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Iraqis have a well-honed instinct about approaching danger which stems from their grim experience during 40 years of crisis and war. Three months ago, I asked a friend in Baghdad how she and her friends viewed the future, adding Iraq seemed to me to be more peaceful than at any time since the US and British invaded in 2003.


She replied that the general mood among people she knew was gloomy because they believed that the next war between the US and Iran might be fought out in Iraq. She said: “Many of my friends are so nervous about a US-Iran war that they are using their severance pay on leaving government service to buy houses in Turkey.” She was thinking of doing the same thing.


My Iraqi friends turned out to have been all too right in their depressing prognosis: the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani by a US drone at Baghdad airport is an act of escalation by President Donald Trump that ensures that Iraq faces a violent future. It may not lead to a full-scale military conflict, but Iraq will be the political and military arena where the US-Iranian rivalry will be fought out. The Iranians and their Iraqi allies may or may not carry out some immediate retaliatory act against the US, but their most important counter-stroke will be to pressure the Iraqi government, parliament and security forces into pushing the US entirely out of Iraq.


I was speaking to my pessimistic friend in Baghdad in late September in what turned out to be the last peaceable days before violence returned to Iraq. I interviewed a number of paramilitary commanders from the Hashd al-Shaabi, the popular mobilisation forces, who all claimed that the US and Israel were escalating attacks on them inside the country. I wondered how much of this was paranoia.

9月下旬,我在巴格达对我悲观的朋友说,这是暴力重返伊拉克前最后一个和平的日子。我采访了一些来自哈什德沙比(Hashd al-Shaabi)的准军事指挥官,他们都声称因为美国和以色列不断升级对他们的攻击。我想知道这有多偏执。

I spoke to Abu Alaa al-Walai, the leader of Kata’ib Sayyid al Shuhada, a splinter group of Kata’ib Hezbollah, one of whose camps had been destroyed by a drone attack in August. He said that 50 tonnes of weapons and ammunition had been blown up, blaming the Israelis and the Americans acting in concert. Asked if his men would attack US forces in Iraq in the event of a US-Iran war, he said: “Absolutely yes.” Later I visited the camp, called al-Saqr, on the outskirts of Baghdad where a massive explosion had gutted sheds and littered the burned-out compound with shattered pieces of equipment.

caipiao.xunlei.com_【官方首页】-迅雷彩票我采访了卡塔伊布·赛义德·舒哈达(Kata''ib Sayyid al-Shuhada)的领导人阿布·阿拉·瓦莱(Abu al a a al-Walai),这是卡塔伊布真主党的一个分裂组织,8月份的一次无人机袭击摧毁了其中一个营地。他说,50吨武器弹药被炸毁,归咎于以色列和美国的一致行动。当被问及他的手下是否会在美伊战争中袭击驻伊美军时,他说:“绝对会的。”后来我访问了巴格达郊区的一个名为al-Saqr的营地,那里刚发生了大规模爆炸,棚屋被炸毁,烧毁的院落里散落着破碎的设备碎片。

I saw other pro-Iranian paramilitary leaders at this time. The drone attacks had made them edgy, but I got the impression that they did not really expect a US-Iran war. Qais al-Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al-Haq, told me that he did not think there would be a war “because Trump does not want one.” As evidence of this, he pointed to the failure of Trump to retaliate after the drone attack on Saudi oil facilities earlier in September that Washington had been blamed on Iran.

当时我看到了其他亲伊朗的准军事领导人。无人驾驶飞机的袭击使他们变得紧张,但我得到的印象是,他们并没有真正预料到美伊战争。Asaib Ahl al-Haq的负责人卡伊斯·哈扎利(Qais al-Khazali)告诉我,他认为不会有战争,“因为特朗普不想要战争”。作为这一点的证据,他指出,在9月早些时候无人驾驶飞机袭击沙特石油设施,华盛顿指责是伊朗的责任之后,特朗普没有进行报复。

Wars are reputedly won by generals who make the least mistakes. General Soleimani made a bad mistake over the last three months by turning a modest protest into something close to a mass uprising. Trump may have made an even worse mistake by killing General Soleimani and making Iraq, a place where Iran has far more going for it than the US, the arena in which the rivalry between these two powers will be fought out. I can see now that my friend in Baghdad may well have been right three months ago in suggesting that retirement to Turkey might be the safest option.