The life of Qassem Soleimani, Iran’s revered military mastermind who fought the US for years until he was killed in an airstrike
General qasim Soleimani & Khamenei
Qassem Soleimani (left) and Soleimani pictured with Ali Khamenei (right)
Iranian general Qassem Soleimani was killed in an airstrike launched by the US on Friday morning.
Soleimani was the commander of the Quds Force, a faction of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran.
Soleimani was instrumental in Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East over the last decade, particularly during the Syrian civil war and the fight against ISIS in Iraq.
The general was revered in Iran to an extent totally unheard of in the modern West. Iranians idolized him in the way that Americans looked up to World War II generals like George Patton, and Brits admired the Duke of Wellington.
From his humble beginnings on a farm in Kerman to a seat in Iran’s elite inner circle, here is everything you need to know about his life and rise to power.

Early Friday morning the US launched a military strike on Baghdad airport, killing top Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani.

As the commander of the Quds Force, he was considered to have been one of the most powerful figures in Iran, and played a prominent role in Iran’s foreign policy in the Middle East over the last decade.

Soleimani was revered by ordinary Iranians in a way that would be almost inconceivable to people in the modern West.

Iranians idolized him in the way that Americans looked up to World War II generals like George Patton, and Brits admired 19th century military leaders like the Duke of Wellington.

His death has led to the announcement of three days of mourning in the country, and one military commander was so moved by his death that he broke down in tears on live television after learning the news.

Despite his elite status in the Iranian political system, Soleimani came from very humble beginnings.

From growing up on a farm in Kerman to heading the Quds Force faction of the IRGC, here is everything you need to know about Soleimani’s life, rise to power, and ultimate death.

Soleimani was born on 11 March 1957. At the time, Iran was ruled by a monarchy headed by Shah Mohammad Reza Pahlavi.
Qassem Suleimani
A former CIA operative described Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, as the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.” Fars
He was born in the village of Qanat-Malak in Rabor, Kerman, around 700 miles from the Iranian capital, Tehran. He was born into a humble family of farmers.
Ghassem Soleimani, Kerman
A map showing the Rabor, Kerman — Qassem Soleimani from google maps.
At age 13 he moved to the city of Kerman in order to work in construction to pay a debt his father owed.
Ghassem Soleimani
Soleimani attends celebrations marking the 37th anniversary of the Islamic revolution on February 11, 2016.
In his free time, Soleimani attended sermons by Ali Khamenei, who went on to become Iran’s second and current Supreme Leader. In the lead up to the Iranian revolution of 1979 he also worked to organise demonstrations in opposition to the Shah.
Iran revolution
Men and women, traditionally separated in public in Iran, stand together in the streets in Tehran shouting anti-Shah slogans during the second day of demonstrations against the Iranian monarch.
Following the Iranian revolution which ousted the Shah and established the Islamic Republic of Iran, Soleimani joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).

In this picture taken on Sunday, Sept. 21, 2008, Iranian Revolutionary Guards members march during a parade ceremony.

