WASHINGTON (Reuters) – The United States had “clear, unambiguous” intelligence that a top Iranian general was planning a significant campaign of violence against the United States when it decided to strike him, the top U.S. general said on Friday, warning Soleimani’s plots “might still happen.”
Army General Mark Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told a small group of reporters “we fully comprehend the strategic consequences” associated with the strike against Qassem Soleimani, Tehran’s most prominent military commander.
But he said the risk of inaction exceeded the risk that killing him might dramatically escalate tensions with Tehran. “Is there risk? Damn right, there’s risk. But we’re working to mitigate it,” Milley said from his Pentagon office. (Reuters)
This is pretty much in line with Trump’s pronouncement that our assassination of Soleimani along with Iraqi General Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was carried out to prevent a war not start one. Whatever information was presented to Trump painted a picture of imminent danger in his mind. What did the Pentagon see that was so imminent?
Well first let’s look at the mindset of the Pentagon concerning our presence in Iraq and Syria. These two recent quotes from Brett McGurk sums up that mindset.
"If we leave Iraq, that will just increase further the running room for Iran and Shia militia groups and also the vacuum that will see groups like ISIS fill and we'll be right back to where we were. So that would be a disaster."
"It's always been Soleimani's strategic game… to get us out of the Middle East. He wants to see us leave Syria, he wants to see us leave Iraq… I think if we leave Iraq after this, that would just be a real disastrous outcome…"
McGurk played a visible role in US policy in Iraq and Syria under Bush, Obama and Trump. Now he’s an NBC talking head and a lecturer at Stanford. He could be the poster boy for what many see as a neocon deep state. He’s definitely not alone in thinking this way.
So back to the question of what was the imminent threat. Reuters offers an elaborate story of a secret meeting of PMU commanders with Soleimani on a rooftop terrace on the Tigris with a grand view of the US Embassy on the far side of the river.
“In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad, and instructed them to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country”
“Two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters that Soleimani instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on US targets using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran.”
“Soleimani’s plans to attack US forces aimed to provoke a military response that would redirect Iraqis' anger towards Iran to the US, according to the sources briefed on the gathering, Iraqi Shi’ite politicians and government officials close to Iraq PM Adel Abdul Mahdi.”
“At the Baghdad villa, Soleimani told the assembled commanders to form a new militia group of low-profile paramilitaries – unknown to the United States – who could carry out rocket attacks on Americans housed at Iraqi military bases.” (Reuters)
And what were those sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran? They were 1960s Chinese designed 107mm multiple rocket launcher technology. These simple but effective rocket launchers were mass produced by the Soviet Union, Iran, Turkey and Sudan in addition to China. They’ve been used in every conflict since then. The one captured outside of the K1 military base seems to be locally fabricated, but used Iranian manufactured rockets.
Since when does the PMU have to form another low profile militia unit? The PMU is already composed of so many militia units it’s difficult to keep track of them. There’s also nothing low profile about the Kata’ib Hizbollah, the rumored perpetrators of the K1 rocket attack. They’re as high profile as they come.
Perhaps there’s something to this Reuters story, but to me it sounds like another shithouse rumor. It would make a great scene in a James Bond movie, but it still sounds like a rumor.
There’s another story put out by The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights. Although it also sounds like a scene form a James Bond movie, I think it sounds more convincing than the Reuters story.
Delegation of Arab tribes met with “Soleimani” at the invitation of “Tehran” to carry out attacks against U.S. Forces east Euphrates
The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights learned that a delegation of the Arab tribes met on the 26th of December 2019, with the goal of directing and uniting forces against U.S. Forces, and according to the Syrian Observatory’s sources, that meeting took place with the commander of the al-Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Qassim Soleimani, who was assassinated this morning in a U.S. raid on his convoy in Iraq. the sources reported that: “the invitation came at the official invitation of Tehran, where Iran invited Faisal al-al-Aazil, one of the elders of al-Ma’amra clan, in addition to the representative of al-Bo Asi clan the commander of NDF headquarters in Qamishli Khatib al-Tieb, and the Sheikh of al-Sharayin, Nawaf al-Bashar, the Sheikh of Harb clan, Mahmoud Mansour al-Akoub, ” adding that: “the meeting discussed carrying out attacks against the American forces and the Syria Democratic Forces.”
