The acute phase of the Middle East crisis caused by the US’ assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani has come to an end. A war did not start, the little spike in oil prices went down again, the world breathed a sigh of relief.
Some observers consider that Iran won the confrontation, others – the United States. And the most thoughtful proposed to wait and watch the developments. And this is correct, because not only has nothing yet ended, but it hasn’t even started.
Let’s recall the succession of events.
The US didn’t just kill General Soleimani. They brazenly and lawlessly violated all the norms of international law. Qasem Soleimani arrived in Iraq at the invitation of the Prime Minister of Iraq. This means that the host party guaranteed his safety. Nominally, US troops are in Iraq to help the local government fight the caliphate. But de facto the US is occupying this country.
Consequently, the Iraqi government could not guarantee Soleimani’s security without consulting the Americans. And such consultations took place, the Prime Minister of Iraq himself said so.
I.e., the Americans not only knew that General Soleimani would arrive in Iraq, they could be said to have authorised the visit themselves.
Since Soleimani has been to Iraq before and this has not particularly bothered Washington, it is unlikely that the General was expecting a trick this time. In fact, because the Americans managed to hit car so easily and accurately, they knew exactly when, where, and how he would arrive and appeared to be aware of the full protocol of the meeting.
To make it clear what kind of baseness they have committed, it’s like inviting Trump to Moscow for May 9th, and immediately after the parade shooting him at the Kremlin wall and officially declaring that it would be preferable, of course, to slap the scoundrel Obama, but at worst this one will do.
In Europe, this (deception and baseness) killed politicians in different places until the end of the 17th century. However, the last excesses occurred in 1804, when Bonaparte captured and shot the Duke of Enghien (the last representative of the House of Condé). But it was precisely this act that gave birth to the familiar expression “This is worse than a crime, it’s a mistake”, attributed either to Talleyrand or to Fouché, and the response of an outraged Europe to such a clear disregard for morality and international law was the Third Anti-French Coalition.
Thus, the United States has officially and openly taken actions called international terrorism. Compounding this is the fact that trust was abused. This means that Washington, which was never particularly trusted, will no longer be trusted in principle, and not only by Iran, China, or Russia, but also by its closest allies.
In the end, after killing Soleimani in Iraq, the Americans also set-up the Iraqi Prime Minister who invited him. You never know who they will decide to kill in France, in Germany, or even worse, in the UK.
The local government, which didn’t provide adequate security, will be blamed anyway. However, European politicians can still naively hope for Western solidarity and the “unity of the free world”, but Middle Eastern leaders for sure will take note that American guarantees cannot be relied on.
International life is like everyday life. If you are not believed, they will try to avoid any form of cooperation. Of course, sometimes some relationships have to be maintained, but they are disposed of at the earliest opportunity.
If you do not have friends and allies who support you voluntarily (based on common interests and mutual trust), you have to spend much more effort and resources to keep your vassals in obedience. The US has already faced the consequences of such a policy, when imperial overreach led it to fail to maintain hegemon status, causing it to lose in Syria, lose in Turkey, and now lose in Libya. Washington’s position in the Middle East has already been catastrophic in the last five years (since the start of the Russian Federation’s aviation operation in Syria).
After Soleimani’s murder, even official US allies will seek an alternative to such “friendship”. As Erdogan did, whom the Americans initially brought to the brink of war with Russia after a jet was shot down, then left in this position alone, refusing to give him NATO’s and their own support, and then even tried to kill in the course of an incomplete coup.
And Erdogan’s example is infectious. After he de facto turn his back on America, things got better for him.
Immediately after Soleimani’s assassination, Iraq officially demanded the withdrawal of American troops from its territory. The US can insist, put off its departure, put forward idiotic conditions, like a demand to pay for their occupation, but it will have to leave. At least because maintaining bases in a hostile state is strategically meaningless. In the event of any conflict, they will at best be paralysed, and at worst they will be forced to fight for survival.
There can be no talk of any projection of force. At any moment, the base can be left without water, electricity, food, heating, and the number of voluntary spies who will inform a potential enemy of everything that happens at the base will be equal to the size of the local population.
Investing money in maintaining troops on such bases is not only meaningless, but flawed, for it diverts valuable resources from places where they can be used in a meaningful way to places where they will simply be buried. So Washington, of course, can speak about how it doesn’t care about the Iraqi authorities’ demand, but it has lost this foothold.
Already today we can assess the situation as if there were no Americans in Iraq.
This means that the threat of a land invasion in Iran is reduced to a vanishingly small amount. Turkey will not allow such an invasion through its territory, and it will have to leave from Iraq. Moreover, even now the invasion of US troops into Iran from Iraq is leading the grouping to a disaster, in view of the lack of a rear. Americans will need to defend their bases and communications from the Iraqis, so it is impossible to fight Iran.
The US grouping in Afghanistan is weak, far from the vital Iranian centers (it will simply not reach them by being destroyed along the way), and finally, the only thing that these troops are now concerned about is how to wait for the decision to withdraw and politely carry their feet away from Afghanistan.
