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memri
January 6, 2020 No.
8470

Reactions In South Asian Newspapers To Assassination Of Qassem Soleimani

Below are excerpts from editorials published by mainstream newspapers in Pakistan, India, and Bangladesh on the likely repercussions of the January 2, 2020 U.S. drone strike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, which is the foreign operations branch of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps:

Pakistani Daily Dawn: "Reckless Unilateralism Has Created A More Dangerous World... It Will Imperil American Interests Across Continents"

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled "World Policeman" that was published by the Pakistani daily Dawn:[1]

"The killing of Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis in Baghdad early on Friday by the U.S. sends several messages to America's foes. The most obvious of these signals is that American exceptionalism prevails and that Washington plays by its own rules, throwing international conventions to the wind.

"This may temporarily prove to the world that the U.S. remains the globe's primary military and economic power. Yet the turbulence such reckless actions cause to the international order in the long term is considerable, something that the policymakers in Washington seem completely unconcerned about. Moreover, such unilateralism only adds to anti-Americanism amongst the nations of the world, with people feeling that the U.S. cannot be trusted...

"Much of the mess in the Middle East today is the work of American interventionism and desire for regime change; Saddam Hussein, once a client as long as he was useful against Iran, was quickly toppled after dubious claims of weapons of mass destruction were conjured up in order to get rid of him. Israel has long enjoyed American patronage, as the U.S. has shielded its principal Middle Eastern client from global criticism, even though Tel Aviv's hands are soaked in Palestinian blood.

"Israel has also violated the sovereignty of its neighbors multiple times. Also, Syria and Libya today are broken states because Washington and its allies felt it was time to remove Bashar al-Assad and Muammar Qadhafi; both these individuals are/were brutal autocrats, but plans of regime change hatched in foreign capitals have helped destroy Syria and Libya.

"Washington under successive governments – particularly under Donald Trump's watch – has come a long way from the Fourteen Points championed by Woodrow Wilson for world peace. The operative American policy seems to be 'shoot first and ask questions later'. However, this reckless unilateralism has created a more dangerous world, and unless there is a change of course, it will imperil American interests across continents as Washington's foes decide to answer in the same coin."

The News: "For Pakistan, The Situation Is An Extremely Delicate One; Its Allies, Saudi Arabia And The U.S., Are Likely To Exert Pressure To Support Their Mission Against Iran"

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled "Clouds Of War" in the Pakistani daily The News:[2]

"It is uncertain how Iran will react to the death of a hero. While it has threatened action to wipe out American forces in Iraq, including the 3,500 additional armed forces personnel who are set to be posted there under the Trump administration's plans, there is uncertainty among international analysts regarding Iran's capability in this respect.

"However, there is no doubt that Iran is able to threaten U.S. shipping through the Strait of Hormuz and by creating even stronger proxy armies in some countries such as Yemen and Syria. For Pakistan, the situation is an extremely delicate one. Its allies, Saudi Arabia and the U.S., are likely to exert pressure to support their mission against Iran.

"Pakistan however hosts the world's second largest Shi'a population after Iran and in strategic terms the significance of maintaining good ties with its close neighbor has been emphasized. There may be no World War III – but undoubtedly, the deliberate killing of Soleimani will have a deep impact on an already unstable region and throw a deeper, darker shadow over it."

Bangladeshi Newspaper The Daily Star: "The International Community And The UN Security Council Must Urgently Step In Before Things Deteriorate Any Further"

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled "Avoid Any Further Escalation At All Costs!" that was published by The Daily Star of Bangladesh:[3]

"The recent U.S. drone attack just added to that tension and increased chances of another war breaking out in the region – which could potentially morph into a World War. The Iranian leadership has already promised to retaliate. The U.S. is all set to send up to 3,500 more troops to the Middle East. And the war of words between the leaderships of the two countries continues to intensify. While it is possible on the one hand that a large part of what is being said is posturing by top officials and military leaders of the two countries, when countries continually threaten each other, things often escalate faster and in a way few initially expect.

"Iran has seen itself being portrayed as a great villain by the U.S. and its allies for decades now. And the Trump administration has ratcheted up all sorts of pressure on Iran since 2016 – cancelling the Iran nuclear deal, slapping fresh sanctions on Iran, etc. Therefore, it is only natural for the Iranian leadership to feel nervous seeing the world's only superpower – with a record of disastrous interventions in the Middle East – breathing this heavily down its neck. Not only does this fail to tone down tension, but it also makes it more likely for both sides to mistakenly walk into a disastrous conflict.

"After the killing of Soleimani, President Trump said that the U.S. is not looking to start a war, nor does it seek a regime change in Iran. However, given that the U.S. has failed to keep its previous promises to Iran, such reassurances may not be enough to walk back on the volatile situation the two countries are now tangled in. This is where the international community and the UN Security Council must urgently step in before things deteriorate any further. Any conflict between the U.S. and Iran will not only be devastating for their respective people and the Middle East in general, but also for the rest of the world. Thus, it is crucial that both sides exercise restraint and engage each other in dialogue to find an end to this dangerous standoff."

