PUSHED TO THE BRINK

YOU South Africa|16 January 2020

PUSHED TO THE BRINK
America’s assassination of a top Iranian general poses a grave threat to world peace
DENNIS CAVERNELIS

IT’S the most significant political assassination since the killing of Archduke Franz Ferdinand of Austria. That’s how some commentators are describing the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who perished in a drone attack at the hands of the USA.

President Donald Trump called it a “devastating blow against a regime plotting global political atrocities”. But others say that, much as the archduke’s death sparked World War 1, Soleimani’s killing could trigger World War 3.

As thousands of Iranians mourn the demise of their powerful general, the rest of the globe fears tensions could ratchet up in the volatile Middle East.

We take a closer look.

HOW IT BEGAN

New Year’s Eve at the US embassy compound in Baghdad, Iraq, was marked by an invasion by hundreds of demonstrators protesting US strikes on state-sanctioned militia camps in Iraq and Syria. These camps belong to the Iranbacked Hezbollah Brigades militia group, which is formally part of the Iraqi army.

US officials said the strikes against the militia were intended to deter “future acts of aggression”. This came after a rocket attack on 27 December by the militia group against a US base in Kirkuk, Iraq, in which a US military contractor was killed and four Americans injured. The Iraqi government condemned the air strikes and pro-Iranian militias promised more attacks on American targets.

THE SOLEIMANI STRIKE

On 3 January a missile launched from an American MQ-9 Reaper drone aircraft struck Baghdad International Airport, killing Soleimani and several officials from Iraqi militias.

Soleimani, the second-most powerful man in Iran after Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, was the country’s top security and intelligence commander. The 62-yearold oversaw nearly every major operation by Iranian intelligence and military forces for the past 20 years.

The US department of defence said in a statement confirming Soleimani’s death that he’d been actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region, and had approved the attack on the embassy in Iraq.

Trump warned Iran not to retaliate for the killing of Soleimani. “Iran is talking boldly about targeting certain US assets as revenge,” he tweeted.

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16 January 2020