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U.S. mainstream media distorts Gen. Soleimani’s role to justify killing him

Media Analysis
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The U.S. mainstream media’s shoddy, dishonest reporting about the Iran Crisis continues. The media refuses to closely examine the Trump administration’s latest justification for killing Qasem Soleimani — that the Iranian general was responsible for the deaths of “thousands of U.S. troops.”

Trump’s original rationale  — that Soleimani was planning “imminent” attacks on U.S. embassies and soldiers — has crumbled away. Trump himself in a Tweet dismissed the false “imminent” charge, saying “it really doesn’t matter because of his [Soleimani’s] horrible past!”

Some days ago, the Washington Post looked into the charge. It consulted a number of experts — all Americans — and ended by citing Brian Hook, the U.S. State Department’s Special Representative for Iran, who contended, (with suspicious precision), that Iran was “responsible for the death of at least 608 American service members.”

But neither this Post article, nor the rest of the mainstream reports, asked the larger, obvious question: Why was Iran targeting U.S. soldiers? Tehran’s allies did not attack our men and women on bases in the United States, or anywhere else outside of Iraq. Why couldn’t the U.S. media remind its audience that America invaded Iraq in 2003, that at its peak the U.S. stationed 165,000 of our soldiers there, and that 5,000 remain today? Why not explain that Iraqis started to resist that occupation, especially after the U.S. torture and abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib prison? And so then some of those Iraqi insurgents appealed to Iran for help.

There’s another element of the story that the U.S. mainstream ignores entirely; just a few years ago, General Soleimani was actually an American ally in the fight against the murderous Islamist group ISIS. The estimable Juan Cole reminds us that in 2014 ISIS suddenly took over 40 percent of Iraq after “the Iraqi army trained by the U.S. collapsed and ran away.” Soleimani helped train the Iraqi Shiite militias that blunted the ISIS offensive. And Cole points out that U.S. fighter jets directly supported those militias during part of the anti-ISIS military campaign.

Juan Cole has a mixed and nuanced assessment of Qasem Soleimani:

Soleimani was a complicated man, a man of the religious far right, authoritarian. Although I think it is nonsense to speak of him as committing terrorism, he did commit war crimes. I am not sure he is responsible for as many deaths as George W. Bush, though. . . . I’m not trying to defend Soleimani, I’m only trying to complicate the glib story being pushed at us by the Trump administration, which can’t speak two sentences without telling four lies. 

James North

James North is a Mondoweiss Editor-at-Large, and has reported from Africa, Latin America, and Asia for four decades. He lives in New York City.

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7 Responses

  1. gamal on January 15, 2020, 11:56 am

    “General Soleimani was actually an American ally in the fight against the murderous Islamist group ISIS. The estimable Juan Cole reminds us that in 2014 ISIS had suddenly took over 40 percent of Iraq after “the Iraqi army trained by the U.S. collapsed and ran away.”

    America not only created “ISIS” in bagram and other places but bombed SAA troops in support of ISIS actions on numerous occasions, supplied them and gratefully exploited the opportunities provided by their activities , the only people who defeated ISIS were the Iranians, Syrians, Lebanese and Russians.

    America is illegally occupying Iraq, Syria and Afghanistan not withstanding their heroic fight against “Islamists”.

  2. Kay24 on January 15, 2020, 8:12 pm

    America is hated around the world because we have for decades taken upon ourselves to decide how other nations should make decisions, and topple their leaders when we cannot get them to kowtow to us. We usually pick on nations that are unable to defend itself, have oil, or is strategic to our grand plans. We initially impose harsh sanctions on the nation, and watch the people suffer with no food or medicines. We bomb unmercifully, killing and maiming hundreds of thousands of innocent civilians, get their leaders killed, historical and cultural sites bombed into rubble, and entire cities are flattened, leaving poor unarmed civilians homeless with nowhere to flee. The media does it’s part selling the war and they all have ulterior motives, some to please their zionist owners.

    All that and WE are outraged that they fight back, get other nations to help them fight back, and resist with anger, for what we have done to them? What are they supposed to do, grin and bear it? Would we as a nation not resist any attack on our sovereign nation, and hate that arrogant nation that bombed us, and made things worse in our country?

