The United States on Wednesday blasted a UN finding that a US drone strike that killed a top Iranian general was unlawful, saying the report whitewashed Qasem Soleimani’s record.
“It takes a special kind of intellectual dishonesty to issue a report condemning the United States for acting in self-defense while whitewashing General Soleimani’s notorious past as one of the world’s deadliest terrorists,” State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said.
“This tendentious and tedious report undermines human rights by giving a pass to terrorists and it proves once again why American was right to leave” the UN Human Rights Council, she said.
Agnes Callamard, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions, concluded Tuesday that Soleimani’s killing in January at the Baghdad airport violated the UN charter.
The US had provided no evidence that an imminent attack against US interest was being planned, she wrote, calling it an “arbitrary killing.”
“Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s military strategy, and actions, in Syria and Iraq. But absent an actual imminent threat to life, the course of action taken by the US was unlawful,” she wrote.
The independent rights expert does not speak for the United Nations but reports her findings to it.
She will present her findings on Thursday to the Human Rights Council, from which US President Donald Trump withdrew in 2018, pointing in part to alleged bias against Israel.
Trump ordered the drone strike, which also killed Iraqi commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, after escalating tensions between the United States and Iran, against which Trump has imposed sweeping unilateral sanctions.
Shiite paramilitary groups backed by Iran had been blamed for a series of attacks on bases housing US troops and later for trashing the US embassy in Baghdad.
Trump administration officials later faced grilling by lawmakers, mostly from the rival Democratic Party, who said there was no evidence of an imminent attack that would legally justify killing a top Iranian official.
Soleimani headed Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force which carries out operations outside of Iran including in support of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
For the US and Israel, he was a shadowy figure in command of Iran’s proxy forces, responsible for fighters in Syria backing Assad and for the deaths of American troops in Iraq. In a rare interview aired on Iranian state television in October, Soleimani said he was in Lebanon for almost the entire 34-day duration of the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, overseeing the conflict.
Western leaders saw him as central to Iran’s ties with terror groups including Hezbollah and Hamas. He was active in Iraq, central to its current politics, and consequently loathed by Iraqis who demonstrated for months last year against a government they see as beholden to Iran.