Who was Soleimani and why was he so important for his country?
He was a power center of the Middle East.
Arguing whether Soleimani was an influential figure or not, is a waste of time. Because the answer is, of course, he was. Who was Qassem Soleimani cannot be known without knowing about his career. He belonged to a lower-middle-class family and covered the distance to power on his own. He led missions on the field against the Iraqi forces during the 1980s and became a national hero. Soleimani became head of the Quds Force in 1998 and kept a low profile for years while he strengthened Iran’s ties with Hezbollah in Lebanon, Syria’s al-Assad and Shia militia groups in Iraq. Few analysts rightly argue that he was seconded by the supreme leader of Iran and no one else. They also argue that he could be the next president of the Islamic Republic of Iran, as he was undoubtedly the most influential figure of the region. If Trump says that Major General Qassem Soleimani was a threat to the American lives and its coalition partners in the region then he is accurate to claim that, as the Middle East is in a state of war and wars have three common options, victory, defeat or death,
Keywords: Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani, Iran, Al-Quds Force, Iraq, Syria, US, Saudi Arabia.
Soleimani was born in a poor family in southeastern Iran’s Kerman Province. He started working as a 13-year-old to help support his family, spending his free time lifting weights and attending sermons by the founder of the Islamic Republic Ayatollah Khomeini. As a young man during the Iranian revolution in 1979, Soleimani began his ascent through the Iranian military, reportedly receiving just six weeks of tactical training before seeing combat for the first time in Iran’s West Azerbaijan province. Soleimani emerged from the Iran-Iraq war a national hero for the missions he led across Iraq’s border.
Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s identity is Iran’s, Al-Quds Force. Chasing the answer, who was Soleimani cannot be chased without knowing what Al-Quds Force is and what its functions are. Shortly, it was February 1979, when Iran faced an Islamic revolution and became the Islamic Republic of Iran. It is a common phenomenon, probably since the first revolution of the world that if the revolution is not preached and expanded, ultimately it will meet an undesired end or its death. Iran’s top leadership knew that and soon the top leader of the Iranian Revolution, the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini with the concerns of other elite leadership decided to make an armed force to resist outside forces and as well as enhance Iran’s area of influence. Consequently, the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) was founded on 22nd April 1979, by the order of Khomeini. Al-Quds was formed as a unit of IRGC specializing in unconventional warfare and military intelligence operations.
Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani became the head of the Al-Quds Force in 1998. He knew the urgency of the making of this force and he was ready to carry the tasks. After the incident of 9/11, the Al-Quds Force under Soleimani decided to support the United States against the Sunni Taleban organization. Though Soleimani and his men played a great part in the so-called war on terror but soon American president felt Quds Force no more important and labeled Iran, Iraq and North Korea as “axis of evil.” Then in 2003, neoconservatives of America decided to invade Iraq and hunt Saddam from his own capital. It took three weeks to US and coalitions to invade Baghdad, the land which could not be invaded by Iran in eight years (1980–1988). Sensing the American might, Iran put everything on the tables to negotiate with the authorities sitting in the White House, but Bush and Cheney were there to make sure no negotiations with Tehran. Fuel in the fire was the strong lobbying of AIPAC (American Israel Public Affairs Committee), a lobbying group for Israel.
Many leading figures in Tehran including Soleimani decided to enhance their presence in the region if Iran was not to meet with a fate like that of Iraq’s. They decided to change the crisis into an opportunity. They calculated that Iraq is a Shia majority country with Saddam gone and Iran can influence it. Al-Quds Force was already monitoring Hezbollah in Lebanon since the Lebanese civil war (1975–1990) and Hamas in Palestine. Tehran’s indirect clout in messed Iraq could be leverage and Soleimani chose to do so. Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani of Al-Quds Force started feeding Shia militia in Iraq, a country with over 60 percent Shia population. Al-Quds Force was not always against American troops in Iraq, it had also played a role with the American soldiers in countering the so-called Islamic State (IS) to secure Iran’s frontiers. It will not be wrong to state that defeating IS was near to impossible without Soleimani. As Mohammad Marandi, head of American Studies at the University of Tehran said Soleimani’s role in helping defeat ISIL (Islamic State of Iraq and Levant) made him a “national hero” and a “martyr” among the Iranian people and other Middle Eastern countries. “If it wasn’t for people like him, this region would have seen black flags flying across the region.” He added.
Within a decade after Iraq’s invasion, Middle East witnessed the Arab Spring in 2011, soothing grounds for Qassem Soleimani’s Al-Quds to flex its muscles. Syria faced civil war and her president Bashar Al- Assad was almost toppled until Soleimani’s Al-Quds Force intervened in Damascus and resisted anti-Assad forces on every possible front. Barrack Obama had almost withdrawn all American soldiers from the Iraqi soil and now Syria was also becoming under Soleimani’s fist, which was a positive result for Iran. Iran, the country which was once surrounded by Israel, Saudi Arabia, Iraq, and America, was now surrounding her enemies present in the region. Intervening in Syria brought Iran closer to the revisionist bloc as that to Russia and China.
Soleimani’s command was again trusted in 2015’s Yemen Civil War. Shia insurgents known as Houthi rebels had once captured Sana (Yemen capital) in 2014 but faced resistance by the American supported Saudi Arabians. Houthi insurgents became one of the arch-rivals of the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia and Soleimani started monitoring them to encircle the kingdom. As it is said,” Enemy of my enemy is my friend”, and through this logic, one can conclude why was Soleimani blessing Houthis against Saudi Arabia.
To conclude, Qassem Soleimani had a mega influence in many parts of the region. For instance, Lebanon’s Hezbollah was operating under his monitoring, Hamas and PIJ (Palestine Islamic Jihad Movement) were working on his orders to contain Israel through the Palestinian land, Kata’ib Hezbollah and Asa’ib Ahl al Haq of Iraq were also working under his undeniable instructions and lastly, but not least the Al-Aqsa Martyrs’ Brigade (a coalition of Palestinian armed groups in the West Bank. The organization has been designated as a terrorist organization by Israel, the European Union, Canada, Japan, New Zealand, and the United States) was also proud to accept orders from him. If Iran still controls the region and the mentioned organizations, it is all due to the Major Gen. Qassem Soleimani’s charismatic personality and wise strategies.
Who was Soleimani or why was he so important for Iran can also be gauged from the response from Tehran after his assassination in January 2020. As Iran fired twelve missiles on American basses in Baghdad, claiming to kill forty American soldiers. Though the vacuum created by Soleimani’s death cannot be sensed immediately but those who keep close eyes on the politics of the Middle East can sense it. The crying faces across the Shia community including that of Ali Khamenei’s also tell the story that he was a man of extreme importance for this community.
Note: Pictures courtesy to VOX .