Bases remain in Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bahrain, and Oman. The US can launch airstrikes from there, and receive missile strikes in response. But the troops which are deployed there will not be able to force the Persian Gulf and land there. Iranian missiles shoot along and across the bay and are capable of sinking everything that floats in this water area.
Iran itself receives direct access through Iraq to Syria and Lebanon, where pro-Iranian anti-Israel groups are concentrated. Tehran has not been particularly shy in moving troops and weapons through Iraqi territory before, and Russian long-range aircraft have entered Iraqi airspace to target pro-American terrorists in Syria, but without American troops (or with troops locked down in bases and guarding themselves), the connectivity of the Iranian position is greatly improved.
Over Israel’s northern borders is the Iran-Iraq-Syria-Turkey bloc, strategically relying on Russia, passionately wanting to eliminate the last US ally in the region. Israel can put up a fight with only the 200 (estimated) tactical nuclear warheads available to it, but their use will immediately outlaw the Jewish state, so when deciding on such a step they must be sure that the US will provide cover, even risking a nuclear strike against Washington.
Is it possible to be sure of this? Thus Tel Aviv needs to either urgently change its patron or prepare to evacuate the promised land.
Saudi Arabia and Gulf monarchies have drawn their conclusions a long time ago. It was enough to see how they met Putin last year and compare similar meetings with the US president. Meanwhile, protocol has always played a leading role in the East. There, they are ready to measure respect to the milligram and weigh it on a chemist’s scale so that they do not overdo it, God forbid. They clearly were not afraid to overdo it with Putin, short of carrying him in their arms.
The monarchies of the Persian Gulf have their own difficult relations with Iran, they share many problems, but they will seek and find common ground, as the United States is no longer a reliable defender.
After all, a US base was hit, and the US did not respond. Yes, Washington said no one died, that they knew about the strike beforehand, that there was not much destruction. It is possible that all of this is true, although Iran, unlike the United States, has never been caught making direct blatant lies, and Tehran claims there was a slightly different result.
However, after Trump sent three carrier strike groups to the DPRK, he loudly threatened Kim Jong-un, and when he declared his readiness to launch a nuclear strike against targets in the United States, he quietly withdrew ships and raced for talks. After Erdogan failed to heed American “cautions” and first bought and deployed the S-400, and then attacked the American-covered Kurds and secured the return of the Euphrates’ right bank to Assad’s control, this is the third large-scale humiliation for the hegemon, and the largest.
Let me remind you that Iran officially called the Pentagon and the US army terrorist organisations and launched a missile attack on them (something Trump did not dare to do against the DPRK, Turkey, or Iran itself). And the hegemon happily declared that it considers itself to be the winner in this confrontation, because in the coming days Iran will no longer shoot the Americans.
So what then is defeat?
Nevertheless, for all the goodness of the current situation in the Middle East, for all the costs that the United States incurs, I argue that nothing has even started yet, and that military danger is stronger than ever. The United States is still the top military power in the world. Washington clearly intends to fight further for the position of global hegemon. The US elites are so educated so that they purely psychologically cannot give it away without war.
At the same time, all attempts by the US to restore its authority and influence through small victorious wars only lead to a deterioration of its strategic position. Washington is drawn into senseless and futile conflicts, from which it cannot emerge with a victory, and is forced to think only about saving face.
At some stage, it will become clear to the Americans that the stakes should be raised again. If the Iranian card has not been played and the Middle East has been lost, it is necessary to play the Chinese card and win the Far East (and this is a confrontation with a nuclear power). Then, only a direct conflict with Russia.
At the same time, if the United States can afford to surrender in a clash with the DPRK, Turkey, or Iran (Russia, too, did not show up to the war with Ukraine [the US hoped to force Russia to officially enter the war in Donbass – ed]), then in a direct confrontation with China, even more so with Russia, a retreat after threats have been uttered means farewell to the status of hegemon.
Consequently, the Americans will either start a major regional war capable of developing into a world war (Washington still considers itself capable of controlling the development of such conflicts, although in fact they almost immediately spiral out of control), or it will raise the stakes and head towards not an economic, but military-political confrontation with China, realising that it is impossible to retreat.
If it were not for this clear and unequivocal military threat, I would say that Russia has achieved an ideal position. Washington wanted to get Moscow into a lot of minor conflicts with secondary countries that would sap all the juice out of Russia, and the US would watch from the sidelines, increasing its power.
It turned out that the Americans themselves entered into a lot of conflicts with secondary countries, wasted all their resources in them, and Russia quietly watched it from the sidelines, gave dosed (so as not to be drawn into the conflict itself) support to the opponents of the United States, and gained strength.
But Washington does not forget for a minute who their main opponent is, and the US military officially believes that a global nuclear war can be won. The less space the Americans have to manoeuvre, the closer they are to making the decision to flip the board.
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