And while we’re at it, let’s stop asking whether President Trump did the right thing by taking out Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force, Chief, Qassem Suleimani. It’s really not a Trump issue. Ask instead, whether America did the right thing by targeting him. Better yet, ask whether anyone should be able to plan and carry out deadly attacks on Americans, American interests or American allies with impunity. That’s the relevant question.
The Quds Force is that unit of Iran’s powerful Revolutionary Guard Corps that focuses on foreign operations and is a US-designated terrorist organization. The Quds Force has one mission and really only one mission; to create instability through terror. It’s all about hegemony in the Middle East. It’s all about Shia influence versus Sunni influence. It has become a very deadly contest.
The United States has not hesitated to target the heads of non-state terrorist groups such as Osama bin Laden or Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, but, for some reason, the head of a state-sponsored terrorist group such as Quds Force commander Qassem Suleimani, who certainly had the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands, has been off-limits.
The immediate decision to take out Suleimani reportedly resulted from a Suleimani-directed attack on an American base in Iraq in which up to thirty missiles reigned down killing one American and wounding several others, as well as reported military intelligence that more deadly attacks against Americans were (possibly still are) imminent.
The most recent attack followed years of attacks against American servicemen in Iraq in which Quds Force-supplied Improvised Explosive Devises were used to kill GI’s. And last week’s attacks against the American embassy in Bagdad was carried out by Suleimani-supported militias that proudly proclaimed their leader to be Qassem Suleimani. Suleimani has been the paymaster of Hezbollah and, along with Qatar, of Hamas as well.
The deadly attack against Quds Force Chief Suleimani puts a very succinct question before Iran’s Supreme Leader. What price is he willing to pay to kill Americans or American allies? There is no turning back from where we are today. Any Iranian revenge attack is certain to claim more lives than the attack two weeks ago that claimed one American fatality. From this point on the stakes are going to be enormous. President Trump has, for the first time, laid his cards on the table by announcing that the United States has identified 52 high-priority targets that are in the cross-hairs if Iran strikes back. Whether 52 is really the number of Iranian sites to be targeted should Iran strike back may be questionable, but that the United States has its targets selected is probably a safe bet.
Under Presidents Bush (43) and Obama, the United States took pains to avoid attacking the Quds Force Commander. Under Bush, his role as the mastermind of terrorist and battlefield attacks against Americans and American interests may not have been fully understood. Under Obama, there seems to have been a reluctance to do anything that might hamper progress on the so-called Iran nuclear deal. So, we tolerated the Quds Force and its leader; so much so that he strutted about with minimal security and, sometimes, with no real security at all.
So, after the last deadly Quds-Force missile attack, America said, “Enough!” No one, not even Quds Force Commander, Qassem Suleimani can attack Americans with impunity, nor presumably, will his replacement be allowed to. Iran has been testing America’s resolve for years, and, more recently, President Trump’s resolve. Iranian attacks against shipping through the Straits of Hormuz have gone unanswered, even though we maintain a strong naval presence there to guarantee navigation through that vital waterway. President Trump aborted, at the last minute, a retaliatory attack following the shooting down by Iran of an American surveillance drone. President Trump explained that he wasn’t willing to kill scores of Iranians in retaliation for an attack that took no American lives—and we did nothing when Iran sent a massive volley of cruise-type missiles to destroy a significant portion of Saudi Arabia’s petroleum producing capability.
Surely, Qassem Suleimani and Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei have pondered the restraint evidenced by President Trump in the face of these unanswered attacks against the United States and our allies. There really is no reason to doubt the assessment by our military intelligence professionals that more attacks were imminent. We have invited such attacks by tolerating them. Where are we to draw the line when state-sponsored terrorists target Americans? Is there really any difference between a non-state-sponsored terrorist such as Osama bin Laden who kills Americans and a state-sponsored terrorist who kills Americans? Certainly, the victims wouldn’t think so.