Ann Arbor (Informed Comment) – Hawkish Republican senator Lindsey Graham tried to talk Trump out of his assassination of Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani last winter, according to Bob Woodward’s new book, Rage, to be published Tuesday. Sonam Sheth and John Haltiwanger at Business Insider have an advance copy and yesterday quoted some excerpts about Graham that almost certainly come from Graham himself.
The two were playing golf at Trump’s club in West Palm Beach, Florida in late December last year.
- Donald Trump: “I’m thinking of hitting Soleimani.”
Graham: “Oh boy, that’s a giant step! . . . If they retaliate in some way, which they will, you’ve got to be willing to take out the oil refineries . . .
this will be almost total war! You kill him, new game. You go from playing $10 blackjack to $10,000-a-hand blackjack.”
Trump: “He deserves it. We have all these intercepts showing that Soleimani is planning attacks.”
Graham: [He’s] “always been doing that . . . That risks major war.”
Trump: “We’re not going to let them get away with this.” [Referred to killing of a US contractor in late December; Trump blamed Shiite militias run by Soleimani, but it is possible that ISIL carried out that attack.]
Graham: “Mr. President, this is over the top. How about hitting someone a level below Soleimani, which would be much easier for everyone to absorb?”
[Fade to West Wing:]
White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney to Graham: “You’ve got to find a way to stop this talk of hitting Soleimani . . . Perhaps he’ll listen to you.”
These exchanges pull the curtain away from how terrified the people around him are that Trump will just wake up in the morning and do something completely unhinged that could take the country to war.
Some 100 US troops suffered serious concussions, which can cause traumatic brain injuries, when Iran hit their bases in Iraq with missiles in retaliation for Soleimani’s assassination.
The Iraqi government says that Soleimani came to Baghdad on a commercial flight with a diplomatic passport to engage in behind the scenes talks Saudi Arabia that the Iraqi government was mediating. There is no evidence that he was, as Trump alleged, coming to kill Americans, and the Pentagon has refused to make that charge.
The furious Iraqi parliament voted to constrain the prime minister to find a way to move US troops out of Iraq in the aftermath, since Trump whacked Soleimani on Iraqi soil without bothering to tell that government. The prime minister, Mustafa al-Kadhimi, has complied, arranging for the US gradually to leave. This month 2,000 of the some 5,000 US troops in Iraq will depart.
Trump’s ‘maximum pressure’ on Iran had several aims:
1. to make them a negotiate an even more stringent nuclear deal;
2. to make Iran stop supporting the Hezbollah militia in Lebanon;
3. to make Iran withdraw from Syria;
4. to make Iran withdraw support from Shiite militias in Iraq
5. to make Iran stop supporting the Houthi rebels in Yemen
Instead, Trump breached the 2015 nuclear agreement, leaving Tehran free to violate some of its provisions and to begin enriching uranium beyond the 3% limit set by the treaty. Iran only has a civilian nuclear enrichment program, but Trump has allowed them to pursue dual-use experiments that would have been forbidden and sanctionable under the 2015 treaty.
Trump’s erratic behavior has pushed Britain, France and Germany at the UN Security Council to join Russia and China in siding with Iran against Washington’s press to impose severe new international sanctions on Iran. The UNSC has also rejected Trump’s attempt to stop Iran from being able once again to purchase arms on the open market, as of October 18.
China is pondering a 25-year, $400 billion deal with Iran, which would rescue it from US sanctions.
Iran is as strong as ever in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq and Yemen.
Instead, it is the US that is forced to begin drawing down from Iraq.
So much winning.