It is a rare single event that causes a global shock wave. The termination of Qaseem Soleimani, the feared & celebrated head of Iran’s Quds force, is such an event. There are many angles to this event & its ramifications. But let us begin with the most clear & obvious. Read what Ian Bremmer, head of Eurasia group, said on CNBC Squawk Box on Friday morning – ” … the world is better off without Soleimani on it“.
No one can accuse Ian Bremmer of being a Trump supporter. So read what he said about President Trump’s decision to terminate Soleimani:
- “… you also can’t call Trump a hawk; if he was looking for excuses to go to war against Iran, he has had ample; … he has wanted to pull pull out & he has not been eager to engage in strikes …”
So why did President Trump decide to terminate Soleimani? Bremmer said,
- “It was a red line when Soleimani directly orchestrated attack against the US base; American soldiers injured; one American killed & then the embassy; that for Trump was a much sharper requirement to respond“
Clearly, Soleimani invited his own termination by a historic mixture of arrogance, ignorance & contempt for America and President Trump. Perhaps, his long record of success had finally blinded him. What long record, you ask? Read what Geopolitical Futures wrote on Friday,
- “As chief of the IRGC’s notorious Quds Force, Soleimani had been instrumental in a range of efforts that ran counter to U.S. interests, including countless insurgent attacks on U.S. troops in Iraq in the 2000s, Baghdad’s subsequent expulsion of U.S. forces from the country, Iran’s successful campaign to turn the tide of the Syrian civil war back in favor of Syrian President Bashar Assad and the surge in Hezbollah’s capabilities on Israel’s border. “
He, with his colleagues in the Iranian regime, was incensed at President Trump’s cancellation of the Nuclear Accord Iran had persuaded President Obama to sign. He was probably even more incensed at the economic strangulation of Iran by President Trump. He felt he was already at war with America and he wanted to inflict visible & significant damage on America & on President Trump’s credibility in the world.
Look at the recent sequence of actions by his Quds force against American interests & credibility. They seized oil tankers in the Gulf; they arranged to fire missiles against Saudi oil infrastructure, a previous U.S. red line going back decades. But President Trump did nothing to or against Iran. That emboldened Soleimani & the entire Iranian leadership. Didn’t Iran’s Supreme Leader say recently about President Trump that “he can’t do anything“?
So they took the next step with an attack that injured American soldiers & killed an American citizen. What did President Trump do? Did an air strike that killed about 25 Iranian Shia militants. Soleimani must have laughed at that response. He was a man who had sacrificed tens of thousands of Iranian militia members both in Syria & against ISIS. He must have dismissed the American response as a pin prick.
So they took the next big step. They showed their power & reach to President Trump & the world by attacking the U.S. embassy in Baghdad. It was a big win in his & Iranian minds & confirmed to them the invincibility & untouchability of Qaseem Soleimani. In doing so, he made a mistake that Osama Bin Laden had never made:
- Michael Weiss@michaeldweiss – 1/3 – Shows you just how comfortable the IRGC was running around Iraq. Muhandes turning up to escort Soleimani and a handful of Iranian officers from the airport was terrible opsec—except for the fact that no one in this retinue thought the US would dare hit them.
Guess what! Soleimani presented President Trump a fantastic opportunity to show Iran & the world what Trump’s America is. It seems clear that the strike on Soleimani’s convoy was at the direct instruction of President Trump. It was brilliant, it was audacious & it was a great statement to the World that when you attack America & American citizens, you die.
And that statement was made without crossing Iranian sovereign land, without endangering lives of American soldiers & also without collateral damage to other Iranian soldiers or citizens. And Soleimani did not die alone. With him died Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a senior commander of Iraqi Shia militias reporting to Soleimani, and, according to some reports, deputy Hezbollah leader Naim Qassem.
It is so clear that Soleimani misunderstood Trump’s patience for verbose cowardice & believed he was untouchable. It was a mistake Osama Bin Laden never made. That is why Osama was not killed until he had gone into semi-retirement while Soleimani was terminated at the peak of his power.
Any one who has read the Mahaa-Bhaarat can recognize the parallel of the termination of Shishu-Paal when he finally crossed a big redline after a life time of crimes & attacks against the Divine order.
2. Shock in Iran; Impact on the Middle East
Everyone can see the enormity of the shock felt by Iranian leadership. They never imagined that that Soleimani himself could be terminated.
They have been used to deaths of their foot soldiers & intense damage to their physical infrastructure & the economy. They have been telling the world that they are the victims of a crazy U.S. President and they are forced to fight for their independence & well being of their people. The stepped-up sequence of their attacks was aimed at forcing President Trump to attack Iranian installations, an attack that would make them global victims & generate global condemnation of President Trump & America. They would have been happy to sacrifice thousands of Iranian-Iraqi fighters to achieve their goal. But they never imagined that Soleimani himself would be terminated as a result.
Iranians believe they are masters of asymmetric warfare; masters of doing the unexpected. Now they are utterly shocked to learn that Trump’s America is even better at doing the unexpected, even better at asymmetric warfare. And this America can target the top Iranian leadership, especially outside Iran as Soleimani was.
