Is Donald Trump mad? Yes. At least he’d like his opponents, in this case Iran, to think so. It’s not a novel strategy. He’s borrowing it from Nixon’s playbook. During the Vietnam War Nixon had his aides make Soviet and North Vietnam’s leaders believe that he was so unpredictable that he could order any mad scheme, including a nuclear bombing. The intent was to scare the Vietnamese into submission. It didn’t work. Vietnam knew Nixon would never risk his warming relationship with China. Once his bluff was called and his harebrained escalations spent, Nixon was out of options, and out of Vietnam. But for a while anyway Nixon was considered a master strategist.
Trump’s assassination of Iran’s Major General Qassim Suleimani is the Nixon mad man theory in action. The question is whether it can work. As with Nixon, who briefly had Hanoi off balance, early surface indications make it appear as if it can. The Iranian response to the assassination has been more bluster than action. Wednesday’s 20-missile attack on two American bases in Iraq may have been a “slap in the face,” as Iran’s Supreme Leader put it, but that’s all it was: a shucks and aww response carefully choreographed with the American military to avoid casualties while saving face. Assuming nothing more comes of it, it’s not a bad bargain for the United States, considering the provocation of assassinating Iran’s No. 2 military and political leader.
Trump’s base is mostly ecstatic. Even some nevertrumpers are celebrating. Democrats and European allies are grousing–Trump consulted with no one but some of his military leaders before ordering the hit–and the TV and radio shout shows are overtaxing their ululated vocal cords. If it goes no further, the hit may even give Trump nice B-roll footage for his reelection campaign, which he is likely to win anyway. But ideological narcotics aside, it’s worth looking at the assassination’s context to weigh its value to American and regional interests. Whatever does or does not happen, we can at least agree about what has happened, and not just in the last few days. That alone gives a measure of the assassination’s worth.
It’s not worth much. The tally of America’s position in the Middle East shows the extent of the retreat.
His own fans aside, no one is mourning Suleimani, though a few American military leaders may be mourning him more than we know. Suleimani had plenty of American blood on his hands following the invasion of Iraq and until the earlier part of the last decade (though American generals had far more Iraqi blood on their hands, plus those 290 Iranian civilians). But for the past five years Suleimani had been an American ally in the fight against ISIS. Without Iranian-backed militias doing the fighting on the ground in Iraq and Syria, with American intelligence and air support, ISIS would not have been decimated. ISIS was never quite defeated. With Suleimani gone, and American forces about to get booted out of Iraq, ISIS is poised for a comeback. Not quite to America’s or the region’s benefit.
A year and a half ago Trump pulled out of the Iran nuclear deal even though it was working. It had stopped Iran’s nuclear weapons program for at least 15 years, enough time to outlast the half-life of a regime rotting from within. By pulling out, Trump, as always, didn’t have a different strategy to keep Iran from building nukes. The sanctions he imposed didn’t stop Iran from expanding its military adventures in Syria and Yemen. He effectively restarted Iran’s nukes program. Suleimani’s assassination will only accelerate it, with every Iranian nuclear engineer glowing with Manhattan Project-like enthusiasm to make a bomb. Trump may decide to bomb targets at will. It may delay Iran’s march a bit. It won’t stop it. American belligerence is guaranteeing that Iran will become a nuclear power, and at that point American options will be even more limited than they are now.
The assassination of Suleimani was itself a symptom of how limited American power has become in the Middle East. When you have to resort to missiles fired from an MQ-9 Reaper to kill a state leader, you’re signaling raw power, but you’re also signaling your bankrupt diplomacy. It shows. The assassination will cost Iran tactically, but anyone is replaceable. Suleimani’s loss was, if anything, to Iran’s strategic advantage, a confirmation of its status as the power to be reckoned with in the Middle East rather than as a nation anywhere near its heels.
American heels are a different matter. They can use a lot of Bengay. After almost 20 years of war and $2 trillion in wasted taxpayer money, Afghanistan is also lost. In all but a few pockets it’s Taliban country. That’s not Trump’s failure alone: it’s that of George W. Bush and Barack Obama, who should have withdrawn a decade ago. Trump is compounding the failure.
Trump abandoned Kurds in Syria a few months ago, eliminating American influence with its most loyal backers in the Middle East next to Israel. That influence is gone in northern Iraq and northern Syria. There are still 5,000 American troops in Iraq, but they’re restricted to their barracks and they’re about to be forced out. That war, too, was lost, enabling Iran to become the dominant power Iraq. The assassination of Suleimani ensures that Iraq will become more like an Iranian province, not less.
