Trump: NATO should be much more involved in the Middle East

The message linking the Iranian leadership to the attacks on Al Asad Air Base and a base in Erbil was not difficult to understand

Source: Alex Brandon/AP/Shutterstock

The author of the article is Thomas Pany. Thomas Pany studied political science with Kurt Sontheimer at the Ludwig Maximilian University in Munich, plus modern history and Semitic studies. The original article has been published in Telepolis. Translation and editing by Defenseweek’s team.


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In his speech after Iranian missile attacks on US bases in Iraq, the US President delivers the usual rhetoric, but this time without loud escalating tones.

The speech by the President of the United States attracted the greatest international attention. The Iranian missile attack on US-based military bases in Iraq early in the morning on Wednesday, local time, had raised expectations of how Trump would respond to the aggression that Iranian officials described as an act of retaliation for the murder of General Soleimani. Even in a distant peaceful Munich suburb, two boys from the after-school care center, that is, early school age, asked loudly and excitedly whether Trump would stick to what he had said after the attacks: “He doesn’t want war.”

The message linking the Iranian leadership to the attacks on Al Asad Air Base and a base in Erbil was not difficult to understand. The ballistic missiles hit precisely selected targets at a precisely selected point in time without being prevented by the US air defense, signaling that Iranian effectiveness, if so intended, could do great harm to the US military. This time it was apparently mainly about warning and drawing attention to one’s own military and technical capabilities.

The impression that the Iranian military’s aggressive act – an attack on foreign territory against foreign troops who have been invited by the government, as the Iraqi president points out – conveyed caution, that they give no incentive to escalate. According to the information available to date, there were no significant personal injuries. The Iraqi prime minister was briefly informed of the attack shortly before and was able to pass this information on.

All Iranian leaders, from Supreme Leader Khamenei to President Rouhani, Foreign Minister Zarif to representatives of the Revolutionary Guards, were unanimous in emphasizing the long-term goal of driving the United States out of Iraq and the region.

The rocket attack, the night of which coincided with that of the deadly drone attack on General Soleimani and was carried out according to a rite in retaliation for his death before his funeral, is said to have only hit those parts of the military base that are attributed to the United States, without targeting it, that there are as many victims as possible. The Iranian military thus underscored a precision capability that was assumed to have followed the attacks on the oil facilities in Saudi Arabia.

The military strike was therefore precisely calculated in terms of its low-threshold impact, coupled with the threat that this would be the start of a longer-term project, namely the expulsion of US troops from the region.

Trump did not address this in his speech late Wednesday afternoon at European time. His first sentence, before the “Good Morning” greeting, was: “Iran will never be allowed to have nuclear weapons.” He set the framework in which he claims to have placed “recent events” as part of a story that began in 1979 with the Iranian revolution and made the country the “greatest terrorist supporter”, which is why it is in conflict with the United States stand.

With the murder of al-Quds General Soleimani, the “world top terrorist” was eliminated, Trump said. The aim of the American actions was to end the “destabilization” that characterizes Iran’s behavior in the region. The days of destabilization are over once and for all, that was to be documented with the killing of Soleimani.

This is all well-known rhetoric that determined the run-up to the United States’ unilateral exit from the JCPOA nuclear agreement. Trump repeated many things from this fund, including again that the large amount of money that Iran had received through this agreement with the previous government was used to arm up and finance terrorists.

The fact that the United States has contributed to a considerable and sustainable destabilization of the region in Afghanistan since 1979 at the latest, and that billions of dollars have been spent on the financing of violent jihadists, which continue to cause major problems worldwide, left the U.S. President as usual Picture out. That didn’t fit within his frame.

But he was also unwilling to further increase the escalation with Iran. Right at the beginning of his speech, he emphasized that no attacks were done to the Americans in the attacks on the two bases. Which made it clear that he was unwilling to respond militarily to the Iranian action.

He did not respond to the question of how far the American air defense systems are at the height of the threat. It will be interesting to see whether and what additional comments are received from the US military.

What is remarkable about his speech, which of course was not a pacifist speech – even if he hinted at the end of the possibility of working with Iran against the common enemy IS – is his appeal to NATO for more engagement in the region. He would still make a message to the transatlantic alliance today that NATO would be more involved in the Middle East.

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