As Obama was boosting al-Qaeda and ISIS Soleimani was containing them

As Obama was boosting al-Qaeda and ISIS Soleimani was containing them

Soleimani did far more for the safety of Americans than Bush, Obama or Trump ever did

In the wake of the Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general Soleimani I’m seeing a lot of Trump drones who think they’re making a profound observation by pointing out that Trump’s actions have supposedly led to the Democrats defending a “terrorist” or a “mass murderer” or something in that vein.

It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in months.

If only the Democrats were defending Soleimani because the man richly deserved it. Next to Bush, Obama and Trump, Soleimani was a downright American hero. Not just a greater and better man them (admittedly that’s a low bar to clear), but a better servant of America’s true national interest (admittedly that’s another very low bar).

Soleimani started his career at Quds by fighting the Taliban years before the US got involved in that fight:

Soleimani and the Quds Force first came into prominence in 1998, after the Taliban murdered hundreds of Afghan Shi’a and nine Iranians (eight diplomats and a journalist) following the capture of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i Sharif.

While senior Iranian military leadership advocated a massive punitive expedition into western Afghanistan, Soleimani advised a more constrained response, with his Quds Force providing training and material support to the Northern Alliance, an umbrella group of forces opposed to the Taliban. Soleimani personally directed this effort, transforming the Northern Alliance into an effective fighting force.

After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US used the Northern Alliance to establish a foothold in Afghanistan and eventually drive the Taliban from power. Soleimani played a major role behind the scenes helping make the US-Northern Alliance partnership viable, including providing operational and intelligence support.

The US-Iranian cooperation was short-lived; President Bush’s designation of Iran as being part of “an Axis of Evil” caused Iran to terminate its cooperation with the Americans.

So at a time when Bill Clinton was busy declining opportunities provided to him by the CIA to take out bin Laden (who by this time had already carried out the US Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings which killed over 200) and the Taliban were being backed by America’s then-favorite sons the Pakistanis, the Saudis and the Qataris, Soleimani was already fighting them.

Then in 2011, the US started a diplomatic, economic and media war against Syria and coupled it by dumping weapons and dollars on Islamists who shared trenches with al-Qaeda and (until 2013) ISIS. Nearly 50 percent of the fighters were foreign, many of them fresh arrivals from Libya where they had fought on the NATO-backed rebel side.

When this US-Saudi-Turkish assault on the Syrian state and support for Sunni jihad inevitably resulted in the meteoric rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria (from which the latter then swept western Iraq), Iran was the first in 2013 to recognize the danger and to react to contain it. Soleimani was the man who led a complex Iranian intervention, which stopped the Qaeda-ISIS onslaught and saved Syria’s secular, nationalist government.

It wasn’t until a year later that the US recognizing its mistake joined the fight, but only against ISIS which had spread from Syria to Iraq. As far as al-Qaeda was concerned it was still being de facto boosted by US largesse towards its junior partners in the rebel jihadi coalition.

Realizing they couldn’t do it all on their own Iranians proposed to the Russians they join the fight, against al-Qaeda and ISIS alike. Soleimani was part of these efforts, and part of the Iranian delegation that traveled to Russia to give the pitch. As a result in 2015 Russia joined the fight as well, a year after the Americans, and two years after the Iranians.

Where the Iranian involvement had saved Damascus and created a stalemate the added Russian involvement allowed Syria to regain the initiative and slowly push back against the still partly-US aided jihad.

In Iraq where the US was not pursuing regime change, Russian involvement was not necessary. Instead, Iraq regained the initiative and finally destroyed ISIS with the help of the US and Iran. The US contributed more firepower, particularly the air and artillery cover in the final stages, but the role of Iran and Soleimani was just as important, particularly organisationally and early on. When the corrupt and poorly led Iraqi regular army melted away, giving up major cities without a fight, Soleimani helped the much more motivated Popular Mobilisation Forces militias get going and take over.

Between the 1998-2002 fight against the Taliban and the 2013-2020 fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Soleimani’s main concern was the US presence in neighboring Iraq. With Bush declaring Iran a part of “Axis of Evil” and the neocons drunk on war declaring that “boys go to Baghdad, but real men go to Tehran” who could blame him?

The US now officially blames Iran, and thus Soleimani, for the deaths of 600 of the nearly 4,600 US soldiers killed occupying or invading Iraq. The number is utter nonsense. It is arrived at by tallying up all US soldiers who were killed in clashes with any of the Shia Iraqi resistance groups.

However, the vast, overwhelming majority of the Shia Iraqi fighting against the US was done by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army which was Shia Islamist but also anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalist. Indeed in time, the relentless US pressure on Sadr would drive him into a tactical reconciliation with the Iranians, but by this point the Mahdi Army had also become a lot less active in the struggle against the US, directing most of its energies to Iraqi infighting.

