Top 3 Things Biden could Do instead of intensively Bombing Iraq and Syria

The Biden administration launched 85 air strikes on Friday against small bases of the Party of God Brigades (Kata’ib Hizbullah), an Iraqi Shiite militia active in Iraq and Syria. The organization is likely the culprit in Sunday’s drone strike against the Tower 22 US base in the far north of Jordan on the border with Syria. The communique issued by something calling itself “the Islamic Resistance in Iraq” said that the strike had been in the cause of “resisting the American occupation forces in Iraq and the region, and in response to the massacres of the Zionist entity against our people in Gaza.”

Sot al-Iraq, an independent Baghdad daily, reported that the US counter-strike on Qaim on the border of Iraq and Syria killed two civilians and wounded 5 other people.

Although US military analysts and spokesmen will say that the US air strikes are aimed at degrading the militia’s capabilities and at deterring it from future such attacks, it isn’t very likely that either goal will be achieved in this way. Bombing guerrilla groups from 30,000 feet is the closest to a futile military tactic as you can get. It is not as though these light, mobile forces were likely sitting around in their known bases and hideouts, oblivious that the US was coming for them.

In any case, the Party of God Brigades already announced that it was pausing its attacks on US forces after the Jordan operation killed three US servicemen. It makes you wonder whether they had been expecting the US to shoot down their drone and were appalled that it got through and killed servicemen. The Saudi owned, London-based daily, al-Sharq al-Awsat alleges that the militia was pressured afterwards by Iran and by Shiite political parties in the Iraqi parliament to suspend their anti-American attacks.

Iraq’s president, Abdul Latif Rashid, and the prime minister Muhammad Shia al-Sudani, warned against Iraq becoming an arena of regional conflict.

Although Friday’s air strikes on the Party of God Brigades’ known facilities are unlikely to spiral into a general war, you never know about these things. People don’t usually start out trying to have a war– they often fall into it.

MSNBC Video: “‘More airstrikes and Tomahawk missiles’: How U.S. may continue targeting Iran-backed militia groups”

President Joe Biden could easily avoid the necessity of bombing Yemen, Iraq, Syria, and the good Lord knows how many other countries in the region. He just has to do three things to make US troop secure in the region.

1. He could cut Israeli Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu off from resupply of armaments and ammunition, forcing a ceasefire in Gaza. Whatever is going on there, it isn’t primarily a war on Hamas. It is a total war on Gaza civilians, hundreds of whom are likely dying of hunger daily, on top of the innocent civilians killed by air strikes and sniping. No one can understand Biden’s single-minded dedication to the killing of 27,000 Palestinians, 70% of them women and children.

2. Biden could just pull the US troops out of Syria. It is crazy that they are still there. They only total 900, spread across three small forward operating bases. The Syrian government doesn’t want them there and given the defeat of ISIL (ISIS, Daesh), their presence is no longer required for self-defense. Their presence is by now illegal in international law. They are also exposed to danger, being so few. Bring them home.

3. Biden could also withdraw the 2500 US troops from Iraq. The Iraqi parliament voted against their continued presence in January 2020, so they are there illegally, as well. They are also exposed and vulnerable.

Presto change-o, the extreme tensions and crisis that threaten to draw the US into a wider war would likely evaporate.

Or, Biden could go on the mule-headed and amoral way he is going. It is starting to cast a dark cloud over his presidential campaign. Yesterday his swing through Michigan did not include an appearance in Dearborn, which has a significant Arab and Muslim population. They are an important swing vote in the state. The Biden people tried to set up a meeting, but were rebuffed.


Editor’s Note: This essay originally appeared on February 2, 2024, on Informed Comment: Thoughts on the Middle East, History and Religion, a website featuring commentary by Professor Juan Cole.  It was reproduced here with the consent of Professor Cole.

Image Credit: NPR

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