This morning, news broke that on orders from President Donald Trump, the United States launched an attack killing a high-level Iranian general, Qassem Soleimani.
The strike followed recent attacks on the U.S. embassy in Iraq, which is being driven by pro-Iranian forces. The U.S. has accused Iran of orchestrating those attacks, and Soleimani of planning further attacks on U.S. diplomats and forces. Soleimani was the head of Iran’s elite special operations group, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Quds Force.
In ordering the strike, President Trump took clear and decisive action. But was it the appropriate response to attacks on the U.S. embassy which, to date, has not resulted in the loss of any American lives?
That is the big question on the minds of the world right now. The Middle East is a powder keg, and some fear that killing General Soleimani is an escalation that could lead to war. Democratic presidential candidates resoundingly condemned General Soleimani’s record of atrocities, but also uniformly condemned the attack as an unnecessary and disproportionate response to the attacks on the U.S. embassy.
My statement on the killing of Qassem Soleimani. pic.twitter.com/4Q9tlLAYFB— Joe Biden (@JoeBiden) January 3, 2020
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.— Elizabeth Warren (@ewarren) January 3, 2020
Trump's dangerous escalation brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars.— Bernie Sanders (@BernieSanders) January 3, 2020
Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one.
Here is my take. Iran has been sowing discord in the Middle East for years. And more recently, has escalated their efforts by attacking Saudi oil fields for example. The steady drumbeat of Iranian actions against U.S. interests and those of our allies does provide justification for an escalated retaliation triggered by the U.S. embassy attacks.
But killing the head of Iran’s special forces is a MAJOR escalation. One that in my view is disproportionate and dangerous.
What do you think would happen if we woke up tomorrow morning to find out that Iran has killed the head of the Navy SEALs in a targeted drone strike? You can bet that such an action would unleash the full fury of the U.S. military, with the support of the nation.
That is what Iran is now planning. They have vowed to unleash “jihad” on America.
While Iran is unlikely to take direct military action against the U.S.—a battle they know they cannot win—they are likely to unleash a torrent of proxy attacks. Iran has proxy thugs throughout the world that can sow discord and chaos through unconventional military means.
All friends—& enemies—know that Jihad of Resistance will continue with more motivation & definite victory awaits the fighters on this blessed path. The loss of our dear General is bitter. The continuing fight & ultimate victory will be more bitter for the murderers & criminals./4— Khamenei.ir (@khamenei_ir) January 3, 2020
Iran’s immediate response is not what concerns me. Why concerns me is how does a tit for tat escalation stop short of war with President Trump in the Oval Office?
Trump’s disposition will be on full display here. It is no secret that he is an insecure ego maniac. You can agree or disagree with his policies, but that much is a universal truth. My great worry is that Trump will view this contest with Iran as a test of his personal machismo and take any affront to his aggressiveness as a challenge that must be met at all costs. That is how he loves his life, and how he governs. That is not how you avoid a war.
On the flip side, Iran is very strategic. They do not want a war with the U.S. Their influence in the Middle East is growing, and there is no logic to taking the suicidal step of war with the U.S. So it is possible that Iran, in a twist of fate, could be the one to de-escalate the conflict.
Make no mistake, Iran is a state sponsor of terror, an enemy of the United States, and a menace to Middle East peace. They should be met with harshness when appropriate.
As a matter of foreign policy, our decisions must be made with the best interest of U.S. citizens in mind. The most solemn duty of a president is to keep the nation safe. When our backs are against the wall, that includes all actions at our disposal.
In this case, I fear that President Trump May have unnecessarily started a conflict that he is incapable of stopping. And one that threatens the safety of the United States.