US Army Soldiers provide armed overwatch at the U.S. Embassy Compound in Baghdad, Iraq, Jan. 1, 2020.

Historical Precedent for the Killing of Qassem Soleimani

Historical Precedent for the Killing of Qassem Soleimani


One of the arguments being made by U.S. politicians and across social media, is that the killing of General Qassem Soleimani was an act of war against a nation with whom the U.S. was not at war, and that the U.S. does not “assassinate" enemy military leaders, somehow implying that to do so is not proper.


As history shows, neither of those statements are true.


First of all, Iran has been waging war on the United States and many of our allies (Israel and Saudi Arabia among them) for years. A short list of some of Iran’s most violent actions, including actions of their proxies, such as Hezbollah and the Iraqi Shiite militias include:


1983-Beirut Marine Barracks Bombing-Iran and Hezbollah launched a suicide truck that killed 241 U.S. Marines


1996-Khobar Tower Bombing in Saudi Arabia that killed 19 U.S. troops


2003-2011-Iran’s Quds Force (led by Soleimani) provided arms, training, money, and direction to Iraqi Shiite militias that were engaged in active combat with U.S. and other allied troops in the Iraq War. One estimate places the deaths of over 600 American troops as due to this proxy war by Iran.


In addition, both U.S. and British officials have accused Iran of providing arms to Taliban forces fighting in Afghanistan against U.S., British, and allied forces.


Also, Iran has funded and armed both Hezbollah in Lebanon, and Hamas in the Gaza Strip with rockets and missiles that both groups use to attack civilian areas in Israel.


These are just the most egregious of the many terrorist and proxy attacks backed by Iran on Americans and on U.S. interests.


Clearly, Iran has waged war on the United States for decades, thus, an Iranian general whose job is coordinating and executing military actions against the U.S. is a legitimate target.


The second point to refute is that the U.S. does not (or should not) target enemy leaders in war. Again, the historical record refutes this falsehood clearly.


Perhaps the best example comes from World War Two, when United States Navy planes ambushed and killed a major Japanese leader, Admiral Isoroku Yamamoto, who was the architect and executioner of the Japanese attack on Pearl Harbor. U.S. intelligence services determined where Yamamoto would be as he toured Japanese facilities in the South Pacific, and intentionally ambushed his plane and shot it down in 1943.


There are more recent examples as well.


In 1986, during a military conflict with Libya, U.S. bombers intentionally targeted the residence of Libya’s leader, Muammar Gaddafi. The Libyan dictator survived that attack, but was overthrown in 2011 by his own people, with help from the U.S. and NATO.


When the U.S. went to war with Iraq in 1991, over 260 air missions were launched trying to find and kill Saddam Hussein, the internationally recognized ruler of Iraq. He survived that war, but was again a target as the U.S. began the “shock and awe" bombing campaign to start the 2003 invasion of Iraq.


Therefore, those critics who claim the killing Soleimani was wrong because he was a military leader of another nation ignore the clear evidence that Iran has engaged in war with America for years, and that fact made Soleimani (and any of his successors) legitimate military targets.


Whether killing Qassem Soleimani was a wise decision is another question, but history shows that his killing was not an historical aberration nor a