In reality, the truly pro-Iranian factions, the Badr and Dawa groups which Iran had nurtured during the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, were all too willing to work with the Americans. In fact, it is Badr and Dawa that the US installed in Baghdad and who then fought with Americans against the Sunni resistance that was as much against US occupation as against the new Shia supremacy.

Did Iran at the time play a double game? Did it, on the one hand, welcome the US installing its Badr and Dawa proteges in Baghdad, but on the other, also helped Shia and Sunni groups hone their bomb-making skills, so as to ensure Americans lost enough blood to understand how costly a similar Iran occupation would be? Sure it did. But how much of a difference Iran made shouldn’t be overstated.

At the time, particularly around 2006-2007, Iran was blamed for every single roadside bomb attack in which a shaped charge was used. Bush and the neocons wanted Americans to believe these shaped charges, every single one, were being assembled in Iran and then smuggled into Iraq. This was total nonsense. Iraq was awash with weapons, and by this time with expert bomb-makers.

If anything Iran’s Quds would not have been doing the risky but needless work of smuggling in ready-made bombs, but instead would have spread manuals and perhaps some in-person training on how to make them with materials already in Iraq. Nonetheless, the vast majority of Iraqi bomb-makers owed their skills to Saddam’s army and Sunni jihadist literature, not Iran.

Did Soleimani, to defend his country, contribute to the deaths of some American soldiers? Undoubtedly yes, so did Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, and countless other good patriots.

However, it is the Saudis, who saw the Iraq war as a larger Shia-Sunni conflict, who with their bankrolling* of the Sunni insurgency against the pro-Iranian Badr and Dawa contributed to the deaths of infinitely more American soldiers, yet they are in good graces in Washington. Now just as much as when they were actually financing Iraqi IEDs.

Indirectly Bush is likewise responsible for the deaths of many more American soldiers by throwing them into aggressive and immoral neocon wars of the Empire. (And then not even cracking down on the Saudis to cut off the funds to the Sunni insurgency to help protect them, but scapegoating Iran, which was doing far less, instead.)

Even with some help to the 2003-2011 anti-American struggle in Iraq taken into account, Soleimani did far more to fight America’s enemies than to aid them, which is more than could be said of Bush, Obama and Trump.

*This was done through private donations but which were fully tolerated by the state. Additionally, it is notable that the Saudis tended to disproportionately back the very worst parts of the Sunni insurgency.

Iran Fires 15 Ballistic Missiles Towards US Positions In Iraq, Without Shedding Blood

Iran’s strikes seem intended to avoid US deaths. Here’s why that might be the case

The timing. The target. The threats of heavy retaliation already “locked and loaded,” as President Trump would have had it.
Yet Wednesday morning’s missile strikes against al-Asad airbase and Erbil airport — both of which play host to US troops — were clearly not an act designed to kill the most Americans possible.
Iran will have known that the troops are normally asleep in the early hours of the morning. Choosing to attack then likely minimized the number of personnel roaming around the base who could be killed or injured.
It will also have known the US has a strong air defense system that would have been on high alert. Tehran should have a grasp of how well its missiles would fare against such technology.
The missile attacks don’t make sense if Tehran’s goal was to really hurt US troops in large numbers — as some had been pledging to do.
They do make sense, however, as the execution of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s order to strike back openly, military-to-military, in response to the killing of Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.
Khamenei’s instruction was confusing when first reported, given that the US would be bound to prevail in a straightforward military conflict. Was the Supreme Leader ordering an empty show of force?
Wednesday’s strikes sent a message that Iran would violate US red lines and engage in direct warfare, but they killed nobody.
The only thing wounded might be Iranian military pride that a moment they had so heavily trumpeted drew no blood from their adversary.

Three possible explanations

The dust is still settling, and even at the best of times Iran’s motivations can be opaque, but there are three possible explanations for the action.
First, that Khamenei, Iran’s octogenarian Supreme Leader, is out of touch with what his military can achieve and overestimated the effectiveness of the strikes, which then failed.
Such a miscalculation would be surprising, given his reported involvement in and knowledge of Iranian military affairs.
Second, that moderation won out, and this largely empty signal — hitting military targets in the dead of night with a small number of missiles — provides the off-ramp both sides might ultimately have been looking for.
This would be logical, given that neither Tehran nor Washington has much to gain from a prolonged fight.
Third, it might be a bid by Iran to lull the US into a false sense of security — that Iran is militarily weak and has done its worst — while an asymmetrical and nastier response is plotted.
That would require a lot of strategic acumen from a government split between hardline and moderate wings, and would mean Tehran was relatively certain no Americans would be hurt in this missile attack.
It is possible Iran allowed a warning to be passed to the US. The Iraqi Prime Minister’s office said it was given verbal notification from Tehran just before the attack happened. It’s hard to see how the US would not learn of that somehow.

