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Wednesday, January 8, 2020

Just Speculating: Did Iran Hand Us Soleimani?

OK. Don't hold me to anything I am going to write here. This is just me speculating. I am not an expert on Iran, but then neither is any one of the dozens and dozens of pundits who has suddenly  appeared on television and in print offering views on what's going on with and within Iran. None of those folks knows. So you and I can be as "expert" as any of them.

After some spirited discussions with my clever number two Diploson, I am coming to the conclusion--I can be talked out of it--that General Qasim Soleimani got handed to us by a faction or factions within Iran's ruling circle. Let me 'splain.

The late unlamented QS was a "terror mastermind," designing and heading terror operations carried out by the Iranians for the past thirty or so years. Those ops included, among many others, the bombing of the Marine barracks in Beirut, the bombing of the Khobar Towers, the bombing of the Jewish center in Buenos Aires, attacks on our troops in Iraq, perhaps Benghazi, and, of course, the recent attack on the US Embassy in Baghdad. He set up and maintained a network of proxy organizations around the world to carry out terror operations against Israel, Iraq, Saudi Arabia, Yemen, Lebanon, and on and on. In recent months, he had been brought in to help suppress dissent inside Iran; his Revolutionary Guard thugs shot, detained, and tortured thousands of anti-regime Iranian protestors.

What do we know about the internal workings of the Iranian regime? Not much--and I don't think those talking heads on TV do, either.

We safely can assume, however, that the Tehran regime is beset with all the "normal" rivalries and schisms present in such gangster regimes. The rise to prominence of QS, and his increasingly dangerous behavior, had to raise concerns among many within that regime. I can see some concluding that QS and his policies would lead Iran into a war with the United States, especially under Trump, that Iran could not win, and that could result in the destruction of the Tehran regime. Don't forget, under Trump the regime has faced increasing and very harmful economic sanctions. Life is not very pleasant in Iran.

Don't, therefore, be surprised if it turns out that people within the regime, through any number of channels and proxies, could have slipped us the info on where QS was, where he was going to be, and what he was doing. They might have helped paint the target on him. The speed with which the US acted against QS in Iraq was quite remarkable, and would seem to indicate we were ready and waiting for him.

Thus far, it seems, it seems, it seems, that Iran's much threatened retaliation for our pulverizing QS and his cohorts has consisted of firing off some ballistic missiles into the Iraqi desert and claiming "revenge." The Iranians, reportedly, tipped off the Iraqis and the neutral Finns that they were going to launch these missiles presumably so that US forces got tipped off and moved out of danger. It would seem, there's that word, that the Iranians want to put an end to the current confrontation in a face-saving manner.

We, of course, will have to see what the President says this morning, and whether Iran or the US has any further actions it will undertake.

If I am full of nonsense, please don't hesitate to let me know. I know you will. Just remember what I said at the top.

40 comments:

  1. Well, there don't seem to be any casualties from the rocket attacks, so this theory sort of holds water.

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  2. Interesting report from the field (Iraq) http://voxday.blogspot.com/2020/01/mailvox-view-from-field.html

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  3. The *only* counterpoint I'd have is that Soleimani reportedly never hid his whereabouts, particularly from the US. He's been describes as 'taunting' the US with his whereabouts.
    But he certainly did seem 'too big for his britches'.

    - reader #1482

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    1. Not disagreeing with our host at all - more like "qualifying" what #1482's suggesting:

      https://www.longwarjournal.org/archives/2020/01/qods-force-commander-soleimanis-carelessness-put-him-in-the-u-s-militarys-crosshairs.php

      Do note the date of the article.

      JK

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  4. You put forth a plausible scenario, and one that would be extremely difficult to ascertain. I've read, that QS had been moving around the Middle East, prior to his elimination, rather unconcernedly, though this too I have no data to support.

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  5. That is a plausible scenario.

    A counterpoint might be that if other factions in Iran wanted rid of QS, they could easily have done it in Iran. Or if that Iranian faction wanted to get rid of him & blame an outsider, it would have probably been much easier to set QS up to be destroyed by the Israelis (QS spent a lot of time in Lebanon) -- much lower risk than dealing with potential repercussions from a deliberately unpredictable President Trump.

    On the other hand, maybe there are 12th Imam fundamentalists who really do want war with the US, as a way of triggering the 12th Imam's return? And were quite prepared to sacrifice QS to that greater goal.

    All will be revealed in time.

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  6. Shooting down that Ukraine airliner will further limit their options, even if it was accidental like the Vincennes incident in 1988.

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  7. what with the speed of action taken leads me to believe the action was taken way below the executive level management levels. the intell on mani's whereabouts is commonly available in the community. he and his staff were very public in recent years with very little effort put into opsec of their movements. they even radio in the clear for a limo and on occasion have announced on air who was on board an aircraft.
    good riddance to aberrant trash

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  8. in any power structure of an authoritarian state, any one gathering power to themselves is a target for the ambitious persons around them. what better way to eliminate him than to out him to his enemies.

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  9. I think it was just a matter of Intel keeping tabs of his whereabouts and had been doing so for several years. Soleimani had become increasing brazen. He was in a Twitter battle with President Trump recently. So, President Trump knew who this guy was. Other Presidents have been presented with opportunities to kill him but passed. Solemani likely assumed that he had immunity to being rubbed out, so he went ahead to visit Baghdad. The Ayatollah had also just had a Twitter spat with President Trump where the Ayatollah told President Trump, "American can do nothing". So, this kind of lends some credibility to perhaps is was put out to be targeted. Because taunting Trump hasn't really turned out well for those who engage in that.

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  10. Good idea. However, the mullahs have to be hoping he does leave his press conference and order a bowl of ice cream, or a chocolate cake, or ...

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  11. i've also read in other places that he has been traveling w/minimal security cautions. OTOH, if we grant that, perhaps one of the factions let us know that if we did take him out, the response would be both shrill (vocal) and muted (action).

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  12. I've been waiting for a President to treat Iran like an adult.
    Child rearing has it's challenges, particularly separating out what someone 'says' versus what they really mean or want.
    With adults, it's imperative to take people at face-value.
    When a guy on the street tells you he's going to shoot you, it makes no sense to stand there and tell everybody "he's just bluffing".
    When Iran declares it's going to 'destroy America', the USA should respond with assumption that Iran is serious.

    - reader #1482

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    1. "When Iran declares it's going to 'destroy America', the USA should respond with assumption that Iran is serious."

      Very occasionally #1482, the USA does precisely that:

      https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Operation_Praying_Mantis

      JK

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    2. ok... one action, 30 years ago, with little or no long term repercussions. Technically my statement was insufficient, but in general, even that response didn't reduce Iran's domestic oil infrastructure, only offshore elements. And Iran continued to sell oil in mass quantities and continues to do so today. The only change possible will be removing that oil money that so easily converts to human blood.

      I certainly hope Trump takes Iran's oil down during his second term, as I can see how it would be tricky during an election cycle with possible skyrocketing gas prices etc. But then again, Trump's taken on more unusual steps and won.

      - reader #1482

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    3. Reagan I'd posit, being constrained additionally by the Cold War almost certainly was under a *more complicated* set of possible moves - Trump's not so constrained.

      Plus, in my humble opinion, Russia probably wouldn't take it so badly were an oil competitor be removed from the market.

      JK

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    4. Looks like > 90% of oil/gas production comes from a sliver along the persian gulf. Seems reduction and denial of that region would be achievable without troop involvement. First, a no-fly-zone, then a no-transport zone perhaps? And yes, Russia would laugh all the way to the bank while reciting to Khamenei "We are your ally, but our hands are just tied.." (by the golden laces of high oil prices..)
      Trump also isn't likely playing by what I would think to be 'election year rules'. I don't know what rules he plays by, but he surprises me quite a bit with how he "goes unconventional" and still comes out on top.

      - reader #1482

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  13. "Some might argue that the drone strike at Baghdad Airport was another example of a high-tech operation by the US against its foes that was a tactical success but a strategic failure. Holders of this view might infer, in light of the Iranian regime’s newly strengthened ability to stir outrage against the US, that it is coming out of this series of clashes as the winner despite the loss of Soleimani. This is an erroneous reading.Soleimani’s death is a major blow to Iran.

    https://besacenter.org/wp-content/uploads/2020/01/168-The-Soleimani-Killing-Initial-Assessments.pdf

    An Israeli think tank POV.

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  14. May I dare to hope that the USA has been rebuilding its humint capabilities? Back during my own short and inglorious diplomatic career, US intelligence capabilities were generally seen as something of a joke.

