On January 3, 2020, President Trump ordered a drone strike that killed Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani while his convoy was en route from Bagdad International Airport. We believe this decision was correct.
Noted former CIA analyst and current congresswoman, Elissa Slotkin (D-MI):
“If you worked on the Middle East over the past 20 years you dealt with the growing organization and sophistication of Soleimani’s covert and overt military activities, which have contributed to significant destabilization across the region. What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question: Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?”
Slotkin is rightfully wary of Soleimani’s killing being a catalyst that drags the United States into yet another open-ended military conflict. The risk of a protracted, full on war is also something we take very seriously. Wars are typically started by wealthy people carrying briefcases, and fought by poor people carrying machine guns. For behind every news headline and data point(s) are human beings. Young men and women, some not old enough to legally enjoy a beer but nonetheless fighting for something they most likely know little, if anything, about. Undeniably, Trump’s strategic act of aggression increases the probability of a direct military engagement with Iran. All things considered, we feel strongly that the odds of a drawn out confrontation with Iran is quite low. The successful strike carried out with surgical precision to eliminate a dangerous foe, was worth the risk.
Qassem Soleimani’s Legacy & Why It Was Correct To Act
Gen. Qassem Soleimani was the highest ranking and commanding officer of the Quds Force, an elite division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). In January of 2011, Soleimani officially became a “Major General,” a title bestowed upon him by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khomeini, who described Soleimani as a "living martyr." That same year, Major General Soleimani was officially labeled a terrorist by the Obama administration. The following year, the European Union sanctioned Soleimani for participating in “terrorist acts.” It is a widely accepted view that Qassem Soleimani oversaw and/or at least had his hand in most major terrorist attacks throughout the Middle East.
Qassem Soleimani has been at war with America for over two decades. His actions have resulted in both casualties and the maiming of hundreds of U.S. and allied troops. As the years progressed, Soleimani and his comrades had been increasingly willing to engage both hard and soft targets. Their rational for this belligerent overconfidence: recent history had suggested that the risk of a U.S. response was almost nil. In particular, 2019 was a busy year for him. At Soleimani’s behest, Iran shot down American drones, attacked the U.S. embassy in Iraq, disrupted oil tankers in the strategically important Strait of Hormuz and launched a missile attack that destroyed key Saudi oil infrastructure.
At TQC we haven’t shied away from criticizing Donald Trump for many of his provocative shenanigans. But Trump did not create this crisis, the seeds of which were sown when he was still hosting a reality TV show, nor did he hit first, he hit back. And only after hundreds of dead troops were sent home to their parents in coffins draped with an American flag. The “luckier” victims of Soleimani’s actions did not die; they returned home with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD) minus their limbs that were blown off courtesy of the improvised explosive devices (IED) Soleimani had his underlings strategically place along key roads.
The indisputable truth is that Qassem Soleimani was a terrorist who detested the United States and all that America represents. He was responsible for over 600 American casualties, hundreds more allied deaths, and thousands of American and allied injuries that rendered some survivors disabled and disfigured. If the aforementioned offenses are not worthy of retaliation, what is?
Democrats wasted no time chiming in on Trump’s action. Most conceded that Soleimani was a terrorist and a murderer but followed up by either questioning Trump’s motive, lack of long-term strategy, or (wrongly) accusing the president of creating the Iran crisis.
Here is a sampling from the Twittersphere:
Joe Biden (D): “I have no love lost for Soleimani, but we have to know what the second and third iteration of what’s about to come.”
Rashida Tlaib (D-MI): (This was a)"reckless and dangerous attempt to start a war. The U.S cannot afford to engage in yet another tragic war with no end in sight and a rising tally of casualties.”
Barbara Lee (D-CA): “Let me be clear: Trump is responsible for this crisis. He has shunned diplomacy since Day 1, filling his cabinet with warmongers and war hawks like Pompeo.”
Nancy Pelosi (D-CA): “Members of Congress Have serious concerns about the Administration's decision to engage in hostilities against Iran and about its lack of strategy moving forward.”
Seth Moulton (D-CT): “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States with American blood on his hands. (but) This is the biggest escalation of tensions with Iran that I've seen in my lifetime, and Trump has no plan. He’s putting us in danger.”
Elizabeth Warren (D-MA): “Soleimani was a murderer, responsible for the deaths of thousands, including hundreds of Americans. But this reckless move escalates the situation with Iran and increases the likelihood of more deaths and new Middle East conflict. Our priority must be to avoid another costly war.”
The statements above are nothing but a prime example of partisan politics. Let us be clear, many members of the GOP have been equally as guilty engaging in the exact same nonsense when windows have opened for them to do so, but with respect to this serious situation, our Democratic friends are the guilty party.
Donald Trump’s administration did not label Qassem Soleimani a terrorist, Obama’s administration did, and rightfully so. A credible argument can be made that Soleimani was responsible for more deaths than Osama Bin Laden; he certainly bears greater responsibility for injuries. When Barrack Obama made the correct choice to kill Bin Laden, not one Democrat objected; on the contrary, they congratulated the outcome. This then begs the question: If Barrack Obama had ordered Soleimani killed, would the responses on the Democratic side be consistent with the ones mentioned above or would they read something analogous to “a job well done,” “mission accomplished” or “Obama is tough on terrorism.” Is the reason certain Democrats are upset because Trump was reckless or rather because Trump is Trump?
