Iran is ready to attack again: Will the US forces withdraw from Iraq?

By Elijah J. Magnier:@ejmalrai

Iraq is preparing for demonstrations by a million protestors, called for by Iraqi Shia leader Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr, as a show of solidarity among Iraqis insisting on the immediate withdrawal of the US-led coalition and all foreign forces stationed in the country. Preparations are set for civilians, families, militants and armed companions of the commander of the Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes to march in the streets to send a message to US-led foreign forces. This is a peaceful message, the first of its kind. However, it is most unlikely that subsequent messages will be peaceful. Can the US-led coalition leave in peace?

According to a high-ranking officer within the “Axis of the Resistance”, “Iran has sworn to avenge its officers assassinated at Baghdad airport. These are Major General Qassem Soleimani and his companions Brigadier General Hossein Pour Jafari, Colonel Shahroud Mozaffari nia, Major Hadi Taremi, and Captain Vahid Zamanian. This attack was a real blow. Iran did not expect the US to declare open war when President Donald Trump was about to start his electoral campaign. Iran did not anticipate the US’s misjudgement of the consequences of such an act of war. Now Iran has taken stock of the situation, has come to terms with its losses, and is preparing to ensure that the assassination of its officers will be remembered in the US for many years.”

For US forces in Iraq, what options are available? How will the Iraqis deal with these forces, soon to be considered an occupying force, thus legitimising armed resistance attacks against the US? Is Iran preparing for a “war through its allies”?

The options, in fact, are simple: either US forces stay in Iraq and come under attack – or they leave, permanently. The US forces cannot stay in areas under Shia control. It might be possible to manage a short stay in the western al-Anbar desert, close to the Syrian borders, or a departure for Iraqi Kurdistan. 

US bases in Kurdistan are not isolated, and therefore not exempt from potential Iranian reprisals. The Iranian bombing of Ayn al-Assad and the US base in Erbil was a message to Trump that no base in Iraq is secure. Iran has friends and allies in Iraqi Kurdistan and can make life for the US forces very difficult.

Any US attempt to divide Kurdistan from Baghdad will be met with harsh Turkish and Iranian reactions. It will also force Baghdad to stop its financial support to the region, which will have an impact since oil-rich Kirkuk is under the control of Iraqi government forces and no longer part of the Iraqi region of Kurdistan.

All military bases in Iraq are occupied by two distinct forces: one part is under the Iraqi forces’ control and the other under US forces’ control. The Iraqi Prime Minister will have no choice but to order the withdrawal of all Iraqi forces from bases where US forces are established, once the US forces are formally designated an occupation force and refuse to withdraw. This will make it possible for the Iraqi resistance to attack the bases without risking Iraqi casualties.

Furthermore, it has now become too dangerous for the US to conduct military training programs. US forces can be attacked during training sessions by Iraqis who want these forces to leave. The friends of brigades 45 and 46, the two brigades attacked by the US on the Syrian-Iraqi borders, and those faithful to their commander Abu Mahdi will be just waiting to strike US service personnel at the first available opportunity.

In addition, no US oil company can stay in Iraq: US personnel risk becoming “soft targets” for kidnapping or killing by local Iraqis. No force can protect the US companies and Iraq will not find it difficult to allow China – the Chinese have already expressed their readiness to compensate foreign companies willing to leave – to replace them. The consequences of the targeted killings will be dire for the US in general.

Iran has delivered precision missiles to the Iraqis, who are eager to avenge their assassinated commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes and expel the US from Mesopotamia. Iran would be happy to supply the necessary precision missiles to fill up Iraqi warehouses and see the number of US casualties increasing just before the US forthcoming electoral campaign! There is little hope for Trump to end his years as President without US casualties in Iraq and Syria.

In Syria US forces are present around the oil fields, but with no real benefit to the US. Trump has said he “doesn’t need the oil from the Middle East”, avowing in effect that his decision to stay is linked to another objective, not hard to find: to please Israel. 

Israel is taking advantage of the US presence at al-Tanf and in north-east Syria to attack targets in Syria by violating Iraqi airspace. Israel hides behind the US presence to intimidate Iran and its allies, dissuading them from retaliating for the hundreds of attacks carried on in the last years. Trump will find it extremely difficult to justify US service personnel casualties on the grounds of stealing Syrian oil. The US presence represents a legitimate reason for the Syrians and their allies to hit back at the occupation forces who are forcibly taking the Syrian oil and no longer fighting ISIS. 

Any attempt to mobilise the street with protests and the burning of offices and governmental institutions will no longer be met lightly nor idly by the Iraqi resistance, if (as is not only possible but expected) there is evidence of US involvement behind the scenes.

