[unlocked] Biden sacrifices American troops, and Mideast security, for US-Israeli hegemony
After three American troops are killed on the Jordan-Syria border, Biden launches strikes in Iraq and Syria to defend US military occupation and Israeli genocide.
[Update: in light of Friday’s US strikes in Iraq and Syria, which the White House calls a retaliation for the recent attack on a US military base on the Jordan-Syria border that killed three American soldiers, I am unlocking this article, which provides some relevant background).
The Biden administration has vowed to retaliate after a drone strike on a US military base near the Jordan-Syria border killed three US soldiers and wounded more than 34 others, some critically.
In a statement, President Biden blamed what he called “radical Iran-backed militant groups operating in Syria and Iraq,” and pledged to “hold all those responsible to account.” The Islamic Resistance in Iraq, which took credit for the operation, called it a direct response to Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza and the presence of “American occupation forces in Iraq and the region.” The Iranian Foreign Ministry has denied any involvement.
The US claims that its troops were hit on Jordan’s side of the border. Jordanian officials dispute that and say that the incident occurred in Syria, where the US maintains an unauthorized and unwelcome military force. Wherever it took place, the Beltway consensus is that Biden must now respond with more aggression in the Middle East, including potential strikes on Iran.
The US, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell declared, must now impose “serious crippling costs” on Iran and its allies. Fellow Republican Senator Lindsey Graham called for striking “targets of significance inside Iran.” In his view, “the only thing the Iranian regime understands is force.” For Republican Senator Tom Cotton, “the only answer to these attacks must be devastating military retaliation against Iran’s terrorist forces, both in Iran and across the Middle East.” Should Biden order “anything less,” Cotton declared, that will only confirm that he is a “coward.”
At this point, there is no indication that Biden has ruled out his Republican critics’ top goal. According to New York Times chief White House correspondent Peter Baker, “the president’s advisers were in consensus” during a Sunday meeting that the Jordan-Syria attack “will require a different level of response.” One possibility is that “Biden would strike targets inside Iran itself,” though that remains “unclear.”
What remains undoubtedly clear is that Biden has put US troops in harm’s way and provoked a wider regional escalation due to his devotion not only to Israel’s mass murder campaign in Gaza, but broader regional US hegemony. And because the bipartisan US establishment is in lockstep behind that agenda, the only question at hand is what “level” of aggression to commit.
The US government is well aware that it has alternatives to enforcing the Israeli genocide of Gaza and the American military presence across the region.
According to the Times’ Baker, US officials “have said for months that they did not believe Iran wanted a direct war with the United States.” Instead, these officials acknowledge, “Iran has used its proxy forces to keep up the pressure on the United States and Israel as Israel continues to pound Hamas in Gaza.” By “pound Hamas,” Baker means Gaza’s civilian population, the main victims of the US-supplied armaments that regularly pound Gaza.
In Yemen, Biden understands that his strikes are failing to deter the Ansar Allah movement’s (aka the Houthis’) blockade of Red Sea ships in protest of the Gaza genocide. Days after the US strikes began, Biden was asked if the bombings are working. “Well, when you say, ‘working’ — are they stopping the Houthis? No,” Biden said. “Are they gonna continue? Yes.”
Israel’s mass murder campaign in Gaza shattered what the Wall Street Journal described in October as “an undeclared truce between Tehran and Washington.” For more than six months before Oct. 7th, the Journal noted, “Iranian-backed militia groups refrained from launching drones or rockets against American troops in Iraq and Syria.”
These groups’ decision to strike US forces in response to the Gaza genocide follows a well-entrenched pattern of resisting joint US-Israeli aggression, or what the Journal describes as efforts to “push back against American and Israeli influence” in the Middle East. And contrary to US claims that Iran’s main regional allies – Hezbollah in Lebanon, Ansar Allah in Yemen (the Houthis), the PMU in Iraq, Hamas/Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and the Syrian government -- are all mere Iranian “proxies”, these groups “have domestic agendas of their own and operate with some measure of autonomy,” the Journal notes. US intelligence analyst Brian Katz concurs. Iran’s allies “are no longer simply Iranian proxies,” Katz writes. “Rather, they have become a collection of ideologically aligned, militarily interdependent, mature political-military actors committed to mutual defence.”
As the Washington Post notes, Iranian allies in the region “began targeting U.S. interests in 2018, after then-President Donald Trump withdrew the United States from a landmark nuclear deal with Tehran” as part of a hawkish policy of “maximum pressure.” Rather than return to the Iran nuclear deal upon taking office in January 2021, Biden continued the Trump agenda – and knowingly endangered US troops in the process.
When Biden “ordered airstrikes on militia groups” in Syria, the Washington Post reported in August 2021, that ended up “sparking a fresh cycle of reciprocal violence, with militiamen firing at a facility housing U.S. troops and American forces responding with artillery fire.” Biden’s support for Israeli aggression against Syria yielded the same result. When a drone strike hit a US military base located in southern Syria in October 2021, US and Israeli officials acknowledged that it was “Iranian retaliation for Israeli airstrikes in Syria,” the New York Times reported.
