To the editor:

Rich Kiper opined Jan. 21 about the drone killing of Qassem Soleimani, the Iranian Quds Force commander. How has this targeted killing advanced American interests?

Soleimani was an enemy of the U.S. but not a terrorist. As the Quds Force commander, he was conducting operations to achieve the Iranian objectives which have always been to force Americans to leave Iraq or, if this isn’t possible, to make our presence in Iraq difficult while avoiding direct combat with U.S. forces. 

Soleimani added various Shia militias in killing American soldiers and military contractors, not civilians uninvolved in the war. Stateless actors who kill civilians for a political end are terrorists.

Killing Soleimani was justified but stupid which is why neither the Bush or the Obama administration did it. While I was in Iraq, U.S. Army Rangers detained Soleimani at the Baghdad airport. The Al Maliki government demanded his release which we did. Then and especially now, we do not occupy Iraq and our ability to dictate to the Iraqi government is limited. Killing an Iraqi Shia militia leader who was a passenger in Soleimani’s car put the Iraqi regime in a tough spot politically which they responded to by voting to tell the Americans to leave. Iraqis do not want Iraq to be the battleground between Iran and us. The Iranians were well on their way to wearing out their welcome among Iraq Shia until we decided to bomb Iraqi militias.

Soleimani’s death neither made Americans safer or deterred Iran from its objectives. Soleimani was replaced immediately by his deputy with no change in mission or operations. The Iranians have plenty of opportunities to attack us using their proxies. Just because the U.S. Embassy hasn’t been hit by rockets fired from across the Tigris doesn’t mean they don’t have the capability to put several dozen mortar rounds or rockets squarely within the embassy compound. Then what do we do, bomb Sadr City?

How does this end? It ends with war with Iran. Trump has no policy. He does whatever is in his short-term interest either personally, politically or financially. Killing Soleimani allows him to brag about how tough he is to his clueless rally crowds, none of whom know or care who Soleimani is. His advisers, though, have a goal. They may call it maximum pressure but it is regime change they are after. The American right, egged on by the Israeli right and American white evangelicals, have pushed for regime change in Iran. With the election of Trump, their moment came. Led by Pompeo, they fawned over Trump to get a free hand.

Strange how the American right portrays Iran as an overwhelming threat to the world on one hand but tottering on the brink of collapse on the other. The Iranian regime will not implode because of a few bombing raids. A three- to six-month air campaign will damage the Iranian state but it will not fall. Meanwhile, the Iranians close the straits of Hormuz. They won’t succeed ultimately but they will close the straits occasionally and make sailing through the straits perilous. A large-scale, long-term naval operation will be necessary to keep the straits open.

The only way to overthrow the Iranian regime is to occupy southwest Iran and the Persian Gulf shores and starve the regime of oil revenue for at least a few years. It will take 200,000 American troops to do this.