Skip to main content

Sign up for our newsletter.

Quality journalism. Progressive values. Direct to your inbox.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Sen. Tom Cotton (R-Ark.) leave the House chamber after President Donald Trump's State of the Union Address to a joint session of Congress in the Capitol on Tuesday, Feb. 5, 2019. (Photo: Bill Clark/CQ Roll Call)

'World War III' Trends as Hawks Rejoice at Trump Decision to Assassinate Iranian Military Leader

"Hawks are celebrating Soleimani's assassination not because they believe it weakened Iran...But because they believe we have passed an irreversible point of escalation."

Jake Johnson

As peace advocates voiced alarm at the very real prospect of all-out conflict with Iran following the assassination Thursday night of that country's top military leader on orders from U.S. President Donald Trump, war hawks who have had their crosshairs trained on Iran for years enthusiastically celebrated Trump's decision—and even suggested the president should go further by targeting the nation's oil refineries.

"Trump's Iran policy has been seeking to incite war with Iran since he reneged on the nuclear deal in May 2018."
—Sina Toossi, National Iranian American Council

"To the Iranian government:  If you want to stay in the oil business leave America and our allies alone and stop being the largest state sponsor of terrorism in the world," tweeted Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), a longtime supporter of regime change in Iran.

Republican Sens. Marco Rubio (Fla.), Tom Cotton (Ark.), Jim Risch (R.-Idaho), and Ben Sasse (Neb.) joined the chorus of applause, hailing Trump for taking "decisive action."

Trita Parsi, executive vice president at the Quincy Institute for Responsible Statecraft, tweeted in response to the torrent of praise that "hawks are celebrating [Qassem] Soleimani's assassination not because they believe it weakened Iran. Or the IRGC. Or that Iran will lose in Iraq. But because they believe we have passed an irreversible point of escalation."

"From here, war is unavoidable, they believe," Parsi added. "And celebrate."

The likely unlawful U.S. assassination of Soleimani—and the jingoistic applause it provoked—led many to express fears of a global conflict, briefly catapulting "World War III" to the top of Twitter's trending list. Trump, for his part, simply tweeted an image of an American flag following the strike:

Trump's decision to kill Soleimani, as well as at least six others, with a drone strike in Baghdad came after the Pentagon threatened Iran with preemptive action in response to supposed indications it was planning attacks on U.S. forces in the region.

Though the Pentagon did not offer a shred of evidence that Soleimani or militia groups were planning attacks, corporate media outlets dutifully echoed the Trump administration's line, leading some commentators to see parallels with the buildup to the Bush administration's 2003 invasion of Iraq.

"I don't see any way to stop what is coming, war from the Mediterranean to the Indus and harsh repression in the U.S. that may vitiate the 2020 election," said Barnett Rubin of the Center on International Cooperation. "This is the test for the Democrats: have our leaders learned anything since 2003? I fear the answer."

Observers warned the U.S. assassination of Soleimani, on top of the Trump administration's violation of the nuclear accord last year and other aggressive actions, effectively foreclosed the possibility of peaceful negotiations with Iran.

"Whatever happens next, understand and never stop pointing out that Donald Trump walked into office with no crisis with Iran," said Stephen Miles, executive director of Win Without War. "He then filled his cabinet with warmongers, walked away from a multilateral diplomatic accord, and purposefully engaged in 'maximum pressure.' He owns this."

Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei quickly vowed "harsh retaliation" in response to Soleimani's assassination, and Iranian Foreign Minister Javad Zarif accused the U.S. of committing "an act of state terrorism."

Amid fears of revenge attacks, the State Department on Friday urged U.S. citizens to leave Iraq immediately.

"Trump's Iran policy has been seeking to incite war with Iran since he reneged on the nuclear deal in May 2018," said Sina Toossi, senior research analyst with the National Iranian American Council. "If a war breaks out, the blame lies squarely with this disastrous policy and its proponents."

"Trump thinks he got his Bin Laden moment in an election year," Toossi added. "In reality, he's made the worst strategic mistake by an American leader since the Iraq invasion. The consequences will be felt for years to come."


Our work is licensed under Creative Commons (CC BY-NC-ND 3.0). Feel free to republish and share widely.

We've had enough. The 1% own and operate the corporate media. They are doing everything they can to defend the status quo, squash dissent and protect the wealthy and the powerful. The Common Dreams media model is different. We cover the news that matters to the 99%. Our mission? To inform. To inspire. To ignite change for the common good. How? Nonprofit. Independent. Reader-supported. Free to read. Free to republish. Free to share. With no advertising. No paywalls. No selling of your data. Thousands of small donations fund our newsroom and allow us to continue publishing. Can you chip in? We can't do it without you. Thank you.

'Next Up? Legalize It': Advocates Cheer Biden Move to Pardon Marijuana Convictions

"This is what pressure and advocacy look like," said anti-poverty activist Joe Sanberg. "This must be the first of many steps to ending our decadeslong failed policies on marijuana."

Brett Wilkins ·


At Least 66 Clinics in 15 States Have Ended Abortion Care Post-Dobbs

Over a third of those facilities have fully closed, meaning patients also lost "access to contraceptive care, STI testing and treatment, and pregnancy care," said a Guttmacher Institute researcher.

Jessica Corbett ·


US Jobless Claims Jump as Fed Shoves Economy to 'Precipice of Global Recession'

One expert called on Powell "to think twice before plunging our economy into a wholly avoidable recession and completely undoing one of the strongest job recoveries on record."

Jake Johnson ·


'Flying Blind': Analysis Shows World's Biggest Polluters Hide Climate-Related Financial Risks

"When companies don't take climate-related matters into account, their financial statements may include overstated assets, understated liabilities, and overstated profits," said one expert at analysis firm Carbon Tracker.

Julia Conley ·


After Dumping $15 Billion Into Fossil Fuels, World Bank Urged to Stop 'Investing in Climate Disaster'

"If the World Bank wants to be a part of the solution rather than the problem, it needs to stop funding fossil fuels and unlock billions in order to support the transition to renewable energy across the globe and end poverty and inequality," said one campaigner.

Brett Wilkins ·

Common Dreams Logo