The US drone strike at Baghdad’s international airport that killed Major General Qassem Soleimani, head of the elite Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), has opened a new, yet in a sense an ongoing, Middle Eastern drama. There is an international outcry, and, of course, even Democrats are trying to whip up hatred for President Donald Trump for the killing of Qassem Soleimani. There is no question that Soleimani was at the top of Israel’s target list. Seemingly, Israel did not want to confront Iran directly but wanted the U.S to do its dirty work. America has also had General Soleimani in its sight for a long time, but has always refused to kill him, fearing the consequences. Now Tehran has accused the United States of state terrorism, claiming that General Soleimani was a courageous, wise, rational visionary who engaged in a life long struggle to make the world a better and safer place for everyone. Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif said that the United States terrorist assassination of one of Iran’s top military commanders has, in fact, opened the gates to an ugly course of action which might sooner or later, come to haunt its people across the globe. However, President Trump stated that Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on American diplomats and American personnel, but that we “caught the general in the act and terminated him.”
Soleimani led a shadowy elite military organization called the Quds Force. The U.S says that in recent months the group has backed Iraqi militia who have launched several attacks on U.S personnel, including a recent attempt to storm the American Embassy in Baghdad. The Pentagon reported last spring that between 2003 and 2019, Iranian militia, presumably led by Iran’s second in command, Suleimani, killed many Americans, or 1 out of 6 combat related American deaths in Iraq. But leftist liberals disagree on how to characterize this killing, for example, questioning if what happened would be comparable to Iran killing a high ranking US military official or the director of our CIA with a bomb on US soil. The problem is that General Qassem was not on Iranian soil but rather on Iraqi soil when he was killed. In other words, leftist liberals are accusing America, specifically the Trump administration, of occupying a sovereign state, and thus, assuming authority to destroy its enemies in that role. Further, they question whether an actual attack on Americans was “imminent.”
Many questions arise. What will the Iranians do now? Iran is claiming it will take revenge, so the world is waiting and asking how will Iran retaliate? When and where will Iran go to war with the U.S? Will there be an Israel-Iran war? What will the role of the Kurdish people be? How should the Kurds respond to this? Is there any door open for Kurdish independence? Can Kurds retake Kirkuk? Soleimani was the reason the Kurds lost the oil rich city within a day without any resistance changing his relations with the Kurdish people. Will Iran attack Saudi Arabia, as an American ally, instead of the USA since Iranian missiles already struck its oil tanks last September? Likely Iran will not fight the U.S and Israel, and the crisis will not go beyond reciprocal threats. Iran will send missiles to American Military base or Israel to make his people calm and let them know that Iran is doing something for the revenge. Yet, Iran is not governed by reason and its threat capability has grown.
Iran possesses short, medium, and some long range ballistic missiles and, thus, has the ability to use terrorism to harm the US. America chose to kill Qassem and calculated the consequences as well, but if Iran chooses to retaliate, America will triple its retaliation and will go fully after Iran and its regime. Iran does not have the power to engage the US by force. Iran’s navy is useless as a fighting force. Its Air Defense is made up of old planes that need to be upgraded. Iran did not have precision weapons, although those could be improving as indicated by their strategic attack on the Saudi refineries.
Nevertheless, Iran could use proxy forces that can cause trouble for America and its allies (although America just eliminated the one charged with authority over all overt operations, proxy wars, and interventions from Iraq, Syria, Afghanistan, Lebanon, and Yemen). Iran could use Hamas and Hezbollah to harm Israel, but for decades they have been relying on those tactics and offer nothing new on that front. America has trusted allies like Israel that has a first class air force, missile defenses, submarines, naval assets, well disciplined army, and excellent intelligence service that has resources and command control experiences. Without good inside intelligence and assets, the US could not have pinpointed Qassem Soleimani’s location for the drone attack on his motorcade.
Russia and China will hesitate to get involved in the war over Iran. If China becomes involved, it would be because of the oil it receives from Iran, but other Gulf countries have rich oil supplies as well. As for Russia, Israel has already targeted an Iranian operation in Syria, and Russia could not stop it. If Iran chooses to go to war with the USA and sets its sight on the homeland, the war will be very devastating for Iran and will mean the end to Iranian nuclear ambitions. America would use its bunker busters and precision weapons to destroy Iran’s nuclear weapon sites and would definitely end Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei’s religious rule with his ideological and political control since he is the one wowing to avenge Soleimani ‘s death. Then the Middle East could relax in terms of Iran’s nuclear weaponry.
