U.S. Drone Strike Hits Head Of Iranian Revolutionary Guard

An American drone strike has taken out the head of Iran's Revolutionary Guard, a move likely to significantly increase tensions across the Middle East.

Photo via The New York Times/Associated Press

In what could end up becoming the most significant military action in the Middle East since the Iraq War, and the most significant American action against Iran specifically in a generation, an American missile strike at the Baghdad Airport has killed the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard:

 Iran’s top security and intelligence commander was killed early Friday in a drone strike at Baghdad International Airport that was authorized by President Trump, American officials said.

The commander, Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, who led the powerful Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, was killed along with several officials from Iraqi militias backed by Tehran when an American MQ-9 Reaper drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the airport.

General Suleimani was the architect of nearly every significant operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces over the past two decades, and his death was a staggering blow for Iran at a time of sweeping geopolitical conflict.

The strike was also a serious escalation of Mr. Trump’s growing confrontation with Tehran, one that began with the death of an American contractor in Iraq in late December.

In Iran, the leadership convened an emergency security meeting. And the country’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, issued a statement calling for three days of public mourning and then retaliation.

“His departure to God does not end his path or his mission,” the statement said, “but a forceful revenge awaits the criminals who have his blood and the blood of the other martyrs last night on their hands.”

United States officials were braced for potential Iranian retaliatory attacks, possibly including cyberattacks and terrorism, on American interests and allies.

Israel, too, was preparing for Iranian strikes. Some of the country’s most popular tourist sites, including the ski resort at Hermon, were closed, and the armed forces went on alert, officials said.

More from The Washington Post:

A U.S. airstrike killed Iranian Quds Force commander Qasem Soleimani in Baghdad late Thursday, the Pentagon said, a dramatic escalation of tensions between the two countries that could lead to widespread violence in the region and beyond.

Defense Secretary Mark T. Esper said the Pentagon had taken “decisive defensive action” against Soleimani, the revered military figure who had close links to a network of armed groups backed by Iran across the Middle East and, according to the United States, bore responsibility for hundreds of American deaths.

“Gen. Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” Esper said in a statement. “This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans.”

Iran confirmed the death of one of its most active military figures and vowed revenge against the United States. Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, said in a statement Friday that Soleimani’s death was “bitter” but “the final victory will make life more bitter for the murderers and criminals.”

Defense Minister Brig. Gen. Amir Hatami added that the attack would be met with a “crushing” response. Foreign Minister Javad Zarif called the strike an “act of international terrorism” and, in a message on Twitter, said the United States “bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

Earlier, Iraqi militia officials and the country’s state TV channel announced that Soleimani had been killed in an airstrike alongside a top Iraqi militia leader just outside the country’s main airport. The Iraqi, Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, who is better known by his nom de guerre, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, is closely associated with attacks against the United States dating to 1982.

In a statement, Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi condemned the U.S. “assassination,” adding that the killing of the Iraqi militia leader was an act of aggression against Iraq and a breach of the conditions under which American forces operate in the country.

A video circulated by Shiite militia groups showed, accompanied by the sound of wailing, the crumpled wreckage of the vehicle in which Soleimani purportedly was traveling. A photograph claimed to show his bloodied, ash-covered hand wearing the same blood-red ring seen in earlier photos of him alive.

A U.S. official, who like others spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to comment on the record, said the attack was conducted by a U.S. drone and struck a two-car convoy carrying Soleimani and others on an access road near Baghdad International Airport. At least half a dozen people were believed to have been killed.

Senior officials with the Popular Mobilization Forces, as the Iraqi militia groups are known, lamented the deaths in messages circulating on WhatsApp. “May God reward you for the loss of the brave leaders, Hajj Soleimani and Hajj Muhandis. May God accept them as martyrs in his vast mercy,” wrote Ahmed al-Assadi, the chief spokesman of the Popular Mobilization Forces, many of which are seen as being funded and directed by Iran.

Despite a long period of increasing tension between Iran and the Trump administration, which has vowed a tougher stance on Tehran’s support for proxy groups, the attack against an incomparable figure in Iran’s security establishment came as a surprise to many analysts, in part because it was seen as likely to ignite a significant Iranian response.

Ilan Goldenberg, who worked on Middle East issues during the Obama administration, characterized the move as a “massive game changer” in the region.

“Iran will seek revenge. It may escalate in Iraq, Lebanon, the gulf or elsewhere. It may attempt to target senior U.S. officials,” said Goldenberg, now a scholar with the Center for a New American Security.

“Unfortunately, I highly doubt the Trump administration has thought out the next step or knows what to do now to avoid a regional war.”

The attack, which Esper said was authorized by President Trump, raises fresh questions about the president’s approach to the Middle East. While Trump has employed bellicose rhetoric and authorized several strikes against the Syrian government, an ally of Tehran, he has repeatedly voiced his desire to get the United States out of costly wars in the region.

The attack appeared intended to cripple a force that has been the vanguard of Iran’s decades-long effort to shape events in the Middle East in its favor. Soleimani, who rose from poverty in southeast Iran, joined the Revolutionary Guard Corps as a young man, and later took control of the Quds Force, its external wing, in the late 1990s.

Under his command, the force expanded its support for armed groups across the region, including in Iraq, where U.S. officials blamed Iran-backed militias for killing at least 600 American troops following the 2003 U.S. invasion. The force also was named in a 2011 plot to assassinate a Saudi diplomat at a Washington restaurant. In recent years Soleimani was regularly seen making visits to affiliated militias in Iraq, Syria and elsewhere, demonstrating not just his military influence but significant diplomatic clout.

To be fair, Soleimani was hardly an innocent figure and most assuredly not a friend of either peace or of the United States. He was the head of an organization that has fomented terrorism and attacks on American interests and allies across the Middle East since its formation in 1979, and he was most emphatically part of the hardliners in the Iranian government who were opposed to things such as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) and other efforts to reach a rapprochement with the West in contrast to leaders such as President Hasan Rouhani and Foreign Minister Mohammed Zarif. He was also known to be one of the top military advisers to Ayatollah Khamenei, who himself is generally seen to be on the side of the hardliners. If nothing else, the domestic impact of this inside Iran is likely to see the position of the hardliners strengthened while more moderate leaders such as Rouhani and Zarif are likely to go with the flow in order to not fall out of favor with the consensus inside the Iranian government.

As one analyst on Morning Joe this morning put it, taking out Soleimani was a tactical win for the United States because it takes a powerful and smart player who held influence both inside Iran and in nations like Iraq and Syria off the table. That being said, it is far from clear that this was a smart strategic move in either the short or the long term. In the short term, this is likely to lead to significantly increased tensions in the Middle East generally and the Persian Gulf area specifically as the region waits to see what kind of response we might see from Iran. While direct confrontation with American naval or land forces in the area seems unlikely, it’s quite likely that we’ll see retaliation of some kind. Most likely this will come in the form of attacks against American interests or allies by proxy forces in Iraq, Yemen, and Syria. This could include attacks against Saudi Arabia from forces based in Yemen, attacks against Israeli interests from forces in Syria and/or Lebanon, and cyberattacks on American assets that would carry with them an air of plausible deniability. The most unlikely outcome is that Iran will fail to respond to this attack at all.

In addition to the response from Tehran, it will be important to watch Baghdad will be the reaction of the Iraqi government and people. The attack itself comes just days after massive protests in and around the so-called “Green Zone” meant to serve as protection for the American Embassy in Baghdad by protesters linked to militia and other forces allied with Iran. Additionally, even before this attack, there were political forces in the Iranian Parliament who were calling for the removal of American forces from the country. This move could cause those voices to grow louder. In terms of immediate responses from Baghdad, the Iraqi Prime Minister said in a statement that the attack would “light the fuse” of war across the Middle East. Additionally, the State Department has already issued a statement calling on American civilians to leave Iraq as quickly as possible, although it has not taken any formal steps to move non-essential personnel out of the Embassy in Baghdad. That could change depending on how things proceed from here.

The biggest question here, of course, is what sort of thinking led the Administration and the President to take a step such as this, which constitutes a major escalation of tension between the United States and Iran. While some will attempt to draw an analogy between this attack and the raid that resulted in the death of Osama bin Laden. While bin Laden was a terrorist leader responsible for the death of thousands of Americans, he was in no way comparable to Soleimani, who was a top official in a nation that is a significant player in the Middle East. He was also a man who many believed would be a candidate for Iran’s Presidency in the future and, perhaps, the nation’s next political leader.

Carrying out the somewhat unprecedented assassination of a foreign leader from a nation with which we are not a war inside the territory is a serious step. In initial comments, the White House and Pentagon are claiming that the attack was justified because of alleged evidence that he was planning attacks on Americans but so far we haven’t seen anything resembling evidence to back up this assertion. Additionally, it’s notable that the Administration apparently did not notify or consult with Congressional leadership or the so-called “Gang of Eight” ahead of this attack and, of course, that there is nothing resembling authorization for this attack by Congress itself. Because of all that, we’re currently left with just the assertions of the White House, and given the propensity of this President and his Administration to lie there’s really no reason to believe them.

