Watching critics of President Donald Trump try to lay the blame for the death of passengers of the ill-fated Ukrainian plane at his feet, it was clear they were playing the what if game.
If only Trump had not ordered the attack on Iranian General Qasem Soleimani, they argue, all those innocent lives would not have been lost.
It’s a tempting argument and one that is easily played, as we have all seen in the past few days.
The trouble is that two can play.
What if Soleimani had been killed years ago, how many lives would have been saved?
In 2013, the New Yorker carried a profile of Soleimani, who was relatively unknown:
Suleimani (sic) took command of the Quds Force fifteen years ago, and in that time he has sought to reshape the Middle East in Iran’s favor, working as a power broker and as a military force: assassinating rivals, arming allies, and, for most of a decade, directing a network of militant groups that killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq. The U.S. Department of the Treasury has sanctioned Suleimani for his role in supporting the Assad regime, and for abetting terrorism. And yet he has remained mostly invisible to the outside world, even as he runs agents and directs operations. “Suleimani (sic) is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former C.I.A. officer in Iraq, told me, “and no one’s ever heard of him.”
You can read the full article here.
Thousands of people died as a consequence of Soleimani’s actions.
Are those lives worth anything?
Under President Barack Obama, Washington tried to normalize relations with Iran, going as far as to lift travel restrictions on Soleimani and negotiate a nuclear arms deal with Iran. The hope was that the combination of money and diplomacy would make Iran less of a rogue nation.
The Middle East, however, has been the graveyard of many a hopeful politician and Iran, led by Soleimani, remained a destabilizing force.
In the months leading up to his assassination, Soleimani led a regional campaign that included piracy of foreign ships in the Strait of Hormuz, attacks on international oil tankers, an attack on a US drone as well as an attack on a petroleum processing facility in Saudi Arabia.
All of those provocations went unanswered until Soleimani was in Iraq and US forces had an opportunity to kill him.
Now, the Iranian government no doubt never thought Washington would assassinate one of its highest military leaders and Soleimani’s killing was a shock, prompting a retaliatory barrage of missiles directed at American and allied bases in Iraq.
All of which brings us to the day passengers aboard a Ukrainian plane met their ill-deserved fate.
When news of the “crash” broke, the speculation was that the plane had been shot down, but Iran was given the benefit of the doubt and newscasters accepted the Iranian explanation – mechanical failure.
Within hours, however, it became clear the plane had been shot down. A video of two missiles being fired from batteries near the airport clearly show them hitting the plane and then the fiery descent of the plane itself.
Then, too, there are the intelligence reports concluding that it was highly likely the plane was taken down by missiles.
In fact, the only thing missing is an inspection of the fuselage. That would provide absolute certainty.
No matter, the fact remains that Iranian officials permitted commercial aircraft to fly during the midst of hostilities which was the height of negligence.
Worse, the Iranian military fired upon the airplane for whatever reason.
That is the reason 177 people (63 Canadians) are dead.
Iranian officials had a duty to protect non-combatants. They shirked that duty and people died. It’s as simple as that.