ALSO KILLED HEAD OF KATAIB HEZBOLLAH ABU MEHDI MUHANDIS https://t.co/K0cJn9rMIc
— Joyce Karam (@Joyce_Karam) January 3, 2020
Iraqi state TV is reporting the "martyrdom" of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Mohandis on the Baghdad airport road.
— Liz Sly (@LizSly) January 3, 2020
MP Ahmed Al-Assadi, spokesman of PMU and Fatah coalition confirmed in a WhatsApp group belong to the PMU the death of Qassim Solaimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandus
— Mustafa Salim (@Mustafa_salimb) January 3, 2020
I cannot emphasize enough how significant this is! Major General Suleimani was not just Iran’s point man in Iraq, he was also coordinating Iran’s proxy forces in Syria and Lebanon. When Suleimani arrived in Syria in 2013 he took control of the theater on behalf of Iran, its Syrian client Assad, and Assad’s other benefactor Putin, which is what initially turned around the fortunes of Assad’s forces. Suleimani was, arguably, the best strategist in the region who was native to the Middle East. Dexter Filkins wrote a long profile of him in 2013 for The New Yorker.
Reuters is now reporting that the US is responsible for the strike that killed Suleimani and Muhandis.
U.S. officials tell Reuters that strikes have been carried in Baghdad on Friday out against two targets linked to Iran.
— Idrees Ali (@idreesali114) January 3, 2020
What we don’t know yet, what we will not know until they inform us through their actual response, is what the response from Iran will be. For that we have to wait.
Update at 8:50 PM EST
As I’ve now had a bit of time to digest the news, here’s a bit more developed initial analysis:
My initial take regarding the killing of Suleimani is that this decapitates Iran’s capabilities in the Twelver Shi’a sphere of influence they were trying to build from Iran through Iraq and Syria into Lebanon in the short term. Suleimani was their theater commander, specifically coordinating the proxies in Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. It is also my professional opinion that he was the best strategist in the region who was native to the region. So a major blow to Iran’s, as well as their proxies, immediate capability. Suleimani was also very powerful back in Iran. There were mutterings he might succeed Khameini as Supreme Leader despite not being an ayatollah.
This strike will also enrage the Iranians and provide the Iranian government with an internal opening for influence and propaganda to rally support for the Iranian state among a domestic Iranian population that may be wavering. So it will likely retard reform in general and attempts at democratization in specific in the short to medium term. Especially if there is immediate Iranian response and/or escalation to today’s attack and a US response to Iran’s actions that can be used by the Iranian government to reinforce its standing with the Iranian people.
Finally, I don’t see why anyone in the Iranian government would talk to anyone in the US government at this point while the current administration is in place. The President, his senior officials, and surrogates have made it clear that they really aren’t interested in talking. Last week Putin announced that he’s not going to go along with the sanctions regime against Iran any longer, which further reinforces to Iran that they don’t need to talk to us as they have Putin to leverage as a patron. I also expect that Iran will sell their oil to the Chinese because Xi could care less about our sanctions. There is no way to squeeze the Iranians economically as the government is impervious to the pain and has ways to sell its oil to ease that pain. You can find my take on why making war in Iran would be strategic malpractice unless we were prepared for total war and even then it isn’t a good idea at West Point’s Modern War Institute.