Hold on folks, because things are likely to get worse before they get better.

FILED UNDER: Donald Trump, Iran, Military Affairs, National Security, Politicians, US Politics
Doug Mataconis
About Doug Mataconis
Doug holds a B.A. in Political Science from Rutgers University and J.D. from George Mason University School of Law. He joined the staff of OTB in May 2010. Before joining OTB, he wrote at Below The BeltwayThe Liberty Papers, and United Liberty Follow Doug on Twitter | Facebook

Comments

  1. Kathy says:

    What’s clear is that it’s a terrible idea to conduct offensive military operations within Iraq without even consulting the Iraqi government.

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  2. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Let the fun begin.

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  3. Sleeping Dog says:

    If the Soleimani assassination took place within the context of a cogent foreign policy it could be worthwhile despite the fallout, but we know that isn’t the case. Most likely it came to Trumps attention that US intelligence knew Soleimani’s whereabouts and he simply ordered him killed in a pique of anger.

    In the tit for tat exchanges of the last couple of weeks, the US has moved from having an expeditionary force in Iraq that was in support of the Iraqi government to becoming a occupying force. It won’t be surprising to have the Iraqi’s ask the US to leave. While that won’t improve the Iraqi peoples situation relative to the various militias and warlords, it will remove the probability that Iraq becomes the unwilling host of an expanded conflict between the US and Iran.

    @Kathy:

    Not surprising he didn’t consult the Iraqi’s, he didn’t consult Congress. Consulting either would have impinged on his royal prerogatives.

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  4. Hal_10000 says:

    Yasher Ali has a great thread on what it all means. My biggest problem is that we’re being asked to accept that the Administration that fulminates about NATO, that has gone thought six different Korea policies, that has gone back an forth on Venezuela, that has started a dozen trader wars, that is ignoring China’s Uighur genocide, that is bungling Hong Kong, that bought into crazy Ukraine conspiracy theories, that doesn’t understand how foreign aide works, that has tried to dismantle our anti-corruption efforts … has any idea what it’s doing here. There’s zero chance that Trump has thought this out in either the short or the long term.

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  5. KM says:

    Carrying out the somewhat unprecedented assassination of a foreign leader from a nation with which we are not a war inside the territory is a serious step.

    No kidding. Almost like historically it was a prelude to war if not an outright declaration. Killing a leader on their own turf is a straight-up challenge to existing powers and it’s rarely ignored.

    The biggest question here, of course, is what sort of thinking led the Administration and the President to take a step such as this, which constitutes a major escalation of tension between the United States and Iran.

    They were thinking WAR. War will distract the fickle public and draw them to Trump’s side. War will make him “Presidential” and let him play-act his fantasies of being a respected badass alpha male. War will make impeachment halt and make Dems look bad by “picking on” the President during a crisis. Trump needs a new boogeyman and the ME gave Bush a ton of mileage last time around so WTFnot? It will only kill innocents there and probably some of our military. But hey, he’ll likely get some more Gallagher’s out of it to pimp to Cult45 – gotta think of the brand’s future!

    Trump’s sinking into his delusions and would absolutely buy any BS that a new war is just what America needs to love him again. He’s already expressed contempt for our military, it’s justice systems, traditions and logistics so why not the actual lives of the people involved? What does he care who dies if it gets him a snappy meme to tweet?

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  6. Teve says:

    I’ll make one prediction for sure: every time we kill someone like this, the replacement turns out to be even worse. We may consider Soleimani a state terrorist of the first order, but I’ll bet he seems like a cautious and prudent institutionalist compared to whoever takes over for him. -kevin drum

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  7. gVOR08 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: No. I don’t think it was a pique of anger. The first sentence of the DOD statement reads,

    At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.

    Emphasis mine. This was probably spur of the moment, but it was done to look tough for domestic political gain.

    Recently watched some of the early West Wing episodes. There is an attack by a terrorist group and Bartlett wants strikes to destroy them. He’s eventually talked down and accepts a proportionate response, recognizing it’s a lousy game, but it’s the game we’ve got, and escalating will only make it worse. Bartlett was portrayed as a man who could learn. And Bartlett wouldn’t have killed a better plan just because it was put in place by his predecessor.

    It’s galling that our best hope is the Iranians will be more thoughtful about this than we will.

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  8. mattbernius says:

    Who knows if this will lead to a hot war or not. We can hope its not a hot one. But the reality is we effectively started a war with Iran (without Congressional authorization).

    [Edit: It should go without saying that Suleimani was an enemy and a terrible force in the world. But imagine who we would react if someone killed the head of the CIA or the Secretary of Defense when they were abroad.]

    I also cannot see how this isn’t the final straw on the restart of Iran’s nuclear program (which means that future Presidents will have that to deal with and there is no chance of salvaging a deal).

    Also, anyone remember the halcyon days where Trump supporters were able to point to the fact that “unlike his predecessors he never started an illegal/unauthorized war*.”

    (* – again that completely ignores how Trump greatly expanded our use of drones while removing even the small bit of transparency that previous administrations had put in place, but you know… details)

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  9. Hal_10000 says:

    I don’t think this leads to a war in the conventional sense. Iran’s military forces are very weak. I think the concern is more that Iran retaliates with terrorist attacks, guerilla warfare and dangerous escalations in Iraq and Syria.

    The irony here is that of all the nations in that region, outside of Israel, Iran is probably the closest to us politically and culturally. Way more than Saudi Arabia. Many people in Iran like the US and want to be more like us, not less. We’re driving them away.

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  10. OzarkHillbilly says:

    Can you say, “$5 a gallon”?

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  11. mattbernius says:

    @Hal_10000:

    I don’t think this leads to a war in the conventional sense. Iran’s military forces are very weak.

    That would be my sense too — its hard to see a hot war happening. Worse, if it doesn, it’s hard to see how that ends without us “liberating” Iran.

    Agreed on the cultural issues, of course, they also said the same thing about Iraq…

    Also, add to the “straight out of 1984” folder the following official tweet from Pompeo:

    Spoke with @HeikoMaas about @realDonaldTrump’s decision to take defensive action to eliminate Qassem Soleimani. Germany is also concerned over the Iranian regime’s continued military provocations. The U.S. remains committed to de-escalation.

    Nothing says “deescalation” like a “defensive” assassination.

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  12. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @mattbernius:

    The U.S. remains committed to de-escalation.

    You owe me a new keyboard.

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  13. Michael Reynolds says:

    There are two kinds of retaliation. There’s tit-for-tat, which is essentially a slap fight. And there’s ICU (Intensive Care) retaliation, which is you slap me, I beat you so badly you spend six weeks in the hospital and forever after cringe at the mention of my name. This was neither. Too much for tit-for-tat, too little to be crushing. This was an invitation to escalate.

    The Iranians can’t not retaliate. They don’t have the ICU option, they have tit-for-tat or an escalation to the next step, so the question becomes how and when. Tit-for-tat might involve killing an ambassador. Escalation might be firing missiles at a US ship. Both approaches would force our hand, again with the same choices: slap fight, ICU or just another turn of the escalation wheel.

    The problem with slap fights is that they commoditize terrorism, they set a price, and so long as the opponent is willing to pay that price we allow them to strut on the world stage and play victim and nothing changes. The problem with the ICU option is that (as we’ve discussed here often) the people aren’t up for it, and in the case of Iran we have insufficient beef to justify it. This action at the embassy is a consequence of Trump’s withdrawal from the JCPOA and Saudi-Israeli desires for war. In other words: we’re in the wrong. They signed a deal, we abrogated the deal and we’ve been agitating for war.

    So now the initiative is with the Iranians. They have a multitude of potential targets to hit. So we sit and wait and run up the bill on security measures and hope the Iranians have more sense than Trump.

    Meanwhile Iraq may decide the time has come to tell us to fck off out of their country, and if we can’t bribe our way out of it, we’d have no practical alternative but to do so. That would be a strategic win for Iran.

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  14. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Kathy: The Iraqi government is and has been a Iranian proxy for a while now. How do you think a foreign General could have such freedom of movement within the country for so long? No, we wouldn’t consult with them on anything pertaining to their Daddy state. Just like we didn’t consult the Pakistanis about Bin Laden. We consulted the Iraqis about the Al Baghdadi raid because it’s a common interest. That is not the case when it comes to Iranian interests in Iraq.

    What’s clear in Espers “the game has changed” comment is that the US has moved away from the proportional response model. The Iranians had figured this approach in their counter-reponse to the “Maximum Pressure” campaign. They will have to recalculate.

