Can The US Assassination Of Qassem Soleimani Be Justified?

Yves here. Even though the angst over “what next” with the US/Iran confrontation has fallen a bit, there is still a depressingly significant amount of mis- and dis-information about the Soleimani assassination. This post is a nice high level treatment that might be a good candidate for circulating among friends and colleagues who’ve gotten a hefty dose of MSM oversimplifications and social media sloganeering.

Update 6:50 AM: Due to the hour, I neglected to add a quibble, and readers jumped on the issue in comments. First, it has not been established who launched the attack that killed a the US contractor. The US quickly asserted it was Kat’ib Hezbollah, but there were plenty of groups in the area that had arguably better motives, plus Kat’ib Hezbollah has denied it made the strike. Second, Kat’ib Hezbollah is an Iraqi military unit.

By Barkley Rosser, Professor of Economics at James Madison University in Harrisonburg, Virginia. Originally published at EconoSpeak

We know from various Congressional folks that briefers of Congress have failed to produce any evidence of “imminent” plans to kill Americans Soleimani was involved with that would have made this a legal killing rather than an illegal assassination. The public statements by administration figures have cited such things as the 1979 hostage crisis, the already dead contractor, and, oh, the need to “reestablish deterrence” after Trump did not follow through on previous threats he made. None of this looks remotely like “imminent plans,” not to mention that the Iraqi PM Abdul-Mahdi has reported that Soleimani was on the way to see him with a reply to a Saudi peace proposal. What a threatening imminent plan!

As it is, despite the apparent lack of “imminent plans” to kill Americans, much of the supporting rhetoric for this assassination coming out of Trump supporters (with bragging about it having reportedly been put up on Trump’s reelection funding website) involves charges that Soleimani was “the world’s Number One terrorist” and was personally responsible for killing 603 Americans in Iraq. Even as many commentators have noted the lack of any “imminent plans,” pretty much all American ones have prefaced these questions with assertions that Soleimani was unquestionable “evil” and “bad” and a generally no good guy who deserved to be offed, if not right at this time and in this way. He was the central mastermind and boss of a massive international terror network that obeyed his orders and key to Iran’s reputed position as “the Number One state supporter of terrorism,” with Soleimani the key to all of that.

Of course, in Iran it turns out that Soleimani was highly respected, even as many oppose the hawkish policies he was part of. He was viewed as crucial to the victory over ISIS/ISIL/Daesh in Iraq, much feared by Iranians. Shia take martyrdom seriously, and he is viewed as a martyr. It appears that even Trump took notice of the massive outpouring of mourning and praise for Soleimani there up to the point of people dying in a stampede in a mourning crowd in his hometown. But, hey, obviously these people simply do not understand that he was The World’s Number One Terrorist! Heck, I saw one commenter on Marginal Revolution claiming Soleimani was responsible killing “hundreds of thousands.” Yes, this sort of claim is floating around out there.

A basic problem here is that while indeed Soleimani commanded the IGRC al Quds force that supported and supplied various Shia militias in several Middle Eastern nations, these all were (and are) ultimately independent. Soleimani may have advised them, but he was never in a position to order any of them to do anything. Al Quds itself has never carried out any of the various attacks outside of Iran that Soleimani is supposedly personally responsible for.

Let us consider the specific case that gets pushed most emphatically, the 603 Americans dead in Iraq, without doubt a hot button item here in the US. First of all, even if Soleimani really was personally responsible for their deaths, there is the technical matter that their deaths cannot be labeled “terrorism.” That is about killing non-combatant civilians, not military personnel involved in combat. I do not support the killing of those American soldiers, most of whom were done in by IEDs, which also horribly injured many more. But indeed this awful stuff happened. But in fact this was all done by Iraqi -based Shia militias. Yes, they were supported by Soleimani, but while some have charged al Quds suppplied the IEDs, this turns out not to be the case. These were apparently made in Iraq by these local militias. Soleimani’s al Quds are not totally innocent in all this, reportedly providing some training and some inputs. But the IEDs were made by the militias themselves and planted by them.

It is also the case that when the militias and Americans were working together against ISIS/IISIL/Daesh, none of this happened, and indeed that was still the case up until this most recent set of events, with the death setting off all this an American civilian contractor caught on a base where several Iraqis were killed by a rocket from the Kat’b Hezbollah Iraqi group. Of course with Trump having Soleimani assassinated, this cooperation has ceased, with the US military no longer either fighting ISIS/ISIL/Daesh nor training the Iraqi military. Indeed, the Iraqi parliament has demanded that US troops leave entirely, although Trump threatened Iraq with economic sanctions if that is followed through on.

As it is, the US datinrg back to the Obama administration has been supplying Saudi Arabia with both arms and intelligence that has been used to kill thousands of Yemeni civilians. Frankly, US leaders look more like terrorists than Soleimani.

I shall close by noting the major changes in opinion in both Iran and Iraq regarding the US as a result of this assassination. In Iran as many have noted there were major demonstrations against the regime going on, protesting bad economic conditions, even as those substantially were the result of the illegal US economic sanctions imposed after the US withdrew from the JCPOA nuclear deal, to which Iran was adhering. Now those demonstrations have stopped and been replaced by the mass demonstrations against the US over Soleimani’s assassination. And we also have Iran further withdrawing from that deal and moving to more highly enrich uranium.

In Iraq, there had been major anti-Iran demonstrations going on, with these supported to some degree by the highest religious authority in the nation, Ayatollah Ali Sistani. However, when Soleimani’s body was being transferred to Iran, Sistani’s son accompanied his body. It really is hard to see anything that justifies this assassination.

I guess I should note for the record that I am not a fan of the Iranian regime, much less the IGRC and its former and new commander. It is theocratic and repressive, with many political prisoners and a record of killing protestors. However, frankly, it is not clearly all that much worse than quite a few of its neighboring regimes. While Supreme Jurisprudent Khamenei was not popularly elected, its president, Rouhani, was, who obeyed popular opinion in negotiating the JCPOA that led to the relaxation of economic sanctions, with his power reduced when Trump withdrew from the agreement. Its rival Saudi Arabia has no democracy at all, and is also a religiously reactionary and repressive regime that uses bone saws on opponents and is slaughtering civilians in a neighboring nation.

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69 comments

  1. xkeyscored

    with the death setting off all this an American civilian contractor caught on a base where several Iraqis were killed by a rocket from the Kat’b Hezbollah Iraqi group.
    Forgive me if I’m misunderstanding this, but it appears to be presented here as a fact.
    Kat’b Hezbollah have denied responsibility for that rocket attack. To the best of my knowledge, no proof whatsoever has been presented that it was not an attack by jihadis in the area, whom Khat’b Hezbollah were fighting, or by others with an interest in stirring the pot.

    Reply
    1. Cat Burglar

      They are having a hard time coming up with public evidence to support any justification, aren’t they?

      The latest was Pence’s “keeping it secret to protect sources and methods” meme. Purely speculating here, but I immediately thought, “Oh, Israeli intelligence.” Gotta protect allies in the region.

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      1. xkeyscored

        Debka, run by supposedly-former Israeli military intelligence, was enthusing about upcoming joint operations against Iran and its allies a month or two ago. In contrast, they’ve been uncharacteristically quiet, though supportive of the US, regarding recent developments.

        Trump and Netanyahu confirm US-Israel military coordination against threatened Iranian attack

        A US-Iran military front is fast shaping up on the Syrian-Iraqi border – with a role for the IDF

        Reply
    2. Rog

      ISIS carrying out a false flag operation to prompt Trump to kill their enemies for them would be sublime cunning . Have to wonder if it was sponsored by the Saudi’s, who benefit greatly from Trump’s stupidity.

      Reply
  2. Dwight

    Secretary of State Pompeo claimed that Soleimani was responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in Syria. Basically blaming Iran for all deaths in the Syrian war.

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    1. Donald

      People more commonly do this with Assad. A complicated war with multiple factions fighting each other, armed by outside sources including the US, most with horrific human rights records, but almost every pundit and politician in the US talks as though Assad killed everyone personally.

      Once in a while you get a little bit of honesty seeping in, but it never changes the narrative. Caitlin Johnstone said something about that, not specifically about Syria. The idea was that you can sometimes find facts reported in the mainstream press that contradict the narrative put out by pundits and politicians and for that matter most news stories, but these contradictory facts never seem to change the prevailing narrative.

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    2. ChrisFromGeorgia

      That sounds suspiciously like sour grapes and another possible motive for the killing – revenge.

      Soleimani led a number of militias that were successful in defeating the Saudi (and CIA) sponsored Sunni jihadis who failed to implement the empire’s “regime change” playbook in Syria.

      No doubt a lot of guys like Pompeo wanted him dead for that reason alone.

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  3. Thuto

    The simple answer NO, killing a sitting army general of a sovereign state on a diplomatic mission resides in the realm of the truly absurd. Twisting the meaning of the word “imminent” far beyond its ordinary use to justify the murder is even more absurd. And the floating subtext to all this talk about lost American lives is that the US can invade and occupy foreign lands, engage in the sanctimonious slaughter of locals and whoever else gets in the way of feeding the bloodlust of Pompeo and his ilk (to say nothing of feeding the outsized ego of a lunatic like Trump), and yet expect to suffer no combat casualties from those defending their lands. It’s the most warped form of “exceptional” thinking.

    As an aside, I wonder if the msm faithfully pushing the talk about Iran downing that Ukrainian commercial jet is designed to take the heat off a beleaguered Boeing. The investigation hasn’t even begun but already we have the smoking gun, Iran did it.

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    1. Olga

      Even the question is wrong. The killing was cowardly, outside all international norms (this from a country that dares to invoke “international order” whenever it is suitable), a colossal mistake, a strategic blunder, and plain destructive.
      The more one learns about QS’ activities, the more it seems that he was “disposed of” precisely because of his unique talent and abilities to bring together the various local factions (particularly, in Iraq), so that then – unified – they could fight against the common enemy (guess who?). He was not guilty of killing amrikans – nor was he planning to – his “sin” was to try and unite locals to push the us out of ME. It was always going to be an uphill battle, but in death he may – in time – achieve his wish.

