Months After Soleimani's Assassination, Another Strike on Militias in Iraq 

Rocket attacks and "precision defensive strikes" will bring us ever closer to truly endless war.


The administration of President Donald Trump promised to "restore deterrence" against Iran when it assassinated Iranian spymaster Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad International Airport on January 3. But months later, the Iraqi militias formerly armed, trained, and advised by Soleimani seem undeterred, and American troops in Iraq find themselves in an escalating cycle of conflict with no end in sight.

In March, militia forces fired a barrage of Katyusha rockets at Camp Taji, killing a U.S. Army soldier, a U.S. Air Force airman, and a British servicewoman. A local militia close to Iranian intelligence services called Kata'ib Hezbollah appeared to take credit for the attack in a social media diatribe invoking the "right to resist" America's "malicious project of occupation."

American forces responded with what the Pentagon calls "precision defensive strikes" against five Kata'ib Hezbollah weapons depots. Iraq accused the U.S. military of killing Iraqi soldiers and civilians instead of Kata'ib Hezbollah members during the raids, aggravating already strained U.S.-Iraqi tensions. The following weekend, Katyusha rockets slammed into Camp Taji again in broad daylight.

Assassinating Soleimani was supposed to have prevented attacks like these, yet that act was also the result of escalating retaliation: In December, a rocket killed an American translator in Iraq. The Trump administration blamed Kata'ib Hezbollah (though the Iraqi government has since cast doubt on that claim), and U.S. forces retaliated with a round of strikes that killed 25 members of the militia.

In response, the Iraqi militia incited its supporters to ransack the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Trump called the incident his "Anti-Benghazi," referring to the deadly 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Libya. And then he ordered Soleimani killed.

Iran responded by firing ballistic missiles at a U.S. airbase in Iraq, injuring more than 100 U.S. troops. Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament passed a nonbinding resolution asking American forces to leave the country.

The Trump administration initially justified the assassination by claiming that Soleimani posed an "imminent threat" to American lives, but it was later unable to identify any specific threat posed by Soleimani. The administration then gradually changed its justification to "restoring deterrence" against Iran.

"Restoring deterrence is not static," said Brian Hook, the State Department official in charge of Iranian affairs, at a February briefing hosted by the Middle East–focused, D.C.-based publication Al-Monitor. "It is a daily habit, and you've got to get that habit as part of your system, so we every day look for ways to get Iran to go back to its own borders."

Hook also called the Iranian government a "corrupt religious Mafia," hinting that the Trump administration does not see Iran as a state that can be reasoned with. "I don't know how the world's leading sponsor of terrorism is entitled to a claim of self-defense. They're not at peace with their neighbors, because they don't want to be at peace with their neighbors," he said.

Neither Hook nor Trump seemed to be very involved in how American forces responded to the March attacks. Defense Secretary Mark Esper signaled that he was not looking to escalate against Iran itself.

"I have spoken with the president. He's given me the authority to do what we need to do," Esper told reporters in March. "I'm not going to take any option off the table right now, but we are focused on the groups that we believe perpetrated this in Iraq."

America's military leadership has been more concerned with protecting its own personnel than in opening a new front with Iran. U.S. counterterrorism forces even secretly drafted plans to withdraw from Iraq in the wake of Soleimani's death, and the U.S. military is abandoning some of its smaller bases in the country.

But the Trump administration continues its campaign of "super maximum economic pressure" against the Iranian economy. Without a civilian effort to support coming to terms with Iran, rocket attacks and "precision defensive strikes" will bring us ever closer to truly endless war.

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  1. Ever closer to truly endless war?

    Where do begin with a subhead like that? I really think every single thing about that subhead is wrong… like, not just the basic meaning of the words, but even the broader implications.

    Closer? How can you get closer to “endless” than what we’ve had, well, as long as you’ve been alive anyway. Sure, we had a couple of minutes of “detente”, but never truly full peace. But at the same time, we’ve never been *less* at war than we are right at this moment.. at least not since the advent of television.

    So “closer to endless war” has the rare distinction of being wrong on both ends – you cannot get closer to perpetual war than already being at a state of perpetual war – simultaneously, we are actually less and less at war than we’ve been in the last 60+ years.

    We have had a military presence in Iraq for nearly 30 years (Feb 1991), Iran has been supporting Islamic militant groups in the region since the 80’s, and they fought a shooting war with Iraq for the entirety of the 80’s.

