by E. Jeffrey Ludwig
The assassination of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani is an unusual, possibly aberrant, event. The killing of this individual leader of a sovereign state may lead to all-out war between Iran and the U.S. — or, on the other hand, the assassination may bring an end to the cycle of Iranian violence countered by U.S. and world diplomatic flatulence and appeasement.
Assassinating the leaders of terrorist organizations — i.e., non-state actors, such as Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi — did not lead to a greater war footing against the USA because, as terrorist organization leaders, not heads of state, they are automatically considered rogue, even by sovereign state leaders sympathetic to their goals. Al-Qaeda and ISIS, despite any claims to territorial governance, are non-state actors. Thus, despite ISIS’s former control of land areas, ISIS was despised for its aggressions but was not considered a serious threat to the power of leaders of other Muslim-dominant states within the region.