Iran – What is happening and why?

Iran – What is happening and why?

Written by Prof. James Dickins for Leeds Coalition Against the War

What’s happened?

On Jan. 3, 2020, outside Baghdad airport the United States assassinated Qassem Soleimani, a Major General in the Iranian army, and war hero in Iran.i Soleimani was on his way to deliver a message from the Iranian government to the Saudi government intended to defuse the current ‘cold war’ between the two countries.ii His death was followed by massive funeral demonstrations in both Iraq and Iran, with the Iranian government calling for ‘harsh retribution’.iii

What’s the danger?

The danger is a full-scale war between the US (plus Western allies) and Iran (plus Iraq and other Iranian allies). This would cause vast numbers of deaths and injuries, and potentially allow the genocidal ISIS (ISIL, Islamic State, Daesh) to return to Iraq and Syria.iv

What’s the background?

In 2003, America and Western allies illegally invaded Iraq to remove its dictator Saddam Hussein.v Iraq had already suffered from a decade of US-instigated sanctions which had killed 1 million Iraqis and left the country The two major Muslim religious groups in the country the Arab Shiites (60% of the population) and Arab Sunnis (20% of the population) both resented the American occupation and rose up against it. As the country fell apart, Shiites and Sunnis also fought one another.vii Since 2003, 1.3 million more Iraqis have died in this violence.viii

In 2014, ISIS – funded by Saudi Arabia and other Gulf statesix to fight the Syrian government and backed by Turkeyx and Israelxi,xii – seized large parts of Syria and later Iraq. The grossly corrupt American-trained Iraqi army fell apart, leaving ISIS threatening to take Baghdad where it would have committed mass murder.xiii Qassem Soleimani was able to organise a new Iraqi army, the Popular Mobilisation Forces, which ultimately defeated ISIS,xiv with help from American air-power.xv As a result of this, but also his success in defeating ISIS and Al-Qaeda in Syria, Soleimani became a national hero in Iran, and among many Iraqis.

Why did America kill Soleimani?

Donald Trump is ‘unpredictable’. But the people in power behind him, Vice-President Mike Pence and National Security Advisor, Mike Pompeo, have long advocated war with Iran, which they see as an enemy of Israel and a rival to American power in the Middle East.xvi The current US administration tore up the JCPOA deal signed by President Obama with the Iranian regime in 2015, and designed to make it demonstrably impossible for Iran to acquire nuclear weapons.xvii The US has also imposed crippling and illegal sanctions on Iran.xviii

Pence and Pompeo and the powerful lobbies which back them seem to have believed that assassinating Soleimani would force Iran to react so violently that they could justify to the American public launching a full-scale war against Iran.xix This would engulf not only Iran and Iraq but possibly the entire Middle East, leading to massive further death and destruction,xx as well as the re-emergence from the chaos of ISIS and other extreme Islamic fundamentalist groups.xxi

Why are British troops in danger?

The US did not tell Britain of the Soleimani assassination plan before it was carried out (Israel was the only country America told).xxii Britain has between 400 and 700 troops in Iraq, training the Iraqi army.xxiii They are not in a position to play any positive role, and are vulnerable to attacks by Iran or its allies in the Iraqi army.xxiv We need to bring our young men and women home now.

What you can do

1. Sign up for information about demonstrations and other actions to stop war with Iran:

2. Sign the Stop the War and 38 Degrees petitions to stop Britain getting involved in war with Iran:

3. Send an e-mail to your MP via the CND Lobby tool