Does Soleimani official assassination create a precedent of foreign officials assassination?


Short situation description in diplomatic terms:

  • Qassem Soleimani was in Iraq on an official visit, by invitation from Iraq's government
  • he was an official Iranian representative
  • US confirmed official order for striking

So, what we have.

Some "state A" officially assassinates some official from "state B", during his diplomatic visit to "state C". Without any further UN sanctions/international blame/just any diplomatic consequences from the "international community" to "state A".

Does it mean that such actions are now in fact legal?

Does it confirm unipolar world slightly moving to the "rule of power"?

PS: Small edit, to make question more clear.

"Legal" here means "Legal according to internation laws". Because each and every state can create inner laws about asassinating some arbitrary list of persons - but iterating such a list would not (or am I mistaking and it would?) be legal according to international laws.


Posted 2020-01-29T08:59:58.523

Reputation: 1

Question was closed 2020-01-29T16:26:36.877

It is hardly a precedent, as there are many earlier examples, for instance the shooting down of Japanese Admiral Yamamoto's plane during WWII:

– jamesqf – 2020-01-29T17:55:00.897

2@jamesqf but the US was formally at war with Japan at the time, so whatever rationale would be invoked to criticize killing Y. while thousands of Japanese grunts were being killed (it was a war after all) seems deeply flawed to me. – Italian Philosophers 4 Monica – 2020-01-29T21:01:08.577

@Italian Philosophers 4 Monica: But with the United Nations and all, countries really aren't supposed to FORMALLY go to war any more, and (per Wikipedia) there have been only a handful of formal declarations since WWII, although that certainly hasn't stopped wars from happening: Iran has been pursuing a de facto (and often covert) war against the US for 40 years.

– jamesqf – 2020-01-30T17:20:57.487

@jamesqf, and mirrorly, US and Israel are pursuing a war against the US for 40 years.)) In fact, that's it, already. Rule of pure power, like in middle ages. Actually, if Iran would kill Pompeo(for example) with missile strike - it was neither a bit less legal that Soleimani asassination. – user2501323 – 2020-01-31T06:06:46.360

@user2501323: I think you meant "US and Israel are pursuing a war against Iran", no? But that is simply not true. That is, the US and Israel would be perfectly happy to leave Iran alone if it did not persist in pursuing Islamic jihad. And indeed, the US had a peaceful alliance with Iran for decades, when it had a secular government. Though I agree with your point about Pompeo, though Iran and its proxies seem to prefer to kill random civilians rather than government officials. – jamesqf – 2020-02-01T06:37:24.170

@jamesqf, sure, misspelled it. But really? I thought, that official Israely defence strategy is meant to be the regional leader, especially in power projection. And other regional leaders are of course not happy about it. Iran is one of them. But really, I respect your opinion and middle east relation origins are really NOT for comment talking, too huge.) I agree, that in times when Iran do not have its own politics - in secular times, there was no problem for the US. – user2501323 – 2020-02-03T06:02:44.423

@user2501323: I think (though I'm certainly no expert) that you're wrong about Israeli strategy. It's more a matter of simple survival rather than being a regional leader. – jamesqf – 2020-02-03T17:59:00.437

@jamesqf, agree, but partially - its surviving is impossible without regional leadership. So generally, I think, both of us is right.) – user2501323 – 2020-02-04T06:08:14.927

@user2501323: Perhaps we mean something different by "regional leadership"? I think it means a leader in a community with shared goals, and I can't see any circumstances in which the Arab world would accept Israel as a leader. After all, if it would, there wouldn't really BE a Mideast problem, would there? – jamesqf – 2020-02-04T17:03:14.793

I mean regional leader as respective regional power. About accepting Israel as a leader - I think it can be accepted (not by a leader, but as some "respectable partner") by US-backed kingdoms in region. – user2501323 – 2020-02-05T06:06:46.520



This is a somewhat misconceived question. The legality of "targeted killing" under international law has been debated for quite a while now; I'm not going to go over those arguments here, but I'll say that being a "foreign official" doesn't give someone some kind of additional immunity in international law in this regard. (I won't address US law [or executive orders] since the question excludes that now.) In fact, the opposite is true: being a military leader (as Soleimani was) makes one a more plausible target as far as international law is concerned. Those who condemned the strike on Soleimani were even more concerned about the legality of the killing of the other people in the vehicle that Soleimani was traveling in.

As for whether this opens a "pandora's box" etc., that's speculative to ask... But I can add a few facts from the past. While Soleimani is very likely the best known Iranian killed or targeted abroad in the past decade, he is hardly the first one. For starters, the US also apparently targeted, but missed Abdul Reza Shahlai, who is apparently the top IRGC commander in Yemen, in a strike on the same day with Suleimani's. Going further back, Israel was probably responsible for the killing, in 2013, of another IRCG major general Hassan Shateri in Syria. Another Iranian general, Mohammad Ali Allahdadi was killed in similar circumstances in 2015. In November last year, Israel attacked the headquarters of the IRGC in Damascus, although apparently no general was killed this time. Notably, the IDF confirmed this strike.


Posted 2020-01-29T08:59:58.523

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