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US kills Iran’s Soleimani: Is it a wise act or Trump’s foolhardiness in an election year?

This attack marks another blow to relations between US and Iran, with whom India shares old ties.

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Iran’s top military commander Major General Qassem Soleimani along with Iraq’s militia chief Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis were killed Friday at Baghdad’s international airport by a US drone strike on the orders of US President Donald Trump. Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has pledged a “forceful revenge”. This attack marks another blow to relations between US and Iran, with whom India shares old ties.

ThePrint asks: US kills Iran’s Soleimani: Is it a wise act or Trump’s foolhardiness in an election year?

Unlike terrorist Osama bin Laden’s killing, assassination of Iran’s Soleimani by US forces is an act of war

Kanwal Sibal
Executive council member, VIF, and former foreign secretary

The assassination of Iranian general Soleimani by the US military at Baghdad’s international airport violates international law because self-defence or pre-emption cannot be offered as justifications. Unlike the killing of terrorist Osama bin Laden accused of plotting attacks against the US, the assassination a serving general of another country without any direct linkage to attacks against the US is an act of war.

The situation in the Middle East is already precarious because of rivalry among Saudi Arabia, Iran, Turkey, US, Russia and Israel. Trump’s decision to repudiate the 2015 Iran nuclear deal was a grave mistake because it promised to escalate tensions further. Soleimani’s killing is only a logical outcome.

Iran has an equal right to protect its regional strategic interests as any other country. Conflicting strategic interests do not give the stronger power (the US) to sanction assassinations. This killing may be welcomed domestically in the US and in certain regions of the Arab world, but internationally, it will only strengthen concerns about US’ unilateralism.

It is ironic that the US lectures India on our handling of purely domestic issues such as Article 370 and the Citizenship Amendment Act but itself acts irresponsibly by dangerously aggravating tensions in an already volatile region with serious consequences.

US motivation difficult to understand. Election, Trump’s impeachment proceedings factors to consider

Talmiz Ahmad
Former Indian diplomat 

The killing of Iran’s military commander Major General Soleimani marks the culmination of a sustained confrontation between Iranian and US interests in Iraq. The theatre of competition for influence between these two countries since 2003 has been Iraq. This competition has acquired a sharper edge ever since Donald Trump began his hostile anti-Iran approach by withdrawing from the Iran nuclear agreement and reinstating sanctions.

There have been tit-for-tat confrontations between Iran and the US in 2019. It began with the tanker warfare in June, then the bringing down of the US drone the same month, the arrest of the Iranian oil tanker in the Mediterranean and finally the attacks on Saudi oil facilities in September. There have also been continuous attacks in Iraq on US bases.

The American motivation is difficult to understand. Trump doesn’t wish to involve his country in any major regional conflict but is also simultaneously extremely emotional about the lives of Americans. From the point of view of US policies, three things must be understood. First, Trump is facing impeachment. Second, the presidential election is due this year. Third, Trump is anxious to show that he is a tough guy. He has contrasted himself from Obama and Hillary Clinton.

There is a genuine fear now that after Soleimani’s assassination, tensions between the US and Iran could further escalate. However, the two countries should focus on consolations and dialogues. The US and Saudi Arabia should now allow Iraq the freedom to manage its own politics.

With repeated provocations, Iran had been testing patience of US. Targeting Soleimani was unavoidable

Rajesh Rajagopalan
Professor of International Politics, JNU

More than being a wise act or foolhardiness, the Donald Trump administration in the US targeting Iran’s Gen. Soleimani was probably unavoidable. Iran had been testing the limits of US patience quite recklessly. In addition to shooting down a US military drone over the Strait of Hormuz in June 2019, Iran had also launched an audacious attack in September 2019 on US’ closest ally in the Middle East — Saudi Arabia.

More recently, Iranian proxy forces had repeatedly targeted the US forces in Iraq, forcing US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to threaten a “decisive US response” last month. But Iran appears to have concluded that Trump was only a Twitter tiger because he had called off attacks against Iran for previous provocations. But the attack last week, which killed an American contractor working for the US military, appears to have crossed boundaries for Trump, requiring a direct response.

The Americans had a long-standing score to settle with Soleimani because he was responsible for the death of hundreds of US soldiers over the years. Iran will probably retaliate, but with Trump, it can no longer be confident that the US will be quiescent. Reasserting US military and deterrence credibility is not a bad thing, and its effects will be felt beyond the Middle East as long as Trump stays the course.

