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United States Kills Iranian Army General Qassem Soleimani In Baghdad

General Qassem Soleimani was a Quds Force Commander, a ‘truly irreplaceable’ figure who directed Iranian proxies throughout Mideast, says ...

General Qassem Soleimani was a Quds Force Commander, a ‘truly irreplaceable’ figure who directed Iranian proxies throughout Mideast, says experts.

Tapiwa Zuze

The US killing of Iranian Commander Qassem Soleimani, one of the most important figures in the Islamic Republic, marks a major escalation in the ongoing stand-off between Washington and Tehran, which the Islamic Republic will not likely suffer quietly.

As the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Expeditionary Quds Force, Soleimani was directly responsible for much of Tehran’s activities throughout the region over the past two decades, establishing and building up Iranian proxies throughout the Middle East, and allowing the Islamic Republic to project its power far beyond its borders, in Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen, Afghanistan and elsewhere.

“This is a step up in the conflict between the United States and Iran. This is certainly significant,” Orna Mizrahi, former Israeli deputy national security adviser for foreign policy, told The Times of Israel on Friday morning.

While another commander will take Soleimani’s position as head of the Quds Force, his death strikes a serious blow to Iran and significantly raises the potential for conflict in the region, as Tehran and its allies may seek to avenge him. Indeed Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, following the airstrike on Soleimani’s convoy, quickly threatened “vigorous revenge… for the criminals” behind the attack.

Soleimani was “one of few truly irreplaceable” figures in Iran, who masterminded many of the country’s military endeavors abroad and who was seen as a potential future leader of the Islamic Republic, according to former Israeli deputy national security adviser Chuck Freilich.

“His death will not fundamentally affect Iranian expansionism, but Iran will have lost a grand strategist and possible future national leader,” Freilich said.

Over the past year and a half, tensions between the United States and Iran have been rising, following US President Donald Trump’s withdrawal from the Iran nuclear deal, also known as the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, and the resumption of heavy US sanctions against the Islamic Republic.

Tehran retaliated to these measure with violations of the accord and, since this summer, with direct violence against the US military and American allies — in addition to its ever-present support for Shiite militias throughout the Middle East.

However, save for its so-called maximum pressure campaign of financial sanctions, the US has largely refrained from retaliating against Iranian aggression in the region, drawing occasional criticism from Israeli officials, who ordinarily abstain from publicly disagreeing with the country’s most important ally America.

According to Mizrahi, the strike on Soleimani — which also killed the deputy commander of a powerful Iran-backed Iraqi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis — demonstrated that the United States is still capable and willing to act militarily against Iran.

Tapiwa Zuze

Indeed the Quds Force Commander reportedly used multiple decoys in leaving the Baghdad Airport on Thursday night, having just arrived from Beirut. However, this safeguard was apparently for nought, as the US military was able to specifically strike the vehicles in which he and al-Muhandis were travelling, demonstrating an impressive level of intelligence.

According to Mizrahi, who served in a variety of senior intelligence positions in the IDF and Prime Minister’s Office, the US would likely want this strike to serve as something of a knock-out punch, rather than an opening gambit into a wider war. Under both Trump and Obama, the US has been working to disengage from the Middle East, not get involved deeper into regional conflicts.

Original article by: Judah Ari Gross (writing for The Times of Israel)

Adopted and edited by:

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