Shafaqna Pakistan:Soleimani was the Islamic Republic of Iran’s most important figure after Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khomeini. In order to understand the significance behind Qasem Suleimani’s assassination in Iraq at Baghdad International Airport by the United States, we will need to go back to 1979 when the Iranian revolution took place.
Before 1979, Iran was a monarchy under the reign of Pahlavis with Muhammad Reza Pahlavi as the last Shah of Iran. The troops loyal to the Shah were overwhelmed by the guerrillas and rebel troops and Khomeini came to official power on 11 February, 1979. Before the revolution, Iran was very much subservient to the Western powers, in particular United Kingdom (UK) and the US.
Days after Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini’s return to Tehran on 1 February 1979, the interim administration set up by Khomeini established the ‘Pasdaran’ what we refer to today as ‘Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) under a decree issued by Khomeini on 5 May. The Pasdaran was intended to protect the Revolution and to assist the ruling clerics in the day-to-day enforcement of the new government’s Islamic codes and morality.
However, over the time IRGC acquired immense significance and became something closest to what we call as Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) in Pakistan. The only significant difference between the two is that whereas ISI operates secretively IRGC exercises its functions straight from the shoulder and has a blatant structure. In addition, IRGC operates independently of the regular armed forces, it is often considered to be a military force in its own right due to its important role in Iranian defense. The IRGC consists of ground, naval, and aviation troops, which parallel the structure of the regular armed forces. It also controls Iran’s strategic missile and rocket forces.
Qasem Suleimani was a major General and Commander of the Quds Force since 1998, a unit of IGRC and not just any other General but someone who was the face of millions of Iranians due to his compassionate personality as well as the crucial role that IGRC possesses in the unity of Iran as people. Not to mention the fact that he was the most feared Army man by terrorist organisations especially ISIS.
As much as the Iranians and Shiites in other Muslim countries loved Qasem Suleimani, the United Nations and the US have time and again personally sanctioned him and US has designated him as a terrorist. The IRGC is designated as a terrorist organization by the governments of Saudi Arabia and the US for obvious reasons as due to the very existence of IRGC the US has been unable to penetrate its roots into the Iranian Political System despite Iran’s strenuous sustainability to international sanctions.
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This is why Qasem Suleimani’s assassination is of enormous significance to both Iran and the US.
To reassert this significance in response to US’s assertion, Iran’s Revolutionary Guards launched 22 ballistic missiles at two US targets in Iraq in retaliation for the killing of Quds Force leader Qassem Soleimani. Ayatollah Khomaini described the missile attack as a “slap in the face” of US. A slap indeed, as US chose not to retaliate further and was content with saving its face by taking the position that ‘there were no casualties’. President Donald Trump even went as far as saying, “To the people of Iran, the United States is ready to embrace peace with all who seek it,” he said.
Iran in what appears to be a panic stricken situation, inadvertently shot two missiles striking Ukraine International Airlines Flight 752 on January 8, killing all the 176 passengers on board. “Armed Forces’ internal investigation has concluded that regrettably missiles fired due to human error caused the horrific crash of the Ukrainian plane and death of 176 innocent people.
Investigations continue to identify and prosecute this great tragedy and unforgivable mistake “, tweeted Iranian President Hassan Rouhani. This accident though tremendously tragic, may just have avoided a war between US and Iran as all the tension that the superpower and the underdog fighting nation Iran were developing seems to have transfused by the airline accident.
Regardless of the accident, why has Iran made its life so hard in the international arena despite the fact that it has the tendency to become a powerful state if takes a somewhat betwixt and between line?
This path taken by Iran is not only because of the nuclear programme since giving up a nuclear programme due to international pressure creates difficulties of its own; in the very least it makes a nation vulnerable, especially to ones who exert such a pressure. The real reason behind Iran’s robustness is that the Iran of today was born differently and has never changed its habits since.
We, on the other hand, chose a different route to statehood. We did successfully become a nuclear power. But never acted like one.
When I was studying in a cadet college and the news broke that Pakistan has handed over its bases to the US in the post 9/11 scenario, there was a hidden resentment amongst us little soldiers. So anytime an Army Officer would visit the college and lecture us on ISSB we would inadvertently end up asking him about handing over our bases to the US. Invariably, the answer we got was that had we not done so US would have bombed us like it did to Afghanistan.
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So we made our choice, compromised our sovereignty and have been doing so ever since. We even allowed US to strike drones at our land. The unearthing of Osama Bin Laden and then a surgical strike by the US has further stretched our forbearance levels on sovereignty.
Then again, post 9/11, we subjugated again and allowed US to bomb Afghanistan from Pakistan, wilfully neglecting the unpredictability long-term impacts of such choices-helping bombard a neighbouring country.
We have double standards in our foreign policy with respect to sovereignty. The only enemy we would actually fight is India, in every arena. Apart from them we seem to have compromised our values and the aid of dollars is not the only reason for that. It has rather become our tendency to let the enemy of our choice exploit us in the name of bilateral relations.
Iran, on the other hand, made a different choice and kept on it. In the last two decades, US has embarked on various military escapades. It even went as far as killing its allies of the past. However, the US has had a hard time gripping Iran out of all the other Islamic countries of the world. It just won’t subjugate despite sanctions.
Iran’s political hardiness and its capability to become a nuclear power along side the nation’s uprightness has further exacerbated issues for the US due to the potential threat Iran poses to Israel as well as the US dominance. The assassination attempt to clean Qasem Suleimani, though successful, shows sheer desperation in the US quarters.
If anything, Soleimani’s martyrdom has revitalised the blood of Iranians, a nation which has chosen to live a modest life due to the US-imposed sanctions even if it means inhibiting the quality of its citizens, a nation fighting alone the ideological warfare ensuing from Israel and its allies. Without a doubt, Iran will most definitely become a great nation one day despite international hurdles due to the character that it has embodied over the years.
Barrister Awais Babar