The Suleimani calculation

Doubts grow over US case for Suleimani assassination as Iran urges revenge
Rockets crash close to US embassy compound in Baghdad while huge crowds mourn Iranian general

Will people die as a result of his killing?

Sure.

But that’s not the correct calculation. He was killing tens of thousands anyway. The correct calculation therefore is whether fewer will die now he’s dead than would have had he lived.

Sure, there are also other relevant things like the morality of killing an enemy and all that. But the base and utilitarian working out is not how many now, but how many now minus those who won’t.

59 thoughts on “The Suleimani calculation”

  1. ” The correct calculation therefore is whether fewer will die now he’s dead than would have had he lived.”

    What’s the morality of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel formenting a civil war in Syria, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions?

  2. People shouldn’t confuse this killing with the invasion of Pakistani territory by US forces to execute Osama Bin Laden because that was authorised by a black man who is a Democrat.

  3. But the base and utilitarian working out is not how many now, but how many now minus those who won’t.

    Which is trying to prove a negative. A hiding to nothing.

  4. We will get the answer to an interesting question. Is Iran fully stretched so has no capability to escalate its mischief, or does it have reserve capabilities it hasn’t used yet.
    My bet is on the former.

  5. Perhaps the calculation should be the lives saved by Trump not reacting to the shooting down of a US drone, which inevitably encouraged the Iranians to stage the attacks on the US embassy in Iraq. Trump equally inevitably felt he needed to react to show that the US couldn’t be bullied with impunity.

    I suppose it’s better to kill a couple of people who are really involved in this sort of nonsense than several more or less innocent Iranian soldiers. Of course I may feel this way because I’m merely a bit player myself.

  6. Random innocent Iraqis were (are) being killed every day just going about the business of living. Suddenly the media and the left are all over the killing of this one particular person and worried about the legality It’s nonsense. Kabuki politics. What did they think the Predators are deployed for?

    (And the Labour party leader candidates seem to have forgotten why we and the US are in Iraq.)

  7. Philip, “Is Iran fully stretched so has no capability”

    It could also have an effect similar to the Berlin raid during the Battle of Britain which (traditionally at least) caused the person in Berlin to switch targets from say Biggin Hill to London.

  8. “What’s the morality of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel formenting a civil war in Syria, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions?”

    Just them? You forget that the Cameron government was once seriously considering becoming the air force of that brave, rag-tag band of noble freedom fighters that was to become ISIS. Opposing that was one of the few times Jack Straw was right about anything.

    Tim, everyone in every political discussion needs to learn one thing loud and clear: always look at both sides of the balance sheet. It will never happen.

  9. @ Jonathan

    In case you hadn’t noticed, the entire Middle-East has been ( even more of ) a bloody mess for the past decade or three..
    “Morality”, especially the “Western” flavour you seem to allude to, hasn’t ever played a role there since time immemorial anyway. Different cultural branch…
    They do things quite differently over there, and “morality” will only earn you a shallow grave if you want to play with the Big Boys there.

    Only a fool and moron ignores the fact that there’s been a war on in that area for decades, with about 12 players and 5 sides, plus hangers-on. It’s just never formally declared to save on Paperwork, and so that people can pretend Nothing Is Going On…

  10. What’s the morality of the US, Saudi Arabia and Israel formenting a civil war in Syria, killing hundreds of thousands and displacing millions?

    It’s ‘fomenting’. I think people like Jonathan get confused with ‘ferment’.

  11. Doubts grow over US case for Suleimani assassination as Iran urges revenge

    What are they gonna do – DOUBLE Death To America?

    the assassination also appeared to have driven a wedge between Washington and its allies, with the French president, Emmanuel Macron, telephoning Iraq’s acting prime minister to express support for the country’s sovereignty in an implicit rebuke of the strike

    Take THAT, Tromp! You’ve been implicitly rebuked – the worst kind of rebuke. I’m sure it was of great comfort to the Iraqi PM that another Muslim country supports his sovereignty.

    Saudi Arabia, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates also called for calm amid concerns that Suleimani’s death may shift the foundations of Washington’s relationships in the region. All three states are US allies and consider themselves to be possible arenas for Iranian retaliation

    Iran has already been fucking with them – those Saudi oil facilities didn’t bomb themselves.

