"Qassem Soleimani would have killed even more if Trump hadn't killed him"
3 January 2020, 12:00 | Updated: 3 January 2020, 12:10
Middle East journalist told James O'Brien that while "we don't know how Iran will respond", had Trump not killed Qassem Soleimani, the commander "would've killed many more hundreds of thousands of people."
Iran's Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike leading to the US embassy in Baghdad urging Americans to leave Iraq.
Journalist Oz Katerji could not predict what might happen next, "No experts that I know saw this coming. No one saw it coming.
"This butcher had a God-like aura about him, you don't expect God to die."
Mr Katerji explained that Soleimani was in charge of every Iranian terrorist proxy group across the Middle East. "Every single group across Syria, Yemen even, that's been killing civillians, blowing up journalists, politicians, these people have been causing havoc and blood-shed unparalleled across the Middle East for decades."
James said, "We're talking essentially about cities and towns that were starved to death. This is brutality on a scale that perhaps the West hasn't absorbed."
The journalist agreed and countered that while this might be seen as a contribution to world peace, "life isn't that simple." Like with Osama Bin Laden, Mr Katerji said, some were saying surely Al-Qaeda were going to strike and perhaps the deceased leader should have been left alive.
1. Soleimani was a murderous bastard working for a horrible regime. If he’d been told to he’d quite happily have killed you & your family.— David Aaronovitch (@DAaronovitch) January 3, 2020
2. Nevertheless killing him in Baghdad represents an escalation in which the outcome is unknowable and which is part of no obvious strategy.
James quoted the above Tweet from the Times' David Aaronovitch and reflected, "no obvious strategy is quite a frightening description."
"Some of the criticisms of this that seem to be correct is that not just that there's no strategy in place but it's a sort of deterrent, this is the opposite of a deterrent, this is killing a man so important that Iran has to retaliate. Iran can't not retaliate.
"But at the same time this is a man who would've killed many many many more hundreds of thousands of people than he already had done," Mr Katerji.
The reason he thinks Donald Trump ordered this assassination is because he's a "petty man" and was goaded by Soleimani's name being spray-painted outside the US embassy.
"I think Donald Trump is quite a simple man and he is quick to anger," said Mr Katerji.
He continued that because Soleimani had "unparalleled" military command, "This is an era defining moment for the Middle East. What has happened today is unprecedented, we're in uncharted waters, we don't know how Iran will respond, we are talking about a very dangerous escalation both for the Middle East and for the rest of the world."
James asked if there's any chance Iran will do nothing.
"No," said Mr Katerji, "Iran will have to do something, it's like face-saving... Now the question the rest of the world want to know is what's Iran going to do in response?"