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The Daily Beast - January 5, 2020

"To much of the Iraqi government, Soleimani’s killing was a final straw. To the Iranian leaders and scores of the Islamic republic’s citizens, it was an act of war and a rallying cry to vengeance. To Trump’s stateside critics, it was yet another disastrous decision made by a spectacularly unfit commander in chief."

On Sunday, just days after the U.S. strike that killed the powerful Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani, the Trump administration got its first real taste of international pushback. The Iraqi parliament voted to oust American troops from the country and Tehran announced that it would pull completely out of its obligations under the 2015 nuclear deal.

The pushback didn’t come in the form of a targeted strike on a major American outpost or U.S. service member, but combined, the two events served as a wakeup call for officials in Washington who for days had tried desperately to manage the fallout of the Soleimani strike, with some describing it as an act to “advance the cause of peace.”

President Donald Trump’s truculent response? Threaten Iraq with sanctions if it expels U.S. troops: “If they do ask us to leave, if we don’t do it in a very friendly basis, we will charge them sanctions like they’ve never seen before ever. It’ll make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.”

Tehran’s announcement about its nuclear program Sunday indicated that the efforts Iran and the United States made in recent months to discuss the possibility of negotiations had all but evaporated. And the Iraqi vote in parliament, although nonbinding, worried officials in the State Department who for days had tried to convince officials in Iraq that backing America’s presence in the country was still the best bet for a continued partnership.

In response to Sunday’s events Trump threatened “disproportionate” strikes against Tehran and indicated he would not be constrained by anyone on the Hill.

“These Media Posts will serve as notification to the United States Congress that should Iran strike any U.S. person or target, the United States will quickly & fully strike back, & perhaps in a disproportionate manner. Such legal notice is not required, but is given nevertheless!” the president raged on Twitter on Sunday afternoon.

Sunday’s maelstrom and new developments were not entirely unexpected by Trump’s national security brass or his war planners. Shortly before he ordered Thursday’s fateful, potentially world-altering attack, the president was briefed on a menu of possible consequences if Soleimani were slain. According to two administration officials, one of the listed potential consequences was attacks on U.S. military personnel abroad—and another was the Iranian regime deciding to amp up its nuclear program.

For senior Iraqi officials who have worked closely with the United States, including Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Hadi, fears that their country will become the proxy battleground for a war between the U.S. and Iran have combined with a sense of betrayal by their American allies.

Last week, as Abdul-Hadi worked to calm an increasingly explosive confrontation, he turned to Soleimani for help. An American contractor had been killed by a militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, that is part of the Iraqi government’s forces but which answered to Soleimani. Then came retaliatory U.S. airstrikes against Kataeb Hezbollah, killing at least 24 people. The militia’s supporters responded by trying to batter their way into the fortress-like U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad’s Green Zone.

The Iraqis had known that Soleimani could make the violence worse—or he could rein in the many Iraqi militias over which he held de facto command, and thus ease the tensions.

When the embassy siege ended, Abdul-Mahdi got a phone call from Trump thanking his government, and Trump asked him “to play the mediator’s role” between the U.S. and Iran. But Trump already had ordered the drones and helicopters set in motion to terminate the Iranian general in a fiery blast early last Friday morning near Baghdad airport.

Trump claims he ordered the hit to stop a major attack on Americans. But Abdul-Mahdi told Iraq’s parliament Sunday, “I was supposed to meet Soleimani the day he was killed.” He had come to deliver “a message from Iran responding to the message we delivered from Saudi [Arabia] to Iran.” ...
Read full report at The Daily Beast