Crashed Iranian missiles in Anbar (Al Sumaria)
On January 7 Iran fired several ballistic missiles at the Ain Al-Assad base in Anbar and at Irbil city. There were Iraqi casualties at Assad, but no details were given initially. In Irbil, one missile landed outside the international airport, and another around 20 miles outside the city. Iran’s Revolutionary Guard took credit for the attack and Tehran said that if the U.S. took any more aggressive action it would face a larger response. It even claimed to have killed 80 Americans at Al-Assad. Afterward President Trump Tweeted “All is well!” over the fact that there was no serious damage and no Americans died. If this is Iran’s promised revenge attack for the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force Commander General Qasim Suleimani it could actually decrease tensions with the United States. If a larger, and more importantly deadly incident had occurred President Trump would have more than likely ordered a retaliatory operation, which would have dramatically escalated the situation. Instead, Iran can say it hit the “Great Satan”, save face, and move on with its political agenda which is progressing favorably for it in Iraq with much bigger rewards.
That is to have the U.S. military be forced out of Iraq upon the request of Baghdad. The Americans fumbled an early notice that it was willing to reposition some of its forces and send others out of the country on January 6, but it showed that the U.S. is on its way out eventually. Getting the Americans to leave Iran’s neighbor has been a long term goal, and it appears that it might finally succeed. That will open Iraq to even more Iranian influence without the U.S. to counter it.
The other goal is to distract from the protest movement, which started in October and forced Prime Minister Adil Abdul Mahdi to resign. The demonstrations were condemning Iran’s influence in the country and attacked several party and Hashd offices aligned with Tehran. The conflict with the U.S. has definitely relieved this pressure off the Iraqi government. That could lead to another bloody crackdown upon the movement to clear it out of the major cities where there have been sit-in sites for the past months.
This doesn’t mean that tensions are over between the U.S. and Iran. Tehran could carry out more attacks in the future that could re-ignite things all over again. More importantly, this shows that Iraq is the victim in this powerplay between these two countries.
Buratha News, “Al Alam TV channel, quoting Iranian intelligence sources, talks about the killing of 80 American military personnel after the missile strikes on Al-Assad base,” 1/8/20
Gaouette, Nicole, Alkhshali, Hamdi, Browne, Ryan and Starr, Barbara, “Iran attacks two Iraqi bases housing US forces in ‘revenge’ for Soleimani’s death,” CNN, 1/7/20
NRT, “Iran’s IRGC Targets Base Hosting US Troops In Iraq With Rockets: Reports,” 1/7/20