Snatch Qassem Soleimani – Obama/Kerry Legacy

Jan 15, 2017 by

Michael Rubin –

They’ve become iconic images in Iran: Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force chief Qassem Soleimani on the ground in Iraq and Syria. Normally, operatives seek to keep themselves out of the lime light, but Soleimani has become so bold and cocky that he allows an official website replete with photos and even video.

Soleimani promotes his image as a paternal soldier’s soldier and develops a cult of personality among Iranians and pro-Iranian militias in countries the Islamic Republic seeks to destabilize. He remains the Islamic Republic’s key operative: He flaunts sanctions to negotiate for new arms in Moscow and, under his direction, the Qods Force has killed hundreds of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan and even plotted a terror attack on Washington, DC.

Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani March 8, 2015. REUTERS/Stringer.

The US Department of State maintains a bounty program on terrorists: Islamic State leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi and Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri are worth up to $25 million; Haqqani network head Sirajuddin Haqqani, Lashkar-e-Tayyiba co-founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, and Iran-based Al Qaeda financier Yasin al-Suri each merit up to $10 million. A number of other terrorists are worth less, but still multi-million dollar bounties.

How ironic it is, however, that the man responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other living terrorist is not even included in the State Department’s bounty program. That should not surprise, however, as President Barack Obama and Secretary of State John Kerry have preferred to whitewash Iran’s record and promote the fiction that (acknowledged by Soleimani himself) reformists and moderates embrace less of the radicalism that is at the root of the Islamic Republic.
How ironic it is, however, that the man responsible for the deaths of more Americans than any other living terrorist is not even included in the State Department’s bounty program.

The problem with bounties is that they are essentially passive feel-good strategies that too often substitute for more substantive strategies. Rather than simply offer money for information that leads to Soleimani’s capture and hope for the best, it is time for the new administration to prioritize his capture. There is precedent: During the George W. Bush administration, US forces sought to capture Soleimani on a few occasions, although their plans reportedly were betrayed by high-ranking Iraqi Kurdish officials who were double-dealing with Iran. US forces did capture other Revolutionary Guardsmen operating in Iraq. In 2011, US forces again reportedly had foreknowledge of Soleimani’s presence in Iraq. On that occasion, forces were either not in position or not given permission by Obama to seize the Qods Force leader.

If President-elect Donald Trump, incoming Secretary of Defense James Mattis, and incoming Director of Central Intelligence Mike Pompeo truly want to protect American lives, avenge those murdered, and let adversaries know they will face a personal cost for killing Americans, they should direct significant assets to seek the capture or killing of Soleimani. By allowing himself to be photographed outside Iran, Soleimani thumbs his nose at the United States and conveys an image of a weak and humiliated America across a region that respects strength.

A campaign to target Soleimani would represent a win-win strategy. If Soleimani remains free, he likely will be unable to leave Iran. Across the Middle East, Iranian allies, proxies, and adversaries will interpret his caution and fear as weakness. If he seeks to convey his strength by continuing his battlefield rotation, he will put himself at great risk. If US forces kill him, that will restore the redline that Obama and Kerry squandered, and if he is captured, then that can provide an intelligence windfall that might even exceed what was found in Osama Bin Laden’s compound. No terrorist should get a free pass.

Source: Snatch Qassem Soleimani – AEI | Foreign and Defense Policy Blog » AEIdeas

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