While many Iranian officials have threatened genocide, Qasem Suleimani was actually tasked with it.
As an architect of Bashar AlAssad’s genocidal war against the Syrian people, he was one of the most guilty men on earth. As the Godfather of Iran’s global terror network, he was also one of the most dangerous.
Still, he roamed the earth freely, a merchant of death in gold and green fatigues. Though his prints were lifted from every scene of mayhem raging across the Middle East, his crimes were consistently swept by the world powers under a diplomatic Persian rug.
His terror world tour was finally cut short last Friday by a precision airstrike, in what was arguably President Donald Trump’s boldest and most presidential move thus far. Suleimani was identified only by his hand, itself identified by a red-stone ring he was known to wear.
Suleimani was the cold-blooded commander of Iran’s hot-blooded Quds Force. Named after Jerusalem, which its officers swear to liberate, the special-ops directorate is responsible for subverting Iran’s enemies while extending the Islamic revolutionary influence throughout the world.
During his years at its helm, Suleimani earned a reputation for covertly killing rivals; coordinating violent attacks; and arming, training, and directing Iran’s proxy legions throughout the Middle East.
Most importantly, Suleimani was the man responsible for Iran’s operations in Syria, which he oversaw in person through dozens of visits. His goal: to keep Assad in power at any human cost.
Directing thousands of Iranian and Hezbollah soldiers “spread out across the entire country,” Suleimani was said by one American defense official in 2013 to have been “running the war [in Syria] himself.”
In the end, Assad would maintain his throne as more than half a million Syrians were brutally murdered, barrel-bombed, disappeared, tortured, or even incinerated in the longest and largest genocide of our century. Suleimani, more so than perhaps any other man on earth (with the exception of Assad himself), directed the offensives that incurred those shocking tolls.
Syria was by no means his only assignment. According to General David Petraeus, Suleimani claimed to “control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan.” It’s no coincidence that the four countries he mentioned are also some of the world’s most turbulent and war-torn nations. Where Suleimani goes, bloodshed seems to follow.
In Iraq, he supplied and trained the Shiite bomb makers who made the word “IED” (improvised explosive device) the most dreaded acronym in the American military. More than 600 American serviceman were killed as a result of his efforts, and thousands more were maimed and wounded.
In Lebanon, Suleimani funded, trained. and armed tens of thousands of Hezbollah thugs holding Lebanon hostage as they point hundreds of thousands of rockets toward Israel, which Suleimani wished to annihilate. In Gaza, he worked to perpetuate Hamas, Islamic Jihad, and their endless wars against the Jews.
Within Iran as well, Suleimani is considered the man most responsible for the brutal crackdown late last year that saw more than a thousand protesters murdered, scores of them gunned down by technicals while they trudged through a wetland marsh into which they were herded. Suleimani’s crimes against the Iranian people aren’t limited to this last round of brutal repression. In fact, he literally signed his name onto Iran’s policy of murdering protesters. During the 1999 student revolt in Tehran, Suleimani signed a letter to President Mohammad Khatami warning him that if he did not crush the student rebellion, the military would step in and perform the task itself.
Soleimani’s reach, moreover, went far beyond the Middle East. He orchestrated attacks in places as far flung as Thailand, New Delhi, Lagos, and Nairobi, and even tried to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the Saudi Ambassador to the U.S. inside a restaurant in Washington, DC.
Already in 2011, following the exposure of the bomb plot, as the New Yorker later recalled, two former American officials told a congressional committee that Soleimani should be assassinated. “Soleimani travels a lot,” one said. “He is all over the place. Go get him. Either try to capture him or kill him.”
That those words were uttered before Suleimani’s involvement in Syria underscores just how badly this man had to go. Still, out of fear of escalation with Iran, the administrations of both George W. Bush and Barack Obama would refuse to target the man — not for murdering American troops, and not even for genocide. For years, he would roam freely and with impunity, surfacing regularly in Syria in boldface mockery of the very value of human life.
As I watched Soleimani elude the West, I thought naturally back to the genocide that befell the Jewish people seventy-five years ago. Throughout the Second World War, only one serious attempt was made by Germans on Hitler’s life. It occurred on 20 July, 1944, at the Wolf’s Lair, Hitler’s forward command post in modern-day Poland, when Claus Von Stauffenberg tried to plant a bomb in a bunker where Hitler was having a meeting.
If Hitler had died that day, hundreds of thousands of Jews, and perhaps millions of soldiers, would undoubtedly have been saved. If a successful attempt had been made a few years earlier, millions of Jews would most probably never have been murdered. But through tiny turns of fate, Hitler would not die then. Minutes before the daily military update at which Stauffenberg planned to strike, the meeting was moved out of the concrete bunker and into an open room, softening the impact of the bomb. Worse, a German general unknowingly pushed the briefcase containing the bomb behind a thick leg of the table, inadvertently shielding Hitler from the blast and saving his life.
Like Hitler, Suleimani had a knack for survival. He was reported killed in 2006, 2012, and 2015 — only to show up time after time alive and well with a sinister grin. Would yet another practitioner of genocide be allowed to live, into the second decade of the second millennium?
He would, but only for a mere few days. The fact that he was considered the second most powerful man in Iran wouldn’t stop President Trump from imposing a basic law of human justice — that there is a death sentence for those who engage in genocide.
In killing Suleimani, President Trump has finally managed to do what no American president has managed to do before: put Iran on notice that it is not primarily ordinary Iranians who will suffer for the crimes of their leaders, but rather the leaders themselves who will pay the ultimate price. The corrupt Iranian mullahs who slaughter their own people, steal their wealth, and bring terror and mayhem to the world are now on notice that they are squarely in American sights.
In his lifetime, Suleimani sought to prove that evil and brutality will ultimately triumph over goodness and mercy. With his death, Trump has proven that those tactics are no match for God’s cosmic force of justice.
Rabbi Shmuley Boteach, whom the Washington Post calls “the most famous Rabbi in America,” is the international best-selling author of 33 books, including the upcoming “Holocaust Holiday: One Family’s Descent into Genocide Memory Hell.” Follow him on Twitter and Instagram @RabbiShmuley.