soleimani funeral
One among several funeral processions in Iran for Qasem Soleimani in early January 2020.
Iran is commemorating the American (and, no doubt, Israeli-inspired) assassinations of IRGC commander General Qasem Soleimani and Iraqi Popular Mobilization Committee commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis outside Baghdad Airport on January 2nd 2020. As part of their coverage, Iran's PressTV invited editor Joe Quinn to share his thoughts on the bloody event.

As readers can infer from what Joe was saying when the discussion was ended, it seems likely to us that the 'diplomatic channel' that was open at the time between the US and Iranian governments didn't just produce agreement on the extent of Iranian 'vengeance' after the drone strike on Baghdad Airport (specifically, the Iranian missile barrage against the largest US airbase in Iraq) - the Trump administration may also have arranged with Iranian leadership before the drone strike to 'take out' Soleimani.

Such 'conspiring with the enemy', understandably, is not something that ordinary Iranians or supporters of Iranian policy in the Middle East would readily accept. But if what Joe is saying is correct - that Soleimani's enthusiasm in 'gunning for Israel' was alarming not just Israel but Iranian leaders who know what Israel is capable of - then it can be understood that motivation indeed existed within Iranian leadership for removing the general.

Perhaps, in being 'too successful for his own good', Soleimani was viewed as a domestic political threat. He was, by all accounts, de facto the second most powerful man in that country - behind Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. History is replete with stories of rising, popular military leaders becoming victims of palace intrigues as 'the status quo' seeks to maintain its position and head off 'threats to the throne'.

But short of accusing Iranian leadership of what would effectively amount to fratricide, a clue to what was probably the main motivating factor was ironically provided by Donald Trump, who stated simply at the time that he ordered the hit "to stop a war, not start one."

As much as Iranian rhetoric is couched in 'defending the values of the 1979 Islamic revolution', 'unseating the Great Satan (USA) from the region', and 'wiping the Zionist entity from the pages of time', all this is essentially for domestic political consumption. It is nationalist propaganda for sustaining popular morale and faith in the 'mandate to rule' of the Iranian government - and a big element of that concerns drawing in support for righting the injustices of a Western-dominated Middle East.

Behind this lies 'realpolitik' and cooperation with 'enemies' regarding the country's nuclear program, the development of its infrastructure and natural resources, and its integration as a key node in the Eurasian integration project led by China. Iranian leaders - like all others - balance ideology with long-term goals, and in their case they are wary of setting off - accidentally or otherwise - the Israelis, whose 400+ nukes and (regionally) unmatched technological strengths, combined with their well-known 'Samson Option' of 'taking everyone down with us if we feel existentially threatened', constitutes a dangerous foe that is capable of every dirty trick from targeted assassinations to 'industrial accidents'.

Soleimani's remarkable regional successes in bringing together an anti-Israeli 'Axis of Resistance' likely represented - from Israel's vantage point - an encroaching 'red line' beyond which they would do something abominable (or make it look like someone else did). Either way, the US would be drawn into some almighty mess and the Middle East become a glass parking lot. That alone provided motivation for Trump, whose administration sought to draw down, not scale up, US military involvement in "sand and death."

And so, in assassinating Soleimani, Israel got what it wanted, the US avoided what it did not want, and Iran put an end to the threat of military overreach, and converted Soleimani's popularity into martyrdom for the political rather than military cause.

For more on Joe's analysis of the assassination of Soleimani, see here:
What War Was Trump Trying to Stop by Killing Iranian General Soleimani?
For Joe's take on the subsequent downing of a Ukrainian Airlines in Tehran when Iran attacked the US airbase in Iraq, see here:
Was Iranian Missile Operator Tricked Into Shooting Down The Ukrainian Airlines Plane Over Tehran?