Sunni Muslims throughout the Middle East have been celebrating the killing of Iran's second-most powerful man, Major General Qassem Soleimani, who was taken out by a US airstrike on January 3rd in Baghdad which also took out his deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, according to VOA.
"There has long been a hostile feeling by the Arabs and [Sunni] Muslims toward Qassem Soleimani," said Jordanian analyst Nabil Al-Otoom, an Iran expert. "The American move drew a strong positive reaction from public opinion in the region, and a strengthened U.S. presence in Iraq is becoming more important to stop Iranian plans to build a regional empire by 2030," he added.
"His elimination has slowed Iran's plan to manage a military coup with politicians completely loyal to Tehran controlling the government ... I can say that this American move was in the right direction."
Iraqis — Iraqis — dancing in the street for freedom; thankful that General Soleimani is no more. pic.twitter.com/huFcae3ap4— Secretary Pompeo (@SecPompeo) January 3, 2020
That said, Al-Otoom and others believe that while Iran's influence on Syria may be declining, they believe Iraq will become the epicenter of the US-Iran conflict.
According to retired general and board member at the Egyptian Center for Strategic Studies, Mohamed Ibrahim, Soleimani's elimination won't cause a regional war.
"All Iranian statements indicate that Tehran does not want matters to slip into a state of war with the United States. The retaliatory response to Soleimani's killing will be limited," he said, adding "But while the Arab states are keen on stabilizing Iraq and supporting its national army, the current situation does not allow us to contribute to this effort."
More images of Iranians celebrating the death of the Quds Forces commander Qasem Soleimani inside #Iran. Notes read, "Thank you Trump", "Celebration for sending the terrorist Soleimani to hell", "Congrats to the people of Iran". #FreeIran2020 pic.twitter.com/6yjSVVeajw— Iran News Wire (@IranNW) January 4, 2020
Former senior Iraqi officer, Zauba Al-Rawi, said that the US had shown too much restraint against Iran's Quds Force - the Revolutionary Guard's transnational unit that conducts intelligence operations and organizes region-wide organization and training of Shi'ite militias. According to VOA, the group also conducts cyber warfare.
IRAQI'S CELEBRATING IN THE STREETS AFTER THE TAKEDOWN OF SOLEIMANI!— Deep State Exposed® (@DeepStateExpose) January 3, 2020
The largest such Shi'ite force trained by Soleimani is the Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), which boasts 90,000 members, and gained notoriety for repelling the Islamic State. They were condemned for killing 600 peaceful demonstrators during economic unrest last year.
"It is clear that the Iranians were surprised by this operation because they seemed to be counting on American diplomacy," said Al-Rawi. "President [Donald] Trump shocked them by proving he could play their game."
"Iran does not want to push the Americans into a comprehensive response, so they will act by kidnapping or killing the Iraqi allies of the Americans. They will hit an oil field here and an oil tanker there.
"But until now, efforts made by the Americans to improve the capacity of Iraq's national army never rose to a level enabling this army to regain one-tenth of its real capabilities," argued the former general - who says Iran will double down in support of their proxies in Iraq.
In Syria, meanwhile, "Soleimani is remembered for the recruitment of foreign Shi'ite fighters and presiding over the massacres of Sunni civilians in the suburbs of Damascus," according to the report.
At the peak of the Syrian conflict, the IRGC coordinated the defense of Bashar al-Assad's government with Hezbollah, commanded over 10,000 Iraqi Shia militiamen and deployed at least 1,500 Iranian fighters.
"The famous image is of Soleimani in Aleppo overseeing operations of besieging the city," said Ammar Kahf, executive director of the Omran Center for Strategic Studies in Istanbul. "He also flew to Moscow to ask for the Russians' involvement [in Syria] in 2015." -VOA
"In terms of a direct impact on the Syrian government's military, I believe this may be a turning point in terms of Assad trying to distance himself from any conflicts with Iran," said Kahf. "And the Russians are also interested in not making Syria the scene for any American engagement with Iran."
Distribution of sweets across areas held by the Syrian opposition in Syria celebrating the death of Qassem Soleimani. Before we judge them for celebrating an assassination, legs remember Soleimani is responsible for the death, displacement & starvation of countless Syrians. pic.twitter.com/Q0d1edcRuU— Elizabeth Tsurkov (@Elizrael) January 3, 2020
Read the rest of the report here.