Command facilities, UAV and missile warehouses, as well as infrastructure used by Quds Force units of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and allied militant groups were hit at midnight (Moscow time).
That was Washington’s response to the deaths of three of its soldiers and 30 others injured in a drone strike launched by a pro-Iranian group on a U.S. military base on Jordan’s border with Syria. The victims of Saturday’s raid, on the other hand, were 16 Iraqis in Anbar Province.
Bassem al-Awadi, an Iraqi government spokesman, denied the claim by US administration spokesman John Kirby that Washington had allegedly warned Baghdad in advance about the upcoming intimidation action. Bassem al-Awadi said, «The American side falsified facts by claiming prior coordination to carry out this aggression. These are false claims aimed at misleading international public opinion».
For his part, Nasser Kanaani, Iran’s Foreign Ministry spokesman, noted that «US military strikes on Iraq, Syria and Yemen only ensure the achievement of the Israeli regime’s goals…. These kinds of attacks involve the US government (in the conflict) in the region more than before and leave the Israeli regime’s crimes in the Gaza Strip in the shadows…. The continuation of such incidents poses a threat to regional and international peace and security».
The logical question is: has it begun? Has the Biden administration decided to retaliate for the deaths of U.S. soldiers sent on an unclear mission to one of the 800 U.S. military bases overseas? Should we interpret the airstrikes to mean that, in the midst of a presidential campaign, Democratic Party headquarters and apparently «deep state» strategists felt it necessary to make a show of force to give a powerful aura to a senile grandfather saying hello to the void?
Most likely, the PR component of this moderately massive air raid outweighed the military-strategic benefits. The reasons for restraint have already been voiced by U.S. Secretary of State Antony Blinken. Speaking to the 15 members of the UN Security Council on October 24 last year, the head of Washington’s foreign policy made it clear that in case of involvement in the conflict between Palestinian Hamas militants in the Gaza Strip and Israel’s armed forces of the Hezbollah group in Lebanon, which is patronized by Iran, a full-scale war could break out in the region.
A key passage in Blinken’s speech indicated what «red lines» Washington had drawn for itself: «The United States does not seek conflict with Iran. We do not want this war to widen. But if Iran or its proxies attack U.S. personnel anywhere, make no mistake: We will defend our people, we will defend our security — swiftly and decisively».
Last week, according to the New York Times, Iran’s Supreme National Security Council held an emergency meeting to analyze all possible scenarios, of course, not a solution to the crisis, but an exacerbation of it. At that meeting, Grand Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Hosseini Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, instructed military commanders to avoid direct confrontation with the United States and, to that end, in particular, to distance themselves from militant groups that have killed Americans.
Washington had been aware before that Tehran was not looking for war and would avoid it in every possible way. Therefore, when the army fired 125 high-precision munitions at the facilities of elite Quds Force units on the order from Pentagon, they did not expect a «response».
However, Tehran envisioned the worst scenario, in case there was an unintended escalation and there was no other option but to intervene. For this reason, the military command has put all of Iran’s armed forces on high alert, activated air defense systems and deployed ballistic missiles along the border with Iraq. Thereby creating the effect of a Chekhov’s gun in the first act, capable of firing in the third act, or not?
On November 29, 2023, the New York Times posted a message from its Washington correspondents: «National security officials fear a miscalculation amid tit-for-tat attacks, combined with each side’s belief that the other does not want a larger fight, could trigger exactly that: a regional conflict, just two years after the United States ended 20 years of war in the Middle East and South Asia».
Exactly two months later, on January 29, 2024, the magazine «Foreign Affairs» published an article following up on the theme. It has two authors: Adam Weinstein, deputy director of the Middle East Program at the Quincy Institute, and Steven Simon, the professor of practice in Middle Eastern studies at the Jackson School of International Relations, University of Washington.
The main message of the article in this journal, published by the influential Council on Foreign Relations, is: «The frequency of attacks on U.S. troops in the region by Iran-aligned militias places American soldiers at greater risk than they have faced in years. With over 100 attacks reported since the onset of the Gaza conflict, it is time to ask whether the risks of maintaining these outposts outweigh their remaining benefits».
The authors point to this risk factor as an argument: «Washington may find itself drawn into an avoidable conflict against an opportunistic adversary whose violent tactics are all too easily applied when U.S. troops are deployed next door to Iran amid a welter of pro-Iranian militias».
Experts from the academic environment give further advice to the Biden administration: «The United States should begin preparations to withdraw most of its troops from Iraq to deny militias targets and reduce the risk that militias will provoke a larger war with the United States by successfully killing U.S. soldiers».
At the same time, the authors parry possible objections: «Some might argue that withdrawal from Iraq would benefit Iran and its proxies, and they would be right. But by providing them with troops to target, the U.S. inadvertently validates their raison d’être, while perpetuating the risk of an undesirable war with Iran».
«Undesirability» is due to the fact that, despite the incomparability of military and economic potentials, Iran has many trump cards up its sleeve. As the author of the blog «Politjoystic» rightly notes, «The US knows that an all-out war against Iran would open new fronts in Yemen, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, known in the West as the «Iran’s Ring of Fire». Washington also takes into account another consequence: «The price of oil and gas could rise, which could destroy the European and the world economy as a whole».
In Washington itself, the so-called «isolationists», who advocate carefully thought-out forceful actions outside the country due to the increased risks, have now become more active. In late January, a group of nearly 30 members of the U.S. House of Representatives sent a letter to Joe Biden expressing strong opposition to what they called «unauthorized» military actions against the Yemeni Houthis, which, in their view, could further escalate the crisis in the Middle East.
«Unauthorized» means that the executive branch, represented by President Biden, has not obtained the consent of the legislative branch, i.e., the U.S. Congress, to conduct military operations abroad. The letter, signed by Democrat Congressman Ro Khanna of California and Republican Congressman Warren Davidson of Ohio, states, «No President, regardless of political party, has the constitutional authority to bypass Congress on matters of war».
Another fact in this context: 20 senators are demanding that the U.S. State Department cut off military aid to Israel and thereby help stop the bombing of the Gaza Strip, since the U.S. Congress did not authorize their indirect funding.
… Meanwhile, isolationist Republicans in the U.S. Congress have discovered some sensitive dirt on the current master of the White House. A long time ago, as a senator from the state of Delaware, Biden threatened then-President George W. Bush Jr. to start impeachment proceedings. The grounds, Senator Biden claimed, were actions by Bush that could provoke a major war with Iran — without Congressional approval!