According to numerous news reports, President Trump was provided several options by the intelligence community with respect to potential action(s) against commander General Soleimani, head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Supposedly the US president is given an extreme option so as to make the other options more operationally reasonable and politically palatable. However this time around Trump selected [allegedly] the most extreme.
Despite one’ s opinion about Trump, I believe he reviewed the US intel and made the most logical and plausible decision because this was an outrageously exceptional opportunity that was unavailable to previous administrations and may never occur again.
Moments before the drone attack General Soleimani was riding in a convoy with Iraqi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the pro-Iranian Shiite group Popular Mobilization Unit (PMU). The PMU has been modeled closely after the IRGC and reportedly has 100,00 men under arms and 200,000 in reserve. He also heads his own personal militia called Kataib Hezbollah (KH) responsible for the export of weapons and men throughout the region.
The question begs: what is an Iranian general doing in Iraq riding along with the deputy head of the PMU? The so-called “optics” aren’t encouraging. It recalls the infamous question Captain Kirk in Star Trek asks an image who considers himself God, “Why does God need a spaceship?”
Statements from around the world claim that Trump’s kill decision will escalate tensions throughout the Middle East. However tensions were already escalating and poised to do so rather rapidly in the near future. With Iran’s increasingly aggressive movements in Iraq including possible “embassy hostage taking part 2” these tensions would eventually reach a point of no return which would be far most costly, especially in American lives. For years Iranian IEDs have killed and maimed thousands of Americans. As Walter Matthau as Pentagon advisor, Professor Groeteschele, in an infamous scene in the movie Fail Safe proposed, a first strike alternative is the best move, better sooner than later and cut multiple heads from the hydra dragon.
It was 1 AM near the Baghdad Airport and no other vehicles near the convoy. Soleimani’s ego and arrogance got the best of him by assuming the US would do nothing. In other words they were isolated for that brief window of time. US intel at its finest.
Both were hands-on who worked extraordinarily closely with a tight relationship in a region where strong relationships are the difference between life and death. Literally. Replacing their experience and skill sets is almost impossible.
Politically from afar it seems as if Trump made a boneheaded decision by selecting the extreme choice. I believe that the extreme was not the choice, rather the international political fallout. A bad choice would have been to do nothing and face more severe consequences in the future. Imagine if it was discovered in the future that the US had the chance to prevent an attack and instead decided not to. Politically, since “the buck stops here” Trump is the so-called fall guy while US intel appears as a voice of restraint and reason when in fact I believe it was a neat collaboration.
No government could possibly admit that a kill order was a logical possibility, merely an extreme one. For this reason US intel and military were, as the saying goes in Casablanca, “Shocked, shocked” that Trump selected the kill option.
Additionally many conveniently forget that there’s still residual fallout with respect to former President Clinton’s decision not to kill Osama bin Laden who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. Inaction is sometimes more lethal than taking action.
Since his inauguration Trump has fervently tried to extract the US from the Middle East. If this action expedites the US withdrawal or additional reduction in military personnel, it could work. Shortly after the killings the Iraqi parliament passed a non-binding resolution requesting the expulsion of all foreign forces. On one hand this provides the US administration an “invitation” to leave. Because a resolution, unlike a law, is non-binding, politically it’s a face-saving way for the Iraqi government to request foreign military departures but secretly (and needs) their military presence.
On the other hand, the Iraqi government can then pass this resolution into law requiring the departure of foreign forces. Should this occur with almost no coalition forces in Iraq, potential US casualties specifically in Iraq will drop precipitously.
Even though Iran has been degraded economically through sanctions and militarily through leadership losses, they are compelled to “save face” and strike somewhere but this price may be far less than if the kill order was not given.
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