A Washington Post report says that President Donald Trump wanted to kill Gen. Qasem Suleimani as far back as 2017. When Trump asked his national security team for options he was ignored.
Trump didn't know who Suleimani was when asked about him during the presidential race, nor did he know anything about the paramilitary Iranian Quds Force, which Suleimani ran, the Post explained.
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began his tenure in the Trump administration Jan. 23, 2017, but as the director of the CIA. He has wanted to kill Suleimani for over a decade, according to reports. Five months into Trump's term, he was talking about taking Suleimani out.
The first moment came in 2017 when Iranian-backed rebels fired ballistic missiles at Saudi Arabia’s capital before Trump landed for his first overseas visit of another country. Then-Defense Secretary Jim Mattis urged prudent action.
“It’s an idea that’s been batted around for a while,” the Post cited a former senior Pentagon official. “It’s not a hard or particularly complicated idea to come up with.”
In the absence of people like Mattis, Gen. John Kelly or Gen. Joseph Dunford, there were no military advisers willing to urge caution.
"Despite his reputation as an Iran hawk, Mattis prioritized defeating the Islamic State. More broadly, he was focused on preparing the military for possible conflicts with great powers, such as China and Russia, during his time in the top civilian post at the Pentagon," said the Post.
After pulling out of Syria, Trump's national security team shifted its focus to Iran.
"Marine Gen. Kenneth F. McKenzie Jr., has made Iran the top focus for his command," the Post explained.
“There’s been a change in circumstances, priorities and personality from Votel to McKenzie,” the former senior Pentagon official revealed.
Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Mark Milley took over in Dunford's absence. Out went Dunford's "deliberately measured" approach to military action.
The new crop of advisers seems more unified about Iran.
"The result is 'less introspection, less debate and faster action,'” another former Pentagon official said. “It’s a smaller team, more like-minded, capable of coming to agreement quicker.”
As chief of staff, Mick Mulvaney isn't exactly a moderating force either. Kelly frequently told military officials he wanted to talk to the president before they carried out actions.
“He’d get spun up, and if you bought some time, you could get him calmed down, and then explain to him what his decision might do,” the Post quoted a former senior administration official.
When Trump tried to pull troops out of Iraq suddenly or tried to leave NATO, Kelly talked him down. When Trump decided to pull out of Syria, no one attempted to block him, the Post said. Instead, officials circulated a note "to be aware" of the phrasing in Trump's statement. In the past, Kelly and even Sarah Huckabee Sanders stood in the way of Trump releasing such a statement.
"Those who support a hawkish Iran policy have cheered the new group of advisers around the president along with Trump’s more aggressive posture toward Tehran. Democratic lawmakers, however, have expressed fear that the president could inadvertently stumble into a larger war with Iran," reported the Post.
“For all of Mattis’s reputation as an Iran hawk, he ended up being one of the most sober-minded people in the Cabinet,” Sen. Chris Murphy (D-CT) said, explaining that there aren't many in Trump's national security team that have any diplomatic experience.