US Senator Lindsey Graham implored US President Donald Trump not to assassinate senior Iran general Qassem Soleimani, warning it would spark an “almost total war,” according to excerpts from Bob Woodward’s forthcoming bombshell book “Rage.”
Trump ordered the January 3 drone strike, which also killed Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, after escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, against which Trump has imposed sweeping unilateral sanctions.
Four days before the strike, Trump discussed it with Graham while golfing in Florida.
Graham cautioned Trump against taking the “giant step,” which he characterized as “over the top.”
“This is over the top,” Graham said, according to The Guardian. “How about hitting someone a level below Suleimani, which would be much easier for everyone to absorb?”
Killing Soleimani would trigger an “almost total war” and is like going from “playing $10 blackjack to $10,000-a-hand blackjack,” Graham warned.
The hawkish Republican senator had been prodded by Trump’s then-chief of staff Mick Mulvaney to try and change the US president’s mind, but Trump was not swayed and authorized the raid.
The strike heightened tensions between the US and Iran in the Gulf but did not ultimately escalate into a war.
Shiite paramilitary groups backed by Iran had been blamed for a series of reprisal attacks on bases housing US troops and later for trashing the US embassy in Baghdad.
Soleimani headed Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force which carries out operations outside of Iran, including in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
For the US and Israel, he was a shadowy figure in command of Iran’s proxy forces, responsible for fighters in Syria backing Assad and for the deaths of American troops in Iraq. In a rare interview aired on Iranian state television in October, Soleimani said he was in Lebanon for almost the entire 34-day duration of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, overseeing the conflict.
Western leaders saw him as central to Iran’s ties with terror groups including Hezbollah and Hamas. He was active in Iraq, central to its current politics, and consequently loathed by Iraqis who demonstrated for months last year against a government they see as beholden to Iran.
Agencies contributed to this report.