It is so noteworthy that any reference to the assassinated Iranian commander of the IRGC, Soleimani, by television commentators, and especially by the members of our Congress and other government officials, begins with the preamble that he was a bad, bad actor who had the blood of so many Americans on his hands. Why? Simple: Without emphasizing that point they might not appear “patriotic” enough!
The President and the Secretary of State have referred to him as the world’s worst terrorist in charge of a terrorist organization that is the terror arm of Iran, which is itself the world’s chief promoter of international terrorism. These characterizations are now fully established in everyone’s mind, not to be questioned; and that’s that – case closed.
Even the Iranian/American so-called scholars appearing as expert commentators during televised interviews either concur with, or choose not to question, the adjectives casually used in referring to Soleimani, the IRGC, or the Islamic Republic of Iran.
What’s this all about? Let’s ask a few questions:
Has the Islamic Republic of Iran been involved in the affairs of the Middle East, from Afghanistan to Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and elsewhere? Remember, that’s Iran’s own backyard. Yes, it has.
Has the IRGC’s foreign operations arm, the Quds Force, headed by General Soleimani, been the principle element of Iran’s attempt to promote its interests in the region? Yes.
Have these operations also resulted in the deaths of Americans, as well as many others, in the Middle East theater of war? Yes.
So, Aren’t these allegations, in fact, statements of the truth? Yes, they are; but not the whole truth. Partial truths could lead us to unintended, but most often deliberately misleading, conclusions!
Let’s do a little comparison to better understand this years-long drama:
Has the United States inserted itself for decades in the affairs of the Middle East, half-way around the world? Yes.
Have these involvements included the presence of military forces, massive sales of arms, and the creations of alliances of conveniences to serve America’s stated purpose? Yes.
Have these activities caused the deaths of thousands of Americans, and of over a million local people, in addition to a near total devastation of the regional infrastructures and economies, from Afghanistan all the way to the Mediterranean Sea? Yes.
Now, let’s set aside the cliche that one man’s terrorist is another man’s hero or freedom-fighter, and look at who General Soleimani was, whose assassination the Iranian nation mourns, and Iran’s enemies celebrate:
The eight-year-war (1980-88) that Iraq’s Saddam Hussein waged against the fledgling Islamic Republic of Iran soon after the hostage crisis, has always been regarded by Iran as the “imposed war”, encouraged and supported by the Reagan administration to bring Iran to its knees, as well as to weaken Saddam’s regime. The scheme was to be followed by some kind of destabilization process to reshape the pro-Iran Syrian government and the Shi’a dominated Lebanon.
This was exactly what the drafters of the 1996 paper, A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm, had foreseen. The masterminds of that paper were well-known American Zionist Neoconservatives who wrote the paper for Benjamin Netanyahu during his first term as the Israeli Prime Minister.
One year later, in 1997, the same group, plus several other like-minded thinkers, came up with The Project for the New American Century, almost as though designed to follow through with the “Clean Break” strategy.
I urge, I implore, the readers to search these highlighted titles in Wikipedia to better understand for whose benefit thousands of American servicemen and women have paid the price with their blood, and how many millions have lost their lives, injured or made homeless in the Middle East; the region that continues to smolder and ready to reignite in what could be the Grand Opening of the Gates of Hell! This is not another conspiratorial scenario: One of the original drafters of the Clean Break, and the principle architect of the Iraq War, David Wurmser, has just been appointed by Trump to head the Iran Project.
(No one should doubt that the Iranian officials are also well aware of all that and duly concerned about the potential implementation of that blueprint, which showed the collapse of the Islamic Republic as its ultimate goal.)
One of the local heroes of the Iran/Iraq war was a young soldier, Qassim Soleimani, who came close several times to losing his life on the battle front, especially when Saddam resorted to the use of chemical weapons, as the Iranians were reversing Saddam’s gains and closing in on the outskirts of Baghdad. He more than likely knew about Ronald Reagan’s comments when the American President was told that the Iraqis were using chemical weapons: “Well,” Reagan was reported as responding: “an Iranian victory is not acceptable.”
After gaining in rank, Soleimani had played an instrumental role in assisting the American counterparts in overcoming the Taliban resistance and to stabilize the new Karzai government in Afghanistan in 2001, for which Iran was officially credited and thanked for its efforts and cooperation with the Americans.
