To deal with the killing of the Iranian General Qassem Soleimani and the events that followed, we need to answer a few questions.
First, who was General Soleimani? He commanded the elite Quds unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). This unit is actively fighting in Syria and collaborating with Hezbollah. Soleimani also oversaw radical Shiite groups in Iraq, such as ‘al-hashd al-Shaabi’ and the ‘Kata’ib Hezbollah’.
Soleimani was involved in terrorism. However, he was also a statesman of the Islamic Republic of Iran (unlike Osama Bin Laden or Abu Bakr Al-Baghdadi, the leader of designated terrorist group ISIS, who were outside of any official jurisdiction).
Second, how legitimate, so to speak, or legal is it for the Trump administration to assassinate Soleimani at the airport in Baghdad? Following President Trump’s logic, this is a justified action, as Soleimani was a terrorist who, according to Trump, was responsible for the killing of hundreds of Americans, the attack on the US Embassy, and so on. But it also amounts to a politician of one country voluntarily ordering the murder of a politician of another country. Is this the new world order?
Trump’s order to kill Soleimani has set a dangerous precedent. For example, what if he himself is assassinated for being an ‘enemy of Islam’? Whoever would give such an order would also describe it as an act of justified retribution.
Trump also threatened to attack Iranian cultural sites. This would be comparable to the Islamic State’s actions, when it destroyed the ancient city of Palmyra in Syria. So, following this reasoning, the US President could also be considered a potential terrorist.
Third, Was Iran’s reaction reasonable, when it fired missiles at a US military base in response to the murder of its General? Either way, I think this reaction was expected because Tehran was guided by a) a sense of seeking revenge and b) an obligation to ‘save face’.
Then the unexpected happened. Iranian air defences mistakenly, or rather due to a lack of professionalism, shot down a Ukrainian plane with missiles. Shortly after the event, they admitted their mistake. This leads us to the next question.
Fourth, did Tehran do the right thing by admitting their crime, even if it was not intentional? The answer is clear: absolutely. We can argue that Iran has shown its capacity to understand and participate in legal processes and its ability to act appropriately in the most unpleasant situations. Moreover, the authorities have said they will punish the perpetrators of the accident, which resulted in the death of 176 passengers.
Lastly, what’s next? Nothing in particular. The US and Iran have taken revenge on each other, but it will not lead to a major military conflict. Of course, there will still be a great deal of rhetoric, including speculation of another world war. Someone even compared the death of Soleimani to the assassination of Archduke Franz Ferdinand in 1914, which served as the formal pretext to World War I. But there is nothing to worry about for now.
As you know, for the Middle East and the Muslim world, a state of constant crisis has long been the norm. We should not remain surprised at these latest developments for too long.