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      1. Susan the other

        I’m in this camp too. But with a twist. Pure speculation here – and I’m sure it would never be exposed, but is there even any proof we did it? Was it an apache helicopter or a drone; whom have we supplied with these things? Who is this bold? Since our military has been dead-set-against assassinating Soleimani or any other leader it seems highly unlikely they proposed this to Trump. Mattis flatly refused to even consider such a thing. So I keep wondering if the usual suspect might be the right one – the Israelis. They have the proper expertise. And the confusion that followed? If we had done it we’d have had our PSAs ready to print. Instead we proffered an unsigned letter and other “rough drafts” of the incident and then retracted them like idiots. As if we were frantic to step in and prevent the Rapture. We could have taken the blame just to prevent a greater war. Really, that’s what it looks like to me.

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      2. bold'un

        Surely the whole point of the strike is that it was illegal: that is to say that it was a message to the Iraqis that they are NOT allowed to help Iran evade sanctions, NOT allowed to do oil-for-infrastructure deals with China and NOT allowed to invite senior Iranians around for talks: i.e. Iraq is not yet sovereign and it is the US that makes the rules around there; any disobedience will summarily be punished by the de facto rulers even if that violates agreements and laws applicable in Iraq.

        If you disagree, then what should the US do if Iraq does not toe the Western line?

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      3. makedonamend

        Hiya Olga & t’Others,

        ” …The killing was cowardly, outside all international norms (this from a country that dares to invoke “international order” whenever it is suitable), a colossal mistake, a strategic blunder, and plain destructive…”

        I think the immediate impact which has long terms implications for how other countries view USA foreign policy is simply that any high ranking individual from any other country on earth has got to be aware that essentially no international norms now exist. It’s one thing to ‘whack’ a bin Laden or dispose of a Gaddafi but another whole kettle of fish to assassinate a high ranking official going about their business who’s no immediate security threat to the USA and when no state of war exists.

        For example, might a EU general now acquiesce to demands about NATO? Not saying this is going to happen by a long shot, but still a niggling thought might linger. Surely the individual will be resentful at the very least. I’m also reminded of a story about John Bolton allegedly telling a negotiator (UN or European?) that Bolton knew where the negotiator’s family resided. These things add up.

        As Sergey Lavrov and President Putin have stated for a long time (and long before President Trump came along), the USA is ‘agreement incapable’. However, now you have to wonder if any country really trusts any agreement they will make with the USA. Without trust on any level, cooperation/trade treaties and so on on are impossible or eminently disposable, i.e., not worth the paper upon which they are written.

        This is where the middle term ramifications start to kick-in. We know that Russia and China are making some tentative steps towards superficial integration in limited areas beyond just cooperation. Will they find more common ground? Will European countries (and by extension the EU) really start to deliver on an alternative financial clearing system? How will India and Japan react? Does nationalism of the imperial variety re-emerge as a world force – for good or bad?

        Will regional powers such as Russia, China, India, France or Iran quietly find more common ground also? But alliances are problematic and sometimes impose limitations that are exploitable. So, might a different form of cooperation emerge?

        Long term its all about advantage and trust. Trust is a busted flush now. (My 2 cents, and properly priced.)

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  4. vlade

    As Thuto above says, the simple answer is “No”. IF S was guilty of all those things ascribed to him, he’d have been judged and sentenced (yes, I do realise Iran would never extradite him etc. etc. – but there would have been a process and after the process, well, some things would be more justifiable). But we have the process because it’s important to have a process – otherwise, anyone can find themselves on a hit list for any reason whatsoever.

    If the US doesn’t want to follow and process, then it can’t be suprised if others won’t. Ignoring the process works for the strongest, while they are the strongest. And then it doesn’t.

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  5. timbers

    603 Americans killed in Iraq, he says Trump supporters claim, but we had millions of Iraqi’s, Syrians, Libyans and others killed or their lives uprooted by Bush and Obama and company – yet they were not assassinated.

    I think – just a guess – the reason Soleimani was killed can be summed up in one word:

    Netanyahu.

    That, and on a broader, bird’s eye view level in broad strokes – Michael Hudson’s recent article outlining U.S. policy of preserving USD hegemony at all costs, that has existed since at least the 1950’s, which depicts Soleimani’s assassination as not a Trump qwerk but a logical application of that policy.

    You might say the swamp drainers came to drain the swamp and ended filling it up instead.

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    1. Darius

      The mostest terriblest guy in the history of this or any other universe, but the average Joe never heard of until they announced they killed him. His epochal terribleness really flew under the radar.

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      1. Wukchumni

        A joke I heard on the slopes yesterday…

        Nobody had ever heard of Soleimani, and then he blew up overnight, so now everybody knows who he is.

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    2. Philo Beddoh

      The swamp drainers are so busy guzzling as much as they can quaff, without drowning; writhing each others’ dead-eyed, bloated feeding frenzy; that obscene media distractions need to escalate in sadistic, off-hand terror. But, it’s so ingrained into our governance, we just call it democracy?

