On January 3, US forces carried out a drone attack near the Baghdad International Airport, in which several people were killed, including Iranian military commander Qasem Soleimani. General Soleimani was an implacable enemy of the United States who was responsible for hundreds of American deaths, as well as countless atrocities in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere. As to the wisdom of killing him, however, opinions are divided.
Critics of the US action argue that Soleimani’s death will almost inevitably degrade the environment for American interests and allies in the region significantly, as the US and Iran engage in escalating acts of retaliation. Neither Trump nor Tehran really want a war, but each side has proven unwilling or incapable of detouring from a path that will almost inexorably precipitate a much wider and more costly conflict. In addition, if the US is thrown out of Iraq by that country’s government as a result of this action, it will be a net win for Iran, since there will no longer be a balancing foreign power with comparable clout inside the country. This will leave Iraq more vulnerable to further sectarian strife and/or ISIS and al-Qaeda attack.
Others note that the Department of Defense defended the attack on Soleimani and others as necessary to avert an "imminent attack" against Americans. Suleimani was the long-time head of Iran’s Quds Force, which the US has designated as a terrorist group. He was traveling with the deputy commander of an Iran-backed militia when he was killed. (The UN had actually banned Soleimani from traveling outside Iran, a ban he brazenly ignored for years). The drone strike came a few days after an attack which is widely thought to have been perpetrated by that same militia on a coalition base in Kirkuk – an attack that killed a US civilian. The Kirkuk attack was at least the 11th rocket attack against US bases and interests in Iraq over the last two months. There had also been December attacks on the US embassy in Baghdad; after the last such attack Soleimani’s boss, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, taunted Trump on Twitter: “You can’t do anything”. The killing of Soleimani has thus sent a message to Tehran that they cannot act with impunity against US interests, personnel, and allies.
These are but a few of the arguments for and against the Motion. So what do you think? Was the killing of Soleimani a horrible mistake or did it reduce a very real threat to US interests? And what are those interests anyway?
Join us at the next SFDebate to explore and debate these and other questions. Note that there will be a $5 fee to attend the debate, to help us offset the cost of room rental.
For the Motion:
Against the Motion: