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New York Times’ Tom Friedman Considers Soleimani ‘Overrated’

Jan. 5, 2020 (EIRNS)—In a Jan. 3 New York Times opinion column, liberal columnist Thomas Friedman reports that Soleimani had serious opposition within Iran because it had been perceived that he had squandered the benefits of the Iran nuclear deal and had weakened the Iranian economy by committing large resources into Shi’a insurgencies in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen. Rather than strengthening Iran, Soleimani had weakened it, Friedman asserts.

Friedman acknowledges that Soleimani had “led the fight against the Islamic State in Iraq, in tacit alliance with America.” But, he writes,

“It was Soleimani and his Quds Force pals who pushed Iraq’s Shi’ite Prime Minister Nuri Kamal al-Maliki to push Sunnis out of the Iraqi government and army, stop paying salaries to Sunni soldiers, kill and arrest large numbers of peaceful Sunni protesters and generally turn Iraq into a Shi’ite-dominated sectarian state. The Islamic State was the counterreaction....

“It was precisely those Soleimani proxies—Hezbollah in Lebanon and Syria, the Popular Mobilization Forces in Iraq, and the Houthis in Yemen—that created pro-Iranian Shi’ite states-within-states in all of these countries. And it was precisely these states-within-states that helped to prevent any of these countries from cohering, fostered massive corruption, and kept these countries from developing infrastructure, schools, roads, electricity.

“And therefore it was Soleimani and his proxies—his kingmakers in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq—who increasingly came to be seen, and hated, as imperial powers in the region, even more so than Trump’s America. This triggered popular, authentic, bottom-up democracy movements in Lebanon and Iraq that involved Sunnis and Shi’ites locking arms together to demand noncorrupt, nonsectarian democratic governance....

“In a way, it’s what got Soleimani killed. He so wanted to cover his failures in Iraq he decided to start provoking the Americans....

“I have no idea whether this was wise or what will be the long-term implications. But here are two things I do know about the Middle East.

“First, often in the Middle East the opposite of bad is not good. The opposite of bad often turns out to be disorder. Just because you take out a really bad actor like Soleimani doesn’t mean a good actor, or a good change in policy, comes in his wake. Soleimani is part of a system called the Islamic Revolution in Iran. That revolution has managed to use oil money and violence to stay in power since 1979—and that is Iran’s tragedy, a tragedy that the death of one Iranian general will not change.”

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