What kind of sovereign country would set up and operate terror organization cells in other sovereign countries such as Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon? If Iran is a sovereign country and Qassem was a legitimate military general in Iran, then why was General Qassem Soleimani meddling in sovereign countries like Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, and Afghanistan? Evidently, international law is dead. If Iran is a sovereign country, then why does it operate like a terror organization having revolutionary guards, the Quds Force, an elite unit that handles Iran’s overseas operations and carries out covert offensive acts? In the same context, the organizations that Soleimani established, such as the Quds forces and the popular mobilization forces in Iraq, answered to him directly rather than to the Iraqi government even though that militia has become a part of the Iraqi forces? Why is Iran’s major general known to be a ruthless killer yet followed by the masses and deemed to be a hero because of his record of massacres? America did not kill the Soleimani because of the massacres that he and Iran did in Iraq, Syria, Yemen, Afghanistan, but because Soleimani dared to attack the American embassy and American personnel.
What is the difference between ISIS leader Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and this “hero”? Qassem Soleimani was the same as ISIS leader Al Baghdadi with no significant difference. He was as ruthless in implementing every type of terrorism as Al Baghdadi. Abu Bakr Al Baghdadi and Qassem Soleimani shared the same anti-US purpose and now the same fate; both were ruthless killers and both were killed by the US. However, analysts speculate that Qassem’s death could have more repercussions.
Truth reveals a strong case against him. He was a man whose hands were covered in blood especially Sunni blood or Arab blood. Qassem Soleimani was the mastermind behind the revolutionary guards, behind the Kataib Hezbollah (KH), a Shite militant group operating under Hashd al shabi, and behind other organizations and structures. Qassem Soleimani even infiltrated his own groups, the Hashd al shabi militias known as the Popular Mobilization Front (PMF). Then, having been fully integrated into the Iraqi Army in 2019, the PMF gained access to the American designated and heavily fortified Green Zone in Baghdad and later stormed the American Embassy there.
He was the leading architect of the current Persian-Arab wars wanting to attack Saudi Arabia from Lebanon, Syria, and Yemen; and architect of sectarian wars between Shiite and Sunni Islam. Soleimani was behind incredible human rights violations and war crimes in Syria and killed many Sunni Arabs, using all his evil intelligence against them in all the countries where he exerted influence, especially in the memorable Aleppo Massacre.
When he was walking over the corpses of the Aleppo people, he boasted the victory sign, showing his ruthlessness and even his disrespect for the dead bodies. How easily the world forgets those pictures! How easily the left liberal media forgets those images, instead trying to present him as a hero and legend! Even the Time Magazine chose Soleimani as one of the 100 most influential people in 2017. Qassem Soleimani and his criminal organization should be judged for their nefarious activities, not assigned hero status, and should be held accountable for what they have done.
Recently, US personnel died in the latest attacks orchestrated by the now slain “Iranian hero”. Many wondered how America would respond to the human toll. Doing nothing would have encouraged Iran to take more American lives. America learned its lesson in Benghazi when the terrorists killed the American ambassador, and not only did Secretary of State Hillary Clinton fail to intervene, but also President Obama did nothing afterwards, instead apologizing for the terror and just letting Qassem Soleimani have free reins to do whatever he wanted causing American credibility seeming to be at stake. Responding with a direct strike against Qassem Soleimani, however, makes the Americans look like the aggressors. Neither America nor Iran wants a direct confrontation. Iran has insufficient military capacity to do so. It is true that President Trump has the problem of impeachment dangling over him at home, there is an election coming up, and the Democrat do not have a very strong candidate that could defeat Donald Trump. But, if war breaks out between Iran and the USA, America would probably use some Kurds again, because America has a military presence in Kurdistan and among Sunni Arab tribes. Iraq’s Kurds are quietly weighing the opportunity and risk posed by the current Iran and the US conflict and strategist head of a potential trip to America by Iraqi Kurdistan Region President Barzani at the invitation of President Donald Trump. A resolution passed by the Iraqi parliament January 5 urging America to leave Iraq , as some Iraqi Kurds see it, a chance to advance their long cherished dream of independent state with help of USA. America might redeploy US forces from Arab dominated Iraqi to the Kurdistan Regional government. But Kurds will do under one condition under which they might consider agreeing let US military presence and would be in exchange for recognition of their independent state and written guarantees that the United States would protect the Kurds from attack. The killings of Soleimani was good for Iran’s Mullah regimes because it will unite the people as Iran’s regime appropriates this opportunity to curb the anti-regime protests in Iran. Surely the crowd of millions did not show up for Qassem’s funeral. Living under a dictator may require attendance rather than incarceration or death. Many people may genuinely have mourned his death but many may have responded to a government mandate. However, Iraq remains a tinderbox, and Iran may claim that the US provoked this crisis, ignite the fire, and seize this moment of Iranian nationalism to seek revenge. Whatever the response, Soleimani’s death was late in coming and fully justified.
(Dr. Aland Mizell is with the MCI, SETBI and a regular Mindanao Times contributor. You may email the author at email@example.com)