The Killing of Qassem Soleimani

Faisal Khan
4 min readJan 4, 2020


On Thursday the US assassinated the Iranian General Qassim Soleimani and other key Iranian allies in Baghdad apparently using a drone. Given the high-profile nature of the killing, the news instantly grabbed the headlines. There has been much talk of revenge, war and devastation since and on Twitter we even saw the hashtag World War III go viral.

The latest round of violence was triggered when the Iraqi based Iranian proxy Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH) allegedly killed an American contractor in December. The US reacted with venom killing 24 members of KH. On Wednesday members of the said group led the storming of the US embassy in Baghdad. Trump’s response was to take out perhaps the most influential figure in Iran after the Ayatollah himself.

Have no doubt Soleimani was a nasty piece of work with plenty of blood on his hands. ‘Behind the scenes’ he was perhaps one of the most influential figures in the Middle East. Rising to prominence during the Iran-Iraq war (1980–88) and with the Iranian regime realising the futility of conventional warfare, he was soon charged with building an ‘axis of resistance’. The idea was to develop and fund an infrastructure in proxies and asymmetrical warfare across the region and beyond to deter the enemies of the ‘revolution’.

Soleimani did so with great relish. He was apparently seminal in developing Hezbollah into the feared fighting force it has become today and in expelling Israel from Southern Lebanon in 2000 and then again in 2006. He may even have orchestrared the killing of Rafik Harriri when Harriri decided to tilt towards the Saudi’s.

It was he who played a pivotal role in saving Assad’s regime; which the Iranian’s felt was necessary for their own survival. As Assad was losing enormous ground to rebels, he set up camp in Damascus, bringing in elite Iranian fighters and co-coordinating with Hezbollah and the Syrians a game-plan to win back strategic town and cities from the opposition; often at great human cost.

In the early days of the US invasion of Iraq, the Iranian leadership petrified that it would meet the same fate offered an olive branch to the US. When they realised the US was unlikely to go war with them, they began to posture for influence in Iraq and once again Soleimani led this effort.

Iran’s attempts to influence Iraqi politics were perhaps inevitable given its geographical proximity and the fact that approximately 60% of Iraq’s population is Shia (It was for this reason that the Bush Snr administration had left a depleted Saddam Hussein in power). The Iranian’s using proxies in Iraq became a thorn in America’s side, killing upwards of 500 American soldiers and in time gaining substantive influence over its politics.

Contrary to what America says about the motive for killing Soleimani-that he was about to launch imminent attacks on US interests- the killing was likely motivated just as much by revenge and the impeachment crisis Trump faces at home. It is not new for US presidents to amplify or manufacture an international crisis to distract from their issues at home; Bill Clinton notoriously bombed a medicine factory in Sudan when he was facing impeachment over the Monica Lewinsky scandal.

So, what next? Will it lead to all-out war? A seismic Middle Eastern war perhaps. Yes, that is always a possibility, but I suspect that is very unlikely unless the US chooses to initiate it. Why? Because the Iranian regime is not reckless nor hot-headed; it is perfectly capable of playing the long patient game. The Iranian leadership is also fully aware that it risks losing everything if it confronts the US head-on.

So how might it respond? Thanks to Soleimani, Iran already has a robust infrastructure in place that can cause the US enormous damage while avoiding outright war and provides it with many possible options for retaliation. Nation-states tend to prefer fighting other nation-states and often struggle with asymmetrical warfare as evidenced in Vietnam or the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan.

The Iranians could strike US interests virtually anywhere in the Middle East and beyond at the ‘drop of a hat’. Iraq is the obvious target-and this may well mean the end or the beginning of the end for the US presence there- but they could just as readily attack US interests in Lebanon, Yemen, or even Turkey and many other parts of the World (lest we forget Hezbollah was allegedly able to launch terrorist attacks in Argentina). Simultaneous attacks in a number of locations are also a distinct possibility.

Further, Iran has the option to go after American oil tankers (causing enormous economic damage) in the Strait of Hormuz or its allies in the region such as Saudi Arabia, the UAE or Israel. The Iranians will also be fully aware that merely killing or kidnapping (as they discovered during the Iran Hostage crisis) an ordinary American can cause the US enormous pain. They may simply wait to see how Trump’s impeachment plays out; with the possibility that he is replaced with a democrat who prefers diplomacy and as CJ Werleman points out they could even activate Hezbollah sleeper cells in the US.

I suspect Iraq will now become a living hell for US personnel and yes this killing is likely to intensify Iranian efforts to acquire nuclear weapons; it doesn’t take a genius to figure out why Trump opted for diplomacy with North Korea but not Iran. In all, I suspect that Iran’s response to Soleimani’s assassination will ultimately be measured, calculated and perhaps not even immediate.

You can buy a copy of my first published ’Lord Mountbatten and the British role in the genesis of the Kashmir dispute, 1947–48’ on Amazon in paperback for £5.99 or kindle for £4.99



Faisal Khan

I am a published writer. My book 'Lord Mountbatten and the British role in the genesis of the Kashmir dispute, 1947-48' is available on Amazon.