The purpose of this article is to explore an alternate scenario behind the events of the Iran-US crisis of January 2020 which may shed light on the long term prospects of US/Iran relations.
On 8 January I posted the text of an anonymous message I received which proposed that the killing of General Qasem Soleimani was a "hit" ordered by Hassan Rouhani, President of Iran, and carried out by US forces, under the direction of President Trump, for their mutual benefit. I received this message just as Iran's retaliatory strike against US bases came on the news.
The theory suggested that Trump was looking for an exit strategy from Iraq and a catalyst to allow for a new deal with Iran which would ultimately secure his re-election in 2020. Rouhani supposedly wanted to remove a rival who had acquired a dangerous level of power in Iran and threatened the authority of the theocratic state. A move against such a hugely popular figure in Iran would be impossible, but an assassination by US forces would put the Iranian "deep state" in the clear. Such an action, if it did not result in negative consequences, would also strengthen Trump's credentials among his nationalist right-wing base.
Removing the General would thus be a win-win deal for both Iran and the Trump administration.
At the time, this theory seemed rather far-fetched, but as events have unfolded it is gaining traction. We may never have enough information to confirm or refute it, but it is becoming clear that there was indeed collusion between Iran, Iraq and the US during this faux crisis.
The assassination of General Qasem Soleimani took place on 3 January 2020.
In the early morning hours of 3 January 2020, Soleimani's Airbus A320 Cham Wings plane arrived at Baghdad International Airport at 12:32 a.m. from Damascus International Airport, after being delayed for two hours for unknown reasons, as an MQ-9 Reaper drone of the U.S. Air Force and other military aircraft loitered in the area. Soleimani and other pro-Iranian paramilitary figures, including Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a U.S.government-designated terrorist, entered two vehicles and departed the airport towards downtown Baghdad. Around 1:00 a.m. local time, the MQ-9 Reaper drone launched several missiles, striking the convoy on Baghdad Airport Road, engulfing the two cars in flames and killing 10 people.
The initial justifications for the assassination were along the lines that Soleimani was a "bad guy" whom the US has been after for many years, and that he was in Iraq for nefarious purposes.
It is important to note that the General was travelling openly and his visit to Iraq was at least partly official state business. If he were in the midst of planning an attack against US interests it is unlikely that he would simply turn up at Baghdad International Airport on a scheduled flight and drive into town. The cover story provided by the Trump administration is thus preposterous on its face. This was an ambush, and the target was apparently caught off guard, suggesting that the General was relaxed about his visit. None of this is congruent with the Trump administration's narrative.
In an interview on 11 January Trump compounded the absurdity of the administration narrative by claiming that Soleimani was in Baghdad to lead an attack on the US embassy. This would have been after the US had already stepped up security in response to an attack by Iraqi Shia militiamen several days before who were repelled. Trump expects us to believe that the top commander of the IRGC was about to mount an attack on the US embassy in a country in which he had been officially invited to meet with the Prime Minister, and after the US authorities were already on high alert.
The assassination looked like a surprise "decapitation strike" - a critical part of war strategy. This is how it was perceived by most observers, and the world held its breath as we waited for a response from Iran.
Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei tweeted the following shortly afterwards:
severe revenge awaits the criminals who bloodied their foul hands with his blood and other martyrs in last night’s incident
Trump's first public statement about the assassination was cryptic:
Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation!
This tweet is incomprehensible in the context of an apparent act of war, but resonates with meaning if we consider the possibility that this whole episode was one part theater, one part negotiation, and one part mafia-style business.
If the administration's public explanation seems hasty and ill conceived, their Senate intelligence briefing was no better, and has been blasted by both Democrats and Republicans. No evidence has been provided to anyone outside the President's inner circle of the alleged threats to US interests posed by Soleimani.
On 5 January the Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to end all foreign troop presence in Iraq . The next day, a letter emerged from a senior Pentagon official, Brigadier General William H. Seely III, which appears to express an intention to comply with this decision. The letter, dated 6 Jan 2020, states:
Sir, in deference to the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, and as requested by the Iraqi Parliament and the Prime Minister, CJTF-OIR will be repositioning forces over the course of the coming days and weeks to prepare for onward movement.
This letter has been dismissed as a "draft" by the Pentagon - an absurd and inadequate explanation which merely invites conspiracy speculation. The fact that the letter specifically references the Iraqi resolution and was drafted within 24 hours is extraordinary.
