Haspel and Brennan Disagree on Assassinating Soleimani

Trump and Haspel
Gina Haspel’s swearing in ceremony (Credit: Evan Vucci/AP)

Two CIA directors have two very different views about the legality of the U.S. assassination of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani last month.

In a detailed look at how U.S. policymakers have handled the question of assassinating enemies, the The New Yorker reports the views of current CIA director Gina Haspel.

Intelligence officials told Trump that Suleimani was planning attacks that had the potential to kill hundreds of Americans in the region, though precise details were unknown. The C.I.A. director, Gina Haspel, told Trump that Iran was unlikely to respond to Suleimani’s death with large-scale retaliation, and that more Americans were at risk of being killed in attacks that Suleimani was allegedly planning than in the likely Iranian response to his death. “The risk of inaction outweighs the risk of action,” she said.

In an appearance at Fordham University, his alma mater, former CIA director John Brennan said last week that the assassination of Soleimani had no “legal basis.”.

Brennan made a clear distinction between an “unlawful combatant,” such as the leader of a terrorist group, and an individual acting on behalf of a sovereign state, such as a military general. He said that according to the Geneva Convention and “a lot of other important foundations,” a non-state actor is not afforded the same protections as a state actor working on behalf of a sovereign state.

“We’re not at war with Iran,” said Brennan. “We have struck Al-Qaeda terrorists numerous times, but they are unlawful combatants. I see no equivalency, either in …  a domestic or international law, that striking a government official of a foreign country that you’re not in war with has a legal basis.”

Brennan’s point is that the United States has an interest in observing international norms. Haspel’s point is that international law should not limit American actions.

Source: Qassem Suleimani and How Nations Decide to Kill | The New Yorker


2 Replies to “Haspel and Brennan Disagree on Assassinating Soleimani”

  1. Regardless of being O.K. or not, Trump has his fingerprints on the killing. History will tell the outcome sometime in the future.

  2. The fact that Haspel’s advice to Trump was invariably at best flawed or at worst false, the targetting and the assassination of Gen Soleimani served two related strategic objectives namely:
    1. to help Trump derive personal political benefit during his impeachment trial which takes place in an election year;
    2. to shore up Netanyahu who is facing corruption charges as while he is engaged in a desperate struggle to cling to political office.
    A third objective could be that of giving his allies in the repressive Gulf Cooperation Council misguided moral support which shall surely come back to haunt them all.

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