As Iraqi lawmakers vote to kick American forces out of Iraq, U.S. officials urge Americans to evacuate Iraq for their own safety, Iran accelerates its nuclear program, and missions against ISIS are curtailed, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo insisted on Meet the Press yesterday that we are "absolutely" safer as a result of the airstrike that killed Qasem Soleimani.
Pressed further by NBC News' Chuck Todd, the nation's chief diplomat used a line that may come back to haunt him.
Pompeo also said the administration was prepared for any Iranian counterattack."It may be that there's a little noise here in the interim, that the Iranians make a choice to respond," he said. "I hope that they don't."
Donald Trump used a similar line with reporters last night, when asked about fears of Iranian retaliation in response to last week's airstrike. "If it happens, it happens," the president said.
I can appreciate why U.S. leaders would want to downplay threats. It's not as if Trump and Pompeo, desperate to defend a radical new offensive, can be expected to acknowledge the dangers they just created.
But this blasé attitude, dismissing expected reprisals as "a little noise," appears to be wildly at odds with the nature of the threat.
The New York Times reported on Saturday, for example, that after the president green-lit the Soleimani mission, top U.S. military officials were "flabbergasted" and "immediately alarmed about the prospect of Iranian retaliatory strikes on American troops in the region."
New York magazine's Matt Stieb added, "[Pompeo's phrasing] can't age well, considering that the White House warned Congress the day before that it anticipates retaliatory action 'within weeks.' If the administration's own prediction is fulfilled, Pompeo's 'little noise' is going to have quite the echo."