I’ve written before about the cost of an Airborne brigade for the US Army. On the 31st of December 2019 the call went out to activate and deploy the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division to Iraq and Kuwait in response to threats to US embassies in the region. The last time a call up of that size happened was 1982, and the planes turned around as the strategic threat of thousands of pissed off paratroopers landing in a country achieved the political endstate without putting boots on the ground.
This time, however, no combat parachuting was involved in getting into Iraq. Normal deployment via aircraft landing as they should at forward bases happened in the normal sense. However, now the CENTCOM Commander has an Airborne capable reserve training hard in Kuwait that can respond to a crisis as needed, and generally faster than other formations. However, the same calculus applies, once you commit Paratroopers by mass tactical drop, you are irrevocably committed to the fight. It’s hard to play “just the tip” with the one way trip that parachutes offer.
Right now the situation has calmed somewhat, Iraqi and Iranian politics are still fractious and stuck on stupid. Nothing in the middle east happens quickly at the political or strategic level (even the Iranian revolution took years and months to come to fruition).
Lesson learned? The “Arab Spring” didn’t bring Democracy to the Middle East, and President Obama and SecState Clinton were fools for supporting the “moderate muslims” who all died to be replaced by ISIS or Daesch. The only things Muslims hate more than having infidels on their land is losing a war, which is the only reason why they tolerate having infidels on their land. Now that the immediate threat of ISIS/Daesch is muted, the distrust for the infidel comes to the forefront of politics again, although this time there are some interesting trends.
Iraqi youth are largely pro western and pro American in their outlook. They’ve seen America leave their country, saw things get worse as a consequence, saw America return on invitation, and saw things get better as a consequence. This is strategically a good thing for the west, as Iraqi youth will grow into the largest political body in the future and may counter some of the Iranian influence.
The Iranian missile strike, which caused a lot of traumatic brain injuries (TBIs or concussions) was probably intended to be lethal and it is likely Iranian leadership is disappointed that American troops are leaving for hospital care rather than funeral homes. The 22 missiles each carried a significant warhead, and served as a reminder that Iran has plenty of them to launch should they decide that open warfare against the U.S. is in their best interest. That would be a poor decision for them, frankly.
Syria is still a straight mess. Turkey and Russia are making a hash of things still, but it seems both countries are using Syria as a testing ground for troops, tactics, and new equipment. This may or may not signal a rift between Turkey and NATO or Turkey and Russia, but it is clear that Turkey wants more say in regional affairs.