By Clare M. Lopez
On Sept. 9, 2001, the Iranian regime directed an assassination in Afghanistan.
Ahmad Shah Massoud, the powerful commander of the United Islamic Front for the Salvation of Afghanistan (also known as The Northern Alliance) opposition to the Taliban, was killed in a town in northeastern Afghanistan. Two al-Qaida suicide bombers posing as journalists had gained direct access to him, ostensibly for an interview. A powerful bomb concealed inside their camera blew up, killing Massoud, who died en route to a hospital.
The killers, of North African background, had been recruited by Iran in Belgium, trained, equipped, and inserted into Massoud’s presence in collaboration with al-Qaida and the Taliban.
Massoud was dubbed the “Lion of the Panshir” for his leadership in the war against the Soviet Red Army from 1979 to 1989. By 2001, he was widely known as the foremost commander of Afghan forces fighting against al-Qaida and the Taliban.
The Iranian regime, which conceived and directed the 9/11 attacks in the U.S., was well-aware that American and NATO forces would respond to those attacks with an invasion of Afghanistan. Removing Massoud from the battlefield just before 9/11 thus may be seen as “preparation of the battlefield” by the Iran-al-Qaida-Taliban alliance, as Massoud certainly would have led Afghan forces in support of the U.S. and NATO.
Shinzo Abe, a former prime minister of Japan, was assassinated on July 8 while speaking on behalf of the Liberal Democratic Party (LDP) at a parliamentary campaign event in the western Japanese city of Nara. His killer fired two shots at Abe from a homemade double-barreled firearm and was quickly taken into custody by Japanese police.
Given the increased tempo in recent weeks of Beijing’s open threats against Taiwan and provocative behavior against Australian, Canadian, Japanese, and Taiwanese targets, Abe’s assassination must be seen in the context of battlefield preparation — just as Massoud’s killing so clearly was.
On May 26, in a dangerous maneuver, a Chinese J-16 fighter jet intercepted an Australian P-8A Poseidon surveillance aircraft on routine patrol in international air space over the South China Sea and released chaff that was taken into the Australian plane’s engines. That could have brought down the plane, but the crew was able to land safely.
On May 24, China and Russia together flew nuclear-capable bombers over the Sea of Japan while U.S. President Joe Biden was in Tokyo attending a summit meeting of the Quad (the Australia, Japan, India, U.S. Indo-Pacific partnership, officially known as the Quadrilateral Security Dialogue). According to Rick Fisher, a senior fellow at the International Assessment and Strategy Center, that joint bomber patrol flew over likely interdiction routes that would be used by U.S. forces that would assist Taiwan against a China invasion.
Then, on May 30, as reported earlier at this blog site, Chinese naval vessels attacked an uninhabited Japanese-administered coral reef in the Philippine Sea.
All of these incidents follow on the May 14 leaked audio tape of top Chinese Communist Party (CCP) and People’s Liberation Army (PLA) officials meeting in Beijing to discuss administrative measures for moving China to a war footing in preparation for an invasion of Taiwan as well as offensive operations against any U.S., Japanese, and other allied naval presence in the South China Sea. Strategy discussed at that meeting specifically included provocative actions against Japan, calculated to set off armed conflict.
This brings us back to Shinzo Abe. In the months leading up to his assassination, Abe spoke openly to advocate for the defense of Taiwan against a possible Chinese invasion. He framed such an invasion in terms of a direct threat, even an “emergency,” for Japan itself.
In response, the CCP threatened Abe. In December 2021, Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin warned that “Anyone who dares to return to the old path of militarism and defy the limits of the Chinese people will face a bloodbath.”
Abe did not heed that warning, instead holding a video conversation with Taiwanese President Tsai Ing-wen in March 2022, in which he called on the world to defend Taiwan’s democracy. Then, in June 2022, Abe declared that Japan, the U.S., and other allies “must create a situation that forces China to give up seizing Taiwan by force,” according to a June 6 report in the Taiwan News.
The battlefield is being prepped. When exactly China will decide to launch its offensive against Taiwan is not certain, but with the death of Shinzo Abe, a key leader who would have rallied Japan and regional allies to its defense, is now removed from the scene.