It’s possible that the killing of Iran’s top military commander Gen. Qassem Soleimani by U.S. forces will turn out to be a disaster. Everything’s possible in a region where tribal and sectarian warfare under the rule of despots and theocrats has been the norm for centuries.
Will the killing set off another regional war? Will Israel be attacked? Will Iran rush to build its nuclear bomb? Or will Iran be deterred by the sheer brazenness of an unpredictable U.S. president?
Only time will tell.
The last seismic U.S. action in the region was the invasion of Iraq in the wake of 9/11, which turned into a trillion-dollar mess that arguably made things worse by empowering Iranian Shi’ite influence in a weakened Iraq.
This latest move was not an invasion; it was an assassination. The arguments against the move center on two points: why now, and why so extreme?
Regarding the timing, critics point to 20 years of brutal terrorist activity by Soleimani and wonder: If we didn’t target him then because it was too risky, why target him now? What changed?
Supporters respond: If a bully keeps punching you in the face over and over again, is there ever a bad time to punch back?
Soleimani was indeed a bully par excellence, in a part of the world that specializes in bullies.
Writing in The New York Times, Michael Doran, senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, called Soleimani “the architect of the Islamic Republic’s decades-long active campaign of violence against the United States and its allies, especially Israel.”
Soleimani, Doran writes, started with Lebanon, where he “built Lebanese Hezbollah into the powerful state within a state that we know today. A terrorist organization receiving its funds, arms and marching orders from Tehran, Hezbollah has a missile arsenal larger than that of most countries in the region.”
Building on that success, “[Soleimani] spent the last decade replicating the Hezbollah model in Iraq, Syria and Yemen, propping up local militias with precision weapons and tactical know-how.”
Among these many killing fields, the worst must surely be Syria, where Soleimani’s forces “allied with Russia to prop up the regime of Bashar al-Assad, a project that, in practice, has meant driving over 10 million people from their homes and killing well over half a million.”
In Iraq, Doran adds, “hundreds of American soldiers lost their lives to the weapons that [Soleimani’s] Qods Force provided to its Iraqi proxies.”
As Soleimani drenched country after country in blood, including Jewish and American blood, the United States let him get away with it … until it didn’t.
Which brings up the second point of the critics: Why do something so drastic as an assassination? Was it worth the risk? This is a fair point. We are forcing Iran to respond in kind, which could potentially set off a war no one wants.
Supporters rebut as follows: The extreme aspect of Soleimani’s elimination is precisely what will deter the Iranians, who will now be concerned, if not terrified, about what Trump might do next.
The Iranians can no longer count on the U.S. president being reluctant to use military force, tolerating Iranian aggression and responding only with economic sanctions.
Iran, then, is in a bind: To protect its honor it must be bold and respond harshly, but at the same time it must be cautious so as not to provoke the U.S. president.
Which path will it take? Like I said, only time will tell. I’m no prophet. I don’t pretend to know which way the winds of war will blow.
But I do know that I have hopes and dreams. I hope and dream that a regime that hangs gays because they’re gays, oppresses women because they’re women, sponsors more terrorism than any nation on earth and is sworn to the destruction of the world’s only Jewish state—well, I hope and dream that such a regime is really scared right now about might happen if it continues to spread its evil.
The best bully is a scared bully.
David Suissa is editor-in-chief and publisher of Tribe Media Corp and Jewish Journal. He can be reached at email@example.com.
This article was first published by the Jewish Journal.