Qassem Soleimani Haunted the Arab World: In much of the Middle East, and even in Iran, the military commander was feared, and his death has been greeted with elation.

BEIRUT—As soon as Qassem Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, was confirmed dead, lawyers and lawmakers in Washington began their debates. Was the strike that killed him legal? How would the attack play into the political cycle of impeachment and the 2020 presidential campaign? What are the potential consequences of conflict with Iran?

Yet in parts of the Middle East, the reaction was different. Soleimani, a man thought of as invincible and all-powerful in the region, was killed at about 1 a.m. local time, just as he was leaving Baghdad airport. By 4:30 a.m., a group of Iraqis was marching—running, even—though the country’s capital carrying a large Iraqi flag, celebrating his death. In one video, a man’s voice can be heard lauding the killing, saying the deaths of Iraqi protesters had been avenged…

More recently, in Iraq, he was instrumental in the violent crackdown against protests that had erupted in October. The protesters’ ire targeted not only the corruption and mismanagement of their own politicians, but Iran’s role in both, as well as its overbearing control over the country through proxy Shiite militias loyal to Tehran. “We in Iran know how to deal with protesters,” Soleimani had reportedly told Iraqi officials in October. “This happened in Iran and we got it under control.” Though Iraqis have continued to take to the streets, more than 500 of them have been killed. Demonstrations in Iran were also brutally crushed—more than 1,000 died in the crackdown there, according to Iranian officials.

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