Earlier, the head of the Syrian National Security Bureau, Ali Mamlouk, met with the security committee and about 20 Arab tribal elders and Sheikhs in al-Hasakah, at Qamishli Airport Hall on the 5th of December 2019, where he demanded the Arab tribes to withdraw their sons from the ranks of the Syria Democratic Forces. (SOHR)
I certainly don’t automatically give credence to anything Rami sends out of his house in Coventry. I give this story more credibility only because that is exactly what I would do if Syria east of the the Euphrates was my UWOA (unconventional warfare operational area). This is exactly how I would go about ridding the area of the “Great Satan” invaders and making Syria whole again. The story also includes a lot of named individuals. This can be checked. This morning Colonel Lang told me some tribes in that region have a Shia history. Perhaps he can elaborate on that. I’ve read in several places that Qassim Soleimani knew the tribes in Syria and Iraq like the back of his hand. This SOHR story makes sense. If Soleimani was working with the tribes of eastern Syria like he worked with the tribes and militias of Iraq to create the al-Ḥashd ash-Shaʿbi, it no doubt scared the bejeezus out of the Pentagon and endangered their designs for Iraq and Syria.
So, Qassim Soleimani, the Iranian soldier, the competent and patient Iranian soldier, was a threat to the Pentagon’s designs… a serious threat. But he was a long term threat, not an imminent threat. And he was just one soldier.The threat is systemic and remains. The question of why, in the minds of Trump and his generals, Soleimani had to die this week is something I will leave for my next post.
A side note on Milley: Whenever I see a photo of him, I am reminded of my old Brigade Commander in the 25th Infantry Division, Colonel Nathan Vail. They both have the countenance of a snapping turtle. One of the rehab transfers in my rifle platoon once referred to him as “that J. Edgar Hoover looking mutha fuka.” I had to bite my tongue to keep from breaking out in laughter. It would have been unseemly for a second lieutenant to openly enjoy such disrespect by a PV2… and a troublemaking PV2 at that. God bless PV2 Webster, where ever you are.
From what I recall and remember reading, Brett MCGurk has always seen the late Suleimani as his competitor in that part of the Shia Crescent. He may have been jealous that Suleimani has had his boots on the ground from the. beginning- whether it was in Tikrit or the Deir-Ezzor to fight ISIS where as he was prominence when he was put as special envoy for the Global coalition to defeat ISIS in 2016.
I still think the sense of urgency in eliminating Soleimani has to do with the embassy attack. Trump absolutely cannot have an embassy taken over and US personnel taken hostage and/or killed. I think Trump felt the need to send a strong message about that. Yes, that’s a political calculation, but I think it goes deeper. I wouldn’t trade 500 Soleimanis for a 50% chance of an embassy debacle or a single US life. I don’t buy that Soleimani was an innocent merely attending a funeral. That’s stupid. We know his job description and history.
You seem to agree that Soleimani represented a long term threat in the region. So he makes a good target for Trump to serve both the immediate goal and, hopefully, long term goal. Yes, Soleimani’s billet has already been filled, but the message from the US – at the Trump admin part of it – remains strong.
I know there are many here who think it’s none of the US’ business what happens in the MENA and that we should get out completely. That has a definite appeal to me too. However, doing so is not without serious consequences in this interconnected world. Just one example, a Sunni v Shia all out war would result in a massive refugee crisis, perhaps larger than anything we’ve seen yet. There’s Israel, which a lot to a lot of people, both Jews and Gentiles. Another is that there are oil issues too and the global economy. This isn’t 900 AD when a war could happen in the MENA and Europeans could be comfortably ignorant that it’s even occurring, let alone be impacted.
Wondering how much more intense the security will be around Trump’s campaign rallies during the election.
You appear to be one of the few voices of sanity on SST at the moment.
Eric, the embassy attack hurt little more than our pride. Yes, an entrance lobby and it’s contents were burned and destroyed but no American was injured or even roughed up. It was the Iraqi government that let the demonstrators approach the embassy walls, not Soleimani. The unarmed PMU soldiers dispersed as soon as the Iraqi government said their point was made. If we are so thin skinned that rude graffiti and gestures induce us to committing assassinations, we deserve to be labeled as international pariahs.
Yes, I see Soleimani as a threat, but he was a threat to the jihadis and the continued US dreams of regional hegemony. I was glad we went back into Iraq to take on the threat of IS and cheered our initial move into Syria to do the same. That was the Sunni-Shia war you worry about. More accurately, it was a Salafist jihadist-all others war. Unfortunately, we overstayed the need and our welcome. It’s a character flaw that we cannot loosen our grasp on empire no matter how much it costs us.
TTG – “And what were those sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran?”
According to published pictures of the rockets recovered after the K-1 attack, they were the same powerful new weapons that Turkish troops recovered from a YPG ammo depot in Afrin last year: ‘Iranian’ 107mm rockets Manufactured 2016 Lot 570. I know matching lots isn’t proof of anything, but what are the chances?
