Tue, 21 Jan 2020

Round one U.S.-Iran hostities: 1 American dead, 267 others

By Jay Jackson, Ohio State News.Net
14 Jan 2020, 04:57 GMT+10

The Trump administration has been criticized for a claimed lack of strategy in dealing with Iran.

Administration officials on the Sunday talk shows this week were countering this, asserting there is a strategy, one that is designed to exert maximum pressure - economically, diplomatically and militarily.

The two countries have been at loggerheads for four decades, since the U.S. backed Shah was deposed, and the U.S. embassy was overrun in 1979 and its occupants taken hostage.

The latest round of hostilities began with a rocket attack on an Iraqi base which killed a U.S. private contractor. A U.S. official told CNN that "less than a handful" of Americans were wounded, and it was believed some had already returned to duty. The Iraqi military said only one Iraqi security officer was injured in the attack.

The U.S. is now trying to determine who was responsible for the attack, officials told CNN at the time.

One U.S. official told CNN that the U.S. saw similarities between Friday's attack and past attacks that 'have been linked to a Shiite militia in Iraq believed to be backed by Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.'

"There are a lot of similarities to some of the other 10 rocket attacks in the last two months which we have linked to Iranian-backed militias. We are looking into a possible link to Kataib Hezbollah in particular," the official said at the time.

The U.S. blamed Kataeb Hezbollah. Designated by the U.S. as a terrorist group in 2009, it operates under the umbrella of the state-sanctioned militias, around 40 of them, known collectively as the Popular Mobilization Forces, many of which, aside from being officially sponsored by Iraq, are supported by Iran.

Two days later, U.S. Air Force F-15 Strike Eagles dropped 3 bombs in Iraq and two in Syria, at bases used by Kataeb Hezbollah, which reportedly killed 25 people and injured more than two hundred.

In a statement, Abdul-Mahdi said U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper had called him about a half-hour before the U.S. strikes to tell him of U.S. intentions to hit bases of the militia suspected of being behind Friday's rocket attack. Abdul-Mahdi said in the statement he asked Esper to call off U.S. retaliation plans.

The statement said Iraqi President Barham Salih also received advance notice from a U.S. diplomat, and also asked unsuccessfully for the Americans to call it off.

In response to that attack, around 300 protesters, many believed to belong to the militias including Kataeb Hezbollah, attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad on Dec. 31.

On the second day, the Popular Mobilization Forces, called on its supporters to withdraw after being called on by the Iraqi government, saying "your message has been received." By late afternoon the tents had been taken down and the protesters relocated to the opposite side of the Tigris River, outside the so-called Green Zone housing government offices and foreign embassies, according to a CBS News report.

Two days later, at 1:00am local time (Thursday night U.S. time), at Baghdad International Airport, Qasem Soleimani, an Iranian general and head of the Ouds Force, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy chairman of the Popular Mobilization Forces and the commander of Kataeb Hezbollah, were assassinated in a U.S. drone strike, which killed eight other people.

On 7 January, during the burial of Soleimani in his home town of Kerman, fifty six people were killed, and 213 were injured in a stampede.

The following day, on 8 January, Iranian forces fired missiles at two Iraqi military bases which housed U.S. and coalition troops. There were no casualties and minimal damage.

Hours after this, 176 people, mostly Iranians and Canadians, were killed when their Ukraine International Airlines Boeing plane was shot down with a missile by Iranian forces, shortly after taking off from Tehran's international airport.

In an extraordinary chain of events, beginning with the death of a U.S. contractor, the response by the U.S. has resulted in the deaths of 267 people, and injuries to hundreds more.

If ever there was ever a lesson that hostilities lead to unintentional consequences, it was this.

Within two days the United States bombed and killed the Kataeb Hezbollah fighters because they were suspected of carrying out the attack that killed the U.S. contractor. How any investigation could have arrived at such a conclusion in such a short space of time, sufficient to launch an attack killing so many people, and injuring hundreds more is highly questionable.

The narrative in any event in the days since has shifted. Now it was Qasem Soleimani who carried out, ordered or orchestrated the attack, simply because the suspected group was allied with Iran and the Ouds Force.

The attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, the largest U.S. embassy in the world, was carried out by 300 people and petered out after two days, at the direction of the Popular Mobilization Forces - whose deputy chairman was assassinated along with Soleimani two days later.

The narrative now is Soleimani carried out, orchestrated or ordered the attack on the embassy, and yet the evidence is more likely that he may have had a hand in bringing the protest to an end.

Regardless, the U.S. assassinated the two government officials together with 8 other people whose identities have not been disclosed. Those 8, together with 25 Kataeb Hezbollah fighters, the fifty six killed in the stampede, and the 176 killed in the Ukraine plane crash total 267 people - of which 232 were civilians.

U.S. President Donald Trump maintains the world is a safer place with Soleimani having been taken off the battlefield.

Tell that to the families of the 82 citizens from Iran, the sixty-three from Canada, 11 from Ukraine, ten from Sweden, 4 from Afghanistan, three from Germany, and 3 from the UK, killed in the plane crash, and the fifty-six Iranians killed in the stampede.

"If there was no escalation recently in the region, those Canadians would be right now home with their families," Canadian Prime Minister Justin Trudeau said in an interview with Global News Television on Monday. "This is something that happens when you have conflict and the war. Innocents bear the brunt of it," he said.

On the day of the assassinations, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo was due to be in Ukraine on a state visit. He cancelled that visit to "monitor" events related to the heightened state of alert over hostilities with Iran. If he had gone to Ukraine and not 'monitored' events a lot of people would still be alive. How ominous that where he was supposed to be Ukraine, was the host country of the plane shot down.

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