“Even American intelligence experts and former intelligence officers such as Patrick Lang, Larry C. Johnson, and Scott Ritter... indicate that the US Administration was and is not prepared for the consequences of this assassination,” Hussein Askary said in an interview with Tasnim.
Askary is an Iraqi-born Swedish citizen. He is the Southwest Asia Coordinator of the International Schiller Institute. Askary has worked as an economic and strategic analyst on Southwest Asia and North and East Africa for the Washington-based weekly magazine Executive Intelligence Review since 1996. He is the co-author of several books on the New Silk Road strategy and its impact on the world economy. His latest book-length special report "Extending the New Silk Road to West Asia and Africa" was published in November 2017. He has spoken on these matters in international conferences and seminars in Sweden, Denmark, Germany, France, Egypt, Sudan, Iran, Japan, and China. In 2018, he wrote an 80-page study on the reconstruction of Yemen and China's Belt and Road Initiative.
The following is the full text of the interview:
Tasnim: The White House and the Pentagon claimed responsibility for the assassination of General Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, saying the attack was carried out at the direction of US President Donald Trump. As you know, the revered commander was an international figure representing the Axis of Resistance. Given the latest regional developments, how do you interpret the assassination?
Askary: The assassination of General Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis is a major blunder and setback for the potential of regaining peace and tranquility in the region after the defeat of Daesh and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria. Even American intelligence experts and former intelligence officers such as Patrick Lang, Larry C. Johnson, and Scott Ritter have all described it as such, and indicate that the US Administration was and is not prepared for the consequences of this assassination. There is no strategy for how this new level of aggression can be ended without entering a major regional war, a war which President Trump still insists he has wanted to avoid. Therefore, any rational explanation is difficult to make out of this assassination. It is very likely that Trump was sucked into this reckless operation upon the pushing of neoconservative circles and pro-Zionist warmongering individuals and groups. These forces have been upset with the victories achieved in Syria and Iraq to clean the country from the US and British-backed terrorist groups, and finally pave the way for the integration of the region from Central Asia through Iran, Iraq and to Syria and the Mediterranean.
Tasnim: According to many military experts, General Soleimani had a major role in fighting terrorist groups, particularly Daesh (ISIS or ISIL), in Iraq and Syria. How do you think about the top generals’ success in combating US-backed terrorism and its effect on his assassination?
Askary: General Soleimani’s personal role and that of the Quds Brigade in stopping and finally defeating Daesh in the region is undeniable even by Western experts. From June 2014, when Daesh took over Mosul, General Soleimani and Iranian forces reacted immediately to this dangerous development to stop Daesh from taking other parts of Iraq including Baghdad. The US-trained Iraqi army suddenly vanished, and the US forces in Iraq were just watching the advancement of Daesh and its allies. Without General Soleimani’s intervention along with the Fatwa of Ayatollah Sistani to mobilize the resistance to Daesh, Iraq would have been gone. Similarly in Syria, Iran’s support to the Syrian Arab Army, long before the Russian intervention, enabled Damascus to push back and finally defeat the Western-backed terrorist groups. General Soleimani’s role in coordinating the Russian intervention into Syria is well known. Therefore, his personal role has definitely played a role in the assassination. However, it is the regional developments that have proven the Western regime-change policies useless, and the emergence of a new paradigm led by Russia, China and their allies such as Iran upsetting the old world order, which could be a direct cause of this latest escalation.
Tasnim: In a statement on Friday, Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei warned that harsh revenge awaits the criminals behind the martyrdom of General Soleimani. Many believe that if Iran does not take revenge, it will lead to more attacks from the US. In your opinion, how severe would Tehran respond to the “terrorist act” by Washington and how can the response create deterrence against the US and its future moves in the region?
Askary: This assassination by the Trump Administration has put the region and the world into new uncharted waters. Therefore, it is very difficult to predict the Iranian reaction and “revenge”. Military and intelligence experts know very well that Iran has many means of really hurting the US and its allies in the region. Retired American intelligence officer Larry C Johnson wrote yesterday that “the reaction from Iran is likely to involve Saudi Arabia, Israel and US military, diplomatic and economic targets.” But this is a road to bigger disasters. He also argued that Iran has developed a power cyber army that could do real damage to the US infrastructure, which is very much reliant on internet networks. Besides, US troops and interests in Iraq stand completely exposed and open for attacks. It is important to remember that it was Iraqi sovereignty which was breached, and Iraqi military commanders were killed along General Soleimani. The entirety of the US presence and influence in Iraq is in question now.
However, the Iranian leadership has been exerting a great deal of calm and rationality in assessing its reactions to coercive US moves in the recent two years. Of course, a more restrained reaction would be helpful. But that requires guarantees that such criminal operations are stopped and the current US policy towards Iran is reversed. Therefore, the Chairwoman of the International Schiller Institute, Mrs. Helga Zepp-LaRouche, called for Russia and China to intervene diplomatically to make sure that the US realize that that would be the right way of easing the tension and putting the whole region on the path of peace and security.