US President Donald Trump-authorised airstrikes at the international airport of the Iraqi capital Baghdad on Friday killed General Qassem Suleimani, the head of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps' (IRGC's) Quds Force, and top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with four other top commanders. His death has heightened tensions between the two countries. While the US said it would continue to take such actions to protect its interests, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei vowed "severe revenge". Iran warned that the US would pay a heavy price of this "extremely dangerous and foolish escalation".
General Qassem Suleimani, 62, was not only one of the most influential people in Iran but also in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. Touted by many as the future president of Iran, Suleimani had survived over a dozen of assassination plots in the past against him.
He was responsible for carrying out operations beyond Iran and was a major adversary of the United States and Israel and Saudi Arabia.
At a time when the US was up against the Bashar Al-Assad regime in Syria, he gathered support for the controversial president. He also helped armed groups defeat ISIS in Iraq.
Suleimani took command of the Quds Forces around 21 years ago with an aim to make Iran a supreme power in the Middle East. Reports say he had immense success in achieving that goal. From the rise of the most powerful armed force in Lebanon and Assad's success in fighting a civil war to Yemeni Houthi militias' resistance against Saudi Arabian-led forces - all can be traced back to Suleimani.
He was known as a powerful as well as a controversial figure in the Middle East -- the one who was more important than the Iranian president for many, thanks to his reach to all factions in Iran.
As per his biography, Suleimani was born in the Iranian city of Rabor. Born in a poor farming family, he had to move to the neighbouring city at the age of 13 to repay his father's debt. In 1979, Suleimani joined the Revolutionary Guards, a branch of the Iranian Armed Forces, founded after the Iranian Revolution on April 22, 1979. While the Iranian Army defends Iranian borders, the Revolutionary Guards protects its political system, primarily prevents foreign interference and coups.
In less than a decade after joining IRGC, he was sent to fight Iran's war against the invading Iraqi army outside the border areas and was soon appointed the chief of the Irani brigade chosen for the mission.
After the Iraqi government fell in 2003, Suleimani was selected as the Quds Force chief.
Known as shadow commander for his indirect war against the US, he was on the US hit list for long because of his alleged role in deaths of thousands of civilians, including US citizens, in Iraq. Israel and Saudi Arabia were also allegedly working to eliminate Suleimani for his alleged attacks against diplomats and service members of these countries in various regions of the Middle East.
Soon after his death, the White House said on Friday that General Suleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.
"He had orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the last several months - including the attack on December 27th - culminating in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel. General Suleimani also approved the attacks on the US Embassy in Baghdad that took place this week," the statement said.
Over a year back, Suleimani even warned US President Donald Trump of escalating war with Iran. Calling Trump a gambler, Suleimani said Iran was closer to the US in places it might not know. "You will start the war but we will end it," he had threatened.
By Manoj Sharma
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