ISIS may have been defeated in Syria, but only for Bashar al Assad, a war criminal on a greater scale than ISIS, to reemerge more powerful than he was before, his genocide of Sunni and Christian Syrians essentially legitimized. He, too, is an Iranian ally.
Hezbollah is more powerful than ever in South Lebanon, with more weapons and missiles than it knows what to do with, all pointed at Israel. Like all crusading religious fanatics, Hezbollah’s men don’t fear suicidal warfare, so they have nothing to lose. Israel’s two previous attempts to eliminate Hezbollah only made it stronger, again thanks to Iranian backing. But Hezbollah was its own power whether Suleimani existed or not. In that sense too, the United States gained nothing by killing him. It only inflamed further vengeful reactions down the line, in this case making Israel less safe, too. Memories in the Middle East are long.
So let’s review. On the positive side, Suleimani is dead. Yay. And American forces can still roam around Kuwait and Bahrain.
On the negative side: The Iranian regime, facing huge opposition from within, now has Iranians rallied again, its lease on life yet again extended thanks to American intervention. Iran’s nuclear weapons program is on again. Iran controls Baghdad, Damascus, Beirut and Sanaa. Afghanistan is lost. Iraq is lost. The Kurds are lost. Some 8,500 American soldiers have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, obviously for nothing. Remaining soldiers are in far more danger than before the assassination. And assassinations of state leaders are now fair game. Trump has no objective with Iran, no end game, no Middle East policy of any detectable coherence other than retreat. His “All is well!” tweet on Wednesday rung with the certainty of Bush’s “Mission Accomplished” speech after the invasion of Iraq.
No amount of propaganda can paint the assassination of Suleimani as more beneficial than damaging to American interests. Of course we’re getting an avalanche of Trump 2020 and MAGA delirium. It’s qualitatively no different from those hordes of Iranians yelling and screaming revenge. But with homicidal fanatics on both sides, it’s hard to imagine how this doesn’t end badly for both. You can’t make a desert and call it peace. This round may be over. But we’ve lost this war, too, whatever shape it takes.
For you Trump supporters who don’t know this, Iran’s number one resource is oil so they don’t need any U.S. money to buy weapons. This President will never take the blame for any of his numerous poor decisions.
This is exactly what will happen if he rips up Healthcare. Actions with no thoughts or cares about what follows. Republican Senator Mike Lee just came from a briefing of the evidence justifying the strike. He says iw was “the worst briefing on a military issue I’ve ever seen”. Also says they were told “don’t debate the appropriateness of further military intervention”. “Yellow Cake 2.0”
And Donnie’s doctor warned him of Rapid-onset Dementia! Sheesh, didn’t ANYONE watch Trump’s speech today? He was slurring his words and having trouble breathing. Someone get this man to a Doctor STAT!
This is the most misinformed World Leader on the planet!
Percy's mother says
Healthcare? What healthcare? There is no “healthcare” left. Obama ripped that to shreds and decimated healthcare in this country. Wise up.
This from a healthcare professional, not some mindless person who gets my propaganda from CNN.
Stan Gruchawka says
A rather pessimistic outlook. All I can is “We’ll see”.
If Clinton had the guts to do the same to Bin Laden when he had the numerous chances maybe the 911 attacks wouldn’t of happened. Thanks to the President who places American lives first by taken out the TERRORIST WITH AMERICAN BLOOD ON HIS HANDS another 911 type attack which is what has been reported he was planning has been prevented.
Mike Cocchiola says
Hey, Constantly, get the facts right. Clinton went to the Republican-controlled Congress to get authorization to attack the Taliban and bin Laden in Kabul. He was denied that authorization. Look it up!
Regarding Clintons failure to take action against Bin Laden the CIA had the target isolated and the DOD was waiting for authorization after a “presidential finding” through the NSC to take “action” . There was no need to go to congress unless the intention was to delay and let the target escape and go on to blame the Republicans.
Look it up, Mike
The word Assassination bothers me. You are just like the other liberal papers that are all political and democratic. This guy was a killer and terrorist. Great job Trump.
Will Awdry says
Did then President Obama ‘assassinate’ UBL?
UBL (Osama bin Laden) was a terrorist leader (Saudi Arabian citizen?) living in Pakistan, credited with directing the 9/11/01 terrorist attack against the US, and directing terrorist activities in Afghanistan and world wide. He was the undisputed leader of al Qaeda, an Islamic military and widely acknowledge global terrorist organization.
