In the aftermath of the killing of Iranian IRGC General Qassem Soleimani a lot of questions hung in the air. The big one was, in my mind, “Why now?”
There are a lot of angles to answer that question. Many of them were supplied by caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi who tried to let the world know through official (and unofficial) channels of the extent of the pressure he was under by the U.S.
In short, President Trump was engaged in months of what can best be described as gangsternomics in directing the course of Iraq’s future economic and political development.
My initial reporting on this should be considered, at best, informed speculation.
Did Trump openly threaten Mahdi over this deal as I covered in my podcast on this? Did the U.S. gin up protests in Baghdad, amplifying unrest over growing Iranian influence in the country?
And, if not, were these threats simply implied or carried by a minion (Pompeo, Esper, a diplomat)? Because the U.S.’s history of regime change operations is well documented. Well understood color revolution tactics used successfully in places like Ukraine, where snipers were deployed to shoot protesters and police alike to foment violence between them at the opportune time were on display in Baghdad.
Mahdi openly accused Trump of threatening him, but that sounds more like Mahdi using the current impeachment script to invoke the sinister side of Trump and sell his case.
It’s not that I don’t think Trump capable of that kind of threat, I just don’t think he’s stupid enough to voice it on an open call.
Well, it seems that my speculation was far more accurate than even I thought. Whitney Webb, reporting for Mint Press News, has a fantastic new article out which fills in the details on what most likely happened, tracking down the primary sources of those statements by Mahdi leaked into the commentariat:
After the feed was cut, MPs who were present wrote down Abdul-Mahdi’s remarks, which were then given to the Arabic news outlet Ida’at. Per that transcript, Abdul-Mahdi stated that:
“The Americans are the ones who destroyed the country and wreaked havoc on it. They have refused to finish building the electrical system and infrastructure projects. They have bargained for the reconstruction of Iraq in exchange for Iraq giving up 50% of oil imports. So, I refused and decided to go to China and concluded an important and strategic agreement with it. Today, Trump is trying to cancel this important agreement.”
Abdul-Mahdi continued his remarks, noting that pressure from the Trump administration over his negotiations and subsequent dealings with China grew substantially over time, even resulting in death threats to himself and his defense minister
Webb’s reporting goes much further, as do Mahdi’s statements about the extent of the U.S.’s threats. She ties together not only China’s moving in on Iraq’s oil industry but gives us context for Mahdi’s enumerations of the threats against him.
Like I said, I doubt sincerely Trump was dumb enough to threaten Mahdi like this personally but don’t for a second believe that his administration was unwilling to do so.
This is the primary way the U.S. has conducted this form of foreign policy for decades, using a combination of economic and psychological warfare on a country to weaken its government and foment revolutions against it and train radicals to start wars against it, plunging the country into chaos.
I think gangsternomics has a nice ring to it, actually.
I remember first hearing John Perkins, author of Confessions of an Economic Hitman, speak more than a decade ago and having the final scales fall from my eyes as to the depths the U.S. government is willing to go to achieve its goals.
With a country as strategically important to U.S. foreign policy goals in the Middle East as Iraq is, is really that difficult to imagine this timeline of events as Abdul Mahdi lays out?
Iraq’s importance goes much farther than just protecting the petrodollar to the U.S. It is the fulcrum now on which the entire U.S. defense against Eurasian integration rests. The entire region is slipping out of the grasp of the U.S.
And this started with Russia moving into Syria in 2015 successfully. We are downstream of this as it has blown open the playbook and revealed it for how ugly it is.
Trump’s crude gangster tactics in Iraq, Venezuela, Bolivia and to a lesser extent in Syria cannot be hidden behind the false veil of moral preening and virtue signaling about bringing democracy to these benighted places.
The longer this goes on in the Middle East, the more the depravity of it is exposed. It’s shameful to have to say these things. Remember, they are being done in our names, with our money, our time.
But refusing to confront them doesn’t make them go away. Because they are advocated by someone we may or may not support doesn’t magically make it right. This policy is no different than Obama’s. The rhetoric is cruder but the tactics and the antics no different.
What began in Syria with Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and China standing up together and saying, “No,” continues today in Iraq. To this point Iran has been the major actor. Tomorrow it will be Russia, China and India.
And that is what is ultimately at stake here, the ability of the U.S. to employ gangsternomics in the Middle East and make it stick.
Trump and his staff still think that our ‘opponents’ in this fight don’t believe we’re hard enough to raise the stake and make it really hurt. Trump still acts like he has cards to play that aren’t the equivalent of nuclear weapons which will horrify the world and collapse world markets.
But he doesn’t. Iran has taught him this lesson twice now.
He was finally told to cool his jets with respect to China. This is why the Phase One trade deal was signed. This is why it is so vague, formless and, ultimately, meaningless.
Since he was cock-blocked on China he’s going to take it out on lowly Iraq by seizing their Federal Reserve Account?
Does he think that makes him look like a responsible leader of the free world.
It makes him look like an asshole. And while a lot of Americans might not care about such things they better start. Because the world, especially Russia, China, Iran, Turkey and India are watching.
And, like it or not, they represent a hell of a lot more people and capital potential than we do.
So for now our threats are still just powerful enough to make the spineless puppies in a failing Europe roll over. Angela Merkel can’t afford a 25% tariff on German cars, so she folds to Trump’s threats and destroys what’s left of the JCPOA.
But with each threat Trump isolates the U.S. even more. With each push to hold onto that which wants to leave our orbit, in this case Iraq, the more the people will find other ways to do business and thrive without us.
First Syria, then Turkey, now Iraq, soon India. By 2024 they will all be doing a far bigger percentage of their trade in not-dollars. They will have paid off dollar liabilities and build supply chains that bypass dollar clearing centers.
By the time Trump is done threatening people over S-400’s and pipelines the entire world will be happy to trade in yuan and/or rubles rather than dollars.
Iraq now wants us out of there. It’s official. We say we’re a ‘force for good.’ Something will give. It just got a whole lot more expensive to maintain our troops and bases there.
We here in the U.S. may not want to believe our leadership is this terrible and that there is some justification for these actions but that’s not how it’s perceived there.
And there is where our troops are. There is where the skirmishes will be fought, the roadside bombs placed, the personnel harassed and spit on. There is where our companies won’t do business.
Here is where we’ll pay the price after trillions spent and millions of lives wasted. The gangsters in D.C. and Wall St. do not care about those costs, no matter what they say to absolve themselves.
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