One day they may name a street after President Trump in Tehran. Why? Because Trump just ordered the assassination of possibly the dumbest man in Iran and the most overrated strategist in the Middle East: Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani.
Think of the miscalculations this guy made. In 2015, the United States and the major European powers agreed to lift virtually all their sanctions on Iran, many dating back to 1979, in return for Iran halting its nuclear weapons program for a mere 15 years, but still maintaining the right to have a peaceful nuclear program. It was a great deal for Iran. Its economy grew by over 12 percent the next year. And what did Suleimani do with that windfall?
He and Iran’s supreme leader launched an aggressive regional imperial project that made Iran and its proxies the de facto controlling power in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana. This freaked out U.S. allies in the Sunni Arab world and Israel — and they pressed the Trump administration to respond. Trump himself was eager to tear up any treaty forged by President Obama, so he exited the nuclear deal and imposed oil sanctions on Iran that have now shrunk the Iranian economy by almost 10 percent and sent unemployment over 16 percent.
All that for the pleasure of saying that Tehran can call the shots in Beirut, Damascus, Baghdad and Sana. What exactly was second prize?
Then Mr. “Military Genius” Suleimani decided that, having propped up the regime of President Bashar al-Assad in Syria, and helping to kill 500,000 Syrians in the process, he would overreach again and try to put direct pressure on Israel. He would do this by trying to transfer precision-guided rockets from Iran to Iranian proxy forces in Lebanon and Syria.
Alas, Suleimani discovered that fighting Israel — specifically, its combined air force, special forces, intelligence and cyber — is not like fighting the Nusra front or the Islamic State. The Israelis hit back hard, sending a whole bunch of Iranians home from Syria in caskets and hammering their proxies as far away as Western Iraq.
Indeed, Israeli intelligence had so penetrated Suleimani’s Quds Force and its proxies that Suleimani would land a plane with precision munitions in Syria at 5 p.m., and the Israeli air force would blow it up by 5:30 p.m. Suleimani’s men were like fish in a barrel. If Iran had a free press and a real parliament, he would have been fired for colossal mismanagement.
But it gets better, or actually worse, for Suleimani. Many of his obituaries say that he led the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, in tacit alliance with America. Well, that’s true. But what they omit is that Suleimani’s, and Iran’s, overreaching in Iraq helped to produce the Islamic State in the first place.