Protesters at the US Embassy in Iraq were greeted with tear gas on Wednesday.
Minor clashes continued in Baghdad following Tuesday’s literal storming of the gates by demonstrators and militia angry at US strikes on Kataib Hezbollah in retaliation for attacks on a base that killed a US contractor.
“Demonstrators swarmed outside the embassy… and troops fired tear gas in an attempt to disperse them, but after a few hours the militia leaders who had organized the demonstration called on the crowd to leave”, The New York Times writes, adding that “unlike on Tuesday, protesters did not get inside the compound [and] by midafternoon all but about 200 had dispersed, taking their tent poles with them”.
Here’s a simple graphic from The Times, which I’m going to take the liberty of reprinting because it’s basically just a satellite image with some text on top, not a proprietary graphic:
Donald Trump has authorized the deployment of a damn infantry battalion because, you know, “getting us out of endless wars”, or whatever.
“Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces are prepared to deploy over next several days”, Mark Esper said late Tuesday, adding that this is “an appropriate and precautionary action taken in response to increased threat levels against US personnel and facilities”.
To be clear, this is pointless. All this is going to do is put hundreds of US troops at risk of being killed or injured by IEDs or ambushes by Shia militia (depending on where these poor souls end up being forced to patrol). This is not a case where new soldiers will be clearing areas of extremists, or doing any other ostensible good deeds as depicted in war films. After all, there are no extremists involved here – or at least not on the definition of “extremist” we’ve all become accustomed to post-9/11. Rather, these are para-military operators with implicit state support.
There is internal political strife in Iraq. The country is no longer at risk of becoming a Salafi proto-state. That fight is over. The jihadis lost, thanks in no small part to the very same Shia militias Trump is on the verge of going to war with.
It’s absolutely true that those militias target US troops and personnel and have since the beginning of the invasion in 2003. But, it’s important to note that while lost lives are, at the end of the day, just lost lives (i.e., always tragic), this fighting is of a different character. In the simplest possible terms (i.e., for those who don’t care to learn any of the nuance and who are ignorant of the sectarian divide), these militias are not the people attacking Western capitals and flying planes into buildings. They are, at least in terms of the sectarian divide, the opposite of the virulent strain of Islam espoused by ISIS and al-Qaeda.
The bottom line is that the US would do well to just pack up and leave and let Iraqis decide whether they want to be a client state of Iran or not. 750 infantry isn’t going to make a difference in that one way or another.
Trump on Tuesday decided it would be a good idea to threaten Khamenei.
“[Iran] will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat”, the US president tweeted.
Khamenei essentially lampooned him at a speech in Tehran. “You can’t do anything”, he said. “If the Islamic Republic decides to challenge and fight, it will do so unequivocally”.