A special episode of the COMMENTARY podcast unpacks the events of the last several weeks in the Middle East, culminating in a targeted strike on Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps Commander Qasem Soleimani.
This is an unofficial transcript meant for reference. Accuracy is not guaranteed.
Welcome to a special edition of the Commentary magazine podcast, I'm John path towards the editor of commentary with me. As always, those through the miracle of Skype and not in studio no rotten. Associate at our high Noah John a green world. Senor assigning a green wild senior editor next door to me, but could be a thousand miles away prior hygiene and in Washington, as ever Christine Rosen, Senor Writer, high Christine Hygiene, so we have gathered
where are we settle? Differences were doing this on Skype Salvadoran, my exact assign phones, We wanted to do a special podcast to deal with the targeted killing of custom solar money, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard core last night in Baghdad, the most significant foreign policy act of the Trump administration, thus far, and one that I have to say has demonstrated. Now that in no way shape or form can become our policy discussion get out of the Trump cycle of anything trump does is, is terrible and, and everything is gonna be awful and all things are are are disastrous. So much so, I would say that people
aren't even able to take a step back and examine the simple fact that gone from the earth. Is one of the most destructive evil people who have lived in our time. Who is, I think that the most significant One can say about him aside from the American the question of american national interest and american foreign policy is that, were it not, for Many of his actions hunt, thousands of people might still be alive in Syria who are dead and certainly the two or three Gaza wars against Israel would not have taken place. So that's one! That's that's! That's the largest possible scale. We take it down now
the american uranium scale, no Rossman, you run a grape blog posts last night following up and stuff that we talked about on the podcast yesterday. So will you just lay out quickly- and I mean quickly as we do- the short the provocations led to are to travel. In the United States taking this action yesterday? I guess oh you briefly in it, but I'm going back and said. Ancient history on the United States estimates that about one in six american casualties on the battlefield in Iraq was attributable to
rainy and actions? Has himself money was the executor of those actions. He established training camps in factories to produce shape charges across the border. Bush administration couldn't get him. The Obama administration lifted travel sanctions on him, which he used to travel back and forth to Moscow. Coordinated efforts to undermine american strategy there and get american allies killed air. In the course of last year, there has been a region wide campaign executed by IRAN to provoke in american response, and it had met with a relatively muted response from the Trump administration conspicuously so beginning. In spring last year, Turann executed terrorist attacks on foreign flagged vessels in the strait of former
this period it have you seen the couple struck in american drone executed a sophisticated grown strike on of Drolling processing facility in Saudi Arabia, all of which it face no proportionate response from the west from and over the course of the last month. Sophisticated rocket attacks, then trained on american positions in Iraq, theirs
My defence Secretary Esper ass the iraqi government to help prevent these attacks, but to no avail. The attacks killed in american contractor and wounded three troops on December twenty eight than in response, the? U S struck some positions of them. The militia that was responsible for those attacks in Iraq and Syria and terrain responded by helping the anti they orchestrated in the event that a mounted to the the existential threat to american position in Baghdad and by going after the embassy enforcing american diplomats into a safer for twenty four hours, resulting in the non lethal but significant military action, and it was designed to convey that we begin hit you hard and we can hit you where we need to get you to make. You feel will feel the pain. So the Trump administration responded disproportionately. It's been a long time coming, and the response from the media community has
while this is a dramatic escalation, precisely the opposite, its intended to degrade IRAN's capacity to execute these kind of strikes, to dissuade them from further regression, so a green wild. So let let's talk a little about some money and the and the Revolutionary Guard core and and take this, take this back a step because it is significant because he's not just any ordinary commander. Nor is the of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard core. Any ordinary military. You know the salami was I mean they did. It has to be granted a sort of kind of military and strategic visionary for IRAN was hugely responsible for their regional aggression, for years and years, river responsible for building up Hezbollah for
