The United States has managed to deter a pending Iranian attack against American interests in the Middle East, that after the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force – General Qassem Soleimani – ordered Iranian-proxies in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen to ‘prepare for (an imminent) war.’
According to several (confirmed) Western intelligence reports, the top Iranian commander also instructed Iraqi militias, namely the Popular Mobilization Forces, to target American installations and service members across Iraq – a move that led Washington to withdraw all non-essential personnel from Iran’s Western neighbor, and the expedited deployment of the USS Abraham Lincoln strike group to the region.
Fearing a military confrontation between the United States and Iran that will inevitably devastate the entire Middle East, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said that: “From our side, there are no Iraqi factions involved in the political process that wants to push for a conflict, unless they are individual cases. But we can’t find any Iraqi factions within the political process that wants to push towards a war.”
The Iraqi leader also revealed that Baghdad aims to serve as a mediator between Washington and Tehran. According to him: “The Iraqi vision is very similar to the European vision when dealing with this issue [Iran and US]. We are also discussing with the American side and the Iranian side. We’ll send delegations to the respective capitals especially Tehran and Washington in order to halt tension and call for calm.”
It is important to note that while Iraq’s Shi’ite militias – over 140,000 militants – were incorporated into Iraq’s military in 2016, placing them under the authority of Iraqi Prime Minister Abdul Mahdi, the leadership of the most powerful paramilitary alliance – the popular Mobilization Forces – are openly loyal to the commander of Iran’s Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, the architect of Tehran’s regional strategy.
Meanwhile, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani defiantly declared that the Islamic Republic “will never bow” to anyone. In a televised nation-wide address, the Iranian leader boasted in his country’s resilience amid the ongoing stand-off with the United States, and referred to Washington as cowardice in the face of Iran’s power, that forces the Trump Administration to retract its threatening statements. Rouhani stated: “Our actions are a forceful answer to those who think they can force the Iranian nation to bow under pressure. The Iranian nation will never bow, has always held its head high, has always remained proud and today it will continue to be the same. You can see that in an instant they (refers to the U.S.) make threats against us and then in less than two hours they are regretting making those threats. As soon as they make threats against great Iran, those who bear the real responsibility on the ground tell the White house that you have made a dangerous statement. The White House announces that Iranians should fear an imminent war. But two hours later, after pressure from the Pentagon, the U.S. President is coming out to apologize and to say that we have no intention to go to war (with Iran), that we never had any intention to fight the Iranian people. This is because of the power of our nation, a nation that is proud, brave and united.”
The defiant statement by the Iranian leader came after senior members of the U.S. Congress and Senate received separate classified intelligence briefings pertaining to the stand-off with Iran. Following the sessions that were held behind closed-doors, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided a general overview of the topics that were presented. “So, I have a couple of quick points about the conversations we had with the House and the Senate today and then I’ll turn it over to Pat. First, we shared with both the House and the Senate our strategic campaign, the effort to push back against Iran’s malign activity, 40 years of terrorist activity. And so we talked to them about that. Tried to place that or place the recent intelligence in context of that 40 years of history. We walked through our efforts and our ultimate objective over the past days which has been to deter Iran,” said Pompeo.
Acting U.S. Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan took the opportunity to reiterate Washington’s position, according to which all measures undertaken by the Trump Administration aim to deter the Iranians from escalating the situation, rather than provoking an all-out-war. He said: “That intelligence is borne out in attacks and I would say it’s also deterred attacks. We have deterred attacks based on our re-posturing of assets, deterred attacks against American forces. Our biggest focus at this point, is to prevent Iranian miscalculation. We do not want the situation to escalate. This is about deterrence, not about war. We’re not about going to war. This is about continuing to protect our interests in the Middle East and conducting the missions that we are there to perform.”
Despite the concrete and elaborate intelligence briefings, U.S. lawmakers voiced mixed feelings over their convictions vis-à-vis Tehran’s dangerous activities and the way it should be deal with. Republican Senator Lindsey Graham voiced the opinion that: “It was a very good briefing. They explained to us how the Iranian threat streams were different than in the past, that the attack on the ships and the pipeline was coordinated and directed by the Iranian government, the ayatollah. That we had picked up strong intelligence that they had given the Shi’ite militia basically more running room and direction. And that attacks against American interests and personnel were eminent. The decision to send the Abraham Lincoln to the region was to try to deter attacks against American personnel, not to invade or start a war.” Whereas Democratic Senator Bernie Sanders said: “Let me be very brief and say that I think as most Americans know, way back when, we were lied to about the situation in Vietnam and we went into a war which ended up costing us 59,000 lives based on a lie. In 2003, we were lied to in terms of Iraq supposedly having weapons of mass destruction. We lost over 4,000 brave Americans and hundreds of thousands of people in the region were killed and forced to leave their homes. I believe that a war with Iran would be an absolute disaster, far worse than the war with Iraq. And I hope the American people tell this administration that we will not go to war in Iran.”