Eight people, including Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Maj Gen Qasem Soleimani, have died in a missile attack by the US military at Baghdad International Airport. Tensions are likely to increase in the US-Iran relations after the latest attacks. It may be recalled that US President Donald Trump had tweeted on the New Year Day, “… Iran will be held fully responsible for lives lost, or damage incurred, at any of our facilities. They will pay a very BIG PRICE! This is not a Warning, it is a Threat. Happy New Year!”
The US fired at least three Katyusha missiles, causing devastation at the Baghdad International Airport. The assets of Iran and Hezbollah at the airport suffered extensive damage. The US carried out this attack after receiving intelligence reports that the slain Iranian commander was plotting to attack American civilians.
Qasem Soleimani: Formative years
Like many military leaders including North Korea‘s Kim Il-sung and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein, Soleimani was born in a poor family and he rose through the ranks of the military of his country. Born in Qanat-e Malek, Kerman Province, Iran to a peasant’s family, Soleimani worked in a water supply department of his area until he joined the military force of his country in 1979.
Soleimani made his mark in the military during Saddam Hussein’s assault on Iran as the head of a unit that gathered people from Kerman and turned them into soldiers. Once the war with Iraq was over, in the 1990s he fought a successful domestic campaign against drug traffickers from neighbouring Afghanistan.
In 1999, Soleimani was among the signatories in the letter to the then President of Iran, Mohammad Khatami, which said the Iranian army could overturn the government and crush the students’ movement that was increasingly influencing that country’s politics that year.
‘Trump ordered killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commander’
The US defence ministry said on Friday that President Donald Trump had ordered the killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards Commander Soleimani, taking clear defensive action to protect American personnel abroad. Americans considered Soleimani an architect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s military campaign against rebels in Syria and the emergence of a pro-Iran militia in Iraq while also acknowledging he planned a Shi’ah fight against the ISIS.
Iran’s Revolutionary Guards confirmed the death of Quds unit commander Soleimani in a statement on government television that said he died in an attack by American forces in Baghdad.
Popular mobilization forces (PMF) deputy commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis was killed in the attack too. The PMF has blamed the US for this attack. However, there has been no confirmed information about those wounded in the Iraqi military force.
The White House issued a statement saying that on President Trump’s instructions, the US military took decisive defensive action to protect American personnel abroad by killing Soleimani, the head of the foreign terrorist organisation Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force. The White House claimed that Sulemani was actively planning attacks on Iraq and American diplomats and other members living in the region.
Iran’s Foreign Minister Javed Zarif condemned the US for the death of Sulaimani. He described the missile attack on Baghdad Airport as a foolish move. He tweeted, “The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani — THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al — is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”
Soleimani was driving out of the Iraqi airport along with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in a two-car convoy when a US missile struck them and killed both on the spot.
Iran has summoned the Switzerland ambassador, to protest against the death of Sulaimani in the US missile attack. America has no embassy in Iran. Switzerland represents America there.
The Quds (or Qods) Force is a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps that carries out operations outside the country. Its chief Sulemani was directly accountable to the country’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. In 2003, Saddam Hussein’s reign in Iraq came to an end in US-led military strikes. Subsequently, the Quds Force intensified its operations in the Middle East.
The Quds began to provide weapons, money and training to anti-government factions of other countries that supported Iran. They also started adopting non-traditional methods of warfare. It gave Iran an edge over opponents that depended on traditional weapons. This includes swarm techniques (fighting individual targets with large contingents), using drones, and cyber-attacks.
In April last year, US President Trump had called the force a foreign terrorist organisation. Reacting to the allegation, Iran said the US military in the Gulf region was no less than a terrorist organisation.
The US says that Qaitib Hizbullah continues to attack its military bases in Iraq. It was declared a terrorist organisation in 2009. Its commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis has been declared a global terrorist.
The US says the organisation is a threat to Iraq’s stability and peace. The US Department of Defense says Hezbollah has links with Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the global operation arm of the Quds force. It gets a range of assistance from Iran.
US attacks to intensify
The US Defense Ministry at Pentagon says it is sending 750 more American troops to West Asia following the attack on its embassy in Iraq. Defence Minister Mark Asper termed the move as a precautionary measure and said that the unit of the 82nd Airborne Division in the new contingent was preparing to be despatched in the next few days. Of these, 500 have already been dispatched while 4,000 more are to be sent soon.
Foreign Secretary Mike Pompeo described the attack in Iraq as a conspiracy by terrorists and identified one of the terrorists as Abu Mahdi Al Muhadis. Muhadis is the second in command in Hashd al-Shaabi, a Shiite network of Tehran-backed Iraqi armed groups.
Kata’ib Hezbollah is a part of Hashd al-Shaabi, which was targeted in the US airstrikes. While congratulating people for the new year, US President Donald Trump had blamed Iran for the attack on the US embassy in Iraq, saying, “The security system of the US embassy in Iraq has been restored several hours ago.”
US State Department’s handle ‘USA Hindi’ targeted Iran with a video, saying, “The people of Iraq in large numbers dance on the streets, celebrating their independence. Quoting Pompeo, it wrote, “They are thankful that Irani Gen Qasem Soleimani is dead.”