Months of provocation preceded Soleimani strike

By Hassan al-Obeidi in Baghdad

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces stand guard in front of the US embassy in Baghdad on January 2nd after it was stormed and besieged by pro-Iran protestors. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

Iraqi counter-terrorism forces stand guard in front of the US embassy in Baghdad on January 2nd after it was stormed and besieged by pro-Iran protestors. [Ahmad al-Rubaye/AFP]

The US killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in early January was provoked by more than 20 acts of aggression in the region he had personally overseen, experts and analysts told Al-Mashareq.

The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) commander was directly responsible for the death and injury of innocent people, and undermined security and stability in countries throughout the region, they said.

As the head of the Quds Force, which oversees the IRGC's external operations, Soleimani was the driving force behind Iran's regional interference and threats.

"Soleimani's elimination was more like the removal of a cancerous tumor," said researcher Ahmed Abdel Salam of the Cairo University's faculty of law's Legal Studies and Research Centre.

Between March 2018 and the day he died, Soleimani "was involved in more than 20 security-threatening activities that are classified as terrorist acts in the region, in countries where Iran is interfering negatively", he told Al-Mashareq.

In Iraq, Iran-backed militias fired missiles on Iraqi camps hosting international forces, and a missile strike on Camp K1 in Kirkuk province killed a US contractor and injured a number of US and Iraqi soldiers.

There was a rocket attack on the US consulate in Basra, an assault on the US embassy in Baghdad, and an attack that targeted a US oil company site in Burjesia in Basra, Salam said.

"As for Syria, we cannot help but recall the Fatemiyoun militia," Salam said, and the "crimes they brought upon Syrians with weapons supplied by Soleimani".

"The attacks on the Saudi oil facilities, the bombing of King Khalid International Airport, and the attacks on Najran and Jizan with Houthi missiles were all ordered by Qassem Soleimani," he claimed.

"The attacks on oil tankers in Arabian Gulf waters also bore the hallmarks of the Quds Force," he said.

For all these reasons, and more, he said, the decision to eliminate Soleimani was tantamount to "saving the lives of tens of thousands of innocent people".

Extreme provocations

"Soleimani went to extremes in recent months in targeting US interests," said former Iraqi MP and Future Iraqi Constitutional Party chairman Entifadh Qanbar.

This included "threatening global trade in the Gulf and overstepping security lines in Gulf states and other states in the region", he told Al-Mashareq.

"We do not mean by this merely threatening US military or security interests, as the threats have extended to US civilians working in diplomatic and civilian capacities," he said.

These include oil company employees and workers from humanitarian organisations concerned with helping residents of liberated cities in northern and western Iraq, he said.

"Soleimani threatened them, and naturally every state and regime, be it the US or any other country, has the duty to protect its citizens and keep them out of danger," Qanbar said.

"The decision to kill [Soleimani] is absolutely a correct decision, as he was more dangerous than [Osama] bin Laden or [Abu Bakr] al-Baghdadi."

US 'exercised patience'

In a January 2nd statement, the Pentagon said "Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of US and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more".

Qanbar noted that "Soleimani was involved in killing more than 600 US soldiers in Iraq" as Iran had armed and trained the militias that carried out his orders.

"The man was a criminal and ultimately received his just punishment after a long period during which Washington tried to use different methods to stop his attacks on US interests and the interests of all countries in the region," he said.

"The US exercised patience for a long time before it decided to eliminate the danger of Qassem Soleimani," Iranian affairs expert Ali Reza Zadeh told Al-Mashareq.

"Would it have been better to watch Soleimani move from one country to another, send arms shipments to the various militias and regions, bombard US interests and threaten oil producing regions and corridors?" he asked.

Regarding Soleimani's demise, he said, "the issue does not require explanation or clarification. He was a dangerous international criminal and the peoples harmed by him are all grateful to be rid of him".

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