Iranian Parliament Declares US Troops “Terrorists” as Tensions Dial Up

Photo: Iranian Parliament votes to designate US military as “terrorists” 

By Mike Talavera

Iran’s Islamic Consultative Assembly passed a measure today which labels the US military as “terrorists” in response to the US assassination of Iranian military leader Qasem Soleimani last week. The move follows a series of rapid developments in the region over the past few days, holding the gaze of an anxious world as US imperialism appears to creep towards committing to broader military action against Iran.

The bill passed by Iran’s main legislative body amends its previous designation of US Central Command as a “terrorist organization” made last April, a rebuttal to the White House’s blacklisting of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) as a “foreign terrorist organization.” Soleimani had been the leader of the IRGC’s elite Quds Force, responsible for Iran’s operations in the Middle East and beyond, before he was killed in a drone strike at the Baghdad International Airport in Iraq last Thursday.

The Council of Representatives of Iraq did not go as far in calling the US military “terrorists,” but it did approve a non-binding resolution on Sunday initiating the process to expel all foreign military personnel, including the roughly 50,000 US troops currently stationed there. This came just after the US deployed several thousand more in the wake of Soleimani’s assassination, sending 3,500 paratroopers, 2,300 marines, and others to reinforce several US military bases in Iraq. Since the resolution, Germany has already begun withdrawing troops from Iraq, making it the first coalition member to do so.

The US response to this parliamentary step caused widespread confusion Monday, as a draft letter penned by Marine Corps Brigadier General William H. Seely III was leaked giving the impression that the US would honor the Iraqi government’s request out of respect for its “national sovereignty.” Secretary of Defense Mark Esper and Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff General Mark Milley hurried to shut down the rumors that the US was leaving.

“[That part of the letter was] poorly worded, implies withdrawal,” Milley said. “That is not what’s happening.”

Far from decreasing its presence, the US has ramped up security, both abroad and at home. Aside from additional precautions being taken at domestic US bases, the US has also detained dozens of Iranian-Americans at the US-Canada border and blocked Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif from addressing a United Nations meeting scheduled for this week.

Overnight on Monday, US military personnel and missile-defense batteries across the Middle East were put on high alert as reports of an “imminent threat” of Iranian drone strikes circulated through US intelligence. Reports also indicate that Iran has been moving drones and ballistic missiles over the past several days, however it is still unclear whether this is to protect the equipment from US strikes or to move them into offensive positions.

Hossein Dehghan, military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, elaborated on Khamenei’s previous promise of “severe revenge” for Soleimani’s death this week. “It might be argued that there could be proxy operations. We can say America, Mr. Trump, has taken action directly against us — so we take direct action against America.”

Hossein Dehghan, military adviser to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei

On Saturday, US President Donald Trump tweeted “We have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD.”

Dehghan responded to Trump’s threat in an interview, stating “If he says 52 we say 300, and they are accessible to us.” “No American military staff, no American political center, no American military base, no American vessel will be safe,” he continued.

Dehghan went on to point out that Trump’s threat to destroy cultural sites, which Pentagon officials like Esper have since attempted to walk back, is a violation of international law and referred to Trump as a “veritable gangster and a gambler.”

While Trump and his supporters have been quick to gloat about the success of the Soleimani assassination, his successor is already in place, and according to Dehghan “The person who has replaced him has been cooperating with him for two decades. He has the same manner and method.”