Then came George W. Bush’s State of the Union address just a few months later, in February of 2002, during which he lumped Iran together with North Korea and Iraq as the Axis of Evil!
I wrote about it in one of my many posted articles at the time, and commented that I did not believe George W. Bush had any idea what he was reading; the speech was written by a Jewish Canadian Zionist, David Frum, credited for inserting those irrelevant words into that text; some say as an afterthought!
That man has since been rewarded with high tenure in several Zionist and Neocon think tanks, and makes routine appearances on the mainstream media as a writer and TV panelist. There is an old saying that a nutcase can throw a pebble into a well, which takes ten wise men to bring it back out! But the damage was done, and there was no way to undo it.
A year later, the United States attacked and occupied Iraq, supposedly under mistaken intelligence reports. That wasn’t the way the Iranians were interpreting the episode. To them, the American occupation of Iraq did not appear as an intelligence error, but as a deliberate action and a prelude to expanding America’s presence and influence from Iraq into Syria and, of course, Iran.
The removal of Saddam and his Sunny minority rule opened the way for the dormant Shi’a majority in Iraq to dominate the political scene, with the United States helping to stabilize the new regime. That at least was the official rationale given for the continued occupation of Iraq. However, the United States had other interests in Iraq, as well: namely the control over the future fate of Iraq’s vast oil and gas reserves that lay mostly in the liberated Iraqi Kurdistan.
Meanwhile, the Iranian government saw a new opportunity for establishing its presence in Iraq, its fellow Shi’a neighbor, to not just support the new ruling party, but to ensure that the Americans, the Saudis, and their principle proxy, the opportunistic Mojahedin-e-Khalgh (MeK), as well as certain Kurdish groups, do not embark on any covert or overt operations against Iran. Soleimani was in charge of the IRGC operations to monitor and safeguard against that. However, in spite of all efforts, repeated acts of infiltration, border clashes, and sabotage against Iranian targets inside Iran continued to take place, resulting in considerable damage and human casualties. Similar events continue to this day in the south-east and southern Iran by terrorist groups encouraged, funded and armed by the Saudis, which Iran believes also include Israel’s involvements.
The extraterritorial operations of the IRGC, which became known as the Quds Force, also included confronting and neutralizing known enemies of the Islamic Republic, namely the Taliban, Al Gha’eda, and later the Sunni Islamic State or ISIS.
Even though the Quds Force under General Soleimani and the Americans were cooperating and fighting the common enemy, the Islamic State, the entrenchment of the American forces in Iraq next door to Iran, especially against the backdrop of continuing hostile regime-change rhetoric coming out of Washington, kept Iran on the edge.
In addition to the threats posed by the presence of the American forces in Iraq, as well as the Saudi-backed Sunni militias, Iran was also concerned, and quite correctly, with another player on the stage; Israel. The joint American/Israeli cyber attack, the Stuxnet computer virus, which had targeted Iran’s nuclear facilities in 2010, was followed by the targeted assassinations of four Iranian nuclear scientists in the streets of Tehran, for which Israel in cooperation with the MeK operatives was semi-admittedly responsible; but thanks to “plausible deniability”, neither was held accountable for acts of international terrorism!
The Saudi regime’s concerns about Iran’s increasing influence in the new Shi’a dominated Iraq has not been so much over Sunni versus Shi’a religious rivalry, but for pure and simple economics. The competition still exists between the potentials for a Qatar/Iran oil and gas pipeline through Iran, Iraq and Syria to the European markets, versus the competing Saudi line bypassing Iran, which the United States openly favors.
In the middle of all the instability and mayhem, the Sunni Arab block comprising the Arab Emirates and the Saudi regime, took advantage of the cancerous spread of an initially disparate local Sunni cells in Iraq and Syria, and began funneling funds and arms in their support. This was the early phase of what became known as DAESH, ISIL or ISIS movement (The Islamic State of Iraq, Syria and Lebanon).
