Actions have Consequences

Despite Pompeo's assurances, we are already seeing consequences for the Suleimani killing.

“Secretary Pompeo and Secretary Mnuchin Speak to Reporters” by The White House is in the Public Domain, CC0

I don’t even know where to start. In simple terms, the US President ordered the killing of an Iranian official without much thought beyond the immediate and now we are having to assess the ripples.

First, the Iraqi parliament has voted to remove US forces. Via the NYT: Iraqi Lawmakers Urge End U.S. Troop Presence as Iran Mourns a Slain General.

Lawmakers in Iraq voted on Sunday to require the government to end the presence of American troops in the country after the United States ordered the killing of the Iranian leader of the elite Quds Force, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, on Iraqi soil.


The vote is not final until Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi of Iraq signs the bill. But since he drafted the language and submitted the bill to Parliament, there was little doubt he would sign it.

The exact nature of the American presence if the bill is signed is vague, however:

The legislation threads a fine needle: While using strong language demanding that the government “end any foreign presence on Iraqi soil and prevent the use of Iraqi airspace, soil and water for any reason” by foreign forces, it gives no timetable for doing so.

It would end the mission approved in 2014 that gave the United States the explicit task of helping the Iraqi forces to fight the Islamic State. That agreement gave the Americans substantial latitude to launch attacks and use Iraqi airspace. But the measure would leave in place the Strategic Framework Agreement, which allows an American troop presence in Iraq in some form.

It should be noted that this action is exacerbating internal divisions in Iraq:

Although the vote was 170-0 in Parliament, many of its 328 members, primarily Kurds and Sunnis, did not attend the session and did not vote, showing the division in Parliament on the demands to oust American troops. While groups that grew out of Shiite militia organizations have pushed hard for the expulsion, Sunni Muslim factions and the Kurds wanted the United States to stay.

This is not a healthy situation. Indeed, US actions have the real potential to deepen existing cleavages in Iraq and to push the Shiite majority deeper into Iranian orbit.

Second, also via the NYT, U.S.-Led Coalition Halts ISIS Fight as It Steels for Iranian Attacks.

The American-led coalition in Iraq and Syria halted its yearslong mission of attacking the Islamic State and training local forces in both countries Sunday as United States troops braced for retaliation from Iran after a strike that killed a powerful Iranian commander, military officials said.

So, now US forces have to worry about retaliation, rather than focusing on their mission against ISIS.

Third, via CNN: US deploys thousands of additional troops to Middle East following Soleimani killing

The US is deploying thousands of additional troops to the Middle East as tensions with Iran mount following the airstrike that killed Iranian commander Qasem Soleimani.

The additional troops — about 2,800 soldiers — are from the Immediate Response Force of the 82nd Airborne Division in Fort Bragg, North Carolina. A US defense official told CNN on Friday that the move was expected, and the Pentagon later confirmed the deployment in a statement provided to CNN.

All of which is in the context of Mike Pompeo telling Chuck Todd on MTP this morning that America is now safer because of the killing of Suleimani:

Quite frankly, it is a little gross for Pompeo to talk about “a little noise” when it is manifestly obvious that Americans are less safe now. If killing Suleimani was a way to immediately create greater safety, we would be able to remove troops from the region, not need to add more. Further, we would be able to focus more heavily on ISIS rather than suspend activities.

Indeed, the State Department (headed by Pompeo, for those keeping score at home), issued the following on New Year’s Day: Iraq Travel Advisory (Level 4: Do Not Travel).

Do not travel to Iraq due to terrorismkidnapping, and armed conflict
U.S. citizens in Iraq are at high risk for violence and kidnapping. Numerous terrorist and insurgent groups are active in Iraq and regularly attack both Iraqi security forces and civilians. Anti-U.S. sectarian militias may also threaten U.S. citizens and Western companies throughout Iraq. Attacks by improvised explosive devices (IEDs) occur in many areas of the country, including Baghdad.

On December 31, 2019, the Embassy suspended public consular services, until further notice, as a result of damage done by Iranian-backed terrorist attacks on the Embassy compound.

Just a little noise, no doubt.

Update: Literally at the same time this was posting, the following alert popped on my phone: Iran and U.S. Updates: Iran Ends Its Commitment to 2015 Nuclear Deal.

Iran’s government said it was ending all its commitments to the 2015 nuclear deal and would no longer limit its enrichment of uranium.

So much winning….

FILED UNDER: Iran, National Security, Terrorism, US Politics
Steven L. Taylor
About Steven L. Taylor
Steven L. Taylor is Professor of Political Science and Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Troy University. His main areas of expertise include parties, elections, and the institutional design of democracies. His most recent book is the co-authored A Different Democracy: American Government in a 31-Country Perspective. He earned his Ph.D. from the University of Texas and his BA from the University of California, Irvine. He has been blogging since 2003 (originally at the now defunct Poliblog). Follow Steven on Twitter


  1. Sleeping Dog says:

    With the US suspending operations against ISIS, the first post Suleimani round goes to Iran.

    While Iran and it’s proxies have been part of the anti-ISIS coalition, Iran will now welcome any trouble that ISIS can cook up for the US.