    While Trump continued to revel in his decision, tweeting on Saturday night that if Iran retaliated the US had identified 52 Iranian sites that would be targeted “very fast and very hard”

    Which is beautiful, BTW. Absolutely perfect framing to drive home his message to both Americans and random Mohammedans in Durkadurkastan – he said the 52 sites were chosen to remember the 52 American hostages Iran kidnapped, humiliated and tortured.

    In a region that never forgets or forgives, this is like poetry – it rhymes.

    there were also fears in Europe and Britain that potential consequences for an already volatile global order had not been considered

    Like the consequences they ignored when they destroyed the legitimate government of Libya and turned the country over to ISIS? Or when they were hoping to goad Trump into doing the same thing in Syria?

    The former MI6 chief Sir John Sawers described Suleimani’s assassination as an “act of war”.

    What does this superannuated civil service pansy consider the Iranians attacking the US embassy in Baghdad, then – before the dust even settled – flying in one of their top terrorists to Baghdad to gloat and plan more Death To America? An act of peace?

    Let’s be clear: Trump did nothing wrong.

    After decades of self-harming foreign policy – randomly destroying various countries and pouring buckets of blood and trillions of treasure into the desert in a futile effort to turn inbred Moon-cultists into liberal democrats, punctuated with schizophrenic episodes of sending huge pallets of cash to regimes that officially want Americans dead, Trump has stumbled on a foreign policy that works.

    He pulls a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Trump way.

  12. Quite simply, Iran is The Enemy. It has been for 40 years. The invasion of Iraq was an utterly foolish enterprise that empowered the Persian imperialists and drained redources and goodwill from the main task.
    It might be possible to starve Iran into submission and/,or a new revolution which is the more favourable option rather than invasion. Taking out the leaders of the regime can only help, surely ? But of course there is also the possibility that the replacement is worse.

  13. I suppose it’s better to kill a couple of people who are really involved in this sort of nonsense than several more or less innocent Iranian soldiers.

    Exactly.

    Clinton, Bush and Obama*-era foreign policy would’ve reacted with impotent threats of consequences never being the same again, followed by belatedly bombing some poor innocent goat-botherers at a wedding party or something. All that achieved was to make average Muzzies hate America even more, while the top guys laughed up their keffiyehs.

    Trump took the Michael Corleone approach – whack their generals and made men. That’s a lot more effective.

    *Obama gets props for authorising the demise of Bin Laden as per Andrew C. He probably should’ve immediately punished his “allies” in Pakistan for hiding him though.

    Obviously the US is hideously entangled in too many contradictory alliances with false friends, hence the recent insincere kvetching about Trump dumping the Greatest-Ally-Of-The-Month, the Kurds, in favour of its other Completely Trustworthy Ally, Turkey.

    There’s no magic solution to this given how awesomely corrupt Washington DC is and the very real risk of impeachment or assassination to any US president who bucks the system without first neutralising his internal enemies, so Trumpian realpolitik is probably as good as it gets.

  14. Excavator Man – not saying its calculated that way but definitely could be an effect. If they go from successful in the region and switch targets and get pwned it could be said to be worth it.

  15. Yes, rhoda, steve.

    It’s Obama’s argument: “Oh, that will make them mad.” While they are already killing people daily.

  16. I don’t think anyone thinks any politician in DC or elsewhere actually calculates by means of the “utilitarian greater good” so I’m not sure whether the net vs gross distinction matters much (aside from all the difficulties of estimating a counterfactual etc). I don’t even reckon many US voters would agree that a US president *should* be working on a “utilitarian greater good” basis – think they’d prefer their president to do whatever is best for America (or a subtle distinction, what is best for Americans).

    Was this attack good for America? I don’t think we will know for another five to ten years, and even then we won’t know if we could have ended up in a similar position via another path – if the attack hadn’t taken place now I’m sure Iran would have continued undertaking irritating but (they hoped) “sub-threshold” attacks, until eventually the US ended up responding in some form anyway. Maybe this opportunity was regarded as too good to pass up, and on the basis of “we will have to respond at some point but if we do it later we can’t guarantee that we get this guy” the temptation was too great. Whether that was just and whether that was (strategically) wise are two separate questions I feel.