Risk of further action

If the attacks in Iraq are indeed the full scope of Iran’s response, they carry another risk: That the Trump administration thinks its ramshackle performance over the past week has paid off, and Iran has been vanquished.
This would risk further irrational action from Washington, perhaps not just against Iran but also other enemies. It would also make Iran look weak, which might embolden Tehran’s other regional adversaries.
Much will hinge on Donald Trump’s mood as he awakes. On what Fox News says. And on whether he feels slighted by Iran’s rhetoric.
Iran’s foreign minister, Javad Zarif, has sent the clear message that Iran does not want war. It is notable that his moderate English-speaking voice has been heard clearly throughout this volatile morning, at a time when moderation might be considered to have taken a back seat.
Trump may just take that off-ramp. Tehran and Washington have one thing in common: Their lack of appetite for a prolonged, open conflict with the other. Iran has a weak economy and internal dissent. Trump wants re-election and not another episode of “sand and death.”
Iran has made its loud, public and fiery retort to the startlingly open killing of the country’s top commander. Its allies can read into this courage, and even choose to believe the false Iranian claims of US casualties.
This may be it, or — more likely — it may herald a slower-brewed retaliation against other, softer targets, by proxies or covert forces — the retaliation most analysts were expecting.
But this is not a reason to be cheerful. Yes, both sides may have steered deliberately away from a long and messy conflict. Yet they have also both learned they can attack each other directly.
They have both done things that were perhaps unthinkable a week ago. That is not good news. The tone of this morning may be de-escalatory. But the US and Iran had to get to a much darker place than they’ve seen in decades to choose calm.

Did Trump Murder Gen. Soleimani Now, To Distract American People From Impeachment Process?

Trump wags the hippopotamus

President Trump meets French President Emmanuel Macron at Winfield House on Dec. 3, 2019, in London. (Evan Vucci/AP)

Any ordinary president can wag the dog, but President Trump wags the Best and Biggest dog.

He wags the Bernese Mountain Dog!



The idea of launching military action to distract from domestic political troubles has been a thing at least since the 1997 film “Wag the Dog” (as in, the tail wagging the dog) gave it a name. Republicans accused President Bill Clinton of it in 1998 when he ordered airstrikes against Sudan and Iraq as impeachment loomed. Trump alleged (wrongly) that President Barack Obama would “start a war with Iran” before the 2012 election.

But now, Trump, on the eve of his impeachment trial in the Senate, has assassinated one of Iran’s top generals, the first action of its kind by the United States since World War II. And the president is using the self-created crisis as justification to shut down impeachment.

“Congress & the President should not be wasting their time and energy on a continuation of the totally partisan Impeachment Hoax when we have so many important matters pending,” he tweeted later.

In other words: They can’t hold my impeachment trial because I’m busy fighting the war I just started.

It’s easy to see why Trump would like to derail a Senate trial. More damning emails about his Ukraine contretemps dribbled out during the holidays and, now, former Trump national security adviser John Bolton, one of the officials the White House ordered not to cooperate with investigators, says he’s willing to testify in a Senate trial.

Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer (D-N.Y.) on Jan. 6 said Republicans would be “participating in a cover up” if they do not vote to subpoena witnesses. (U.S. Senate)

But Trump’s war-making isn’t a reason to call off the trial. In fact, Trump’s actions against Iran repeated some of the very behaviors that got him impeached in the first place.

Once again, he overrode congressional powers, refusing to inform lawmakers before the strike and mocking the War Powers Resolution by saying he’d alert lawmakers to his military actions.

Once again, he ignored the law, repeatedly threatening illegal strikes against Iranian cultural sites and warning he might launch a “disproportionate” attack against Iran.

Once again, he spurned warnings and advice from experts within the government, this time apparently ordering the strike because he got mad while watching TV. His order reportedly stunned the Pentagon.

It’s only natural that Trump repeats those behaviors. Republicans made it clear during the impeachment fight that they condone such abuses. Why wouldn’t he see what else he could get away with?

Trump’s assassination of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has, at least for the moment, shifted attention from the Senate trial. Before the attack, pro-impeachment activists had scheduled a protest inside the Hart Senate Office Building for Monday, but only 45 demonstrators showed up for the event, nearly equaled by the 20 journalists and 15 police officers who greeted them. Though wearing “Remove Trump” and “Trump is Guilty” T-shirts, they were about as disruptive as a tour group.

To a point, it does. Back in 1998, when Clinton launched far less dramatic military strikes, Republicans accused him of dog-wagging. (“The timing and the policy are subject to question,” then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott said.) But the Republicans argued then that the military action made it even more necessary to continue with impeachment proceedings. “As those troops are engaged now, defending . . . the Constitution of this nation, they have a right to know that the work of the nation goes forward,” then-House Majority Leader Dick Armey said.

Now, Trump has lit the Middle East on fire, with only a halfhearted attempt to justify the sudden urgency (“This president waited three years. I mean, we’ve had Soleimani in our sights for just as long as we’ve been here,” Trump strategist Kellyanne Conway told Fox News on Monday). Thousands of U.S. troops are hurriedly deploying to the region, Iraq is demanding that U.S. troops leave the country, and Iran is threatening retaliation and renewing its nuclear ambitions.