A fortnight ago an assassination was committed in public, for all the world to see. It has all the elements of an aggravated killing — premeditated, alevosia (treachery), use of superior force. It brought the world on the brink of World War III. The protagonists have nuclear capabilities, which could wreak an unimaginable havoc. World attention was riveted to how the protagonists will react under the circumstances.
Readers, while Christendom was immersed in celebration for the holiday season, the murder was committed. President Donald Trump in straight-faced bravado unabashedly claimed responsibility. In fact, his posture before media after the crime could be likened to iconic Tarzan’s yell or “victory cry of the bull ape.” He went on a media offensive, claiming tacitly his decision as heroic because it was preemptive action against a general allegedly plotting to kill Americans.
No, the culprit is not America, but Trump. He can hardly personify, much less represent Americans. In fact, he could not have been president if not for the queer way of electing a president through the electoral college system. Majority of the popular votes went to Hillary Clinton. Meaning, Trump doesn’t carry the mandate of majority of Americans.
The drone attack that killed Iran’s highest-ranking Major General Qassem Soleimani (including Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and scores of others), who was even touted as an Iranian presidential timber, reverberated throughout the world. From the desert oasis to the temporary shelters of Marawi evacuees, people expressed fear of an eminent war. Many commentators in opinion pages, radio and television described it as a de facto declaration of war against Iran, which Trump has no power to do, being solely bestowed in Congress. There was no consent given by Congress nor were Congress leaders briefed before the strike, which protocol requires. In fact, close advisers of Trump are reported to be divided on the decision to strike. Allies of the US, short of condemning it, have expressed reservation to the provocative bombing.
There were spontaneous protests not only in the streets of Iran and Iraq but significantly in New York and other American cities.
In at least two past articles, this column described the earlier provocation made by Trump against Iran. It started when he came into office and posthaste scrapped the anti-nuclear deal that Iran, the US and European powers signed just because so much credit was showered to his predecessor, and never mind that it was a leap towards global peace. This was followed by accusations against Iran as responsible for the attack and sabotage on oil tankers along the Strait of Hormuz and lately the attack and destruction of the oil fields of Saudi Arabia, which supply majority of the world’s oil needs triggering a spike in oil prices worldwide.
What does one make out of this unprovoked and brazen public display of murder? Armchair analysts had a field day finding the why of Trump’s action. Many postulated that it was meant to serve his personal politics, not of the US.
Trump is fighting for his flailing political life. He is facing an ignominious impeachment complaint and he has no solid grip of his party mates, Republican senators who will decide his fate. There’s a chance they might be swayed by the public clamor for his accountability. Everything seems iffy. The unprecedented assassination might be a subtle move to ease the heat he is getting. True enough, it has momentarily deflated interest in the impeachment and the ills of his administration. But the assassination issue will eventually die down and the Trump impeachment issue will bring him back to the “kitchen heat.”
It’s the same ploy for the coming US presidential election. He is being clobbered left and right in the primaries. And his political future is getting dimmer by the day.
Trump could just be conveying a clear and loud message to the world: “Don’t f…k with us! You will have no place to hide.” International law on the right of states over their airspace and its sovereignty be damned!
Will the situation deteriorate into a full-scale war? According to former Undersecretary and Amb. Rafael Seguis, an expert on Middle East affairs, the death of one general cannot trigger a war that could be bloody and devastating.
Recent past events, however, point to protagonists standing down and avoiding escalation of the crisis. More on this in my forthcoming columns.
Meantime, the world waits with bated breath.