In the wake of the Trump’s assassination of the Iranian general Soleimani I’m seeing a lot of Trump drones who think they’re making a profound observation by pointing out that Trump’s actions have supposedly led to the Democrats defending a “terrorist” or a “mass murderer” or something in that vein.
It’s the stupidest thing I’ve heard in months.
If only the Democrats were defending Soleimani because the man richly deserved it. Next to Bush, Obama and Trump, Soleimani was a downright American hero. Not just a greater and better man them (admittedly that’s a low bar to clear), but a better servant of America’s true national interest (admittedly that’s another very low bar).
Soleimani started his career at Quds by fighting the Taliban years before the US got involved in that fight:
Soleimani and the Quds Force first came into prominence in 1998, after the Taliban murdered hundreds of Afghan Shi’a and nine Iranians (eight diplomats and a journalist) following the capture of the northern Afghan city of Mazar-i Sharif.
While senior Iranian military leadership advocated a massive punitive expedition into western Afghanistan, Soleimani advised a more constrained response, with his Quds Force providing training and material support to the Northern Alliance, an umbrella group of forces opposed to the Taliban. Soleimani personally directed this effort, transforming the Northern Alliance into an effective fighting force.
After the terrorist attacks of 9/11, the US used the Northern Alliance to establish a foothold in Afghanistan and eventually drive the Taliban from power. Soleimani played a major role behind the scenes helping make the US-Northern Alliance partnership viable, including providing operational and intelligence support.
The US-Iranian cooperation was short-lived; President Bush’s designation of Iran as being part of “an Axis of Evil” caused Iran to terminate its cooperation with the Americans.
So at a time when Bill Clinton was busy declining opportunities provided to him by the CIA to take out bin Laden (who by this time had already carried out the US Kenya and Tanzania embassy bombings which killed over 200) and the Taliban were being backed by America’s then-favorite sons the Pakistanis, the Saudis and the Qataris, Soleimani was already fighting them.
Then in 2011, the US started a diplomatic, economic and media war against Syria and coupled it by dumping weapons and dollars on Islamists who shared trenches with al-Qaeda and (until 2013) ISIS. Nearly 50 percent of the fighters were foreign, many of them fresh arrivals from Libya where they had fought on the NATO-backed rebel side.
When this US-Saudi-Turkish assault on the Syrian state and support for Sunni jihad inevitably resulted in the meteoric rise of al-Qaeda and ISIS in Syria (from which the latter then swept western Iraq), Iran was the first in 2013 to recognize the danger and to react to contain it. Soleimani was the man who led a complex Iranian intervention, which stopped the Qaeda-ISIS onslaught and saved Syria’s secular, nationalist government.
It wasn’t until a year later that the US recognizing its mistake joined the fight, but only against ISIS which had spread from Syria to Iraq. As far as al-Qaeda was concerned it was still being de facto boosted by US largesse towards its junior partners in the rebel jihadi coalition.
Realizing they couldn’t do it all on their own Iranians proposed to the Russians they join the fight, against al-Qaeda and ISIS alike. Soleimani was part of these efforts, and part of the Iranian delegation that traveled to Russia to give the pitch. As a result in 2015 Russia joined the fight as well, a year after the Americans, and two years after the Iranians.
Where the Iranian involvement had saved Damascus and created a stalemate the added Russian involvement allowed Syria to regain the initiative and slowly push back against the still partly-US aided jihad.
In Iraq where the US was not pursuing regime change, Russian involvement was not necessary. Instead, Iraq regained the initiative and finally destroyed ISIS with the help of the US and Iran. The US contributed more firepower, particularly the air and artillery cover in the final stages, but the role of Iran and Soleimani was just as important, particularly organisationally and early on. When the corrupt and poorly led Iraqi regular army melted away, giving up major cities without a fight, Soleimani helped the much more motivated Popular Mobilisation Forces militias get going and take over.
Between the 1998-2002 fight against the Taliban and the 2013-2020 fight against ISIS and al-Qaeda Soleimani’s main concern was the US presence in neighboring Iraq. With Bush declaring Iran a part of “Axis of Evil” and the neocons drunk on war declaring that “boys go to Baghdad, but real men go to Tehran” who could blame him?
The US now officially blames Iran, and thus Soleimani, for the deaths of 600 of the nearly 4,600 US soldiers killed occupying or invading Iraq. The number is utter nonsense. It is arrived at by tallying up all US soldiers who were killed in clashes with any of the Shia Iraqi resistance groups.
However, the vast, overwhelming majority of the Shia Iraqi fighting against the US was done by Muqtada al-Sadr’s Mahdi Army which was Shia Islamist but also anti-Iranian Iraqi nationalist. Indeed in time, the relentless US pressure on Sadr would drive him into a tactical reconciliation with the Iranians, but by this point the Mahdi Army had also become a lot less active in the struggle against the US, directing most of its energies to Iraqi infighting.
In reality, the truly pro-Iranian factions, the Badr and Dawa groups which Iran had nurtured during the 1980s Iraq-Iran war, were all too willing to work with the Americans. In fact, it is Badr and Dawa that the US installed in Baghdad and who then fought with Americans against the Sunni resistance that was as much against US occupation as against the new Shia supremacy.
Big media are all repeating the Trump-Pompeo justification that #Soleimani was responsible for killing 600 American boys in Iraq. But as I’ve documented in great detail, that was a completely fabricated story Cheney was using to justify an attack on Iran. https://t.co/pOi06xe2Ou
— Gareth Porter (@GarethPorter) January 3, 2020
Did Iran at the time play a double game? Did it, on the one hand, welcome the US installing its Badr and Dawa proteges in Baghdad, but on the other, also helped Shia and Sunni groups hone their bomb-making skills, so as to ensure Americans lost enough blood to understand how costly a similar Iran occupation would be? Sure it did. But how much of a difference Iran made shouldn’t be overstated.
At the time, particularly around 2006-2007, Iran was blamed for every single roadside bomb attack in which a shaped charge was used. Bush and the neocons wanted Americans to believe these shaped charges, every single one, were being assembled in Iran and then smuggled into Iraq. This was total nonsense. Iraq was awash with weapons, and by this time with expert bomb-makers.
If anything Iran’s Quds would not have been doing the risky but needless work of smuggling in ready-made bombs, but instead would have spread manuals and perhaps some in-person training on how to make them with materials already in Iraq. Nonetheless, the vast majority of Iraqi bomb-makers owed their skills to Saddam’s army and Sunni jihadist literature, not Iran.
Did Soleimani, to defend his country, contribute to the deaths of some American soldiers? Undoubtedly yes, so did Sitting Bull and Crazy Horse, and countless other good patriots.
However, it is the Saudis, who saw the Iraq war as a larger Shia-Sunni conflict, who with their bankrolling* of the Sunni insurgency against the pro-Iranian Badr and Dawa contributed to the deaths of infinitely more American soldiers, yet they are in good graces in Washington. Now just as much as when they were actually financing Iraqi IEDs.
Indirectly Bush is likewise responsible for the deaths of many more American soldiers by throwing them into aggressive and immoral neocon wars of the Empire. (And then not even cracking down on the Saudis to cut off the funds to the Sunni insurgency to help protect them, but scapegoating Iran, which was doing far less, instead.)
Even with some help to the 2003-2011 anti-American struggle in Iraq taken into account, Soleimani did far more to fight America’s enemies than to aid them, which is more than could be said of Bush, Obama and Trump.
*This was done through private donations but which were fully tolerated by the state. Additionally, it is notable that the Saudis tended to disproportionately back the very worst parts of the Sunni insurgency.