Killing Sulaimani- How the Butcher of the People Became an Anti-Imperialist Hero

By: Hawzhin Azeez


We live in a world where we often forget that multiple truths can co-exist at the same time. In an era of media conglomerates that regurgitate the same pro-war slogans and headlines, and a time where the failures of the Left are stark and vast, the truth is often reduced to a simplistic, Manichaean duality of black/white, either/or, US/Iran perspective. Anti-imperialists who have long supported the brutality of the Assad regime in the name of Left-Leaning ideological praxis are rabidly defending another brutal, violent regime- Iran- without any regard for historical facts and realities; without any regard for the reality of the lives of millions of Iranians terrorized, violated and oppressed into silence; without any regard for the daily reality of the oppressed living under a brutal dictatorship who is only second to China in its execution of dissidents, artists, feminists, and human rights activists. Yet, anti-US imperialists have turned Sulaimani into a heroic, stoic figure, dripping with charisma and a quite self-assurance- a hero who fought valiantly against ISIS and saved the Iranian people- in direct contrast to Trump’s vivid incoherence and recklessness. Since when did anti-imperialism mean being avid supporters of evil dictators rather than the oppressed and the colonized?

Here are some basic truths about the current US-Iran situation: 

1) Sulaimani was a butcher and an instrument of Iranian proxy violence terrorizing millions in Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen, etc. One of his main roles was to supply Hezbollah with a constant supply of missiles and rockets, while also quietly deploying 50,000 Iranian military to Syria in support of the brutal Assad regime. He was instrumental in the ongoing tragedy in Yemen though Iran’s direct support for the Houthis. His role in preventing ISIS from entering Iran can be largely attributed to the Sunni-Shia divide (ISIS is Sunni, Iran an avid Shia regime). His role in fighting ISIS in Syria had more to do with supporting the Assad regime and ending a rival Sunni group that was directly treating its own regional hegemony; rather than Sulaimani being concerned about peace and the safety of the ordinary people. As he engaged in these foreign measures, he was the leader of the notorious Quds forces terrorizing, executing, spying and kidnapping pro-democracy, women’s rights and human rights forces inside Iran.

Hundreds of thousands have died as a result of Sulaimani’s role carrying out Iran’s regional objectives. His involvement in these countries had a direct impact on the democratic aspirations of the Kurds, Syrians, Iranians and other oppressed minorities in the region.

2) Iran is a very bad regime. The only group of Iranians truly mourning Sulaimani’s execution are conservative Iranians allied with the Mullah’s running the regime. Yes, Sulaimani represented Iranian nationalism but in a very specific, narrow mold that conformed to the Ayatolah’s vision of ‘Iran’. Most Iranians, Iraqis, and Syrians are quietly if not openly (albeit wearily) celebrating Sulaimani’s death. They also know that killing a symbolic figurehead- who is already replaced by Brigadier General Esmail Ghanni, an even more conservative and notorious figure by the Iranian regime- does not end a policy implemented and thoroughly propagated by the Ayatollah’s.

3) The US is a very bad regime with an unfortunately short memory and inability to utilize lessons learned from past cases by starting conventional wars though direct interventions, invasions or reckless policies such as an assassination of the second most brutal butcher within the notorious Iranian security forces.

Iran is admittedly far more measured and restrained in its response not because it shows a combatively greater level of respect for the terrors of war and respects the lives of its own citizens; but rather using its Soft-Power through economic, political or military means it carefully implements its policies. It is measured. It is careful to use its proxies to clandestinely, covertly implement its vast regional aspirations and agendas. It’s one and only loyalty is in maintaining its one continuity, while entrenching its objectives of entrenching Shia-Sunni divisions. There is a unity, a coherence to Iranian foreign policy and its implementation of soft power- especially relative to the recent incoherence in US foreign policy under Trump. This is why a recent report by the International Institute for Strategic Studies’ indicated that Iran is the greatest influencer in the region. This is why Iran has yet to respond in the same rash, reckless manner that Trump has in executing Sulaimani.

Finally, the ordinary citizens of the Middle East, especially Iran and Iraq, do not want a war with the US. They want removal of the Ayatollah regime which continues to terrorize them and influence their daily realities with its own security and national self-interests but not in the same manner that Saddam was removed in 2003. This was an invasion that resulted in the failure of Iraq as a state, the rise of ISIS and the incomprehensible level of violence that occurred as a result, the Yazidi genocide, the rise of the Iranian backed Hshed al-Shahbi forces and more. No sane person wants war. No democracy-loving person wants war with Iran. Likewise, sanctions will only impose more pressure on the already suffering people of Iran who are struggling through an economic crisis. Regime change must occur internally, organically and as a result of the voices and actions of the people of Iran. Anything else will smack of interventionism and imperialism- and will never be viewed as legitimate.

Here are some final basic truths: You can cheer the end of Sulaimani and still be anti-war. You can condemn the way Sulaimani was executed but still be relieved that he is no longer around to terrorize people. You can be anti-US imperialism and anti-Iranian dictatorship and brutality. Being anti-US imperialism, being anti-Trump’s reckless disregard for humanity does not mean that you should make Sulaimani a symbol of freedom, or Leftist ideology. Sulamani was a butcher. Trump is a dangerous megalomaniac. The Ayatollah’s are just as guilty, dripping with the blood of millions across the region funding terrorist groups and proxy wars. Let Sulaimani die the butcher he was, with a fitting illegal end- the same he dished out to thousands, without turning him into an anti-imperialist hero of the people- and by extension justifying the Iranian regime. The only loyalty you should have should be for the ordinary people of Iran, Iraq and the region. It is 2020, and it is about time we started viewing such issues in all their complexities, realizing that multiple truths can co-exist and that a simplistic analysis serves no one but those hungering for war.

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