First, a quick recap of the situation
We need to begin by quickly summarizing what just happened:
- General Soleimani was in Baghdad on an official visit to attend the funeral of the Iraqis murdered by the USA on the 29th
- The US has now officially claimed responsibility for this murder
- The Iranian Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has officially declared that “However, a severe retaliation awaits the criminals who painted their corrupt hands with his and his martyred companions’ blood last night“
The US paints itself – and Iran – into a corner
The Iranians simply had no other choice than to declare that there will be a retaliation. There are a few core problems with what happens next. Let’s look at them one by one:
- First, it is quite obvious from the flagwaving claptrap in the USA that Uncle Shmuel is “locked and loaded” for even more macho actions and reaction. In fact, Secretary Esper has basically painted the US into what I would call an “over-reaction corner” by declaring that “the game has changed” and that the US will take “preemptive action” whenever it feels threatened. Thus, the Iranians have to assume that the US will over-react to anything even remotely looking like an Iranian retaliation.
- No less alarming is that this creates the absolutely perfect conditions for a false flag à la “USS Liberty“. Right now, the Israelis have become at least as big a danger for US servicemen and facilities in the entire Middle-East as are the Iranians themselves. How? Simple! Fire a missile/torpedo/mine at any USN ship and blame Iran. We all know that if that happens the US political elites will do what they did the last time around: let US servicemen die and protect Israel at all costs (read up on the USS Liberty if you don’t know about it)
- There is also a very real risk of “spontaneous retaliations” by other parties (not Iran or Iranian allies). In fact, in his message, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has specifically declared that “Martyr Suleimani is an international face to the Resistance and all lovers of the Resistance share a demand in retaliation for his blood. All friends – as well as all enemies – must know the path of Fighting and Resistance will continue with double the will and the final victory is decidedly waiting for those who fight in this path.” He is right, Soleimani was loved and revered by many people all over the globe, some of whom might decided to avenge his death. This means that we might well see some kind of retaliation which, of course, will be blamed on Iran but which might not be the result of any Iranian actions at all.
- Finally, should the Iranians decide not to retaliate, then we can be absolutely sure that Uncle Shmuel will see that as a proof of his putative “invincibility” and take that as a license to engage in even more provocative actions.
If we look at these four factors together we would have to come to the conclusion that Iran HAS to retaliate and HAS to do so publicly.
Because whether the Iranian do retaliate or not, they are almost guaranteed another US attack in retaliation for anything looking like a retaliation, whether Iran is involved or not.
The dynamics of internal US politics
Next, let’s look at the internal political dynamics in the USA:
I have always claimed that Donald Trump is a “disposable President” for the Neocons. What do I mean by that? I mean that the Neocons have used Trump to do all sorts of truly fantastically dumb things (pretty much ALL his policy decisions towards Israel and/or Syria) for a very simple reason. If Trump does something extremely dumb and dangerous, he will either get away with it, in which case the Neocons will be happy, or he will either fail or the consequences of his decisions will be catastrophic, at which point the Neocons will jettison him and replace him by an even more subservient individual (say Pence or Pelosi). In other words, for the Neocons to have Trump do something both fantastically dangerous and fantastically stupid is a win-win situation!
Right now, the Dems (still the party favored by the Neocons) seem to be dead-set into committing political suicide with that ridiculous (and treacherous!) impeachment nonsense. Now think about this from the Neocon point of view. They might be able to get the US goyim to strike Iran AND get rid of Trump. I suppose that their thinking will go something like this:
Trump looks set to win 2020. We don’t want that. However, we have been doing everything in our power to trigger a US attack on Iran since pretty much 1979. Let’s have Trump do that. If he “wins” (by whatever definition – more about that further below), we win. If he loses, the Iranians will still be in a world of pain and we can always jettison him like a used condom (used to supposedly safely screw somebody with no risks to yourself). Furthermore, if the region explodes, this will help our beloved Bibi and unite US Jewry behind Israel. Finally, if Israel gets attacked, we will immediately demand (and, of course, obtain) a massive US attack on Iran, supported by the entire US political establishment and media. And, lastly, should Israel be hit hard, then we can always use our nukes and tell the goyim that “Iran wants to gas 6 million Jews and wipe the only democracy in the Middle-East off the face of the earth” or something equally insipid.
Ever since Trump made it into the White House, we saw him brown-nose the Israel Lobby with a delectation which is extreme even by US standards. I suppose that this calculation goes something along the lines of “with the Israel Lobby behind me, I am safe in the White House”. He is obviously too stupidly narcissistic to realize that he has been used all along. To his (or one of his key advisor’s) credit, he did NOT allow the Neocons to start a major war against Russia, China, the DPRK, Venezuela, Yemen, Syria, etc. However, Iran is a totally different case as it is the “number one” target the Neocons and Israel wanted strike and destroy. The Neocons even had this motto “boys go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran“. Now that Uncle Shmuel has lost all this wars of choice, now that the US armed forces have no credibility left, now is the time to restore the “macho” self-image of Uncle Shmuel and, indeed, “go to Tehran” so to speak.
The Dems (Biden) are already saying that Trump just “tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox“, as if they cared about anything except their own, petty, political goals and power. Still, I have to admit that Biden’s metaphor is correct – that is exactly what Trump (and his real bosses) have done.
If we assume that I am correct in my evaluation that Trump is the Neocon’s/Israeli’s “disposable President”, then we also have to accept the fact that the US armed forces the Neocon’s/Israeli’s “disposable armed forces” and that the US as a nation is also the Neocon’s/Israeli’s “disposable nation”. This is very bad news indeed, as this means that from the Neocon/Israeli point of view, there are no real risks into throwing the US into a war with Iran.
In truth, the position of the Dems is a masterpiece of hypocrisy which can be summed up as follows: the assassination of Soleimani is a wonderful event, but Trump is a monster for making it happen.
A winner, no?
What would the likely outcome of a US war on Iran be?
I have written so often about this topic that I won’t go into all the possible scenarios here. All I will say is the following:
- For the USA, “winning” means achieving regime change or, failing that, destroying the Iranian economy.
- For Iran, “winning” simply means to survive the US onslaught.
This is a HUGE asymmetry which basically means that the US cannot win and Iran can only win.
And, not, the Iranians don’t have to defeat CENTCOM/NATO! They don’t need to engage in large scale military operations. All they need to do is: remain “standing” once the dust settles down.
Ho Chi Minh once told the French “You can kill ten of my men for every one I kill of yours, but even at those odds, you will lose and I will win“. This is exactly why Iran will eventually prevail, maybe at a huge cost (Amalek must be destroyed, right?), but that will still be a victory.
Now let’s look at the two most basic types of war scenarios: outside Iran and inside Iran.
The Iranians, including General Soleimani himself, have publicly declared many times that by trying to surround Iran and the Middle-East with numerous forces and facilities the USA have given Iran a long list of lucrative targets. The most obvious battlefield for a proxy war is clearly Iraq where there are plenty of pro and anti Iranian forces to provide the conditions for a long, bloody and protracted conflict (Moqtada al-Sadr has just declared that the Mahdi Army will be remobilized). But Iraq is far from being the only place where an explosion of violence can take place: the ENTIRE MIDDLE-EAST is well within Iranian “reach”, be it by direct attack or by attack by sympathetic/allied forces. Next to Iraq, there is also Afghanistan and, potentially, Pakistan. In terms of a choice of instruments, the Iranian options range from missile attacks, to special forces direct action strikes, to sabotage and many, many more options. The only limitation here is the imagination of the Iranians and, believe me, they have plenty of that!
If such a retaliation happens, the US will have two basic options: strike at Iranian friends and allies outside Iran or, as Esper has now suggested, strike inside Iran. In the latter case, we can safely assume that any such attack will result in a massive Iranian retaliation on US forces and facilities all over the region and a closure of the Strait of Hormuz.
Keep in mind that the Neocon motto “boys go to Baghdad, real men go to Tehran” implicitly recognizes the fact that a war against Iran would be qualitatively (and even quantitatively) different war than a war against Iraq. And, this is true, if the US seriously plans to strike inside Iran they would be faced with an explosion which would make all the wars since WWII look minor in comparison. But the temptation to prove to the world that Trump and his minions are “real men” as opposed to “boys” might be too strong, especially for a president who does not understand that he is a disposable tool in the hands of the Neocons.
