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Qasem Soleimani

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Qasem Soleimani

Qasem Soleimani
Nickname(s) The Shadow Commander[1][2][3][4][5]
Born (1957-03-11) 11 March 1957
Rabor, Iran
Allegiance Islamic Republic of Iran
Service/branch Revolutionary Guard
Years of service 1980—present
Rank Major General
Unit Quds Force
Commands held 41st Sarallah Division of Kerman
Quds Force

Kurdish Rebellion (1979)
Iran–Iraq War

KDPI insurgency (1989–96)
South Lebanon conflict
Invasion of Afghanistan[6]
Iraq War

Sa'dah War
Iran–Israel proxy conflict

Syrian Civil War

War on ISIL

Awards Fath Medal of Honor[9]

Qasem Soleimani (Persian: قاسم سلیمانی‎‎, born 11 March 1957) is a major general in the Iranian Army of the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution (IRGC) and since 1998 commander of its Quds Force—a division primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations.[10] A veteran of the Iran–Iraq war, he has been active in many conflicts from Afghanistan to the Levant. His methods have been a blend of military intervention through ideological proxies and hard-nosed strategic diplomacy. The Quds Force has long provided military assistance to Hezbollah in Lebanon and Hamas in the Palestinian Territories. After the United States invasion of Iraq, Suleimani gained increasing political and military influence in the country through al-Maliki's government and the Shia militia, which are equipped and directed by Quds Force. Beginning in 2012, Soleimani helped bolster the Syrian government, a key Iranian ally, during the Syrian Civil War. Soleimani also assisted in the command of combined Iraqi government and Shia militia forces that advanced against the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) in 2014–2015.[11] Largely an unknown figure before 2013 and taking a higher profile recently during the War on ISIL, "emerging from obscurity has proved as much blessing and curse because he is now associated with Iran’s setbacks as much as with its advances”.[12]


Soleimani's name is also variously spelled as Qassem, Ghasem, and Ghassem. Likewise, his surname is also variously spelled as Soleymani, Suleimani, and Sulaimani.[note 1]

Early life and education

Soleimani was born in [14] When not at work, he spent his time lifting weights in local gyms and attending the sermons of a traveling preacher by the name of Hojjat Kamyab – a protege of Ayatollah Khomeini.[13]

Career and activities

Soleimani joined the Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) in 1979 following the Iranian Revolution, which saw the Shah fall and Ayatollah Khomeini take power. Reportedly, his training was minimal, but he advanced rapidly. Early in his career as a guardsman, he was stationed in northwestern Iran, and participated in the suppression of a Kurdish separatist uprising in West Azerbaijan Province.[13]

On 22 September 1980, when Iraq launched an invasion of Iran, setting off the Iran–Iraq War, Soleimani was a Lieutenant in the ranks of the IRGC. During the war, from 1980 to 1988, he was stationed at the southern front, commanding the 41st Sarallah Division[15] while still in his 20s.

On July 17, 1985, Soleimani opposed the IRGC leadership’s plan to deploy forces to two islands in western Arvandroud (Shatt al-Arab).[16]

After the war, during the 1990s, he was an IRGC commander in Kerman Province.[15] In this region, which borders Afghanistan, Afghan-grown opium travels to Turkey and onto Europe. Soleimani's military experience helped him earn a reputation as a successful fighter against drug trafficking.[13]

During the 1999 student revolt in Tehran, Soleiman was one of the IRGC officers who signed a letter to President Mohammad Khatami. The letter stated that if Khatami did not crush the student rebellion the military would, and might also launch a coup against Khatami.[13][17]

Command of Quds Force

The exact date of his appointment as commander of the IRGC's Quds Force is not clear, but Ali Alfoneh cites it as between 10 September 1997 and 21 March 1998.[14] He was considered one of the possible successors to the post of commander of the IRGC, when General Yahya Rahim Safavi left this post in 2007. In 2008, he led a group of Iranian investigators looking into the death of Imad Mughniyah. Soleimani helped arrange a ceasefire between the Iraqi Army and Mahdi Army in March 2008.[18]

Following the Axis of evil" in his State of the Union address.[13]

In 2009, a leaked report stated that General Soleimani met Christopher R. Hill and General Raymond T. Odierno (America’s two most senior officials in Baghdad at the time) in the office of Iraq’s president, Jalal Talabani (who has known General Soleimani for decades). Hill and General Odierno denied the occurrence of the meeting.[19]