    Here is a long list of America’s shame:

  3. Vera Gottlieb on January 16, 2020, 8:50 am

    Why would I expect any differently???

  4. Misterioso on January 16, 2020, 10:20 am

    Must read!!

    “US Foreign Policy by Assassination”
    By Graham E. Fuller (
    4 January 2020

    “The United States, through its assassination of top-ranking Iranian General Qasim Soleimani, has once again opened Pandora’s box in its conduct of foreign policy. How long does Washington think it can enjoy unique monopoly over exercise of these forms of international violence before they are turned against us? For a brief period we had a monopoly on the use of military use of drones—now everybody is doing it and the US can now fall victim as readily as it uses them against others. Ditto for cyberattacks, pioneered by the US, but now a weapon at the disposal of any number of middle sized countries.

    “Assassination is not, of course, a new tactic in the annals of wartime. In what technically we must call ‘peace-time’ — despite the many wars the US has going at the moment—assassination is a dangerous tool, especially when used in the conduct of foreign policy against top-ranking foreign officials. General Soleimani was not just the commander of al-Quds military forces. Far more accurately he should be considered the number two figure of importance in the entire Iranian ruling structure, and perhaps the most popular political/military figure in Iran. Or he could be likened to a National Security Adviser in the US, or to a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs, or any number of US regional commanders put together. Mark you, this was a blatantly political assassination, and, in the calculations of most practitioners of international law it was an act of war. One can only imagine the US response to a similar Iranian assassination of a top US regional commander.

    “That General Soleimani was a formidable opponent of the US is beyond question. His strategy, tactics and policies ran circles around the leaden and ill-conceived policies and leaders of the US war in Iraq—still ongoing 17 years later and that has already cost the US dearly in its feckless goal to dominate and master Iraq. The US has long since lost the geopolitical lead in the Middle East as a whole—going back decades.

    “The trembling puffery and outrage on the part of most politicians and commentators in the US that ‘Soleimani was responsible for the deaths of any number of American soldiers in Iraq’ reflects either childish naivete or massive self-delusion about what the nature of war is all about. Iran knew it was in the US neocon cross-hairs when the US invaded Iraq in 2003; the standing joke in the US then was that war with Iraq is fine, but ‘real men go to war with Iran.’ The US had fully supported Saddam Hussein’s vicious war against Iran throughout the 1980s. It was not surprising then that Iran aided the massive uprising of Iraqi Sunni and Shi’a forces to resist the US military invasion and occupation of Iraq—a presence that lacked any legal standing. Naturally Iran provided advice and weapons to Iraqi guerrillas to facilitate killing the soldiers of the American occupation, that’s what war is. The US has supported any number of guerrilla forces around the world to fight against enemies and regimes we don’t like, starting with military aid, training, intelligence, joint missions, etc., as we have seen most recently in Iraq, Syria and Yemen. There is precious little ground for US moral outrage in all of this—unless one simply assumes, as the US usually does—that America by definition represents the ‘moral cause,’ the ‘good guys,’ and has a God-given right to intervene anywhere and everywhere in the name of freedom, democracy or human rights or to protect whatever it is.

    “When it comes to lives lost, the US of course has itself been responsible for hundreds of thousands of deaths in Iraq as well as generation of massive internal and external refugee flows. Yet we convince ourselves that killing others in the name of the US cause is OK, but anyone resisting, or actually killing Americans represents an outrage.

    “Let’s at least have a little sophistication here about the nature of war and conflict and drop the double standards.

    “It’s chastening to recall that even during the Cold War the US and the Soviet Union, by at least tacit agreement, avoided assassination of significant enemy leaders—although the US did try repeatedly to assassinate Fidel Castro, among other leaders of smaller hostile states.

    “So does Washington really want to open the floodgates to a new policy—to the assassination of top-ranking officials in countries we dislike? Next thing we know, everybody can play. For that matter, Israel already leads the world in conducting political assassinations according to an Israeli scholar.

