The Sinister Genius of Qasem Soleimani

(Wall Street Journal) Karim Sadjadpour - After the U.S. military campaign to topple the Taliban began in 2003, Iran detained hundreds of al-Qaeda fighters fleeing Afghanistan, including members of Osama bin Laden's family and Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the future leader of al-Qaeda in Iraq. While these Sunni zealots hated Shiite Iran, Soleimani realized they could also be an asset and freed many of them to unleash them against the U.S. By August, Zarqawi and his forces conducted deadly bombings in Iraq against UN headquarters and the Jordanian embassy in Baghdad and a major Shiite shrine in Najaf. By targeting Shiite shrines and civilians, Zarqawi helped to radicalize Iraq's Shiite majority and pushed them closer to Iran and to Soleimani. A former U.S. military intelligence officer who served in Iraq told me, "No one in Iraq will say it publicly, at least not yet, but most Iraqi politicians hated Soleimani. They resented his heavy-handedness, his instructions of what to do and what not to do. They feared his constantly implied threat that he'd have them fired or even assassinated if they didn't toe the line....They're all saying privately: good riddance." The writer is a senior fellow at the Carnegie Endowment for International Peace in Washington.

2020-01-14 00:00:00

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