Why Iran is still attacking American troops during the pandemic

“So why, in the midst of grappling with an out-of-control pandemic and an economy in free fall, would Tehran devote time and money to fighting the US? The answer, at least in part, is that the Iranian government believes the United States is particularly weak right now, too.
With Washington’s ineptitude on full display in its domestic response to the coronavirus, few people outside of a select group of Iran hawks — which includes Secretary of State Mike Pompeo — have much of an appetite for continued clashes with Iranian proxies in Iraq or incidents with the IRGC in the Persian Gulf right now.

The United States is also a convenient scapegoat and distraction that the Iranian regime regularly uses to deflect attention from its own failures.

Facing growing criticism at home and abroad for their abysmal response to the Covid-19 outbreak, Iranian leaders have tried to shift the blame to the US — particularly the stringent economic sanctions Washington has placed on the country, which Iranian leaders say (not entirely unfairly) are hampering the country’s ability to respond to the pandemic.”

“The US assassination of Qassem Soleimani on January 3, 2020, was intended to not only take Iran’s most capable military figure off the battlefield but also to “reestablish deterrence” — that is, to raise the stakes so that Iranian-backed militias in Iraq would think twice about attacking US forces in the country going forward.

However, a series of recent attacks shows that far from being cowed, these militias appear to have been emboldened. In all likelihood, Iran is only in the nascent stages of responding to the death of Soleimani.”

“The coronavirus pandemic sweeping throughout the world has led the United States to draw down its forces, repositioning soldiers within Iraq and consolidating troops to fewer bases. US special forces soldiers have been withdrawn from some of the world’s most dangerous active conflict zones, leaving local host-nation forces to contend with an array of well-equipped and battle-hardened terrorists, insurgents, and militias.

This has presented Iran with a unique opportunity to expand and consolidate its control in Iraq and push the US entirely out. And the country’s leaders aren’t going to squander their chance.”

” From Tehran, the United States looks at its weakest in years. The country is struggling to formulate a coherent and effective response to Covid-19. The divisions between the United States and its traditional allies are glaring. In terms of US-Iran tensions, US allies in Europe place much of the blame on America, not the Islamic Republic.”

Trump’s Quiet War on Iran Gets Loud

“Unbeknownst to many Americans, we’ve been hurtling toward a worsened conflict with Iran for nearly two years now. The Trump administration has been quietly escalating against the country and its allies using a selection of counterterrorism laws, many of them passed after 9/11, that allowed it to act without going through Congress or the public. Former President Barack Obama, meanwhile, left a force in the region to counter the Islamic State that the Trump administration eventually pointed against the Islamic Republic.

Trump and his advisors objected to the violence carried out by Iran and its proxies across the Middle East. They also disliked Obama’s “nuclear deal,” which lifted U.S. economic sanctions on Iran in order to get international inspectors access to the country’s nuclear research program. So in 2018, the Trump administration replaced Obama’s deal with a campaign of sanctions aimed at forcing the Iranian government to change a range of foreign and domestic policies.”

8% of Iran’s parliament has the coronavirus, and it released 54,000 prisoners as the country descends into chaos

“”In China and Iran, both experiencing major outbreaks, early action has been undermined by efforts to halt and control free flow of information,” which has limited the public’s understanding and willingness to “share vital information with officials,” Matthew Kavanagh, an assistant professor of global health at Georgetown University, told Insider last week.”

Trump downplays US troop injuries from Iran’s attack, calling them “not very serious”

“After Tehran fired 16 missiles at two US military sites in Iraq earlier this month, the Trump administration repeatedly said there were no casualties. Trump, during a January 8 address at the White House, reiterated that message by saying “all of our soldiers are safe.”

Then last week, a Pentagon spokesperson admitted 11 military members sustained injuries in the Iran strikes, saying in a statement that the troops were “treated for concussion symptoms from the blast and are still being assessed” in Germany and Kuwait.

And then on Tuesday — almost two weeks after Trump and other officials said no one was hurt — another Defense Department spokesperson said that “additional service members have been identified as having potential injuries” and are under evaluation in Germany, too, though the exact number of troops or nature of the injuries is unclear.

While Iran didn’t kill a single US military member — as far as we know — it’s clear the human toll is much higher than the administration initially let on. Of course, it’s possible that officials didn’t notice the injuries until well after the Iran attack, as the first injuries to be identified are usually those involving visible physical wounds.”

Escalation Breeds Escalation, in Iran and Beyond

“Washington’s bipartisan military-first approach to foreign affairs broadcasts to bad actors worldwide that U.S. intervention is always at hand and that a nuclear arsenal is the only sure deterrence against it.

