"Leaving Iraq in 2011 was a bigger mistake of US" - "Iraqis realize they turn to be a vassal state of Iran" - US Intelligence Officer-Exclusive | Eurasia Diary - ednews.net

20 January, Monday


"Leaving Iraq in 2011 was a bigger mistake of US" - "Iraqis realize they turn to be a vassal state of Iran" - US Intelligence Officer-Exclusive

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The assassination of Iran's top General Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad by US air strikes created very great shock in not only region, but also in the whole world. The commander of IRGC Quds Forces who was playing solid and glorious role in the strengthening of Iranian political influence in the Middle East by conducting military operations and helping Shi’a militant groups in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon had long been at the target of US. In reality Qasem Soleimani was a key figure for Iran's infleuence in the Middle East and also one of the biggest obstracles for security of  US in the region. In turn, Supreme Leader, government officials and generals of the Islamic Republic of Iran promised to pay retaliation to killing of Soleimani by US which causes escalation of international tensions.

Rick Francona

Author, commentator and media military analyst. A retired United States Air Force intelligence officer 
with experience in the Middle East, including tours of duty with the National Security Agency, the Defense
Intelligence Agency and the Central Intelligence Agency

 

American colonel Rich Francona brought a clarification to the issue in his excluise interview to Eurasia Diary.  

- Q. Dear Colonel, as you know recently, attacks organized by radical Shi’a groups on the US embassy in Baghdad protesting U.S. airstrikes against Iran-backed militia Kata’ib Hizballah. A s the result of that, the U.S. Secretary of Defense ordered the deployment of additional troops to the region. An American drone strike killed Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Oods Force commander Qasem Soleimani. Do you think that such actions could ignite a war between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, in Iraq of elsewhere in the region?  

A. I have no doubt there will be reactions, both by Iraqi Shi’a groups/militias, and possibly even the Iranians directly. While in the past, we have seen the Iranians conducting their operations in the region via their Iraqi, Lebanese, even Afghan and Pakistani proxies, the U.S. killing of Qasem Soleimani may drive a direct Iranian response on an American target. I suspect it will be against an American target in the region, possibly in the Persian Gulf.

A quick word on the killing of Soleimani. There has been speculation in some media that the intelligence used to support the decision to kill Soleimani and Kata’ib Hizballah leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was not as definitive as portrayed by U.S. Administration officials.

My response is that there has been sufficient cause for years to eliminate Soleimani. It was Soleimani who was behind proxy Iraqi Shi’a militias that led to the death of over 600 American troops, and the wounding of hundreds more. That alone, to me, is enough reason to have killed him. Killing al-Muhandis? A bonus.

It appears that Iran’s initial response, other than the almost elevation of Soleimani to sainthood in the Shi’a- controlled media in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, has been a non-binding resolution in the Iraqi Majlis an-Nuwab (Council of Representatives, or Parliament) to expel “foreign” forces from the country. Note that this was what we in the United States would call a “party line” vote – the Shi’a representatives, to no one’s surprise, overwhelming followed Tehran’s urging to demand the removal of coalition – but aimed at the United States – forces from the country. I suspect this was for domestic consumption and an attempt by Shi’a lawmakers to appease their masters in Tehran.

The Iraqi majlis should be careful what they wish for. There is little support in the United States for continued American presence in Iraq. However, most Americans understand the need to continue the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria (ISIS), but are weary of the actions of the Iranians in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, etc. I have even heard what I believe is a short-sighted claim that since we (the United States) no longer are dependent on any foreign oil or gas, we should not put our troops at risk in the Middle East.

Let’s assume for the sake of argument that the calls for the removal of American and coalition forces becomes actual legislation in Iraq – I don’t think it will happen immediately, but let’s examine that possibility. Are the Iraqis – even with their Iranian masters’ support – capable of defeating the remaining ISIS presence in the country? A look at Iraqi operations would tell you it’s not likely. The Iraqis still rely heavily on U.S. intelligence and airstrikes to take the fight to ISIS.

In the unlikely event there was actual legislation to expel U.S. forces, it would be 2011.

- Q. In 2011, you have repeatedly said that it was a major mistake for the U.S. to leave Iraq in the same year, in essence leaving it to Iran. Do you still believe this?

A. I do. I had to laugh when I read the comments of one of the Shi’a legislators today – it may have even been the prime minister, who is essentially an Iranian puppet. He said (and this is my interpretation of his remarks in Arabic) that there were no foreign forces in Iraq from 2011 to 2014, and that they did just fine.

Seriously? Let’s remember what actually happened. With no residual U.S. troops in the country (thanks to the decision of President Obama to not push for a new Status of Forces Agreement), the Shi’a proved themselves incapable of resisting the bribery, graft, and corruption that effectively hollowed out the Iraqi Army, a once-proud army that collapsed in the face of an inferior ISIS force.

Are the Iranians going to be able to replicate the capabilities of the coalition? I doubt it – the Iranians are not in Iraq for the Iraqis, they are in it for the Iranians. As the self-appointed guardians and leaders of all things Shi’a, the Iranians believe they are destined to be the key power broker in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, and as much of Syria, Yemen, Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, and even Azerbaijan as they can.

- Q. After the killing of Soleimani, what are the next steps likely to be taken by Washington in Iraq?

A. Good question. I hope that after the initial anger wears off, cooler heads will prevail and the two sides can continue to work towards the elimination of ISIS, and the eventual development of Iraq as secular republic.

Do I think those things will happen? Yes and no. On one hand, the Iraqis will realize that to defeat ISIS completely, they need U.S. support. 

On the other hand, the killing of Soleimani was a serious and visceral blow to the pro-Iranian groups – the Shi’a proxies, which rely on Tehran for leadership and funding, Soleimani what they believe is “the Great Satan” in Iranian parlance. They regard this as just the latest attack on the Islamic Republic by the United States.

We’ve been tap-dancing around a major confrontation between the United States and Iran since 1979. This event may bring the animosity between the two governments to a head. If there is a lethal Iranian attack on an American facility, I think we have to assume that there will be an American response – I consider there will have to be. Anyone who is watching the region cannot help but notice the buildup of American military capabilities. The Iranians should be very circumspect in their next moves.

One last comment – unless something changes in Iraq, it will continue to be a failed state. The government and its institutions do not serve the interests of the Iraqi people. I think the Iraqi people are beginning to realize that they are in effect a vassal state of Iran.

by Yunis Abdullayev

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