Ricochet is the best place on the internet to discuss the issues of the day, either through commenting on posts or writing your own for our active and dynamic community in a fully moderated environment. In addition, the Ricochet Audio Network offers over 50 original podcasts with new episodes released every day.
Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper announced on December 29 that F-15E Strike Eagles bombed several Khomenist Iranian regime proxy force sites in Iraq and Syria. This apparently followed repeated provocations, attacks on Iraqi government forces where there were also U.S. forces in the vicinity. Such attacks would be intended to push U.S. forces into more and more protective isolation or withdrawal from the region, ceding regional influence to the Iranian ayatollahs.
The airstrikes back the increasing campaign of economic and diplomatic pressure, which is squeezing the thugocracy as the population increasingly shows unrest and discontent with the regime.
Secretary of State Pompeo and Secretary of Defense Esper briefed the press, with Chairman of the Joint Chiefs Milley standing by their side. They had just briefed President Trump on the strikes’ effects and on further capabilities and options at his disposal. Did you also notice that we have not seen “Little Rocket Man” make a show of force as threatened for Christmas? This operation, which was not leaked in advance by a Vindman, or a real Deep State operative, also reminds other nations that this president will act with lethal force when U.S. forces are threatened.
Following the secretaries’ briefing, the Pentagon released a written statement with some more details:
In response to repeated Kata’ib Hizbollah (KH) attacks on Iraqi bases that host Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) coalition forces, U.S. forces have conducted precision defensive strikes against five KH facilities in Iraq and Syria that will degrade KH’s ability to conduct future attacks against OIR coalition forces.
The five targets include three KH locations in Iraq and two in Syria. These locations included weapon storage facilities and command and control locations that KH uses to plan and execute attacks on OIR coalition forces.
Recent KH strikes included a 30-plus rocket attack on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk that resulted in the death of a U.S. citizen and injured four U.S. service members and two members of the Iraqi Security Forces (ISF).
KH has a strong linkage with Iran’s Quds Force and has repeatedly received lethal aid and other support from Iran that it has used to attack OIR coalition forces.
The OIR coalition is in Iraq at the invitation of the Iraqi government to ensure the lasting defeat of ISIS and provide advice and assistance to the ISF. The U.S. and its coalition partners fully respect Iraqi sovereignty, and support a strong and independent Iraq. The U.S., however, will not be deterred from exercising its right of self-defense.
It is important to note that KH attacks have also injured multiple members of the ISF. Secretary Esper and Prime Minister Mahdi have shared with each other their commitment to see these KH attacks on ISF and OIR forces cease once and for all.
Iran and their KH proxy forces must cease their attacks on U.S. and coalition forces, and respect Iraq’s sovereignty, to prevent additional defensive actions by U.S. forces.
UPDATE: 1 January 2020:
The decision to have the two lead cabinet members issue this statement together when they did was prudent. They got the U.S. position out before the Iranian regime could take the next step with its proxy forces. The Khomenists’ proxy forces have now attacked the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, as a Khomenist regime aligned “mob” smashed its way into the embassy grounds. They were driven back out without bloodshed on either side.
This was an attack on our sovereign soil and an indicator that the Iraqi government is incapable or uninterested in really meeting its basic obligations. President Trump made clear that he understood who was really directing the crew that breached our embassy perimeter, and said what every president should say.
Iran killed an American contractor, wounding many. We strongly responded, and always will. Now Iran is orchestrating an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. They will be held fully responsible. In addition, we expect Iraq to use its forces to protect the Embassy, and so notified!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
The Secretary of State pinned the rose on the Iraqi government:
OFFICE OF THE SPOKESPERSON
DECEMBER 31, 2019
The below is attributable to Spokesperson Morgan Ortagus:
Secretary of State Michael R. Pompeo spoke to Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi and President Barham Salih separately by phone today from his office in Washington, D.C. The Secretary made clear the United States will protect and defend its people, who are there to support a sovereign and independent Iraq. Both Abdul-Mahdi and Salih assured the Secretary that they took seriously their responsibility for and would guarantee the safety and security of U.S. personnel and property.
Secretary of Defense Esper also pinned the rose squarely on Iraq, while reminding everyone that we take care of our own under this president:
DOD Statement on Iraq From Secretary Esper
DEC. 31, 2019
Statement by Secretary of Defense Mark T. Esper:
“The Department of Defense is working closely with the Department of State to ensure the security of our Embassy and personnel in Baghdad. We have taken appropriate force protection actions to ensure the safety of American citizens, military personnel and diplomats in country, and to ensure our right of self-defense. We are sending additional forces to support our personnel at the Embassy. As in all countries, we rely on host nation forces to assist in the protection of our personnel in country, and we call on the Government of Iraq to fulfill its international responsibilities to do so. The United States continues to support the Iraqi people and a free, sovereign, and prosperous Iraq.”
Having issued appropriate statements and taken reasonable action, the Trump administration is carrying on, with Secretary of State Pompeo having announced travel to four nations on Russia’s borders. January 3-7, Secretary Pompeo will visit Ukraine, Belarus, Kazakstan, and Uzbekistan, then stop by Cyprus on the way home. The first four visits needle Putin. At the same time, Kazakstan and Uzbekistan are very important to China’s Belt and Road strategy for world dominance through economic and infrastructure development, so Secretary Pompeo will be addressing leaders who are caught between the bear and the dragon.
Iran is controlled by a Khomenist faction of ayatollahs (think roughly archbishop/cardinal) who have earned the increasing contempt and resistance of the people they rule. Since no one was killed in this attack on our embassy, I would expect the response to be more targeted economic/financial actions on the regime and its leaders/enablers. I would expect the next U.S. military actions to be more strikes on Iranian regime proxy forces in Syria and elsewhere in the region, diminishing the Khomenists’ ability to project power and stir up trouble in the region.