The American drone strike that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani has severely shocked the Tehran regime. President Trump and the Iranians are exchanging taunts and threats of military action.
Soleimani’s death at American hands has shaken the ayatollahs’ regime to its core. Never before, in its forty years of conducting global terrorism and regional aggression, has a member of the regime’s inner circle been killed. As commander of the terrorist “Quds Force” (part of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, which is also designated a “foreign terrorist organization”) Soleimani ranked just below the ayatollahs themselves. The fact that his death was caused by the “Great Satan” — us — multiplies the ayatollahs’ paranoia a hundredfold.
The nearly hysterical threats of revenge for Soleimani’s death coming out of Tehran have to be taken seriously. The ayatollahs know that they have to revenge Soleimani because of the damage his death has done to the regime’s image of invulnerability.
Make no mistake about this. People — especially the Iranian people trying to bring the ayatollahs’ regime to an end — now have proof that the regime can be toppled. If it can be wounded, it can be destroyed. Tehran is terrified of its now-obvious vulnerability and will attack U.S. and allies in the coming weeks and months attempting to regain its former image of invincibility.
The fact that Iran hasn’t undertaken a major response yet should be of no comfort. Tehran will plan carefully, position both military and terrorist assets, and soon — in the coming days, weeks, and months — commence a campaign of attacks against us and our allies.
They have begun building rage among the Iranian and Iraqi populations and politicians. On Saturday, Iraq’s Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi marched in a massive funeral procession for Soleimani in Baghdad. The State Department has advised all U.S. civilians to leave Iraq.
Israeli Defense Forces are reportedly on high alert. For good reason, they expect attacks by Iran’s principal proxy force, Hizb’allah, based in Lebanon. Those attacks, probably by a sustained missile barrage, can reach all of Israel. Another war between Israel and Lebanon could easily result.
Iran will almost certainly try to attack U.S. forces in the region, including our al-Udeid air base in Qatar, our forces in Kuwait, and the Fifth Fleet headquarters in Bahrain. Iran’s actions in “swarming” around U.S. Navy ships transiting the Persian Gulf aren’t likely to be effective because our ships and naval aircraft could and should quickly sink any Iranian boats that get within range of our ships.
Iran may try to close the Strait of Hormuz, through which much of the world’s oil supply passes. That, too, won’t succeed for more than a day or two unless the Iranians manage to sink several huge oil tankers to block the narrow shipping channel. That, too, would be dealt with rather quickly by our navy and the Brits’.
There are hundreds of other ways for Iran to try to exact its revenge in Afghanistan and elsewhere. There has already been an Iranian cyber attack against the Federal Depository Library Program, which isn’t a big deal. They will try to do more throughout the year, intending to interfere in key events including the November presidential elections.
The usual suspects — Joe Biden, Ilhan Omar, the UN, and the rest — are all condemning President Trump for ordering the drone strike that killed Soleimani. France — taking its usual role as the leading appeaser nation — has already signaled that if there is a war with Iran, it will not fight. (To paraphrase what I said in 2003, going to war without France is like going bear hunting without an accordion: you just leave a lot of noisy, useless baggage behind.)
The media are bashing Trump for “escalating” the conflict with Iran, being reckless and such. Rep. Alexandria Cutie-Cortez has said Trump was endangering millions of lives.
What these critics refuse to recognize is that Iran has been committing acts of war against us for over forty years and escalating its undeclared war against us regularly and recklessly. We have come to this dangerous time in the Middle East because presidents Clinton, George W. Bush, and Obama all failed to take serious action to defang Iran.
Soleimani had been the Quds Force commander since about 1998. In 2005, when I sat in the Baghdad office of Lt. Gen. J. R. Vines, then-commander of the Multinational Corps-Iraq, he explained that his biggest problem was the “explosively-formed penetrator” mines being smuggled in from Iran.