    The bottom line is. ISIS is not dead and needs western attacks to drive fundraising and recruiting…we need a small presence of troops in the region as a disrupting force. Give these monsters 4-5 years of uninhibited recruiting and training and there WILL be a large mass casualty event. ISiS goal is to eventually top Bin Ladens body count in 9-11.

    Iran has guaranteed the Iraqi government security in exchange for the right to pursue their own interests inside of Iraq. The Embassy “siege” was as much a show of Force to the Iraqis to not even think about working with the Americans for internal base security.

    I’m on the fence about whether this was a good move…my gut says Iran will respond disproportionately and take a loss on this exchange…and figure out another provocation that the US can not blast it’s way out of. I do agree that a strong statement about missile attacks on our forces was warranted when the mission being done was sanctioned by iraqis.

    There simply are no good options left. And this is why I feel that media both left and right leaning are the real reason politics is rotten. Every talking head will frame this from the standpoint that there is a right or wrong answer without being honest with Americans that our policy choices in the ME is “best of bad options”.

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  15. mattbernius says:

    @mattbernius:

    But the reality is we effectively started a war with Iran (without Congressional authorization).

    Well, that didn’t age well. David French explains why this isn’t a technical act of war (and thus didn’t need any authorization):

    There’s much to say about the potential strategic benefits (and perils) of tonight’s decision, but make no mistake, separate congressional authorization was not necessary. This was not a separate act of war in the constitutional sense. I’ll explain why in a brief thread. /1

    It’s very important that Suleimani was killed in Iraq. Why? Because American troops are lawfully in Iraq — there by congressional authorization and with the permission of the Iraqi government. Moreover, they have a right of self-defense. /2

    And don’t forget, they were reintroduced to Iraq by the Obama administration. The present military operations are a continuation of military operations initiated by President Obama. This is Obama’s deployment as much as Trump’s. It was proper then, and it is proper now. /3

    Iranian-backed militias attacked U.S. troops lawfully present in a combat zone under valid legal authorities. Moreover, America’s military response isn’t limited to immediate self-defense or tit for tat. It can act to remove the threat. That threat includes enemy commanders. /4

    The true “act of war” was thus Iran’s — by putting one of its commanders, boots on the ground, in Iraq to assist in planning and directing attacks on U.S. forces. America is entitled to respond to that threat. /5

    Suleimani was an evil, evil man. There is much American blood on his hands. And he was killed lawfully, in a properly constitutionally-authorized conflict. There is much risk and peril to come, but Trump’s action was constitutionally legitimate, and that matters. A lot. /End

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  16. Teve says:

    @itsdansheehan

    This is going to cost like three Medicare For Alls.

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  17. Scott says:

    @mattbernius:

    “But imagine who we would react if someone killed the head of the CIA or the Secretary of Defense when they were abroad.”

    My first reaction was: Did we just sanction assassination as a legitimate tool of war?

    @Hal_10000:

    “The irony here is that of all the nations in that region, outside of Israel, Iran is probably the closest to us politically and culturally. Way more than Saudi Arabia. Many people in Iran like the US and want to be more like us, not less. We’re driving them away.”

    I was just arguing this in the office. Unfortunately, the right wing Christian fanatics don’t see it this way.

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  18. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @KM: One point of clarification, Soleimani was not on his own turf. He’s an Iranian 2 star General…which is not high-ranking in the General Officer Corp (at least not ours) in Iraqi. His significance is that he was Irans lead for coordinating external proxies across the reigion so that their actions support Irans interests. He’s been in that role for years from the Iraq War days. Very capable General so it will be a loss to the Iranians but shouldn’t be a irreplaceable loss.

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  19. de stijl says:

    This will work out well, I’m sure.

    We seem bound and determined to elevate and strengthen Iran as a regional power.

    The entirety of the Iraq War was to the benefit of Iran. They used Curveball and Chalabi to play upon Republican doubts and fears and inherent militarism. Poppy got wobbly – didn’t finish the job, we did not get our full wargasm on back in ’92.

    We need to depose Sadam and remake Iraq in our image to our liking. Eliminate the Baathists then everything is golden was the magical thinking.

    Freaking idiots high on their own supply.

    For supposed hard-core realists, they really suck. Do not understand basic demographics, ethnology, religious affililiation. Basic, basic stuff a bright high school kid would get. Think applying overwhelming military force results in a compliant occupied citizenry. Idiots.

    Iran played us hard. We did all of the lifting and they got all of the benefits. It was crazy to watch it play out in real time. Why are you doing this? This will be a sinkhole of death and money for no benefit to us and helps Iran. Willful insanity.

    Also, let’s abrogate the nuclear weapon treaty Obama fashioned because we hate that guy so anything he did we hate. You guys are supposed to be FP realists; that was in our interest, you numpties!

    The 20th century was an American dominated century.

    The 21st started out with Persia ascending exponentially. Because Republicans got suckered by Iran again and again and again.

    Our blood and money. Their benefit. Repeat hundreds of times.

    Fucking idiots!

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  20. gVOR08 says:

    I’m not too worried about Iraq sliding further under the influence of Iran because of this. As any number of pundits said at the time, that was a given the day seventeen years ago that we rolled tanks into a majority Shia country to destroy the Sunni dictatorship. The classic hoocoodanode.

    Although clumsily and for all the wrong reasons, I had hoped Trump might disengage from the Middle East. Doesn’t look like that’s going to happen.

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  21. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @gVOR08: Every action DOD takes is: “at the direction of the President”. That’s not anything you can rationally infer anything from. Trump doesnt even know who the guy was or what he did. The people on the political side that could have brought this course of action to Trump is Esper or Pompeo. Not likely but possible. DOD has plans and options for dozens of scenarios that they add to and refresh as necessary. That’s their job..to give the politicians options. Little surprised at this particular one being choosen but not that it existed. If the scenario is reducing Iranian militia attacks…killing their lead General is a course of action. My guys says that this was less likely linked to the militia problem then it was messaging to Iran.

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  22. Kathy says:

    @Scott:

    My first reaction was: Did we just sanction assassination as a legitimate tool of war?

    You could ask Yamamoto what he thinks about it.

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  23. Raoul says:

    I just have to wonder if part of the rationale for the assasination was to placate Bolton and what he would say regarding the impeachment.

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  24. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Scott: Words matter. Its not an assassination if it’s a lawful military target in a designated area of hostility. Our uniformed boys that were killed in Iraqi/Syria were not assassinated. Neither was General Solemani. He’s a uniformed member of the Iranian Army coordinating Iranian proxy forces in Iraq…which is designated as a hostile area. This is Law of Armed Conflict 101

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  25. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Hal_10000: For all OTB readers, this is a great thread to educate yourselves with. Spot on HAL

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  26. gVOR08 says:

    FYI, the top headline at foxnews.com is, “No ‘Pallets of Cash’, Pompeo slams Obama’s handling of Iran following airstrike that killed shadowy general”.
    Guano’s zerohedge.com has, “Trump Jabs Dems Over Iran Reaction, Rages That ‘Killer’ Soleimani “Should Have Been Taken Out Years Ago!”.
    The Washington Times, ” Iran’s leader vows ‘severe revenge,’ while Democrats question the legality of U.S. strike”.

    They’re going to play this for domestic politics. My hope is that Trump’s incompetence is widely enough recognized that it will backfire. It largely depends on whether the supposedly liberal MSM allow themselves to be played again.

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  27. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: ” And this is why I feel that media both left and right leaning are the real reason politics is rotten.”

    So a cowardly president with no foreign policy experience or interest assassinates a foreign leader, risking decades of blood in the Middle East, most likely to distract people from his impeachment, and the problem is the media.

    Got you.

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  28. Kathy says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    It is an assassination because the target was a person, not a place, ship, base, weapon, platform, etc. It may not be murder, and it may be legal. but it was 100% an assassination.

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  29. de stijl says:

    Congress has been dumb and blind often, but authorizing AUMF was beyond the pale.

    Ugh! Ds and Rs just lost sight of it. Voted for self interest. Re-election. Disgusting. If you have values, exhibit them when it counts. You all failed, badly. Shameful. All of you are irrevocably shamed. You chose re-electability over the right course. I hate you.

    The Iraq War did not have to happen. It was an R obsession. Dude had no input for 9/11. Bystander. Sadam was the chump Iran steered us towards, and we bit.

    Rich Saudis funded it. Sunni Saudis and Yemenis.

    In a sane world, the Iraq War would have never happened.

    Iraq and Sadam had shit to do with 9/11. That was Saudi and Yemeni folk.

    Thus, we invaded Iraq. We were insanely stupid. Because we got suckered. And by “we” I mean Republicans.

    Unnecessary war. Hugely detrimental. No gain, indeed a loss.

    You people are a menace.

    Iran played us hard.

