Trump’s Brink of War with Iran Spun on a Lie
(February 9, 2020) — Iraqi military intelligence has found that almost certainly the rocket attack on a US base in December which killed an American contractor was carried out by the Islamic State terror group — not an Iranian-backed Shia militia, contrary to what Washington has been claiming.
The rocket attack on the base in Kirkuk in northern Iraq on December 27 led to a spiral of violence, which brought the US to the brink of war with Iran last month. For a few days, the world held its breath in dread of a war that could have engulfed the entire Middle East and beyond.
It turns out that President Trump’s brink of war with Iran was most likely spun on a cynical lie. That misinformation also led to the US assassination of top Iranian military leader, Major General Qassem Soleimani on January 3, and to the subsequent shoot-down of a civilian airliner in Iran with 176 lives lost.
Following the deadly barrage on the American base in Kirkuk on December 27, the US immediately blamed the Iranian-backed militia called Khataib Hezbollah. Washington took revenge within days by launching airstrikes on December 29 against the militia at sites across Syria and Iraq, killing dozens of fighters.
That then prompted furious protests at the US embassy in the Iraqi capital Baghdad on January 1. Trump fulminated against Iran for orchestrating the assault on American personnel and property, warning of a devastating military response.
On January 3, Trump ordered a drone strike against Iran’s Maj. Gen. Soleimani after he arrived at Baghdad international airport. Soleimani was murdered along with Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al Muhandis who was leader of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, which includes Khataib Hezbollah – the Shia group that the Americans blamed for the multiple-rocket attack killing the US contractor on December 27 in Kirkuk.
There then followed an intensive media campaign by Trump and his top officials which sought to portray the Iranian general as the ultimate author of the December 27 rocket attack. Soleimani was overnight transformed into a monster-terrorist who had to be “taken out”.
In his State of the Union address last week, Trump repeated the vilification of Soleimani and the justification for his assassination.
The president stated: “Soleimani was the Iranian regime’s most ruthless butcher, a monster who murdered or wounded thousands of American service members in Iraq. As the world’s top terrorist, Soleimani orchestrated the deaths of countless men, women, and children. He directed the December assault [at Kirkuk US base] and went on to assault US forces in Iraq. Was actively planning new attacks when we hit him very hard. And that’s why, last month, at my direction, the US military executed a flawless precision strike that killed Soleimani and terminated his evil reign of terror forever.”
Neither Trump nor his senior administration officials have presented any evidence to link Soleimani with the rocket attack at Kirkuk. Nor have they provided evidence that the Khataib Hezbollah militia group were responsible. The Americans say their information is classified and therefore cannot be disclosed publicly. For its part, the militia group has denied any involvement.
Iraqi military officials, however, are now coming out to say that they believe the perpetrators of the Kirkuk attack were Islamic State (also known as Daesh). The New York Times last week quoted Iraq’s Brigadier General Ahmed Adnan as saying: “All the indications are that it was Daesh… We as Iraqi forces cannot even come to this area unless we have a large force because it is not secure. How could it be that someone [Khataib Hezbollah] who doesn’t know the area could come here and find that firing position and launch an attack?”
The area surrounding the US-Iraqi base in Kirkuk is a hotbed for the radical Sunni Islamic State network. It would therefore be nigh impossible for a Shia militia like Khataib Hezbollah to mount a major operation in a hostile and remote northern area of the country.
Furthermore, the Iraqi military said it had notified the Americans of imminent Islamic State hostile activity in the Kirkuk area in the weeks before the attack on December 27.
That points to another anomaly in Trump’s State of the Union speech when he bragged about how he had achieved the “100 percent” destruction of the IS terror organization in Iraq and Syria. Trump’s bravura necessarily means denying that the terror group could have killed an American contractor. Better to blame a Shia militia affiliated with Iran so as not to spoil the self-congratulations.
More than that though, it seems that the Trump administration had Iran’s military leader in its cross-hairs for months before he was finally assassinated. It is reported Trump wanted to kill Soleimani as far back as 2017. Thus, the rocket attack on the base in Kirkuk and the subsequent protests at the US embassy in Baghdad were merely a cynical pretext to trigger the assassination plan.
The killing of Soleimani resulted in an outpouring of national grief across Iran for a hero figure and a retaliation ballistic missile attack by Iran against two US bases in Iraq on January 8. There were no American casualties in those attacks. But the world was brought to the brink of war. A war which could have spiraled into a regional conflict and even a world war given the strategic balance of forces in the region, including those of Russia, NATO and Israel.