The corporate media has shown little interest in this letter and seems to accept the weak explanation provided by the Pentagon and Trump Administration. As far as I know, General Seely has not given any interviews. We know however that the US military does not send letters (draft or otherwise) by accident or on a whim. If Seely had gone rogue and sent this letter without authorization he would surely be court-martialed, and this would be big news. Instead he has disappeared into the shadows. One explanation is that this letter reflects actual policy and was meant to be confidential but somebody in the Iraqi government leaked it to the media. The Pentagon was forced to disown it, not because it was sent in error, but because the US must not seem too keen to leave Iraq. The "mistake" was leaking it to the media.
Another possibility is that it was deliberately leaked in order to psychologically soften the public into accepting that America's seventeen year adventure in Iraq was coming to an end.
Letter from Brigadier General William H. Seely III
If you carefully examine Trump's response to the Iraqi Parliament's resolution, it is clear he does not rule out a withdrawal. He has merely said "now is not the right time" and blustered about Iraq paying for infrastructure the US built. If now is not the right time, perhaps in three months or so it will be the right time, and perhaps a deal can be made with Iraq regarding costs - after all Trump is a business man first and foremost.
Image showing damage from Iran's missile strike on a US airbase in Iraq
Returning to our narrative: on 8 January, after pledging "severe revenge", Iran informed the Iraqi government of their intended retaliation targets, which appear to have been sheds in two evacuated airbases. This information was relayed to the US authorities. There were zero casualties from the subsequent missile strikes and no significant military hardware was destroyed. In the image (see above) you can see three helicopters untouched. This doesn't seem like the action of a country bent on retribution for the murder of a cultural hero and the second most powerful man in the country.
The international response to these shocking events was surprisingly muted. Putin made no mention of it - leaving that to his foreign minister. The Chinese surprisingly refrained from condemning the US action and Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu merely said "Israel was not involved in any way and must not be dragged into the escalating conflict".
The Iranians have issued statements confirming that they have ceased hostilities. Trump has stated his intention to refrain from using his "big weapons" and has even hinted a new deal with Iran may be on the table.
If you take in all this information with an open mind and simply let the facts speak, aside from ideology or emotion, it looks like Iran and the US are cooperating to some degree and it also appears that major world powers are not taking this crisis super-seriously.
Strange as this is, it would probably not be the first case of secret high level collusion between these "enemies" in an election year.
1979 was an election year, and there is a well supported theory about what happened that year, known as the "October Surprise":
The October Surprise conspiracy theory refers to an alleged plot to influence the outcome of the 1980 United States presidential election, contested between Democratic incumbent president Jimmy Carter and his Republican opponent, former California governor Ronald Reagan.
One of the leading national issues during 1980 was the release of 52 Americans being held hostage in Iran since November 4, 1979. Reagan won the election. On the day of his inauguration—in fact, 20 minutes after he concluded his inaugural address—the Islamic Republic of Iran announced the release of the hostages. The timing gave rise to an allegation that representatives of Reagan's presidential campaign had conspired with Iran to delay the release until after the election to thwart President Carter from pulling off an "October surprise".
According to the allegation, the Reagan Administration subsequently rewarded Iran for its participation in the plot by supplying Iran with weapons via Israel and by unblocking Iranian government monetary assets in U.S. banks.
Mainstream media denies this theory legitimacy by calling it a "conspiracy theory" but many prominent figures in US politics stand by this version of events.
The Iran-Contra affair is documented fact, and once again demonstrates an intimate relationship between Iran and elements within the US government.
The Iran–Contra scandal, or simply Iran–Contra, was a political scandal in the United States that occurred during the second term of the Reagan Administration. Senior administration officials secretly facilitated the sale of arms to Iran, which was the subject of an arms embargo.
The administration hoped to use the proceeds of the arms sale to fund the Contras in Nicaragua. Under the Boland Amendment, further funding of the Contras by the government had been prohibited by Congress.
My point in raising these examples is that there is a history of secret dealings between the US and the post-revolution Iranian regime. These dealings reflect a continuation of covert involvement in Iran's politics which date back to the earliest days of the CIA and the overthrow of Iran's democratically elected government in 1953.
The collusion theory proposed here is suggested by the evidence and is not out of character with what we know of Iran/US relations, yet no media outlet has gone near it. I suspect the reason is that this theory clashes with deeply held ideological positions both on the left and the right.
On the other hand this theory accords well with the pragmatic concept that "war is a racket" which was first articulated by Maj. General Smedley Butler.
I would like to provide a couple quotes from Maj. General Smedley Butler to support my thesis.
A racket is best described, I believe, as something that is not what it seems to the majority of the people. Only a small "inside" group knows what it is about. It is conducted for the benefit of the very few, at the expense of the very many. Out of war a few people make huge fortunes.
