So, you do not believe the United States when they say Suleimani has always been an enemy? Well yes, he was a surprisingly important operative in the region, carrying out important strategic objectives for the U.S.! Don’t believe me?
Here are the facts:
In the chaotic days after the attacks of September 11th, Ryan Crocker, then a senior State Department official, flew discreetly to Geneva to meet a group of Iranian diplomats. “I’d fly out on a Friday and then back on Sunday, so nobody in the office knew where I’d been,” Crocker told me. “We’d stay up all night in those meetings.” It seemed clear to Crocker that the Iranians were answering to Suleimani, whom they referred to as “Haji Qassem,” and that they were eager to help the United States destroy their mutual enemy, the Taliban. Although the United States and Iran broke off diplomatic relations in 1980, after American diplomats in Tehran were taken hostage, Crocker wasn’t surprised to find that Suleimani was flexible. “You don’t live through eight years of brutal war without being pretty pragmatic,” he said. Sometimes Suleimani passed messages to Crocker, but he avoided putting anything in writing. “Haji Qassem’s way too smart for that,” Crocker said. “He’s not going to leave paper trails for the Americans.”
Before the bombing began, Crocker sensed that the Iranians were growing impatient with the Bush Administration, thinking that it was taking too long to attack the Taliban. At a meeting in early October 2001, the lead Iranian negotiator stood up and slammed a sheaf of papers on the table. “If you guys don’t stop building these fairy-tale governments in the sky, and actually start doing some shooting on the ground, none of this is ever going to happen!” he shouted. “When you’re ready to talk about serious fighting, you know where to find me.” He stomped out of the room. “It was a great moment,” Crocker said.
The cooperation between the two countries lasted through the initial phase of the war. At one point, the lead negotiator handed Crocker a map detailing the disposition of Taliban forces. “Here’s our advice: hit them here first, and then hit them over here. And here’s the logic.” Stunned, Crocker asked, “Can I take notes?” The negotiator replied, “You can keep the map.” The flow of information went both ways. On one occasion, Crocker said, he gave his counterparts the location of an Al Qaeda facilitator living in the eastern city of Mashhad. The Iranians detained him and brought him to Afghanistan’s new leaders, who, Crocker believes, turned him over to the U.S. The negotiator told Crocker, “Haji Qassem is very pleased with our cooperation.”
Iran was crucial to enabling a successful US invasion of Afghanistan after 9/11; and Suleimani was Iran’s principal contact with the U.S.!
Iraq War and General Petreus:
The U.S. shattered Iraq and ultimately walked away. It was Iran that ended up figuring out what to do with the pieces. Iran played a critical role after the war. The commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani, played key roles in negotiations to stabilize Iraq.
Right after the war, Iran supplied critical commodities to Iraq – like kerosene for heating in the winter, and cement for reconstruction. And this led to a massive growth in trade and exports of Iranian good since. 2003. The trade balance has been almost entirely one-sided. “Iran’s exports to Iraq have doubled 17 times over the past decade,” Iran’s trade attaché in Iraq, Mohammad Rezazadeh, said in December 2017. “Iraq doesn’t have anything to offer Iran,” Vahid Gachi, an Iranian official in charge of a border crossing, said in 2017. “Except for oil, Iraq relies on Iran for everything.” Iran’s primary exports have been foodstuffs, liquid fuel, petrochemicals, construction materials, household appliances, and cars.
In March 2018, Iran announced it was ready to open a $3 billion credit line to help with Iraq’s reconstruction. Tehran has shown special interest in infrastructure. Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri stressed the importance of connecting the countries’ rail networks to “give Iraq access to Central Asia and China and extend Iran’s railway all the way to the Mediterranean Sea.”
Iran has invested heavily in tourist facilities and infrastructure for pilgrims. In 2014, Soleimani reportedly ordered the construction of a road in Diyala province that would shorten the journey for Shiite pilgrims going to the Golden Dome Mosque in Samarra. The Badr Organization supervised the construction. That road and others through Diyala were also helpful for supplying militias fighting ISIS. They secured Iran’s land connection to Syria and Lebanon.
“Religious tourism is booming in Iraq, especially in Najaf and Karbala, where millions of Shia pilgrims visit the holy sites every year,” analysts at Euromonitor said. “The number of pilgrims to these areas is expected to rise to 7 million to 10 million visitors annually, partly boosted by the introduction of more flights. “As soon as the old regime ended, Shiite travelers were able to practice their faith in two holy Shiite cities, Najaf and Karbala; these two continue to welcome many Shiite arrivals every year, mainly from Iran and the Lebanon.” Iraqi state media reported 22 million foreign religious tourists passed through Iraq for the 2015 pilgrimage, making it the greatest annual gathering of people in the country. Numbers have been rising year on year is expected to be greater yet. Iran’s tourists have been a boon for war starved Iraqis.
Without doubt, Suleimani was crucial to the stabilization of Iraq. He also had deep contacts with US operations in the region.
In early 2008, during a series of battles between the US and Iraqi army on one side and the Shia militias on the other, Petraeus was handed a phone with a text message from the Iranian general who had by then become his nemesis.
The message came from the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds Force, Qassem Suleimani, and was conveyed by a senior Iraqi leader. It read: “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.” Suleimani proceeded to persuade both sides to calm down.
Without Iran, Iraqis would be at war with each other, starving and suffering. Suleimani’s actions have been critical to Iraqi survival. And this is clearly in US interests given how they left Iraq after the war.
After ISIS swept across northern Iraq in 2014, Iran and its Iraqi allies provided critical support to the government when the army collapsed. “We never forget the Islamic Republic of Iran’s valuable military and humanitarian aid to Iraq in the fight against the Daesh [ISIS] terrorist group,” Iraqi President and veteran Kurdish politician Fuad Masum told Ali Akbar Velayati, the supreme leader’s top advisor on foreign affairs, in February 2018.
In 2014, dozens of militias—old and new—came together under the umbrella of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). As of early 2018, the PMF was estimated to have between 100,000 and 150,000 fighters in more than 60 brigades.
“ISIS was this negative evil thing, and Suleimani got the role of being the white knight against it,” said US General Stanley McChrystal. “Now, to a certain degree, he comes out like an American ally …”
Peshmerga commanders said that they were put in an awkward position when they found themselves inundated with arms from both sides. “Our people were asking which bullets are better – American or Iranian?” said Mohammad Haji Mahmoud, a well-known commander. “We didn’t want to publicize the Iranian ammunition so the coalition wouldn’t find out we were using it.”
While the West was slow to react, Suleimani, quickly recognized the threat ISIS posed to Iran, supplied planeloads of weapons, both to the hard-pressed Kurdish Peshmerga holding the line and to the Iraqi Shia militias who joined the battle.
“We asked for Iran’s help, and Iran stood by us, for which we are very thankful,” said former Iraqi prime minister Nouri al-Maliki. Suleimani was openly seen on the battlefield, directing operations. He came out of the shadows, becoming a star on social media as his selfies with fighters spread across the region.
It was Suleimani who played a crucial role in thwarting ISIS.
So, you believe me now when I say that for the United States Suleimani was never the enemy? This makes Trump actions yesterday perplexing. You must wonder who he was listening to.