UNITED STATES: At a lavish cocktail party in December 2020, former President and business magnate, Donald Trump confided in his friends over his fear that Iran would assassinate him as punitive revenge for the death of Qassem Suleimani, an Iranian general killed in a US drone strike nearly a year before.
This startling revelation is reported in a new book by Peter Barker and Susan Glasser, a husband-wife team who writes for the New York Times and the New Yorker.
The book entitled, “The Divider: Trump in the White House 2017-2021”, will be published in the US next week. The Guardian has been able to lay its hands on one copy.
Baker and Glasser navigate the convoluted and labyrinthine networks of the US and its international ties, Trump’s Iran policy, from reluctant talks over the nuclear deal signed under Barack Obama to the eventual US withdrawal in May 2018.
The book also charts the trajectory of the June 2019 events when Trump agreed to launch air strikes but called them off at the last minute.
Trump said then, “I thought about it for a second and I said, ‘You know what, they shot down an unmanned drone … and here we are sitting with 150 dead people that would have taken place probably within a half an hour after I said go ahead.’ And I didn’t like it … I didn’t think it was proportionate.”
It later emerged that primetime Fox News host and avid Trump supporter, Tucker Carlson, was among those who advised Trump against ordering the Iran strikes.
However, six months later Trump did authorize the strikes against Suleimani.
The commander of the elite Quds (Jerusalem) force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, which the US designated a terrorist group in April 2019, was killed on 3 January 2020 as he left Baghdad airport.
Officials confirmed Iran-backed Iraqi militias were also killed in the strike, which used an MQ-9 Reaper drone.
The Pentagon said Suleimani had been “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”.
Trump bragged about the strike, addressing a rally in Toledo, Ohio: “We stopped him and we stopped him quickly and we stopped him cold.
“He was a bad guy. He was a bloodthirsty terrorist, and he’s no longer a terrorist. He’s dead.”
Despite his braggadocious behaviour at the rally in front of potential red voters, his mien and attitude in private, a year after the incident, was much less bullish, according to Glasser and Baker.
On 16 December 2020, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader of Iran, tweeted, “Those who ordered the murder of General Suleimani, as well as those who carried this out, should be punished. This revenge will certainly happen at the right time.”
This cold threat perhaps scared Trump who was already admitting his fear of assassination at private parties by influential people.
Baker and Glasser report in the book that Trump and his close aides considered new strikes but backed off because the end of Trump’s term in office was too near.
The authors also write, “At a cocktail party, Trump told several of his Florida friends he was afraid Iran would try to assassinate him, so he had to go back to Washington where he would be safer.”
Eventually, Trump returned to Washington, where Baker and Glasser write, he swiftly “turned up the heat on Mike Pence”, his vice-president whom he was pressuring to block electoral college results confirming Trump’s election defeat by Joe Biden.