Last Thursday night, news broke that President Trump ordered a drone strike on an airport in Baghdad that killed a high-ranking Iranian Military official named Qasem Soleimani.
You have probably seen Soleimani’s picture once or twice in past news stories. He looks like a Bond villain, or a prototypical Hollywood Middle Eastern Bad Guy.
Soleimani is–was–the commander of the Quds Force, described on Wikipedia as “a unit in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards (IRGC) directed to carry out unconventional warfare and intelligence activities. Responsible for extraterritorial operations, the Quds Force supports non-state actors in many countries, including Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Yemeni Houthis, and Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.”
Interestingly, “al-Quds” is the Arabic word for Jerusalem, so “Quds Force” actually means “Jerusalem Force,” as in dedicated to the liberation of Jerusalem. He was most certainly at or near the top of Israel’s enemies list.
Solemani was basically Iran’s equivalent of the Director of the CIA–establishing, funding, arming, supporting and even directing foreign paramilitary groups to advance Iran’s interests. So it’s a very big deal that we assassinated him. For those saying that this was somehow not an act of war, imagine if Iran assassinated our CIA Director. Would that be an act of war? Of course it would be. But more on this in a bit.
Soleimani, while accurately described as an enemy of the United States, is different from Bin Laden and Al Baghdadi in that he was an actual government official, and not the leader of a rouge terror group or “non-state group.” That’s what makes this different from the others.
That said, just because he was a legitimate state official does not mean he shouldn’t be categorized as a “terrorist,” or at the very least a terror orchestrator. What do you think “unconventional warfare” means?
Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of many of Americans in Iraq, at least according to former US General Stanley McChrystal, via a New Yorker piece from 2013:
“Suleimani took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. . .
In 2004, the Quds Force began flooding Iraq with lethal roadside bombs that the Americans referred to as E.F.P.s, for “explosively formed projectiles.” The E.F.P.s, which fire a molten copper slug able to penetrate armor, began to wreak havoc on American troops, accounting for nearly twenty per cent of combat deaths. E.F.P.s could be made only by skilled technicians, and they were often triggered by sophisticated motion sensors. “There was zero question where they were coming from,” General Stanley McChrystal, who at the time was the head of the Joint Special Operations Command, told me. “We knew where all the factories were in Iran. The E.F.P.s killed hundreds of Americans.”
However, others claim Soleimani was the man behind the eradication of ISIS, and that we just killed a guy who had actually done a lot of our dirty work for us–even though our invasion of Iraq is what led to the creation of ISIS in the first place.
And that last part–American involvement in the Middle East being the root of all this–is the rub, isn’t it? After all, had we never invaded Iraq under false pretenses, “hundreds of Americans” wouldn’t have been killed by Iranian-made explosives in the first place.
It is not as if Soleimani sought out a fight with America. He hasn’t killed Americans on American soil. He became our enemy because we were meddling in his backyard.
My best guess as to Trump’s motives here is that it was a combination of pressure from his Beltway Neocon advisers and his own desire to project American strength. We’ll focus more on that latter part first.
Trump has a long and documented history–as a public figure, as a Presidential candidate, and as President–of opposing the Endless, Pointless Wars In the Middle East Beltway Foreign Policy Consensus. But he also wants to make it clear that nobody fucks with the United States and gets away with it.
For years Trump has been saying nobody respects the United States anymore and that Obama was a weak president. It’s no secret that Trump has made it a point to reassert American strength globally and remind everyone that the USA is the alpha nation. Snuffing out a major player like Soleimani is a highly audacious move by Trump that sends a message not just to Iran but to other nations in the world with designs on supplanting America as the top dog–China, Russia–as well as nations that give us a hard time–North Korea, Iran itself.
It’s a very clear statement: this is what happens when you fuck with America, so do not fuck with us.
At first I figured the Soleimani hit was an effort to promote the “Madman Perception,” as taken from the “Madman Theory” adopted by the US during the Nixon administration:
“The madman theory is a political theory commonly associated with U.S. President Richard Nixon’s foreign policy. He and his administration tried to make the leaders of hostile Communist Bloc nations think Nixon was irrational and volatile. According to the theory, those leaders would then avoid provoking the United States, fearing an unpredictable American response.”