In the event, war was narrowly averted. But one tragic outcome was the accidental shooting down of Ukrainian airliner Flight 752 above Tehran on the morning of January 8. Iranian air defenses fired in the mistaken belief it was an enemy target amid heightened tensions of war with the US in retaliation for the Iranian missile attack on American bases in Iraq only hours earlier. All 176 onboard the airliner were killed.
All the more damnable is that assassinations, the brink of war and the loss of innocent civilians all stemmed from what appears now to be an odious lie from the Trump administration.
Finian Cunningham is a former editor and writer for major news media organizations. He has written extensively on international affairs, with articles published in several languages.
Did Washington Use a False Pretext for Its Recent Escalation in Iraq?
(February 8, 2020) — In a key piece of actual extensive, on-the-ground reporting, the New York Times’s Alissa Rubin has raised serious questions about the official US account of who it was that attacked the K-1 base near Kirkuk, in eastern Iraq, on December 27.
The United States almost immediately accused the Iran-backed Ketaib Hizbullah (KH) militia of responsibility. But Rubin quotes by name Brig. General Ahmed Adnan, the chief of intelligence for the Iraqi federal police at the same base, as saying, “All the indications are that it was Daesh” — that is, ISIS.
She also presents considerable further detailed reporting on the matter. And she notes that though U.S. investigators claim to have evidence about KH’s responsibility for the attack, they have presented none of it publicly. Nor have they shared it with the Iraqi government.
KH is a paramilitary organization that operates under the command of the Iraqi military and has been deeply involved in the anti-ISIS campaigns throughout the country.
The December 27 attack killed one Iraqi-American contractor and was cited by the Trump administration as reason to launch a large-scale attack on five KH bases some 400 miles to the west, which killed around 50 KH fighters.
Outraged KH fighters then mobbed the US embassy in Baghdad, breaking through an outside perimeter on its large campus, but causing no casualties. On January 2, Pres. Trump decided to escalate again, ordering the assassination of Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani and bringing the region and the world close to a massive shooting war.
The new evidence presented by Rubin makes it look as if Trump and his advisors had previously decided on a broad-scale plan to attack Iran’s very influential allies in Iraq and were waiting for a triggering event — any triggering event! — to use as a pretext to launch it. The attack against the K-1 base presented them with that trigger, even though they have not been able to present any evidence that it was KH that undertook it.
This playbook looks very similar to the one that Ariel Sharon, who was Israel’s Defense Minister in summer 1982, used to launch his wide attack against the PLO’s presence in Lebanon in June that year. The “trigger” Sharon used to launch his long-prepared attack was the serious (but not fatal) wounding of Israel’s ambassador in London, Shlomo Argov, which the Israeli government immediately blamed on the PLO.
Regarding London in 1982, as regarding K-1 last December, the actual identity of the assailant(s) was misreported by the government that used it as a trigger for escalation. In London, the police fairly speedily established that it was not the PLO but operatives of an anti-PLO group headed by a man called Abu Nidal who had attacked Argov. But by the time they had discovered and publicized that fact, Israeli tanks were already deep inside Lebanon.
The parallels and connections between the two cases go further. If, as now seems likely, the authors of the K-1 attack were indeed Da’esh, then they succeeded brilliantly in triggering a bitter fight between two substantial forces in the coalition that had been fighting against them in Iraq.
Regarding the 1982 London attack, its authors also succeeded brilliantly in triggering a lethal conflict between two forces (one substantial, one far less so) that were both engaged in bitter combat against Abu Nidal’s networks.
Worth noting: Abu Nidal’s main backer, throughout his whole campaign against the PLO, was Saddam Hussein’s brutal government in Iraq. (The London assailants deposited their weapons in the Iraqi embassy after completing the attack.) Many senior strategists and planners for ISIS in Iraq were diehard remnants of Saddam’s formerly intimidating security forces.
Also worth noting: Three months in to Sharon’s massive 1982 invasion of Lebanon, it seemed to have successfully reached its goals of expelling the PLO’s fighting forces from Lebanon and installing a strongly pro-Israeli government there. But over the longer haul, the invasion looked much less successful.
The lengthy Israeli occupation of south Lebanon that followed 1982 served to incubate the birth and growth of the (pro-Iranian) Hizbullah there. Today, Hizbullah is a strong political movement inside Lebanon that commands a very capable fighting force that expelled Israel’s last presence from Lebanon in 2000, rebuffed a subsequent Israeli invasion of the country six years later, and still exerts considerable deterrent power against Israel today…
Very few people in Israel today judge the 1982 invasion of Lebanon to have been a wise move. How will the historians of the future view Trump’s decision to launch his big escalation against Iran’s allies in Iraq, presumably as part of his “maximum pressure” campaign against Tehran?
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