Iranian General Soleimani: Neither Anti-Imperialist nor Pro-People


By Michael Pröbsting, International Secretary of the Revolutionary Communist International Tendency (RCIT), 14 January 2020,




The recent killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani in a US military strike has provoked various reactions. Many people around the world have been outraged about the arrogant show of force by the largest imperialist power on the globe. [1]


On the other hand, numerous activists of the liberation struggles in Syria and Iraq feel relief. This is hardly surprising since Soleimani was the mastermind behind Iran’s massive military intervention in Syria to save the tyrannical Assad regime against the popular uprising. And likewise, he was the central figure behind those pro-Iranian militias which brutally attacked the mass protests since October last year, resulting in the killing of hundreds of demonstrators. [2]


In contrast, numerous Stalinist and so-called “progressive, anti-war” forces have rather praised Soleimani as a kind of anti-imperialist hero. This false image has been reinforced by claims of the Trump Administration that Soleimani was a “deadly puppet master” responsible for the “killing of numerous U.S. soldiers”.




A key figure of the Mullah regime




As a matter of fact, General Soleimani was neither anti-imperialist nor pro-people. He was the commander of the Quds Force which was the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’s division responsible for foreign operations. He was considered as one of the most important figures behind Ayatollah Khamenei. In other words, he was a key exponent of the Mullah regime, i.e. the current regime representing the semi-colonial Iranian capitalist class.


In this role, Soleimani was a key figure in various political and military events. Hence, he played a key role when the Iranian bourgeoisie tried to expand their influence in the Middle East. For the same reason, Soleimani was central in aiding Hezbollah in its conflict with Israel. Furthermore, he was a key figure in the repression of popular uprisings in Syria and Iraq.


Contrary to some claims by Western commentators, Soleimani did not play an important role in organizing the Iraqi resistance against the U.S. occupation forces after 2003. [3] The reason for this was that the Iranian regime was interested in expanding its influence in Iraq while keeping a kind of coexistence with the Americans. Hence, the central forces of the Iraqi insurrection against the American occupants were various remnants of the nationalist Baathist party, Sunni Islamists as well as Shia Islamist-nationalists led by Muqtada as-Sadr. Those Iraqi forces with close links to Teheran (and therefore to Soleimani), like the Badr Corps, were not part of the anti-colonial insurrection but were rather part of the pro-US government. [4]


This was even truer in the period 2014-17 when Iran and the U.S. collaborated in fighting against the insurrection led by Daesh. In this period, pro-Iranian militias – which have been part of the so-called Popular Mobilization Forces – fought hand in hand with the U.S. Marines. [5] There exist even pictures of Soleimani surrounded by American marines in Iraq from this time. [6]


Obviously, being an instrument of the Iranian semi-colonial capitalist class, Soleimani became an important opponent of the U.S. since May 2018 when Trump withdrew from the so-called Joint Comprehensive Plan of Action, the nuclear deal of the Great Powers with Iran, and started a campaign of economic sanctions.


In short, Soleimani was a representative of a regime which has oppressed for years the popular masses in Syria, Iraq as well as in Iran and which, at the same time, has also come – sometimes more, sometimes less – into conflict with the largest imperialist Great Power.




Complex tactics in a complex world




From this follows the stance of revolutionaries. Where the Iranian regime (including Soleimani) oppresses the liberation struggles in Iran, Iraq and Syria, they act as an enemy of the people. In such circumstances, the RCIT fully supports those liberation struggles so that these reactionary tyrants get defeated. [7] The same is true when the regime suppresses mass protests of the Iranian workers and poor. [8]


Where the Iranian regime (including Soleimani) resp. its allies enter into clashes with the U.S. (or Israel), revolutionaries side with the (pro-)Iranian forces against the imperialist main enemy. Hence, in such cases, the RCIT defends the former against the imperialists. [9]


Some critiques might accuse us that we have a “contradictory” position. But the Marxist set of tactics only reflects the contradictions in real life where imperialists oppress semi-colonial countries and where, at the same time, semi-colonial capitalist classes suppress popular protests. A complex world requires complex tactics.


