To be able to make an analysis of the situation, and understand the connections in the Middle East region, two points need to be worked on. First, try to clarify how Major General Soleimani's death occurred, whether it was a single target or a broader action, and the relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia in Iraq. The second, an analysis of the consequences within the very complex chess-game played in the area, where nothing is what it seems. There are several games at once, and there are interests that can either lead to some collaboration, or can unleash some kind of conflict that could escalate.
Three drones or unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) operated only by the U.S. Air Force[i] attacked two vehicles, a Toyota Avalon and a Hyundai Starex minibus, at approximately 00:55 local time in Baghdad on Friday, January 3, 2020. The attack occurred after they left behind a curve that placed them in the vicinity of a cargo terminal. The drones used four high-precision air-to-ground missiles[ii]for the attack. This carried out the mission entrusted to the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), under the orders of President Donald Trump[iii]. The operation is taking place under the watchful eye of Director Gina Haspel from CIA headquarters in Langley, Virginia, and Secretary of Defense Mark Esper from another location. Meanwhile, President Donald Trump was in Florida. In this respect, only Israeli intelligence is aware of what was going to happen, and no one else aside the American or Israeli allies.
This operation began to be monitored from Al Udeid Air Base (Abu Nakhlah Airport), located southwest of Doha (Qatar),[iv]specifically from where the United States Central Command's Advanced Headquarters is located. Intelligence images show two high-ranking figures at Baghdad airport getting into a moving Toyota Avalon. The remaining eight members get on a Hyundai Starex minibus which follows them immediately. SIGINT or signal intelligence specialists work to identify any of the occupants by the mobile phones they carry. This work was in addition to years of mapping and contrasting information on the ground using satellites, information that is cross-referenced with the visual information provided by the operators of the three drones. The work has been particularly intense in the last few days. The traffic is very light, occasional. The Hyundai Starex minibus overtook the Toyota Avalon as the two-vehicle entourage left Baghdad International Airport for the[v] so-called Green Zone[vi], to the residence of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, in the capital of Iraq. Just outside the airport, located 16 kilometers (9.9 miles) west of downtown Baghdad (Baghdad Governorate), the attack took place. All the occupants of the two vehicles were killed, 10 people, including Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani[vii] and the number two of the Iraqi People's Mobilization Units[viii], Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis[ix]. This demonstrated the capacity and experience that the United States has accumulated over two decades in regions such as the Middle East, South Asia and Africa. An operation that, although standardized, does not cease to require a major effort in terms of surveillance, intelligence, recognition, within the reach of very few countries. This knowledge is changing the way war is waged.
Major General Soleimani had landed in the capital of Iraq at 00:32 local time on a flight of the Syrian private airline Cham Wings Airlines[x], coming from Damascus International Airport (Syria)[xi]. As soon as they descended the boarding staircase Soleimani and its four trusted men, they met Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and went directly to the runway without passing through customs. The four soldiers of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard who had accompanied Major General Soleimani at all times were to be killed: Brigadier General Hossein Pourjafari, Colonel Shahrod Mozepharinia, Major Hadi Taremi and Captain Wahid Zamian; and, four other members of the Iraqi People's Mobilization Units accompanying al-Muhandis: Chief of Protocol and Public Relations Muhammed Reza al-Jaberi, Mohammad al-Shibani, Hassan Abdul Hadi and Heydar Ali.
Major General Soleimani had arrived in Damascus by plane on Thursday morning, January 2, 2020. Once there he took a vehicle with tinted windows that took him directly to Beirut. Upon arrival in the Lebanese capital, he had a two-hour meeting with Hezbollah Secretary General Hassan Nasrallah, in which, according to Nasrallah himself, the events of the last few days in Iraq were analyzed. In particular, they talked about the U.S. air strikes on Kateb Hezbollah[xii], and the attack on the U.S. embassy in Iraq. The aim was to improve coordination between the different armed factions that Iran supports in the Middle East and prepare them for an eventual confrontation with the United States[xiii]. Nasrallah also reports that talks were held to seek solutions to frictions between different factions, especially those linked to Nasrallah[xiv]himself.