North Korea has affirmed this logic explicitly. “History proves that powerful nuclear deterrence serves as the strongest treasure sword for frustrating outsiders’ aggression,” a state-run media editorial declared in January 2016. Neither Iraq’s Saddam Hussein nor Libya’s Moammar Gadhafi, both deposed and killed with U.S. involvement, could “escape the fate of destruction after being deprived of their foundations of nuclear development and giving up undeclared programs of their own accord,” the editorial continued. North Korea’s Kim Jong-un is visibly determined not to follow in their footsteps.

For all its imperfections, the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA)—better known as the “Iran deal”—presented an opportunity to break this pattern. Unfortunately, that opportunity is gone following Trump’s withdrawal from the agreement in 2018. After the Soleimani strike, Tehran announced its own exit from the plan and, with that, its intent to proceed with nuclear research and development at will.”

An expert on why the Soleimani assassination was almost certainly illegal

“in order for this strike to be legal without congressional authorization, it would have to be in response to an imminent threat to the United States. And then we immediately enter into a discussion about what “imminent” and “threat” actually mean.”

“Many of the people who have shaped our legal understanding of “imminent” over the years understood it to mean that the threat was unfolding right now and there’s no time to do anything other than to kill the person.
The Soleimani killing doesn’t appear to meet that threshold.”

“If this is just a thing we did, then Congress doesn’t need to be notified. But if it’s an act of war, then clearly Congress needs to be notified.”

“for better or worse, at a point where the majority of lawmakers have basically acquiesced to the administration’s interpretation of the law when it comes to war, and again, this goes back to the George W. Bush era. So if that’s the case, then eventually the law becomes whatever the current administration says it is. That’s where we are.”

“there were several AUMFs but none of them, in any way, were directed at Iran. Each of them very clearly gave the executive branch the power to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and later, ISIS in Iraq. And in fact, Iran has been on our side in the fight against ISIS and the Taliban. So there’s just no plausible legal justification under which you could stretch any of the AUMFs to include an attack on an Iranian official.”

Iran announces it will no longer adhere to 2015 nuclear deal limits

“According to Zarif, Iran will continue to allow the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA), the international nuclear watchdog organization, to review its nuclear research, and would be willing to rejoin the agreement if sanctions against it are removed.”

“Last July, the Iranian government made it clear it planned to stop adhering to some elements of the nuclear deal by stockpiling more low-enriched uranium than the agreement allows.”

“The Iranian government announced it would no longer adhere to limits imposed by the 2015 nuclear deal in the wake of national outrage over the US’s assassination of one of the country’s top officials, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani”

Iraqi parliament approves a resolution on expelling US troops after Soleimani killing

“The passage of the resolution, however, does not mean foreign forces will immediately be expelled from the country. The country’s prime minister would need to sign off on a formal bill to accomplish that. Mahdi, of course, supports the move, but the fact that he is an interim prime minister could complicate matters.”

Trump’s administration is deeply dishonest, and it’s foolish to trust them

“All politicians garner fact-checks, but Trump is so dishonest that CNN’s Daniel Dale has a beat composed exclusively of keeping track of all the nonsense the president spouts, routinely generating headlines like “Trump made 96 false claims over the last two weeks” and “Trump makes at least 18 false claims in ranting Fox & Friends interview.”

The sheer range of things Trump lies about — including recently claiming that the prime minister of Canada edited a version of Home Alone 2 to remove a Trump cameo — is mind-boggling and goes way beyond any kind of normal political process.

Part of Trump lying about everything is that he frequently says things specifically about Iran that are not true. Back in July, for example, Trump tweeted about the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal that misstated the amount of money involved, misstated the duration of the deal, and fabricated secret Iranian violations of the agreement. It was not particularly clear at the time why Trump was lying about this stuff. But he lies so routinely about everything that people scarcely bother to inquire about what might be driving those specific lies.”

“As the former CIA director, Pompeo distorted intelligence about Russia to fit Trump’s preferred narratives. Then, as secretary of state, he misled the public about his role in the Ukrainian aid holdup that led to Trump’s impeachment.

Pompeo, too, engages in routine misstatements about Iran specifically, including lies about Iranian nuclear research.

This is important because Pompeo has become the public face of the administration on this issue. Although Pompeo does not engage in the range of dishonest statements that Trump does, his more focused dishonesty does include statements on Iran.”

“I hope there was some kind of good reason to bomb that Baghdad airport and some kind of plan to deal with the aftermath. But all we really know is that the people in charge of explaining to us what happened and why aren’t worthy of our trust.”

In the event of war with Iran, the U.S. Navy’s small, aging force of Persian Gulf-based minesweepers would struggle to locate and disarm Iran’s underwater mines.

https://nationalinterest.org/blog/buzz/more-mines-iran-ready-harass-and-destroy-us-navy-110791