Sayyed Moqtada al-Sadr has assumed the lead of the resistance against the US presence. He is now acknowledged as the leader of the resistance, gathering under his wings all groups who fought against ISIS in Iraq and in Syria. This is a suitable position for Sayyed Moqtada as long as he fulfils this role and maintains it. 

The Sadrist followers can easily create havoc for the US forces. Moqtada al-Sadr’s long experience in fighting the US is not unfamiliar to Washington. And if he hesitates, other leaders will emerge. Iraq’s allies within the “Axis of the Resistance” are also present in Iraq, ready to help. It won’t be long before the US realises the consequences it will have provoked for its criminal targeted assassinations and violations of Iraq sovereignty and its virtual declaration of war on Iran.

The cards are now on the table. Trump and Iran are fighting an undeclared war. The US forces are standing on a ground very familiar to Iran and its allies, who can move more freely than the US forces. The designated battlefields are Iraq first and Syria second.

Proofread byMaurice Brasher and C.B.G

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5 thoughts on “Iran is ready to attack again: Will the US forces withdraw from Iraq?

  1. You have good points here. One worth mentioning: Iraq is not united. This is the whole from where the US is going through. However, the “Axis of the Resistance” is not expected to be affected by the lack of the Iraqi unity and will continue acting according to its own agenda once the US declares itself an occupation force (rejecting the Iraqi binding decision to withdraw from the country).

    In relation to the S-400, I broke the news just after the US attack on the Iraqi security forces on the Syrian-Iraqi borders. In fact, the Russians are talking to the Iraqi and Baghdad is willing to diversify its anti-air system. However, US pressure is huge. China also is moving in fast. But the Iraqis prefer not to declare economic war on the US and allow its troops to leave first to avoid reprisal. The acquisition of the S-400 is on the table but postponed for now.

  2. Thanks for all your work keeping us up to date in the latest developments, particularly for your detail insights into the US-Iraq 2014 Agreement in your piece “Iraq is the next battleground.” (https://ejmagnier.com/2020/01/13/iraq-is-the-next-battleground/) And thank you for opening your blog for comments, many people were having login issues with WordPress, more and more looking like a censoring barrier to many, including me, for months.

    Several concerns about Iraq as a battlefield come to mind.

    1) Corruption. The rumor goes that “Iraq is more corrupt than Nigeria,” corruption a factor for the Iraqi political elite in bringing back the US under the false pretense of fighting ISIS. You are in a better position to judge that kind of information, which could also be used as misinformation. An old proverb states that “one traitor can defeat a thousand warriors,” and the assassination in series of Novorossiya leaders is a good example of how corruption can bring down a movement, a government, a state, by facilitating their killing for a few gold coins.

    The recent assassination of Shahid Sardar Qasem Soleimani et al, was to an extent the result of a dysfunctional Iraqi government, a weak leadership, and a corrupt system.

    2) Sectarian divisions. Besides the Sunni/Shia divide, exploited to the max up until now, Iraq’s political landscape is deeply fractured along religious, political, ethnic and economic divisions. Even within the Shi’a religious and political leadership, their bickering remains so high it becomes a political factor their enemies surely take advantage of.

    3) International alignments. Another factor in calling for a US return, was to create a counterbalance to the growing Iranian influence inside Iraq. The US main goal was the creation of a base to counter Iran, using ISIS as a pretext to set a foothold inside Iraq as a long-term benefit for Israel. Iraq has been swinging for years between Iran and US influence, Shahid Sardar Soleimani a king maker on its own right. Iran’s influence grew so big, Ayatollah Al Sistani was forced to make a pronunciation in defense of Iraq’s sovereignty.

    Iraq as a battlefield is a minefield.

    Preparations for the battle against the US are few and far apart. A member of Parliament talks about acquiring S-300s/S-400s from Russia, and we don’t know whether that is serious or just a bluff, given Iraq’s Armed Forces remain silent about it.

    Avia.pro, a Russian federal news agency for civil and military aviation, just published a picture “…that appeared a few days ago, apparently posted by the Iraqi Air Defense Command, may indicate that this Middle Eastern country has already received Russian long-range air defense systems. This is indicated by the images of the radar, as well as a radar grid having a coverage radius of the order of 300-350 kilometers…” (http://avia.pro/news/na-vooruzhenii-irakskoy-armii-zametili-dalnoboynuyu-rossiyskuyu-sistemu-pvo)

    Same publication indicated on Jan. 13 that the “…Deputy Chairman of the Defense Committee Alexander Sherin confirmed the sale of Russian S-400s to Iraq…” (http://avia.pro/news/komitet-po-oborone-rossii-podtverdil-prodazhu-iraku-sistem-s-400)

