The five-step scheme for staving off Iran’s designs on Iraq and its proxy’s bid to devour Lebanon whole, was put together in brainstorming sessions held by President Donald Trump with National Security Adviser Gen. HR McMaster, Secretary of State Rex Tillerson and CIA Director Mike Pompeo.
The five steps for Iraq, which are mirrored for Lebanon, are revealed here by DEBKA Weekly’s Washington sources:
- Tehran’s takeover of the political establishment in Baghdad will be curtailed by preparing the ground for Iraq’s parliamentary election in May. If this doesn’t work, Washington will press for the voting to be rescheduled.
- The main US objective is to thwart an alliance between the Shiite Nouri Maliki (Iraq’s prime minister in the years 2006 to 2014) and Hadi Al-Ameri, head of the Bader Brigades – the military wing of the Supreme Islamic Iraqi Council over which Iran exerts full control. Al-Ameri is a member of parliament who represents the United Iraqi Alliance of religious Shiite parties.
Washington is bent on keeping the two Iraqi Shiite politicians from joining forces and gaining a majority in parliament.
- US ambassador to Baghdad Douglas A. Silliman has been entrusted with building a new political bloc to counter Iranian influence. He will act as matchmaker for an alliance between the incumbent prime minister Haydar al-Abadi and the Shiite cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, who heads the Sadrist movement and the Mahdi Army militia. He recently won the support of the Gulf Cooperation Council led by Saudi Arabia. Other candidates for the anti-Tehran bloc are Masoud Barzani, former president of the Kurdish Republic of Iraq, and the pro-American Shiite politician Ayad Allawi, former vice president and briefly (2014-2015) transitional prime minister. The ambassador will tap additional candidates from the Sunni, Turkmen and Assyrian Christian minorities.
- Action will be taken to bloc Iranian Revolutionary Guards forces from taking control of Kirkuk and its oil fields.
- Washington will cut off financial and security assistance to Iraqi state organs, economic projects, security agencies and military bodies in which Iran has established a strong influence. Aid will be renewed when it is erased. The body mainly targeted is the Federal Police force, which leads the war on terrorism, and its divisions, which are counted as Iraq’s most able military arm. This force distinguished itself by leading the operation for liberating Mosul from the Islamic State.
DEBKA Weekly reports that similar steps are being prepared for loosening Hizballah’s iron grip on political life in Beirut, where conditions resemble the political scene in Baghdad. The Trump administration is concerned to prevent President Michel Aoun from forming a pro-Tehran political bloc with Hizballah’s leader Hassan Nasrallah for Lebanon’s next general election – for which no date has yet been set. This marriage would create the first Christian-Shiite political party ever seen in the Middle East, with the potential for winning a majority in parliament and strengthening Iran’s foothold in Beirut.
The White House is meanwhile reassessing the US military aid program for the Lebanese army. Until recently, the Trump administration believed that Lebanon’s national army was free of Hizballah domination and therefore qualified for US funding and American weaponry. But this evaluation has changed. Washington is also planning to cut off aid to government projects in Lebanon, in which Iran has a voice.