactly, there are many troops in the region Iran could retaliate against. Iran should not heed any calls from Putin or whoever trying to hold them down, a nation being attacked wont sit by doing nothing. However I believe the claims of World war 3 is ridiculous. Iran might judge to do nothing in the end who can blame them, US have nukes and everything ready to really bomb Iran off the map.

    • Laguerre

      “There is lots of evidence that the leadership is deeply unpopular domestically and heaping more misery on the populace may fatally deepen their unpopularity.”

      I think you have not looked at what your sources are. If you read Iranian journalists in the West, yes, you’ll get that impression. To a man (not many women), they hate the regime, and, like Brexiters tell you the EU is on the point of collapse, they will tell you the religious regime is as you say, and on the point of falling. That kind of person also has the ear of western leaders, and are constantly whispering away for regime change. But you, know the regime has been there for forty years, with one failed attempt at revolution, failed because there were not that many of them, not the majority at any rate.

      In Iran, I find that the westernised middle class is anti-regime. That’s what I saw. But they are not the people who vote for the regime, and they’re not the majority. The electorate is much like Erdogan’s in Turkey, the conservative rural population vote for them. So I rather doubt they’re as unpopular as you claim.

      • tunde

        Thanks for the correction. I knew a Bakhtiary a long time ago and their elite friends who eventually migrated to the US have a visceral hatred of the regime. It appears that the MSM typically get their talking points from them.

  • slammy

    Craig says-

    “My reading of Trump remains that he is not a crazed Clinton type war hawk and it will not happen.”

    Indeed. Trump’s ordering the drone strike of Soleimani is a sure sign of his ‘less of a crazed war hawk’ credentials, and we should all be thankful for that as Craig points out.

    • Tatyana

      I don’t see Trump having any permanent policy of his own. He gives the impression of ‘shit and giggles’ person.
      Crapping at a convenient moment in a convenient place, when he is most likely to get away with it. And his nannies Pompeo and Bolton cheer him up: “Keep up good work, son! Attaboy, just look he managed to squeeze out such a big bunch!”

      • Yalt

        The thought’s crossed my mind more than once: maybe the lack of policy is a policy, in a sense, and somewhere there are people in Trump’s employ taking market positions in advance of whatever seemingly random decision he’s about to announce. Politics as a massive insider-trading scheme–is it really that far-fetched a notion?

        No, I don’t really believe it…except that the one thing I’m absolutely certain of with Donald Trump is that he has a finely-tuned sense of his own bottom line (as opposed to the firms he runs or government he leads).

        • Yalt

          People’s Exhibit A:

          “It’s easy to win a trade war.”

          Oh, you bet it is…if you know where the next seemingly random tariff is going to strike, or disappear…

        • Tatyana

          As I understand it, people choose their leaders supporting the clearly defined policies. Therefore, “the lack of a coherent policy as a policy” is not suitable.
          No one votes for the person declaring “elect me and you will never know what my goals and plans are. I promise to act every time according to what my itching right heel tells me.”
          I do not think that the people of the United States would have missed this.

          • Yalt

            There’s very little in the way of “clearly defined policy” in an American presidential election. They’re fought on much more primitive, emotional grounds with Rorschach slogans like “Hope” and “Make America Great Again” and “Let America Be America Again”–as they must be, since both wings of the oligarchy’s party agree on substantial matters of policy. For the most part matters of public policy are avoided altogether; when they’re addressed it’s understood by everyone that the candidates are in all likelihood lying through their teeth. Anyone proposing a policy that’s supported by, and would benefit, a large majority of the population–universal health care, as an example–is “unelectable.” People typically won’t “waste their vote” on such a candidate, and if they do, as threatened to happen in the Democratic primaries in 2016, there are ways….

            In that environment, Trump’s willingness to crap in public is a great part of his appeal. Many of my friends/family who voted for Trump did so as a sort of extended middle finger pointed at the proper middle-management types that are their immediate oppressors. Some of the more sophisticated voted for him because he was a “businessman,” meaning he would choose his course based on motives of profit rather than policy. This he seems to me to have done, and in a manner quite consistent with the way he has run his business interests.

            Don’t make the mistake of thinking of the US as a democracy. We have a lively and vibrant democratic politics at the local level in some areas–school boards, city councils and the like–but at the federal level it is not anything of the sort.

  • Jack

    It says alot when western nations do not condemn the US. Go back some decades and many western would easily condemn an attack like this. Today western nations are silent or give indirect support.

    Note also how the usual liberal critics of Trump today are supportive of Trump today when he attacks 2 states!

    • Laguerre

      3000 troops from the Rapid Reaction Force aren’t enough to militarily occupy Iraq (the occupation force during the 2003 war was of the order of 150,000, ranging up to less than 200k). So they will continue to be dependent on Iraqi goodwill, which looks to be in strong decline.

  • Vivian O'Blivion

    Tulsi Gabbard on Fox News this morning. “this is an act of war”.
    Actually, props to Fox News for having her on. MSMBC and CNN won’t give the reckless peacenik airtime.
    The three Fox and friends monkeys struggle to process the logic. To paraphrase … “Iran wasn’t strongly influential in Iraq ’till we stuck our oar in where it wasn’t wanted”.

  • M.J.

    The idea of the USA helping ISIL to do anything, including infiltrate Iraq, sounds like nonsense. ISIL is an enemy of the West. As for Suleimani, if he led attacks on Western personnel in Iraq, this appears to have been retribution from the American point of view. Iran may rant about revenge but not do very much else, if Trump’s taking out their top men in Iraq serves as a deterrent.

    • craig Post author

      “The idea of the USA helping ISIL to do anything, including infiltrate Iraq, sounds like nonsense.”
      Naivete always has a certain charm, but deliberate ignorance does not.

    • Laguerre

      “Iran may rant about revenge but not do very much else, ”

      That’s against the recent evidence. They’ve done quite a bit in the Gulf lately, not simply ranted and raved as befits weak oriental potentates faced with upstanding noble western military, as you seem to suggest.

    • Vivian O'Blivion

      In 2001, the Quds force combined with American and British special forces to drive the Taliban out of Western Afghanistan. The combined action was coordinated by a CIA team granted access to Tehran. The Quds force was of course commanded by Suleimani. An enlightened Washington establishment could of course have built on this promising development to restart American / Iranian relations, but no, they invaded Iraq instead.

    • Ingwe

      I imagine Pompeo and the other neo-con arseholes will get the war they want. Our craven government will follow the USA’s lead. It’ll only be when the bodies of US and British servicemen start coming back in zinc coffins that the people, in whose names such illegal war is being waged, will make it unacceptable, politically.
      Thousands, possibly millions, of innocent Iranian and Iraqi citizens will also be killed, injured and displaced. But to the likes of Trump, Pompeo, Johnson, Tugenhat et al this will be simply collateral damage.
      If we survive, and there’s something left at the end of it, there should be war crime trials. Dream on.

      • Tom Welsh

        “I imagine Pompeo and the other neo-con arseholes will get the war they want”.

        I can only hope that each and every one of them gets a personal visit from Burevestnik. “You can run but you can’t hide”.

    • Marmite

      ‘P.S.. Note there are No Russian..Or Chinese names Above.’

      Doesn’t mean they don’t exist. You might say that crimes are committed more collectively in these contexts perhaps. Whereas we have individual names for terrorist actors in the west. (I generally don’t think the game of pontificating on lesser evils is very helpful, though I agree that it is useful to have the perspective that comes from self-criticism).

      What I am more shocked by is the docility of a general public that has completely lost its ability to question the morality, never mind the legitimacy, of such acts of aggression. We are all ready to agree so eagerly with the MSM narrative that Corbyn is a terrorist, despite his relentless campaigning for peace (which is almost never mentioned in the press). Yet, when faced with the unequivocal evil of American and British war-mongering, we immediately side with it. And to justify our desire to be stupidly patriotic (because, really, there is no other way to describe patriotism than as a form of extremist stupidity), we immediately feel compelled to agree with the labeling of the victim as a terrorist.

      P.S. I regard the current political rhetoric around patriotism as one of the scariest developments of 2020 so far. One of the great achievements of Europe post-WWII was to resist the state’s demands on this, and allow for different understandings of what it means to be patriotic. What a huge step backward toward a barbaric kind of tribalism.

