Interpol rejected a request from Iran to issue a “red notice” – a call to arrest anywhere in the world – President Donald Trump over the decision to target terrorist leader Qasem Soleimani with a drone strike in January, citing the “political” nature of the move.
Soleimani, a major general in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), was the head of that organization’s Quds Force, responsible for international terrorist efforts. The IRGC is a U.S.-designated terrorist organization, unique in that it is also a branch of the Iranian military.
Prior to his demise, Soleimani was believed to be responsible for hundreds of killings of American troops. Trump and his administration said he was planning an imminent attack on Americans before the drone strike that eliminated him in Iraq. A week before the strike, Iran-backed terrorists spray-painted “Soleimani is our commander” on the side of the U.S. embassy in Baghdad.
Iran described the removal of Soleimani from the battlefield as “murder and terrorism” in its announcement Monday that it would issue warrants for 36 people involved in the drone strike against him, including President Trump. Iran’s Prosecutor General Ali Alqasi-Mahr announced the prosecutions as well as the request to Interpol to help apprehend those identified as playing a role in the strike.
“Thirty-six individuals who cooperated, collaborated, and participated in the assassination of Hajj Qassem, including political and military authorities of the U.S. and other countries, have been identified,” Alqasi-Mehr was quoted in Iranian state media as saying. As the Trump administration openly takes responsibility for the strike, it is not clear what investigation Iran would have had to do to find the culprits.
Interpol rejected the requests on the same day.
“Under Article 3 of Interpol’s constitution ‘it is strictly forbidden for the Organization to undertake any intervention or activities of a political, military, religious or racial character’,” the organization said in a statement. “Therefore, if or when any such requests were to be sent to the General Secretariat, in accordance with the provisions of our constitution and rules, Interpol would not consider requests of this nature.”
Without the Interpol red alerts, Iran may only arrest the individuals charged with “murder and terrorism” if they are within Iran’s borders.
Iran’s state propaganda outlet PressTV bizarrely claimed that the organization – which is not a law enforcement body, but rather a connective organization to allow global law enforcement organizations to communicate with each other – did issue “red notices” for the 36 individuals, contradicting Interpol itself. “Red notices” do not require Interpol members to do anything, but urge member states to arrest those involved. The “red notice” database serves to facilitate the capture of traveling fugitives.
“A senior Iranian judge says Interpol Red Notices have been issued for the prosecution of dozens of military and political officials of the United States, including President Donald Trump,” PressTV reported on Monday, without revealing the identity of the alleged “Iranian judge.”
“At the top of the list is U.S. President Donald Trump, and his prosecution will be pursued even after the end of his term in office,” the alleged Iranian judge is quoted as saying.
Soleimani was on the receiving end of a U.S. drone strike in an airport in Baghdad, where he had reportedly landed to help growing attacks against American troops and institutions in the country. Soleimani was in charge of Iran’s foreign terrorism, including its relationship with the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), a coalition of mostly Shiite Iran-backed militias that worked with America to fight the Islamic State. Killed alongside Soleimani was the head of one of the deadliest PMF militias, the Hezbollah Brigades, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis.
Interpol has struggled in recent years to curb frivolous or criminal activity by rogue states allowed into the law enforcement coalition. The most high-profile example of a rogue member state jeopardizing Interpol’s ability to function occurred in 2018, when the president of Interpol, Meng Hongwei, was abducted by Chinese Communist Party agents. China had backed Meng’s ascent in the organization as a longtime member of the country’s police leadership, but appeared to sour on Meng when he refused a frivolous request for a “red notice” for Dolkun Isa, the head of the human rights organization World Uyghur Congress, in 2018.
Interpol accepted a suspicious “resignation” letter sent from someone alleging to be Meng shortly following his disappearance. Two years later, China sentenced Meng to 13 years in prison for alleged “corruption.” His wife Grace sued Interpol for failing to protect him from abduction by a dictatorship.
Turkey, scheduled to host the 2021 Interpol General Assembly, has also been a source of irritation for the agency. Following the failed coup against Islamist President Recep Tayyip Erdogan in 2016, reports surfaced that the Turkish government had flooded the Interpol database with 60,000 individual profiles of people it claimed were terrorists involved in the coup, demanding red notices for them. The reports claimed exasperated Interpol officials locked Turkey out of the database. Most were accused of being members of Hizmet, a Muslim organization led by cleric Fethullah Gülen. Erdogan has repeatedly accused Gülen, without evidence, of organizing the failed coup against him and demanded his extradition from Pennsylvania. Tens of thousands of Turkish people have been detained, arrested, and fired from their jobs on uncorroborated accusations of being part of Gülen’s alleged “terrorist” organization.
Interpol denied the report that Turkey lost its privileges in the database but, years later, Turkey itself appeared to corroborate reports that it was frivolously pestering Interpol by demanding a red notice for Enes Kanter, an NBA player famous for his public criticism of Erdogan and membership in Hizmet. No public evidence exists tying Kanter to any crimes and Interpol denied the request.