Tonight President Trump ordered a strike on the Baghdad airport that killed a top Iranian general, Qassim Suleimani, along with an Iraqi militia leader. Many experts say that this is an act of war, and Iran is sure to retaliate, as are Iraqi militias. The entire region is said to be on edge from Syria to Lebanon to Israel, fearing a “potential massive regional war,” as Sen. Chris Murphy warns.
The central political question about the assassination is, Why would a president who calls himself antiwar take such a huge risk in an election year?
Donald Trump is running for reelection as an antiwar candidate. He lately gave a speech in which he called the Iraq war “the single worst mistake this country has ever made,” slammed the “military industrial complex,” and told a wrenching story about watching the military coffins being wheeled down off the planes at Dover and family members throwing themselves on the caskets. Trump spoke of never ending wars:
These wars, they never end. And we have to bring our great soldiers back from the never-ending wars.
Tonight Trump damaged his hopes for reelection, Sina Toossi of the National Iranian American Council says.
Trump thinks he got his Bin Laden moment in an election year. In reality, he’s made the worst strategic mistake by an American leader since the Iraq invasion. The consequences will be felt for years to come. Ensuing quagmire will damage US global position & his reelection chances
I want to believe that Toossi is right, but Trump is as shrewd as they come and I don’t think he acted to endanger his political fortunes, but to enhance them.
Look at who is pleased by the attack, Israel. Israel’s top general has lately declared that some wars are good, and Israel may need to strike civilian targets in Lebanon to set back Hezbollah, the Iranian ally. Even “Peace Now” praises U.S. aggression. The first expert quoted in the New York Times coverage of the attack is Israel lobbyist Mark Dubowitz, and he is very happy.
“This is devastating for the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, the regime and [Supreme Leader Ayatollah] Khamenei’s regional ambitions… For 23 years, [Suleimani] has been the equivalent of the J.S.O.C. commander [Joint Special Operations Command], the C.I.A. director and Iran’s real foreign minister,” Mr. Dubowitz said… “He is irreplaceable and indispensable” to Iran’s military establishment.
No doubt Sheldon Adelson, Trump’s biggest donor at well over $100 million to Republican causes, is also pleased by the strike. Six years ago we broke the news that Adelson called on Obama to hit Iran with a nuclear strike. Adelson said at Yeshiva University in New York:
What are we going to negotiate about? I would say ‘Listen, you see that desert out there, I want to show you something.’ …You pick up your cell phone and you call somewhere in Nebraska and you say, ‘OK let it go.’ And so there’s an atomic weapon, goes over ballistic missiles, the middle of the desert, that doesn’t hurt a soul. Maybe a couple of rattlesnakes, and scorpions, or whatever. Then you say, ‘See! The next one is in the middle of Tehran. So, we mean business. You want to be wiped out? Go ahead and take a tough position and continue with your nuclear development.
These days Adelson gets to make such arguments right into the president’s ear.
Trump knew just what he was doing tonight, and he saw it as enhancing his reelection hopes– even if it means more American coffins coming off planes.
Nothing about Israel on the cables and in the New York Times, though.
h/t James North and Scott Roth.