Soleimani was an Iranian military leader who happened to be at the Baghdad (Iraq) airport in the days after a large group of (Iranian backed and directed) people attacked the US Embassy in Baghdad. He was also the military leader whose troops under his command were credited by Iranian state media with numerous actions and attacks in an undeclared war against US and allied nation military and non military personnel.
I don’t believe that anyone seeks to be the a leader of any nation based on the ability to direct military action. In the US the elected President is the Commander in Chief of all military forces and is ultimately responsible for any US military action taken anywhere.
Well written and on the surface the “HIT” was adrenaline like. After the dust settles and another back down on the World stage WE are not stronger from the outside looking in. Our position On the World stage has degraded significantly. What is going to happen IMO continued baiting by Iranian and Proxy groups until a reaction. The Region and those who control it want only a single reason(s) in their sick minds to settle old scores. I.E. Israel etc. P.S. 50 People died in a stampede at a service for these men. THAT is the mentality WE are dealing with.
50 people died in a stampede for WHAT! My god, they are still killing their own people and for what? Has that ever happened in this country? Of course not because we are a CIVILIZED country. Too bad some of our liberal congressional staff (not mentioning any names) who have denounced the elimination of this world TERRORIST did not form a grievance convoy to go over to Iran and attend the funeral to partake in the service.
No here they just shot hundreds of people from rooftops like los Vegas, 60 people are shot in a night club , 40 students shot at school , 100,000 plus a year dying from opiate overdose suicides , life expectancy falling and we can call it a day
You are giving trump too much credit, in a sense that there were any kind of strategy in dealing with Iran.
This is a case of wag the dog and his obsession with Obama. He wants to undo every accomplishment of the previous administration.
I just have to laugh every time I read how the trump fanatics still believe that the economy is doing well because of trump, it is in spite of him. It took many years for the economy to recover from the recession.
trump is inapt, narcissistic and dangerous.
CB from PC says
Iran, since the deposed Shah, has been, at best, a rogue nation. They seized our embassy in 1979 under impotent Carter and held hostages until Reagan’s Inauguration. I am sure they feared repercussions. The latter also brought down the Berlin Wall.
Through the decades the Shiite Theocracy of Iran has financed and promoted destabilization in a region where countries are defined by what “family” or branch of religion to which you belong.
Obama gave 150 Billion Dollars of our money to these people.
At one time that was called aiding and abetting the enemy…AKA Treason.
Bush blew it by not giving Saddam Hussein whatever he needed to rid the world of this problematic regime.
Now, we finally have a President who will deal with the persons responsible for adding to the volatility of the region.
And the General who directed the attack on our Embassy in Baghdad as revenge for air strikes following American deaths.
The last thing the world needs is for Iran to have nuclear weapons.
That, for them will be a bargaining chip they will use at will.
Keep in mind Dennis Miller’s comment about the Shah from some years ago, and I paraphrase:
“Sure the Shah went to Europe where he gambled and partied.
But you could talk to him.”
Pierre Tristam says
The commenter repeats a gross inaccuracy regarding the alleged $150 billion to Iran: the funds belonged to Iran and were frozen during the 1979 hostage crisis, released as part of the nuclear deal; and the amount cited below is greatly exaggerated: the US Treasury had placed the high-end amount at $56 billion, with the likely amounts much lower. He also makes an inaccurate claim about Saddam Hussein not being given what was necessary to defeat Iran during the Iran-Iraq war, when in fact the Reagan administration aided and abetted the Iraqi war effort, tacitly encouraging its WMD program and overtly ignoring Saddam’s chemical weapons attack on Kurds at Halabja in 1988. But why bother with facts when you can quote a reactionary comedian.
Same Same Pierre….. He released money to the hostile regime. Does it really matter if it was frozen assets? Money, cash was delivered. So let’s split the difference from Fox’s 150 billion and the number you quoted and say it was 75 billion….. They were given a huge amount of money. How much of it do you think they used as it was supposed to be used under the agreement that Obama gave them. And how much of it financed the killing of people. Not just Americans that we have stupidly sent over there, but their own people and their neighbors. Fellow Muslims….
CB from PC says
Ain’t no white hatted good guy cowboys over there Pierre.
I ADMIT I erred on the amount in cash.
But, frozen funds and 1.8 Billion in US cash were made available to Iran.
And we know the Regime used that money for Education and Healthcare if it’s Citizens.
As far as reactionary comedians…I think I will start with Kathy Griffin and let it go from there.
