Well, what happens next is anybody’s guess. Yet, out next is probably the Battlestar Galactica style built US Embassy in Baghdad. Together with, already gone Coalition against ISIL’s welcome with the Iraqi government. One step out the door as well, is the Iraqi government, if not the Iraqi state altogether.
Now, having effectively whacked both Soleimani and Al Muhandis, U.S. wrenched the initiative from the hands of Iran. In other words, US owns the escalation at present. Choice of location for the deadly drone strike: Baghdad International Airport (BIAP). Hence, those of interest are put already on advance notice by the US that they will no longer enjoy safe passage through there.
In other words, U.S. is re-establishing deterrence. But it does so in such an un-Israeli fashion that it more than provokes Iran’s retaliation. It cements Iranian people’s support behind the islamist regime. Which, in turn, does not miss the opportunity, in its typical eschatology oriented manner, to play on symbolism. Unfurling the red banner meaning “severe battle ahead” on Jamkaran Mosque’s dome in Qom is just one such move.
That may be appealing to Iran’s rulers to save their faces and to gain time. However, it should be admitted that these two commanders’ shoes, especially from a political network point of view, will be hard if not impossible for Teheran to fill. Furthermore, the freshly appointed new Qods Brigade commander, despite all his bravado rhetoric, will have to think twice before traveling around in the region- if he takes his job seriously that is.
The audacity of the U.S. to act as it did also tells us that U.S. is packing it in, in Iraq. It leaves the doing the talk to other powers like Russia, France and if it plays its hand well, to my home country, Turkey. At the same time, U.S. appears to be willing to walk the walk, from now on. It may prove wise therefore for us to fasten our seat belts and bring our seats to an upright position.
Again simultaneously, U.S. may be on the brink of, willingly or unwillingly, retrograding its own position to an “Israel on steroids” one in Iraq, Syria, Iran, Afghanistan theaters. Outcome of the vote for the U.S. presence in the Iraqi parliament on Sunday may be an indicator to gauge that tendency. That’s on the socio-political front. On the military and C/T front, the U.S. today is more than ever redoubtable and lethal.
Meanwhile, the dysfunctional Iraq on its own appears to be about to implode. Twin assassinations of Soleimani and Al Muhandis at BIAP, provides the corrupt and non-representative Iraqi government with an excuse to further suppress Iraqi people’s movements demanding liberty, justice and equality. Kurdistan Region (IKR) is the natural choice for those who feel intimidated to weather the storm. By default, IKR is the softest belly in a fragile Iraq.
Turkey, if it stops short of going all in in Libya and taps into its long forgotten diplomatic arsenal, has a unique opportunity to step forward with its home brew de-escalation efforts. President Erdoğan already had both Mr. Rouhani and Mr. Saleh on the phone. Briskly, Ankara can step forward and play on both its hundreds year long relations with Teheran and its half a century old NATO membership.
A hybrid war is around the corner. That will not be the doomsayers’ WW3. Iran had a front seat when Saddam in 2003 met the so-called “shock and awe campaign”. Teheran’s initial response is organizing Suleimani’s four day funeral procession spanning two countries. Following that will come a probable short pause. That is the window for diplomacy to kick in. Otherwise? Nobody knows.