Friday, January 3, 2020

U.S. airstrikes on the Iran-backed militia in Iraq have roots in Iran - Hassan Mahmoudi

by Hassan Mahmoudi

The U.S. airstrike against Kataeb Hezbollah in Iraq and the militia's raid on the embassy in Baghdad have deeper roots in the troubles roiling Iran.

In early November 2019, a new wave of recent uprisings in Iran -- triggered by high inflation, unemployment, and institutionalized corruption within the regime -- resulted in more than 1500 deaths and 12,000 detainees. These protests were a natural progression from the recent surge of protests in Iraq and Lebanon. Iran’s stronghold in these countries was shattered and its hope to create a heavily-invested Shiite Crescent had come under attack.

Forty days have passed since the unrest began. The regime’s security guards have used threats and arrests to prevent families from holding funeral ceremonies for those killed in the protests. The Iranian regime’s brutality and crudeness appalled the world. Last Sunday, the U.S. launched airstrikes against an Iran-backed militia in Iraq. U.S. attacks should be analyzed as one of the dominoes that the Iranian regime is watching fall.

Any U.S. attack should looked at in the larger context of the Iran regime’s current situation. Alongside the U.S. attack, the recent surge of uprisings in Iran, Iraq, and Lebanon, send the regime a unified message: Back down a little.

The U.S. airstrikes were a retaliation move, a first in response to Iran’s continuous ambitions beyond its borders. Since October 28, 2019, Iran-backed militias have made 11 attacks against U.S. military bases that house American diplomats and military personnel. Iranian Revolutionary Guards also fired on an American drone. Up until Sunday, the U.S. opted not to retaliate.


Sunday’s military attack against Kataeb Hezbollah, which killed 25 fighters, was the first American military response of its kind in this regard. Although the U.S. action is framed as retaliation for an American contractor’s death last week from a Kataeb Hezbollah rocket attack on an Iraqi military base, the real reason for the strike can be found elsewhere. 


The answer lies in the Iranian regime’s current status, as well as the geopolitical situation in the Middle East. In 2002, American policy changed generally in the Middle East and, specifically, coalition forces occupied Iraq. These changes gave the Iranian regime a golden position to expand its influence in the region. Iran began to form militia and proxy groups in Lebanon, Iraq and, later, in Syria and Yemen. Iran’s terrorist expansion in the above countries has proven to be a headache for the U.S. 

Iran’s golden window is drying up, though. The violence it fomented in the last 17 years is creating a backlash. What’s happening now, both the riots and America’s willingness to target Iran-backed militias and threaten major retribution for the embassy raid, suggests that the new golden window of opportunity is not for the Iranian regime, but for the regime’s foes.

The situation is still fluid. It’s up to the people of this region, including those in Iran, to decide what comes next. Their decisions will form and fuel resistance forces or weaken and destroy them.

On one front, the Iranian regime is facing very serious challenges at home, for it is surrounded by countless political, economic, and social issues. On another front, the Iraqis’ dismay about Iranian meddling and its growing hatred for the Iranians create similar political challenges and deadlocks in Iraq.

Given that the Iranian regime does not have the power to bring the anti-regime forces in Iraq under its control, the Iraqi unrest is bringing things to a pivotal point. As always, and as a natural consequence of similar situations, Iran’s inability to act will produce negative outcomes just as a malfunctioning heart will exhibit muscle pains, signaling problems at the source. For a political and geopolitical analogy, one only has to look at the Soviet Union’s fall, which was preceded by breakdowns in distant territories over which it lacked full centralized control.

By attacking the U.S. K1 Military base in Iraq, the regime in Tehran intended to have a show of force to inspire its own weak and disengaged proxies. Contrary to its intent, the attack became a biting snake coming after the regime. While this type of proxy attack might once have served the regime’s purpose by instilling fear, those days are over, thanks to the recent massive unrest in Iran. For Iran’s regime, there’s no going back. If its citizens no longer fear it, why should people in other countries give it respect. The regime in Tehran is in complete disarray these days.

So, the heroic people of Iran and their resistance are saying farewell to 2019 and optimistically welcome 2020, a year promising to be a year of more bad news for the regime of the mullahs.

Hassan Mahmoudi


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