US attacks violate Iraq's sovereignty, threaten peace in Middle East
The US airstrikes on Iraq on Sunday that killed 25 people of the Kata'ib Hezbollah militia blatantly violated Iraq's sovereignty and raised tensions in the volatile Middle East region. Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul-Mahdi, who was informed by US Defense Secretary Mark Esper only a few hours ahead of the strikes, condemned the attacks. When he asked the United States to call off the bombing, the latter simply ignored him.
Besides defying international laws, the airstrikes have contradicted what the US president claimed in the United Nations in September 2017－that sovereignty should be the guiding principle of affairs between nations. It has proven to be a sheer lie.
The US said the airstrikes were in response to the rocket attack that killed a US contractor last week. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo claimed the US "has acted quickly, prudently, and decisively". The reality is that the US did act quickly but imprudently. The US airstrikes were also grossly disproportionate given the death of 25 Iraqis, not to mention the estimated 2.4 million Iraqis killed since the US invasion of Iraq in 2003.
On Tuesday, angry Iraqis protested outside the US embassy in Baghdad. They broke into the compound, throwing gasoline bombs and smashing windows, while US forces fired tear gas at the crowd.
Kata'ib Hezbollah had fought the US invading forces after 2003. But since 2014, the group, part of the Iraqi paramilitary forces, has been fighting against the Islamic State terrorist group in Iraq.
The US has blamed Iran for the embassy siege. In a tweet on Tuesday, the US president said Iran "will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat". Esper ordered the deployment of 750 US troops to the Middle East. And some reports suggest that the US might tighten economic sanctions on Iran.
Existing US sanctions are already hurting the Iranian economy. In fact, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani said on Tuesday that renewed US sanctions have cost Iran $200 billion in foreign exchange income and investment, referring to the sanctions re-imposed after the US withdrew from the multilateral Iran nuclear deal in mid-2018.
In its late October report, Human Rights Watch said the US sanctions posed a serious threat to Iranians' right to health and access to essential medicines. Like Cuba and the Democratic People's Republic of Korea, Iran has not surrendered to the US' maximum pressure.
Britain, France and Germany, three of the six signatories to the Iran nuclear deal, have opposed the renewed US sanctions. They have also devised the Instrument in Support of Trade Exchanges mechanism to help European companies bypass the US sanctions.
In late November, Belgium, Denmark, Finland, the Netherlands and Sweden said they are in the process of becoming shareholders of the instrument.
The growing tension between the US and Iran comes at a difficult time. DPRK top leader Kim Jong-un on Tuesday blamed the US for a lack of action in contrast to the measures the DPRK has taken to build confidence, including halting nuclear tests and shutting down a nuclear test facility. Kim said: "There is no ground for us to get unilaterally bound to the commitment any longer" and "the world will witness a new strategic weapon to be possessed by the DPRK in the near future."
The US has made no move to ease sanctions on the DPRK since the first summit between the leaders of the two countries in Singapore in June 2018. The US president is incapable of making such a decision given the divisive nature of US domestic politics. Perhaps the US' withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal has had a negative impact on the DPRK.
After all, who can really trust a superpower that relies excessively on its military and economic might to coerce and bully other countries into submission instead of resorting to diplomacy to resolve issues?
The author is chief of China Daily EU Bureau based in Brussels.