Strategic Risk & Retaliation
Iran can say what they want in an attempt to save face with their people. The reality is that the Iranian government does not have the resources nor the appetite to engage the United States in any sort of prolonged military campaign. Iran has been severely handicapped by years of economic sanctions; its citizens are exasperated and many would actually welcome a regime change. (At the time of this writing, the brief period of national unity catalyzed by Soleimani’s death has already morphed into widespread protests denouncing Iran’s leaders for lying about their role in shooting down a civilian jetliner, for their general incompetence, and demanding regime change). To be sure, if the Iranian government was half as efficient and effective in basic governance as they were taking Qassem Soleimani on a posthumous rock tour across the country, their people would be materially better off.
Consider this: Qassem Soleimani was an extremely popular figure in Iran. According to a recent survey taken by the University of Maryland, over 80% of Iranians had a “positive view” of him. The fact that Iran’s response was extremely limited in scope (a dozen or so missiles fired at non-core assets) and purposely avoided strategic U.S. military targets, is very strong evidence that Iran’s leaders are not interested in a confrontation. Following Iran’s response, Reuters reported that Iran “deliberately sought to avoid U.S. military casualties.”
The international community is also pressuring Iran to stand down. NATO Secretary-General Jens Stoltenberg said:
“We are united in condemning Iran’s support of a variety of different terrorist groups…A new conflict would be in no one’s interest. So Iran must refrain from further violence and provocations.”
Taken together, we believe that any further Iranian responses will be sporadic, ineffective in achieving any long-term military goal and mainly for optics.
No Donald, You Can’t Do That
In typical fashion, President Trump wasted no time exhibiting his innate ability to quickly tarnish a successful operation. Following Soleimani’s death, Trump warned Iran that he could follow up and target Iranian cultural sights. He 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.”
Apparently, Trump was either unaware or did not care that targeting a nation’s cultural sights would be in direct violation of international law and would constitute a war crime. The Pentagon immediately downplayed Trump's tweet. Even hawkish Secretary of State Mike Pompeo rebuked the President and stated that: “We will act within the system. We always have and we always will.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper seconded this by reassuring Americans and the international community that the United States would “follow the laws of armed conflict.”
Trump’s snafu is a microcosm of an important character flaw; even when he accomplishes something positive and or does the “right thing,” he often dilutes his own achievement with stupid, off the cuff remarks that divert the public’s attention away from his action and onto his words.
Rose McGowan & Colin Kaepernick
Following Soleimani’s death, actress Rose McGowan tweeted, “Dear #Iran, The USA has disrespected your country, your flag, your people. 52% of us humbly apologize. We want peace with your nation. We are being held hostage by a terrorist regime. We do not know how to escape. Please do not kill us.”
Former NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick tweeted: “There is nothing new about American terrorist attacks against Black and Brown people for the expansion of American imperialism. America has always sanctioned and besieged Black and Brown bodies both at home and abroad. America militarism is the weapon wielded by American imperialism, to enforce its policing and plundering of the nonwhite world.”
We respect, both Ms. McGowan and Mr. Kaepernick have a right to their respective opinions. Additionally, we credit Rose McGowan for being one of the only women with the courage to call out Harvey Weinstein – who’s trial for sex crimes is currently ongoing – years before the #MeToo movement; kudos to her for that.
But Ms. McGowan’s tweet apologizing to Iran was partisan, ignorant and quite frankly an embarrassment. In addition to apologizing for a drone strike that killed a terrorist, she argued that 52% of Americans share similar views. She was alluding to the ~52% of the population who voted for Hillary Clinton. So let’s get this straight: just because somebody voted for a candidate who lost, means they are so unmalleable that they would automatically renounce any action taken by the candidate that won? Ms. McGowan’s tweet is an example of the type of close-mindedness she claims to reject.
As for Mr. Kaepernick, we completely agree with his premise that America once openly discriminated and treated its black and brown citizens terribly, the ramifications of which are certainly still being felt today. But to equate a targeted assassination of the world’s leading war criminal to America’s reprehensible history with regard to minorities, is utterly absurd. Furthermore, consider this: Mr. Kaepernick, a human rights advocate, criticizes a country where he was able to earn millions of dollars for throwing a football, a country where his protests are protected under the rule of law - for killing one of the most notable murderers and human rights offenders whose regime openly oppresses its own people.
We wrote in our February 24th, 2019 issue, Where We Think Trump Is Right, that “Donald Trump has denigrated the office of the president and further polluted the very swamp he promised to clean up; an impressive feat given the long lineage of ethically challenged men and women who have served in both chambers of congress.” We stand by that statement. We also wrote that “with regard to policy and politics, just because we might object to a person in general, does not mean that certain polices he or she champions are not ones we agree with.”
Trump’s decision to order a Precision strike that left one of the world’s most renowned terrorists dead with no collateral damage or civilian casualties, should be applauded.