If the U.S. only had a Dilyana Gaytandzhieva to bird-dog out the rat line. Wait… the MSM would have fired her by now for weaponizing journalism against the neocons [sigh].
On a scale of 1-10, was the evidence as thin as Trump was a Russian agent that sent the CIA-FBI into a full frontal attack? Not seeing a good track record here for our IC.
If a goal is to get the heck out of the Middle East since it is an intractable cess pit and stat protecting our own borders and internal security, will we be better off with Soleimani out of the picture or left in place.
Knowing of course, more just like him will sprout quickly, like dragon’s teeth, in the sands of the desert.ME is a tar baby. Fracking our own tar sands is the preferable alternative.
Real war war would be a direct attack on Israel. Then they get our full frontal assault. But this pissy stuff around the edges is an exercise in futility. 2020 was Trump’s to lose.Incapacity to handle asymmetirc warfare is ours to lose.
If renewed Sunni-Shia conflict has “global consequences”, then I suggest global partners start protecting their own interests.
There is no necessary link between the Iranian support for the Assad regime, to include its operations in tribal areas of Syria. The Iranian-backed militias and Iranian government officials have been operating in that area for a long time, supporting the efforts of Security/Intel Ali Mamlouk. That Suleimani knew the tribes so well is a mark of his professional competence. Everyone is courting the Syrian tribes, some sides more adeptly than others. It is also worth noting that in putting together manpower for their various locally formed Syrian militias, the Iranians took on unemployed Sunnis.
That said, there are small Ismaili communities in Syria and there are apparently a couple of villages in Deir ez Zor that did convert to Shiism, but no mass religious change. The Iranians are sensitive to the fact that they could cause a backlash if they tried hard to promote “an alien culture.”
Thanks for your post. What it says I buy. We are in the Middle East and have been for a while to impose regional hegemony. What that has bought us is nebulous at best. Clearly we have spent trillions and destabilized the region. Millions have been displaced and hundreds of thousands have been killed and maimed, including thousands of our soldiers. Are we better off from our invasion of Iraq, toppling Ghaddafi, and attempting to topple Assad using jihadists? Guys like McGurk, Bolton, Pompeo will say yes. Others like me will say no.
The oil is a canard. We produce more oil than we ever have and it is a fungible commodity. Will it impact Israel if we pull out our forces? Sure. But it may have a salutary effect that it may force them to sue for peace. Will the Al Sauds continue to fund jihadi mayhem? Likely yes, but they’ll have to come to some accommodation with the Iranian Shia and recognize their regional strength.
Our choice is straightforward. Continue down the path of more conflict sinking ever more trillions that we don’t have expecting a different outcome or cut our losses and get out and let the natural forces of the region assert themselves. I know which path I’ll take.
Eric, “Israel, which a lot to a lot of people, both Jews and -in Gaza Ghetto caged-Gentiles” is now worried about an all out Sunni vs. Shia war?! FDD’s Richard Goldberg is a Shia or is Jared Kushner a Sunni? Muddying the water again Eric?
I think the reasons are tribal loyalties, as human as it gets wil all.
Two years ago, the public protest theme for Basel’s winter carnival Fashnach was the imminent threat nuclear war as NK and US were sabre rattling, and NK was lobbing missles across Japan with sights on West Coast US cities.
Then almost the following week, NK and US planned to meet F2F in Singapore. And we could all breathe again. In the very early spring of 2018.
With all due respect, I think you are wrong. I think the protesters swarming the embassy was exactly the same kind of tactic that US backed protesters used in Ukraine (and are currently using in Hong Kong) to great effect. The Persians are unique in that they are capable of studying our methodologies and tactics and appropriating them.
When the US backed protesters took over Maidan square and started taking over various government building in Kiev, Viktor Yanukovych had two choices – either start shooting protesters or watch while his authority collapsed. It was and is a difficult choice. In my humble opinion, there are few things the stewards of US hegemony fear more than the IRGC becoming the worlds number one disciple of Gene Sharp.
This “imminent” threat of Gen. Soleimani attacking US forces seems eerily reminiscent of the “mushroom cloud” imminent threat that Bush, Cheney and Blair peddled. Now we even have Pence claiming that Soleimani provided support to the Saudi 9/11 terrorists. Laughable if it wasn’t so tragic. But of course at one time the talking point was Saddam orchestrated 9/11 and was in cahoots with Osama bin Laden.
I find it fascinating watching the media spin and how easily so many Americans buy into the spin du jour.