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  15. Saw Trumps morning address and thought about it through the day. The Democrats are going to be even more enraged. He did not come out as a bloodthirsty ghoul nor did he announce any surprise attacks from the US after the missile strike. The last 48 hours of the punditry beating the war drums fell apart as WW3 is not imminent...and never was. Trump was a well measured Statesman.
    His entrance was spectacular. Setup in the hallway between great pillars with stone faced Men of Arms on each flank. The doorway opens to a blinding morning sun and Trump enters out of the glare...a godlike figure intent on passing judgement. Before even saying good morning he laid his cards on the table: As long as he is President Iran will never be allowed a nuclear weapon.
    He then commented on the rebuilt US military and the fearsome power he commands, then talked about the atrocities QS had performed...on other Muslims. Then he reminded everyone that it was the money Obama gave to Iran that paid for the activities of QS (oh crap...Trump just went their). Then he jogged to the destruction of ISIS. Telling the Iranians that we have lots of practice killing barbarians...and that even after ISIS was destroyed we still went after the Leader and killed him (are you listening Leaders of Iran???). And the closer was Trump even suggesting that their were some things that the US and Iran may even have in common that could be worked on together,
    Trump allowed the Iranians their victory/revenge for public consumption. If the Iranians now do anything more provacative, no one can say that Trump did not give the a chance.
    The pundits look like idiots, the Democrats look like idiots (I hate repeating myself), Obama was made complicit in the atrocities of QS and Quds, and the Iranians have a lot to consider now. Trump did not escalate and he was gracious in his victory. It is now Irans move.

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  16. You make a very credible argument.

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  17. As I learned about Suleimani, it seemed to me that he was the key piece to remove to permit some change in Iran relations. Not to mention, it sounds like his removal is a key piece to show support for the Iranian people protesting. Suleimani's removal really "shakes the box" as Scott Adams says of Trump. After all, Suliemani was purported to be the 2nd most powerful person in Iraq, but really, he had the guns so... And he was specifically rewarded in the Iran nuke agreement with amnesty and money.

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  18. For your additional consideration: https://www.irishtimes.com/news/world/us/tehran-s-overrated-military-strategist-made-many-political-miscalculations-1.4131089

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  19. SusanH -- Please warn us when you link to a an article sourced from the New York Times and written by Thomas Friedman. I guess you meant it as a joke -- but now I have to go and take a shower.

    Typical Friedman summary on the key priority in the politically unstable Middle East: "If governments there don’t stop fighting and come together to build resilience against climate change …"

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    1. imo, the entire goal of 'climate change' and everything that's led us to where we are today with it has been to end wars among humans by inventing a 'common enemy'. It's been that goal since the first goons latched onto the physical phenomena of the greenhouse effect. Certainly many other efforts at obtaining and maintaining power over other have attached to the goal, but that was the original goal or the hysteria.
      The entirety of the *problem* with regards to that effort is that it's built upon misinformation, misdirection, half-truths, and (in latter times) flat-out lies.

      Lasting peace cannot be built upon lies any more than a marriage can thrive by 'looking the other way' in the face of infidelity.

      - reader #1482

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    2. No Friedman fan, but he made some interesting observations regarding Soleimani.

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    3. I think his insights are very typical for the self-culture-absorbed point of view. Suleimani and Khamenei worked towards the goals of Iran as provided by the revolution and its theocracy. Whether those coincided with what westerners think are strategically valuable for what westerners think are Iran's goals makes no difference to anybody. They (Khamenei/Khomenei) have been consistent in their goals and methods since 1979 while the US has vacillated in the extreme over its counter-approach. (ie, the same nuke terms were proposed to Clinton, Bush and Obama, and will be proposed again to Trump) Those are *the* terms. Clinton and Bush said 'no', Obama said 'yes'.

      They have been consistent in their goals and methods, which suggests a devout faith to their religious assumptions.

      Iran doesn't want an empire or a bunch of vassal states. They want the return/rise of the 12th imam. Khamenei, Khomenei, and all their cohorts and worker bees are avowed 'twelvers'.

      They have a religion that they espouse in both words and deeds. Why does the west have such a hard time taking them at their word? Why do we constantly second guess at their 'true' motivations?
      Was Soleimani really taunting the US by being cavalier with his whereabouts? Or was he just living out an expectation that he'd witness the rise of the Mahdi due to his personal contributions (I don't *know* that was an expectation of his, but the point is that our media assumes he was taunting the US because that's all our reporters can imagine as motivation for him)?

