As the world keeps a close eye on the growing conflict between the United States and Iran, there’s one important question to ask. Should Donald Trump be considered a war criminal?

The President has provided a plethora of reasons and rationales for the killing of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, many of them direct contradictions, and others unsubstantiated by evidence. Trump believes that Iran hadn’t been properly “boxed in” as they continue to project force in countries such as Syria and Iraq. His strategy in Iran was that he wanted to cut down on their nuclear program and force Iran to cause less trouble throughout the Middle East. He wanted to stop Iran from spreading its footprint throughout the region by applying “maximum pressure” on the Iranian government.

Donald Trump pulled out of the Obama nuclear deal and re-imposed economic sanctions against Iran. The killing of Soleimani is an admission that his maximum pressure campaign, one that would crush Iran, and that would force them to come back to the table and discuss a new nuclear deal, has failed. They still have influence in the Middle East and they’re a continued force in Syria and Iraq. Since the killing of Soleimani, Iran has once again ramped up its nuclear program.

On its own merit, Obama’s nuclear deal worked. Now you have the same people who contended “maximum pressure” would result in Iran coming back to discuss a new nuclear deal, telling the world the killing of Soleimani will do the same thing. Meanwhile, conservatives will tell you they have “reestablished deterrence” and that the Iranian government now sees it can’t get away with these provocations. But from Iran’s perspective, they’re the ones who need to re-establish deterrence. Iran was abiding by the nuclear deal (which is also signed by a plethora of European countries and China), and the United States pulled out and started pressuring the Iranian economy, so Iran responds and the U.S.A. takes an unprecedented step by killing Iran’s number two official.

The White House has offered a variety of claims of the “self-defence” due to an “imminent” attack, while simultaneously undercutting their own arguments. The first statement released by the Department of Defense (DOD), didn’t mention imminent danger. A White House statement mentions”deterring future Iranian attack plans”. This isn’t imminent.

Secondly, the nature of this threat has changed. Is it a threat on the Baghdad embassy, or one of the four other embassies Donald Trump has mentioned? Why was there not a single embassy notified about this imminent attack? They refuse to provide evidence to Congress, including the “Gang of Eight,” (the leaders of House, Senate and the leaders of the intelligence committee which are briefed on everything, both Democrats and Republicans) and they’re supposed to consult with Congress beforehand. The argument doesn’t hold water. Either 1) the President is lying or 2) there was an imminent threat to Americans around the world and various people charged with them didn’t know about, including the Secretary of Defense. The White House has decided to cobble together a legal defence as they go.

I should mention that after a discussion with a peer, (and I am including this because I feel like it is necessary to understand how International Law may play a role in this), that there’s debate about whether the killing of Solemiani is a violation under the International Humanitarian Law (IHL) because “the parties are not currently at war or taking part in an international conflict (yet), and therefore it may not apply (yet)…(b)ecause the principles of proportionality, notion of necessity, and military purpose apply under IHL, but are impossible to prove, states (the US, UK, Israel, Syrian Regime) use ‘security’ as a justification. It’s not just a cheap fear tactic, but also can be used to justify attacks on civilians they deem to be combatants.”

Despite all this, it would still count as an extrajudicial killing and would be in contravention of Article 51 of the UN Charter. You don’t have to see Iran as the “good-guys” to understand why this can be considered a war crime. The implications will be far-reaching and they may never “directly” impact you where you’re living, but it will impact all of our livelihoods. And If you don’t think this type of action can be a precursor to a World War, I invite you to look up and briefly read about Archduke Franz Ferdinand and let me know how his assassination played out on the world stage.

By Curtis Thomas

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