Petraeus on Soleimani Airstrike: 'This is Bigger Than Bin Laden' and Baghdadi's Death
Former CIA Director David Petraeus characterized the U.S. drone airstrike that killed Iran's top military commander, Qassem Soleimani, as "bigger" than the raid that killed former Al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden and the death of Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the former head of ISIL.
"It's impossible to overstate the significance of the attack that takes out Qassem Soleimani and the number two militia leader in Iraq [Iraqi paramilitary chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis] as well, who also never dared to set foot in Iraq during the surge after we've missed him and he escaped. So this is bigger than bin Laden. It's bigger than Baghdadi," Petraeus said Sunday on CBS's "Face the Nation."
Describing Soleimani's role in Iran, Petraeus said that "this is the equivalent in U.S. terms of the CIA director, CENTCOM commander, JSOC commander, and presidential envoy for the region for Iran."
As for the next stage of dealing with Iran, Petraeus, who served in Iraq during the troop surge and in Afghanistan, encouraged the Trump administration to "reach out" to Iran through "intermediaries" to come to some sort of agreement on its nuclear program.
"It's not quite enough, I don't think, to say, 'well, they know how to reach us,'" he said. "I think we should actually be trying to reach out through intermediaries first, of course, as we have in the past, and then trying to come to some kind of agreement about how to get back to the nuclear deal that was had its strengths, as well as some shortcomings, to be sure, and then address the other legitimate grievances and issues that we have about militia activity, support and the missile program."
Petraeus said it "appears" that President Trump decided the airstrike was necessary to "sure up deterrence" after Iran's past attack on a U.S. drone and the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad.
NEW: David Petraeus on implications of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani: “What has happened here I think is frankly that we lost the element of deterrence,” adding that the real question will be whether there’s a diplomatic initiative. pic.twitter.com/fiGJyj6puK
— Face The Nation (@FaceTheNation) January 5, 2020