On 24 January 2011, Soleimani was promoted to Major General by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.[15][20] Khamenei is described as having a close relationship with him, helping him financially and has called Soleimani a "living martyr".[13]

Soleimani has been described as "the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today" and the principal military strategist and tactician in Iran's effort to combat Western influence and promote the expansion of Nuri Al-Maliki.[13][21] Soleimani has even been described as being "Iran’s very own Erwin Rommel".[22]

According to some sources, Soleimani is the principal leader and architect of the military wing of the Lebanese Shia party Hezbollah since his appointment as Quds commander in 1998.[13]

Syrian Civil War

A map of Al-Qusayr and its environs. The Al-Qusayr offensive was allegedly masterminded by Soleimani[23]

According to several sources, including Riad Hijab, a former Syrian premier who defected in August 2012, he is also one of the staunchest supporters of the Syrian government of Bashar al-Assad in the Syrian Civil War.[13][21] In the later half of 2012, Soleimani assumed personal control of the Iranian intervention in the Syrian civil war, when Iranians became deeply concerned about the Assad government's lack of ability to fight the opposition, and the fallout to the Islamic Republic if the Syrian government fell. In Damascus he is reported to have coordinated the war from a base in Damascus at which a Lebanese Hezbollah commander and an Iraqi Shiite militia coordinator have been mobilized, in addition to Syrian and Iranian officers. Brigadier General Hossein Hamadani, the Basij’s former deputy commander helps to run irregular militias that Soleimani hopes to continue the fight if Assad falls.[13] Under Soleimani the command has "coordinated attacks, trained militias, and set up an elaborate system to monitor rebel communications". According to a Middle Eastern security official Dexter Filkins talked to, thousands of Quds Force and Iraqi Shiite militiamen in Syria are "spread out across the entire country.”[13] The retaking of Qusayr in May 2013 from Syrian rebels was, according to John Maguire, a former CIA officer in Iraq, "orchestrated" by Soleimani.[13]

He is widely credited with delivering the strategy that has helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide against rebel forces and recapture key cities and towns.[24] The details of his involvement however are little known but many events from the training of government allied militias and coordination of decisive military offensives[13] to the sighting of Iranian UAVs & spy-drones in Syria, strongly suggest that his command (the Quds force) is heavily involved in many aspects of the civil war.[13] In a visit to the Lebanese capital Beirut on Thursday 29 Jan 2015, Soleimani laid wreaths at the graves of the slain Hezbollah members, including Emad Mughniyah, the son of late Hezbollah commander Imad Mughniyah which strengthens some possibilities about his role in Hezbollah military reaction on Israel.[25]

Soleimani helped in formation of the National Defence Forces (NDF) in Syria.

In October 2015, it was reported that he had been instrumental in devising during his visit to Moscow in July 2015 the Russian-Iranian-Syrian offensive in October 2015.[26]

War on ISIS in Iraq

The east of Saladin Province in Iraq where Qasem Soleimani was involved in breaking the Siege of Amirli by ISIS[27]

Qasem Soleimani was in the Iraqi city of Amerli, to work with the Iraqi forces to push back militants from ISIS.[28][29] According to The Los Angeles Times, which reported that Amerli was the first town to successfully withstand an ISIS invasion, it was secured thanks to "an unusual partnership of Iraqi and Kurdish soldiers, Iranian-backed Shiite militias and U.S. warplanes". The US acted as a force multiplier for a number of Iranian-backed arm groups — at the same time that was present on the battlefield.[30]

A senior Iraqi official told the BBC that when the city of Mosul fell, the rapid reaction of Iran, rather than American bombing, was what prevented a more widespread collapse.[6] Qasem Soleimani also seems to have been instrumental in planning the operation to relieve Amirli in Saladin province where ISIS had laid siege to an important city.[27] In fact the Quds force operatives under Soleimani's command seem to have been deeply involved with not only the Iraqi army and Shi'ite militias but also the Kurdish in the battle of Amirli,[31] not only providing liaisons for intelligence sharing but also the supply of arms and munitions in addition to "providing expertise".[32]

In Operation Ashura, he was reportedly "present on the battlefield". Some Shia militia commanders described Soleimani as “fearless” — one pointing out that the Iranian general never wears a flak jacket, even on the front lines.[33]

