Who Was Qasem Soleimani?

This appeared in The Millennial Source

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An overnight air raid by the US military has led to the death of Major General Qasem Soleimani, the leader of the Quds Force, a unit of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRCG), and a man thought by many to eventually succeed the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as Iran’s Supreme Leader.

To some, Soleimani was a military hero, to others he was a supporter of terrorists and rogue actors throughout the world.

A revolutionary Iran

The Iranian Revolution broke out in 1978–79 and succeeded in overthrowing the US-backed Shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, who had been in power since 1941. Former Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini was one of the key leaders of the revolution and helped establish the Islamic Republic of Iran following the Shah’s exile.

Ruhollah Khomeini became the country’s first Supreme Leader. From 1981 to 1989, Ali Khamenei was the president of Iran. When Ruhollah Khomeini died in 1989, Ali Khamenei became the nation’s second Supreme Leader.

Soleimani’s membership in the IRCG

Shortly after the revolution, Soleimani joined the IRCG and rapidly rose in the ranks, distinguishing himself as a passionate but sensible fighter. His reputation grew during the Iran-Iraq War that was fought from 1980–1988.

Soleimani was leading the Forty-First Tharallah Division of the IRCG by the war’s end and he continued to do so in post-war military activities that saw his division fighting drug cartels, among others. In 1997, the head of the IRCG appointed Soleimani as the Quds Force Chief. The Quds Force is a largely secretive military unit of the IRCG, but its main operations are extraterritorial actions that sees it fighting outside of Iran.

Soleimani’s leadership of the IRCG

In the wake of September 11, 2001, Soleimani offered the US support in eliminating the Taliban, an enemy of both his country, Iran, and the US. Likewise, the US invasion of Iraq was seen as mutually beneficial to both countries.

A power vacuum followed the capture and hanging of former Iraqi President Saddam Hussein that created space for Soleimani to establish his influence in the region. Soleimani used his country’s military power to reinforce Iran’s political and economic strength throughout the region and beyond.

In addition to opposing American interests in the region, Soleimani is purported to have planned attacks across the globe aimed at figures seen as detrimental to Iran’s interests.

This maneuvering led him to being called the “ second most powerful “ person in Iran.

Opposition with the United States

In 2007, the US Treasury Department cited an executive order by Bush in designating both IRCG and Soleimani as supporters of terrorism, including wording that said the IRCG had provided “material support to the Taliban.”

In 2019, it was reported that the Quds Force was seeking an alliance with the Muslim Brotherhood, an Egyptian political movement that President Donald Trump has sought to officially designate a terrorist group. The US has also been considering designating the IRCG a terrorist group, a move that some believe could pose a risk to US military personnel in the region.

Initial reactions to Soleimani’s death

Some in the US expressed the belief that this action was necessary. Ari Fleischer, the Press Secretary under George W. Bush from 2001 to 2003, stated in an interview on Fox News that he thought the US’s actions would be a “catalyst inside Iran where the people celebrate this killing of Soleimani.”

Others, however, were more cautious. Former Vice President Joe Biden, who is currently seeking to challenge Trump for the presidency in 2020, released a statement shortly after the bombing was announced. He warned that while “No American will mourn Qassem Soleimani’s passing,” Trump had “just tossed a stick of dynamite into a tinderbox” as “Iran will surely respond.”

After news broke that Soleimani has been killed, “Iran”, “WWIII”, and “World War III” were the top trending Twitter topics in the US.

Originally published at https://themilsource.com on January 4, 2020.

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