The Assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani

Photograph Source: Tasnim News Agency – CC BY 4.0

In 2003 the U.S. committed the crime of the century, invading, destroying and occupying the modern state of Iraq, ushering in an era of misery, terror and chaos in the region. Or one could say that the invasion continued an era launched by the ill-fated invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001, justified by the 9/11 attacks, which—have you noticed?—is ending in abject failure and humiliating retreat.

Within a year after the invasion of Iraq, a branch of al-Qaeda appeared in the wrecked country, where (despite the lies of George W. Bush, Dick Cheney, Colin Powell and others) it had never, ever existed before. It quickly found recruits among the Sunnis, whose basic institutions (the Baath Party and the national army) had been dissolved by the clueless occupiers. Largely suppressed during the U.S. “surge” in 2007, al-Qaeda in Mesopotamia morphed into ISIL, establishing a base in Raqqa, Syria by 2013. Therefrom it fanned back across Iraq, taking the cities of Mosul, Ramadi, Tikrit and Fallujah as the demoralized, incompetent U.S.-trained Iraqi forces bolted in 2015.

For a decade, the U.S. had inflicted misery upon misery on the Iraqi people. Now the worst type of fiends imaginable—men who enslaved Yezidis, raped non-Muslim women, crucified and beheaded children, pulverized monuments, buried people alive, burned a captured pilot alive in a cage—were taking over Iraq. The situation was so dire that the Iraqi government requested a return of the (hated) U.S. troops to aid in the war against the even worse threat of ISIL.

But it also called on Iran. It was the most natural thing to do. Iran was the friendly neighboring country. It is predominantly Shiite, like Iraq. Iraq is, aside from tiny Bahrain, the only majority-Shiite Arab nation. Iranians and Iraqis share a dread of Sunni intolerance (such as prevails in Saudi Arabia and among the Taliban in Afghanistan).

Of course Baghdad would want to draw upon the talents of General Qasem Soleimani. He had been a hero of the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s (in which the U.S. had backed Saddam Hussein in invading Iran). He was a decisive link among Shiite forces in the region, including Lebanon’s Hizbollah that had driven out the Israelis in 2006, and the Syrian regime struggling to suppress ISIL, al-Nusra, and U.S.-backed forces hell-bent on regime change. Iran had opposed the U.S. invasion of Iraq but was pleased that it had led to the formation of a Shiite-led government. Tehran has sought cordial relations with a series of U.S.-back administrations, who have themselves struggled to maintain neutrality in the U.S.-Iran confrontation.

But the U.S. having conquered Iraq has sought to deny it an independent relationship with Iran. It has sought to integrate Iraq into a pro-Saudi, pro-Israel, anti-Iran, anti-Syria, anti-Hizbollah alliance. But it has failed. (The architects of the criminal war had no idea about the differences between Sunnis and Shiites, no realization that their moves would strengthen Iran.) In the decisive battles against ISIL in 2015 Soleimani and the “Iran-backed” Shiite militia played a key role. They are appreciated, while the U.S. is despised, for obvious reasons.

And now Donald Trump has murdered him, and multiple others who have fought ISIL, including nine Iraqis in the Popular Mobilization Forces. It is a crime comparable to the murder of Jamal Khashoggi ordered by the Saudi crown prince, a Trump family pal. Mainstream media commentators who deadpan “He was a bad actor” (hence, it was not thaT bad to kill him) are simply following script and confirming that under capitalism you must at the end of the day kiss the ass of the ruling class.

Far from rallying behind the U.S. following the assassination of Soleimani, the elected representatives of the Iraqi people in Baghdad are now—as the State Department warns all U.S. citizens to flee Iraq immediately—demanding the immediate withdrawal of U.S. forces. That will be a major step towards the restoration of national dignity. Iran will as usual show restraint; it has not attacked another country in 300 years. Soleimani will be glorified as a martyr throughout the Shiite world, and even by some Sunnis (Hamas has issued a statement mourning the murder of the general); Iraq will bond more tightly with Iran and if ISIL resurfaces Iran will again help combat it.

As we speak the world condemns the U.S. action. The UK, France, and Germany all criticize it. Pompeo looks angry and perplexed; he’s indignant that the Europeans aren’t on board the program. Russia is outraged, China indignant at the murders. Only Netanyahu’s Israel stands with the assassin-president.

Trump warns Iran to not retaliate for Soleimani’s murder, lest the U.S. destroy 52 sites in Iran, including cultural ones. A vicious sadist, Trump demands Iran to accept U.S. impunity. It must obey. That’s all the Iranians can do—call Trump, praise him, negotiate a deal with him that prohibits their ties to mass-based organizations around their region. Pompeo’s list of 12 demands to Iran, presented in May 2018, as the price of a U.S. return to the nuclear deal offend the whole world in their sadistic, idiotic arrogance.

Now the U.S. has committed a high-level, acknowledged crime virtually announcing to the Iraqi and Iranian peoples that it craves their hatred. Bring it on! thinks the bone-spur president, champion of war criminals, hero of the attack on Syria following the (fake) Douma chemical attack in April 2018, and the deployment of MOAB (the biggest non-nuclear bomb) in Afghanistan, to make some point in April 2017. The president who’s boasted as being “the most militarist person there is” (Aug. 17, 2015) has sealed himself off from the civilized world by a remarkably stupid decision.

This could be the end of the post-9/11 world of U.S. hegemony, the birth of a multilateral world in which the actions of the moron-ruled country necessarily focus the efforts of the anxious others on containment of U.S. madness.

Gary Leupp is Emeritus Professor of History at Tufts University, and is the author of Servants, Shophands and Laborers in in the Cities of Tokugawa JapanMale Colors: The Construction of Homosexuality in Tokugawa Japan; and Interracial Intimacy in Japan: Western Men and Japanese Women, 1543-1900 and coeditor of The Tokugawa World (Routledge, 2021). He is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion, (AK Press). He can be reached at: