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Tuesday, July 07, 2020

Explained: Why has Iran issued a warrant against Donald Trump?

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for US President Donald Trump and has requested the Interpol to detain him and others who they believe were involved in carrying out the drone strike.

Written by Mehr Gill , Edited by Explained Desk | New Delhi | Updated: July 1, 2020 9:14:48 am
Iran-Trump, Iran issued a warrant against Trump, Donald Trump, Qassem Soleimani killing, President Donald Trump waves as he arrives on Air Force One at Austin Straubel International Airport in Green Bay, Wis. Iran has issued an arrest warrant and asked Interpol for help in detaining President Donald Trump and dozens of others it believes carried out the drone strike that killed a top Iranian general in Baghdad early this year. (AP)

A local prosecutor in Iran on Monday issued an arrest warrant against US President Donald Trump and dozens of others who they believe carried out the drone strike that killed Iranian general Qassem Soleimani in Baghdad on January 3 this year.

According to a report in the Associated Press, Tehran’s prosecutor Ali Alqasimehr said that Trump and 30 others have been accused by Iran of “murder and terrorism charges”.

Who was Qassem Soleimani?

Soleimani was in charge of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), which the US designated as a Foreign Terrorist Organization in April last year. The Quds Force undertakes Iranian missions in other countries, including covert ones.

Further, Soleimani, who had headed the Quds since 1998, not only looked after intelligence gathering and covert military operations but also drew immense influence from his closeness to Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and was seen as a potential future leader of Iran.

How was he killed?

In early 2020, Soleimani was killed in an airstrike, for which the US claimed responsibility. The drone strike was carried out on a road near Baghdad’s international airport after Soleimani had disembarked from a plane. The drone strike hit two cars carrying Soleimani and several other officials along with Iranian-backed militias. Among those killed was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Iranian-backed militias in Iraq known as Popular Mobilisation Forces.

What did Soleimani’s death mean?

Because of Soleimani’s influence, his death was equated with the death of a US Vice President. At the time the US Department of Defense issued a statement underlining Soleimani’s leadership role in the conflict with the US: “General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more. He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months — including the attack on December 27th — culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel.”

After his death, Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani said that the killing would make Iran more decisive towards resisting the US. The Iranian foreign minister tweeted at the time, “The US’ act of international terrorism, targeting & assassinating General Soleimani-THE most effective force fighting Daesh (ISIS), Al Nusrah, Al Qaeda et al-is extremely dangerous & a foolish escalation. The US bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism.”

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So, what do the charges against Trump mean?

Iran has issued an arrest warrant for Trump and has requested France based Interpol to detain him and others who they believe were involved in carrying out the drone strike. Alqasimehr, the prosecutor, has been quoted by Iran’s ISNA news agency as saying that Iran has also requested Interpol to issue a “Red Notice” for Trump and others.

Interpol describes a Red Notice as “a request to law enforcement worldwide to locate and provisionally arrest a person pending extradition, surrender, or similar legal action”. An RN is published by Interpol at the request of a member country. The fugitives may be wanted for prosecution or to serve a sentence.

Even so, a Red Notice is simply an international wanted person’s notice and not an international arrest warrant. It is unlikely Interpol would grant Iran’s request as its guidelines for issuing such notices limit it from “undertaking any intervention or activities of a political” nature and therefore, at best, Iran’s move signals and the heightened tensions between the two countries.

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