President Donald Trump is anxious for a war to derail his impeachment
General Qassem Soleimani, a villain to the US but a hero to Iranians
The fate of the world may hinge on how well Speaker Nancy Pelosi plays her hand
By Vijaya Chandrasoma
General Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s greatest military general, was assassinated by an American drone strike near Baghdad International Airport on 3 January 2020.
The US Department of Defense issued the following statement:
“At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel by killing Qassem Soleimani. General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region…. “
Trump apparently did not have the time to inform the Speaker of the House or any senior members of Congress of the impending assassination of General Soleimani. The reason for this secrecy was that, based on US Intelligence, the threat presented by Soleimani was so imminent that it gave Trump no time for the luxury of consulting with Congress. Yes, Trump relied on information provided by the same US Intelligence agencies he has been maligning over the past three years. The same Intelligence that he abused at Helsinki in 2018, by taking the word of President Putin over the entire US intelligence community about Russian interference in the US 2016 elections.
The “imminent threat” that Soleimani was planning has not materialised. If the threat was so imminently catastrophic to the security of the US, then such a “threat” would have been months in the planning, would have been in place and would have been carried out whether Soleimani was dead or alive. After all, could 9/11 have been prevented if Osama bin Laden had been killed on 9/10?
The first reason given for the assassination was that General Soleimani, Iran’s greatest general and second in political power only to President Hassan Rouhani, was a terrorist responsible for the murder of at least 600 American soldiers and thousands of civilians in the region. It was high time that he was taken out. Although both Bush and Obama had Soleimani in American cross hairs in the past, they decided that his assassination would only incite more violence in the region. In American eyes, there was no doubt that Soleimani was a bad guy, a monster who had American blood on his hands. He was, however, a hero in the eyes of most Iranians. Just as the American generals who have murdered hundreds of thousands of Afghan, Iraqi, Iranian, Syrian and other civilians in the region over the years are American heroes, they are hated as murderers in most Middle Eastern eyes.
One man’s terrorist is another man’s hero.
The second reason for the assassination was that Soleimani was planning imminent attacks on a number of US embassies and bases all over the world, again according to US Intelligence Agencies. No evidence has been forthcoming in support of these allegations. No American military base or embassy has been attacked since the assassination.
Both these reasons have now proved to be false. The real reason was to provoke Iran into a war which only Trump wants. Shades of Bush and Iraq in 2003, now even more self-serving by the US President.
Secretary of State Pompeo was questioned about this imminent threat from Iran to the security of the US. He said that the attacks against the US could happen in “two days, two weeks or even months”, giving a whole new meaning to the concept of “imminent”. Heather Hurlburt, a national security expert says, “….our legal understanding of ‘imminent’ over the years understood it to mean that the threat was unfolding right now and there’s no time to do anything but to kill the person. The Soleimani killing doesn’t appear to meet that threshold.”
Iran declines to play Trump’s game
From where Trump sits, though, there is a great threat unfolding right before his eyes, a threat not to America, but to Trump. A dire threat which needs a major distraction, preferably a war based on lies,
a la Iraq, during the most immediate and imminent time-frame – the upcoming Senate Impeachment trial. In fact, Senate majority leader Mitch McConnell, aka “Moscow Mitch”, is already talking about a speedy Senate acquittal of the President, to allow him to deal with prospective hostilities in Iran and Iraq.
Fortunately, Iran has retaliated in the most peaceful and adult fashion in the circumstances, bombing an American base near Baghdad, having given Iraqi and US authorities six hours’ notice to evacuate personnel. No casualties were recorded, and Trump could not carry out his threatened retaliation, which would surely have led to war.
Trump has been outplayed again. Iran knew that a war would provide a distraction for his impeachment trial, and Americans would be unwilling to vote against a war President in November. Of course, the stable genius would have trumpeted that he was the greatest war leader since Alexander the Great.
Iran did not give Trump the distraction he so desired, preferring to await Trump’s removal from office, one way or another, so that they could begin negotiations with a sane leader and a legitimate administration.
Unfortunately, on 8 January, after the Iranian retaliatory bombing of the American base in Iraq, a United Ukrainian Airlines flight, on a commercial flight from Teheran to Kiev, was bombed shortly after take-off. All 176 passengers and crew were killed. All the passengers were believed to be Iranian, but approximately 63 were Canadian/Iranian dual citizens. The Iranians have accepted responsibility for the disaster, that the aircraft was shot down by a Surface to Air missile by accident. They blame the Americans for their aggression in the assassination of General Soleimani, which had increased military activity in the area. Trump, as usual, denies any such responsibility, though it is becoming increasingly clear that his assassination of the General was an act of aggression designed to provoke a war against Iran, to help him bolster his waning popularity at home at a desperate time in his Presidency.
However, Trump has, in his desperation to provoke Iran into more aggressive retaliation so that he would be justified in declaring war, imposed more stringent sanctions, effective January 9, in an effort to destroy Iran’s economy. We can only hope that Iran will exercise continuing restraint and will not be sucked into Trump’s self-serving machinations.
