Earlier this week, Qasem Soleimani was killed by the US. The news media is brimming to capacity with news stories about this. However, not one - that I've seen at least - mentions why Qasem Soleimani was in Iraq or in Baghdad.

Is there any well sourced information describing why he was there?


Please, in addition to the long term, strategic reasons he was there, I am interested in the immediate, day-of reasons.

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    Premised on the fact that the US leader has repeatedly said that the news media not credible ( "a bunch of liars") and that the CIA is untrustworthy ("deep state against me") this question is unanswerable.
    – BobE
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 2:50
  • @BobE Please see the answers below, especially the one by Harry Johnston Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 4:36
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    @BobE The CIA is proven untrustworthy. CIA based all evidence for the 2003 Gulf War on a single Iraqi defector, codename "Curveball", who had defected to Germany. Both UK and Germany warned the CIA that Curveball was a proven liar on his German citizenship application, and most likely telling the fantasy of "mobile biological weapons labs" to improve his citizenship chances. Everyone should hope POTUS is skeptical of the intelligence presented to him. Famously, Powell presented Curveball's "intel" to the UN as "facts and conclusions based on solid intelligence. There is no doubt."
    – user312440
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 11:43
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    @user312440 The CIA is not to blame for the Bush administration's lies about WMDs in Iraq. In fact, the White House intentionally undermined the CIA in an effort to discredit an investigator who cast doubt on the administration's propaganda. The war was not a result of faulty intelligence. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 22:42
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    He was there to fight terrorism. The same terrorists that the U.S support. Before the U.S invasion of Iraq there was no terrorism. After Obama instigated regime change in Syria, there was no terrorism there either. And lo and behold, ISIS seize power after U.S intervention. To this day the U.S stations troops illegally in both Syria and Iraq, refusing to leave. And we westerns criticize Russia and China. My God, our media and governments are no better than North Korea's. People are freaking idiots. Commented Sep 4, 2020 at 13:28

4 Answers 4


Soleimani was killed together with the leaders of some Iranian-backed Shia militias, who themselves have been accused of attacking US targets in Iraq, in particular Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis:

He was credited with being a key leader in the Shia militias, the Popular Mobilisation Forces, known as the Hashed (al-Shaabi), employed as shock troops in the bloody fight against Islamic State in Iraq. Although he worked under Faleh al-Fayyadh, Iraq’s national security adviser, Muhandis was widely recognised as the Hashed’s real leader.

And equally, if not more, important was his involvement in founding and leading the Kata’ib Hezbollah militia, part of the Hashed.

Listed by the US as a terrorist group, Kata’ib Hezbollah was regarded by Washington as a hardline pro-Iranian faction blamed for targeting US troops, with Muhandis himself accused of running “weapons smuggling networks and participat[ing] in bombings of western embassies and attempted assassinations in the region”.

Indeed it was an attack launched by Kata’ib Hezbollah killing a US contractor that triggered the sequence of events that led to US airstrikes on its bases in Iraq and Syria, which in turn sparked the violent demonstrations at the US embassy in Baghdad and, now, the assassination of Muhandis and Suleimani.

Furthermore, Reuters has published an article (based on unnamed Iraqi sources) saying that Soleimani was in Iraq at least in part to plan/coordinate attacks on US targets.

In mid-October, Iranian Major-General Qassem Soleimani met with his Iraqi Shi’ite militia allies at a villa on the banks of the Tigris River, looking across at the U.S. embassy complex in Baghdad.

The Revolutionary Guards commander instructed his top ally in Iraq, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and other powerful militia leaders to step up attacks on U.S. targets in the country using sophisticated new weapons provided by Iran, two militia commanders and two security sources briefed on the gathering told Reuters.

At the Baghdad villa, Soleimani told the assembled commanders to form a new militia group of low-profile paramilitaries - unknown to the United States - who could carry out rocket attacks on Americans housed at Iraqi military bases. He ordered Kataib Hezbollah - a force founded by Muhandis and trained in Iran - to direct the new plan, said the militia sources briefed on the meetings.

The Reuters article mentions that official Iranian sources have declined to comment on these points.

An earlier Reuters article from October noted that

Soleimani, whose Quds force coordinates Tehran-backed militias in Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, is a frequent visitor to Iraq.

It also said that Soleimani's role in Iraq was multi-faceted, including the support of Mahdi's government both in terms of coaxing the Iran-leaning factions to support Mahdi and perhaps more directly coordinating actions against anti-government demonstrators.

Populist Shi’ite cleric Moqtada al-Sadr demanded this week that Abdul Mahdi call an early election to quell the biggest mass protests in Iraq since the U.S.-led invasion that toppled Saddam Hussein in 2003. The demonstrations are fueled by anger at corruption and widespread economic hardship.

Sadr had urged his main political rival Hadi al-Amiri, whose alliance of Iran-backed militias is the second-biggest political force in parliament, to help push out Abdul Mahdi.

But in a secret meeting in Baghdad on Wednesday, Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards’ elite Quds Force, intervened. Soleimani asked Amiri and his militia leaders to keep supporting Abdul Mahdi, according to five sources with knowledge of the meeting.