    The US simply does not have enough troops in the ME to protect themselves and conduct operations and sending troops that will likely be garrisoned in Kuwait, won’t change that problem.

  2. Kathy says:

    Life is not a movie or a videogame where all you need to do is kill one man to win.

    Would killing Eisenhower have prevented the D-Day landings? The whole idea is ridiculous and infantile.

  3. drj says:

    Not to forget: all this follows the betrayal of the Kurds who were the US’ most effective allies in Syria.

    ISIS’s top brass is going to be celebrating.

  4. @Kathy: Precisely.

  5. Mister Bluster says:

    And in other news:

    Al-Shabab attacks military base used by US forces in Kenya
    Al-Shabab, based in neighboring Somalia, claimed responsibility. In a statement Sunday evening proclaiming the 10-hour attack over, it asserted 17 U.S. “casualties,” nine Kenyan soldiers killed and seven aircraft destroyed. The U.S. Africa Command did not immediately respond to a request for comment on the claim. Earlier, it called the al-Shabab claims exaggerated and said U.S. and Kenyan forces repelled the attack.

  6. Kurtz says:
  7. Michael Cain says:

    The resolution passed by the Council of Representatives is explicitly non-binding. In effect, a request that foreign military leave voluntarily. Plus the PM is currently acting in a caretaker role and is unlikely to make binding policy changes. A new PM is not expected before early March.

  8. @Michael Cain: Indeed. I still finding it a telling action by our ally. Worse, to me anyway, is that the clearly sectarian cleavage that the vote represents.

  9. Gustopher says:

    WaPo reporting on the Sunday shows…

    Pressed by host Chris Wallace on what the United States will do if the Iraqi parliament passes such a measure [a binding measure], Pompeo declined to say.

    “We’ll have to take a look at what we do when the Iraqi leadership and government makes a decision,” he said. “But the American people should know we’ll make the right decision. We will take actions that, frankly, the previously administration refused to take to do just that.”

    I don’t know how to read that as anything other than “we will stay anyway.” A message to the Iraqi government along the lines of “Listen, we’re here. It’s up to you whether we are guests or occupiers, but we’re not going anywhere.”

    Am I missing something?

    Also, a dig at Obama.

    Overall, I think this will be a worse foreign policy disaster than Obama’s Libya intervention. Not abiding by limits set by host governments is going to greatly increase the reluctance to let Americans station troops abroad.

  10. Michael Cain says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: Oh, absolutely. Nothing good for anyone here.

  11. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    But the American people should know we’ll make the right decision.

    Right! Because this administrations policy actions so far have been so spot on. 🙁

  12. Scott F. says:


    Also, a dig at Obama.

    The JCPOA – the most impactful diplomatic accomplishment in the Middle East in my lifetime – was “appeasement” according to the steaming pile of BS that is the Trump administration’s Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo.

    The stupid… it burns.

  13. Raoul says:

    I do not watch the Sunday morning shows because. I wonder if Pompeo was asked how the approach to a nuclear free North Korea is going. Before we know it the entire Middle East will be nucqearized and we know what that will entail.

  14. Ken_L says:

    Let me correct your opening paragraph.

    In simple terms, the US President ordered mass murder. It was an atrocious crime.

  15. @Gustopher:

    think this will be a worse foreign policy disaster than Obama’s Libya intervention.

    I have been thinking about this. The logic is similar: get rid of the Bad Man and everything else will take care of itself (not unlike with Saddam Hussein).

  16. Ken_L says:

    @Steven L. Taylor: It’s the ‘find the troublemaker’ mentality writ large. I’ve known countless managers whose first instinct, when faced with industrial unrest, is to find the bastard causing the trouble and fire them. Or buy them off, if firing would cause too much blowback.

  17. gVOR08 says:

    @Kurtz: This is stuff is, unsurprisingly, not being well reported. A day or two ago I mentioned Cheryl Rofer who posts at Balloon Juice. She has a post up on Iran in which she links to a Twitter thread by one Richard Johnson.

    Iran’s announcement today was as predictable as it was not. Lots of us thought Iran would announce a move to enriching at near 20%. It did not do that today. This is good news.

    Iran is apparently limiting degree of enrichment and continuing to allow IAEA inspections.

  18. Kurtz says:


    Long game. It makes more sense for them to do that than to go full steam ahead. Perhaps they intend to ultimately honor the agreement. But it makes more sense for them to start slowly and see what happens–leverage in any future negotiations.

  19. Gustopher says:

    @Steven L. Taylor:

    get rid of the Bad Man and everything else will take care of itself (not unlike with Saddam Hussein).

    I was thinking more about the lesson to other countries, rather than the immediate disaster.

    Libya: If we promise not to interfere in exchange for a dictator not pursuing WMD, we cannot be trusted to follow through.

    This Fiasco: If we are invited into a country to work with them on One thing, we will bomb our host’s allies on their territory. (And upset a balance their stability depends on)

    Not good in either case. Abandoning JCPOA was also not good.

  20. barbintheboonies says:

    You neglect to say these repercussions are just the same old same old from the terrorist regime. Real Americans just don’t say that’s ok we will still kiss your asses forever no matter what you do. Stop the nonsense.

  21. @barbintheboonies: Your response makes no sense.


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