Soleimani was assassinated one week ago today and we still haven’t been shown evidence of the imminent threat

A week ago today, the U.S. military, at the direction of President Donald Trump, assassinated Iranian General Qassim Soleimani. The Trump administration told us at the time that this was absolutely necessary, as they had evidence of an “imminent attack” against U.S. forces… one which could only be stopped by eliminating the powerful Iranian leader. Well, a week has now passed, and we’ve yet to hear anyone in the Trump administration elaborate on the nature of this imminent attack. And this, as we’ve discussed before, is an issue because, without evidence of an imminent attack which was disrupted by Soleimani’s assassination, our nation is guilty of having committed an illegal act. As Agnes Callamard, the United Nations official in charge of assessing the legality of targeted killings under international law, said following of the assassination of Soleimani, “The test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is ‘instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation’”. And, with every day that passes, it’s looking less likely that Soleimani’s killing was legal under international law.

At this point, I should add the obligatory disclaimer: Yes, Soleimani was a horrendous man. And, yes, he deserved his fate… That doesn’t mean, however, that we shouldn’t demand more of our country. This wasn’t just a poorly thought out plan, which was arrived at outside of the standard military decision making process, with little thought as to the potential consequences, but it’s also incredibly short sighted in that it doesn’t acknowledge the real advantage we’ve had historically, which is that people everywhere didn’t just fear us, but they respected what this nation of ours stood for. And, when we sacrifice that, I think we’re just making it less likely that, in the long run, democracy will win out over the other competing ideologies of the world, which is a bad thing for humanity.

Here’s a great example of what I’m talking about. A few days ago, President Trump, in defending his comments about the targeting of cultural sites in Iran, in violation of international law, had the following to say. “They’re allowed to kill our people. They’re allowed to torture and maim our people. They’re allowed to use roadside bombs and blow up our people. And we’re not allowed to touch their cultural sites? It doesn’t work that way,” he said. I’ll concede that we’ve never been perfect, but at least, up until now, we tried. And it’s horribly depressing to see us no longer even trying to hold and defend the moral high ground, but essentially announcing to the international community that America no longer aspires to be that “shining city on the hill”.

Today, by the way, when asked about the kinds of concerns I just laid out above, Donald Trump responded by picking up the line of attack of Republican Congressman Doug Collins, who said yesterday that Democrats are “in love with terrorists“. [Collins also said that Democrats “mourn Soleimani more than they mourn our gold star families.”] The President said that Nancy Pelosi had “defended” Soleimani. And, this, of course, is a lie. [Pelosi called Soleimani “a terrible person.” But, as she stressed today, “It’s not about how bad they are. It’s about how good we are.” And we are still a nation of laws.

[As I mentioned the comments of Doug Collins above, I should add Democratic Senator Tammy Duckworth’s response. “I left parts of my body in Iraq fighting terrorists,” she said.]

Before we move on, here’s something from Just Security about the difference between lawful self-defense and revenge strikes.

…Self-defense on the international level, like self-defense in any other context, is a legal justification that requires the use of force to be absolutely necessary to protect against an imminent threat of unlawful violence. If that act of violence is completed, this self-help justification expires, unless the victim reasonably perceives an ongoing threat. This “timeliness” aspect of self-defense necessity functions to prohibit a victim of unlawful violence from transforming a genuine self-protection justification into a justification to take revenge.

That is, a U.S attack purely in retribution for earlier Iranian attacks is squarely prohibited by international law, specifically the United Nations Charter. Like an act of self-defense in the individual context, in which responses to and retribution for past violent acts is ceded to the criminal justice system, international law cedes legal authority for enforcement of international law – including violent punishment of aggressors – to the U.N. Security Council…

In his comments today, Donald Trump said that Soleimani was killed “because they were looking to blow up our embassy”. Some took that to mean that there was a plot afoot to actually do just that. Others, though, like myself, took it as a reference to the protesters who recently stormed the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. [As I understand it, there’s no evidence of Soleimani having played a role in the storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.] When asked for more details about this “plot” to blow up the embassy, Trump responded, “I think it was obvious, if you look at the protests,” which would seem to indicate to me that he was just referencing the recent protests, but I guess we’ll just have to keep waiting for the evidence… evidence, which, by the way, hasn’t even been shared with Congress yet. [Responding to several members of Congress from both parties who referred to the the administration’s briefing on Soleimani’s killing, the worst military briefing they’ve ever received, Donald Trump today said that several members of Congress have reached out to him to say that it was, in fact, “the best presentation they’ve ever seen.” He, of course, did not offer any names.]

