How Trump’s not-Benghazi brings us two steps away from WWIII

Written By Daniel Bordman, Posted on January 4, 2020

For those who enjoy politically illiterate hot-takes, 2020 has had its fair share already. We are three days in, and “WW3” is already trending on twitter.  

I hate to be the bearer of good news, but the airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani has made a full-scale conflict between significant powers far less likely. 

The competition for most clueless political pundits started when the U.S. embassy in Baghdad came under attack from Iranian proxy forces in Iraq last week. That prompted significant mainstream media figures to claim that this was “Trump’s Benghazi.” Both incidents involved U.S. embassies, so both events must be alike. Lone behold, they had no idea what they were talking about.

The Benghazi terrorist attack involved gross incompetence and negligence from Obama’s State Department (run by Hillary Clinton) that resulted in the deaths of 4 Americans, including the ambassador, Christopher Stevens. When the embassy in Benghazi reported they were under attack, the U.S. State Department ignored them for 13 hours before sending aid. 

To make matters worse, Obama and Clinton lied about the cause of the attack. They deflected outright, blaming it on a movie about the Prophet Mohammed, claiming it was one of the many riots across the Islamic world over this movie. This lie resulted in more riots and put the life of the American filmmaker in danger. In a nutshell, this was the Benghazi scandal.

Personally speaking, the aftermath of Benghazi saw Republicans overreach on their claims of treason, while the Democrats lied, stating it was not a big deal.

Trump ww3 Body #1.jpg

Fast forward to the past few weeks, and Iranian proxies in Iraqi Hezbollah launched rockets that killed an American. The U.S. then bombs the terrorist groups killing 25 Hezbollah militants. 

In response, the Islamic Republic supporters attacked the U.S. embassy in Baghdad while wearing military uniforms and waving the flags of Hezbollah (somehow, the MSM missed that part).  Instead of waiting around, Trump immediately reinforces the embassy, resulting in zero American deaths.

Pertinent to the geopolitics of the region and conveniently left out by the mainstream, there have been widespread protests against the control of the Iranian regime of Iraq for months now. “Iraqi” security forces killed thousands of Iraqi protestors under the command of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Originating in Lebanon, the protests have spread into Iran against the rule of the Islamic Republic. 

President Trump said he would hold Iran directly responsible for the work of their proxy group, and he followed through. He went straight for the jugular and eliminated Qassem Soleimani, the first in command of the IRGC’s Quds Force, and who was widely regarded as the brains of the global terrorist network they control. 

A broader explanation of the Quds Force and IRGC can be found in a previous article.

Folks, ignore the mass hysteria. WWIII is not happening.

A bevy of hot-takes from Hollywood Celebrities like Rose McGowen apologizing to Iran, or the Obama era spin doctors like Ben Rhodes, who sold the “Iran Deal” only to reverse course and acknowledge the real threat of Iran as a nuclear deterrent. My favourite might be Ilhan Omar swearing to get revenge for Soleimani and “hold Trump accountable.” At least she isn’t calling this a Jewish conspiracy, so I guess this is progress from her.

The hysteria aside, this airstrike is in no way illegal under U.S. law, and the claim that he would need Congressional approval is nonsensical. Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, which is a listed terrorist group in the U.S., and as such, authorized Congressional approval. Also, he was not in Iran. He was in the middle of an Iraqi war zone. 

Realistically, we are now two, maybe three significant steps away from a major war with Iran.

First, Qassem Soleimani is dead. Soleimani was the brains and, in a lot of ways, the heart of Iran’s global terror network. Taking him out of the picture is a significant blow to the IRGC’s capabilities to wage an effective campaign against the West. The Quds Force’s goal has always been foreign destabilization for the sake of Islamic conquest.

They started the war in Yemen by arming and training the Houthis, and they are the ones financing the terrorist groups launching rockets at Israel (Hamas, Hezbollah and Islamic jihad). They were the masterminds of the AIMA bombing in Argentina and the Mikonos restaurant in Germany.  Also, they are behind countless militant groups of Shia Muslims around the globe. 

Qassem Soleimani ran these networks effectively for 23 years. To the Islamic Republic, he was both indispensable and irreplaceable. Knowledge of the interactions between different terrorist groups, militants and foreign NGOs died last night with Soleimani. He took decades to build up the respect and trust of various armies and terrorists, which is not easily replaced. Suffice to say, the Islamic Republic’s ability to wage a cohesive long-term response against the U.S. took a significant hit when it lost its top asset.

Another thing to consider is that Iran is not a meritocracy. In the event the top U.S. general is killed, number 2 moves to 1, 3 to 2, and so forth. In totalitarian regimes, however, loyalty to the regime is valued over competence since maintaining power is the primary objective of the rulers. Those who rise the totem pole are likely not the best generals. 

