Killing of powerful military leader of Iran and head of Quds Force of Revolutionary Guards of that country, Major General Qassem Soleimani, in a missile attack carried out by US at the Baghdad Airport has escalated conflict in the Middle-East. US imperialism and its allies, mainly Zionist rulers of Israel and Saudi royal family, are locked in no holds barred fight with Iran which has forged close relations with Russia and China. This conflict is playing out in the situation where US led front has faced sharp division in the Middle-East with Turkey and Qatar adopting different approach towards Iran and Russia in the Greater Middle East. Another important fissure in the US led camp has surfaced in Europe where European powers have adopted varyingly different approach from the US Admn. towards Middle-East, particularly in relation to Iran. This assassination carried out by US imperialism is also related to deep contradictions in the post-the Saddam Hussein ruling dispensation in Iraq.
The assassination by US imperialism of military commander of Iran, Soleimani and deputy chief of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, is obviously against international law. US is not at war with Iran. Hence, Iran’s military commander cannot be killed in targeted killing. UN official has confirmed that US action lacks any basis in the international law. But US imperialism has never bothered about international law; under Trump it does not even pretend to bother about it. US Admn. has claimed that the assassination was carried under the orders of President Trump and it was to prevent the attacks on US forces that General Soleimani was allegedly planning. US Admn. has made a convoluted claim that the assassination was carried out not to prevent war and not to start war with Iran.
Resort to this attack also proves that “maximum pressure” tactic so trumpeted by Trump Admn. has been a failure. Trump Admn. had withdrawn from the Nuclear Agreement with Iran and had imposed severe economic sanctions on Iran. It has prohibited sale of Iranian oil and has blacklisted companies for doing business with Iran. A number of countries have succumbed to US pressure and stopped or scaled down purchase of oil from Iran and stopped business dealings with that country. Thus far, Trump has been boasting about the efficacy of his sanctions which he called as “maximum pressure” but through this act, Trump Admn. has admitted failure of its tactics.
General Soleimani was mainly in charge of Iran’s military excursions in the Middle-East. He played main role in co-coordinating Iran’s military support to Assad Govt. in Syria and to Hezbollah in Lebanon. He also became the face of Iran’s military efforts against Islamic State (IS) in Iraq. Popular Mobilization Force (PMF) came into existence in the war against IS when the US trained Army retreated in the face of advancing IS forces in 2014. PMF has been absorbed into Iraqi armed forces as paramilitary force. PMF was mainly supported by Iran and Soleimani has been the main co-coordinator of this support.
Since overthrow of Saddam Hussein Govt. through military occupation by US and its allies in 2003, political power in Iraq has been wielded mainly by groups having base among the majority Shia population of that country. To get some support for their military occupation, US imperialist rulers befriended the Shia clergy. With their proximity to Shias of Iraq and their long time conflict with Saddam Hussein Govt. with whom they fought eight year (1980-‘88) long war, Iranian rulers saw in this an opportunity to increase their influence in Iraq and systematically worked to build their support in that country. Forced to rely on the Shia leaders, US grudgingly allowed some Iranian influence in that country. However, alarmed by its growth, US Admn. under Obama sought to use military campaign of IS to ease out the then Prime Minister Maliki from power. War against IS provided Iran an opportunity to further expand its support in Iraq and position of US was undermined for using that occasion to further their political objective in Iraq i.e. of easing out Maliki.
There has been sharpening contradictions in the ruling establishment in Iraq which should be viewed in the background of growing conflict between Iran and US allies which is related to and reflective of growing contradictions among the imperialist powers. The open allegiance of different ruling groups with either Iran or America, military presence of US in that country and allegiance owed by some military formations to Iran makes Iraq an open battleground between US and Iran. This contradiction is set to further intensify in the aftermath of General Soleimani’s assassination. However, Iran would most likely use this to further increase its influence in Iraq and US military presence in Iraq will come under further pressure. Iraqi Govt. has condemned the assassination while a number of important figures in the ruling establishment have advised caution in dealing with the situation.
The events immediately before this assassination started unfolding after attacks on a US facility in Northern Iraq killed an American contractor on December 27. Two days later US struck at Kottab Hezbollah camps killing 25 of their leaders and cadres. This was followed by an angry demonstration at US Embassy in the Green Zone in Baghdad, a heavily fortified area where thousands of protesters marched to the Embassy building and set on fire parts of its out structure. US had blamed Iran for this demonstration which they had termed an attack and vowed retaliation. Attack on Soleimani and others followed two days later. The events show escalating conflict between Iran and US in which US is taking increasing recourse to military means. While US are undoubtedly much stronger military power compared to Iran, it is losing the battle of influence in Iraq. Trump Administration has chosen a very high risk measure in targeting General Soleimani. While Trump Admn. has obviously taken a step for its stunning effect, it is the type of stuff imbecility is woven of. According to New York Times report, Trump chose this step from the menu offered by Pentagon, the most deadly one. Whatever the intention or calculation of Trump Admn. they cannot overcome the difficulties they and their allies face in the Middle-East. Their time worn tactics of caring out Shia-Sunni divide has run its course, their linen of ‘democracy’ just does not wash here as they rely on monarchs and dictators for influence in the region.
US imperialism has taken a very dangerous step which threatens peace in the region. Whatever be the pace of retaliation, Iran and its allies will not rest. It will have repercussions in the entire region and US assets and allies may have to bear the brunt. US imperialism cannot shoot its way out of the increasing isolation in the region. Rather its isolation will only increase both in the Middle-East as well as in the rest of the world. The choice of timing and selection of the step taken by Trump Admn. has been influenced by the domestic troubles being faced by Trump, particularly his impeachment by the House of Representatives and impending trial in the Senate. However, it is also a pointer to the increasing troubles of US imperialism and its drive for hegemony in the world.
There is growing anger of the people of Iraq at their deteriorating conditions, growing unemployment and declining civic amenities. This is particularly noteworthy in a country which is one of the largest exporters of oil. People blame the ruling politicians’ rampant corruption for this state of affairs. They raise slogans against influence of US and Iran in their demonstrations. Nearly four hundred protesters have been killed in these protests which have the South of Iraq, the main areas of majority Shia concentration as the main centres of these protests. Both Iran and US are trying to influence the course of these protests which have brought a large number of youth and unemployed on to the streets. While provocative acts of US imperialism endanger peace in the region, people of Iraq are in the immediate firing line.
January 4, 2020