The former U.S. Army commander of all forces in Iraq and Afghanistan said on Saturday that President Trump’s decision to strike a top Iranian general responsible for terrorist activities in the Middle East was the right move.
Retired Gen. David Petraeus said killing Qassem Soleimani has helped “reestablish deterrence” of malign actions and influence in the Middle East by Iran.
“This is a very significant effort to reestablish deterrence, which obviously had not been shored up by the relatively insignificant responses up until now,” Petraeus told Foreign Policy in an exclusive Q&A.
He added that killing Soleimani was “more significant” than getting Osama bin Laden or ISIS founder Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.
“It is impossible to overstate the importance of this particular action,” Petraeus told FP. “It is more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden or even the death of al-Baghdadi.
“Soleimani was the architect and operational commander of the Iranian effort to solidify control of the so-called Shia crescent, stretching from Iran to Iraq through Syria into southern Lebanon,” he continued.
“He is responsible for providing explosives, projectiles, and arms and other munitions that killed well over 600 American soldiers and many more of our coalition and Iraqi partners just in Iraq, as well as in many other countries such as Syria,” the former Army general said. “So his death is of enormous significance.”
Though critics of the president, in particular 2020 Democratic presidential candidates, may not have acted so boldly because of the potential fallout, Petraeus said this is a “clarifying moment” regarding U.S. deterrence of future Iranian aggression.
“This is a very significant escalation, and [Iran does not] know where this goes any more than anyone else does,” he told FP. “Yes, they can respond and they can retaliate, and that can lead to further retaliation – and that it is clear now that the administration is willing to take very substantial action. This is a pretty clarifying moment in that regard.”
Petraeus also noted that the shabby state of the Iranian economy prevents Tehran from launching sustained military action against the United States.
“Given the state of their economy, I think they have to be very leery, very concerned that that could actually result in the first real challenge to the regime, certainly, since the Iran-Iraq War,” he said.