This past week, President Donald Trump recklessly got the United States into uncharted but violent territory in its relationship with Iran following the abrupt assassination of the country’s top general, Qassem Soleimani. Now, following surviving Iranian leaders’ pledges for harsh retaliation against the United States, and following the abrupt deployment of thousands more American troops to the region, former acting and deputy CIA director Michael Morell has publicly warned that Trump’s volatile decision-making will likely result in dead American civilians. If that happens, it will all be in the name of Trump scoring a quick political “win” with Soleimani’s death.
Previous administrations have even declined to target Soleimani over their fear of the war that could follow. Now, Morell insisted:
‘Soleimani was an evil genius. He had a lot of American blood on his hands. He was the mastermind behind Iranian malign behavior in the region. The world is a better place without him. The problem is that comes at a very high cost. Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans, as a result of this. Possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies, Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East.’
The latest spat of violence between the U.S. and Iran has very quickly gotten underway after the militia Kata’ib Hezbollah attacked a U.S. military base in Iraq, where the group already killed a U.S. civilian who was there as a contractor. U.S. forces have responded with some airstrikes targeting the group, including one that killed its leader at the same time that Soleimani himself was targeted and taken out. The militia group, which is backed by Iran, has already responded with a violent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Iraq, which suffered significant damage from the group. The Trump administration has now admonished all Americans to leave Iraq right away.
The exact shape that Iranian retaliation will take is not clear yet, but Morell suggested that the country could resort to terrorist attacks on civilians because of the imposing nature of directly taking on the U.S. military.
‘I think what the Iranians are going to do is they’re going to turn their proxies loose throughout the region to go after civilians, and, at a time and place of their choosing, they’re going to conduct a terrorist strike that kills a senior American official. And that could be anywhere in the world… and such a terrorist attack could occur soon.’
"There will be dead Americans" as a result of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani being killed, former CIA deputy director Michael Morell said on @CBSThisMorning.
— CBS This Morning (@CBSThisMorning) January 3, 2020
The president and his allies have claimed that the strike on Soleimani was warranted because of attacks he was planning against American interests — but the aftermath of the strike has only sparked more fears of that kind of attack. Considering that the White House didn’t even brief Congress before this major escalation in tension, it’s definitely unclear whether they planned ahead for issues like attacks on American civilians by Iranian proxies.
Considering Trump’s documented tendency towards projection and his past baseless claims that Obama would launch an attack on Iran to drum up political support, some have been concerned that this whole mess is meant as a distraction from Trump’s impeachment.