Trump sends more troops to Persian Gulf

In response to the recent escalation in Iraq, President Trump has ordered thousands more US troops to neighboring Kuwait. "At the direction of the Commander in Chief, I have authorized the deployment of an infantry battalion from the Immediate Response Force (IRF) of the 82nd Airborne Division to the US Central Command area of operations in response to recent events in Iraq," Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said in a written statement Dec. 31. "Approximately 750 soldiers will deploy to the region immediately, and additional forces from the IRF are prepared to deploy over the next several days," Central Command also said that a detachment from the Kuwait-based Special Purpose Marine Air-Ground Task Force will be deployed to the US embassy in Baghdad to reinforce security. (Military Times)

What's particularly maddening is that this is being done in reaction to a situation being almost universally mis-reported in the media. Nearly all coverage (CNN, NBC, BBCAl Jazeera) is saying the US embassy in Baghdad was attacked by "protesters." It was attacked by Asaib Ahl al-Haq—the Iran-backed pro-government militia that has been massacring protesters.

The US and Iran are playing a geostrategic game for control of Iraq, and the greater region. Both sides are treating the Iraqi people as pawns. As long as ISIS and Sunni jihadists remain a threat, Washington and Tehran can only push things so far. But things could still escalate toward US war with Iran, even if neither side is seeking that outcome. We don't put it past Trump to blunder into a war with Iran through poorly played brinkmanship.

Qassem Soleimani killed in US air-strike

On the subject of Trump blundering into a war with Iran... Reports are now breaking that the notorious Revolutionary Guards commander Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US air-strike at Baghdad's airport. (Al Jazeera)

‘Not an assassination’?

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces, was also killed in the drone strike on the Baghdad airport, which the Trump administration is now openly boasting of having carried out. In a clear contradiction, a State Department representative said the attack was “not an assassination.” (CBS)

Another one to file under words-mean-whatever-we-say-they-mean.

Air-strike on Popular Mobilization Forces

A US air-strike targeted a convoy of the Popular Mobilization Forces north of Baghdad, almost exactly 24 hours after Qassem Soleimani was killed in a drone strike The group said the air-strike hit a convoy of medics, not senior leaders as reported in some media. (AP)

US air-strikes target Iran-backed militia in Iraq

The US has launched air-strikes against the pro-Iranian militia group Kataib Hezbollah in Iraq. The strikes, targeting five weapons storage facilities across the country, come after the group reportedly launched a rocket attack on a US base. Two Americans and a British soldier were killed in the March 11 rocket attack on the Camp Taji military base. (BBC)

Iraqi forces raid Kataib Hezbollah

Iraqi security forces raided a compound of the powerful Iran-backed militia Kataib Hezbollah south of Baghdad June 25, seizing rockets and detaining three commanders. The raid was carried out by Baghdad's own paramilitary force, Hashd al-Shaabi. (MEE)