A high-ranking source in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government has told IranWire that Iranian officials and members of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force have asked their allies in Iraq to refrain from taking revenge against American and Western targets following the assassination of Ghasem Soleimani in Iraq on January 3, 2020. Given the sensitivity of the matter, the individual asked not to be named.
“They’ve been told that Ayatollah Khamenei hasn’t declared jihad yet and that they should wait,” says the official, referring to the Supreme Leader and religious and military leader of Iran, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. “Many Iranians based in Iraq have gone back home to consult about what they should do next.” When asked what Iran’s next step will be, the source said, “Most probably nothing, like when the American downed Iran’s jetliner [in 1988]. Iranians threatened to take revenge, do this and that. But nothing happened.”
The Kurdish official says that despite his revolutionary persona, Soleimani was famous for his pragmatism and for knowing his boundaries. “For example, Soleimani knew that despite their differences, Iran, Israel and the US are all allies and friends of the Kurdish people and he respected that,” says the official. “Even though there are hundreds of Israeli military, security and agriculture contractors in Kurdistan, we’ve never had any attacks against them in this region.”
But the official also insists that Soleimani’s image in Kurdistan has deteriorated in the past decade or so. He says Soleimani became the face of Iran’s attempt to colonize Iraq and that many Iraqi officials are happy that he’s gone despite mourning for his death publicly. “To many Iraqis, Soleimani’s mission was to get Iraqis killed so Ayatollah Khamenei could stay in power. He tried to fight the Americans until the last Iraqi [was dead]! That was how Soleimani fought in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen: He recruited the locals to die for Iran. His successor will try to do the same.”
The official says that his country is in a state of shock and that he still can’t believe that Soleimani is dead. “General Soleimani was a larger-than-life figure in this region and was regarded as invincible,” he says. “Many Iraqi and Kurdish leaders knew him since the 1980s since the days of the Iran-Iraq War [1980-88]. He regularly visited Iraq and Kurdistan and had many allies and friends here. Iraq was like his second home. And that is why he also had so many enemies here. He was an Iranian. He shouldn’t have regarded Iraq as his home. He overstayed his welcome.”
The official says that Iraq’s parliamentary resolution asking for the expulsion of American troops from Iraq is non-binding and will not be approved by the Iraqi government. “Are you serious? Do you think Iraqis want their country to be a fighting ground between Daesh [ISIS] and Iran?” The source says that many Iraqis regard the killing of Soleimani on Iraqi soil to be an illegal act but they still believe the absence of Americans could open up their country to domination by Iran or ISIS.
Despite Iran’s request for restraint from its allies, Iranian diplomats and Iraqi officials are concerned that members of Shia groups loyal to Soleimani could take rogue actions against those targets. “Someone who has nothing to do with Iran, like members of Daesh, can do something crazy and blame it on Iran,” says the official. “That would be a double whammy for Daesh: It will have hit and killed Americans and then will have got the Americans to attack Iran.”