Why take out Soleimani now?

I posted something here last night about the assassination of Iranian general Qassim Soleimani. In that post, after having said what a terrible man that Soleimani was, and acknowledging that he likely deserved his fate, I said that I found the timing suspect. Well, as some of you have written to say that you disagree with me on this, I thought that I’d take a few minutes and go a little deeper on the subject. Following are the main points which make me think that something likely isn’t right about this.

First, Soleimani, a high-ranking member of the Iranian government, has been in the crosshairs of the U.S. government for a long time. If I’m not mistaken, he was officially labeled a terrorist in 2011, when it became know that Iranian operatives were attempting to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the United States in Washington. Since then, the United States has had several opportunities to take out Soleimani, but, until now, we’ve never made the move to assassinate him. And my question is, Why now? What changed? Soleimani isn’t someone who has been in hiding. He traveled openly. He used social media. This wasn’t an instance, like others that we’ve seen, where we had only a very small window of time in which to act. Soleimani has been in the crosshairs for a long time, but, for some reason we thought better of striking until yesterday. Why is that?

It was implied early on that Soleimani’s assassination was in retaliation for the rocket attack in Kirkuk last week that left a U.S. defense contractor dead. If that’s the case, I again wonder, Why now? There have been other rocket attacks against U.S. facilities in Iraq. And, I’m not a legal scholar, but, if I’m not mistaken, when one assassinates a foreign official, it can not be in retaliation for past actions. Agnes Callamard, the United Nations official in charge of assessing the legality of targeted killings under international law, just recently said the 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'”, she said. She then went on to add, “This test is unlikely to be met in these particular cases.”

It should be noted that, today, Secretary of Defense Mike Pompeo, I guess having been made aware of the legal hurdle they had to meet, made a statement saying that Soleimani was involved in the planning of an “imminent attack.” If true, this would make the assassination significantly less illegal than his previous explanation, which was that the General was killed in order to “restore deterrence.” But, in order to sell the “imminent attack” justification, one needs proof, and, as of right now, Pompeo has yet to offer any evidence of an imminent attack that was disrupted by Soleimani’s assassination.

So, again, yes, Soleimani was a terrible man, but, according to international law, we can’t take out the government officials of other nation just because they’re terrible men. As Agnes Callamard just recently said, “(W)hoever targeted these two men would need to demonstrate that the persons targeted constitute(d) an imminent threat to others. An individual’s past involvement in ‘terrorist’ attacks is not sufficient to make his targeting for killing lawful.” And this is why we immediately need to hear from the administration about why this action against Soleimani was taken now.

But, to my mind, it’s not just that this might well have been an illegal act. The bigger issue, I think, is that the administration does not appear to have any coherent plan in place to move us forward now that Soleimani has been killed. Under a competent administration, one would imagine that, after such an event took place, there would be a coordinated program rolled out, containing both an explanation as to why said person had to be assassinated, and an offer of negotiations going forward, in hopes of normalizing the relationship. In this instance, all we have is Pompeo saying that the assassination of Soleimani was part of the administration’s “deescalation” policy, which is absolutely laughable. As someone else online suggested, could you imagine the Iranians taking out Colin Powell when he was Secretary of Defense, and then issuing a statement saying that this was part of their deescalation campaign?

With evidence of an imminent attack, I’d be happy to acknowledge that Soleimani’s assassination was necessary, assuming he had a role, and that the assassination would kill the plan. I can’t imagine any scenario, however, in which I’d ever accept this assassination was undertaken in order to deescalate tensions in the area. And, for what it’s worth, if that was their intention, it doesn’t seem to be working. Iran Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei today promised that “harsh retaliation” was awaiting the United States. [Donald Trump this morning said, “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.”]

I could go on, but I’ll just say this… The idea of war with Iran – and, lest there be any confusion, this was an act of war – is absolutely insane. The country has a population of over 81 million, and, in a heartbeat, they could draft every young man between the ages of 18 and 34 into service. To think that we’ve come to this place, when, just three years ago, we had a nuclear agreement that was actually working, and the promise of a better diplomatic relationship going forward, is absolutely infuriating. It’s all so unnecessary. And the thought that Donald Trump did this without consulting anyone in Congress, except for Lindsey Graham, is unconscionable. [And, if he told Eric Trump, that’s even worse.]