    “The assassination of General Soleimani also revealed Washington’s continuing assumption of a right to violate the sovereignty of any country in the world if it deems it in its interest to do so. And this time Iraq will surely expel all US troops from Iraq in response to this violation. Not that withdrawal of US troops from this war, ill-conceived from the start, is necessarily a bad thing from the perspective of many, but it surely represents an ignominious end to a failing, pointless, and brutal invasion that Washington had actually believed would swing Iraq over into the ‘pro-US column’ as an ally of the US in the Middle East.

    “Such naivete further reflects another American deeply cherished assumption that countries with semi-democratic political systems will automatically be pro-American. Has nobody ever heard of national interests? Or do we believe that US interests globally are now basically coterminous with the global interests of all peoples (deep down)?

    “A still bigger issue is at stake here. The US is has increasingly come to be regarded with dismay by any number of friends and ‘allies’ for its demand of support for its dangerous and ill-conceived international policies, threats and wars. To sign on to the US global security vision is to have to sign on to policies many countries are very uncomfortable with. They are not ready to support US routinely hostile policies towards Russia, China, Iran, Cuba, and many others. Nor are they ready to lend the automatic support to Israel that Washington demands. This growing reluctance of one-time friends and allies has grown under Trump, but goes back at the very least to George W. Bush and the Global War on Terror— ‘you’re either with us or against us.’ No one in Europe and few in the world supported Washington’s tearing up of the nuclear treaty with Iran, nor do they support the crushing sanctions the US has imposed upon Iran since then for which it demands compliance. Increasingly Europe and other ‘allies’ no longer find it comfortable to be allied with a US whose foreign policies are obsessively focussed on identification of enemies and where we expect our allies to fall into line—starting before the US invasion of Iraq.

    “This latest act of ‘foreign policy by assassination’ will be largely rejected by most in the world. Only a few craven Gulf kings and princes—and Israel—will applaud it. And worst of all, the US has now taken one more giant step towards convincing the world that the US has indeed become a ‘rogue nation’ no longer willing to follow the rules of international law and procedure—and wisdom—that it claims to lead. Fewer and fewer countries anywhere are going to sign up for war or searches for ‘alliances’ that can be turned against Russia or China.

    “Indeed, as the era of US global dominance is drawing to an end it looks like the US is taking the process very, very hard indeed. It may soon deprive itself of most influence and respect if policies like the assassinations of top leaders of countries we don’t like become the new US norm.”
    Graham E. Fuller is a former senior CIA official and author of numerous books on the Muslim World.

  5. James Canning on January 16, 2020, 10:20 am

    “Shoddy and dishonest” reporting by US news media regarding Iran is par for the course. And concealing the role played by Israel in embroiling the US in foolish and fantastically expensive military adventures in the Middle East is also par for the course.

  6. gamal on January 28, 2020, 4:08 am

    Sami Ramadani, the Jewish Iraqi Arab, speaks to Patrick Henningsen and demonstrates the utility of knowing what you are talking about, in detail.

  7. gamal on February 1, 2020, 5:07 am

    The Nasty Secret Behind Aramco, ISIS and Trump in Syria

    “The Saudi Arabian oil company, Aramco, is now hiring oil workers throughout Deir Ezzor Province inside Syria as part of a joint effort, nominally with an unknown American entity and with full partnership with both ISIS and the United States Army.

    Thousands of unemployed Syrian engineers and oil workers are being asked to apply for jobs paying $3000 per month.

    No one knows who they will be working for.

    This is the story we will be examining, how it began and where it is going now.

    In 2017, soon after Trump took office, Aramco, the Saudi owned oil conglomerate, opened offices in Deir Ezzor province in Syria.

    Under the protection of both ISIS and the United States Army, Aramco began an exploration of 12 new oil and gas deposits recognized by American SAR (Synthetic Aperture Radar) military satellites, retasked for this purpose.

    These oil and gas fields represent significant finds, equaling the Kirkuk field in Iraq and the largest of Saudi Arabia’s oil finds.

    Similarly, as early as 2012, massive oil and gas deposits were discovered in the Mediterranean Sea, some off Gaza, others off Cyprus, but the largest traversed inland, into Syria, across Latakia and Idlib Provinces, areas now held by ISIS and al Qaeda with US support.

