Months After Soleimani’s Assassination, Another Strike on Militias in Iraq

“The administration of President Donald Trump promised to “restore deterrence” against Iran when it assassinated Iranian spymaster Gen. Qassem Soleimani outside Baghdad International Airport on January 3. But months later, the Iraqi militias formerly armed, trained, and advised by Soleimani seem undeterred, and American troops in Iraq find themselves in an escalating cycle of conflict with no end in sight.
In March, militia forces fired a barrage of Katyusha rockets at Camp Taji, killing a U.S. Army soldier, a U.S. Air Force airman, and a British servicewoman. A local militia close to Iranian intelligence services called Kata’ib Hezbollah appeared to take credit for the attack in a social media diatribe invoking the “right to resist” America’s “malicious project of occupation.”

American forces responded with what the Pentagon calls “precision defensive strikes” against five Kata’ib Hezbollah weapons depots. Iraq accused the U.S. military of killing Iraqi soldiers and civilians instead of Kata’ib Hezbollah members during the raids, aggravating already strained U.S.-Iraqi tensions. The following weekend, Katyusha rockets slammed into Camp Taji again in broad daylight.”

An expert on why the Soleimani assassination was almost certainly illegal

“in order for this strike to be legal without congressional authorization, it would have to be in response to an imminent threat to the United States. And then we immediately enter into a discussion about what “imminent” and “threat” actually mean.”

“Many of the people who have shaped our legal understanding of “imminent” over the years understood it to mean that the threat was unfolding right now and there’s no time to do anything other than to kill the person.
The Soleimani killing doesn’t appear to meet that threshold.”

“If this is just a thing we did, then Congress doesn’t need to be notified. But if it’s an act of war, then clearly Congress needs to be notified.”

“for better or worse, at a point where the majority of lawmakers have basically acquiesced to the administration’s interpretation of the law when it comes to war, and again, this goes back to the George W. Bush era. So if that’s the case, then eventually the law becomes whatever the current administration says it is. That’s where we are.”

“there were several AUMFs but none of them, in any way, were directed at Iran. Each of them very clearly gave the executive branch the power to fight the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Afghanistan and later, ISIS in Iraq. And in fact, Iran has been on our side in the fight against ISIS and the Taliban. So there’s just no plausible legal justification under which you could stretch any of the AUMFs to include an attack on an Iranian official.”

Trump’s administration is deeply dishonest, and it’s foolish to trust them

“All politicians garner fact-checks, but Trump is so dishonest that CNN’s Daniel Dale has a beat composed exclusively of keeping track of all the nonsense the president spouts, routinely generating headlines like “Trump made 96 false claims over the last two weeks” and “Trump makes at least 18 false claims in ranting Fox & Friends interview.”

The sheer range of things Trump lies about — including recently claiming that the prime minister of Canada edited a version of Home Alone 2 to remove a Trump cameo — is mind-boggling and goes way beyond any kind of normal political process.

Part of Trump lying about everything is that he frequently says things specifically about Iran that are not true. Back in July, for example, Trump tweeted about the Obama-era Iran nuclear deal that misstated the amount of money involved, misstated the duration of the deal, and fabricated secret Iranian violations of the agreement. It was not particularly clear at the time why Trump was lying about this stuff. But he lies so routinely about everything that people scarcely bother to inquire about what might be driving those specific lies.”

“As the former CIA director, Pompeo distorted intelligence about Russia to fit Trump’s preferred narratives. Then, as secretary of state, he misled the public about his role in the Ukrainian aid holdup that led to Trump’s impeachment.

Pompeo, too, engages in routine misstatements about Iran specifically, including lies about Iranian nuclear research.

This is important because Pompeo has become the public face of the administration on this issue. Although Pompeo does not engage in the range of dishonest statements that Trump does, his more focused dishonesty does include statements on Iran.”

“I hope there was some kind of good reason to bomb that Baghdad airport and some kind of plan to deal with the aftermath. But all we really know is that the people in charge of explaining to us what happened and why aren’t worthy of our trust.”