Home/Daniel Larison/So Much for ‘Restoring Deterrence’

So Much for ‘Restoring Deterrence’

An F-15E Strike Eagle over Afghanistan in 2008. According to reports, these Air Force fighters deployed Sunday's strikes against Iranian-backed targets in Syria and Iraq.(U.S. Air Force photo/Staff Sgt. Aaron Allmon)

It’s a good thing that the Trump administration “restored deterrence” with the illegal assassination of Soleimani two months ago. Earlier today, U.S. forces struck Kata’ib Hezbollah targets again following a rocket attack on a base that killed two Americans and one British soldier yesterday:

United States warplanes struck five targets in southern Iraq Thursday night, hitting back at an Iraqi militia with ties to Iran that is believed to have been part of a rocket attack on Wednesday that killed two Americans and a British soldier, American officials said.

Ever since the U.S. killed Soleimani and Kata’ib Hezbollah’s Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, more retaliation against U.S. forces has just been a matter of time. It turns out that yesterday was Soleimani’s birthday, so the rocket attack was presumably intended to serve as a response to his killing. The decision to escalate against Iraqi militias and Iran at the start of the year was a reckless and illegal one, and it is one that two Americans and one British soldier have now paid for with their lives. This will keep happening until the administration takes U.S. forces out of Iraq.

U.S. troops should have left Iraq already. The Iraqi government does not want them there, U.S. security does not require them to be there, and as long as they remain they will be at risk of attack from Iraqi militias. Our continued military presence in Iraq against the wishes of their government puts our troops in an untenable position, and it represents an affront to Iraq’s sovereignty. Repeated attacks on Iraqi militias are direct violations of that sovereignty, and they are bound to put American forces there in greater danger the longer that they stay there. There will be more tit-for-tat attacks, and the U.S. military presence will only become more unpopular as time goes by.

The last thing that the U.S. or Iran needs right now is escalation with Iran and its proxies. Both of our countries are dealing with the effects of the pandemic, and neither can afford the added costs and dangers of armed conflict. The attacks on U.S. forces in Iraq prove that reckless U.S. actions in January did not “restore deterrence,” and by killing Soleimani and al-Muhandis the U.S. exposed our troops to greater danger than they faced before. The smartest thing that the administration could do under the circumstances is to remove U.S. forces from Iraq as quickly as possible. I fear that the president might choose to use this flare-up as a distraction from his failures here at home. That is why it is so important that Congress moved ahead with passage of legislation that rejects war with Iran without Congressional authorization:

The House of Representatives approved a War Powers resolution Wednesday, aiming to rein in presidential authority to use military action against Iran without congressional approval.
The resolution, introduced by Sen. Tim Kaine, a Virginia Democrat, passed the Senate last month with bipartisan support despite President Donald Trump’s vocal opposition to it.

It passed the House with a vote of 227-186. A handful of Republicans, including Reps. Thomas Massie of Kentucky, Morgan Griffith of Virginia, Fred Upton of Michigan, and Tom Reed of New York, joined Democrats in supporting the resolution.

The president is expected to veto the legislation, because he has nothing but contempt for the Constitution, but it is very important that Congress takes this stand against waging war on Iran so that it is clear that Trump has no legitimate basis for further escalation.

about the author

Daniel Larison is a senior editor at TAC, where he also keeps a solo blog. He has been published in the New York Times Book Review, Dallas Morning News, World Politics Review, Politico Magazine, Orthodox Life, Front Porch Republic, The American Scene, and Culture11, and was a columnist for The Week. He holds a PhD in history from the University of Chicago, and resides in Lancaster, PA. Follow him on Twitter.

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