“Soleimani was popular among many Iranians, with many viewing him as a “selfless hero fighting Iran’s enemies”,while others deemed him a “murderer”. Soleimani was personally sanctioned by the United Nations and the European Union and was designated as a terrorist by the United States in 2005.
“What we in America call terrorists are really groups of people that reject the international system. (Henry Kissinger)”
“Qasem Soleimani (62) (Persian; 11 March 1957 – 3 January 2020) was an Iranian major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and, from 1998 until his death in 2020, commander of its Quds Force, a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations. In his later years, he was considered the second most powerful person in Iran behind Ayatollah Khamenei and his right-hand man. Soleimani was assassinated in a targeted U.S. drone strike on 3 January 2020 in Baghdad, which was approved by President Donald Trump. The strike was strongly condemned by some, including the Iranian government, and a multi-city funeral was held in Iraq and Iran for the general and other casualties. Hours after Soleimani’s burial on 7 January 2020, the Iranian military launched missiles against U.S. bases in Iraq; no lives were lost in the second attack.
Assassination: Main article: Assassination of Qasem Soleimani:
Qasem Soleimani (left) with Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis at a 2017 ceremony commemorating the father of Soleimani, in Mosalla, Tehran
Soleimani was assassinated on 3 January 2020 around 1:00 a.m. local time (22:00 UTC 2 January), by U.S. drone strike near Baghdad International Airport BBC News, NBC News, DW News, Time, The Guardian and other media outlets have said Soleimani was assassinated or described the killing as an assassination. The New York Times compared it to Operation Vengeance in World War II, when American pilots shot down the plane carrying Admiral I. Yamamoto.
Soleimani had just left his plane, which arrived in Iraq from Lebanon or Syria. His body was identified using a ring he wore on his finger, with DNA confirmation still pending. CNBC reported that the U.S. had been in pursuit of the general for decades. Also assassinated were four members of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), including … the Iraqi-Iranian military commander who headed the PMF. Iraqi prime minister Mahdi said Soleimani was bringing Iran’s response to a letter that Iraq had sent out on behalf of Saudi Arabia in order to ease tensions between the two countries in the region. The prime minister did not reveal the message’s exact content. Soleimani was posthumously promoted to the rank of Lieutenant General and praised as a martyr by speaker of the Iranian parliament Ali L. and Mohsen R., a former commander of the IRGC.
Soleimani was succeeded by Esmail Ghaani as commander of the Quds Force.
President Trump had expressed a desire to target Soleimani in a 2017 meeting with then National Security Adviser H.R. McMaster. On January 13, 2020, five senior current and former Trump administration officials told NBC News that President Trump had authorized the killing of Soleimani in June 2019 on the condition that he had been involved in the killing of any American, a decision backed by U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo In making the 2020 strike, the Pentagon focused on Soleimani’s past actions and on deterring (abschrecken) future such actions.
The strike followed attacks on the American embassy in Baghdad by supporters of an Iran-backed Iraqi Shia militia and the 2019 K-1 Air Base attack. Anonymous officials told The New York Times that Trump had initially decided to strike at the Shia militia, but instead chose the most extreme option proposed (killing Soleimani) after seeing television footage of the attack on the embassy. The death of an Iraqi-American contractor in a rocket attack in December 2019 was reportedly also used as justification for the strike, contradicting the Trump Administration’s
claim that Soleimani was targeted because he was plotting “imminent” attacks on Americans and had to be targeted in order to stop these attacks.
The U.S. Defense Department said the strike was carried out “at the direction of the President” and asserted that Soleimani had been planning further attacks on American diplomats and military personnel and had approved the attacks on the American embassy in Baghdad in response to U.S. airstrikes in Iraq and Syria on 29 December 2019, and that the strike was meant to deter future attacks. As part of the administration’s changing justification for the strike, a national security adviser asserted that Soleimani had intended further attacks on American diplomats
and troops, and Mark Esper asserted the general had been expected to mastermind an attack within days. Trump stated in a Fox News interview that four embassies, including the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, had been targeted; Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said it was not known where or when the attacks would have taken place.
Legal status of the assassination:
The strike was not approved by the U.S. Congress or consented to by the Iraqi government, leading to controversy regarding the legality of killing an Iranian military leader over Iraqi airspace.
Under international law:
The United States, as a member of the United Nations, has ratified the Charter of the United Nations and, therefore, is bound by its provisions. Agnes Callamard, United Nations Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, and Director of Columbia University’s Global Freedom of Expression project, researched the
alleged legal basis for the killing of Suleimani advanced by the United States government and stated that the Suleimani’s killing could have been justified under international law only if it had been a response to an “imminent threat.”
However, she said that the United States had provided no evidence to support that contention. “Absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the U.S. was unlawful,” Ms. Callamard wrote in a report that she presented in July 2020 to the U.N. Human Rights Council in Geneva. The Trump administration’s February 2020 memorandum to Congress was “remarkably vague and inconsequential as far as a possible imminent threat is concerned,” Ms. Callamard wrote in the report. “Even at the most basic level, the U.S. did not demonstrate that
striking Suleimani was ‘necessary.’”
Callamard also concluded that the killing sets an alarming precedent—it was the first targeted drone killing of a senior foreign government official on the territory of a third country. The world now faced “the very real prospect that states may opt to ‘strategically’ eliminate high ranking military officials outside the context of a ‘known’ war, and seek to justify the killing on the grounds of the target’s classification as a ‘terrorist’ who posed a potential future threat,” Ms. Callamard said in her report. Also, she noted that scores of countries and many non-
state actors now have operational drones, and that drones kill many non-combatants for every person targeted. In an article in the Middle East Institute, former Deputy Defense Secretary for the Middle East Michael Mulroy and retired Navy SEAL Eric Oehlerich state that the targeted killing of Soleimani was justified and long overdue because he was an enemy combatant who orchestrated a lethal campaign against U.S. military, diplomats and intelligence officers in Iraq. However, they also made the point that the U.S. should have targeted Soleimani’s
subordinates to disrupt their operations and that covert authorities should have been considered to be able to deny the operation in order to avoid the possibility of an all-out regional war.