The US President had been unusually quiet. There had been no speaking for hours by Donald Trump, who spends the holidays at his home in Mar-a-Lago, Florida. Not a word about the recent escalation in the Iran crisis. Not a word about the initial threats against Tehran and later relativizations. Then he reported on Twitter by posting an American flag without comment. Nothing else. Shortly before, the news agencies had announced that there had been an American airstrike in Iraq.
Shortly afterwards, the Ministry of Defense heard what had happened at Baghdad airport: the leader of the Al-Quds brigades of the Iranian revolutionary guard Qassem Soleimani had been killed. American intelligence agencies had followed his movements closely. The major general had boarded a plane in Syria and set course for Baghdad. Two cars were waiting for him at the airport in the Iraqi capital. He got on a car. When the vehicles tried to leave the airport grounds, they were hit by several rockets launched by an “MQ-9 Reaper” drone.
The Pentagon said the President Donald Trump had directed the US forces to take “decisive defensive measures” to protect Americans in the region. For this, Soleimani was killed. In addition to Soleimani, Jamal Jafaar Mohammed Ali Al Ebrahim, known by the kunya Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the head of a pro-Iranian umbrella organization for Iraqi-Shiite militias, and Mohammed Ridha Jabri, the group’s PR man, were among the five dead. While the Pentagon initially justified the targeted killing as a “deterrent” against “future Iranian plans to attack,” Foreign Minister Mike Pompeo went one step further on Friday morning.
It was also about “thwarting” imminent threats to Americans in the region. This threat was not limited to Iraq. With Soleimani’s death, Iraq and the Middle East are now safer and have a better chance of living in freedom and security. His absence is “a blessing for this region”. The airstrike, which was completely legal and strategically correct, “reduced risks” for the region. Trump also broke his silence in the morning. On Twitter, he wrote: “Iran never won a war, but never lost a negotiation” – an allusion to the Iranian nuclear deal that his predecessor Barack Obama had signed and from which he, Trump, had quit.
The airstrike is a turning point for Trump and for US policy on Iran. Even President George W. Bush and Barack Obama had considered eliminating Soleimani. But both presidents decided against it because they obviously thought the damage was greater than the benefit. Trump had actually sworn to end America’s interventionist policies and his predecessors’ wars.
But since the escalation of the Persian Gulf crisis in early summer 2019, when Tehran shot down an unmanned American drone, the president has been under pressure to show strength. His policy of maximum pressure on Iran, which was supposed to bring the country to its knees economically through sanctions, had repeatedly provoked Tehran – especially in the Strait of Hormuz, which is an Achilles heel of the global economy because of its importance for oil supply.