By Fu Bo
On January 3, 2020, Gen. Qassem Suleimani, a senior commander of Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was killed in an airstrike on the Baghdad International Airport in the capital city of Iraq.
His death has led to serious consequences in the US, Iran and the international community in general given Suleimani’s special position in the country.
Considering his great influence in Iran, neither of Trump’s predecessors, George Walker Bush or Barack Obama, agreed on “targeted elimination” of Suleimani when they were in office.
But on January 2, 2020, Trump decided to adopt the extreme means of assassinating the Iranian general, which even shocked the top brass of the Pentagon.
Being someone as dangerous when alive as dead, Suleimani is the highest-ranking foreign military commander assassinated by the US after it killed Yamamoto Isoroku, a Japanese Marshal Admiral of the Imperial Japanese Navy(IJN) who was responsible for the Pearl Harbor attack.
The US’ killing of a top Iranian military leader has triggered vehement condemnation and dissatisfaction in the international community, even at home.
According to an article published on Foreign Policy, written by David Howell Petraeus, former Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA), Trump hoped to restore the US deterrence power against Iran by pulling the trigger on Suleimani. However, it seems the US failed to achieve this strategic purpose given the current situation.
On the one hand, the US approach was not sensible at all. Unlike the “butcher” that the US military and media have tried so hard to portray Suleimani as, he actually played an important role in the anti-terror battles in Syria and Iraq, and is deeply and widely revered and loved by the Iranians.
The assassination of Suleimani caused a surge of anti-US protests in the Middle East, including Iran and Iraq, instead of reaping international acknowledgement.
On the other hand, what it did was illegal. Killing Iran’s senior military leader on the territory of a third country is an outright action of hegemony. It didn’t establish deterrence to Iran and other Middle Eastern countries as the US expected, but crossed the line and exposed Washington to grave consequences. As the Washington Post commented, Trump had pushed Washington into a dangerous ever regional situation.
The death of Suleimani will continue to affect the US-Iran relation and Middle East situation in the short term. It is generally held that to protect its national dignity and for realistic interests, Iran may attack America’s overseas personnel or assets on a limited scale, but whether the confrontation will be controllable remains to be observed.