Lay me to rest next to my comrades! Bury me as a soldier!
On 7 January 2020, the section originally reserved for the burial of the martyrs of the Eight-Year War at Kerman Martyrs Cemetery received another fallen hero: General Qasem Soleimani. He was laid to eternal rest after millions of mourners marched in his funeral in Iran and Iraq. In a piece of a most personal will which he had entrusted to his wife, Soleimani had demanded to be given the burial of a soldier and be laid to rest next to his wartime comrade, Mohammad Hossein –who himself was another chemical weapons martyr of the war. This specific part of the will addressed to his wife reads: “I have already chosen my resting place at the Martyrs Cemetery … bury me in a modest grave like that of my fallen friends. Avoid honorary and titular terms and inscribe SOLDIER QASEM SOLEIMANI as my epitaph”.
This very simple word, soldier, which resonates with many people across the world is suffused with a rich sense of patriotism; a patriotism that dates back to the early days of General Soleimani’s modest beginning during the Eight-Year Imposed War that Saddam waged against Iran, and extends well into his exalted status as a beloved figure and one of the chief strategists of the country in matters of defense and regional security. During his years of service, spanning from early days of Saddam’s war against Iran to post-war reconstruction, from the fight against ISIS and other extremist takfiri terrorist groups to his role in relief work for the affected areas of Iran during the many natural disasters that hit the country quite frequently, he would work his charisma to capture the imagination of millions who extolled him as a hero; the massive turnout for his funeral does justice only to a fraction of his popularity with people from all walks of life.
Soleimani began making a life as a mason in his home town, laying brick on brick to build houses and walls. After Saddam’s invasion of Iran in September 1980, he rushed to the frontlines of war to help build the country’s wall of defense. His valor and distinctive patriotic devotion soon distinguished him among peers and propelled him to higher ranks. What defined his character from beginning to end, however, was his modesty and humble character.
Despite the eight long years of war between Iraq and Iran and the efforts by some in the region to prevent any rapprochement between them, the two nations quickly worked out their disputes and moved towards normalization of bilateral ties. They have a lot in common and belong to the same geo-religious setting, they enjoy rich cultural and historical ties, their people-to-people connections have always been strong, and the holy shrines in both countries have woven the Shiites’ hearts in Iran and Iraq forever to one another. The War was a cauldron in which Soleimani forged his strategic acumen and geopolitical views; more than anything else, he had become convinced of the ever-increasing necessity of fighting the bullying intruders in the region and the need for intra-regional frameworks for peace-building. This explains why he was the first to set boots on the ground in defense of Iraq’s territorial integrity against the blitz invasions of ISIS against which many were either too overwhelmed or hesitant to mount an effective defense. His paramount role in pushing back takfiri terrorism, more notably the ISIS, played with a mastery rarely seen before or since, earned him the title ‘the greatest ISIS killer’ by friends and foes alike.
It did not come as a surprise when ISIS welcomed the assassination of General Soleimani. This terrorist group and its takfiri affiliates, who strike fear at the heart of European capitals, described the murder of General Soleimani at the hands of the U.S. military as divine intervention. It is peculiarly interesting to note that in the region, the United States has on multiple occasions played the role of a deity for some actors and countries, from the Saudi’s bid to put a military end to Yemen crisis ‘by the grace of God’ and ISIS’s description of General’s assassination as divine intervention, it is a simple guess who they mean by God!
Boots on the ground, Soleimani was the indisputable commander of the fight against ISIS and takfiri terrorism, and the indispensable personification of the anti-ISIS campaign. ISIS was not only the enemy of peace and security in the region, but also a serious threat against international peace and security; their sophisticated terrorist operations in European capitals, mass killings in Iraq and Syria, war crimes and a plethora of other heinous deeds have become the subject of numerous reports by international bodies, in particular the UN. All reports and analyses agree more or less on a single point; removing Soleimani was a boon to the ISIS and all the other terrorist groups in the region.
International community’s response to General Soleimani’s murder must be regarded in the broader context of the gravity of the security situation that was created in the wake of the emergence of ISIS and the role that General Soleimani played in containing their spread into vast swathes of territory in the region. In this regard, the points elaborated by UNSR Agnès Callamard on whether this killing could be reconciled with any established international principle are noteworthy. She notes the impossibility of finding any legitimate justification for this horrendous murder and raises three specific points in this regard; a) the planning inherent to a drone strike indicates premeditation and the absence of considering alternative options (b) the absence of evidence that the target presented an imminent or even actual threat to life: even when incorporating the secrecy inherent to intelligence work, the information provided by the US authorities are remarkably vague and inconsequential as far as a possible imminent threat is concerned; (c) the killing of 9 other persons in addition to that of General Soleimani, who individually have not been identified and assessed as presenting imminent threats.
It is still fresh in recent memory and of course captured in high quality footages what the ISIS did in the region; from mass murder of Shiites, acts of genocide against Yazidis, war crimes and crimes against humanity to their systematic destruction of historical monuments and ancient sites, it was evident that the ISIS was the wrecking ball that aimed at the heart of civilization in West Asia and the world; Soleimani and Muhandis were the boots on the ground that fought them back.
The ISIS and other terrorist groups stood on the shoulders of some wealthy donors in the region who propped ISIS up in furtherance of their wider geopolitical gains in the region at the expense of others. Those fretting over human rights, and the maintenance of international peace and security had a clear choice when General Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and their companions were murdered by the U.S; their indifference and lukewarm equivocation in reaction to this assassination laid bare their ulterior motives for their stringent calls for human rights, peace and security in the region.
There is not a shred of doubt as to the barbaric and illegality of the premeditated murder of Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Iranian and Iraqi top military officials, along with their companions out of the war zone and in complete incompatibility with all established rules of armed conflicts. The way the international community chooses to react to such instances of barbaric crimes will define the character of international relations and bear upon international peace and security.