Short summary: Soleimani is an Iranian leader, who is highly respected in Iran, and played a key role in the fight against ISIS. However, he was classified by the US as terrorist because of his position as leader of the Quds, a numerically small black ops type operations supplying weapons to shia militants and the mastermind of operations targeting US soldiers and civilians.
Here is my short tweet about it
For those of you who use google translate the text says
Hilarious viral memes by Nincompoops who don't check facts.
In real life:
No nukes in Iran
○ Iran can't hit US
○ Russia & China urge restraint
○ Open war not likely
[right hand panel]
○ Iran missiles voluntarily limited to 2000 km
○ Iran can't hit the US in war
○ Russia and China do not support the Quds
○ Russia and China urge restraint and deescalation
○ Trump would lose re-election if a major war started on his watch (election promise)
○ A US Iran war would be more like Vietnam than Iraq - a formidable opponent.
There are only a few thousand members of the Quds but they are responsible for a web of connections between Iran and Iran sympathizing militants throughout the Middle East. The US classify the Quds as a terrorist organization.
He was killed as he drove away from Baghdad airport along with some Iran sponsored militants including an Iraqi leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The US did not do this to start a war and they emphasize the need to deescalate too. Just about everyone else is saying to de-escalate including China and Russia.
Iran is likely to respond possibly in some dramatic way but not with open war against the US in Middle East. You can get an idea of the way they might respond from their previous actions - e.g. drone strike against oil refinery, or attacks on tankers or sponsored militant attacks on US facilities and they could respond also in worst case by targeting US civilians or soldiers. The Pentagon has said US civilians should leave Iraq which is where the biggest risk is, also in Syria. They also say however that they did this to prevent an attack on US citizens that he was planning.
This is part of a long running tit for tat for the last year or so since Trump withdrew from the Iran deal. Some on twitter and Facebook are worrying about WWIII as they do every time there is some military conflict but there is no way this leads to that.
Superpowers avoid escalation and direct conflict for obvious reasons - they don’t want WW3 any more than you do.
Russia supports Iran in some ways but it is more of a partnership of convenience. The relationship of Iran with China is largely commercial because of the oil. Neither of them are allies in the sense of e.g. NATO. Neither of them are involved in the Quds force.
Russia, and China and many others are urging de-escalation and restraint. For quotes see the section WHAT ABOUT RUSSIA AND CHINA? below.
Iran don't have nuclear weapons. None of their missiles can hit the US.
They don't really care about the US except in as far as the US support their enemies in the Middle East. The US support Israel and Saudi Arabia and are largely on the Sunni side in Middle East sunni / shia conflicts while they are on the Shia side. The US support Israel who are of course a long term enemy of Iran. This is why Iran is opposed to the US. It is important for Iran to be able to target US warships and bases in the Middle East but they don’t target the US itself.
Although the US is undoubtedly superior, Iran is a formidable adversary and to invade Iran would take the vast majority of the US military worldwide and more, and be more akin to Vietnam than Iraq, no way Trump wants to do that.
Short short summary in tweet, in reply to AlternativeHistoryHub
Many don't realize invasion of #Iran is like Vietnam, not Iraq. Trump could say goodbye to re-election if that happened. Iran not likely to attack, would lose every battle. Drone attacks on oil refineries and other escalations short of open war possible
Video for this post
If you worry about them burning US flags, shouting “Death to America” etc then they have been doing this for many years. It may be partly a cultural difference - they use hyperbole a lot. It is like “I could eat a horse” you couldn’t literally do that, it is just an English expression meaning you are very hungry.
There are half a million or so Iranian Americans, many of the over 80 million Iranians will have relatives in the US. They do understand that the action of withdrawing from the Iran deal is a decision by the president, they don’t see all Americans as responsible and don’t literally really want death to America. There is nothing new about that. It is just that they are sad and angry about what happened, and this is their way of expressing this in their culture.
To put this chanting and flag burning into context - it was a news story in 2016 when a professor in Iran went out of his way to avoid walking on a US flag that was spread across the landing of a flight of stairs for everyone to trample on it.
