PROGRAMMING ALERT: Watch K.T. McFarland discuss this topic and more on Fox News Channel's "The Story with Martha MacCallum" on January 6 at 7 pm ET.
The Democrats and their allies in the Trump-hating media have decided that killing the world’s King of Terror, Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani, was a bad thing. They’re wrong – for three very important reasons.
First, it shows the awesome power and precision of America’s military and intelligence capabilities. Killing someone with a drone in broad daylight while driving along a Baghdad street is not like killing someone in a missile barrage, a firefight or a bomb blast.
There are no warning signs, no sounds, nothing to see overhead or across the street. The drones hit their target with 100 percent accuracy. One second Soleimani was there, the next second he was gone, with minimal collateral damage to anyone nearby. Trump gave a sober warning to those who would harm Americans – we know where you are and we will eliminate you.
Second, Soleimani’s demise has likely sent Iran’s leaders into disarray. He has been the mastermind behind Iran’s web of foreign terror campaigns for decades and is not easily replaced. The Ayatollah, Iran’s Supreme Leader, is in his mid-80s and in poor health, with no successor named.
Iran’s leaders were already operating under extreme duress before the Soleimani killing. Their economy is reeling from Trump’s sanctions, with 40 percent unemployment and upwards to 70 percent inflation.
Winter has arrived, gasoline and heating oil prices are rising out of control, and a good number of Iran’s 80 million people are struggling to survive.
Just a few weeks ago thousands of Iranians all across the country took to the streets to protest the regime. Iran’s leaders don’t just have to worry about Americans targeting them, they have to worry about their own people rising up against them.
Finally, the leaders of China, Russia and North Korea are taking note. Trump’s decision to launch a surgical strike to kill Soleimani, especially after the restraint he has shown Iran in the last year or so, sends a strong signal to our adversaries -- don’t underestimate our president.
Trump is a counterpuncher and will always punch back harder. He will not pull his punches in an election year and the Democrats’ impeachment efforts haven’t constrained his ability to act decisively. -- And don’t think you can wait him out, he’s likely to be reelected in 2020.
I was in China just before Thanksgiving on a bipartisan, Track Two mission to meet with senior Chinese government, foreign ministry and Communist Party leaders. Many believed what they were reading in the New York Times and Washington Post and seeing on CNN. They were convinced Trump has been weakened, would soon be removed from office, and had zero chance of being reelected. They implied they could just play for time until a China-friendly President took his place. There is no doubt a lot of rethinking in Beijing this week.
Trump’s decision to launch a surgical strike to kill Soleimani, especially after the restraint he has shown Iran in the last year or so, sends a strong signal to our adversaries -- don’t underestimate our president.
What’s Iran’s next move? Democrats and their media allies are convinced Trump has just started World War III. Iran will no doubt respond, but their options are not as unlimited as Trump’s domestic enemies have suggested.
Trump’s maximum pressure campaign has taken its toll on Iran’s economy. There is some evidence they have already drawn down the tens of billions in payouts they received from Obama’s nuclear deal, and have been forced to curtail funding for Soleimani’s foreign terrorist movements. Wars are expensive and Iran would be hard-pressed to afford large scale military operations on top of their support for terrorist movements in the greater Middle East.
Iran has just put an $80 million bounty on Trump’s head. Interestingly, they asked for donations from their people to pay for it. It’s like they had to start a Go-Fund-Me page for terrorists.
For years Iran has threatened to shut down the Strait of Hormuz or interfere with oil tankers transiting the Persian Gulf, which could send world oil prices skyrocketing and oil-importing countries’ economies plummeting. But America’s energy boom has changed the situation dramatically in just a few short years. Trump’s emphasis on fracking technology has led to our oil and gas boom and turned us from an importer to exporter.
Wreaking havoc on Middle East oil exports could actually end up doing Iran more harm than good because it could present them with difficulties in getting their own oil to the countries still doing business with them – especially China, India and Japan. Furthermore, disruption of middle east oil exports could do the United States more good than harm, since we are now the world’s largest oil and natural gas exporter and still have additional capacity. American energy exports could fill some of the void left by Arab oil.
But we should not fool ourselves. Of course, Iran will retaliate. They will be forced to if for no other reason than a point of national pride. Their most likely target is Americans in the middle east, especially where Iran has terrorist operations or proxy forces– Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, and Yemen for starters. It’s only prudent that the State Department warn all Americans in the region, including in Iraq. Iran’s proxies could also launch rocket attacks against Israel.
What should Trump’s next move be? Be quiet! Stay off Twitter. Cease trash-talking Iran, and stop taunting them. Trump should let his actions speak for themselves. Trump has humiliated Iran, as well as rendering them economic and military damage. Let them get their frustrations off their chests. They will need to recover some measure of national pride before they can even contemplate seeking accommodation with the United States.
Meanwhile, increase the pressure on Iran’s economy. Tighten the sanctions, push them even further toward economic collapse. At the same time make clear that we want a new and better relationship with Iran. Trump’s remarks after the attack were perfect. He laid out the case for killing Soleimani but didn’t gloat or brag. He held out the hand of friendship to the Iranian people.
Trump has told Iran’s leaders he does not want war, nor will he press for regime change. He has urged them to join us at the negotiating table and reach an agreement. He wants America to work with Iran to rebuild its economy, welcome them into the world community and once again be good friends. It is up to the Iranian regime whether to accept Trump’s offer.
If not, if the Iranian regime chooses war instead of peace, Trump should take his case directly to the Iranian people and encourage them to choose a new regime, and work covertly with the Iranian resistance groups. If there is regime change in Iran, it must not be Bush or Obama style - brought about by American military forces. It should be Reagan and Trump-style regime change: stressing their economies to the point where the people themselves rise up and demand it.
Finally, once this round of tensions subsides, either in a new relationship with the current Iranian regime or its successor government, the US should start redirecting its forces and resources from the Middle East to Asia. With American energy independence, we no longer need to be sucked into the ethno-sectarian psychodramas of Arab tribes which have been warring for millennia. Trump was elected to stop the forever wars of the Bush and Obama administrations. As Trump has said about Syria, but it applies also to the rest of the region, “Let someone else fight over this long bloodstained land.”