After that, a vehicle with tinted windows took him directly to Damascus Airport from the Lebanese capital, accompanied at all times by the aforementioned four men of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard of Iran. They parked very close to the boarding stairs of the Airbus A320-200 (YK-BAE) of Cham Wings Airlines flight [xv]6Q501, bound for Baghdad. Neither Soleimani nor any of the four men in his entourage were registered on the passenger list. Soleimani refused to use his private plane, fearing for his life.
INIS agents began their investigation minutes after the attack, closing Baghdad airport and holding all security personnel, police, passport officers and intelligence agents. To this end, the INIS, with the eyes of the region set on Iraqi intelligence, particularly those of Iran or Saudi Arabia, to cite a few of the many, focused their investigation on one evidence: locating the alleged US intelligence informants at the airports of Damascus and Baghdad, and who helped track and determine Soleimani's exact position at any given time. The INIS investigation is led by Falih al-Fayyadh, who coordinates with the General Directorate of Security (إدارة المخابرات العامة), the Syrian civilian intelligence services. The investigation conducted by INIS has strong indications of a spy network within Baghdad airport that leaked information on Soleimani's arrival and details of the convoy, including two security employees at Baghdad airport, and two employees of Cham Wings Airlines (one at Damascus airport, the other working on board the very plane that brought Soleimani to Baghdad on Thursday night)[xvi].
The question why Major General Soleimani was travelling to Baghdad that day arises. The answer is provided by the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr Adil Abdul-Mahdi[xvii]. According to the Iraqi Prime Minister, Major General Soleimani was in Baghdad on a diplomatic mission, and was to meet him a few hours after his arrival in the capital on the morning of 3 January 2020. This would be part of a diplomatic offensive that already has years of efforts by Iraq to lower tensions between Tehran and Riyadh. Soleimani was carrying a response at the highest level from the Iranian government to previous messages from the Saudis, as the[xviii]Prime Minister of Iraq stated in Parliament. The US Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo, responds to all this by saying that it is propaganda, although he does not provide any evidence of this[xix]. Iraq is a place where the clash between the geopolitical forests of Riyadh and the Arab countries of the peninsula, led by Saudi Arabia, clashes with Iran and its proxies, a situation that is repeated in the strategic Yemen[xx]. In this regard, Saudi Arabia reopened its embassy in Baghdad in 2016, after 25 years of absence, and thus began to balance Iran in Iraq after the Second Gulf War and its consequences, in terms of expanding Iranian influence in the area. In particular, the fall of Mosul and ISIS meant a need for change in the agenda of the Saudis in the area, driven also by their inability to resolve a war in Yemen in favor of their proxies and against those of Iran.
The key has been to start a diplomatic activity and certain investments made prudently in the framework of a diplomatic exchange. Riyadh could begin to focus on the use of its economic and cultural/religious capital,[xxi]coupled with the stabilization of relations with Israel, and the search for a truly satisfactory solution in a multi-party negotiation on the question of Jerusalem and Palestine. On the other hand, Riyadh would expand its economic influence towards Egypt and the Eastern Mediterranean within the whole MENA region, together with Israel, through hydrocarbons, natural wealth, key infrastructures and NEOM projects. A key location is the new administrative capital of Egypt called for the time being NAC (New Administrative Capital), built by the Al Sisi Government in the middle of the desert, 60 kilometers from Suez and 45 from Cairo, full of hotels, artificial lakes, an international airport, more than 20 skyscrapers, a park that surpasses New York's Central Park, 2,000 schools, 600 large health facilities, 1,200 mosques and churches and large administrative, financial and diplomatic buildings. The city is designed to accommodate 6.5 million people, which should relieve Cairo and its more than 20 million inhabitants who are crowded into a metropolitan area that includes Giza. The Chinese capital, through the Chinese State Construction and Engineering Company (CSCEC), has been in charge of developing the project in its two thirds, besides being China also in charge of the construction of a train line that a NAC with Cairo.
