3 January 2020   Leave a comment

The US drone attack that killed Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was an act of war. Soleimani was a clear enemy of the US and has been for a very long time. But others–including Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama as well as Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu–resisted the urge to assassinate him because he was so highly regarded in Iran and Iranian allies. All three had plenty of opportunities to kill Soleimani but all three were wise enough to know that creating a martyr would not advance their country’s interests.

The Trump Administration chose this moment to kill Soleimani and we are justified in asking why. US Secretary of State Pompeo claimed that the assassination was justified because US intelligence suggested that Soleimani was planning an “imminent” attack against American forces. If true, then the attack would be legal under the US Constitution since the US Commander in Chief is obliged to provide self-defense for US service members. But Pompeo provided no evidence for his claim and it would be strange if the Administration started to suddenly believe the intelligence services it has descried over their findings regarding Russian intervention in the 2016 presidential election.

My own initial belief is that the attack was an attempt to divert attention from the release of documents that indicate that the Trump Administration was well aware that its decision to withhold military aid from Ukraine was illegal. Frida Ghitis writes about the emails that were released yesterday under a Freedom of Information Act court order that the Trump Admionistration had previously refused to release:

“Pentagon lawyers and others appeared to grow increasingly anxious. Duffey later writes, “Clear direction from POTUS to hold,” again making it clear this was the President’s doing.

“On July 26, the “Ukraine Deputies Small Group” met. The National Security Council’s top Ukraine experts — Trump’s own team — declared ‘unanimous support‘ for restarting military funding as Russia’s allies continued their assault on eastern Ukraine.

“As the clock ticked toward a disbursement deadline, aides increasingly raised the legality of the issue.And rightly so. The decision didn’t just run against national security, it violated the law.

“Under the Impoundment Control Act (ICA), the administration is obligated to spend the money as directed by Congress. If it doesn’t, it is required to inform Congress that it is doing so and why.

“In a draft letter by the Pentagon to the OMB, top Defense Department officials noted, ‘We have repeatedly advised OMB officials’ that the suspension of aid jeopardizes ‘the Department’s ability’ to comply with the ICA.”


Not surprisingly. this information was buried under the avalanche of news concerning Soleimani.

I still need more time to think this through, however. I will be watching to see what the Iraqi Parliament decides. I would not be surprised if the Parliament asked the US to leave, fulfilling Suleimani’s main objective. The Iranians will undoubtedly respond, but I suspect that their response will be calibrated so that an American attack on Iranian soil cannot be justified. But my main emotion right now is deep sorrow over the stupidity of the US actions. I will try tonight and tomorrow to see if I can discern any strategic objective that is served by the attack on Suleimani.

Posted January 3, 2020 by vferraro1971 in World Politics

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