Major Gen Qasem Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, an elite division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) specializing in foreign intelligence and clandestine operations. He remained the chief of the division from 1998 till the day of his assassination by a US drone strike at Baghdad International Airport on 3 January 2020.
Gen Soleimani was born on 11 March, 1957 in the province of Kerman to a destitute peasant family. In his boyhood years, he started working as a contractor for the Kerman Water Organization and used to attend the sermons of a religious scholar Hojjat Kamyab, a protégé of Ayatollah Khomeini. Shortly after the Iranian revolution he joined the IRGC. In 1979, he was sent to the north-west to suppress a Kurdish uprising; soon after the successful operation against the Kurds, the Iran-Iraq war broke out in which he commanded a military company comprising the men trained under his supervision. Gen Soleimani remained engaged in the most decisive operations like “Tariq ul Quds” and “Operation Fateh ul Mobin”, he also regarded the Operation Fateh ul Mobin as the deadliest operation with positive outcomes during the war years. He re-took the lands captured by Iraq during the war, and as an appraisal of his machismo, he was raised to the rank of the commander of the 41st Sarallah Division. Later on, he was given the charge of IRGC’s Kerman province. The Kerman province is near the Iran-Afghan border; therefore, Gen Soleimani had to face the problems of the Afghan insurgents and drug trafficking, but he eroded both the issues triumphantly.
After remaining a victor in every segment of his military career, the most crucial phase of his life came in the late 1990s, when he occupied the seat of the commander of the Quds Force. He supposedly oversaw every major military action spearheaded by Iran and Hezbollah in the region. This notion seemed true when he showcased his power in a text message sent to the newly appointed US commander in Iraq over a decade ago, “Dear General (David) Petraeus! You should know that I… control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan”. These sentences are the reflection of his influence and power in the Middle East. Often, some geopolitical analysts considered Gen Qasem as the Foreign Minister of Iran and a person who was more influential than President Hasan Rohani. “He was more important than the president, spoke to all factions in Iran, had a direct line to the supreme leader and was in charge of Iran’s regional policy,” said Dina Esfandiari, a fellow at the Century Foundation think tank. “It doesn’t get more important and influential than that.”
Presumably, he had the role in a series of terror attacks around the world: the killing of Lebanese Prime Minister Rafik Hariri in 2005, bomb attacks on the Israeli embassy and a Jewish center in Buenos Aires in the 1990s which left over 100 people dead combined. He allegedly provided manpower and technical assistance to Hezbollah during the 2006 Lebanon War. He is also given the credit for outmaneuvering the ISIS and the Free Syrian Army in the Syrian Civil War.
Gen Soleimani left millions of supporters mourning on the morning of 2nd January, when his caravan was bombed by an American strike in Baghdad. His assassination escalated the tensions between America and Iran, and their allies. The rumors of the Third Great War are in the air which is unlikely to take place, but the Iranian establishment has vehemently vowed to avenge his death.