Every November 4, Iran’s hardliners celebrate the date of the hostage crisis at the American embassy in Tehran in 1979, which lasted 444 days. On this occasion, they hold anti-American demonstrations, where they shout slogans like “Death to America” and burn US and Israeli flags. But this year, a professor refused to trample on the flags. A video of his defiant act rapidly went viral.
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Not likely that this leads to war between the US and Iran (according to retired ambassador Robert Ford). But Iran is likely to want to do something as a matter of honour in reply. Iran is not likely to do anything for a few days as they are more deliberate and patient than the US. The main risk is widespread fighting in Iraq, hopefully won't happen. And there is no way that the US tries to invade Iran.
From an earlier article I did, experts say that there is no way the US can invade Iran in the way it did for Iraq or Libya - just don’t have the personnel in the region, would need the majority of the US military worldwide - and it is far harder - a country as large as Western Europe, with a population of over 80 million, no significant US sympathizers in the country and with a military in some ways more advanced than Pakistan - Iraq and Libya were not a patch on Iran militarily. A US Iran war would be more like the Vietam war, go on for many years and involve large numbers of US soldiers dying. But local like the Vietnam war.
There is no military objective for such a war either. For more details of why this is not something we can expect see:
An expert on the BBC (retired ambassador Robert Ford) has been saying that they don't expect Iran to respond immediately to this attack - they think carefully before they act, not likely to do anything for a few days and they know that the US is militarily superior. He seems likely a decent source on this matter.
Nothing is likely to happen for a few days as they deliberate on what to do and it is not likely they respond with war against the US but rather something else in the long tit for tat with the US.
Bear in mind also we have had many wars in the Middle East and elsewhere - they do not escalate to WWIII, Iraq war, Syria, Libya where there is an ongoing war with many foreign powers on opposing sides to each other - and then things like Pakistan downing the Indian fighter pilot or the US targeting the chemical weapons factory in Syria. Every time you get the sensationalist press shouting WWIII but such situations don't escalate to large planet girdling wars. Indeed the trend since WWII has been in the opposite direction, smaller more self contained wars with fewer casualties.
Iran can't attack the US directly. It only has deisel submarines not nuclear subs and it has voluntarily limited its ballistic missiles so that they can't hit the US. It isn't interested anyway - it's main aim is to be able to hit US warships and bases in the middle East.
They voluntarily committed to this in 2017 and there is no indication that they are testing longer range ballistic missiles.
IRGC Commander Ali Jafari said,
“We have the scientific ability to increase our missile range but it is not our current policy since most of the enemies’ strategic targets are already within this 2000-km range. This range is enough to protect the Islamic Republic
IN MORE DETAIL
First what happened:
Iran's Revolutionary Guards also confirmed Gen Soleimani was dead, blaming an attack by US helicopters.
They also said Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis had been killed.
"At the direction of the President, the US military has taken decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani," a Pentagon statement said.
"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."
In more detail
Senior State Department officials, in a briefing for reporters, said the drone strike near the Baghdad international airport was based on intelligence that suggested Soleimani was traveling in the area to put final touches on plans for attacks that would have hit U.S. diplomats, troops and American facilities in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and elsewhere in the Mideast. The officials, who spoke on condition of anonymity under State Department ground rules, would not be more specific about the intelligence but said it clearly called for a decisive U.S. response.
So what did retired ambassador say:
Here are my notes / rough transcription of what he said (BBC news, 3:00 am 3/1/12)
Retired ambassador Robert Ford - worked in Iraq for four years in the Iraq war and then served as US ambassador to Syria.
Yes it is a very big development, president Trump will have huge political support for this here in the US.I don't think anyone will come out against him. We will have to wait and see for the reaction in Iraq.
Obviously it is an American escalation.
I have been reading commentary on Facebook and Twitter tonight and a lot of people are worried that war is going to break out immediately between Iran and the US. I am skeptical of that. First the Iranians know that the militarily the Americans have the preponderence. Secondly the Iranians are careful, they think things through, they are patient, far more patient than the Americans, and they move deliberately. So I wouldn't expect the Iranians to necessarily strongly react in the next few days. My guess is they are going to sort of weigh options and think a litle bit before their next move.