Both Saudi Arabia and Iran are aware of this, and have been intensifying their contacts by using Iraq as a means of rapprochement, while maintaining their momentum and fighting through proxies in the region. Soleimani and his strong ascendancy in the area, also in Iraq, and Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric of Arab and Iranian origin and[xxii]key to maintaining Iraq's national unity, have had a lot to do with this, avoiding its split into three blocks, which is roughly speaking, would coincide with the three vilayats or "provinces" into which the Ottoman Empire was divided during its occupation of what would later become Iraq, and which would correspond to a Shiite area in Basra, a Sunni area with the axis in Tikrit, and a Kurdish area that would project north towards Mosul/Kirkuk. Thus, in addition to the opening of the Saudi Arabian embassy in Baghdad, a new consulate was opened on 4 April 2019 on the occasion of a visit by seven Saudi Arabian ministers to Baghdad, this being the second Saudi Arabian consulate in Iraq after the one in Basra, opened just a year earlier. Prior to that diplomatic action, King Salman bin Abdelaziz Al Saud donated $1 billion to Iraq to build a sports city in Besmayah (south of Baghdad). A few days later, in April 2019, Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi visited Tehran to meet with President Rohani and Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Abdul-Mahdi then visited Saudi Arabia with a large delegation of businessmen and authorities, meeting with the Saudi King and the Crown Prince, Mohamed bin Salman. According to the Saudi Arabian Crown Prince's office, both countries signed thirteen agreements in areas such as political cooperation, trade and energy, where both countries have a privileged position in oil production within OPEC. The Iraqi Prime Minister mentioned Iraq's intention to maintain relations with the United States, Saudi Arabia, Iran and other countries in the region, and beyond.
Previously, the common border between Iraq and Saudi Arabia was opened in 2017. In fact, 2017 was a year of great interest in Iraq-Saudi relations with the 2018 elections and Iran-Saudi approaches through Iraq in mind. The aforementioned Shiite cleric al-Sadr has been an interesting figure in this regard[xxiii]. In fact, at the height of tension in Al Qatif[xxiv], Muqtada al-Sadr held talks in the aforementioned context of the fall of Mosul as an ISIS fiefdom. Prior to that episode in February 2017, Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir visited Baghdad for the first time in 14 years, following official visits by Iraqis to Saudi Arabia. In June 2017 the then Prime Minister of Iraq, Haidar al-Abadi, visited Saudi Arabia and in July the then Interior Minister, a man close to Iran and a member of the Iraqi People's Mobilization Units, did the same.
Also during July 2017 Field Marshal Abdul Rahman bin Saleh Al-Bunyan, then Chief of Staff of the Saudi Army, was visiting Iraq. This visit resulted in joint work for the shared border, in addition to the exchange of intelligence, the reopening of the border posts that had been closed for 27 years, and the Saudi planes returned to Iraq.
If we look at 2019, in particular at the end of September 2019, we see again the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mr Abdul-Mahdi, visiting the Saudi capital. In statements to Al Jazeera, he said that Saudi Arabia seeks to lower tensions with Iran, in order to avoid any outbreak of open war in the region, which would result in more chaos and destruction, and referred to the conflict in Yemen and the need to resolve it satisfactorily as a prelude to beginning to achieve a stable peace in the region[xxv].
This is precisely one of the keys that is obvious when analysing the events, and it is the obvious connection between the operation that eliminated Major General Soleimani and al-Muhandis, with the failed attack in Yemen on Abdul Reza Shahlai. That operation, which failed in the case of the high-ranking commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard accused of financing militias and planning attacks against the United States and its allies. The Pentagon would target Reza Shahlai to try to avoid his involvement in supporting the struggle of Hutu forces in Yemen against Saudi-backed forces, and would be within the actions of Special Operations forces tracking Iran's movements in Yemen, and the alleged arms smuggling Iran would organize through its networks into the Arab country[xxvi]. The United States has additionally offered a $15 million reward to capture information about Reza Shahlai[xxvii]. Thus, both operations aim at significant change in the Middle East region, and should be seen and analysed together.
At this point, it is necessary to move on, in the following article, to an analysis of the region and its consequences. To this end, the following aspects are being advanced: Iran-United States relations; Iran in the area and its own idiosyncrasy; the Iraqi scenario; the Middle East of variable geopolitics; impact on hydrocarbons; possible scenarios on the horizon of the new American Administration, among other actors.
