Red Alert in Iraq… Time for the U.S. to Decide

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amro@amrobilal.net), is an independent Palestinian writer and Political researcher. He writes for various Arabic news outlets, some of which are Al-Akhbar newspaperAl-Mayadeen Satellite News ChannelArabi 21, and Rai Al-Youm, and UPROOTED PALESTINIANS

July 15, 2021

By Amro Allan

‘President Joe Biden may be nearly done with America’s two-decade military involvement in Afghanistan, but another nearby war zone, where U.S. troops have been based for almost as long, is threatening to become a major thorn in the White House’s side: Iraq’, says Foreign Policy in its Situation Report on July 8, 2021, entitled ‘Red Alert in Iraq’. This comes after two fairly heated weeks in Iraq and Syria, where an escalation in the resistance groups operations against American troops was noticeable, both in frequency and in nature.

For instance, on Wednesday, July 7, 14 rockets hit Ain al-Assad Air Base, the largest military installation in Iraq housing U.S. troops, wounding at least two American soldiers. Another suicide drone attack, a day before, targeted U.S. forces based in Erbil airport, not far from where the U.S. consulate is located. Also, there were multiple improvised explosive device (IED) attacks against convoys transporting U.S. military logistic supplies, that took place in various Iraqi towns and cities in recent weeks.

Meanwhile, in Eastern Syria, U.S. occupation forces were busy fending off suicide drone and rocket attacks targeting al-Omar oilfield and nearby areas. Al-Omar oilfield is the largest in the country, and It is invested with both the U.S. forces and their collaborators  the Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF).

No American soldiers have been killed in these recent intense activities in Iraq and Syria. However, Michael Knights, a fellow at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, explains ‘It’s already very intense. The strikes aren’t killing people, but they could, easily, if they want them to’, and he adds ‘The missile defences are quietly working quite well. But what we haven’t seen is determined efforts to kill Americans’.

Many analysts consider this escalation a retaliation for the second round of U.S. airstrikes under Biden’s administration on June 27. Those airstrikes used the pretext ‘Iran-backed militia’, although in reality, they targeted a static Iraqi-Syrian border position of the Iraqi security forces (Popular Mobilisation Forces) under Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi, killing four members of brigade 14 of the PMF.

While agreeing with this analysis in principle, I believe widening the scope would put the latest events in the broader context they deserve.

It is quite clear that Biden’s administration’s main foreign policy strategy, and indeed the U.S. establishment’s attitude in general of late, is to concentrate its overseas efforts on opposing the rise of China and Russia:  what Biden dubbed defending and strengthening democracy. This focus shift first took shape during Obama’s days in 2012 with his (unsuccessful) ‘Pivot to Asia’ policy and it has remained in principal a U.S. foreign policy objective since. But this shift naturally requires an improved allocation of U.S. resources.

Thus, when Biden came to power, he followed in the steps of his two predecessors in aiming to disengage from the ‘Middle East’ and West Asia in general as much as possible.

As the QUINCY Paper No. 7 entitled ‘Nothing Much to Do: Why America Can Bring All Troops Home From the Middle East’, published on June 24, 2021, poses the question ‘Three successive American Presidents — Barack Obama, Donald Trump, and Joe Biden — have pledged to end the post 9/11 wars and reunite U.S. soldiers with their families.

Yet, fulfilling that pledge has proven tougher than expected. Do U.S. interests in the region require so much of the U.S. military that full-scale withdrawals are not feasible?’. The paper argued that ‘the United States has no compelling military need to keep a permanent troop presence in the Middle East.

The two core U.S. interests in the region — preventing a hostile hegemony and ensuring the free flow of oil through the Straits of Hormuz — can be achieved without a permanent military presence. There are no plausible paths for an adversary, regional or extra-regional, to achieve a situation that would harm these core U.S. interests. No country can plausibly establish hegemony in the Middle East, nor can a regional power close the Strait of Hormuz and strangle the flow of oil. To the extent that the United States might need to intervene militarily, it would not need a permanent military presence in the region to do so’.

The U.S. withdrawal from Afghanistan, to be presumably fully completed by September 2021, was the first manifestation of Biden’s drawdown policy from West Asia. However, when it came to Iraq and Syria, the equations were quite different.