After the Iraq WMD, Gadhaffi threat and Assad the butcher and the incorrigible terrorist loving Taliban posing such imminent threats that we must use our awesome military to bomb, invade, occupy, while spending trillions of dollars borrowed from future generations, and our soldiers on the ground serving multiple tours, and our fellow citizens buy into the latest rationale for killing an Iranian & Iraqi general, without an ounce of skepticism, says a lot!
Yeah, it will be interesting to see how Trump’s re-election will go when we are engaged in a full scale military conflagration in the Middle East? It sure will give Tulsi & Bernie an excellent environment to promote their anti-neocon message. You can see it in Trump’s ambivalent tweets. On the one hand, I ordered the assassination of Soleimani to prevent a war (like we needed to burn the village to save it), while on the other hand, we have 52 sites locked & loaded if you retaliate. Hmmm!! IMO, he has seriously jeapordized his re-election by falling into the neocon Deep State trap. They never liked him. The coup by law enforcement & CIA & DNI failed. The impeachment is on its last legs. Voila! Incite him into another Middle Eastern quagmire against what he campaigned on and won an election.
I would think that Khamanei has no choice but to retaliate. How is anyone’s guess? I doubt he’ll order the sinking of a naval vessel patrolling the Gulf or fire missiles into the US base in Qatar. But assassination….especially in some far off location in Europe or South America? A targeted bombing here or there? A cyber attack at a critical point. I mean not indiscriminate acts like the jihadists but highly calculated targets. All seem extremely feasible in our highly vulnerable and relatively open societies. And they have both the experience and skills to accomplish them.
If ever you have the inclination, a speculative post on how the escalation ladder could potentially be climbed would be a fascinating read.
“I still think the sense of urgency in eliminating Soleimani has to do with the embassy attack. ”
Eric, words have meaning.
You use the word “urgency”, whereas the Trump Administration is very careful to use the word “imminent” to justify the assassination of Soleimani.
It makes a difference.
b over at MoA links to this:
It is well worth a look.
Basically, if the Administration’s definition of “imminent” is, ahem, rather inventive then this was a killing of a foreign leader for reasons of he-was-pissing-us-off and we-want-to-send-a-message.
That twitter post has a reporter saying that she has information from two people inside the Administration that the word “imminent” doesn’t mean what they think it means.
A question to the committee: what is the source for the claim that Soleimani bears direct responsibility for the death of over 600 US military personnel?
Craig Murray points to this article:
If that is the case (and it appears to be) then the US govt’s claim is nonsense, as it clearly says ” ‘During Operation Iraqi Freedom, DoD assessed that at least 603 U.S. personnel deaths in Iraq were the result of Iran-backed militants,’ Navy Cmdr. Sean Robertson, a Pentagon spokesman, said in an email.”
So those figures represent casualties suffered during the US-led military invasion of Iraq i.e. casualties suffered during a shooting-war.
If Soleimani is a legitimate target for assassination because of the success of his forces on the battlefield then wouldn’t that make Tommy Franks an equally-legitimate target?
Pulitzer Prize winning author of Caliphate, Romanian-American, Rukmini Callimachi, on the intelligence on Soleimani “imminent threat” being razor-thin.
You just beat me to her thread, Jack. For the Twitter shy, this is the first of a series of 17 tweets as a teaser:
Summary: [Too shameful to type]
How many neocon/borg concocted “red line” incidents does it take to finally get a President to do something foolish?
Are oil refineries heritage sites?
IMO, Craig Murray is pointing in the right direction around the word ‘immanent,’ by pointing out that it is referring to the legally dubious Bethlehem Doctrine of Self Defense, the Israeli, UK and US standard for assassination, in which immanent is defined as widely as, ‘we think they were thinking about it.’ The USG managed to run afoul of even these overly permissive guidelines, which are meant only against non-state actors.
“I find it fascinating watching the media spin and how easily so many Americans buy into the spin du jour.“
Yes, indeed. It is a testament to our susceptibility that there is such limited scepticism by so many people on the pronouncements of our government. Especially considering the decades long continuous streams of lies and propaganda. The extent and brazenness of the lies have just gotten worse through my lifetime.
I feel for my grand-children and great-grand children as they now live in society that has no value for honor. It’s all expedience in the search for immediate personal gain.
I am and have been in the minority for decades now. I’ve always opposed our military adventurism overseas from Korea to today. I never bought into the domino theory even at the heights of the Cold War. And I don’t buy into the current global hegemony destiny to bring light to the savages. I’ve also opposed the build up of the national security surveillance state as the antithesis of our founding. I am also opposed to the increasing concentration of market power across every major market segment. It will be the destruction of our entrepreneurial economy. The partisan duopoly is well past it’s sell date. But right now the majority are still caught up in rancorous battles on the side of Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
One Percent Solution.
