Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani, Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. and acknowledged second most powerful man to Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was killed by a US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone over the Baghdad International Airport Road in Iraq on Jan. 3.
Would “killed” be the right word on Soleimani’s death certificate? Most news reports have used “assassinated” or “liquidated” to accent the reputation and position of the deceased, and to insinuate the obvious political nuances of his demise at the hands of persons of interest — more than that, of nations-of-interest.
“The Pentagon launched an airstrike Thursday night that killed a powerful Iranian military leader, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, at Baghdad’s international airport,” USA TODAY announced on Jan. 3. It quoted that “the Defense Department said it conducted the attack at President Donald Trump’s direction as a ‘defensive action’ against Soleimani, who it said was planning further attacks on American diplomats and service members.”
“He was a monster. And he’s no longer a monster. He’s dead,” Mr. Trump said on the BBC on Jan. 7. “He was planning a big attack and bad attack for us. I don’t think anyone can complain about it.” But many all around the world, and even in the US, were complaining against what Trump did, for its repercussions on global politics and stability, and for the expected heightened security risks due to possible retaliatory and counter-retaliatory actions of interrelated states, according to their respective vulnerabilities.
Over one million people in Iran were part of mourning processions for Soleiman, reportedly the biggest since the 1989 funeral of the founder of the Islamic Republic, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. At least 56 people were killed and 213 injured in a stampede during Soleimani’s burial at Kerman, according to the BBC on Jan. 7. In Iraq, 2,000 protested in Basra and Nassiriyah on Jan. 10, with slogans saying “Neither America nor Iran, our revolution is a young revolution,” a feature in the Middle East Eye said on Jan. 11.
Trump’s brazen offensive against Iran creates a further chilling global effect with death of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chairman of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) and commander of Kata’ib Hezbollah, alongside Qasem Soleimani. Al-Muhandis was with high-ranking Iraqi and Iranian military officers who were in Soleimani’s entourage as it arrived at the Baghdad International Airport that fateful day, and were under the open skies of the Baghdad highway when missiles pulverized them to almost indeterminable recognition.
The drone, which was probably launched from Al Udeid Air Base in Qatar, was controlled remotely by operators at the Creech Air Force Base, a United States Air Force (USAF) command and control facility in Clark County, Nevada according to Arab News on Jan 5. And the gory details of a brazen off-base attack of a state on another state from another state’s territory lead to a maze of questions and analyses on whether the US attack was legal under international laws. Iran sent a letter to the United Nations, calling it “[s]tate terrorism” and said it violated principles of international law, Reuters reported on Jan. 4.
The Charter of the United Nations generally prohibits the use of force against other states, if a country does not consent to it on its territory. The Government of Iraq did not grant a permission to the United States to target a military commander from another country on its soil. The Japan Times of Jan. 4 asked, “A question of laws: Was US killing of Iran’s Soleimani self-defense or assassination?” Some legal experts believe that a lack of consent from Iraq makes it difficult for the United States to justify the attack. In fact, a mutual agreement signed in 2008 prohibits the United States from launching attacks on other countries from Iraqi territory, the same Japan Times analysis sad.
Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi publicly declared that the US attack was a “breach of the conditions for the presence of US forces in Iraq, (and) the liquidation of leading Iraqi figures or those from a brotherly country on Iraqi soil is a massive breach of sovereignty.” Abdul-Mahdi has asked the US to withdraw its troops and facilities from Iraq, the Associated Press reported on Jan. 10.
President Trump made a public statement, shown on CNN and other networks, on Jan. 4 saying he had authorized the strike because Soleimani was plotting “imminent and sinister attacks” on Americans. He added, “We took action last night to stop a war. We did not take action to start a war.” He also said that he did not seek a regime change in Iran. But he did not even consult or ask Congress before the Soleimani attack, some congressmen from both political parties, said.
On Jan. 6, House Speaker Nancy Pelosi announced plans to hold a vote within the week on limiting President Trump’s war powers concerning Iran. On Jan. 9, the US House of Representatives voted 224–194 to approve it.
“Think” opinion columnist David Mark thinks Pelosi “was reduced to complaining that the strike (on Iran) came without consulting Congress,” because “the episode has knocked out the media’s round-the-clock focus on his impending Senate charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, and coverage for days and weeks ahead is likely to be consumed with the strike” (nbcnews.com, Jan. 5). As indeed it has.
But is inspiring worldwide fear over the possible escalation of war and terrorism the way for a democratic world leader to go, to save himself from impeachment and being ousted from his arrogant perch as top leader of the top country in the world?
Russia and China were blamed by the US for “blocking a resolution condemning the attack on Washington’s Baghdad embassy.” The Russian Ministry of Defense, reacted by announcing that “Russia has offered Iraq their S-400 air defense system to protect their airspace” (almasdarnews.com, Jan. 7, retrieved from Wikipedia). On Jan. 6, Zhang Tao, the Chinese Ambassador, said to Iraq’s caretaker Prime Minister al-Mahdi that “China is keen to increase security and military cooperation in Iraq” (CNN, Jan. 6).
Even the ordinary man-in-the-street could not have avoided knowing about the assassination of Soleimani et. al, and some would have shrugged the news off as it might concern them only remotely, if at all. In these times of political strongmen leading powerful nations, some might even laugh and say, not quite pejoratively but maybe with concealed admiration, “Tarantado talaga yang si Trump!”
“Tarantado” is Filipino slang which means rough, reckless, impulsive, to achieve instant gratification from bullying and wrestling with anyone, and most everyone. “Tarantado” is more pejorative than “barumbado” which means being rough, reckless, an impulsive character, but usually not aggressive but reactive.
Reactive is what can be said of the Philippines’ announcement that the Department of Defense will send “two battalions of soldiers, in one C-130 plane and one C-295 plane, along with air and naval assets, to assist in the repatriation of 1,600 Filipino workers in Iraq and 1,000 Iran,” as reported by the Philippine Star on Jan. 8, and likewise publicly announced on other media.
Cannot the Philippines just let the Philippine Overseas Employment Administration, with the help of the Departments of Foreign Affairs and Social Services work out the repatriation of OFWs wanting to return home from Iraq and Iran? Using commercial flights for so few (since many do not want to come home) will be cheaper and speedier, instead of the reported 22 days needed to mobilize the Armed Forces. Besides, why are our leaders salivating to participate as a “saling-pusa” (like a voluntary little-child participant in the big boys’ war)?
Barumbado lang ba talaga ang Pinoy? (Is the Filipino just foolhardy?).
Amelia H. C. Ylagan is a Doctor of Business Administration from the University of the Philippines.