The Controversial Legacy Of A Shadow Commander
When Iran’s powerful Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Commander Qassem Soleimani was assassinated on January 3, 2020, he had the reputation of being a brilliant tactician, a shadow commander, a nightmare for enemies of Iran and staunch believer in the Islamic revolution. But more importantly, Soleimani was seen as an inspiring fighter, brokering deals and giving the Kurdish separatists, the Taliban, and Islamic State (I.S.) a hard time while being a nightmare for the US designs in the region.
Along with Soleimani, on the same date, Abu Mahdi Al Muhandis, a senior Iraqi military leader, was also killed in a US-led airstrike near Baghdad airport. Both commanders’ deaths initiated an atmosphere of war as the international community feared the retaliation of Iran and its allies against the US.
In the year 2011, when American forces left Iraqi soil, Iranian influence, under the command of Soleimani, started increasing in the country. Militias were trained in Iraq on Soleimani’s watch to protect the holy cities of Karbala and Najaf from the wrath of IS. Soleimani was also known for training and organizing the funding for Shia militias in Iraq and Syria.
The US, however, looked at the influence of Soleimani as a constant threat snaking through the unrest in the middle-east.
The Most Influential Man Of The Middle-East
The 2011 biography for American Enterprise Institute for Policy and Research, which draws mainly from Iranian sources, mentioned the significant aspects and details of the life of Soleimani, who, after his assassination, became one of the most influential slain commanders in the region. Born in 1957, Soleimani grew up in Kerman, a mountainous city situated near Afghanistan’s borders in southeast Iran. He joined the Islamic revolution in 1976 and, subsequently, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards.
In 1980s, Soleimani had fought in the Iraq-Iran war as a front-liner. In the 1990s, seeing his performance and devotion, he was appointed as head of IRGC Quds Force, an elite special militia of Iran that deals in terrorism and illegal and secret operations.
The US Invasion Of Iraq
In 2003, the US invaded Iraq; Soleimani helped the Shia militias suppress the growing Sunni uprising in Iraq and helped launch attacks against the US forces in the country. According to reports, the militias trained by Soleimani later joined the Iraqi Hashd forces created to fight the ISIS. That is when US started seeing Soleimani as a ‘Point man’ for Iran’s monopoly in Iraq and an important man in Iranian leadership after Supreme Leader Sayed Ali Khamenei.
When in 2011, the reputation of Soleimani as a believing commander with a humble and pious demeanor left a positive mark on the people’s minds who found themselves freed from the menace of US brutalities in Iraq. The man in a silver beard with bulgy eyes and humble appearance became a household name in the region. Even after ISIS was driven out of Iraq in 2017, the Shia Militias continued to grow and control the region. Reports state that Arbaeen, one of Shia’s most prominent events in Iraq, was also protected and managed by Soleimani and his trained militias in Iraq. For this service, he was awarded the highest Medal of Honor by Supreme Leader in 2019.
When Soleimani was assassinated, millions came out in Iran and thousands in Iraq to bid farewell to their ‘hero’. While leading the final prayers of his close companion, Soleimani, on a live TV, the Supreme Leader broke into tears that wrenched the hearts of the followers and devotees of the man, who protected their country’s religious sites.
On the other hand, President Donald Trump said a day after his death, “What the United States did yesterday should have been done long ago. A lot of lives would have been saved”.
The author is a freelance writer, photographer and videographer.