Since the Second World War, the US has never killed a military leader from another country until the Iranian General Soleimani was blown up by rockets on Friday. How did President Trump come to the decision that already has such far-reaching consequences?
Those who, like Donald Trump, spent the Christmas vacation in Mar-a-Lago, Trumps luxury private club on Palm Beach in Florida, were less surprised by the American attack than the rest of the world. In the days before Soleimani was blown up, Trump was already telling friends in his resort that something big was imminent.
The president gave hints about a “major” action against the Iranian regime, three attendees reported to The Daily Beast news site. What kind of action? They would read or hear more about it very quickly. In the meantime, he played a few rounds of golf and mingled on New Year’s Eve with the guests in Mar-a-Lago.
The world outside the exclusive resort (where a membership costs $ 200,000 a year) got something from Trumps rising agitation about Iran. The country “will pay a whole HIGH PRICE” if American victims fall, Trump tweeted on New Year’s Eve. The US embassy in Iraq was then stormed during protests allegedly orchestrated by Iran. “This is not a warning, but a threat,” he wrote. ‘Happy New Year!’
….Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 31, 2019
To kill Iran’s highest general, Trump was presented by the US Army Summit as the most extreme option in a menu with possible responses to Iranian provocations. The American Defense Minister Mark Esper and his top general, Mark Milley, traveled to Trumps holiday resort on Sunday 29 December with a menu that also included attacks on Iranian ships, rocket bases or Iran-backed militias in Iraq, writes The New York Times.
Two days earlier an American mercenary soldier had died in a rocket attack on an American military base in Iraq. An attack on Soleimani would only have been suggested to make the other options seem more reasonable. Everyone understands that blowing up Iran’s army leader would have major consequences. That is why Trumps predecessors Obama and Bush had never dared to do that and Soleimani, who had been on the American terror list since 2007, was able to travel freely in the Middle East.
That Sunday, according to the American newspaper, Trump opted for attacks on a number of weapon depots and command posts in Iraq and Syria that would be used by the Iran-supported militia group Kataib Hezbollah to besiege American troops. Some 20 militia fighters were killed in those attacks. An excessive reaction, according to the Iranians, who subsequently organized the violent demonstrations at the American embassy in Baghdad.
Television images of that made Trump furious, witness his New Year’s Eve tweets. He feared that he would appear weak if he did not respond, after Iranian attacks on ships, an American unmanned aircraft and a Saudi oil refinery. On Thursday, January 2, he chose – according to the New York Times to astonish his army staff – for the most extreme option: Iran’s army leader himself was now the target.
New evidence from intelligence agencies would have shown that Soleimani was preparing an attack in which hundreds or even thousands of American victims had to fall. With such a major attack, the dormant conflict between Iran and the US would certainly escalate. Recent attacks by Iran and its allies in the Middle East usually only cause small numbers of casualties.
About the author: Rick Culpepper
Rick Culpepper is of those journalists who dig the topic to the very bottom. He is often late with the delivery of the piece, but always does it perfectly. In his spare time, he collects data for one of the most high-profile investigations of corruption in the EU.