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    3. Susan the other

      Hudson’s take on USD hegemony is reasonable, but I don’t think we’d assassinate Soleimani in anticipation of losing it. We have dealt with all the sects in the middle east for a long time and we have come to terms with them, until now. In a time that requires the shutting down of oil and gas production. I think (Carney, Keen, Murphy, etc.) oil is the basis for our economy, for productivity, for the world, that’s a no brainer. But my second thoughts go more along the lines that oil and natural gas will be government monopolies directly – no need to use those resources to make the dollar or other currencies monopolies. Sovereign currency will still be a sovereign monopoly regardless of the oil industry. That also explains why we want hands-on control of this resource. And with that in mind, it would seem Soleimani might have been more of an asset for us.

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      1. Yves Smith Post author

        I hate to tell you but as much as we are fans of Hudson, he’s all wet on this one. The dollar is the reserve currency because the US is willing to run sustained trade deficits, which is tantamount to exporting jobs. Perhaps more important, my connected economists say they know of no one who has the ear of the military-intel state who believes this either. This may indeed have been a line of thought 50 years ago but it isn’t now.

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        1. Susan the other

          I suspected as much – mostly because you didn’t carry his article. And I can’t really connect his dots to make it seem logical in light of the oil crisis and climate change.

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  6. rusti

    much of the supporting rhetoric for this assassination coming out of Trump supporters (with bragging about it having reportedly been put up on Trump’s reelection funding website)

    I thought I had a pretty strong stomach for this stuff, but it’s been really nauseating for me to see the displays of joy and flag waving over the assassination of someone the overwhelming majority of people were wholly unaware of prior to his death. My guess is that it’s mostly just a sort of schadenfreude at the squirming of Democrats as they (with few exceptions) fail to articulate any coherent response.

    The response should be clear without any caveats, “Trump is a coward who would never gamble with his life, but will happily gamble with the lives of your kids in uniform.” This should resonate with most people, I don’t believe that neocons really have any grassroots support.

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  7. carl

    NO. Shockingly bad decision; you can just manage to glimpse around the edges of the war propaganda the embarrassment and backpedaling for having willingly stepped into such a gigantic steaming pile of excrement. The parade of smooth-faced liars on the MSM asserting that the US is now safer (the “war is peace” crowd) is sickening. Some even have the gall to assert that the enormous crowds in Iran are forced to attend by the repressive regime. Of course, there’s no evidence of a provocation and they’ll never produce any.

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  8. PlutoniumKun

    Politico Europe is reporting that behind Europes seemingly supine response, officials and politicians are ‘seething’ over the attack. Its clearly seen around the world as not just illegal, but an appalling precedent.

    So far, American efforts to convince Europeans of the bright side of Soleimani’s killing have been met with dropped jaws.

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    1. The Historian

      The silence from other countries on this event has been deafening. And that should tell Trump and Pompeo something, but I doubt if they are smart enough to figure it out.

      I find it interesting that Pompeo was “disappointed” – what did he think would happen? For a Secretary of State, he’s obviously extremely out of touch with the rest of the world if he didn’t have some realistic idea of how this would go down.

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    2. MyLessThanPrimeBeef

      On one hand, the life of each and every victim of head-separation and droning is as precious as that of one Soleimani.

      On the other, the general’s is more precious and thus, the behind the scene seething by Europe’s politicians and officials. (They and many others are all potential targets now, versus previously droning wedding guests – time to seethe).

      Which is it? More precious or equally precious?

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  9. Harry

    The more I think about it, the more it seemed like the Administration and its allies were probing to see how far they could go. They bombed PMUs and appeared to get away with it. So then they upped the ante when the Iraqis complained and finally got some moderate push-back. Not taking American lives in the missile strike seems to prove they Iranians didn’t want to escalate. Still, I dont know about the Pentagon, but I was impressed with the accuracy.

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    1. Procopius

      I was impressed with the accuracy.

      Yes. From the picture at Vineyard of the Saker, they hit specific buildings. There were comments after the drone attack on Abqaiq and Khurais oil fields in KSA that they showed surprising accuracy, but perhaps this time surprised the intelligence agencies. Perhaps that was why Trump declared victory instead of further escalating. This is speculation, of course.

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    2. Yves Smith Post author

      The Iranians are not done retaliating. They have a history of disproportionate retaliation, but when the right opportunity presents itself, and that routinely takes years. The limited strike was out of character and appears to have been the result of the amount of upset internally over the killing.

      Reply
  10. Darius

    I have more a lot more respect for the strategic acumen of the Iranian regime than I do for that of the American regime. Now it’s led by a collection of fragile male egos and superstitious rapture ready religious fanatics. Before them the regime was led by cowardly corporate suck ups. They all take their cues from the same military intelligence complex.

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  11. lyman alpha blob

    One other glaring omission from the article – the only reason there was a US military contractor in Iraq available to be killed in the first place is due to the illegal war based on false premises launched almost two decades ago by the US, which continues to occupy the country to this day.

    Pretty clear who the terrorists are on this case.

