Iran One Year On: What Did the Assassination of Qassem Soleimani Achieve?

By Elijah J. Manier

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Qassem Soleimani Abu Mahdi 5a15a

A year ago, US President Donald Trump assassinated the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Commander of the Quds brigade, Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, the coordinator between Iran and all its allies in Palestine, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Afghanistan. The apparent motivation behind this act was consistent with US policy since Trump assumed power. He has sought to humiliate, weaken, and damage Iran through maximum economic sanctions because Iran is justifiably considered a regional power, whose leaders reject the US hegemony. The Americans and the Israelis believed Soleimani was irreplaceable and that the “Axis of the Resistance” he was leading would be seriously damaged by his assassination. Many went further, describing the assassination as a body blow to Iran’s strategic goals. After one year, did the US really manage to wallop Iran, damage its objectives or destroy its goals? If these were its objectives, did it succeed?

On the 1st of January 2020, Sardar Soleimani visited Lebanon where he spent several hours meeting the Secretary-General of Hezbollah, Sayyed Hassan Nasrallah. Lebanon is an essential part of the “Axis of the Resistance”. Soleimani had visited the country and supported Hezbollah since 1998 when he was appointed as the IRGC-Quds Brigade commander. The Lebanese Hezbollah has become the strongest ally of Iran, the best armed and trained group in the Middle East: in fact, the most powerful Middle Eastern army. Brigadier General Soleimani kept a very low-profile for decades but was responsible for the provision of all training, finance and logistic support to Iran’s allies. Hezbollah is considered one of the most successful results of Iranian policy since 1982, when Imam Khomeini first sent Iranians to the Lebanese Beqaa Valley, during the Israeli invasion of Lebanon.

Soleimani travelled later that day to Syria (another member of the “Axis of the Resistance”), where he spent the night. As in every visit to the Levant where hundreds of Iranian military advisors operate against ISIS and al-Qaeda, Soleimani called all the Iranian field-commanders to a meeting early in the morning. The meeting, unusually, lasted until late afternoon, where Soleimani distributed missions, argued military tactics and listened to the resident Iranian officers. 

A few hours later, Qassem Soleimani took a flight from Damascus airport heading to Baghdad, Iraq, where he landed a few minutes before midnight. Soleimani, a Brigadier General, and four Iranian officers acting as his aides-de-camp were received at the airport by the Iraqi field-commander of Hashd al-Shaa’bi Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, who drove him away. Two US MQ-9 Reaper drones then fired 230 mph laser-guided Hellfire missiles, incinerating the bodies of Soleimani, al-Muhandes and all their Iranian and Iraqi companions. Trump bragged that he killed “two for the price of one”. He supposed that Soleimani and Muhandes belonged to history and the page was closed. 

Far from it. From one day to the next, consequences of the US unlawful assassination did much more than what Soleimani himself could have achieved when he was alive. The targeted killing of January 3 injected a new spirit into the “Islamic Revolution” of Imam Khomeini. Several Iranian generations had never lived the Revolution and undervalued the doctrine of “Wilayat al-Faqih” (guardianship-based political system), unlike the old guard. The assassination united the Iranian people under the national flag: it was not acceptable for millions of Iranians to see their General assassinated in such a cowardly manner by a drone and not even on the battlefield.

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