With the assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, Donald Trump finally became a neo-Conservative. The action which was both rash and, even worse, emotional, gave the mullahs a decided break. First, it helped unite Iran, which had been under considerable pressure thanks to the sanctions and civil unrest. Second, it made the regime seem sympathetic to other Middle Eastern countries. But in America, it made Trump seem impulsive and gullible.
Mike Pompeo fed Trump the same diplomatic swill that Dick Cheney provided George W. Bush. Indeed, on the day of the attack, Pompeo tweeted a scene of Iraqis dancing in the streets. By Sunday, the Iraqi parliament voted to back the United States out of their territory. Non-binding resolution it might have been, it certainly described the true sentiments of the Iraqis people.
It’s not the first time that the U.S. dealt in self-delusion in Iraq. After the killing of Zarqawi in 2006, the general sentiment in Washington was mission accomplished. American military leaders then organized Zarqawi’s band into the awakening councils which was primed to take on Iraq’s Shia majority. In time, it developed into ISIS which raised havoc between 2015-2019. Indeed, the U.S. was forced to liquidate its old friends.
Also, Zarqawi was one of a legion of “Mr. Bigs” the U.S. eliminated in Afghanistan and Iraq. Soleimani is just one of the so-called masterminds eliminated by U.S. intelligence. In almost every case, the resistance in the Middle East grew as a result. And in Iran, where martyrs are highly prized, the incident could not have come at a more opportune time.
For Trump, who has never been comfortable with such an approach, this dip into the predictable has to be disturbing. When the likes of Pompeo and Lindsey Graham are beating the drums, it must give him pause. Moreover, when allies — true Trumpers such as Tucker Carlson — question the move then warning signs are evident. Trump is now in a pressure cooker which could well doom his presidency.
Not that Democrats are particularly important, they do not mourn or regret the use of assassination. They only pick at particulars like Republicans during Vietnam becoming amateur strategists. But, Trump should take heed as Lyndon Johnson should have that once war comes it limits your options. And, in time, his neo-con buddies will eagerly attack him if things go wrong.
What the president did was squander his strength. Trump had rejected the hawkish advice given on other matters. He seemed a man of peace, certainly not a knee jerk. But the Soleimani affair placed him into the role as just another victim of neo-Conservative hysterics. And although his support was not dependent on his tendency to avoid war, nevertheless some did notice his caution and were ready to reward him at the polls.
But Trump is not the first or the last to be suckered in by the masters of war. Pompeo is the last major neo-Conservative in the government. His loyalty is not to Trump but to hegemony in the Middle East. If things go wrong, Pompeo will make it clear, like any leaking bureaucrat, that his boss was to blame.