Qasem Soleimani was seen as the most powerful figure in Iran after its supreme leader.
As commander of the Revolutionary Guards’ overseas operations arm, the Quds Force, Soleimani was an architect of Iranian policy across the Middle East.
He was in charge of the Quds Force’s clandestine missions and its provision of guidance, funding, weapons, intelligence, and logistical support to allied governments and armed groups, including Hezbollah, Hamas and Islamic Jihad.
Mr Trump described Soleimani as “the number-one terrorist anywhere in the world”.
He alleged that under the general’s leadership the Quds Force had “targeted, injured, and murdered hundreds of American civilians and servicemen” over the past 20 years, and that the general had orchestrated a rocket attack in Iraq in December that killed an American contractor.
US claims of UN report ‘whitewashing’ Soleimani
The United States on Wednesday blasted a UN finding that a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general was unlawful, saying the report whitewashed Qasem Soleimani’s record.
“It takes a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to issue a report condemning the United States for acting in self-defense while whitewashing General Soleimani’s notorious past as one of the world’s deadliest terrorists,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
Absolutely hilarious >> Agnes Callamard, the #UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, condemned the #US for killing #Iran's spy-terror chief Qassem Sulaymani in January. https://t.co/PO93ik1ilF
— Kyle Orton (@KyleWOrton) July 7, 2020
“This tendentious and tedious report undermines human rights by giving a pass to terrorists and it proves once again why America was right to leave” the UN Human Rights Council, she said.
Death of Qasem Soleimani
The general arrived at Baghdad International Airport on a flight from Syria early on 3 January. He was leaving the airport with senior officials from Iraqi Shia militias backed by Iran when their convoy was hit by missiles fired by a US drone.
Among the people killed alongside Soleimani was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of Iraq’s paramilitary Popular Mobilisation Forces, an umbrella grouping of Shia militias.
Mr Trump said he ordered the strike “to stop a war” between the US and Iran.
“Soleimani was plotting imminent and sinister attacks on American diplomats and military personnel, but we caught him in the act and terminated him,” he asserted.
Five days later, Iran fired ballistic missiles at two Iraqi military bases hosting US forces. No US troops died, but more than 100 suffered traumatic brain injuries
The UN expert’s take on the death of Soleimani via US air strike
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, concluded Tuesday that Soleimani’s killing in January at the Baghdad airport violated the UN charter.
The US had provided no evidence that an imminent attack against US interest was being planned, she wrote, calling it an “arbitrary killing.”
“Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s military strategy, and actions, in Syria and Iraq. But absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the US was unlawful,” she wrote.
Read more: UN says US killing of Soleimani was unlawful
The independent rights expert does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it.
She will present her findings on Thursday to the Human Rights Council, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, pointing in part to alleged bias against Israel.
UN extrajudicial killings expert explains her report
Callamard, expanding on her report on Twitter on Wednesday, noted the rapid proliferation of drones around the world.
She warned that states could not be allowed to distort the concept of an “imminent” attack.
For the first time, a State drone targeted a high-level official of another state on the territory of a third one. The int'l community must now confront the very real prospect that States may opt to “strategically” eliminate high ranking military officials outside “known” wars
— Agnes Callamard (@AgnesCallamard) July 8, 2020
“For the first time, a State drone targeted a high-level official of another state on the territory of a third one,” she wrote.
“The international community must now confront the very real prospect that States may opt to ‘strategically’ eliminate high-ranking military officials outside ‘known’ wars,” she wrote.
Trump ordered the drone strike, which also killed Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, after escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, against which Trump has imposed sweeping unilateral sanctions.
Shiite paramilitary groups backed by Iran had been blamed for a series of attacks on bases housing US troops and later for trashing the US embassy in Baghdad.
Trump administration officials later faced grilling by lawmakers, mostly from the rival Democratic Party, who said there was no evidence of an imminent attack that would legally justify killing a top Iranian official.
Soleimani headed Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force which carries out operations outside of Iran including in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
AFP with additional input by GVS News Desk