I spent thirty-three years and four months in active military service as a member of this country's most agile military force, the Marine Corps. I served in all commissioned ranks from Second Lieutenant to Major-General. And during that period, I spent most of my time being a high class muscle-man for Big Business, for Wall Street and for the Bankers. In short, I was a racketeer, a gangster for capitalism.
Out of war nations acquire additional territory, if they are victorious. They just take it. This newly acquired territory promptly is exploited by the few -- the selfsame few who wrung dollars out of blood in the war. The general public shoulders the bill.
Political ideology provides the marketing message by which the racket of war can be maintained. People would rather believe the fake narrative of "clash of civilizations" than the cynical truth that war is for profit and political machination. There are well known psychological processes which guarantee this outcome.
In the case of the Iran/US conflict everyone wants to believe it is real. The right wants it to be real because it provides a stage for the demonstration of "American Exceptionalism" and generates a feeling of national pride. The left wants to believe it because Trump must be the bad guy. The idea that Trump did something which ultimately will improve international relations and restore diplomatic relations with Iran is unthinkable. Misfits and conspiracy theorists believe it because they are attached to a gloomy and apocalyptic vision of the future. Israelis want to believe it because it accords with the myth that Iran poses an existential threat.
What if all of this were a lie? What if, as Don Corleone would say, it is "only business"?
I know many otherwise intelligent people will find the ideas in this article hard to swallow. It is hard to imagine the US pulling out of Iraq because we have been conditioned to think they will be there forever. The reality is the US has no need to be there any more. They will retain dozens of bases in the region. US power is not weakened.
Most importantly, as Trump stated in his address to the nation on 8 January, "we do not need Middle East oil". This doesn't mean Trump will cut ties with the Saudis and other oil rich nations, it just reflects that priorities have changed.
Another reason why the US will mend relations with Iran is due to China. The harsh sanctions on Iran have strengthened ties between Iran and China, and the best way to weaken that alliance is to bring Iran back into the "international community".
The final aspect I will touch on here is the way in which Israel fits into the jigsaw puzzle. Firstly I will emphasize that my realistic and cynical view on the nature of war does not exclude Israel.
In the 1980s Israel sold weapons to Iran. This was after the end of the hostage crisis at a time when the US was backing Saddam Hussein in the Iran/Iraq war. Once again, we see the adage "war is a racket" proven in action.
Since September 11 2001, fear of Iran has been a huge marketing tool for Israel's Likud party. The Likud party was formed by war racketeer Menachem Begin, who began his career as a terrorist, leading the Zionist militant group Irgun, which was responsible for dozens of atrocities against the local Palestinian people as part of the racketeering campaign for the formation of a Jewish state.
Begin's career proves that a) terrorism works, and b) war really is a racket.
There was a period in the 90s when peacemakers were in charge of Israel. The most significant peacemaker was Yitzhak Rabin, architect of the Oslo Accords, who was Prime Minister from 1992 to 1995, when he was assassinated by a right-wing extremist. This was a brief time when peace looked like a real possibility.
After the assassination the war racketeers took over once again, and have been in charge of Israel ever since.
The current leader, Benjamin Netanyu uses fear porn against his people to keep them in a state of permanent learned helplessness - forcing them to constantly turn to the government for protection.
2019 was not kind to Netanyahu however, and his relationship with Trump has begun to sour. There is no reason to expect Trump to always support the Likud party in Israel. I expect that the mending of US/Iran relations will accelerate the downfall of Netanyahu and that Trump will have little to say about it. This will be a good thing.
In summary, what I'm suggesting is that it's possible that times are changing and Israel has grown tired of this particular bogey man. Time will surely tell.
It is quite possible that everything I've said here, aside from the notion that war is a racket, will be invalidated. My perspective on this is perhaps unreasonably optimistic, but it is not an optimism born of naivety, it is more an optimism born from cynicism and realism.
I don't believe that WWIII is on the cards any time soon.
The threat of nuclear annihilation remains with us as it has been since 1945. The racketeers would not benefit from this becoming real. Their power derives from keeping us in a constant state of fear.
This completes my overview and alternate theory about the January crisis.
nope not buying into this story, good try tho, it just goes to show how people can make a story fit there objective.
If there was a deal why is Iran's military so on edge they shoot down a passenger plane.
Now angry protesters are flooding the streets demanding the Ayatollah step down for shooting down an airliner carrying dozens of Iranians and Trump is warning them they not to kill protesters.