January 11, 2021
Iran asked Interpol to issue what it calls a “red notice” for the arrest of U.S. President Donald Trump and his senior officials who ordered the drone strike that killed Qassem Soleimani Iran’s former chief of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)-Quds Force near Iraq’s Baghdad International Airport a little more than a year ago. In its response, Interpol said it did not accept requests for red notices that are motivated by political or military concerns.
Iran’s rhetoric and threats
The theocratic regime in Iran accuses Trump of being the main culprit behind Soleimani’s death. It claimed that 48 U.S. officials were involved in the Quds Force’s former chief, along with Trump including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and former Secretary of Defense Mark Esper. Trump accuses Soleimani of “plotting imminent and sinister attacks” against American interests. Soleimani was believed to have been behind the killing of hundreds of U.S. troops in Iraq. In 2019, the U.S. State Department said that Iran was responsible for 608 U.S. troop deaths in the country.
Soleimani rose to prominence during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, eventually rose to become the leader of the Quds Force. He and his group are believed to have supported Shi’ite insurgency operations against U.S. forces during the occupation of Iraq, including supplying explosively formed penetrators, a special kind of improvised explosive device capable of penetrating U.S. armour.
The Iranian general was also accused of spreading Shi’ite influence across the Middle East and marshalling Tehran’s proxy terrorist forces. Subsequently, thousands of Iraqi and Syrian civilians have been killed. Soleimani was referred to as Iran’s shadow commander who headed Quds Force, the IRGC branch responsible for conducting special operations outside Iran.
On his part, a judge in Baghdad’s investigative court tasked with probing the incident of Killing Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, a militia leader who was also deputy chief of Popular Mobilisation Forces (Hashd Sha’abi), an umbrella of Iran’s proxy Shi’ite militias in Iraq, issued on Thursday an arrest warrant for the U.S. President Trump in connection with their killing. The warrant, however, is likely to be motivated by Iran and its proxies in Iraq that control Iraq’s judiciary and parliament which had passed a non-binding resolution to force the government to oust foreign troops from the country shortly after the incident.
Soleimani’s death came after violent protests targeted U.S. Embassy in Baghdad organised by Iran’s proxy militias whose stepped up attacks against the American presence in Iraq, including the U.S. Embassy in Bagdad. Ahead of the first anniversary of Soleimani’s death, the U.S. ordered a temporary withdrawal of some of its staff at the embassy, citing concerns over attacks as tensions in the region were exacerbated late last year after the Iranian nuclear scientist Mohsen Fakhrizadeh who was integral to building Iran’s nuclear program, was assassinated in broad daylight.
Last Monday, air controllers in New York heard an audio threat. The unidentified speaker refers to Soleimani saying: “We are flying a plane into the Capitol on Wednesday. Soleimani will be avenged.” Although the U.S. authorities do not seem to believe that the warning is credible, the FBI said it took such threats to public security and considered it as a breach of aviation frequencies because it could affect the instructions pilots received about their flight routes. Therefore, American agencies including the Pentagon were briefed about the voice recording.
While Soleimani’s proponents were commemorating his death, Mahmoud al-Zahar, a co-founder and leading member of Hamas revealed on December 27, 2020, that Soleimani had gifted him 22 million dollars in cash at Tehran Airport. Similarly, back on October 23, 2010, Iran’s ambassador to Afghanistan Feda Hussein Maliki handed Aghani President Hamid Karzai’s chief of staff Umar Daudzai a large plastic bag fill of euro bills, according to New York Times.
Soliemani had also links to Hamid Baghaei the former Vice President in charge of executive affairs. Baghaei was handed a decades-long prison sentence for pocketing around 590,000 US dollars allocated to the Quds Force. In an attempt to defend himself, Baghaie wrote that it was a matter between Soleimani and Ahmadinejad and nobody else.
Reports of corruption inside IRGC’s Quds Force is not limited to stealing and transferring money. On November 20, 2017, the US Treasury added to its sanctions list Mahmoud Seif, the former CEO of Teharat Almas Mobin Co, who was accused of using and Pardazeh Taswir Rayan Co for importing equipment from Europe into Iran that used in printing counterfeit banknotes, in addition to procuring arms for IRGC. The two companies were at the apex of a network producing fake Yemeni bank notes potentially worth hundreds of millions of dollars for the IRGC’s expeditionary Quds Force. The Quds Force has also been accused of supporting Houthi rebels in Yemen and passing the counterfeit cash on to them, according to the US Treasury.
Some Soleimani’s associates from Iran’s Province of Kerman, the province where Soleimani was born, were implicated in corruption scandals. Soleimani and his subordinates colluded closely with financial and construction projects of Hossein Marashi, the spokesman for Iran’s Executives of Construction Party, and a former governor of Kerman. Their financial relationship also extended to entities like Mahan Airline, which has since been blacklisted by the US because of its cooperation with the Quds Force.
Hasan Pelarak was one of Soleimani’s most trusted commanders in Iraq and Syria. In 2009, on the orders of Ayatollah Khamenei, Pelarak was appointed head of the Headquarters of Reconstruction of Holy Shrines (HRHS). There are no clear or accurate reports on how during Pelarak’s 10-year tenure, millions of dollars were spent on repairing Shi’ite holy shrines in Iraq.
One of the names in this corruption case was Mehdi Jahangiri, the brother of First Vice President Eshagh Jahangiri and a partner of Hasan Pelarak. In a letter to Soleimani, former President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad accused him of intervening to secure the release of Jahangiri. A few months before he was assassinated, General Soleimani removed Pelarak as the head of the HRHS and replaced him with Mohammad Jalal-Maab, another associate from Kerman.
HRHS claims it receives no funds from the government and its finances are wholly dependent on Iranian customers and non-governmental organizations. But a review of government budgets shows that, from 2014 to 2016, it received more than US$206 million, from the government. Some reports linked this change to another corruption case within the Revolutionary Guards.
The slain Iranian general had a major role in supporting the rise of the Popular Mobilization Units and place Iranian-backed Iraqi politicians and their militias in powerful positions. In addition to preventing an imenent fall of Syria’s dictator Bashar Asad. However, Soleiman’s death could prove to be a major blow against Iran’s growing influence in the region, as he was considered to be Tehran’s main agent there.