THE IRANIANS ARE PLAYING CHESS WHILE TRUMP PLAYS CHECKERS

by Duns Scotus

The world is waiting for Iran's response following America's terrorist attack on a convoy carrying a top Iranian general in Baghdad.

There are a number of possible ways that Iran can retaliate for the drone strike that killed Qasem Soleimani, from launching terrorist attacks of its own to closing the Straits of Hormuz to shipping.

But, while Trump blusters about mass bombing Iran in retaliation for any retaliation, the Iranians appear to be using Soleimani's death to cleverly undermine the legitimacy for US bases in Iraq, while also using it to justify smaller attacks that will make those bases untenable.

According to the latest reports, Iran's supporters in the Hashed (Iraq's national militia network) and Iraq's parliament are coordinating their efforts with the following strategy:
  1. Push for parliament to withdraw permission for US bases (granted in 2014 under President Obama in order to combat ISIS).
  2. Call for the Iraqi national army to stop protecting US bases
  3. Launch "nuisance attacks" on the bases through Iraqi militia groups controlled by or sympathetic to Iran.
These moves are designed to make a US presence in the country increasingly untenable while making it difficult for Trump to lash out again.

The Iranians have correctly identified US bases in Iran as America's weakest point. Not only are they unnecessary (ISIS has been defeated) but these bases can only exist if they are actively protected by the Iraqi army, which hates the US as much as Iran does.

The pro-Iranian Kataeb Hezbollah group has accordingly called for the Iraqi national army to pull back from the US bases:
"We ask security forces in the country to get at least 1,000 meters away from US bases starting on Sunday at 5:00pm (1400 GMT)," said the Kataeb Hezbollah faction.

The deadline coincides with the planned conclusion of a parliamentary session on Sunday which the Hashed (Iraqi militia organization) has insisted should see a vote on the ouster of US troops.

Some 5,200 US soldiers are deployed across Iraqi bases to train and support local troops to prevent a resurgence of the Islamic State jihadist group.

They are deployed as part of the broader international coalition, invited by the Iraqi government in 2014 to help fight IS as it swept across Iraqi territory.

The Hashed, whose Shiite-majority factions have close ties to Iran, has vehemently opposed their presence for months.

Its hardline members and its political branch, the Fatah bloc, have called on parliament to revoke the invitation.

The 329-member parliament is set to meet at 1:00pm local time (1000 GMT) and while no agenda has been published, many lawmakers are pushing for a vote on the foreign troops.

"We either vote on the occupation forces leaving, or we remain subservient, robbed of our will and dignity," said Fatah MP Ahmad al-Kinany.

"Any parliamentarian absent for the vote on the departure of the occupier will have betrayed his country," he said.
The only reason anyone in the Iraqi parliament could support the continued presence of the bases in the country is sheer political corruption. But the killing of Soleimani makes even this kind of support dangerous and expensive.

It seems only a matter of months if not weeks before US forces are kicked out of both Iraq and then Syria. The Iranians, possibly with a little guidance from the Russians, are clearly playing 4D chess, while Trump is playing 2D checkers. Maybe he can repackage this coming geopolitical defeat as fulfilling his campaign promises in 2016 to terminate pointless overseas military operations.

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