Special Report
January 6, 2020

In-Depth Issues:

Thousands Rally in New York at Solidarity March Against Anti-Semitism - Christina Goldbaum (New York Times)
    Tens of thousands of people, some covered in Israeli flags and others singing Hebrew songs, poured into Lower Manhattan on Sunday in a show of solidarity for New York's Jewish community in the wake of a spate of anti-Semitic attacks in the region in the last month.

Israeli Analyst: Killing Soleimani Comparable to Killing Holocaust Architect Reinhard Heydrich - Benjamin Kerstein (Algemeiner)
    Veteran Israeli analyst Ehud Yaari told Israel's Channel 12: Soleimani's execution "is the most important assassination from the Jewish point of view since the assassination of Reinhard Heydrich, the architect of the Final Solution, in Prague in 1942."
    "This man was the brains and the engine of the Iranian machine that is trying to wrap the Middle East in the arms of an octopus. He was the head of the octopus in this regard."
    "He is the man that conceived the idea of how to slowly tie the noose around Israel's neck, so I say - second only to Heydrich."
    As a high-ranking officer in the SS, Heydrich headed the Wannsee Conference that approved plans for the genocide of the Jews. He was killed by Czech partisans.

Conference of Presidents Lauds Elimination of Soleimani - Jackson Richman (JNS-Algemeiner)
    "The forces who carried out this attack are to be congratulated both in its execution and its impact," Malcolm Hoenlein, executive vice chairman of the Conference of Presidents of Major American Jewish Organizations, told JNS.
    "I think it will rank with the [2011 U.S.] elimination of Osama bin Laden....It was a landmark event."

Iranian General: We Will Attack Israel If Washington Attacks Iran (Press TV-Iran)
    Maj.-Gen. Mohsen Rezaei, a former chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), said Sunday:
    "In response to Trump, who has said that Washington will attack Iran if it takes revenge, be sure that in such a case we will completely level Haifa and key Israeli targets."

U.S. Fast-Response Force Flies to Mideast (AP)
    Hundreds of U.S. soldiers deployed Saturday from Fort Bragg, North Carolina, to Kuwait to serve as reinforcements in the Middle East amid rising tensions.
    3,500 members of the 82nd Airborne Division's quick-deployment brigade, known officially as its Immediate Response Force, will have deployed within a few days.

Soleimani's Successor Will Have to Take into Account the Vulnerability of Iran's Oil Terminals - Zvi Bar'el (Ha'aretz)
    Qasem Soleimani's successor, Esmail Ghaani, who served as second in command of the Quds Force since 1997, must take into account the implications of Iran's response to Soleimani's death.
    Iran's oil terminals in the Persian Gulf, mostly controlled by the Revolutionary Guards, are an easy target for the U.S. Air Force and Navy.
    The bases of the Shi'ite militias in Iraq proved their sensitivity last week to American attacks, while a decision to completely withdraw from the nuclear deal would play right into the hands of Israel and the U.S.

Palestinians in Gaza Mourn Iran's Soleimani (Reuters)
    Hundreds of Palestinians in Gaza on Saturday mourned the death of Iranian Revolutionary Guards commander Qasem Soleimani.
    At a mourners tent erected in Soleimani's honor in the heart of Gaza City, flags of the U.S. and Israel were laid on the ground for visitors to tread on as they entered, passing posters of Soleimani.
    The flags were later set on fire.
    See also Palestinian Factions Denounce Soleimani Killing (Al-Manar [Hizbullah]-Lebanon)
    Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) offered condolences to the Supreme Leader of the Islamic Revolution in Iran on the martyrdom of Qasem Soleimani.
    Abu Hamza, spokesman of the PIJ's Al-Quds Brigades, noted the major role Soleimani played over two decades in offering military support to the Palestinian resistance.
    Hamas also offered condolences to both the Iranian and Iraqi leaderships over the martyrdom of Soleimani and PMF deputy commander Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis.
    See also Hamas, Islamic Jihad Criticized for Mourning "Murderer" Soleimani - Khaled Abu Toameh (Jerusalem Post)
    Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad leaders have been facing sharp criticism from other Arabs for setting up a mourning tent in Gaza for Qasem Soleimani.
    They also accused Hamas and PIJ of "disregarding the blood of thousands of Muslims" killed by Soleimani's force and allies in a number of Arab countries.
    Mohamed Htaibat, a Jordanian professor of Islamic studies, said on Facebook: "Anyone who stands with Iran is standing against Sunnis."
    Palestinian political analyst Ibrahim Hamami posted on Twitter: "Mourning the murderer Qasem Soleimani represents a moral decline, political suicide, and hostility towards our nation."

