By this point, we've all heard of the USA airstrike that killed Major General Qassim Soleimani; whether through viral memes or the news. However, who really was Soleimani that the States felt the need to kill him? And, perhaps more importantly, why did his death cause World War rumours?
Qassim Soleimani: Reputation And Legacy
Qassim Soleimani joined the Revolutionary Guard in 1979, shortly after the Iranian Revolution. He rose through ranks rapidly despite minimal training, earning a reputation for his bravery. In 2011, he was promoted to Major General. He also had a close relationship with the Supreme Leader (head of state) Khamenei.
Thanks to this relation as well as his tactical and military genius, Soleimani gained a hero-like status within the population of Iran. From ending the Israeli occupation of South Lebanon, overcoming the Syrian Revolution, and combatting ISIS upon its rise, his list of accomplishments is certainly no small deal.
However, Qassim Soleimani, along with several Iranian officials, was declared a terrorist by the USA in 2011. They accused Soleimani of plotting against the Saudi Arabian ambassador in the States. By April 2019, the QUDS force he commands was also listed as a foreign terrorist group.
Soleimani And The USA
Soleimani and the States have a complicated relationship, to say the least. The latter has sought Soleimani's help against ISIS and to ease tensions with Iraq. However, Qassim Soleimani had a widespread influence across the Middle-East, and was often capable of foiling the States plans if they contradicted with Iranian interests.
Reports from the Guardian suggest that the USA had been planning an attack against Soleimani as early as summer last year. So, why now?
On 2nd January, Qassim Soleimani was landing in Baghdad to meet Muhandis, leader of the Shia militia Kata’ib Hezbollah. Hezbollah's supporters had attacked the US embassy in Iraq on 29th in a riot that lasted two days over the New Year's. This was in retaliation to a prior US airstrike on 29th December that killed at least 25 militia fighters.
They were presumed to discuss matters such as piling pressure onto the States with growing conflicts, as well as dealing with Iraqi protests against the government due to a failing government and the amount of power Iran had over them.
However, as Soleimani and Muhandis' car rounded a corner shortly after the former landed, an American drone fired two missiles into the SUV. A third missile struck the car carrying their bodyguards.
Muhandis' body was vaporised on contact, whereas Soleimani was recognised by the remains of his hand that carried an identifiable ring.
Intention Vs Infuriation
Several people think that the missile attack, ordered by Trump, signals weakness instead of strength. From withdrawing from the Iran nuclear deal to an inability to diplomatically deal with rising tensions, perhaps the only way he saw was to escalate tensions.
It is also notable that this comes not long after Trump's impeachment, which means that his reputation was at stake. Military tensions could delay his hearings as well until the next elections come about. With a man of his ego and confidence, it's not hard to see him consider this a win on his side.
The office claims the attack was carried out to prevent ongoing plans for attack from Iran's side upon the USA. Trump, meanwhile, says that the attack was carried out to prevent a war and not provoke one.
However, with the increased conflict, tension, and Iran's oath to take revenge on the "criminals" responsible for Qassam Solemeini's death, escalation does not seem to be a far fetched possibility.