[i] The General Atomics MQ-9 Reaper or Predator B. The features of the MQ-9 Reaper, a multi-mission UAV, long range, medium flight and remote piloting that can also be used for intelligence gathering, can be consulted at the following USAF link: https://www.af.mil/About-Us/Fact-Sheets/Display/Article/104470/mq-9-reaper/
[ii] The first high-precision air-to-ground missiles were unable to reach the second vehicle, the Toyota Avalon, successfully impacting on the Hyundai Starex minibus. Further shots were required to reach the Toyota Avalon, which followed the Hyundai Starex minibus at a distance of 100 to 120 meters. It took a total of four missile hits. These may be high-precision air-to-ground AGM-114 Hellfire R9X Ninja missiles (or a combination of two R9X Ninja Hellfire and two Hellfire with a warhead). The Hellfire R9X is a CIA request to be used against specific individual targets of Al-Qaeda and ISIS, and within the Intelligence Agency it is known as the "Flying Ginsu". This is an evolution of the Hellfire Romeo that has a kinetic warhead with 6 folding blades, which reduces collateral damage. It has been used to eliminate Jamal Ahmad Mohammad Al Badawi, considered the mastermind of the attack on the US Navy destroyer USS Cole in 2000 while it was anchored in Yemen (Aden), or in the death of Abu Khayr al-Masri, considered a member of al-Qaeda's leadership; and, with Major General Soleimani, it has claimed the ninth death toll. Each of the MQ-9 Reapers was equipped with four high-precision Hellfire air-to-ground missiles.
As for the Hellfire R9X you can check the following links:
[iii] In June, by presidential directive, President Donald Trump authorized the assassination of Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani as long as Iranian activity in Iraq increased to the point of killing an American. However, President Donald Trump reserved final approval of any specific operation to kill Soleimani. Thus, Soleimani's death was among the different options the military presented to the president to respond to an attack in Iraq, and of which Iran was singled out, the end result of which was the death of a U.S. defense contractor, and four U.S. service members injured. The momentum that led to this presidential directive starts with the downing of a UAV on 20 June 2019. The Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (سپاه پاسداران انقلاب اسلامی), or Pasdaran, shot down a Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk BAMS-D surveillance drone with an Iranian-made Raad SAM surface-to-air missile over the Strait of Hormuz. Both Iran and the U.S. have presented different locations on the site where the UAV was shot down. For the Americans it was in international airspace, for the Iranians the UAV entered Iranian airspace.
[iv] Qatar is a key strategic point for the geopolitics and influence of the United States in the region. Specifically, Al Udeid Air Force Base. Although the ownership of the base is Qatari, it is shared by the Qatar Emiri Air Force, the United States Air Force and the Royal Air Force. It is the headquarters of the Advanced Headquarters of the United States Central Command, the Air Force Headquarters of the above mentioned Command, the 379th Air Expeditionary Wing of the USAF, the 83rd Expeditionary Air Group of the Royal Air Force and the Transport Wing and 3rd Rotary Wing of the Qatar Emiri Air Force. Qatar is home to the largest US military airbase in the Middle East, where more than 11,000 troops have been deployed since at least 2017 and more than 100 aircraft of all types are operating, according to Al Jazeera itself (https://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/06/mystified-gulf-states-position-qatar-170620185107951.html). In addition, Qatar represents the third largest natural gas reserve in the world with an area of 11.586 square kilometers. It is precisely for this reason that the Defense and Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) issued in 2019 the corresponding certification for the Congress that allows the export (includes vision equipment, alert, communications, associated logistics, pilot and mechanic training; and, integrated armament consisting of the Alliant Techsystems M230 30mm cannon, 2,500 AGM-114R Hellfire II counter-tank missiles, and all this accompanied by the sale of 24 AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters for a total of 3 billion dollars. The AH-64E is the most updated version of that type of combat and attack helicopter, which includes the M230 pole-fire system with radar guidance, higher power engines of the General Electric T700-GE-701D type, improved transmission and rotor blades with composite materials, capable of resisting the impact of 23 mm ammunition). The DSCA insists that the 24 AH-64E Apache Longbow attack helicopters are key to "supporting U.S. foreign and national security policy by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that remains a major force for political and economic progress in the Middle East. These helicopters will allow the operation of counter-tank missions, close air support and armed reconnaissance, in addition to integrating these Qatari units with those of the US Army in training exercises whose purpose is none other than that stated in the DSCA document, "it will contribute to regional security and interoperability" (Qatar_19-14 "This proposed sale will support the foreign policy and national security of the United States by helping to improve the security of a friendly country that continues to be an important force for political and economic progress in the Middle East. Qatar is host to the U.S. Central Command forces and serves as a critical forward-deployed location in the region. The acquisition of these helicopters will allow for integration with U.S. forces for training exercises, which contributes to regional security and interoperability. ”. The full document can be found at the following link: https://dsca.mil/sites/default/files/mas/qatar_19-14_0.pdf ). Interested readers may consult the Congressional Research Service, Qatar: Background and U.S. Relations, by Christopher M. Blanchard, dated 4 November 2014: https://fas.org/sgp/crs/mideast/RL31718.pdf).