  17. Steve: ’ He pulls a knife, you pull a gun, he sends one of yours to the hospital, you send one of his to the morgue. That’s the Trump way.’

    Beautiful!

  18. My guess is the Iranians have run out of the pallets of cash plus unfrozen $150bn courtesy of Obama, choosing to spend it on military adventures. The presstitutes also forget about other countries in the region such as the Gulf and Saudis who are anxious to contain and punish Iran and who also operate intelligence services.

    Biden was also involved in Iraq in 2010 and ensured the proIranian group took power rather than the proAmerican presidential candidate who won most votes. His brother, with no construction or Middle Eastern experience won a huge construction contract.

    https://freebeacon.com/national-security/biden-sided-with-terror-leader-soleimani-in-handing-control-of-iraq-to-iran/amp/?__twitter_impression=true

    https://www.washingtonexaminer.com/15b-contract-in-iraq-for-bidens-little-brother-exposes-obama-ahead-of-debate

  19. @myburningears: Tactically it was wise….
    On the basis of people being more familiar with the setup, and Iran in effect copying it: They eliminated the equivalent of a Totenkopf-SS general, along with one of his prime comrad-in-arms.

    This is a Good Thing any time of day.

  20. ”The correct calculation therefore is whether fewer will die now he’s dead than would have had he lived.”

    I don’t think that is the correct calculation – not least because neither number can be known; and mostly because the quantity of deaths is not the primary concern.

    The correct calculation (calculated bet) for Trump is whether the action is more beneficial to the US than not taking the action.

    As someone who believes threats are better dealt with when smaller rather than larger, I think Trump’s action is better late than later. I’d have punished them badly for the $130m drone shootdown provocation, but Trump’s a lot smarter than I am so maybe the Iranians being emboldened by his restraint was good chess. He might also have needed time to get assets into the area.

  21. The utilitarian argument is the Atom Bomb argument – shortened the war by several years and hundreds of thousands of lives – with the added bonus of says “hey! we’ve got The Bomb!”.

  22. “And the Labour party leader candidates seem to have forgotten why we and the US are in Iraq.” Oh yeah, it was to destroy all those Weapons of Mass Destruction, wasn’t it?

  23. @Grikath

    What I don’t think will be clear for some time, is whether in addition to being a tactical success, this decision blossoms as a strategic success.

  24. Knowing that Trump is willing to target and kill Iran’s leaders directly will be a consideration the Ayatollahs factor into their thinking. Country leaders, even religiously zealous ones, are not in the business of setting themselves up to be killed. After all, how would the world survive without them? Trump will win this one if Iran does little more than some sort of token response.

  25. “how awesomely corrupt Washington DC is and the very real risk of impeachment or assassination to any US president who bucks the system …”

    I’ve sometimes thought of trying to compile a list of Things Hitler Was Right About. I suppose entry number one would be his contention that the US is essentially a country of gangsters.
    Whether there would be a second entry isn’t clear because I have no intention of reading his rants.

  26. I suppose entry number one would be his contention that the US is essentially a country of gangsters.

    Hitler was a cunt – and so are you if you believe “the US is essentially a country of gangsters.”

  27. MyBurningEars
    January 5, 2020 at 1:42 pm

    ======================

    Good analysis.

    “Greater good” is a Leftist concept. Democrats speak it. But, as with everything, they don’t really care. Just CM chatter.

    The majority of Americans don’t buy it, and the Trump phenomena is in part a reaction to it.

    “Was this attack good for America?”

    Who cares? The fvcker is dead. Why examine our navels?

  28. @BiG:

    ” You forget that the Cameron government was once seriously considering becoming the air force of that brave, rag-tag band of noble freedom fighters that was to become ISIS.”

    Yes, Cameron’s a c**t as well.

    @Ottokring:

    ” Quite simply, Iran is The Enemy.”

    It’s not Iranians who are butchering English people on the streets of England; it’s mostly Pakistani, Somali and Nigerian Sunni Muslims doing that.

