The Qassem Soleimani Story Nobody’s Telling

Byron’s Hot Scrub on Killing Soleimani

The Pentagon press statement was terse: “At the direction of the President, the U.S. military has taken decisive defensive action to protect U.S. personnel abroad by killing Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force, a U.S.-designated Foreign Terrorist Organization.”

The Times of London summarized the implications in its Friday leader:

“The United States moved to the brink of war with Iran, … assassinating Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Republic’s most celebrated military leader, along with a key Iraqi ally in an airstrike in Baghdad.”

And you thought 2020 would be all about Impeachment and U.S. elections? Ha!

I’ve reviewed many accounts of Soleimani’s demise, from many sources. There’s a distressing similarity though; as if everyone is taking their information from the same press releases.

Rule Number One of warfare…  First accounts from the battle front are almost always wrong.

For the moment, while the dust settles, let’s look back at some history, and ahead to the possibilities…

My first thought on hearing of the death of Soleimani was… Hmm… Live by the sword, die by it.

I thought back to the mid-2000s, when Soleimani’s people and high explosives killed over 600 American troops – and many more allied troops and civilians – in Iraq.

Indeed, about one in every six American combat fatalities in Iraq were attributable to Iran, according to the Pentagon.1

And I thought back to a couple of visits to U.S. military hospitals from some years ago. I remembered the U.S. personnel recovering from horrible wounds; not a few from Iranian ordnance.

Think what you want about the merits of the war in Iraq; it was a strategic blunder by the U.S., in my view.

But the war wasn’t “just” with Iraq and Iraqis.

Iran sent people, materiel and money to fight the U.S. effort. Iran turned Iraq into an anti-American front. And from his office in Tehran, the late deceased Soleimani was among the operational architects of that effort.

Soleimani had some payback coming.

In fact, I’ve been told of U.S. snipers who placed their aiming reticle on Soleimani’s eardrum but did not receive clearance to fire.

It was always just a question of when, where and if a U.S. President would give the okay.

In the 2000s I was still part of the U.S. Navy Reserve. In the early days of the Iraq war, I ran what’s called a “force protection” unit, with people deployed from the U.S. to locales “downrange,” including the Iraq theater.

Along the way, we received briefings on “improvised explosive devices” (IEDs) that were making life pure hell in Iraq.

Some IEDs were truly “improvised;” recovered battlefield weapons – artillery or mortar rounds – that were rigged with a trigger, and detonated by something as simple as a hard wire, an egg timer, garage door opener or cell phone.

Other IEDs were far more complex; shaped charges, manufactured under tight quality control in a military-grade factory, with sophisticated mechanisms for detonation.

In particular, I recall the hemispherical copper “penetrators.”


American soldier displays explosively formed penetrator; copper liners that become projectiles when the explosive device is set off. Credit Robert Nickelsberg/Getty Images, for The New York Times

IEDs with copper penetrators were easily among “the most devastating weapons on the battlefield,” according to the New York Times.2

“The weapons fire a semi-molten copper slug that cuts through the armor on a Humvee, then shatters inside the vehicle, creating a deadly hail of hot metal that causes especially gruesome wounds even when it does not kill.”

In fact, IEDs with copper penetrators have serious range. On one occasion, a British C-130 transport plane was hit in the air by a copper penetrator slug fired from the ground while the aircraft was in a landing pattern. The damage was such that the British could not recover the airplane and destroyed it in place.

As early as 2005, the U.S. “sent Iran a diplomatic protest charging that Tehran was supplying lethal roadside explosive devices” to Iraqi fighters, according to the New York Times.

Iran denied everything.

The Iranians were lying, of course.

U.S. forensics analyzed the copper and explosive residue from many penetrators. Isotopic analysis “fingerprinted” the source of metal to a particular copper mine in Iran. And the explosive traced to a particular chemical factory.

There was everything but Soleimani’s direct fingerprints on the bombs.

To many, the U.S. war in Iraq may be old history.

Still, in recent years Soleimani has been quite active. He directed Iranian strategy and operations in conflicts ranging from Afghanistan to Yemen, plus Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. He oversaw the transfer of immense quantities of weapons from Iran into Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, with Israel and U.S. targets in mind.

Most recently, Soleimani backed Iraqi militia who attacked U.S. targets in Iraq, leading up to a brazen assault on the U.S. embassy in Baghdad over the New Year holiday. U.S. intelligence claims that Soleimani had even more plans for the future, to attack U.S. people and interests.

In other words, Soleimani was an active, up-front threat to U.S. people and interests across the Middle East.

This is in contrast to, say, the departed Osama bin Laden who spent his final years holed up in a nondescript house in Pakistan. Or even the late al Baghdadi, whose final days were spent meandering across Syria, sleeping in a different house every night, trying to keep a few steps ahead of his pursuers.

Osama bin Laden and al Baghdadi represented the past; washed-up players, living in the shadows.

But Soleimani? He represented the future. He was waging wars on many fronts, with plans for even more great endeavors.

Now, it’s all cut short by U.S. missiles that tore his body to shreds.

So what’s next? Things will get exciting, no doubt.

In the wake of Soleimani’s death, Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei warned that a harsh revenge awaits the “criminals” who killed the general. Meanwhile, Khamenei called for three days of mourning in Iran for Soleimani.

Following Soleimani’s death, Iran’s Revolutionary Guard organization called their late leader a martyr: “Honored supreme commander of Islam Soleimani was martyred,” read the statement. And becoming a martyr has significance to future courses of action from Iran. Stand by…

Shi’ite Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) described the attack as “cowardly US bombing.” And things like that must be avenged.

In Iraq, the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces claimed that Israel was also behind the U.S. attack, though Israel has made no such claim or related statement. Still, there’s never any need for a good excuse for Israel’s enemies to hate the place.

All in all, the U.S. has taken a bold step by killing off Soleimani.

But he has subordinates who will move up the ladder.

Meanwhile, the price of oil and gold rose in the wake of Soleimani’s death.

Oil and gold represent global-scale markets. And in their far-seeing wisdom, markets can predict the future.

On that note, I rest my case.

Best wishes,

Byron King

Byron King
For The Daily Edge

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1 Iran killed more US troops in Iraq than previously known, Pentagon says, Military Times
2 U.S. Long Worried that Iran Supplied Iraq, NYT


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Byron King

A Harvard-trained geologist and former aide to the United States Chief of Naval Operations, Byron King is our resident gold and mining expert, and we are proud to have him on board as the managing editor of Whiskey & Gunpowder.

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