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    1. Amfortas the hippie

      Aye! This!
      assume a ladder on a windy day, with a hammer irresponsibly left perched on the edge of the top rung.
      if i blithely walk under that ladder just as the wind gusts and get bonked in the head by the falling hammer…whose fault is it?
      we shouldn’t be there in the first damned place.
      and as soon as the enabling lies were exposed, we should have left, post haste….leaving all kinds of money and apologies in our wake.
      to still be hanging around, unwanted by the locals, all these years later is arrogant and stupid.
      during the Bush Darkness, i was accused…to my face(even strangled, once!)…of being an american-hating traitor for being against the war, the Bush Cabal, and the very idea of American Empire.
      almost 20 years later, I’m still absolutely opposed to those things…not least out of a care for the Troops(tm)….and a fervent wish that for once in my 50 years i could be proud to be an American.
      what a gigantic misallocation of resources, in service of rapine and hegemony, while my fellow americans suffer and wither and scratch around for crumbs.

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  12. Mikel

     Another of many questions that remain involve the warped interpretation of “imminent” of the Bethlehem Doctrine. What institution will put a full stop to that doctrine of terror?
    It is a global hazard to continue to let that be adopted as any kind of standard.

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    1. Susan the other

      Under the Bethlehem Doctrine the entire political class in the USA, and possibly a few other countries, could be assassinated. What is legal or justified for one is justified for all.

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  13. David

    Rosser is an economist rather than a philosopher or. jurist, and so he doesn’t appear to realize that “justification” in the abstract is meaningless. An act can only be justified or not according to some ethical or legal principle, and you need to say what that principle is at the beginning before you start your argument. He doesn’t do that, so his argument has no more validity than that of someone you get into a discussion with in a bar or over coffee at work.
    Legally, of course, there is no justification, because there was no state of armed conflict between the US and Iran, so the act was an act of state murder. It doesn’t matter who the person was or what we was alleged to have done or be going to do. There’s been a dangerous tendency developing in recent years to claim some kind of right to pre-emptive attacks. There is no such legal doctrine, and the ultimate source of the misrepresentation – Art 51 of the UN Charter – simply recognizes that nothing in the Charter stops a state resisting aggression until help arrives. That’s it.
    Oh, and of course if this act were “justified” then any similar act in a similar situation would be justified as well, which might not work out necessarily to America’s advantage.

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  14. Carolinian

    Via ZH site this article is an interesting take on the situation

    https://www.spectator.co.uk/2020/01/donald-trump-has-just-blown-up-his-goal-of-isolating-iran/

    General Jonathan Shaw, former commander of UK forces in Iraq, put it well: Iran’s objectives are political, not military. Their aim is not to destroy any American air base, but to drive a wedge between the US and its Arab allies — and the Soleimani assassination has achieved more to this end than anything that could have been cooked up in Tehran. The Sunnis are standing down and the US and Israel now once again face being without real friends in the region. When push came to shove, all Kushner’s efforts amounted to nothing. How elated the Iranians must be, even in the midst of such a setback.

    Which if true means that instead of divide and conquer Trump and Pompeo may instead be practicing unite and be conquered when it comes to US meddling in the Middle East.

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    1. The Rev Kev

      I think that I see a danger for Israel here with a very tight pucker factor. I had assumed that if there was a war between Israel and Hezbollah, that Hezbollah would let loose their older rockets first to use up the Israeli anti-missile ordinance that they have. After that would come their modern accurate missiles.
      But part of that Iranian attack on those US bases was the use of older missiles that had been retro-fitted with gear for accurate targeting which obviously worked out spectacularly. Israel could assume that Iran would have given Hezbollah the same technology and the implication here is that any first wave of older Hezbollah missiles would just be as accurate as the following barrages of newer missiles.

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      1. Susan the other

        I wonder if it is remotely possible that all countries, say at the UN, could design acceptable language to make oil and natural gas a universal resource with a mandated conservation – agreed to by all. Those countries which have had oil economies and have become rich might agree to it because the use of oil and gas will be so restricted in future that they will not have those profits. But it would at least provide them with some steady income. It would prevent the oil wars we will otherwise have in our rush to monopolize the industry for profit; it would conserve the use of oil/gas and extend it farther out into the future so we can build a sustainable worldwide civilization and mitigate much of the damage we have done to the planet, etc. How can we all come together and make energy, oil and natgas access a universal human right (for the correct use)?

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  15. The Rev Kev

    Actually Soleimani was guilty of the deaths of tens of thousands of people. Tens of thousands of ISIS fighters that is. Do they count? The Saudis, Gulf States and the CIA may shed a tear for them but nobody else will. When Soleimani arrived in Baghdad, he was traveling in a diplomatic capacity to help try to ease off tensions between the Saudis and the Iranians. And this was the imminent danger that Trump was talking about. Not an imminent danger to US troops but a danger that the Saudis and Iranians might negotiate an accommodation. Michael Hudson has said similar in a recent article.

    I think that what became apparent from that attack last year on the Saudi oil installations was that they were now a hostage. In other words, if the US attacks Iran, then Iran will take out the entirety of Saudi oil production and perhaps the Saudi Royal family themselves. There is no scenario in an Iran-US war where the Kingdom come out intact. So it seems that they have been putting out feelers with the Iranians about coming to an accommodation. This would explain why when Soleimani was murdered, there was radio silence on behalf of the Saudis.