US has long history of cracking down on enemies. But Soleimani was no mere insurgent, Iran can retaliate

Aditya Ramanathan 
Policy analyst, The Takshashila Institution 

Soleimani’s killing is a risky act not only for its escalatory potential, but also because he was many things: an ally of Iran’s supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, a military leader and an insurgent.

The United States has a long history of cracking down on enemy leaders, dating back to the 19th century, most recently targeting ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi.

But do such decapitation strikes work? In the case of insurgents, the evidence is mixed. Killing leaders can create martyrs and spur recruitment in the short-term, but there’s also reason to believe that it can help in a broader counterinsurgency campaign. The trouble is Soleimani was no mere insurgent. The US has targeted state leaders before — capturing Panama’s Manuel Noriega in 1989 and Iraq’s Saddam Hussein in 2003. However, both those men were captured only after the US forces had invaded and taken control of their countries.

With Soleimani’s killing, Iran is in uncharted territory. The Quds Force, which Soleimani headed, may miss his leadership, but it will be motivated by vengeance and be backed by the Iranian state.

Iran could mount deniable attacks on US allies or its soldiers and diplomats using armed proxies or covert operatives. It could also use drones or cyberattacks to disrupt US’ oil facilities in the Middle East.

For India, it’s all bad news. Its relations with Iran will be further constrained, a spike in oil prices would harm its already weak economy. A US confrontation with Iran will distract Trump from the most important strategic challenge: China.

How bad it gets depends on both Iran’s reaction and what endgame Donald Trump has in mind ahead of the US presidential election.

Also read: Iran’s Qassem Soleimani was on Bush and Obama’s kill list too but Trump went for the attack

By Kairvy Grewal, journalist at ThePrint 

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  1. It makes life easier and issue is closed quickly. The ex president of Panama is in US jail for life at US expense. Saddam, Osama, and the current Iranian general will face lengthy trial if captured and may not get electric chair. You see how quick it was? In Indian encounters, similar shooting of the rapist is correct, quick and well deserved punishment.

  2. Signs are ominous. American establishment may have declared war with Iran. Even if war happens in a distant land it’s effects may be felt near . Skybound oil prices may cripple whatever is left of our economy.

  3. One of the write ups above seemed like a copy and paste of the American state dept response after the assassination.

  4. PRIDE and ANGER by any Public Representative of a country leading to such drastic and hasty decisions, or well planned crime to kill.( MURDER of any individual -taking life of any Friend or Foe, same as backstabbing / cheating by garlanding, as done to our Ex.PM Rajiv Gandhi ), taking LIFE away, be only condemned not encouraged by ANY LAW OF THE COUNTRY. Hence, against HUMANITY. Be condemned.

  5. POTUS is a stupid man, prone to hubris, and suffers from daddy issues. He’s a bully, in the most literal sense. He should have been sent to boarding school.

    The Iranian State, however, is faced with a dilemma. Do they retaliate and prove P45 right (rogue / terroristic state), or should they show restraint, and lose domestic and regional clout?

    I think it’s time for the world to unite and isolate the US for its stupid actions ie electing a moron as head of state. Angela Merkel had the right idea. One can’t rely on the US government to be the adult in the room.

  6. There’s a lot of similarities between Indians and Americans but unlike US admn, India has never attacked any country on false propaganda. Americans too, don’t like US admn’s strikes on other countries or continuously trying to manipulate every situation in their favour. But, since, their power changes every 4 year, they are not bothered about whom to elect president. One more resemblance is that there are some blind people too, like in our country. They vote for whom they are being told to. Therefore, it’s 50-50 situation for Trump admn to attack and kill Iranian General and say it was long due. Basically, he’s trying his best to avoid impeachment at all cost. If that happens, he will be reelected bcos even in India, there are people who think Trump is a great leader. 😀🤔

  7. There is a world of difference between this Ramboesque act and the killing of OBL in Abbottabad which contributed – honourably – to President Obama’s reelection victory. 2. The Iranians are honour bound to respond proportionately, and to take ownership of those acts, which is the whole purpose of the riposte. A dangerous game of chicken is being played by both sides, with Iran demonstrating that it is no pushover. 3. On the unjustified invasion of Iraq, Congress gave President Bush a free pass. They will not make that mistake for Iran. So perhaps the Iranians, patient negotiators, a civilisational state, should plot the way forward carefully, enlist the support of other great powers to prevent war. 4. An erratic, dangerous man with the most awesome military machine constitutionally bound to follow his orders as Commander in Chief.

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