JOHN SCHROEDER says
Those funds, all $150 billion or so, should have never been released to Iran after almost 40 years…why on earth would you side with a terrorist supporting nation? Do you not remember 1979 and the next 40 years? what is wrong with you….I don’t give two craps about anyone in that country or any other terrorist supporting nation….wow? just wow
Pierre Tristam says
You raise a good point John: why on earth would the United States side with a terrorist nation, as it has for much more than 40 years—I mean Saudi Arabia, without whose support the Taliban, al-Quaeda, ISIS and other barbaric Sunni caliphate-pining mass killers sucking at Saudi Arabia’s Wahhabist tits could never have existed, yet here we are sucking at the same tit, oilier though that one is, while rewarding the Saudis even after they order their own assassinations in other countries (remember Khashoggi?). But who are we to judge. And those Iranian funds you speak of, even if they were double that amount (they’re not: they’re not even a third) are a fraction of the amounts the Saudis spend financing barbarism, apparently with your blessing (not to mention American troops defending the Saudi kingdom and the Saudis being our biggest weapons clients by far.) your conclusions always come in handy: wow. Just wow.
USA Made says
I don’t like the word assassinate either. The president killed a powerful man that wanted to kill Americans. He was briefed on the critical situation, and took action to send a message. That message was don’t even think about messing with the US. Whats wrong with that unless your not a true American. Are you so anti Trump that your vision is clouded.
There were ten times more air strikes in the covert war on terror during President Barack Obama’s presidency than under his predecessor, George W. Bush.
Obama embraced the US drone programme, overseeing more strikes in his first year than Bush carried out during his entire presidency. A total of 563 strikes, largely by drones, targeted Pakistan, Somalia and Yemen during Obama’s two terms, compared to 57 strikes under Bush. Between 384 and 807 civilians were killed in those countries, according to reports logged by the Bureau.
The use of drones aligned with Obama’s ambition to keep up the war against al Qaeda while extricating the US military from intractable, costly ground wars in the Middle East and Asia. But the targeted killing programme has drawn much criticism. WSJ.
IF Obama would have done this he would be classed a hero for taking out a man who planned and authorized the killing of US troops.
Florida Voter says
The United Stated Military struck and killed a foreign official of a country that we’re NOT AT WAR with in a country that we what as allies (opposition is different than war). If this was done with a bullet rather than a missile, there would be no doubt it was an assassination.
The Iranians responded with a larger strike in a way that ensured no loss-of-life, so very little justification for a US military response, thereby de-escalating / ending the incident.
I have no words to describe the feeling in the pit of my stomach when I see Iran as the “bringer of peace” in an incident initiated by the US. This gives Iran and others a strong talking point in the argument against America and “western” ideals and actions. This is the president we have. This is his effect on America’s image in the international community.
TL;DR: US = assignation, Iran = peace … WTF?
Obama sent troops to kill bin laden and his wife and it was done in secret without prior congressional knowledge, it was seen by the press as the greatest military event since D-Day. Trump kills a known terrorist leader responsible for killing hundreds of civilians and US troops and all of a sudden he is seen as a war monger. As a vet who spent time in that part of the world and lost friends to people under Suleimani’s command they didn’t kill him soon enough
Gary R says
Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian general killed in a U.S. strike.
Trump’s Plan: Sometimes you got to put someone in a box to get them to think outside the box.
One more comment I forgot to mention, it’s always easy to criticize and say what should be done from the comfort of your own home thousands of miles away. Ask the front line troops if they think this killing was justified.
Florida Voter says
Justified, YES. He was a soldier who orchestrated the deaths of ???? Americans. What makes me sick is the way it was done, in particular the PUBLIC IMAGE of America. Now, we have given Iran the chance to be the “peace makers” who deescalate the situation. I said it above, but : WTF?!?! We just gave Iran propaganda that they can use to unify and rally their people and even strengthen their hold on Iraq.
Notice that aside from the public attack on the airbases in Iraq, Iran also “accidentally” shot down a passenger jet a few hours after Trump legitimized public assassination as a valid military maneuver. Which action do you think was their real message to Trump? I wouldn’t want to be on Air Force One anytime soon.
William Moya says
In the immediate future this was a win for Trump and he will squeeze every drop of propaganda out of it, Bellum America, Trump’s new stamp in our foreign policy is now fully implemented. In the long run this is a win for Iran, as you mentioned it consolidates a will for Persian prominence in the region, it won’t be long for American troops to leave Iraq, and that will sprout the Syria, Iraq, Iran triumvirate, allied with China and Russia.
Also, and more important this action put a magnifying glass on our democracy, our judicial system, and our Constitution. We are in a systemic downward spiral from which, short or long run, I don’t see a way out.