Yes, the first reaction of the Iranian leadership will be emotional & angry even to the point of stupidity. After all, Soleimani was a national treasure for & in Iran and also for Iraqi Shias. But they know that the U.S. is totally prepared. As General Mark Kimmit said on CNBC on Friday – “we have the initiative; we will control the response, not Iranians“.
And, as Ian Bremmer pointed out on CNBC – “every time they [Iranians] have faced overwhelming military force, they have backed down;
If Iran is shocked to their core, the rest of the Middle East is pleasantly & joyously reassured. The man they feared the most was Qaseem Soleimani who had the power to create mayhem in the entire middle east. His skill, his ingenuity & his decades long record of success against massive odds had created fear in the countries in the middle east. They were also shaken by President Trump’s refusal to take on Iran for the missile attacks on Saudi Oil infrastructure.
Now? Look what Sadad Al-Husseini said on CNBC on Friday morning:
- “The US has shown its hand now; they are not going to tolerate any more interference by the Iranians against US interests in the region. So I would say that strengthens the relationship between the U.S. & the other countries.”
3. In Iran & in Iraq
There is no doubt that both Iran & Iraq owed a great deal to Soleimani.
- Katie Bo Williams@KatieBoWill – This is absolutely a big part of the equation in Baghdad. As one senior Iraqi official put it to me last night: “Remember [Soleimani] was the first to come help us fight ISIS. Without him, Baghdad and Erbil might have fallen.”
But there is little doubt that many in Iran felt that Soleimani was getting too strong, too arrogant & perhaps leading Iran into a terrible predicament. Look what Sadad Al-Husseini said:
- “The Iranians need to confront the reality that their foreign policy is not working; Soleimani was a problem; he was a very extreme element in Iranian leadership; there may be others like him, but this is an opportunity for the moderates in Iran to try to calm down the events & to pull back some of the interference they are having with other countries”
Soleimani & his Republican Guards (IRGC) were reportedly behind the killings of Iranian protesters who marched against Iranian monies going to Palestine & Lebanon. Now that he is gone, perhaps some of the excesses of the IRGC may be toned down by the Iranian leadership.
It is now obvious to all that Iran has great control in Shia Iraq with its Shia militias that report to Iran & not the Iraqi parliament. But now their unquestioned leader is gone. And, in a second strike on Friday, 5 more Shia military leaders were terminated north of Baghdad.
And, while Iraqi leadership & Prime Minister Abdul-Mahdi condemned the termination of Soleimani, the more interesting reaction came from Muqtada al-Sadr, the well known Shia cleric & leader. Per Geopolitical Futures, Muqtada Al-Sadr “called on Iran to avoid escalation, obliquely criticized pro-Iran militias, pledged to revive his own militia, the Mahdi Army, and didn’t mention the United States by name“.
Remember the riots by Iraqis in Basra against Iranian control of Iraq & against the economic conditions in Iraq? Now that Soleimani has been eliminated, will Muqtada al-Sadr revive his Mahdi Army & seek to lead a “Iraq for Iraqis” type political movement?
4. Eagle & Snakes
The Trump Administration has made it clear now & before that they have no interest in any type of regime change in Iran. Actually their big goal is to reduce America’s massive commitment to the Middle East & withdraw to the extent possible. But America cannot do so without curbing Iran’s drive for hegemony in the North Persian Gulf by building a land bridge under Iranian control from Iran across Iraq, Syria to Lebanon.
Some fear that the termination of Soleimani will lead to a bigger presence of U.S. military in the Middle East. We think the fears are misplaced. The Trump Administration has zero desire to re-occupy Iraq & to increase US troop presence in Iraq. Instead, the U.S. will be focused on reducing Iranian influence in Iraq & on substantially reducing Iranian Quds force infrastructure in Iraq.
The second strike that reportedly killed about 5 Shia militia leaders north of Baghdad may serve as a model for curtailing Iranian control of the Shia militias in Iraq. The Eagle is not stupid enough to land in a snake pit and fight snakes on the ground. It patiently waits in the sky for the snake to reveal himself & move out in the open. Then the Eagle swoops down & kills the snake in a single blow. Witness the termination of Soleimani.
It is the effective model the U.S. has used to cut down the senior ranks of the Taleban. It can be used even more effectively against the pro-Iranian leaders of the Shia militias. And unlike Afghanistan, American goals in Iraq are modest & manageable. America simply wants the Iraq to be run by & for Iraqis and not for Iran. This is a low-cost, low-profile commitment that doesn’t involve U.S. troops. And, unlike Afghanistan, America has major allies in Iran’s neighborhood who share America’s goals.
5. A seminal moment?
It has proved foolish to make big statements about the Middle East. Despite that, we feel the termination of Soleimani by the Trump Administration is a seminal moment for the Middle East. It might lead to a reaction or even a battle of sorts, perhaps in Lebanon. But we do think we will look back at the Soleimani termination & see how it changed the power equation in the Middle East.
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