Streetwise Professor

January 3, 2020

Suleimani the Not So Magnificent

Filed under: History,Military,Politics — cpirrong @ 12:15 pm

If reality mirrors Beetlejuice, wherein you spend eternity in the condition in which you left this mortal coil, sometime last night a cloud of pink mist reeking of RDX and rocket fuel wafted through hell, that being all that was left of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Force commander Qassem Suleimani after an aptly named Hellfire missile interrupted his trip from the Baghdad Airport. I’d say rest in pieces, but I don’t think there are any.

I asked an Iranian friend what he thought. Beyond being giddy (for pace the WaPo, not every Iranian “revered” the thug or hates Trump), he related that he had been reading the “regime media,” and that it was in a state of “absolute shock.”

As well it might. Suleimani was no doubt shocked, or would have been in the instant before Hellfire lived up to its name. He obviously thought he was untouchable, shuttling between Iran, Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon, frequently appearing in public, and pretty much living the life of a terrorist rockstar who never dreamed that Great Satan (or even Little Satan) would attack him personally.

And perhaps that sense of impunity was understandable. The Bush and Obama administrations blamed him personally for hundreds of American deaths–and did nothing. They restrained the Israelis from snuffing him.

And Trump did nothing after Iran shot down an American drone. Or after attacks on Gulf shipping. Or after an attack on the most important Saudi oil installation.

Complacency is quite understandable, therefore.

So what changed? Well, in fact Trump made this abundantly clear, and did so on Twitter of course. Under Suleimani’s direction, Iraqi militias killed an American, launched an attack on sovereign US territory (its embassy in Baghdad) and was apparently planning additional attacks on American. Trump said if you kill Americans, you will pay. And he said that wasn’t a warning, it was a threat.

Khameini retorted “you can do nothing.” And Trump replied: “Really? Hold my Diet Coke.”

Trump’s red line is clear as day: Iran kills Americans, and he will kill those responsible. A return to the “Pedicaris alive or Raisuli dead” model of foreign policy, but expressed via Twitter rather than the telegraph. And using Hellfires and JDAMs rather than the Marines or gunboats.

The conventional wisdom set is of course in a state of apoplexy. Despite the fact that Suleimani gleefully directed the deaths and maiming of hundreds of Americans, the media and Democratic politicians engaged in a frenzy of but tweeting; “Yeah, he was horrible, but . . . ” Hell, some skipped over the horrible part altogether and made the guy sound like some sort of paragon.

The most comment lament–shriek would be more accurate–is that this will cause a massive retaliatory response from Iran. Really? These people remind me of the See-and-Say Barbie my daughters used to play with: pull the string, and they say the same damn thing over and over.

The Iranians will no doubt compelled to do something, but Trump has obviously completely upended their assumptions about American responses to their actions. They killed one American contractor, threaten our embassy, and we take out their most important operational figure.

The Iranians, unlike the bleating conventional wisdom complex, understand escalation dominance. The American capacity to escalate dwarfs Iran’s. The US can extirpate Iran, or its leadership, or its military capability, or any inconvenient individual. The American potential for escalation dominance in beyond question.

The mullahs of course knew this, but clearly doubted the American will to escalate in a way that seriously threatened them. Hence Suleimani’s hubristic existence up to the moment of his vaporization.

The mullah’s palpable shock demonstrates that they now understand Trump’s will is far different from his predecessors, or that of the foreign policy establishment in the US.

Deterrence requires a combination the capability to destroy and the will to use it. The capability has always been there. The Iranians now know that they have to dramatically alter their assessment of the will.

Given that, don’t be surprised if the hand wringers are wrong. Again.

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  1. Hmm, I wonder who said this in 2011: “Our president will start a war with Iran because he has absolutely no ability to negotiate…So the only way he figures he’s going to get reelected, and as sure as you’re sitting there, is to start a war with Iran.”

    Comment by Peter Nagy — January 3, 2020 @ 1:58 pm

  2. A thoroughly Jacksonian response by Trump that will be thoroughly understood and applauded by “the deplorables” who swung the 2016 election.

    Comment by The Pilot — January 3, 2020 @ 2:44 pm

  3. If this thug was in charge of training and arming the Shiite militias which operated in Iraq during the US occupation, then I suspect he is responsible for not hundreds but thousands of deaths and maimings of US soldiers. As well as the deaths of tens of thousands of Iraqi civilians.

    Those who live by the shaped charge, die by hellfire.

    Fingers crossed that the Iranians have learnt their limitations from this event. As Khameini’s response to Trump suggested, they had their tails in the air and felt invincible. If they have learnt, they will pull their horns in and sit quietly for a while. If they haven’t learnt, they will try to escalate – in which case we’re in for quite a show.

    Comment by Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break — January 3, 2020 @ 3:46 pm

  4. The UK media and politicos are having fits of the vapours over this. WW3! Iranian escalation! Nowhere is safe! Disproportionate aggression!
    As if Iran wasn’t doing its best already to F U the great satan and destabilise the entire region.
    Since Boots On The Ground in Iran is not practical, we’re in whack-a-mole territory. Terrorists scuttling from safe house to safe house, not knowing whom they can trust, having their lines of command and communication under constant disruption.
    More please!

    Comment by philip — January 3, 2020 @ 4:35 pm

  5. @Ex-Global Super-Regulator on Lunch Break–Not quite the show the mullahs would be in for if they get too uppity.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 3, 2020 @ 4:54 pm

  6. @The Pilot. Exactly. Jacksonian to the core. Which our “elites” STILL don’t get despite getting the 2×4 upside the head for 3+ years. FFS, even mules figure it out.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 3, 2020 @ 4:55 pm

  7. @philip–Great news! A near perfect indicator that Trump did the right thing.

    Comment by cpirrong — January 3, 2020 @ 4:58 pm

  8. And there was me thinking Trump was about to phuq Iraq up too. I guess, just like a monkey on a piano, he’ll eventually get something right given enough time.

    Comment by David Mercer — January 3, 2020 @ 5:28 pm

  9. I believe it is “Perdicaris”, not “Pedicaris”.

    Comment by Gleb — January 3, 2020 @ 8:28 pm

  10. I certainly appreciated the nice dip in the markets, due to Trump’s hit on Suleimani. I had been waiting an opportunity to get back in, as I’m sitting on top of a pile of cash, but you never know when to jump in with bull markets. Thanks to Trump I managed to buy a bit at a reasonable rate.

    Here’s hoping for more opportunities like that. A war with Iran would be a gold mine!

    Comment by I.M. Pembroke — January 4, 2020 @ 12:12 am

  11. Former Iranian president Ahmadinejad dreamed publicly of a world without the US, and said it was achievable. One can surmise that reduction of the US is at the center of Iranian planning.

    Should Mullah-ridden Iran ever get nuclear weapons, one or more is likely find its way to the continental US, delivered by unconventional means.

    Given Iranian Islamist hubris, their implacable hostility, and their nuclear ambitions, some sort of armed conflict with Iran is almost inevitable.

    If so, better earlier than later. And no more looking aside when Iran sponsors the murder of Americans.

    Comment by Pat Frank — January 4, 2020 @ 11:02 pm

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