A new report by the inspectors general of the US State Department, Defense Department, and USAID conducted between 1 October and 31 December 2023 has determined that ISIS poses a minimal threat in Iraq and Syria, raising questions about the Pentagon's insistence on keeping US troops in both nations. “During the quarter, ISIS continued to operate in a survival posture in both Iraq and Syria. The group remained militarily defeated, incapable of mounting large, complex attacks domestically or externally, even as Coalition forces increased their focus on force protection due to attacks by Iran-aligned militia group,” the quarterly report on the so-called Operation Inherent Resolve (OIR) determines, noting the group's ”capacity to conduct insurgent activities remained severely degraded."
As Israel continues its massacres in Gaza, tensions are intensifying over the Red Sea, the Gulf of Aden, and the wider North African and Western Asian region. After three US soldiers were killed by a drone strike in Jordan, the US responded with strikes inside Iraq and Syria, killing 40. White House national security spokesman John Kirby then told Fox News that the strikes were "just the first round,” making it clear that hegemony is Washington’s only horizon. Meanwhile a related conflict is heating up on the southern side of the Gulf of Aden, triggered by a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed between Ethiopia and Somaliland, the breakaway state that has been trying to secede from Somalia since 1991 but has not been recognized by any of the UN’s 193 member states or by the African Union.
A new opinion poll conducted in 16 Arab countries shows that Washington's continued support for Israel's campaign of genocide in the Gaza Strip has dramatically hurt its image across West Asia and North Africa, as 94 percent of respondents describe the US position as "bad." At the same time, more than half say the US poses the biggest threat to regional security. Other western states fared almost as poorly, with more than three-quarters of those polled saying the position of the UK, France, and Germany in relation to Gaza is "bad” or “very bad.” In contrast, Iran received a surge in recognition, with 48 percent of respondents expressing a positive view of the Iranian position, while 37 percent held a negative view.
Of all the amateurish moments to arise as the Biden regime conducts its foreign policy, the White House’s official statement as B1–B bombers let loose over Iraq and Syria last Friday may be the taker of the cake. As the ordnance fell on 85 targets in seven locations, many of them outposts of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards, our addled president felt compelled to insist, “The United States does not seek conflict in the Middle East or anywhere else in the world.” How many times have we heard this since these latest operations in Iraq, Syria and Yemen began? Antony Blinken, the secretary of state, has said the same thing in the same words. Lloyd Austin, the defense secretary, has, too.
Iraqi army spokesman Major General Yahya Rasoul on 8 February condemned the targeted assassination of Kataib Hezbollah leader Abu Baqir al-Saadi, calling out Washington for continuing to sow instability in the country. The strike on Wednesday night was carried out “in a manner that disregarded the lives of Iraqi civilians or international laws,” Rasoul said, adding that the US “repeatedly commits acts that undermine the understandings and the start of bilateral dialogue.”
Top Hamas leaders are still debating a US-backed ceasefire proposal that would facilitate a six-week cessation of hostilities for the delivery of humanitarian aid into Gaza and the release of Israeli civilian hostages. While Qatar claims that Hamas has received the proposal “positively,” key Hamas officials are asking for more concessions, most importantly including a permanent ceasefire, before signing off on the proposal. Most people in Gaza do not have time to wait; the Israeli military prepares a military incursion into Rafah, Gaza’s southernmost district on the Egyptian border, where 1.9 million Gazans are currently sheltering.
The US air force carried out strikes on 85 sites in the border regions connecting Iraq and Syria early on 3 February. US Central Command stated its forces struck targets "belonging to the Iranian Revolutionary Guard and its allies, in Iraq and Syria" using "long-range bombers launched from the United States." The statement added that US forces "used more than 125 precision-guided munitions in the air strikes. The facilities that were struck included command and control operations, intelligence centers, missiles and missiles, drone warehouses, logistical facilities, and the ammunition supply chain."
The Finance Committee in the Iraqi parliament made a statement on 31 January calling for the sale of oil in currencies other than the US dollar, aiming to counter US sanctions on the Iraqi banking system. “The US Treasury still uses the pretext of money laundering to impose sanctions on Iraqi banks. This requires a national stance to put an end to these arbitrary decisions,” the statement said. “Imposing sanctions on Iraqi banks undermines and obstructs Central Bank efforts to stabilize the dollar exchange rate and reduce the selling gap between official and parallel rates,” it added.
