On 29 December 2019, the heads of the US government gather at Mar-a-Lago, Donald Trump’s California villa. They have interrupted their Christmas holidays to meet with their commander in chief and, together, decide how to confront the revolts which, as from the last few weeks of 2019, have been disrupting Iraq. The tycoon leaves the golf field and locks himself in a room alongside his government high officials to discuss – or at least this is the version which circulated for days,- the raids which, a few hours later, would strike Kataib Hezbollah, the pro-Iranian militia in Syria and Iraq.
As the Washington Post later revealed, however, during the meeting other topics were also discussed. On that occasion, somebody – it is still uncertain who – introduced an option which, until then, had always been considered taboo: the possibility of killing Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, commander of the al Quds forces. It appears that Trump gave the green light to the targeted killing on that very occasion, and immediately, American intelligence launched the search for the general.
Four days later, on 2 January, the American president met with his closest advisors: Secretary of State, Mike Pompeo; Defense Secretary, Mark Esper; US Army Chief of Staff, Mark Milley; Acting Director of National Intelligence, Joe Maguire, and influential Republican Senator Lindsey Graham. But, as Il Corriere reports, “the most highly-anticipated guest was Gina Haspel, CIA director. It was Haspel who put together the dossier on Soleimani’s movements and, above all, on the general’s ‘ominous schemes’”.
They know that the general arrived in Damascus, from where he travelled to Beirut (to meet Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah) and finally made his way back to the Syrian capital where he boarded a flight landing in Baghdad on January 3 at 00.32 where, shortly after, he would meet his death.
The general had been busy during his last days. What with? And, above all, why did he reach the Iraqi capital’s airport travelling on a commercial flight?
As Il Post reveals, “the compound’s security is guaranteed by a private British company, G4S, under Iraqi intelligence supervision, while that of the airport perimeter and the air space is competence of Iraqi counterterrorism in collaboration with the United States.”
Was Soleimani hoping – despite his political standing – to not be seen? Or was he convinced he was protected by some sort of “immunity” as Il Corriere also recently hypothesized?
Maybe, a lead which should be investigated is that indicated by Iraqi premier, Adel Abdel Mahdi. Yesterday, just as his country was voting to expel all US troops from Iraq, Mahdi stated, as we can see in this video, relaunched by Ali Mourad, a reporter of Al Akhbar, a daily newspaper close to Hezbollah: “…I shall say this that it may go down in History: I was supposed to meet Soleimani at 8.30 on the morning he was made a martyr. He was to bring with him the answer to a message we delivered from Saudi Arabia, to reach an agreement in Iraq and the region.”
عادل عبدالمهدي يؤكد أنّه كان بصدد اللقاء بالجنرال #سليماني صباح الجمعة عند الساعة 8:30 للحصول منه على الرد الإيراني على الرسالة #السعودية التي كان عبدالمهدي قد أوصلها لإيران للتوصل لاتفاقات وانفراجات في #العراق والمنطقة pic.twitter.com/wd9uk4DCHh
— Ali Mourad (@alihmourad) January 5, 2020
If Mahdi’s version were true, it would be reasonable to suppose that Soleimani felt safe as he was the bearer of a diplomatic message. As things stand we cannot refute this account, we can only add pieces to an affair which still presents many obscure points.