The Impact of Soleimani’s Death
By Jim McKinney, 10 Jan 2020
Jim McKinney is a retired U.S. Army Foreign Area Officer, small business owner and defense consultant. He serves on the boards of Saturna Capital, the Healthy Youth Coalition, and Whatcom Business Alliance’s Youth Engagement Initiative.
The US Strike on Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani was the most significant event in the Middle East in nearly 70 years. The unmanned “Reaper” drone strike at the Bagdad Airport on 2 Jan 2020 that killed Soleimani was precise, rapid with no civilian casualties. Even though it has turned the region upside down, I believe it will be strategically important in the long term.
Soleimani was not the second most powerful man in Iran, he was the most power individual in all of the Middle East. He directed the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps ‘Quds Force’, the Iranian external special operations and intelligence force. The IRGC protects the Iranian Theocracy, the Quds Force spreads their influence. Soleimani was the man that kept the religious rulers in power.
The Quds Force trained, funded, and directed Hezbollah, Houthi rebels in Yemen, numerous militias in Iraq, Syria, Sudan, Libya as well as Lebanese and Palestinian para-military formations. They have placed special operations forces, equipment and human intelligence assets throughout the world.
Soleimani directly planned, coordinated and executed numerous attacks on US forces in Iraq between 2004 and 2011. His organization developed explosively formed penetrators and conducted thousands of IED attacks that killed over 500 Americans, hundreds of Allies, thousands of innocent civilians and regional governments’ security forces. He was on scene for the attack on the US Embassy last week. He was the coordinator for suppressing the recent major uprisings in Iran, killing estimated 1500 civilians.
He was the glue that kept the Iranian regime in power, and forced the Iraqi Shiite leaders to forsake their sovereignty – Iraq and Iran have a bad history, even some Iraqi Shiite leaders are happy Soleimani is dead, many Iraqi Sunni and Kurdish leaders are ecstatic, as are many in Iran who oppose the regime.
He was the personality that tied together a collage of terrorists – in order to expand Iranian influence and protect the Islamic Revolution through violence. He used guns, threats, money, loyalty and fear to achieve his goals. And now he is dead.
His complex network is now scrambling for leadership. The culture of the Middle East is based on loyalty to individuals – not just anyone can step in to fill Soleimani’s role – this strike was massively disruptive. It forces small, diverse interests to question each other, and potentially splinter to some degree. It will create fear, mistrust, and scare the hell out of the Ayatollahs in Iran – their protector is gone. Power matters in the mid-east. Soft negotiation shows weakness, hard negotiation gains respect.
President Trump just told the entire Quds force network that the US has the intelligence, the capability and the will to strike at the top – at the most powerful men, anytime, anywhere – to protect US interests and to achieve regional stability. It was the most precise US projection of power in the region.
This is a game changer – no US leader has had the courage to take such a bold, independent, and risky action against an Iranian senior (terror) leader. It will create some level of chaos in the short term, but it will certainly show that President Trump will not play the games of the past 40 years.
I believe Soleimani’s death will unify those who have feared Iran (Kurds, Iraqi Sunnis, Kuwaitis, Saudi Arabians, Lebanese Christians, Jordanians, Egyptians, Israelis, and others.) Strategically, I believe it is more likely to stop attacks, than increase attacks on US interests. It might even force the Iranian authoritarians to negotiate, out of fear for their survival.