Qasem Soleimani, the Iranian general helping militias fight the Islamic State in Iraq, is known by many names.
He’s the “Shadow Commander,” according to a profile by the New Yorker’s Dexter Filkins. He’s the “Dark Knight,” according to a piece by Foreign Policy magazine. And he’s the Iranian regime’s “Mr. Fix-It,” according to the Weekly Standard, which threw in a comparison to the Most Interesting Man in the World from the Dos Equis beer commercials for good measure.
He’s also been designated a terrorist by the United States on more than one occasion, and accused of playing a leading role in arming Shiite militias in Iraq to attack and kill U.S. troops during the Iraq war. The general is also thought to be a fierce supporter of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
Therein lies both the mystique and notoriety of Soleimani. He has been the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard’s Quds Force since the late 1990s, exerting a broad influence on the Middle East that has often been at odds with Washington’s vision for the region. But for most of that time, he has stayed in the shadows, leading an organization that is part Special Operations force, part paramilitary.
But photos of Soleimani have been appearing on social media frequently as Iranian-backed Shiite militias in Iraq launched an offensive this week to take back the city of Tikrit from the militants. It’s a strategically important area: Tikrit sits about 110 miles north of the Iraqi capital of Baghdad, and 130 miles south of Mosul, the city of more than 1 million that the Islamic State seized last June. The militants’ control of Tikrit solidifies their hold on Mosul, which has become their de facto capital in Iraq.
Here’s a rundown of some of Soleimani’s recent appearances:
Not shy:#Iran‘s Gen Suleimani seen drinking tea while leading ops against #ISIS in Tikrit,Iraq http://www.businessinsider.com/2-photos-of-irans-qassem-suleimani-on-front-lines-of-isis-war-2015-3 …