Was Qassem Soleimani a monstrous kingmaker or simply an enabler? The truth is as murky as Tudor history

He was too close to intelligence operatives in non-Arab countries, particularly Turkey, and the Syrians found Soleimani’s rhetoric too much to stomach

Robert Fisk

9th January 2020

The Independent

There’s an extremely grim moment in the 1967 movie version of A Man for All Seasons, the epic Robert Bolt screenplay about the chancellor Thomas More’s refusal to support Henry VIII’s divorce, when Thomas Cromwell recruits the young and ambitious schoolteacher Richard Rich to become a spy. Rich will later provide the tainted evidence that sends More to his execution. But in this first meeting – in a London pub – Cromwell offers Rich preferment (and thus wealth) in return for even the tiniest scrap of information which might be used against King Henry’s new lord chancellor.

I have always suspected that Tudor plotting has something in common with the dark, utterly hypocritical world of Middle East politics. The fictional works of Saddam Hussein and Muammar Gaddafi may lack the essence of the humanist Utopia or of my liege Lord Henry’s Renaissance music, but the fierce rivalries and the fear of terrible death which afflict so many leaders and their supporters between the Mediterranean and Iran has much in common with the personal ambitions which ran like electricity through Henry’s England.

The purities of spurious Middle Eastern nationalism, and religion – and the superpowers happy to take advantage of such nonsense – transpose rather well when we set them back half a millennium. For today’s vicious dictators and Islamic prelates and their “enablers” – a word I shall return to – the support of Washington or Moscow is all important. The real More was quite prepared to sign off on the occasional bishop-burning while Henry enjoyed the blade, sending both More and later Cromwell to the block on Tower Hill. For the US and Russia, read the Pope and Spain.


Categories: Asia, Iran

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