On Jan. 3, Iran’s Major General Qasem Solemani, the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, was killed in a targeted drone strike by U.S. forces at the command of President Donald Trump. Many have praised this operation, seeing Solemaini as an enemy responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American soldiers, and the Trump administration has claimed that he posed an imminent threat to U.S. forces in the region. Others have questioned if the threat was imminent and see the killing as a rash and poorly-timed decision that could destabilize an already volatile situation, endanger lives and start another Middle Eastern conflict. Do you believe the president was justified in ordering Soleimani’s killing, considering the broader context and the potential consequences? What do you make of Trump’s claim that Solemani posed an imminent threat to American lives in the region? 

Mehmet Zorluoglu ’21

Much of the cable news and White House driven narrative surrounding the killing of Qasem Soleimani has selectively ignored aspects of heightening tensions between the US and Iran. The dominant narrative, that Soleimani is a US enemy responsible for American deaths while posing an imminent present-day threat to American lives are left as complementary rather than primary concerns in light of largely dismissed potential consequences of Trump’s decision. Apart from the fact that the President has not provided any compelling evidence of an imminent threat that the strike he ordered would have swiftly neutralized, questions of destabilization and harming the international reputation of the United States should feature more than it has in the minds of pundits and citizens alike. If intentions should play any role in assessing such decisions, then this move will surely only make destabilization and a potentially violent and bloody war, be it civil due to economic and social distress which the Iranian public blames on its own government, or with the United States which will likely be even more deadly than the disastrous Iraq War, more likely. The potential for destabilization resulting from this decision for the Middle East in general, and Iran in particular, might be what the administration had in mind, however. That is if we can even ascribe to them any sort of coherent planning, strategy, or thought process when the buck stops with a mindless, indolent babbler.

Mehmet Zorluoglu ’21 is a Politics and Philosophy double major and is a staff writer for the Justice. 

Prof. Gary Samore (POL)

Many legal scholars consider President Trump’s order to kill General Soleimani lawful on the grounds of self defense, regardless of whether Iranian plans to attack U.S. facilities and forces in the region were “imminent.” The more difficult issue is whether the killing was wise.   So far, Trump has eliminated a dangerous enemy leader without suffering serious costs.  Iran’s limited retaliation allowed Trump to avoid further military attacks on Iran, which could have lead to a war that both sides wish to avoid. After the Soleimani killing, Iran announced that it would no longer be constrained by the nuclear agreement, but it has not taken any significant steps towards producing nuclear weapons. Pressure on the Iraqi government to expel U.S. forces has eased. After the tragic downing of a civilian aircraft by Iran’s military, public attention inside Iran shifted away from vengeance against the U.S. toward anger against the Islamic Republic. Going forward, the question is how Iran will react if the U.S. continues its campaign of maximum economic pressure. Will Iran lie low, hoping to avoid provoking Trump while waiting for the U.S. Presidential elections? Or, will Iran resume attacks on oil tankers and installations in the Persian Gulf and encourage its various allies to resume attacks on U.S. personnel? In the latter case, the killing of Soleimani will not have intimidated Iran, but instead created conditions for a higher risk of military conflict between Iran and the U.S. 

Gary Samore is a Professor of the Practice of Politics and Crown Family Director of the Crown Center for Middle East Studies.

Prof. Peter Gould (PAX)

I react as a professor. I would not be able to teach my Brandeis class if I had to face those empty seats! Those beautiful young people, back from their Persian honeymoon, back to Canada, back to their studies, back to loved ones — their lives lost in a fiery instant … all innocent collateral damage to decades of hatred. How much longer must we wake up to sorrowful news like this? I blame the patriarchy: a power-hungry autocratic narcissist beats his big chest. Religious zealots thunder back from over the sea. Dangerous tensions rise to the breaking point. Misdirections by the leaders, too, to their own citizens: "if you impeach me, I'm going to do this." Or, "if you protest in the streets, I'll galvanize you into war." Then: a drone assassination, and a missile fired in mistake, at night. And 170 people, most of them young and full of life like you, never get to see another day, and grow, and learn, and make love, make peace.

Peter Gould is a Lecturer in the Peace, Conflict, and Coexistence Studies department.

David Piergo 

Eliminating Solemani reminded Iran that continuing escalation is unacceptable and killed one of the most dangerous men in the Middle East. In recent months Iran has committed frequent acts of aggression in the region. The administration’s response to all this had been relatively muted, but on January 3rd, Iran was made aware that it could not attack US forces with impunity. Solemani’s mission was to export terror and violence. He provided Shiite militias in Iraq with IED’s that killed American Soldiers. His Qud’s force maintained Bashar Al-Assad’s brutal regime in Syria and is implicated in the bombing of a Jewish center in Buenos Aires that killed 85 people. Rather than destabilizing the region, the strike will lead to a more cautious and constrained Iran. Regardless whether or not American troops were in imminent danger, it is certain that they have been made safer due to the reestablishment of deterrence and the death of well accomplished terrorist.

David Piergo is a former student of Brandeis University and is currently an active duty U.S Army soldier working as an intelligence analyst.