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Open letter to Parliament with regard to the Hansard debate of 7th January 2020 Vol: 669, relating to the targeted assassination of Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani.

Having read the Hansard Parliamentary discussion on the targeted assassination of Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, along with the Iraqi military commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and the other Iraqi military leaders, I am stunned by the failure of the Secretary of State for Defence to condemn this unlawful targeted assassination of Iraqi leaders and of Iran’s leading General, a figure much loved by not only his nation but by many in the Arab world. I am further stunned by the tacit support expressed by many of our parliamentarians toward President Trump having authorised this provocative murderous act which has inevitably led to an escalating spiral of events where any mistake could bring the world dangerously close to a World War three scenario. Stating that America has a right to defend itself and artfully shifting the responsibility for the assassination onto Iran by making Soleimani as the aggressor, will do nothing to convince the Iranians or the Iraqis that the UK has regard for international law or is serious about de-escalating the situation. This tactic is reminiscent of placing the Palestinians as the aggressor and Israel as the victim even though International Law states that the Israeli occupation of West Bank and the siege of Gaza is unlawful.

Besides committing this irresponsible crime Trump further called for targeting Iran’s cultural sites (which also happens to be illegal) and bringing about crippling sanctions that would cause further suffering to a people already harmed by years of US interventionism. Surely it is time for the UK to take a strong, independent position by condemning Trump’s unilateral actions and not going along with sponsoring global terrorism, instability and US militaristic gung-ho posturing. .., or is it that trade deals with the US and the boost of 14 billion stock value to the world’s largest arms companies, rank higher than human life?

Adil Abu-Mahdi, the caretaker Prime Minister of Iraq, stated that Soleimani flew into Bagdad on a commercial airliner at the behest of the Iraqi Government on a diplomatic mission. Besides meeting with the Prime Minister he was to meet with Saudi Officials with a view to lessening tensions between the two countries (Iran and Saudi Arabia), which could have ultimately helped bring about a peace settlement in Yemen. One should question who it is that benefits from these lethal tensions… certainly not humanity as a whole. By throwing out the ‘rules of engagement’ Trump has placed every diplomat in danger of such targeted assassination. Just as the Iran JCPOA nuclear deal of which European and UK diplomats were party) was unlawfully thrown out, Trump has stripped away the last vestiges of trustworthiness bringing US credibility to zero. Supporting Trump in this heinous act does little for our credibility within the Middle East.

With regard to claims made by Trump of the threat of ‘imminent attack’ toward US Embassies no actual evidence has been submitted. Iraq was informed about the death of the American contractor, yet was denied any evidence to investigate what had happened. We are increasingly being drawn into a world where factual evidence is missing and governments take action on fabricated narratives on what ‘they’ consider to be ‘highly likely’. War and diplomacy based solely on ‘highly likely’ can and does have huge political bias fed into it that would never stand up as credible in a court of law. If there is solid evidence of ‘imminent danger’ to the US or Britain that should be clearly presented. However given that it was the pretext of ‘imminent danger’ of Saddam’s weapons of mass destruction (able to reach the UK in twenty minutes), that led to the opening of ‘Pandoras box’ and the disastrous, illegal invasion of Iraq, I believe one can be forgiven for not taking seriously this narrative of ‘imminent threat’ posited by Trump. What this assassination has done is to create a real threat to both American and British soldiers still within Iraq. The Iraqi Prime Minister has called for all US and coalition forces to leave Iraq forthwith. What Soleimani, may have hoped for in his life.. Iraqi independence, will hopefully be achieved through his death. As UK Secretary of State for Defence you state that you respect the sovereignty of Iraq, so I hope that this respect is carried out in practice and that all British soldiers are brought home and not left vulnerable in a country that the US, UK and allies have illegally occupied for well over a decade.

The rise of the truly nefarious terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS were created firstly by the US when fighting Russia in Afghanistan and then latterly by the reckless and illegal military interventions in Afghanistan, Iraq, Libya, Yemen and Syria. Syria aside, the creation of ‘failed States’ where law and order and respect for life has been broken down; where survival depends on joining some tribal militia group, is a flourishing environment for ISIS, particularly when such groups become armed with lethal western weaponry. Whether we liked Saddam or Gaddafi, this extreme fundamentalist Islam did not originate in any of these countries but was exported from Saudi Arabia. Salafism and Wahhabism would not have morphed into ISIS and all of its umbrella partner groups had it not been for the wars created by the US and Western allies. Even Trump acknowledged that Soleimani, and his Iranian Revolutionary Forces, Lebanese Hezbollah, along with the Syrian Defence Force, Russia and Kurdish fighters were the ones largely responsible for the defeats that ISIS has suffered. Whether intentional or not, US strategy of ‘accidentally’ bombing Syrian, Iranian, Russian and Lebanese Hezbollah targets has often aided ISIS terrorist groups.

I am dismayed by the lack of factual historical context expressed surrounding the assassination of Soleimani or any indication of responsibility for the ‘past and now increasing’ hostilities between UK and Iran. Naively, I cling to a belief that universal truth, democracy and justice still has value in our society and as such I feel a responsibility to point out some of the most glaring omissions from your statements. Since it is government leaders who regularly raise the question about America and Israel’s right to defend themselves, my question to you:

‘Is the ‘right to defend oneself’ not a universal right? And if this is the case, do the Iranians, the Iraqi’s, the Syrians, the Lebanese, and the Palestinians, plus people from all the other countries that the US has deemed to invade, not also have this same right to defend themselves?