The Justice of Killing Soleimani - Bret Stephens (New York Times)
    What shouldn't be in doubt is the justice of killing Gen. Qasem Soleimani.
    In 2004, Soleimani began flooding Iraq with lethal roadside bombs which killed hundreds of Americans.
    In 2005, the former Lebanese prime minister, Rafik Hariri, and 21 others were killed in a massive car bombing in Beirut, carried out by Hizbullah. "There were Iranians on the phones directing the attack," a former CIA official said. "If indeed Iran was involved, Soleimani was undoubtedly at the center of this."
    In 2006, Hizbullah operatives abducted and killed Israeli soldiers in an operation that was carried out with Soleimani's help. It sparked a month-long war in which thousands of people were killed.
    There's a great deal more. He was an evil man who died as he had killed so many others.
    See also Qasem Soleimani Helped Shape the Brutality of the Syrian War - Miriam Berger (Washington Post)

News Resources - North America, Europe, and Asia:
  • White House: Eliminating Soleimani Should Have Been Done Long Ago
    President Donald Trump said Saturday: "The United States military successfully executed a flawless precision strike that killed the number one terrorist anywhere in the world, Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him."
        "For years, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and its ruthless Quds Force, under Soleimani's leadership, has targeted, injured and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen....Today, we remember and honor the victims of Soleimani's many atrocities and we take comfort in knowing that his reign of terror is over. Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years. What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved."
        "We took the action last night to stop a war. We did not take the action to start a war....However, the Iranian regime's aggression in the region, including the use of proxy fighters to destabilize its neighbors, must end and it must end now. The future belongs to the people of Iran, those who seek peaceful coexistence and cooperation, not the terrorist warlords, who plunder their nation to finance bloodshed abroad."
        "If Americans anywhere are threatened, we have all of those targets already fully identified, and I am ready and prepared to take whatever action is necessary, and that in particular refers to Iran."  (White House)
        See also Trump Threatens Attacks on 52 Sites If Iran Retaliates for Soleimani Killing - Dennis Romero
    The president tweeted on Saturday: "Let this serve as a WARNING that if Iran strikes any Americans, or American assets, we have targeted 52 Iranian sites (representing the 52 American hostages taken by Iran many years ago), some at a very high level & important to Iran & the Iranian culture, and those targets, and Iran itself, WILL BE HIT VERY FAST AND VERY HARD. The USA wants no more threats!"  (NBC News)
  • Inside Soleimani's Plot to Attack U.S. Forces in Iraq
    In mid-October, Iranian Maj.-Gen. Qasem Soleimani instructed his Iraqi Shi'ite militia allies to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country, as mass protests against Iran's growing influence in Iraq were gaining momentum. Soleimani's plans to attack U.S. forces aimed to provoke a military response that would redirect that rising Iraqi anger toward the U.S.
        Two weeks before the meeting, Soleimani ordered Iranian Revolutionary Guards to move more sophisticated weapons - such as Katyusha rockets and shoulder-fired missiles that could bring down helicopters - into Iraq, militia commanders and Iraqi security sources told Reuters. Soleimani ordered Kataib Hezbollah - a force founded by Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis - to form a new militia group to carry out rocket attacks on Americans housed at Iraqi military bases.
        The U.S. intelligence community had reason to believe that Soleimani was involved in "late stage" planning to strike Americans in multiple countries, including Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, U.S. officials said. On Thursday - the day before the attack that killed Soleimani - U.S. Defense Secretary Mark Esper warned that the U.S. might have to take preemptive action to protect American lives from expected attacks by Iran-backed militias. "The game has changed," he said. (Reuters)
        See also Top U.S. General: Soleimani Was Planning "Campaign" of Violence Against U.S.
    The U.S. had "clear, unambiguous" intelligence that Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani was planning a significant campaign of violence against the U.S. when it decided to strike him, Army General Mark Milley, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said Friday. He said the risk of inaction exceeded the risk that killing him might dramatically escalate tensions with Tehran. (Reuters)
  • Iran Says It No Longer Will Honor Nuclear Enrichment Limits under 2015 Deal - Aresu Eqbali
    Iran said Sunday it no longer will comply with limits on uranium enrichment under its 2015 nuclear pact. The latest step by Iran to scale back compliance with the deal means Tehran could install new centrifuges and further ramp up the purity of the fuel it produces closer to weapons-grade material. That would allow Iran to reduce to less than six months the time needed to amass enough nuclear fuel for one bomb, once it reinstalls a sufficient number of its centrifuges. (Wall Street Journal)
News Resources - Israel and the Mideast:

    The Killing of Gen. Soleimani - Israeli Reactions

  • Netanyahu: U.S. Has the Right of Self-Defense
    Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu said Friday: "Just as Israel has the right of self-defense, the United States has exactly the same right. Qasem Soleimani is responsible for the death of American citizens and many other innocent people. He was planning more such attacks.... Israel stands with the United States in its just struggle for peace, security and self-defense."  (Prime Minister's Office)
  • Israel Views Soleimani Killing - Isabel Kershner
    Gen. Soleimani oversaw an Iranian program to surround Israel with tens of thousands of missiles, according to experts. He was also the architect of Iran's recent entrenchment in Syria and of an ambitious plan to build an Iranian front against Israel across its northern frontier, in the Golan Heights.
        However, Israeli analysts suggested that the prospect that Israel would be the immediate target of Iranian retaliation was slim. "I don't think the Iranians are now looking to bring more enemies into the battlefield," said Maj.-Gen. (ret.) Yaakov Amidror, a former Israeli national security adviser. The removal of Gen. Soleimani was important for Israel, he said, operationally and symbolically. (New York Times)
  • Israeli Analyst: Most Iraqi Shiites Did Not Mourn Soleimani - Benjamin Kerstein
    Veteran Middle East analyst Ehud Yaari noted, "The most important event of the last day following Soleimani's assassination is what did not happen: Baghdad's Shiites did not take to the streets to participate in a funeral procession." This demonstrates the crumbling of Iranian influence over Iraqi Shiites, who "have gone to Baghdad's squares for weeks to protest the government and burn [Iranian Supreme Leader] Khamenei's and Soleimani's pictures."
        "It turns out that most Shiites in Iraq are unwilling to join Soleimani's adulation as a fairy-tale hero and do not want to see Iraq become a battlefield between Iran and the United States." Yaari also pointed out that "most Shiite militias deployed by Iran in Iraq have left the country in recent days for fear of further assassinations by the Americans."
        Khamenei "in no way wants war. He would like to drag the United States into a skirmish in the form of attrition around the presence of 5,000 American troops in Iraq, but he does not want to provoke Tomahawk missiles and the U.S. Air Force. Iran has no answer to U.S. capabilities."
        Avi Melamed, President of Inside the Middle East: Intelligence Perspectives, noted, "Some argue that the assassination of Soleimani will increase tensions in the Middle East. This outlook confuses cause and effect: Tensions in the Middle East have intensified over the past decade because of the violent Iranian aggression which Soleimani spearheaded."  (Algemeiner)
  • Iranians Violated Undeclared Ground Rules with U.S. - Jonathan Spyer
    The U.S. killing of Soleimani occurred after the Iranians departed from a tacit ground rule they had hitherto maintained. As noted by a number of analysts, the Iranian regime was apparently permitted by Washington to strike at U.S. allies with impunity, and could even hit at U.S. hardware, but it would be best advised not to harm U.S. citizens. Iran failed to abide by this rule and set in motion the series of events culminating in the death of Soleimani.
        Iran is physically capable of a response against U.S. forces and allied targets. But if Iran chooses to kill one or a number of U.S. citizens, then the evidence of recent days suggests that the U.S. may well be willing to escalate to a level of confrontation at which the Iranians cannot compete. The writer is director of the Middle East Center for Reporting and Analysis. (Jerusalem Post)
Global Commentary and Think-Tank Analysis:

    The Killing of Gen. Soleimani - U.S. Reactions

  • Taking Out Soleimani Was Morally, Constitutionally and Strategically Correct - Joe Lieberman
    President Trump's order to take out Qasem Soleimani was morally, constitutionally and strategically correct. He was responsible for murdering hundreds of Americans and planning to kill thousands more. No American can dispute that Soleimani created, supported and directed a network of terrorist organizations that spread havoc in the Middle East.
        There are worries that Soleimani's death will provoke a violent response from Iran. Yet if we allow fear of a self-declared enemy like Iran to dictate our actions, we will only encourage them to come after us and our allies more aggressively. It is more likely that his death will diminish the chances of a wider conflict because the demonstration of our willingness to kill him will give Iranian leaders (and probably others like Kim Jong Un) much to fear. The writer was a U.S. senator from Connecticut, 1989-2013. (Wall Street Journal)
  • Gen. Petraeus Says U.S. May Have Helped "Reestablish Deterrence" by Killing Soleimani - Lara Seligman
    Former commander of U.S. forces in Iraq and Afghanistan and former CIA director Gen. (ret.) David Petraeus is keenly familiar with Qasem Soleimani. Soleimani's killing was designed to send a pointed message to the regime that the U.S. will not tolerate continued provocation, Petraeus said.
        "It is impossible to overstate the importance of this particular action. It is more significant than the killing of Osama bin Laden or even the death of [Islamic State leader] al-Baghdadi....The reasoning seems to be to show in the most significant way possible that the U.S. is just not going to allow the continued violence - the rocketing of our bases, the killing of an American contractor, the attacks on shipping, on unarmed drones - without a very significant response."
        "This is a very significant effort to reestablish deterrence, which obviously had not been shored up by the relatively insignificant responses up until now....Yes, they can respond and they can retaliate, and that can lead to further retaliation - and that it is clear now that the administration is willing to take very substantial action. This is a pretty clarifying moment in that regard."  (Foreign Policy)
  • Calm Down: Killing Qasem Soleimani Made Us Safer - Elizabeth Tsurkov
    Killing Qasem Soleimani counterintuitively decreases the threat of an all-out war. Soleimani's importance in projecting Iranian hard power and political influence across the Middle East cannot be understated. He oversaw the establishment, training, funding, command and control of (mostly Shia) militias across the Middle East; he also oversaw assassinations of Iranian regime opponents and attacks targeting civilians (many of them Jewish) in Europe and Latin America, as well as support to groups such as the Houthis in Yemen, Hamas, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad.
        Since the 1979 Islamic Revolution, Iran has been a rogue actor in its relations with the West, establishing militias responsible for kidnapping and killing Westerners, running assassination squads in European cities, and covertly working to develop the capability to assemble nuclear weapons.
        Soleimani's killing may reestablish U.S. deterrence and decrease Iranian adventurism in the region, because the truth is, despite its fiery rhetoric, Iran's leadership knows that a significant escalation on its part could be met with an even more deadly U.S. response - something it can ill afford. It is exactly due to Iran's relative weakness that it relies on non-conventional tools such as creating and supporting non-state armed partners across the region. The writer is a Fellow at the Foreign Policy Research Institute in Philadelphia. (Forward)
  • Targeting Soleimani Was Justified, Legally and Strategically - Andrew C. McCarthy
    When there are forcible threats to the U.S., the president has not merely the power but the obligation to repel them. Iranian Gen. Qasem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Iranian-backed PMF in Iraq, were in the act of making war on the U.S. In late 2019, Muhandis' Hezbollah Brigades, backed by Soleimani, carried out repeated attacks on U.S. coalition forces in Iraq. There were 11 attacks on bases housing U.S. military personnel in the last two months.
        The inconvenient fact is that the revolutionary jihadist regime in Iran has considered itself at war with the U.S. for 40 years. Soleimani was not "assassinated." He was an enemy combatant commander who became a combat casualty because of a righteous responsive strike, conducted while he was in the act of levying war by directing his forces.
        The strategies of Trump's predecessors were to hope that a committed jihadist enemy would come to its senses, hope that it would realize its purported interest in regional stability, and hope that by bribing it with billions of dollars in sanctions relief, ransom, and an industrial-strength nuclear program, we could de-escalate the conflict. The U.S. has demonstrated to the mullahs what can happen when resolve backs our exponentially superior capabilities. Peace through strength is the better plan.
        The writer, a senior fellow at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies, is a former Assistant U.S. Attorney in New York who led the 1995 terrorism prosecution against Sheikh Omar Abdel-Rahman for the 1993 World Trade Center bombing. (The Hill)
  • The Long Battle with Iran - Ryan C. Crocker
    As a young Foreign Service officer who survived the 1983 bombing of the American Embassy in Beirut, I saw how Iran succeeded in forcing the U.S. to withdraw its forces from Lebanon through terrorism. Later, as ambassador in Lebanon, I helped load the remains of two Americans killed by Hizbullah - the Beirut CIA station chief William Buckley, and Marine Lt.-Col. William Higgins - on a helicopter in 1991.
        In Syria, as ambassador from 1998 to 2001, I witnessed the coordination between Syria and Iran in support of Hizbullah. As ambassador to Iraq years later, I stood at ceremonies honoring our service members killed by Shiite militias supported by Gen. Suleimani. So when his death was confirmed, it was a moment of quiet satisfaction for me: A formidable enemy of the U.S. was gone, and he will not be easily replaced. The writer is a former U.S. ambassador to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. (New York Times)
  • The Old Foreign-Policy Rulebook Shielded Bad Actors - Jonathan S. Tobin
    Qasem Soleimani was the mastermind of the world's leading state sponsor of terrorism. No matter how much mayhem he spread, he believed that he was untouchable. And three American administrations run by both Democrats and Republicans validated that belief, forgoing opportunities to kill the man who had the blood of many Americans and countless Syrians, Lebanese, Israelis and others on his hands. But following the orchestration of attacks on American forces in Iraq and an assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad, Soleimani's get-out-of-jail free card given by the international community expired.
        What happened was more than a settling of scores. It proclaimed that the old rules by which Iran had been able to do its worst against the U.S., Israel and the West - never to face any consequences - were no longer valid. The foreign-policy rulebook that had restrained America in the past wound up shielding bad actors like Soleimani.
        Killing Soleimani won't start a war; Iran has been waging a hot war against America and its allies for years. The Soleimani operation makes it clear to Iran's leaders, perhaps for the first time, that the costs of their provocations are now going to be borne by them, and not only their foes. Playing by rules that served the interests of a rogue regime is what endangered American lives and interests by making Iran stronger and feeling less constrained about employing its brutal tactics.
        A world in which the world's leading state sponsor of terror is afraid of the U.S. can't be much worse than one in which the ayatollahs have nothing but contempt for Washington's resolve to defend American interests. (JNS)

