National Security & Defense

Iran Loses Its Terror-Master

The Iranian flag flutters in Vienna, Austria, March 4, 2019. (Leonhard Foeger/Reuters)

Trump’s red line against the Iranian regime harming Americans was very real, and Qasem Soleimani is dead.

The U.S. killed the Iranian terror-master at the Baghdad airport where he reportedly had just arrived from Syria. The head of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, Soleimani was the instrument of Iranian imperialism around the region, building up proxy forces, overseeing operations, and executing a geopolitical vision. He existed at the very center of the Iranian regime and was uniquely skilled at his role, honed over decades of ruthlessness and cunning.

He was also a cold-blooded killer of Americans, responsible for the deaths of hundreds of our servicemen during the Iraq war. He deserved to die for that alone. According to a Pentagon statement, Soleimani was developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and around the region, which isn’t hard to believe, since that was his job.

The Trump administration and Tehran have been involved in a cat-and-mouse game for months now, with Iran engaged in provocations designed to elicit an American response. Trump had been hyper-cautious, only setting out a warning against harming Americans. After an attack by an Iranian-supported militia, Kataib Hezbollah, on a base in Iraq killed an American contractor, the U.S. retaliated with airstrikes against the group. That led to the Iranian-organized storming of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. The killing of Soleimani, a legal act against an enemy combatant under the rules of war, is a stunning counter-move by President Trump.

Neither George W. Bush or Barack Obama dared to take such a step, and it surely has rocked the Iranian regime to its core. The question is how it reacts. It has cards to play, whether in stirring the pot further in Iraq, hitting our allies via its proxies, or carrying out terror attacks in the West or even on U.S. soil. But the U.S. has the power to see and raise Iran in any escalation, and Tehran, already struggling under stringent U.S. sanctions and facing internal unrest, has more to lose.

The decades-long conflict with Iran may be about to enter a phase of open hostilities not seen since the Reagan administration. President Trump has made a bold move. In the weeks ahead, he and his team will have to match it with planning, canniness, and perseverance. We face a determined enemy that is, thankfully, down one proficient, bloody-minded commander courtesy of the business end of an American drone.

The Editors comprise the senior editorial staff of the National Review magazine and website.

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