My feelings on detailed stories like these about counterterrorism operations whether they’re coming out of the US or Israel is that they’re deeply irresponsible leaks that provide the enemy with far too much tradecraft information for the aggrandizement of some officials.
That said this story about the Soleimani takedown does make it clear once again that the Pentagon was the weak link.
Still, there was resistance from within the Defense Department. The president “wanted options, but they were always watered down” by the Pentagon, recalled Victoria Coates, then the deputy national security adviser for the Middle East. Killing Soleimani was one of them, said Coates, but “the Pentagon always equated it to nuclear war, and said there was going to be a backlash.”
So much for the nuclear war.
This isn’t really new. Under Bush, it was the Pentagon and the CIA that would undermine operations. Contrary to the perception of the ‘deep state’ that libertarians, lefties, and assorted anti-war types promote, the real deal is fine with certain kinds of interventions, but deeply opposed to others.
Iran has been a red line because it’s the convergence point of the oil industry, which still finances a chunk of the Iran lobby, and lefty orientalist anti-imperialism.
As most people have seen in the last decade with guys like Brennan, top CIA people are similar to the State Department lefties, and the Pentagon upper echelon is full of careerists who are looking for a good retirement gig lobbying or consulting for enterprises looking to deal with the enemy.
And they want to avoid being associated with any military intervention that doesn’t have bipartisan and multilateral backing.
Despite the formal media line, the State Department tends to be more pro-intervention than the Pentagon brass.
While the Pentagon was obstructionist, as usual, the CIA was more obstructionist.
Though basically supportive of the idea of killing Soleimani, some CIA officials worried about the larger Iranian response. The CIA wasn’t “afraid of the Iranians,” but believed the killing “could create more problems than it solves,” recalled a former agency official.
“The concern was on a bigger scale,” said the former official, namely that the Quds Force would try to “kill members of the Saudi or Emirati royal families,” launch “attacks on oil infrastructure, or “foment coups” in the region after Soleimani’s death. Some CIA officials believed that the administration was trying to force an Iranian escalation, which would then allow the U.S. to strike back even harder against Tehran, said this person.
Though “basically supportive”, CIA officials were pushing the idea that this was a conspiracy to start a war with Iran. That’s an interesting definition of “basically supportive”.
Meanwhile, as Biden stocks his administration full of Iran stooges, the terror state might be plotting to kill former Trump admin officials.
By the end of the Trump presidency, there were “no-bullshit threats” by the Iranians regarding senior U.S. officials, said Miller, the former acting secretary of defense. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs, Kenneth McKenzie, the CENTCOM commander, Pompeo and Brian Hook, the administration’s top Iran envoy, were particularly targeted, said Miller.
While officials took Iran’s public threats of revenge seriously, the U.S also obtained an Iranian list from “sensitive sourcing” that named specific officials and the positions they held as potential assassination targets as revenge for Soleimani, said three former officials.
In the administration’s final weeks, officials worried that the incoming Biden team would disregard the seriousness of these Iranian threats against Trump-era officials, said Miller.
Protective measures for some were quietly put into place. Tucked into the appropriations bill signed by President Trump in the final days of 2020 was $15 million set aside to provide protective services to “former or retired senior Department of State officials” who “face a serious and credible threat from a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power” because of the work they did while in office.
According to the provision, the justifications for who will receive protection are to be worked out by the secretary of state, in consultation with the director of national intelligence.
The language doesn’t name any specific officials, and the State Department declined to comment on the identities of those who might receive protection. But the provision was designed with two in mind, said two former officials: Pompeo and Hook, the administration’s top Iran envoy.
The money is “for Brian and Pompeo,” said a former White House aide. “The Iranians are a serious risk to those two.”
Whether or not Biden’s people take things seriously, the bottom line is that the Iranians waited until President Trump was out of office because they know that they have nothing to worry about if they do something under Biden.
And that’s the cold, hard truth.