|“||Dear General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qassem Suleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan. And indeed, the ambassador in Baghdad is a Quds Force member. The individual who’s going to replace him is a Quds Force member.||„|
|~ Soleimani in a letter to CIA director David Petraeus.|
Qasem Soleimani (March 11th, 1957 – January 3rd, 2020) was an Iranian general who was the commander of the Iranian Quds Force, the branch of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) which dealt with proxy warfare. He has often named the mastermind of Iranian proxy warfare in the Middle East, thus, expanding Iran’s influence in the region. Sources have also called him the de facto second most powerful person in Iran after Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whom he had a close relationship with.
Soleimani began his military career in the late 1970s at the time of the Revolution and right before the Iran-Iraq War, fighting against Ba’athist Iraq under Saddam Hussein. In 1998, he became the head of the Quds Force. He provided support to Hezbollah in Lebanon as well as supported Bashar al-Assad in Syria, fighting against The Islamic State as well as Syrian opposition. His army also armed the Houthis in Yemen. Soleimani also armed Baloch separatists in Balochistan around the border of Iran, Afghanistan, and Pakistan.
Soleimani was born on 11 March 1957. The Iranian government, Voice of America and other news media have stated that he was born in the village of Qanat-e Malek, Kerman Province, while the United States Department of State in 2007 listed his birthplace as Qom, Qom Province. In his youth, he moved to the city of Kerman and worked as a construction worker to help repay a debt his father owed. In 1975, he began working as a contractor for the Kerman Water Organization. When not at work, he spent his time lifting weights in local gyms and attending the sermons of a traveling preacher, Hojjat Kamyab, a protege of Ali Khamenei.
Soleimani joined the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution, which saw Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi fall and Ruhollah Khomeini take power. Reportedly, his training was minimal, but he advanced rapidly. Early in his career as a guardsman, he was stationed in northwestern Iran, and participated in the suppression of a Kurdish separatist uprising in West Azerbaijan Province.
On 22 September 1980, when Saddam Hussein launched an invasion of Iran, setting off the Iran–Iraq War (1980–1988), Soleimani joined the battlefield serving as the leader of a military company, consisting of men from Kerman whom he assembled and trained. He quickly earned a reputation for bravery, and rose through the ranks because of his role in the successful operations in retaking the lands Iraq had occupied, eventually becoming the commander of the 41st Tharallah Division while still in his 20s, participating in most major operations. He was mostly stationed at the southern front. He was seriously injured in Operation Tariq-ol-Qods. In a 1990 interview, he mentioned Operation Fath-ol-Mobin as "the best" operation he participated in and "very memorable", due to its difficulties yet positive outcome. He was also engaged in leading and organizing irregular warfare missions deep inside Iraq carried out by the Ramadan Headquarters. It was at this point that Soleimani established relations with Kurdish Iraqi leaders and the Shia Badr Organization, both of which were opposed to Iraq's Saddam Hussein.
On 17 July 1985, Soleimani opposed the IRGC leadership’s plan to deploy forces to two islands in western Arvand Rud (Shatt al-Arab).
After the war, during the 1990s, he was an IRGC commander in Kerman Province. In this region, which is relatively close to Afghanistan, Afghan-grown opium travels to Turkey and on to Europe. Soleimani's military experience helped him earn a reputation as a successful fighter against drug trafficking.
During the 1999 student revolt in Tehran, Soleimani was one of the IRGC officers who signed a letter to President Mohammad Khatami. The letter stated that if Khatami did not crush the student rebellion the military would, and it might also launch a coup against Khatami.
In 2001, the Quds Force under him intended to work with the U.S. government to fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan but plans fell through in early 2002 when President George W. Bush added Iran to its "Axis of Evil" list.
Soleimani was killed by an American drone strike in Baghdad's International Airport that killed 10 total, which has resulted in further tensions with Iran and the United States. Soleimani was on his way to meet with the Iraqi Prime Minister Adil Abdul-Mahdi. Some believe the motive for the assassination was "payback" for the unrest of the 2019-20 US embassy attack. The strike also killed Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, Deputy Chairman of the Iraqi militia force Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), who has been a wanted figure by several countries including the United States for nearly 4 decades. The attack was extremely controversial, as many have accused it of being reckless in the United States, possibly leading to war. The Iraqi government threatened the United States to remove its forces from the country in the aftermath of his death. Figures such as former National Security Advisor John Bolton, however, defended the attacks, believing it would lead to regime change. It was almost universally condemned in Iran, and many memorials have been held in Iran and other countries. Some countries, including parts of Lebanon and Iraq celebrated his death. Khamenei, along with many Iranian ministers, have muttered vengeful remarks. The attacks have many to fear a larger conflict, and some feared a World War III would occur. His funeral was described as the largest in Iran since the funeral of Khomeini in 1989, with a stampede occurring on 7 January that killed 56 and injured 200. He was buried in his hometown of Kerman.
- Soleimani was often compared to characters such as Karla, Keyser Söze, and the Scarlet Pimpernel, all of which were cunning, psychopathic masterminds of their universes.
- The World War III speculation after his death has generated many internet memes.
- He was reported to have been considered to be running for President of Iran at the time of his death.