The killing of Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, by the United States of America, at the start of the new year, is an indication that this year has more developments in store. The international media’s interest in the news of his killing from the moment it was announced was also a sign of the degree to which Qasim Soleimani is known.
He was seen as Iran’s biggest trump card in the Middle East’s chess game. Especially where he was in charge of masterminding, organizing and carrying out Iran’s operations such as Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen, i.e. those four Sunni capitals where Iranians are proud to impose their influence.
The fact that the U.S. targeted an Iranian official who is widely seen as the Governor of Iran in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq and Yemen is considered an escalation to a new stage of the Cold War between Iran and America.
It seems that it is a very clear fact that we are facing a situation in which the United States presented a precious gift to Iran, in terms of its influence and its existing authority in Iraq. The fact that the United States viewed Iran from the start as an enemy makes it difficult to think that the United States has opened the door to Iran. But when we put that aside for a second, we realize that the United States has completely given way to Iran to treat Iraq as one of its provinces.
In fact, the context of the murder of Qassem Suleimani is also tied to Iraq and the place where he was killed is Baghdad. Although he was an enemy of America, he was able to use the privilege and power to roam all over Iraqi territory as a full-fledged governor of Iraq, where he settled thanks to the U.S. occupation and through the gates that were flung wide open by that very same occupation.
With years of experience on the ground, strategic reasoning and strong charisma, he was able to mobilize all the foot soldiers of these countries in line with the targets he set by organizing his institutions.
In the same context, the organizations that he established, such as the Quds Force and the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, answer to him directly rather than to the Iraqi authorities themselves, and if you look closely, you will notice these forces were not in direct confrontation with the United States until now. The United States was like everyone; everyone sees what these forces are doing in Iraq, and how it made this country an unbearable place to live in, yet no one has ever made a sound.
What has changed now so that someone such as Qassem Soleimani has become a target of assassination?
Iranian influence in Iraq has become an obsession for many, not just for the Sunnis who are considered the most oppressed there, but even Shiites who at some point, during their protests, expressed their consternation. I have written about this in several of previous columns here. Iranian influence in Iraq has reached a more troublesome stage than the American occupation itself. The Shiite youth in Iraq through their protests and using the slogans of the Arab Spring, such as "The people want the homeland", shows that they want independence from Iranian influence, as much as they want independence from America's occupation of Iraq. This is because Iraq did not gain anything from that Iran’s clout over it, on the contrary it was very costly for Iraq, as it made Iraqis poorer and more dependent on foreign countries, especially Iran.
In terms of suppressing protests in Iraq, there are those who talk about the role of the militias led by Qasim Soleimani in suppressing these movements, as well as what the Iraqi government forces are doing. As a result, nearly 800 people were killed during the crackdown on protests, the majority of whom are Shiites, which escalated anger toward both Iran and the United States.
In the meantime, the U.S. targeting Hashd al-Shabi, and Iran’s invasion of the U.S. embassy, had suddenly removed Iraqi people’s protests against both from the picture, turning it into a conflic between Iran and the United States.
Indeed, it would not be fair to say that this is just a smokescreen. For a long time on the field in Iraq, the United States also had actions that rendered Iraq unworkable, unsustainable and unbearable. It was a long-term strategy for the United States to pave the way for Shiism against Sunnism, but Iran's seemingly nationally-based influence rendered it unable to organize Shiites around its cause.
Meanwhile, the Trump factor plays an important role in bringing the U.S. to the brink in its relations with Iran with regards to Iraqi politics. Trump, breaking with rhetoric and tradition, raised the bar unexpectedly in the customary politics vis-a-vis Iran on the field in Iraq and severed Iran's hand and foot there and even throughout the whole of the Middle East. This will have implications forcing a new order that radically changes the entire relationship pattern so far.
For this reason, U.S. officials who objected to his decision to kill Suleiman, in addition to the congressmen who drew attention to the risks this move will entail, have revealed the exact nature of the unspoken order in which Iran and U.S. policies operate together in Iraq. Those in the U.S. who objected to the murder of Suleiman, began to question how to guarantee the security of their troops in Iraq following this development. This should be enough to show how with whose help they had been able to ensure their security all this time.
In this context, it seems necessary to remember that the United States did not kill Soleimani, because of the massacres that he and Iran had conducted in Iraq, nor because of sectarian crimes or politics that he was trafficking in on behalf of his country, but rather because Soleimani and Iran dared attack the American embassy and some Soldiers in Iraq. From now on, nobody must wait for the U.S. to take new steps that have Iraqis’ best interests at heart.