This very important article was originally published at Begin-Sadat Center for Strategic Studies (BESA) and republished here with the author’s consent.
The Soleimani Killing and Left-Liberals
Major unforeseen political events often lead to many questions and speculation. This was also immediately the case with the U.S. targeted killing of Iranian Major General Qasem Soleimani earlier this month. The guesswork mainly focused on a few issues, namely, how will the Iranians react? Was the elimination of Soleimani an impulsive action of U.S. President Donald Trump or was it part of a detailed strategy to reign in Iran? Will it lead to a major war? and What will Soleimani’s death mean for the Middle East?
Yet there are other aspects related to the elimination of Iran’s arch-terrorist, which raise a major question: Were the many negative Western reactions to Soleimani’s killing an indication of significant democratic decadence? The killing of a man who was perhaps the world’s leading terrorist should have led to a black and white choice for democrats in favor of the American government and against the terrorist and the regime he was part of.
On the extreme left in Western countries there is to varying degrees sympathy for terrorists. The departing leader of the British Labour party, Jeremy Corbyn, has been accused of supporting the IRA.1 He once described it as his “honor and pleasure” to host “our friends” from Hamas and Hezbollah in parliament.2 Corbyn now said: “The US assassination of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani is an extremely serious and dangerous escalation of conflict in the Middle East with global significance.” and “The UK government should urge restraint on the part of both Iran and the U.S., and stand up to the belligerent actions and rhetoric coming from the United States.”3
Sentiments of identification with Muslim terrorists can be found among some Muslims in the West. The Islamic Centre of England (ICE) hosted a vigil for Soleimani at its headquarters in north London. This is a charity, which is entitled to tax relief and gift aid.4 Another example of such an attitude is the Iraqi-American Sheikh, Ibrahim Kazerooni, of the Islamic Center of America in Dearborn, Michigan. He eulogized Soleimani who had “brought hope to the marginalized [and] hatred and fear to the enemies of Islam.” Kazerooni called his killing a “cowardly and heinous act.”5 In mosques in Berlin and Hamburg gatherings mourning Soleimani took place.6
Yet far more important are mainstream left liberal hesitations about and even condemnations of the elimination of the Iranian arch-terrorist. In the United States, several Democrat presidential candidates were on the opposite side of their government. The fact that they are anti-Trump, almost by principle, is no excuse.
There was near-universal support at time for the Obama administration for the killing of Osama bin Laden when he was far less dangerous as a terrorist than Soleimani. Yet the main remark of Joe Biden, Barack Obama’s vice president, supposedly a moderate, on the Soleimani elimination was: “Trump just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox.”7 Another Democrat presidential candidate Elizabeth Warren tweeted: “Trump ripped up an Iran nuclear deal that was working.” In a television interview she referred to Soleimani as “a government official, a high-ranking military official.”8 Extreme leftist Democrat candidate, Bernie Sanders, called the killing an assassination.9 Michael Bloomberg was the one major Democrat presidential candidate who condemned Sanders’ use of the word “assassination.”10
One might recall here that it was Obama who negotiated an agreement with the Iranians that facilitated the major opportunity for their terrorist expansion into various countries including Syria and Yemen. Biden at the time did go along with this. There are also other leading Democrats who came out against Soleimani’s killing.11 So are a number of media figures, celebrities, politicians, and academics from the American left.12
In Europe, left- liberalism is the dominant mood in the public domain. In these countries the intolerable is often tolerated. This expression “tolerated” has little in common with what tolerance should be in a democracy. The German government’s attitude toward the Iranians has been particularly accommodating. German President, Frank-Walter Steinmeier, a socialist, congratulated the Ayatollah Khamenei on the occasion of 40 years of religious dictatorship rule in Iran. This is particularly noteworthy in view of Steinmeier’s refusal to congratulate Trump when he was elected President of the U.S.13 14
The German socialists (SPD) lead their country’s pack of appeasers. Heiko Maas, the Minister of Foreign Affairs claims that he came to politics because of Auschwitz. After the elimination of Soleimani he tweeted: “The US military operation followed on a series of dangerous Iranian provocations. Yet due to this action it has not become simpler to reduce tensions. I also said that clearly to US Foreign Secretary Pompeo.”15 His Undersecretary of State, Niels Annen, celebrated Iran’s revolution at the Iranian Embassy in Berlin.16
Even more positive toward the Iranian terrorist was the reaction of the head of the parliamentary faction of the SPD, Rolf Mützenich. He said: “We will not be able to avoid the consequences of the targeted killing of a state representative by a Western democracy.” Mützenich added that Germany’s relationship to the USA has now become subject to fundamental changes and burdens.17
The French Minister of State for European Affairs, Amelie de Montchalin, was interviewed by the RTL television after the killing of Soleimani. There was not a word of support in the interview for the Americans or against the Iranian terrorist. When asked whether the American operation worried her, she answered: “First of all it is the next step in an escalation which has been going on for months. So what we feared is happening, namely that you can see an increasing standoff between the United States and Iran. Today, this morning, our priority is the region’s stability.”18
All of this also raises the question – to what extent the widespread expressions of appeasement in the West result from inherent left-liberal cowardice. For many there is no principled choice between the white of democracy and the black of a dictatorship of which terrorism is an integral part of policy. These Western politicians are not emotionally linked to terrorists like certain Muslims or ideologically favorably inclined to them like Corbyn. Yet their statements indirectly facilitate terrorism. The main exception here is when these people are confronted with a terrorist danger in their own country. Analyzing these, at best ambivalent, reactions in Western democracies is important because it points to what is fundamentally wrong with the left-liberal mood in the public domain.
There are many other examples of democratic values, which are frequently not upheld in left-liberal dominated societies. Police forces are understaffed, and judges often have more understanding for perpetrators than for victims. Many European NATO countries do not spend the two percent of their GDP on the military they are committed to.19 Germany is a typical example. After much American criticism it has announced that it will up its military expenditures to 1.5% of GDP by 2024. Yet the German military commissioner, Hans-Peter Bartels, has doubts that even this target will be reached.20
A rapid indication of what is wrong with societies can often be gained from the experiences of Jews and Israel. This is also true concerning left-liberalism. A few examples: After the brutal murder in Paris of the Jewish citizen, Sarah Halimi, French judges acquitted the killer because he was under the influence of drugs. At the end of December 2019, Shalom Levi died. He had been stabbed on a street in Strassburg in August 2016. The judges at that time declared the perpetrator not responsible for his acts and freed him.21
Various left-liberal papers in European countries have published extremely antisemitic anti-Israel cartoons. Many EU countries vote for a large number of anti-Israel motions at the United Nations knowing well that by doing so they commit antisemitic acts. Germany allows the terror group Hezbollah to operate on its territory. To justify this, it claims a non-existing separation between the organization’s military and political branches.22 23 Various EU countries knowingly remain as silent as possible about Palestinian terrorism just as they look away from Soleimani’s terrorism. There are many other examples.
All this raises an extremely important question. To what extent is the liberal-left ideological dominance in much of the Western public discourse gradually undermining the stability of democracy in these states.
6 //www.morgenpost.de/bezirke/neukoelln/article228098097/Trauerfeier-fuer-getoeteten-General-Soleimani-in-Neukoelln.html, //www.abendblatt.de/hamburg/article228065675/Protest-gegen-Trauerfeier-fuer-iranischen-General.html