For what it’s worth, Donald Trump was given an enormous gift when the Iranians gave him a way to save face and step back from the brink of war by launching a dozen symbolic missiles toward unoccupied areas on the grounds of U.S. bases in Iraq, and acting as though, with that, the score between our two countries had been settled. It was a shrewd move on the part of the Iranians, who, more so than us, seem to be focused on the long game. Their objective has always been to grow their influence in Iraq, and with the Iraqi parliament already voting to expel U.S. forces in the wake of Qassem Suleimani’s assassination, I suspect they figured, why jeopardize that momentum by taking the lives of American soldiers. All things considered, I’d say this is probably the best result we could have hoped for, given how poorly the Trump administration has handled things thus far. At least for the time being, we don’t seem to be on a path toward war. Of course, all it would take is for one pro-Iran Shiite militia in Iraq to carry out an attack against U.S. forces, but, until that happens, we have time to work on a diplomatic solution. The question is, do we have anyone in the administration capable of brokering a long term deal? And, given what I’ve seen thus far, I’d say we don’t.

update: To any of you who might have thought that Donald Trump was referring to a real, planned, imminent attack against U.S. forces when he said, “because they were looking to blow up our embassy”…

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29 Comments

  1. iRobert
    Posted January 9, 2020 at 10:47 pm | Permalink

    Feeling bad about sounding like a broken record…

    But I think Trunp was very intentionally directed to violate international law. There’s a message being sent in this.

  2. Anonymous
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 7:06 am | Permalink

    From the news:

    “A day after Donald Trump designated Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) a terrorist organisation, reports are reemerging of the Trump Organization’s alleged participation in a scheme that likely helped the IRGC launder money to fund its interests abroad.”

    https://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/americas/us-politics/trump-iran-irgc-revolutionary-guards-tower-baku-azerbaijan-sanctions-a8861736.html

  3. Jean Henry
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 7:39 am | Permalink

    Mike Lee, with whom I agree on very little, on his support for the Kaine War Powers amendment and the White House Briefing sharing the ‘intelligence’ that led up to the meeting: https://www.npr.org/2020/01/09/794834920/sen-lee-and-other-lawmakers-criticize-white-house-briefing-on-iran

    Finally, a GOP congressperson shows some guts and integrity.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 7:49 am | Permalink

    Some of the original reporting on Trump Tower Baku and the Revolutionary Guard involvement. I had paid attention because my sister was owed a bunch of money on some furniture she sold to the Trumps for the project. She never received any bags of cash, just no cash. I doubt this thing has anything to do with Suleimani’s killing as it’s not an especially unusual way of doing business for Trump except that it never got finished. https://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2017/03/13/donald-trumps-worst-deal

  5. Eel
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 10:27 am | Permalink

    Seems to me if there was really an imminent threat, Donald Trump would be crowing about it nonstop.

  6. Meta
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 10:46 am | Permalink

    From the Wall Street Journal:

    Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate, associates said.

    Read more:
    https://www.wsj.com/articles/trumps-new-national-security-team-made-fast-work-of-iran-strike-11578619195

  7. Wobblie
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 11:00 am | Permalink

    Aloha, As Tulsi has repeatedly pointed out the recent National Defense Authorization Act that was recently passed with a huge Democratic majority ( Rho Kahna and Tulsi led 60 anti-imperialist in opposition) authorized this administration to develope and IMPLEMENT opposition to Iran. Yesterday’s war power resolution was just window dressing.
    Unidentified planes bombed a Hezbollah convoy in Syria today.
    Remember we are in a state of war and everything our government tells us or the media will be propaganda.

  8. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 1:13 pm | Permalink

    “Of course we’re going to war.”—MM

    “…[W]e don’t seem to be on a path toward war. “—MM

  9. Jean Henry
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 5:50 pm | Permalink

    Interesting the the killing of America citizens and serviceman in Kenya by Al Shabaab is receiving no attention from Trump or anyone really.
    ‪Kenya terror attack: Three Americans killed by Al-Shabaab – CNNPolitics https://www.cnn.com/2020/01/05/politics/us-service-member-civilian-defense-contractors-killed-kenya/index.html‬

  10. Posted January 10, 2020 at 6:49 pm | Permalink

    Yes, FF, I did think that, when we committed an act of war, it would lead to war. I wasn’t expecting the Iranians to respond like they did.