The Indian Express: "Iran Is Fully Capable Of Widening And Escalating The Asymmetric War Against America"

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled "After Soleimani" in The Indian Express:[4]

"Soleimani's aggressive political and military tactics continuously challenged America's regional primacy. His hybrid warfare compensated for the weakness of Iran's conventional military forces. His successful intervention in the domestic politics of various countries in the Middle East – from Iraq and Syria to Yemen and Libya – made him a formidable opponent to the U.S. and its regional allies...

"Ever since the Islamic revolution in Iran four decades ago, Washington and Iran have been daggers drawn. Occasional attempts at finding compromises have failed. But the unintended consequences of U.S. policy in the region – the ousting of the Taliban from Afghanistan in 2001 and Saddam Hussein from Iraq in 2003 – generated huge space for the expansion of Tehran's regional influence.

"Iran has also successfully mobilized the support of Russia and China and has constructed a regional coalition with Turkey, Qatar, and Syria against the U.S. and its allies. Although the elimination of Soleimani and other militia leaders is a big setback, Iran is fully capable of widening and escalating the asymmetric war against America. This, in turn, puts the entire Gulf region, the world's largest supplier of hydrocarbons, at risk.

"And with it, the already fragile global economy. As a major importer of oil, India is especially vulnerable to the deepening crisis next door. Delhi will also be under pressure to take a fresh look at its regional policy that sought to overcome the multiple contradictions in the Gulf by trying to be friends with all. The sharpening conflict will certainly make India's navigation of the Gulf that much harder."

The Hindu of India: "U.S., Which Is Struggling To Get Out Of Afghanistan After 18 Years Of War... Is Triggering Another Conflict In The Muslim World"

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled "An Act Of War: On U.S. Killing Of Iran Commander" in The Hindu, a left-leaning newspaper of India:[5]

"Now, with the assassination of Soleimani, Mr. Trump has escalated the crisis to the levels not seen in the past; not even during the siege in 1979 of the American Embassy in Tehran by the revolutionaries. It might help an impeached President in an election year to divert attention from his domestic woes and mobilise political support, but for a region already struggling to cope with multiple armed conflicts and external interventions, it could be dangerously consequential.

"The attack has already killed off even the possibility of renegotiating the nuclear deal. Iran might see this as an act of war like any sovereign country would do. A full-scale war with Iran would be totally different from the wars the U.S. has fought in West Asia in recent years. It could trigger multiple attacks across the region, destabilising it further, cause heavy casualties, and help the jihadist groups such as Al-Qaeda and the IS [Islamic State] regroup and re-emerge.

"It is unfortunate that the U.S., which is struggling to get out of Afghanistan after 18 years of war, which destroyed the Iraqi state 17 years ago, turning parts of the country into fertile ground for jihadists, is triggering another conflict in the Muslim world."

The Times Of India: "Soleimani May Now Be A Bigger Threat To The U.S. Dead Than Alive, With Collateral Damage Across The World If War Breaks Out In The Region"

Following are excerpts from an editorial titled " On The Brink: All Stakeholders Must Prevent Escalation Of US-Iran Conflict" in The Times of India daily:[6]

"The assassination will cause Iran to feel threatened, with short- as well as long-term consequences. It is likely to remove all restraints to Iran seeking nuclear weapons. Second, it will still moderate and pro-democratic voices in Iran as it rallies behind its ayatollahs.

"Trump's 2018 withdrawal from the nuclear accord led U.S. and Iranian interests to brush up against each other in Iraq, where both countries have strong presence. As Iran smarted under sanctions there were devastating strikes on oilfields in Saudi Arabia, its mortal enemy that also happens to be under U.S. security protection, even as shipping in the Gulf of Oman was targeted. However, the assassination of a seniormost leader of a sovereign nation now takes the confrontation up many notches and has caused severe misgivings within the U.S. itself, with former Vice-President Joe Biden describing it, accurately, as 'a hugely escalatory move in an already dangerous region.'

"The ironies of Soleimani's assassination abound, with one of Trump's key electoral promises having been that he would extricate America from getting embroiled in senseless wars. Neither does the charge of backing terrorists who attacked U.S. interests hold much water, as Pakistani generals have a more established record of doing so, yet are courted rather than acted against. Moreover, Soleimani played a key role in operations against Islamic State – which not only made him a revered figure among Shi'a masses everywhere but may also have saved many American lives in the bargain.

"Soleimani may now be a bigger threat to the U.S. dead than alive, with collateral damage across the world if war breaks out in the region. Among other things, the reckless American action was undertaken with scant regard to Indian interests – there are close to 8 million Indians living and working in the Middle East, and any Iranian shutdown of the Strait of Hormuz would severely impede oil flows and send crude prices soaring. That would be bad news for New Delhi which is already struggling with a slowing economy. New Delhi must plan for the fallout, even as it hopes that cool heads will prevail and prevent any escalation in the U.S.-Iran tussle."

 

[1] Dawn (Pakistan), January 5, 2020. The original English of the editorials in this dispatch has been lightly edited for clarity and standardization.

[2]The News (Pakistan), January 5, 2020.

[3]The Daily Star (Bangladesh), January 5, 2020.

[4]The Indian Express (India), January 4, 2020.

[5]The Hindu (India), January 4, 2020.

[6]The Times of India (India), January 6, 2020.