And, yes, I do think that we’ve seen enough from Donald “can you do us a favor though” Trump to question how such decisions are made by this administration. We know that our President makes decisions based primarily on what serves his own financial and political interests, with little consideration of things like national security. And I can see no reason not to consider the very real possibility — especially if they’re lying about the “imminent danger” — that there’s more to this than Trump’s desire to deescalate tensions in the Middle East. I’ve seen to much to accept that. And the fact that they appear to be lying about the imminent threat makes it all the more obvious. I could be wrong, but it looks to me as though they made the decision to throw us into war with Iran because they felt as though it would help influence the election. And, for what it’s worth, there’s evidence that Donald Trump has consider this in the past. Let’s remember, he once predicted that Obama would lead us to war in Iran in order to give himself an edge come reelection time.

And, yes, they are lying about the assassination foiling an imminent threat.

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  1. Demetrius
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 7:22 pm | Permalink

    That Eric knew ahead of time, but couldn’t help himself from hinting/boasting on social media about what was coming says everything …

  2. Military.com
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 7:44 pm | Permalink

    The entire 1st Brigade Combat Team from the Army’s 82nd Airborne Division is heading to the Middle East. The soldiers are based out of Fort Bragg, North Carolina


  3. Richard Engel @NBCNews
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 7:46 pm | Permalink

    Iraqi security official tells @nbcnews there has been anther US airstrike, this one north of Baghdad targeting Shiite militia leaders. Reports of 6 killed. This right BEFORE a big Shiite protest tomorrow in Baghdad. It seems certain to provoke an escalation.

  4. Jean Henry
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 8:21 pm | Permalink

    I heard an expert assessment that said that Suleimani was in Iraq to work on a deal between Iran, Syria and Iraq for protection that would allow Iraq to tell us to leave. And that’s why the Pentagon wanted to attack. Since Trump supposedly wants us out of there, I don’t get it. Maybe it’s about saving face.

    At any rate, guess what? The Iraqi government is now going to kick us out. Peace will not break out in Iraq as a result.

    None of it makes sense to me but I also feel like there is no way this was Trump’s idea. Now it may still be a political calculus that motivated it. But the reality is we don’t know. We can’t know. We can just wait for actual journalists, those that remain, to do their work. Any other speculation on why this happened now is politically motivated and so worthless and almost certainly mostly wrong.

    It’s really important to vet one’s sources all the time (not saying you haven’t, Mark) but especially during a major election campaign season.

  5. Jean Henry
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 8:56 pm | Permalink

    Protest tomorrow in Detroit:
    JAN 4
    US Troops Out of the Middle East – No War on Iran!
    Public · Hosted by Michigan Emergency Committee Against War & Injustice (MECAWI)
    Tomorrow at 12 PM – 1 PM
    Campus Martius, 800 Woodward Ave, Detroit, MI 48226

  6. Posted January 3, 2020 at 9:42 pm | Permalink

    Pence, it appears, is now saying that Soleimani was involved in the 9/11 attack. There is no evidence of that having been the case.

  7. Posted January 3, 2020 at 9:52 pm | Permalink

    I was somewhat dubious about the speculation around Eric Trump’s deleted “can of whoop ass” tweet when I first heard about it yesterday. I thought that, maybe, he was talking about something else. Then I read reporting that Donald Trump had told several Mar-a-Lago members to expect a “big” response to Iran very “soon.” Congress wasn’t consulted, but members of his golf club were told. It’s amazing to me that those Republicans who claimed to be concerned about the security of Hillary Clinton’s private email server aren’t being hounded by the press and their constituents every day on the hypocrisy. [One also wonders how many of his golf buddies shorted the oil market after hearing the news.]