I think there is just a steady escalation going up. Attack on American embassy and Iranian attack on the American position on Dec 27th ...
... This is all part of an ongoing tit for tat
Bombing of Iranian backed militias in Syria for months now.
Iranians hit oil facility in Saudi Arabia. This has been going on for a long time.
this is one more step in the back and forth but nobody should have any question this is a big step.
To kill Soleimani one of the most influential in the middle East - this is no small thing And the Iraqi guy Mohandes was also [important].
There will be other commanders - that's the thing about a state sponsored terrorist organization.
... But Soleimani had the job for decades and had built up a network of people, people he liked to work with, people who liked to work for him.
Hugely respected, selfies on the front lines against ISIS -this is a guy who had a lot of blood on his hands but I give him credit for being couragious ...
[responsible for death of 600 soldiers during the Iraq war, British financial experts, civilians at Iraqi institute of finance kidnapped and murdered]
I hope especially for sake of Iraq worst does not happen and we don't see widespread fighting in Iraq.
The US classify the Quds as a terrorist organization.
This is what the US said
Statement by the Department of Defense
At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.
General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region. General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months – including the attack on December 27th – culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Soleimani also approved the attacks on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week.
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. Statement by the Department of Defense
WHAT ABOUT RUSSIA AND CHINA?
This does not involve Russia or China, it is a direct attack on the Iranian supported militants and there is no way they support Iran against the US - they don't want WWIII for the same reason you don't.
Russia do not support the Quds.
Iran will not want to attack the US directly and Russia and China are not likely to get involved in this proxy war involving local militants sponsored by Iran. If there ever was a direct military conflict I suppose you might get Russian indirect support of Iran as has happened with other wars (e.g. Vietnam) but not direct involvement
But Iran is perfectly capable of defending itself against the US.
However we are not headed that way, they are all calling on restraint
China’s Foreign Ministry spokesman Geng Shuang said at a daily press briefing
“China has always opposed the use of force in international relations,=. “We urge the relevant sides, especially the United States, to remain calm and exercise restraint to avoid further escalating tensions.”
Putin agreed with Macron in a telephone call that they need to urge restraint and de-escalation
The two presidents first took stock of the situation in Iraq and the region. They agreed to remain in close contact over the coming days to prevent a new and dangerous escalation of tensions and call on all the parties to show restraint. The French President reiterated France’s commitment to Iraq’s sovereignty and security and to the region’s stability. He emphasized the need for the guarantors of the 2015 agreement to remain closely coordinated in calling on Iran to return swiftly to full compliance with its nuclear obligations and refrain from any provocation.
Russia voiced concern about this development. Several Russian figures said they are concerned that this will lead to Iran wanting to press ahead with development of the nuclear bomb (which Russia doesn’t want any more than anyone else).
But that is a long term risk. What about the immediate future?
WHAT MIGHT IRAN DO?
So what might Iran do? In the worst case?
Well a strong response seems reasonably likely. Perhaps a drone attack on an oil refinery or attacks on tankers again, or maybe more rocket attacks in Iraq just based on past behaviour. But nothing for a few days while they decide what to do.
From the military times:
William Fallon, a retired admiral who ran U.S. Central Command from March 2007 to March 2008, told Military Times that Soleimani’s death is a “significant blow” to Iran.
“There is little doubt in my mind he was in Baghdad orchestrating activity,” said Fallon, who pointed to the recent attack on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad Tuesday by pro-Iranian militants. “Those were not protests, they were coordinated attacks on the embassy.”
Fallon said that while tensions between the U.S. and Iran are likely to ratchet up, he does not anticipate a full-scale war.
