Published January 4, 2020 / Updated July 21, 2020
War is a continuation of politics by other means
On Friday the United States military, at the express direction of the President, conducted a drone strike on General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Iranian Quds Force. Here’s what you need to know.
How important was Soleimani?
It’s fair to describe Soleimani as the second most powerful man in Iran. He held the title of “General” but that doesn’t quite cover it. The man at the top of Iran’s government is Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soleimani reported directly to him and personally controlled the Iranian Quds force, which can be thought of as a hybrid between the Navy Seals and the CIA. Soleimani and the Quds force.
There’s no American analog to Soleimani but Iranians may view the attack that killed him in much the same way as Americans might a suicide bombing that killed the Secretary of Defense and the Director of National Intelligence.
Was he a threat to the United States?
Possibly. That depends a lot on who you believe. Certainly the Trump administration claims that Soleimani was personally involved in numerous operations targeting Americans and American diplomats. Of course, those operations were to be carried out in his capacity as an officer in the Iranian military. Supreme Leader Khamenei named a replacement for Soleimani within the day and the Quds Force continues operations as of this writing. Unlike a non-state terrorist organization, it’s unlikely that a decapitation strike against the Quds Force significantly hampers its ability to plan or execute operations.
What happens next?
Iran is going to retaliate for the attack. Exactly when and where that happens is unclear but it could set off an escalating chain of retaliations which lead to a general war in the region. The United States has already deployed 3,000 troops to the region in response to an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad and in anticipation of a retaliation for the strike on Soleimani.
Is this a distraction from the Impeachment?
Maybe. Maybe not. The problem here is that the President has access to information that the rest of us just don’t have. Maybe there were intercepted messages linking Soleimani to specific attacks on US targets. Maybe defectors from Iran slipped us information linking him to terror attacks around the world. Or maybe not. Maybe, when people tell you who they are, you should believe them.
The massive escalation of Trump’s ongoing feud with Iran did come mere hours after Just Security obtained a damning sequence of emails between the White House Office of Management and Budget and the Pentagon which lay out “clear direction from [the] POTUS” to hold Ukraine’s military aid.
Certainly, the longer the Impeachment story has dominated the headlines the worse things have gotten for Mr. Trump.
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