[v] Baghdad International Airport has had strong security protocols in place since 2003. Its security is managed by the British company G4S, which acts under the supervision of the Iraqi national security and intelligence services, INIS (Iraqi National Intelligence Service or جهاز المخابرات الوطني العراقي). It is the Iraqi counter-terrorism forces acting in cooperation with the United States that have the mission of securing the perimeter of the airport facilities, its airspace and the roads leading to it.
For example, security protocols require that any passenger entering and leaving the airport must pass through several checkpoints that exist along 10 kilometres of the road linking it to Abbas bin Firnas Square, the last point that personal cars and exit corridors can reach. If they are special staff or officials with special escorts, they may travel on VIP roads, which require only that they report to a certain checkpoint the identity of the travellers and the physical and registration details of the vehicles. Any information collected at this point is shared with airport security, homeland security, intelligence and G4S.
[vi] Green Zone is a military expression that determines the safest zone in Baghdad after the 2003 invasion. It was originally the area for the villas of the top officials of the Iraqi regime, as well as several ministries and a number of palaces of Saddam Hussein and his family. Following the transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqis, several of the facilities in the Green Zone have been used to house the new government, despite having several bases for Westerners, whether civilian or military or private contractors. The United States Embassy is located in this area overlooking the Tigris River.
[vii] It was not the first time that the death of Major General Soleimani had been mentioned; for example, his death was announced in a plane crash in 2006, where other officers were killed in north-western Iran; or in 2012 as a result of a bombing in Damascus that killed several people close to Bashar Assad's circles. Also in 2015 there was talk of his death in Aleppo (Syria), during fighting.
In this regard, to know the profile of Major General Soleimani, it is highly recommended to read the article by Dexter Filkins, "The Shadow Commander", published in The New Yorker on September 23, 2013, and which can be found here:
[viii] The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) or Popular Mobilization Units (الحشد الشعبي: الحشد الشعبي) are a coalition of paramilitary character that groups around 40 Iraqi militias, of great majority Shiite, but also have presence of Sunnis, Christians and Yazidis (see the following documents: https://carnegie-mec.org/2017/04/28/popular-mobilization-forces-and-iraq-s-future-pub-68810 and https://www.economist.com/middle-east-and-africa/2015/05/23/the-caliphate-strikes-back) Formed during the deployment against ISIS by the union of pre-existing militias of these religious groups within the legal framework provided by the Iraqi Ministry of Interior from June 15, 2014 called "People's Mobilization Committee", which collected the fatwa of Ali al-Sistani, Iraqi Grand Ayatollah, on "The Necessary Jihad", dated June 13, which called for the defense of the cities of Iraq before ISIS, particularly the administrative capital, Baghdad; and, launch an offensive against ISIS after its conquest of Mosul on June 10, 2014. However, Nibras Kazimi, Iraqi academic and visiting professor at the Hudson Institute, presents a different version of the facts, surely more adjusted to the true origin of these units, where the role of Major General Soleimani in their creation, the state of the Iraqi army in 2014 and its deficiencies in fighting are evident (see Nibras Kazimi's blog: https://talisman-gate.com/2016/07/01/the-origins-of-the-pmus/; and also the contribution of Fanar Haddad at https://tcf.org/content/report/understanding-iraqs-hashd-al-shabi/?agreed=1). They are formally chaired by Falih Fisal Fahad Alfayyadh (who is also the president and founder of the Ataa Movement, as well as serving as an advisor to the National Council in the government of Iraq), and