    @ MyBurningEars:

    ” Some interesting reads on the reach of Iran (and its proxies).”

    Wow! A violent, drug-smuggling organisation in the Middle East; what a threat to America! Good job there are no groups like that in, say, Mexico eh?

  29. Who cares? The fvcker is dead. Why examine our navels?

    Apply that to Hillary and co’s removal of Gaddafi. Doesn’t matter that Libya is another ambassador-killing terrorist haven; we came, we saw, the fucker is dead. (And what difference, at this point, does it make, etc).
    Hmmm.

    Fuckers being dead should be a bonus. Protecting and advancing the nation’s interest via sensible diplomacy by other means should be the purpose of military actions.

  30. The vote by the Iraqi parliament was non binding and made up of mostly Shiite MPs (most others stayed away). It’s up to the Iraqi PM and cabinet to end the agreement with the US. Since the departure of US forces will almost certainly result in bitter ethnic civil war and the break up of the country, they might not go down that route.

    I’m sure Trump would like to withdraw from Iraq under the right circumstances, but not by being kicked out.

  31. PJF: by killing the bastard who has run Iran’s whole military/terror operation across the ME from Lebanon to Yemen, the same ruthless bastard who made himself irreplaceable over the last two decades and who latterly has been organising the butchering of Iraqi locals who got in the way; by tearing up the appalling Obama/Kerry/Biden Iran deal,by imposing severe sanctions on Iran so that its population is in a state of rebellion which the bastard was also in charge of putting down, Trump has cleared the way for both Iraq and Iran to overthrow the mullah influence and become modern countries again.
    (I’m glad Jimmy Carter is still alive to see Trump’s masterclass in sorting out the mess he allowed to fester.)

  32. Be interesting ti know what’s going on amongst Iran’s Great & Good, at the moment. The recently Dear Departed will have his network of supporters & loyalists, going up the ladder. And his patronage going downwards. And no doubt there was a bit of both, in both directions going on between him & the geezer with the beard is currently at the top of Iran’s greasy pole.
    Now there’s going to be a contest of who steps into his shoes. No doubt there’s more than one contender, each with his own supporters & loyalists & who’ve been exercising their own patronage. Getting rid of the Dear Departed’s hangers on maybe a priority for some of them. Or getting rid of their comp.
    their competitors’.
    Firstly, this may detract from Iran’s capability to respond to perfidious Yankee aggression. Secondly the outcome of power struggles amongst the Great & Good may see some changes in who’s Great & Good & who’s a nasty smear on an interrogation room’s floor.
    So, all in all, nixing the PoS may have been a shrewd move.

  33. Steve: “I’m sure it was of great comfort to the Iraqi PM that another Muslim country supports his sovereignty.”

    One small amendment to your gold-star fisking of the standard weak-kneed left-wing hand-wringing: It was not another Muslim country which supported Iraq’s sovereignty — it was the very unpopular occupant of the most senior office in that country.

    Two facts remain unknown. (a) Do the people of France support this unilateral act by the punter who is living in the Palace at their expense? (b) Did the acting Iraqi prime minister actually take this phone call from the acting French president?

    We can imagine the discussion in Baghad:
    – Acting prime minister, there’s some wierdo with a strange accent of line 7 — says he’s the Ayatollah of France, or some such.
    – Where the hell is France?
    – He says France is the leading country in Europe, and the fount of civilization, or something like that. His accent is really hard to understand.
    – Is he trying to sell us something? We already have double glazing.
    – He says he wants to express his sorrow that the Iranian bastard got blown up at our airport. He will talk to us about selling us good French wine later.
    – He’s not much of a Muslim then, trying to sell us alcohol. Tell him to send flowers and get off the line. Someone important might be trying to call.

  34. @Andrew C, Steve

    +10

    Good move by Trump – a clean precise execution of instigator of attack on Baghdad US Embassy, Saudi oil-refineries etc

    Iran – better analysis than multi-billion pound taxpayer funded BBC & C4 and their howling & wailing surrender monkeys

    https://conservativewoman.co.uk/the-killing-of-qasem-soleimani/

    https://conservativewoman.co.uk/taking-out-this-monster-makes-the-world-a-better-place/

    MOD Statement backs Trump
    UK Navy ordered to guide British ships through Strait of Hormuz
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WSGHsJReHbY

  35. Bloke in North Dorset

    “ Hitler thought that Paris wasn’t as nice as Vienna.