In launching and encouraging attacks on Iranian allies in the region, Biden was pursuing an arrangement that he forged with the Israeli government. In August 2021, then-Israeli Prime Minister Naftali Bennett urged Biden to pursue “a death by a thousand cuts” strategy, in which the US and Israel would “[counter] Iran through a combination of many small actions across several fronts — both military and diplomatic — instead of a single dramatic strike,” Axios reported. The goal would be to put Iran’s “regional aggression” – a euphemism for resisting US-Israeli hegemony – “back in the box.” Toward that goal, one of Bennett’s key requests was that “Biden not to pull U.S. forces out of Iraq and Syria,” which the Israeli delegation felt quite “optimistic” about. In Biden, Bennett gushed, “I found a leader who loves Israel, knows exactly what he wants and is attuned to our needs.”
As part of Biden’s attunement to Israel’s needs, the US has assisted Israel’s regular airstrikes on Syria and the Iranian-allied forces operating there. While US officials “have said little about Israel’s bombing missions” in Syria, the Wall Street Journal reported in June 2022, “[b]ehind the scenes... many of Israel’s missions for several years have been reviewed in advance for approval by senior officials at U.S. Central Command and at the Pentagon.”
The joint US-Israeli strikes on Syria are complemented by a US military occupation in about 30% of Syrian territory against the explicit wishes of the Damascus government. The US claims that its “sole purpose” in Syria is to fight ISIS and prevent its resurgence. But as I reported in September 2021, the Pentagon’s own documents acknowledge that the US has barely done any fighting against ISIS. A Wall Street Journal report this past July obliquely noted the contradiction between the stated US mission to fight ISIS in Syria and the reality on the ground. The US, the Journal claimed, is “combating the remnants of Islamic State” in Syria. Yet despite this stated mission, US troops “are operating in the east, far from the northwest enclave where suspected ISIS and al Qaeda leaders have been operating.”
The Journal did not explain how the US could be fighting ISIS while operating far from their enclave, but US officials have answered the riddle. While ISIS may not be in the northeast Syrian region that the US occupies, a far more important US target is located there: Syria’s oil and wheat. As now-senior Biden Pentagon official Dana Stroul explained in 2019, occupying the “resource-rich” region of Syria's northeast -- which contains the country's “hydrocarbons” and is its “agricultural powerhouse” -- gives the U.S. government “broader leverage” to influence “a political outcome in Syria” in line with US dictates. Jennifer Cafarella of the Institute for the Study of War, a neoconservative Washington think tank, has likewise explained that the US military occupation gives it “direct influence over the vast majority of Syria’s most productive oil fields,” thereby controlling “Syrian national treasures that, when added up amount to brute geopolitical power for the US.”
The brute geopolitical power derived from stealing Syrian resources is especially gratifying for the bipartisan US foreign policy establishment, which can never forgive Syria and its allies in Iran, Hezbollah, and Russia for successfully resisting the CIA-led dirty war (and the United States’ de-facto allies in Al Qaeda and ISIS) that aimed to overthrow Bashar al-Assad. To help enforce its regional plunder, the US also maintains a military occupation in Iraq, sometimes in open defiance of the government’s wishes. After Iraq’s parliament called for a full US withdrawal in January 2020, the Trump administration responded by threatening to steal Iraq’s US-based foreign reserves – yet another example of the United States’ expansive use of its “broader leverage.”
The Biden White House is equally aware that its commitment to Israeli genocide and US military occupation endangers the American forces tasked with acting as enforcers.
One week ago, Baker - the New York Times’ chief White House correspondent – reported that when it comes to deadly attacks on US troops stationed in the Middle East, “President Biden and his advisers worry that it is only a matter of time.” Meanwhile, whenever news of an attack on US forces comes in, “officials wonder whether this will be the one’ that “results in a broader regional war.” Biden administration officials claim that they “do not want to go so far that the conflict would escalate into a full-fledged war, particularly by striking Iran directly.” Yet “privately say they may have no choice, however, if American troops are killed.”
At that point, this “red line” had “not been crossed” -- but one week later, it has.
Veteran US diplomat, Aaron David Miller, who participated in the so-called “peace process” between Israelis and Palestinians, claimed that Biden “confronts a problem without a risk-free solution... if U.S. forces are killed, they’ll have no alternative but to respond directly against Iranian assets.”
In fact, Biden has an alternative to knowingly sacrificing US soldiers' lives and risking a broader regional war: withdraw US forces from Iraq and Syria, and stop supporting Israel's genocide in Gaza. The only “risk” in such a scenario would be to the goals of supremacists in both Israel and the United States, who insist that everyone is expendable – including their own soldiers – in defense of brute geopolitical power.
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