by the late Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. As units they served in Iraq, and in Syria where they were supported by Iran, Russia and the Government of Syria. They have received training, arming and advice from the United States, Iran and Turkey (with the Shiite Turkmen component joining the Sunni component of that ethnic group that joined ISIS in Iraqi Kurdistan, as well as gaining greater autonomy for Iraqi Kurdistan, according to the aforementioned document from The Carnegie Foundation by Faleh A. Jabar and Renad Mansour). They have come to play a role in the fight against ISIS by employing psychological warfare procedures that have counteracted those of ISIS, as Mustafa al-Kadhimi notes. SEE:
[x] According to CIA intelligence sources in Damascus and Baghdad, and with the help of Israeli intelligence, which confirmed the information obtained. That is precisely why Benjamin Netanyahu made a statement at Ben Gurion International Airport before leaving for Greece on an official trip, in which he said that "very, very dramatic things are happening in the region", and that "we are alert and monitoring the situation. We remain in continuous contact with our great friend America, including my conversation yesterday afternoon. For more information, please consult the following link: https://www.timesofisrael.com/israeli-intel-helped-us-carry-out-strike-that-killed-irans-soleimani-report/
[xi] This is Cham Wings Airlines flight 6Q501, covering the route DAM-BGW. It is an A320-200 (YK-BAE), and covers the 717 kilometres of that route in about one hour and five minutes. This Thursday flight has a weekly frequency, departing from Damascus at 20:20 local time and arriving in Baghdad at 22:50 local time (it should be noted that the time difference between Damascus and Baghdad is one hour more for the Iraqi capital). On Thursday, January 2, 2020, the flight was delayed until 10:28 p.m. Damascus time. That means it took two hours and eight minutes.
[xii] Kateb Hezbollah or KH (كتائب حزب الله, Party of God Brigades) officially called the Islamic Resistance Movement of Iraq, is an Iraqi Shiite paramilitary group founded by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis to confront U.S. troops in the Second Gulf War (2003). Its founders come from the political party Badr Organization (منظمة بدر Full Moon Organization), which is currently headed by Hadi Al-Amiri, and as such, today they are within the Fatah Coalition (ائتلاف الفتح "The Conquest"), a coalition in which the main weight is held by the groups that were encompassed within the People's Mobilization Units that fought against ISIS alongside the Iraqi army between 2014 and 2017. Within the electoral alliance are the already mentioned Badr Organization, Asa'ib Ahl al-Haq (عصائب أهل الحق, "League of the Righteous"), Kateb Hezbollah and Kateb al-Iman Ali (كتائب الإمام علي Magnet Ali Brigades). Since the elections for the fourth legislature on 12 May 2018, they have had 48 seats in the Council of Representatives, and are the second largest political force after the Sadrist-Muqtada al-Sadr coalition, which has 54 seats.
[xiii] In mid-October, Major General Soleimani had held a meeting with his allies from the Shiite militias in Iraq in a villa on the banks of the Tigris River overlooking the fortified American embassy complex in Baghdad. This was a strategic session in which Iran's allies in Iraq were instructed to prepare a campaign to intensify pressure on US targets in the area using instructions and weapons provided by Iran. The context of the moment saw a growing wave of mass protests against Iran's influence in Iraq; surely Iran felt that these movements were the result of American efforts. The U.S. is increasingly concerned about Iran's influence over the ruling elite in Iraq, who have been harassed over months by protesters who accuse the government of enriching itself and serving the interests of foreign powers, especially Iran, while Iraqis suffer the consequences of years of disaster: poverty, unemployment, or lack of access to basic services. This has resulted in the fall of the Iraqi Prime Minister, who is in an interim situation.
