A Dangerous Game

A Dangerous Game

Thе article is а part of the new issue of MANAGER Magazine.


“Trouble in the Middle East.” Past, present, future — it doesn’t matter. The tense to ascribe to that chronic news headline is your choice. As long as the US is willing to put the interests of its so called “greatest allies” ahead of its own, there will be “trouble” in the Middle East.


The Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Israel are not America. While this may seem like an increasingly tedious observation to make, apparently it still needs to be reminded to a president who won his presidential campaign on the slogan of “America First.”


The recent assassination of major general Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad did not put America first. It put its people and facilities squarely and unnecessarily in Iran’s sites.


The reasons offered for which the assassination was carried out are not only inconsistent, they come off as tendentious boilerplate for an American public weary of endless war and beyond cynical when it comes to statements by its officials, especially after nearly two decades in Afghanistan and Iraq. Naturally, the American media has gone into overdrive with the unified message “Trust us: He was a bad man!” A microcosm of how little respect the US government and power establishment has for its citizens in our desires to be even mildly informed before we mark World War III on our calendars.


When asked about the “imminent threats to American lives” which prompted the assassination, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said, “I can’t talk too much about the nature of the threats. But the American people should know that the President’s decision to remove Soleimani from the battlefield saved American lives, there’s no doubt about that.”


Easily available online searches can entertain you with footage of this very same man admitting “I was the CIA Director, we lied, we cheated, we stole.” to a room full of applause. Now he can add “gratuitously murdered” next time he’s bragging about criminal procedures from a position of power.


The precedent set here is alarming and dangerous. From this day forward, it’s reasonable to assassinate a head of state and simply claim “Well, we had evidence of an imminent attack but we don’t feel like sharing it.” All world leaders and heads of state should feel an eerie vulnerability to this nouveau pretense on which assassinations are acceptable.


While President Trump claims Solemani was in Baghdad to plan “an imminent attack” on American forces, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Adil Abdul-Mahdi addressed his country’s parliament and claimed the general was there for more peaceable reasons: To discuss deescalation of hostilities between Saudi Arabia and Iran. While this is alleged, it seems reasonable to believe these Middle Eastern countries would seek to reduce costly and destabilizing tensions in the region; tensions benefitting no one but those adhering to an American and Zionist agenda.


If spurious foreign intelligence claims about imminent danger to US forces—which just happen to further stoke tensions between Iran and the US—sound familiar, recall that just last May the US sent the USS Abraham Lincoln Carrier Strike Group and a nuclear capable bomber task force to the Persian Gulf based on an “unclear” Israeli intelligence tip.


Does any of this sound very “America First” to you? After the assassination of Qasem Soleimani the Iranians responded by launching nine ballistic missiles at the Iraqi al-Asad airbase where US forces were based. Initially, the US claimed there were no casualties; only damage to the airbase. A recent report indicates that nearly a dozen US forces were injured and required medical evacuation out of Iraq to nearby US military hospitals.


What reason would the American government have to lie about the casualties? Would they have occurred without the Soleimani assassination? Isn’t the first obligation of the American Commander in Chief to protect his soldiers, their families and loved ones? It’s they, after all, who bear the cost of these questionable actions. As long as we’re asking such questions, why would the American government lie about weapons of mass destruction before invading Iraq in 2003? When you start to ask yourself enough questions, the answer becomes much less obfuscated.


Pompeo quickly changed his tune when public sentiment started to question sending the young men and women of the US armed forces into WWIII over a spurious claim of “imminent threat”. He readjusted his stance to say “If you’re looking for imminence, you need look no further than the days that led up to the strike that was taken against Soleimani.” He was referring to a rocket attack by an Iranian-backed militia that killed an American interpreter, Nawres Hamid, in Iraq on Dec. 27. This was succeeded by American airstrikes that allegedly killed 25 Iranian-backed Iraqi militia, which led to protests leading to superficial vandalization of the American Embassy compound in Baghdad.


Almost enough has been said about the assassination itself. I’ll add briefly that America’s European allies are upset Pompeo and Trump did not advise any EU country in advance of the strike. Additionally, Pompeo and Soleimani were at one time fighting in the same trench, as General Soleimani guided campaigns against the Islamic State in Syria. In fact, he is largely credited with the defeat of ISIS in Syria and was applauded at one point by Americans, Russians and Israelis alike as the motive power behind the so-called “defeat” of ISIS.