Deterrence in defense is a military strategy where one power uses the threat of reprisal to preclude attack from an adversary, while maintaining at the same time the freedom of action and flexibility to respond to the full spectrum of challenges. In this realm, the Lebanese resistance, Hezbollah, is an outstanding example. Hezbollah’s clarity of purpose in establishing and strictly maintaining ground rules that deter Israeli military aggression has set a high regional bar. Today, its West Asian allies have adopted similar strategies, which have multiplied in the context of the war in Gaza.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) criticized the US request to hold talks with the Iraqi government regarding the presence of US forces in the country, describing them as an attempt to “turn the tables on the resistance” while stressing that it will not stop its operations against US forces in Iraq and the region. The IRI is a coalition of Shia armed groups that seek to expel foreign forces from Iraq. The US has roughly 2,500 troops in Iraq and 900 in Syria. US officials claim they are present to fight ISIS. However, the notorious extremist group was defeated in 2019 and enjoyed support from the US and its regional allies.
The Islamic Resistance in Iraq (IRI) announced a new attack on the Israeli Port of Ashdod on 25 January, one day after the start of “phase two” of Iraqi operations in support of Gaza. “In continuation of our approach to resisting [US] occupation, in support of our people in Gaza, and in response to [Israeli] massacres … the Islamic Resistance in Iraq today, Thursday … attacked the port of Ashdod in the occupied territories with drones,” the IRI said in a statement on Thursday. This marks the second time in less than a week that the Iraqi coalition has launched a drone attack on Ashdod. On Wednesday, Abu Ala al-Walai, Secretary-General of the Kataib Sayyed al-Shuhada armed group, urged “the fighters of the Islamic Resistance in Iraq to begin phase two of their blessed operations, which will include a blockade on Zionist maritime navigation and the disabling of the [occupied] ports.”
The brutal war that Israel is waging on Gaza is increasingly becoming a regional conflict. Since October, the United States and Israel have bombed not only Gaza, but also Lebanon, Iraq, Syria, and Yemen. Now, the U.S. government is even threatening Iran with war. President Joe Biden sent the Iranian government a private message while the U.S. military was bombing Yemen on January 13. He said threateningly, “We’re confident, we’re well prepared”. While this is happening, South Africa has introduced a case in the International Court of Justice, the top United Nations judicial authority, which accuses Israel of committing genocide against the Palestinian people.
Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) announced in the early hours of 16 January that multiple ballistic missiles successfully hit positions of the Israeli Mossad in the Iraqi Kurdistan Region (IKR) and the headquarters of the anti-Iran Turkestan Islamic Party in Syria's Idlib governorate. “In response to the recent crimes committed by terrorist groups and the martyrdom of a number of our citizens in Kerman and Rask, the gathering places of leaders and key elements associated with the recent terrorist operations that took place in Iran were bombed. In particular, ISIS was bombed in part of the occupied Syrian territory and destroyed via several ballistic missiles,” the IRGC said in a statement.
Over three months into Israel’s genocidal assault on Gaza, there is little hope the carnage will stop anytime soon—and with each passing day, the danger of Israel’s war on Gaza spiraling into a larger regional conflict increases. The devastation in Gaza is unlike anything seen in the 21st century, but Israel’s military strikes—like last week’s assassination of Saleh al-Arouri, a top leader of Hamas, in Lebanon—have not been limited to Palestine alone. At the same time, armed resistance groups in Iraq and Syria have launched hundreds of attacks on US bases, confrontation between Israel and Hezbollah has created a simmering northern front along the Lebanese border, and Yemen’s blockade of the Red Sea has created an international crisis for shipping and trade.
Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani said on 10 January that Baghdad wants “a quick and orderly” withdrawal of US combat forces from Iraq. Baghdad has not yet set a deadline, the prime minister said, but affirmed that the presence of US troops is “destabilizing.” "There is a need to re-organize [our] relationship [with Washington] so that it is not a target or justification for any party, internal or foreign, to tamper with stability in Iraq and the region," Sudani said, partly in reference to attacks by the Iraqi resistance on US bases. The Iraqi prime minister has repeatedly said that Baghdad will neither accept foreign troops nor armed factions operating on its soil.