When, in November 2017, Commander Qasem Soleimani presented a victory letter to his leader, Ayatollah Khamenei, announcing the end of ISIS / DAESH rule in the region, it was not simply the message of an Iranian General to his Commander in Chief. Soleimani was writing as a regional leader, a key strategist and trainer of commanders, who had fought the enemy from Saddam Hussein’s assaults on Iran, through the defence of south Lebanon from Israel’s incursions. He had helped organise the defence of Palestinians in besieged Gaza, helped defeat NATO-backed al-Nusra terrorists in the towns of the Qalamoun mountains, and helped liberate from DAESH the cities of Raqqa, Mosul and Tikrit, culminating in the final victories at Deir Ezzor and al-Bukamal.
The Quds Force leader wrote:
“Six years ago a dangerous plot … covered the Islamic world like a devastating storm … [but] the resistance of the Iraqi and Syrian governments and the perseverance of the armies and young men of these two countries … played an important role in overturning this dangerous event … [I can announce] the termination of the rule of this vicious cursed entity [DAESH], following the liberation operation of Abu Kamal, as the last fort of ISIS [DAESH], bringing down the flag of this US-Zionist made terrorist group and raising the flag of Syria”.1
While many brave and dedicated Syrian, Iraqi and other regional soldiers had brought about this victory, no serious writer could dispute Soleimani’s role in crushing DAESH. This group – a monstrous spawn of the Saud regime, at the behest of Washington, and backed by Turkey, Israel and others – had not only overrun Iraq and Syria, but had entered Afghanistan and had made attacks at the heart of Iran. In June 2017 a DAESH group attacked Iran’s parliament and the mausoleum of Imam Khomeini, killing 12 people.2 DAESH was one of several groups, including the MEK terrorists, which Washington had set up in attempts to goad and weaken the Islamic Republic, while using it to divide and rule the independent peoples of the region.
There should be no mystery about this. Although Washington formally denied supporting the various al Qaeda groups, all of which aimed at a sectarian religious caliphate, the evidence was plain that their ‘moderate rebels’ and the internationally banned terrorist groups were one and the same. Washington had masterminded DAESH, Jabhat al Nusra and others to divide and weaken both Iraq and Syria.3 They admitted as much. US intelligence in mid-2012 admitted that religious extremists dominated the insurrection in Syria, and that Washington was very happy to see an ‘Islamic State’ in eastern Syria, so as to weaken Damascus.4 Former head of the US Army General Martin Dempsey and former Vice President Joe Biden both admitted in 2014 that their ‘close allies’ financed and armed all the anti-Syrian armed groups, including Nusra and DAESH. No honest analyst could imagine that US allies would act independently of Washington on a matter such as this.5
Iranian people were well aware of Soleimani’s role, so it is not surprising that his standing at home was tremendously high. Opinion polls carried out by the University of Maryland found that, since the defeat of DAESH, Soleimani’s popularity in Iran throughout 2018 and 2019 had remained above 80%, much higher than that of any other Iranian public figure.6 Intelligent western observers would have known this.
Most of them admitted Soleimani’s anti-terrorist achievements, while maintaining the myth that Washington shared this aim. Time magazine quoted Iraqi politician Dhia Al-Asadi, aligned with Moqtada Al-Sadr, as saying: “Soleimani is going to be missed by almost all those who were serious about fighting against Al-Qaeda and ISIS”.7 CNBC reported that “the terrorist group ISIS will likely be the winner as tensions between Washington and Tehran mount after the U.S. killing of Iran’s most powerful military commander … The U.S. and Iran, though adversaries, are mutual enemies of ISIS and effectively fought against ISIS to crush the terrorist group’s de facto state in Iraq and Syria”.8 Another report observed that “Trump’s decision to order Soleimani’s assassination was almost universally condemned … [it] forced the US-led coalition to freeze its efforts against ISIS and undermined Iran’s fight against ISIS, which was led by Soleimani.9 They did not doubt Soleimani’s decisive role.
