Donald Trump‘s decision to order a drone strike to kill top Iranian General Qassem Soleimani was partly motivated by his desire to appear stronger than former President Barack Obama, Newsweek reports.
The Obama administration took heavy criticism for its response to the 2012 attack on a U.S. consulate in Benghazi, Libya. The terrorist attack killed four Americans, including then-Ambassador to Libya, J. Christopher Stevens, and U.S. Foreign Service Information Management Officer Sean Smith.
Just this week, a similar situation took place when the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad, Iraq, was attacked by the members of the Kataib Hezbollah paramilitary group that were reportedly backed by Iran. In response, Trump sent soldiers and two Apache helicopters to the region. The president allegedly believed that more decisive action could help solidify his reputation and separate him from his predecessor.
According to The Washington Post, South Carolina Sen. Lindsey Graham said Benghazi “loomed large” in Trump’s mind when he was mulling over his options for responding to Iran.
Trump has long made it a goal of his campaign to tear down Obama’s legacy, and The Guardian reports that some believe it was due to the former president mocking the real estate mogul’s political aspirations during the infamous 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association dinner.
“Future historians may well ask: was this the moment that Trump resolved to storm the White House and tear down the Obama legacy?” the piece reads.
Here's the segment from the last White House Correspondents Dinner when Obama put Trump on blast BIGLY pic.twitter.com/ysfG1eJtj4— Aaron Vallely (@Vallmeister) February 26, 2017
Trump also reportedly feared that a lack of action would make the U.S. look weak in the wake of a series of other attacks and provocations by Iran that went unaddressed.
“The argument is, if you don’t ever respond to them, they think they can get by with anything,” an unnamed White House official told The Post.
Trump and his allies have suggested that the attack was motivated by a purported imminent attack Soleimani was planning on the U.S.
“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” the president said to reporters. “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.”
The attack has led to the resurfacing of comments by Trump’s 2016 Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton, warning that his “thin skin” could lead to war. The footage comes as users of Twitter recirculated several times that Soleimani trolled Trump, with some suggesting that such trolling played a role in motivating the president’s attack.