But this goes well beyond that. The Madman Theory cultivated the perception that Nixon was a loose cannon that might decide to do something drastic if pushed. In other words, “Don’t even try.” It was about deterrence–a bluff, really.
Nixon merely promoted the belief that he might do something audacious and shocking, Trump, however, actually did something audacious and shocking. No bluff.
In Nixon’s days, the US could bluff because the US was still universally feared and respected. But some 50 years hence, we cannot bluff so easily. America’s words alone could not strike fear into the hearts of our enemies around the world.
So Trump let his actions speak for him, and for America. He went and did it.
I am opposed to the idea of the Forever War. I think we should get out of the Middle East and never return. Let them sort out their own affairs and hopefully, one day, we can just leave each other alone for good.
I certainly do not want war with Iran, or any other country for that matter. In my view the true enemy of all that is good and pure is here at home, for instance:
Uniparty Globalists have done far more direct harm to America than the Iranians could ever dream of. But this is a whole ‘nother can of worms to get into, and I’d prefer to stay on topic here.
So while I’m obviously strongly opposed to yet another pointless war in the Middle East in which young American men will be sent do die on sand dunes in a country that poses no direct threat to our safety, I also realize Great Power Politics is messy business.
When you are the Apex State like the U.S., you have to keep your enemies in check. You have to periodically remind them what happens when they step out of line. From time to time, you have to show them Who’s The Boss, just in case they forget.
There’s a scene in the Sopranos Season 6A (second-to-last season) where Tony, the boss of the family, has recently recovered from surgery and awoken from a long coma in which he was very near death. He begins to worry that perhaps his guys don’t fear him anymore, and that they view him as vulnerable. So one day, while all the guys are together shooting the shit, and seemingly for no reason at all, Tony picks a fight with his new bodyguard Perry Annunziata, a younger bodybuilder-type who is clearly the toughest-looking guy in the room. It takes a lot out of him, but Tony wins, and all the guys look on in a sort of bewildered unease. The message was clear: Tony Soprano is still the boss. Don’t any of youse get any fucking ideas. Capish?
You have to reestablish dominance every so often. When the crown starts to slip, you have to remind everyone who is in charge, or else you won’t have the crown for long.
Most people don’t have the stomach for this type of thing. Most of us are not prepared to kill to assert dominance, and that’s a good thing, because otherwise this world would be a much more violent place than it is already.
This is not unique to America. Every great power in history has had to do things like this. Running an empire is unavoidably a violent and messy business, and it takes rough men who are willing and able to carry out acts of violence, when it is necessary, to effectively maintain the status of great power nations.
No matter how much they try to pretend otherwise, with their tailored suits and speeches filled diplomatic jargon, and their “international forums” and “summits,” all great leaders of nations since the dawn of human civilization have been killers.
I say all this because I want to make it clear that while acts of violence like this may not seem acceptable to us civilians, we must understand that there are instances where violence is necessary.
This is why most people cannot lead nations. Most people–thankfully–are not killers. But never forget: we only enjoy lives of luxury and peace because the men in charge of our country are killers who are feared by those who wish us harm.
Weakness and passivity lead to war just as often as belligerence and aggression do. In fact those polar opposites are often the main ingredients in war, as perceived relative weakness in one nation will naturally invite bellicosity and aggression by others.
Whether the assassination of Soleimani was one of those instances of necessary violence is of course up for debate. But sometimes, in the the Great Game of foreign policy, you have to kill your enemies. There’s no way around it. This is why the unbending pacifists are almost equally as dangerous to American national security as the bloodthirsty neocons.
Still, the idea of assassinating a foreign power’s high-ranking military official just does not sit well with me. That was my initial gut reaction to hearing this news. For some the first thought that crossed their heads may have been “Hell yeah! We got him!” I did not react that way, personally.