Expect the nephew of influential ministers to gain positions they would never get in the West. Who do you think the Russians are more willing to work with, a terrorist mastermind who has controlled multiple proxies for decades, or some minister’s cousin? 

The second step away from war comes with understanding the language of the Middle East: Strength. If Iran and Saudi Arabia worked the same way the U.S. and Canada did, our gravest quarrel would be on free trade and resource development.  Unfortunately, the Middle East operates on different rules.

Take Iranian-Canada relations, for example. When Justin Trudeau came to power, he sought to undo Stephen Harper’s policy of disengaging from Iran and wanted closer diplomatic ties with the Islamic Republic. While publicly advocating for re-engagement with the Islamic Republic of Iran, Trudeau received pushback from the Conservatives. Iran’s response? They kidnapped, tortured and then murdered a Canadian Sociology professor Kavous Seyed-Emami, and took his wife hostage.

To understand the Iranian thought process in this example, throw out your western notions of diplomacy. Trudeau was going to give in to Iran for nothing, which in that part of the world is a sign of weakness. To this logic, weak people are easily motivated by fear, so killing Canadians should facilitate Iran’s bullying of Canada into a more favourable position. 

This has been a standard operating procedure for the Islamic Republic since 1979, and all of the pundits worried about further escalation were noticeably silent over the last few months when Iran attacked multiple Western tankers in the straits of Hormuz, fired on Saudi oil fields, and struck Western allies through proxies. After each subsequent attack, no explicit action was taken against them, so they kept pushing the envelope.  The critical difference between these attacks, and now? There was relatively little noise from the Islamic Republic, but soon, you can expect a lot of noise and little action.

Iran is in no position for war and lost its appetite for direct engagement after they lost millions in the Iran-Iraq war. The IRGC is currently fighting the Iranian people on the streets of Iran, so opening up a different front will leave them exposed at home. 

Moreover, the U.S. knows this and realizes its best chance at regime change is the Iranian people, not Western boots on the ground in Tehran. 

If Iran escalates further, what are their options?

So, where does this leave Iran’s military options?  To me, I see three bad choices. If the Islamic Republic wants to continue its use of proxy groups to hit U.S. allies, they have three options: Israel, Saudi Arabia and U.S. Forces in Iraq.

Israel might seem like the obvious choice, but attacking them now could be disastrous for Iran long-term. 

First, Israel is on high alert of a potential retaliation to their North. The Israelis also have excellent missile defence technology in their Iron Dome and the capability to punch back hard. The strike would come from Hassan Nesrellah’s Hezbollah forces in Lebanon, which, as I stated earlier, are on a very rocky political footing with the massive protest against them in Lebanon. Hezbollah has always relied on Iranian money to prop them up, which is in short supply since Trump reinstituted the sanctions. 

After the 2006 war between Israel and Lebanon, Iran was able to rebuild Southern Lebanon in six months. Iran and Hezbollah do not have this capability in 2020 to bribe the Lebanese people, so a subsequent conflict could spell the end of Hezbollah in the country and cost Iran its seat on the Mediterranean. 

Option two: Saudi Arabia. The last few decades have been an effective cold war between the two. I doubt Iran wants to get into a direct conflict now.  Plus, Saudi Arabia’s human rights record in recent wars is… sub-par. Also, they sit at the head of the UN Human Rights Council, so I doubt they’ll get much international assistance in this fight.

This leaves Iraq as their best bad option, but the strike on Soleimani should send a jolt of fear into the IRGC in Iraq. Soleimani was an incredibly high-value target, that not even most Iranian officials were aware of his day to day whereabouts. For the U.S. to locate and eliminate him on his way to the Baghdad airport means that Iraqi intelligence officials were not happy with Iran’s presence in their country and actively worked alongside the Americans. This will make any prolonged campaign against the U.S. in Iraq nearly impossible.  

Even though the media won’t report it, the Iraqi people are against Iran. They have been risking their lives for months now, protesting, and we saw this expressed last night when they took to the streets to celebrate Soleimani’s death. 

Over the next few weeks, expect a lot of noise from Iran, their proxies and political pundits who had to Google what the IRGC Quds Force was last night. But mostly it will be just that, noise. 

Rest easy knowing that World War Three is not around the corner, and all that has happened is that half of the world’s terrorist organizations have been thrown into a state of panic, with their boss dead and their money supply in question.

Daniel Bordman

Daniel is the host of political satire show Uninterrupted, runs multiple podcasts and has written for a variety of publications. Daniel is also the communications coordinator of the Canadian Antisemitism Education Foundation. You can find him on Twitter here. Uninterrupted on YouTube

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