Illustration by Hannah Robinson
Following the death of Iranian general Qasem Soleimani the world has, quite frankly, gone into a spin. Three days into the new year and Trump is tweeting cryptically, Iran’s Supreme Leader has vowed ‘severe revenge’ on those responsible, and there are so many media takes my head hurts.
So who was Soleimani, and why are we seeing such drastically polarised opinions online? Reports state that people in Iran, Iraq and Lebanon have taken to the streets today to celebrate this man’s death, yet others report Iranian protests and chants of “Death to America“, whilst CNN report that not only was Soleimani “loved” in Iran, but that we must also remember the key role he played in the downfall of ISIS. So what is the truth?
In situations like this, there is no simple truth; there are facts, there are personal responses, there are state-sanctioned responses, and there are discrepancies in reporting. Trump ordered the strike in retaliation – as threatened in his tweets earlier in the week – to an attack on the US embassy in Baghdad by a Shia militia directly answering to the Iranian regime. An eye for an eye.
Though the strike was presidentially approved, Congress were not given 48 hours notice, as per The War Powers Resolution, nor were they given the opportunity to give their necessary consent to this action. His strike does not appear to have been thought through whatsoever, and his Twitter response post-strike has been, quite frankly, childish. However, this potentially unlawful strike has the power to be the best thing Trump has ever done, or could possibly do, for Iranian people.
A government with morality police who frequently harm and detain people (particularly women) for journalism, dancing, going to football games, removing their hijabs, is not a government who want the best for its people. Soleimani was instrumental in the oppression of the Iranian people, via the Iranian regime, as well as Syrians, Iraqis, and the people of Lebanon, through his control of various Iranian-backed organisations, such as Hezbollah. Just a few weeks ago, Iran’s regime opened fire on protestors, blocked their internet access, and killed innocents.
This man’s death could well result in the liberation of the Iranian people from this condemning regime, but it could so easily work to cause these innocents further harm and suffering. Western heroising of a man who directly contributed to the extreme suffering of thousands of people in the Middle East, suggesting they widely loved and respected him, that he was an invaluable anti-ISIS hero, does nothing but belittle the cause these people are trying to defend. Donald Trump is not a good man, I do not agree with the way he has gone about this, but Soleimani’s death could undeniably be positively revolutionary.
So what next? It is not time to get up in arms about this purely because it has been done by Trump, but it is also not the time to deny that what he has done is a crime, and puts so many Middle-Eastern lives in danger, as well as American lives. We must listen to Iranian people, we must hear them and help them, because this is their moment to grab onto change, to topple the regime, and to be freely who they are.