The Guardian |
On the outskirts of Tehran, vast cemeteries serve as a grim reminder of the high price Iran paid during its 1980-88 war with Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of young Iranians fought and died in a horrific struggle against Saddam Hussein’s invasion forces, which were armed by the US. Among those Iranian soldiers who survived was Qassem Suleimani.
The war, by all accounts, was a formative experience for the man who would later rise to a dominant position in Iran’s military, security and intelligence establishment. Suleimani’s loyalty to Iran’s revolutionary regime, which seized power in 1979, was firmly established. His belief that an implacable America was his country’s foremost foe was written in blood.
Suleimani became the chief architect of the expansion of Iran’s regional influence, which began in earnest following the American toppling of Saddam in 2003. It enabled Tehran to establish the kind of dominance in Iraq that previously eluded it. Iran’s reach gradually extended to Syria, Gaza, Lebanon and Yemen, always in opposition to the US and its allies.
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