    Maybe Trump has worked out that all of the Saudi oil facilities becoming toast would be bad for America too but, more importantly, to himself personally. After all, what is the point of having the Saudis only sell their oil in US dollars if there is no oil to sell? What would such a development do to the standing of the US dollar internationally? The financial crisis would sink his chances for a win this November and that is something that he will never allow. And I bet that he did not Tucker Carlson to tell him that.

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    1. VietnamVet

      You and Susan the other have hit the nail on its head. The USA has lost. It is in an untenable position. How in the world, can we let the Establishment know that if NATO attacks Iran or gets in a war with Iraqi Shiite militias or Hezbollah, Middle East oil infrastructure will be destroyed. It has no defenses against thousands of precision guided ballistic missiles. Anybody so stupid to destroy the world economy most likely also trigger WWIII. Withdrawal and the end of the petrodollar is not the end of the world. It is the start of addressing climate change and saving the world. The US dollar remains sovereign and will be good for most of North America.

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    2. Charles 2

      The real reason why Soleimani was brazenly eliminated was because Iran or its proxies were getting too successful at stopping Saudi Arabia production now (as opposed to “in 10 years time”), and the message was “hands off Saudi production or else anybody or anything can be a target in Iran or elsewhere”.

      People who say that, “in the long run”, this is a stupid policy because Iran ultimately wins thanks its demographic weight and influence in Shia regions (where most of the oil and gas lies), don’t get that the Saudis and the USA and Russia are only playing for time, not ultimate domination. Actually setting all the Middle East on fire will become at some point the optimal policy for all of them !
      That point will be reached when the technology for producing carbon neutral synthetic hydrocarbon from electricity and captured CO2 matures, which I expect to happen by the end of the 20’s. Such technology will trigger a mad dash to carbon free energy independence from countries/zones which are traditionally consumers of oil and gas (Japan, Europe, China, India). As demand for oil and gas collapses, the high cost producers (USA for shale and Russia for Siberia/Artic) only have a chance to sell their stuff if the low cost producers in the ME are offline, hence ME on fire…

      In such a scenario, the Saudis (or at least the Saud family) still come on top even if they don’t produce oil because they can invest their sizable financial reserves in shale assets or clean energy assets.That is the magic of the USD and the EUR : it can be redeployed in, say, a shale or solar farm or wind farm or nuclear power plant or synfuel facility located in, say, Texas or Northern Australia or Norway with a low probability to be expropriated or see that asset destroyed ! Trying the same in Rubles or Yuan is much more challenging…

      This explain why Saudi Arabia is an agent of chaos, with both USA and Russia as sidekicks : none of them benefit from cheap oil and gas due to additional offer from Iran and Irak. Even Israel is now a competitor to Iran since it is going to produce Natural Gas ! From their point of view, it is not that the Iranians must loose, it is that they must not win too quickly, so that high prices and reserve accumulation lasts as long as possible and only for their benefit, until demand is destroyed by climate change driven technology.

      The losers in this setup ? China, India, Japan, Europe in that order, although the biggest losers will be the Persian Gulf countries. In 2050, they will have nothing to sell, little freshwater, deteriorated soil (possibly nuclear contaminated), still a lot of population, and climate change induced killer heatwaves.

      Reply
  16. nippersdad

    Fascinating developments on this issue today. Pompeo admits that nothing was “imminent.” Given the very specific definitions of Imminence that draw red lines between what is or is not legal in international law, this could get big very quickly.

    https://thehill.com/homenews/administration/477664-pompeo-says-we-dont-know-when-we-dont-know-where-soleimani-had

    And the Iraqi’s are not backing down.

    https://thehill.com/policy/defense/policy-strategy/477651-iraqi-prime-minister-tells-pompeo-to-prepare-a-mechanism-for

    Without a SOFA in place that leaves us open to charges of war crimes; prolly not something that Trump wants to see during an election year.

    Reply
    1. JTMcPhee

      What percent of the presumed Trump base, and imperial Big Business and Banksters, not to mention the sloshing mass of other parts of the electorate subject to “spinning” in the Bernays Tilt-a-Whirl, would give a rat’s aff about “war crimes” charges? Drone murders to date, the whole stupid of profitable (to a few, externalities ignored) GWOT, all the sh!t the CIA and CENTCOM and Very Special Ops have done with impunity against brown people and even people here at home, not anything more than squeaks from a small fraction of us.

      And Trump is the Decider, yes, who signed off (as far as we know) on killing Soleimani that was lined up by the Borg, but really, how personalized to him would any repentance and disgust or even scapegoat targeting by the Blob really be, in the kayfabe that passes for “democracy in America?”