  • After years of striding across the Middle East seemingly in command of the region, Gen. Qasem Soleimani, head of Iran's Quds Brigade, was finally killed by American airstrikes early Friday. History will not mourn one of the great mass murderers of our time who was responsible for scores of dead, mostly Arab and American.
  • In the past decade, Soleimani turned terrorism into an effective instrument of Iran's imperial expansion by marshaling a transnational Shia expeditionary force that has prevailed in conflicts across the Middle East. His death will be a blow to the Iranian theocracy but could very likely temper the clerical oligarchs, who tend to retreat in the face of American determination.
  • As Soleimani began expanding Iran's imperial frontiers, he understood that Persians would not be willing to die in distant battlefields for the sake of Arabs, so he focused on recruiting Arabs and Afghans as an auxiliary force. In Iraq, that meant killing and maiming nearly 1,000 American service members. In Syria, that meant enabling President Assad's killing machine.
  • Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei is a cagey leader who did not become one of the longest serving rulers in the Middle East by impetuously going to war with America. The clerical oligarchs respect American determination and understand the imbalance between a superpower and a struggling regional actor. We should not expect Iran to take on a president who just ordered the killing of one of their famed commanders.
  • When Ronald Reagan assumed the presidency, Iran hastily released the American diplomats it had held hostage for 444 days. When George W. Bush's shock and awe campaign quickly displaced the Taliban in Afghanistan and Saddam Hussein in Iraq, Iran responded by suspending its nuclear program.

    The Iranian-born writer is a senior fellow at the Council on Foreign Relations.

        See also Iran Is Losing Its Grip on Iraq - Ray Takeyh (The Hill)