increasing military cooperation with Russia in service of Lasher Al Assad? meddling insinuating iranian influence further and further into Iraq and, of course, doing things. It knows talking about responsible for the deaths of Americans and the question is now you know to what extent Are they can deer on go forward with whatever his his grand plans were without him? While we were talking you and I- and I made a really kind of trying to come up with Oh here right now I said ok, so the question is: is Sula money just a kind of one of those people who is a relatively Honourable right, so he goes and someone they'll come in his place and that everything will go on in the same way or
more like Steve Jobs, Steve Jobs that Apple Steve jobs. You know events, the area under Steve jobs to tulip comes out the eye, on the Ipad. You know these devices that serve changed the world he dies. Cook comes in and basically in the ten years that follow Apple, just simply runs kind of entropically. Tropical doesn't invent Anything new doesn't come up with anything new he's, not a visionary. There is no visionary. What we're going to find out over the next couple of years. Aside from whether or not there are the Reno burst on some IRAN. All that is, you know what, Sula money? That kind of figure? Was he a visionary figure who invented new forms of the common of terrorism unconscious so, warfare and conventional warfare that are the highlight of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard core right, because it they may he
He saw no boundaries between towns Prism battlefield work and you know serve geostrategic attack? which, as you know, we got these forces Lebanon with Hezbollah and in Gaza, with Islamic Jihad and and if Thou Yemen as well, to write Yemen to write so so They are IRAN is, trying to be a regional player, a thousand miles from its border. Not just you know in the near abroad, that with Syria and Iraq, which around its border, but you know India, in Lebanon in Yemen. All of that really under solar monies control then we haven't even talked about the re revolutionary guards role inside IRAN as the suppressor of aunt em Lee. You know that the surf the fur
that is called upon to make sure that you know that. To that end, any uprisings, are knocked down and that the country remains under. The totalitarian control of the mullahs tried to tell you that that this staggering ignorance with which the press corps and democratic partisans have approached this is mind. Boggling and makes your blood absolutely boil. There was just a couple of weeks ago that we had massive demonstrations eleven on Iraq and ran against the mullahs, extroverted foreign policy position at a time of increasing economic pressure inside the country. This is a sort of thing that is that it is designed to exacerbate those tensions and will probably be effective. Likewise, we have now american law makers to our flirting with
notion that this is some kind of extra judicial assassination is therefore illegal and have absolutely no conception of what that means. There simply trying to make a political point in order to an individual right. Ok, you're married couples Gary, yes, Jean Luc. Read to you to tweets. Ok, two days apart by Senator Chris Murphy from Connecticut. Ok quote: this is December thirty. First, the attack on our embassy in Baghdad is horrifying.
Predictable trump has rendered America impotent in the Middle EAST. No one fears of snow and listens to us. America has been reduced to huddling unsafe rooms, hoping the bad guys will go wait what a disgrace! This was Christopher Murphy last night January. Second, twenty twenty salami was an enemy of the United States on a question. The question is this: as report suggests: did America just assassinate without any congressional authorization? The second most powerful personal IRAN knowingly setting off of a tenth of mass road map, massive regional war? Does he just same guy forty eight hours. Apart said that I think look we have for some time, especially in this podcast talked about the legitimacy of the charges of moral bankruptcy of trumps. Foreign policy is coupling of dictators, is zero cuddling of of patent in particular and correctly criticise him. I think when and called him out on that, but the moral bankruptcy of foreign policy? Left is now been thrown into high relief, and I think one of the things I ve
in going round. Is this idea that dumb I mean? Did the idea that now only Ben roads of all people who kept his agenda on the IRAN deal hidden from Congress liberally, while massaging the media narrative to suit what Obama wanted to do is now, you know stamping his feet like a little boy denied a cracker in demanding that Congress ACT, I mean, I think we do. We should just for the historical good remind our listeners, Obama's first drone strike with which he did with our congressional approval, with three days into his presidency in Pakistan. Yet a total of about five hundred and forty two drone strikes throughout his presidency chilling almost three thousand eight hundred peoples. The estimates, including he claims three hundred and twenty four civilians. A lot of the other groups that have tried to count the number of civilian casualties put that number much higher in Yemen, Somalia, Pakistan. So all of these were done on his authority.
