US State Violence: From supporting terrorism to assassinating a military commander fighting terrorism

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US State Violence: From supporting terrorism to assassinating a military commander fighting terrorism

It is almost two decades that the United States of America has been seriously claiming to fight terrorism, while there is evidence attesting that America’s actions, the last of which being the assassination of Gen. Qasem Soleimani, have helped develop the terrorist spirit and groups in the region. The following Op-Ed, published by Khamenei.ir, tries to investigate this matter.


Introduction

Despite its claim to be fighting against terrorism, the US is the most important country which carries out the most severe forms of terrorist actions such as supporting sectarian and usurping governments, assisting terrorist groups by proxy and launching direct attacks on civilians. Assassinating Gen. Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps – one of the most important fronts in fighting against terrorism – showed that the U.S. has even placed overt terrorism at the top of its agenda. In this article, as well as portraying the wide range of terrorist activities by the US, the issue of assassinating Gen. Soleimani as a manifestation of US’s state terrorism will be explained by drawing on international law documents and guidelines.

 

State terrorism, systematic violence

Terrorism, as one of the current realities of the human community means “The systematic utilization of unpredictable panic or violence against nations or individuals for achieving a political goal.[i]” In fact, systematic – and of course illegitimate, in a legal sense – violence is the most important characteristic of terrorism which is perpetrated with the purpose of instilling fear as a central concept of terrorism. State terrorism is a term that is applied to governments’ interference in the domestic or foreign affairs of another government which is carried out by implementing or participating in a terrorist operation or supporting a military operation with the aim of undermining and overthrowing that government or the entire ruling system of that country. In the twentieth and twenty-first centuries, different forms of state terrorism – such as massacring civilians, imposing hunger, genocide and intimidating large groups of people – have claimed more victims than the actions perpetrated by terrorist groups[ii].

 

The US and the exhibition of fighting against terrorism

Historical studies show that the employment of dual standards in supporting sectarian and terrorist countries, providing financial and arms support for terrorist groups by proxy and finally, using violence against civilians are examples of the US’s state terrorism.

Despite US claims of fighting against terrorism, Afghanistan has been officially announced as the most dangerous country due to the existence of violence, a large number of victims and terrorism[iii]. Moreover, the US’s attack on Afghanistan and Iraq have proved to be the most important reasons for the expansion of terrorism. Statistics show that after having occupied Afghanistan, suicide attacks have turned into the new model of terrorism: from one attack in 2002 to 310 attacks in 2011, only in Afghanistan and Pakistan[iv]. The occupation of Iraq led to extremist terrorism in that country and then, Somalia, Algeria, Syria, Yemen, Mali and other countries suffered the same fate. In these countries, extremist groups doubled and Salafi fighters tripled in number[v]. Another example of the US’s state terrorism is its attack on civilians, which is known as “drone violence”. According to reports published by the UN, as a result of increasing air attacks on Afghanistan, the number of civilian casualties increased in 2018 in an unprecedented manner: 1,692 civilians dead which shows a 52 % increase compared to 2017[vi]. Generally speaking, in the Iraq war, according to official figures, about 200,000 civilians were killed due to the US’s claimed war against terrorism[vii]. In fact, it is because of this terrorist orientation that the US is considered an international threat. According to a poll conducted by PEW research center on global panorama of US power and influence, about 45% of the people all over the world cite US influence – as well as global threats such as ISIS, climatic changes, economy and cyber attacks – as one of the major threats against the security of their country[viii].

US state terrorism and the martyrdom of Gen. Soleimani:

A. Soleimani was the champion of fighting against terrorism

Undoubtedly, the most important terrorist action perpetrated by the US government against the Islamic Republic of Iran has been the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, the Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps, in Iraq. For many years, Gen. Soleimani played a special role in fighting against terrorism in Afghanistan and in establishing the national government in that country. In post-Saddam Iraq too, he played the most important role in holding free elections and asserting the rights of ethnic and religious groups in that country. He was also the leading commander in fighting against the terrorism of ISIS and al-Nusra group in Iraq and Syria[ix]. And he did that while the US had abandoned Iraq so that it would be swallowed by ISIS, despite its security commitments. Soleimani first defeated ISIS in Jof al-Sakhar Operation, carried out in October 2014 and by recapturing Bu Kamal, in November 2017, he put an end to ISIS reign.

While he was on a diplomatic mission – international cooperation between Iran and Iraq for fighting against terrorism – and while he intended to meet with the Iraqi Prime Minister in order to establish peace in the region, he was martyred on January 3, 2020 by American drones. In fact, Gen. Soleimani was targeted, on US President’s order on the soil of a third-party country, as an official and senior representative of the Islamic Republic of Iran and while he enjoyed customary international immunity. However, in defending its action, the US resorted to pre-emptive legitimate defense, which in fact violates the most obvious international law principles and also those of the UN. This is a clear manifestation of state terrorism.

B. Illegitimate terrorism

For many reasons, the US action was an illegal conduct and a clear manifestation of state terrorism. The following pieces of evidence prove this:

The Charter of the United Nations invites governments to resolve their differences through peaceful methods. Within the framework of laws on arms disputes, according to the clause 4 of article 2 in the Charter of the United Nations, the first principle is to avoid resorting to force. Only governmental actions supported by article 51 and the resolutions passed by the UN Security Council in the seventh chapter of the Charter justify exceptions to the rule.

