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“The Assassination of Qassam Soleimani: Regional Consequences. The U.S. Shoots Itself In the Foot in the Middle East…Again” with Ibrahim Kazerooni and Rob Prince. KGNU 1390 AM, 88.5 FM – Hemispheres, Middle East Dialogues. Tuesday, January 28, 2019. Part Two

February 13, 2020

(Photo by AHMAD AL-RUBAYE / AFP)

KGNU – Hemispheres – Middle East Dialogues – January 28, 2020 – Part 2

(Continued from Part 1)

(At the time of this writing Turkey has threatened to send troops to Syria’s Idlib Province to stop the advance of the Syrian government trops against al Nusra elements still holed up there.)

The (Soleimani) assassination unified both Iranians and Iraqis to drop the focus on anti-corruption issues to focus instead on a single issue – In Iraq it was the call to press the government to get the Americans to leave, to push them out and in Iran to take revenge for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

– Ibrahim Kazerooni –

That particular news item, Ibrahim, – Trumps threat to assassinate Abdul Mahdi – was broadly covered in the Middle East but here in the United States virtually uncovered, not covered at all.

Trump threatened two things according to what I read: first he threatened to kill the prime minister directly in a phone conversation. The second threat was to unleash that would bring down the prime minister politically, again suggesting what we have spoken about in the past regarding the underhanded manner in which some of these so-called demonstrations have been instigated.

This is Trumpian politics: you threaten to assassinate even your so-called partners.

– Rob Prince –

Rob Prince: We want to turn now to the consequences of the Soleimani assassination. One of the things we have noted is the number of serious events have taken place over the past month. I want to quickly reiterate some of these events so that we can put together a sequence and then we’re going to zero in on a few of them in more detail.

On January 3, 2020 – right after the new year, the United States, the Trump Administration, assassinated Qassam Soleimani, head of the Iranian Quds Force along with Iraqi military leader Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (or PMF) – a unit of the Iraqi military and government that played a key role in the defeat of ISIS in Iraq. The main stream media in the USA described the Popular Mobilization Force as “an Iranian-backed military” but actually it was a unit integrated in the Iraqi army itself.

On January 6, 2020 – a mere three days later, the Iraqi Parliament voted to close U.S. bases and expel U.S. troops from the country. The American media called it “a nonbinding vote” (Wall Street Journal) but Iraqi and other Arab sources said something quite different. The resolution was passed overwhelmingly by Shi’a lawmakers dealing potentially yet another blow to President Trump’s Middle East strategy (or lack thereof).

On January 7, 2020 – The next day, one day after the Iraqi Parliament vote and a mere four days after the Soleimani-Muhandis assassinations – in retaliation for the assassination, Iran launched 22 long range missiles at two U.S. military bases in Iraq – the Al Asad base in Western Iraq and a second smaller base by the northern Iraqi city of Erbil. It appears that 22 missiles were fired in all. The U.S. claimed they produced very little damage but photos of the Al Asad base make clear that the base facility itself was largely destroyed.

On January 10, 2020 – one week after the assassinations, the Trump Administration announced more – as if there were any possibilities left – sanctions against Iran. According to NPR “the penalties promised “will cut off billions of dollars of support to the Iranian government.” Speaking in the White House press briefing room alongside Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Mnuchin said Trump is issuing an executive order authorizing sanctions against “any individual owning, operating, trading with or assisting sectors of the Iranian economy, including construction, manufacturing, textiles and mining.”

In addition, Mnuchin outlined 17 specific sanctions against Iran’s largest steel and iron manufacturers, along with three entities based in the Seychelles and a vessel involved in the transfer of products.

This past Friday, On January 24, 2020, what the NY Times referred to as “throngs of Iraqis” demonstrated in Baghdad “to protest” as the NY Times put it “the United States military presence at the behest of a leading popular cleric and armed forces “with ties to Iran.” The Times article estimated the crowd to be somewhere between 200,000 to 250,000. UPI on the other hand put the figure of those present as “Millions of Iraqi citizens” quoting the figure of 2.5 million in the street. Other sources in the Middle East give an even larger figure of some 4-5 million were present mourning Soleimani’s murder.

Look how much transpired in a such a short period of time. To use a baseball analogy “we’re in a new ball game here.”

In terms of these events, we could dedicate an entire program to each one of them. We have chosen two to look at in greater depth.

– the January 7 vote of the Iraqi Parliament and the massive demonstration in Baghdad on January 24, explore how they are connected to the assassinations as well as their broader significance.

Ibrahim, where should we begin, with the Iraqi Parliament vote or the incredible demonstration that happened last week in Baghdad?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Both of them are related as a consequence to what happened in the assassinations of Soleimani and Muhandi in Iraq.

There was an article that appeared in an Iraqi newspaper that the U.S. is now at war de facto and de jure with both Iraq and Iran.

That article elaborated what happened after the assassination of Soleimani.

