Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Republic’s envoy to Iraq, was killed in an American raid on Friday 3rd January 2020. Iran denounces an “extremely dangerous escalation”.
Powerful Iranian general Qassem Soleimani , the Islamic Republic’s envoy to Iraq, and a pro-Iranian leader were killed early Friday, January 3, 2020 in an American raid on Baghdad. An “extremely dangerous escalation” according to Iran which comes three days after the unprecedented attack on the American embassy.
Shortly after the operation, the Pentagon announced that US President Donald Trump had himself ordered to “kill” Soleimani, a leader of the Revolutionary Guards, the ideological army of the Islamic Republic. Abou Mehdi al-Mouhandis, number two of Hachd al-Chaabi, a coalition of mostly pro-Iran paramilitaries now integrated into the Iraqi state, also died in the bombing.
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) 3 January 2020
It is “the largest ‘beheading’ operation ever carried out by the United States, more than that which killed Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi or Osama bin Laden”, the leaders of the Islamic State (IS) and Al- Qaeda, commented Phillip Smyth, an American specialist in Shiite armed groups.
While Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif saw it as an “extremely dangerous and reckless escalation”, former Revolutionary Guards chief Mohsen Rezai promised that “revenge on America” would be ” terrible. ”
For years, Baghdad has been caught between its two great allies, American and Iranian, themselves at the heart of growing tensions over the nuclear issue.
By overthrowing Saddam Hussein’s regime in 2003, the United States had taken over Iraqi affairs. But the system they have put in place is now submerged by Tehran and pro-Iran movements.
These have assembled an unequalled arsenal thanks to Tehran but also over the years of combat, alongside the Americans in particular, against IS.
On Tuesday, these same parties managed to attack the American embassy in Baghdad, in the ultra-secure Green Zone of Baghdad.
The American strike on Friday morning comes in the wake of this attack, but also of a series of rocket attacks against its diplomats and soldiers which has lasted for weeks. Unclaimed, they were attributed by Washington to pro-Iran forces in Iraq.
“On orders from the president, the US military has taken decisive defensive measures to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
Le général iranien Qassem Soleimani tué cette nuit dans une attaque à l’aéroport de Bagdad. Le Pentagone a confirmé être à l’origine de cette opération, menée sur ordre de Donald Trump. En représailles, le guipe suprême iranien en appelle à la “vengeance” contre les États-Unis pic.twitter.com/w9C7h8HmLD
— Arthur Berdah (@arthurberdah) 3 January 2020
Immediately, influential Republican Senator Lindsey Graham, a close ally of Trump, threatened Iran: “If you want more, you will have more.”
Wow – the price of killing and injuring Americans has just gone up drastically. Major blow to Iranian regime that has American blood on its hands. Soleimani was one of the most ruthless and vicious members of the Ayatollah’s regime. He had American blood on his hands.
— Lindsey Graham (@LindseyGrahamSC) 3 January 2020
Without congressional approval
But, while the US Congress was not notified before the raid according to an elected democrat, the consequences of the targeted assassination of one of the most popular figures of Iran raised the concern of other parliamentarians, to less than a year of the American presidential election.
“President Trump is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran without the approval of Congress,” said Democrat Senator Tom Udall in particular.
President Trump is bringing our nation to the brink of an illegal war with Iran with no congressional approval.
Passing our bipartisan amendment to prevent unconstitutional war with Iran is urgent. Congress needs to step in immediately. https://t.co/tBFRwQMp51
— Tom Udall (@SenatorTomUdall) 3 January 2020
The news boosted oil prices by more than 4%. Iranian black gold is already subject to American sanctions and the growing influence of Tehran in Iraq, the second producer of OPEC, makes experts fear diplomatic isolation and political and economic sanctions.
The US raid, which targeted a convoy of vehicles inside Baghdad airport, killed at least nine people in total, according to Iraqi security officials.
The other great figure killed is Abou Mehdi al-Mouhandis, real operational chief of Hachd al-Chaabi and lieutenant of General Soleimani for Iraq for decades.
The two men, whose burial will take place on Saturday according to the Hashd, were under American sanctions and this pro-Iran paramilitary coalition is today at the heart of all attention in Iraq.
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more. pic.twitter.com/huFcae3ap4
— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) 3 January 2020
If the Hashd fought from 2014 alongside Iraqi troops and the international anti-jihadist coalition led by the United States, its most pro-Iranian factions – for some born in the fight against the American occupation from 2003 to 2011 – is now considered by the Americans as a greater threat than the IS group.
“Soleimani, my chef”
Tuesday, it was his fighters and his supporters who indulged in thousands in an unprecedented show of force in Iraq. They swept into the Baghdad Green Zone where the US Embassy is located, attacked the Chancellery with makeshift battering rams, and traced unequivocal graffiti on the walls. “No to America,” said one, “Soleimani is my chief,” said another.
This unpublished episode seemed to end on Wednesday with the withdrawal of pro-Iran from the Green Zone, on the orders of the Hashd.
But Friday’s deaths are giving more and more consistency to the threat that has been hanging over Iraq for months: that its soil is turning into a proxy battlefield for Iran and the United States.
A dozen rocket attacks have targeted American soldiers and diplomats since the end of October, killing an American subcontractor a week ago.
On Sunday evening, Washington, which accuses the pro-Iran factions of Hachd al-Chaabi of being behind these unclaimed attacks, responded by bombing bases at one of them near the Syrian border, leaving 25 dead.
The exacerbation of tensions between the United States and Iran in Iraq is part of the growing dispute between the two enemies over the Iranian nuclear program since the unilateral withdrawal in May 2018 of the international agreement concluded three years earlier between Tehran and five great powers.