United States officials told The Wall Street Journal on Thursday that it had intercepted correspondence between Iran and Shiite militias in Iraq, indicating that both groups were planning responses should the U.S. take military action in Syria. The fear of Iraqi militia attacking the American embassy or other interests in Baghdad is just one of the various locations of threats to American interests. Officials are also wary of a showdown with Iranian watercraft in the Persian Gulf, as well as the potential for Hezbollah to attack the embassy in Beirut.
The escalating tensions against Syria have provoked responses throughout the region, including threatened retaliation against Israel should the United States take action and causing a substantial spike in terrorist activity in Iraq:
Israel has so far been the focus of concerns about retaliation from Iran and its Lebanese militant ally Hezbollah. The commander-in-chief of Iran's elite Revolutionary Guard Corps said last week that an attack on Syria would lead to the "destruction of Israel."
The State Department issued a new alert on Thursday warning against nonessential travel to Iraq and citing terrorist activity "at levels unseen since 2008." Earlier this year, an alert said that violence against Americans had decreased. That reassurance was dropped from the most recent alert.
The New York Times has run a report on the pro-Assad Shiites in Iraq that nicely complements the Journal's, providing insight into how the Syria situation closely echoes past US action in the Middle East and why that will most likely spurn anti-American sentiment. The possibility of air strikes in Syria recall less of Operation Shock & Awe, and more of the types of action that took place in the latter half of the Clinton administration.
The sort of limited strikes against Mr. Assad that President Obama has proposed remind many Iraqis not of the 2003 invasion but of the intermittent strikes against Saddam Hussein’s government in the late 1990s. Many Iraqis remember those strikes, undertaken by the Clinton administration, as having little effect on Mr. Hussein’s brutality and only adding to the misery of the population.
“In Iraq, we lived the experience of the international sanctions and the disciplining of the former dictatorial regime by missile strikes, from time to time, against the facilities and infrastructure of the Iraqi state,” wrote Fakri Karim, editor of the newspaper Al Mada, this week.
Those strikes, he said, resulted in only “more misery and impoverishment, and the disintegration of the social fabric.” He added, “What the regime won was more indulging in the humiliation of citizens, and the starving and flattening of their aspirations.”
Adding to the daisy chain of consequences The Wall Street Journal's report is the possibility of military action against turkey and Jordan, who U.S. officials believe are not adequately defended. Jordan is also concerned that military action will cause an overwhelming influx of refugees.