New Delhi, Jan 3 (IANS) General Qasem Soleimani, the once reclusive head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ (IRGC) elite Quds Force who in the past directed inumerable covert operations abroad, has finally emerged in the global limelight following his death in a US airstrike ordered by American President Donald Trump.
Solemani was a major figure in the Iranian regime. From 1998, he led the Quds Force – an elite unit, which handles clandestine operations abroad.
His Quds Force directly report to Iran’s Supreme Leader directly to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and he was hailed as a heroic national figure, according to a BBC report.
Iran has acknowledged the role of the Quds Force in the conflicts in Syria, where it has advised forces loyal to President Bashar al-Assad and armed thousands of Shia Muslim militiamen fighting alongside them, and in Iraq, where it has backed a Shia-dominated paramilitary force that helped tackle the Islamic State.
These conflicts turned the once-reclusive Soleimani into a something of celebrity in Iran.
Shortly, he became the subject of documentaries, news reports and even pop songs.
One music video widely shared in Iran was made by Shia militia fighters in Iraq.
It showed soldiers spray-painting the General’s portrait on a wall and parading in front of it while stirring music plays in the background.
But the US has called the much decorated General and his Quds Force as terrorists and has also blamed them for the deaths of hundreds of American personnel.
The Trump administration has alleged that the Quds Force was “Iran’s primary mechanism for cultivating and supporting” US-designated terrorist groups across the Middle East – including Lebanon’s Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad – by providing funding, training, weapons and equipment.
US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo designated the IRGC and its Quds Force as foreign terrorist organisations in April.
But his death has prompted Iranians to “vow revenge” on the US.
In a statement on Friday, Khamenei said the “cruelest people on earth” assassinated the “honourable” commander who “courageously fought for year against the evils and bandits of the world”, the Tehran-based Press TV said in a report.
“His demise will not stop his mission, but the criminals who have the blood of General Soleimani and other martyrs of the Thursday night attack on their hands must await a vigorous revenge,” the Supreme Leader added.
Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif called the attack an “act of international terrorism”, tweeting that the US “bears responsibility for all consequences of its rogue adventurism”.
Mohsen Rezaei, the former commander of the IRGC, said Iran would take “vigorous revenge on America”.
A spokesman for the Iranian government said the country’s top security body would meeting in a few hours to discuss the “criminal act of attack”.
The question now is: Will Gen Soleimani’s death rebound on Trump?