Donald Trump’s impetuous decision to kill Iran’s top commander without a clear reason or clear strategy has led to a humiliating counter strike against U.S. bases, pushing the region one step closer to a war that nobody wants.
Iran last night fired more than 20 ballistic missiles at two military bases in Iraq where United States troops are stationed.
Reportedly, there were no casualties, although Fars, a news agency associated with Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, said that “at least 80 U.S. troops” had been killed.
The death of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. drone missile strike has put the entire U.S. mission in the Middle East in a precarious position and jeopardized relationships with allies.
Meanwhile, it solidified support against the United States in Iran, which had been racked by strong protests against Islamic rule in recent weeks. It also opened the door for Iran to resume its nuclear weapons program without restraint.
In Iraq, the government is now calling for the removal of all U.S. troops from the country, one of Iran’s long sought strategic goals.
Before the attack, Iraqi factions had been calling for the end of Iranian influence in the country.
Even hard-right Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu, a solid Trump ally, put distance between Israel and the Trump administration following the attack.
On Monday, following a cabinet meeting several ministers said Netanyahu tried to distance Israel from Trump’s actions, according to published reports.
“The assassination of Soleimani isn’t an Israeli event but an American event. We were not involved and should not be dragged into it,” he said, according to Israeli news outlets.
On Wednesday (Jan. 8), Netanyahu stiffened his public stance after Iran said it would attack the Israeli city of Haifa and Dubai next, if the conflict escalated.
“President Trump should be congratulated for acting swiftly, boldly and resolutely against this terrorist-in-chief, who was the architect and driver of Iran’s campaign of terror throughout the Middle East and throughout the world,” he said, according to the Times of Israel newspaper.
“It’s very important to say that Israel stands completely beside the United States,” he added. “America has no better friend than Israel, and Israel has no better friend than America.”
He vowed a “crushing blow” against Iran if it attacked Israeli territory.
That pushed the region to the brink of war and put the onus on Trump to defuse the situation.
But whether he can overcome the humiliation of the Iranian missile attack without responding remains to be seen.
The Iranian foreign minister said today Iranian military strikes were over, and Iran did “not seek escalation or war,” according to The New York Times.
The minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif, posted the remarks on Twitter after Iran had conducted the strikes.
But Supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the strikes “a slap.” He said they were “not sufficient” and vowed to keep up pressure until all U.S. troops were removed from the region.
Outgoing Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi said the United States had no choice but to pull all of its troops out of the country to ease the crisis. The Iraqi parliament also called for U.S. troop withdrawal in a non-binding resolution.
Domestically, hard-right news outlets, some stout Trump supporters in Congress and Fox News talking heads were urging a further attack on Iran.
Sen Lindsey Graham, R-NC, called the Iran missile strikes on American forces an “act of war.”
Graham said Trump had all the power he needed to retaliate against Iran. “This is an act of war by any reasonable definition,” Graham told Fox News.
Fox News commentator Sean Hannity, who has unusual influence over Trump, called on the president to escalate the conflict. He urged the administration to respond with the “full force” of the U.S. military. (See video)
“There is a massive price to pay. You don’t get to do what they did tonight. They have now been begging ― the president wanted to talk and wants peace ― and they are going to get hit hard. Their hostility will now be met with the full force of the greatest, most advanced, most sophisticated military this world has ever seen,” the talking head railed.
Further complicating matters, Trump’s imbroglio in Iraq comes only weeks after he abandoned one of the nation’s strongest regional allies, the Kurds.
In October, Trump ordered U.S. troops to pull back from the Syrian-Turkish border, clearing the way for a Turkish assault on the Kurds. U.S. troops had been acting as a buffer between the two.
Trump made the decision after a phone call with Turkish President Recep Erdoğan, without first consulting the Pentagon or Congress.
The move was widely viewed as endangering the Kurdish people, strengthening ISIS, and ceding influence to some of America’s chief adversaries, namely Iran and Russia.
The move led to hundreds of deaths, displaced an estimated 130,000 Kurds and put in jeopardy the Kurd’s hold on 11,000 ISIS prisoners in norther Syria, along with thousands of other ISIS women and children.
One of the bases hit by Iranian missiles is located in Kurdish-controlled Iraq. But after Trump’s betrayal, it’s an open question how much the U.S. can still count on the ethnic minority, which was instrumental fighting ISIS.
In another humiliating scene, Russian troops were videoed taking over an abandoned U.S. base in the region.
Trump accused rival Hillary Clinton of being the “war candidate” during the 2016 election.
But his policy on Iran has been spiraling toward military confrontation ever since he promised to “rip-up” President Obama’s historic nuclear accord with the Islamic regime. Now, that confrontation is a reality.
Money & Power reported back then that Iran would prove to be the first test of Trump’s foreign policy. By all accounts, he’s failed.
Obviously de-escalation is in the interests of both the United States and Iran. But whether the hardened egos of Trump and the mullahs allow it remains to be seen.