“They have to be careful about it, as we have seen over the last six months, they are not shy,” said Fallon. “Whether it is tanker attacks, drone attacks, they will likely do something, but they will have to calculate how far they want to go.” As far as an all-out war, “neither side really wants it,” said Fallon. “It is not in the interest of either party to do it. There is too much to lose. The Iranians have a lot of chess pieces on the table.” Fears of new conflict rise after US kills Qasem Soleimani, a top Iranian general, in strike on Baghdad airport
Mediabias factcheck rates them highly - also I have come across good articles from the Military Times before indeed they say that Politifact uses them to verify claims.
Also what I just shared is a quote from a retired admiral with excellent credentials
But it is just one of many views.
The worst case that I have seen from the most reliable authors is this from a former CIA deputy director, Michael Morell, who thinks that Iran might mobilize militants to kill US civilians mainly in the Middle East and perhaps even in the US:
“So yes, it's good that he's gone, but it comes at an extraordinarily high price, and that's why the Bush administration and the Obama administration chose not to do something like this,”
“So I think it depends. I think if they think about it rationally, they will not conduct a military strike on U.S. military forces in the region because they're going to lose that battle.
“I think what the Iranians are going to do is they're going to turn their proxies loose throughout the region to go after civilians, and at a time and place of their choosing, they're going to conduct a terrorist strike that kills a senior American official, and that could be anywhere in the world. The Iranians and Lebanese Hezbollah, their main ally, have contingency plans on the books for such terrorist attacks. So such a terrorist attack could occur soon,” he said.
“When you say – and it's bracing to hear you say that there will be dead Americans including civilians in this response from Iran, and it could be anywhere in the world, that includes the United States?” “CBS This Morning” co-host Anthony Mason asked.
“Yes, it does,”
At the other end of the spectrum, this article takes the view that the Iranians are more likely to respond by moving further away from their commitments to the Iran nuclear deal:
The mullahs relish assaulting America but are circumspect when facing a tough-minded, unpredictable president. The Islamic Republic had already pledged to retreat further from its nuclear obligations by next week. A move in that direction seems more likely at this point, as opposed to blowing up American diplomatic and military outposts.4
An uneasy path lies ahead for the clerical oligarchs. The last thing they need is a costly confrontation with a president willing to do things they once considered unimaginable.
Meanwhile just about everyone is urging restraint and deescalation.
The current cycle of violence in Iraq must be stopped before it spirals out of control. The EU calls on all the actors involved and on those partners who can have an influence to exercise maximum restraint and show responsibility in this crucial moment. Another crisis risks jeopardizing years of efforts to stabilise Iraq. Furthermore, the ongoing escalation threatens the whole region, which has suffered immensely and whose populations deserve life in peace. More dialogue and efforts to enhance mutual understanding are necessary to offer long term solutions to the stabilisation of the Middle East. The EU stands ready to continue its engagement with all sides in order to contribute to defusing tensions and reverse the dynamics of the conflict.
MORE ABOUT WHY IT WON’T LEAD TO WORLD WAR 3
This will not lead to nuclear war - Iran doesn’t have nuclear weapons, it enriched uranium higher than the Iran deal specified but is not on course to produce nuclear weapons soon yet.
China and Russia are not involved in the Quds support of Shia militants in the middle East, neither of them are Muslim nations and it is not their conflict.
China has economic ties with Iran and the Iranian oil. It wants to end the embargo but their ties are largely economic, they don’t have military ties.
Russia has military connections with Iran but they have their own interests, when they collaborate with Iran e.g. in Syria it is a kind of “marriage of convenience” because of overlapping interests. They are not really allies as such, not like e.g. NATO members.
Russia and Iran have developed a complex—and sometimes contentious—historical relationship. During World War II, for example, the Soviet Union occupied northern Iran, creating deep suspicion and mistrust among many Iranians. Yet Moscow and Tehran have developed a working relationship in Syria, even though they have their own interests.
And nuclear powers avoid escalation, even when both have nuclear weapons they don't use them. Russia's nukes are only for use if the integrity of Russia is at stake or something equally large. China has only a small nuclear force compared to the other big superpowers and has a no first use policy.