Article 51 of the charter is an exception to the rule of avoiding force according to which, force can only be applied during legitimate defense and in response to an arms attack. “Legitimate defense” is defined as: defending oneself or one’s property against an attack provided that one’s defense is reasonable, necessary and proportionate with the aggressor’s attack[x]. Therefore, for a defense to be legitimate, the element of necessity is very important and Article 31 of the ICC [International Criminal Court] Statute has also confirmed this, stating that the condition is the imminence or the inevitability of an aggressor’s action.

Considering the principles of legitimate defense, which the US has referred to, it is clear that the assassination of Martyr Soleimani cannot be proved by relying on this principle because it does not have any of the conditions specified in the legitimate defense article. Not only was there not any piece of evidence supporting the imminent plan on attacking the US, but also Gen. - entered Iraq to engage in political negotiations, as confirmed by the Prime Minister of Iraq. The human rights reporter of the UN has also stressed that the US did not provide sufficient evidence showing that its regional interests were in danger so much so that it could justify its attack on Soleimani team. Therefore, in the absence of a real and imminent threat against the lives of individuals, the course of action adopted by the US was illegal[xi].

Since the Commander of the Quds Force entered the Iraqi soil at the invitation of the Iraqi government, in a legal manner and absent war conditions, his presence cannot be considered as a presence in a war zone. Moreover, according to human rights principles, even if we assume that there was a war condition, a drone strike against human targets violates the right to live and the principle of human dignity and therefore, it is a clear manifestation of trampling on fundamental human rights. From another viewpoint, according to Article 8 of ICC Statute, every clear violation of international conventions, of international laws, and of arms dispute regulations is considered a war crime.

In light of the US government’s terrorist activity, according to articles 1 and 2 specified in the Responsibility of States for Internationally Wrongful Acts (2001), passed by the human rights commission of the UN, the US government is responsible for its international crime. Therefore, the Islamic Republic’s retaliation is justified according to article 22 of the Responsibility of States for International Wrongful Acts. On the basis of this article, arresting, condemning and punishing the perpetrators and those who issued the order are among acceptable measures according to international law conventions, and therefore, these measures should be pursued.

Of course, the US’s action in assassinating Gen. Soleimani was not surprising for the people of Iran and for the world of Islam considering that country’s notorious history of state terrorism, but undoubtedly, if the US continues to engage in terrorist activities, it could have important consequences for international laws, international organizations and fundamental values such as human rights and avoidance of violence and force. In fact, the US’s disregard for the Charter of the United Nations will be the most important challenge that the global community will face especially as Agnes Callamard, the human rights reporter of the UN described the attack on Soleimani and his entourage in Iraq as an act that violates the charter of the United Nations[xii].

Conclusion

On the issue of the assassination of Gen. Soleimani, the international community was once more witness to a contradictory conduct on the part of American politicians. The division of terrorism into good and bad is the clearest manifestation of this conduct: Whenever its interests dictate it, not only does the US support terrorism, but it also engages in terrorist activities. As stated above, that assassination was completely against international law principles and a clear example of state terrorism. With the beginning of an era described as the decline of the US, such actions will increase the US terrorist threats and the violation of countries’ national authority. As cyber espionage, economic sanctions, trade on security and breaching commitments have turned into the most important characteristics of US behavior, state terrorism too will be more utilized in the future by that country. Therefore, it is necessary for the international community to stand up against the US’s illegal and destructive actions by relying on multilateralism.

 


[i] Britannica, The New Encyclopedia Britannica, Vol.11, Micropaedia, 1986,  p560.

[ii] James Sluka, "Introduction: State Terror and Anthropology", in JefieySluka(ed.), Death Squad: The Anthropology of State Terror, Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 2000, pp 1-45.

[iii] Global Peace Index 2019, The Institute for Economics & Peace (IEP)

[iv] Chicago Project, "Suicide Attack Database", Chicago Project  on Security and Terrorism, CPOST data posted as of October 12, 2016, Available at http://cpostdata.uchicago.edu/search_results_new.php

[v] Chicago Project, "Suicide Attack Database", Chicago Project  on Security and Terrorism, CPOST data posted as of October 12, 2016, Available at http://cpostdata.uchicago.edu/search_results_new.php

[vi] DW, Civilian deaths hit record high in Afghanistan: UN, Available at https://www.dw.com/en/civilian-deaths-hit-record-high-in-afghanistan-un/a-44680606

[vii] Statista, Number of documented civilian deaths in the Iraq war from 2003 to November 2020, Available at https://www.statista.com/statistics/269729/documented-civilian-deaths-in-iraq-war-since-2003/

[viii] Manevich, Dorothy and Hanyu Chwe, Globally, more people see U.S. power and influence as a major threat, Pew Research Center, 2017.

[ix] Sunday Times, Iranian general leads defence of Baghdad, Available at https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/iranian-general-leads-defence-of-baghdad-fgn5xzd5gct

[x] Bantekas. Ilias, Nash.Susan, International Criminal Law, London: Cavendish Publishing limited, 2003, P 138

[xi] Callamard, Agnes, All drone strikes ‘in self-defense’ should go before Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, Available at https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068041, 9 July 2020.

[xii] Callamard, Agnes, All drone strikes ‘in self-defense’ should go before Security Council, UN Human Rights Council, Available at https://news.un.org/en/story/2020/07/1068041, 9 July 2020

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