The killing of Iranian Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani is a great moment for the United States that should be celebrated by all Americans. Yet instead of cheering that the terrorist commander had been wiped out in an airstrike, Democrats wasted no time in directing their ire at President Trump. Sen. Chris Murphy asked, "Did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?" Ben Rhodes, who was a key foreign policy aide to President Barack Obama, demanded, "Congress has to assert itself and determine exactly what our Iran policy is." It was especially ironic coming from Rhodes, given that Obama never asked for congressional authorization to go to war with Libya or to kill Osama bin Laden. And Obama imposed the disastrous Iran deal despite opposition by majorities in both chambers of Congress.
The truth is that Trump deserves enormous credit for the bold move of eliminating somebody who has done more to destabilize the Middle East than perhaps any single figure. Mark Dubowitz, an Iran expert and CEO of the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, declared the event to be even bigger than the killing of bin Laden. Soleimani has been described as the architect of Iran's strategy to wreak havoc in the Middle East to gain control of the region, from Tehran to the Mediterranean Sea. As part of a strategy he conceived and implemented, Iran has supported terrorist actions against the U.S. and its allies in Iraq, bolstered the brutal regime of Bashar Assad in Syria, supported and advised the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, and flamed the civil war in Yemen by supporting the radical Houthi movement.
The killing of Soleimani did not happen in a vacuum, but after a steady escalation of Iranian attacks on the U.S., most recently, the assault against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. Despite the media's best efforts to manufacture a narrative about "Trump's Benghazi," the violence was not some sort of organic populist reaction to recent U.S. airstrikes. Nor was it a sequel to the hapless Obama administration's reaction to the terrorist assault on the U.S. compound in Libya. It was the latest example of Iran's aggression against America that's been orchestrated to distract Iraqis from Iran's malevolence in their nation.
The facts are clear. On Dec. 29, the U.S. Air Force struck three facilities in Iraq and two in Syria that were controlled by Kataib Hezbollah, the Iran-supported Shiite militia. That action followed a Kataib Hezbollah rocket attack that killed an American contractor in Iraq. The rocket onslaught was just one of dozens launched over the past few months. Funded and directed by Iran, the group has been led by Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, who also was the deputy leader of the powerful Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces militia alliance. A longtime Iranian terrorist agent, Muhandis was responsible for several attacks in Kuwait in 1983, including the truck bombing of the U.S. Embassy that killed five people. (The Arab media have been reporting that Muhandis was also killed along with Soleimani, but that has not yet been confirmed by the Pentagon as of this writing.)
In Iraq, Kataib Hezbollah works alongside other Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-controlled militias such as Asaib Ahl al Haq to further Iranian interests. That latter organization is headed by Qais Khazali, who killed hundreds of American soldiers with Iranian weapons and under Tehran's direction. The embassy protests were led by Khazali and a veritable who's who of Iranian puppets in Iraq. Considering that Iraq's population of more than 40 million people is 65% Shiite, we would have expected a far larger and less militia-orientated crowd outside the embassy had the protest been a natural populist reaction to U.S. aggression.
In reality, many Iraqi Shiites are already infuriated with Iranian interference in their politics. Their protests against Iranian cronyism and sectarianism have rippled across Iraq in recent months, fueling fear in Tehran that its grip on Baghdad might be weakening. Now supported by revered Iraqi Shiite cleric Ayatollah Ali al Sistani (who this week condemned both the U.S. airstrikes and Iranian attacks on U.S. forces), the protesters have momentum and Shiite Islamist legitimacy.