‘This Will Be Almost Total War’: Lindsey Graham Reportedly Urged Trump Not to Kill Soleimani
‘This Will Be Almost Total War’: Lindsey Graham Reportedly Urged Trump Not to Kill Soleimani by Ilya Tsukanov for Sputnik News
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Graham, the South Carolina senator who has enthusiastically supported every war that the United States has started since 2003, reportedly reversed roles with the president, who has showed a penchant for restraint from embroiling Washington in new quagmires, when it came to the Iranian Quds Force commander.
Senator Lindsey Graham desperately urged President Trump not to assassinate Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps General Qasem Soleimani just days before his 3 January 2020 drone strike near Baghdad’s international airport, investigative journalist Bob Woodward suggests in his new book ‘Rage’, which hit the shelves last week.
Told by Trump that he was thinking of “hitting Soleimani” during a leisurely game of golf at the Trump International Golf Club in West Palm Beach, Florida on 30 December 2019, Graham reportedly reacted with surprise, exclaiming “Oh, boy, that’s a giant step!”
“If they retaliate in some way, which they will, you’ve got to be willing to take out the oil refineries,” the senator continued, adding that if the US did so, “this will be almost total war!”
“You kill him, new game. You go from playing $10 blackjack to $10,000-a-hand blackjack,” Graham reportedly added, warning Trump that with an election coming up, he would need to “think about how you respond and how you expect Iran to respond”.
Told by Trump that Soleimani “deserves” being assassinated and that US intelligence had provided the White House with “all these intercepts showing” that the Quds Force commander was planning attacks against US forces in Iraq, Graham reportedly responded that the Iranian commander has “always been doing that”, and that “this is what he does”.
Washington justified the 3 January killing of Soleimani by citing the 27 December 2019 rocket attack on the K-1 Air Base in Kirkuk, northern Iraq, which killed a US contractor and injured four US servicemen and two Iraqi security officers. US forces blamed the attack on a pro-Iranian militia. However, in February, Iraqi military and intelligence sources said that Daesh (ISIS)* remnants, not Iran, were likely responsible for the K-1 attack.
‘Over the Top’, Even for Graham
According to Woodward’s account of the golf conversation, Graham warned Trump against assassinating Soleimani, telling the president “this is over the top. How about hitting someone a level below Gen. Soleimani, which would be much easier for everyone to absorb”?
Days later, a US MQ-9 Reaper drone struck Soleimani and a senior Baghdad-allied militia commander at the Iraqi capital’s international airport, killing them and several associates. Iran responded by lobbing over a dozen missiles at two US bases in Iraq on 7 January, giving 100 US military personnel traumatic brain injuries and bringing the two countries to the brink of war. Tehran reportedly warned its allies in Iraq of the impending missile attacks, allowing Iraqi military personnel to warn US forces of the strikes.
Graham’s comments to Trump as reported by Woodward, are uncharacteristic of the US senator, who has been a major proponent of every war that the US has started since the 2003 invasion of Iraq. An avid supporter of that war, Graham also supported the NATO airstrikes on Libya in 2011, promoted US efforts to oust the Syrian government, proposed beefing up the number of US military personnel in Afghanistan, and publicly called on Trump to consider bombing Iranian oil refineries following the September 2019 Houthi militia attacks on Saudi oil facilities.
Trump repeatedly clashed with Graham before coming into office, accusing him and the late Arizona Senator John McCain of “always looking to start World War III”. In the years since, the pair have become unlikely allies on most issues, particularly on domestic policy.
In his public comments on the Soleimani killing, Graham praised the decision as a “preemptive, defensive strike planned to take out the organiser of attacks yet to come”.
Iranian officials have repeatedly warned that “the book” on getting revenge for the assassination of Soleimani is “not closed”, and indicated that the only reason Tehran has not staged a tit-for-tat assassination of a US general was because it has been unable to find anyone valuable enough.
Before his 3 January death, Soleimani served as commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds extraterritorial fighting force for about two decades, fighting Taliban militants in Afghanistan, Daesh and al-Qaeda-affiliated militants in Syria and Iraq, and provided Hezbollah with advisory support against Israeli forces during the 2006 Lebanon War.