What top Iran commander Qasem Soleimani’s killing means for IndiaJanuary 3, 2020
Tensions between the United States and Iran have entered uncharted territory following the killing of Commander Qasem Soleimani in a US drone strike in Iraq, with experts fearing the incident could trigger a conflict between the two sides.
Soleimani rose steadily through the ranks of the Iranian military until he was named in 2002 the head of al-Quds Force, the most elite unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Force (IRGC). Soleimani is considered very close to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and under his watch, al-Quds Force has been linked to killings and assassination attempts in countries ranging Syria and Lebanon to Germany and even India.
Following a bomb attack on an Israeli diplomat’s vehicle in the Indian capital in February 2012, Delhi Police had come to the conclusion that the suspects involved in the unsuccessful bombing were members of the IRGC, media reports had said at the time. The attack had occurred at the same time as other attacks linked to the IRGC in Bangkok, Thailand, and Tbilisi, Georgia.
The al-Hashd al-Shaabi, an umbrella group of Iran-controlled militias in Iraq, announced on Twitter that Soleimani was killed along with its leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. Iran’s state-run media said the strike was carried out at Baghdad airport.
Responding to the attack, Iran’s foreign minister Javad Zarif tweeted, “The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani – THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al – is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”
The Pentagon, in a statement, said Soleimani was killed at “the direction of the President” in a “decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad”. The strike was retaliation for the attack on the US embassy in Baghdad, which was carried out by Iran-backed militias.
The US statement further said Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region”. It also accused Soleimani and al-Quds Force, which along with IRGC was designated by the US as terrorist organisations in April 2019, of being responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition personnel.
“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 US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week,” the statement said.