      • John Pretty

        Yes, Mr P, I was wondering why a German car manufacturer might have wanted to assassinate an Iranian general 🙂

      • Brianfujisan

        Mrs Pau!

        ” The Gauardian ” Sorry but No.. Maybe you should Quote the BBC ..or Sky instead

        Most of us have had Enough of their Lies.. MSM Propaganda War Crimes …Blood Letting

        I hope you don’t find this a personal criticism..but mere Facts

        • Mary

          Well said Brian. Martin Chulov’s name is on that Guardian rubbish.

          He is responsible, along with other Guardian hacks, for spreading the poison about Julian Assange.

          With the author of much of the Salisbury/Skripal fantasy, Luke Harding, he co-wrote this.

          ‘Libya: Murder in Benghazi and the Fall of Gaddafi (20 October 2012), co-written with Martin Chulov. Short e-book, account of the moment of Gaddafi’s capture and the current state of Libya.’

          They are well named as ‘presstitutes’.

          • Laguerre

            You should read the article linked in The Intercept, not Chulov’s rubbish. Lots of quotes and nothing out of line from normal relations.

      • Jack

        Typical how Guardian portray that as something evil, how horrible that neighbouring Iran has an impact in Iraq – ohh no… sigh, What a difference, during Iraq war The Guardian was critical of the lies. Today they spread the lies.

    • Laguerre

      There’s nothing particularly astounding in those documents. They’re what you might expect, unless you’re a conspiracy theorist, determined to find evidence that Iranians are evil.

      • Borncynical


        I agree. What came across to me from the article was a summary of what might be expected of two allies working closely together to combat common enemies. Nothing more, nothing less. The Guardian (and other MSM) are a joke, especially when you factor in the way the US no doubt exerts its influence within the walls of the UK Parliament, security services and military.

    • Mrs Pau!

      I was pointing out what might be the Trump camp’s take on it. This does not mean I endorse the viewbut commentators in MSM are questioning the reasons. This l may glimpsed at linked article. A Basic rule of warfare is to Know Your Enemy.

  • Nicholas Shaxted

    At least all this noise has provided the distraction away from the Israelis stealing Palestine’s oil and pumping it away to Greece.

    I think the events of today have shown that “social media” has won the battle for news. It seems that the right wing extremists have been well funded and ready to go to make sure their perspective got into the news stream first. Classic GladioB

    The Grauniad’s rolling coverage seemed to consist only of tweets, no reportage no analysis, Just a stream of tweets from as far as I could tell to emanate from establishment far right.

    The new Left must be somewhere to the far right of British politics from a few years ago.

  • Jack

    A lot of disinformation going on, what few remember already is that US initiated this round of attack earlier this week, not Iran as Trump and media now spread:


    The attack came amid tensions that started by the US attack on PMF units (Popular Mobilization Forces) that killed 28 Iraqi popular forces. “


    “A day later, Iraqi people attacked the US embassy in Baghdad. On Wednesday President Donald Trump ordered about 750 US soldiers deployed to the Middle East.”

  • Ben

    Just want to share here that my local barber is run by Iranian Kurdish chaps. Very friendly bunch, and although I have never talked politics with them before, one of them today ventured that Suleimani was a “bad man”.
    But he had a common enemy with the Kurds, Daesh. I didn’t want to go that far today though!

    • Republicofscotland

      General Suleimani might have been evil in the eyes of some Iraninans, and I can understand that, the Iranian regime isn’t the most tolerant among them. Change must come from the people themselves and not through outside forces.

      However what I do find intolerable is the US has appointed itself judge, jury and executioner on these matter. Obama carried out an incredible 563 drone strikes in the likes of Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen during his two terms, G.W. Bush was said to have carried out 57 drone strikes.

      You can be sure that drone strikes in some if not most instances incurred collateral damage, most of which is covered up by a faceless US spokesperson on their release to the press.

      • tunde

        We will never know how many civilian deaths occurred because of drone strikes with Trump since he has ordered the suspension of post strike assessments for public dissemination as far as the newsies tell us:
        Trump administration has carried out more drone strikes in 2 years than Obama in 8. Yet people call Obama “droner-in-chief”. Why does Trump get a pass ? I can only presume because he beat HC ? All this speculation that Trump would be less belligerent than HC is just that; speculation. It’s not like he hasn’t tried in Venezuela and Iran.

