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No, Trump’s Justifications For Soleimani Attack Aren’t Contradictory

The recent uptick in Iranian attacks on America is very much a part of assessing if Soleimani represented an imminent threat.

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A new narrative has emerged since the attack that killed terrorist Iranian leader Qasem Soleimani last week. Early reports indicated that the deadly mission was a response to the violent Iranian led attacks on the US embassy in Iraq. In the ensuing days the White House and State Department also announced that there was an imminent threat to Americans emanating from Soleimani.

Many in the news media pounced on this as an apparent contradiction, as if the two explanations were somehow mutually exclusive. Some Democrats have even gone so far as to question whether there was an imminent threat at all. By their logic, if the imminent threat really wasn’t imminent then the action to kill the Iranian leader would be less legitimate and potentially even illegal.

But this represents a misreading of how the recent military escalation by Iran is related to a threat assessment. These are not two separate things; in fact the uptick in Iranian actions is a vital part of determining whether an imminent threat exists. Intelligence is not a perfect science; analysts looked at a wide variety of evidence, from seized or overheard conversations, to informants, and also to the nature of the recent activity.

It is simply common sense that in assessing whether a country is likely to launch an attack that country’s recent military actions are a big clue regarding their readiness and willingness to do so. The embassy attack last week was just the latest in a string of incidents that included an attack on an air base that left an American contractor dead, as well an attack this summer on a US drone.

Each of these actions was bigger and bolder than the previous ones. In the case of the attack on the embassy, it alone would justify a military response, even if there was no imminent threat, or if the evidence of one does not seem convincing. Democrats demanding some public accounting of what exactly the threat was are playing a dangerous game. While Congress should and will be briefed by the White House, the risk of exposing assets and capabilities by making too much public is very real.

What’s really going on here is a common pattern throughout Trump’s presidency. He will do something that no previous presidents would, such as moving the embassy to Jerusalem or getting out of various accords, or using his authority to suspend aid to, oh I don’t’ know, Ukraine for example. Then Democrats and the media decide that his actions are so abnormal that they represent a threat to the United States.

This is why for days now the Democrats and the media have been acting terrified of some major attack on America or Americans by Iran. In their view such an attack would reveal the supposedly reckless nature of Trump’s choice to take out Soleimani. But as noted above, the Iranians have already killed an American and launched an attack on an American embassy. There is no reason to believe that Iran would have stopped its attacks on America and her interests had Trump done nothing.

Indeed, had Trump done nothing in the wake of the embassy attack it could well be seen as a green light for further actions, confident America would not significantly respond. After all, when Trump did show restraint in July after the drone downing, all he was rewarded with by Iran was an increase in attacks.

As with any military action there are reasonable positions to be taken on all sides, but the idea that the Trump administration doesn’t have their story straight on the reasons for the attack just doesn’t hold up. Further, the idea that the administration is lying about the existence of evidence of an imminent attack is based on nothing more than basic distrust of Trump, not any facts that support the theory.