Some additional context regarding our inevitable(?) clash with Iran.
As Iran counts down the minutes to the end of an arms embargo so that it can begin importing much-needed technology and dual-use equipment for weapons, a senior US official alleged that it is resuming work with North Korea on long-range missiles. Iran also could have enough material for a nuclear weapon by the end of the year. The report was part of a larger Reuters report about new US sanctions against up to two dozen people and entities that will be slapped onto Iran. The US has urged the UN to snap back sanctions on Iran after Washington says Iran violated a 2015 deal.Iran has circled the wagons and brought in the Russians, China, Turkey, the EU and many other countries to oppose the US attempts to put more sanctions on. The US allegation about the long-range missile work is linked to other US claims that Iran has violated agreements linked to ballistic missile development. Iran says it can build whatever it wants. It recently put a military satellite into space. – Link
So, great. We helped accelerate Iran ‘s nuclear program.
With the announcement earlier this month that the United States will withdraw thousands of its troops from Iraq, Iran and its Shia Islamist proxies have hailed the decision as a victory of their “Axis of Resistance”.
Undoubtedly, this will mean that the Iraqi Shia militias who work hand-in-glove with Tehran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) will feel emboldened by a reduction of capable enemies on their doorstep, and will seek to expand their power and influence even further.
However, this also raises a question of the relevance of the Shia militias in Iraqi politics, particularly those who serve under the banner of the Baghdad-sanctioned but Tehran-backed Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF).
A large part of their existence is based upon their rhetoric of resisting a foreign occupier and combating the Islamic State (IS) group which has been formally declared as defeated since 2017.
With their raison d’être now undermined, and early elections called for 2021, fears are growing that the PMF and Iran are simply seeking to entrench a pro-Tehran regime in Baghdad, completely undermining Iraqi self-determination and sovereignty. – Link
Interesting times lay ahead for Iraq, and our involvement within, until China supersedes our shaky ‘alliance’ anyway. Our forces inside Iraq and Syria have defensive capability, but are not remotely configured for the offense. Which fuels my inclination that force drawdowns in Iraq could be part of the war with Iran equation….to not leave them sitting as targets when things go sideways. No such drawdown in Syria however, where both IRGC and PMF forces are also present [IRGC in greater numbers than Iraq].
And then we have competing visions about our policy vis-a-vis naval presence in the gulf specifically. From the excellent USNI Blog:
Gen. Kenneth McKenzie told House lawmakers that the aircraft carrier “has a profound deterring affect principally upon Iran.”
“They know what the carrier is. They track the presence of the carrier. And I view a carrier as a critical part of a deterrent posture effective against Iran,” he said.
McKenzie went on to tell lawmakers he believes that the reduction in Navy carrier presence in early 2019 and years prior may have contributed to the latest cycle of escalation from Iran that came to a head with the U.S. assassination of Iranian Revolutionary Guard commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani and a retaliatory strike from Iran on U.S. bases in Iraq.
And from Bryan Clark, a former senior aide to the chief of naval operations and now a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute:
“The Iranians don’t perceive carriers and a threat to their ability to project power because they project power through gray zone activities and terrorism — the kinds of things that carriers aren’t very good at dealing with.”
“And when they are inside the Persian Gulf, the Iranians perceive them as being an easy target. They can range the entire gulf with shore batteries along the coast in caves and other terrain where it’s hard to root them out,” he added. “So the Iranians see the carrier as a way to get the Americans to spend a lot of money on a show of force that doesn’t really impact their strategic calculation.”
**And for extra credit, see The Iranian Coup that Led to 67 Years of Reckless Intervention**