As’ad AbuKhalil analyzes the Trump
administration’s decision to escalate
hostilities with Iran and its regional
By As`ad AbuKhalil
January 21, 2020 "Information
Clearing House" -
big and unprecedented has happened in the
Middle East after the assassination of one
of Iran’s top commanders, Qasim Suleimani.
The U.S. has long assumed that assassinations of
major figures in the Iranian “resistance-axis” in
the Middle East would bring risk to the U.S.
military-intelligence presence in the Middle East.
Western and Arab media reported that the U.S. had
Israel in the past from killing Suleimani.
But with the top commander’s death, the Trump
administration seems to think a key barrier to U.S.
military operations in the Middle East has been
The U.S. and Israel had noticed that Hizbullah and
Iran did not retaliate against previous
assassinations by Israel (or the U.S.) that took
place in Syria (of Imad Mughniyyah, Jihad Mughniyyah,
Samir Quntar); or for other attacks on Palestinian
and Lebanese commanders in Syria.
The U.S. thus assumed that this assassination would
not bring repercussions or harm to U.S.
interests. Iranian reluctance to retaliate has only
increased the willingness of Israel and the U.S. to
violate the unspoken rules of engagement with Iran
in the Arab East.
For many years Israel did perpetrate various
assassinations against Iranian scientists and
officers in Syria during the on-going war. But
Israel and the U.S. avoided targeting leaders or
commanders of Iran. During the U.S. occupation of
Iraq, the U.S. and Iran collided directly and
indirectly, but avoided engaging in assassinations
for fear that this would unleash a series of
But the Trump administration has become known for
not playing by the book, and for operating often
according to the whims and impulses of President
Different Level of Escalation
The decision to strike at Baghdad airport, however,
was a different level of escalation. In addition to
killing Suleimani it also killed Abu Mahdi
al-Muhandis, a key leader of Hashd forces in Iraq.
Like Suleimani, al-Muhandis was known for waging the
long fight against ISIS. (Despite this, the U.S.
media only give credit to the U.S. and its clients
who barely lifted a finger in the fight against
On the surface of it, the strike was
uncharacteristic of Trump. Here is a man who
pledged to pull the U.S. out of the Middle East
turmoil — turmoil for which the U.S and Israel bear
the primary responsibility. And yet he seems willing
to order a strike that will guarantee
intensification of the conflict in the region, and
even the deployment of more U.S. forces.