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In the Loop

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(Photo by Johnny Louis/FilmMagic)

Trump may not have informed the congressional leadership about his plans to kill a top Iranian general, but at least some random people at his famously insecure resort were apprised:

In the five days prior to launching a strike that killed Iran’s most important military leader, Donald Trump roamed the halls of Mar-a-Lago, his private resort in Florida, and started dropping hints to close associates and club-goers that something huge was coming.

According to three people who’ve been at the president’s Palm Beach club over the past several days, Trump began telling friends and allies hanging at his perennial vacation getaway that he was working on a “big” response to the Iranian regime that they would be hearing or reading about very “soon.” His comments went beyond the New Year’s Eve tweet he sent out warning of the “big price” Iran would pay for damage to U.S. facilities. Two of these sources tell The Daily Beast that the president specifically mentioned he’d been in close contact with his top national security and military advisers on gaming out options for an aggressive action that could quickly materialize.

“He kept saying, ‘You’ll see,’” one of the sources recalled, describing a conversation with Trump days before Thursday’s strike.

This look into the “process” behind an assassination that could very well lead to unspeakably catastrophic conflict is no more reassuring:

Some analysts were skeptical about the need to kill Soleimani.

“There may well have been an ongoing plot as Pompeo claims, but Soleimani was a decision-maker, not an operational asset himself,” said Jon Bateman, who served as a senior intelligence analyst on Iran at the Defense Intelligence Agency. “Killing him would be neither necessary nor sufficient to disrupt the operational progression of an imminent plot. What it might do instead is shock Iran’s decision calculus” and deter future attack plans, Bateman said.

[…]

Army Gen. Mark A. Milley, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said in a meeting with reporters on Friday that Soleimani was killed after U.S. officials recently became aware of intelligence that showed that the “size, scale, scope” of what he was planning led them to conclude there was a greater risk in not taking action than in doing so.

“Is there risk? Damn right there’s risk,” Milley said of possible Iranian reactions to the killing one of the nation’s most prominent leaders. “But we’re mitigating, and we think we’re taking appropriate mitigations.”

Well, as long as we’re taking the appropriate mitigations!

Iran vowed revenge on Friday in response to a U.S. airstrike that killed Tehran’s most powerful military commander, sharpening tensions across the Middle East as the Trump administration said it was sending thousands of troops to bolster security in the region.

Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani was a towering figure as Iran projected power across the Middle East, with close links to a network of paramilitary groups stretching from Syria to Yemen. And his death in the smoldering wreckage of a convoy in the Iraqi capital, Baghdad, marked the most dramatic escalation in hostilities between the United States and Iran since President Trump withdrew from the landmark nuclear deal with Tehran in 2018 and reimposed sanctions.

Hey, Donald the Dove is in charge, what could possibly go wrong?

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