Why have the White House and political experts called Qassem Soleimani a “terrorist”?

Soleimani, 62, the head of Iran’s elite al-Quds force, was killed when a drone fired missiles into a convoy that was leaving the Baghdad International Airport early on Friday, Jan. 3.

The next day, President Trump delivered a statement on the successful operation.

“As President, my highest and most solemn duty is the defense of our nation and its citizens,” he said. “Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him.”

“Under my leadership, America’s policy is unambiguous: To terrorists who harm or intend to harm any American, we will find you. We will eliminate you,” he added.

President Donald Trump delivers remarks on the death of Soleimani at Mar-a-Lago on Jan. 3, 2010, in Palm Beach, Fla. (Shealah Craighead/Official White House Photo)

Qasem Soleimani and the Quds Force

The White House also explained its decision to kill Soleimani in an airstrike last Friday, calling him “the worst remaining terrorist on Earth” with the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands.

Led by Soleimani, the ruthless Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps facilitated horrific acts of terrorism. Soleimani himself contributed to plots as far-flung as New Delhi and London—and even the United States. In 2011, he organized an attempted assassination of the Saudi ambassador to America in Washington.

During the Iraq War, Soleimani’s camps trained killers that were directly responsible for the deaths of 603 American service members. Thousands more were wounded.

In the past few weeks alone, attacks on U.S. targets in Iraq included rocket strikes that killed an American and badly injured four U.S. servicemen, as well as a violent assault on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. All were carried out at Soleimani’s direction.

Americans are safer today because the world’s worst terrorist is dead. The Iranian people are safer, too: Soleimani recently led the brutal repression of protesters in his own country. In the end, more than 1,000 innocent civilians were tortured and killed by their government in Tehran. Soleimani’s disrespect for life knew no borders or limits.

Politicians and experts agreed

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell (R-Ky.) also described Soleimani as a “terrorist mastermind” who “operated without constraint.”

“Soleimani made it his life’s work to take the Iranian revolutionary call for death to America and death to Israel and turned them into action. But this terrorist mastermind was not just a threat to the United States and Israel. For more than a decade, he masterminded Iran’s malevolent and destabilizing work throughout the entire Middle East,” McConnell said in the Senate floor.

In April 2019, the U.S. indicated the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, including the Quds Force, a “foreign terrorist organization.”

“With this designation, we are sending a clear signal, a clear message to Iran’s leaders, including Qassem Soleimani and his band of thugs, that the United States is bringing all pressure to bear to stop the regime’s outlaw behavior,” Secretary of State Mike Pompeo announced at the time. 

Pompeo also explained President Trump’s position in a series of television interviews. “The Iranian leadership needs to understand that attacking Americans is not cost-free,” he said. “Terrorism will not benefit them.”

Former Sen. Joe Lieberman, the 2000 Democratic candidate for vice president said, “President Trump’s order to take out Qasem Soleimani was morally, constitutionally and strategically correct. It deserves more bipartisan support than the begrudging or negative reactions it has received thus far from my fellow Democrats.”

A former U.S. intelligence official described Soleimani as “most experienced guerrilla fighter operating globally,” running operations with Iranian forces and proxy militias in Lebanon, Yemen, Syria, Afghanistan, and Iraq, according to CBS News.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser under Barack Obama who was instrumental in the 2014 Iran nuclear deal, said there’s “no question that Soleimani has a lot of blood on his hands.”

“Soleimani had the blood of hundreds of Americans on his hands, and was in the Iraqi capital of Baghdad planning attacks on more Americans throughout the Middle East. … Members of Congress make statements; presidents take action. And Trump’s action will make the world safer for Americans,” security expert Christian Whiton wrote on Fox News.

Four years ago, then-Secretary of State John Kerry acknowledged that some of the $150 billion given to Iran in President Obama’s nuclear deal would end up in terrorist hands. “I think that some of it will end up in the hands of the IRGC or other entities, some of which are labeled terrorists,” he conceded in an interview, Elise Labott reported for CNN.

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