Daniel Greenfield, a Shillman Journalism Fellow at the Freedom Center, is an investigative journalist and writer focusing on the radical Left and Islamic terrorism.
Democrats, Never Trumpers, and the media (but I repeat myself) have fastened on to three excuses for opposing President Trump’s decision to take out Iranian terror mastermind Qasem Soleimani.
The first excuse was that it would escalate into a massive regional war with Iran. That excuse was shot down along with a Ukrainian airliner. Instead, Iran made sure to kill everyone except Americans.
Iran was more willing to kill Americans before its top elite learned that America shoots back at them.
The second excuse was Democrat hacks like Speaker Nancy Pelosi, who had no problem with Obama defying Congress to illegally invade Libya, pounding the War Powers Resolution. POTUS doesn’t need special authority from Congress to take out a terrorist operating in Iraq, who had attacked Americans in Iraq. He does need Congress to authorize invading a whole other country. Sorry, Nancy.
Third up is the intelligence issue. Or lack thereof.
You may have seen one of the four thousand media stories questioning the idea that Soleimani, who has killed hundreds of Americans and was fresh off an attack on the US embassy, might have intended anything untoward toward America right after his latest terror attack.
The Washington Post has offered such diverse takes on the subject as, “The Trump team’s incredibly jumbled case for striking Qasem Soleimani” and “Trump’s team offer mixed messages about ‘imminent’ attack from Iran as justification for killing Soleimani.” The only thing jumbled here is the box in which Marty Baron puts the words, “Soleimani”, “Trump”, and random words to form WaPo headlines.
Reuters offers both, “Trump says Soleimani plotted ‘imminent’ attacks, but critics question just how soon” and “Exclusive: Informants in Iraq, Syria helped U.S. kill Iran’s Soleimani – sources”. The media demands more information about our intelligence for the attacks so it can expose it to Iran.
But the anti-strike crowd has congealed around the question of an “imminent” attack. How does one define “imminent” and how soon is too soon? If Soleimani’s next attack was only going to happen in February, couldn’t we have waited until Valentine’s Day to romantically reunite him with his virgins?
“We don’t know the reasons that it had to be done now. They don’t seem very clear,” Senator Chuck Schumer complained.
Perhaps they’d have been clearer to Chuck if he had been in the US embassy in Baghdad.
“It appears to me that the actions that were taken was much more of a response to the past conduct of General Soleimani, and I’ve not yet heard sort of like the facts underlying what the potential imminent future threat that was posed by General Soleimani,” Rep. Anthony Brown objected. “I didn’t hear anything about alternatives to neutralize or address the threat.”
The “past” conduct of Soleimani included an attack that killed an American contractor on Dec 27 and an attack on the US embassy on December 31. That’s not the past. That was two days before he was killed.
But no doubt the embassy attack was going to be Soleimani’s last hurrah before retiring to Boca.
If a gunman breaks into a school, enters and shoots up three classrooms, do the cops need absolute proof that he’s about to shoot when he enters a fourth classroom?
Democrats have trotted out comparisons to the Iraq War.
“That’s what got us into the Iraq War,” Senator Chris Van Hollen said. “There was no WMD. I’m saying that they have an obligation to present the evidence.”
Kataib Hezbollah terrorists, trained and funded by Soleimani’s Quds force, attacked the US embassy in Baghdad. After trying to set it on fire, they sprayed the message, “Soleimani is our leader” on the walls.
Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the head of Kataib Hezbollah, who had been at the scene of the attack, then headed to meet up with Soleimani. That’s when the US took out Soleimani, Munhandis and a number of Iran’s IRGC and Iraqi PMF terrorists in a precision strike. But maybe it’s just one huge misunderstanding.
Maybe Soleimani was meeting with Muhandis to tell him that Islam is really a religion of peace. And that Iran’s government, which regularly chants, “Death to America”, is really as moderate as Kerry says it is.
Or maybe if it walks like a duck and jihads like a duck, it’s probably wired with explosives.
Soleimani had a solid gold track record of terrorism against Americans. He was a top figure in a regime whose motto is “Death to America”. He had been tied to multiple recent attacks on Americans.
But how can we possibly know that he would have carried out more attacks?
It doesn’t take classified intelligence, just basic intelligence, to know Soleimani was a threat.
Rep. Adam Schiff outdid fellow Democrats by arguing, “It’s also true that Soleimani has been plotting against the United States for decades. The question is, did the plotting here rise to the level that required his elimination from the battlefield?”
Schiff’s argument is that Soleimani has been killing Americans for decades, so what’s the rush. Why couldn’t we have waited a few more years and a few hundred more Americans dead?
“I haven’t seen intelligence that taking out Soleimani was going to either stop the plotting that was going on or decrease other risk to the United States,” Schiff told CNN.
Is Schiff seriously demanding intelligence that proves that taking out the leader of a terror hub would stop future attacks by his associates? That too falls under basic intelligence, not classified intelligence.
Soleimani was highly active in plotting and directing attacks. Unlike Osama bin Laden, who, at the time he was killed, was living in a Pakistani mansion and complaining that nobody was listening to him. The terrorist groups loyal to Soleimani’s Quds Force encompass much of the region. Al Qaeda, at the time of Osama bin Laden’s death, was tottering, displaced by even more ruthless Islamic terrorist groups.
Did killing Bin Laden stop any terror plots? Doubtfully. Killing Baghdadi probably didn’t either.
But no one complained that taking out Osama bin Laden probably didn’t stop any terror plots.
Taking out Soleimani, while he was at the peak of his power, would interrupt plots. Putting down Al Qaeda and former Al Qaeda leaders whose groups were on the run was much less likely to.
But stopping terror plots isn’t just about killing the plotters. It’s also about damaging the credibility of the organization. Taking out even symbolic figureheads can cripple a terror group’s infrastructure.
The Quds Force won’t be the same without Soleimani. Neither will Iran’s regional reputation.
By taking out Soleimani, President Trump sent a message that the United States will retaliate harshly against Iranian attacks, even if they carry them out through proxies like Muhandis and Kataib Hezbollah.
That alone will stop terror plots.
The intel debate comes down to two possibilities. Either Soleimani was going to continue doing in January what he had been doing in December. Or he was going to retire and join a monastery.
Since even the Democrats, the Never Trumpers, and the media can’t rationally make a case for the former, they’re left with nitpicking the definitions of “imminent”, “attack”, and “threat”.
No amount of words games will change reality.
As Rep. Schiff admitted, “Soleimani has been plotting against the United States for decades”.
The only question was whether his plotting was going to kill Americans tomorrow, the next month or the next year.
President Trump chose to end those decades of terror and take out Soleimani now. He chose to put Americans first over Soleimani. The pro-Soleimani crowd puts terrorists first and America last.