The New York Times spends 1484 words to tell us what the editors probably did not want to say, that President Trump’s ordering of the attack which sent Qassim Suleimani to his 72 virgins was the right thing to do:
While senior officials argue the drone strike was warranted to prevent future attacks, some in the administration remain skeptical about the rationale for the attack.
By Helene Cooper, Eric Schmitt, Maggie Haberman and Rukmini Callimachi | Published January 4, 2020 | Updated January 5, 2020 | 12:04 p.m. ET
WASHINGTON — In the chaotic days leading to the death of Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, Iran’s most powerful commander, top American military officials put the option of killing him — which they viewed as the most extreme response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq — on the menu they presented to President Trump.
They didn’t think he would take it. In the wars waged since the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks, Pentagon officials have often offered improbable options to presidents to make other possibilities appear more palatable.
After initially rejecting the Suleimani option on Dec. 28 and authorizing airstrikes on an Iranian-backed Shiite militia group instead, a few days later Mr. Trump watched, fuming, as television reports showed Iranian-backed attacks on the American Embassy in Baghdad, according to Defense Department and administration officials.
In other words, the President chose a middle-of-the-road response, but Iran upped the ante.
By late Thursday, the president had gone for the extreme option. Top Pentagon officials were stunned.
Mr. Trump made the decision, senior officials said on Saturday, despite disputes in the administration about the significance of what some officials said was a new stream of intelligence that warned of threats to American embassies, consulates and military personnel in Syria, Iraq and Lebanon. General Suleimani had just completed a tour of his forces in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq, and was planning an “imminent” attack that could claim hundreds of lives, those officials said.
“Days, weeks,” Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said on Friday, when asked how imminent any attacks could be, without offering more detail other than to say that new information about unspecified plotting was “clear and unambiguous.”
But some officials voiced private skepticism about the rationale for a strike on General Suleimani, who was responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American troops over the years. According to one United States official, the new intelligence indicated “a normal Monday in the Middle East” — Dec. 30 — and General Suleimani’s travels amounted to “business as usual.”
I would imagine that Osama bin Laden made a few ‘business as usual’ travels after giving the go-ahead for the September 11th attacks but before they were made.
That official described the intelligence as thin and said that General Suleimani’s attack was not imminent because of communications the United States had between Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and General Suleimani showing that the ayatollah had not yet approved any plans by the general for an attack. The ayatollah, according to the communications, had asked General Suleimani to come to Tehran for further discussions at least a week before his death.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Vice President Mike Pence were two of the most hawkish voices arguing for a response to Iranian aggression, according to administration officials. Mr. Pence’s office helped run herd on meetings and conference calls held by officials in the run-up to the strike.
Well, it’s good to know that the Vice President has nerve, just in case something happens to the President.
Administration officials insisted they did not anticipate sweeping retaliation from Iran, in part because of divisions in the Iranian leadership. But Mr. Trump’s two predecessors — Presidents George W. Bush and Barack Obama — had rejected killing General Suleimani as too provocative.
Perhaps had Presidents Bush or Obama gone for more aggressive, harsher action, it wouldn’t have been necessary for President Trump to do so.
The Times then noted that the Iranians saw the previous mid-level response by the US as out-of-proportion to their provocations, expecting the same tit-for-tat kind of stuff previous Presidents have authorized. They had expected something lesser, and had an expectation of reasonable and acceptable losses, losses they were willing to bear in order to achieve whatever political goals they thought they would achieve.
But the termination of General Suleimani sent a graphic message: if President Trump was willing to kill a man the Times described as “the most important person in Iran after Ayatollah (Ali) Khamenei,” then he was probably just as willing to send the ayatollah to meet Allah as well. Mr Trump just said, courtesy of missiles fired from an American MQ-9 Reaper, that no one in Iran is safe.
The assault on our embassy in Baghdad by Iranian-backed militia incensed President Trump, but they had to also bring to mind President Obama’s inaction as our consulate in Benghazi, Libya was attacked in 2012, with four Americans being killed, and President Carter’s utter failures after the Iranians seized our embassy and held our citizens hostage in Tehran in 1979. That helped to make Mr Carter a one-term President.
The lessons of inaction or tepid response were clear: a show of weakness simply invites more attacks. President Trump decided that we weren’t going to have another tepid response.
The Iranians have vowed to strike the US — something they’ve vowed for the last forty years — but now the ayatollah knows something new: it won’t be just the lives of underlings which are at risk, but his own. Whatever response Iran makes now brings with it the possibility that we will strike not only at its military and paramilitary capabilities, but at its government, at its authoritarian control of a restive population.
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