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May 08, 2021

U.S. Officials Claim That Iraqi Kurds Helped To Kill Qassam Soleimani

Yahoo has prominently posted a long piece about the early 2020 murder of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the Iraqi resistance leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.

'Conspiracy is hard': Inside the Trump administration's secret plan to kill Qassem Soleimani

This article, based on interviews with 15 current and former U.S. officials, reveals new details about the Soleimani strike and the Trump administration’s long-running deliberations about killing the Iranian general and other top Iranian officials and proxies. It depicts an operation that was more sophisticated, and with a broader list of people potentially targeted for killing, than was previously known. And it describes previously unreported threats to U.S. officials in the aftermath of the strike.

MoA has extensively discussed the consequences of the assassination and most of what is said in the Yahoo piece is not new at all. That makes it suspicious.

Soleimani and Muhandis during a battle against ISIS

To recap: On January 3 2020 U.S. drones killed Major General Qassim Soleimani, the famous commander of the Iranian Quds ('Jerusalem') force, while he left the airport of Baghdad where he had just arrived. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the top leader of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces, had been there to great him and to pick him up. Both had planned to attend the funeral in Najaf of the 31 Iraqi soldiers the U.S. had killed on December 29 at the Syrian-Iraqi border near Al-Qaim. Soleimani was also supposed to meet the Iraqi prime minister who at that time was a mediator in Iran-Saudi talks. Soleimani carried a letter with the Iranian response to a previous Saudi one.

In consequence of the killing of Muhandis the Iraqi parliament decided to remove all U.S. troops from Iraq. There are nearly daily attacks on U.S. forces which are still in Iraq. As revenge for the killing of Soleimani Iran and its resistance axis of Hizbullah, Syria and Ansar Islam in Yemen decided to remove all U.S. military from the Middle East. This is understood to be a decades long project.

Hardly anything of that - besides the murder of Soleimani - is mentioned in the Yahoo piece. There is not one word on Muhandis, his role in Iraq or the consequences of his death. There is no mention of the Iraqi parliament vote or of the ongoing attacks on U.S. units in Iraq.

Instead the piece prominently emphasizes alleged Kurdish collaboration in the assassination:

In late December 2019, Delta Force operators and other special operations members began filtering into Baghdad in small groups. Kurdish operatives, who played a key role in the killing, had already started infiltrating Baghdad International Airport by that point, going undercover as baggage handlers and other staff members.
The three sniper teams positioned themselves 600 to 900 yards away from the “kill zone,” the access road from the airfield, setting up to triangulate their target as he left the airport. [...] A member of the Counter Terrorism Group (CTG), an elite Kurdish unit in northern Iraq with deep links to U.S. Special Operations, helped them make the wind call from down range.
After the strike, according to two U.S. officials, a Kurdish operative disguised as an Iraqi police officer walked up to the wreckage of Soleimani’s vehicle, snapped photographs and quickly obtained a tissue sample for DNA confirmation before walking away and vanishing into the night.

Muhandis and Soleimani were revered by the Shia majority in Iraq. The revelation of Kurdish involvement in Soleimani's death might have harsh consequences for Iraqi Kurds.

If the Kurds were really involved why was this released? Why does it come in a piece that is more or less a recap of already known stuff? What are the motives of those who revealed this?

I for one do not believe those claims.

Who is interested in (re-)launching an ethnic civil war in Iraq?

The Yahoo piece then comes to the consequences of the attack:

Iran reacted with predictable fury to Soleimani’s killing, lobbing dozens of ballistic missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq. Though no one was killed, Pentagon officials later said more than 100 service personnel were diagnosed with traumatic brain injury.

But the rocket attack was just a “slap in the face,” said Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, Iran’s supreme leader, and did not represent Iran’s full retaliation for the killing. U.S. officials and experts believe that Iran may eventually attempt a high-profile assassination of a senior U.S. official or a terrorist attack aimed at a U.S. facility.