Now, let’s quickly look at what will NOT happen
Russia and/or China will not get militarily involved in this one. Neither will the USA use this crisis as a pretext to attack Russia and/or China. The Pentagon clearly has no stomach for a war (conventional or nuclear) against Russia and neither does Russia have any desire for a war against the USA. The same goes for China. However, it is important to remember that Russia and China have other options, political and covert ones, to really hurt the US and help Iran. There is the UNSC where Russia and China will block any US resolution condemning Iran. Yes, I know, Uncle Shmuel does not give a damn about the UN or international law, but most of the rest of the world very much does. This asymmetry is further exacerbated by Uncle Shmuel’s attention span (weeks at most) with the one of Russia and China (decades). Does that matter?
If the Iraqis officially declare that the US is an occupation force (which it is), an occupation force which engages in acts of war against Iraq (which it does) and that the Iraqi people want Uncle Shmuel and his hypocritical talking points about “democracy” to pack and leave, what can our Uncle Shmuel do? He will try to resist it, of course, but once the tiny figleaf of “nation building” is gone, replaced by yet another ugly and brutal US occupation, the political pressure on the US to get the hell out will become extremely hard to manage, both outside and even inside the USA.
In fact, Iranian state television called Trump’s order to kill Soleimani “the biggest miscalculation by the U.S.” since World War II. “The people of the region will no longer allow Americans to stay,” it said.
Next, both Russia and China can help Iran militarily with intelligence, weapons systems, advisors and economically, in overt and covert ways.
Finally, both Russia and China have the means to, shall we say, “strongly suggest” to other targets on the US “country hit list” that now is the perfect time to strike at US interests (say, in Far East Asia).
So Russia and China can and will help, but they will do so with what the CIA likes to call “plausible deniability”.
Back The Big Question: what can/will Iran do next?
The Iranians are far most sophisticated players than the mostly clueless US Americans. So the first thing I would suggest is that the Iranians are unlikely to do something the US is expecting them to do. Either they will do something totally different, or they will act much later, once the US lowers its guard (as it always does after declaring “victory”).
I asked a well-informed Iranian friend whether it was still possible to avoid war. Here is what he replied:
Yes I do believe fullscale war can be avoided. I believe that Iran can try to use its political influence to unite Iraqi political forces to officially ask for the removal of US troops in Iraq. Kicking the US out of Iraq will mean that they can no longer occupy eastern Syria either as their troops will be in danger between two hostile states. If the Americans leave Syria and Iraq, that will be the ultimate revenge for Iran without having fired a single shot.
I have to say that I concur with this idea: one of the most painful things Iran could do next would be to use this truly fantastically reckless event to kick the US out of Iraq first, and Syria next. That option, if it can be exercised, might also protect Iranian lives and the Iranian society from a direct US attack. Finally, such an outcome would give the murder of General Soleimani a very different and beautiful meaning: this martyr’s blood liberated the Middle-East!
Finally, if that is indeed the strategy chosen by Iran, this does not at all mean that on a tactical level the Iranians will not extract a price from US forces in the region or even elsewhere on the planet. For example, there are some rather credible rumors that the destruction of PanAm 103 over Scotland was not a Libyan action, but an Iranian one in direct retaliation for the deliberate shooting down by the USN of IranAir 655 Airbus over the Persian Gulf. I am not saying that I know for a fact that this is what really happened, only that Iran does have retaliatory options not limited to the Middle-East.
Conclusion: we wait for Iran’s next move
The Iraqi Parliament is scheduled to debate a resolution demanding the withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. I will just say that while I do not believe that the US will gentlemanly agree to any such demands, it will place the conflict in the political realm. That is – by definition – much more desirable than any form of violence, however justified it might seem. So I strongly suggest to those who want peace that they pray that the Iraqi MPs show some honor and spine and tell Uncle Shmuel what every country out there always wanted from the US: Yankees, go home!
If that happens this will be a total victory for Iran and yet another abject defeat (self-defeat, really) by Uncle Shmuel. This is the best of all possible scenarios.
But if that does not happen, then all bets are off and the momentum triggered by this latest act of US terrorism will result in many more deaths.
As of right now (19:24 UTC) I still think that there is a roughly 80% chance of full scale war in the Middle-East and, again, will leave 20% of “unexpected events” (hopefully good ones).
PS: this is a text I wrote under great time pressure and it has not be edited for typos or other mistakes. I ask the self-appointed Grammar Gestapo to take a break and not protest again. Thank you