Commentary Magazine


Topic: Qasem Soleimani

Don’t Simply Complain About Qasem Soleimani in Iraq

Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Qods Force, has been taking his show on the road for years, making public appearances first in Syria and most recently in Iraq. Today, new photos circulated on Twitter of Soleimani sharing lunch in the eastern Iraqi governorate of Diyala.

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Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Qods Force, has been taking his show on the road for years, making public appearances first in Syria and most recently in Iraq. Today, new photos circulated on Twitter of Soleimani sharing lunch in the eastern Iraqi governorate of Diyala.

Certainly, Iran wants to defeat the Islamic State (ISIS). It’s not simply propaganda to suggest that ISIS also threatens Iran. The Islamic Republic might officially be a Shi’ite state, but about ten percent of Iranians are Sunni. They are often bitter, discriminated against both on ethnic and sectarian grounds. In June, Iranian security announced the arrest of several dozen ISIS members operating inside Iran.

But just because Iran and the United States both have an interest in what happens to ISIS does not make Tehran and Washington natural allies. After all, arsonists and firefighters are both interested in what happens to fires, but they are clearly not on the same side.

The U.S. Treasury Department in 2007 designated the Qods Force as a terrorist group “for providing material support to the Taliban and other terrorist organizations.” While a bill formally labeling the Qods Force as a terrorist entity died in congressional committee (perhaps President Obama can consider executive action), the government of Canada was not so easily distracted, and two years ago labeled Qasem Soleimani’s unit to be terrorists.

Normally, the head of a shadowy organization like the Qods Force would avoid the limelight, but by taking such a public presence in Iraq, Soleimani is convincing Iraqis that it is Iran which has its back while simultaneously depicting the United States as at best hapless, and at worst complicit with ISIS. After all, Soleimani is among the Pentagon’s most wanted, and yet he runs around Iraq thumbing his nose at the United States. And, of course, he and the Iranian regime he serves are, alongside Russia, behind the rumors that the United States created and supported ISIS, never mind that it was the Assad regime supported by Soleimani that refused for years to use the Syrian air force to bomb the ISIS headquarters in Raqqa, Syria; Soleimani and Assad preferred instead to target Syrian civilians. When it comes to killing ISIS, the United States does far more than Iran.

The idea that anyone in the United States would simply complain about Soleimani’s antics, however, is absurd. It’s about as effective as a kid complaining to an elementary school teacher that a bully is making faces at him.

If the United States is serious about the Qods Force and wishes to hold Qasem Soleimani to account for the deaths of Americans, it has two options: First, it can try to grab him in Iraq. There is precedent. The United States has previously snatched Iranian operatives in Iraq, but ultimately released them. There are rumors that the real goal of the raid was to catch Soleimani himself. Earlier efforts to grab Soleimani may have been betrayed when senior officials within the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) leaked word to him of impending action.

Then again, if Obama doesn’t have the stomach to grab Soleimani, it might simply try to kill him. Airstrikes might target all terrorists and extremists, not simply those from one sect. Soleimani is probably right to suspect that he has a free pass from Obama, so long as Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei continues to dangle a legacy-revising agreement in front of American negotiators.

Under such circumstances, then, Soleimani probably has another two years to flaunt himself in front of the cameras in Iraq without fear of consequence. Let us hope, however, that come January 20, 2017, any new president will understand no terrorists deserve a free pass and that it is never wise or sophisticated to allow them to humiliate the United States on the world stage. Credibility matters.

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Iran’s Funeral for a Terrorist’s Mom

Writing at Iranwire.com, journalist Reza HaghighatNejad puts together a useful photo essay of dignitaries attending the funeral of the mother Qods Force chief (and designated terrorist) Qasem Soleimani. HaghighatNejad is correct to note:

As political barometers go, nothing tops a regime funeral in Iran. Who attended from which faction, who received a triple-kiss, who sent gladiolas and a note; often these events are more illuminating in matters of state than an election. In that light, the event of the year was surely the funeral of the mother of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Qods Force, held in Tehran this past weekend.

When I was in southern Iraq during the Iranian elections earlier this summer, I did a debate on the meaning of Hassan Rouhani’s victory via telephone on an NPR affiliate in California. Iraqis who were hearing one side of the conversation could not understand the purpose of the debate. “Don’t Americans understand that Qasem Soleimani is the real president of Iran?” one asked.

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Writing at Iranwire.com, journalist Reza HaghighatNejad puts together a useful photo essay of dignitaries attending the funeral of the mother Qods Force chief (and designated terrorist) Qasem Soleimani. HaghighatNejad is correct to note:

As political barometers go, nothing tops a regime funeral in Iran. Who attended from which faction, who received a triple-kiss, who sent gladiolas and a note; often these events are more illuminating in matters of state than an election. In that light, the event of the year was surely the funeral of the mother of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Qods Force, held in Tehran this past weekend.

When I was in southern Iraq during the Iranian elections earlier this summer, I did a debate on the meaning of Hassan Rouhani’s victory via telephone on an NPR affiliate in California. Iraqis who were hearing one side of the conversation could not understand the purpose of the debate. “Don’t Americans understand that Qasem Soleimani is the real president of Iran?” one asked.

While the West hopes for change and rumors abound about the possibility of bilateral tête-à-têtes, the embrace of Soleimani should not be ignored:

The message of condolence sent by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei topped the proceedings, read aloud and describing Soleimani’s service to Islam and Muslims as a “valuable treasure.” In response, Soleimani, in rather uncustomary manner, relayed his own message to the Supreme Leader, in which he called himself “ashamed and lowly” before Khamenei’s favour, and declared his wish to martyr himself in recompense. Soleimani went on to call Khamenei a peerless leader and the true head of the Muslim world, underscoring both his ideological affiliation with and total obedience to the Supreme Leader.

And lest the White House place its hopes in the so-called reformists, former President Mohammad Khatami might be a useful barometer of just what the reformists stand for:

As unexpected messages go, the missive of former president Mohammad Khatami has also caught the Iranians media’s attention. Despite some friction between the Revolutionary Guards and Khatami during his tenure (the Guards threatened to intervene in 1999 if Khatami didn’t clean up the Tehran University student protests himself), in recent years it has been said that the relationship between Soleimani and Khatami is actually decent. Khatami’s condolence note seemed to confirm that, praising the commander’s record in resistance and martyrdom.

At any rate, the whole photo essay is worth a look, as some of the Islamic Republic’s shadiest characters appear briefly in the limelight.

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