Trump’s presidency led straight to America’s epic coronavirus failure, by Alex Zeldin.
By Bill Van Auken in the USA:
13 March 2020
Pentagon officials announced late Thursday that US and British warplanes had launched airstrikes against multiple targets in Iraq in retaliation for a missile attack the day before on a military base north of Baghdad that killed two US troops and one British medic while wounding over a dozen other “coalition” troops. The number of Iraqi casualties from the attack was not initially reported.
According to a US official who spoke to the AP on condition of anonymity, the targets for the US bombing raids were sites associated with the Kataib Hezbollah militia, one of the largest components of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), the coalition of largely Shia-based militia groups. Baghdad designated the PMF as part of Iraq’s armed forces after the militias played the predominant role in defeating the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS), which had routed government troops and overrun a third of the country in 2014. …
The attack and the US-led retaliation could reignite military conflict with Iran, threatening to drag the Middle East and the world into war. …
There is widespread speculation in the media that the US will refrain from a direct attack on Iran under conditions of the mounting crisis over the coronavirus pandemic and the collapse of financial markets in the US and worldwide. Meanwhile, the Trump administration is attempting to salvage a crumbling agreement providing for a US troop withdrawal from Afghanistan.
The administration, however, may still seize on the missile attack in Iraq as a pretext for launching a major military action for the very purpose of shifting public attention from the increasingly catastrophic consequences of its criminal incompetence and indifference in the face of the pandemic.
There were no initial reports of Iraqi casualties resulting from Thursday night’s air raids. Previously, however, warplanes struck positions held by Iraqi Shia militia groups near the Syrian-Iraqi border town of Albu Kamal, reportedly killing at least 26 people. The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights reported the casualties and said that US warplanes had carried out the raid. …
This was followed by the January 3 US drone missile assassination of Gen. Qassem Suleimani, one of Iran’s most senior officials, after he arrived at Baghdad’s international airport aboard a commercial flight and passed through Iraqi customs with his diplomatic passport.
Killed in the same drone strike were Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the chief of the Kataib Hezbollah militia and deputy leader of the Popular Mobilization Forces, along with several other Iraqis and Iranians.
Initially, Trump administration officials claimed that the strike was carried out to preempt imminent attacks being prepared by Suleimani against US forces in the Middle East. This phony pretext was later dropped, with Trump claiming that he needed no such justification and that the attack was justified as an act of vengeance for attacks on US troops by the Iraqi resistance to the American occupation. It has since become clear that Suleimani was targeted because he was carrying out a diplomatic mission to Iraq as part of an attempt to defuse tensions with Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates …
Meanwhile, the Iraqi parliament is confronting Washington’s open defiance of its demand made last January, in the wake of the Suleimani assassination, that the 6,000 US troops remaining in Iraq be withdrawn.
Instead, the Pentagon has indicated that it intends to deploy US Patriot missile batteries in Iraq to counter any possible new threat from Iranian ballistic missiles. US Marine Gen. Kenneth McKenzie, the head of CENTCOM, told the House Armed Service Committee on Tuesday that the Pentagon was “in the process of bringing air defense systems, ballistic missile defense systems, into Iraq in particular, to protect ourselves against another potential Iranian attack.”
Last month, Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi addressed a letter to US Defense Secretary Esper warning that any deployment of Patriot missile batteries would be in defiance of the Iraqi government and would inflame popular opposition by signaling that the US has no intention of withdrawing its troops. …
There is little likelihood that Tehran ordered Wednesday’s rocket strike against the US-led occupation forces in Iraq. The country has been plunged into a deepening crisis by the coronavirus pandemic, which has hit it harder than any other country with the exceptions of China and Italy. The devastating “maximum pressure” campaign by Washington to drive the country’s oil exports down to zero and cut it off from the world market has denied it essential medical supplies. The Iranian government has issued an appeal to the International Monetary Fund for $5 billion in emergency funding to deal with the outbreak. It is hardly likely, under these conditions, to launch a military confrontation with the US.
Even as the world, and the United States itself, reels from the consequences of the pandemic and the failure of capitalist governments to either prepare for or adequately respond to its devastating effects, Washington continues to pursue its predatory interests in the Middle East and across the planet. The renewed violence in Iraq makes it clear that the threat of US imperialism dragging humanity into a catastrophic regional and even world war continues unabated.
To placate Trump, and on the advice of Pence, it looks as though Netanyahu picked the most extreme option on the table, by the Forward. Netanyahu quarantined all arrivals to placate Trump. US-Israel relations are diseased. By Abe Silberstein, March 10, 2020.