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  30. Jim Brown 32 says:

    My gut feeling (and I have some experience in the region to have a gut feeling) is that Iran will respond indirectly but in kind. In other words, if I were the Saudis or Pro-American Iraqis…. I would be bracing for a response. Their response this go round will be as much a signal to Washington as it will be a retaliation. So far both side have stuck to proportional response. The Iranians CAN signal that they are willing to take a loss in this exchange in the interest of inviting us to return to that model by the intensity of their response. Or they can show that the previous paradigm is out the door by going hard, fast, and long on their response. They have some “Trump” cards to play if they go for a US mass casualty event against our forces in the ME which probably came out as the least likely response when our action (attacking Solemani) was gamed out. We’ve been playing this game since leaving JCPOA (stupid) where the onus was on the US to find a deesclatory response…well the onus is now on Iran.

    The real “oh shit” action is if Iran launches missiles against an American base or ship in the region. My bet is that they go after the Saudis.

    Here is about all you need to know. The Persian are better strategic planners, better tacticians, better educated, invest in institutions to develop and execute national strategies. Everything I just said about them…the opposite is true for Arabs (who we’ve allied with). Short of regime change in Iran, we are swimming in quicksand with an Arab millstone around our necks. The Persians have been there 5000 years…they’ll win eventually. The only wildcard is if indeed MBS revolutionizes Saudi culture over the next 30 years to become a self sustaining counter to Iran. We’ll know for sure if they develop institutions based on what you know not blood/family ties.

    Institutions really are the civil innovation that enabled the rise of the West. A culture with federated institutions based on expertise and knowledge will best any tribal culture based on Blood relations. Every family produces a few sharp pencils but not enough to run a nation efficiently. Institutions aggregate the talent produced by the nation and apply it to a problem. Is it perfect? Hell no but you have a better probability of successful outcome with that than you to with Cousins Ivanka and Jared working on a complex dilemma.

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  31. KM says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Its not an assassination if it’s a lawful military target in a designated area of hostility

    This seems to be the Repub talking point of the hour, probably because they pretty quickly realized us assassinating people kinda looks bad. The word’s got a negative connotation for a reason. Hate to break it to you but if this was a deliberately targeted attack – as in, meant for him – it wasn’t a military strike but an sanctioned assassination. We do that, you know and it’s not always a bad thing depending on who the target is. It’s just people like to pretend we’re the Good Guys and Good Guys Don’t Do That…. kinda like torture, no? We twisted ourselves into knots to do the thing without accepting the label.

    We are not at officially at war or even in conflict with Iran so being a “lawful military target in a designated area of hostility” is already grey area. What was he actively doing to justify the strike other then existing? Remember, this Admin’s swearing he was “up to something” as the rationale but are rather light on the facts. This was retaliation for the embassy, plain and simple as well as un-needed escalation. No coordination or communication, just BOOM, dead because Trump said so. Kinda like an assassin would do…..

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  32. Stormy Dragon says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    The Iraqi government is and has been a Iranian proxy for a while now.

    I don’t think this is actually the case. The Iraqi government is actually representative of what the people in the country want. It’s just that Iraq is 68% Shia, which means any vaguely representative government there is going to be allied with Shia Iran rather than Suni Saudi Arabia.

    I don’t think that makes them an Iranian proxy, unless you’re going to call, say, Germany a US proxy because of NATO.

    But calling Iraq an Iranian proxy allows people to act like the current situation is the unexpected result of some foul play on Iran’s part rather than the easily foreseeable and inevitable outcome of OUR Iraq policy for the last 15 years.

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  33. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Kathy: Commenters on this blog argue that global institutions matter…but often ignore them when convenient. I guess they dont matter then ‍♂️.

    The Law of Armed Conflict are agreed upon conventions for war by the Global community. There is no special carve out for targeting a specific combatant in uniform fight on behalf of his/her country. Maybe there is in political discussion land..but not in agreed upon reality. Assassination is aptly applied to targeted NON-COMBATANTS. I respect your right to disagree.

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  34. Michael Reynolds says:

    We are not at war with Iran. Baghdad is not a theater of war because no war exists between us and Iraq or between us and Iran. Soleimani wasn’t some enemy general who just happened to get hit on the battlefield, it was an assassination.

    Personally, I’d have no problem with it had Trump gotten an AUMF, had we not been the initial bad actor in pulling out of JCPOA and if we had some notion of a strategy it served. As it stands it’s just a reactive spasm. I don’t believe it will deter. The Iranians may go tit-for-tat in which case all we’ve done is escalate the eternal slap fight from open palm to fist. Or they may escalate, in which case we either accept the new rules: slap fight with closed fist, or we escalate in return. This is a poker game, all about bluffs, raises and calls.

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  35. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Stormy Dragon: Yes, it is the case. Someone in one of these threads posted a text Solemani sent to Gen Patreus about how deeply Iran had penetrated Iraqs government. Dude wasnt lying. Now does that mean they are puppets? Absolutely not, proxies are semi autonomous whereas a puppet is not. I think of it like the mob you are in debt to…occasionally call in “favors” Iran doesn’t have any puppet regimes and it appears they prefer proxies because they get to stay further in the shadows and maintain plausibility deniability.

    Absolutely, past decisions brought us to today where there are only bad options to chose from. But I would push back slightly on one thing there was no benefit to the Iraqis in Iranian-backed militias attacking our bases. We helped restore Iraq to Iraqi control. They did this out of spite and because Iran wanted it. I ain’t mad at em…this is how the game is played. However, being completely transactional has a cost. We were useful when ISIS overran them…now were not. The play should have been to get the Iraqi govt to ask us to leave. They wanted a few American bodies before playing that card…it cost them a few bodies of their own.

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  36. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    We are not at war with Iran, unless one considers AUMF applicable.

    Please, let us rescind that horribleness that is the AUMF. A desecration on our collective soul. Please.

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  37. Teve says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    This is a poker game, all about bluffs, raises and calls.

    That’s good because Trump is a tremendous, tremendous poker player. Some people have said that he may be the best poker player ever.

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  38. Mikey says:

    Discussion about the relationship between the governments of Iran and Iraq re: this incident should also be informed by the very strong likelihood the only reason we knew where this guy was, was because someone in the Iraqi government dropped a dime.

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  39. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: All of Iraq and Syria are designated war zones. Attack on Iraqis and American forces happen in Baghdad regularly…its just not on US news are are often not successful

    We ARE at War with Iran. Period. Just not militarily. Both parties are using all their national tools of power to bend the other to resolve the conflict over the Iranian nuclear program. Both Iran and the United States have used targeted applications of their military power as part of the conflict where they think they might gain and advantage.

    Once again, we excoriate Trumpies for interpretation of facts in context with their political biases…then do the same thing. Admittedly to a lesser degree but still glaringly apparent. The fact that the word assassination and all the context it brings is being thrown around proof of that. It implies that there was one good actor and one bad one. That not the case here.

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  40. de stijl says:

    Trump trying to distract and rally the wearied.

    Unnecessary, illegal, hugely provacative.

    This a clear step beyond how nations should act absent a clear declaration of war.

    It was an assassination. It was a stupid provocation done for internal domestic political reasons.

    Rally the base.

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  41. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    We are *not* at war with Iran. Period.

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  42. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    I’ve seen no declaration of war with Iran, and I’ve seen no AUMF authorizing war with Iran. We have no reason to be at war with Iran. Soleimani didn’t crash planes into the the WTC, that was our good buddies on the other side of the Persian Gulf.

    We are being bullied and bribed by the KSA and Israel to destroy Iran but we have no reason to do so. They are not a threat to us. On the contrary, we are the belligerent. We negotiated a treaty and then unilaterally abrogated it. We have military forces on their borders, they don’t have forces on ours.

    I’m one of the more hawkish people here, I will shed zero tears for Soleimani, fck him. As a general rule I don’t have moral objections to drone warfare. But this was just a stupid reaction, escalatory without being conclusive, and with no strategic objective aside, apparently, from the batshit idea of regime change in Iran. Because that’s worked so well in Afghanistan, Iraq, Syria and Libya.

    In terms of local politics we just turned every democracy demonstrator in Iraq into a US stooge. We just helped unify Iraq behind Iran. We made it more likely not less that Iraq will become an Iranian vassal state. Advantage Iran and, as always with Trump, advantage Russia.

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  43. Michael Reynolds says:

    BTW has anyone seen reporting on where this drone strike was launched? From inside Iraq? The KSA? Jordan? Israel? Off a ship?

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  44. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @de stijl: Yes, we are. If we want to be categorically correct we can say we are in conflict, which is the last phase of politics before war. But it’s not a neat fit because both countries have engaged in strategic military actions.

    It waddles, quacks, flies, and swims…its a duck.

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  45. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Michael Reynolds: All of that is mostly true. What’s also true is that Congress is broken and has been for awhile. Congress’s outsourcing of all the risk of foreign policy to the Executive Branch is a large root cause of out impotent foreign policy. Congressional input and oversight is the missing link.

