Sputnik: Does this report now published in the Al-Jarida newspaper sound truthful to you?
Dr. Edward Wastnidge: I can’t obviously vouch for the provenance of the story given the nature of media report around big international issues such as this these days, but I would say that it comes as no surprise to be honest. I mean given Israel’s propensity for extrajudicial killings, extra territorial killings. One only has to look at their alleged involvement in the assassination of Iranian nuclear scientists a few years back to see that they have got form in this kind of area.
It really wouldn’t be the first time that they look to do this I would say.
Sputnik: Who is this General Qasem Soleimani and how important is he, perhaps you could explain it to our listeners.
Dr. Edward Wastnidge: Well, Soleimani is the commander of the elite Quds Force, that’s within the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps. So he has been an evocative presence in several places in Iraq, in Syria and quickly focusing on the fight against the Islamic State [Daesh].
He has been a key component in building a strategy to combat the Islamic State alongside Syrian and Iraqi government troops, as well as allied Shia volunteer forces. He’s been key in organizing that kind of response. He is also a very prominent figure in Iran, having previously been more behind the scenes.
So, some Iranian politicians have been lauding his political credentials and there has been talking about him perhaps making a run for president. He really is a key figure in Iran.
Sputnik: What threat does this general present to the US and Israeli interests in the region? Is his strategy very conflictive; does he want to wage conflict against Israel? I mean it’s not as though his name is surfacing on news items regularly as a warmonger or anything?
Dr. Edward Wastnidge: Yes exactly. Well about it's all about perception, of course. It’s a point made quite well. From Iran’s side it’s a case of protecting their own security, as I said, rather than directly threatening Israel or the US. But Israel and the US cannot bear to have an assertive Iran that is a regional presence. So Iran promotes itself as part of an “axis of resistance,” as they call it, against Israeli and US interests. This manifests itself in support for the Palestinian cause and through protecting the allies in Lebanon, Hezbollah, for example against Israeli aggression.
Obviously Israel and by extension the US and its key allies, such as Saudi Arabia the Emirates [United Arab Emirates], they don’t wish to see Iran taking what Iran sees as its rightful position as a regional power. So it’s really in opposition to Israeli and US geo-political interests in the region and that’s why they perceive him as a threat.
Dr. Edward Wastnidge is a Middle East analyst and a lecturer in politics and international studies at the Open University, UK.
The views and opinions expressed by Dr. Edward Wastnidge are those of the speaker and do not necessarily reflect those of Sputnik.