(CNSNews.com) – Michael Morell, who served as acting and deputy CIA director during the Obama administration, told “CBS This Morning” on Friday that while the world is a better place without Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qassem Soleimani, his death “comes at a very high cost” – retaliation that could lead to the death of Americans and specifically civilians.
“Qassem Soleimani was an evil genius. He had a lot of American blood on his hands. He was the mastermind behind Iranian maligned behavior in the region. The world is a better place without him. The problem is that comes at a very high cost. Number one, there will be dead Americans, dead civilian Americans as a result of this, possibly over the next few days in any place where Iran has its proxies. Iraq is the most likely place, but also Lebanon, Bahrain, other places in the Middle East,” Morell said.
He warned that U.S. senior officials will be considered “fair game” by Iran, which sets “a dangerous precedent.”
“Number two, this sets a precedent that senior officials are fair game in this hybrid, not yet at war kind of scenario that we're in with Iran, and that's a dangerous precedent to set,” he said. “Number three, this is actually going to enable the hardliners, strengthen the hardliners in Iran.
“As we heard earlier, Qassem Soleimani, extremely popular in Iran, and that is going to actually strengthen those people who follow him. And lastly, I think we've now ended any hope of keeping Iraq out of Iran's arms. I think we're going to see the Iranian parliament vote very shortly, possibly as earlier as today, to send American troops home,” Morell said.
“So yes, it's good that he's gone, but it comes at an extraordinarily high price, and that's why the Bush administration and the Obama administration chose not to do something like this,” the former acting CIA director said.
"Asked to predict how Iran is likely to respond, Morell said, “So I think it depends. I think if they think about it rationally, they will not conduct a military strike on U.S. military forces in the region because they're going to lose that battle.
“I think what the Iranians are going to do is they're going to turn their proxies loose throughout the region to go after civilians, and at a time and place of their choosing, they're going to conduct a terrorist strike that kills a senior American official, and that could be anywhere in the world. The Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah, their main ally, have contingency plans on the books for such terrorist attacks. So such a terrorist attack could occur soon,” he said.
“When you say – and it's bracing to hear you say that there will be dead Americans including civilians in this response from Iran, and it could be anywhere in the world, that includes the United States?” “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason asked.
“Yes, it does,” Morell responded.
“How might that unfold?” Mason asked.
“As I said, Lebanese Hezbollah, which is one of you know their closest allies, has contingency plans, and those include plans in the United States against U.S. targets,” Morell said.
As to who will replace Soleimani, Morell said his successor has already been announced.
“So there is some chatter on social media about the Iranians having already announced his successor. It's his deputy. It's his longtime deputy of 22 years - same philosophy, same ideology, not the same charisma but the same approach. I don't think we’re gonna see a change in Iranian behavior as a result of Qassem Soleimani’s death,” he said.