Qassem Suleimani: The Good News and the Bad News

On Friday, the United States attacked a convoy of Iranian and Iraqi military leaders with an MQ9 Reaper Drone that killed Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and Quds Force commander Major General Qassem Suleimani, Deputy Commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and eight senior Iraqi and Iranian commanders. Leaders in Iraq and Iran condemned the attack, stating that it violated Iraq’s sovereignty, the agreement between Iraq and the United States that allows U.S. Forces to be stationed there, and international law. Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Kahmehni and President Hassan Rouhani both lamented his loss and swore revenge against the United States, which led President Trump to deploy an additional 3,500 troops into Iraq to defend against.

Talk about what this means going forward has dominated the conversation in the US and around the world, from news channels and bloggers to social media and watercoolers.The general impression seems to say that Trump is antagonizing the leaders of Iran to goad them into an act of revenge that could justify America declaring the long-awaited war with Iran that it’s wanted since the 1970’s. But the truth is, despite having spent so much time quarreling with Iran, fighting in and around Iraq, and decades of conflict around the Middle East in general, Americans seem to be over-opinionated and under-informed when it comes to the dynamics of power, religion and warfare in the region.

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The good news is this: he was one of the United States’ most dangerous enemies. While the White House and conservative media are labeling Suleimani a “terrorist,” the truth is that he was a decorated military leader and the most powerful Special Forces commander in Iran. His unit, known as the Quds Force, was a special forces and military intelligence unit in the IRGC that specialized in unconventional warfare, force multiplication and military intelligence operations, and reported directly to Ayatollah Ali Kahmehni. The closest thing to it in the rest of the world would be Russia’s GRU. The Quds Force was started in the Iraq-Iran war (which is also when Suleimani joined the unit), and continues to support other Shia Muslim organizations in and around the Middle East. His association with groups like Hamas or Hezbollah comes from this support, and he likely has been the person most involved with the state-sponsored terrorism throughout the region, including attacks by these groups and others that have killed countless Americans, Europeans, and even their own people. The good news in all of this is that we’re no longer sitting idly by, while Iran arms, trains and supports people who are ready to give their lives to see every American killed and their culture wiped from the face of the earth.

More good news: There are those in the Middle East, including the millions who have been exiled from or persecuted by Iran, who are celebrating the death of a man whose hands have their friends’ and family’s blood on them. He was a powerful, dangerous man, and he was our enemy. And it appears we did it without any collateral damage. That’s the good news.

There’s plenty of bad news, too.

President Trump is, among so many things, has a long track record of impulsive behavior. Asking the American people to trust his judgment regarding the assassination of a foreign military leader on foreign soil is a tough sell. There’s also the fact that he has an uncomfortably cozy relationship with Russian President Vladimir Putin, whose government has declared support for Iran in the face of American pressure in the past, and it’s not unfair to say that it was the retaliation of the Russians that Americans feared more than that of the Iranians themselves when our conflicts began decades ago. With the possibility that our president may be held in thrall by Putin, many question the real motives of these attacks, including some of our biggest allies.
Run this scenario out in your mind: American drones kill an Iranian Special Forces General in Iran, Iran attacks the United States, then war breaks out and Russia steps in to defend Iran against it’s long time rival, and–if they are victorious–Russia will certainly be owed some gratitude from  the Iranians, maybe in the way of granting them access to some of Iran’s natural resources, namely oil. Would that not be the best outcome for Russia in all this?

But wait, there’s more!

The Trump administration, and their propaganda department (Fox News and conservative media) are doing everything they can to label Suleimani a “terrorist.” The problem with that is that if Special Forces Commanders are terrorists, then I think I have some bad news for JSOC, Navy’s Special Warfare Department, and the Army’s SOG and SFO-D forces. After the intelligence failures that led to 9/11, the United States has worked diligently to improve, expand, and conceal their intelligence and special forces units, all in an effort to ensure they are never caught off guard again. Since World War II, the United States has deployed covert and undercover intelligence operators who have worked closely with exiled, endangered and disenfranchised local citizens and groups in order to destabilize, reconnoiter, and destroy hostile or problematic regimes around the world. We’ve done it in Central America, Europe, and we’ve even done it in Iran, in 1953. Iraq, 2004.

My point is this: Suleimani has worked with Shia Militias across the Middle East, and on occasion, even Sunni, Christian and Kurdish militias, too. He was a well-liked, well-respected and charismatic leader, and was even considered a possible presidential candidate. The tactics he used in aiding these militias are the same ones that Americans have been using throughout the better part of the 20th century and still use to this day. If Suleimani is a terrorist, then I have some bad news for American Special Forces and Intelligence Officers.

So where does this lead us? Well, that’s the other bit of bad news. No matter what happens, oil prices are going to go up. They already have. The world markets and exchanges are going to suffer. They already have, as well. Americans are not going to have to wait long before the effects of this attack will begin to show in their daily lives. While de-escalation is the sermon that the rest of the world is trying to preach to the Trump Administration, Trump’s ego and domestic issues are going to compel him to make bold and impulsive moves, no matter the costs. His presidency is relying on this conflict to survive, and he is not going to back down from it without something he can spin to look like the victor. Like Nixon and Vietnam, no one wants to be the first American to “lose” a war. And if you thought Nixon was a power-hungry, morally-bankrupt megalomaniac, then I have one bit of bad news for you: Donald Trump’s ego and moral-bankruptcy make Nixon’s look like the very best of the Founding Fathers’.

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