Amidst the continuing investigation into Russian meddling in the 2016 election, it’s surprising to learn that President Trump has dozens of Facebook ads created to promote the killing of Iranian General Qassem Soleimani.
Soleimani is a high-ranking Iranian general who heads Iranian troops in the region. Soleimani is responsible for Quds Force, a unit of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps that is responsible for foreign operations that range from assassinations and hijacking Western and Israeli assets to supporting the Syrian regime. In 2016, it was revealed that Soleimani had been killed, but his death is never stated in the classified CIA minutes that revealed the assassination attempt.
The social media ads were created by former senior Trump campaign staffers and funded by former Washington operative Michael Caputo. The killing of Soleimani by his unit, which is US- and western-sanctioned, as well as disclosed ties to the Chinese and Iranian governments, are significant national security threats, as well as being lucrative. Soleimani and other senior Iranian generals have repeatedly threatened American troops with the use of nuclear weapons and also financially supported proxy groups with the intent of removing the US from the Middle East.
The series of ads were released last year, but have only recently been widely reported upon. The sale of toxic, potentially radioactive oil used by Iran is a common theme used by terrorist groups to finance themselves. The ad on which the description of the Facebook page is using the hashtag “
The ads were created by Michael Caputo’s political consultancy and featured a familiar image of Soleimani standing in front of a diamond, the centerpiece of the seven-member band which is known for its anti-American support.
There was a concern that there were too many mentions of Soleimani in the advertisements. Some were left to a third party in Facebook’s review and approval process.
Another, for which the review criteria was far more subjective, had examples of the following Facebook posts:
one with the following caption: “A look at the high-ranking commander who specializes in protecting Iran from the US.”
siting the 16th round of Tehran’s presidential election. This image read, “Here’s a vote of confidence from Ayatollah Ahmad Jannati. Let me see again if I wrote it correctly. The vote in favour of Ahmad Jannati is 96%.”
Another featured the man “by day as an Imam, by night an inspiration to his fighters. Here he is smoking.” It turned out that the man in the video had removed the video and updated the meme saying, “We will never give up on our freedom fighters. We will never give up on the brave people of Chechnya, Iraq, the mountains of Afghanistan, the youth of Gaza, the barracks of the People’s Mujahideen of Azerbaijan, the youth of Palestine and the victors of the Republican Guards’ battle in Saudi Arabia.” It was later edited once again and this time published, “Proud to have fought side by side with these heroes for their country!”
Of all the ads run on Facebook, since 2016, the most pages that promoted this one in particular were by Ayesha Hasan. She is on the board of the National Super Action Republican Club, which is a close friend of Trump and his former campaign chief Steve Bannon. She also appears in a video where she asks for a “Trump victory” and “one of the most successful organizations in America” with Trump at the top. In October last year, she was listed as a fund-raiser at Trump’s Cheeto Make America Great Again PAC. In that same time frame, she also appeared as a speaker at Trump’s rally in Columbus, Ohio.
The investigation into the advertisement does not yet determine who has been responsible for the posts, or if the report is the result of a coordinated effort by multiple enemies of Iran who are simply seeking to stir up the unrest in the Middle East.
Additionally, those behind the ad may have been part of a US-led attack on Iranians in the region, or make financial donations, which would also violate sanctions.