Earlier this month, President Donald Trump ordered a drone strike on top Iranian Commander, Qasem Soleimani, in Baghdad Iraq. President Trump has said that Soleimani had to be taken out because he was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks”.
A day after the attack, President Trump from his Mar-a-Lago resort stated that “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war,”.
Iran responded by sending a letter to the United Nations, in which they called the drone strike an act of terrorism and a criminal act. Tensions have been elevated for Iran since the United States, or more specifically President Trump decided to pull out of the nuclear deal, Joint Commission Plan of Action. Iran’s Ambassador to the United Nations, Majid Takht Ravanchi, said that “The US has started the economic war in — in May 2018. Last night, they started a military war. By assassinating, by an act of terror, against one of our top generals,”.
The United States has said that Soleimani was planning an attack on American diplomats in the region and the Pentagon blamed him and his Quds Force for the attacks on American bases in Iraq and the attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad in December.
Many Americans still do not know who Qasem Soleimani was and why President Trump saw him as an immediate threat to Americans in the region. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei had called him “living martyr of the revolution”, so he was always portrayed in a positive light to the Iranian people. Soleimani was the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, a military unit that handles overseas operations for Iran’s government. He started his military career in the 1980s during the Iran- Iraq war.
Soleimani has been seen as an influential figure in Iran and the Middle East. Many believe that Soleimani and forces are behind many violent and social conflicts in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, Afghanistan Pakistan. Using the religious divides of Sunnis and Shias in Muslim countries, military conflict inflamed the already present tensions.
The death of Soleimani has had an unexpected effect on the world. Iranians have been fearful of a military conflict with the United States; a war is something the Iranian people have consistently been against. They have stated that they want peace with the United States and the world, but the Iranian government wants to take action for the killing of Soleimani.
Americans, as always, are divided. Some cheered at the news that President Trump took on a guy that seemed like the bully of the Middle East. Others felt sorrow for the death of Soleimani and described him as a good influential leader of Iran that fought of ISIS forces in Iraq and Syria, and now Iran has suffered a loss. The viewpoints are polarized, but they are actually missing the point. Both President Trump and Commander Soleimani have committed vicious acts and neither would qualify as the ‘good guy’ in this situation.
What needs to be the focus is the real motivation behind President Trump’s actions to take out Soleimani. It has been stated that the drone strike was to ensure the safety of American diplomats and soldiers in Iraq, but the timing of the strike is interesting. As the world knows, in December 2019, the United States House of Representatives filed two articles of impeachment against President Trump and prepared them to be sent to the Senate for a vote and eventually a trial. On January 3, 2020, in less than a month since President Trump was impeached, he ordered the drone strike to kill Soleimani. Many have speculated if President Trump is trying to delay the impeachment process or “wag the dog”, a colloquialism that means to distract from impeachment, by starting a war with Iran.
Many people wondered this because the last president who was impeached, President Bill Clinton, launched an airstrike in Iraq in December 1998. The airstrike actually delayed the impeachment vote in the House of Representatives for some time.
This could have been an attempt by President Trump to “wag the dog” or it could be an attempt at “rally round the flag”. Rally round the flag is a concept used in political science and international relations to explain popular support for war and conflict with another group, often short-run and does not alt long. People have drawn comparisons to the time of President Bush and his military efforts after 9/11. People supported American military presence in Iraq and Afghanistan because the US was attacked and people were seeking justice. After some time of no success in the region, the American people demanded that troops be pulled out of the region and the US step back from its role in delivering democracy to the Middle East.
A review of recent US history in the Middle East can reveal a lot about what is happening in the present and can give advice on what the US should do and not do in the Middle East.
After the world’s response to the drone strike that killed Soleimani, President Trump has declared that the US will not pursue any military action further with Iran. Iran has said that they planned to take action against the US, but nothing has been revealed yet.