An Antidote to the Iran Hysterics

In the great contest now underway to determine the most fatuous responses to the elimination of the Iranian terrorist, Major General Qasem Soleimani, on January 3, Matthew 22:14 has the last word: “Many are called, but few are chosen.”

We lack instruments of sufficient vigor and precision to cut through the ambient static that this stupendous event has occasioned; we cannot at this early juncture award the palm to any one emetic effusion. Nevertheless, we can with confidence say that, as usual, both the Washington Post and the New York Times are in the running for that unwholesome distinction. 

The Post, running with one of its traditional favorites, captured the judges’ attention with a headline. Remember the splash the paper made when President Trump eliminated the murderous ISIS thug Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi last October? The Post was on it with a headline (probably the most ridiculed of 2019) announcing that “Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, austere religious scholar at helm of Islamic State, dies at 48.” 

“Austere religious scholar” really does deserve some sort of award. 

Having peeled off the sticky obloquy that covered its reputation after that preposterous mischaracterization, the Post tried out something new when it got the news that Soleimani, the second most powerful miscreant, after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, in the world’s largest exporter of terrorism, had gone to his reward. There was even less of the scholar about Soleimani than there was about al-Baghdadi, so the Post (“Democracy Dies in Darkness”) told its readers that he was “Iran’s most revered military leader.” 

“Revered.”

To understand just how “revered” this ruthless, bloodthirsty mass murderer was, you might ask Rafik Harir, Prime Minister of Lebanon. Well, you might have asked him, since he was blown up in a car bomb in 2005 and is therefore unavailable for comment. That was the handiwork of Soleimani’s Hezbollah, a major arm of Iran’s biggest export: terror. 

Or you might ask the Syrians, who have seen some half a million of their countrymen slaughtered in one of Soleimani’s proxy wars. 

Or you might have asked the hundreds of American soldiers who were blown to bits, maimed or murdered, by the “explosively formed penetrator” bombs that Soleimani’s minions devised and then scattered like infernal petals around Baghdad during the U.S. actions there in the early 2000s. 

Excellent though the Post’sdeployment of “revered” was to describe this grade-A mass murderer, Farnaz Fassihia, a reporter for the New York Times, really upped the ante in the air-sickness-bag sweepstakes when she posted a series of tweets condemning the hygienic exercise. 

Responding to Trump’s tweet threatening dire consequences after an Iranian-backed militia stormed our embassy in Baghdad, Ayatollah Khamenei taunted the president with the declaration “there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” Turns out, there was.

Particularly noteworthy was the clip (apparently propaganda direct from Teheran central) of Soleimani reciting poetry. As one witty blogger noted, the post showed us “the soft side of a terrorist who killed and maimed thousands of people also shows the true colors of the New York Times.” 

Indeed it does.

It’s not entirely clear why Soleimani was even in the vicinity of the Baghdad airport in the pre-dawn hours of January 3 since he was under a travel ban from the United Nations. 

I say “it’s not entirely clear,” but of course nothing could be clearer. He was there—thumbing his nose, as does everyone, at orders from the self-important joke that is the U.N.—in order to plan further attacks against American interests in Iraq with his pal Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy head of the Iranian-backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force, who also got his ultimate one-way ticket punched courtesy those U.S. drones. 

The assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that these chaps helped orchestrate over New Years was just a warm-up act. As Secretary of State Mike Pompeo noted, Soleimani represented an “imminent threat” to the lives of American soldiers, diplomats, and civilians. 

The response of the anti-Trump fraternity, Left and erstwhile Right, to this beneficent act of fumigation was hysterical, in both senses of the word: funny and insane. The idea that the president of the United States somehow lacks the authority to authorize the strike was particularly bogus, as Andrew McCarthy shows with his usual clarity. 

“When there are forcible threats to the United States,” he noted in The Hill, “the president has not merely the power but the obligation to repel them.” Indeed, “In large measure, that is why there is an Office of the President.” McCarthy elaborates:

Soleimani and al-Muhandis were in the act of making war on the United States. Not just plotting it, though there was plenty of that going on, too. 

In late 2019, the Hezbollah Brigades [directed by al-Muhandis], backed by Soleimani, carried out repeated attacks on U.S. coalition forces in Iraq. There were 11 attacks on bases housing U.S. military personnel in just the last two months. As the Defense Department has recounted, these included “a 30-plus rocket attack on an Iraqi base near Kirkuk that resulted in the death of a U.S. citizen and injured four U.S. service members,” as well as members of the Iraqi security forces.

