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Was Killing Suleimani Justified?

At a press conference following the US drone strike that killed Iran's top military commander and several others, a senior State Department official blurted out: “Jesus, do we have to explain why we do these things?” In fact, the international rule of law depends on it.

MELBOURNE – On January 3, the United States assassinated Qassem Suleimani, a top Iranian military commander, while he was leaving Baghdad International Airport in a car with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, an Iraqi leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iran-backed militia. All the occupants of the car were killed.

The next day, at a special press briefing, an unnamed senior US State Department official said that Suleimani had been, for 20 years, “the major architect” of Iran’s terrorist attacks and had “killed 608 Americans in Iraq alone.” He added that Suleimani and Muhandis had been designated as terrorists by the United Nations, and that “both of these guys are the real deal in terms of bad guys.”

In 2003, US intelligence about Iraq’s supposed possession of weapons of mass destruction was completely wrong. Those errors led to the invasion of Iraq, which cleared the way for the involvement of Iran and Suleimani in the country. But let’s assume that this time the facts are as the US administration says they are. Was the double assassination ethically defensible?

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