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Kathleen Parker: Coming soon to a theater near you?

By Kathleen Parker

WASHINGTON — It did have a wag-the-dog feel to it, a cynic might say.

With the Senate discussing plans for President Trump’s (albeit uncertain) impeachment trial, the U.S. commander in chief ordered the killing of Iran’s top security and intelligence commander, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, at Baghdad International airport.

By most accounts, he deserved to die. He had American blood on his hands and was behind Iran’s deadly clandestine operations abroad. “However,” said nearly every so-called expert snagged by American news programs to comment on a variety of hypotheticals related to Iran.

Speculation was wild as a spring break: What would happen next? Would Iran, which promised revenge, attack Israel? Would Iranian citizens feel emboldened and demand regime change? Does the United States remove a sitting president so soon after what some have called an act of war?

In the 1997 movie “Wag the Dog,” the U.S. president manufactured a faux war in Albania to distract from a sex scandal just two weeks before his likely reelection. A spin doctor engaged to help manage the mess accurately predicted that the media would focus entirely on the war, forgetting all about that other inconvenience. And, voila.

Coincidentally, the comedy appeared in theaters just months before then-President Bill Clinton, enmeshed in a sex scandal of his own, sent 14 cruise missiles to pulverize the Al Shifa pharmaceutical factory in Khartoum, Sudan, on a day that Monica Lewinsky testified before a grand jury.

Talk about the tail wagging the dog.

Or, rather, should I say, nature imitating art? Clinton’s attack reportedly was in response to al-Qaida’s bombing of U.S. embassies in Kenya and Tanzania.

Needless to say, there’s nothing humorous about what transpired last week. According to Defense Secretary Mark Esper, Soleimani “was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”

Intelligence sources helped pinpoint Soleimani’s location. As military actions go, the killing of Soleimani was one for the textbooks.

One may also find consolation in the fact that American intelligence gathering has apparently improved dramatically since the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, which was based on bad, if widely believed, information.

What’s clear is that Soleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force, had been instrumental in attacks against Americans and our allies for years.

Given such, why wouldn’t U.S. policy be to remove him as soon as possible?

Certainly, decisions of when and where are tethered to legalities and congressional oversight, depending on circumstances, as well as international considerations.

Given Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear agreement — and his cage-rattling foreign policy — Soleimani’s death probably shouldn’t come as a surprise. A worthy speculation is: Why did it take so long?

It is disturbing, nonetheless, to consider that Trump might have been prompted to act for reasons other than the nation’s best interest.

Reactions around the world will be interesting to observe, if not very surprising.

More testosterone-venting; more pistol-cocking; more threats, taunts and, yes, probably, violence.

Here at home, partisans brawled and bloviated as expected.

Kathleen Parker writes for the Washington Post.



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