The “EFPs” were a new and highly-sophisticated weapon. When detonated, the force of the explosive both compressed a metal projectile to an enormous degree and propelled the compressed projectile at about Mach 5, enabling it to penetrate the densest armor of U.S. vehicles including M-1 tanks. The devastating results killed hundreds of U.S. troops and wounded thousands. The EFPs were manufactured in Iran and smuggled in to Iraq by Soleimani’s Quds Force terrorists. That was an act of war.
Iran has attacked shipping in the Persian Gulf, hijacked a small U.S. navy boat and held its crew captive for a day, used missiles to attack a Saudi oil facility, and more recently killed a U.S. contractor serving in Iraq while wounding several other Americans. All of these actions were acts of war.
President Trump had made it clear to the Iranians that his “red line” was the killing of any American. When the U.S. contractor was killed — again, an act of war — Trump enforced his “red line” by killing a number of Iran-directed Kataeb Hizb’allah terrorists in Syria and Iraq.
The Kataeb Hizb’allah responded — apparently under Soleimani’s orders — by attacking our Baghdad embassy. Iraqi security forces did nothing to defend the embassy.
That attack could have been Trump’s Benghazi. It wasn’t.
Remember the September 11, 2012 attack on our consulate and the CIA annex in Benghazi? As Bob Tyrrell and I wrote in the March 2014 American Spectator magazine, the Benghazi attack followed months of warnings by intelligence agencies, an attempt on the life of the British ambassador to Libya, and the outright refusal of Hillary Clinton’s State Department to reinforce the security force guarding the consulate. The result was four American dead — including the U.S. ambassador to Libya, Chris Stevens — and terrorists celebrating victory in the consulate and the CIA annex.
Instead of another Benghazi, the Baghdad embassy attack resulted in a fast deployment of one hundred Marines and two Apache attack helicopters from Kuwait to Baghdad. The Marines arrived in V-22 Osprey aircraft and quickly dosed the Kataeb Hizb’allah with enough tear gas to convince them to abandon the attack. Trump also ordered the rapid deployment of a battalion of the 82nd Airborne — and about three thousand more paratroops from the 82nd — probably to Kuwait.
The Baghdad embassy attack was the last straw for Trump. When the opportunity arose to kill Soleimani, who had the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands, Trump took it.
The Reaper drone that killed Soleimani also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy commander of the Kataeb Hizb’allah, the terrorist group under Soleimani’s command which had conducted the embassy attack and the earlier attack that had killed the U.S. contractor.
Twenty-four hours after Soleimani was killed, another U.S. drone attack killed at least six other terrorists, including some of their leaders, about fifty miles north of Baghdad. More such strikes should follow.
The repercussions of those attacks began almost immediately.
An Iraqi source told me Friday that the Iraqi parliament would probably demand the complete withdrawal of U.S. forces from Iraq. It did so on Sunday with the support of the Iraqi prime minister. The vote was predictable after Shiite senior cleric in Iraq, Ali al-Sistani, objected to the Soleimani kill as a violation of Iraqi sovereignty. It was.
The Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and Iraq provides for operations against ISIS and training of Iraqi forces, not for operations against Iranian terrorists operating in Iraq. It is to Trump’s credit that we went ahead in disregard of that agreement.
There is no reason for us to remain in Iraq. We should welcome the Iraqi demand that we leave and do so promptly. When we leave, Iraq will quickly complete its transformation into an Iranian satellite.
Whether or not a major war with Iran erupts, the world has entered a highly dangerous period that won’t end soon.
Trump, unwisely, repeated yet again that we do not seek regime change in Iran. Regime change in Iran must be our policy and we should seek it not through any invasion of Iran. As I have written often, we should be supplying the would-be Iranian revolutionaries with money, communications equipment, and arms to help them overthrow Iran’s terrorist regime.
Trump’s critics who castigate him for “destabilizing” the Middle East by killing Soleimani are delusional. Iran has destabilized the Middle East since its 1979 revolution. Stability in the Middle East is a pipe dream. But toppling the Iranian kakistocracy would be a huge step in that direction.