In Iran, military heroes tend to be recognised only after their death. While the Islamic regime is eager to promote the achievements of its armed forces, it is also wary of empowering military figures who could one day turn against the country’s ruling clerics.
So the sudden appearance this year of pictures of Major General Qassem Soleimani, who leads foreign operations for the Revolutionary Guards, took many in Iran, and elsewhere, by surprise.
The 57-year-old commander, until recently a shadowy figure listed as a terrorist by the US, has been lauded as a national hero, with Iranian media publishing images of him on the battlefield in neighbouring Iraq, co-ordinating the response of Iraqi Shia and Kurdish forces to the onslaught of the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (Isis).
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