Caricature by DonkeyHotey flic.kr/p/Ct4G4K https://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0/
As reports of missiles being fired on Iraqi bases came across the wire last night, placing Americans in harms way, meany feared the worst. Initial reports were of a massive operation with multiple waves. Other reports talked of the Iranian Air Force crossing into Iraqi territory. Almost everyone with a pre-disposition to dislike Trump immediately ran with “we just started a war” hot takes.
Then a different picture started to form. In reality, this looks to have been a pathetic face saving operation designed to allow Iran to spread propaganda for internal (and U.S. media) consumption.
For starters, of the 15 missiles fired, only 11 managed to land harmlessly somewhere in the vicinity of their targets. There’s also a question of whether the missiles even came from where Iran claimed they came from.
What is interesting is that I spoke with people in Kermanshah,where Iranian media claim they launched missile attacks from there. People tell me they have heard nothing and has been raining for hours now. But here the sky is clear with not a single cloud.
Doesn't make sense. https://t.co/yJyM8lPCXW
— Raman Ghavami (@Raman_Ghavami) January 8, 2020
This makes a lot of sense given the fact that Iran’s state TV pumped out fake photo after fake photo throughout the evening (usually of events from years ago) claiming mass destruction and missile launches.
Then, as it became clear that this was more bark than bite, Iran started organizing “celebrations” in the streets.
#BREAKING: While #IRGC Aerospace Force has failed to even harm a single #US Serviceman in Ain Al-Asad AB & #Erbil in #Iraq, the propaganda units of #IRGC Ground Force are now playing marsh of victory in streets of various cities of #Iran including #Shiraz in this video👇 pic.twitter.com/Je7IiFyioo
— Babak Taghvaee – Μπάπακ Τακβαίε – بابک تقوایی (@BabakTaghvaee) January 8, 2020
They also spewed garbage like this on their networks that is patently untrue (although MSNBC managed to run with claims of 30 dead Americans because that’s the state of our mainstream media).
Iran state media guest claims 100's killed and injured in the attack. Complete propaganda. pic.twitter.com/o6220F3RE9
— Amir Toumaj (@AmirToumaj) January 8, 2020
When the smoke finally cleared about three hours later, CENTCOM put out damage assessments: Not only no U.S. casualties, but no casualties at all.
That’s when the mere suspicion of some that this was less than it seemed started to look more and more like reality. Iran launches a handful of missiles, of which a third fail. They don’t hit anything of value except the outskirts of an air base. No one is killed, and instead of further attacks, Iran spends its time producing garbage propaganda for the U.S. networks to run with and to proclaim to its people they did something that didn’t actually happen (i.e. strike and kill Americans).
But if things still weren’t clear enough, this tweet from the Iranian foreign minister brought it all into focus.
Iran took & concluded proportionate measures in self-defense under Article 51 of UN Charter targeting base from which cowardly armed attack against our citizens & senior officials were launched.
We do not seek escalation or war, but will defend ourselves against any aggression.
— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) January 8, 2020
This can be translated as “please America, don’t respond to our pathetic operation because it was simply to let us save face with our citizens.” Iran doesn’t want a war because they know they’d lose in short order. They planned this latest attack in such a way as to not cause one because they are incredibly weak right now and only getting weaker.
Unfortunately for them, I don’t think the propaganda they are spewing about this being a massive retaliation will play very well in Iran. Most Iranians are actually largely connected to the outside world. They use things like WhatsApp and VPNs to get real information. It’s going to become fairly clear, fairly quickly that this was a failure of an attack and that the U.S. walked out the victor.
Further, this will almost certainly not give their proxies any extra confidence that Iran can actually respond to protect them in an effective manner. Iran’s regime walks away from this looking neutered, unable to take even one life in response to the #2 guy in their government being taken out.
So what should Trump’s response be? I think given what we know now, a further military response would be pointless. This was a total embarrassment for Iran and everyone knows it. The next action should instead be to ratchet up the sanctions and let the regime fall under the weight of its own failures. I believe that’s exactly what the President will choose to do.
With all that said, if Iran or a proxy kills an American in the coming days or weeks, then it’s game on.