U.S.: Killing Iran’s number-two leader as a way to force negotiations is a pipe dream — By Mohamed Hamaludin

—  By MOHAMED HAMALUDIN

 General Qasem Soleimani was the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards' elite Quds Force

Qasem Soleimani

The U.S. Senate will not remove President Donald Trump in his impeachment trial. Still, his presidency will be forever marred by the impeachment and that offends his narcissistic sensibilities. He could not do anything about it. What he could do was create a diversion which he could control. Hence, the January 3 assassination of Iran’s top military commander, Qasem Soleimani.

Now the president has complete control of the narrative, especially since no whistleblower is expected to contradict his claim that Soleimani posed such an imminent threat that he had to be killed in a third, friendly, country. The problem, though, is how Iran will retaliate. To understand what is likely to happen, it is important to look at the history of U.S.-Iran relations.           

A coup fomented by the CIA and Britain’s MI6 toppled Iran’s elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh in 1953 in response to the nationalization of the oil industry in 1951, leaving  Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi as the sole ruler. The notorious SAVAK secret police arrested, tortured and executed dissidents to protect him and the U.S. pumped substantial resources to prop him up – until a revolution led by Sayyid Ruhollah Musavi Khomeini — Ayatollah Khomeini — toppled him in 1979. The new government took power proclaiming the U.S. the “Great Satan.”

Less than a year later, college students seized the U.S. embassy in Tehran, the capital, on Nov. 4, 1979, and held 52 American diplomats hostage for 444 days. They were released under the Algeria Declaration, brokered by Algeria in 1981. The terms required the U.S. not to intervene in Iran’s internal affairs politically or militarily and to lift a freeze on Iranian assets and trade sanctions.

There have been a few contacts that could have led to improved relations. They include the Iran-Contra affair during President Ronald Reagan’s second term, when American officials sanctioned weapons sales to Iran through Israel, with some proceeds illegally diverted to the Contras battling the Sandinista government in Nicaragua. That plot fell apart when it became public.

After the terrorists attacks on 9/11, Iran offered to back the U.S. invasion of Afghanistan. PBS reported that Iran’s then Foreign Minister Kamal Kharrazi and then U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell shook hands at the United Nations headquarters in New York. But, in his Jan. 29, 2002, State of the Union address, President George W. Bush labeled Iran part of an “axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.”

Iran began developing nuclear weapons but President Barack Obama led Western nations in negotiations that resulted in a Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action in 2015. Its provisions included Iran’s agreement to scale back its nuclear weapons program until 2031. Trump announced U.S. pull out on May 8, 2018.

Besides U.S.-Iran hostility, religion and geopolitics dictate much of what has been happening in the Middle East. The Saudis and the Iranians have been deadly enemies since the death of Islam’s founder the prophet Mohammed in 632 over choosing a successor. The overwhelming majority opted for a leader chosen by the people. They became the Sunnis – those who follow the words of Mohammed. The others chose his son-in-law, Ali, and became known as the Shi’a – short for “Shiat Ali” or supporters of Ali. Today, Muslims around the world number about 1.6 billion, of whom more than 80 percent are Sunnis and Saudi Arabia is home of Mecca and Medina, the two holiest Islamic sites. The Shi’ites are the overwhelming majority in Iran – 66 million – and, notably, Iraq — but are also present in Kuwait, Yemen, Lebanon, Qatar, Syria, the United Arab Emirates and even Saudi Arabia whose 20 million population are around 80 percent Sunni.

Saudi Arabia has an ally in the U.S., especially due to the sale of hundreds of billions of dollars’ worth of military equipment. Iran, which has no such staunch ally, formed alliances with, and in some cases, created, a network of proxy organizations in the region, some of which we have officially designated as terrorist and who, as Trump said, have caused the deaths of thousands of American soldiers and others. They have been operated under the Quds arm of Iran’s Revolution Guard and its commander: Soleimani.

The United States clearly sees a pressing need for a regime change in Iran to stabilize the region. One avenue has been to exploit the periodic, and growing, demonstrations, especially the young. In fact, at the time Trump had Soleimani killed, protests were taking place over increased fuel costs, leading to the regime reportedly killing hundreds of demonstrators. But Soleimani’s assassination has brought the country together to the point where more than 50 have died, not at the hands of the authorities but by the crush of mourners at his funeral.

