Damn right Trump ordered the Code Red, says Haley ... and McGurk?

Did Donald Trump destabilize the Middle East in a single strike, or did he give Tehran “a punch in the nose” to put a stop to a long slide to war? For the most part, reaction to last night’s strike on Qassem Soleimani followed fairly predictable patterns. Iran hawks such as Sen. Tom Cotton (R-AL) — also a US veteran of war in the region — cheered the dispatching of the murderous al-Quds commander and virtual #2 in the regime:

Doves such as Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) didn’t dispute Soleimani’s record, but immediately questioned whether he was worth the potential price:

This one’s a bit too easy, since as Twitchy noted last night, Murphy had castigated Trump for his “impotent” position less than 72 hours earlier. However, the questions Murphy raised are still legitimate, and Sen. Ed Markey (D-MA) was even angrier, calling it an “assassination”:

Wellllllll, it certainly escalated a risk in the short term, but it didn’t create one.  Soleimani has made it his business for decades to put American lives in danger — everywhere in the world. No one actually disputes that part of the equation. The question is whether the escalation will send a strong message to Tehran that their low-level war for four decades will start having much higher costs, or whether it incentivizes Iran to conduct much higher-level war from this point forward.

Two reactions were worth noting last night. First, Nikki Haley didn’t take much time issuing an enthusiastic endorsement of the operation:

Haley’s an interesting case on the Right. She developed a reputation for tough talk as UN Ambassador, but she’s not been known as a leading hawk on Iran. At one time, remember, Haley publicly backed sticking with the Iran deal while negotiating improvements, which was decidedly not the hawkish position.  Furthermore, Haley left the Trump administration (on good terms) with the effect, intended or not, to create a little good-natured distance from the administration and think about her options down the road. Haley could have played it safe by keeping her powder dry until the battlefield cleared a bit more, but instead she chose to immediately line up in defending Trump’s play here. Hmmm.

Even more interesting was this heavily qualified but still mildly positive missive from Brett McGurk:

McGurk is not an Iran hawk by any stretch of the imagination. McGurk is a career nat-sec specialist who served in both the Obama and Bush (43) administrations before being held over as the Special Envoy to the anti-ISIS coalition. He spent a lot of time in Iraq in the Bush administration and helped quarterback “the surge” of 2007 before going off to Harvard Institute of Politics and then the Council on Foreign Relations, neither of which are exactly hawkish institutions. Barack Obama appointed McGurk as a deputy assistant secretary of state for Iraq and Iran in 2013, where he was among the first to start warning about the rise of the radical Sunni threat in ISIS, and wound up coordinating the belated fight against them in 2014 by John Kerry’s appointment.

And it’s not as if McGurk is a knee-jerk Trump supporter. McGurk resigned in December 2018 when Trump abruptly announced a withdrawal from Syria, which was later belayed. When Trump again announced his intent to withdraw from Syria, McGurk blistered the president on his favorite medium:

In other words, McGurk feels very very free to speak his mind, having burned his Trump bridges long ago. While his single tweet isn’t exactly a ringing endorsement, it’s also very far from a rebuke. That speaks volumes from a man who would very clearly grasp who and what Soleimani was, and what the potential for this move would be. McGurk isn’t flinching from it. Given his long work in the region, McGurk probably has at least some idea of the war-gaming around the potential to strike Soleimani, and this reaction suggests that this might not necessarily be catastrophic. On its own, anyway.

Speaking of burnt Trump bridges, though, this is worth including in the reactions:

“Long in the making” makes this look a lot less impulsive and far more strategic. Bolton’s endorsement is the least surprising; he probably wanted this after the Iranian attack on the US drone in international waters. However, like McGurk, he’s got no reason to help out Trump. And still …

Finally, one other figure from the Bush-Obama years who could speak across the divide weighed in last night, and he’s also not entirely nonplussed by this development:

We can certainly hope so. The status quo of Soleimani is over, certainly.