Also if you look at e.g. the Vietnam war where Russia did get involved it was mainly by training and supply of weapons and they did not start a world war with the US even though they had thousands of soldiers in Northern Vietnam and it was at the height of the cold war.
It is not going to head to a war with Iran, there is no way either side want to go there - but even in such a war Russia would not openly confront the US though they might supply support to Iran a bit like the Vietnam war - but as I’ve covered already the US are not going to try to invade Iran like they did with Iraq, no way.
Compared to the cold war, although Iran has impressive capabilities similar to Pakistan, Iran has nothing like the military capability of Russia and has no missiles that can reach the US.
Iran's beef is with Israel and Saudi Arabia etc, the US is only incidentally involved as far as they are concerned because of its support for those countries.
IRAN NOT GOING TO BE OVERCOME BY THE SANCTIONS - BUT DON’T WANT TO DEVELOP THE NUKE
Over decades of sanctions they have developed one of the most self contained economies in the world - they have an area the size of Western Europe, 80 million people and they export high technology to other countries - they can feed themselves from their land and produce their own technology and basically can't be starved out by an embargo.
However they can't make nukes. They have kept to the deal and continued to do so with gray area violations after the US withdrew. They want to get the trade embargo lifted - and there is no future really for them in developing the nuclear weapons - they know that as soon as they did, within a few weeks probably, Saudi Arabia would have them too and they don't want that.
WHAT ABOUT CLOSING THE STRAIT OF HORMUZ?
Iran could close the strait of Hormuz technically, at least for a while with their ships and submarines and cruise missiles launched from submarines. They have often threatened to do this. But they would hurt themselves as well as everyone else in the region who exports oil through the strait. Only if their oil exports went right down to zero would it make sense, they are still managing to export some oil. I haven't yet heard anyone suggesting they do this though there are some saying they might attack oil infrastructure like their last attack on an oil refinery.
This is a discussion from the last time they made this threat (as far as I know they haven't threatened it yet this time around)
They could however do a strike on the Iraqi oil fields, or on oil refineries or seize tankers again etc and this would have an effect on the oil markets which is why the market reacted tothe news.
The US is now a net exporter of oil because of its shale oil so would not be impacted so much directly except for the effects on oil prices as a globally traded commodity - but markets in Asia depend a lot on oil from the gulf and would be more directly impacted
WHAT ABOUT THE IDEA OF TRUMP STARTING A WAR TO WIN AN ELECTION?
Trump would not gain with his electoral base but instead would expect to lose the next election if a major war broke out as it is part of his election pitch and pledge that he would be a different president who does not start major wars and does not send US soldiers to death in big wars or spend trillions of dollars on them.
He said he would withdraw soldiers and that the US is spending billions of billions of dollars in Syria, Iran, Afghanistan etc in foreigh wars and he pledged to reduce overseas military commitments. And he takes this seriously to the point of withdrawing troop from Syria far too soon according to some analysists. He is not going to want to go the other way.
In an election year, President Trump's main concern is to avoid the loss of US lives in the region.
This dramatic strike seems in some way out of character for a president who, while talking tough, has been characterised by remarkable caution in terms of actions.
As they say he has been remarkably cautious as presidents of the US go and there are many cases where he has made it clear his priority is to remove US troops from these dangerous places. He does not want to start a war and if not all his base a significant proportion would be affected if he did start a war and the Democrats would make it a point against him in election campaigns.
For more background see this post in the Washington Post who are left leaning and not likely to favour Trump.
The absence of bipartisan support for a deeply polarizing president’s actions makes it highly unlikely that attacking Iran will rally Americans in support of Trump.
Douglas A. Hibbs’s famed Bread and Peace model argues that two factors explain most of the variation in presidential election outcomes since 1948: The positive effects of real disposable income growth and the negative effects of cumulative U.S. military casualties from unprovoked, hostile deployments of American armed forces in foreign wars.
This research suggests that the Democratic Party paid an electoral price for committing U.S. forces in Korea and Vietnam. The Iraq War also appeared to undermine support for George W. Bush’s reelection. Despite narrowly winning in 2004, Bush won fewer votes than expected for an incumbent president in a growing economy.