Trump says he had Solemeini killed to prevent a war, not to start one, and his Defense Secretary Mark Esper declared at a news conference Tuesday afternoon that the U.S. is open to dialogue so long as Iran “de-escalates.” Strange logic, that: Killing the number-two leader and then calling on them to de-escalate. It is only when a nation has overwhelming fire power that it can adopt such an arrogant posture and ignore diplomatic channels as a means of resolving disputes.

Mohamed Hamaludin is a Guyana-born journalist who  worked for several years at The Chronicle in the 1970s and on publications in the Cayman Islands and Turks and Caicos Islands before emigrating to the United States in 1984 where he worked at The Miami Times, the Miami Herald and the South Florida Times.  Though now retired, he writes a commentary every week or two for The South Florida Times (sfltimes.com) in which the above column first appeared. He may be reached at hamal1942@gmail.com.

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  • Clyde Duncan  On January 9, 2020 at 4:34 pm

    Donald Trump’s Rant Against Iran is the Howl of a Dying Empire

    Simon Jenkins | The Guardian UK

    Donald Trump does not strut the world stage as Augustus triumphant. He might have commanded that “Iran will never be allowed to have a nuclear weapon … we will never let that happen”. But as he slurred at his autocue, he conveyed only ritualised abuse of Iran and pleas to NATO for help, a NATO he once majestically derided.

    I SENSED WE WERE SEEING THE US’s DAYS AS WORLD HEGEMON DRIBBLING AWAY.

    Even Trump’s Republican ally Mike Lee called the Iran briefing “THE WORST BRIEFING I’VE SEEN – AT LEAST ON A MILITARY ISSUE – IN MY NINE YEARS” in the Senate.

    ALL EMPIRES OUTSTAY THEIR DECLARED PURPOSE, LET ALONE THEIR WELCOME. All end messily – the operative word is “ALL” – be they Roman, Napoleonic, British or Soviet. All are vanquished not by superior power, but by self-delusion and geography.

    THE BRITISH EMPIRE HAD NEITHER THE RIGHT NOR THE NEED TO INVADE FAR-FLUNG PARTS OF ASIA AND AFRICA. It was defeated by them.

    The US has claimed the right to intervene in theatres as diverse as South America, the far east, east Africa and a portfolio of Muslim states.

    JUSTIFICATION VARIES FROM RETALIATION AND DETERRENCE TO “SELF-DEFENCE” AND THE INSTILLING OF DEMOCRACY.

    The US’s intentions have often been noble, but good intentions camouflage power projection. When your drones can kill anyone anywhere, the temptation is insuperable. If you think you can police the world from a bunker in Nevada, why not try?

    TRUMP’S INSTINCT WAS ONCE THAT OF A CLASSIC AMERICAN ISOLATIONIST.

    As he reiterated to Congress last February, “GREAT NATIONS DO NOT FIGHT ENDLESS WARS … THE HOUR HAS COME TO AT LEAST TRY FOR PEACE.”

    He was announcing withdrawal from Syria and more tentatively from Afghanistan. Yet he is still there. The US is fighting six wars – also in Iraq, Yemen, Somalia and Libya. NONE HAS ANY CONCEIVABLE RELEVANCE TO AMERICA’s OWN SECURITY.

    IMPERIALISM STICKS TO POLITICS LIKE GLUE. Even as common-sense screams withdrawal, staying offers the populist an opportunity for glory. It was thus that British ministers in the 1950s and 60s fought to hold on to Aden, Kenya and Cyprus. Today Boris Johnson craves the machismo of a totally pointless carrier force in the far east.

    SURELY, SOME IMPERIAL GHOST SEEMS TO SNEAK DOWN FROM THE INDIA OFFICE ATTIC TO STALK DOWNING STREET AT NIGHT.

    TWENTY YEARS OF WESTERN INTERVENTIONS IN THE MUSLIM WORLD HAVE RESTED ON TWO FALSEHOODS.

    ONE is that terrorism poses an existential threat to western democracies, grotesquely underrating their inherent stability.

    THE OTHER is that intervention can remedy such a threat, can enforce obedience and even democracy on victim states. I remember watching right-wing US think-tankers trying to administer Iraq from Baghdad’s Green Zone in the months after the 2003 invasion. By what right?

