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.