As has been covered extensively by American and international news media, General Qasem Soleimani’s death on Friday, January 3, 2020, in Baghdad, Iraq, was a history-altering event. The legal and justifiable strike of an arch-terrorist leader in a United States military theater of operations was in response to the recent attacks on the United States Embassy in Iraq and Soleimani’s history of unprecedented influence and violence within Iraq and the greater Middle East. At the time of writing this piece, it is unknown what downstream effects Soleimani’s death will have on the United States of America, Israel, or the rest of the world. Such concerns about the second and third order effects are valid (as would be the concerns about future terror and regional violence had Soleimani remained alive). Nevertheless, I believe that the United States of America’s decision to kill Soleimani took advantage of an opportune moment to make the world a safer place.
Particularly for me as a United States Army Veteran and Jewish-American deeply concerned about the survival of Israel, Solemani’s death was both a cathartic and strategic victory. Having grown up during the Global War on Terror, I remember the media reports on the hundreds of American service members killed and horribly maimed by Improvised Explosive Devices (IEDs). Once I commissioned into the United States Army, I served with many of these soldiers who had had friends killed, or had been personally wounded, by IEDs.
Of all of the IEDs employed by terrorists in Iraq, however, the deadliest were the Explosively Formed Penetrators (“EFPs”). These concave shape charges sent molten metal at speeds that would tear through a vehicle’s armor and turn its occupants into dismembered pools of blood. EFPs caused the horrific deaths of hundreds of American service members.
Engineered by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (“IRGC”) elite Quds Force, EFPs had been first tested by Iranian terror-proxy Hezbollah against the Israeli Defense Forces (“IDF”), but had been “perfected” against American service members in Iraq. Solemani was the Commander directly responsible for their improvement and implementation throughout Iraq, and arguably, the greater Middle East. In killing Solemani, America avenged the deaths of 608 American military service members and brought closure for the thousands of others who were horribly wounded.
Furthermore, in killing Solemani, the United States delivered a significant strategic victory in checking the terror ambitions of the Islamic Republic of Iran. This is because Solemani was more than his position as Commander of the IRGC Quds Force. He was, rather, the physical embodiment of the brutally violent, oppressive, and war mongering regime that he served. For the greater part of the last decade, Solemani was the key player in the entire Middle East. From Iraq, to Syria, to Yemen Soleimani was the one constant force in a chaotic storm.
For example, Solemani’s efforts in Syria are, arguably, why Syrian President Bashar al-Assad is still in power. By providing arms, supplies, and leadership via pro-Assad militias and Iranian terror-proxies, Soleimani was able to turn the tide and ensure Assad’s survival. Through his personal efforts of propping up Assad and enlisting the help of Russia’s President Vladimir Putin, Solemani was the main reason why the nearly decade-long conflict in Syria has continued to persist and why the mind numbing body count and global humanitarian crisis have only continued to grow.
In addition, Solemani directly oversaw the further support and strategy of terrorist organizations such as Hezbollah. Now a full-fledged terror-army, Hezbollah has, over the course of its existence, killed hundreds of IDF soldiers. In raining rockets into Israel’s cities, Hezbollah has physically wounded and mentally traumatized countless civilians. Soleimani ensured that Hezbollah was better equipped and more powerful than the Lebanese government. Although still incredibly dangerous, Hezbollah will now be without a key advocate and confidante.
Although a hydra will always regrow its head, there are certain leaders that are much harder to replace. As has been the case with other terrorist leaders like Osama Bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, their deaths have rippled through their respective organizations, crippling many of them. The cult of personality around many of these leaders is real, and it can be difficult for their lieutenants or appointed successors to fill that vacuum. Due to his battlefield experience, personal connections, and political influence, I am doubtful that anyone will be able to fill Soleimani’s role for some time.
In the end, America’s ability to find and kill terrorists wherever they hide is true deterrence. The message is simple: threaten the United States of America and her allies and be met with hellfire. Although it is yet to be determined what Solemani’s death will mean for the greater Middle East and the world, I remain confident that the United States of America, Israel, and our allies will be safer. From providing justice to wounded soldiers and still-grieving families to cutting off leadership and direction to countless terrorists, the moment was presented and the United States of America seized it in time.