AUTHOR’S NOTE: This is a blog post about a breaking news event. Any information and analysis in this blog post is based on information of the author’s knowledge at the time of the blog post being published.
In response to a recent attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, the United States launched a strike in Iraq that killed Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. The Quds Force is Iran’s primary vehicle for carrying out their military and intelligence operations outside of Iranian territory; as a result, Soleimani was one of the most powerful people associated with the Iranian regime.
If the United States is not already at war against Iran, it likely will be in the very near future, and this would be a logistical nightmare for the United States and/or any other country, in no small part due to Iran’s geography, which has long been an obstacle for Iran and its predecessor states, as well as, conversely, any entity that has tried to invade Iran:
It is not immediately clear how this will impact Donald Trump’s re-election chances here in the U.S., although the recent events in the Middle East will likely have massive political ramifications not just in the United States, but in many other countries as well.
In a scenario that is more politically favorable to Trump, Trump would get a sizable rally around the flag effect, similar to the affect on U.S. public opinion that politically benefited George W. Bush after the 9/11 attacks. Remember that defeating a sitting U.S. president while he is up for re-election during a major war has historically been extremely difficult, and, in many cases, virtually impossible. One thing that would likely benefit Trump politically is if a large coalition of nations is assembled for a large-scale war effort against Iran.
In a scenario that is less politically favorable to Trump, few nations would decide to formally support a U.S. war effort against Iran and/or significant domestic political opposition to a U.S. war effort against Iran forms. There is already some evidence of domestic political opposition to a U.S. war effort against Iran trying to form, with U.S. Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) issuing this statement via Twitter voicing concerns about potential consequences of the strike against Soleimani. It is not immediately clear how traditional U.S. allies like the United Kingdom, France, Germany, and Canada will react, nor is it immediately clear how nations like Russia and China will react, to a looming war in Iran.
One advantage that Trump has, from a political standpoint, is that it is easier for Trump to, despite serious concerns about the strike’s legality, portray the strike against Soleimani as justified than, for example, George W. Bush’s attempts to justify his war against the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq. The strike against Soleimani was in response to an attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad perpetrated by groups aligned with the Iranian regime, whereas it was harder for GWB to portray the Saddam Hussein regime in Iraq as a threat to U.S. national security before the 2003 invasion of Iraq.
However, Trump probably has more political disadvantages than political advantages going into a war against Iran. First, due to Iran’s geography, invading Iran would likely result in another U.S. military quagmire. Second, the U.S. is a more war-weary nation nowadays than it was in the early 2000’s. Third, the Vietnam War, the post-9/11 War in Afghanistan, and the 2003 Iraq War serve as cautionary tales of military quagmires that are relatively fresh on the minds of many Americans. Fourth, Trump is seen as a far more unstable leader than most previous U.S. presidents. Fifth, Trump is facing a pending impeachment trial over trying to use the U.S. foreign policy apparatus for his personal political benefit, and many Americans will view Trump’s actions in the Middle East as an attempt to distract from his political corruption. Sixth, Trump’s actions are expected to have ramifications threatening U.S. national security, as retired U.S. Army Captain Jason Kander pointed out on Twitter.
I am a loyal American and always will be, but I have grave concerns about a war against Iran under Donald Trump. While Soleimani was a bad guy and a half, the strike that killed Soleimani may have just gotten the United States into a situation that jeopardizes our nation’s national security in a huge way.