After watching the horrifying news of Trump’s latest strikes in Iraq that killed a popular Iranian general, and his decision to deploy more troops as we enter a new year, people around the world responded. On January 4, Chapter 180 of Veterans For Peace, along with several local peace groups and concerned individuals held a “US Out of Iraq, No War on Iran” demonstration at a busy intersection near north Fresno’s River Park (hosted by Peace Fresno). They were joining a nationwide call for action by CODE PINK and the ANSWER Coalition.
With Iraq having already suffered months of turmoil and high tensions with Iran, Trump’s assassination of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani adds fuel to the fire and has prompted Iran to warn the US of retaliation. Taking part in this demonstration was intended to show the community our collective commitment to ending ongoing the insane US wars in the Middle East.
After reports of increased rocket attacks on US bases in Iraq, including one that was said to have killed a US military contractor on December 27, the Trump administration reacted by launching airstrikes on the Iraqi militia group Kata’ib Hezbollah, massacring 25 members of the group. The strikes have also escalated the conflict with Iran, since the militia group—which is part of the official Iraqi security forces—has ties to Iran.
Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi called the killing of the 25 militia members a violation of Iraqi sovereignty and the attacks led to massive protests that besieged the US Embassy in Baghdad. They have also incensed Iraqi political leaders, who are calling for a full withdrawal of US troops. The withdrawal of troops is actually what Trump had been promising the American people. But rather than exiting, the Trump administration announced the deployment of 750 more troops to the region and possibly another 4,000 soon. This is in addition to the 5,200 US soldiers already there.
In response to the US massacre of 25 of their members, the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, along with supporters from across the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) attacked the US embassy in Baghdad’s Green Zone on December 31, 2019. The embassy had long been beseiged by massive Iraqi protests, where the diverse population ha a long list of grievances toward their Iraqi government, among them rampant corruption and insecurity, the influence of foreign powers in Iraq, and a terrible quality of life that has beset the Iraqi people since the disastrous US invasion and occupation kicked off in 2003.
In typical fashion, US officials and their mouthpieces in the corporate media portrayed provocative US actions as defensive in nature. On January 3, 2020 a US drone strike was carried out in Iraq near Baghdad international airport, killing Iranian General Soleimani, along with nine others–including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of Iraq’s PMF security forces. This was just days after talks were set to begin between Iraq and Iran over de-escalating the rising tensions. Saudi Arabia was set to mediate these talks, and Iraq had invited Soleimani to deliver Iran’s answer. When he arrived he was extrajudicially assassinated by the US drone strike. In addition to being a clear act of war against Iran, it is an attack on Iraq’s sovereignty. Remember it was “bringing democracy” to Iraq and propping them up as allies which was the alleged reason behind the US attack there in the first place almost two decades ago.
The Trump administration is without question solely to blame for the current crisis. It was widely predicted that Trump’s reckless decision to withdraw from the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran and reimpose sanctions would backfire. By all objective measures this reckless move makes the region less safe and US interests less secure (even by Washington’s own nebulous standards). Even though the Iraqi protesters have left the US Embassy in Baghdad, the crisis is far from over, especially with Trump tweeting such idiotic and grotesque threats, such as, “Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”
While much of the region mourns the passing of Soleimani, uncertainty prevails. Oil prices are spiking, as are the stock prices for the war industry. Iraq is hardening its resolve against the US presence there, and US forces in the region are rightfully concerned for their safety.
There is nothing happy about beginning this new decade with threats of war and more troops deployed to the Middle East. Contact Congress now and tell your representatives that you oppose US military attacks in Iraq. Tell them to speak out against more American troops being sent to the region and to call for the US to make peace with Iran.