Is Coronavirus Creating Problems for Washington’s Wars?
Based on reports by American media outlets and discussions in US political circles, there are ongoing debates about policy on Iran and on how to develop it. Undoubtedly, they have become more heated due to the Coronavirus pandemic, and the indifference that US leadership has shown towards the misfortunes which have befallen Iran by not providing humanitarian aid to it.
There is one camp of politicians who think that Donald Trump has to offer Iran a helping hand by easing some economic sanctions imposed against it, because the outbreak has had the biggest impact on this nation in comparison to other Middle Eastern countries. Still, the proponents of such a view are convinced that this move ought to be contingent on Tehran agreeing to begin negotiations with Washington without any preconditions. And if things go wrong, the responsibility for isolating Iran could be laid at Ayatollahs’ doorstep. Such a turn of events, as the supporters of this course of action believe, could result in heightened political tensions in Iran between the so-called pro-Western opposition forces and conservatives. Thus Donald Trump could end up outmaneuvering the Democrats on Iran, who agree with former US President Barack Obama’s policies towards this nation that resulted in the signing of the Iran nuclear deal.
However, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who happens to be the mouthpiece for the US military industrial complex, has a much tougher stance on Iran. Since Mike Pompeo truly lacks strategic vision regarding foreign policy, and feels intense dislike towards Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Foreign Affairs Minister of Iran, he continues to up the ante although Iran, which is engaged in serious conflicts with the USA and its partners in the region, does not actually pose a real threat to the security and prosperity of the United States.
The fact that Washington has vetoed Iran’s urgent request to the IMF for a $5 billion loan, which Tehran says it needs to fight the Coronavirus pandemic, is becoming a bone of contention between the Republicans and the Democrats as they continue the debate on the policy towards Iran, including the nuclear deal and Iran’s support of Syria.
In the meantime, in light of the start of the re-election campaign, Donald Trump has chosen to portray himself as a strong and tough leader defending US interests. Due to mounting issues within the country, the US President has been attempting to show that his main concerns are national interests. Hence, he has been trying to convince his opponents of the opinion that if the IMF were to provide the requested aid, the money would either go towards the Iranian economy, which has been weakened by American sanctions, or to Iran’s military allies in the Middle East to the detriment of US interests.
However, if the IMF were to refuse the loan to Iran, Tehran’s influence in the region would only increase as Iran already has allies that it can receive help from in this difficult time. There is also a possibility that other members of the IMF may disagree with the United States and propose their own course of action that could go against Washington’s anti-Iranian strategy. China and Russia could be the nations to do so among others. After all, the two have been on USA’s heels and not only in the Middle East.
Thus, in such a climate, the possibility remains that Donald Trump may decide to stop his collaboration with Mike Pompeo in order to implement new policies in the Middle East but without recommendations from this hawk.
At the beginning of the year Mike Pompeo had, at the behest of those in the military-industrial complex, initiated a military response in the confrontation with Tehran by pushing armed forces to install Patriot missile defense systems in Iraq. Aside from deploying Patriot launchers in the Ayn al Asad military base in western Iraq, one battery arrived in the Harir Air Base in Erbil Governorate (in Iraq’s Kurdistan Region) at the end of March, and two more are in Kuwait, at present, awaiting shipment to Iraq. In addition, various observers have reported that the United States has been actively moving different types of military equipment, typically used by US special operations forces, to Iraq. For instance, US combat airplanes F-35А Lightning II, along with almost two dozen CH-47 Chinook, UH-60 Black Hawk and AH-64 Apache helicopters have been deployed to Erbil International Airport. American helicopters MH-47G and MH-60M, as well as two King Air aircraft, have also been spotted at the Harir Air Base in Kurdistan.
Until recently, approximately 7,500 strong US-led coalition forces, including soldiers and officers of the United States Army, had been stationed in Iraqi territories. And even after some American troops were moved from Iraq to Syria at the end of March, there are still about 6,000 servicemen in Iraq. It appears as if the United States has no intention to withdraw its forces from Iraq despite calls and demands by the Iraqi Parliament to do so on 5 January. In fact, Washington has been postponing discussions about this issue. On 7 April, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo stated that an American delegation would visit Baghdad in the middle of June in order to conduct negotiations on various topics, including the presence of US armed forces in Iraq in the future. And these diplomatic words could only be interpreted as “withdrawal of US troops from Iraq is out of the question”.
In light of Donald Trump’s recent statement that Iraqi security forces were quite capable of continuing the fight against remaining units of Daesh (a terrorist organization banned in Russia) on their own, such a concentration of US troops, air defense systems, military aircraft (including the latest fifth generation fighters) are most likely not meant for battling Daesh but for other aims. Their target must clearly be Iran. And it is unlikely that the resolution passed by US Congress in March (and earlier by US Senate) to limit President Donald Trump’s power to order military action against Iran would serve as a deterrent. In such a climate, the only factor that could throw a wrench in the plan conceived by American hawks is open opposition from the US public to a new war initiated by Washington.
And while some are suffering as the Coronavirus pandemic rages on, the US military industrial complex is primarily concerned with turning a profit from yet another war.
By Valery Kulikov
Source: New Eastern Outlook