The destabilization of Syria with the intension of collapsing the Assad government has long been part of the “A Clean Break: A New Strategy for Securing the Realm” masterplan mentioned above. The growth and gradually better organized ISIS groups created a problem for Assad’s Iranian and Russian allies. For Russia, Syria’s strategic Latakia port has been a vital access to the eastern Mediterranean away from the contentious Black Sea for its naval fleet. For Iran, alliance and cooperation with the Assad government was important as a hedge against Israeli adventurism through the Golan area, as well as for providing a channel to link Iran with the Lebanese increasingly more powerful Hezbollah.
(Hezbollah has often been referred to as Iran’s proxy on the Middle East staging grounds. An ally, yes, but a proxy it most certainly is not! If we were to call Hezbollah Iran’s proxy, then America’s Middle East allies are all American proxies; and that would include Israel and Saudi Arabia. Hezbollah was not a creation of the Islamic Republic of Iran; it preexisted the Iran’s Islamic Revolution, and represents the majority of Lebanon’s population, the Shi’ites. Since its role has been defending Lebanon against Israeli incursions, and quite successfully, it has understandably been the recipient of Iran’s military assistance; and for the same reason, labeled as a terrorist group by the United States on behest of Israel.)
It is quite puzzling why the ISIS networks in Syria were regarded as anti-American. They were definitely and principally anti-anything non-Sunni-Moslem, which would include the main Western presence in the Middle East, the United States. However, their foremost objectives were to depose the Assad rule, and fight Assad’s supporters, the Iranian Quds Force and the Russians.
These objectives actually coincided with America’s and Israel’s own designs, except for the fact that American forces were also targeted on many occasions. This created a strategic dilemma for the so-called “coalition of the willing” created to fight ISIS groups who were committing visible crimes and atrocities against their captives. So, the ISIS cells were divided into two groups: the good terrorists and the bad terrorists: the good ones, who were now given new names, were fighting the Assad forces, the Iranians and the Russians; and were, therefore, encouraged and helped by the “coalition” and the Israelis. The bad ones remained as the real terrorists that continued to fight the coalition forces.
General Soleimani and the Quds Force, as well as the Hezbollah contingents, were involved in fighting our “good” terrorists and, with Russia’s help, managed to prevent the Assad government from the projected collapse.
It was in this chaotic and confusing mess that Congresswoman, Tulsi Gabbard of Hawaii, herself a two-terms Middle East war veteran, openly opposed the American involvements in Syria and the larger Middle East, engaged in counterproductive regime-change operations, especially when these involvements were not serving America’s legitimate best interests, but the agendas of the tail that has been wagging the dog; Israel!
Ms. Gabbard, herself potentially a victim of those same IEDs that the Iranian Quds Force under the command of General Soleimani had provided for the Iraqi militias, did not parrot the same line as others in her televised interviews about Soleimani’s assassination. She, unlike too many of her congressional colleagues, or the presidential hopeful (actually hopeless), Amy Klobuchar, refuses to kiss ass or compromise her integrity for the sake of her political ambitions!
Of course, we all understand that anyone who doesn’t like or respect us is, by our definition, at the very best, wrong, and at worst, an evil terrorist. This worldview is not exclusive to us; it would perhaps help to appreciate that others feel that way, too.
We have our radical conservative hawks as do the Iranians in positions of power. We have genuine war-mongers, such as Pompeo and Bolton, as do they. We also have ambitious, opportunistic neocons, such as Giuliani, Graham and Cotton; and so do they.
I find it sad, even tragic, that the Democrats who oppose the Republican administration’s aggressive policies toward Iran do not do so because they believe Iran does not deserve to be treated as an enemy of the United States: No; they, just as their Republican counterparts, are being wagged by the same tail, but perhaps not so violently!
As the Iranian nation continues to suffer under draconian unilateral sanctions by the American administration, what is keeping the two sides from a catastrophic military collision are the saner minds, perhaps mostly among the military leaderships, who understand the costs to all sides of such an eventuality.
May saner minds prevail.
About the author:
Kambiz Zarrabi has devoted the last thirty-some years teaching, lecturing and writing about US/Iran relations. Previous to his retirement, his career included working as geologist/geophysicist in the oil and minerals exploration industries with American and Iranian firms and in the private sector. His tenure included serving at Iran’s Ministry of Economy as the Director General of Mines in the late 60s and early 70s. He received his college education at the University of California in Los Angeles, graduating in 1960.