    Two days ago, Jan. 21, Avia.pro confirmed “Iraq sent a request to purchase Russian S-400 and S-300,” at the same time explaining that “…Contrary to the arguments of Western experts that Baghdad’s statements regarding the acquisition of Russian air defense / missile defense systems are nothing more than an attempt to demonstrate independence from the United States, it became known that the Iraqi delegation was sent to Moscow to negotiate the upcoming purchase of Russian modern defense equipment.” (http://avia.pro/news/irak-napravil-zapros-na-pokupku-rossiyskih-s-400-i-s-300)

    Against this backdrop of Battlefield Iraq, the strategic alliance between Russia and Iran has been accelerated and strengthened after the latest blow by the US to the heart of Iran. Same Avia.pro published an article in which infamous Debkafile, Israel MILINT claims Iran used Russian GLONASS navigation system on the missile attack on the US base in Iraq, which accounts for the accuracy of their guided missiles.

    “Israel: Iran guided ballistic missiles on Russian satellites”
    “…Russian military sources said that it was Russia that provided Iran with the means to engage high-precision missiles in an Iranian missile attack on two Iraqi US air bases on January 8. Russian sources claim to have provided the Iranians with their global navigation network, Glonass, which is the Russian equivalent of the US GPS system. The use of this system, according to Russian sources, allowed Iranian missiles to hit targets with an accuracy of 10 meters, especially at the Ein Assad base in western Iraq. According to Russian sources, 19 missiles were fired from Iran, 17 of which hit the target…” (http://avia.pro/news/izrail-iran-navodil-ballisticheskie-rakety-po-rossiyskim-sputnikam)

    Debkafile info must be carefully analyzed, they work by way of deception; however, quoting (anonymous) Russian military sources on the issue adds a degree of credibility to the news. Russia made a point to show great solidarity with Iran, the hastily arranged Orthodox Christmas visit by Putin to Syria was a clear message to the US that Russia was watching. A Russian military leak confirming the use of GLONASS by Iranian missiles could be understood as signaling Israel where Russian interests are in a potential confrontation.

    In addition, Avia.pro claimed that a “Russian warship helped Iran shoot down American missiles.” Google translation is not accurate, there were no US missiles raining over Iran, but the Russians deployed an electronics, radar, and air defense systems control ship to Iran’s coast, “… in case of launching missiles towards Iran or when fighter and bombers approached from the side of Diego Garcia air base, where the American B-52H strategic bombers were already located.”
    The article added, “…Due to the fact that the reconnaissance ship is not designed to repel attacks, experts believe that all information was transmitted to Iranian command posts, allowing thereby, the latter to detect in advance the approach of enemy aircraft, which increased the effectiveness of air defense systems by several hundred kilometers…” Same ship was probably the connection between Iran’s missile system and Russian satellites. (http://avia.pro/news/rossiyskiy-voennyy-korabl-pomogal-iranu-sbivat-amerikanskie-rakety)

    In this context, the close call between a Russian Navy ship and a US destroyer on Jan. 10 in the Arabian Sea makes more sense, the US was sending a signal to the Russians they knew of their role in the destruction of their bases.

    And just two days ago, Russia sent 80 Spetznas (Special Forces) to Iran, “Media: Russia sent 80 special forces to Iran” adding that “…Against the backdrop of a very serious military conflict in the Middle East, Russia sent 80 special forces to Iran, which should ensure the security of Iran’s key military facilities…” (http://avia.pro/news/smi-rossiya-napravila-v-iran-80-specnazovcev)

    In the meantime, and probably as a consequence of the increasing collaboration between Iran and Russia, the US military has unleashed their wild dogs against Russian forces in Syria, surrounding Russian bases, blocking Russian movements, and declaring all Russian forces banned from nearby oil fields. They are completing the takeover of Syrian oil, using ISIS/SDF/mercenaries to harass Russian forces. (http://avia.pro/blog/novosti-sirii-20-yanvarya-2020-goda-nochnaya-ataka-na-aviabazu-hmeymim-amerikanskie-voennye)

    The Russians have taken note of Pompeo’s new “deterrence” policy, which threatened to apply the killing of Shahid Sardar Soleimani to Russian and Chinese military leadership. (http://avia.pro/news/pompeo-ugrozhaet-likvidaciey-rossiyskih-generalov-po-scenariyu-unichtozheniya-iranskogo)

    The US Army are feeling the push against their presence in the ME, and the Russians are blocking the most aggressive edges of their imperial policy. They are now clinging by their nails to their looting, which may become their curse in the near future. The ME chessboard is set for a confrontation, and the Russian-Iranian axis might take advantage of Trump’s main weakness, his electoral promises, to envelope the US Army in a war of attrition, a death by a thousand cuts.

    Lone Wolf

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