Protesters damage property inside the U.S. embassy compound, in Baghdad, Iraq, Tuesday, Dec 31, 2019. Dozens of angry Iraqi Shiite militia supporters broke into the U.S. Embassy compound in Baghdad on Tuesday after smashing a main door and setting fire to a reception area, prompting tear gas and sounds of gunfire. (AP Photo/Khalid Mohammed)
Earlier today, social media lit up with a report from Washington Post reporter Liz Sly claiming to have a letter proving that U.S. troops were being withdrawn from Iraq.
Sly is the Beirut bureau chief and is the same person responsible for this odd tweet, which I wrote on some months back, in which she seemingly blamed the United States for not appeasing Iran enough.
Big escalation in the Persian Gulf. Two oil tankers struck and on fire in the Strait of Hormuz, focus of US-Iran tensions. Comes after Trump failed to heed the last tanker warning & imposed more sanctions https://t.co/zrEiVf5eIK
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) June 13, 2019
But back to this latest report, here’s Sly posting on the matter.
BREAKING: The US military sends a letter to the Iraqi military announcing the “onward movement” of US troops “in due deference to the sovereignty of Iraq & as requested by the Iraqi Parliament & the Iraqi PM”. It’s a withdrawal. pic.twitter.com/tQHSsHTtez
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) January 6, 2020
Sly’s source was the office of the PM of Iraq. That’d be the same PM who’s already resigned and is an Iranian puppet. Iranian media made the initial disclosure.
Given that, there’s a lot to question here about how this letter was released and why Iranian propagandists got a hold of it. For example, the first thing anyone should notice is that the letter is unsigned. That should have been a clue to Sly to take pause at what she was asserting before rushing to Twitter. But standards aren’t very high at the Post these days, so it’s not surprising she ran with this before getting confirmation.
And on that note, Mike Esper came out and confirmed that the letter is not accurate, was a draft, and was released by mistake.
— Tara Copp (@TaraCopp) January 6, 2020
Esper would go on to say that the only withdrawal happening was a reposition inside Iraq for force protection.
To be kind, none of this makes much sense. How does an unsigned draft citing a troop withdrawal out of the country end up in the hands of the Iranians to use as a bludgeon? How does it then make its way to an American reporter who’s shown herself to be friendly to Iran?
To answer these questions, I think we have to ask ourselves who stands to lose the most by having this memo end up where it ended up. I think the answer to that is President Trump because this conveniently feeds into the chaos narrative the media is so fond of while also giving fodder to Iran.
You can see the results of that gambit in the responses of some on the right, who were more than happy to play into that theme.
Reassuring: We're not handing Iran a gigantic strategic victory, after all.
Not reassuring: That this happened. https://t.co/oZ5szzR7Nb
— David French (@DavidAFrench) January 6, 2020
But does it really make sense that this was a flub caused by some lack of organizational ability on Trump’s part? Does anyone really think Trump would even have a hand in transmitting this unsigned letter to the Iraqi PM? Does it pass the smell test that this played right into the hands of those looking to snipe at Trump over the recent escalation with Iran?
I think the answer is no on all those counts. The more likely scenario is that someone within the DoD transmitted this unsigned draft without proper authority. In the process, it just so happened to reinforce every stereotype the President’s naysayers want to push. When it comes to politics, rarely is something teed up that perfectly.
The truth is, much of the infrastructure at the Pentagon and within the military complex is the same as it was before the current administration. The idea that Trump has somehow made it wholly incompetent by simply existing just doesn’t add up. The person who sent this letter is likely a careerist anyway, not a political appointee. But by having this “mistake” happen, it helps Iran’s efforts while giving ammunition to another news cycle of claims that Trump is about to blow up the world.
That’s all just too convenient to have been an “accident.”