    @Michael Reynolds:
    Judging by the target, a moving convoy near Baghdad Airport…my money would be on an Armed Drone. Margin of error would be too great to take a longer shot from outside the country or from the gulf.

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  46. 95 South says:

    @Jim Brown 32: You can’t be a stickler about the Law of Armed Conflict and be casual about words like “war”. You made some great comments, so don’t throw away your credibility.

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  47. Kathy says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    So then Iran can, lawfully, undertake actions to kill, say, Trump?

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  48. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    You are speaking figuratively.

    We are not, in fact, at war with Iran. At all.

    It’s not a duck. It was us assassinating a foreign dude because Trump wanted the tail to wag.

    Btw, we are not at war with Iran. Words have meanings as I believe you said earlier.

    To underline, we are not at war with Iran.

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  49. Michael Reynolds says:

    @Jim Brown 32:
    I think it’s been confirmed as a drone, but I’m wondering where the drone was based. If outside of Iraq that country will be a target for retaliation by Iran, and depending on the country (Israel? KSA?) involved, could inflame the situation further.

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  50. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    You seem hell bent on excusing and supporting this illegal action.

    Why?

    To me, this hurts us more than it helps us, by far.

    I think we have radically different takes on Suliemani’s assassination / lawful act of war.

    We may be at the point of non-reconciliation on this point.

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  51. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: ” How do you think a foreign General could have such freedom of movement within the country for so long?”

    Because they’re allies? Because this guy was a major leader in the war against ISIS?

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  52. Barry says:

    @mattbernius:

    Quoting David French:

    “It’s very important that Suleimani was killed in Iraq. Why? Because American troops are lawfully in Iraq — there by congressional authorization and with the permission of the Iraqi government. Moreover, they have a right of self-defense.”

    The Iraqi government gave permission for the US to kill at its sole discretion in their country?

    ‘A right to self-defense’ includes killing people visiting there with the permission of the Iraqi government>

    “And don’t forget, they were reintroduced to Iraq by the Obama administration. The present military operations are a continuation of military operations initiated by President Obama. This is Obama’s deployment as much as Trump’s. It was proper then, and it is proper now. ”

    If it’s justifiable in and of itself, then why invoke President Obama? In addition, French is using President Obama’s actions during his term to justify any and all actions by Trump.

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  53. Barry says:

    @Kathy: “You could ask Yamamoto what he thinks about it.”

    (my dumb remarks are deleted)

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  54. de stijl says:

    @Barry:

    Bureuarecrats trying to justify.

    Damn them all to hell. They sold their souls already. God, I hate toadies.

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  55. Barry says:

    A @Mikey: “… the very strong likelihood the only reason we knew where this guy was, was because someone in the Iraqi government dropped a dime.”

    He flew into the airport. In Baghdad.

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  56. Mikey says:

    @Barry: Indeed he did. That does nothing to invalidate my point.

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  57. Teve says:

    Rep. Elissa Slotkin
    @RepSlotkin

    As a former Shia militia analyst who served multiple tours in Iraq and worked at the White House under both Presidents Bush and Obama, and later at the Pentagon, I participated in countless conversations on how to respond to Qassem Soleimani’s violent campaigns across the region.
    If you worked on the Middle East over the past 20 years, you dealt with the growing organization and sophistication of Soleimani’s covert and overt military activities, which have contributed to significant destabilization across the region.
    I watched friends and colleagues get hurt or killed by Iranian rockets, mortars and explosive devices that were provided to Iraqi proxies and used against U.S. forces under Soleimani’s guidance.
    We watched as his power increased and he brought strength and capability to groups in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen, and to smaller cells around the Middle East and the world, with devastating consequences.
    What always kept both Democratic and Republican presidents from targeting Soleimani himself was the simple question:

    Was the strike worth the likely retaliation, and the potential to pull us into protracted conflict?
    The two administrations I worked for both determined that the ultimate ends didn’t justify the means. The Trump Administration has made a different calculation.

    The Iranian government has vowed to retaliate and avenge Soleimani’s death, and could do so in any number of ways:
    Against our diplomats and service members or high-ranking military officers, against our allies and partners in the region, or through targeted attacks in the Western world.
    It is critical that the Administration has thought out the moves and counter-moves this attack will precipitate, and is prepared to protect our diplomats, service members, and citizens serving overseas.
    This Admin., like all others, has the right to act in self-defense. But the Administration must come to Congress immediately and consult.

    If military engagement is going to be protracted — which any informed assessment would consider — the Administration must request an AUMF.
    Congress also has a deep interest in the future of our relationship with Iraq, given our investment of blood and treasure there to rid the region of ISIS.

    Congress needs to understand the Administration’s plan as soon as possible.

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  58. JohnMc says:

    @Stormy Dragon: I’m one of the OTB readers who also visits Balloon-juice. Someone who writes as Adam Silverman there persuasively divides Iraqis into three political groups: The Sunni minority, the Shia majority and those Shia who spent Saddam Hossein’s regime in Iran. Because Iraqi Shia filled the ranks fighting Iran the majority does not trust those who fled and returned. This mechanism reduces Iranian influence in Baghdad.

    No personal knowledge on my part but seems to explain quite a lot.

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  59. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Jim, the problem with your argument is that it’s to justify a tactic and your’s is the argument that should be made before the attack, now we’re faced with what’s next.

    The fact that Congress is a mess, isn’t a justification for not having an AUMF with regard to Iran, Trump has never requested one.

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  60. de stijl says:

    By assassinating foreign leaders, we now put our leaders squarely in the cross-hairs.

    Reaping and sowing.

    We crossed a line.

    A line that cannot be uncrossed.

    This was an escalation that will not be forgotten nor forgiven.

    All for internal political short-term gain.

    Decidedly bad idea.

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  61. de stijl says:

    @JohnMc:

    I will check out Balloon Juice again.

    Last I was there was a year and a half ago, and folks shared recipes, which is super awesome, and ritually congratulated each other on how enlightened they were, which is not awesome. Opposite of awesome, frankly.

    I will give it a go.

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  62. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @gVOR08:

    Guano’s zerohedge.com has, “Trump Jabs Dems Over Iran Reaction, Rages That ‘Killer’ Soleimani “Should Have Been Taken Out Years Ago!”.

    So what took trump so long?

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  63. Teve says:

    If I were the apostrophe police, some people around here would be doing 30 days in county.

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  64. Teve says:

    @de stijl: I just quit going because I found balloon juice boring. And you’d have to be a benefits coordinator to find David Anderson’s posts interesting.

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  65. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @Teve:

    If you worked on the Middle East over the past 20 years, you dealt with the growing organization and sophistication of Soleimani’s covert and overt military activities, which have contributed to significant destabilization across the region.

    Translation: “They won’t go along with what we want.”
    I am so tired of that blatant horseshit used as justification for the vilification of others. Truth: Every actor in the Middle East contributes to significant destabilization across the region because they all want different things, and the US is a major destabilizer.

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  66. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @wr: You say that as if this could not possibly have happened under a Democratic presidency….when history clearly shows it could have and has to lesser degrees. My comment isn’t about Trump.. its about role of journalism in framing an issue so that people think smartly about it and in context. I can control the left and right limits of how you think about any issue…if you accept the words and narrative I use to frame it for you.

    We’ll still have the same problem regardless of party with foreign policy…someone has to resist sensationalism for a change to be possible

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  67. Kathy says:

    @Teve:

    You cant’ be serious.

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  68. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMc: Just for the record, the person who writes as Adam Silverman is Adam Silverman. He has in depth knowledge and experience about what he speaks and teaches at I do believe West Point. I might be wrong about exactly where but it should be in his bio.

    ETA: they just did a site rebuild and the bios don’t seem to be currently available. Hopefully they will put them back up soon.

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  69. Teve says:

    @Kathy: I’m completely seriou’s.

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  70. Michael Reynolds says:

    As regards sensationalization, half of Twitter is talking about WWIII. Which is absurd. How is the media supposed to compensate for this abject lack of geographical or historical knowledge not to mention whatever mental disease seems to have killed logic? It’s hard to inform idiots.

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  71. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @95 South: Fair point…but it only serves to highlight that the legal bureaucracy is shielding what’s happening in the real world. Similarly, Vietnam was never a war but only a conflict. 58,000 Americans and their families know that can be a distinction without a difference.

    @Kathy:

    Trump is a non uniformed politician not a lawful combatant. The analogy you want is the US lead for ISIS operations in Iraq. A 3 star General…. and yes, he’s a combatant and can be targeted for his role in conducting the strikes of the last few days. Occupational risks.

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  72. JohnMc says:

    @de stijl: Yeah. And adorable pets and John Coles inner life and vacation pictures. AND our Ozark friend’s amazing garden. If you’re strongly oriented to go right for the politics don’t visit.

