More than forty days ago a US drone assassinated Major General Qassem Soleimani, leader of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – Quds Brigade and leader of the “Axis of the Resistance”. He was killed after midnight at Baghdad airport between the second and the third of January along with his companions. Has the “Axis of Resistance” been weakened by this event, and what has it achieved since then?
On the Syrian front, in an outstanding gain, the Syrian Army along with its allies from the Zoul-fi-Qar brigade and other partners liberated the 432 km Damascus-Aleppo road for the first time since it was blocked in 2012. It enlarged the security perimeter on its western flank. The strategic cities of Saraqeb, Rashedeen, Khan al-Asal have been liberated along with El-Eiss hil, a location that Major General Soleimani always wanted to free. Hezbollah lost 23 officers buried at the hill and wants to recover them to bring them back home.
With the Russian command, the “Axis of Resistance” is sitting in an operational room in Aleppo that is coordinating with others in Damascus and Hmaymeem. These are directing the advance of the battle against jihadists and offer necessary intelligence and air support. The Syrian Army managed to create a vast security perimeter along the M5 road (Damascus-Aleppo) that Turkey had promised – but failed – to secure since October 2018. This advance indicates a strategic path that relies on objectives and no specific leaders. The aim in Syria, an essential member of the “Axis of the Resistance”, is to liberate the entire country, regardless of what leaders are killed on this path. Many prominent Syrian generals have been killed during these nine years of war, but Syria continues to be liberated.
Iran and Russia are talking to Turkey in order to maintain a dialogue with Syria, notwithstanding the consequences of the ongoing battle. The loss of Major General Soleimani will not change or modify their objectives.
In Iraq, Major General Soleimani could hardly have dreamed of a political decision asking the US and all foreign forces to leave the country. This is a significant decision Iraq has adopted, transforming the legal status of the US forces into an occupation force because the agreed departure schedule and procedure is not respected.
Iraq has to keep a small number of NATO troops in the country for the purpose of training and securing spare parts because Iraq bought many weapons from NATO countries. However, the government in Baghdad can now offer no guarantee of safety to these NATO officers, due to the popular hatred the US has incited by killing the high-ranking and popular Iraqi commander, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandes, in the unlawful US assassination attack on Baghdad airport. The newly elected Prime Minister is expected to form a government with the schedule for US-departure at the top of his priority plans.
Moreover, never in the history of Iraq since the 2003 occupation has the Iraqi resistance been united under one leader. Moqtada al-Sadr’s call to demonstrate in the street against the US has brought him great popularity. All groups, notwithstanding the initial disagreement of Nuri al-Maliki and Sayyed Ammar al-Hakim, accepted al-Sadr’s choice of Allawi as a Prime Minister. Moqtada al-Sadr was a source of concern when Major General Soleimani was around. The Iranian general did not agree with Moqtada’s continuous changes of political position. Moreover, the Sadrist leader was against the Hashd al-Shaabi, (even if he has a brigade of his own, the 313 brigade), and called for the disarmament of all Iraqi groups belonging to the “Axis of the Resistance”. Moqtada is now working side by side with these groups, something Major General Soleimani failed to achieve.
In Lebanon, a new government has been formed under Hassan Diab, without the closest allies of the US in Lebanon. The “Axis of the Resistance” managed to push forward the formation of the government and supported Diab in solving many problems on his path of forming the actual government. Diab accepted suggestions of the “Axis of the Resistance” in forming his government, guaranteeing the legitimacy of Hezbollah to defend the country against any foreign aggression.
The Lebanese Parliament gave Mr Diab the trust he needed to begin his mandate. The “Axis of the Resistance” managed to prevent a power vacuum or the spread of chaos in Lebanon. Today many countries are contacting the Prime Minister to support him in his difficult task of bringing the country out of its most critical economic crisis since independence in 1945. In Lebanon today Hezbollah militants continue to receive their full salaries, in US dollars, notwithstanding the “maximum pressure” on Iran and the harsh sanctions on Hezbollah.
In Palestine, the street was united against the “deal of the century” presented by the US administration. All rejected it, including President Mahmoud Abbas, who has in effect ended the Oslo agreement and all forms of security cooperation with Israel and the US. Palestinians from all walks of life insist on their right to return home and rejected the “deal” that takes away all freshwater resources, access to the Dead Sea, and 30% of land in the west bank. It was rare to see similar unity among all Palestinian groups against one cause.
In Afghanistan, the US recognised the unusual activity of the Taliban since the beginning of the year. General Franck McKenzie, the commander of all US forces in the Middle East, acknowledged that “there has been an increase in Iranian activity in Afghanistan that poses a risk to American and coalition troops there. Iran sees perhaps an opportunity to get after us and the coalition here through their proxies”. McKenzie sees a “worrisome trend of malign Iranian interference”. Taliban downed a US plane used by the CIA. The Pentagon acknowledges the death of two officers on board but refrains from sharing additional information.
In Yemen, the spokesperson of the Yemen armed forces, General Yahya Saree, revealed details of the most daring military operation against the Saudi-led coalition in Naham, Ma’reb under the name of “Buniyan al-Marsus”. He claimed 17 brigades were attacked and the Yemeni forces managed to control a vast area in the province. Moreover, Yemen is developing its military capability more than ever, hitting deep into Saudi Arabia and its oil resources.
The path of the “Axis of the Resistance” seems unstoppable notwithstanding Major General Soleimani’s assassination. The birth of a new resistance in the north-east of Syria, in al Hasaka province, indicates a spontaneous new approach that the “Axis of the Resistance” can build upon. The fertile ground in the Syrian village of Khirbet Ammo fostered a new wave of resistance in other communities against the US occupation forces whose objective is to steal Syrian oil, as President Donald Trump brazenly announced. Unarmed men stood against a fully armed US convoy, asking them not to return. This is a mentality and an objective that has been cultivated throughout all these years and has become robustly integrated among the members of the “Axis of the Resistance”.
These events show that individual leaders are irrelevant; the best leaders know that they will be killed on this path. The Martyr Qassem Soleimani is achieving even more than the Major General did.
Proofread by: C.G.B. and Maurice Brasher
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