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News > Iran

Who Was Qassem Soleimani and Why Was He Targeted by the US?

  • Major General Qassem Soleimani at the International Day of Mosque

    Major General Qassem Soleimani at the International Day of Mosque | Photo: Tasnim News Agency

Published 3 January 2020

For years, Qassem Soleimani was a thorn in the U.S.' side, as he continuously undermined their hegemony over the Middle East. 

The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC) Quds Force, Major-General Qassem Soleimani, has long been considered a top enemy target for the U.S. and their allies in the MIddle East. 

Born to an impoverished family in southeastern Iran, young Qassem was an early follower of the Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, as he often listened to the latter's sermons through his traveling preachers. 

When the 1979 Islamic Revolution began, the 22-year-old became one of the first officers in what would later become the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, also known by its acronym 'IRGC'. 

Military Career

Like many of the IRGC personnel in the 1980s, Soleimani fought on the frontlines of the Iraq-Iran War (1980-1989). It was during this war that Soleimani displayed his gallantry and brilliance on the battlefield, earning high honors from the military command. 

Soleimani's bravery on the battlefield would be tested durng the peak years of the Iran-Iraq War, as the IRGC enlisted him to conduct military operations behind enemy lines. 

The future Quds Force commander would prove adept at infiltrating the enemy lines, which later earned him the respect of his comrades. 

To reward him for his service during the Iran-Iraq War and his success in the Afghanistan border operations in the early 1990's, the IRGC command named Soleimani as the commander of the prestigious Quds Force. 

Soleimani would quickly rise up the ranks of the IRGC, eventually reaching the rank of Major-General.

U.S. Invasion and Occupation of Iraq (2003-2010)

Qassem Soleimani was arguably one of the most frustrating figures the U.S. Armed Forces and their allies had to deal with in Iraq. 

During the U.S. invasion and occupation, the IRGC commander worked with the Shia-led groups to undermine the U.S.' authority in Iraq. 

Soleimani made sure to make his presence known to the U.S. forces during the war, despite fears that they would eventualy strike him.

He would survive the war and eventually shift his attention to the Syrian conflict. 

2006 Lebanon War

As commander of the Quds Force, one of Soleimani's first major tasks was aiding Hezbollah in their month-long war against Israel in 2006. 

Hezbollah not only surprised the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) with their resiliance on the battlefield, but their battle plan itself caught the latter off guard. 

Soleimani remained in Lebanon for the duration of the war, as he worked directly with Hezbollah's Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah and their then military commander Imad Moughniyeh. 

The 2006 Lebanon War ended in a stalemate, but the conflict was widely considered a victory in Lebanon and several other Middle Eastern nations, including Iran and Syria. 

Syrian War

Soleimani played an integral role in the Syrian Conflict by organizing battle plans, mobilizing allied forces like Hezbollah and Iraqi paramilitaries, and visiting troops deployed at the front-lines. 

While his presence agitated the U.S. and Israel, Soleimani mostly ignored this and concentrated his efforts on defeating the Islamic State forces that were in control of the Iraqi-Syrian border. 

The Quds Force commander was rarely photographed inside Syria, but when photos did surface of Soleimani, he was pictured meeting with troops near the frontlines. 

Once the war in Syria began to wind down, the Iranian commander went back to Iraq, where he remained until his assassination on Jan. 3.

Why Did the U.S. Kill Him?

It was no secret that Soleimani had a large following, especially in the Shia Muslim community; however, he was also the mastermind of several operations against the U.S. Armed Forces and their allies. 

Soleimani was accused by the U.S. of attempting to threaten Israel's safety by empowering Shia paramilitary groups like Hezbollah. 

Then, last Friday, a couple of rockets were fired at Iraq's K-1 Base, where one U.S. contractor was killed and several others were wounded. 

The attack would prompt Washington to accuse Tehran of orchestrating the attack, later leading to the U.S. military attacking five bases belonging to Kata'eb Hezbollah. 

As a result of this attack, at least 30 fighters from Kata'eb Hezbollah and their allied forces were killed, including one field commander. 

The following day, a mass protest was held outside the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad. At this protest, the demonstrators bypassed the first security checkpoint, making their way to the diplomtic mission's walls before nightfall. 

Another mass protest was reported to have taken place the following day, eventually leading to the U.S.' surprise attack on Qassem Soleimani's vehicle near the Baghdad International Airport. 

For the U.S., Qassem Soleimani was a major threat to their forces in Syria and Iraq. He was killed alongside the Kata'eb Hezbollah commander Abu Mahdi Al-Mohandis, leaving the Quds Force with no leader. 

In Iran, Qassem Soleimani was a revered military commander that will be remembered for his bravery and intelligence on the battlefield. 

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