Despite Biden’s pledge to return to the JCPOA in his election campaign, there was an assessment that was widely spread between Iranian officials which says that the Biden administration would capitalise on Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ policy to extract concessions from Iran, before re-joining the JCPOA. Those concessions are related to two aspects:

  • Change in Iran’s foreign policy, especially its support for resistance groups in the region. This is to  the benefit of the Zionist entity, which remains a core influence on U.S. foreign policy.
  • Imposing restrictions on Iran’s ballistic missiles programme.

This American approach became apparent after Biden took office, and during the latest Vienna talks to salvage the nuclear deal. However, contrary to Biden’s false assumptions, the Americans found out that Iran will not give them any concessions, and that it meant what it said when Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Khamenei stated back in 2015 ‘We negotiated with the U.S. on the nuclear issue for specific reasons. The Americans performed well in the talks, but we didn’t and we won’t allow negotiation with the Americans on other issues’.

This has put the Americans in a quandary. Biden found that he could not withdraw from Iraq and Syria without getting guarantees from Iran and the Axis of Resistance related to the security of the Zionist entity, as the Axis of Resistance will never offer any guarantees at the expense of the Palestinians’ inalienable rights. Nor could Biden maintain the same level of American involvement in the ‘Middle East’ indefinitely. As this would be at the expense of the main U.S. foreign policy strategy, “Facing the Chinese challenge”, according to the terminology the  U.S. uses.

Furthermore, this American quandary has deepened after the battle of the ‘Sword of Jerusalem’ exposed many of the Zionist Entity’s [Israel]  weaknesses tactically and strategically in the face of the Axis of Resistance.

Based on this overview, we can expect a fairly heated summer for the U.S. occupation forces in the region, as from the Axis of Resistance point of view, the negotiations for the American withdrawal from the ‘Middle East’ and West Asia in general are not open-ended.

And it seems that the U.S. needs a nudge to decide whether: to start a meaningful and peaceful drawdown, with minimal losses; or risk a new ‘Middle East’ all-out war by trying to impose its sovereign will on the whole region.

And I believe, based on the Americans’ experience of the past two decades, that the consensus within the U.S. institutes is that the latter option would be highly costly. Not to mention that based on the current balance of powers in the region, as we read them, the outcome is not guaranteed to be in the favour of the U.S., nor in the favour of  “Israel” its closest ally.

US Military Base at Erbil Airport Targeted By “Explosive-Laden Drones”

Today 07/07/2021

US Military Base at Erbil Airport Targeted By “Explosive-Laden Drones”

By Staff, Agencies

A military base hosting US-led coalition forces inside Erbil International Airport in Iraq’s semi-autonomous Kurdistan Region has come under attack by explosive-laden drones, the latest in a series of attacks on American forces in the Arab country.

Citing security sources, Iraqi media said the military base inside Erbil airport was “subjected to an attack by explosive-laden drones” late on Tuesday, with reports falling short of providing details on the number of possible casualties or the extent of damage.

The entire passengers were evacuated from the planes at Erbil International Airport, as reports indicated, and the lights were switched off in addition to closing the airspace over the airport.

Iraqi media and news agencies also quoted the Kurdistan Counter-Terrorism Service as saying that the attack on the military base was carried out by “two booby-trapped drones.”

According to Iraqi media, the attack on the US base in Erbil airport caused a huge fire that the firefighting teams were struggling to put out, but it did not leave any casualties or material damage.

Sirens were also heard blaring from the US Consulate in Erbil after the airport had been targeted.

The attack comes hot on the heels of drone and rocket attacks targeting the US Embassy in Baghdad and Ain al-Asad Air Base in Iraq’s western province of Anbar.

Early on Tuesday, several drones targeted the United States’ Embassy in Baghdad, with the weapon systems set up to fortify the facility firing at least four times to try to down the aircraft.

The incidents set off the diplomatic facility’s sirens and activated the anti-aircraft systems there so they can shoot down the aircraft.

The Ain al-Asad Air Base, where American military forces and trainers are stationed, had come under attack by a barrage of rockets a day earlier.

