- Luc Yansouni ’20
On January 3rd 2020, the United States killed one of the world’s most notorious terrorists: General Qasem Soleimani. It is estimated that over the course of his career as the leader of the Iranian Quds Force, Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of over 600 Americans, and the dismembering of thousands more by IEDs.
He instructed his troops to install roadside bombs, and in the years around 2010 he ordered 20 to 30 rocket attacks against U.S. bases each month. In the months before his death, these attacks were starting to escalate: there were strikes on Saudi Oil fields in September; in December, a U.S contractor was killed; and there was an organized attempt to storm the U.S. Embassy in Iraq on December 31st.
Ethically, there is as much of a case for killing General Soleimani as there is for killing Osama Bin Laden or any other terrorist responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans. Just as Bin Laden eventually paid the ultimate price for killing almost 3,000 people on 9/11, Soleimani was similarly eliminated by the U.S. military for the American blood on his hands. Legally, this attack was also justified.
According to President Trump and his advisors, General Soleimani was planning new attacks against the U.S., including an attack against our embassy in Baghdad. That embassy holds over 5,500 people, and, given Soleimani’s history of killing Americans, the threat of an attack cannot be taken lightly. The U.S. can never tolerate a repeat of the 2012 attack on U.S. government facilities in Benghazi, Libya, in which Ambassador Christopher Stevens and other Americans were murdered by militants. Protecting our embassies and the United States citizens housed therein is as important as protecting our own country. According to Dr. Dapo Akande, an Oxford professor of international law, given that the attack on Soleimani was in self-defense of an imminent attack, the U.N. charter would most likely deem this airstrike permissible.
Furthermore, the killing of General Soleimani was not an escalation, but a calculated response. By standing up to the dangerous Iranian attacks that have continued for months, the U.S. has deterred more large-scale violence by the Iranians. After the Iranians mistakenly shot down a passenger flight, outrage by the Iranian public that might have been directed at the U.S. has turned back quickly onto the Iranian regime. Protests have been widespread, and anger towards the government is so extensive that more retaliation from Iran is unlikely.
Starting a war with the most powerful military on earth would make it even harder for Iran to find countries to trade with, which would lead to even more inflation and more public resentment toward their leaders. Additionally, France, England and Germany have formally accused Iran of violating the 2015 nuclear deal, initiating a negotiation process that could reimpose U.N sanctions. Given their economic crisis, it can be expected for Iran to comply rather than deal with U.N. sanctions, much less engage in escalating hostilities with the U.S.
The killing of General Soleimani has made the world safer in the near term by eliminating a deadly terrorist and it has pushed Iran into a more vulnerable negotiating position that will make the world even safer in the long term.
Photo from Vox