    That should be your second point.”

    Hmm, surprised I agree with Hitler on anything, but give me modern Vienna overbmodern Oaris anytime.

  36. Bloke in North Dorset

    Back to the subject at hand.

    I’ve found it impossible to make any sense out of the west’s MSM out-pourings, it just seems to be the anti-Trumpers being anti-Trump or anti-Iranians being anti-Iranian. Most of the commentary being at best self serving. (The most naiseating of all out-pourings has been Corbyn, but that’s a different subject)

    I shed no tears for Suleimani but I think Trump has been badly advised and a both strategic and tactical error has been made.

    The strategic error is taking him out on Iraq territory, that really hasn’t played well in the country and the tactical mistake was taking out a senior Iraqi at the same time. They also seem to have made a strategic mistake in thinking Iran will back off when one of their senior government personnel is taken out, not something that is usually done, but the jury’s out on that one.

    To get a different perspective I recommend listening to this podcast and here’s a related article from the same guy:

    The US did not plan to kill the vice commander of the Iraqi Hashd al-Shaabi brigade Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes when it assassinated Iranian Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani on Thursday at 11:00 PM local time at Baghdad airport. Usually, when Soleimani was arriving in Baghdad, security commander Abu Zeinab al-Lami, a deputy officer to al Muhandes, would have welcomed him. This time, al-Lami was outside Iraq and al-Muhandes replaced him. The US plan was to assassinate an Iranian General on Iraqi soil, not to kill a high-ranking Iraqi officer. By killing al-Muhandes, the US violated its treaty obligation to respect the sovereignty of Iraq and to limit its activity to training and offering intelligence to fight the “Islamic State”, ISIS. It has also violated its commitment to refrain from overflying Iraq without permission of the Iraqi authorities.

    The double assassination has embarrassed both the US and the Iraqis. US embarrassment is evident from the fact that official statements by Pompeo, Esper et al. have made no mention of the killing of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes. On the Iraqi side caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdel Mahdi has been forced to call a special meeting of the Iraqi Parliament to discuss withdrawal of US forces from Iraq. It will be difficult to achieve a consensus for asking US troops to depart.

    The leader of the Iranian Revolution Sayyed Ali Khamenei told the Iranian National Security Council in its first meeting after the assassination of Soleimani that “it is important to make a strong, severe and clear response”. This means Sayyed Khamenei this time wants the world to know that it is Iran, and not its allies that is carrying out the retaliation against US forces, a practice of direct confrontation Iran has eschewed in the past.

    Well-informed sources said, “Iran’s choices are various and objectives are not lacking in the region and abroad”.

    What is certain is that Iran’s allies in Iraq will be offered unlimited support to fight the US forces wherever they are. Iran’s first objective is to send back US soldiers in plastic bags, particularly before the US elections.

    But Iran is known to be pragmatic, and will likely find a way to walk this crisis home without needing to go to war. Trump is pushing Iran out of its comfort zone, obliging Iran to respond with an assassination attack similar to that which the US just perpetrated. Last year, Iran refrained from downing a US spy plane with 38 officers on board. It is unlikely to show such forbearance in the near future.

    Iran will not likely rush into retaliating. It will more likely keep the US waiting for a possible attack on many fronts, exhausting its finances and security measures to protect its forces, its commanders and VIPs. Iranian retaliation will be considered and precise but will seek to avoid dragging Iran and the Middle East into an all-out-war. Iran’s response is unlikely to trigger a US prompt reply.

    I’ve heard this guy a few times and he lives with locals when he’s researching in countries in the region and is very well connected. Just because he’s telling us something we don’t like it doesn’t mean he’s wrong.

    Disclaimer: I have made a contribution to Around the Empire and when I next allocate my subscription that used to go to the Economist I will probably donate to the author Elijah Magnier because he does some good journalism.

  37. ‘advancing the nation’s interest via sensible diplomacy by other means should be the purpose of military actions’

    Bullshit. The military hurts people and breaks things. They don’t do diplomacy.