    ALIEN INTERVENTION IN THE INTERNAL AFFAIRS OF SOVEREIGN STATES IS IMMORAL, SPECIFICALLY BANNED UNDER CHAPTER ONE OF THE UN CHARTER.

    That ban was supposedly overridden by Tony Blair’s much-cited “RESPONSIBILITY TO PROTECT” civilian populations. But as the casualties mounted, protection became mere cover for ceaseless wars of western aggression. That is why the UN is all but absent from these interventions. As George Bush said, “I LEAVE THE UN TO LAWYERS.”

    The issue now is not whether we can plant the flowers of democracy in fields we have drenched in blood. IT IS HOW TO GET THE HELL OUT. The sight of Trump ranting against Iran and inflicting on it yet further sanctions was like the final scene of a tragic opera. TRUMP SEEMED LIKE A MAN TRAPPED.

    TWO AMERICAN PRESIDENTS PLAYED A SIGNIFICANT ROLE IN THE DEMISE OF BRITISH IMPERIALISM. FRANKLIN D ROOSEVELT TOLD WINSTON CHURCHILL THAT THE US’S INVOLVEMENT IN THE SECOND WORLD WAR WAS STRICTLY ON CONDITION THAT BRITAIN DISSOLVED ITS EMPIRE. The US would not defend it.

    John Foster Dulles, who was later US secretary of state, said in 1945 that his was “the first colony to have won independence” from Britain, and it expected others to follow. THIS ADVICE WAS FIERCELY ECHOED IN 1956 BY DWIGHT D EISENHOWER, APPALLED AT BRITAIN’S INVASION OF SUEZ.

    IRAQI POLITICIANS THIS WEEK JOINED THE ANTI-IMPERIAL CAUSE BY DEMANDING THAT AMERICAN FORCES BE WITHDRAWN FROM THEIR SOIL.

    All Trump could do was refuse, despite having previously pledged to do just that. Even in its hour of insecurity, 17 years of American occupation had left Iraq just desperate for it to end. It knows it must live at peace with its powerful neighbour, Iran, and this requires it to be no longer a tool of American presidential machismo.

    LIKEWISE, AFGHANISTAN MUST FIND ITS OWN ACCOMMODATION WITH THE TALIBAN AND WITH ITS NEIGHBOUR, PAKISTAN.

    AS FOR BRITAIN, ITS 20-YEAR CREEP UNDER WASHINGTON’S COAT-TAILS, BY BLAIR, DAVID CAMERON AND NOW BORIS JOHNSON, IS HUMILIATING AND EXPENSIVE. It should be offering the advice of an old and honest friend, whose history has so paralleled the US’s predicament.

    INSTEAD, IT OFFERS ONLY THE CRINGE OF A LACKEY AWAITING A REWARD, IN THIS CASE AN IMPLAUSIBLE POST-BREXIT TRADE DEAL.

    AS EMPIRES CRUMBLE, STUFF HAPPENS. It could yet be that Trump’s killing of Qassem Soleimani jolts every participant in this game to realise that it is just not working. The US president is a man of emotional and unpredictable responses.

    Trump could indeed pull out of Iraq, leaving it to separate from Kurdistan and do a deal with Tehran. He could leave Syria to its fate, and leave Afghanistan to the tender mercies of Islamabad.

    AS FOR BRITAIN, AT LAST IT COULD HAVE NOTHING WHATSOEVER TO DO WITH THIS MESS.

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 10, 2020 at 7:58 am

    WE’RE JUST DISCOVERING THE PRICE OF KILLING SOLEIMANI

    Grieving families around the world are already paying it.

    David Frum | The Atlantic

    No American paid a price for President Donald Trump’s decision to kill Iran’s Major General Qassem Soleimani. But it looks like 176 other people did, including 63 Canadian citizens and many more Iranian nationals en route to Canada.

    As of today, a horrible new chapter of the story has been posted for all to see. Iran retaliated for the killing by firing a barrage of weapons at bases inside Iraq. That barrage did little harm. The Iranians may not have known that when, two hours later, they perceived a large moving object in their skies. It seems they fired anti-aircraft missiles and brought down a civilian airliner, killing all aboard.

    Now the harrowing stories of the lost — students returning to university in Canada, newlyweds, children — are filling Canadian media, and will soon claim the attention of the world.

