The US regime on tried to justify its assassination of the Iranian commander of the Quds Force in Iraq as an act of self-defense and a measure to "stop a war", but Trumpís Democratic presidential contenders have said that his action has put the United States on a warpath.
In a brief address from his Mar-a-Lago resort in Palm Beach, Florida, on Friday Trump said Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani should have been targeted and killed “long ago.”
“What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved,” Trump said. “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.”
“I have deep respect for the Iranian people. They are a remarkable people with an incredible heritage and unlimited potential. We do not seek regime change,” he said.
‘Trump tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox’
Democratic presidential candidates on Friday condemned Trump from ordering the deadly strike saying his decision was reckless and could lead the United States to another war in the Middle East.
"President Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox," former US Vice President Joe Biden said in a statement.
At a campaign event in Dubuque, Iowa, he added that "the prospect of direct conflict with Iran is greater than it has ever been."
Trump’s move ‘brings us closer to another disastrous war’
Sen. Bernie Sanders (I-Vt.) also issued a stark warning about Trumpís decision.
He said the move "brings us closer to another disastrous war in the Middle East that could cost countless lives and trillions more dollars."
"Trump promised to end endless wars, but this action puts us on the path to another one," Sanders said during an address to supporters in Anamosa, Iowa.
“Trump makes decisions impulsively and without any congressional consultation. Congress needs to reassert its authority over matters of war. Our Founding Fathers had it right,” he said.
‘Weíre not here by accident’
Democratic Senator Elizabeth Warren warned, "Weíre on the brink of yet another war in the Middle East.”
"Weíre not here by accident. Weíre here because a reckless president, his allies and his administration have spent years pushing us here,” she added.
As Republican and Democratic lawmakers sparred over the wisdom of the attack, some legal experts questioned whether Trump had the legal authority to target an Iranian general on Iraqi soil without the permission of Iraq’s government, and whether it was legal under international and US law.
The UN Charter prohibits the use of force against other states unless a state gives consent to the use of force on its territory. Wave of condemnations from Iraqi officials, including President Barham Saleh and caretaker Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi indicates absence of consent from the Arab country.
Yale Law School professor Oona Hathaway, an international law expert, said on Twitter that the available facts “do not seem to support” the assertion that the strike was an act of self-defense, and concluded it was “legally tenuous under both domestic and international law.”
Scott Anderson, a former legal adviser to the US Embassy in Baghdad under Trump’s predecessor, Barack Obama, said Trump’s justification so far under international law is questionable.
Under historic norms of international law, a country can defend itself preemptively if it acts out of necessity and responds proportionally to the threat.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, questioned whether the attack met this threshold.
The targeting of Soleimani “appears far more retaliatory for past acts than anticipatory for imminent self-defense,” she said. “Lawful justifications for such killings are very narrowly defined and it is hard to imagine how any of these can apply to these killings.”
Democratic lawmakers called on Trump to provide details about the imminent threat that he said Soleimani represented.
“I believe there was a threat, but the question of how imminent is still one I want answered,” Senator Mark Warner, the Democratic vice-chair of the Senate Intelligence Committee, told Reuters.
Other critics raised questions about Trump’s authority to kill Soleimani under US law, and whether he should have acted without first notifying Congress.
General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the second-in-command of Iraqís Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), were killed in US airstrikes in the Iraqi capital Baghdad early on Friday. The US strike took place at the Baghdad International Airport, killing eight other people.
The Pentagon said Trump had ordered Gen. Soleimaniís assassination.
The assassination came as the US military said on Sunday it had carried out strikes in western Iraq against the Kataib Hezbollah group, which is part of the pro-government Popular Mobilization Forces.
Iraqi security sources said at least 25 fighters were killed and at least 55 wounded following the air attacks.
Caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi called the move a “dangerous escalation that threatens the security of Iraq and the region” in a statement on Sunday.
Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei promised "severe revenge" for the death of the military commander. Ayatollah Khamenei said the “cruelest people on earth” assassinated the “honorable” commander who “courageously fought for years against the evils and bandits of the world.”