The targeted killing of General Qasem Suleimani was a mixed blessing for the Iranian regime. It eliminated one of Iran’s most celebrated military figures, but at the same time it has strengthened Iran’s hand in the region. It is likely to play out as a net positive for Iranian hard-liners.
There is no doubt that Suleimani’s death is a body blow to the Iranian government. He was a strong military leader, responsible for spreading Iran’s influence throughout the Middle East and beyond. He was inspiring in life but will likely be even more so in death. As a martyr, he may be able to accomplish what he could not do while alive—bring an end to American influence in the Middle East.
There had been massive anti-government demonstrations across Iraq in recent months, protesting corruption, lack of jobs and, significantly, excessive Iranian influence in their country. The backlash from the assassination will likely put a damper on Iraqis speaking out against Iran’s hold on their government. This is certainly a plus for Iran.
Many Iraqis appreciated that the U.S. helped to kick the ISIS terrorists out of Iraq. But they remember that Suleimani, and the local militias he supported, were also major players in that fight. They view the killing of Suleimani as the political assassination on their soil of an ally who helped rescue Iraq from ISIS domination. The prime minister condemned the attack as “an outrageous breach of Iraqi sovereignty.”
There will be a growing cry for pulling the welcome mat out from under U.S. troops in Iraq. The Iraqi Parliament passed a resolution on January 5, calling for the removal of foreign troops from its soil. Trump responded by threatening Iraq with crushing sanctions that would “make Iranian sanctions look somewhat tame.” I’m just sure that will cause them to love us even more.
We and our NATO partners have stopped training Iraqi forces because of security concerns. Those very concerns may make it unsafe to keep U.S. forces in Iraq. The major beneficiaries of that will be Iran, ISIS and al-Qaeda. Our troops are in Iraq for the purpose of countering those entities, not to be used as targets. Our security will suffer.
The current cycle of escalation between the U.S. and Iran began with Trump’s repudiation of the nuclear agreement with Iran, even though that country was abiding by its requirements. Trump then imposed crushing economic sanctions on Iran under the illusion that it would cause the country to beg for mercy. If you read the history of this proud people, you know that was not about to happen. Rather, Iran predictably ramped up its regional misconduct to the point that something had to be done about it.
The remedy Trump chose was greatly disproportionate and will come back to bite our country in the backside. The Iranians believe that they must retaliate in a substantial manner, which will be met by substantial retaliation by the U.S. Our allies will just sit on the sidelines, chewing their fingernails and hoping the two parties don’t start a major regional conflagration.
The death of Suleimani was well deserved. He was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American service personnel during the Iraq War and for the deaths of many thousands of freedom-seeking Syrians during the on-going war in Syria. The question is not whether he deserved to die, but whether his death is part of a strategy that will make Americans safer. I fear that there is no over-all strategy and that we will end up being less safe.
We are all in for darker times because we seem to be marching to the brink of war. The President has no idea of how to deal with the situation, except to up the ante of military force against Iran and threaten our Iraqi allies if they do not go along. Prayers might be helpful at this point.