The United States and Iran teetered on the brink of war this week after the Trump administration’s January 3 targeted killing of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, who led the Islamic Republic’s Quds Force, a branch of the elite Revolutionary Guard responsible for extraterritorial operations.
People of the Pod speaks with Middle East experts Patrick Clawson, the research director at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy think tank, and Tamara Cofman Wittes, senior fellow in the Center for Mideast Policy at the Brookings Institution.
The scholars weigh in on the ongoing crisis, which may be drawing to a close following retaliatory Iranian rocket attacks on US military bases in Iraq that caused no casualties. Some Iranian generals, along with pro-Iran militias in Iraq, have vowed to continue the revenge attacks.
Next, Deborah Lauter, executive director of New York’s newly formed Office for the Prevention of Hate Crimes, sits down to discuss the rash of anti-Semitic attacks that have been sweeping the New York City.
This week’s episode of People of the Pod begins with Mideast expert Clawson making clear just how big a figure Soleimani was in Iran.
“He was only responsible to the Supreme Leader [Ayatollah Ali Khamenei], so he was somebody who operated completely outside the control of the elected government,” Clawson says.
According to Clawson, Soleimani capitalized on the perception that his Quds Force helped stave off the Islamic State from “rolling the country as they did in Iraq” to achieve local respect. Soleimani further benefited from the Quds Force’s role in providing humanitarian aid after massive floods last year in which the civilian government proved grossly inept at helping stricken citizens, says Clawson.
But the expert also presents evidence which he says reveals the true face of Soleimani – one that is much more diabolical than the regime would have citizens believe.
Ultimately, Clawson says, Soleimani’s killing “makes a lot of Iranians scared of where the future is headed, and I don’t think that’s good for the regime.”
In addition to People of the Pod, which is produced together with the American Jewish Committee (AJC) and looks at current events through a Jewish lens, The Times of Israel has released two other new podcasts this week.
We join Times of Israel founding editor David Horovitz as he interviews diplomat and US foreign policy heavyweight Dennis Ross, along with Middle East expert and professor David Makovsky, in front of a live audience. The two have recently co-authored a book on Israel’s greatest leaders.
Also, Times of Israel military correspondent Judah Ari Gross speaks with former deputy head of Israel’s National Security Council Chuck Freilich about the biggest security challenges facing Israel today.
Tune in to People of the Pod to snag Clawson’s dissection of the Iran situation in full, along with that of Mideast analyst Cofman Wittes; hit the streets to find out why Jewish New Yorkers are proud to be who they are; and listen to NYC anti-hate crime czar Deborah Lauter’s take on the violent epidemic of anti-Semitic attacks sweeping New York City.