  8. Anonymous
    Posted January 3, 2020 at 10:03 pm | Permalink

    Donald Trump on November 16, 2011: “Our president will start a war with Iran…He’s weak & ineffective. So the only way he figures that he’s going to get reelected and is sure as you’re sitting there is to start a war with Iran.”

  9. Anonymous
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 3:46 am | Permalink

    I think we worry too much, because according to the president, He’s got this.


  10. Posted January 4, 2020 at 9:08 am | Permalink

    This thread is good.

  11. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 9:50 am | Permalink

    Many of the same people who were mostly silent about illegal occupations and war crimes over the last 20 years are now suddenly keenly interested in the legal and moral justifications for war acts.

  12. Bob
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 11:55 am | Permalink

    I think the exact same people criticizing this move were those of us criticizing the war crimes of W and Obama. Nice try though , Frosted Fake.

  13. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 12:09 pm | Permalink

    But Bob, maybe you don’t belong in that class of people. I accept that. If a person suddenly finds themselves very concerned with the legality and morality of war then maybe they should ask themselves “why now” and “why not” before.

  14. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 2:49 pm | Permalink

    I would like to take this opportunity to say that Bob is right. FF knows very well that it’s conservatives that tow the party line and liberals and progressives who self-critique. It’s all just bluster. He hangs out in a left-wing forum so he can declare bias– well yeah duh. But when he tries to say we are not applying critical thinking skills because we don’t agree with his skewed perspective he is very clearly just plain wrong. Ther is ample evidence of the left engaged in self-criticism, of each other and its leaders, just on this local left-leaning blog which he chooses to frequent.

  15. Bob
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 2:54 pm | Permalink

    I think the bigger question you should ask is “how far are these scummy Republicans willing to bury their consciences in the name of maintaining a wall of fake support for this guy?”
    It’s so beyond anything that has occurred before in our history. These guys like McConnell and Graham aren’t fuming behind closed doors at his abuse of power? He has completely diminished the function and power of every member of Congress over the last three years. It’s astounding that they aren’t willing to slap him down in any way. He’s made them a joke and Graham is out there lying that he was briefed before the assassination. Such a bold faced lie. And for what purpose? Re-election of this turd?

  16. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 3:47 pm | Permalink

    Was he not responsible for hundreds of American deaths? Why didn’t Obama do anything about him is the question.

  17. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 4:47 pm | Permalink

    HW– Both Obama and Bush looked at assassinating Soleimani and decided against it because it would be to incendiary. It’s all on record. They ran a cost-benefit analysis and decided that taking out a general of a nation-state (v a stateless organization) with nuclear capacity would be an act of war and not worth the risk. If the deep state operated as you believe they simply could have killed him like Putin takes people out, but, for the most part, we don’t hide this stuff. (We hide other stuff for sure, but not assassinations, not anymore.) Of course, you don’t believe the record on anything which is understandable given what Pompeo said the other day– one lie after another. But you believe what is said on record when it’s said by Trump and his henchmen no matter how many times they are shown to be lying. You will believe anything that Trump says and twist it to suit your narrative and then dismiss anything that doesn’t. Because you’re not a sheep. Ha!

    There is a long list of fuckery that appears to be associated with this action and it just keeps growing. I’m glad someone out there has the critical capacity remaining to ask hard questions. And I’m glad we have some semblance left of an international free press to follow up on all those questions.

    I actually thought, HW, that you might be willing to criticize Trump on this one. You are worse than I thought. You would think Trump would not want to distract from that FISA fraud big reveal that’s about to come down…

  18. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 4:54 pm | Permalink

    PS We had a deal with Iran that might have made this action and whatever follows obsolete. Iran is a beautiful nation with a healthy and well educated middle class and, despite the current leadership, was poised potentially to move past feudal theocracy. Persia is one of the seats of civilization, like what is now modern Iraq and Syria. Its destruction would be a tremendous loss to humanity, just as are the messes we have helped make elsewhere. There are some good contemporary Iranian films out there. I suggest everyone take some time to watch them.