      I always though de Tocqueville titled his oeuvre on the political economy he limned way back when as a neat bit of Gallic irony…

      Reply
    2. xkeyscored

      I don’t know. Might Trump benefit from charges of war crimes, spinning them as further proof that the United Nations, International Criminal Court, etc. are controlled by commies and muslims out to get the USA?
      As for the imminence of the hypothetical attacks, “There is no doubt that there were a series of imminent attacks being plotted by Qassem Soleimani,” Pompeo told the Fox News host. “We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.”
      Remember that imminent=possible at some time in the near or distant future, and
      Vice President Dick Cheney articulated shortly after 9/11: in Mr. Suskind’s words, “if there was even a 1 percent chance of terrorists getting a weapon of mass destruction — and there has been a small probability of such an occurrence for some time — the United States must now act as if it were a certainty.” That doctrine didn’t prevent Bush’s re-election.
      https://www.nytimes.com/2006/06/20/books/20kaku.html

      Reply
  17. Shiloh1

    Declare victory and bring them all home. Leave behind W’s Mission Accomplished banner and pallets of newly printed $100s with Obama’s picture.

    Along the lines of Bismarck, not worth the life of a single Pomeranian grenadier. Not my 20 year old, not anybody else’s in my name, either, especially since this began before they were born.

    And to whom will they sell their oil and natural gas? Who cares – its a fungible commodity of perhaps only of concern to our “allies” in Western Europe. Not my problem and great plan to mitigate carbon emissions!

    War hawks dressed in red or blue can become mercenaries and create Go Fund Me drives to protect their investments and any particular country which they have a personal affinity or citizenship.

    Reply
  18. Synoia

    It is US election year, and much money is to be had by pandering to various piles of money.

    Wacking an effective Iranian General is good news to some pile of money, and would encourage the pile of money to the Wacking party.

    I see this incident as no more that the behaviors of criminal gangs.

    The real question is Quo Bono. The answer appears to be the Israel Supporters giving $ to Trump.

    Reply
      1. Monty

        The whole episode reminds me of a Martin Scorsese plot line. A disagreement among “Made Men”. The unfortunate symbolism and ‘disrespect’ of the embassy protest demanded a response, especially after all the fuss Trump made about Benghazi. Some things cannot be allowed. The Iranians, Russians and Americans probably decided between themselves what would be sufficient symbolism to prevent a war, and so Soleimani was sacrificed to die as a hero/martyr. A small price to prevent things spiraling out of control. The Iranian response seems to add weight to this hypothesis.

        Reply
  19. Rosario

    Forgive me for taking this a little more in the direction of theory, but can the rest of the world justify the assassination of CIA/Pentagon/CENTCOM officials in a similar manner given the opportunity? Are these organizations not an analog to Quds? That seems to be more in line with the type of questions we need to be asking ourselves as US citizens in a multi-polar world. This article, despite its best intentions, still hints at an American exceptionalism that no longer exists in the international mind. The US could barely get away with its BS in the 90s, it definitely can’t in 2020.

    The US no longer has the monopoly on the narrative (“Big Lie”) rationalizing its actions, not to say the other countries have the correct narrative, just that, there are a whole bunch of narratives (“Lies”) out there being told to the world by various powers that are not the US, and the US is having a difficult time holding on to the mic. The sensible route would be to figure out how to assert cultural and political values/power in this world without the mafiosi methods. Maybe some old fashioned (if not icky, cynical) diplomacy. It is better than spilled blood, or nuclear war.

    The US military/intelligence wonks overplayed their hand with Soleimani. I think the Neo-Cons gave Trump a death warrant for Soleimani, and Trump was too self-involved (stupid) to know or care who he was offing. His reaction to the blow back betrays that.

    Now he is f*****, along with the chicken-hawks, and they all know it. They just have to sit back and watch Iran bomb US bases because the alternative is a potential big war, possibly involving China and Russia, that can’t be fought by our Islamist foreign legions. It’ll demand the involvement of US troops on the ground and the US electorate won’t tolerate it.

    Reply
  20. Ashburn

    Anyone who has worked in the counter-terrorism field knows that when a credible and imminent threat is received the first act is to devise a response to counter the threat. It may involve raising security measures at an airline security checkpoint, it may involve arrests, if possible, of the would-be terrorist(s). It may involve evacuating a building and conducting a search for a bomb. It may involve changing a scheduled appearance or route of travel of a VIP.

    The point is to stop the operators behind the threat from completing their terrorist act. What it certainly does NOT involve is assassinating someone who may have given the order but is definitely not involved in carrying out the act. Such an assassination would not only be ineffective in countering the threat but would likely be seen as increasing the motivation behind the attack. Such was the assassination of Soleimani, even if one believes in the alleged imminent threat. This was simply a revenge killing due to Soleimani’s success at organizing the opposition to US occupation.

    Reply
  21. David in Santa Cruz

    We don’t know precisely when and we don’t know precisely where, but it was real.

    How does this meet the internationally recognized legal requirement of “imminent” danger to human life required to kill a political or military leader outside of a declared war? All public statements by the U.S. political and military leadership point to a retaliatory killing, at best, with a vague overlay of preemptive action.

    If you agree that the “Bethlehem Doctrine” has never been recognized by the United Nations, the International Criminal Court, or the legislatures of the three rogue states who have adopted it, the assassination of Suleimani appears to have been a murder.