Real life knows various such contradictions. To give only one analogy: when an authoritarian mother beats up her child, we will rush to the defense of the child. But when a man tries to rape the same woman on the street, we will defend her without hesitation.


Such a dialectical approach reflects the complex reality. It avoids the “anti-imperialism of idiots” propagated by the Stalinist and Bolivarian cheerleaders of Assad, Rouhani, Putin and Xi. Such “Anti-imperialism” is, in actual fact, just “anti-Americanism” and at the same time pro-Russian and Chinese social-imperialism. [10]


The only consistent anti-imperialism is that which opposes all imperialist Great Powers (U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan) and which support all liberations struggle of the workers and oppressed against the ruling classes in East and West. Only such anti-imperialism is compatible with a program of international socialist revolution. This is what the RCIT stands for.


[1] See on this the RCIT statement: The U.S. Aggression against Iran and Revolutionary Tactics. Defend Iran against any imperialist aggression! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! Continue the popular liberation struggles of the Syrian, Iraqi, Yemeni and Iranian people!, 06 January 2020,; see also Michael Pröbsting: What did the latest Near-War between the U.S. and Iran Reveal? Some Notes on the Inner Contradictions of the US Policy in the Middle East, 11 January 2020,; Yossi Schwartz: Iraq: Down with U.S. Imperialism, 31.12.2019,

[2] See on this e.g. Malak Chabkoun: Soleimani is no anti-imperialist hero, 06.01.2020,

[3] See e.g. the silly article by Jefferson Morley: Soleimani managed to weaken US Mideast presence, 08.01.2020,

[4] A summary of our stance during the Iraq Wars in 1991 and 2003 and the subsequent insurrection can be read in chapter 13 of Michael Pröbsting’s book: The Great Robbery of the South. Continuity and Changes in the Super-Exploitation of the Semi-Colonial World by Monopoly Capital Consequences for the Marxist Theory of Imperialism, 2013,

[5] See on this e.g. Juan Cole: All the Times the US allied with Gen. Soleimani against Common Enemies, giving him Air Support at Tikrit, 11.01.2020,

[6] See e.g. Hadeel Oweiss: ISIS influence increase amid latest developments in the Middle East, North-Press Agency, 09.01.2020,

[7] See on this e.g. the RCIT statement: Iraq: Victory to the Popular Insurrection against the Government of Abdel Mahdi! Build Popular Councils! For a Workers and Poor Peasants Government! 04 October 2019,; [7] The RCIT has published numerous articles and statements on the Syrian Revolution which are published on our website at Our latest statement is Defend Idlib! Defeat Assad and the Russian-Iranian Occupiers! An emergency call for international solidarity with the Syrian people suffering from the barbarous onslaught by Assad and Putin! 27 December 2019,

[8] See on this e.g. the RCIT statements: Iran: Long Live the Popular Uprising against the Mullah Regime! Unite with the popular insurrections in Iraq, Lebanon, Syria etc. to a single Intifada! Down with the US sanctions against Iran! 18 November 2019,; For the Iranian Revolution! Down with the capitalist Mullah dictatorship! Down with Imperialism! For a working class revolution in Iran! Action Platform for Iran by the RCIT, February 2017,

[9] See on the confrontations between the US and Iran the following RCIT statements: Aramco Attack: Defeat the US/Saudi/Israeli Warmongers! Defend Iran against any imperialist aggression! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! 16 September 2019,; Strait of Hormuz: Escalating Tensions between the US/UK and Iran. Drive the Great Powers out of the Middle East! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! 22 July 2019,; Iran: Down with Trump’s Sanctions and Military Threats! But no political support for the reactionary Mullah Regime in Teheran! 11 May 2019,; Warmongering in the Middle East: Down with all Imperialist Great Powers and Capitalist Dictatorships! 13 May 2018,

[10] For a Marxist analysis of the Great Power rivalry and a critique of the left see e.g. Michael Pröbsting’s book: Anti-Imperialism in the Age of Great Power Rivalry. The Factors behind the Accelerating Rivalry between the U.S., China, Russia, EU and Japan. A Critique of the Left’s Analysis and an Outline of the Marxist Perspective, RCIT Books, Vienna 2019,