Killing Qassem Suleimani Showed Iraqis That He Was Not Invincible

Yesterday marked the first anniversary of America’s killing of Qassem Suleimani, the commander of the Islamic Republic’s expeditionary Quds Force, who for many years directed the network of militias and terrorist groups that have wreaked havoc and destruction throughout the Middle East. Two weeks ago, Iran-backed forces fired a barrage of rockets that landed near the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, and Israel and the U.S. have placed their forces on high alert in anticipation of a more dramatic attempt by Tehran to exact revenge. Recalling her own stunned response to the news of Suleimani’s death, and that of her fellow Iraqis, Rasha Al Aqeedi writes:

[T]hose with no personal experience living at the mercy of tyranny struggle to comprehend the perception of invincibility that some leaders create in the minds of those over whom they rule. The disbelief over the death of tyrants is unrelated to our personal feelings towards them. It isn’t a form of political Stockholm syndrome; it stems from a perception of almightiness built by those who dictate every aspect of our lives. Their actions decide the fate of millions and the outcome, however brutal, does not harm their authority.

Suleimani saved a collapsing Syrian regime, prolonging [that country’s civil] war, giving sectarian succor to Islamic State’s genocidal propaganda, and corralling the wretched of the earth, from Afghan children to Syria’s Alawite poor, into fighting on behalf of his expansionist project.

The ancient kings and pharaohs believed in, and lived by, their own immortality, which permitted them to rule by unmitigated savagery, free from even lip service to humane rules of war. Modern-day tyrannies count on three things. First, the inaction and indifference of an international community that has mastered the phrase “gravely concerned” and shown an unwillingness to do much else. Second, a rising Western consensus which holds that dictators must be coddled and appeased lest their downfall produce unintended consequences. Third, deception: the transformation of their own atrocities into heroic military victories.

Men like Soleimani have to be removed before the agony and destruction they’ve caused can ever be righted.

Read more at Newlines

More about: Iran, Iraq, U.S. Foreign policy


Leaked Emails Point to an Iranian Influence Operation That Reaches into the U.S. Government

Sept. 27 2023

As the negotiations leading up to the 2015 nuclear deal began in earnest, Tehran launched a major effort to cultivate support abroad for its positions, according to a report by Jay Solomon:

In the spring of 2014, senior Iranian Foreign Ministry officials initiated a quiet effort to bolster Tehran’s image and positions on global security issues—particularly its nuclear program—by building ties with a network of influential overseas academics and researchers. They called it the Iran Experts Initiative. The scope and scale of the IEI project has emerged in a large cache of Iranian government correspondence and emails.

The officials, working under the moderate President Hassan Rouhani, congratulated themselves on the impact of the initiative: at least three of the people on the Foreign Ministry’s list were, or became, top aides to Robert Malley, the Biden administration’s special envoy on Iran, who was placed on leave this June following the suspension of his security clearance.

In March of that year, writes Solomon, one of these officials reported that “he had gained support for the IEI from two young academics—Ariane Tabatabai and Dina Esfandiary—following a meeting with them in Prague.” And here the story becomes particularly worrisome:

Tabatabai currently serves in the Pentagon as the chief of staff for the assistant secretary of defense for special operations, a position that requires a U.S. government security clearance. She previously served as a diplomat on Malley’s Iran nuclear negotiating team after the Biden administration took office in 2021. Esfandiary is a senior advisor on the Middle East and North Africa at the International Crisis Group, a think tank that Malley headed from 2018 to 2021.

Tabatabai . . . on at least two occasions checked in with Iran’s Foreign Ministry before attending policy events, according to the emails. She wrote to Mostafa Zahrani, [an Iranian scholar in close contact with the Foreign Ministry and involved in the IEI], in Farsi on June 27, 2014, to say she’d met Saudi Prince Turki al-Faisal—a former ambassador to the U.S.—who expressed interest in working together and invited her to Saudi Arabia. She also said she’d been invited to attend a workshop on Iran’s nuclear program at Ben-Gurion University in Israel. . . .

Elissa Jobson, Crisis Group’s chief of advocacy, said the IEI was an “informal platform” that gave researchers from different organizations an opportunity to meet with IPIS and Iranian officials, and that it was supported financially by European institutions and one European government. She declined to name them.

Read more at Semafor

More about: Iran nuclear deal, U.S. Foreign policy