Spokesmen for Amiri and Sadr could not be reached for comment. An Iranian security official confirmed Soleimani was at Wednesday’s meeting, saying he was there to “give advice”.

Since Soleimani appears to have been supporting Mahdi's government, his presence in Iraq couldn't have been unwelcome, from the Iraqi/Mahdi government perspective. After the US strike, the Mahdi government has condemned the action, although they appear to be most upset by the killing of Muhandis, or at least that was mentioned more than Soleimani's...

"The assassination of an Iraqi military commander is an aggression on Iraq as a state, government and people," Abdul Mahdi said in a statement.

"Carrying out physical liquidation operations against leading Iraqi figures or from a brotherly country on the Iraqi lands is a flagrant violation of Iraq's sovereignty and a dangerous escalation that triggers a destructive war in Iraq, the region and the world," Abdul Mahdi said.

The latter statement doesn't get into any details on what Soleimani may have been doing.


According to this BBC article Soleimani was in Iraq to meet the Iraqi Prime Minister:

The Iraqi prime minister revealed he had been due to meet Soleimani on Friday, the day he was killed along with six others when their vehicles were hit by missiles as they were leaving Baghdad airport. [...]

"I was scheduled to meet martyr Soleimani at 08:30 in the morning," the prime minister said on Sunday.

"He was killed because he was set to deliver a response from Iranians to a Saudi message, which we delivered to the Iranians to reach an important breakthrough in the situation in Iraq and the region."


I do not doubt Soleimani was in Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraqi government, and he accepted the invitation.

By almost 2 to 1, Iraq is a Shia majority country. Iran is a 95% Shia country. The arbitrary land border between Iran and Iraq is around 60 years old, while the Shia/Sunni divide is centuries old. Its only natural for two majority Shia, contiguous, recently created countries, to have close ties.

A part of the Iraqi parliament is pro-Iranian. Parts of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense are pro-Iranian. The Iranian militias in Iraq work in concert with Iraqi military. I'm quite sure Iranian militias helped stop ISIS from sweeping from Syria into Iraq and threatening Baghdad itself.

With this in mind, how the minority Sunni/Ba'athish lead Iraq fought a 10-year war against Iran, and then why the USA removed Hussein to set-up the current situation where Iran can have strong influence in Iraq is hard to say.

  • 3
    Comments deleted. Please note that this website is not a discussion forum. Comments should be used to improve the answer, not to discuss geopolitics.
    – Philipp
    Commented Jan 5, 2020 at 15:44
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    The question asks for well sourced information, not "I don't doubt..." guesses, no matter how likely.
    – Geobits
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 13:37
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    First sentence is pure personal speculation, on an issue there is actual referenceable reporting available for. Later paragraphs are accurate within themselves, but build on that speculative foundation, like a mathematical proof that sneaks in a divide by zero at the start.
    – T.E.D.
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 16:36
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    @Geobits top voted answer is "based on unnamed sources". I don't see if it any better. Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 20:31
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    @OlegV.Volkov That answer has a single part "based on unnamed sources", with plenty of other sources listed. This one is simply an opinion piece, without any attempt to source anything. Hardly the same thing.
    – Geobits
    Commented Jan 6, 2020 at 20:48

Daily Mail reports on January 6 ...

Iraqi prime minister says Qassem Soleimani was in Iraq to 'discuss de-escalating tensions between Iran and Saudis' when he was killed - and claims Trump had asked for help mediating talks after embassy attack.

  • Iraq's caretaker prime minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, told his parliament in Baghdad on Sunday that US strike on Soleimani was a 'political assassination'
  • Abdul Mahdi claimed that Soleimani was due to meet with him on the same day that he was killed by a US drone near the Baghdad airport early on Friday
  • The outgoing Iraqi leader says that Soleimani was supposed to bring him Iran's response to a Saudi proposal for de-escalating regional tensions
  • Saudi Arabia, a regional rival, blames Iran for an attack on the kingdom's oil facilities in September
  • Abdul Mahdi also claims that President Trump called him and asked him to mediate talks with Iran after the US embassy in Baghdad was nearly overrun
  • Supporters of the Shiite group Kataib Hezbollah scaled the walls and barreled through security at the US embassy in Baghdad on Tuesday
  • Abdul Mahdi said he personally intervened to defuse the embassy crisis and that the American president thanked him for doing so

January 6 Asia Times adds a few more details ...

On foreign soil, as a guest nation, US has assassinated a diplomatic envoy whose mission the US had requested

The bombshell facts were delivered by caretaker Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi, during an extraordinary, historic parliamentary session in Baghdad on Sunday.

Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani had flown into Baghdad on a normal carrier flight, carrying a diplomatic passport. He had been sent by Tehran to deliver, in person, a reply to a message from Riyadh on de-escalation across the Middle East. Those negotiations had been requested by the Trump administration.

So Baghdad was officially mediating between Tehran and Riyadh, at the behest of Trump. And Soleimani was a messenger. Adil Abdul-Mahdi was supposed to meet Soleimani at 8:30 am, Baghdad time, last Friday. But a few hours before the appointed time, Soleimani died as the object of a targeted assassination at Baghdad airport.

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