In an interview with The West Block guest host Eric Sorensen, David Frum said that while Iran bears responsibility for firing the missile at the plane, which crashed killing all 176 on board, it was Trump who escalated the conflict.
“It’s Iran’s crime. The Iranians acted and the Iranians killed. But this crime occurred in the context of an escalation that the United States also contributed to and contributed to under false pretenses.”
Trump and American officials have insisted the president ordered a targeted drone strike to kill Soleimani, the architect of Iran’s strategy to expand its influence in the Middle East, because of a threat he deemed “imminent.”
But Democrats and some Republicans have blasted him in recent days for not providing any evidence in classified briefings given to lawmakers that backs up that claim, and Frum argued in a column for The Atlantic last week that if the claim of an “imminent” threat was true, taking out the second-highest ranking member of the Iranian regime wouldn’t have made any logistical difference because the gears on the ground would have already been in motion.
“Instead of acknowledging that Soleimani was killed in reprisal, the Trump administration instead argues that the killing was necessary to avert attacks that were simultaneously so imminent that only killing could thwart them and so non-imminent that by attacking the top of the chain of command, the gunmen on the ground would somehow be stopped,” Frum wrote in his column.
He reiterated those concerns to Sorensen and said that as a result, relations between Canadian officials and Trump could face further challenges.
“It’s obviously going to be a strain,” he said, pointing to the toll of the tragedy on Canadian communities like Edmonton.
Thirteen of the victims had connections to the city, though Edmonton’s total was initially believed to be nearly half of the Canadians killed.
Trump’s decision to target and kill Soleimani marked a significant escalation in the ongoing tensions between the U.S. and Iran, which had been hitting each other in tit-for-tat retaliatory strikes over the course of the last several months.
The targeted killing came just days after forces believed to have been backed by Iran swarmed the American Embassy in Baghdad on New Year’s Eve, and Trump had initially described the drone strike as retaliation for that incident.
However, Frum said he also believes Trump views the prospect of escalating the conflict with Iran as a way to distract from the impeachment proceedings underway against him back in the United States.
Roughly three-quarters of Americans say in polling that they do not want another war in the Middle East, though, raising the question of whether the escalation will have the effect Frum believes Trump may intend it to have if the conflict turns into war.
“The Trump administration has been stumbling towards exactly that situation: partly by accident, partly because of the president’s bad political calculation that escalating with Iran will help him with impeachment, but the confrontation keeps getting more violent,” he said.
“President Trump is deluding himself if he thinks he’s going to get any political relief from using violence against Iran.”