Our president is not a religious man. But it’s suitable to quote a verse from what his Christian allies call “the Scriptures:”
For they sow the wind, and they shall reap the whirlwind…
I will send a fire upon his cities,
And it will devour their castles.
Pres. Trump has made the single most catastrophic decision in a presidency full of catastrophes. His approval of the assassination of the most prominent military leader in Iran will have disastrous consequences not just for America, but for all our allies, especially Israel. Every American anywhere, but especially outside the U.S., will become a target. Within hours, if not days our embassies will be burning. Iraq will become ungovernable. Our service members there will be in the cross-hairs.
Not only will Iran fling down the entire JCPOA agreement in disgust, it will begin not just testing ballistic missiles, but perhaps even lobbing a few a Tel Aviv or Jerusalem. Its Hezbollah allies will assume a much more belligerent posture in Syria and Lebanon.
This single act has further displayed Trump’s contempt for our European “allies,” who sought a diplomatic solution to the conflict with Iran. In a single act, he has flung decades worth of diplomacy and engagement into the trash heap.
Whether Trump realized it or not, this means war. Even if he didn’t officially declare war, he has just done so by this unmitigated disaster of a decision. The War Powers Act demands that a president consult Congress before commencing hostilities on a foreign power. Trump not only didn’t consult Congress, he didn’t even consult his own Party. No President in the history of this country would ever have done anything so reckless and abandoned the traditional ‘niceties’ of consultation with the legislative branch.
Sen. Blumenthal alluded to this when he said:
“The present authorizations for use of military force in no way cover starting a possible new war. This step could bring the most consequential military confrontation in decades,”
Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question.
The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?
— Chris Murphy (@ChrisMurphyCT) January 3, 2020
Bernie Sanders was typically clear and resolute:
“Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one,”
In an otherwise mealy-mouthed statement, Joe Biden said:
“President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.”
I predict that when Iranian blowback strikes us hard, that Americans will pay closer attention to the War Powers Act and note Trump violated it egregiously. In normal circumstances, presidents aren’t called on the carpet for taking the country to war, as long as we win. If we lose or are perceived as losing, the citizenry rapidly sours and looks to where it can cast blame. It could further weaken Trump and even possibly bring a new article of impeachment.
For a comparable event in history, imagine that Hitler had assassinated both Field Marshall Montgomery and Eisenhower during WWII; or that the British had captured and hung George Washington during the Revolutionary War; imagine that the British had arrested, tried and executed Ben Gurion in the pre-State era. In other words, this is not just your average assassination. This is a murder that will resonate for years, if not decades. It will further poison U.S.-Iran relations for a generation. It will set off a nuclear arms race such as you could not previously imagine.
The blows we will suffer will sorely tempt our leaders to not only attack Iran, but invade it to overthrow the regime. We have gotten closer than at any time since 1979 to all-out war against Iran. If you don’t believe me, then read this from Leon Panetta, who says the same. This is not a genie you can put back in the bottle. This one is truly evil and will wreck thousands of lives for decades.
The Pentagon released an absolutely awful statement claiming this was a “decisive defensive action,” because Soleimani had supposedly planned the attack on the Bagdhad embassy and was planning other similar terror operations against our forces. Secretary of Defense Esper said the attack was meant to deter Iran. I can’t think of a more idiotic claim to make. It will, of course, do just the opposite. If we thought we were locked in a hostile relationship before this; the next phase will be closer to a boa constrictor’s fatal embrace.
Esper further says: “the game has changed.” First, this is NOT a game. Not to Iran. And we will find out how much it sees it as anything but a game in days to come.
Trump thinks like Bibi. Whenever the Israeli PM faces a crisis or an election, he starts a war and knocks the s**t out of the poor suckers in Gaza. A month and a few thousand innocent Palestinian lives later, he withdraws and pounds his chest like a silver-back Gorilla, telling Israel how he protected it from the Palestinian onslaught.
Trump is now facing the nadir of his presidency. He is mired in an impeachment; and Democrats are in no mood to let him off the hook by transferring the articles to the Senate so it can dispose of them in 12 minutes on the floor. Trump thought this would be like Obama assassinating Osama bin Laden or like the murder of ISIS leader, al-Baghdadi. Americans would hold rallies and cheer as they did after Bin Laden was eliminated. But he has failed to take into account that Iran will be a far more formidable enemy than he gives it credit. It will make him pay in blood. When the bodies come home in flag-draped coffins, I hope one family has the guts to ship theirs to 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue to lie in state, as it were. Let hundreds of thousands come to pay their respects to a life wasted on the altar of a president’s vanity.
And if Trump thinks Soleimani’s murder will not cost us, just as al-Baghdadi’s and Bin Laden’s didn’t, there are several differences: Soleimani was no leader of a ragtag bag of Islamist fanatics and terrorist-wannabes. He was the second-most powerful person in Iran. He founded the IRG, perhaps the most capable ground army in the region. He was beloved by the Grand Ayatollah, who treated him as a son. He was the hero of the nation. He represented its pride, its steadfastness, its vigilance. Half of Iran would step forward and offer their lives to avenge him.
To anyone praising the killing by calling Soleimani a butcher with hands dropping in blood, it quite depends on your perspective, doesn’t it? God’s always on our side. The devil is on the other guy’s. If we were at war and Soleimani was our military leader, we’d laud him as a national hero, just as Iranians do. But when he kills our soldiers he’s the devil incarnate. No one bothers to ask why our soldiers are there in the first place, and what they did before his attempts to kill them.
You remember way back to last month, when the Iranian regime was reeling from riots which spread like wildfire throughout the country? The Ayatollah was on his knees. The Islamic Republic teetered on the brink. If our policy was to weaken the regime and provoke change through internal crisis, this was a perfect development. Now, what have we done? We’ve swept away all the divisions that existed last month. We’ve united the country as it has not been united since 1979.
Trump has also singlehandedly destroyed the political prospects for Iran’s reformist forces. The hardliners will swamp them in the next election. Iran is headed fur even more suffocating, dictatorial clerical governance than It ever had.
They will bring Soleimani’s remains from Iraq and emtomb them in a mausoleum next door to Ayatollah Khomeini himself. The ring he wore which permitted rescuers to identify his remains amidst the wreckage will be on display there. Schoolchildren will visit in the tens of thousands. His writings will be studied with reverence. We’ve just created a martyr of enormous magnitude.
Has the murder damaged Iran? No, these killings never do what the killers think they will. They do not weaken, they do not divide. The contrary: Israel killed Hezbollah leader Abbas al-Musawi and it brought a far more dangerous enemy in Hassan Nasrallah. Israel killed Hamas leader, Sheik Ahmed al-Yassine and he was replaced by Khaled Mashal. The U.S. killed Bin Laden and it did not degrade al Qaeda in the slightest.
There are hundreds of IRG commanders eager to replace the martyred Soleimani. The one who is chosen will undoubtedly be even more cunning and capable than his predecessor. This killing is yet another in a long line of U.S. disastrous counter-terror moves which do nothing to advance our real interests, to make the region more stable, to resolve long-festering disputes.
Silverstein has published Tikun Olam since 2003, It exposes the secrets of the Israeli national security state. He lives in Seattle, but his heart is in the east. He publishes regularly at Middle East Eye, the New Arab, and Jacobin Magazine. His work has also appeared in Al Jazeera English, The Nation, Truthout and other outlets.