Former Vice President Joe Biden has accused President Donald Trump of tossing a “stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” with the U.S. assassination of powerful Iranian General Qasem Soleimani.
Meanwhile, President Donald Trump responded this way:
“No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing. He deserved to be brought to justice for his crimes against American troops and thousands of innocents throughout the region,” read the Biden statement first obtained by New York Magazine’s Olivia Nuzzi.
“He supported terror and sowed chaos. None of that negates the fact that this is a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region. The Adminitration’s statement says that its goal is to deter future attacks by Iran, but this action almost certainly will have the opposite effect. President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to keep safe our troops and embassy personnel, our people and our interest, both here at home and abroad, and our partners throughout the region and beyond. I’m not privy to the intelligence and much remains unknown, but Iran will surely respond. We could be on the brink of a major conflict across the Middle East. I hope the Administration has thought through the second-and third-order consequences of the path they have chosen. But I fear this administration has not demonstrated at any turn the discipline or long-term vision necessary – and the stakes could not be higher.”
Conservatives have already been drawing a contrast between Trump’s aggressive posture toward Iran and the nuclear deal pushed by the Barack Obama and Joe Biden administration. In 2015, CNN reported that Qasem Soleimani had traveled to Russia for government meetings possibly in violation of international travel sanctions. Around that time, Sen. Ted Cruz, in a Republican presidential primary debate in advance of the 2016 election, had criticized Obama, alleging, “Part of this Iranian deal was lifting the international sanctions on General Soleimani. The day General Soleimani flew back from Moscow to Iran was the day we believed that Russia used cyber warfare against the Joint Chiefs. We need a new commander-in-chief that will stand up to our enemies and that will have credibility.”
However, CNN reported that the Obama administration said the deal included lifting U.S. Sanctions against Iran “after eight years of compliance” but added that there was “no deal to lift the unilateral U.S. sanctions against Soleimani.” You can read about the nuclear deal with Iran here.
The Trump air strike against Soleimani comes after an escalation in tensions including Iranian-backed militia attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
Town Hall had reported before Soleimani’s death that “Iranian backed militia leader Hadi Al-Amiri, who is also an Iraqi government official, participated in the attack against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.” Indeed, U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo had tweeted, “The attack today was orchestrated by terrorists – Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and Qays al-Khazali – and abetted by Iranian proxies – Hadi al Amari and Faleh al-Fayyad.” In 2011, wrote Town Hall, Al Amiri visited the White House during the Obama administration and was photographed in the Oval Office.
Here’s what you need to know:
The Department of Defense Confirmed Soleimani’s Death, Calling It a ‘Decisive Defensive Action’
Qassim Soleimani was an Iranian Major-General, head of the elite, powerful Quds force and architect of Iran’s strategy throughout the Middle East. The death of the powerful general marks what many experts are calling a potential turning point in the Middle East that is likely to generate retaliation from Iran against the United States.
“At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization,” the Department of Defense statement read. “General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
The statement said that Soleimani and his Quds force “were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months — including the attack on December 27th — culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”
The statement concluded that the United States air strike “was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
How powerful was Soleimani? In a 2013 profile story, The New Yorker called Soleimani the “shadow commander” who was “reshaping the Middle East” and “directing Assad’s war in Syria.” At that time, the magazine described the Iranian general as “a small man of fifty-six, with silver hair, a close-cropped beard, and a look of intense self-containment.” The Washington Post dubbed Soleimani Iran’s “most revered military leader.”
According to Haaretz, Soleimani “was considered one of the people closest to Iran’s supreme leader, Ali Khamenei.” He was 61, a father of 5, a former construction worker, and not a religious scholar, Haaretz reports, adding that he ran the Quds force since 1998.
A 2018 article by Ali Soufan for the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point called him “one of Iran’s most popular living people.” His influence was felt throughout the Middle East, as he orchestrated Iran’s strategies in Syria, Iraq and other countries, Soufan wrote.
The New Yorker article says that Soleimani has the blood of American soldiers on his hands; he was known for “assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq.” The U.S. Department of the Treasury sanctioned Suleimani.
Tensions were already escalating with the Iran-backed militia attacks on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. Those attacks followed U.S. air raids “against Kataib Hezbollah militia bases” to avenge the death of a U.S. contractor in missile attacks in northern Iraq, according to Jerusalem Post. In contrast, the Obama administration had signed a nuclear deal with Iran.
In 2008, Suleimani texted then U.S. military commander David Petraeus that “he controlled Iran’s policy in Iraq and was outfoxing the Americans,” Daily Beast reports.
Soleimani’s Convoy Was Hit at Baghdad’s Airport & His Death Was Confirmed by Iranian State Television, Reports Say
According to Reuters, Ahmed al-Assadi, spokesman for Iran-backed militias, said: “The American and Israeli enemy is responsible for killing the mujahideen Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and Qassem Soleimani.”
Iran has also confirmed the death via state TV. The general’s name is sometimes given as Qasem Soleimani and Qassem Soleimani.
The Iraqi militia spokesman told Reuters that Solemani was killed late on January 2, 2019 when the air strike hit his convoy in Baghdad airport. Killed along with him was Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, according to the news service.
Earlier in the day, U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper released a detailed statement chronicling the American perspective on Iran. “Last Friday, the Iranian-backed militia Kata’ib Hizbollah or KH launched yet another attack against American forces in Iraq, resulting in the death of one American civilian, and injuries to four American service members, as well as two of our partners in the Iraqi Security Forces,” he wrote. “This continues a string of attacks against bases with U.S. forces and Iraqi Security Forces. KH has a strong linkage to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force and has received lethal aid, support, and direction from Iran.”
Esper added: “U.S. leaders have repeatedly warned the Iranians and their Shia militia proxies against further provocative actions.”
He detailed how the Americans believe the militia attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad were backed by Iran, writing, “On Tuesday, December 31st, at the instigation of Shia militias, violent rallies of members of these militias outside the American embassy in Baghdad resulted in damage to exterior entry facilities and buildings at the embassy compound. We know it was Iranian-backed Shia militias because key leaders were spotted in the crowd and some militia members showed up wearing their uniforms and carried the flags of their militia, including KH.”
You can read that full statement here.
U.S. Congressional reaction was swift in response to his death.
Chris Murphy, a U.S. Senator from Connecticut, wrote on Twitter, “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this – as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”
However, Senator Marco Rubio wrote, “The defensive actions the U.S. has taken against #Iran & its proxies are consistent with clear warnings they have received They chose to ignore these warnings because they believed @POTUS was constrained from acting by our domestic political divisions. They badly miscalculated.”
He added: “Facing repeated #IRGC attacks the U.S. & @POTUS exercised admirable restraint while setting clear red lines & the consequences for crossing them. #Iran’s Quds Force chose the path of escalation They are entirely to blame for bringing about the dangerous moment now before us.”
U.S. Senator Tom Cotton released a statement on Twitter, saying, “Qassem Soleimani masterminded Iran’s reign of terror for decades, including the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Tonight, he got what he richly deserved, and all those American soldiers who died by his hand also got what they deserved: justice.”
Former presidential candidate Evan McMullin wrote, “Qasem Soleimani had the blood of countless Americans, Syrian civilians and others on his hands. He was a major destabilizing force in the region and the world. But we’ve chosen a path of significant, sudden escalation with Iran. So what’s the plan? Is there a plan?”
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