The general had been working for years to create an “Axis of resistance” that covered Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon and also included Yemen
MADRID, Jan. 3 (EUROPE PRESS) –
General Qasem Soleimani, leading the Quds Force within the almighty Iranian Revolutionary Guard, is a key figure in understanding Iran's presence in the main conflicts in the region and as the executing arm of the country's supreme leader’s policy, Ali Jamenei.
His death in an American attack at the Baghdad airport in which one of his trusted men and 'number two' of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (FMP), Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, has also been killed, is a bitter loss “, as recognized by Jamenei himself, who already promised that there will be” hard revenge. ”
Not surprisingly, Soleimani is considered the architect of the strategy that has allowed Iran in recent years to project its power throughout the Middle East, from Lebanon to Syria through Iraq and Yemen, and in the words of Ali Soufan, a former agent FBI and anti-terrorism expert, “the most powerful general” in the region.
This general who began his career in the war with Iraq in the 1980s when he was just 20 years old is the one who has been moving the threads in the last two decades, and in particular in recent years, regarding the presence and influence of Iran, both directly and through groups and related militias – the so-called 'proxy' – throughout the region.
The Al Quds Force that commanded since 1998 has between 10,000 and 20,000 men and, as Daniel Byman, a professor at Georgetown University and an expert at the Center for Middle East Policy at Brookings Institution, is charged with “offering training, weapons, guidelines organizational and other support for a range of pro-Iranian groups. ”
Thus, he has worked with Hezbollah, the Lebanese Shiite militia party, whose leader has been one of the first to condemn his death and promise revenge and continue the “resistance” against the United States. Iran has been supplying Hezbollah with weapons for years through Syria and Soleimani has maintained a close relationship with many of the organization's leaders. Likewise, the Quds Force maintains close ties with Palestinian terrorist groups such as Hamas or Islamic Jihad.
FIGHT AGAINST THE TALIBAN
But before that, Soleimani was instrumental in the fight against the Taliban in Afghanistan. After an attack in the country in which several Iranians died in 1998, instead of betting on direct intervention, he opted to increase support for the North Alliance that fought the Taliban and even managed to direct the group's operations from a base on the other side of the border in Tajikistan.
In addition, Soufan says in an extensive biography published in the 'CTS Sentinel' of the West Point Anti-Terrorist Center in 2018, after the 9/11 attacks he instructed Iranian diplomats to share information on Taliban positions with the United States.
The approach with the arch-enemy was interrupted after including President George W. Bush to the country in the so-called 'Axis of evil' in 2002. After that, and once the occupation of Iraq began to dislodge Saddam Hussein from power in 2003, the Iranian general helped Syria facilitate the transfer of Sunni jihadists to Iraq, in addition to sending Shiite militias to the country to fight against US troops, claiming hundreds of victims.
With the establishment of the new Iraqi Government in 2005, Iranian influence in the country increased and with it that of the Revolutionary Guard and Soleimani. When the 'Arab Spring' broke out in 2011, the general saw in it a new opportunity to increase influence both in Syria, a country that for years was within the orbit of Tehran, as in Iraq.
ROLE IN THE WAR IN SYRIA
After the war broke out in Syria, he ordered that some of the militias operating in Iraq under his command come to the aid of Syrian President Bashar al Assad, in addition to creating other groups expressly for that purpose, including one of Afghan residents living in Iran.
According to Soufan, “the forces under his command were instrumental in many of the great offensives of the Syrian war.” The Iranian general had his own secret headquarters in Damascus, from where he himself directed some operations, in which were present in addition to Syrian officials representing Hezbollah and other militias.
Soleimani would also have been the architect of Russia's decision to get involved in the war in Syria in favor of Al Assad in September 2015, after the Iranian general, subject to sanctions by the UN, traveled to Moscow and met with the Russian authorities, presumably even with Vladimir Putin himself. Moscow's intervention changed the course of the conflict, as did Hezbollah, also backed by the ubiquitous Iranian military.
Moreover, the Islamic State's lightning advance in Iraq in the summer of 2014, standing at the gates of Baghdad, pushed Soleimani to move some of the Iraqi militias deployed in Syria back to Iraq to defend the country, which They ended up organizing under the name of the Popular Mobilization Forces (FMP).
A good part of these militias were under the direct control of Soleimani and were key in the fight against the terrorist group. The Iranian general himself was photographed near the front during the reconquest of Tikrit in 2015.
YEMEN, THE LAST FRONT
That same year a new front was opened in which Iran's presence has been key: Yemen. Here, Tehran has aligned itself with the Huthi rebels fighting the Yemeni government, supported by a military coalition that heads Saudi Arabia, their arch enemy in the region.
Soleimani saw in support of this group a way to harm Saudi Arabia, so that arms were sent. With the passage of time, support has been increasing and Tehran has taken advantage through the Huthis to attack the kingdom. Proof of this is the attack last September against facilities of the Aramco oil company, in which both Washington and Riyadh see the hand of Iran.
With all this, Soleimani has managed in recent years to create an “Axis of resistance” that, starting with Iran, passes through Iraq, continues through Syria and ends in Lebanon, which has generated in particular the concern of Israel, which sees his enemy declared at the gates of his territory, and of the United States.
Therefore, some experts agree that Soleimani's death is even more important than that of Usama bin Laden, the leader of Al Qaeda, in 2011 or that of Abu Bakr al Baghdadi, the leader of the Islamic State, who died last October , both in operations of US forces.
Within Iran, Soleimani is a revered figure, always accompanied by a halo of mystery and modesty that he himself has been responsible for cultivating in all his public appearances. Considered as the right hand of Jamenei, who already before his death considered him a “living martyr of the Revolution”, his name had sounded even as the future president of the country.