by Tahir Mustafa (Main Stories, Crescent International Vol. 48, No. 12, Jumada' al-Akhirah, 1441)
“And say not of those slain in Allah’s cause, ‘They are dead’: nay they are alive, but you perceive it not” (2:154).
General Haj Qassem Soleimani has gained even greater stature in death than he had when he was alive. The head of Iran’s Quds Force was martyred together with the deputy head of al-Hashd al Sha‘bi (Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units – PMU), Abu Mahdi al Muhandis at Baghdad international airport in the early hours of January 3. General Soleimani had just arrived from Syria on a regular commercial flight. He was carrying a letter from Iran’s leaders to the Saudis to be delivered through the Iraqi Prime Minister ‘Adil ‘Abd al-Mahdi. This was in response to a Saudi message about de-escalating tensions between Riyadh and Tehran as well as trying to end the Saudi war on Yemen.
The US missile strikes fired from a drone were a violation of Iraqi sovereignty, against International Law as well as the UN charter (for what they are worth). As head of the Quds Force, General Soleimani was a senior official of the Islamic Republic. His assassination, according to many commentators, constitutes a war crime. There has been much speculation about the reason for the US strike and its timing.
Official explanations from the White House have been a bundle of contradictions, the most ludicrous being the claim by US Vice President Mike Pence that General Soleimani had “helped” 11 of the 12 hijackers involved in the 9/11 attacks (for the record, there were 19 hijackers, the majority of them Saudis, as per the official US claim). Pence’s claim was widely derided even in the US. American officials have been clutching at straws to justify Soleimani’s assassination.
How popular General Haj Soleimani was became evident during the processions that were held for him in various cities of Iran including Ahvaz, Mashhad, Tehran, Qom, and his hometown of Kerman. Millions of people came out to pay their respects to a great Iranian hero. In Tehran, Imam Seyyed Ali Khamenei personally led his funeral prayers, breaking down several times. The Imam treated General Soleimani as his son and had called him a “living martyr of the revolution” for his great services to promote the cause of the Islamic revolution. Now he has actually achieved martyrdom and become a legend.
Born into a modest family, Haj Soleimani came through the anvil of the Iraqi-imposed war when the tyrant Saddam Husayn invaded the Islamic Republic in September 1980. Millions of Iranian youth joined the war to defend the Islamic Revolution. The young Qassem Soleimani joined the Sepah-e Pasdaran-e Inqilab-e Islami (the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps – IRGC) and served at various fronts gaining acclaim for his self-sacrificing spirit and brilliance.
After the war, he quickly rose through the ranks to become a general in the IRGC. In 1998, he was appointed head of the Quds Force whose responsibilities included mobilizing Muslims in defence of al-Masjid al-Aqsa as well as the liberation of Palestine. In addition to coordinating closely with such Palestinian Islamic groups as Hamas and Islamic Jihad, he was also instrumental in defeating the ISIS terrorists in Iraq and Syria. For the record, these terrorist outfits were created by the US and supported by its regional clients Saudi Arabia, Qatar, the UAE, and Israel.
Perhaps it was his role in thwarting the US regime change plan in Syria, whose ultimate target was the Islamic Republic, that both the US and Israel wanted him removed from the scene. But if the enemies of Islam thought that by eliminating General Soleimani — a very important figure in the IRGC to be sure — they would undermine the Islamic Republic, then they must surely be disappointed. His martyrdom has not only enhanced his stature but also mobilized the people of Iran and Iraq and brought them closer together.
Delivering the Jumu‘ah khutbah in Tehran on January 17 — his first since 2012 — the Imam described the events of the past two weeks as “extraordinary,” marked by both bitter and sweet developments containing lessons for the Iranian people. He called them ayyam-allah — the days of Allah (swt). This is an Islamic expression meant to signify something very special.
“The day of Allah means seeing the hand of Allah in these events — the day when tens of millions in Iran and hundreds of thousands in Iraq and some other countries came out in the streets to honor the blood of the commander of the Quds Force,” the Imam said.
“The day the Guards’ missiles pounded the American bases is another day of God. We saw these two days of God before our eyes. The days are a turning point that make history. They are not ordinary days,” he said.
“When the people summon so much power and mental courage to slap an arrogant and bullying force of the world in such a fashion, it is a sign that the hand of the divine power” is involved, the Imam said.
People not just in Iran and Iraq but in many other parts of the world were deeply affected and angered by the assassination of Haj Soleimani. The Palestinians were particularly inspired by his example. Isma‘il Haniyah, head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, attended his funeral prayer in Tehran and also visited martyr Soleimani’s family to offer condolences. He called General Soleimani the “Martyr of al-Quds” for his role in supporting the Palestinians’ struggle to regain their rights as well as mobilize the Muslim Ummah for the liberation of al-Masjid al-Aqsa.
It was through his untiring efforts that he coordinated policies between the Hizbullah movement in Lebanon, Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Palestine, and the peoples’ militias in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq, the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU) defeated ISIS terrorists and largely eliminated them from the country in 2017. The terrorists fled to Syria, courtesy the US and Turkey. In Syria, however, they have been corralled in a small pocket of Idlib province from where the Americans are trying to whisk them off to safety elsewhere. Some of them have showed up in distant Afghanistan.
Following the January 3 assassination, most foreign forces have been moved out of Iraq to Kuwait. American troops are also on their way out despite Trump’s ludicrous demand that Iraq must pay for the building of military bases before he would pull the troops out. He even demanded that Iraq give 50% of its oil revenues to the US. A letter from the commander of US forces in Iraq, Brigadier General William G. Seely, was released admitting that the US “respected” Iraqi sovereignty and that he wanted an orderly and safe withdrawal of US forces. US Defence Secretary Mark Esper later denied the letter saying it was “unsigned” and, therefore, was not valid, but Iraqi Prime Minister ‘Abd al-Mahdi said he has a signed letter in his possession. He again ordered all American troops out on January 9 but the following day, the AP headlined “US dismisses Iraq request to work on a troop withdrawal plan” and reported that the US State Department “bluntly rejected the request, saying the two sides should instead talk about how to ‘recommit’ to their partnership.” It was not a “request” from Iraq; it was a command from them; and the US and Iraq relate as conqueror and conquered, not as “partners,” as Eric Zuesse explained in his commentary in the Duran on January 10.
The US media, always toeing the official line, tried to put its own spin on the letter saying that the Iraqi parliament’s January 5 resolution demanding expulsion of all foreign troops from the country was not binding on the government. By demanding that all troops leave, the Iraqi prime minister rubbished this US claim as well.
All Iraqi parties have issued a joint statement saying they will work collectively against the US presence and expel them from Iraq. This was the objective of General Soleimani as well. He may have achieved in death what he was working for in life. If this comes to fruition — and there is no reason to doubt it — the region would be gradually cleansed of all US forces. If the US army cannot stay in Iraq, it will not be able to operate in Syria either.
Several Arabian regimes are quietly distancing themselves from the US policy. The Emiratis have sent word to Tehran saying they do not wish to get involved in the US-Iran conflict. Qatar sent its foreign minister to Tehran to explain that Doha was not involved in the US drone flying from al-Udaid military base that the US uses in Qatar. The Saudis, too, have maintained a studied silence and are clearly feeling the heat. Only the Zionist regime has applauded Trump’s assassination of General Soleimani, but that was expected.