The United States has officially determined itself an unreliable partner with the Iraqi government it invaded in 2003 to make more “democratic.” This new democratic parliament recently voted to expel more than 5,000 American troops from Iraq.

Meanwhile, American ambassadors and embassies worldwide are being warned to be on high alert. The killing of General Solimani, as previously stated, set a precedent that no head of state or ambassador is safe, even if on alleged “peace missions.”

It appears as if conflict is becoming an inevitability. Mike Pompeo has long been considered one of the most adamant war hawks in Washington, and Trump’s appointment of him as Secretary of State made this recent squabble with Iran unsurprising to anyone who knew his history. Pompeo may have only been 15 years old at the time of the Iranian hostage crisis in 1979, but his actions mimic those of a character like John Bolton who has been thirsty for Iranian blood since the hostage crisis forty years ago.


Dealing with Iran, however, may not be as simple as Trump and Pompeo would like the public to believe. A 2002 War Game titled “Millennium Challenge” which cost the taxpayers $250 million proved that the Pentagon, and many of its most ardent war hawks, have slightly underestimated a war with Iran. In the first day of combat, the US general in charge of the “red team” (a hypothetical Middle Eastern country mimicking Iran) destroyed an aircraft carrier, ten cruisers and five amphibious vehicles resulting in a personnel loss of 20,000 and the surrender by the American, or “blue team” forces.


The outcome of a war game almost two decades passed shouldn’t concern the US any more than it should embolden Iran. A savvy US general capitalized on overconfidence and the Pentagon has had almost eighteen years to fix this. That said, the war game couldn’t predict the strained US relations with Iran’s two biggest supporters, Russia and China. China, who invests in and imports more Iranian oil than any other country, is increasingly getting tired of US sanctions and Trump’s arduous trade war with president Xi Jingping has done little to pacify it.


The eyes of the globe watch the near-daily escalation of the US-Iran conflict with lines drawn and sides picked. Though Pompeo claims the US does not seek conflict, or in his words “another Benghazi”, a cursory understanding of his reputation tells a different story. Just last May, Pompeo was asked, “If President Trump right now has been sort of raised for such a time as this, just like Queen Esther, to help save the Jewish people from an Iranian menace?” His response was that as an Evangelical Christian, he certainly believed it was possible.


The mention of Benghazi was meant as a criticism of Hillary Clinton for the blood on her hands as Secretary of State, however it’s clear Pompeo stands firmly with whatever agenda Israel has in mind. Despite denying any knowledge of, or partcipation in the assassination of Qassem, Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu “accidentally” let it slip Israel has nuclear capability. A very convenient and coincidental slip of tongue considering Iran knows it can reasonably threaten to retaliate against Israel for America’s actions. Additionally, it’s no secret that Qassem was number one on the Israeli “most wanted” hit list leaked late last year. On that list he was trailed closely by Hezbollah leader Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah who made the statement last week that “The Americans must remove their bases, soldiers, officers and ships from our region. The alternative to leaving vertically is leaving horizontally. This is a decisive and firm decision. We are speaking about the start of a phase, about a new battle, about a new era in the region.”


The big picture here is that the American war machine wants to maintain the myth of invincibility in a region we have no business letting our future generations die in. The refugee influx into Europe from the Arab Spring, and more recently the Syrian Civil War will be rain drops in a river compared to how many people will seek refuge in Europe if World War III breaks out between the forces behind Iran and the dwindling forces who support American intervention around the world.


Bulgarians should be acutely aware of the geographical bridge they play between East and West. For now, Germany appeals more to refugees than Bulgaria. We’ll see how preferable anywhere seems compared to a nuclear arena. Especially a beautiful country like Bulgaria with a population severely capable of quadrupling in size based on landmass. Thus, the rallying cry of the American antiwar crowd, “Don’t Iraq Iran” has begun. Its foe? The war drums of Pompeo, the employees of the American war machine, and the Neoconservatives and Zionists  Only time will tell which will drown out the other.


By Eric Alexiev

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