Well. We all know what happened last night. I'm really not in the mood to be flip or clever right now, so let's just pull together what we know and try to get something solid to wrap our heads around. Maybe at the end we'll relax and cut loose a bit. Maybe.
Last night around 6 p.m. U.S. Central time, the United States military at the behest of President Donald Trump launched an airstrike at the Baghdad airport killing Qassem Soleimani. General Soleimani was head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, the country's military arm specializing in unconventional warfare and military intelligence. The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a commander in the Iran-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), part of an umbrella organization covering various paramilitary forces sponsored by Tehran for actions in Iraq. As of right now, I can't find much information on the damage done the airport or how many, if any, civilian casualties were the result of the strike. Ten people were killed overall, reported the IRGC, including at least five other members of the Revolutionary Guard Corps. Updates as they come.
It should be noted the Quds are a separate entity from the Iranian Army and were formed by Ayatollah Khomeini during the 1979 Islamic uprising in Iran. They still have close ties to the religious faction of the Iranian government, including the current leader Ayatollah Ali Khameni, and has been designated a "terrorist organization" by the U.S. However, Soleimani also played an important roll in the regions beating back of ISIS, which included involvement from the U.S.
Under Soleimani, the Quds have been accused of a number of terrorist actions against the United States military and other parties in the Middle East. Vice-President Mike Pence tweeted out a number of charges against the Quds, including involvement with the 9/11 attacks on the U.S. that lead to military bungles in Afghanistan and Iraq. However, he's either lying or doesn't know what he's talking about, because the commission he cites found just the opposite.
What is true is that U.S.-Iranian relations have gotten extremely hostile since Trump pulled out of the landmark nuclear agreement with Tehran last year, mainly due to Trump's overall pique with President Obama. In recent weeks, it's gotten worse, including the death of an American contractor on Dec. 27, due to rocket attack in Iraq. The U.S. blamed the attack on a PMF militia, Kataib Hezbollah, which is backed by Iran, and retaliated with airstrikes against sites in Iraq and Syria two days later, killing at least 25 fighters.
More tellingly, a protest kicked up at the heavily fortified U.S embassy in Baghdad Dec. 31, where demonstrators, either sympathizers with the PMF or members. For whatever reason they were protesting, there was an attempt to vandalize the embassy which was mostly unsuccessful. After the airstrike, the Department of Defense released a statement blaming Soleimani for not only the death of the American contractor and attacks on American soldiers in the region, but also claimed he was behind the embassy protests.
Apparently changing course on his opinion of U.S. military intelligence agencies, Trump order the strike, an "opening of opportunity", to deter future terrorist actions against the United States. He did so without any consultation with Congress, particularly the "Gang of Eight", a colloquial term for the members of Congress who're supposed to be consulted on any military or intelligence actions made by the U.S. government. Trump briefed his head toady, South Carolina Senator Lindsey Graham, but kept Democrats in the dark, severely pissing off Representatives Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer.
The general consensus in the U.S., both among political leaders and the press, is that Soleimani was a right bastard and being blown apart in an airstrike was too good for him. Most of America's allies, such as France, the United Kingdom and NATO, are urging "restraint and deescalation on all sides". Even Russia, whose relationship with the U.S. in general and the Trump Administration in particular is "murky" to say the least, agree that everyone should calm down and take a step back. Israel has said the U.S. has a right to avenge itself against anyone who attacks it.
Turkey accused the U.S. of amplifying tensions in the region, while groups like Hezbollah and Hamas, agree the U.S. acted with hostility for no good reason. Interestingly, Iran's long-time enemy Iraq condemned the attacks, calling it a flagrant violation of agreements that kept U.S. troops in Iraq and accused the U.S. of trying to inflame a war. Syria called it "cowardly aggression", and many worry the attack will give Iran's complaints against the U.S. "renewed legitimacy".
For its part, Iran is "in mourning" and "vowing revenge" for the attack. Ayatollah Khamenei called Soleimani a "martyr", promising the exact "harsh revenge" while announcing three days of national mourning. Iran's president Hassan Rouhani also called for revenge, saying "there would be consequences" for America's actions, and Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the killing an "act of state terrorism," which is a unique turnaround for the U.S.
Esmaail Quanni has been appointed the new head of the IRGC and the country's press has reported plenty of national mourning among citizens and mobilization of military units. Soleimani was fairly popular in Iran, and experts have said the actions were basically a "gift to Daesh and all the terrorists in the region" and will lead to increased tension and violence in the region "exactly contrary to what the Americans claim."
Here in the United States, things have played out pretty much like anyone would expect. The Republican party is all in with Trump's actions while the Democrats are questioning the timing of the attacks. Despite Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claiming "the world is a much safer place" with Soleimani's death, the U.S. is recommending that all civilians in Iraq get out as soon as possible. Some are accusing Trump of "wagging the dog" and trying to deflect attention from his recent impeachment in the House and as-yet-to-be-determined trial in the Senate.
For his part, Trump spent this afternoon in a Florida megachurch holding one of his usual rallies among the faithful, bragging about the strike as well as disparaging the Left's so-called lack of religious faith, particularly former South Bend mayor and nominee hopeful Pete Buttigieg. There have been questions in recent days about just how strong Trump's support among the Evangelical community is, and this rally hopes to shore that up some.
Here in the ditches, the MAGA faithful are enjoying a huge, throbbing war boner while Democrats, liberals and leftist worry about the start of a possible Third World War. General consensus is while there will probably be retaliation against U.S. military forces or even citizens in the Middle East, there will most likely won't be a full on war as Iran really doesn't have the stroke to pull something like that off and the Middle East as a whole is still way to fractured to come together on anything. While Trump claims the strike was to "stop a war," the Pentagon is nevertheless deploying 3,500 more troops to Iraq on top of the 700 sent there after the New Years' Eve embassy protest.
So. Them's the facts as we know them right now. What do I think? Well, I don't trust the U.S. government as far as I can throw it and that goes triple with Trump in charge. I still question just how involved Iran was in those protests the other day and I never have cared for presidents unilaterally deciding someone needs to be blown up because "America, fuck yeah". Will there be a world war? Probably not. Is he wagging the dog? Probably so. Will a whole lot of people in the Middle East in particular and Iran or Iraq in general suffer with their lives for the actions of their "leaders". Undoubtedly. There will be blood, if nothing else.
The American Press is already looking like it's going to fall in line behind Trump, like they did with Bush Junior and Iraq, proving they've learned absolutely nothing during the last 20 years nor that they have any idea that his followers (and conservatives in general) still consider them as bad as any terrorist. This is coming right on the heels of the Pentagon flat out admitting they haven't had a clue what they've been doing in Afghanistan for the past decade.
Actually, this is feeling a whole lot like those post-9/11 days and the lead up to the bloody mess that was Iraq, but amplified thanks to Twitter and instant access to news and opinions. Those weren't pleasant times and no one, but no one was ever called to task for their failures in policy. The hands were never washed clean of blood.
Time will tell either way, whether more death or destruction will follow or if Trump and the Republicans will use it to dodge not only impeachment but any other criticism of Trump's administration. Despite the quantum nature of modern political media, it's still way too soon to tell and all we can do is hope.
All I'm going to say is I'm glad West Point reneged on my cousin's oldest boy's football scholarship because he had asthma and I hope his dad is able to talk his younger brother out of joining the military to possibly die for no damn good reason. Otherwise, I got nothing. Peace, friends and neighbors.