Iraqi media said three Katyusha rockets targeted the vicinity of Ain al-Asad Air Base, located about 160 kilometers west of the capital Baghdad, on Monday afternoon, adding that there were no casualties as a result of the attack on the military base.

No group has claimed responsibility for the attacks, which are the latest in a series of assaults that have targeted US occupation forces over the past few months.

The attacks come amid growing anti-US sentiment, which has intensified since last year’s assassination of top Iranian anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad.

General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps [IRGC], and his Iraqi trenchmate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Popular Mobilization Units, were targeted along with their companions on January 3, 2020 in a terror drone strike authorized by former US president Donald Trump near Baghdad International Airport.

Both Soleimani and Muhandis played a key role in defeating the Wahhabi Daesh [Arabic acronym for “ISIS” / “ISIL”] terrorist, which the US has been using as an alleged excuse to prolong its illegal presence on the Iraqi soil.

Two days after the attack, Iraqi lawmakers approved a bill that requires the government to end the presence of all foreign military forces led by the US in the country.

Iraq: Explosive-Laden Drones Hit Erbil Airport

Source: Al Mayadeen

Kurdistan’s Counter-Terrorism Service in northern Iraq has announced that Erbil airport was hit by a missile, causing flight services to be suspended.

Erbil airport was subjected to a missile attack
Erbil airport under attack

The anti-terrorist unit of the Iraqi Kurdistan region said that a missile strike targetted the International Airport in the northern Iraqi city of Erbil late on Tuesday, causing the suspension of air services in the city’s skies.

The unit said in a statement that the attack on Erbil’s International Airport was launched via explosive-laden drones.

On his part, Wayne Maroto, Spokesman for the International Coalition in Iraq and Syria, announced that the attack, which took place at around 23:15 AST, caused no injuries or major damage.

It is worth noting that the airport in Erbil, which houses a US military base, was also targeted in April. Moreover, in February, the US-led coalition reported the death of a contractor and the injury of five others, including an American soldier, in a bombing near Erbil Airport and Harir base in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

ROCKETS POUND US BASE IN NORTHERN IRAQ LEADING TO CASUALTIES

Source

The United States has already started bearing the consequences of the decision of the Biden administration to halt the troop drawdown from the Greater Middle East.

On February 15th, 14 rockets struck the area of the US military base near Erbil International Airport, 4 of them within the compound, 10 of which were near strikes. One private contractor was killed and 5 were injured. In a rare event, 1 US service member was also wounded.

The location of the attack coincides with Turkey’s operation “Claw Eagle 2” which targets the alleged Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK) positions. Most of northern Iraq was on edge, as a result.

Turkey and the US, as NATO allies appear to not be cooperating whatsoever, as they’re pursuing separate goals in largely the same areas of the Middle East.

Ankara’s activities contribute to the chaos of the Middle East situation, as it targets the PKK, while the US mostly targets and is targeted by Iranian-backed forces.

Another US ally, this time one that aligns its activities with it – Israel struck unknown targets around Damascus.

It launched missiles from the occupied Golan Heights, and many of them were intercepted by Syrian air defenses, however, some landed on their targets. It is unclear what was targeted and what the damage was.

There have been no strikes by Israel through Lebanese airspace after a drone was downed, and Hezbollah vowed to attempt to destroy any Israeli aircraft that encroaches on its airspace.

Movements throughout the Middle East are beginning for the US and its allies.

In Iraq, many of the targeted convoys in the last several weeks have reached their destinations.

With a lack of reports of convoy targeting, it would appear that the currently static positions are under threat.

Iran is continuing its movements, undermining US and Israeli influence, and it has had general success in recent weeks. The US is fighting back against it.

On February 11th, a truck moving supplies for an Iranian-backed unit, al-Haydariyun, was targeted near Syria’s border with Iraq.

According to the Resistance Media Network, the truck was targeted by a drone likely operated by the US military.

In Yemen, the US said it would attempt to impose a peace deal, on its own terms. It claims to stop supporting Saudi Arabia’s genocidal intervention. Washington, however, also continues providing defensive services and intelligence.

Following Joe Biden’s first foreign policy speech, the time for the US to move has come. In the coming days, the “fight against ISIS” is sure to ramp up, alongside various other movements throughout the Middle East.

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