Tensions between the United States and Iran have reached a new high in the past few days in a manner not seen since perhaps the founding of the Islamic Republic in 1979. Events were kicked off last Friday night by a rocket attack against a military base near Kirkuk, in northern Iraq, that houses U.S. service personnel and other citizens. The attack killed an American contractor and wounded several service members, drawing the ire of the White House, which authorized retaliatory strikes on Sunday against Kataib Hezbollah targets in Iraq and Syria, the pro-Iran Iraqi group cited by Washington as being responsible for the Kirkuk assault. The Trump administration intended to send a message not to cross the United States — unfortunately, that message was either not received or completely misread.
Not long after a funeral procession was held on Tuesday for the dozens of Shiite militants who were killed in the U.S. strikes, a large crowd of angry Kataib Hezbollah supporters as well as members of other militant groups connected to Tehran marched into the heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad and proceeded to storm the U.S. Embassy.
Iraqi protesters who have demonstrated against Iranian influence in their country since October have been mercilessly killed by Iraqi security forces in recent months. Yet it seems that activists loyal to establishment-backed militias can gain access to a secured area without a single shot being fired. The U.S. Embassy in Baghdad is the largest of its kind in the world and was meant to project American might and presence in the region.
Instead of might, the besieging of the embassy showed that the United States could be humiliated. The militants, posing as “protesters” despite many wearing military fatigues and carrying militia banners, smashed through the main gate, battered down doors and set fires inside the compound before setting up camp outside. Their actions are a slap to the face of America’s self-perception as a force to be reckoned with and whose deterrence capability is enough to allow it to act unchallenged. As made clear by senior U.S. officials, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, Washington aimed Sunday’s retaliatory strikes at “deterring Iran and protecting American lives.”
Clearly, however, Iran did not get the memo. [Continue reading…]