The Guardian |: The Quds force leader had the status of national hero even among secular Iranians. His death could act as a rallying cry
he US has assassinated Qassem Suleimani, the famed leader of Iran’s Quds force, alongside a senior commander of Iraq’s Popular Mobilisation Units, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. To grasp what may come next, it is vital to understand not only who these men were but also the system that produced them.
Nicknamed the “shadow commander” in the popular press, Suleimani spent his formative years on the battlefields of the Iran-Iraq war during the 1980s, when Saddam Hussein – who at the time enjoyed the support of western and Arab powers – was attempting to destroy the emerging Islamic Republic.
But few people remember that his first major mission as commander of the Quds force – the extraterritorial branch of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards – involved implicit coordination with the United States as the US invaded Afghanistan in 2001. The Taliban were, and to some extent remain, a mutual enemy. That alliance of convenience ended in 2002 when the US president George W Bush notoriously branded Iran a member of the “axis of evil”.
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