by Whitney Webb, The Unz Review:
Behind the official yet dubious justifications for the U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian general on Friday lies a confluence of factors — some decades in the making, others more recent — that are pushing the U.S. towards yet another catastrophic war in the Middle East.
BAGHDAD — The recent assassination of Iran’s most popular and well-known general, Qassem Soleimani, has stoked fears that a new war pitting the U.S. and its allies against Iran could soon become a devastating and deadly reality. The airstrike that killed Soleimani, conducted by the U.S. in Baghdad, was conducted without the authorization or even prior notification of the U.S. Congress and without the approval of Iraq’s government or military, making the attack flagrantly illegal on multiple levels. The attack also killed Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was an advisor to Soleimani.
“The assassination of an Iraqi military commander who holds an official position is considered aggression on Iraq … and the liquidation of leading Iraqi figures or those from a brotherly country on Iraqi soil is a massive breach of sovereignty,” Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi said of the attack, adding that the assassination was “a dangerous escalation that will light the fuse of a destructive war in Iraq, the region, and the world.”
Notably, the assassination of Soleimani comes just a few months after an alleged Israeli attempt to kill the Iranian general failed and amid a well-documented and decades-long push by U.S. neoconservatives and Israeli officials for a U.S.-led war with Iran.
While the illegality of the assassination has been noted by many since news of the attack first spread, less attention has been given to the oddities of the Trump administration’s official reasoning and justification for the attack that has brought with it renewed tension to the Middle East. Per administration officials, the attack was aimed at “deterring future Iranian attack plans” as well as a response to a rocket attack at the K1 military base near Kirkuk, Iraq on December 27. That attack killed one U.S. military contractor and lightly wounded several U.S. soldiers and Iraqi military personnel.
Yet, the details of that attack — even per mainstream U.S. sources that often support U.S. militarism — are incredibly murky, and the name of the American killed and the identity of the company he or she was working for have not been released. Some media reports have referred to the contractor as a “Pentagon contractor” while others have used the term “civilian contractor,” leading some to speculate that the contractor might have been a private mercenary in the employ of the Pentagon.
In addition, no group has yet claimed responsibility for the attack and media reports have noted that the attack could just as easily have been conducted by remnants of the Islamic State as by the Iraqi Shia militia (Kataib Hezbollah) that was officially blamed by U.S. officials. An official investigation into the incident, being conducted by the Iraqi military, has yet to be concluded. Notably, the U.S. previously claimed it had compelling evidence to blame Iran for attacks on oil tankers in the Gulf of Oman last June, only to have staunch U.S. allies in the region claim that alleged U.S. evidence of Iranian involvement was insufficient.
"There are about 5,000 American troops in Iraq. The number of civilian contractors is far more difficult to track." That's journalistic malpractice. Trump is going to war to avenge a contractor's death. We have a right to know who he or she is. https://t.co/x60ngAwtBe
— Tim Shorrock (@TimothyS) January 3, 2020
Furthermore, the U.S. had already responded to the death of the contractor, launching five different attacks in Iraq and Syria in late December, killing an estimated 25 and motivating Iraqi protesters to storm the U.S. embassy in Baghdad as many of those killed by those airstrikes were Iraqis. The subsequent airstrike that killed Soleimani seems like overkill for the official justification of avenging the death of one American.
Given the above, the question then becomes — is the Trump administration basing its assassination of a top Iranian general in Iraqi sovereign territory in clear violation of international law on the death of a single individual that the government will not even name? Even when five strikes were already launched to allegedly avenge that same individual?
Risking a regional war to allegedly avenge the death of an individual who was alreadyavenged raises questions, especially for a President standing for re-election. The United States claims that the assassination was also intended to act as a “deterrent” against potential, future Iranian attacks, yet it is hard to justify the murder of a top general of a foreign power on foreign soil as a preemptive and preventative measure as opposed to one that would invite escalation. This is particularly true given that those that have most often sought an escalation in tensions between Iran and the U.S. and its Middle Eastern allies do not live in Tehran and Baghdad, but instead in Washington D.C. and Tel Aviv.