The US has admitted to assassinating Iran’s most beloved military leader, General Qassem Soleimani, in a drone strike which seems very likely to ignite a full-scale war. Six others are also reported killed, including Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
According to the Pentagon, Trump personally ordered the assassination. I’ll keep following this hugely important story and will probably be writing a lot about it as it unfolds. I encourage everyone who values peace and humanity to follow it as well.
“Spoke to a very knowledgeable person about what Iran’s response to Soleimani’s assassination might be,” The Quincy Institute’s Trita Parsi tweeted regarding this developing story. “This would be the equivalent of Iran assassinating Petreus or Mattis, I argued. No, he responded, this is much bigger than that.”
Pentagon out with a statement on the airstrike.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.” pic.twitter.com/W1L8ymqScd
— Grace Segers (@Grace_Segers) January 3, 2020
“Most Americans won’t understand the gravity of this,” tweeted journalist Rania Khalek. “Qasem Soleimani is head of the Iranian IRGC’s elite Quds Force, which conducts operations outside of Iran in both Iraq and Syria. He was credited with helping turn the tide in both countries against Al-Qaeda and ISIS.”
“This is very serious,” Khalek added. “The US essentially declared war on Iran by assassinating its most revered military figure in Iraq. And by also killing the head of the PMF, the US created more enemies in Iraq. There will be regional retaliation. It’s unlikely it can be prevented.”
“If true, It is not an understatement to say this could change the entire Middle East,” tweeted Rising‘s Saagar Enjeti.
“There’s going to be that war now that people have been pushing for since tanking the Iran Deal,” tweeted The Intercept‘s Murtaza Mohammad Hussain.
“If this is true, the US has effectively declared war on Iran, which has established militarily ties with Russia and China. It’s not hyperbole to say this could start WW3.
Weeks ago the Russian news agency TASS cited sources claiming the Syrian missile crews had still not completed their training
A senior Iranian lawmaker has strongly criticized Russia for deactivating its S-300 missile defence system deployed in Syria during the recent Israeli airstrikes on what Tel Aviv claims were Iranian positions in the Arab country.
Chairman of the Iranian Parliament’s National Security and Foreign Policy Commission Heshmatollah Falahatpishe says that had the systems operated properly, Israel could not easily carry out its airstrikes on Syria.
In an interview with IRNA, the lawmaker said Russia’s move to deactivate its S-300 missile system in Syria during Israeli airstrikes is susceptible to serious criticisms.
“It seems there is a type of correlation between the Zionist regime’s airstrikes and Russia’s deactivation of defensive systems deployed in Syria,” he said.
He further noted that following the Israeli airstrikes, he arrived immediately at the scene of the attack and found out that the reports on the casualties of the air raid released by Israel were totally wrong.
He described the reports as bluffs and added the Zionist regime is seeking to hamper the process of restoring peace and stability to Syria through conducting the airstrikes on the country.
“They want to provoke Iran into making certain reactions to create new challenges in Syria,” he concluded.
Israel targeted an airport in southeastern Damascus in Syria leaving a number of people dead and wounded on Monday. Russia said Syria’s air defences shot down more than 30 cruise missiles and guided bombs during Israel’s aerial attacks.
Israel claimed in a statement that the main targets of the attacks were Iranian forces. According to the statement, Iranian forces are operating in Syrian territory and launched a surface-to-surface rocket from Syrian territory aimed at the northern occupied Golan Heights.
“In response to the attack, during the night (Israeli military) fighter jets struck Iranian Quds Forces military targets in Syria in addition to Syrian aerial defence batteries,” it said.
Iran says its military presence in Syria is totally advisory and is aimed at helping Syrian government to cleanse the country of foreign-backed terrorists.
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A crucial question has been consuming policymakers in Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon: Does the Trump administration have a strategic plan for the Middle East or not?
Few are more apt to answer than Saadallah Zarei, dean of the Institute of Strategic Studies Andishe Sazan-e Noor in Tehran. Zarei, a soft-spoken, extremely discreet man I met in Mashhad a few days ago, happens to be not only one of Iran’s top strategic analysts but also a key brain behind the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Qods Force commander Gen. Qasem Soleimani – the ultimate bête noire outside the Beltway.
Iranians hold anti-US placards and shout slogans during a rally after Friday prayers in the capital Tehran on May 11, 2018, after President Trump withdrew the US from a nuclear accord signed in 2015. Photo: AFP
So US strategists could do worse than paying attention to Zarei.
While the US “owns 37 fixed military bases and almost 70 movable bases in the Middle East”, Zarei said, “We do not observe specific and exact strategies.”
He stressed his perplexity with “contradictory behavior related to the Shi’ite population. America’s behavior in terms of the Shi’ite population of Bahrain and their rights, the Zaydi Shi’ite population in Yemen and Kashmir and also the Shi’ite population in Lebanon, which is 35% of the total population, is not specified and nobody knows how the Americans think about Shi’ites and how they act.”
Zarei also notes that “America does not have a specific policy about the democracies of Turkey and Iran. There is not any specific strategy about democracy in Iraq and Lebanon too. America talks about democracy as an American value and tries to generalize it, but in this region, we see that the best friends of the US are countries where there is no election in their political systems.”
The bottom line, according to Zarei, is that “the US strategy is not coherent in the Middle East. I think this is the main reason for the failure of American policies in this region.”
Saadallah Zarei. Photo: provided
Enter the Hazaras
Now zoom in from the macro-analysis to the micro-view on the ground. Compare Zarei to Komeil,