Below is a record of American ground invasions since the Second World War: (note I have not included CIA or other more covert involvement of US elite forces globally in places such as South American, the Continent of Africa, Lebanon and Iran. I have also not included US aggressive posturing toward Russia, China and North Korea.

1950 – 1953: Korea.
1960 – 1975: Vietnam.
1961: Cuba.
1983: Grenada.
1989: Panama.
1990 -1991: Iraq – Persian Gulf War.
1995 -1996: Bosnia and Herzegovina.
2001 – present: Afghanistan.
2003 – present: Iraq.
2004 – present: Pakistan (drone strikes).
2007 – present: Somalia and North Eastern Kenya.
2011 – present: Libya.
2011 – 2017: Lords Resistance Army, Uganda.
2014 – present: Syria.
2015 – present: Yemen.

Record of Israel’s military interventions… again not including Mossad policy of targeted assassination and covert interventions around the globe.

1948 to present, Daily Israeli military interventions into the Negev Desert, West Bank and Gaza:

Major military engagements:
1947- 1949: Egypt, Iraq, Jordan/Palestine, Lebanon, Saudi Arabia, Yemen,
1956: Egypt.
1967 -1970: Palestine, Egypt, Syria, Jordan, Iraq.
1973: Egypt, Syria, Iraq, Jordan, Algeria, Morocco, Saudi Arabia, Cuba, North Korea.
1978: PLO Lebanon.
1982: Expulsion of PLO from Lebanon, Massacre of Palestinians, Sabra Shatila.
1982 -1985: Palestinian resistance, Syria.
1985 -2000: Lebanese Hezbollah and Amal resistance groups.
1987 -1993: Palestinians.
2000 -2005: Palestinians.
2002: Jenin Massacre.
2006: Lebanon.
2008 – 2009: Gaza.
2012: Gaza.
2012 – present: Iran, Lebanese Hezbollah, Syria and Yemen.
2014: Gaza.

In contrast to the illegal invasions onto foreign soil the US, Israel and the UK have entered into, Iran has no history of invading any sovereign country other than by invitation from a government that is threatened by invading forces. Iran, also has vested interests in keeping these countries free from terrorist groups such as Al Qaeda and ISIS given that it shares a border with Iraq and has close ties with Syria and Lebanon.

Iran also has sound historical reasons to be distrustful of the US and UK. It should be remembered that in 1953 the democratically elected government of Mohammad Mosaddegh was overthrown by an Iranian coup d’etat orchestrated by the US, CIA, and Britain’s MI6. For secular and religious Iranians from both wealthy and working class backgrounds, (like Soleimani), Mosaddegh was viewed as a beloved national hero. In 1951 he nationalized the Anglo-Persian Oil Company which prior to that move had effectively siphoned off most of Iran’s oil for the major benefit of its own foreign partners. It was this move eventually led to the house arrest of Mosaddegh and the installation of the pro-Western leadership of Reza Shah. This was a humiliating experience for a people with a proud and civilized history stretching back through the centuries.

The US and UK share a history of supporting autocratic leaders when their commercial and military interests align. It was the Shah’s extravagant, ostentatious spending, often lavished on foreign dignitaries to impress them at the expense of an already poverty stricken population, coupled with use of his secret police, the Savak, and their feared torture programs, that finally led to the Iranian revolution. Although now known as the Islamic Revolution it should not be forgotten that amongst the revolutionaries there were many communists. It is not unreasonable to speculate that given US paranoia as regards the Soviet Union and China that the US were not also somehow instrumental in enabling the leadership of Ayatollah Khomeini to return as a way preventing any further spread of communist ideals.

Each time the Iranian people make moves toward a more liberal society the US makes moves to entrench it in a more hardline re-active defensive position. I have listened to threats toward Iran for at least two decades. I can recall Scott Ritter, a former United Nations Weapons Inspector speaking at Menwith Hill prior to the US led military invasion of Iraq. Not only did he state categorically that there was no evidence to suggest that Iraq had weapons of mass destruction, Ritter warned that with the influence of John Bolton and others, the US and Israel were posturing toward a war with Iran. The psychological damage to a nation living on the edge of such a threat should not be underestimated. Under the UN Convention on Human Rights, security is a fundamental human right. It is well documented how the US profited by selling weapons to both sides as a pivotal player during the war between Iran and Iraq which resulted in a huge loss of life for both nations. Having experienced such tragic loss of husbands, sons and brothers, people have suffered profound grief and carry long, painful memories. In recent times Iran has experienced the targeted assassination of its leading scientists besides the crippling sanctions by a global elite who view their right to meddle in the affairs of sovereign countries as entitled. There is no evidence that Iranians would seek another war. In fact given what they have faced over past and recent years, their restraint is remarkable and testament to their strength and intelligence.

In contradiction to what is being said within our Parliament, the murder of Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, is a crime of huge gravity and not only a loss to the Iranian people but to the Palestinian, Iraqi, Syrian, Yemeni and Lebanese people. In fact it is a loss to all people who share in deeper peace loving values, based on truth, justice and international law. If we don’t destroy ourselves through forced conflict and a reckless disconnect from what is truly precious I hope that one day murder, slavery, occupation, injustice and war will be seen as a failure by our leadership and the crime against humanity that it is.

Ref: https://hansard.parliament.uk/commons/2020-01-07/debates/BB5857A1-081F-483A-9E58-E22BEBCBA673/MiddleEastSecurity

Signed; Heather Stroud, 11th January, in the year 2020.

Heather Stroud is a Palestinian solidarity activist


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