Earlier this month, the world woke up to the news that Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian Major General had been assassinated by a drone strike carried out by the United States. By midday, the verdict was in. Much of the left had concluded that this was a “misled act of war” by the “imbecile” who currently occupies the White House, Donald Trump. Within moments of the announcement they flocked to their smart-phones to condemn the assassination, labelling it as an example of Trump’s poor judgement, and using it make the case for his impeachment and the case against his re-election. This instantaneous reaction demonstrated the unfortunate truth that the polarised politics that had marked the end of the last decade is set to plague our political debate for the foreseeable future.
While I share some of this group’s reservations about Trump, I choose to aspire to ‘reason’. Thus, in the days that followed the incident when asked what I thought about what had happened, my response was simple – “I don’t know enough”. This caused shock among some of my fellow leftists who had assumed that I would instinctively toe the line and disparage the ‘enemy’. Conversely, I had anticipated such responses. It is with a heavy heart that I say this but you see when even the Leader of the Labour Party, Jeremy Corbyn, refuses to attend state banquets in the presence of the “wretched” President, it becomes difficult to expect more than just entrenched positions and a lack of reason from the membership when it comes to the 45th President of the United States. Nonetheless, as sad as I am to see Corbyn go, my one wish is that with him goes this incessant tribalism.
My recognition that I did not know enough about Qasem Soleimani compelled me to some research. In the course of my due diligence I found out that Soleimani had played a key role in Iran’s fight against ISIS. “Ok, maybe they were right – Trump was being reckless”, I briefly thought. But as I continued to read, listen and learn more I found out that Soleimani had been complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of people across the Middle East. He had provided assistance to the terrorist group Hezbollah in Lebanon, helped bolster the government of Bashar al-Assad, which used chemical weapons on their own citizens and supported proxy groups who oppressed the people of Iraq. While I do not think Soleimani’s contribution in the fight against ISIS should be reduced to a footnote in history I am very sceptical of those romanticising him as an “Iranian hero” and “freedom fighter”.
Nonetheless I recognise that some critics are raising very legitimate concerns about the assassination. For example, the lawfulness of the killing particularly considering the location and Soleimani’s status as a top general. I completely understand the necessity of such scrutiny. But I fundamentally disagree with those who have instinctively adopted the view that everything that has happened is necessarily bad simply because Trump gave the order.
In the words of Majiid Nawaz, “it is an overwhelmingly narcissistic approach to take because the world doesn’t revolve around [us] … privileged western leftist”. To focus on your hate for Trump diminishes the number of innocent lives lost during Soleimani’s reign of terror. It is a slap in the face to the Iraqi people protesting against the dominance of Iran, the Syrians suffering at the hands of the Iranian-enabled government and the countless other victims of Soleimani and Iran’s activities in the Middle East.
So, yes - I choose solidarity with those oppressed by the Iranian regime instead of my comrades.