The United States had killed General Soleimani, one of the most important figures in the Iranian regime, in January. The killing of the commander of the Quds brigades continues to affect the region and bilateral relations months later.
Iran has threatened President Donald Trump with a firm response in the event of an attack on Iranian patrol boats. After a corresponding threat from Trump, the Iranian foreign ministry ordered the Swiss ambassador to Tehran on Thursday (April 23).
Switzerland represents the United States‘ diplomatic interests in Iran, as Tehran and Washington have had no diplomatic relations for more than 40 years. Trump said in the White House on Wednesday evening (April 22) in the White House that the American military would sink Iranian patrol boats in the event of a targeted disruption. A week earlier, the American Navy had said that eleven Iranian Revolutionary Guard boats had repeatedly approached “dangerous” and “provocative” American warships.
The Iranian Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) launched a military satellite into space on Wednesday (April 22), according to the state news agency Irna. US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo criticized the move and called for a review as to whether Iran had violated UN security resolutions by launching the launch vehicle. Israel responded to the launch by calling on the international community to impose stricter sanctions on Iran. According to Tehran, the satellites should only provide data on weather, natural disasters and agriculture. Therefore, the use is also in accordance with international regulations.
On January 3, Iranian general Kassem Soleimani was killed in an American drone attack on the site of the international airport in Baghdad. Soleimani had just arrived from the Lebanese capital Beirut. Along with Soleimani, several other senior Iranian officers and the powerful Iraqi militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis died.
As commander of the Quds units of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Soleimani was the leading architect and face of Iran’s expansive regional policy in the Middle East. The killing of the general, which was ordered by President Donald Trump, is a new, dramatic climax in the conflict between the United States and Iran and has far-reaching consequences for the region.
The 62-year-old Soleimani was the main puller of Iran’s military operations in Iraq, Syria and other countries in the region and played an important role in the fight against the terrorist militia Islamic State. The general was considered a confidante of the Iranian revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and had good connections to numerous politicians in the region.
Soleimani has commanded the Quds units since 1998. Under his leadership, Iran has greatly expanded its support for armed groups in the Middle East, including Iraq. The United States considered him one of their main enemies after pro-Iranian militias killed at least 600 American military personnel in Iraq in the years after Saddam Hussein was overthrown.
In 2011, the US put Soleimani on a list of leading terrorists. In the following years, the Americans repeatedly considered killing the Iranian general. Trump’s predecessors George W. Bush and Barack Obama decided against the killing because they feared it could lead to war with Iran.
Tensions with Iran have steadily increased since the U.S.’s withdrawal from the international nuclear deal in May 2018. The direct trigger for the decision to kill Soleimani was a rocket attack on an American military base in Iraq. An American security company employee was killed in the attack on December 27 in Kirkuk province.
The United States then fired rockets at the Iraqi militia Kataib Hizbullah, which they blamed for the attack. 25 people were killed. Militia supporters tried to storm the American embassy in Baghdad to protest the attacks. The demonstrators did not leave until the Iraqi government intervened.
The killing of Soleimani is legally controversial. President Trump said to justify the attack, the Iranian general had been working on other “dark” plans to attack American targets. However, the American government did not provide evidence that Soleimani was planning concrete attacks. Internationally, there are doubts that there was an immediate threat.
The regime in Tehran condemned the targeted killing of the general as “Extremely dangerous and a foolish escalation”. The United States is responsible for all the consequences of their “uncontrolled adventure,” warned Foreign Minister Javad Zarif. Revolutionary leader Ali Khamenei announced a three-day mourning period. Strict revenge is waiting for the “criminals” who would have killed Soleimani, he warned.
Soleimani was venerated as a war hero by many Iranians for playing a leading role in the fight against the extremist group IS in Iraq and Syria. Outrage at the targeted killing of the general led to a wave of nationalism in Iran. When Soleimani’s coffin was brought from Iraq to Iran, hundreds of thousands of Iranians gave it the last escort.
In Ahwaz, Qom and Mashhad, huge crowds gathered for funeral services. When the government in Tehran said goodbye to the general, one of the largest rallies in recent years took place in the capital. At Soleimani’s funeral in his hometown of Kerman, the crowds were so great that almost 70 people were trampled to death in a side street.
The Iraqi parliament demanded that American troops be withdrawn after Soleimani was killed. The Iraqi government said it was working to implement the decision. So far there are no concrete steps. Tens of thousands of Iraqis once again called for American troops to be withdrawn from the country in a protest in the capital, Baghdad, on January 24.
In doing so, they followed an appeal by the influential Shiite preacher Muqtada al-Sadr. This demanded a schedule for the withdrawal of the “occupying forces”. If this requirement is met, “resistance” will be suspended until the last soldier has left the country. However, if the United States violates this, it would be treated as an “enemy state”, Sadr threatened.
Since the killing of Soleimanis and Kataib-Hezbullah commander Muhandis, strangers have fired rockets at military bases, oil facilities, and other American facilities. The United States generally blamed the pro-Iranian militia Kataib Hizbullah for the attacks and repeatedly carried out retaliatory attacks on the bases of the radical Shiite group.
In retaliation for the killing of Soleimani, the Iranian revolution guards fired several volleys of missiles at two military bases in Iraq on the night of January 8, on which American soldiers are stationed. Since Iran had informed the Iraqi military of the attacks in advance, all soldiers were able to find shelter in bunkers in good time so that no one was killed.
Many observers believe that Tehran deliberately chose a more symbolic response to avoid further escalation in the conflict. The American government reacted cautiously to the Iranian rocket fire. While President Trump imposed new economic sanctions on Iran, he did not issue a military response.
Nevertheless, a tragedy occurred as a result of the Iranian attacks: the Revolutionary Guard’s air defence shot down a Ukrainian passenger plane over Tehran a few hours after the attacks because they believed the Boeing to be an American cruise missile. All 176 people on board died in the crash of the machine. You can find the latest developments after the launch here.