Soleimani's proposal is simple, but effective, given the mentality of the local people: attacking American forces creates a tension that, given the American character, will end up provoking a disproportionate response. The key is that it be at some point qualified as "military," to redirect all those forces, tensions and synergies toward the United States, and to bring about unity around Iran. Two weeks before the October meeting, Soleimani ordered the Iranian Revolutionary Guard to move more sophisticated weapons, such as Katyusha rockets and shoulder missiles that could shoot down helicopters, into Iraq through two border crossings. Soleimani told the commanders gathered in Baghdad that they had to form a new group of low-profile paramilitary militia, unknown to the U.S., who would carry out rocket attacks against Americans housed in Iraqi military bases. He ordered Kateb Hezbollah, a force founded by Muhandis and trained in Iran, to take charge of the implementation and supervision of the new plan. Prior to the attacks, the U.S. intelligence community was adamant that Soleimani was somehow involved in "late stage" planning to attack Americans in several countries in the region, certainly in Iraq, but also in Syria and Lebanon. Soleimani chose Kateb Hezbollah to lead the attacks against U.S. forces in the region because she has the ability to use drones to gather intelligence and define targets for Katyusha rocket attacks. Among the weapons released to the Iraqi militia allies last fall was a drone that Iran had developed and that would seem to have the ability to leave no mark on radar systems. SEE: https://www.reuters.com/article/us-iraq-security-soleimani-insight/inside-the-plot-by-irans-soleimani-to-attack-u-s-forces-in-iraq-idUSKBN1Z301Z
[xiv] To follow the events Middle East Eye publishes an article from Baghdad by Suad al-Salhy: https://www.middleeasteye.net/news/tracked-targeted-killed-qassem-soleimanis-final-hours
[xv] Airline subject to U.S. sanctions since 2016 and accused of transporting allegedly pro-Syrian regime fighters, as well as assisting Syrian military intelligence in transporting weapons and equipment. In 2018, the involvement of Cham Wings Airlines in sending Russian private military contractors on clandestine flights to Damascus and Latakia, a city with a Russian base, was investigated. Maybe that's why Soleimani chose that airline. SEE: https://www.reuters.com/investigates/special-report/russia-flights/
[xvii] The profile of the Prime Minister of Iraq is very interesting from several points of view. He is elected by the Council of Representatives, as is the President. Mr. Adil Abdul-Mahdi took office on 25 October 2018. During the 1970s he was a member of the Iraqi Communist Party, which currently has two members in the Council of Representatives and belongs to the Sadrist-Muqtada al-Sadr coalition. Mr. Abdul-Mahdi was a member of ASII (Islamic Supreme Assembly of Iraq or المجلس الأعلى الإسلامي العراقي) between 1982 and 2017, a party that represents the interests of the Shiite Arabs, the majority ethnic and religious group within the country's population, and which between 1980 and 1988, During the Iran-Iraq War, it received Iranian support to form a militia to fight Saddam Hussein, called the Badr Brigades, which came to form an Army Corps (an infantry division, an artillery division, an armored division and a unit using urban and rural guerrilla tactics). Since 2017 Mr. Abdul-Mahdi is independent. He has served as Minister of Oil (2014-2016), Vice President of Iraq (2005-2011) and Minister of Finance (2004-2005). Trained at the University of Baghdad in Economics in 1963, Master in Political Science in Paris in 1969 at the IIAP (Institut international d'administration publique), in 1972 he obtained a second Master's degree at the University of Poitiers studying political economy. She got her PhD in economics a little later. Adil Abdul-Mahdi, who left Iraq because of ideological differences after joining the Baath party, and of which he was a member until 1964. He was eventually retaliated against and released in February 1963 during the Baathist revolution, and became vice president of the Iraqi National Student Union. He exiled himself to France after distancing himself from the Baath party's positions. Contributing to this is the fact that he is French-speaking, having studied at the Jesuit school in Baghdad. Once in France he was in charge of the Institut Français des Études Islamiques. Father of four children, all of them with French citizenship, it is in France where he receives the communist cultural influence of Maoist tendency, emphasizing in that Marxist current in France the figure of Charles Bettelheim, or