The “Immiment Threat”: Voices in Mike Pence’s Head?

A sentence buried far down in a Wall Street Journal article is getting a lot of attention.

Mr. Trump, after the strike, told associates he was under pressure to deal with Gen. Soleimani from GOP senators he views as important supporters in his coming impeachment trial in the Senate.

The New York Times reported something similar this week, stating that Trump had said in a phone call that “he had been pressured to take a harder line on Iran by some Republican senators whose support he needs now more than ever amid an impeachment battle.”

If this reporting is true, it’s hard to overstate how explosive it would be that the president of the United States nearly started a war in order to appease a handful of Republican senators before impeachment arrives in the Senate.

Well, yes, it would, wouldn’t it? David Kurtz at TPM:

We don’t have to delve too deeply into whether key GOP senators were in fact pressuring Trump on Soleimani (or whether “deal with” meant target him with a drone strike). The point is this is how this president thinks, ignorant of U.S. national interests, fixated on his own personal dramas, veering from impulse to reaction and back again even in the gravest matters.
The irony is almost too obvious to point out: In order to stave off an impeachment conviction for putting his own personal interests above the national interest, Trump once again put his own interests above the national interest.

John Cassidy at The New Yorker:

The picture we are getting is of the Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, and Vice-President Mike Pence both egging on an impetuous President to launch the January 2nd drone attack that killed the Iranian military commander Qassem Suleimani at Baghdad International Airport. None of Trump’s other senior political or military advisers, meanwhile, appear to have urged restraint, despite the near-certainty that the move would inflame the entire Middle East and provoke reprisals. Any deliberative policymaking process appears to have been replaced by a combination of belligerence, toadyism, and saluting the Commander-in-Chief….

… Pompeo and Pence “were two of the most hawkish voices arguing for a response to Iranian aggression, according to administration officials,” the Times reported, a couple of days after Suleimani’s death. “Mr. Pence’s office helped run herd on meetings and conference calls held by officials in the run-up to the strike.”

Pence is emerging as a five-alarm hawk. Along with his ridiculous claim that Soleimani was linked to the September 11 attacks, Pence also has said that the administration didn’t share its intelligence with Congress because Congress couldn’t be trusted with it.

In another wrinkle to the story, the Washington Post is reporting that the administration also attempted to assassinate an Iranian official in Yemen, but failed.

On the day the U.S. military killed a top Iranian commander in Baghdad, U.S. forces carried out another top secret mission against a senior Iranian military official in Yemen, according to U.S. officials.

The strike targeting Abdul Reza Shahlai, a financier and key commander of Iran’s elite Quds Force who has been active in Yemen, did not result in his death, according to four U.S. officials familiar with the matter.

It’s hard to know what that attempt signifies, because American operations in Yemen are behind a veil of secrecy. It might mean that the administration was trying to damage the leader of the Quds force.

Defense and State Department officials said the strike against Soleimani saved “dozens” if not “hundreds” of American lives under imminent threat. The strike against Shahlai potentially complicates that argument.

“This suggests a mission with a longer planning horizon and a larger objective, and it really does call into question why there was an attempt to explain this publicly on the basis of an imminent threat,” said Suzanne Maloney, an Iran scholar at the Brookings Institution.

Trying to make sense of Trump’s foreign policy is a fool’s errand, I say.

In other news, Nancy Pelosi is signaling she is sending the articles of impeachment to the Senate next week.