There is even the infamous joke that he made about actors that I'm pretty good at killing people, so that kind of behaviour when it's when it. If Trump did it would have absolutely no blown up the left. But I think what we're seeing in terms of the The unfolding media cycle on this is still going on, but I worry that they're gonna. Into the Ben roads. Narrative. You see, I think, Murphy's tweet. A sign of that policy had a tweet today that that had a similar kind of tone, the idea here, and something extra judicial or illegal or unconstitutional. Simply not true. I moved by the way, by the way, its throat clearing. It's really not empowered to make a legal case for why executing a terrorist commander on third party soil. What the United States is present that the host countries and
station is perfectly legal and justified. They re yes and making a legal arguments are making a political point and a dangerous one forgets. Let's talk about the legal argument just for two seconds, because people responsible foreign policy, people on the right have been talking for years about revising and updating the authorization for military force in the war on terror that was passed the week after nine eleven right that a limit that is the gun being authority that allowed this action. Ok, along with an addendum to they came out in two thousand five, two thousand six that that re purpose, certain defence department money authorization to a fund to essentially have a kind of slush fund for immediate action in case you now, we needed to
It was a drone or do do something, do an act that had not yet been for which there had not been congressional financial authorization, so these exist in law. So this argument is insane and foolish, and if Democrats and Republicans were responsible. The EU may would have been with you know. There are all kinds of drafts of new versions of this that should have been passed in part by the way. I'm in one part of this argument, I think it's fair- is in a better world in a better America where you could, where there was more trust between the parties and more trust between the executive. Congressional and and legislative branches where Trump, what I call them the congressional leadership to say where we were. This was happening are we were doing this just as of now
as a matter of courtesy but to get buying from them to say you know that was the famous about some of that, whenever, like a Diane Feinstein in twenty tonnes, would say, I can't believe that we're doing warrantless, wiretapping and then someone you say when he's your briefed on the warrant was wiretapping. We just did well being you big liar and note the aim but one of the things I think you're going to see a lot of you seen it like as reclined tourism is Ben. Roads has been saying this now Verger, you know several hours there. All saying well, it's been out. There's no question so monitor the bad guy like he's about got. But the real question is: what are the consequences? Did we just start a war? I mean, I think we need to stop at the first issue, which is that is a bad guy. Indeed, he certainly wasn't taken under the Obama administration. So, if they're going to start admitting that, in fact, this person it did have the strategic and military. Said he did that they can try to allied that question, which I think is
You can just see the foreign policy left doing right. I can't stop at the first question, makes my blessing oil eggs I have been at war and not responding right, the Trump administrations response to a series of unprovoked brain. Attacks on the international order. American assets, american military personnel and civilian contractors has been muted at best slim and not via the have extra nagging like it has, is long overdue and designed to de escalate the situation. What and without ok, that's an important point, that's what I want to turn to a babe to now the DE escalation question. So what we are seeing from the left are these It means that where we ve got into this, we don't know we're starting a worldwide war. This is that you know my god. I go to sleep in a bunker and it's all terrible right. So the As no one says you respond in this,
but you can call it this before Schmidt, I'm not by the way entirely sure that, just because that it is disportionate, let's say when called disproportionate the re establishment of deterrence what is the israeli record of what is the american record over the last fifteen years, when we have taken very serious action against terrorist targets. When the Israelis have taken action against certain types of military terrorist targets. Is it that the world explodes? No, we hear we mean it has. Thank God. It hasn't been that known. We ve heard it not just about taking to our enemies, but when trot decided to move the israeli embassy. We were told that bet this was going to be a hugely destabilizing in an event in the arab world we did not. The world did not exe one we took out
a bag daddy there of ice, the world did not explode after after Obama kill the sound Bin Laden and so on. So there is a kind of paralysis, Acer, pre, emptive, paralysis, fear, of some enormous backlash that as beckoned actually end of perpetuating shoe. Lee Destabilizing problems where it let's go on with that so is, destroys the SIRI nuclear reactor at right now, smarts etc is Israel has killed target and targeted killings? Various terrorist leaders of a mass Islam, Jihad and Hezbollah. There were spot. There have been more responses, everything about but milk, but not, but not retaliation in that way, because it works ripe. It did. The responses have almost been indistinguishable from what what do you know? The postings would have done anyway.
What are you just want to say that we will not see a response? No, no! No! No IRAN will, I feel compelled to respond by the bed in my back is that it will be a calibrated response because they no longer know the extent to which the Trump Administration is prepared to respond with disproportionate force. I think this is a disproportionate attack, although is perfectly legally justified, but it degrades their capability to respond just by virtue of the of the of the cockpit capabilities of the commander that they took out and the Shi Ite Commander by the way whose justice as valuable a target is just as bad an actor whose name I blocking on, but all of these are designed to prevent, ran from from executing the kind of strikes that it would have meant in part because it just not going to be able to, but also in part, because it's going to be aware now of the council.
