Iran bears full responsibility for the U.S. airstrike that killed one of its top generals. President Trump has gone out of his way to promote peace, but Iranian attacks against an American embassy demanded a much more forceful response than any of the regime’s previous provocations.
Trump takes his duty as commander in chief seriously, and that includes doing everything in his power to keep our men and women in uniform out of unnecessary danger. That’s why he ordered the strike that took out Iran’s Gen. Qasem Soleimani, a bloodthirsty terrorist who posed a significant and imminent threat to our troops. This was no “spur of the moment” decision — this action was part of a long-term plan that the Pentagon established to deal with an ever more aggressive Iran.
The president has given the Iranian regime every opportunity to reduce tensions and resolve issues diplomatically. But every time Trump has offered an olive branch, the Iranians have scornfully rejected it. Even worse, Iran seemed to interpret American restraint as an invitation to escalate its aggression.
Immediately after withdrawing the U.S. from the disastrous Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) — the so-called “Iran nuclear deal” — the president offered Iran an open-ended opportunity to renegotiate the agreement. Iran refused, and although the resulting U.S. sanctions devastated Iran’s economy, the regime only grew more bellicose in the subsequent months.
In mid-2019, Iran began attacking oil tankers near the Strait of Hormuz. The Trump administration deployed additional soldiers to the Middle East, but stopped short of taking punitive military action that would have risked sparking a full-blown war.
When the Iranians shot down a Navy surveillance drone, attacking American military hardware in neutral airspace, Trump mercifully called off a planned retaliatory attack on Iranian soil that likely would have caused about 150 Iranian casualties, deeming it an overly aggressive response to an attack that didn’t kill any American military personnel.
“They shot down an unmanned drone, plane, whatever you want to call it,” Trump told Chuck Todd after calling off the attack. “And here we are, sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead. And I didn’t like it.”
Iran continued its rogue behavior, launching a drone attack on a Saudi oil field in September. The president ratcheted up sanctions, but once again exercised impressive forbearance by declining to authorize a retaliatory strike.
But threatening the lives of American soldiers is very different from downing an unmanned drone or disrupting oil markets, and the Iranian-sponsored attack on an American embassy demanded severe repercussions, lest Iran feel emboldened to carry out future attacks.
Killing Soleimani — the general responsible for orchestrating the embassy attack — showed the Iranian regime that there will be consequences for aggression against Americans. We cannot tolerate actions that put American lives at risk, and intelligence indicated that another attack would be forthcoming if Soleimani wasn’t stopped.
Despite Trump’s consistently restrained responses to Iranian aggression, Democrats still insist that he committed an “act of war” by taking out Soleimani. They couldn’t be more wrong, and their unwillingness to support the commander in chief puts our troops in harm’s way.
If anyone committed an act of war, Iran did by storming our embassy in Baghdad. Trump’s limited retaliatory action specifically targeting the man responsible for planning the attacks wasn’t a declaration of war, but rather an astute move designed to reduce the likelihood that tensions would escalate to the point of open warfare.
The president’s measured response to Iran’s “retaliation” attack against Iraqi air bases housing U.S. troops further confirms his commitment to avoiding unnecessary conflict. While the U.S. will likely impose new sanctions on Iran for its blatant and unlawful aggression, the impotence of its missile strike allows us to avoid responding with military force.
Iran made its bed when it decided to engage in direct hostilities against the U.S. military. President Trump is making the rogue regime sleep in it. And some of these rogue terrorist leaders now live with the knowledge they may not wake up.
Tony Shaffer (@T_S_P_O_O_K_Y ) is a retired senior intelligence operations officer who served more than 20 years with the U.S. Army. He is now president of the London Center for Policy Research in Manhattan and an adviser to Donald Trump’s 2020 presidential campaign. He is the author of the New York Times bestselling memoir “Operation Dark Heart: Spycraft and Special Operations on the Frontlines of Afghanistan.”
The views and opinions expressed in this commentary are those of the author and do not reflect the official position of The Daily Caller.