“Iran’s Qassim Suleimani was an engine of mayhem in the Middle East. His business model was to go to Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and Iraq and recruit Arab Shiites to kill Arab Sunnis (and Americans and Israelis) and to create pro-Iranian statelets inside Iran’s Arab neighbors to weaken them from the inside. I followed this man closely. No one should mourn his passing.
So why do I still question the wisdom of his assassination? Because it was done without a clear strategic or moral framework. And the biggest lesson I learned from covering the U.S. interventions in Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan is: When administrations are not constantly forced to answer hard questions from the outside about what they’re thinking strategically and morally — when questioners are dismissed as unpatriotic — that administrations’ inside thinking gets sloppy, their intelligence gets manipulated and trouble follows.
Never assume that people who are in charge know what they are doing just because they are in charge.
What is President Trump’s strategic framework? One day, without any consultation with allies or our commanders, he ordered U.S. troops out of Syria, where they were serving as a critical block on Iran’s ability to build a land bridge to Lebanon and were a key source of intelligence. In the process, he abandoned our most important allies in fighting ISIS: the Syrian Kurds, who were also creating an island of decency in their region, where islands of decency are the most we can hope for.
And then, a few weeks later, Trump ordered the killing of Suleimani, an action that required him to shift more troops into the region and tell Iraqis that we’re not leaving their territory, even though their Parliament voted to evict us. It also prompted Iran to restart its nuclear weapons program, which could well necessitate U.S. military action.”