  38. BiS

    Yes, the sowing discord and dagger opportunities thing really is an interesting angle.

    Was brought up by an ex-military friend at lunch Friday. Hadn’t noticed it being mulled in public before your note.

  39. The military hurts people and breaks things. They don’t do diplomacy.

    Diplomacy by other means, or the “continuation of politics by other means” – means war. It’s not a new concept.

  40. “But Iran is known to be pragmatic, and will likely find a way to walk this crisis home without needing to go to war. Trump is pushing Iran out of its comfort zone, obliging Iran to respond with an assassination attack similar to that which the US just perpetrated. Last year, Iran refrained from downing a US spy plane with 38 officers on board. It is unlikely to show such forbearance in the near future.”

    The guy is rambling. If Iran shoots down a P-8 with large loss of life, they won’t get the chance to “go to war”. They’ll lose their military capability promptly.

  41. Bloke in North Dorset — Thanks for the link to Mr. Magnier. It is always good to get a range of perspectives. Perhaps it is just the way Mr. Magnier wrote that article, but it does seem to presume a high degree of unity within Iran. There are other reporters saying that there are large internal problems within Iran. The Iranian government is reportedly facing some serious protests over issues like corruption, and has apparently responded violently to their own people. Plus there are large non-Persian minorities in Iran.

    As is often said — No plan survives contact with the enemy. That applies just as much to Iran as to the US. Even Europeans who traditionally stand on the sidelines and try to play off both sides may find themselves having to make some choices.

    Iran was happy in a world where Obama’s closest advisor was an Iranian and saber-rattling could get plane-loads of cash delivered to Teheran. Now the Iranian regime faces problems in front of it and behind it, as well as below it in its own bureaucracy, as Bloke In Spain points out.

    Mr. Magnier prognosticates: “Iran will not likely rush into retaliating. … Iran’s response is unlikely to trigger a US prompt reply.” However, both parts of that are high risk seen from the Iranian side. If the Iranian regime does not retaliate quickly and substantially, it will look weak to its own people, which may exacerbate internal dissent. If it does retaliate, it now has no idea whether the US will shrug it off or nuke Teheran.

  42. Iran will not likely rush into retaliating. It will more likely keep the US waiting for a possible attack on many fronts, exhausting its finances and security measures to protect its forces, its commanders and VIPs. Iranian retaliation will be considered and precise but will seek to avoid dragging Iran and the Middle East into an all-out-war. Iran’s response is unlikely to trigger a US prompt reply.

    How is that in any way different from how it has been operating for the last five years? If that is how the retaliation is going to occur, then it would have occurred anyway.

    That’s very different from allegations that this will escalate out of control.

  43. Btw: just how much of Soleimani is in that coffin other than the hand with the ring? Have they weighted it with sand, tarmac, miscellaneous meat patty to carry it around?

  44. Glover in DM did a hit piece on Boris for not immediately flying back to London; then says he shouldn’t have used BA, but ‘chartered’ an RAF fly-out, collect & return

    Idiot doesn’t seem to have heard of video/tele conference calls

    Idiot doesn’t seem to have heard that’s how Trump made the decision from his holiday location

    Glover also attacks Trump for not giving UK advance notice and only Israel informed. Idiot doesn’t accept it was Trump’s way of protecting all allies, EU etc

    Glover has always been anti-Trump; was pro-Brexit until new editor; now more anti-Boris as each day passes

  45. The Andrew Marr Show 05 01 20

    Suleimani
    Rabb @12m Marr says “US should have told us b4 to protect British lives” implies lots of Brits killed post hit

    Jess Philips @30m, not bothered Suli killed – deserved it. Marr not happy

  46. Bloke in Costa Rica

    The US spent $686 billion on its military last year. If it’s not allowed to whack some bloodthirsty jundi who’s malleted over 600 of its troops, then why the fuck is it spending so goddamned much money? The decision to kill Persian insurgents on sight shouldn’t need to go up the chain of command much beyond battalion level. Essentially the whole of the West’s problems vis-à-vis the region for the last 1400 years has been its lack of assiduity in killing Mohammedans whenever and wherever it gets the chance.

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