Democrats seem nearly unanimous in their outrage over the assassination of the leading Iranian terrorist, Qasem Soleimani. Some Republicans have also expressed opposition to President Trump’s decision to take Soleimani out.
I thought it was a great move. I’m delighted that Soleimani has joined Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi in the ranks of those wondering where the heck those virgins are.
However, I questioned whether Soleimani’s demise would seriously impair Iran’s ability to export terror through its Revolutionary Guard. I thought it at least as likely that a new leader would step fairly seamlessly into Soleimani’s operation.
That might be the case. However, the Washington Post reports that it isn’t. Rather, the Revolutionary Guard has struggled to regain its footing in the aftermath of Soleimani’s unexpected departure. The loss of Soleimani, coupled with the downing of that Ukrainian airliner, has the Revolutionary Guard on its heels, according to the Post:
[A]nalysts and officials in the region say the Revolutionary Guard in fact now finds itself on the back foot, a notable change after successfully projecting its power in the Middle East over recent years. “The assassination of Qasem Soleimani and the downing of the airliner were both shocks to the Revolutionary Guard. Soleimani was a big loss for the Islamic republic, and the downing of the airliner, it blew the Guard’s entire credibility,” said Saeid Golkar, an expert on Iran’s security forces and a professor of political science at the University of Tennessee at Chattanooga.
What about Soleimani’s successor, Brig. Gen. Ismail Qaani?
[A]nalysts and officials say he lacks the ambition, charisma and strong connections of his predecessor. As a result, according to an official in the region with knowledge of the matter, the Quds Force has been significantly deterred from retaliating further against the United States, at least for now.
The official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss intelligence matters, said Qaani does not yet have the power to freelance the way Soleimani did, coordinating battles and attacks across the Middle East and meeting directly with foreign leaders. The Quds Force, the official said, is suffering both emotionally and practically, and will be restrained until Qaani grows more confident and independent.
Within Iran’s security apparatus, a struggle may already be underway to clip the Quds Force’s wings. According to Golkar, the Revolutionary Guard’s secretive counterintelligence department is likely investigating the security breaches that contributed to Soleimani’s killing in Baghdad last month.
Taking all of this into account, Maysam Behravesh, a former security policy adviser in Iran, says that the Revolutionary Guard “is facing a support base problem, if not crisis, at home.” The killing of Soleimani appears to be a significant contributing factor.
Will any of this cause Democrats and/or Republican doves to take a more favorable view of Trump’s decision to kill Soliemani? No. But maybe it should.