Soleimani was a sort of real-world Ernst Stavro Blofeld, the fictional James-Bond villain who was head of SPECTRE, short for “SPecial Executive for Counterintelligence, Terrorism, Revenge, and Extortion,” which is actually a pretty good description of what Soleimani’s “Quds Force” is all about. 

With a strength of an estimated 10,000 to 20,000 personnel, the Quds Force is the special operations arm of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). It specializes in “unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations. Responsible for extraterritorial operations, the Quds Force supports non-state actors in many countries, including Lebanese Hezbollah, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad in the Gaza Strip and the West Bank, Yemeni Houthis, and Shia militias in Iraq, Syria, and Afghanistan.” All of your favorite bad guys. It is thought to maintain “sleeper cells” throughout the world, including in the United States. 

It is worth noting, too, “al-Quds” means “Jerusalem,” and the reason for that is that “liberating” Jerusalem from Israel is central to its mission. Altogether, a nice group of folks. 

Timidity Invites More Aggression

One of the more tedious aspects of the response to the elimination of Soleimani and al-Muhandis is the hyperbolic speculation about what Iran’s response will be. Many commentators are shouting that Trump “just started World War III.” (“[H]e risks going down in history as the president who started World War III,” fretted one overwrought commentator.) 

But the truth is no one knows what Iran’s response will be. Of course, the Ayatollah is jumping up and down screaming “Death to America,” etc. But that is part of his regular morning calisthenics. He does it before coffee each Monday, Wednesday, and Friday, twice on weekends. 

Iran may respond. But then again it may not. Like many actors in that part of the world, the Iranians have tended to view weakness as a provocation. They took over the U.S. embassy and held its occupants hostage for more than a year when Jimmy Carter was president. On January 20, 1981, the day that Ronald Reagan assumed office, they set the hostages free. 

Barack Obama shoveled billions of dollars to the Iranians and concluded a nuclear “deal” that all-but assured their acquisition of nuclear weapons. Response? Major uptick of aggression towards America. 

Donald Trump just removed Iran’s terrorist mastermind, an important deputy, while the Marines have detained several other senior bad hats. What will their response be? I know as much as any senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, which is to say, nothing. Maybe they will target U.S. diplomats in the region or elsewhere; maybe they will attack U.S. military assets there or elsewhere; maybe they will do something else. 

But here’s a thought that will have occurred to the Ayatollah and Esmail Ghaani, Soleimani’s freshly appointed replacement. It would take about 35 minutes for the United States to utterly destroy Iran’s oil-producing infrastructure and cripple its military. Then what? 

A few days ago, responding to Donald Trump’s tweet threatening dire consequences after an Iranian-backed militia stormed our embassy in Baghdad, Ayatollah Khamenei taunted Trump with the declaration “there’s not a damn thing you can do about it.” 

Turns out, there was. 

Several commentators have drawn a parallel between Trump’s strike against Soleimani and the U.S. ambush of Admiral Yamamoto, commander of the Imperial Japanese Navy in the Second World War. It’s a good comparison. Yamamoto was the architect of the attack against Pearl Harbor and other attacks on the United States. In April of 1943, acting on decoded Japanese transmissions, the United States executed “Operation Vengeance.” American pilots tracked aircraft bringing Yamamoto and other officers to the Solomon Islands for an inspection tour. They shot down two Japanese bombers, killing Yamamoto and 18 others. 

In a brief statement after the drone attack, President Trump said that his goal was not “regime change,” nor was he out to “start a war.” On the contrary, he said, “we took action last night to stop a war.” 

I think that is true. It has been a hallmark of the Trump presidency to end the seemingly endless foreign wars and “bring the troops home.” He has always shown that he prefers diplomacy to military action. At the same time, he understands, as did Ronald Reagan, that diplomacy only works when it is backed up by military strength and frank evidence of a willingness to defend one’s national interests. Reagan did that. Just a few days ago, so did Donald Trump.

About Roger Kimball

Roger Kimball is editor and publisher of The New Criterion and the president and publisher of Encounter Books. He is the author and editor of many books, including The Fortunes of Permanence: Culture and Anarchy in an Age of Amnesia (St. Augustine's Press), The Rape of the Masters (Encounter), Lives of the Mind: The Use and Abuse of Intelligence from Hegel to Wodehouse (Ivan R. Dee), and Art's Prospect: The Challenge of Tradition in an Age of Celebrity (Ivan R. Dee).

Content created by the Center for American Greatness, Inc. is available without charge to any eligible news publisher that can provide a significant audience. For licensing opportunities for our original content, please contact licensing@centerforamericangreatness.com.

Want news updates?

Sign up for our newsletter to stay up to date.