This is for its actions, which may exceed the benefits. What would that that that is the point of deterrence, and that was the point that that that you kept making over the last couple weeks as we, what deterrent effect is american. Foreign policy having against IRAN, it has been escalate. An escalating for a year, the escalation. Really. You know, Sir accelerated, beginning with the attacks on opened and tankers, and we know in open seas and then going finally to this too You know missile strike on on on. U S positions was that was a two weeks ago, three weeks ago December, twenty seven
So what whether unanimity acts going on for a moderate on various positions, and we were asking Iraq for help and that we may be able to provide it with reluctantly responded only with a very calibrated response against the militias that were responsible for that very specific rocket attack a day later and We had the embassy that again at another escalation, were all of her attributable to Orient. I just have to make a point about the from critics here, but the truly disgusting thing to me is that twenty four hours ago, you could sense, the sheer delight with which they wrote these pieces how IRAN had gotten the best of Trump about he wasn't going to do anything to Iranian of response to running provocation and now that he did they are absolutely beside themselves. They are completely agrees that is just index. Usable, but luckily rose Mc Gowan, the idiotic former charmed actor,
has issued an apology to IRAN on behalf of the american people, so Rest assured that the label moon that enjoy peace from now and fourth in really know what I've been reminded of the interview with Jeremy Corbett and injuring Neil, in which he said he confessed that the just rates short of equivocate it and fail to say that you would push the button on our back daddy and how health facile looked and an unequivocal in just the childish unable to assume the mantle of leader. Ship. I am reminded of that when I see statements from people like Bernie Sanders, calling the cynicism nation without any legal bent way any legal basis for such an for such a claim in trying to go back to the wonder years in Vietnam WAR and relieve his youth. This sort of thing that I dont think is gonna, be politically palatable made. It through Democrats far left Democrats, but I don't think a general lecter. It is going to see this as a kind of response that you would like to see an american commander in chief when Americans are being killed, were, I think, it's important all
go to say and and to acknowledge that we are, I mean we are during uncharted territory, but so what like every event enters and every event in world history that you know, alters the direction of of some in our major conflict or something leads us uncharted territory, and we don't know what the effect is, because the simple fact of the matter is that the right the Revolutionary Guard Court has, as has conducted itself, largely unmolested, for you know more than twenty years as it has as it has moved more and more aggressively, and and so the notion that the status quo is a good, thing and that the status quo is gonna stand and that we could we could live with. This asshole is clear: we couldn't live with the status quo and and ass
say Noah their worm proportionate responses, little bits here, little bits there. What we don't know, for example, is had trump not called off the response. In June I believe You know we are like there were, do, there's gonna be response to their shoot down of our are drone and Trump called it off at the last minute. Did that embolden the Iranians to think that you know he was a paper tiger and that and that they could start messing with him with impunity, because some The actions taken earlier, largely the actions you know too, to end the IRAN deal and who squeeze IRAN with severe economic sanctions in an effort to get them to the table to win.
Though she ate the IRAN deal, they refuse to do that, and so in refusing to do that, they then decided that they were they could not stand: they they needed today. They needed to respond to what they deem to be our economic aggression and with military aggression and. That's where we are now so this notion. Now that you know, oh, my god, we don't know what they were. We don't know where it goes from here. Of course, we don't know where those from here like what's the chess game, if you, if you, if you the every chest Has been played over three hundred years, great chess masters memorize game, so they know. If you move this peace there there are twenty two thousand, responses and they have them all memorized right, but we we have no chess game with
IRAN and their iranian Revolutionary Guard core. We, we haven't confronted them this directly ever ever since, in for years since since the since the iranian Revolution, they M Reagan, attack on Rainy Navy likely, I met their right, but I mean this having having a direct engagement with senior leaders, I haven't after after reckon targeted here. Any needed, not thing right figuring out. They were deterred, go anyway. Abe final thing, sure. What is this say to you about a wee wee NEO conservatives have been retreat for a decade right. I mean we're in retreat where they you know. Well, the conservatism showed that it was. The out did the terrible
the IRAN Iraq and we should just be silent because of the terrible thing that we did somehow in Iraq, So we now have two successive and we have the Obama administration surging a hundred and fifty thousand troops in Afghanistan, and we now have Trump a person who said. The craziest thing to do is to get involved in military conflict in the Middle EAST getting involved in military. Conflict in the Middle EAST, IRAN, but what you can go back to Bush to because he didn't come to off, is looking star wars at all right, yeah. Yes, observers was three Thus we must have a modest foreign policy right. There is a whole. Yet no, I think, to some extent have said, before that reality is NEO conservative, in that you cannot stay out of everyone tries every president thinks there, that we are over extended that we are
taking our nose militarily into situations that don't concern us. They criticise their predecessors for being involved always and then they get sucked in because you have to, because National security means you happy. You cannot simply at a resignation, escalating escalating escalate against you now and now trop on a very relieved. By the way this this this puts to rest. One of my remaining fears about the truck amateurish was that he wasn't ultimately going to take the iranian threat seriously, but I'm relieved to see the Trump his face up to reality here, and with that we will say. Thank you for listening to this special commentary. Magazine progress as it happens. We will not be podcasting until two Thursday next week so everybody gets. It gets a day off from hearing our crushing morosely blather, but we'll be back to torment you again and for aid donor and Christine I'm John POT or keep the camel burning
Transcript generated on 2020-02-25.