    • giyane

      If an Iraqi Kurd offers an opinion on Iraqi politics, that means they want to know what you think.
      The CIA’s Iraqi Kurdish agent provocateurs against Saddam have got Kurdistan peace and themselves power, and that means you agree with the anti-Iran Islamists. People are starving in Iraqi Kurdistan and Baghdad because of the oil gluttony of USUKIS. The massive increase of influence of the USUKIS Islamists
      basically means that all Iraqis have a an Islamist USUKIS razor to their throat.

      The fact that the Islamists have power does not mean anything but that.Their interpretation of Islam is that their criminal terror by virtue of assisting the enemies of Islam is pleasing to their Creator. That is piffle.
      Martin Luther asked if the Pope was the Devil or just his assistant. Popery was removed and Islamism and Zionism will also be removed. It is an obligation on the Muslims to fight against their oppressors and not suck up to them for wealth and influence like Haman to Pharaoh. Haman was rewarded for his power by having his entire house and family submerged in quicksand.

      I have been threatened for years by idiots who now make a splendid living in the nest of spies in London.
      They spy on their own community for the likes of Boris Johnson. Small oaf and even smaller oafs.
      It’s obvious if General Suleiman was helping to divest USUKIS of its terrorist attack and plunder of Iraq that he was both a very good man and a very brave one. At least he died fighting Islam’s enemies instead of sucking their cocks.

  • Conjunction

    Like many others I don’t agree that Trump is less of a war hawk than Clinton. He might think he is but he makes judgment off the hip and time and time again he has made a warlike move and then his advisors have pulled him back. Perhaps they had too much sherry at this time of year and just weren’t quick enough this time.

    The next few months will be a test of whether he really has any smarts or not.

    • Goose

      Trump and ‘smart’ should never be used in the same sentence.

      Kushner and Netanyahu have had him wrapped around their fingers: Moving the US Israeli embassy to hotly disputed Jerusalem; declaring Golan Israel’s ; saying West Bank settlements aren’t necessarily illegal. Now trying to provoke Iran into war.

      The shameful thing is how many US Democrats seem to have little problem with the prospect of killing hundreds of thousands of innocent Iranian civilians in a war , no, their problem is they want to see the plan or endgame.

  • bevin

    Always worth a visit at a time like this:
    The Russian Observer, observes re the assassination

    “Three pretty likely consequences: Washington has begun its last foreign war and Trump’s future is in Tehran’s hands. Iran’s reaction will completely surprise Washington for the simple reason that smart people are smarter than stupid arrogant ignorant people.

    “Some questions:
    “Given that a large number of Israelis have dual citizenship, how many will stay when the rockets start to fall?
    What will Washington do when (not if) the Iraqi government orders all US troops out?
    “But, it’s not August 1914: China and Russia will keep out and, one hopes, will have the good taste not to laugh out loud at this monstrous error.
    “One might suggest that Washington finish a few wars before starting a new one: on the 25th, Washington and its minions will have been in Afghanistan for twice as long as the Soviets were.”

  • Dan

    I don’t care what you say, Clement Freud was innocent.

    [ Mod: Chris Baldwin (aka ‘Chris’ & ‘Dan’) – please use a consistent identity. ]

    • John Pretty

      Thank you Jack, but I could only manage about 2 minutes of this shit. It’s just racism at the end of the day.

    • Tatyana

      I managed to 1:44, can’t stand this manipulative intonation of a preacher. Nevertheless, I see he’s aagain paraising himself for being such a good president 🙂 no need to watch further, nothing new.
      Thanks, Jack.

    • Goose

      Scary insight into his own thinking now.

      He probably really believes there are votes in his death mongering in the ME.

      He promised to bring the troops home however. Not create greater instability having to send more and more.

      • Jack


        Unfortunately it is a win for any president that start a small war or commiting an attack like this.

        • Goose

          In theory, yes, that would normally be the case, rallying to the flag and all that.

          But do Americans trust this particular president’s judgement?

          With his childish antics on twitter, have doubts that they do.

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