The 'U.S. officials and experts' believe that they are way more important than they really are. Iran's Supreme Leader Ajatollah Khamenei, who was extremely near to Soleimani, has let it known that there is no one of Soleimani's caliber in U.S. ranks who could be taken out as revenge. There will be no Iranian assassination campaign of U.S. politicians or military leader.

Fears of such only shows that the former Secretary of State Michael Pompeo, one of the initiator of the assassination of Soleimani, is a craven milquetoast:

Tucked into the appropriations bill signed by President Trump in the final days of 2020 was $15 million set aside to provide protective services to “former or retired senior Department of State officials” who “face a serious and credible threat from a foreign power or the agent of a foreign power” because of the work they did while in office.

The real second part of the revenge that is still coming was announced by Hizbullah leader Hassan Nasrallah:

What do we mean by just punishment? Some are saying this must be someone of the same level as Qassem Soleimani - like Chairman of Joint Chiefs, head of @CENTCOM, but there is no one on Soleimani or Muhandis' level. Soleimani's shoe is worth more than Trump's head, so there's no one I can point to to say this is the person we can target.

Just punishment therefore means American military presence in the region, U.S. military bases, U.S. military ships, every American officer and soldier in our countries and regions. The U.S. military is the one who killed Soleimani and Muhandis, and they will pay the price. This is the equation.
The response to the blood of Soleimani and Al-Muhandis must be expulsion of all U.S, forces from the region.

General Esmail Qaani, Soleimani's replacement as commander of the Quds Brigade, confirmed Nasrallah's statement:

Going Underground on RT @Underground_RT - 00:14 UTC · Jan 6, 2020

Esmail Qaani, the new leader of Iran's IRGC Quds Force:
"Our promise is to continue the path of martyr Soleimani. Due to the martyrdom of #Soleimani, our promise will be the expulsion of the US from the region in different steps."

These are not empty threats but a military project that will play out over the next years. I would not bet on the U.S. as the winner of that war.

Posted by b on May 8, 2021 at 15:50 UTC | Permalink

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Mr. Leith

Please kindly refrain from conflating Iran's treatment of Kurds with others.

Sanandaj, a Kurdish city run by Kurds, is emulating the institutions of a provincial Western European city - it is decaffeinated, but a very good one.

The local television stations are producing programming in Kurdish language - look for Mahabad's children programme as an example.

Thousands of Kurdish language books have been published in Iran.

And Kurdish language and literature, is taught in Kurdistan University in Sanandaj - however little there is worth studying.

Those have

Kurds are in the Artesh, in the government, in education, in business; they live all over Iran - and this has been so forever and ever. There are hundreds of thousands of Kurds who emigrated to Mashhad and its environs.

There is no discrimination.

But I will state my personal observations:

In Iran, without central government subsidies, Kurds will starve to death and freeze in the Winter (just like Deobandi Baluchis).

5000 Pasdars were killed in Kurdish areas of Iran in early 1980s to restore the writ of the central government of Iran. Kurds took no prisoners and slit the throats of the Pasdars.

Kurdish rebels had sent word ahead of time that they would kill any non-Kurd in those cities that were predominantly Kurdish - you would see an 82 year old Azeri woman running away from the city of her birth for the fear of death.

I see young men and women running to the mountains of KRG, receiving training to kill fellow-Iranians, and coming back to carry out those murders.

I see the so-called dissidents, who want the destruction of the Iranian state because of their love for all things Kurdish (Language, Culture, Geography, Music...), never mind that everything they identify as essentially Kurdish exists elsewhere in Iran - barring the languages.

They eventually settle in Germany or elsewhere in the West and then go quiet. And they can never transmit anything of their vaunted great Kurdish culture to the next generation; who would want nothing to do with it.

Like the Soviet dissidents before them, it seemed to me that relocating to West was the prime motivator of being a dissident.

