In killing Iran’s top military leader, President Trump has tossed a lighted match into the volatile Middle East and brought America closer to war.
Why did Trump take this extraordinarily dangerous step just days before he faces an impeachment trial in the Senate and just months before a presidential election in which candidates always want to appear strong on defense?
President Trump said he had to act because there was an “imminent threat” of an attack against America, its citizens and its interests.
So far neither Trump nor his loyalists have been willing to explain what that threat is and how the threat is averted by the targeted killing of Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. Soleimani has been described as a national hero in Iran and equivalent to U.S. General George S. Patton.
On behalf of an alarmed nation, we strongly condemn Trump’s decision, which has made America less safe and which is a frightening reminder of how World War I was triggered by the assassination of Austrian Archduke Ferdinand in June 1914.
We also question the legality of Trump’s action. Under the U.S. Constitution, it is the Congress – not the President — that decides when to take the country to war. And yet Trump ignored the Constitution. He did not even ask for congressional approval before gaslighting the U.S. military strike against Suleimani.
Trump has heightened world tensions by pulling out of the Iran Nuclear Deal and imposing crippling sanctions on Iran that have had the effect of strengthening Iranian resolve to resist American actions in Middle East.
The fact is that the U.S. targeted killing of Suleimani was an attack on Iran, and Iran is sure to respond. The Iranian President Hassan Rouhani tweeted Friday morning: “The great nation of Iran will take revenge for this heinous crime.”
The question is when Iran will respond and how. No one knows.
What is known is that Trump has put the world on a knife’s edge in new and more dangerous ways. More U.S. troops are enroute to the Middle East. The State Department has warned American citizens to leave Iraq immediately. U. S. embassies and bases are on high alert. Banks and other big organizations are asking technical experts for help to protect against cyberattacks.
What is also known is that Trump – who campaigned against our endless wars in the Middle East and promised to bring U.S. troops home – has done the opposite. Defense spending is higher than ever. William Hartung wrote in December: “In 2019, Pentagon spending is actually higher than it was at the peak of either the Korean or Vietnam conflicts and may soon be — adjusted for inflation — twice the Cold War average.”
Here is what one foreign policy expert wrote about the drone killing of Suleimani and four others in the early hours of January 3 as they departed the Baghdad airport in a convoy.
“The assassinations seem intended to appease neoconservative critics of President Trump as vacillating and weak in his response to Iranian ripostes to his policy of maximum pressure on Iran. They provide a welcome distraction from the pending impeachment proceedings and appeal to the bloodthirsty instincts of the president’s most ardent supporters. They prepare the way for Mike Pompeo to offset his lack of diplomatic accomplishments with a demonstration of his ruthlessness to the “conservative” voters of Kansas, where he intends to run for the Senate. In the new constitutional order in the United States, in which the separation of powers has been replaced by the separation of parties, the attack was politically expedient despite its blatant violation of the clear language of the U.S. Constitution. The attack thus represents an extrajudicial execution that marks a further departure from constitutional government and the rule of law in the United States.”
On Sunday, January 5, the Iraqi parliament passed a resolution calling on the government to expel U.S. troops from the country in response to the killing of Suleimani on Iraqi soil. Here’s why it matters, according to one expert: “The legal basis for the U.S. presence in Iraq is that it comes at Iraq’s invitation. This vote does not formally revoke that invitation, but it is a step along that path. A U.S. exit from Iraq could ultimately be one of the most consequential results of Suleimani’s killing, because it would significantly hamper the fight against ISIS and achieve a major Iranian objective.”
Americans typically think of Iran as evil because of the 1979 takeover of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran, in which 52 American diplomats and citizens were held hostage for 444 days.
Iranians typically think of the U.S. as evil because of the 1953 coup orchestrated by the CIA with help from British intelligence that resulted in the overthrow of the democratically elected prime minister Mohammad Mosaddegh after he nationalized a British oil company. With Mosaddegh gone, the CIA installed a puppet, Mohammad Reza Shah Pahlavi. The Shah was overthrown in 1979 and accused of using secret police to commit crimes against Iranian citizens. The Shah fled to the U.S. where he was granted asylum.
For more, read Robin Wright’s report in The New Yorker on January 3: “The Killing of Qassem Suleimani Is Tantamount to an Act of War.”
–Molly Sinclair McCartneyChair, WNDC Task Force on War Fever