    So no, taking out a key Iranian leader did not create or seriously escalate a state of endless war. And the fact that an Iraqi militant group backed by Iran didn’t lay down its arms and attacked a base a year later isn’t proof of escalating and endless war.

    And to the more general point of the article – that by fighting these groups we are only making it worse…. well, there’s no answer for that. Trump tried to extract the US from the Syria mess, and you saw the response to that. He tried to make peace in Afghanistan and go home… you see how well that is going. Far from cheering these moves, the American people (or at least the political leadership and the press) expressed their displeasure. Clinton tried to broker peace in the middle east.. and failed. Europe told the US that they were not the world police, so Clinton and Bush let them handle the fallout in the former Yugoslavia. When they failed, Europe blamed the US for not being the world’s police. And Clinton stepped in. We even fought to protect the Muslim minority.
    Europe immediately blamed the US for being the world police. That intervention wasn’t exactly a success that led to peace with Islamic Militants. Bush the Elder had agreements from all sides in the middle east to cut it out…. which didn’t last until they made it home.

    As long as the militant Islamic ideology is attractive in that region, there will be people who consider themselves at war with the west. We mostly didn’t acknowledge their declarations of war in the 70’s, 80’s and 90’s. Then 9/11 happened and we acknowledged it.

    Un-acknowledging it is proving very difficult.

    Absent that conflict… there has been very little in the way of actual fighting for the US since 1975. We still have competing interests with a couple of world powers – but we also have very strong common interests with those world powers. So actual shooting war that isn’t highly asymmetrical is very unlikely, and the odds of such conflicts seem to be reducing day by day.

    So, there is more peace, not less… and simultaneously we have not had an absence of endless war in your lifetime. So we are already there – not getting closer to it.

    1. Nice.

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    2. Keep in mind the US isn’t the only force engaged in endless war and while we’re distracted with Iran, the Islamic Reconquista of Europe proceeds apace.

    3. nice article, Cyto.

    4. Not only that, the Middle East has been in a state of perpetual war longer than recorded history.

    5. Do you work in the Pentagon disinformation office? Why do we have a presence in Iraq? Could it be the oil? Why did the US fabricate false evidence to invade Iraq? Saddam Hussein was a CIA asset. He worked for the CIA, the CIA helped him take charge of Iraq. You claim Iraq has always been at war with Iran but don’t say why. The US overthrew a democratically elected leader in Iran, Mosadeq. When he took power, he wanted to end the exploitation of Iran’s oil by western powers and distribute the wealth of their natural resources to his people. This did not fly well with the oil companies. So the CIA removed him and put in the brutal Shah who was nothing more than a dictator. Iran being the underbelly of the USSR, was armed to the hilt with modern US weapons including front line aircraft. So instead of the people of Iran benefiting from their oil resource, the money went to the US military complex.
      When Iranians finally threw out the Shah, the US was faced with an unfriendly power with a huge military capability thanks to the US. Iran had to have its nuts cut off, so they coaxed Saddam to attack Iran. During the war, the US sold weapons to both sides to keep the war going as long as possible. In fact, one former Israeli agent stated the US, UK and Israel sold arms to both sides and the US sold sattelitte intelligence information to both sides. Since Iran and Iraq paid for the weapons, the aim was to keep it going, the arms purveyors were getting rich while both Iraq and Iran would be weakened by a prolonged war. The Israeli agent stated there was no one sadder than the arms merchants when that war ended.

      After that war ended, Saddam must have realized he was being duped. The US realized they had built up Iraq not only with weapons, but lethal nerve gas, which Iraq, in desperation of loosing to Iran, had used. It was now Iraq that had to be weakened. At first, itt was done economically, having instructed oil rich countries to reduce oil prices. If your economy is totally dependent on oil and you owe a lot of money to western bankers for weapons you have just purchased to fight a war, you will go broke. Kuwait, who did not want to loose money on their oil, started tapping Iraqi oil fields, they were stealing Iraq’s oil. Saddam got wind of it and told the US, if Kuwait does not stop, they will have to act. Instead of telling Kuwait to stop, the US ambassador to Iraq said the US did not care, it was an Arab problem, in effect, giving Saddam the green light to act, to invade Kuwait. Actually it was all engineered to goad Iraq into an invasion, giving the US a pretext to invade and bomb Iraq and weaken their military.

