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The Weekly paper of the New Communist Party of Britain

Iran strikes back

by our Arab Affairs correspondent

IRANIAN missiles rained down on American bases in Iraq on Wednesday in reprisal raids to avenge the murder of one of their top generals in Baghdad last week. Waves of missiles hit the US airbase of Ain al-Assad in western Iraq as well as the US military camp near the city of Erbil in the north of the country.

The US government has told all American civilians to leave Iraq immediately following the Iraqi parliament call for the withdrawal of all American troops from their country and Iraq’s Shia Muslim militias, including the Mahdi Army that has been recalled to arms by its leader Muqtada al-Sadr, have vowed to support Iranian efforts to force the imperialists out of the region.

The Americans have not released any casualty figures but the Iranians say that a number of warplanes and drones were destroyed, and at least 80 American military personnel were killed, in the attacks that took place before the body of the martyred General Qassem Soleimani was laid to rest in his home-town of Kerman.

Although People’s China has called on all sides to show restraint, Foreign Minister Wang Yi called Soleimani’s assassination a “dangerous US military operation” that “violates the basic norms of international relations and will aggravate regional tensions and turbulence”. China is in close consultation with the governments involved, including at the United Nations and through China’s embassy in Baghdad. Meanwhile, Russian President Vladimir Putin held top-level talks with the Syrian leader Bashar al-Assad during a surprise visit to Damascus clearly designed to show Russian solidarity with Syria, a close friend and ally of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

China, Russia and Iran held joint naval exercises in the Indian Ocean and the Gulf of Oman last month, and the Iranian foreign minister visited Beijing earlier this week. China and Russia are also parties to the 2015 nuclear deal with Iran that US President Donald Trump unilaterally tore up last year.

Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei, said that the attacks showed that Iran has the ability and the readiness to retaliate against any aggression. In a speech in front of huge crowds at the holy city of Qom, Ayatollah Khamenei said that the enemy is the USA and the Zionist entity and the global centre of arrogance and domination and “our responsibility is to confront them”.

Khamenei said that the resistance axis has foiled the US schemes in the region. The Ayatollah stated that “last night’s action was merely a slap”, warning that: “This step which we have taken is not enough and what must be translated on the ground is to end the American presence in the region.”

General Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), the leader of the Iranian volunteers fighting ISIS in Iraq and Syria, was killed in a targeted US drone strike on 3rd January approved by Donald Trump, who claimed that the Iranian general posed an imminent threat to US lives.

But the Iraqi premier says the Iranian general had been tricked into landing in the Iraqi capital for ‘talks’ that had been agreed at Trump’s request.

Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi told the Iraqi parliament that General Soleimani entered the country with a response to a Saudi Arabian proposal to de-escalate the volatile situation between the two countries. He said that Trump had called for his assistance in mediating with the House of Saud, which views Iran as a threat to the Saudi throne and blames the Islamic Republic for attacks on its oil refineries last year.

“[General Soleimani] came to deliver me a message from Iran, responding to the message we delivered from Saudi Arabia to Iran,” Abdul-Mehdi explained. But soon after he landed in Baghdad, Soleimani was killed along with his companions in a US drone attack.