    I like it like that myself.

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  73. JohnMc says:

    @de stijl: Yeah. And adorable pets and John Coles inner life and vacation pictures. AND our Ozark friend’s amazing garden. If you’re strongly oriented to go right for the politics don’t visit.

    I like it like that myself.@OzarkHillbilly: I have a little memory neuron telling me Mr Silverman previously wrote under another handle. Those critters are often wrong but there was some uncertainty and so my word-choice (which was clumsy). There is another well-established name there — a woman named Cheryl Rofer I think — always leaves me better informed.

    And adorable pets.

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  74. Teve says:

    State department says all Americans in Iraq need to GTFO.

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  75. Kathy says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Sorry. The top of the chain of command is fair game.

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  76. JohnMc says:

    Hum… Two unoffensive, short posts in mediation or meditation or mediterranium or…

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  77. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMc:

    Two unoffensive, short posts

    Well, that’s your problem right there.

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  78. OzarkHillbilly says:

    To the surprise of probably absolutely nobody here, Daniel Larison is not impressed.

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  79. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Trump is a non uniformed politician not a lawful combatant.

    Saved by the bone spurs!

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  80. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @de stijl: No, you take my posting as ‘excusing’ because anything with Trumps name on it puts most people in the part of the brain that only registers actions as for or against.

    Trump is an imbecile. He doesn’t come up with any of this stuff himself. It can come through multiple institutions in DOD or State through SecDef or SecState. I just remembered that a couple of years ago, the IRGC (Soleimani’s Unit) was designated a terrorist organization by the US which makes me think this was a option in the cards since at least then.

    Nations in conflict or soft war are going to play their cards. Iran’s missle attacks on KSA were a paradigm shift and intensity uptick in response to sanctions. It’s their right to play that card. Likewise, we also have cards to play and I think their wasnt the appetite for another tit for tat…which we HAVE done multiple times over the past few years. This is not grossly outside of scope of how these conflicts play out. Make no mistake, the Iranians players are also on scholarship and are blocking and tackling to try an impose their will. I respect them as being very adept game. But what I think what’s missed is: regardless of fault, we are were we are in the region. Partisan politics and media covers have, in fact, created a situation when no matter what we do. Democrats will hate, love, or ignore and Republicans will hate, love,or ignore depending on which President did the action. We can never get in the right path in that environment. The strategy and planning is easy. Its the political realities that make adopting the right path impossible.

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  81. Gustopher says:

    I ave finally figured out how to remember the geographic difference between Shia and Sunni — a problem I have had since basically forever because they both start with the letter “s”.

    It’s sunny (Sunni) in Saudi Arabia, and Shia LaBeouf is the Ayatollah.

    I offer this wisdom to others, as I suspect that we are once again going to have to remember which are which.

    I have no idea what the doctrinal differences are — something about the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin, I suppose. I’m sure the differences are very important to them.

    Also, if anyone needs to understand the relationship between current, voltage and resistance, just repeat: “Twinkle, twinkle little star, voltage equals I times R.” (I don’t know how you would remember that current is represented by I)

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  82. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “Absolutely, past decisions brought us to today where there are only bad options to chose from.”

    If there’s one thing that I’ve learned from the GOP, it’s never to trust people who f*ck the place up and then ask us to trust them to fix it.

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  83. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: And the Executive won’t make such a request. Mostly because they want the power and partly because Congress critters want all the risk of something going bad on the executive branch. Remember how Obama hung the Iraq war vote on all the front runners neck? War votes come back to haunt people and last decades.

    It’s on Congress to assert its authority. We’ll see how serious Congress is the next time a party holds both houses. My guess…nothing. Congress likes this arrangement. They can run on holding the Executive accountable…but never have to account themselves

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  84. Kathy says:

    Bottom line:

    Regardless of how much this guy needed killing, it’s not as though he was the only person capable of maintaining Iran’s proxy networks, or planning paramilitary/terrorist actions. The Islamic Republic is around 40 years old, and has been a PITA that long.

    Second, remember what passes for the Trump administration has no real policies or objectives aside from the aggrandizement of Trump’s over-inflated ego. Now he has something new to brag about. He can claim all sorts of falsehoods to go along with it, too. Like how much safer the region is now. So safe, US government personnel is moving out and more soldiers are moving into the region.

    Third, this aggravates tensions, hardens the hard-liners, alienates those with a more neutral or even positive disposition towards the US, and complicates an already complex region fraught with armed conflict.

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  85. gVOR08 says:

    @Teve:

    State department says all Americans in Iraq need to GTFO.

    Shortly after Pompeo said Americans in the ME were safer now.

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  86. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Gustopher: I almost wish Obama had done this from the standpoint that, for once, we did something operationally relevant and impactful and it gets tarnished by the s@!t stain everything Trump touches is tarnished with. Solemani had a unique set of skills and was able to parlay that into allies from the ME to South America…mostly based on personality. His replacement should have no problem taking over ME operations but some of their operations outside of the region aren’t going to be as easy for a typical General to fill. They may have to restructure the organization to try an maintain its trans regional effectiveness.

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  87. mattbernius says:

    For those interested, Lawfare did a really good deep dive into presidential authority on this issue. The TL:DR; version is “yes, though the way the administration ultimately justifies it will have ramifications on their next steps”:

    https://www.lawfareblog.com/did-president-have-domestic-legal-authority-kill-qassem-soleimani

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  88. de stijl says:

    Balloon Juice is okay.

    Front pagers are okay.

    The commenters render it no go for me.

    Likely, they are good, decent people. But they’ve chosen a space that requires nothing besides congratulating one another for saying the most obvious thing.

    The seed to chaff ratio is too low.

    Balloon Juice used to be a vital stop. Now, just like Kos’ joint, the Great Orange Satan itself, is mainly a mechanism to share recipes. Liberal recipes, mind you. More liberal than you!

    The mighty have fallen.

    Your pesto recipe is stupid. It takes longer and tastes worse. Pistachios do not replace pine nuts.

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  89. gVOR08 says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    Trump is a non uniformed politician not a lawful combatant.

    El Caudillo del Mar-a-Lago?

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  90. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    It’s Always Sunni In Riyadh.

    That was bad. Maybe.

    Frank running amok would be hilarious. Mac, mostly gayish Mac, I am not certain on his orientation.

    Newly mostly gay.

    I had a roommate who came out. Awesome! Be you.

    He became a cliche.

    It took a year, but he got over it. Not all gay men are voracious queens, dude. He was a from a small town. Thought tv was real – it is our mentor afterall.

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  91. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Gustopher: Its boils down to who was the rightful leader of Islam after Mohammed died which caused the schism. Practically, I think of the Shia as like the Catholics and the Sunnis are like the Protestants. The Shia have the rigid federated clerical system and count the words of the clerics as the words of Allah. The Sunnis are like Protestants in that they profess “Sola Scriptura”- Bible only. They count the Koran and writings of Mohammed as authoritative.

    Not much different is essence than Catholics viewing the Pope as being the “vicar of God” and Protestants insisting that the Bible is inerrant and authoritative.

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  92. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @gVOR08: I guess he IS on the target list then! LoL

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  93. gVOR08 says:

    @de stijl: I find Balloon Juice entertaining and useful.I don’t read the comments. In fact OTB is about the only place I read comments unless I feel like , in Charlie Pierce’s phrase, seeing what the gobshites are saying.

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  94. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    How does killing Suliemani advance our intetests? The organization still exists. There will be a new top dude. Enraged and emboldened.

    How is that helpful?

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  95. Matt says:

    @Kathy: During the war around 2000 mitsubishi G4M bombers were shot down. Are you seriously arguing that such a mundane part of war is suddenly an assassination just because someone “important” happened to be flying in it? Certainly Yamamoto wasn’t the only military leader or high ranking general who had people shooting at them. Rommel had plenty of shells launched at him including some strafing runs. It would be more than silly to label every encounter on the field of battle as an assassination attempt….

    What we did in Iraq to kill an Iranian military in a time of “peace” has no connection outside of death.

    @Kathy: The target was the entire formation. They didn’t just fly in shoot Yamamoto and leave…

    One of the main if not main goal on the battlefield is to kill your enemy. At what rank do you consider that goal an assassination?

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  96. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “Trump is a non uniformed politician not a lawful combatant. The analogy you want is the US lead for ISIS operations in Iraq. A 3 star General…. and yes, he’s a combatant and can be targeted for his role in conducting the strikes of the last few days. Occupational risks.”

    The CIC of the US Armed Forces is not a combatant?

    I would ask if you’d consider an Iranian civil servant running Quds to be not a combatant, but I know the answer.

