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US Assassination of General Soleimani and International Law, By Abdullahi Usman

Major General Haaj, Qaseem Soleimani, The Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

 On January 3, 2020, the US military conducted a drone strike near Baghdad International Airport that martyred the General of peace Major General Haaj Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). 

The Trump administration initially appeared to justify the strike as an effort to deter imminent attacks on U.S. embassies and personnel, but later insisted that Iran’s actions in the months leading up to the strike triggered the US to use the right for self-defense. In the aftermath of the strike, Iraq voted to expel U.S. troops from its territory, and Iran conducted a missile strike on American bases in Iraq.

However in this write-up I will try to examine the assassination of General Qasem Soleimani, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, and their other companions from a legal perspective.

First of all, in explaining the cases of violations of the principles of international law in the event of the martyrdom of General Qasem Soleimani, it must be said that the step by the United States in the brutal assassination of General Soleimani and his companions were obvious violation of international law and the Islamic Republic of Iran has the inherent right to defend itself and to take reciprocal action in accordance with the inalienable rules of international law, and to prevent the violators of the principles of international law, going unpunished for committing this terrorist act.

Despite the slogan of fighting terrorism and regardless of whether the US government is Republican or Democratic, supporting terrorism has always been one of the ways that US advances its foreign policy goals. 

The path of insecurity, war, and bloodshed as a way to provide US interests and presence in the region by the emergence of terrorism, and, therefore, the weakening and elimination of terrorist groups, meant the end of US divisiveness in the region.

That is why the martyrdom of Haaj Qasem Soleimani was, in fact,the killing of peace and the strengthening of terrorism with the aim of restoring the American interests in the region.

For Trump, the assassination of General Soleimani was equivalent to delaying the fall of American hegemony and keeping terrorism from being destroyed to consolidate US hegemony in its apparent struggle against it.

One of the legal defenses that the United States may invoke in the assassination is to resort to the illegal view of “targeted assassination”, which has been used and cited by that country and the Zionist regime for years. The illegitimacy of this view is so obvious that it has been repeatedly denounced by governments, human rights rapporteurs, and international jurists.

A state can justify its action for targeted assassination when, firstly, no other non-bloody and non-lethal solution is available, and secondly, by the principle of military action, the military advantage of such operations is based on the principles of proportionality and caution in humanitarian law. In the absence of these two criteria, international humanitarian law does not appear to confirm the targeted killings by the United States. What is clear is that with this targeted assassination, the United States has targeted commanders who have dealt heavy blows to the ISIS terrorists over the years. Targeting General Soleimani, Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis and their companions are a clear example of international terrorism.

In our opinion, the martyrdom of General Soleimani is considered state assassination, and the meaning of state assassination is that one country is present in another country and carries out military operations in that country. In other words, the arrival of the United States in Iraq and the conduct of military operations against the officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran and the martyrdom of officials who were in the army and the IRGC as officials of Islamic Republic of Iran is a clear violation of international law.

Illegal tools were also used in this terrorist act as the terrorist operation was carried out by using drones, and according to the Chicago Convention, the flight of unlicensed drones on the territory of other countries is prohibited.

In 2013, the UN rapporteur also described the use of drones for targeted assassinations as an arbitrary killing. As per the clauses of the UN Charter, this operation and its conduct has caused international security to be disrupted, and according to paragraphs 2, 4, and 7 of Article 2 of the UN Charter, it is considered to lead to war in the region; Therefore, it endangers world peace and security.

It should be noted that General Soleimani was carrying a diplomatic message from senior officials of the Islamic Republic of Iran and traveled to Iraq with a diplomatic passport, which was approved by the Iraqi and Iranian governments. In fact, Sardar Soleimani, as the official diplomat of a foreign country, traveled to Baghdad and was the official guest of the Iraqi government, and the necessary coordination had been made with the Iraqi government before his visit to Baghdad.

Therefore, his assassination attempt by the United States was not only a dangerous and unprecedented move but also a violation of Article 8 of the International Criminal Law, which does not allow the violation of the sovereignty and integrity of countries. In other words, here the United States violated both the sovereignty of the Iraqi government as a third country and the host of Sardar Soleimani as well as the sovereignty of the Islamic Republic of Iran.

American aggression in attacking Sardar Soleimani’s convoy; also violates the principle of respect for human rights and the right to life, because, in addition to killing the martyrs Soleimani and Abu Mehdi Mohandas, the lives of other innocent people were taken in this attack for which no charges have been brought against them.

AgnèsCallamard, the UN rapporteur on extrajudicial and arbitrary executions, called the US assassination of General Qassim Soleimani a violation of international law. Callamardsaid: “The US attempt to assassinate General Qasem Soleimani using a drone was a violation of international law”.

In a report on the UAV assassinations, she said: “Washington has not provided sufficient reasons to justify and prove that the attack on General Qasem Soleimani’s convoy when he left Baghdad airport was to protect US interests.”

She added that the attack was a violation of the UN Charter and that the UN Security Council did not do its duty in this regard but remained silent in the face of this action.

Undoubtedly, the US attack on General Soleimani and his convoy on January 3, 2020, in Iraq was an act that lacks any legal element and conflicts with many legal principles and rules in the international system, the most important of which is the use of force that is illegal. An attack that is a clear example of state terrorism and in clear violation of the UN Charter (paragraph 2 Article 4 prohibiting the use of force against the sovereignty, territorial integrity, political independence of states), violation of customary international law and international rules and violations of human rights.

Since legally there was no armed conflict between the US and Iran at the time of this attack, and the same situation was between the US and the Iraqi government, therefore, targeting the military commanders of Iran and Iraq can in no way be accepted as a legitimate goal and defensive action by the United States.

General Soleimani traveled to Iraq as part of international cooperation between Iran and Iraq to fight terrorism, and for this reason, his military presence in Iraq was coordinated and approved by the Baghdad government.

Since General Soleimani was the senior military official of the Islamic Republic of Iran and, of course, was on a foreign mission in Iraq, the US attack on him and his allies on Iraqi soil undermined the political independence and national sovereignty of the Iraqi government.

Finally, it should be noted that violation of applicable international law and human rights law have become a habit of the US government, and in doing so not only intentionally violates the law itself, but also supports the human rights abuses of its allies, such as the Zionist regime and Saudi Arabia.The assassination of General Qasem Soleimani was not the first act against US legal norms, nor is it the last. But this model of conduct contrary to international law and acting against a senior official of another country on the territory of a third country has been very rare before.Therefore, in analyzing the consequences of this criminal act, it should be said that this behavior can become a wrong and dangerous procedure in the relations between countries and impose serious consequences on the international environment, which is more complicated than ever.

Abdullah can be reach through: tumburkai2015@gmail.com

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  1. https://nigeria21.com/2022/01/03/iran-marked-solaimanis-anniversary-as-international-hero-day/