A September poll commissioned by the University of Maryland showed similar results. Only 20 percent of Americans in that survey said that the United States should be prepared to go to war with Iran to achieve its goals, compared to 76 percent who said that U.S. policy goals do not warrant waging war.
To be sure, military action against Iran will probably grow more popular as Trump’s supporters rally to defend the president’s actions. Americans often change their opinions about foreign policy based on their views of the president who is guiding it.
But that will not change the fundamental lessons from prior academic research: Attacking Iran will not help Trump win reelection.
WHAT ABOUT CYBERATTACKS
Since open war is unlikely but something dramatic short of war is possible - a cyber attack could tick the boxes there. This is why people are talking about it but the US is reasonably well secured and Iran can't pull off a very big stunt like that but it has done plenty of smaller attacks in the past so cyberattacks generally are possible. The US has done serious cyber attacks on Iran of course too.
Robert M. Lee, expert in industrial control systems security and CEO of Dragos’:
There’s little reason to think that Iran could pull off a truly spectacular attack, such as disabling major electric grids or other big utilities. …The average citizen should not be concerned, but security teams at [US] companies should be on a heightened sense of awareness.”
WHAT ABOUT TRUMP’S 52 TARGETS THREAT?
It is likely in response to this:
Gen. Gholamali Abuhamzeh, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps in the southern province of Kerman:
The Strait of Hormuz is a vital point for the West and a large number of American destroyers and warships cross there,"
Vital American targets in the region have been identified by Iran since long time ago ... some 35 U.S. targets in the region as well as Tel Aviv are within our reach,.
So Trump replies with a bigger number 52 which is also the number of US hostages in 1979, and so, symbolic
The president said the targets represented 52 Americans who were held hostage in Iran for more than a year from late 1979 after they were taken from the US embassy in Tehran.
They are trading fighting words, but Iran knows anyway if it did a military attack on a US target there would likely be a strong military response back.
They may well do something dramatic but likely to take their time - this also helps take away the heat from the situation too while letting them continue with fiery rhetoric and preserve their honour without the ignomy of an attack that is replied to with a crushing response.
WAS THE ATTACK LAWFUL?
The U.N. Charter forbids use of force against another nation in this way. There is an exemption if they had approval of Iraq - however they did not.
Agnes Callamard, the U.N. special rapporteur on extra-judicial executions, said it's justified if there was an attack “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation” But this was not during hostilities. Maybe they have evidence of that but so far it has not been disclosed
#Iraq: The targeted killings of Qasem Soleiman and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis are most likely unlawful and violate international human rights law: Outside the context of active hostilities, the use of drones or other means for targeted killing is almost never likely to be legal
To be justified under international human rights law, intentionally lethal or potentially lethal force can only be used where strictly necessary to protect against an imminent threat to life.
In other words, whoever targeted these two men would need to demonstrate that the persons targeted constitute(d) an imminent threat to others. An individual’s past involvement in “terrorist” attacks is not sufficient to make his targeting for killing lawful.
Furthermore, drone killing of anyone other than the target (family members or others in the vicinity, for example) would be an arbitrary deprivation of life under human rights law and could result in State responsibility and individual criminal liability.
The use of drones on the territory of other States has also been justified on the basis of self-defence. Under customary international law States can take military action if the threatened attack is imminent, no other means would deﬂect it, and the action is proportionate
The test for so-called anticipatory self-defence is very narrow: it must be a necessity that is “instant, overwhelming, and leaving no choice of means, and no moment of deliberation”. This test is unlikely to be met in these particular cases.
Other human rights experts have come to a similar conclusion. Although it is possible there is information we lack that would make it legal it seems to be more retaliation for past actions than to prevent a future threat that was so immediate this was the only way to stop it.
The US has veto power on the Security Council so in practice it is highly unlikely that any action would be taken against them but the general assembly could request an advisory ruling to clarify the situation.
MY PREVIOUS IRAN ARTICLES
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