Last week, Iran issued an arrest warrant for President Trump, requesting the assistance of Interpol in detaining the US president. The arrest warrant serves as a somewhat delayed response to the drone attack that the US fired on January 30th of this year, killing Iranian Military General and War Hero Qassem Soleimani (depicted below), who was responsible for the death of 600 American troops. Given the timing of the attack, politicians and world leaders find the announcement to be more of a political tactic than anything else.
The arrest warrant was issued before US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, addressed the UN Security Council about extending the arms embargo on Iran, which demonstrates that the arrest warrant was issued as more of a political tactic with little intent of actually detaining the president. Furthermore, Interpol does not engage in matters of political strife, and thus this warrant is largely unenforceable.
Iran likely wanted to draw attention away from Pompeo’s announcement to the UN Security Council, because it was intended to encourage members of the Joint Comprehensive Plan, more commonly referred to as the Iran Nuclear Deal, to extend the arms embargo on Iran that is set to expire in October. However, given that the United States withdrew from the Iran Nuclear Deal in 2018, it has little power to implement a harsh “snapback” of all UN restrictions, much like it is encouraging other nations to do (Williams). Moreover, this extension of the embargo would be entertained indefinitely, which would likely result in an unmitigated collapse of the Iran Nuclear Deal (Masterson). Therefore, many nations, including Russia and China, have already explicitly conveyed that they will veto this measure if it were to be considered (Williams).
Though deterrence from Pompeo’s address is one potential reason for the warrant, some analysts, including Roxanne Farmanfarmaian from Al Jazeera, argue that Iranian officials had other intentions. Farmanfarmaian explains that Iranian officials may also be trying to expose the United States’ “injustice and dishonesty in the international community.” Originally, the United States had established its justification for the killing of General Soleimani as a deterrence against future attacks from Iran on Americans. However, the United States later explained that they carried through with this act because they see Soleimani as an “imminent” threat to national security. Given that the United States never provided any proof or documentation of their justification to the international community, we cannot be sure what their reasoning truly was. However, regardless of the intent behind the warrant, the attention now seems to be on President Trump, along with 30 other people, who are now facing “murder and terrorism charges” for the killing of General Soleimani, instead of on Pompeo and his address to the UN Security Council.
The US killing of General Soleimani was not entirely unprecedented. Historically, the United States and Iran have engaged in relatively consistent conflict over the years, and the United States has a pronounced hatred of General Soleimani, given that he is responsible for the death of more than 600 American troops (Arablouei).
In 1979, Soleimani joined the Revolutionary guard’s foreign military operation, and he soon became a war hero after the Iran-Iraq War. After the United States invaded Afghanistan to destroy al-Qaeda and the Taliban government, Iran was concerned about the effect the war might have on their nation. As a diplomatic move towards peace, Iran gave US officials military intelligence about the Taliban, after which Iran thought the two nations might be able to work together in Afghanistan. Shortly thereafter, however, President George W. Bush gave his “axis of evil” speech, grouping Iran into the “axis of evil” category. As a result, Iran felt a sense of distrust and betrayal toward the US after having worked with the nation to help rid Afghanistan of the Taliban.
After the Taliban government collapsed, many al-Qaeda members sought refuge in Iran, where they were taken in and interrogated by Iranian intelligence. Iran then decided to use the al-Qaeda fighters to invoke chaos in Iraq, resulting in car bombings, suicide bombings, and overall anarchy. Soleimani then taught the Iranian Shia fighters how to use Improvised Explosive Devices, or IEDs, which resulted in the death of at least 600 American troops (Arablouei). Given that this history and these deaths are a direct result of Soleimani’s military actions back in the early 2000s, the United States targeted and killed the Iranian General this past January as a retaliatory measure, and, therefore, Iran issued the arrest warrant on President Trump last week in response.
Arablouei, Ramtin. (2020 January 30). ‘Throughline’: The origins of Iran’s Gen. Qassem Soleimani. NPR News. https://www.npr.org/2020/01/30/801118578/throughline-the-origins-of-irans-gen-qassem-soleimani
Du Xiaoyi/Pool. (2019). Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani meet in Tokyo [Photograph]. Reuters. https://uk.reuters.com/article/uk-japan-iran-abe/japan-briefs-iran-on-plan-to-send-forces-to-middle-east-idUKKBN1YO11J
Masterson, Julia. (2020 June). U.S. aims to extend Iran embargo. Arms Control Association. https://www.armscontrol.org/act/2020-06/news/us-aims-extend-iran-embargo
Roxane, Farmanfarmaian. (2020 July 02). Why would Iran issue an arrest warrant for Trump?. Al Jazeera. https://www.aljazeera.com/indepth/opinion/iran-issue-arrest-warrant-trump-200702110022375.html
Spence, Benedict. (2020). Report Compares Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps to Daesh, Al-Qaeda. [Photograph]. Arab News. https://www.arabnews.com/node/1622571/middle-east
U.S. Department of State. (2020). Secretary Pompeo at the United Nations Security Council Meeting on Iran. [Video]. Youtube. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=w6IV9JLRU04
Williams, Abigail. (2020, June 30). Pompeo asks UN to extend an international arms embargo on Iran. NBC News. https://www.nbcnews.com/politics/national-security/pompeo-asks-un-extend-international-arms-embargo-iran-n1232538