Jack, what do you think about unionized government workers? You have called a lot of things in the past.
FDR warned against them, but JFK needed to pay off his suspiciously close election so government employee unions have grown in strength and power, essentionally keeping the rest of us as their poltiical hostages..
“Thats another fine mess you have got us in Laurel”
The old punch line from Laurel and Hardy is very fitting in this situation. It is ludicrous that the CIC, is so removed from reality, has been briefed so sloppily on the Iranians, that he is unaware of the “They always pay their debts”.
Iran is more or less impossible to conquer due to its landscape, most of thee war would be an air war and a foot war, a population of 82 million and thousands of missiles, and they have been practising what to do for 40 years.
What is not to like?
oh and :VVPutin’s remark : and attack on Iran is an attack on Russia”
TTG, Colonel, Larry,
It’s one screwed up mess anyway one looks at it.
Now my question is ‘who’ were the ones that convinced POTUS Trump to pull the trigger on Soleomani. Who were his ‘advisors’ on this one? My question now is, are any of them connected to the PMC welfare system that’s taken hold since the invasion of Iraq, and now running rampant with in the hallways of DoD and CIA? The PMC welfare system wants US to stay in the Mideast forever, as their cash registers keep going cha-ching, cha-ching with their profits at the expense of Mom and Pop America and its sons and daughters.
Eric, pardon my attempt at clarifying something you wrote in your comment. You wrote, ‘I know there are many here who think it’s none of the US’ business what happens in the MENA and that we should get out completely’.
Personally, I think it is clearly our business what happens in the “MENA”. That is not the same thing as assuming we have the COMPETENCE or necessarily subtle skills and understanding, to do anything HELPFUL, in the long run, in the region. At least that is the lesson I take from the last 25 years or so in American Foreign Policy. These guys (we) just seem unsuited for the all aspects, anyway, of the job. Hence I would get out, pump more oil in the US, while seeking, seriously, and materially, new alternatives to power our grid. And save our money and our manpower for when things, if things, ‘get closer to our wheelhouse’. And what happens over there happens.
That is an astoundingly cavalier attitude about attacks on a US embassy and other positions and personnel.
There is little doubt that Soleimani was seeking to create a Shia/ pro-Iran revolution in the Iraqi parliament that would result in humiliation for the US and disaster for Sunnis in Iraq; the Iraqi people that were cheering his death (guess all Sunnis are takfiri jihadists to you?). Long term consequences would be worse.
It also seems that Soleimani was developing attacks on US special operations forces in Eastern Syria (your brothers who are working with your beloved Kurds). Leaving the region means leaving the Kurds to their fate, btw.
I’m done talking about it here, I’m sure you’re happy to know. The comments here are 99% copy and paste from the America haters at Moon of Alabama. American imperialism is despicable, but Iranian imperialism is righteous. If America threatens Iran it’s naked evil running wild, but when Iran threatens other countries it’s God’s will (or the reality of the threat is denied).
There are a number of clans among the tribes in Syria east of the euphrates who were converted to shiism by missionaries sent from Qom and Karbala in the 18th and 19th Centuries. These exist side by side with clans of the same tribes who remain Sunni.
We have learned today from #Iraq Prime Minister AdilAbdl Mahdi how @realDonaldTrump
#US asked #Iraq to mediate with #Iran. Iraq PM asks #QassemSoleimani to come and talk to him and give him the answer of his mediation, Trump &co assassinate an envoy at the airport
The legislation has been approved by #Iraq MPs to terminate the presence of the US forces and for the government to implement the resolution.
Interesting bio, her mother, no mention of dad, left for Switzerland then California, where she attended private boarding schools. Doesn’t sound like a refugee from a communist country. But “Romanian”-American gives a special cachet in modern international reporting. So what was dad doing for a living in Romania?
thanks for the explication, I guess I’d misunderstood this too:
some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture
I thought he had Syria and Iraq in mind. …
Happy new year altogether.
Only days after Hajj Qassem and Abu Muhandes made their journey from the angels to the martyrs their wildest dream became true. Press TV just reports:
“Iraqi lawmakers have unanimously approved a bill, demanding the withdrawal of all foreign military forces led by the United States from the country following the assassination of Iran’s top military commander, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, and the second-in-command of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.”
Unanimously. Read it again. Unanimously. Iraq is united as never before.
When Hajj Qassem and Abu Muhandes look down to this from heaven they must be dancing in joy.