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  97. Barry says:

    https://twitter.com/lawhawk/status/1213217174581661697

    “And once again, I’m going to mention that Trump, Pence and the Trumpists are quick to claim that intel demanded Soleimani airstrike, when it’s the same intel organizations that warn of Russian influence and they claim that none of those in the intel community should be trusted.”

    https://twitter.com/PaulSzoldra/status/1213204727732662272

    “Pentagon won’t say what the ‘imminent’ attack was that justified killing Qasem Soleimani https://taskandpurpose.com/pentagon-wont-say-what-the-imminent-attack-was-that-justified-killing-qasem-soleimani via @JeffSchogol”

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  98. de stijl says:

    Charlie would be a force of chaos.

    And Dee, Sweet Dee, in a hijab would be a major destabilizing force in the kingdom entirely by accident.

    It’s Always Sunni In Riyadh.

    Make it happen. Green light that bitch so hard.

    FXX.

    Why is Archer and IASiP on FXX not on straight up FX? Truly bizarre. Let’s put popular fare on the channel most cable viewers cannot see. Brilliant!

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  99. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Kathy: There is no “lawfully” to talk about in the actions of nations toward other nations. Lawfully is a façade made up by the Western nations after World War One to justify actions against other nations in a manner that would conform to Martin Luther’s idea of the “just” war. There are no police to arrest nations that do unlawful things, no independent prosecutors who try those nations, and no juries of those nations peers to render independent impartial verdicts. It’s all a dog and pony show. Trials of national leaders in the ICC happen because they picked fights that they couldn’t win, not because some arcane notion of justice and the rule of law needs to be served.

    Iran can attack Trump, or any other world leader, to the extent that they believe that they can accomplish the task without being overrun by angry allies of that leader or nuked into oblivion. Lawful has nothing to do with it.

    So, in the case of Trump, the answer may well be yes. We don’t know how many nations would be outraged enough about that to send their own children to die for the cause of avenging Trump.

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  100. Kathy says:

    @Matt:

    It’s not as if a US fighter squadron chanced upon Yamamoto’s converted bombers and shot them down. The US dispatched fighters to find those specific planes and kill the target (by shooting down the transports). Again, the target was a person.

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  101. Teve says:

    @Kathy: Yup. And this was obviously an assassination.

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  102. gVOR08 says:

    @Matt: Yamamoto didn’t “happen” to be on that G4M “Betty”. We had decoded radio intercepts identifying his route. We dispatched P-38 fighters at extreme long range briefed that they were trying to kill an “important high ranking officer”. Both Bettys in the formation were engaged because they didn’t know which one was Yamamoto’s. The accompanying Zero fighters were engaged to protect the attack on the bombers. The target was a specific, named individual, Yamamoto. In the context of war this is commonly called assassination.

    ETA – Hadn’t seen your response Kathy.

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  103. Teve says:

    Seen on Twitter: ‘don’t be surprised if next week Mitch McConnell says we just can’t have a trial against the commander-in-chief in the middle of a war’

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  104. de stijl says:

    @JohnMc:

    Pet pictures are awesome.

    Even if they are ugly to not entirely unattractive. Doggos and kitties are elemental. I like both. We had them when I was wee.

    But that scene has become internally ruled. Conformity or banishment. Really uninteresting to me.

    My neighbor was walking his dog past my joint, and dog was proudly carrying a stick in his mouth like it was a war totem- something of great importance. Possibly a squirrell feint.

    I asked about it, and the human responded that it was a “trophy”.

    Doggo gave the dastardly squirrells the business that day. He stole their stick!

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  105. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @Teve:

    Congress needs to understand the Administration’s plan as soon as possible.

    Representative Slotkin thinks there’s a plan. That’s so precious (and trusting).

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  106. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Ayup.

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  107. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    I remember that.

    There was a game. Crikey, I don’t recall the name. It wasn’t an early Ace Combat. Different game.

    And it was a tough and a rule of three proper boss fight. PS 2 era. Kill the drones then kill the boss.

    What game was that?

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  108. Guarneri says:

    Ms Slotkin wins the thread. The running back #2.

    The rest. Not so much.

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  109. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    A self professed midwesterner should not use Maineisms like “Ayup”.

    You’ve read too much Stephen King, clearly

    Two minutes in the box.

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  110. de stijl says:

    If I’m not paying attention I sometimes say “yep” instead of “yes”. Old habits die hard.

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  111. de stijl says:

    If I’m tired or drunk I say “taks” instead of “thanks” or “thank you”.

    Old habits.

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  112. Just nutha ignint cracker says:

    @de stijl: Midwesterner? You’re mistaking me for some other ignint cracker. Grew up in Seattle and the closest I’ve ever been to living in the Midwest is that my ex-wife and I lived in Spokane for two years.

    ETA: Never read any Steven King either. Not a word. Did read some Carolyn Chute, tho, but don’t remember “ayup.”

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  113. gVOR08 says:

    @JohnMc: Cheryl Rofer at Balloon Juice is very knowledgable and always worth reading. And IIRC has commented here a few times. The only real problem with BJ is not enough pictures of Steve (the host, John Coles’ giant Maine Coon.)

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  114. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Seattle? Then why you saying “Ayup” like you a Mainer. Maineite. Maine man. One of those.

    I apologize. I think I got you mixed up with the Ozarks guy.

    Spokane is pretty. Pretty dire!

    Two minutes in the box for me.

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  115. Kathy says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    ETA: Never read any Steven King either. Not a word.

    Neither have I. And to the best of my knowledge, the only movie based on his works I’ve seen is “The Shawshank Redemption,” which I rank as one of the best movies ever (despite the all-male cast).

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  116. de stijl says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker:

    Ah! Ozark Hillbilly said Ayup way upthread and you commented. I am dense and stupid at times. I do apologize. I was being an idiot.

    I do like Spokane. The area around. Big and empty. I like the big empty.

    There is a road in north North Dakota into eastern Montana. The emptiest loneliest road ever. Love it.

    Big empty. Messes with my head in a good way. Makes me see the truth.

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  117. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @de stijl: I would disagree that he can be replaced by just another dude. The IRGC is an instrument of modern statecraft not a typical terrorist organization trying to recruit and fundraise off high profile attacks. He’s been very successful calling plays for Iran to counter the Maximum Pressure. Another dude…may not have the same feel and therefore will not be as successful calling the plays from here out. You can be sure that we already know who the potential replacements are and what their strengths and weaknesses are.

    Where I think they suffer is and how it serves US interests wrt the current administration policy is that Solemani had built global partnerships with allowed Iran some space to avoid sanctions. Those those relationships will take time to re-establish if they can be at all. It depends on the personality of who replaces him.

    The administration’s policy, rightly or wrongly (wrongly imo) is for a new deal in place of JCPOA. ‘Maximum Pressure’ is their campaign to force Iran back to the table. I think the administration’s calculation is that Iran’s sanction avoidance apparatus is why they haven’t caved to the pressure. Solemani was a part of that apparatus. I dont think there’s any way in Hell Iran does a new deal with Trump. Nor would I want them too. The precedent of a President voiding deals made by the previous administration is the stuff of banana republics not modern nations. This is where Congress needed to used there power to make treaties to ensure policy remains stable and consistent across administrations.

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  118. Andrew says:

    Shorter Trump:

    “I’m not inept! Let me show how inept I am!”

    No wonder our allies are running away. And Iran’s allies are calling the Oval Office.

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  119. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Barry: The CIC of our Armed Forces is also a Head of State so no…they are not combatants in the same way Uniformed members of the Armed Forces are. Again, these are agreed upon conventions by the global community. The USG designated QF as a terrorist organization so civil servants supporting them COULD be considered lawful combatants. Combatants also have to be operating in an area of hostility. Iran is not an area of hostility, so QF civil servants (Do they even have these?) supporting QF from Iran would be off limits. In Iraq or Syria they would be fair play…as are our own DOD civil servants in Iraq and Syria. Department of State civil servants and Iranian diplomats however, are not fair play.

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  120. de stijl says:

    @Kathy:

    Stephen King is a really fairly decent writer. He is known for genre, but his strength is interior monologue.

    He wrote about loss and grief more affecting than anything out of a U of I workshop. When Gage died, I cried like a baby. Remember it decades later.

    King is deeply flawed and immensely talented. He flubs the ending often. He is humane and kind and generous. To charachters. To us.

    Genuinely gifted. He paints the picture and fleshes it out.

    He is not bullshit big time author who rides on the rep and farms out the work to ghost writers.

    King has actual chops. Big time.

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  121. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Just nutha ignint cracker: This is the God honest truth. We make up all these artificial constraints to War…which honestly have taken a degree of brutality out of it. But the bottom line is that War is about Power and Will. Non of this stuff about authority, lawful combatants, etc, is written in the sky. All it takes is for one StrongMan to violate norms and conventions and the global community will adjust to a new standard.

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  122. Gustopher says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    All it takes is for one StrongMan to violate norms and conventions and the global community will adjust to a new standard.

