PS752 is on Donald Trump

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Donald Trump’s decision to launch a drone strike at the Baghdad airport in order to kill a top Iranian official on Iraqi soil was unexpected, even by his own officials.

The Pentagon viewed the assassination of Qasem Suleimani, the Iranian Major General of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and commander of its Quds Force, as the most radical response to recent Iranian-led violence in Iraq.  It was the most extreme option of many presented to the American President, one they thought he wouldn’t take when compared to more reasonable, measured responses.

To be fair to Trump, he initially rejected the assassination option on Dec. 28 and authorized targeted airstrikes on Shiite militia instead.  Even though it is easy to claim that Trump jumped on the opportunity to distract from the impeachment, the reality is not quite so clear, even though it must have crossed his mind, considering how Trump was accusing Obama of scheming such a plan to favor his re-election back in 2011.

But the Iranian-backed attack on the American Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve appeared to have been the last drop in Donald’s bucket.  Suleimani had to go, Trump decided.

Now, there is no question that Suleimani was a bad guy, with blood on his hands.  But is striking another government’s official really an appropriate and measured response?  Despite the usual right wing blowhards’ rhetoric, experts and diplomats mostly tend to agree that it is not a good idea.  Even Fox News host Tucker Carlson criticized conservative hawks who pushed Trump for a conflict with Iran.

According to an Ipsos survey conducted on January 7 and 8, 52% of Americans called Trump’s behaviour with Iran “reckless.”   Was it a good idea to kill Soleimani, though? 42% are supportive, with Republicans being much more supportive than Democrats, unsurprisingly, while independents were almost evenly split.

But how do the Americans feel about the aftermath?  55% of Americans believe the US attack has made the United States less safe.  Less than one in 10 said it had made the U.S. “much more safe.”  There is overwhelming agreement that the strike against Suleimani made it more likely that Iran would strike American interests in the Middle East (69%) and terrorist attacks on the American homeland (63%).

Yes, the strike against Suleimani triggered official retaliation by Iran: a barrage of short-range missiles at military bases in Iraq, housing Iraqi, American and other allied troops, including Canadian soldiers.  But there was no casualties in either case, despite the claims of the Iranian regime of 30 dead American soldiers, made on State television.  Iran issued a statement saying they were satisfied with their response and would leave it at that.  This in turn allowed Trump to claim Iran was “standing down.”  Both sides are saving face and World War III is not happening.  Happy days!

Except, of course, for the downing of Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 shortly after takeoff from Tehran Imam Khomeini International Airport, killing all 176 passengers and crew on board, including 63 Canadians.  Iran still denies the Boeing 737 was shot down by one of its air defence missile, but intelligence information and visual evidence are starting to flesh out the sad truth.

In a press conference where he appeared shaken and tired, Prime Minister Trudeau confirmed as much.  When asked if the crash of PS752 was linked to the U.S. drone strike against Soleimani, Trudeau appeared to do so:  “The evidence suggests that this is the likely cause, but we need to have a full and complete and credible investigation to establish exactly what happened.”

In essence, Trudeau is suggesting that by attacking and killing Iranian officials on Iraqi soil, Donald Trump triggered a chain reaction that led to the downing of the Ukrainian airliner.  The hawks among us are losing their mind at the suggestion that Donald Trump is somehow responsible for the downing of PS752.  It is Iran’s fault, full stop.  That is a lazy cop out.

The truth is, when you choose a response to a crisis situation, there will be consequences when it is carried out – some unintentional.  There will be a response, which you do not control.  There will be damages, some collateral.  Trump knew this, which is why he was warning Iran not to seek revenge, or else the U.S. military would  “hit very fast and very hard.”

So would the Ukrainian jetliner have been shot down without Donald Trump ordering the assassination?  The simple answer is: no.

Is the world a better place without Major General Qasem Suleimani?  Maybe.  Probably, even.

But is the world a safer place?  For the 176 passengers and crew of PS752, it was not.

And that is on Donald Trump.

Photo Credit: The Times Of Isreal

More from Karl Bélanger.    Follow Karl Bélanger on Twitter at @KarlBelanger.

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