By Caroline C. ’21
On January 8th, Winsor’s Political Action Club (WPAC), headed by Catherine Friendly ’21 and Eva Fisherman ’21, had the opportunity to discuss the assasination of Iranian Major General Qassim Suleimani over the phone with Tony Blinken, Deputy Secretary of State from 2015 to 2017 and National Security Advisor from 2013 to 2015 during the Obama presidency. “It was important to talk about General Suleimaini’s assassination in WPAC because it was a very partisan and politically charged issue with large consequences that could have even been greater” than they were, stated Eva.
The first question from a WPAC member prompted the discussion about what Blinken hoped would happen after the event on both sides, the US and Iran. Blinken highlighted that, only days after the assissination, Iran had already retaliated against the US by launching missiles at an American army base in Iraq. “We are going down a dangerous path; we have both shown that we can hurt each other and now I hope that each side pulls back. Neither the US nor Iran wants this to spiral into a real war,” Blinken commented.
WPAC then went on to discuss other, more specific topics related to this event. Another central focus of the call was comparing how the Obama administration (of which Blinken was a part member) had handled General Suleimani, who was an important figure in the Iranian regime; he was the mastermind of terrorist plots etc. Blinken explained that “he was a bad guy with American blood on his hands. However, Obama thought about the consequences versus the reward of assassinating General Suleimani and eventually determined the consequences would not be worth the reward.” WPAC then discussed how we felt that the tension the assination and retaliation has caused the deterioration of the US-Iran relations. The broken trust with Iran caused Iran to state that they would not respect the program between the US and Iran to control the development of nuclear weapons. With insight from Blinken, WPAC posed the question as to whether Americans were actually safer now than they had been before the assassination of General Suleimaini? Catherine thought it was important to compare the Obama and Trump administrations because the assassination “was an unprecedented move by a president who has done things differently in the past.” After the meeting, WPAC determined that one of the most interesting topics during the call was about “how the Obama administration calculated the risks differently from the Trump administration. The central mission of our club is to understand both sides of complicated, controversial issues so we wanted Mr. Blinken, who had been involved in the planning of the Osama Bin Laden raid, to weigh in on this comparison” relayed Catherine.
Finally, Blinken talked about the manner in which President Trump introduced the idea of assassination to Congress and to the American people. Blinken commented about his surprise with how long it took Trump to publically address the assassination after it happened. He also commented that Congress has the power to declare war instead of the president, so, in Blinken’s opinion, President Trump should have talked to Congress about his idea to assassinate General Suleimani earlier. In another member of the club, Charlotte Dewitt’s ’21 opinion, “the biggest takeaway from the call was how important it is to play by the book and go through the proper channels, especially when it comes to a decision that affects so many people like killing a general and committing an act of war.”