It’s easy to over-think Trump’s motives in greasing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. What he really did was plant a horse head in Ayatollah Khamenei’s bed.
In Mario Puzo’s classic novel, The Godfather, mafia don Vito Corleone intimidates a powerful Hollywood mogul by having a lieutenant kill the mogul’s thoroughbred racehorse, his most prized possession, and place the horse’s severed head in the mogul’s bed while he’s asleep.
The message was “we can get you, you are vulnerable” and “don’t fight with us unless you are prepared to put everything you have and value at risk.”
That’s pretty much the message Trump sent by assassinating Soleimani. The late general, said by some to be the second most powerful man in the Islamic Republic, was an intimate friend of Khamenei — who, ironically, used to call him “a living martyr.” Soleimani was the Islamic sword with which the Ayatollah intended to project — and was projecting — Iran’s and Shia Islam’s power from Tehran to the Mediterranean and beyond. In other words he was Khamenei’s thoroughbred.
And Trump offed him. Without fuss, bother or warning. Bang dead.
The message was the same as Vito Corleone’s to the mogul: You are vulnerable. Don’t mess with us unless you are prepared to put everything you value at risk.
Trump’s comments after the attack also laid down a simple but blindingly bright red line. The Iranian action that prompted the assassination of Soleimani was the killing of an American in a rocket attack by an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia. Up until then, the U.S. had chosen to ignore Iranian attacks on American allies — like last year’s attack on Saudi oil infrastructure and tankers — and confined its retaliation for rocket attacks on its own bases in Syria and Iraq to air strikes on the Iranian-surrogate Shiite militias that carried them out.
But Trump laid down a new redline: Kill an American, even one, and the United States will target the things you value most highly. Like Soleimani.
Trump also said he had a list of 52 Iranian targets picked out — one for each of the 52 American diplomats taken hostage during the Nov. 4, 1979 take-over of the American embassy in Tehran — including some of “cultural significance.”
Progressives were horrified by the targets of “cultural significance” reference, but the truth is the most “culturally significant” targets on the list aren’t the ruins at Persepolis or even Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s tomb. They’re Iran’s oil refineries. Somewhat surprisingly, while Iran has massive oil reserves, it has limited refining capacity and is a net importer of gasoline. Its gasoline supply has been squeezed by Trump’s sanctions. The recent, and ongoing, protests in Iran were triggered by the regime’s decision to slap a 50% price increase on gasoline and impose gas rationing.
Since the Soleimani hit, “unidentified aircraft” (probably ours) have been bombing those militias nightly. The militias have aimed a few rocket volleys at American bases in response, causing damage, but not causing any American casualties, interestingly enough. Just lucky maybe. Coincidence maybe. Or maybe a new-found prudence.
Democrats are making a big deal over Trump’s unsubstantiated claim that Soleimani was plotting “imminent” attacks on four U.S. embassies.
But whether the latest plots of the late Soleimani targeted four U.S. embassies or 40 or none and whether the threat was “imminent” (whatever that means) is beside the point. We know Soleimani plotted, and his surrogates executed, an attack on one U.S. embassy, the one in Baghdad that occurred on Dec. 31 when the excitable boys of the Iranian-backed Kata’ib Hezbollah militia tried to take over the place in an escapade reminiscent of the takeover of the Tehran embassy in 1979. (They decided it wasn’t such a good idea after Trump sent 100 Marines and a couple of helicopter gun-ships).
The threat Soleimani posed was persistant, ongoing, chronic, a clear and present danger — take your pick. That alone was sufficient reason to kill him.
One of the reasons Democrats hate Trump is that they believe he lies a lot. Which he does, in the same way the guy selling weight-loss pills in internet infomercials lies. Most of it is self-promoting puffery. Democrats believe Trump’s habitual hyperbola is a corrupt assault on the integrity of the English language and the commonly understood meaning of words. They, on the other hand, think of themselves as the party of truth made manifest through linguistic precision.
So what are we to make of the fact that on Election Night 2016, after it became clear that Trump won the election, the Democrats, the party that speaks truth to power, declared themselves “The Resistance?” At the time I thought it was a graceless thing to say; the losers in American elections usually declare themselves “the loyal opposition.” (An exception occurred in 1860, with unwelcome consequences.)
But in the three-plus years since the Democrats rebranded themselves as The Resistance they’ve behaved like it was more than a metaphor, launching a non-stop campaign to oust Trump from office that stretches from the Steele Dossier, paid for by the Clinton campaign, to the flaccid articles of impeachment.
Trump said he didn’t tell the Democrats in Congress he intended to kill Soleimani because they’d leak it. Given their past performance, he has ample reason not to trust them and to no longer take the loyalty of the current “loyal opposition” as a given.
this opinion column does not necessarily reflect the views of Boulder Weekly.