By The World—
The United States is sending nearly 3,000 additional troops to the Middle East from the 82nd Airborne Division as a precaution amid rising threats to American forces in the region, the Pentagon said on Friday.
Iran promised vengeance after a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday killed Qasem Soleimani, Tehran’s most prominent military commander and the architect of its growing influence in the Middle East.
The overnight attack, authorized by US President Donald Trump, was a dramatic escalation in the “shadow war” in the Middle East between Iran and the United States and its allies, principally Israel and Saudi Arabia.
As former commander of US forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and a former CIA director, retired Gen. David Petraeus is very familiar with Soleimani. He spoke to The World’s host Marco Werman about what could happen next.
Marco Werman: How did you know Qasem Soleimani?
Gen. David Petraeus: Well, he was our most significant Iranian adversary during my four years in Iraq, certainly when I was the Central Command commander, and very much so when I was the director of the CIA. He is unquestionably the most significant and important — or was the most significant and important — Iranian figure in the region, the most important architect of the effort by Iran to solidify control of the Shia crescent, and the operational commander of the various initiatives that were part of that effort.
General Petraeus, did you ever interact directly or indirectly with him?
Indirectly. He sent a message to me through the president of Iraq in late March of 2008, during the battle of Basra, when we were supporting the Iraqi army forces that were battling the Shia militias in Basra that were supported, of course, by Qasem Soleimani and the Quds Force. He sent a message through the president that said, “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qasem Soleimani, control the policy of Iran for Iraq, and also for Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan.”
And the implication of that was, “If you want to deal with Iran to resolve this situation in Basra, you should deal with me, not with the Iranian diplomats.” And his power only grew from that point in time. By the way, I did not — I actually told the president to tell Qasem Soleimani to pound sand.
So why do you suppose this happened now, though?
Well, I suspect that the leaders in Washington were seeking to reestablish deterrence, which clearly had eroded to some degree, perhaps by the relatively insignificant actions in response to these strikes on the Abqaiq oil facility in Saudi Arabia, shipping in the Gulf and our $130 million dollar drone that was shot down. And we had seen increased numbers of attacks against US forces in Iraq. So I’m sure that there was a lot of discussion about what could show the Iranians most significantly that we are really serious, that they should not continue to escalate.