2020 has already started off with a bang heard around the world. On January 3, many across the world woke to the news that Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani was killed in an airstrike by U.S. forces in Baghdad, Iraq. At face value, concerns arise that the United States eliminated a General of another major nation, but there is much more to Soleimani than being a General in Iran. Since 1998, Soleimani has been the head of the Iranian Quds Force, a branch of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps that is under the direct supervision of Iran’s Supreme Leader. The Quds Force acts as a mixture of Iran’s special and clandestine operations forces. Most importantly, the Quds Force has armed and backed anti-American terror cells across the Middle East, and has engaged in direct conflict with American forces in Iraq and Syria.
The United States and the international community have known for years that Soleimani and the Quds Force have been operating in Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan against coalition forces, but have been skeptical to pursue a strong response. Soleimani has been allowed to operate virtually unimpeded, despite the State Department being able to trace back the deaths of over 600 American troops to the actions of the Iranians or Iranian backed forces. That ended today.
In what appeared to be the final straw for the United States, Soleimani recently directed an attacked by Iranian backed militias against the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad only a few days ago. This came after 18 months of escalation, with the downing of American drones, the attack on Saudi Arabian oil fields, and the continued attacks on US forces across the region. The airstrike targeting Soleimani appears to be the official response for these acts.
Congressional Democrats today have cried out against the move claiming that President Trump did not have the authorization to take this action, and that there is no plan in place to address retaliation from Iran. These criticisms are misguided. Soleimani was designated as a terrorist by the Bush administration, and since he was operating in Iraq, fell under the current Congressional Authorization for Military Force. President Trump did not need further authorization to eliminate a terrorist leader operating in Iraq, Syria or Afghanistan.
US sources have indicated that Soleimani was plotting more attacks against American and coalition forces across the Middle East, and while specific details have not been released, it has been common knowledge that Soleimani has plotted and executed such acts for the past two decades.
As expected, the Iranians have promised “retaliation” for the killing of Soleimani. The United States should take this extremely seriously at home and abroad. The Iranians will likely increase attacks against the US and their allies across the Middle East, while pursuing a more intense cyber assault on the United States. Given the Quds Force past history, they could even be plotting attacks in the US, Israel, and Europe.
Iranian backed forces in Iraq, including in the Parliament, are calling for the Iraqi Government to expel US forces from the country in response to this attack. The pressure coming from Iran and the influence that they continue to command is further proof of Soleimani’s reach in the region. Protests have begun in Iran and Iraq, with some cheering the mans death, and others urging Iran to respond. While some have pointed out that Iranians are angry over this move given Soleimani’s popularity in Iran, it is also worth noting that the Quds Force have been responsible for the very same brutal oppression in Iran that has caused protests against the government in recent years.
One of the few things most analysts can agree upon is that we are now in uncharted waters. The killing of Soleimani is a major step, potentially even more significant than that of al-Baghdadi or Bin Laden. Soleimani was not only the head of the Quds Force,but repeatedly seen as the natural successor to the current Ayatollah of Iran.
However, at the end of the day, the justification for America’s action comes down to Soleimani’s own actions over the past two decades. Soleimani has not only murdered Iranians, Iraqis and Syrians, but Americans, Brits, Israelis, Saudis and so many others. Soleimani also plotted a direct attack on Washington D.C. when the Quds Force attempted to assassinate the Saudi Arabian Ambassador to the United States by blowing up a restaurant that the Ambassador frequented.
If Iran does indeed escalate further, then they will be alone in their actions. The international community should stand with the United States given Iran’s past actions, and they almost certainly will. There is no love loss between Iran and Saudi Arabia, Israel, Jordan and Egypt, the strongest military forces in the Middle East. Even Russia and China would struggle to find a way to back Iran given their actions in the past.
Despite the back and forth that Republicans and Democrats will now have, the screams of “World War III” and that this is the new Archduke Ferdinand moment, it all boils down to one key fact:
The world is a much safer place with this terrorist eliminated from the battlefield and Iran’s power structure, and this action has been a long time coming.
For more on conflict in the Middle East and Iran, check out my latest book “America 2020: The Grand American Political Landscape” available today on Amazon!