One drone missile killed Gen Qassem Soleimani, head of Iran’s al-Quds force and effectively the country’s second-in-command, and Aby Mahdi al-Muhandis, leader of the Iraqi mujahedeen.
Another blew up the car carrying their bodyguards, which strikes me as somewhat redundant, considering they no longer had any bodies to guard.
By issuing the order for the action, President Trump showed his polyglot credentials: he can speak to evil regimes in the only language they understand. Surprisingly, no disclaimer about Islam being a religion of peace has yet been issued, though it may be forthcoming.
Gen Soleimani was the mastermind behind all of Iran’s terrorist and military activities in the region, including deadly attacks on US personnel and, of course, Israel. The button for every rocket fired on Israel by Hezbollah was effectively pushed by Iran or, until yesterday, Gen Soleimani personally.
The name of the elite force he led, Quds, means ‘Jerusalem’ in Farsi, which sort of gives the game away. The good general expected his jihad to end in Jerusalem, with all of Israel annihilated en route.
The current upheaval in the Middle East threatens world peace, and the situation is largely the fault of the US and its allies. But President Trump isn’t to blame: he inherited the mess and has to deal with it as best he can.
The mess was created by American foreign policy naivety, springing from her worshipping at the altar of Democracy (always implicitly capitalised). Having assumed the role of the Leader of the Free World after 1945, the US decided that part of its remit was to proselytise and enforce Democracy worldwide.
Foreign rulers who fell short of the exacting American standards were all lumped together: none of them was deemed worth America’s benevolence, regardless of the actual geopolitical situation in the region.
Hence the US at least acquiesced in the 1979 Islamic Revolution in Iran, and might even have actively promoted it. The Shah was an undemocratic tyrant, so good riddance.
American governments simply refused to acknowledge some home truths, the primary one being that Islam is an implacable enemy of the West, and has been for 1,400 years.
Aggressive anti-Western passions have always bubbled just under the surface, producing earthquakes whenever the power balance between Islam and the West shifted towards the former. Hence the only sensible policy for the West to follow is one that keeps those passions in check, preventing violent outbursts.
Ideally, this desideratum should be achieved without committing Western forces. Instead, American and generally Western interests lie in supporting relatively secular rulers in the region, those who themselves have a vested interest in keeping a lid on Muslim fanaticism.
Such leaders have to be despotic because Islam has no tradition of democracy, nor any cultural, philosophical or social predisposition for it. Thus people like the Shah, Saddam, Gaddafi (in his later life), Mubarak and Assad were a godsend to the US.
Alas, because they were indisputably vile and unapologetically undemocratic, Americans saw them more as the devil’s spawn. Assad is still hanging on by the skin of his teeth, but the other tyrants have been ousted by the US and its allies, either directly or indirectly.
That had the effect of uncapping a well of violence, and it gushed out. The last act of folly was committed in 2003, when America set out to convert Iraq into a Middle Eastern answer to Idaho. We all know how that turned out.
Yet that milk has been spilled, and there’s no crying over it nor trying to lap it up. Islam, under Iran’s leadership, has been energised and impassioned, ready to threaten Western interests not only in the region but around the world.
The recent joint naval exercises involving Iran and two other evil regimes, Russia and China, show that the conflict brewing in the Middle East may overrun the local borders. And, if history has taught us anything (which it probably hasn’t, but that’s a different subject), the West can’t negotiate its way out of trouble with evil regimes.
Only two paths are open: abject surrender preceded by appeasement or a show – potentially use – of overwhelming force. In dealing with Iran, President Trump yesterday communicated his preference for the second stratagem, which is both more moral and more effective.
Evil rulers must be made to understand that an aggressive stance against the West may endanger not only their subjects’ lives (about which they care little), but also their own.
The time of combat chivalry is long since passed, and modern wars aren’t conducted on erstwhile noble codes. Thus, during the Battle of Waterloo, an artillery officer told Wellington that he had a clear shot at Napoleon and was ready to fire. Wellington replied: “No! I’ll not allow it. It is not the business of commanders to be firing upon one another.”
Now it is, and those fomenting violence in the Middle East were reminded of this paradigm shift yesterday.
The West enjoys a military superiority over Iran, and this must be brought to bear. The only way to do so is by demonstrating the existence of a political will, without which the military muscle is in effect atrophied.
Time will tell if Iran and other evil regimes have got the message and will be deterred from escalation. If they aren’t, the next step has to be of apocalyptic proportions and lightning speed. Shilly-shallying is deadly when the other side is baying for your blood.
A combination of stern resolve, strategic brain and military brawn is required to deal with enemies who are ready to pounce on any weakness. It’s in such situations that Americans, along with the rest of us, should be grateful that the White House is inhabited by Donald Trump, not by Joe Biden or Bernie Sanders.
One can only hope that the president will also find a way of dealing with the evil regimes allied with Iran. They too must be made to realise that the West can only be pushed so far, but drone strikes won’t work there.
Some two centuries before the birth of Islam, the proper strategy was formulated by Vegetius in his tract De Re Militari: “Si vis pacem, para bellum”.
Translated into English, this means Nato countries must heavily invest in the military – and be prepared to use it. That way they may not have to.
P.S. Russia’s Foreign Ministry expressed its indignation over the US action, referring to Soleimani as “a patriot of Iran who loyally served the country’s national interests”. In particular, the general was the driving force behind drawing Russia into the Syrian war. Whether this served Iran’s national interests remains to be seen.