  11. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 6:56 pm | Permalink

    The main thrust of your reasoning was not of course we are going to war because we just started a war—although I am not sure that would qualify as reasoning. The main thrust of your reasoning was we are going to war because Trump wants to distract from impeachment.

  12. Anonymous
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 6:57 pm | Permalink

    To expect government secrets to be revealed publicly is silly, otherwise they would not be secret.

  13. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 10, 2020 at 7:36 pm | Permalink

    Are the mullahs oppressive of the Iranian people?

  14. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 6:42 am | Permalink

    Regarding the claim that Trump lied about Pelosi defending Soleimani: Pelosi criticized Trump’s decision to target and kill Soleimani. Therefore, insofar as it is possible to defend an already dead person, Pelosi defended Soleimani against the decision which led to his death.

  15. iRobert
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 7:02 am | Permalink

    The Iranians have acknowledged that they shot down the Ukrainian airliner, and said it was not intentional.

    They haven’t said anything about why exactly, however. Not that any explanation they give is to be trusted. They lied about the crash being the result of a mechanical problem at the outset.

    I doubt enough detail will be shared publically to know whether there was any more to it than error on the part of Iranian defense. The Iranians are certainly incompetent enough to have simply misidentified the commercial airliner on their own. We already know they didn’t have the sense to ground commercial flights the very moment they launched their missile attack on Iraqi bases.

    Possible involvement of an agent provocateur is not excluded. I’d say it is even pretty likely that the aircraft’s radio identifier was altered or disabled. Putin’s agents, Mossad, the CIA, or a domestic Iranian sabbatour would have an easy task of it. We’ll see if any new details come to light that suggest their was anything more to this than an incompetent Iranian missile defense, and from what interest it may have come.

  16. Wobblie
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 9:12 am | Permalink

    aloha IRobert, unlike our country which makes accusations without sufficient evidence Iran is a mature country that assembles evidence before announcing results. The next question to determine the answer to is, was the jets transponder working properly. Or as Iran has said, was US electronic warfare disturbing or blocking the signal from the craft that would have identified it as civilian. Our omnipotent overlords have not said anything about that so far.
    Remember we are at war and everything our Government and media tells us is propaganda

  17. Jean Henry
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 9:40 am | Permalink

    The Washtenaw County United Way is hosting a 21 day equity challenge which has a lot of great resources that some folks here might find useful. They are 6 days in but it’s easy enough to catch up. Highly recommended. Or maybe it would be more effective to say– Whatever you do, don’t participate in this equity challenge :

    https://www.uwwashtenaw.org/civicrm/event/info?id=193&reset=1

  18. Jean Henry
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 9:44 am | Permalink

    “Therefore, insofar as it is possible to defend an already dead person, Pelosi defended Soleimani against the decision which led to his death.” –FF

    ROFL! That’s LOGIC!
    “If a cat has 4 legs and a dog has 4 legs, therefor a cat is a dog.” — the logician in the Rhinoceros

    FF– There is some distance between being critical of another person and wanting them dead. I, for instance, think you are full of shit and a terrible corrupted human being but that does not mean I want you to be killed.

  19. Anonymous
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 9:59 am | Permalink

    As an example, I gained 10 pounds over the holidays, eating three full meals a day, which I’ve now lost by returning to my normal eating habits of two very light meals and one medium meal. Since it’s physiologically impossible to convey all that food to substance and then burn it off, I conclude that I was also full of shit. Maybe FF likes to eat.

  20. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 10:45 am | Permalink

    Jean,

    In my previous comment I tried to communicate an understand that it is in fact odd for me to say Pelosi is “defending” an already dead person from the decision of being targeted and killed. It is an odd thing to say primarily because it defies the chrono-logical order. Do you know what else defies the chrono-logical order? Pretending like one knows that the world would have been a safer place if Trump would have decided against targeting and killing Soleimani. Pelosi’s statement does not exist in the chrono-logical order—it was a political defense of an alternate possibility which has been closed off by actions within time (chronology).

