Top Russian diplomats and lawmakers expressed outrage and discontent at the death of Qasem Soleimani on Thursday, the head of Iran’s Quds Force terror cell.
The Quds Force is a subgroup of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which President Donald Trump’s administration branded a foreign terrorist organization last year. An American airstrike killed Soleimani and several other Iranian terrorist operatives, Washington announced overnight Thursday after they organized a failed siege on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Soleimani is believed to be responsible for hundreds of American deaths and organized the Iranian infiltration of the Syrian civil war, Yemeni civil war, the Iraqi confrontation against the Islamic State, and had threatened Jordan and Lebanon, among other countries.
Russian Foreign Ministry spokeswoman Maria Zakharova condemned the killing, failing to defend Soleimani and instead claiming that any targeted military strike against a legitimate enemy of a state must go through the United Nations. Zakharova accused Washington of violating international law by acting against a leader within a designated terrorist organization.
“It turns out that a missile strike was carried out first, an act that is out of sync with international law was committed. And only then did they [the Americans] requested [the assessment of the events] involving the [US] Embassy. This is probably the height of cynicism, you know,” she told Rossiya 24, a national broadcast network.
“To condemn attacks on their embassies, states go to the U.N. Security Council submitting draft statements. Washington did not appeal to the Security Council, which means that it is not interested in the world’s response [and that it is] interested in changing the balance of power in the region,” she added, stating that she believed United Nations representatives would discuss the strike on Friday.
Zakharova also predicted “escalating tensions in the region” following Soleimani’s death. She did not address the throngs of overjoyed Iraqis taking the streets to celebrate his death. Soleimani was in charge of Baghdad’s bloody response to ongoing protests against Iran’s colonization of the country, which largely consisted of opening fire into unarmed crowds rather than address protesters’ concerns.
The Russian diplomat, in condemning the United States for not taking sovereign interests to the United Nations – where Russia can veto any Security Council action – also did not address Russia’s long record of disregarding international law, which most recently includes the invasion and colonization of Ukraine’s Crimean peninsula and its enabling of Russian terrorists in eastern Ukraine to kill locals. Russia is also believed to be responsible for arming the terrorists responsible for taking down Malaysia Airlines Flight 17 over Ukraine, killing 298 civilians.
While alive, Soleimani violated United Nations sanctions regularly. On at least one known occasion, he did so openly to visit Moscow. Soleimani reportedly made the trip in 2017 “to express his displeasure with the Russian government over their relationship with Saudi Arabia and other Arab states,” Fox News reported then.
Soleimani is believed to have brokered Russia’s entry into the Syrian Civil War. Iran is closely allied to the ruling Shiite Syrian regime and has forced thousands of Afghan refugees to serve as “cannon fodder” for the Syrian regime against rebel groups. Russian air support in Syria has proven pivotal to dictator Bashar al-Assad’s consolidation of power.
“Soleimani put the map of Syria on the table. The Russians were very alarmed, and felt matters were in steep decline and that there were real dangers to the regime. The Iranians assured them there is still the possibility to reclaim the initiative,” a senior regional official told Reuters in 2015. “At that time, Soleimani played a role in assuring them that we haven’t lost all the cards.”
The Russian Foreign Ministry issued a statement separate from Zakharova’s televised rant, similarly condemning the “escalation” in killing Soleimani.
“Washington’s step is fraught with grave consequences for regional peace and stability. We are guided by the premise that such actions are not conducive to finding solutions to the complex problems that have piled up in the Middle East. On the contrary, they lead to a new round of escalation of tensions in the region,” the statement read, according to Russian news agency TASS.
Elsewhere in the Russian government, lawmakers accused America of crossing a “red line,” a cynical callback to President Barack Obama using the term to indicate he would use the U.S. military to punish Bashar al-Assad if he used chemical weapons against civilians; Assad remains in power and is considered to have largely won the Syrian Civil War.
“The Americans have crossed the red line, and this time the consequences could be severe,” lawmaker Leonid Slutsky told reporters. Slutsky runs the Russian legislature’s international affairs committee.
Konstantin Kosachev, a Russian senator, called Soleimani’s death “the worst-case scenario.”
“This is very difficult news, a harbinger of new clashes between the Americans and radical Shiites in Iraq,” Kosachev told state propaganda outlet RIA Novosti. “But I will be glad to be proved wrong because wars are easy to start, but very difficult to end.”