Since Hamas’ attack on Israel on October 7th, US remnant forces positioned in Western Iraq and Eastern Syria have been attacked 38 times by a variety of militia groups, and by November 6th, 45 soldiers have been confirmed to be injured—mostly with traumatic brain injuries like concussions.
This was double the number (two dozen) of injured soldiers that the Pentagon had initially said were being treated for TBI, and also included the death of a US contractor who had a heart attack. One attack of an explosive-laden drone turned out to be a dud, but if the bombs it was carrying had been detonated when it crashed against the roof of a building in a US military base in Erbil, Iraq, dozens of US citizens inside could have been killed.
Attacks like these, typically with low-tech rockets, mortars, or drones, have been carried out on US bases in the area for years, particularly the Al-Tanf garrison in Syria, and the Al-Asad air base in Iraq.
An umbrella group of militias that calls itself the Islamic Resistance in Iraq has taken credit for many of the attacks on US bases, which the US has instead blamed on Iran, though the Pentagon has admitted it has no evidence for this accusation.
Yesterday, the Pentagon released a statement saying it had struck “a facility in eastern Syria used by Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” meaning the Pentagon ordered the attack on a facility used by a military that they admitted they had no evidence was involved in the attack against Al-Tanf and Al-Asad.
“The President has no higher priority than the safety of U.S. personnel, and he directed today’s action to make clear that the United States will defend itself, its personnel, and its interests,” the statement read.
No authorization from Congress and no National Security Strategy outlines the role of US troops in the west of Iraq and east of Syria, but if asked, Pentagon spokesmen will reply it is to ensure the enduring defeat of ISIS.
Sleepwalking into a war
Stephen M. Walt columnist at Foreign Policy and distinguished professor of international relations at Harvard, penned a long analysis the day before Russia invaded Ukraine entitled “The West Is Sleepwalking Into War in Ukraine” in which he outlines that the lack of any effort on the part of the West to understand the stated Russian position and demands in the four months leading up to the invasion was equivalent to sleepwalking; of the “blob” simply repeating the same “steady diet of hawkish posturing,” without ever actually committing two brain cells together and formulating a real response.
Later, United Nations Secretary-General António Guterres said on February 7th 2023 that he fears the world is “sleepwalking” into a wider war beyond Ukraine.
“Sleepwalking into war with China” was the title of a piece in Time Magazine in 2021. It was a phrase used in comments by the Deputy Prime Minister of Singapore in August 2022, and by Hugh White, emeritus professor of strategic studies at Australian National University who was the lead author of the nation’s millennial defense strategy white paper in 2000, in a January interview with ABC News AU, 2023.
While it seems bizarre to think that a group of people could sleepwalk their constituents into a war, it’s a well-known phrase because it’s a well-understood phenomenon.
On the DoD website, General Pat Ryder released a simple statement entitled “US Has 4 Objectives in the Middle East”. The four objectives beg for US involvement in a broader regional war of surgical strikes and troop deployments.
They include the provision of “Protection of US forces and citizens in the region, flow of critical security assistance to Israel as it defends against further Hamas terrorist attacks, coordination with the Israelis to help secure the release of hostages held by Hamas, to include American citizens, [and] strengthening of force posture across the region to deter any state or nonstate actors from escalating the crisis beyond Gaza”.
To the end of objective four, the White House has already said it would bomb Lebanon.
“Since the outbreak of the war, the US has threatened to bomb us in Lebanon from its military ships in the Mediterranean. We are prepared for whatever scenario,” said the leader of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah in a speech last week. “If an all-out war breaks out, you Americans will pay with your ships, your aircraft, and your soldiers”.
The Pentagon has already deployed more military assets to the region, including thousands of troops, two aircraft carrier strike groups, and a nuclear-powered submarine. If any of these, including Al-Tanf, Al-Asad, and other bases in metropolitan areas, come under attack simultaneously, it’s likely the US will be forced to send in more such assets, launch more defensive strikes like they did against the IRGC, and find itself suddenly requiring ten of billions more in funding to carry it all out. From that point, it’s inevitable that some US soldiers will die in the fighting, and forced with replicating the embarrassing image of the evacuation from Afghanistan, the Biden Administration will be forced to escalate.
Those four objectives would inadequately reflect the situation on the ground in the region in such a scenario, meaning that all those assets would be operating on a form of autopilot, of strike and be struck, until the Administration comes up with coherent reasoning for what their presence is accomplishing, a long, politically-driven process that wouldn’t have anything to do with military strategy or aims achievable with military power. This was the same, drawn-out, often repeated failure of America’s war for the Greater Middle East. WaL
PICTURED ABOVE: US forces conduct a training exercise in the desert near Al-Tanf Garrison, Eastern Syria.