    If they don’t smack him down, that is.

    But, isn’t that the story of American government as well? El Presidente AOC will cite the Trump precedents as she runs roughshod over the Real Americans.

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  123. de stijl says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    A lot of angels are dancing on the pin head you constructed…

    Not Uniformed, CiC but not military. If I recall correctly the President swears the same oath.

    Regardless, this was a very provocative escalation with no long term benefit. So, stupid. I’m my mind. Ineffectual.

    Remember how many Sunni rebellion commanders were killed in 2005, 2006, 2007. Did it matter?

    If the organization is still intact, killing the leader gets us two weeks of stasis.

    And remember, we are not at war with Iran. This a very salient point.

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  124. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    That is a big ass cat. Not fat. Big ass and chonky. John Coles has an essential cat.

    One of my favorite YouTuber’s has a tabby cat called Tabby. (It was rescue so they inherited the name.)

    I am hugely emotionally attached to a cat in the UK called Tabby I’ve never met and will never meet.

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  125. Michael Reynolds says:

    @de stijl: @Kathy:
    Ditto everything @de stijl said. Stephen King is who I want to be when (if) I grow up. My informal motto is lifted from AJ Liebling: “I can write better than anybody who can write faster, and I can write faster than anybody who can write better.” Well, not him, not Mr. King. There are things I do better, but there are a few more things he does better.

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  126. de stijl says:

    I have fixated on the road.

    State road x. I could look it up and give you the exact name, but what is the point in that?

    No one comes at you in the other lane but once an hour. No is ahead of you. No one is behind you. You chance by a mailbox every 10 or 15 miles.

    The land is scary empty. Some bluffs, some ruffles and rolls.

    When you work your way into Montana there is a town every sixty miles or so. Stop. Get a cheeseburger. Flirt with the waitress.

    The universe is immense and you are infinitesimal. The sky is massive. You are utterly alone.

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  127. de stijl says:

    @Michael Reynolds:

    Liebling probably stole that line.

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  128. Sleeping Dog says:

    @Jim Brown 32:

    G.W. Bush sought a AUMF for Afghanistan and expanded that for Iraq. G.H.W. Bush sought Congressional approval for the first Gulf war and LBJ sought the Gulf of Tonkin resolution, disproving your contention that a President would not seek Congressional approval.

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  129. Jim Brown 32 says:

    @Sleeping Dog: What about all the military actions done by the US that the President didnt seek Congressional approval? The list is a lot longer… The Executive will try to get away with as much as it can without Congress’s approval. That’s historically how its operated since WWII

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  130. de stijl says:

    There is a brilliant film called Fearless from the early 90s directed by Peter Weir. I hate, despise the ending though. The movie is insanely great except for the last minute. Jeff Bridges was meant to die.

    Perhaps the best use of sound, or lack of sound in any movie ever. It is truly astonishing.

    Jeff Bridges is a guy, a dude if you will, driven entrepreneur with all that entails for his family relationships.

    On a plane. John de Lancie kills as the supposedly straight laced business partner.

    Entropy intrudes and the plane is doomed. Plummets.

    Best filmed air crash ever. The light spearing in from the little porthole windows. Just so well done. Real time.

    This is it. I will die. Now.

    Plane crashes, Bridges survives somehow (he is the protaganist, duh!), he gambols about, saves some other people almost by accident.

    The rest of the movie is Bridges trying to reconcile to the fact he is still alive. He had accepted that he was going to die. He didn’t. Dude is on hard reset.

    John Turturro is really good. Rosie Perez is fucking brilliant. Seriously, Rosie Perez kills so hard.

    Anyway, there is a scene where Bridges is driving on an empty lonesome road. The sound scape is so amazing. The Gipsy Kings come on the radio. He drove. It was intensely moving to me. Indescribable joy. Intense sadness.

    Reminded me of the road.

    Brilliant, amazing movie. Turn it off 60 seconds before the actual ending, though. There is an unearned “happy” ending. Fuck you, Hollywood! Dude was supposed to die. It was baked in. Grr!

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  131. JKB says:

    Gen. Petraeus on Maj. Gen. Qassim Soleimani:

    He sent a message to me through the president of Iraq in late March of 2008, during the battle of Basra, when we were supporting the Iraqi army forces that were battling the Shia militias in Basra that were supported, of course, by Qasem Soleimani and the Quds Force. He sent a message through the president that said, “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qasem Soleimani, control the policy of Iran for Iraq, and also for Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan.”

    And the implication of that was, “If you want to deal with Iran to resolve this situation in Basra, you should deal with me, not with the Iranian diplomats.” And his power only grew from that point in time. By the way, I did not — I actually told the president to tell Qasem Soleimani to pound sand.

    Obama and Bush refused to deal with this terrorist, because he was state sponsored.

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  132. gVOR08 says:

    I’m listening to people describing Soleimani as having been the second most powerful guy in Iran. How many number two guys in al Qaeda did we kill?

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  133. de stijl says:

    @Gustopher:

    It’s Persia vs. Arabia.

    Conveniently, almost all Shi’a are Persian or live in Iranian held or controlled areas. Most Sunni live in Arabia or controlled territories.

    The front lines are Iraq, Syria, Lebanon. Mixed affiliation areas. Hence the Baathist movement purportedly post schism, but really just a convient way to control power locally.

    As to the doctrinal differences between the two, think of Christian Byzantine orthodoxy vs. Roman catholicism.

    Same deal separated by time space evolves differently.

    Shi’as believe Mohammed chose a successor who had a very long name. Think Peter to Jesus.

    Sunni’s do not believe that.

    Hence the schism.

    Conveniently, ethnographically Persians vs Arabs. Hoocodanode! Old rivalries remain. No one could have predicted this scenario. Shocked! Color me so shocked.

    (I am in no way any expert. This is a layman’s take. I might have skewed from an expert’s take. Google and Wikipedia will give a much stouter history and context should you choose. Actually, do. It’s quite fascinating.)

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  134. de stijl says:

    @gVOR08:

    As many as the number of times we investigated Benghazi. Number of times we held symbolic votes to kill Obamacare. 35, 40. In that range.

    We certainly killed a boat load of number 2s. I’m glad Robert Wagner got the gig.

    Didn’t do crap, but Ari Fleischer had something to flex about back when we had daily briefings.

    Ah! The old days. When Rs semi -respected norms.

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  135. OzarkHillbilly says:

    @JohnMc: I found Adam’s bio by (Duuuuhhhh!) clicking on his name on one of his posts.

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  136. Barry says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “The CIC of our Armed Forces is also a Head of State so no…they are not combatants in the same way Uniformed members of the Armed Forces are. Again, these are agreed upon conventions by the global community. ”

    Just makin’ shit up.

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  137. wr says:

    @Jim Brown 32: “You say that as if this could not possibly have happened under a Democratic presidency….”

    It didn’t.

    It didn’t even happen under the presidency of Republican George W. Bush.

    It happened under this presidency.

    And the old “well, sure, what this guy is terrible, but who’s to say that someone on your team wouldn’t have done the same, even though no one ever has and has given us any reason to believe he would” is the laziest form of argument I know of.

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  138. wr says:

    @de stijl: It is a great movie, although I don’t necessarily agree with you about the ending.

    Two small bits of trivia: It was written by Rafael Yglesias (based on his novel), father of pundit and Vox co-founder Matthew.

    And there was so much brilliant footage of the scene where the plane crashed into a field I was able to buy outtakes and use them for a two-part Diagnosis Murder episode about a plane crash… something I’d never have been able to afford on the show’s budget.

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  139. JohnMcC says:

    @OzarkHillbilly: Gosh, I never thought of that. Will it work anywhere else? (Emoji of perplexed smiley face here.) And at 0430 local time in MO, I notice. Impressive.

    And I particularly note that Dr Silverman has a Master’s in comparative religion and international security. Damn! I really think highly of the thinking that led to that course.

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  140. Kathy says:

    @de stijl:

    I’ll take your word for it. However, I’m not interested in horror at all, which means my chances of reading him are infinitesimal.

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  141. Matt says:

    @Kathy: None of that addressed my main point at all. The two deaths are nothing alike and it’s offensive that you tried to paint them as the same.

    @gVOR08: Hi you’re late to the party and apparently don’t realize what is going on. Kathy claimed that killing Yamamoto was the exact same thing as when we killed the Iranian guy. They weren’t….

    Yamamoto was commanding a military that was actively engaged in a declared war against the USA. He was flying in a military airplane in a warzone while actively working against the USA. The Iranian guy was in a sovereign country not of his own engaged in whatever (we have wild speculation) when the USA bombed him and innocent civilians. There is no war there is no warzone nothing. The only similarity is that death was involved. To try to paint it otherwise is to try to gloss over the utter stupidity and illegality of what we did.

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