  19. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 4:57 pm | Permalink


  20. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 5:03 pm | Permalink


  21. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 5:08 pm | Permalink

    Habibi is a Brooklyn based girl band fronted by an Iranian American woman from the area. They sing a few songs in Farsi. https://www.npr.org/2018/03/18/594281604/habibi-fuses-farsi-lyrics-with-western-riffs

  22. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 6:09 pm | Permalink

    Talk about bloviating. It’s the irony of all time you say that about others.

    Why were those agency presidents too pussified to do anything? Good thing our current President doesn’t play that. Notice he wasn’t in Iran. He was in Iraq. Oops, guess Congress passed the Authorization for the Use of Military Force there. Still in effect? Soleimani an enemy combatant? Not an assassination then, is it?

  23. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 6:34 pm | Permalink

    “Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate. He’s weak and he’s ineffective. So the only way he figures that he’s going to get reelected — and as sure as you’re sitting there — is to start a war with Iran,” — Trump on Obama 2011

  24. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    “If I have one message to give to the secular American people, it’s that the world is not divided into countries. The world is not divided between East and West. You are American, I am Iranian, we don’t know each other, but we talk together and we understand each other perfectly. The difference between you and your government is much bigger than the difference between you and me. And the difference between me and my government is much bigger than the difference between me and you.“
    — Marjane Satrapi, author of Persepolis, interview w Michelle Goldberg, Salon, 2005 (h/t Mariah)

  25. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

    HW– Glad you looked up ‘bloviating.”

  26. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 7:04 pm | Permalink

    Dexter Filkins who profiled Suleimani in 2013 (I linked earlier) writes on the dangers posed by Trump’s action. Filkins was at Fallujah and wrote the book the Forever War (coining the term) about Iraq. He’s old school reliable embedded and deeply connected. I trust his reporting. He has never been partisan.


  27. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 7:38 pm | Permalink

    “President Trump said on Friday, as he has previously, that the U.S. is not seeking war or regime change in Iran. Yet, since taking office, the Trump Administration has made regime change its implicit policy. By pulling out of the Iranian nuclear accord and imposing crippling sanctions on the country, Trump’s advisers have wagered that they can bring the regime down. By killing Suleimani, the Administration has taken the fight directly to its leadership.”

  28. Jean Henry
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 7:45 pm | Permalink


    “WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have…..
    ….targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!”

    This is going to be horrible. What an evil, insecure, weak, incompetent, and emotionally-stunted, human being we elected to be our President.

  29. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 8:34 pm | Permalink

    ”FF knows very well that it’s conservatives that tow the party line and liberals and progressives who self-critique.”

    I do not know this at all. I have noticed a political realignment where there is criticism of the average brainwashed Dem crowd that is being levied by people left and right of it. You don’t even seem to understand the basics of the Horowitz report. Amazing ignorance. You don’t need sonar imaging to realize it is not just some floating ice. It is obviously the tip of an iceberg that is going to sink some ships.

  30. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 4, 2020 at 10:18 pm | Permalink

    “This is going to be horrible. What an evil, insecure, weak, incompetent, and emotionally-stunted, human being we elected to be our President.”

    You are mentally ill. You said the same kind of shit about everything and it all has turned out fine. No collusion, widespread peace, rocking economy, rise of white nationalism an illusion…You have been wrong on everything but you have no awareness of it and keep on bloviating.

  31. Jean Henry
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 8:41 am | Permalink

    I’m so mentally that, along with half the country, I do not find everything fine AT ALL.

  32. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 11:28 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe it but what, if for the same argument, I assume it is true that Trump is intentionally trying to distract from impeachment? What if we also simultaneously assume Ukraine-impeachment was merely an intentional distraction from the Horowitz report and a preemptive distraction from the forthcoming findings of the Dunham investigation? What sort of responsibility could be placed at the feet of the irresponsible pro-impeachment-without -regard -for -truth-no matter-the -cost-type of person that populates this blog? You might begin to really see the cost of your dishonest approach. It might even feel like an atomic bomb.