Soleimani was also intimately involved in the planning & execution of the operation to liberate Tikrit[34][35]

[36] and he adds there was no Iraq if Gen. Soleimani hadn't help us.[37]

There were reports by some Western sources that Soleimani has been seriously wounded in action against ISIL in Samarra. The claim was rejected by Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister for Arab and African Affairs Hossein Amir-Abdollahian.[38]

Soleimani played an integral role in the organisation and planning of the crucial operation to retake the city of Tikrit in Iraq from ISIS. The city of Tikrit rests on the left bank of the Tigris river and is the largest and most important city between Baghdad and Mosul, gifting it a high strategic value. The city fell to ISIS during 2014 when ISIS made immense gains in northern and central Iraq. After months of careful preparation and intelligence gathering an offensive to encircle and capture Tikrit was launched in early March 2015.[35] Soleimani is directing the operations on the eastern flank from a village about 35 miles from Tikrit called Albu Rayash, captured over the weekend. The offensive is the biggest military operation in the Salahuddin region since last summer, when Isis fighters killed hundreds of Iraq army soldiers who had abandoned their military base at Camp Speicher outside Tikrit. His planned operation failed, and only after the request of American air power the battle was finally won. Soleimani record as a military commander was darkened after Tikrit and his failed operations in Syria.[35]

Orchestration of Military Escalation in 2015

In 2015 Soleimani started to gather support from various sources in order to combat the newly resurgent ISIL and rebel groups which were both successful in taking large swathes of territory away from Assad's forces. He was reportedly the main architect of the joint intervention involving Russia as a new partner with Assad and Hezbollah.[39][40][41]

According to Reuters, at a meeting in Moscow in July, Soleimani unfurled a map of Syria to explain to his Russian hosts how a series of defeats for President Bashar al-Assad could be turned into victory - with Russia's help. Qasem Soleimani's visit to Moscow was the first step in planning for a Russian military intervention that has reshaped the Syrian war and forged a new Iranian-Russian alliance in support of Assad. Iran's supreme leader, Ali Khamenei also sent a senior envoy to Moscow to meet President Vladimir Putin. "Putin reportedly told the envoy 'Okay we will intervene. Send Qassem Soleimani'. Gen. Soleimani went to explain the map of the theatre and coordinate the strategic escalation of military forces in Syria.[42]

Operations in Aleppo

A battle map of the operations in Aleppo during September and October.[43][44][45][46][47][48]

The influx of the plethora of Shi'ite militias that was brought about by Qasem Soleimani, who would also assume overall command in the Aleppo offensives of 2015 had a decisive impact on the theatre of operations and led to a strong advance in southern Aleppo with the government and allied forces capturing two military bases and dozens of towns and villages in a matter of weeks. There was also a series of major advances towards Kuweiris air-base to the north-east.[49]


In March 2007, Soleimani was included on a list of Iranian individuals targeted with sanctions in United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747.[50] On 18 May 2011, he was sanctioned again by the United States along with Syrian president Bashar Assad and other senior Syrian officials due to his alleged involvement in providing material support to the Syrian government.[51]

On 24 June 2011, the Official Journal of the European Union said the three Iranian Revolutionary Guard members now subject to sanctions had been "providing equipment and support to help the Syrian government suppress protests in Syria".[52] The Iranians added to the EU sanctions list were two Revolutionary Guard commanders, Soleimani, Mohammad Ali Jafari, and the Guard's deputy commander for intelligence, Hossein Taeb.[53] Soleimani was also sanctioned by the Swiss government in September 2011 due to the same grounds cited by the European Union.[54]

He is listed by the United States as a known terrorist, which forbids U.S. citizens from doing business with him.[18][55] The list, published in the EU's Official Journal on 24 June 2011, also includes a Syrian property firm, an investment fund and two other enterprises accused of funding Assad's government. The list also includes Mohammad Ali Jafari and Hossein Taeb.[56] According to Newsweek, Iran, beside sending weapons, uniforms and pilots to Iraq, sent their military mastermind, Qasem Soleimani, leader of the Quds Force, whom many military leaders regard as an excellent, and highly strategic commander.[57]


  1. ^ Persian pronunciation: .


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External links

Military offices
Preceded by
Ahmad Vahidi
Chief commander of
Quds Force

Succeeded by
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