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For Trump, a Risky Gamble to Deter Iran

EntertainmentFor Trump, a Risky Gamble to Deter Iran

For now, they cannot — at least in traditional ways.

But they have attempted terrorism, including an abortive effort to kill a Saudi ambassador in Washington nine years ago, and late Thursday the Department of Homeland Security was sending out reminders of Iran’s past and current efforts to attack the United States in cyberspace. Until now, that has been limited to attacks on American banks and probes at dams and other critical infrastructure, but they so far have not shown they have the capabilities of the Russians or the Chinese.

Their first escalation may well be in Iraq, where they back pro-Iranian militias. But even there, they are an unwelcome force. It was only a few weeks ago when people took to the streets in Iraq to protest Iranian interference in their politics, not American. Still, there are soft targets throughout the region, as the attacks on the Saudi oil facilities showed.

Complicating the management of a perilous moment is the president’s impeachment and the revival of Iran’s nuclear program.

It is only a matter of time before there are questions about whether the strike was designed to create a counternarrative, one of a conflict with a longtime adversary, while a Senate trial to determine whether to remove Mr. Trump begins. And already there are charges that the president overstepped his bounds, and that the decision to kill General Suleimani — if it was a decision, and the Iranian leader was not simply in the wrong convoy at the wrong moment — required congressional approval.

“The question is this,” Senator Chris Murphy, the Connecticut Democrat, asked on Twitter as news of the strike spread. “As reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”

Mr. Trump will argue that he was well within his rights, and that the strike was an act of self-defense. And he will have a strong argument: General Suleimani was responsible for the deaths of hundreds, if not thousands, of Americans in Iraq over the years, and doubtless was planning more.

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