Will Awdry says
“Trump abandoned Kurds in Syria a few months ago, eliminating American influence with its most loyal backers in the Middle East next to Israel.”
First off, there is no recognized Kurdish state these days. The state that was Kurdistan spans from northern Iran through Iraq and Syria into southern Turkey.
US and United Nations Forces withdrew from northern Syria; including an area that Kurdish people had hoped to use to create a Kurdish state. Those people are citizens of Syria (and Turkey) who want to create a new Kurdish state. This has been going on for years across multiple US Presidential administrations.
The world via the United Nations abandoned these Kurds attempt to create a new Kurdish state. Blaming the US President is incorrect.
WOW, typical article from the typical author. Personally, I hope we see MANY MORE assassination’s against our enemies. And maybe a few around Congress.
Mike Cocchiola says
Trump’s the world’s bully. He bellows, brags, belittles, sneers and preens, but when those who he targets stand up to him, he folds like a wet noodle as all true cowards do. All he does is provoke our foes and infuriate our allies. He’s a little man in a job much too big for him.
Stan Gruchawka says
For my part, I think it is about time that, unlike Obama, our president Trump had the intestinal fortitude to draw a line in the sand with Iran and mean it. It is long over due that we as a nation take a stand against a terror exporter like Iran. I believe that the Mullahs will think twice before the send missiles to Saudi Arabia, or put another mine on an oil tanker in the gulf, or attack our embassies. Trump Derangement Syndrome strikes again!
And when has he folded like a wet noodle? You do realize that everything he says and does is part of “making a deal”, Oh and how is the economy doing? Do bad it tanked when he was elected just as the left predicted. Remember….you know it was going to be the end of times. Then it was “well he is living off the Obama economy, just wait a year…” now it’s he is living of the Obama economy wait 2 years….” Time is up libs, time to admit you were wrong. You won’t, but it’s the facts….
JOHN SCHROEDER says
I was deployed to Beirut from 1983 to 1984 and I think about that day, October 23 1983 every single day since. This man should have been executed 30 years ago. I would love you or any of the other left wing nut jobs posting here to tell me to my face that this was not justified….You people need to think before you speak, you never know who you may offend.
Pierre Tristam says
Plenty of killings are “justified.” That doesn’t make them just, legal, wise, necessary, or smart, particularly when eventual retaliation can be as heinous as the barracks bombing, which didn’t come out of nowhere: Reagan had decided to shift the Marines’ position from neutral assistance as a multi-national peacekeeping force to an offensive against the Druze and Shiites, and on the side of Lebanon’s Christians. Even as a Lebanese Christian myself at the time I (and plenty of others) saw Reagan’s short-sighted folly, which was basically selling us down the pike because the consequences could only be disastrous, leading to an inevitable American withdrawal that would leave the Christians at the mercy of the others. Exactly what took place: Reagan’s cowboy acts, which included plenty of civilian deaths (and the eventual use of the New Jersey’s 16-inch guns against civilian targets) provoked the bombings, first of the U.S. Embassy (where Lebanese victims outnumbered Americans 3 to 1), and when he didn’t get the message, of the barracks five months later. Of course over here all we see is the one-sided chest-thumping. It’s not that simple. Your deployment to Beirut doesn’t grant you a pass from the facts and context on the ground. But you’re right. People need to think before they speak.
Pierre, with all of your strategic knowledge of the Middle East maybe YOU should be a military advisor to President Trump. LOL My personal opinion of the current state of affairs in the Middle East is that the entire region has been at war for thousands of years, centuries upon centuries. No one is going to change their ideology and that includes President Trump and any other future POTUS. However, when Americans are in danger or killed by the hands of terrorists or anyone for that matter it is the solemn duty of the POTUS to protect them any way it can be done and you don’t have to declare WAR to accomplish that objective. There isn’t one American life worth losing for defending the ideology of the most of the Middle East except for our ally, Israel. We should stay the hell out of the entire area and let them kill each other off. But if they come after us on our homeland or kill any American anywhere then they get exactly what they deserve, death! Oh, by the way, President Trump does not have to tell his enemies what where when and how he is going to dispatch them unlike the previous administration. And lastly, both Iran and North Korea will never have a nuclear weapon of any sorts under President Trumps watch. That should be the mantra for any future POTUS also.
A Concerned Observer says
I am not at all surprised at the tone of this or any Flagler Live editorial on President Trump. If President Trump found a cure for cancer, I have no doubt that the following days Flagler Live article would aggressively berate him for personally costing thousands of jobs in the medical, research and mortuary fields.
Donald Trump will be formally charged with word crimes later this week.