Iran Strikes At US Bases In Iraq To 'Save Face,' Not Spark Real War

Iran Strikes at US Bases in Iraq to 'Save Face,' Not Spark Real War

The new decade started with a global fear over the possibility of another world war triggered by the United States and Iran on the Iraqi soil, following a series of events, including the US embassy attack in Baghdad last month and the killing of the powerful Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani

MOSCOW (UrduPoint News / Sputnik - 08th January, 2020) The new decade started with a global fear over the possibility of another world war triggered by the United States and Iran on the Iraqi soil, following a series of events, including the US embassy attack in Baghdad last month and the killing of the powerful Iranian general, Qasem Soleimani.

The commander's death prompted angry calls in Iran to avenge his slaying and led to Tehran firing ballistic missiles at two US military bases in Iraq on Wednesday, a measure viewed as an attempt to preserve Iran's military honor in the face of its people rather than provoke an actual war, experts told Sputnik.


The heart of the middle East, Iraq, has become a battleground for the US-Iran conflict after the Pentagon targeted facilities of Kata'ib Hezbollah Shiite militia, which belongs to the Hashd al-Shaabi organization in Iraq and Syria for allegedly launching a rocket attack on a base in the Iraqi city of Kirkuk that killed a US contractor in December.

Hashd al-Shaabi, also known as the Popular Mobilization Forces, said dozens of its fighters had been killed in the US strikes. An angry mob besieged the US Embassy in Baghdad after a funeral was held for those slain. They torched the fence, forcing US guards to take cover. Tensions in the Middle East escalated further after a US drone strike killed Iran's commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps's (IRGC) elite Quds Force on January 3.

On Wednesday morning, IRGC started a revenge operation in response to Washington's assassination of Soleimani. According to the Iraqi military, about 22 missiles struck the country, with 17 of them hitting the US Ain Al Asad air base and five attacked the Iraqi city of Erbil, targeting the US-led coalition headquarters. According to Iranian media reports, 80 US servicemen were killed and around 200 others were injured, while the United States reported no casualties at all.


According to the international relations and security analyst, Mark Sleboda, Iran's attack on the US bases were not meant to be destructive, in fact, they aimed to de-escalate the situation.

"These missiles were not supposed to hit anything. They were not supposed to cause any deaths ... But the fact that the US has put their jets in the air out of Qatar and then Iran did likewise but there was no follow-through suggests that this was a symbolic gesture, perhaps even choreographed, the US might very well have been warned beforehand. This was done to save face for the Iranian government in front of the Iranian public, which is demanding a response," Sleboda told Sputnik.

The political expert added that Tehran and its actions aimed at Washington, in fact, did not pose an actual threat to the US, unlike the angered Shiites all over the world, who have lost their leader, Soleimani.

"Whenever there are Shia populations, there is the potential to take matters into their own hands. This is the biggest threat to the United States right now. Not what the Iranian government does, but what allied and sympathetic movements around the world do on their own, out of fury over the assassination of Qasem Soleimani. He was a revered leader, not just in Iran. He was a resistance organizer across the Middle East and that's the biggest threat," Sleboda added.

Yassamine Mather, a senior research computing specialist at the University of Oxford and an expert on Iran politics, told Sputnik that the damage caused by Tehran's strikes at the US facilities were almost non-existent.

"As far as I can tell, there have been no casualties. In retrospect, it's very neutral because the [Iranian] government can tell the protesters, the mourners - 'we took our revenge,' without really taking part in what would bring war," Mather said.


Ukraine International Airlines' (UIA) Boeing 737-800 plane crashed on Wednesday morning near Tehran's Imam Khomeini International Airport killing all 176 people on board. It was flying to the Ukrainian capital of Kiev.

Many began to speculate about the cause of the crash, hinting at Iran's alleged traces. Although experts agree that the timing of the incident is suspicious, as it almost coincides with the launch of ballistic missiles, it is still too early to jump to any conclusions.

"The initial report all point to a technical error with a fire in the engine. Even the US media is not jumping to blame Iran yet," Sleboda told Sputnik.

Mather added that even if Iran's fault was not proved it could still be used as propaganda against Tehran and a potential excuse to start a large-scale military operation.

"At the moment it's very difficult to say what happened to the plane, but remember that 82 of the passengers were Iranians and 62 Canadians, so there are repercussions for Iran, but those repercussions are stronger for Iranians and the Canadians rather than the US. I would imagine that it will be used like many other events in the last few days: for propaganda purposes," the expert from the University of Oxford said.

In the meantime, the Syrian state-run Sana news agency reported that the US forces have vacated two bases in northeastern Syria and moved in the direction of Iraq. Approximately 40 trucks with military equipment have left the Khrab al-Jir base in the Hasakah province heading to the village of al-Sweidyia near the Iraqi border. Similarly, 50 trucks have exited the base in the city of al-Shadadi, heading north via the eastern road leading to al-Walid crossing to Iraq.