      It's possible Iran outed him. But I suspect if so, they would have done so due to doubting his faith, not because he was 'too powerful'.

      These guys aren't hiding their intention to destroy the US (and Israel), at which time in their plans Americans would have the *opportunity* to join them in their religion (or die or live in destitute ignominy).

      For a lot of liberals, the concept of Iran winning a war with the US is abstractly attractive. Constantly searching for hope outside their broken families, Khamenei and his ilk offer an indecent proposal.

      - reader #1482

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  20. Really interesting point of view, Diplo.
    The interesting element of the QS hit was the location, timing and the fact that there was no collateral damage. The US didn't have to kill the entire wedding party. This may be an indication of some very solid human intelligence,but not from Iran. A more likely candidate would be Syrian, Iraqi or others high up in the terror network that got tired of being bullied or perhaps shorted on money or material by QS/Iran.
    The other significant point, at least to me, is that the hit was juxtaposed to the attack on the embassy by mourners/militia. Tying the hit on QS as retaliation for the actions of the proxies puts Iran on notice that there is no more plausible deniability or looking the other way when ever some clown in Yeman fires a rocket at the House of Saud. No more tit for tat. It put Iran on notice that its their circus and their clowns.

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    1. It was an escalation... and and official 'outing' of Iran's well-known control over Iraq.

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    2. https://foreignpolicy.com/2015/09/28/russia-iran-iraq-and-syria-to-share-intelligence-on-islamic-state/

      JK

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  21. Castro did the same with Che when he got to be more trouble than he was worth. Shipped him out for Eternal Revolution, just not in Cuba anymore.

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  22. Think you're right. The mullahs were scared of him, the people hated him. I heard(not confirmed yet) that 56 of Salami's guys have been arrested. Seems that the only buddies Salami had are bathhouse boy and kerry.

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  23. Also waiting to hear how many of the Canadians were Iranian/Canadians and involved in the nuclear business. Princess Justine of Canada sure wants it to go away and hasn't said a bad thing about Iran. Think the plane was shot down by a rival faction of the mullah's.

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    1. Airline published the passenger list:

      https://www.flyuia.com/uk/en/news/2020/flight-ps752-passenger-list

      At a cursory glance, I could identify only 4 names that seemed non-Persian, and all 4 seemed to be the same family members (Lindberg).

      Presumably, the vast majority of "Canadians" are actually Iranians with Canadian passports.

      America has the same problem with these interlopers - and no, the vast majority of these kinds of people are loyal to their native "Iranian/Shia" culture, not America.

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  24. Certainly plausible.

    Definitely worth considering for future reference and connections.

    At the very least, interesting and worthy of a brainstorm session to map out.

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  25. Salami's pen pals http://ace.mu.nu/archives/385239.php

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  26. I would go with the long war journal, Suleimani believed the US would do nothing, and based on past experience with US Presidents since Jimmy Carter, with a little exception from Reagan, that made sense. A couple of articles are making the point the Jimmy Carter's administration deliberately ignored Iranian Government provocations, and the following Presidents did the same. Trump just signaled he's holding Iran responsible for Iranian anti US actions, which is a huge policy change. Donald Trump and the mythmakers - Caroline Glick

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  27. mani may have believed the trump admin was so absorbed with congress and therefore would not respond to the slow escalation occuring in bagdad, like the frog put in the cold pot of water then heated up.
    on the other hand, i am feeling the burn for the idea that the power structure in iran wanted mani taken out of the internal politic equation in tehran. enemy of my enemy and all that.
    it's also probable that the power structure in tehran want's to go a different path than mani wanted or he disagreed with and he needed to become a martyr for the regime to exploit. If so, for the mullahs its a win/win. the only reason I can think this would be so is internal pressure in iran to change from outright combat with the USA to something somewhat subtler; which again is not something mani would condone. mani liked the blood on his hands. it was his thing according to my own persian contacts.

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  28. I feel like the immediate beneficiaries of killing Suleimani are the protesters. Had we not killed Suleimani, he would likely be personally putting down the civilian uprising as we write. The regime lost an asset that would have been used against the people to stay in power. I'm not so sure they would have done that in the face of a rapidly heating revolution.

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