Secretary of State Mike Pompeo personally appeared on all major television talk shows on Sunday morning, an indication of how important it is for the government to gain sovereignty over the escalation with Iran. Pompeo’s job was to convince the public that the Trump administration knew what it was doing when it killed Iranian General Soleimani on Iraqi territory. On the one hand, it was a reaction to critical questions from experts inside and allies abroad, and on the other hand, it was also a cleanup after a particularly questionable Twitter broadside by President Trump.
The latter had warned Iran not to avenge Soleimani’s death by attacking the US or its allies, and had threatened to attack dozens of targets in Iran, including important cultural assets. It was not the first time that this president had threatened war crimes, and there is as yet no evidence that the armed forces are ready to do so. Nevertheless, Pompeo felt compelled to assure the public America will abide by the law.
«The people want us to stay»
Pompeo also tried to minimize the risk that the killing of Soleimani could lead to a forced withdrawal of the US and NATO forces from Iraq, as the Parliament and incumbent Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi have already said. “The Iraqi people,” said the Secretary of State, would surely insist that the United States stay in the country and fight terrorists. However, he did not answer the questions of how exactly he imagined this and how the United States would react if Baghdad formally withdrew the invitation to the international troops it issued in 2014 to fight the Islamic State. Finally, the presence of American troops in Iraq is based exclusively on this invitation.
Apart from the Kraftmeierei from the presidential holiday center Mar-a-Lago, two issues dominate the serious debate among foreign and security politicians. The first is about the likelihood of violent Iranian retaliation. The widespread opinion is that the Tehran regime cannot afford to retaliate for various reasons, including domestic ones.
But there are divergent voices, such as those of the former general and CIA chief David Petraeus. He believes that the killing of Soleimani could help the US rebuild a credible deterrent to Iran after the Tehran provocations had been timidly answered last year. The mullah regime is also so economically weak and fragile that a further escalation would not be in its interest.
The second topic is about the United States’ engagement in the crisis region of the Middle East. Washington’s strategy has actually stipulated since the Obama era that the United States should turn away from the region and increasingly turn to global rivals China and Russia. But it is inconceivable that Washington once again stabs the wasp nest violently and then turns its back on its regional allies. With its policy on Iran, which has put maximum pressure on it since it abandoned the nuclear deal, the United States is blocking the way out of the Middle East.
If, contrary to its strategy, the United States does have long-term plans for the region, it is now in danger of suffering a severe setback with the threat of “unloading” from Iraq. Their declared goal of putting a stop to Iranian expansion towards the Mediterranean via a land bridge from Tehran via Iraq and Syria to Lebanon would certainly not come closer to the situation after a forced withdrawal from Iraq, on the contrary. All the more so since they have apparently largely given up Syria.
Just a yes-man?
Once again, serious inconsistencies come to light in American foreign policy. As in the case of North Korea, President Trump seems to primarily use the criterion in his decisions, which can have long-term effects, whether they give good television pictures and make him appear as a determined leader. Figures like Foreign Minister Pompeo, Defense Minister Esper or the security advisor O’Brien obviously don’t let him be deterred; they only seem like yes-men.
The EU is pressing for a political solution
spl· Alarmed by growing tensions in the Middle East, the European Union is pressing for a political solution to the conflict. Her foreign minister Josep Borrell said in an interview with Iran’s Foreign Minister Sarif that a regional political solution was the only way forward and that the EU wanted to support it, Brussels said. Borrell had expressed concern about the US killing General Soleimani and urged Tehran to exercise restraint. Borrell and Sarif also spoke about the importance of the endangered nuclear agreement between Germany, France, Great Britain, Iran and other countries from which the United States left in 2018. The agreement is a milestone in global nuclear disarmament, said from Brussels. The EU foreign policy commissioner invited Iran’s foreign minister to Brussels, it said. German Foreign Minister Heiko Maas also announced direct talks with Iran. Berlin would do everything possible to avoid a warlike escalation. He is in close contact with his British and French colleagues, said Maas. Everyone involved should be aware that any provocation could lead to an uncontrollable spiral of violence, with unforeseeable consequences for the entire region.