Alan Zendell, January 3, 2020
President Donald Trump’s New Year’s message to Iran was a drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani, a Major General in Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. Soleimani led the elite Quds force whose purpose is to carry out unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations, what most of the rest of the world calls terrorism. He was a sworn enemy of the United States and one of the most powerful figures in Iran’s military. Americans have no reason to mourn Soleimani’s death, but there are questions about how, why, and when it was ordered
We may never know with certainty what went on in President Trump’s mind when he made the decision to target Soleimani after American Intelligence located him on the ground in Iraq. There are a few things we do know, however, that may shed some light on what motivated him. Most illuminating may be words that came directly from Trump himself. On the three different occasions Donald Trump suggested that his predecessor, Barack Obama, would be willing to start a war with Iran to assure his re-election. Following are Trump’s own tweets:
November 29, 2011 – In order to get elected, @BarackObama will start a war with Iran.
October 22, 2012 – Don’t let Obama play the Iran card in order to start a war in order to get elected–be careful Republicans!
September 26, 2013 – I predict that President Obama will at some point attack Iran in order to save face!
One of the things Trump is best known for is projecting his own attitudes and motives onto other people. The idea that Trump would initiate hostilities with Iran if he believed it would strengthen his political position is hardly new. What’s most interesting is the timing of the drone strike that killed Soleimani.
The president is caught in limbo between the House of Representatives passing Articles of Impeachment and the Senate trial which must follow, and polls have shown that at least half of all Americans want him removed from office. Leaks from the White House have indicated for weeks that despite his denials Trump is extremely angry and agitated, and the hundreds of tweets he unleashed over that time make that description seem like an understatement.
If he was on edge before, new revelations from previously secret emails are strengthening the case for removal. It’s clear now that the order to withhold military assistance funds allocated by Congress for Ukraine’s defense against Russian aggression were ordered by Trump himself, and that the order was issued well before the July 25th phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that started all this. It is becoming more and more clear that Trump did exactly what he is accused of doing – holding back aid to a foreign nation being invaded by one of our enemies in exchange for a political favor that could help his re-election campaign.
Trump’s problem is that mounting evidence of his guilt may begin to affect the political calculations of some Republican Senators who serve as his jurors. The likelihood of sixty-seven Senators voting to convict is still a long shot, but it could only take four defections to force Leader McConnell to change his trial strategy. As damning evidence mounts it will be far more difficult to vote to acquit without first issuing subpoenas for documents and testimony from people like John Bolton, Mick Mulvaney, Mike Pompeo, and their senior staffs.
None of that may prevent the Senate from acquitting Trump, but it could do serious damage to his image among independent, centrist voters. The fact that he has defied Congress with unprecedented vehemence, claiming privilege and the right to secrecy in every situation speaks volumes about his political concerns.
And now comes this risky and potentially dangerous drone attack on a senior member of the Iranian government. It was carried out without notification of the bipartisan Congressional leaders known as the Gang of Eight who are supposed to be briefed on all Intelligence matters critical to national security, especially any planned activities that could result in international incidents.
Technically, the president has an out for “extraordinary circumstances” which he deems sufficient to limit access to information. Do current circumstances justify risking a major regional war without consulting Congress? That will be determined by people who know far more about them than I do, but all of us can add up we know as facts. Why do you think Trump chose January 2, 2020 to target a potential enemy who has been working in the same capacity for nearly thirty years?
Why now? Could it be the election cycle which is about to begin in earnest?