Assessing The Effectiveness Of Leadership Decapitation As A U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy: The Case Of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani’s Death By Drone Strike
West Point Press
Following the January 2020 killing of Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force Major General Qassem Soleimani by a U.S. drone strike, it is paramount to examine the effectiveness of leadership decapitation as a counterterrorism strategy employed by the United States. This paper explores the effectiveness of leadership decapitation via drone strikes by analyzing the case study of Soleimani’s killing and its impact on the Quds Force, and its continued operations, along with Iran’s support of proxy groups across the region and desire to become a regional hegemon. Within this article, I first discuss the specifics of Soleimani’s death, the history of drones and their use in counterterrorism, and the socio-political implications of drone proliferation. Taking into consideration prior research, I apply the charismatic leadership framework offered by Michael Freeman (2010) to Soleimani, highlighting his role in Iran and the Quds Force. Leveraging Jenna Jordan’s (2014) theory of organizational resilience, I argue that after Soleimani’s death, the Quds Force is likely to survive, grow, and potentially retaliate due to the high level of bureaucracy and communal support maintained by the organization. Overall, this paper highlights the limited effectiveness of leadership decapitation when factors such as bureaucratization and communal support are strongly established.
Zainub Ali is a third-year honors student at the University of Georgia pursuing a B.A. in International Affairs and a B.A. in Economics. She is involved in the Student Government Association and serves as an Ambassador for UGA through the Arch Society. Her academic and research interests are in U.S.-Middle East relations, specifically in terrorism, natural resource wealth, and border dispute studies. Following graduation, she plans to pursue a graduate degree before a career in foreign policy through the federal government or foreign service. Zainub may be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org and on Twitter @zainub_ali
Political Science and Security Studies
Ali, Zainub R. “Assessing The Effectiveness Of Leadership Decapitation As A U.S. Counterterrorism Strategy: The Case Of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani’s Death By Drone Strike.” West Point Journal of Politics and Security 1, no. 1 (2021): 10-23.