It’s no secret that he Beltway Neocons have been agitating for war with Iran for some time now. Isn’t it curious that somehow, anytime Trump gets us closer to pulling out of the Middle East, something happens to pull us back in? The recent (and likely CIA-orchestrated) US Embassy riot in Baghdad was said to be the work of Iran, specifically Soleimani’s Quds Force operatives.
Attacking Iran like this plays into the Neocons’ hands. They’ve been itching to go to war with Iran for 20 years now. George W. Bush included Iran in his infamous “Axis of Evil” speech. A sizable contingent of the Permanent National Security Apparatus has wanted to take down Iran for two-decades plus now. All the other names on their Regime Change Wish List have basically already been checked off by now (other than North Korea): Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Syria.
I trust Trump’s judgement. I do not trust the hardcore Neocons who have infiltrated his White House and administration. I do not trust the Pentagon. I would not for a second put past them the idea of feeding the President false or misleading intel in order to guide him toward the neocons’ preferred goals. It is heartening to hear of the many times in the past when Trump has overruled his warmongering advisers–especially that bit about how he wanted to hear from the soldiers themselves about how the war in Afghanistan was going themselves rather than the generals–so he does deserve some leeway here. We should give him credit especially for when he resisted the calls for full-blown war in Syria over a supposed Assad chemical weapons massacre that we now know was totally fabricated for the express purpose of ensnaring America in another war.
But still: if we end up going to war with Iran, it will not only be a devastating and costly slog that will likely last over a decade (if our previous Middle Eastern wars are any indication), but it will be one of the final nails in the coffin of American democracy.
Trump going to war with Iran would prove it beyond a reasonable doubt: the American people have no say in foreign policy. Both parties will deliver Forever War whether you like it or not. If even the great populist outsider Trump can succumb to the will of the Neocon Foreign Policy Establishment, then who can actually overcome them?
At the end of the day, I seriously doubt this Soleimani assassination will lead to a war between the US and Iran, primarily because Iran does not want a war with America. Plus, Trump knows he will lose in 2020 if he starts a war–which the American public has zero appetite for–with yet another country that does not pose a direct threat to our safety.
Normie Social Media is abuzz over the prospect of “World War III,” but this, to me, is a ridiculous notion–not because I doubt Iran would be able to muster a network of allies anywhere close to the one that would confront them in such a conflict, but because Iran would be foolish to even retaliate against us. Iran’s government would be decimated in short order, and the Iranian government is fully aware of this fact.
In other words, no shit this was an act of war. We brazenly murdered one of Iran’s most important military leaders.
But what can Iran actually do about it? I’d argue that an “act of war” is not the same thing as starting a war. Because if the other side has neither the ability nor the will to engage in a war with you, your “acts of war” will not lead to war.
But we can’t keep doing this. Eventually a cornered animal will attack you, whether it has any shot of winning or not.
And even if, as I expect, nothing comes of this, and it does not lead to war with Iran, was this really necessary? Did Soleimani genuinely pose a threat to American lives here? Does this make Americans safer? I really don’t buy it. In my view, all it does is further alienate us from Iran, one of the most powerful countries in the Middle East. It only gives them further reason to hate us.
I simply don’t buy the narrative that everyday Iranians are actually happy we killed Soleimani and that most Iranians hate the ruling regime in their country. Neocons can cherry-pick jubilant testimonials from Iranians as supposed proof that what we did to Soleimani has actually gone over well with the Iranian masses, but I don’t believe it. America was already unpopular in Iran before the Soleimani strike. Now we’re even less popular in Iran. It’s not just the Iranian regime that despises America; I’m willing to bet a sizable majority of Iranian people do, too. And it’s mostly our fault.
It’s obviously bad and unacceptable that Soleimani was said to be responsible for the deaths of many Americans, but those Americans should never have been in the Middle East in the first place. We need to pull out of there for good.
The longer we stay over there, the more enemies we make, the more we will find ourselves in situations like this: going after some Middle Eastern “terror leader” for the crime of killing Americans who should never have been over there in the first place.