In deciding to eliminate General Suleimani, Mr. Trump and his team argue they were acting in self-defense to thwart imminent attacks on Americans in Iraq and the region. This may be true, as General Suleimani was a ruthless murderer and terrorist with much American blood on his hands. Unfortunately, it’s hard to place confidence in the representations of an administration that lies almost daily about matters large and small and, even in this critical instance, failed to brief, much less consult, bipartisan leaders in Congress.
Second, even if the killing of General Suleimani is justified by self-defense, it doesn’t make it strategically wise. Given the demonstrably haphazard and shortsighted nature of the Trump administration’s national security decision-making process (including calling off strikes against Iran 10 minutes before impact, inviting the Taliban to Camp David and abandoning the Kurds), it’s doubtful the administration spent much time gaming out the second and third order consequences of their action or preparing to protect American military and diplomatic personnel in the region.
To assess the fallout of killing General Suleimani, we must understand that the Iranian regime cannot survive internal dissent or sustain its powerful position in the region if it backs down from this provocation.