Give a self-possessed simpleton real power and see how he wreaks havoc on what he is charged to protect. Surround him with enablers to cheer him when he loads a bullet into his revolver for a game of Russian roulette and see how he destroys himself. President Donald J. Trump’s moment came when he haphazardly ordered the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani- Iran’s lionized top security and intelligence commander.
This assassination would certainly please Israel, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, the Trump base and others who care less about the timing, location and any subsequent cost.
In this latest escapade Trump has unilaterally jostled the United States into a potentially protracted war with Iran and inadvertently squandered any change for reelection, assuming that he survives the impeachment.
In a statement confirming the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, Trump described him as “the number one terrorist anywhere in the world” and that he was “plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel.” Never mind the fact that majority of the American people never heard the General’s name before that moment.
If this assassination was intended as a ‘deterrent’, it is already having the opposite effect.
It is great that Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, has been ensuring foreign diplomats that U.S. is “committed to de-escalation,” but in Iran this is received as another example of America double-speak.
Ironically, during his impeachment in 1998—in a politically motivated military provocation code named Operation Desert Fox—President Bill Clinton has ordered a ferocious four day bombing on Iraq that compelled Congress to delay debate and vote on his impeachment.
Soleimani Exploits and Legacy
For the Shia around the world, he was a Muslim Che Guevara who courageously put his life on the line for his brethren-in-cause outside the confines of his nation’s borders. For the Sunni of mainly Arab countries, he was the personification of evil or the diabolical minds behind the so-called Shia crescent threatening the Sunni world. But, as often is the case, truth is found in between two extremes.
Soleimani was the man who masterfully tipped the balance of power in the Middle East in favor of his country against all odds. Iran has been facing periodical sanctions stretching back four decades yet it became a regional power to reckon with.
He was a text-book Machiavellian strategist who transcended sectarian blind loyalty. He supported Hamas against Israeli domination more than any Arab country since the Saddam-era Iraq. He was also the field marshal of the apocalyptic civil-war who used barrel bombs to deliver mass killings, ignite fires in populated neighborhoods and cause psychological horror to force civilians to flee in horror. Soleimani wanted to do it in the cheap, so he took a page out of Israel’s playbook. Israel invented those unguided bombs and used them in 1948 for strategic ethnic-cleansing of the Palestinian people.
There is no question that Soleimani’s assassination was of ‘a high value’ score, but it is extremely naïve to consider it a geopolitical checkmate in favor of the U.S. and its allies in the region and Europe. “We are waking up in a more dangerous world. Military escalation is always dangerous,” said France’s deputy minister for foreign affairs.
Though Gen. Soleimani presented a threat to the U.S. interests in the region beyond Israel and Saudi Arabia, he was a valuable partner in the fight against terrorist organizations such as al-Qaida and ISIS. But his record in Syria is what he would be remembered the most.
The most conservative estimate of the death toll in Syria is 400,000 as the real numbers are lost ‘in the fog of war.’ The displacement is 12 million civilians out of a population of 18 million. Based on these facts, the General was a ruthless war criminal, but assassinating a government official of such rank is nothing less than an illicit declaration of war. He should have been arrested and be delivered to the International Criminal Court to face justice. In fairness, he was not the only criminal in that killing field; but that is for another day.
Like it or not, Soleimani is now a martyr and he is more dangerous in his grave. He is gone, but no one should underestimate what is left in Iran’s strategic toolbox. After all, it is remnant of the Persian Empire where the game of chess evolved and became a national identity.
If this was intended to avert imminent danger, rest assured, it set the stage for the opposite. There have been mass protests and public display of outrage in Iran, Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Iran has already registered its protest with the U.N. Security Council and said it will retaliate militarily to defend its sovereignty in accordance with the international law.
“A forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands,” said Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Without any drama at the Strait of Hormuz, the world’s most important oil passageway, before any Houthi attacks on Aramco or Saudi oil fields or Hezbollah militia of Lebanon’s attack on Israel, crude oil and maritime insurance prices have been spiking. But we have not seen the worst yet. The question is: what would this mean to the U.S. economy and that of the world? What might happen to the ‘great economy’ passing card that Trump wanted to flash his way back into the White House in 2020?
When the real history of Trump impeachment is written, many historians will censure the Democratic congress for haphazardly rushing to the subjectively tainted ‘impeachment’ instead of invoking Amendment 25 of the constitution to remove him out of the office for gross mental deficiency or dangerous incompetence. There is ample evidence- many shockingly erratic interviews, and public statements. Trump has systematically ruined America’s foreign policy interest around the world.
In reaction to his latest, the Iraqi Parliament has endorsed a draft bill to expel the American troops out of its country. Trump is threatening to impose sanctions on Iraq ‘like they’ve never seen before’ and threatened to attack Iran’s ‘cultural sites’ or religious site. But Iraq would have no choice but to brave through for the alternative is imminent violent struggle between Iraqis and increased hostility toward an unpopular and corrupt government.
Currently, Iraq’s oil output is 4.6 barrels per day, the second largest in OPEC. However, as the discreet beneficiaries of spoils of the Iraq war, Exon Mobil controls the Basra oil fields with output of 3 million barrels per day and the good chunk of $76 billion per year revenue. The other fields are controlled by British Petroleum and other Western companies.
At this juncture the only way to turn this around and make the region and all linked economies more stable is to persuade Iran to come to the negotiation table. And the only way to compel Iran to accept is to lift all sanctions against her and let her pursue her nuclear program. One way or another, the current shock on global security has opened the Pandora ’s Box on nuclear proliferation.