The cowardly assassinations of Major General Qasem Soleimani, commander of the special Quds Force of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy chief of the Iraqi Popular Mobilisation Committee, and their fellow commanders in the fight against terrorism, must be condemned in the strongest terms possible.
Again, we have seen the aggression and deliberate violation of international law by the United States of America through disrespecting the sovereignty of the Republic of Iraq, a government that has worked closely with the US since the overthrow of the Ba’ath regime. The assassination of Major General Soleimani and al-Muhandis, together with other fighters for freedom in the Middle East, was carried out through air strikes on Iraqi soil. The US has often violated the sovereignty of other countries and carried out such cowardice attacks. As the international community, we must be bold and condemn such disregard for international law.
In the wake of these assassinations and airstrikes, the African National Congress, through the Secretary General’s Office, released a statement that condemned these acts which the ANC deemed as “undermining peace and security with impunity”. The SG, Ace Magashule, further noted that the ANC joins progressive forces across the globe to entreat the United Nations “to act firmly and expeditiously against this act of international terrorism.”
In reflecting on the clause of the Freedom Charter, whose 65th anniversary we commemorate this year, which states that “there shall be peace and friendship’, the SG emphasized the importance of a world system where “there is a respect for the right to national sovereignty; and the pursuit of world peace and friendship, and not wars.”
In its 54th National Conference resolutions, the ANC had then already identified that “…the election of Donald Trump as the President of the United States of America can be generally viewed as a reversal of progress achieved under the previous Obama administration…” However, the ANC went on to “…note that even under President Obama, there was no substantive change in policy with regards to either the economic system or foreign policy of the US as a superpower…”
As a result, Donald Trump’s ordering of the airstrikes and subsequent assassination of Major General Soleimani and al-Mohandis must be seen in this context of the US acting as an irresponsible so-called superpower to protect apartheid Israel in the region. It is for this reason that the ANC has always encouraged multilateralism and seeking to defeat the hegemony of one particular power in global affairs.
At this same National Conference, the ANC had welcomed the conclusion of the negotiations that led to the lifting of the sanctions against the Islamic Republic of Iran. The ANC further encouraged the South African government to engage with Iran through meaningful bilateral relations in a wide range of fields.
On international human rights day, 10 December, Deputy Minister of International Relations and Cooperation, Candith Mashego-Dlamini, in her keynote address to the DIRCO-UN Seminar on “South Africa in the Multilateral World”, suggested that the seminar was taking “…place at the time when multilateralism is confronted with the re-emergence of inclinations towards nationalism, popularism and unilateral action by world powers.”
In the aftermath of these horrendous attacks and assassination, countries across the globe have come out to condemn this criminal act. The US has been isolated and very few countries have come out in support of the action by the Trump administration. Even the Saudi deputy defense minister urged restraint. NATO was quick to distance itself from the strikes and assassination. Progressive forces around the world must ensure that this remains their rallying call: when a power wishes to use unilateral action and undermine international law, we must isolate them.
In this regard, the Iraqi parliament must be commended for supporting the proposal made by their prime minister to demand the expulsion of the over five thousand foreign troops still stationed in Iraq. In response to their sovereignty being violated and their soil being used to kill foreign leaders, the Iraqis have insisted that stability and unity in the region, at this critical stage, is paramount.
In sending a letter to the founder of the Islamic Revolution in Iran Ayatollah Khomeini on 13 February 1979, the then president of the ANC, Oliver Tambo, on behalf of the ANC and the oppressed masses of South Africa expressed “immense joy at the glorious success of the Iranian revolution.” Oliver Tambo mentioned to Ayatollah Khomeini that the Iranian “victory demonstrates the irresistible power of a people united in the pursuit of a just cause!”
This is the revolution to which Major General Soleimani dedicated his life. A revolution that demonstrates “the irresistible power of a people united in the pursuit of a just cause.” Major General Soleimani will be remembered in history as one of the leaders who, working closely with Iraqi heroes such al-Muhandis inspired by the visionary call of the Najaf-based jurist Ayatollah Sayyid Ali Sistani when Daesh began their onslaught in innocent people and on places of worship and holy shrines, helped destroy the terrorist Daesh in Iraq and Syria. He is more than an Iranian hero being hailed in the entire Middle East region as one who fought for the freedom of all who live in the region.
The efforts of these fallen soldiers have certainly contributed to that which the Freedom Charter and the ANC’s resolutions envisaged for our peaceful world where friendship reigns. We must ensure that we continue in his footsteps in ensuring a better Middle East, a free Middle East and a better world.
Hamba Kahle comrades Qassem Soleimani and Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis
Khalid Sayed is an ANC MPL and Chairperson of the ANC Youth League in the Western Cape.