The IRGC is a faction of the army which was set up in order to defend the country’s Islamic system, and is considered the most elite of all regiments in Iran’s force..
Shortly after he was sent to the front lines in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). He emerged a distinguished figure in the Iranian armed forces after carrying out a series of reconnaissance missions in Iraq.
Qassem Soleimani Muhandis Zaydi Baghdad
Soleimani in Baghdad with Popular Mobilization Committee chief Abu Mahdi al Muhandis and Imam Ali Brigade leader Shebl al Zaydi via The Long War Journal.
In 1998, Khamenei made Soleimani the head of the Quds Force, a unit within the IRGC which handles Iran’s foreign military operations.
Qassem Soleimani reuters .
Soleimani stands at the frontline during offensive operations against Islamic State militants in the town of Tal Ksaiba in Salahuddin province March 8, 2015.
He kept a relatively low profile for a while, but in 2005 Soleimani became more prominent in Iraq’s Shia Muslim political groups.
qassem soleimani
RGC Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani said the world will be surprised by upcoming events in Syria. (AFP/Mehdi Ghasemi/ISNA)
Shia Muslims dominate Iran’s population and political climate, and Soleimani sought to advance Shia powers in Iraq during the period.
The Quds force was accused of supplying explosive devices to fighters in Iraq in 2007, which were used against American soldiers, according to Sky News.
In 2010, Soleimani reportedly sent a message to General David Petraeus, who was head of the US forces in Iraq at the time, saying the following: “You should know that I, Qassem Soleimani, control the policy for Iran with respect to Iraq, Lebanon, Gaza, and Afghanistan.”
Soleimani, center, attends a meeting of a group of the Guard members. Office of the Iranian Supreme Leader via AP
In 2011, as the Syrian civil war broke out Soleimani sent Iranian-backed militias into the country to support President Bashar Assad. Iran became a key ally of Syria through the war under Soleimani’s leadership.
Soleimani walks near an armoured vehicle at the frontline during offensive operations against Islamic State militants in the town of Tal Ksaiba. Thomson Reuters
Source: Al Jazeezera.
He was reportedly involved in drawing up a strategy for Assad to help him with violent crackdowns on opposition groups in Syria, as well as training government allied militias in the country.
Forces loyal to President Assad have a deliberate policy of targeting civilians in areas beyond government control. REUTERS
Source: BBC media..
However it was his prominent role in fighting ISIS in Iraq that led to his wider recognition, and won Soleimani widespread support inside Iran.
Soleimani (center, with black hat) posing for a picture in Anbar province, Iraq. via The Long War Journal
In 2015 he was the face of the successful offensive which took back the Iraqi city of Tikri.
His efforts in fighting the terrorist group were also recognized by western media.
He was a household name, often appearing on television and generally popular among the public. In 2016 a poll showed that 76% of Iranians held a favorable view of him.
Ghassem Soleimani getty 1
TEHRAN, IRAN – JANUARY 11: Chief of Staff for the Armed Forces of the Islamic Republic of Iran Mohammad Bagheri (2nd L), Iranian First Deputy President Ishak Cihangiri (2nd R), Iranian President Hassan Rouhani (R) and Major general Qasem Soleimani (L) attend the condolence ceremony of former Iranian President Ali Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani at the Imam Khomeini Hussainiya, part of the House of Leadership in Tehran, Iran on January 11, 2017. Former Iranian President Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani passed away at the age of 82 at a hospital in Tehran on January 8, 2017. Handout/Anadolu Agency/Getty Images
His popularity and renown in Iran would seem alien to most in the West, as he was much more prominent than any modern military leaders in major Western powers.

His fame was more akin to that of US World War II generals like George Patton, and 19th century British military leaders like the Duke of Wellington.
Shia militia fighters also made a music video about him in which soldiers are pictured painting a graffiti portrait of Soleimani’s face on a wall whilst music in the background sings his praises.
A still from a music video made about qasim Soleimani.
A still from a music video made about Qassem Soleimani where his face is painted on a wall by soldiers.

As might be expected, he was not seen as favorably in the West. The Quds force was declared a terrorist organization in 2007, and Soleimani himself was sanctioned.
suleimani soleimani aleppo iran syria general
A former CIA operative described Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran’s Quds Force, as the “most powerful operative in the Middle East today.” The Long War Journal
Source: Bloomberg

Rumours around his death circulated several time previously, including in 2006 when a military airplane crashed in northwestern Iran and in 2012 after a bombing in Damascus killed top aides of Assad.
Khamenei and Soleimani
An Iranian carries the portraits of Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and Soleimani during the funeral of the victims of the attacks on Tehran’s parliament complex and the shrine of revolutionary leader Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, in the capital Tehran on June 9, 2017. Photo by ATTA KENARE .

Late on Thursday night (early Friday morning in Iraq), the US military announced Soleimani had died in an airstrike attack on Baghdad airport. The reports were confirmed by Iranian state media.
soleimani iraq debris
Burning debris seen on a road near Baghdad International Airport, which Iraqi paramilitary groups say were caused by three rockets, on January 3, 2020. Iraqi Security Media Cell via Reuters
Source: Business Insider, Press TV

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has promised to retaliate following the strike, and said “severe revenge awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & other martyrs’ blood” — but it remains unclear how Iran plans to carry out its promised revenge..

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Arshad hussaini