      The second invasion Iraq, a much smaller country, who did nothing to the US and whose military was a joke, was no different than the NAZI invasion of Poland. The US then decide to overthrow the Libbyan head of state, simply because he wanted to form a Pan Arab Union and trade oil on the gold dinar rather than the dollar. You seen the US, who claims China and other countries manipulate their currencies, has forced all nations on the world to pay for oil with US dollars. It provides a huge advantage to the value of the dollar and it gives the power of extortion over other nations. If our country is dependent on oil, you need dollars. All the US has to do is cut you off form the dollar and they have you crying uncle. The real danger was that if Libya had succeeded, in trading oil with dinars, a lot of US paper dollars would come back floating to the US, thereby making the dollar near worthless. This is the real reason why NATO attacked Libya, the most modern country in north Africa, a country that had no debt with any of the vultures of international banking.

      Since the US invaded Iraq, there are two factions at war in Libya, there is war in Yemen, there is war in Iraq, there is was in Syria. And there are wars in oil rich African nations, designed to keep China from becoming oil independent of the dollar. The real plan in the middle east is to prevent a Pan Arab Union as has been tried by many Arabs for centuries, keep Arabs fragmented and weak. Millions of innocent men, women and children have been killed and are still dying today, first at the hand of the English and French colonizers and now at the hand of the US empire builders.
      The intent is an endless wars, killing people is much more profitable than saving them. The US never has any money to help its poor citizens but always has trillions for war.

  2. Personally, I don’t have any issue whatsoever killing a bunch of raghead Iranian wannabe soldiers who fuck with us. I am perfectly happy to send them on the one way train to allah. They won’t find 72 virgins….

    1. Well they might, but the virgins are all fat 30 year old guys living in their parents’ basements.

      1. As Robin Williams pointed out, it’s 72 pissed off Virginians waiting for them

        1. “This is heaven? Why do I hear banjos? Musical instruments are haram…”

  3. So we shouldnt have killed Soleimani because there isnt everlasting peace yet in the ME. Got it.

    1. Endless war is bad. We shouldn’t have killed Soleimani because he was a populist peace ambassador representing a organic, trans-national uprising of peace in the Middle East.

      The guy’s been dead 4 mos. and Reason is still sucking his dick. Probably gonna be a few years before they realize how fucking disgusting it is.

      1. I know, right? They act like he was on a mission to take care of sick puppies and orphans.

        1. Austere religious scholar etc etc

  4. Good training for military members, good economic move forcing rocket replenishment, great move eliminating vile aggressors, poor move of, in the event “innocents “ are killed, but good move to incentivize “innocents “ to organize and remove the savages amongst them. The very purpose of a war is to make the opponents uncomfortable enough to quit. History indicates it may require a nuclear effort. What’s this Petti on about?

  5. Trump obviously went back in time and started all these conflicts.

    1. Trump murdered Abel.

    2. Search his name and Iraq war, or Syrian war, or Afghan war.

      I could not find a single article where he was critical of the Obama admin handing of those wars. The search results was loaded with anti-Trump articles. I’m not sure if he didn’t write any, or if the search engine is biased.

  6. Nobody knew bringing home the troops could be so complicated.

    Meanwhile, keep your eye on General Pat White. When Trump fires his ass, you’ll know John Bolton’s acolytes are back in charge.

  7. It’s not even June and it appears the media has run out of ammunition to fire at Trump and in a vain attempt to continue pulling the trigger, is picking spent shell casings and cramming them in the chamber.

    At this point, it would almost behoove Democrats to disappear untl 2024 and let Trump and the GOP stumble over themselves for four years. They’ve pretty much expended all the other options.

  8. Killing a uniformed officer of a chronic bad actor nation, who is actively directing hostile actions against US personnel and materiel, is not assassination.

    Why does Reason continue to assert that it is?

    1. Because Trump ordered it. And the only thing that matters is Orange Man Bad.

    2. Actually, it is assassination. No different than the assassination of Yamamoto in WWII. I’m not losing sleep over either.

    3. I’d say it is an assassination. I’m not saying we shouldn’t have done it. Guy was attacking either directly or indirectly US interests in the ME for decades. If you choose to play the specops/blackops game, you don’t get to cry foul when your number comes up.

      On a side note, what were Iranian civilians doing at a terrorist weapons depot? Unless they were helping the terrorists, in which case are they really civilians? hmmmm?

  9. Do we have a winner for the most dishonest take on what happen yet? This should be at the top. To paraphrase old school your arguments were incoherent… We are all dumber for having read that.

