So far, Iran’s response has been pretty feeble. And since Trump doesn’t do restraint, the Iranian leadership is coming under international pressure to display restraint.
Iran seems to be seeking proportional forms of retaliation that don’t produce counter-retaliation by Trump. So far, the Iranians haven’t found anything that quite threads this needle. Score one for Trump.
When you are certifiably nuts and capable of almost anything, that does tend to keep your adversaries off-balance. The Iranians must be thinking twice about taking any actions that kill Americans.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo sounds almost convincing when he ticks off all of the horrific things Qassem Soleimani did over the years. Surely he had it coming?
According to a new Reuters poll, about 53 percent of Americans disapprove of Trump’s handling of Iran, an increase of nine points since their December poll, but still about the same percentage who disapprove of him generally.
So the assassination of Soleimani, in plain violation of international law, hasn’t cost Trump significantly with either his base or with swing voters, though it hasn’t benefited him either.
My sense is that the geopolitical damage will be long term. Among other reverberating effects, this killing damages our relations with Iraq, creates unity inside a fractious Iran, sets back the effort to contain ISIS, and reverses Trump’s promise to avoid other wars and bring troops home. It may soon bring new conflict to Israel as well. That’s a lot.
Whether Trump is held accountable politically depends partly on how, and how soon, all of this plays out, and on whether the Democrats are effective at pinning the new instability on him. But all of this needs to be about the perverse substance of what Trump has done, and not about whether it violated the War Powers Act.