Still, the Islamic republic is also vulnerable. Suleimani, who was indeed “drenched in both American and Iranian blood,” as Trump said, had pushed his country into dangerous overreach.
Late last year in Beirut I witnessed Lebanese ire at Iran’s militant surrogate, Hezbollah. It was one thing when Hezbollah was the face of the resistance to Israel; another when Suleimani had directed it to save the butcher of Damascus, Bashar al-Assad, through wholesale slaughter in Syria.
In Baghdad, in Tehran itself, popular anger erupted in the streets last year. The anger had much to do with Suleimani’s ruthless, obsessive, costly quest for regional hegemony through development of what Karim Sadjadpour has aptly called “a Shia foreign legion.” Why should Iranians be struggling to pay bills while Suleimani strutted around pushing his foreign wars for an exhausted theocratic ideology?
At least several hundred Iranians died in those street demonstrations. Suleimani, the spear of the Revolution, would stop at nothing. Many of the brave demonstrators of the uprising of 2009 that I witnessed in Tehran were dragged off to be tortured, sodomized, and, in the case of several hundred of them, slaughtered. Suleimani oversaw that. To see him portrayed as a hero of the fight against ISIS terrorism, as the regime has attempted in recent days, is grotesque.
The Middle East, in the long view, is better off without this brutal agent of autocracy. But to make that Middle East possible, and slow-walk Iran from the grip of its tired revolution, would require a form of sustained, focused, creative diplomacy of which Trump’s America is incapable.
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