“The worst military briefing”
At a recent intelligence briefing where almost all 535 members of Congress were present, no evidence of any imminent attacks were given, but American leaders were exhorted not to debate or doubt the American action but to trust the Intelligence Agencies, the same intelligence community which has been consistently maligned by Trump over three years. The same intelligence agency which, in 2003, assured the Bush Administration that Iraq was hoarding Weapons of Mass Destruction.
Members of Congress leaving the briefing, Republican and Democrat, were singularly unimpressed at the way such an important matter was handled by the Administration. Republican Senator Mike Lee, a Trump supporter, said that it was the worst military briefing he had attended in his nine years of service. The Administration warned them not to debate, not to discuss any future military action against Iran, as such debate will only “embolden Iran”. He concluded by saying that the briefing demeaned the office he holds, and was insulting to the Constitution of the United States.
Senator Kaine (D-Virginia) said that the assassination of Soleimani was a “strike of choice which required Congressional authority”. Other opinions of attendees included “deeply concerning”, unacceptably vague”, ‘thin on facts”, ‘sophomoric”, “rushed and reckless” and more of the same, all damning.
However, former United Nations ambassador Nikki Haley said, “I think the President showed great decisiveness, great resolve”. She also said that the “only” people “mourning the loss” of Soleimani are “Democratic leadership and our Democratic presidential candidates”. Which is a damned lie. She is reputed to be eyeing to replace Pence as the Republican VP candidate in the 2020 election, and if so is certainly off to a wonderful start, especially in the falsehood department, a perfect match for the Liar-in-Chief.
Republican Representative Doug Collins also expressed similar opinions when he said that Democrats “are in love with terrorists. We see that they mourn Soleimani more than they mourn for our Gold Star families”. Collins has since apologised for these irresponsible comments.
These comments were a response to Democrats questioning the necessity for, and the timing of, the Soleimani assassination. No Democrat had ever said that they mourned the assassination of the Iranian general.
Former US Attorney for the Southern District of New York Preet Bharara said it best: “No American is in love with terrorists or mourns the death of that Iranian general on an airstrip in Baghdad. Many of us do, however, mourn the death of decency, honesty and reason here at home.
“Americans can, in good faith, differ about the legality or efficacy of killing Soleimani. That doesn’t make them unpatriotic or lovers of terrorists….. As you well know, terrorists do not kill Republicans or Democrats. They kill Americans.”
‘I like to obey the law’
Americans did not mourn the death of Soleimani, but millions of Iranians streamed on to the streets in Teheran and other cities, for several days after the assassination, grieving the loss of their beloved hero.
Immediately after the assassination, Trump warned Iran that any retaliatory strike against the US will be met with strikes on 52 sites in Iran, including cultural sites. This is a war crime, according to the Geneva Convention, which establishes standards of international law for humanitarian action in war. When the meaning of the word “humanitarian” was laboriously explained to Trump, who was completely ignorant of the concept, he said, “Okay. I like to obey the law”. He seemed unaware that it is not a choice –everyone has to obey the law.
Trump has come up with yet another novel, typically moronic idea to solve the Middle East crisis. He is suggesting that the Middle East be invited to join NATO. He has even suggested an acronym for this new organisation – NATO-ME (for NATO-Middle East). Does he even realise that NATO stands for North Atlantic Treaty Organisation? And does he know where the Middle East is located?
As of Wednesday, 8 January, Trump will no longer be allowed to act independently against Iraq. The House passed a bill – 224 to 194 - to limit Trump’s military action against future attacks against Iran without Congress approval. The Senate is also expected to pass this legislation. Trump is unlikely to take this law seriously.
Pelosi vs. the kangaroo court
The Republicans are getting increasingly perturbed that Speaker Pelosi is delaying submission of the Articles of Impeachment to the Senate for trial. She will only do so when she is certain that the Senate will conduct a fair impeachment trial. As of now, that seems a remote possibility, as the Republican leader of the Senate, Mitch McConnell, has already made a public statement that he will not be impartial in the Senate trial, that he is in lockstep with the White House and will co-ordinate the trial with the defence. The foreman of the jury co-ordinating with defence counsel, the very definition of a Kangaroo Court.
Delaying the Articles has already paid off for Speaker Pelosi. John Bolton, Trump’s erstwhile National Security Advisor, who has first-hand knowledge of Trump’s illegal extortion of the Ukrainian president, has confirmed that he is prepared to testify at the impeachment trial; a confidential memo confirming Trump’s illegal freezing of funds approved for Ukraine by Congress has been leaked, presumably by the White House. More incriminating evidence is sure to turn up as Trump’s ratings continue on the wane, latest polls showing that more Americans favour his impeachment and removal from office.
Democratic Presidential candidate Senator Bernie Sanders seems to think that the Senate trial could start as early as next Wednesday (15 January). However, Speaker Pelosi would be well advised to use modern Republican jargon and assure Moscow Mitch that she will submit the Articles “imminently”. There is little political advantage in presenting Trump with a bloodless victory.
The assassination of General Soleimani seems to have backfired for Trump. Public opinion is totally against another meaningless war in the Middle East based on lies. What will he try next? Perhaps he and Melania could apply for the Senior Royal Position left vacant by Prince Harry and Meghan.
The Queen will be most amused.