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Baghdad Embassy Attack Recap December 31, 2019 -January 2020

By | Rachel Brooks

Contributor | Telegraph Local 

See the New African Living Standard 

The Baghdad embassy events highlight a growing tension between the US, Iraq, Iran and other Islamic nations of the Middle East. As the story broke across mass news outlets, there were some inconsistencies in the story. There was some confusion in events and facts. A timeline of events and a fact-check of commonly reposted errors follows. 

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Cause of the attack

The attacks are prompted in response to US airstrikes on December 29. Citing the New York Times, the US launched airstrike attacks on Iran-backed forces in Iraq and Syria. These attacks were called “a response to a rocket attack that killed an American contractor.” The US retaliation targeted Kataeb Hezbollah units in Iraq and Syria. 

Source of the attack 

The attacks were members of the Iraq chapter of Iran-backed Kataeb Hezbollah and Hashed al-Shaabi. Hashed al-Shaabi are also known as Popular Mobilization Forces. There were other Iran-backed Shiite militia personnel present at the scene.

Leadership provocation 

The politics of the situation are exacerbating the tensions, citing the Washington Post

Leadership voices on both the US and Iraqi/Irani side of the argument have added to tensions. These players are as follows: 

Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi 

Also known as Abu Mahdi al Muhandis. Ibrahimi is the founder of Kataeb Hezbollah. While not as large as the other members listed below, the Kataeb Hezbollah is a powerful, centric player in this story. Hezbollah is the militia of the Shiites. They are the aggressive, majority Islamic sect in Sect, who has struggled to maintain the political power for decades, citing Smithsonian Magazines. 

Smithsonian calls the future role of the Shiites “one of the most important” defining factors of Iraq’s political future. The reason this has stalled for so long, Smithsonian states, is international fear. Fear from the United States and other players that Shia control in Iraq means Iran-styled Islamic Republic law. These statements were made all the way back in 2003, in the aftermath of Sadaam Hussein during the war on terror. 

Ibrahimi was the first to promise and incite a hostile response to the US airstrikes. 

Hadi al-Amiri

al-Amiri is “Tehran’s man in Baghdad” citing Washington Post. He is the head over Badr Organization. This is one of the largest pro-Iran militias in Iraq. It is a division of the PMF, also called Hashed al-Shaabi. al-Amiri was present at the scene of Tuesday’s attack. 

Qais al-Khazali

al-Khazali is the leader of the Asaib Ahl al-Haq militia. This is considered one of Iraq’s most “notorious” further citing the Washington Post. Asaib Ahl al-Haq has been accused of attacking peaceful government protestors. Asabi Ahl al-Haq has been the strategist behind many attacks against both American and Iraqi forces since 2006-the year this unit was founded. 

Khazali was arrested in 2007 for his alleged role in the death of five US soldiers. He was part of a prisoner exchange in 2010. 

Donald Trump 

The US President added to tensions when he took to Twitter and put the blame of the attacks on Iran. This is in part factual. The militarized groups that have launched the protest are backed by Iran and the Islamic Republic. Yet, Mr. Trump’s statements exacerbated the situation which is increasingly more complex and volatile. We can observe this by the many different political figureheads listed as players. 

Donald Trump also posted Tweets calling on the Iraqi people who wanted peace and did not want an Irani backed state.  

State Department corrections to evacuation reports 

There has been some debate about whether the diplomatic personnel were evacuated or not. During the confusion, it was reported that they were and were not evacuated. 

 

In the last few hours, several news outlets have reported that an evacuation did not take place. As of 9:24 pm on December 31, 2019, the Times of Israel reported that US sources stated personnel were “safe” and that “no evacuation was planned.” Sources were from the US State Department. 

The reports that personnel were evacuated then were likely errors of the confusion on the scene. 

Most Recent 

In the last few hours, US Marines and Airborne personnel deployed to the Embassy to protect US personnel on scene. 

US personnel fired tear gas on the lingering militia on the morning of January 1, 2020. Numbers of Hashed al-Shaabi and other personnel withdrew from the scene. This left roughly 200 Kataeb Hezbollah personnel on the scene. 

In the more recent developments, the Hezbollah leaders gave the order to withdraw from the scene, citing the New York Times.  

Forecasts of the Middle East relations

Analysts are already making some predictions for US-ME relations as we begin 2020 on this note. Tensions at this moment are high and seem to escalate by the day. At this moment, there have been no more attacks reported on US personnel within the rest of Iraq. 

The Daily Beast is among many news commentators making predictions. However, there have not been official reports from the US government or military analysts. So, at this moment, there is only speculation regarding the US diplomatic relations in this region moving forward. 

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Baghdad and Benghazi comparisons 

A politicized comparison between the Baghdad and Benghazi embassy attacks have been made by Senators Elizabeth Warren and Lindsey Graham. This may increase political tension on the US homefront and may affect the response of the American people to President Trump in the 2020 year. 

Will Presidential impeachment impact Middle East relations? 

How will the Presidential impeachment trial impact these diplomatic situations? It’s unclear at this time. As the Senate Impeachment trial moves closer, it effectively turns up the heat in US home politics. 

Middle East Eye states a legal opinion that an impeachment of Trump could have a “devastating outcome”. The opinion presented by the American lawyer Ayed Ayoub is that President Trump could use his impeachment to rally his supporters. This would give him a strong reelection probability. If Trump is reelected, then his diplomacy will continue past 2020 in the Middle East. Whether this will increase tensions, or bring some stability with the same leader present continuing the next four years is unknown. 

The Carnegie Endowment for International Peace attributed Trump’s impeachment to possible forward-moving volatility. The belief from this source is that the President will act rashly from a place of his anger. If that were to happen, based on the response we’ve seen from the Baghdad incident, then there is a possibility that Trump’s presence in future Middle East relations will exacerbate the hostilities. 

Citing the Hill, the President must now make handling Iran a primary focus for whatever time he remains in office. If he is impeached, or if someone else is elected in his place in 2020, then they will also inherit this task. The groundwork laid by Mr. Trump in the following days will determine the proceeding for Iran policy and diplomacy moving forward from this attack. It must also factor in the ire raised in Iraq for the airstrike deaths.

Whatever the decisions made forward, 2020 will be a defining moment for the saga of relations between the US and the Middle East.  

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