    Just something to ponder…

  33. John Brown
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 12:18 pm | Permalink

    Russia Russia Russia. All the media are reporting “finally Agent Orange does something Pootie doesn’t like”. Which sounds like a deliberately orchestrated distancing with the benefit of a jump in oil price which is basis of Ruskie economy. Oh and Christo fascist hate them some “muzzies” and are easily brought into the Orange-Russo cabal.

  34. Hyborian Warlord
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 12:27 pm | Permalink

    “Russia Russia Russia.”

    -John Brown

  35. Jean Henry
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 7:58 pm | Permalink

    FF— distractions need to happen at the same time as the thing they are trying to divert attention toon from.

    You are boring and predictable. If the FISA thing turns out to be nothing much at all will you apologize for us for being so relentless about it. We already know Durham shilled for the CIA in his report on ‘Enhanced Interrogation’ that took place during the Bush years but that was silenced under Obama. I don’t know why you trust the guy.

  36. iRobert
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 8:04 pm | Permalink

    I don’t think Putin has any problem with the US further alienating itself from its allies.

  37. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 8:35 pm | Permalink

    Holy crap Jean. The “FISA thing” is already a huge scandal—even with Horowitz’s limited scope. Inform yourself. This has nothing to do with trust in Barr exposing a scandal in the future. Inform yourself. The notion, you seem to be putting forward— that it is impossible to preemptively cause a distraction—is silly. I can’t possibly be predictable to you by the way. You make no sense—predictably.

  38. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 9:01 pm | Permalink

    Let me rephrase: I will be convinced that I am predictable to you when you convince me that you understand anything. The only thing predictable is your weird delusion that you understand the world and other people. You are so far off the mark—constantly. It is truly bizarre.

  39. Jean Henry
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 11:00 pm | Permalink

    FF I have looked into the Horowitz report and I don’t see what you see. If it was as obvious as you say, wouldn’t more people be giving it weight outside of Fox News land? Nothing from the Senate even. If more emerges from the Durham report, I will also give it close attention.

  40. Jean Henry
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 11:04 pm | Permalink

    Ps it’s not my job to convince you of anything, FF. We have vastly different perspectives. But neither of us have opinions that are so far out that there aren’t many I formed and well meaning and sane ppl who share them. Even HW has lots of company. You keep trying to place me far outside the norm and pathologizing that while at the same time proudly declaring yourself an independent thinker. Hard to reconcile.

  41. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 5, 2020 at 11:57 pm | Permalink

    I’m afraid it’s not simply a difference in perspectives.

    I think it is a difference in the level of confusion.

  42. iRobert
    Posted January 6, 2020 at 8:46 am | Permalink

    Jean, I’m pretty sure FF wasn’t suggesting it was your job to convince him of anything. He was just making the point that he isn’t convinced.

  43. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 6, 2020 at 10:10 am | Permalink

    Thank you, iRobert.

  44. Jean Henry
    Posted January 6, 2020 at 11:39 am | Permalink

    iRobert– I understand that about FF, and made that clear. Let’s review his comment again: “I will be convinced that I am predictable to you when you convince me that you understand anything.”

    My response was stating that I feel no obligation to convince him of anything. It very clear that I understood he wasn’t convinced. I was simply making clear that I’m not going to make any effort to reply in a way that satisfies him.

  45. Frosted Flakes
    Posted January 6, 2020 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I find it very satisfying and productive to engage with you. You have strange ideas about what you think I want and demand from you. Just be Jean. It is perfect. I would say the same about Mark and Lynne too. You guys are the gift that keeps keep giving.

  46. Jean Henry
    Posted January 7, 2020 at 10:10 pm | Permalink

    Pompeo pushed for the assassination– FWIW now: https://www.nytimes.com/2020/01/07/world/middleeast/pompeo-trump.html

  47. iRobert
    Posted January 7, 2020 at 10:51 pm | Permalink

    Pompeo looks more and more like Trump’s handler.

  48. iRobert
    Posted January 7, 2020 at 10:53 pm | Permalink

    HW uses the term “white hats” where I’d go with the term “shadow government.”

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  1. […] 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 […]

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