Political Observation - The Assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Head of Iran's elite Quds Force

بسم الله الرحمن الرحيم

Political Observation  - The Assassination of Qassem Soleimani, Head of Iran's elite Quds Force

In our previous Observation issued on 1 January 2020 and entitled “US Raids on Bases of Popular Mobilisation Forces (PMF) in Iraq and Syria, we forecasted the “destroying of the capabilities of the PMF that support the influence of some of the most prominent Shia parties.” We also construed from the political data that the measures warranted by US interests “not only necessitated a radical treatment of the PMF but also those who stood behind them”, namely Iran, Eventually, it did not take long for the Pentagon to announce today, Friday 3 January 2020, that “at the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.” The statement added that “General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.” Yesterday (2 January), US defence secretary Mark Asper said: “There are some indications out there that they may be planning additional attacks. Do I think they might do something? Yes, and they will likely regret it.” He added: “If we get word of attacks, we will take preemptive action as well to protect American forces, protect American lives.”

Following the raids on the Iraqi PMF bases, some Iranian officials incited the PMF publicly to attack US forces in Iraq in revenge for the violent American attack on the bases of the PMF in Syria and Iraq, describing the US as weak and powerless. This confirms what we mentioned in our earlier observation, namely that the attack by the PMF on the military base in Kirkuk and the killing of an American soldier had been plotted with the aim of quelling the protests and thwarting America’s efforts to reshape the Iraqi regime and sideline Iran, who had been treating Iraq as her own property rather than America’s, and prevent her from influencing the decision-making process in the Iraqi government, as well as thwarting America’s endeavour to curb Iran’s penchant to transgress the boundaries of her functions and take advantage of the political vacuum in the Jewish entity, especially as the issue of assassinating Soleimani was raised last October in the “Israeli” press by the chief of the “Israeli” intelligence, Mossad, Yossi Cohen. “With all due respect to his bluster, he hasn’t necessarily committed the mistake yet that would place him on the prestigious list of Mossad’s assassination targets,” Cohen said. “He knows very well that his assassination is not impossible,” he added. 

Qassem Soleimani was the Iranian official directly in charge of the security and military file in the region; his targeting by America carried a strategic dimension due to the what the man represented, and confirmed America’s commitment towards her initiative for the regional solution, in addition to sending a strong message not only to weaken the PMF and Iran’s surrogates but also a deterring message to Iran due to her dubious move towards Russia and China in the recent manoeuvres in the Indian Ocean.

Despite the fact that a major decision such as the assassination of Soleimani may surpass the policy of brinksmanship, America however did not follow-up with a military mobilisation to conduct a regional war. Iran is also not likely to dare and persist in resisting the American initiative in the region, even if she carried out a token retaliation to save face.

If the assassination of deputy chief of the Popular Mobilisation Committee, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, terrifies the leaders of the PMF who interfere with politics and the forming of the government, the assassination of Soleimani is set to weaken the influence of the conservative movement in Iran in favour of the reformist forces whose popularity has been eroded due to the economic downturn caused by US sanctions. This may give a pretext for Iran to refrain from her confrontational policy with America and return to the boundaries of her function; she will endeavour to keep her role as a scarecrow within the limits that secure her interests and those of the US at the expense of neighbouring countries because she realises that her presence on the regional scene is subject to America’s consent due to her sectarian and nationalist unpopularity in the region, unlike Turkey, who enjoys a popular support throughout the Islamic world. 

The operation is undoubtedly tinged with some domestic political tensions in the US and it may lend some popularity to Donald Trump who was eager to link his name to the operation, whereas senior Democrats challenged the attempt of the Republicans to reap the fruits of the operation and enhance their popularity. Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden stated that “Trump tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox”. “No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing,” he added, stressing that “none of that negates the fact that this is a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region,” For his part, Democrat member of the Senate’s foreign relations committee, Chris Murphy, tweeted: “Soleimani was an enemy of the United States. That’s not a question. The question is this - as reports suggest, did America just assassinate, without any congressional authorization, the second most powerful person in Iran, knowingly setting off a potential massive regional war?”, while Republican House Minority Leader, Kevin McCarthy, said: "Soleimani was a terrorist. President Trump and our brave servicemembers just reminded Iran - and the world - that we will not let attacks against Americans go unpunished." Republican Michael Waltz said that Soleimani’s killing was “long overdue and the right response. He was the commander of the special forces and intelligence in Iran and submitted his reports directly to the Ayatollah, and he was responsible for the killing of hundreds of US soldiers and thousands of people in the region”. 

Although the operation as a whole did not exceed a tit for tat in a calculated and controlled manner, the potential escalation of the situation however hinges on the Iranian conservative camp’s compliance with the US administration’s volition with the Iraqi file, and Iran abandoning any ambitions exceeding its functional role and attempts to resist America’s agenda in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon; and this is probably what is going to happen.

Once again, it has been proven that America cannot be trusted and that her interests always come first. Allah the Almighty has uttered the truth by saying:

“And do not incline towards, nor rely upon, those who are bent on evildoing lest the fire should touch you” [Hud – 113]

8 Jumada al-Oulah 1441h
3 January 2020