By Faisal Al-shammeri | @mr_alshammeri
Baghdad Airport was an appropriate place for Qassem Solemani’s vast regional travel itinerary. It is in Iraq where Iran’s current center of gravity resides. The rivalry between arch-foes Babylon and Persia predates this current chapter of regional history. It was Iraq that shaped Solemani’s life more than any other, including Syria. It was in Iraq where Solemani and the IRGC fought in a costly campaign in Al Faw. It was in Iraq where the legacy of his career in the IRGC’s Quds Force was written. It was under his guidance where the most lethal of IED’s (improvised explosive device) targeting American and Coalition forces were deployed inside Iraq. Conservative estimates on the number of American Servicemen killed by IED’s provided by the IRGC begins around 600. Contrary to conventional opinion it was not Al Qaeda in Iraq that destroyed the golden dome of Samara but sectarian/proxy militias aligned to the IRGC and Iran. In Syria, perhaps more than anyone else, it is Solemani who was tasked with buttressing the Syrian Army and keeping it a cohesive force. It was Solemani who brought in Afghan’s, Iraqi’s and even Pakistani’s who filled the ranks of the sectarian/proxy militias that he directed in the Syrian Civil War. It was also Solemani who directed Hezbollah’s operational strategy. All of this helped lead to the largest refugee exodus since 1945 at the very end of World War II. These individuals could be called Solemani’s refugees. They are homeless, in some cases destitute, and saddled with despair because of him. This is but a snapshot of his legacy. But where to start?
One of the most prominent of Solemani’s sectarian/proxy militias is Kata’ib Hezbollah. Before it became recently known to some in the West for targeting the Green Zone inside Baghdad with rocket and mortar fire it had a far more sinister reputation to the Sunni Muslims of Iraq. Kata’ib Hezbollah scrupulously abides to the Khomeinist doctrine of Velayat-e faqih and firmly operates inside the IRGC portfolio. The mention of Saqlawiya & Razaza checkpoints run by Kata’ib Hezbollah brings a shudder and dark chill throughout the Sunni community in Iraq. It was were people simply disappeared, without a trace, never to be heard from again. Stories emerged from the very few who survived the checkpoints and kidnapping. Some were tortured with power saws, cordless screwdrivers, or goodness knows what else. Three thousand disappeared at Saqlawiya & Razaza. To this day the family members and loved ones of these lost souls have no answers as to what exactly happened and where they are. These individuals could be referred to as Solemani’s lost souls. Solemani was also the braintrust behind the Iraqi Government’s response to the nationwide protests against the Tehran-aligned ruling coalition. His idea? Shoot protesters in the face as a deterrent to keep others from thinking about challenging the status quo. Those wounded and killed while protesting against the ruling coalition in Baghdad could be called Solemani’s martyrs.
In closing we could touch on the sectarian/proxy militias that propagate the Middle East. Iraq, Syria, and Yemen now have a novel new feature that predecessors could only dream of. Under Solemani Soviet SA-7’s (Surface-to-Air Missile) have been reconfigured to become ground based Surface-to-Surface Missiles. Disassembled ballistic missiles (Scud variants) are now smuggled into foreign countries, reassembled by IRGC personnel to be fired at civilian population centers. Civilian airports and major international airports have been targeted by these weapons given to Khomeinist sectarian/proxy groups. Whereas before Hezbollah, and Al Qaeda, relied on suicide bombings, car bombs, small arms and perhaps mortars, under Solemani a new era is upon the world. Now terrorist groups and sectarian/proxy militias have a legitimate missile arm accompanied with short/medium range cruise missiles and ballistic variants too. This new feature cannot be rolled back. Some have referred to Solemani by his rank at the time of his passing. For the countless active military officers serving today they deserve better company. Uniformed officers do not build a military career on the blood shed by the tens of thousands of slain civilians, Solemani did. Uniformed officers do not target urban population centers with ballistic missiles, Solemani did. Uniformed officers do not wage siege warfare on starving and dying cities, Solemani did. Solemani’s removal from the Middle East is an opportunity for gratitude, not worry as to any destabilizing fallout. The very persona of Solemani was destabilizing for tens of millions throughout the Arab World and Middle East. Supremely talented, superb battlefield commander and tactically brilliant are all legitimate assessments of him. But it most certainly does not end there. Few officers in world history have fought better for a more horrid cause. That is his real legacy.