Leah Millis/Reuters; Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP
- 27% of Americans said they agreed President Donald Trump should be charged with war crimes over the drone strike that killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, according to a new Insider poll.
- Though regarded as a terrorist by the US, Soleimani was Iran's top general and his killing marked a major escalation in the long history of hostilities between Washington and Tehran.
- The Trump administration has been extremely hostile toward the International Criminal Court (ICC) in attempts to investigate possible war crimes by the US in Afghanistan.
- The US does not recognize the ICC's authority.
- Visit Insider's homepage for more stories.
In the wake of the US assassination of Iran's most important military leader, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, more than a quarter of Americans believe The Hague should bring war-crime charges against President Donald Trump, according to a new Insider poll.
The Insider poll, which ran on Wednesday, found that roughly 27% of the 1,083 respondents said they agreed with Iran that Trump should face a war crime tribunal. The poll did not ask for respondents' opinions on other aspects of Iran's position, including Tehran's desire to bring war-crime charges against the US military and federal government.
The poll asked: "Iran announced it will pursue war-crime charges against President Donald Trump at the International Criminal Court in the Hague over the assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani. Do you agree or disagree with such charges?"
While 27.4% said they agreed that Trump should face war crime charges, a far greater proportion of respondents, 35.6%, disagreed. The most popular poll answer was that a respondent "neither agree[d] nor disagree[d]".
The polling data breaks down as follows:
- 11.8% said they "strongly agree"
- 15.6% said they "agree"
- 24.8% said they "neither agree nor disagree"
- 11.4% said they "disagree"
- 24.2% said they "strongly disagree"
- 12.2% said "I don't know"
US-Iran tensions have steadily increased since May 2018, when the Trump administration withdrew from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal — a multilateral agreement concerning Iran's nuclear program.
Since that time, the Trump administration has pummeled Iran's economy, including its oil industry, with harsh economic sanctions as part of a "maximum pressure" campaign. Washington and Tehran engaged in a series of skirmishes in the Persian Gulf region over the summer, but the Soleimani strike represents the most serious escalation yet.
Soleimani was the leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps' elite Quds force, and though he was considered a terrorist by the US, his killing is considered by some to be the most stunning example of a decapitation strike of a foreign military leader by the US since World War II. The strike shocked the world and further alienated US allies, whom Trump has been pushing away for years.
Following the US drone strike, which occurred on Iraqi soil at the Baghdad International Airport and also killed a powerful Iraqi militia leader and several others, Iran said it would take legal action, calling the attack "a terrorist act."
"We intend to file lawsuits in the Islamic Republic, Iraq and The Hague Court (the International Court of Justice and the International Criminal Court) against the military and government of America and against Trump," Gholamhossein Esmaeili, a spokesman for the Iranian judiciary, said at a recent press conference.
The US does not recognize the ICC's authority, and Trump has been particularly hostile toward the court
The decision by Iran to file a lawsuit against Trump is a largely symbolic gesture. The US has never recognized the International Criminal Court — which can try individuals for war crimes — and the US is not listed among the 123 countries that are party to the ICC's Rome Statute, or founding treaty.
In 1998, the US was among just seven countries, including China, Iraq, Israel, Libya, Qatar, and Yemen, to vote against the Rome Statute. Former President Bill Clinton went on to sign the Rome Statute in 2000, but it was never ratified in the Senate and former President George W. Bush "unsigned" the treaty in 2002.
The Trump administration has been particularly antagonistic toward the ICC, especially in relation to potential investigations into possible war crimes and crimes against humanity committed by US forces and the CIA in Afghanistan. In March 2019, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced the administration was blocking visas for any ICC officials investigating possible war crimes by the US or allies in Afghanistan.
In April, ICC judges rejected a request to investigate possible war crimes by the US in Afghanistan, but this did not end deliberations over the matter. Pompeo, in an October statement, outlined the administration's ongoing opposition to the court, stating, "The US remains committed to protecting its personnel from the ICC's wrong-headed efforts spearheaded by a few grandstanders...The US will take all necessary steps to defend its sovereignty and protect US and allied personnel from unjust investigation and prosecution by the ICC."
Days after the American forces killed Soleimani, Trump made threats toward Iran involving potential war crimes — this time from Twitter.
The president used the social media platform to inform Iran that the US had "targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD," Trump wrote. "The USA wants no more threats!"
Targeting cultural sites is a violation of the Geneva Convention, and the UN Security Council (UNSC) passed a resolution in 2017 rebuking such action, months after Trump took office. The US, which holds a permanent seat on the UNSC, voted in favor of the resolution along with each other member.
SurveyMonkey Audience polls from a national sample balanced by census data of age and gender. Respondents are incentivized to complete surveys through charitable contributions. Generally speaking, digital polling tends to skew toward people with access to the internet. SurveyMonkey Audience doesn't try to weigh its sample based on race or income. A total of 1,083 respondents were collected January 22, 2020, a margin of error plus or minus 3 percentage points with a 95% confidence level.
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