The Death of Qasem Soleimani Poses A “Potential Increase In The Risk Of A Terrorist Attack With The UK” Says Jeremy Corbyn. This Anti-imperialist Stance Ignores The Victims Of Islamist Regimes.
On the night of Thursday 2nd January 2020, The U.S. Defence Department launched an airstrike at Baghdad’s International Airport killing Iranian General Qasem Soleimani. The attack was ordered by U.S. President Donald Trump. In a statement, President Trump provided his reasons for taking out Soleimani:
“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.”
President Trump further adds:
“Soleimani has been perpetrating acts of terror to destabilize the Middle East for the last 20 years. What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved.”
President Trump considered General Qasem Soleimani as “the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world” and a threat to the US and its allies. At present, no official statement has come from PM Boris Johnson, but the Foreign Secretary Dominic Raab has said:
“We have always recognised the aggressive threat posed by the Iranian Quds force led by Qasem Soleimani. Following his death, we urge all parties to de-escalate. Further conflict is in none of our interests.”
“What assessment has been made of the potential increase in the risk of terrorist attack within the UK itself as a result of the assassination and what action has been undertaken by the government to address any increased risk?”
I would say this question comes as a surprise, but I don’t think it does for many. The apparent logic underpinning this is, the less we take seriously the plight of the victims of Islamist regimes, the more likely we are to not be attacked. But what is the evidence to suggest that actions taken by the West, cause terrorism at home?
The Threat Posed To The Western World
The academic literature on the causes of radicalisation leading to terrorism is vast. There have been a number of cases of homegrown terrorists turning to violence, not necessarily because of one single factor but rather because of many factors. It would be irresponsible to suggest that foreign policy of the West against Muslim nations is not one of them, but it is not the sole cause. Marc Sageman who (amongst other things) served for over three years as the special advisor to the U.S. Army Deputy Chief of Staff (Intelligence), suggests in his research Understanding Terror Networks that “Those who feel that society as a whole has the least to offer them are the most likely to join [the terrorist network]”.
This view is supported by other academics specialising in the field of terrorism. For example, Maclean’s posits that youth who descend into homegrown terrorism do so because they are disaffected with society, see the world as black and white and turn to a “virtuous cause” as a means to develop an identity and a purpose to life. Moreover, whether individuals are born Muslim or are recent converts, they will tend to seek a virtuous cause that is not only religiously and culturally justified, but one which can validate them.
The potential threat to the West due to the leadership decapitation of General Qasem Soleimani appears to be minimal. Those who get radicalised and go onto commit violence, do not do so because of foreign policy alone, but rather because of a number of issues that build up over time. There is no conveyor belt to suggest action A will lead to action B, but what Jeremy Corbyn appears to have done by raising the issue in the way he has, is to privilege the Iranian Regime over its victims. If the Labour motto should mean anything, then it should mean standing up for the many, not the few. When I mean few, I mean regimes like that of Iran.
Anti-Imperialism Doesn’t Care About Victims, It Just Hates The West
It’s no surprise to anyone that when it comes to the U.S. vs Iran, most of those positioning themselves as anti-war, almost always do so because the “aggressor” is from the West. Take Stop The War coalition for example. In a recent post Stop the War Officer Shabbir Lakha argues:
“Iran has been a threat to US hegemony in the Middle East ever since the Islamic Revolution of 1979, when the country toppled its US-backed dictator, and the recent crisis is a direct product of the US attempting to reassert itself in the region after two decades of a failing ‘War on Terror’ policies have sent its influence into decline.”
This is perverse. Did they demonstrate when #Iran wiped out socialists & secularists in Iran?
Did they demonstrate when Iran was involved in the ‘Tanker Wars’ hitting oil tankers of other countries?
Did they demonstrate when Iran hangs people? https://t.co/gZKO1UNh7q
— Faith Matters (@FaithMattersUK) January 4, 2020
Fiyaz Mughal highlights an important point here, and one which many not fully aware of Middle Eastern conflicts should take note of. That is, whilst war should always be seen as the last option, it should never be opposed in the name of anti-Western sentiment. But this, as ever, is what appears to be happening.
Earlier in 2015, it is reported in an article on Politico about Stop The War coalition referencing the Paris Attacks, in which they state “France was “[reaping] the whirlwind of Western support for extremist violence in the Middle East.” This appears to be very misjudged on their part and thus, a social media storm ensued resulting in the article being taken down.
If Stop The War coalition need reminding of what General Qasem Soleimani was responsible for, perhaps they should read what journalist and filmmaker Oz Katerji wrote in an article for the Newstatemen;
“Soleimani made his mark through his unrestrained barbarity towards civilians in Syria and Iraq, and he was personally responsible for the deaths of thousands of people. These include the hundreds of Iraqi civilians who were shot dead by Iraqi security forces within the last three months, acting directly under his orders.”
Stop The War coalition are now being supported by a number of Labour MPs, for example, Richard Burgon. This is the MP that claimed in a YouTube clip that “Zionism is the enemy of peace.” In the same clip, he also seems to refuse to be a member of Labour Friends of Israel yet simultaneously appears to be happy to stand against an unlikely war because the aggressor is the U.S.
The Left is usually seen as opposing wars and supporting victims, but this doesn’t appear to be the case anymore. It seems the bogeyman for them will always be the West because they are guided by their so-called anti-imperialist stance. But what happens to the victims of authoritarian regimes? They get ignored. The value of their lives exists only when offering an opportunity to oppose “the West”.
Thousands of people have been murdered on the direct orders of General Qasem Soleimani, yet nonsense such as this from Max Blumenthal where he claims General Qasem Soleimani was killed because he pushed back against “U.S. backed ISIS” is being taken as serious commentary. Have some on the Left lost their minds?
Whatever the strategic reasons are for taking out General Qasem Soleimani, we must always remind ourselves of the victims. Our solidarity must always be with them, whether we identify ourselves as right, left or in between. The threat posed to the West by homegrown or foreign terrorists is slim, based on the evidence.
Jeremy Corbyn should caution himself on matters that he appears not to have expertise in. Furthermore, if his concern is a potential escalation on homegrown terrorism, then he should be focussing on supporting initiatives such as PREVENT and de-radicalisation programs. There are a number of individuals and organisations on the frontline, every day risking their lives to make the U.K. a safer place, and they are not helped when an the leader of Her Majesty’s Opposition appears to scaremonger whenever the West takes steps to save lives against despotic regimes like that of Iran.
This is a guest post by Wasiq, an analyst specializing in counter-terrorism, law and academia