“In the event that one is not overly familiar with the past forty years of Iranian history, I will explain what I mean; Iran—over the past four decades—has perfected a playbook of deceit that is so effective that nearly anyone has the potential of falling for it.”
President Donald Trump’s remarks this morning in a live speech from the White House reiterated his support for the decisive action The United States took in eliminating “ruthless terrorist” Qasem Soleimani last week. As President Trump put it today: “Soleimani’s hands were drenched in both American and Iranian blood. He should have been terminated long ago. By removing Soleimani, we have sent a powerful message to terrorists: If you value your own life, you will not threaten the lives of our people.”
Although Iranian rockets were fired at United States airbases in Iraq in the early morning hours (local time) in retaliation for Soleimani’s death, President Trump remained on subject during his remarks today and asserted that the world is better off without Soleimani—and also, for that matter, Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi, the ISIS leader killed in an American raid in October. However, the situation in Iran remains urgent.
One of the most important moments in Bryan Singer’s 1995 film The Usual Suspects is when the main character, the mysterious Keyser Söze, says: “The greatest trick the Devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist.” This sums up the story of the current Iranian regime; among the most enduring outcomes of the 1979 Iranian Revolution was the birth of unparalleled propaganda and deception perpetrated by those in the Iranian regime.
In the event that one is not overly familiar with the past forty years of Iranian history, I will explain what I mean; Iran—over the past four decades—has perfected a playbook of deceit that is so effective that nearly anyone has the potential of falling for it. Even when a murderous, terroristic figure such as Qasem Soleimani is eliminated (an event the world truly benefits from), one sees an enormous amount of disinformation from the usual suspects—no pun intended—including the American left and many Democratic politicians and activists.
Despite experts, such as Bernard Lewis, comprehensively detailing the threats posed by the Iranian regime, the expert propagandists in Tehran have managed to hide their government’s true intentions, time and again. To entertain an analogy from science, the Higgs boson particle might first have been proposed in 1964, but it was not until 2012 that its existence was finally conclusively demonstrated—and everyone else began to believe it too. Similarly, those in the know have been explaining the realities of Iranian aggression for decades, but we choose to speculate that it could be otherwise, even as the evidence continues to mount.
The key strategy employed by the Islamic Republic of Iran is to establish parallel entities. Basically, Iran will have an outright corrupt and criminal organization but mask it as if it were a run-of-the-mill, conventional civil or military institution, such as would be found in any other nation. Iran has a conventional army, just like nearly every other country. It has the typical military hierarchy; it has its rules and conventions, and, of course, it follows international law. It receives its budget from the government.
But then there is its parallel entity: the Islamic Republic Guards Corps (IRGC), which is an exact duplicate of any conventional army. The difference between the IRGC and the Iranian Army is that the budget for the IRGC remains unknown; no one knows how it spends its money, and it neither has a typical system of hierarchy nor a definitive chain of command. Initially, the IRGC was intended to play a part in construction and in eradicating poverty in the country—an army of makers, builders, and helpers so to speak. As such, the initial manifesto for the organization contained promises of openness, faith in the spirit of the Revolution, and a close relationship to the people of Iran. Over time, however—and by the time of the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq War in 1988—the IRGC had transformed into an entirely different type of organization. The mission had become to support the survival of the Revolution inside of Iran, as well as exporting those ideas to other countries.
The IRGC remains nothing short of a political and clandestine secret society, whose true objectives are entirely unknown to the public. This is also the case for the manners by which the IRGC achieves their objectives. It controls the nation’s borders and points of entry, but there is no transparency. No government authority has the ability to apply checks on its decisions. The IRGC has its own intelligence services, its own courts, its own legal codes, and it is immune from any investigations or prosecutions. Despite being so ideological and immune from oversight from other parts of the Iranian government, the IRGC is smart enough to leverage proxies to do its bidding so as never to be caught.
Nevertheless, in the time since the 1999 Iranian student uprisings, the IRGC has remained the primary suppression machine that detains and kills, takes hostages, forces other governments to make prisoner swaps, and takes advantage of every available diplomatic tool of the foreign ministry to pursue its sinister schemes. For instance, the IRGC and Iran’s Ministry of Intelligence Service worked hand-in-hand when it came to the bombing of the Jewish cultural center AMIA in Buenos Aires in 1994. (This case still remains open, with the highest ranking leaders of the Ministry of Intelligence and IRGC being the prime suspects.)
The IRGC also established two military wings to operate outside of Iran: Ansar-e Hezbollah (for military and political activities in Afghanistan) and Quds Force (for military and political activities in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq). Qasem Soleimani was the mastermind behind all of this, as well as leading the response to the ongoing protests within Iran against the current regime, in which Soleimani and his thugs killed more than 1,500 protesters.
He understood how people in need wanted to care about something and, in return for being given something to care about, they would be loyal.
Qasem Soleimani was a leading figures in the IRGC, a man with nearly unlimited powers and a private jet, while answering to no one; he was above any rule or regulation. An ultimate objective of Qasem Soleimani’s was to inflict pain on the West by any means necessary—and he knew how to take advantage of ordinary people in order to accomplish that goal. He understood how people in need wanted to care about something and, in return for being given something to care about, they would be loyal. He was the man behind the effort of Lebanon’s Hezbollah to build medical clinics, schools, and offer free housing. As a consequence—over time—people became attracted to this kind of Islamic socialism. However, lurking beneath this was the reality that Qasem Soleimani was not taxing the rich to pay for this; instead, he was able to take advantage of the colossal resources Iran has, particularly oil, in order to fund these projects. But, all the while, he was the one teaching Hezbollah in Lebanon to be terrorists first, entrepreneurs second (black market dealers), and politicians third (participating in money laundering as members of the government). Qasem Soleimani was the one who claimed that he had created a Shiite Militia to fight the Islamic State (ISIS), but, in reality, this group was Iraq’s own newly-formed IRGC to exist in parallel to the sovereign government, while—at the same time—running illegal errands throughout the region. In my view, Qasem Soleimani likely would have considered his fellow terrorist Osama Bin Laden a fool for orchestrating the September 11th attacks; why do one large act of terrorism and then go into hiding, rather than run countless miniature acts of terrorism everywhere, bleeding every society one touches?
It is interesting to hear commentators in the media now (in the United States and abroad) claim that eliminating this cancer cell of terrorism to be “illegal” or “erratic.” Those who desire to make the case that eliminating Qasem Soleimani was illegal ought to keep in mind how he, himself, operated his efforts for death across borders. These commentators are quick to forget—if they ever even knew in the first place—how Soleimani’s style of terror resulted in the assassination of anti-Iranian regime political figures all around the world—most notably Abdul Rahman Ghassemlou, the leader of the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan, in Vienna in 1989, as well as his deputy, Sadegh Sharafkandi, in Berlin in 1992.
Qasem Solleimani never built anything; he never made anyone’s life better or easier. He was the man behind a forceful and destructive ideology that offered no respect for the lives of actual people. He was involved with the strategy of hiring poor Afghani or Pakistani migrants in Iran to send them to Syria to fight on behalf of Bashar Al-Assad. Qasem Soleimani richly deserved his placement on the U.S. list of terrorists; the world is a better place with him gone, and the world should be grateful to American President Donald J. Trump’s for his courageous decision to kill this architect of international evil.
Kambiz Tavana is an Iranian-American journalist and writer.