After the U.S. drone strike on Friday that killed Iranian General Qassem Soleimani, and several other important Iranian military or militia leaders on Iraqi soil. U.S. President Trump said Soleimani’s “reign of terror” was over. The U.S. action appears to be a unilateral attack without consultation with NATO allies.
That strike has caused outrage in Iran and with Iranian expats around the world. Iran has threatened retribution, and NATO is holding an emergency meeting today. Of immediate concern are the many NATO troops in Iraq leading training exercises. Canada has about 500 troops there and the entire NATO mission is led by Canada.
Christian Leuprecht (PhD) is a professor of political science at the Royal Military College of Canada and Director of the Institute of Intergovernmental Relations at Queen’s University in Kingston Ontario, and Fulbright Research Chair of Canada-US Relations at Johns Hopkins University in Washington.Listen
The attack on Soleimani, 62, came from a missile armed drone. He was head of Iran’s elite Quds Force which is the special operations arm of the Revolutionary Guard and in charge of Iran’s proxy forces, which has been blamed for many attacks outside Iran including the deaths of U.S. troops in Iraq.
The attack may lead to retribution attacks against the many NATO troops in various locations in the Middle East, or within NATO countries. It is believed there are many sleeper cells of Quds groups in many foreign countries which have the potential to launch what has been termed in recent years as “kinetic” attacks, such as with bombs or guns. Leuprecht notes that Iran may also launch cyber attacks although he says the Iranians seem not quite as sophisticated as some other countries in cyber disruption.
While the regime is expressing outrage and threatens retaliation, Leuprecht and other experts have also wondered whether the Iranian regime was beginning to feel threatened by the popular military leader. Soleilmani operated largely on his own initiative and was also a substantial drain on already stretched Iranian resources. More so however, he was becoming a powerful political force in his own right as evidenced by his chairing the Iraqi cabinet meeting in December. The suggestion is that allowing him to travel to Iraq may have been an acceptable risk for the regime.
Meanwhile, Jens Stoltenberg, NATO Secretary-General responding to reporters today said he would not speculate on NATO potential actions or reactions as that could only inflame the situation. He said that the members were unified in their support of the organisation and in calling for restraint on all sides. Later noting the attack was solely a U.S decision he added however that all members were concerned about Iran’s role in destabilising the region.
While the Canadian-led NATO training mission has forces confined to their bases in Iraq as a result of the tensions, the Iraqi Parliament in an extraordinary session on Sunday passed a resolution to expel all foreign forces. The resolution however is non-binding on the government.
- CBC: S. Reiger: Jan 4/20: ‘Trump is a killer’: Iraqi Calgarians call for peace in wake of Soleimani assassination
- CBC: S.Nasser: Jan 3/20: Anxiety, anticipation in Canada’s largest Iranian diaspora as news of Soleimani’s killing stuns
- Al Jazeera; A.Ibrahim: Jan 5/20: Iraqi parliament calls for expulsion of foreign troops