    THESE STORIES POINT AN ACCUSATORY FINGER, FIRST, AT THE IRANIAN GOVERNMENT. Iranian military authorities apparently fired at a plane cleared to fly in their airspace that had lifted off only minutes before from the Tehran airport. It was the Iranian authorities, too, who set in motion the cycle of attack and response that culminated with the destruction of a civilian airliner.

    ON DECEMBER 27, IRAN FIRED ROCKETS AT A U.S. BASE IN KIRKUK, IRAQ, KILLING A U.S. CONTRACTOR; INJURING FOUR AMERICAN SERVICE MEMBERS AND TWO IRAQI SECURITY PERSONNEL.

    On December 29, the United States struck back with an air raid against Iranian-sponsored militias in Syria and Iraq, killing an estimated 25 people and injuring many more.

    On December 31, Iranian-backed forces mobbed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad — and it was this that prompted the killing of Soleimani and all that followed.

    YET THE UNITED STATES CANNOT SHOVE ALL BLAME ON IRAN FOR THE HUMAN DISASTER OF FLIGHT 752.

    Nobody intended for civilians to die. That is the way it is with unintended consequences — and why governments are supposed to weigh carefully the decision to employ deadly force.

    THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION IS TELLING AN OBVIOUSLY FALSE STORY ABOUT THE DECISION TO KILL SOLEIMANI.

    Instead of acknowledging that Soleimani was killed in reprisal, the Trump administration instead argues that the killing was necessary to avert attacks that were simultaneously so imminent that only killing could thwart them and so non-imminent that by attacking the top of the chain of command, the gunmen on the ground would somehow be stopped.

    MEMBERS OF CONGRESS WHO HAVE RECEIVED THE TRUMP ADMINISTRATION’S CLASSIFIED BRIEFINGS HAVE SCOFFED AT ITS CLAIMS.

    The Trump administration refuses to share evidence even with the eight members of Congress who share the highest security clearance. Instead, Vice President Mike Pence told Fox News that viewers would just have to be assured that the Trump administration was telling the truth. This is the same Vice President Pence who told reporters that he stayed at a Trump resort on the Atlantic coast of Ireland, two hours’ travel from meetings in Dublin, because his great-grandmother had grown up nearby.

    The Trump administration’s accounts are NOT credible. The world is owed the truth, however painful.

    FROM IRAN’S TERROR-STAINED REGIME, NOT MUCH IS EXPECTED IN THE WAY OF HUMANITY OR DECENCY. A wave of protests erupted across Iran on November 15, at first over increases in the price of fuel, then over other economic and political grievances. The regime responded with repression that tortured and killed hundreds of people.

    FROM THE UNITED STATES, HOWEVER, A DIFFERENT STANDARD IS EXPECTED. On the confirmed public record – as opposed to “take our word for it” secret information – Trump acted against Soleimani IMPULSIVELY.

    When the killing escalated tensions with Iran, Trump and his administration told apparent lies to make their behavior seem more considered and more justified.

    In the first relief that Iranian retaliation had not done more damage, the president accepted accolades for his leadership. You just cannot admit that Trump was right for once became a pro-administration talking point. Yet now we are confronted with the full measure of the toll — however unintended — of open hostilities.

    Trump, of course, disclaims all responsibility, as he habitually does. He has always been a credit-grabber and a responsibility-dodger. “It was flying in a pretty rough neighborhood,” the president told reporters this morning about the downed airplane. As Gordon Sondland memorably put it, Trump cares only about big things, THINGS THAT WOULD BENEFIT HIM PERSONALLY.

    The victims of the crash of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 were not U.S. citizens, and certainly not residents of any state that Trump might win in 2020, so who cares, really?

    The loss of life had “nothing to do with us.” It was a “mistake on the other side.” The gun just went off; let’s not ask too many questions about who put the bullets in the chamber.

    SOLEIMANI ABUNDANTLY DESERVED TO DIE A VIOLENT DEATH. THE 176 INNOCENTS HE TOOK WITH HIM DID NOT.

    President George W. Bush and President Barack Obama both flinched from doing justice to Soleimani, because they asked, “And what will happen next?” Trump did not ask that question.

    FAMILIES ACROSS HALF THE WORLD ARE NOW GRIEVING A CONSEQUENCE THAT TRUMP’S EGO FORBADE HIM TO IMAGINE OR PONDER.

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 10, 2020 at 2:45 pm

  • Clyde Duncan  On January 11, 2020 at 12:27 pm

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