the Maoist phase of the French-Egyptian Samir Amin. However, he will renounce such approaches influenced, in part, by the cycle opened by the arrival of Ayatollah Khomeini in Neauphle-le-château, the overthrow of the Shah and the establishment of the theocratic regime; but also in part because the Communist Party of Iraq allies itself with the Baath Party. As a result of the demonstrations that have been taking place all over Iraq since 1 October 2019, leaving around 100 dead and 3,000 wounded, and which in part are mainly directed at him, a government crisis has begun. Muqtada al-Sadr, a Shiite cleric linked to the first political force, calls for the resignation of the government and an advance of legislative elections. By 29 October both Hadi al-Amiri, as a leading member of the United Iraqi Alliance (a force representing the Shiite parties), and Muqtada al-Sadr withdraw their support Adil Abdul-Mahdi. On 29th November 2019 the Prime Minister announced his resignation which was accepted by the Council of Representatives on 1st December. However, he remains in office on an interim basis until a new Prime Minister is elected who can muster the appropriate majorities; or, an early legislative election is forced, which will result in the Council of Representatives leaving choosing a new Prime Minister. More about Mr. Abdul-Mahdi can be found at the following link: https://eng.majalla.com/node/47586/adil-adbul-mahdi-iraq%E2%80%99s-new-prime-minister
[xviii] Read the analysis that Kim Sengupta makes on this subject, for example:
[xx] This is a war between proxies that began in 1979, with the Islamic revolution in Iran, between Saudi Arabia and Iran. And that it has had several confrontations based on two religious models, the Dodecamano Shiism of Iran and the Wahhabi Sunnism of Saudi Arabia. It has been fought in such scenarios as the Middle East, Africa, Central Asia, South Asia and the Caucasus. In particular in Syria, Yemen, Iraq in case of civil conflicts; but also in disputes in a broader framework in Bahrain, Lebanon, Qatar, Pakistan, Afghanistan, Nigeria and Morocco. It has often been described as a Cold War that has moved along axes as varied as ideology, in its principle (Iran within the sphere of Soviet socialism, Saudi Arabia within the sphere of US-led interests), but has also marked other geopolitical aspects, including some of an economic nature to others of sectarian religious influence, all in pursuit of regional hegemony. The United States supports Saudi Arabia and its allies, just as Russia and China support Iran, although with a certain tendency to be nuanced over time.
[xxi] Another tool that Saudi Arabia is using is the SAUDI AID Platform, which serves to provide development and humanitarian aid.
[xxii] Muqtada al Sadr has both Iraqi and Lebanese descent, as well as Iranian. Great-grandson of Ayatollah Sayyid Hussein Ishmael al-Sadr, fourth son of the Iraqi Grand Ayatollah Mohamed Mohamed Sadeq al-Sadr, son-in-law of Ayatollah Baqir al-Sadr.
[xxiii] The strange visit that Muqtada al-Sadr made to Saudi Arabia at the invitation of the Saudis, and which was echoed by the Qatari Al Jazeera network, was very interesting in this regard:
[xxiv] Between 2017-2019 there has been a conflict in the region of Qatif, in Saudi Arabia's Eastern Province, which has pitted the government against Shiite militants. It started after a three-year-old boy and a young Pakistani man were shot dead. This led the Saudi authorities to erect barricades in Awamiyah and attempt to raze the residential area of al-Musawara
(http://english.alarabiya.net/en/News/gulf/2017/05/12/-Saudi-Two-killed-after-terror-shoot-out-in-Qutaif.html). This is due to the fact that Dodecamano Shiism has a strong presence in the area, the same as that practiced mostly in Iran, among other countries. In contrast, Saudi Arabia is a stronghold of Wahhabi Sunni Islam. In this regard, the vision of such a trend is very clear regarding Shiism. Thus, in 1988 Abdul-Aziz ibn Baz, the leading religious voice in Saudi Arabia at the time, called the Shiites apostates. Abdul-Rahman al-Jibrin, a member of Ulama's High Council, showed unambiguous tolerance for the killing of Shias. Human Rights Watch in 2009 explained in a report that Shias in the country face discrimination in religious, educational, access to justice, and employment issues. Even several voices have spoken openly of religious apartheid. The interested reader can read the following links:
[xxvi] VER: https://www.washingtonpost.com/world/national-security/on-the-day-us-forces-killed-soleimani-they-launched-another-secret-operation-targeting-a-senior-iranian-official-in-yemen/2020/01/10/60f86dbc-3245-11ea-898f-eb846b7e9feb_story.html?