Events continue to escalate since a US airstrike in Baghdad killed Iranian general Qasem Soleimani. It is hard to sort fact from fiction at the moment in the fast and furious debate swirling through Washington, Iraq, Iran and the mainstream media, but let’s give it a try.
In an interview with Chris Wallace on his Sunday Fox News program, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo provided some clarity on the president’s strategy going forward. In a nutshell, it’s to show Iran that there will be consequences if they harm Americans.
Why the urgency to take out Soleimani now?
Iran has been provoking the US for a while now, attacking our drones and attacking ships, but this time President Trump drew a line in the sand, saying that the US would not tolerate the death of another American. An American contractor was killed just a little over a week ago in Iraq in an Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia attack. Then the US embassy in Baghdad was attacked by Iranian-backed Shi’ite militia. As a result the US took out the mastermind, Soleimani, that was behind those attacks.
Many on the left are accusing the president of using the Soleimani killing to distract from impeachment. Wallace asked Pompeo why the US needed to take out Soleimani now. Pompeo responded that the risks associated with inaction on the part of the US were greater than the risks of acting.
Wallace also asked if the American people should have access to all the information in the briefings, but Pompeo pointed out that some intelligence cannot be shared publicly as it would jeopardize further intelligence gathering which will be needed going forward.
Democrats argue that Trump had no authority
Nancy Pelosi has accused the Trump administration of acting without authority, but the administration maintains that their authority derives from the AUMF (authorization to use military force) Congress approved back in 2002. They also delivered a formal notification about the airstrike on Soleimani on Saturday, January 4th, as required by the War Powers Act. That act states that notification has to be delivered within 48 hours of the action.
Democrats accuse Trump of starting a war with Iran
Pelosi also accuses the president of starting a war with Iran, but Soleimani was killed in Iraq, where he had been banned by the UN. The killing of Soleimani was not an act of war, it was the death of a terrorist, one who had killed many Americans, Iraqis, and others. Senator Marco Rubio addressed this argument.
1. Soleimani wasn’t “assasinated”,he was killed on the battlefield during active operations.
2. He was in #Iraq in violation of a 2007 UN Security Council travel ban
3. He spent the last few days coordinating imminent attacks against American citizens,allies & interests 1/2
— Marco Rubio (@marcorubio) January 3, 2020
General David Petraeus: Soleimani killing more significant that Bin Laden and Baghdadi
General David Petraeus, commanding general of the MNF (multi-national forces) in Iraq from 2007-2008, said the death of Soleimani was more important than Bin Laden or Baghdadi. In an interview with Foreign Affairs, Petraeus said that the killing of Soleimani is a strong message that the US will respond to the aggressive tactics of Iran and the killing of Americans.
David Petraeus: It is impossible to overstate the importance of this particular action. It is more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden or even the death of [Islamic State leader Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi. Suleimani was the architect and operational commander of the Iranian effort to solidify control of the so-called Shia crescent, stretching from Iran to Iraq through Syria into southern Lebanon. He is responsible for providing explosives, projectiles, and arms and other munitions that killed well over 600 American soldiers and many more of our coalition and Iraqi partners just in Iraq, as well as in many other countries such as Syria. So his death is of enormous significance.
Iran is divided
In November, Iranians protested their government. International sanctions and military spending have kept the Iranian people poor and they rose up to protest. The government responded with a brutal crackdown, killing many, and imprisoning thousands. They shut down the internet for days to try to prevent news from getting out and made sharing video of the unrest a criminal offense. Nonetheless, video has trickled out.
According to the BBC, “The Islamic Revolution Guard Corps (IRGC) has spent billions of dollars arming, training and paying militias in the region, saying that if the force does not fight Iran’s enemies beyond its borders then it will have to face them on the streets of Tehran.”
In Mariwan, a small Kurdish border town in Iran at least ten people killed in anti-Government protests. The city looks like war zone. #iranprotest #kurdistan #bbcpersian #bbcnews pic.twitter.com/V7L3jZ5zt3
— Jiyar Gol (@jiyargol) November 20, 2019
Iraq is divided along religious lines
What is happening in Iraq and in the Middle East is basically a religious war of Shi’ites against Sunnis. The Shi’ites are in charge of Iran and almost control Iraq now. But Sunnis may by fighting back.
There is evidence Iraq is anything but united and that many Iraqis want Iranian influence out of their country. In October and November 2019, Iraqis attacked the Iran consulate twice in Karbala and set it on fire. They also tore down the Iranian flag and replaced it with the Iraqi flag. Iran sent Qasem Soleimani to advise on how to handle the protests in Iraq, and 250 people were killed during the protests.
Part of Iraqi Parliament votes to remove all foreign troops from Iraq
On Sunday, the Iraqi Parliament voted to remove foreign troops from Iraq. The vote was one-sided, all Shi’ite lawmakers. The Sunni and Kurdish lawmakers boycotted the vote. They are concerned that an Iran-led insurgency is the likely alternative in the absence of coalition forces.
According to the Jerusalem Post, “One Sunni member of parliament told Reuters that both groups feared that kicking out U.S.-led coalition forces would leave Iraq vulnerable to an insurgency, undermine security and heighten the power of Iranian-backed Shi’ite militias.
Indeed, knowing the power and influence that Iran wields in the region, Iraq could easily become a vassal state in a growing Iranian empire.
Pompeo placed the blame for Iranian aggression and endless war squarely on Obama
President Trump has talked a lot about getting the US military out of the Middle East and has said someone else needs to fight over it.
Wallace asked Pompeo if we were getting out of the Middle East or stepping back in? Pompeo stated, “Endless wars are the direct result of weakness.”
“The Obama administration created enormous risk to the American people in Iran, this administration is working to reduce that risk.”
Wallace asked Pompeo if impeachment has emboldened our enemies, to which Pompeo responded, “You should ask Mr. Soleimani.”