    1. Still baby Jeffrey. Not even close.

  10. “The administration of President Donald Trump promised to “restore deterrence” against Iran when it assassinated Iranian spymaster Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad International Airport on January 3. But months later, the Iraqi militias formerly armed, trained, and advised by Soleimani seem undeterred, and American troops in Iraq find themselves in an escalating cycle of conflict with no end in sight.”

    That’s an interesting theory, but it doesn’t accurately reflect reality. The fact is that the Trump administration is withdrawing both troops and hardware from the region.

    When the U.S. Defense Department announced, on May 7, that it would withdraw two Patriot missile batteries and several fighter aircraft from Saudi Arabia, it looked like an ominous development in the tense relationship between Washington and Riyadh . . . . The withdrawal was much less about punishing the kingdom than about the Pentagon’s effort to manage its finite resources and shift many of them elsewhere from the Middle East.

    The withdrawal reverses, at least in part, a significant U.S. military buildup in the Middle East that began last year to counter the threat from Iran. Privately, U.S. officials explained that these additional deployments to Saudi Arabia were always a temporary measure to augment Saudi defense capabilities and address a spike in Iranian aggression. Once adequate arrangements were in place to close the gap in Saudi defenses, the emergency deployment was, by definition, to end.

    1. and Pompeo selling equipment to the house of Saudi was so they could defend themselves so that we could leave but an IG didn’t like that so he started to investigate and Trump fired him for investigating something Pompeo was supposed to do. Maybe its all a big spiders web and no one knows who are the flys and who are the spiders. who is pulling the stings?

      1. I don’t really care about that.

        The fact is that Iran perpetrated numerous provocations against us and our allies in an escalating pattern, and regardless of whether Soleimani should have been assassinated, selling arms to our allies in Saudi Arabia so they can defend themselves against a common foe was in the best interests of the United States.

        Meanwhile, both adding to our capacity to defend ourselves and our allies against missile strikes and other incursions was the right thing to do at the time–and now withdrawing as Iran teeters under the weight of the embargo, collapsing oil prices, the coronavirus, its aggressive incursions into Syria, and internal dissent is the best thing to do for the United States.

        My primary concern is the best interests of the United States, and so long as that box is being checked, everything else is of lesser importance. The legitimate purpose of U.S. foreign policy from a military perspective is to protect our rights from foreign threats, not to serve the best interests of the Kurds in Syria, the Iraqi people, Syrian refugees, the people of Yemen, the people of Iran, or the Saudis.

        The road to hell is paved with the good intentions of neocons.

  11. If they really want us to get out of the middle east Reason should be trying to get Trump re-elected. My prediction is if Trump is re-elected, week one he will order all troops out of Iraq. He is only keeping them there to appease the Hawks. He won’t have any reason to keep them there after he wins.

    Biden on the other hand…assuming he gets all the way to the election (and I have my doubts about that) should he win will double down and send in more troops, pulling more forces away from the far east and China.

  12. A local militia close to Iranian intelligence services called Kata’ib Hezbollah

    Yes, yes, the US shouldn’t even be there.

    That said Kata’ib Hezbollah aren’t local insurgents being advised by Iranian intelligence services, they ARE Iranian intelligence services.

    This was a direct attack by the Iranians on an American base.

    You know who else shouldn’t be in Iraq?

    1. Dude, Soleimani was in Iraq to bring flowers to widows. Meals on Wheels to orphans. He was basically on the most humanitarian mission you can imagine. So humanitarian.

      1. He was just on the verge of a COVID cure.

  13. Trump administration does not see Iran as a state that can be reasoned with.

    Can’t imagine why…

  14. If Reason thought Trump said Killing solemany would end all fighting then I don’t know who they were listening to since Trump never said that and anyone with half a brain knows killing leaders has never ended conflicts anyway. Grow up Reason

    1. No, don’t you listen to Hollywood? If we had just killed Hitler, World War II would not have happened. Because the German people would have blandly accepted the insult that was the Versailles Treaty and no other Socialist/Communist entities were trying to take over Germany at the time. Oh and Japan would never have launched her territory grabs.

      1. And no I am not supporting or excusing Hitler, just stating that the Treaty of Versailles basically made WWII inevitable.

        1. I like to think that you can hate both Hitler and Woodrow Wilson at the same time.

          1. Hey, don’t leave out FDR and Stalin.
            Churchill and Mussolini I’m a bit more ambivalent on. They just had such awesome style

  15. Has anyone seen this great damage caused by the Iranian attack after Soleimani was killed. Iran’s people could be happy knowing they hurt Americans and the the leaders of the regime would not have to do more and risk being droned.

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