Number one: We need to clarify a few major points for our audience that under normal circumstances the Western media, the American media in particular do not divulge.

The Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi officially revealed that the Trump Administration had actually asked him to serve as a media between the U.S. and Iran. Thus (Iranian) General Qassem Soleimani invited to Baghdad for official talks. Soleimani came to Syria to Iraq in a civilian airliner. The point here: Soleimani was on an official diplomatic mission as a part of a diplomatic initiative initiated by the United States.

This was openly revealed in the Iraqi Parliament by the Prime Minister.

It was because of this issue that immediately after Abdul Mahdi’s remarks the Iraqi Parliament went into a voting session.

Earlier we spoke about the fact that after signing a number of economic contracts with China a couple of months ago, Abdul Mahdi said that he was personally threatened by the United States that if he failed to break these contracts that he was threatened with assassination.

Rob Prince: That particular news item, Ibrahim, – Trumps threat to assassinate Abdul Mahdi – was broadly covered in the Middle East but here in the United States virtually uncovered, not covered at all.

Trump threatened two things according to what I read: first he threatened to kill the prime minister directly in a phone conversation. The second threat was to unleash that would bring down the prime minister politically, again suggesting what we have spoken about in the past regarding the underhanded manner in which some of these so-called demonstrations have been instigated.

This is Trumpian politics: you threaten to assassinate even your so-called partners.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: As a matter of fact there is an article written right after Abdul Mahdi’s visit to China. Since the United States is not providing the technology and the support that the Iraqis needed for the country’s reconstruction of its infrastructure – electricity, water treatment, etc. – the Chinese were prepared to do this in a much shorter time frame and immediately they sent representatives to evaluate the Iraqi situation on the ground.

As soon as Abdul Mahdi returned from China, almost immediately an article appeared in an Arab newspaper arguing that by signing such a contract with the Chinese, the prime minister had also already sealed his own death! – or at the very least “the toppling of his palace.”

So when he came to the Iraqi Parliament and divulged that the United States had threatened to either assassinate or overthrow his government through destabilizing demonstrations that Washington promised to unleash – this was the clear message coming from the United States. At the same time there were a number of statements from American officials that if the Iraqi government failed to support American presence and/or American interests that in turn, the Iraqi government is no longer of interest to the United States.

So that is the official American policy

Rob Prince: There were also the threat of sanctions against Iraq that were made.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Trump and the American administration made it clear that they have stopped all military support to the Iraqi government because the Iraqi government’s “intransigent position” vis-a-vis the United States.

Abdul Madhi also indicated (to the Iraqi Parliament) that the Iraqi government was informed about the assassination plan only five minutes prior to the operation. The Iraqi government denied such permission and refused to permit any continuation of the operation. Trump went ahead anyway.
It was because of this that not only was the vote taken but that immediately after the vote, the Iraqi foreign minister announced Iraq would take the issue to the United Nations for Washington having violated its sovereignty.

Rob Prince: How precisely did the vote come dow?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: 179 in favor, a few votes – 3 or 4 against – The bulk of the Sunni and Kurdish representatives were not present but the 179 in favor out of 320 in the Parliament clearly give those who voted for the resolution a clear majority.

Rob Prince: What was the wording of the resolution? What did it say?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The resolution required the Iraqi government to press Washington, its allies and all associates, including NATO, to withdraw their troops from Iraq. Also the Iraqi Parliament demanded that the Iraqi government must work to end the presence of any foreign troops on Iraqi soil and prohibit them from using them from using its land, air and water for any reasons whatsoever.

Rob Prince: And what was the response of this vote?

Ibrahim Kazerooni: The immediate reaction in Washington was (Secretary of State Mike) Pompeo’s comment that the 179 in favor of closing down U.S. bases in Iraq was not a representative vote. He says he has letters from 50 representatives in the Iraqi Parliament whom he claims, are asking the United States to remain in Iraq.

Several Iraqi parliamentarians challenged Pompeo, saying that they had the names of the 179 who voted in favor of the resolution and asking Pompeo to release the names of those who supposedly asked the U.S. to remain. Pompeo refused to provide such a list.

Moving on to the January 24 massive demonstration in Baghdad – the Western media is trying to spin it that this was a rally against Iranian influence in Iraq but there was not a single banner, poster, placard against Iraq.

Far from it.

The (Soleimani) assassination unified both Iranians and Iraqis to drop the focus on anti-corruption issues to focus instead on a single issue – In Iraq it was the call to press the government to get the Americans to leave, to push them out and in Iran to take revenge for the assassination of Qassem Soleimani.

Rob Prince: Let’s move on to the demonstration itself. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many people in one place.

Ibrahim Kazerooni: Certainly if you look at these pictures there in the media you see a sea of people in Baghdad and every other Iraqi city against the United States’ presence.

Rob Prince: So we’re really talking about a movement against the U.S. military presence in Iraq that was always bubbling beneath the surface which has now exploded on such a grassroots massive level as never before.

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