The president worried aloud to his team about how the strike could impact the way voters viewed him in the upcoming election. After all, avoiding costly foreign wars in the Middle East had been one of the key promises— and points of contrast—he made as a candidate in 2016.
One official told The Daily Beast that in meetings at the White House Trump was “preoccupied” with ensuring that his public statements on Iran—notably that he would not drag the U.S. into a war with the country—would hold following the assassination. Once Soleimani was gone, Trump was adamant that the administration “get things back to normal” with Iran, one official told The Daily Beast.
According to another U.S. official, senior administration officials, including President Trump, were framing the strike as a de-escalatory measure even before the attack was ordered. The idea was that if the U.S. didn’t hit Soleimani, more people would die because Iran would continue to carry out attacks in the region.
Trump’s insistence on returning to “normal” with Iran directly after he ordered the death of the Islamic republic’s top military leader underscores this president’s wild vacillations between diplomatic overtures and teasing violent retribution, where a call for peace one moment could be followed by a threat to destroy Iranian cultural sites—a tactic that is considered a war crime under international law.