Several days after the Syrian regime and its allies retook eastern Aleppo, one of the Syrian opposition's main remaining strongholds, with siege and heavy bombardment, the Iranian press published photos of Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran's Qods Force, which is part of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as he toured the ruined city, including the medieval citadel at its center.
The photos enraged opponents of the resistance axis, which is headed by Iran and the Syrian regime. They perceived the photos as proof that Aleppo is now occupied by Iran and a signal that Iran is also aiming to occupy other cities in Arab countries, particularly in the Gulf. Articles in the Arab press, especially in the Gulf, called Soleimani a "modern-day Hitler," and argued that the world is not stopping him, just as it had not stopped Hitler and other mass murderers in modern history.
Soleimani tours Aleppo (Qasemsoleimani.ir, December 16, 2016)
Following are excerpts from major reactions in the Arab press to the photos of Soleimani in Aleppo:
Iran Is Signaling Its Intent To Occupy More Cities In The Middle East
Hamad Al-Majed, a Saudi columnist for the London-based daily Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, wrote: "The well-known photo of the Gen. Qassem Soleimani arrogantly walking the empty streets of Aleppo that his forces destroyed and whose residents they killed and expelled... is a massive propaganda message that Iran has leaked to the media, and holds within it thousands [more] messages. It is as if Soleimani, a military peacock arrogant over his victories, is muttering: 'Yesterday we liberated Baghdad and the other Iraqi cities, and after that Sana'a [in Yemen], and after that we took over Beirut [in Lebanon], and today we are liberating Aleppo. It is only a matter of time before [we] dismantle the other cities in Syria, and then, sooner or later, you will see me strolling through the rubble of other Arab cities in the Middle East..."
'Ali Al-Husseini, a columnist for the Lebanese daily Al-Mustaqbal, which is affiliated with pro-Saudi and anti-Assad elements in Lebanon, wrote: "Two days ago, the Iranian expansion plan was revealed, [which has now] reached Aleppo after [reaching the Syrian cities of] Al-Qusayr, Al-Zabadani, and Madaya, [occupied by Hizbullah]. [What revealed this plan was] IRGC [Qods Force] commander Qassem Soleimani, who emerged strolling the neighborhoods of Aleppo that reek of destruction, witnessed the killing of children, and are littered with the bodies of dead residents. There is no doubt that this was a painful picture for residents of the city...
"With the aid and assistance of [Afghani, Pakistani, and Iraqi] mercenaries, Soleimani yesterday stepped on the body parts and in the blood of Aleppo residents, and also on the emotions of its orphaned children. This photo birthed, in their souls, a desire for vengeance, and a dream to return [to Aleppo] with fire in their eyes..."
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Arabs Should Awaken And Act – Because Iran Poses A Danger To The Gulf States
Saleh Al-Sheikhi, a columnist for the Saudi daily Al-Watan, called on Arabs to awaken and act, in light of what is perceived as an Iranian takeover of yet another Arab city. He wrote: "Two days ago, I stood for nearly an hour, no less, looking at the photo of Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani strolling through the streets of Aleppo – which are no longer streets but ruins and piles of rubble. I struggled, no less, to put out of my mind my visions of Soleimani's false dreams about strolling through cities in the Gulf [countries]... I searched out society's reaction to this shocking photo, and what I found was sad: [Instead of reactions to this photo, I found reactions to] Sheikh 'Abdallah Al-Suwailem, [who,] with all the esteem in which I hold him and his colleagues, has launched an argument that is out of place, with his statement that a sexual relationship between family members who are prohibited from marrying each other is less [grave] than abandoning [the commandment] of prayer. This [statement of his] opinion triggered thousands of debates, tweets, recriminations, gossip, and widespread debates that preoccupied the public.
"Qassem Soleimani is strolling through Syria with his eye on the other Arab capitals – while Sheikh 'Abdallah Al-Suwailem is arguing with the public on the issue of abandoning morning prayers and sexual relations between relatives who may not marry! If we do not act now and feel our important national responsibility, then when will we act?"
Soleimani Is A "Modern-Day Hitler"; The World Is Not Stopping Him – Just As It Did Not Stop Hitler At The Time
Some resistance axis opponents called Soleimani a "modern-day Hitler," and argued that the world is not acting to help the Syrian people, just as it did not act to help victims of other massacres throughout modern history. Lebanese MP Muhammad Kabbara, of the Al-Mustaqbal party, stated: "History will show that what happened in Aleppo has surpassed the myths of the Nazi crematoria. The coming generations will never forget that the Persians, Russians, and the Assad regime were the ones who conducted massacres in Aleppo. They will never forget the sight of the modern-day Hitler, Qassem Soleimani, touring, and gloating over, the ill-fated neighborhoods of Aleppo in the company of an officer from Assad's [army]."
Amr Hamzawy, a former Egyptian MP and a columnist for the London-based daily Al-Quds Al-Arabi, wondered: "Why does the world leave the Syrian people on its own to be massacred by the dictator Bashar Al-Assad, and by Russia and Iran, which sponsor him? Because our evil world only knows how to massacre the weak while turning them into the perpetual victims of criminals and tyrants...
"Any serious action to save Syrians from slaughter would be contrary to the norm in our world, [which kept silent in light of] the massacres of Armenians and Jews in Europe; the extermination of 27 million in the former Soviet Union during WWII, [and] the dropping of two atomic bombs on Japan on the pretext of ending World War II... Any true effort by those who monopolize the industries of weapons, killing, and bloodshed to stop the Syrian massacre would be a bizarre deviation from their past policy and conduct.
"In the late 1930s, didn't the governments of Britain, France, and the Soviet Union make it possible for the Nazis to spread murder and destruction across several parts of Eastern Europe to avoid a fight, and out of concern for their own interests? Didn't Hitler emerge due to global disregard for his first crimes, and [didn't] U.S. neutrality cause him to carry out further attacks and crimes?... Don't the photos of Nazi generals in areas destroyed by their weapons in Soviet cities... remind you of the photos of Soleimani in Aleppo a few days ago?..."