How Soleimani’s strike harmed US interests in Iraq



In January 2020, just days after the United States assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani and Iran responded with a missile attack that wounded more than 100 American soldiers, then Secretary of State Mike Pompeo word titled “The Restoration of Deterrence: The Iranian Example”. Pompeo then asserted that the assassination “restores[ed] deterrence ”with Iran, but as to augment in attacks by Iranian-backed militias against US interests revealed, Pompeo’s claim is even weaker nearly two years later. You don’t have to mourn the death of a terrible man to recognize that the decision to assassinate Soleimani was a reckless abuse of executive power that led to a major backlash against the United States.

The militias after the strike

In view of the exponential to augment in the militia attacks on American bases since January 2020, the argument that the strike restored “real deterrence” and prevented further attacks has proved specious. While Iran quickly retaliated and sanctioned some reprisals by militias against US interests in the wake of Soleimani’s assassination, the last two years of escalation were largely the result of the power vacuum that had formed in Iraq. after his death. The American strike, which killed both Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a key Iraqi militia commander, caused upheaval within the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coordination group formed in 2014 to fight the Islamic State which is now an integral part of the Iraqi security services. This has created further difficulties for Tehran in managing its most virulent Iraqi country. proxy forces.

As the toughest militias grew more emboldened last spring, it became clear that Esmail Qaani, Soleimani’s replacement as head of the Quds Force, an expeditionary branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps of Iran, was incapable of wielding power and directing the actions of the militias almost as effectively as his predecessor. For example, Iran do a concerted effort stop attacks on US bases as its nuclear negotiations with the US resumed in 2021. However, without Soleimani’s unique degree affecting and mediation, Qaani’s repeated bans on attacking US bases in Iraq have been rejected by the increasingly independent hard militias. While the assassinations of Soleimani and Muhandis may have successfully weakened Iranian influence over the PMF, the vacuum it created strengthened the more anti-American elements and led to an uncontrolled escalation that Iran did. could not stop.

But this news authorized the hard factions did not stop there. As they demonstrated greater operational independence and intensified their attacks on US forces, they also began aggressively. confront Iraqi Prime Minister Mustafa al-Kadhimi. Faced with the immense pressure entrenched PMF, Kadhimi attempted a precarious balancing act, promising to subdue the militias while allowing his government to provide the PMF with a budget of $ 2.5 billion. Tensions between Kadhimi and the militias came to a head after the PMF-affiliated bloc lost more than half of its seats in the October elections and militia members violently crushed protested against the results.

On November 7, as it became clear that the PMF would not be able to change the outcome of the elections, Iraqi militias attempted to assassinate Kadhimi. According to we and Iraqi officials, the attack was not authorized by Iran, and Qaani immediately went to Baghdad to reprimand the militias for carrying out an attack that Tehran opposed. Iraqi officials to believe than Kata’ib Hezbollah, a militia founded by Muhandis that once took orders directly Iran, is one of the groups responsible for the attack. In the words from an Iraqi official, “this would not have happened if Qassem Soleimani was still alive”. The likely responsibility of Kata’ib Hezbollah in a brazen assassination attempt that Iran opposed is only the most recent unintended consequence of Iran’s weakening influence over the militias.

The results of the “maximum pressure”

While it may seem counterintuitive, the sharp increase in attacks on US forces following Soleimani’s assassination and the recent attempted assassination of the prime minister suggest that the weakening of Iranian influence over the militias has in fact harmed American interests. In addition to endangering the lives of American soldiers, the increase in attacks has hampered anti-ISIS coalition efforts, forcing the United States to suspend operations to protect bases from repeated attacks and limiting the coalition’s ability to move freely. In addition, the increasingly hostile behavior of the PMF towards the Iraqi government has challenged Iraq’s fragile political system and mine the country’s security forces.

In addition to its consequences in Iraq, Soleimani’s assassination helped put Iran on the dangerous path of nuclear expansion. Iran fully abandoned the limitations of the Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action (JCPOA) immediately after the assassination and announcement plans to step up uranium enrichment on the first anniversary of Soleimani’s death. Almost two years after the assassination, nuclear negotiations are close to collapse and the Biden administration is considering the risky option of attempting to destroy Iran’s many nuclear facilities.

The failure of the Soleimani assassination to deter Iranian-backed militias in Iraq underscores the limits of military force and the challenges inherent in trying to deter asymmetric threats. The United States may have changed Tehran’s calculation by killing Soleimani, but it does not have make those who actually carry out the attacks feel that the risks of continuing to target American bases are sufficient to refrain from doing so. With the Soleimani and the Muhandis, the two people who had the most control over the now dead militias, Iran has been unable to stop the attacks even when it tries to do so.

General Frank McKenzie, Commander of US Central Command, recently declared that he believes Iraqi militia attacks will increase in the coming weeks. Ultimately, attacks by Iraqi militias would not need to be discouraged if American forces were not in Iraq. Iraqi special forces have proven effective to combat the remnants of the Islamic State, and the objectives of the small advisory and assistance mission can be achieved without a permanent military footprint. Moreover, after years of Iraqi politics dominated by foreign interference and sectarianism, a nationalist government that is not perceived as dependent on foreign sponsors is necessary to unite the fractured country. US forces and airstrikes in Iraq, which are opposite by many Iraqis and calls for division political attacks against elected officials, are a major obstacle to forming a government that the Iraqi people consider legitimate.

As Pompeo bragged about the alleged achievements of his Iranian politics at the Conservative Political Action Conference in early 2021, he declared this “[Soleimani] never again caused problems for Americans. While Soleimani certainly did not hurt the United States from the grave, the decision to assassinate him had a whole host of negative consequences that are still felt today. Despite his defense of Donald Trump’s “maximum pressure” campaign against Iran, it is revealing that none of Pompeo’s twelve demands have been met by Tehran. Maximum pressure did not reach tangible goals, and, when Trump left the White House, Iran was the the closest he had never been involved in the acquisition of nuclear weapons since the signing of the JCPOA.

The decision to assassinate Soleimani reflects the United States’ tendency to use force aggressively without considering any second-order effects that could ensue. Policymakers must stop basing their decisions on war and peace on the simplistic idea that if a leader is a bad person, killing him is doomed to bring results that serve the interests of the United States. Like Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi, Soleimani was a terrible person with a lot of blood on his hands. However, the power vacuums that were created after their deaths, which sparked immense chaos and caused significant damage to U.S. interests in Iraq and Libya, should give policymakers a pause before embarking on such operations in the United States. ‘to come up.

Will A. Smith is a graduate student of the School of International Service at the American University.

Image: Reuters.


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