Trump made a mistake with Iran

Tanajia Moye-Green

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On January 3, General Qasem Soleimani was assassinated in a drone strike ordered by President Donald Trump. Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of “hundreds of Americans” and “thousands of [his] followers” spread throughout Iran and Iraq, according to the New Yorker.

For a split second following the announcement of Soleimani’s death, I considered the drone strike to have been a good thing that would successfully prevent additional people from dying. However, as I soon discovered in the pandemonium following the announcement, reality couldn’t be any less black and white.

Trump’s order for the assassination of Soleimani has proven to be a dangerously shortsighted decision resulting in drastically worsened relations between the United States and both Iran and Iraq—jeopardizing the lives of U.S. troops and embassy members in those areas. Plus, Trump’s decision further weakens Congress’ authority in matters of war.

Soleimani was killed by a U.S. drone strike while he was on Iraqi soil. Consequently, Iraq is frustrated with the U.S. because the U.S. government did not obtain consent from Iraq to launch a drone strike there. The “act now and think later” strategy demonstrates a clear disregard for Iraq’s sovereignty.

Almost instantly, as reported by Al Jazeera, a nonbinding resolution was passed in Iraq to both “expel foreign troops from the country” and withdraw “Baghdad’s request for assistance” in fighting ISIS.  The U.S. has to tread carefully now, since Iraq is a critical place for U.S. involvement. As ISIS is fighting to dominate Iraq, the permanent expulsion of the U.S. would mean almost certain victory for ISIS in overtaking Baghdad and then all of Iraq.

Additionally, the lives of the U.S. citizens who are still in Iraq are now in jeopardy, according to Al Jazeera, as the “leaders of major Shia armed groups” gather to “coordinate efforts to expel the United States’ troops in Iraq.”

Moving on to Iran, the events that have unfolded in the wake of the drone strike make it plain to see why the problem of Qasem Soleimani should have been addressed in a different manner. As reported by CNN immediately following the killing, Iran fired “missiles at Iraqi bases that house American troops,” which luckily resulted in no casualties.

According to the Washington Post, Iran abruptly withdrew from the 2015 nuclear agreement, which was established to limit how much Iran develops its nuclear program. Iran’s deadliest retaliatory attack was the accidental shooting down of Flight 752 that resulted in the loss of 176 lives due to Iran believing it to be U.S. military aircraft, according to The Atlantic. While Iran is ultimately responsible for the 176 lives lost on Flight 75, Trump’s permittance of the drone strike on Soleimani prompted Iran to angrily respond with this misled action. This desire for revenge unfortunately resulting in 176 civilian lives being lost.

According to Vox, Iranian citizens also have become frustrated “at the U.S. aggression” in dealing with Iran, despite there still being anger at the “mismanagement and corruption taking place” in Iran.

To make matters worse, Congress was only involved in the aftermath of the drone strike. Per the Constitution, Congress has the sole authority to declare war, while the president resides over America’s armed forces as its commander in chief. Given that the president is commander-in-chief, Congress is permitted to utilize unilateral power in certain instances, which, according to the Washington Post, allows the president to use force “to achieve an immediate end.” But due to the “drawn-out, undeclared” Vietnam War, the War Powers Act was passed to limit the extent that the President can mobilize armed forces.

As reported by the Washington Post, in accordance with the War Powers Act, the president must notify Congress within “48 hours of sending troops into conflict” if the president “does something that risks triggering a sustained military conflict.”

Trump’s actions in Iraq definitely had the potential to trigger long-term military conflict. Despite Iran’s inability to react to Soleimani’s killing with any significant operation, the intent was still there, and a crisis was just narrowly averted. Trump’s flippancy throughout the entire ordeal does not resonate well with the severity of the actions and threats Iran has made in response to Soleimani’s killing.

To that point, when is Trump going to make a formal address discussing the imminent threat which caused him to order the drone strike on Soleimani?

Just as al-Qaeda and ISIS remember the assassination of Saadam Hussein—no matter how justified it was in the U.S.’s eyes—they will remember the assassination of Soleimani. The full extent of the repercussions this strike will have is something only time can reveal.

Ultimately, I am hoping that the future will hold much more delicate and careful planning on Trump’s part when responding to matters pertaining to terrorism and national security. Skipping the lengthy protocol and discussions involved in assessing and responding to threats sets a dangerous precedent. The “act now, think later” strategy won’t always prove so favorable for the U.S. The U.S. should not make rash decisions and wait like sitting ducks for consequences without any sort of long-term strategy having been developed and discussed with pertinent government personnel. Many lives—Iranian, Iraqi and American—were at risk due to the hasty assassination of Soleimani as well as the disregard for how much of a following Soleimani had, and just how dangerous that following’s loyalty could prove to be.

Soleimani’s death has been an accomplishment in that it awards justice to the people who have died due to his meddling. However, the consequent destabilization occurring within Iran and Iraq has resulted in the loss of civilian lives.