The United States of America effected the death of Iranian General Qassim Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps – Quds Force (IRGC-QF). In no uncertain terms, this is a huge action taken (so far as we know) unilaterally on our nation’s behalf. This is history in our times people. That is, if it is true…

General Qassim Soleimani, Head of the IRGC-QF.

The problem with killing Gen. Soleimani is extremely multifaceted. First and foremost, this man is by any and all definitions, an intellectual adversary. Gen. Soleimani comes from a village of poverty and minimal opportunity. For an individual to rise through the ranks as Soleimani has and garner the ear of the current Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, the true leader of the Islamic Republic of Iran, is more than impressive, it’s practically unheard of. Soleimani had no family name or birthright to precede him, merely his determination and work ethic. Routinely characterized by his quiet, reserved demeanor, Soleimani made study of every move, failure, success, and death that has surrounded his rise from mere guard in the IRGC to Commander of one of the most capable intelligence and operational bodies in the world. Think of the IRGC-QF as a mix between the United States CIA, Special Operations Forces, and the FBI; An element highly capable of espionage (yes, better than us), equipped with reasonably modern equipment and techniques, and with a bitter distaste for the west. Soleimani came from nothing and ascended to the top position in this organization of terror, all on his own merit and mettle.

By all accounts, both foreign and domestic, Soleimani was indeed “An operatives operative”, equally adept and at home on the battlefield and in the political arena. With his military career spanning more than three decades, Soleimani has made the Islamic Republic of Iran a mainstay amongst the world’s top power brokers. He has commanded such attention through his enabling of proxy elements throughout the Middle East. Establishing what initially equates to non-attributable native forces in other nations, Soleimani helped extend the reach of Iranian influence and intent from Tehran to Beirut to Buenos Aires and further. These proxies: Hezbollah, Hamas, Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Houthis, and other non-state actors, all have the blood of innumerable souls on their hands, and all take their marching orders from the head of the IRGC-QF. 

“Why does all of this matter?”, you might be asking your screen right about now. “We already got Usama bin Laden”, and “now this guy I really don’t know about is already dead”.  Well, bluntly, it isn’t that simple. Gen. Soleimani has become somewhat of an untouchable icon in Iran, and subsequently throughout the Middle and Near East. Usama bin Laden never attained the level of command, authority, power, or prowess of Soleimani. The recent death of Gen. Soleimani means almost everything to our future, considering the following:

  • The United States has had an on-again, off-again (although primarily adversarial) relationship with Islamic Republic of Iran dating back four decades. This includes both overt and covert government interplay in support of one another’s individual objectives. Most recently (just prior to Soleimani’s death), we have turned this relationship off through multiple sanctions, political aggression, and our intense scrutiny of anything related to Iran and nuclear.
  • The Islamic Republic of Iran is allies with Russia, Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and the Gaza strip. Additionally, Shia Muslims worldwide consider Iran a bastion of their religion. Attacks against individuals, especially those in such close proximity to the Ayatollah, are not taken lightly. 
  • Gen. Soleimani was killed in an attack in Iraq. Not only “just in Iraq”, but in Baghdad, Iraq, right near a former U.S. and Coalition Forces base (Baghdad International Airport). If you remember correctly, we left Iraq and “officially handed responsibility over to the Government of Iraq” some time ago. This means that the United States conducted an attack against a third-party head of government, elsewhere on sovereign soil, with no declarations or notifications to foreign governments or international cooperative bodies (to the public’s knowledge). Imagine if the roles were reversed…

So, back to that little part mentioned earlier about “if this is true”. As previously mentioned, Gen. Soleimani was nothing short of an intelligent warrior, one with a comprehensive understanding of his environs. This single fact has been echoed throughout the halls of intelligence agencies and operational arms of governments worldwide for as long as they have known of him. You see, “Qassim Soleimani” has “been killed” numerous times over before this most recent attack, each effort ultimately resulting in the realization that the individual targeted was actually one of his numerous body doubles or someone else altogether. This fact makes the United States’ declaration that we have positively identified the target pre-attack and the subsequent remains of the individual as Gen. Qassim Soleimani all the more important and historical. 

Sphere of Iranian Influence. IISS.org 2019

Think of the sheer amount of personnel, resources, and time that it must have taken to gain verifiable access to an individual such as Soleimani. Now imagine doing it surreptitiously, in near-real time, and with exact enough coordinates to his precise location so that kinetic actions against him result in minimal to no collateral damage. For our national intelligence community, this is an amazingly immense win that will no time soon be equaled. Where society previously saw our intelligence community as a gross failure in the time running up to the events of 9-11, this single action provides reverberating horns of redemption.

This by no means covers the vast expanse that is “The Iranian File”, yet it sheds light on the reality of our recent actions and provides room for discussion about how our nation should effectively move forward from here on out. Please feel free to add your comments, experience, and questions to this post.

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