City Sunday

Soleimani’s killing: It is building up to a terrible crescendo in West Asia

The assassination of Major General Qassem Soleimani by US airstrikes in Iraq brings West Asia nearer the precipice. By this action, President Trump, who cannot get out of Afghanistan, has got himself deeper into the West Asian Quagmire. Americans know power and strategy. They don’t understand a quantity called the people. This gap in their make up has been their undoing in every outing since Vietnam.

Soleimani was the author of growing Iranian influence in the region – Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen. In Iraq, he was supported by Hashd al Shaabi and Kataib Hezbullah. Their leaders were iconic figures too.

Soleimani was a regional hero in not only helping defeat Daesh (ISIS), Al Qaeda and Jabhat al Nusra but also placing the US, Israeli, Saudi combine on the defensive. He did this by building local forces in all the countries under his influence. He had paid special attention to Iraq, particularly after the appearance of the Islamic State in Mosul in 2014, from where it began to hurtle down towards Baghdad with the explicit purpose of effecting regime change in the Iraqi capital. This, in effect, meant the removal of Prime Minister, Nouri al Maliki whom the Americans labelled as a “fundamentalist” who was augmenting Shia influence in Iraq at the expense of Sunnis who, though a minority, wielded great influence as Saddam Hussain’s Ba’athist Revolutionary Guards, Army, Intelligence and bureaucracy.

After the occupation of Iraq by the US in April 2003, a section of the Americans toyed with the idea of pampering the Ba’athists into supporting the occupation. But Iraqi “operators” (call them leaders if you must) like Ahmed Chalabi, close to the Dick Cheney-Donald Rumsfeld, neocons, persuaded them to another course – that of disbanding the Ba’athist structure lock-stock-barrel. This was honeyed music to the clergy in Najaf. Chalabi became extremely close to the group around Grand Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Please note, Cheney’s advisers becoming the eyes and ears of the Najaf clergy.

The first US representative, Paul Bremer became the succour who removed every Ba’athist from every nook and corner of the administration. The result was unspeakable chaos which neither the Americans nor the weak governments in Baghdad have been able to control to this day.

Many of the Iraqi Ba’athists moved to Syria where their Ba’athist cousins welcomed them. The CIA not only sought them out but also nursed them. When Nouri al Maliki flexed his muscles and refused to sign the Status of Forces Agreement in 2011, the US sulked out. Iraqi Ba’athists in Syria, looking for work and plotting plots, came in handy as the backbone of what came to be known as the Islamic State.

How does an outfit, which hides in trenches, war-ravaged houses, produce a smart news website called Amaq. It frequently produces a glossy magazine too. A terror group, on the run, with such facilities at its command? (MR, Inputs: Agencies).

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