    This is absolutely chilling. These “End Times/Armageddon” lunatics want to destroy the world. Who would Jesus have murdered? They stand the lessons of his state-sanctioned murder on their heads…

    Reply
  22. xkeyscored

    Mintpress has an interesting article:
    Study Finds Bots and MAGA Supporters Pushing #IraniansDetestSoleimani Hashtag
    A social media disinformation expert studied 60,000 tweets from nearly 10,000 accounts using the hashtag #IraniansDetestSoleimani and found that the most common phrases in those users’ biographies were “Make America Great Again” and “Trump.”
    https://www.mintpressnews.com/study-bots-maga-supporters-iraniansdetestsoleimani-hashtag/264024/

    Reply
  23. Tom Bradford

    My two-pennyworth? The US press and the circles surrounding Trump are already crowing that he ‘won’ the exchange. If, as speculated, he went against military advice in ordering this assassination, his ‘victory’ will only confirm his illusions that he is a military genius, which makes him even more dangerous. There are some rather nasty parallels with the rise of Hitler appearing here.

    Reply
  24. mauisurfer

    The claim that Soleimani had killed hundreds of Americans was repeated, word for word, in many articles in the papers of record (e.g., New York Times, 1/7/20; Washington Post, 1/3/20, 1/3/20) as well as across the media (e.g., Boston Globe, 1/3/20; Fox News, 1/6/20; The Hill, 1/7/20).

    These “hundreds of Americans” were US forces killed by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) during the Iraq War, supposedly made in Iran and planted by Iranian-backed Shia militias. As professor Stephen Zunes pointed out in the Progressive (1/7/20), the Pentagon provided no evidence that Iran made the IEDs, other than the far-fetched claim that they were too sophisticated to be made in Iraq—even though the US invasion had been justified by claims that Iraq had an incredibly threatening WMD program. The made-in-Iran claim, in turn, was the main basis for pinning responsibility for IED attacks on Shia militias—which were, in any case, sanctioned by the Iraqi government, making Baghdad more answerable for their actions than anyone in Tehran. Last year, Gareth Porter reported in Truthout, (7/9/19) that the claim that Iran was behind the deaths of US troops was part of Vice President Dick Cheney’s plan to build a case for yet another war.

    Reply
    1. J7915

      IIRC the “sophistication claim” was made years ago. Apparently the basic technology is applied in oilfields to pierce oil well lining tubes at the oil layer. So the Iraqis knew all about the basic technique, only needed some more information.

      Reply
  25. Bill Carson

    About those “603 American deaths” that Soleimani is posthumously being charged with….

    “I cross-checked a Pentagon casualty database with obituaries and not 1 of the 9 American servicemen killed fighting in Iraq since 2011 died at the hands of militias backed by Suleimani. His assassination was about revenge and provocation, not self-defense.”

    Robert Mackey on Twitter

    Reply
  26. mauisurfer

    Larry Johnson:

    “The U.S. Government and almost all of the media continue to declare that Iran is the biggest sponsor of terrorism. That is not true. That is a lie. I realize that calling this assertion a lie opens me to accusations of being an apologist for Iran. But simply look at the facts.”
    “The Trump Administration needs to stop with its infantile ranting and railing about Iran and terrorism. The actual issues surrounding Iran’s growing influence in the region have little to do with terrorism. Our policies and actions towards Iran are accelerating their cooperation with China and Russia, not diminishing it. I do not think that serves the longterm interests of the United States or our allies in the Middle East”

    read whole story here:

    https://turcopolier.typepad.com/sic_semper_tyrannis/2020/01/the-facts-about-iran-and-terrorism-by-larry-c-johnson.html

    Reply
    1. xkeyscored

      Thank you, Bill.

      The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the matter.
      The unsuccessful operation may indicate that the Trump administration’s killing of Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani last week was part of a broader operation than previously explained, raising questions about whether the mission was designed to cripple the leadership of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps or solely to prevent an imminent attack on Americans as originally stated.

      https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/on-the-day-us-forces-killed-soleimani-they-launched-another-secret-operation-targeting-a-senior-iranian-official-in-yemen/2020/01/10/60f86dbc-3245-11ea-898f-eb846b7e9feb_story.html

      Reply
  27. sierra7

    “Justification”?????
    You’re kidding right?
    “They”, those who we firstly “embrace” for our own interests are “for us” until we decide we are “against them”!
    What a farce our foreign policies are!
    For some “exceptional” reason we don’t recognize international law!
    We are the terrorists not them.

    Reply
  28. Jack Parsons

    Prediction for this stupidest of all worlds: Iraq really does boot us out, T-bone siezes on this for its obvious popularity among his base, and uses “He Kept Us Out Of War” for re-election.

    Reply
    1. Shiloh1

      Feature, not bug.

      Where is my peace dividend after fall of Berlin Wall and Soviet Union?

      Poppy and MIC wouldn’t have it, hence April Galaspie’s “no instructions” response to Saddam’s initial inquiry over the Iraq / Kuwait surveying and mineral rights dispute on Kuwait’s drilling at the border 30 years ago.

      Reply

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