[ANALYSIS] General Qasem Soleimani's asymmetrical legacy
The American assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani at the start of 2020 is viewed by many worldwide as an act of war by Washington against Tehran. America’s targeted killing of Iran’s top general and master strategist shows how US foreign policy toward Iran has now reached a nadir of exasperation and desperation with its drone attack in Baghdad last January 3.
In fact, such an act only reveals that the US has once again failed to block and roll back Tehran’s defensive regional strategy aimed at countering America’s aggressive encirclement of Iran since 1980. (READ: Killing Soleimani: Trump acted where other U.S. leaders saw big risks)
The Trump administration’s killing of Soleimani has merely escalated the decades-long US-Iran war to an even graver level. Clearly, any further spiral of this historic conflict can readily trigger a potentially broader war on a global scale involving the world’s other leading powers, especially Russia and China.
This remains obvious given the numerous and overlapping geopolitical factors concerning this part of the world, such as oil plus other energy sources, raw strategic minerals, overland access routes across Asia leading to southern Europe, the eastern Mediterranean Sea region, and the Persian Gulf area linked to the larger Arabian Sea and Indian Ocean sea lines of communication.
Such factors also include many competing national and ethnic communities with past and/or contemporary links to the protagonist states. In this greater context, Iran geographically occupies a central position from which it can effectively influence key economic, political, military, and diplomatic issues and outcomes.
It is on the latter focal point with which the US remains perturbed. This is because America has never been able to accept the product of one of Iran’s greatest foreign policy triumphs since the rise of the Islamic Republic of Iran (IRI) in February 1979. And the sharply defining character of this remarkable feat – a direct challenge to the hegemonic agenda of both the US and Israel for dominance over the region – is still being sharpened through the continuing advances of Tehran’s external policy forays beyond her immediate frontier-zone.
As the longtime commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) for more than two decades, General Soleimani played a vitally leading role in the crafting and shaping of Iranian foreign and security policy influencing his country’s immediate regional strategic environment. In coordination with other top Iranian leaders, he was able to effectively apply principal aspects of Iran’s foreign policy doctrine to attain an advantageous regional equilibrium favorable to the current successor of the ancient Persian Empire.
Fundamentally, Soleimani and his comrades took into critical account the grave balance of forces situation encompassing Iran’s regional neighborhood. He had to essentially overcome the IRI’s contested adjacent zones while intensifying Iran’s central quest to create a wider area of maneuver to guarantee Tehran’s peripheral security and wellbeing.
A primary concern here involves the question of how to build, expand, and enhance an Iranian-controlled ‘strategic corridor’ to greatly advance Iran’s brand of Islamic Revolution region-wide. And to surmount this dilemma, Tehran decided to employ a tactically flexible mode of asymmetrical political-military struggle based on a form of hybrid warfare to counter a more powerful American force entrenched within the region.
The Shia Islamic-based IRI is strongly guided by a doctrinal belief that it must constantly seek ways to protect adjoining Shia communities under its sphere of influence from harm. In parallel to this, Iran relentlessly projects a lethal forward defensive posture far beyond its national borders.
In other words, for the Iranian homeland to remain effectively secure from any external threats the IRI must actually create a much wider area to defend its intrinsic national capacities. Consequently, such a strategic depth must also become the same space from which Iran could counter US targets across and beyond the region, including Israeli and Europe-based NATO (North Atlantic Treaty Organization) allies.
In this regard, General Soleimani’s Quds Force was always aware of its overall mission to ensure a positive outcome for Tehran’s asymmetrical struggle to outflank and diminish Washington’s hegemonic sway over the area.
As a result, Iran’s ‘Shadow Commander’ was very keen to help lead the regional fight to sweep away and destroy the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS). Under his guidance, Soleimani skillfully directed a tactical alliance of various US-trained Iraqi troops, including Kurdish Peshmerga fighters, pro-Iran Syrian militia forces, and Hezbollah guerillas. Distinctly so, it was this broad unity of cross-border forces which waged much of the ground battles against the ISIS threat.
Guided by Soleimani’s overall goals, Iran adeptly planned for the creation of a nationally-identified defensive space that would become its strategic depth. This now comprises regional areas with significant Shia communities, together with states and sub-state zones under Tehran’s control or influence, including allied militias and guerilla forces. In geographical terms, this presently encompasses a trans-regional land corridor from the western section of Afghanistan anchored around the province of Herat (dominated by Persian-speaking peoples), and all the way westward to the eastern Mediterranean Sea along Lebanon’s coastline (populated by Iranian allies like Hezbollah).
Thus, this highly strategic ‘Iranian Corridor,’ running east-to-west from South Asia to the Levant, is now both Iran’s defensive buffer and forward-force projection arena since this passageway also vitally integrates Iraq and Syria.
Therefore, even before his death, one of Gen. Soleimani’s ultimate legacies – the activation of the Iranian Corridor – is now able to carry out calibrated responses to achieve Tehran’s crucial foreign policy aims. In its operational mode, Iran’s current capability means that it can strategically breach American, Israeli, and southern European frontlines from within and outside Iranian borders.
This equally indicates that Tehran can also deter and deny the Washington-Tel Aviv-Brussels axis from inflicting maximum damage upon Iran, while providing Tehran with additional time and space to strike back from inside the Iranian Corridor.
Hence, Iran has by now developed a sophisticated level of asymmetrical parity to parry any aggressive US onslaughts against Iran and its peoples. And it was mainly due to his counter-balancing achievement that America had Gen. Qassem Soleimani assassinated, and even as he traveled on an imperative mission to seek peace with neighboring Saudi Arabia. – Rappler.com
Rasti Delizo used to work with the Presidential Management Staff as the lead international affairs analyst and as the deputy executive director of the Center for Strategic Studies. Delizo was also a foreign policy consultant to the Senate committee on foreign relations, House committee on foreign affairs, and the Department of Foreign Affairs. He is currently vice president of the socialist labor center Bukluran ng Manggagawang Pilipino and the National Coordinator of Laban ng Masa, a socialist political center.