I have read on wikipedia that for every adult the (U.S) targets on average 9 children gets killed, Trump ordered a strike on Iranian Military Leader in Baghdad.

  • is targeted killing legal or atleast in this case?

  • can those who perform these operations be arrested and prosecuted?

  • can a new war begin between the two countries?


  • 2
    Who would arrest and prosecute whom? How? Theoretically, Iran could make a charge and conviction under their legal system. Then what?
    – Damila
    Jan 3 '20 at 19:53
  • @Damila,iranian military leader was killed in baghdad, i think it is illegal to assasinate someone like that under their law, similiar to someone else shooting and killing someone, can those who performed the operation get arrested and prosecuted in baghdad ?
    – Zheer
    Jan 3 '20 at 22:07
  • 2
    @Damilla If a person got convicted by Iran, that person would be well-advised not to enter Iran ever, and not to go anywhere where they could get extradited to Iran.
    – gnasher729
    Jan 4 '20 at 0:30

Whether or not a war between political entities can result from some action is completely political and strategic, and not legal. The specific incident is probably legal, given US and international law regarding military action. Unless the order was self-evidently unlawful there is no possibility of arrest and prosecution under US law, however there might be a framework for legal action by Iran, if e.g. a drone operator were to fall into Iranian hands. The specifics of the order are not generally known, though we know that DoD states that this was due to a presidential order. This article discusses targeted killing from a legal perspective. In the context of war, killing is legal though not entirely unregulated.

There was a failed attempt to sue the US in the case Al-Aulaqi v. Panetta, which involved a targeted killing of a US citizen involved in planning terrorist attacks, a suit which was dismissed. One problem is that the suit "failed to state a 4th Amendment claim", and also failed to state a 5th Amendment due process claim since Al–Aulaqi's deaths was unanticipated. The court notes that a Bivens claim allows damage action against a federal officer for violation of clearly-established constitutional rights. However,

No case has discussed precisely whether a plaintiff can proceed on a Bivens action that claims deprivation of life without due process based on the overseas killing by United States officials of a U.S. citizen deemed to be an active enemy.

In the discussion, the question arises whether special circumstances counsel hesitation (Doe v. Rumsfeld and citations therein), which the Doe court notes would "require a court to delve into the military's policies", and they will not do that lightly. All of this is about US citizens. Soleimani was not a US citizen.

  • So for example let's say if somehow they found one of the drone operators,can they arrest and prosecute the drone operator if he/she is in the same country or state(Baghdad in this case) or request to extradite him/her to their country under criminal law?
    – Zheer
    Jan 3 '20 at 19:17
  • 3
    Iran cannot legally arrest in Iraq. Details of the Iran-Iraq extradition treaty are totally mysterious. I also don't know if Iraq thinks that it can arrest US soldiers under Iraqi law, but I'm pretty sure the US thinks it can't. Nor do I know where the drone operator operated from (probably not Iraq).
    – user6726
    Jan 3 '20 at 19:28
  • 1
    I seem to recall that during the first Gulf War, U.S. law forbade the targeting of an individual person by the U.S. military, but the publicity about that led to a change in the law because it was considered more morally acceptable to target a dictator than to bomb his palace and kill everyone in it. Jan 4 '20 at 5:40
  • 2
    I think the change derives from post 9-11 AUMF. The latest version was Executive Order 12333, an order forbidding assassination, issued by Reagan.
    – user6726
    Jan 4 '20 at 5:44
  • 1
    This article gives historical details on the "paradigm change": tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/09636412.2018.1483633
    – user6726
    Jan 4 '20 at 6:00

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