    We know that prior to the Russian Aerospace Forces eliminating oil trafficking by ISIS from both Syria and Iraq, the famous satellite photos of 12,000 oil trucks four abreast that the American led coalition never saw, a massive theft of oil was going on under the guise of terrorism.

    We also know that when the US went into Iraq, its oil fields were looted for year after year, a process that continues unabated under the partial American occupation of Iraq.

    In November 2018, Trump announced the US was going to “secure Iraq’s oil” in order to develop the oil fields and bring in American companies.

    We now know that process began 18 months earlier, but the company wasn’t American, it was Saudi. In fact, that 18 months was spent identifying new oil deposits on both sides of the border, in Iraq as well as Syria and in securing the ability to explore and service these new finds through the cover of anti-ISIS operations.

    In fact, we find that there were, in fact, no ISIS operations at all but rather mercenaries hired by Saudi Arabia and the US, operating in conjunction with American air and artillery cover, to hide oil exploration in the region.

    By late December 2019, the security situation across Syria had changed dramatically. Russian forces had taken over many of America’s oil bases in the North of Syria and had moved toward the Turkey, Iraqi border.

    They were unaware, at that time, that the real moves were coming from the South, from al Tanf, and the US occupied zone on the Jordanian border.

    Then, in early January 2020, an inexplicable resurgence of ISIS capabilities blocked highways from Palmyra to al Bukamal and across the region, forces that should not exist. Those ISIS forces were deployed from American training camps in the US occupied zone of Southern Syria.

    Their job was to secure transit routes for oil drilling equipment to be transited from Saudi Arabia, some transiting Iraq as well, under US protection in order to comply with Trump’s policy of “seize the oil.”

    The problem, however, is that there would be no way to build and service these massive new oil and gas fields under the current political situation. It would become necessary for Iraq’s Anbar Province, perhaps Nineveh as well, to be broken off into a new Sunni only entity, as had happened in early 2014 when Sunni based ISIS, mostly led by former Sunni leaders loyal to Saddam Hussein, enabling Aramco to set up full scale operations.

    In order to create a political situation that would facilitate this, Iraq’s Shiite led government would have to be put under pressure and collapsed.

    Since 2018, Adel Abdul Mahdi had been prime minister, from Al Jazeera:

    “Newly elected Iraqi President Barham Salih has named independent Shia candidate Adel Abdul Mahdi as prime minister-designate, ending months of deadlock after an inconclusive national election in May.

    The presidency, traditionally occupied by a Kurd, is a largely ceremonial position, but the vote for Salih in parliament on Tuesday was a key step towards forming a new government.

    Under Iraq’s constitution, Salih – a 58-year-old, British-educated engineer who has held office in both the Iraqi federal and Kurdish regional governments – had 15 days to invite the nominee of the largest parliamentary bloc to form a government. He chose to do so less than two hours after his election.

    Since Saddam Hussein was toppled in a 2003 US-led invasion, power has been shared among Iraq’s three largest ethnic-sectarian components.

    The most powerful post, that of prime minister, has traditionally been held by a Shia Arab, the speaker of parliament by a Sunni Arab and the presidency by a Kurd.

    A former vice president, oil minister and finance minister, Abdul Mahdi now has 30 days to form a cabinet and present it to parliament for approval.

    He faces the daunting tasks of rebuilding much of the country after four years of war with the armed group Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL, also known as ISIS), healing its ethnic and sectarian tensions, and balancing foreign relations with Iraq’s two major allies – Iran and its rival, the US.

    Abdul Mahdi, 76, is a trained economist who left Iraq in 1969 for exile in France, where he worked for think-tanks and edited magazines in French and Arabic. He is the son of a respected Shia leader who was a minister in the era of Iraq’s monarchy, overthrown in 1958.”

    The US has chosen to not recognize the authority of the Mahdi government and, after the murder of General Soleimani, has refused legal demands of that government to leave Iraq.

    The US demanded that Abadi be named prime minister, who had kept a blind eye on American misconduct during his time in office.

    The US only recognizes Abadi’s authority though he freely accepted Mahdi’s election, congratulating him on his election.”

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