DAESH leaders celebrated the murder as an “act of divine intervention”, though without praising the actual culprits. US military observers noted that Soleimani was “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today” and had led “operations alongside Hezbollah against Israel and support for Syrian forces against Islamist militant groups … [and] perhaps most significantly, coordinating the Syrian war effort against Western backed militants in [Iraq]”.10 The International Association of Democratic Lawyers condemned the murders as “an illegal act of aggression which violates US and international law”.11 None of the pretexts given for the assassination, which included the slaughter of more than 30 Iraqi soldiers, stood up to scrutiny. Indeed the claims used the ‘Bethlehem doctrine’, a pre-emptive ‘self-defence’ attack, the very same fake rationale given for the criminal invasion of Iraq, seventeen years earlier.
Only very stupid or vulgar propagandists did not recognise the standing of Soleimani. The Saudi regime’s mouthpiece Al Arabiya claimed that Soleimani was an ‘”evil” man and a mass killer.12 Of course, as the Saudis were the principal sponsors of DAESH, one can understand their chagrin. It is not clear whether such statements are meant to be taken seriously, but they were certainly designed to add to an atmosphere of North American self-congratulation. Yet they ensure delusions which mislead imperial culture, to its detriment.
1- Soleimani, Qasem (2017) ‘Gen. Soleimani congratulates Ayatollah Khamenei and Muslims on ISIS termination’, Khamenei.IR, 21 November, online: http://english.khamenei.ir/news/5283/Gen-Soleimani-congratulates-Ayatollah-Khamenei-and-Muslims-on
2- BBC (2017) ‘Iran attacks: ‘IS’ hits parliament and Khomeini mausoleum’, 7 June, online: https://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-40184641
3- Anderson, Tim (2019) Axis of Resistance: Towards an Independent Middle East, Clarity Books, Atlanta Georgia, Chapters 5 & 7.
4- DIA (2012) ‘Department of Defence Information Report, Not Finally Evaluated Intelligence, Country: Iraq’, Defence Intelligence Agency, August, 14-L-0552/DIA/297-293, Levant report, online: http://levantreport.com/2015/05/19/2012-defense-intelligence-agency-document-west-will-facilitate-rise-of-islamic-state-in-order-to-isolate-the-syrian-regime/
5- Rothman, Noah (2014) ‘Dempsey: I know of Arab allies who fund ISIS’, YouTube, 16 September, online: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nA39iVSo7XE
6- SPP (2019) ‘Iranian Public Opinion under ‘Maximum Pressure’’, 16 October, School of Public Policy, University of Maryland, online: https://cissm.umd.edu/research-impact/publications/iranian-public-opinion-under-maximum-pressure
7-Walt, Vivienne (2020) ‘Why Iraqis Are Worried About an Islamic State Resurgence After Soleimani’s Death’, Time, 8 January, online: https://time.com/5761448/why-iraqis-are-worried-about-an-islamic-state-resurgence-after-soleimanis-death/
8-Tan, Weizhen (2020) ‘There’s a winner from the US-Iran crisis, and it’s ISIS’, CNBC, 6 January, online: https://www.cnbc.com/2020/01/06/us-iran-crisis-isis-is-the-winner-in-death-of-qasem-soleimani.html
9-Sheth, Sonam and Eliza Relman (2020) ‘Trump is claiming victory over Iran, but his escalation has alienated allies, hurt US-Iraq relations, provoked Iran to leave the nuclear deal, and jeopardized efforts against ISIS’, Business Insider, 10 January, online: https://www.businessinsider.com.au/trump-claims-victory-iran-escalation-dire-consequences-2020-1
10-Military Watch (2020) ‘Iran’s Deadly ’Shadow Commander’ General Qasem Soleimani Killed in U.S. Attack: A Major Thorn in America’s Side for Decades’, 3 January, online: https://militarywatchmagazine.com/article/iran-s-deadly-shadow-commander-general-qasem-soleimani-killed-in-u-s-attack-a-major-thorn-in-america-s-side-for-decades
11-IADSL (2020) ‘IADL condemns US assassination of Gen. Qassem Soleimani as an illegal act of aggression’, International Association of Democratic Lawyers, 5 January, online: https://iadllaw.org/2020/01/iadl-condemns-us-assassination-of-gen-qassem-soleimani-as-an-illegal-act-of-aggression/
12- Al Arabiya (2020) ‘Iran’s Qassem Soleimani: Global Mass Killer’, 3 January, online: https://english.alarabiya.net/en/features/2020/01/04/Iran-s-Qassem-Soleimani-Global-mass-killer