James “Spider” Marks has a few words for Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) — use fewer yourself. In the immediate aftermath of the attack on the embassy in Baghdad, Murphy accused Trump of being “impotent,” only to spin 180º in 48 hours to warn that Trump was acting too rashly by killing Qassem Soleimani. “The question is,” Murphy tweeted, whether Trump “knowingly set off a potential massive regional war” without checking with Congress, all on his own.
Nonsense, the retired major general told CNN’s New Day yesterday. The question isn’t whether Trump set off a war, but whether America recognizes that Iran has been waging one for decades against us. “Why don’t you just be quiet?” Gen. Marks advised Murphy in absentia, to chuckles in the studio (via Mediaite):
“What I would say to Senator Murphy is, why don’t you just be quiet?” Marx said — eliciting chuckles from CNN anchors and panelists off screen. “Look, when has Iran ever demonstrated self-restraint? I mean, that’s the question I have. So is the world more dangerous today? Maybe it’s more dangerous. But when has it not been dangerous? When have we not been a target of a regime like exists in Tehran? I mean, it happens as a matter of routine.”
No one will suggest that killing the head of the Quds force and one of the top members of the Iranian regime is no biggie. Marks isn’t making that argument here either. However, much of the handwringing on display in the immediate aftermath of the Soleimani strike ignores decades of Soleimani’s terrorist operations directly and indirectly aimed at Americans citizens, diplomats, and military personnel. That danger has been in place since November 4, 1979, and it has not abated at all since then.
That doesn’t mean that the situation isn’t more dangerous now in an acute sense. It is, and it’s still unclear what Iran has in mind for retaliation. However, the danger is escalating to both sides of the equation for the first time in a long while, something the Iranians now have to add to their calculations. Until now, Iran’s asymmetrical warfare against the US has been mainly unanswered, which is far too asymmetrical for deterrence or even incentive for negotiation. If the US has gotten to the point where they target someone like Soleimani as an opening move, they have to consider the potential for what we might do next, too.
In the embassy attack, Soleimani’s signature was almost literally applied to it. Graffiti on the buildings left by the attackers read, “Soleimani is our leader,” and Soleimani himself made the terminal error of thinking he could just walk into Baghdad to check on his work. Marks doesn’t think that the embassy attack was the real catalyst for the order to take out Soleimani, but it was certainly sufficient for those purposes:
Marks went on to call it “amazingly brazen” of Soleimani to visit Baghdad during the attack on the U.S. embassy, and posited that the strike against the Iranian general didn’t have as much to do with the embassy protest as it might seem, on the surface.
“I’m certain what happened was… the president made the determination ‘let’s pull the trigger now,’” Marks said. “And I would say it’s not causably linked to what occurred at the U.S. Embassy a few days before other than he happened to be there checking up on what was taking place.”
Bear in mind two points about this as well. Soleimani was under UN travel sanctions and wasn’t supposed to be allowed to travel outside Iran at all. Iraq has a duty to enforce those sanctions. However, they appeared to welcome him, and Soleimani never bothered to travel covertly, part of the same impunity he felt in attacking Americans and our other allies in the region. Second, he was traveling into a US military theater at a time when his forces were attacking a US diplomatic facility. Add that together and you get tough ****, Soleimani, regardless of AUMFs. The US has the right to defend its embassies anywhere in the world without specific authorization, and that includes taking out the leadership of the attackers in the city where those attacks take place. If the host country doesn’t like that, then they can stop allowing the entry of terrorist leaders at the airport, especially those already under travel ban by the UN.