What was the point of Soleimani’s assassination?

The Trump regime had no authority to assassinate a senior Iranian general. Nor did it have a reason to do so, except to reap revenge upon his past acts.

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The killing of Qassem Soleimani was not only illegal under international law and American law (Exec. Ord. No. 12,333) but made little sense.  It has been a morass of lies by President Trump and his administration. Right after the killing, “the Pentagon said Gen. Qassem Soleimani was “actively developing” plans to kill American diplomats and service members when he was killed in a U.S. drone strike Friday near the Baghdad airport shortly after arriving in the country. “ 

“US President Donald Trump on Monday defended his decision to order the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, which he said was justified because of the Iranian’s “horrible” actions in the past. 

Trump’s claims that an “imminent threat” to four unspecified embassies were part of the reason for the U.S. drone strike that killed Soleimani have come under attack as flimsy. On Sunday, Secretary of Defense Mark Esper said he did not know of any hard evidence about an attack plot. . . . 

“The Fake News Media and their Democrat Partners are working hard to determine whether or not the future attack by terrorist Soleimani was “imminent” or not, and was my team in agreement. The answer to both is a strong YES.,” Trump tweeted

Later, both the administration and Trump backed away from what they first said, doubtless because they could prove none of it.  

Other excuses were made.  “Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate.” Defense Secretary Mark Esper said “there was a threat being “orchestrated by Soleimani,” and it would be “only a matter of days, certainly no more than weeks.” Secretary of State “Pompeo, while announcing new sanctions against Iran, said: “I don’t know exactly which minute. We don’t know exactly which day it would have been executed, but it was very clear. Qassem Soleimani himself was plotting a broad, large-scale attack against American interests and those attacks were imminent.”  Two days later, Esper said that he had seen no hard evidence that four American embassies had been under possible threat when Trump authorized the targeting Soleimani.

“The president didn’t cite a specific piece of evidence, he says he probably, he believed…,” Esper said. “I didn’t see one with regard to four embassies.”  Then the next day, Trump tweeted that “it doesn’t really matter” what Soleimani was planning because he was a “horrible” man

“Qassem Suleimani was killed as part of a broader strategy of deterring challenges by U.S. foes that also applies to China and Russia, the U.S. secretary of state, Mike Pompeo, has said [on January 14], further diluting the assertion that the senior Iranian general was targeted because he was plotting imminent attacks on U.S. assets.”  

But on January 13, it was reported that “President Donald Trump authorized the killing of Iranian Gen. Qassem Soleimani seven months ago if Iran’s increased aggression resulted in the death of an American, according to five current and former senior administration officials.

“The presidential directive in June came with the condition that Trump would have final signoff on any specific operation to kill Soleimani, officials said.” 

“Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Attorney General William Barr said Monday [January 13] that killing Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani was part of a larger strategy of deterrence, a shift from the Trump administration’s previous rationale that the strike was carried out to prevent an “imminent” attack.

“Barr’s comments were particularly noteworthy as he attempted to push back on criticism over the administration’s claim that Soleimani was planning attacks that posed an imminent threat, calling the concept “something of a red herring.” 

If the killing of an Iranian was meant merely to deter Iran rather than “prevent” an imminent attack, then Trump and his administration were in violation of U.S. law.  Under Exec. Order 12,333, part 2.11, “No person employed by or acting on behalf of the United States Government shall engage in, or conspire to engage in, assassination.”  Under 50 U.S.C. Sec. 1541(c), 

“The constitutional powers of the President as Commander-in-Chief to introduce United States Armed Forces into hostilities, or into situations where imminent involvement in hostilities is clearly indicated by the circumstances, are exercised only pursuant to (1) a declaration of war, (2) specific statutory authorization, or (3) a national emergency created by attack upon the United States, its territories or possessions, or its armed forces.”  If there was no imminent attack planned and the killing of the general was merely meant to “deter” future actions, then the killing was clearly an assassination, which is illegal.  

Some arguments have been made that various Authorizations For The Use Of Military Force (AUMF) authorized the assassination.  They don’t. The 2002 AUMF is directed specifically against actions by Iraq, not Iran.  The 2001 AUMF is directed against those responsible for the 9/11 attacks. That did not include Iran.  It was sponsored by Al-Quaeda.

Iran is Shiite.  Al-Quaeda is Sunni.  They don’t cooperate with one another.  

Two intelligence officials say that while it’s true that a handful of al-Qaeda members, including one of Osama bin Laden’s sons, have been in Iran since shortly after the U.S. attacked their safe haven in Afghanistan in 2001, there is no evidence that Shiite Muslim Iran and the Sunni extremist group have carried out any joint operations against the U.S.

To the contrary, three officials noted, the Islamic State in Iraq and Syria, al- Qaeda’s direct descendant in Syria and Iraq, took credit for a 2017 attack on Iran’s parliament building and the tomb of the Islamic Republic’s founder, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, which according to Iran’s state media killed at least 12 people.

Iran had nothing to do with the 9/11 attack: 

Vice President Mike Pence incorrectly and misleadingly linked Iran to the September 11, 2001, terror attacks in a series of tweets aimed at justifying the assassination of Iran’s top general the day prior. 

As the Trump administration defended the assassination on Friday, the vice president in a tweet said that Soleimani had assisted “in the clandestine travel to Afghanistan of 10 of the 12 terrorists who carried out the September 11 terrorist attacks in the United States.”

But the official government report on the events leading up to the attacks, known as the 9/11 Commission report, undermines Pence. 

The report states there is “no evidence that Iran or Hezbollah was aware of the planning for what later became the 9/11 attack.”

Taking all of this together, the Trump regime had no authority to assassinate a senior Iranian general.  Nor did it have a reason to do so, except to reap revenge upon his past acts. But no statute or law of the United States, much less the Constitution, permits such acts by our President.

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