January 3, 2020

Yesterday, Donald Trump took actions independent of Congress that definitely put Americans at risk. We are less safe this morning than we were yesterday. Lawrence O'Donnell hosted former CIA Analyst Ned Price on Thursday night:

O'DONNELL Ned Price, again to this question of Soleimani putting himself in the line of fire like this. We never see an American commander of that high rank, this is equivalent in effect to a cabinet-level position, Joint Chiefs of Staff officer. This is just an extraordinarily high level. But Soleimani himself had to know -- he had to know the kind of chance he was taking by being in Baghdad and being in the Baghdad airport.

NED PRICE: Well, it's possible, Lawrence. But at the same time, this is something General Soleimani had done for quite some time, frankly. He was quite often in Iraq, in Syria, quite often elsewhere, even traveling as far afield in some cases as Russia. Again, this was not a stateless terrorist as Bin Laden or Baghdadi was. This was a powerful, military, security and political figure within Iranian life. Probably the most powerful, the second most powerful person in Iranian society. And to your question, we've been talking about this question of why. I think we also need to raise the question of how this was done. And I would flag two things. Number one, this was done in Iraq. And that is significant, I think, because it really puts on a knife's edge and potentially even has the potential to eliminate the partnership that we have enjoyed with the Iraqi government for some time, a partnership that was, of course, predicated on the initial disastrous decision in 2003 but that successive administrations have found a degree of success working with Iraqi authorities against collective challenges, chiefly the challenge of counter-terrorism and combating ISIS. I think the operation tonight on sovereign Iraqi soil really calls into question whether we will have a partner in Baghdad going forward. But, second, we are already seeing the Trump administration essentially -- about this. The Department of Defense has issued a statement saying explicitly President Trump ordered this operation himself. Look, the chances of retaliation on the part of the Quds force, on the part of other Iranian proxies are profoundly high, and I don't think we're going to get away without some sort of retaliation. At the same time, if the administration had taken a different approach, even if they had decided to undertake this operation but had done so in a way that was quieter, perhaps more discreet, leaving open questions and even this idea of plausible deniability...Look, this is region where bad things happen to bad people. Instead of taking that route, Trump has decided really to, it seems, to take a victory lap, tweeting this strange American flag tweet, having his Defense Department say it was him who personally ordered this strike. And I think that unfortunately puts even more of a target on Americans both in the region and as I said before even further afield to include in the United States where we know the force in the past has had some associates and even some degree of capability.

O DONNELL Hallie Jackson when she was with us talked about the president this week, saying he was interested in peace with Iran. We have video of that, of what Hallie was referring to. Let's watch that.

TRUMP: (video clip) I don't think that would be a good idea for Iran. That wouldn't last very long. Do I want to, no. I want to have peace. I like peace. And Iran should want peace more than anybody. So I don't see that happening. No, I don't think Iran would want that to happen. It would go very quickly.

LAWRENCE: That was the president Tuesday night on New Year's Eve. Couple of things to react to there, but let's react to the last thing the president said. He doesn't want war with Iran, but he said war with Iran would go very quickly. I guess he means it would go quicker than war with Iraq.

PRICE: That's exactly it. Look, America is the most powerful military in the world. We have the most powerful conventional military. We're stronger than Iran. They are experts at unconventional warfare. It's not clear where that kind of war would end. It would be incredibly destructive for both sides. Trump is right that conventionally we're superior, but they have all sorts of other ways to make America feel pain, and there are simply better ways to handle this problem than reaching the precipice of war with Iran. And I think the Iran nuclear deal showed that, and the kind of violence we may see in the days ahead is deeply troubling. I prefer peace, but I don't see he's put us on a path to de-escalate this conflict. It's good to get rid of bad people, but it's bad to have the region on the brink of war.

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