In Turkey, the Kurds - leaders as well as rank and file - stabbed Mr. Erdogan in the back - the man who more than any Turkish leader in 100 years had walked towards them - by starting the civil war in Diyarbakr.

I have heard that other Iranians do not sense Sincerity when interacting with many Kurds - in contradistinction to their interactions with others Iranians that are from different ethnic groups.

I have come to the conclusion that the violence that Kurds practice against non-Kurds is not rational, it is not based on a dispassionate assessment of their wants, their needs, and what could be achieved.

In my opinion, Kurds are driven by ethnic assabiyya that has been covered by successive layers of religious doctrine, European nation-state ideas, and lastly Marxism (in as much as any tribal society can put to use Marxist ideas and ideals to use).

Yes, they will go write books about how they are the only oppressed nation the world that has had their own country - as though Tamils and Telugus have their own countries.

In the mean time, they continue murdering Arabs, Iranians, and Turks....

Posted by: fyi | May 10 2021 16:48 utc | 101

mr fyi

you do not tell the entire story. ethnic kurds in iran were part of the 79 revolution against the shah. but then they reached out to the new government and ayatollah khomeini only to be rejected. they were marched on by the pasdaran when khomeini declared a holy war against them. the pasdaran murdered 10,000 iranian nationals who just happened to be kurdish. yet they put that aside to help iran in the war against sadaam hussein's aggression. that cost them dearly when sadaam retaliated with poison gas attacks on halabja and other kurdish towns. after the war when kurds objected to the irgc assassination of doctor ghassemlou, thousands of them were summarily executed - ‘murdered’ - after being tried in kangaroo courts by the hanging judge ayatollah khalkali. as for erdogan, he is a butcher. he supported isis in kobane and sinjar and then had the noive to claim he defeated isis when he reduced al bab in aleppo province to rubble. He also supported many of the headchopper and liver-eater factions of the so called fsa in syria. and btw he still supports them.

i also disagree with your earlier post where you claim ”iranians could not operate the oil industry themselves”. iranians, whether persian or azeri or kurd, are an intelligent people. years ago I knew a douglas aircraft engineer who used to tell stories of his time in bushehr when he set up an aircraft factory in 1942 to supply the soviet vvs with p39 little cobra fighter planes. he said the iranians, both workers and management, were extremely fast learners and the factory was entirely run by them. he only had to show them the plans, stay around for quality control, but never or rarely had to step in to fix things himself. that would also have worked in the oilfields and the abadan refinery. If they needed help they could have brought in a few outside consultants to work out any serious problems. they could easily have invited in an expert or two from aramco or dutch shell or the french cfp. or surely there were azeri iranians who had knowledge of operations of the oil industry north of the border in baku.

Posted by: Leith | May 10 2021 18:52 utc | 102

mr fyi

furthermore, you state there is no discrimination against kurds but your personal observations show otherwise.

you say kurds would starve or freeze without handouts from tehran. and yet they survived and prospered in the zagros mountains for thousands of years without handouts.

you claim without proof that they want the destruction of the iranian state. that has never been the agenda.

your imply that iranians believe other minority groups are more sincere than kurds. do you include khuzestani arabs, or baluch, or sunni turkmen in that statement; or religious minorities like the bahai, the mandeans, and yarsani?

kurds have never claimed they are the only oppressed nation in the the world as you claim. they have reached out over the years to give embrace other oppressed people including the palestinians, iraqi christians, zapatistas in chipas mexico, indigenous people in brazil, and the catalans just to name a few.

in the mean time, they continue to be murdered by "Arabs, Iranians, and Turks...."

Posted by: Leith | May 10 2021 20:05 utc | 103

Mr. Leith:

I must emphatically disagree with your interpretation of recent events as well as those of the past.

I think it will be a good idea for Kurdish people across 4 countries to review and discuss among themselves the events of the last 100 years.

Perchance they might at least among themselves that they are capable, for multiple, interlocking and interconnected reasons, to create a Kurdish homeland; that they do not have that power.