    Pelosi called the targeting and killing of Soleimani “provocative and disproportionate”. What does that mean to you? To me Pelosi is saying Soleimani did not deserve to be killed and that Iran’s natural sense of Justice would cause them to enter into a war that Trump unnecessarily “provoked”. How is Pelosi not simultaneously defending Soleimani when she is criticizing Trump’s decision to target and kill him? At minimum we should all be able to agree that Mark calling Trump a liar here is silly.

    You guys want to have your cake (not get fat) and eat it too.

  21. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 1:25 pm | Permalink

    “The Iranians have acknowledged that they shot down the Ukrainian airliner, and said it was not intentional.”

    Whoops, sorry!

  22. Bob
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink

    Yeah, hilarious. This piece of shit conjured up some bullshit excuse to assassinate this guy and a plane full of innocent people die by mistake as part of the response. You’re also a piece of shit, Warlord.

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 4:26 pm | Permalink

    I think iRobeet may have called this one. It will be interesting to see if there was any interference with their radar system. I’m surprised the Oranians admitted it was a missile strike. By the sounds of it, the Iranian public bought that it wasn’t. My guess is they did so because there is more to this story.

  24. Jean Henry
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 4:33 pm | Permalink

    FF — you just double down on the fatuous bloviation when cornered by reason. Every day you make more clear how right I am to hold ‘logic’ in suspicion. You are an object lesson on how one can use ‘reason’ to self-delude.

    Anonymous, I eat almost nothing and can not lose weight anymore. I don’t know if that means I’m hopelessly full of shit or just fat. Probably both. As my old lady friend Mrs Redfield told me 30 years ago, ’As they grow old, people don’t change, they only get more so. “ Heh.

  25. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 6:41 pm | Permalink

    Jean,

    What I am saying is fairly non controversial. I suspect the only reason you don’t find my point obvious is that you have a very low level of understanding. Short recap: Pelosi seemed to indicate that Trump’s targeting/ killing of Soleimani was somehow not a just act. By definition Pelosi offered a defense against the specific judgment delivered to Soleimani by Trump.

    In other places Pelosi made a vague defense of due process. Which does not necessarily involve a defense of Soleimani—because she is defending the process. However, in other places she used the word “disproportionate” to describe the killing, which indicates that Trump’s judgment did not fit the crime. Is there another way to interpret the term “disproportionate” except in terms of judgment and Justice? If there is another way to interpret her use of “disproportionate” then let me know. Until then I will find it very odd that you are accusing me “fatuous bloviation” when we are dealing with fairly non- controversial matters of definition that unfold into the necessary conclusion that Mark was wrong to call Trump a liar in this case.

  26. Jean Henry
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 9:59 pm | Permalink

    Sigh.

  27. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 12, 2020 at 11:24 am | Permalink

    “Bob
    Posted January 11, 2020 at 2:25 pm | Permalink
    Yeah, hilarious. This piece of shit conjured up some bullshit excuse to assassinate this guy and a plane full of innocent people die by mistake as part of the response. You’re also a piece of shit, Warlord.”

    You are drowning and there isn’t a damn thing you can do about it. Everything is going my way. Remember after the President sorted out NK I told you Iran is next? Well, that time is now. It will turn out well for Iranians.

  28. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 12, 2020 at 2:00 pm | Permalink

    You can try to defend Mark all you want Jean but I don’t think comments like “sigh” move the needle in your favor much except maybe amongst low info types.

    If you want to defend Mark calling Trump a liar here, then addressing Pelosi’s use of the term “disproportionate”, to describe Trump’s decision to target/ kill Soleimani, is unavoidable. Obviously! No?

  29. iRobert
    Posted January 13, 2020 at 8:19 am | Permalink

    I want to like you, Wobblie, and treat you with some respect, but you’re making that very difficult.

    Your comment that “Iran is a mature country that assembles evidence before announcing results” is incredibly stupid.

    Iran announced the Ukrainian airliner had crashed due to mechanical failure. But after video was posted online showing it was brought down by ground-to-air missiles, they changed their story. This is standard operating procedure for Iran, and has been for many decades, as you should well know.

    I could produce an almost endless list of the terrible things Iran has been doing since the 70s, but there is no reason you wouldn’t know all of it. Apparently, you think Putin and Iran are mature, peacemaking angels. But actually, you’re just a jackass whom I assume is stoned beyond hope.

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