In early January, Iran marked the third anniversary of the U.S. assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Qods Force, with official speeches, commemorative rallies, major media coverage, and inflammatory threats. Soleimani, who was considered a military hero for directing Iranian military operations across the Middle East, was killed in a U.S. drone strike shortly after he arrived in Baghdad to meet Iraqi allies on Jan. 3, 2020. U.S. officials alleged that Soleimani was planning attacks on U.S. diplomats and servicemembers in the Middle East.
At one commemoration in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei lauded Soleimani for his role in fighting the “plague” of ISIS. The general’s most important accomplishment was strengthening the so-called “Resistance Front,” Iran’s network of proxy militias across the Middle East opposed to the United States, Israel and Western powers. “Martyr Soleimani breathed new life into the Resistance Front,” Khamenei said in a meeting with Soleimani's family and top military commanders on January 1. The Palestinians were “fighting [Israel] using stones” before Soleimani coordinated support to militias, he recounted.
Under Soleimani’s command, the Qods Force reportedly provided arms, training and financial support to militias and political movements in at least six countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen. Soleimani was able to “link the forces of the Resistance Front, strengthen them and provide them with material and intellectual support through meetings and direct presence on the front lines,” Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, a Lebanese political party and militia, said in a speech on January 3. With Iranian support, Hezbollah became the world's most heavily armed non-state actor, with at least 130,000 rockets and missiles, according to the Center for Strategic and International Studies.
President Ebrahim Raisi said that Soleimani’s “greatest work was to defeat American hegemony in the world.” Honoring Soleimani and other martyrs is a “message to all the oppressors and the arrogant of the world to know that that they are facing decline and destruction,” Raisi told thousands of people at Tehran’s Grand Mosallah mosque on January 3. He warned the general’s “murderers” that “revenge for the blood of martyr Soleimani is certain and they will not sleep easily.”
Iranian officials have repeatedly pledged revenge for the death of Soleimani. In 2021, Iran sanctioned several senior U.S. officials in connection with the assassination and for “their role in terrorist and anti-human rights activities against Iran and its citizens.”
In August 2022, the United States announced charges against an Iranian national for plotting to murder John Bolton, who served as national security advisor to President Donald Trump from 2018 to 2019. Shahram Poursafi, 45, planned the operation, “likely in retaliation” for killing of Soleimani, according to the Justice Department.
Newspapers from across the political spectrum memorialized Soleimani on their front pages. Qods, a conservative daily, published a large illustration of Iranians carrying portraits of Soleimani with the headline “Heart of the Homeland.” Iran, another conservative newspaper, called Soleimani the “Scion of Iran.” Shahrvand, a reformist daily, published a full-width photo of Soleimani praying with the headline “Sacrifice.”
Not all Iranians, however, saw Soleimani as a hero. In videos posted to social media, people in several cities -- including Tehran, northwestern Ardabil, central Rafsanjan, central Qom, and western Tuyserkan -- set fire to or defaced statues, billboards and posters of Soleimani. For them, Soleimani was a symbol of repression at home and interference abroad by the Revolutionary Guards.
The United States sanctioned Soleimani in 2007 ties to Iran’s proliferation programs. In 2011, he was twice sanctioned—once for ties to human rights abuses in Syria and again for ties to assassination plot against the Saudi ambassador to the United States.
Original-Text: The Iran Imprimer