May be then they would stop murdering their fellow countrymen for a chimera.

In my opinion, Iran is a country of the Shia, for the Shia, by the Shia.

Would Baluchis accept that? I doubt it - the Hard Deobandis believe all Shia are to be killed, the Soft Deobandis believe that too but are not in a hurry to do so.

In the meantime, they sit there, in the Zahedan, a city created by the Iraian Government 100 years ago - plotting overthrow of the state.

The ostensible grievances of ethno-linguistic minorities in Iran cannot be separated from their religion. In fact, the bombing of that school in Afghanistan, which killed 63 Shia girls, was almost certainly committed by Sunni Muslims, attests to the hold of religious identity on people of the Near East.

Significantly, Christian Armenian citizens of Iran are not nagging about being oppressed, are not taking up arms to murder this or that Iranian for this or that cause, and are generally hardworking people who mean no harm to Iran. If anyone is oppressed in Iran, it would be them since many state employment opportunities have been closed to them for the last 100 years and they do not receive special handouts from the Iranian government.

About Mr. Erdogan, the fact still remains - Kurds betrayed him.

Posted by: fyi | May 10 2021 21:53 utc | 104

Mr. Leith

In regards to the Oil industry at the time of Oil Nationalization, I hold my position.

The knowledge to operate that industry did not exist among Iranians to the extend necessary for its operation.

Posted by: fyi | May 10 2021 21:56 utc | 105

mr fyi

pumping oil and gas out of the ground in 1953 was not rocket science. at that time people had been doing it for over 120 years.

i'm not a fan of the baluch, neither the hard deobandis nor the soft that you mention. is that like erdogan's proxy army in syria where he backs both the serious headchoppers and the moderate headchoppers?

and i'm not a fan of the psychotics that bombed the Sayed Al-Shuhada school (btw the body count is now 85 and climbing not 63). it wasn't kurds who did that. iran needs to focus on their real enemies and stop murdering fellow iranians who happen to be kurdish. but the irgc leadership is probably too driven by that ethnic assibiyya that you accuse the kurds of.

sadly you and i will have to agree to disagree.

Posted by: Leith | May 10 2021 22:44 utc | 106

Mr. Leith

We will disagree.

From time to time I see the photographs of young men and women who have gone into the mountains to fight for State Destruction in Iran.

In those photographs one can see a cunning old man posing with them.

Then they come down from the mountains, ambush border guards - their own fellow country men - murder one or two if they can, and then run back into KRG.

Until they themselves get killed in return during one of those attacks.

Millions of people inside and outside of Iran wish to destroy her for their demented immature dreams of Paradise on Earth to come true.

Millions of people inside and outside of Turkey wish to destroy her for their demented immature dreams of Paradise on Earth to come true.

Yet those two countries stand as the best and only hope for Muslims every where.

Posted by: fyi | May 10 2021 23:07 utc | 107

mr fyi

i also believe that iran could lead a bright future for the muslim world; and also for the entire world. to do that iran needs more soleimanis and fewer khalkalis. it has exceptional people who have a great history and a bountiful country. but it will not happen until iran gets rid of a few ethnic bigots who insist on using torture and death instead of kindness and brotherhood. you will never be the light of hope for the arabs by using whips and chains on them. even shia arabs in karbala are rebelling against iranian attempts to shut down protestors by assassination and fear.

beware of erdogan. he is untruthful and not a friend of iran. he holds out his hand now perhaps but is waiting to stab you in the back as he did to the kurds, syrians, and even his former turkish allies.

Posted by: Leith | May 11 2021 4:35 utc | 108

I like how b implicitly acknowledges here that the Houthi are an Iranian proxy group, something I recall he scoffed at for a very long time. And of course no acknowledgement that he was wrong. Just undermines his previous position with zero shame or remorse.

Posted by: Ben | May 15 2021 3:52 utc | 109

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