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By Hamid Enayat

In the early hours of Friday, Jan. 3, two vehicles carrying the leaders of the Quds Force in Iran, Qassem Soleimani, and the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (Hachd-o-Chaabi), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, were hit by U.S. rockets killing both, and all occupants in their vehicles.

Who Was Qassem Soleimani?

Some experts have called the death of Soleimani a turning point in the region and an irreparable blow to the mullahs’ regime; others considered him the number two in the Iranian regime.

In order to know his true position, one must first understand the role and importance of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and its Quds Force as two protective pillars of the regime.

Stemming from medieval religious dogmas, the mullahs’ regime is incapable of meeting the essential economic, political, and cultural requirements of its people in the 21st century. As Iranian opposition leader Maryam Rajavi explains, this regime is being maintained through repression and gross violations of human rights within the country and through the export of terrorism and war abroad.

The IRGC was founded in 1979, three months after Ayatollah Khomeini took power. The word “Iran” does not appear anywhere in the official name of this paramilitary force, for the simple reason that its mission is extraterritorial. This entity is the Supreme Leader’s key instrument in establishing the “Islamic Caliphate.”

Current supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei told IRGC commanders, “The extraterritorial concept of the IRGC is the country’s strategic reach, sometimes the priority of all other priorities,” as reported by State TV on Oct. 2, 2019.

Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Republic, dreamed of a Shiite-based caliphate with Iran, Iraq, and Syria as its backbone. Khamenei took over. The regime is forced to expand in order to survive.

The Quds Force, an Expanding Force

Long debates took place within the Iranian regime, after the eight-year war with Iraq, on the strategy of the regime to safeguard its survival. Proponents of theocracy ultimately chose the export of terrorism. This decision gave birth to the Quds Force in 1990 with the aim of creating an “international Islamic army.” The Quds Force was the fruit of the regime’s experiences in the 1980s, based on various terrorist operations.

The foreign policy of the religious power is based on expansionism and the export of fundamentalism. The mission of the IRGC was to prepare the implementation of these objectives. The Quds Force has in practice taken control of the regime’s foreign policy through several of its embassies: in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, Yemen, Bahrain, and Azerbaijan. The Quds Force institutionalizes the influence and interference of the mullahs’ regime in the countries of the region, and even in Africa.

Soleimani led this force in 1997 to make it the main element of all regional policies. But his role was not limited to command. According to Mark Dubowitz, chief executive of the Washington-based Foundation for Defense of Democracies, Soleimani played on several fronts, being “the equivalent of the JSOC commander, the CIA director, and Iran’s real foreign minister.” He was the one who approved Iranian ambassadors to the countries of the region.

After his death, Iranian authorities and the official media spoke of Soleimani as the heart and mind of the regime. It’s not an exaggeration. Qassem Soleimani was the guardian of an essential pillar: the export of terrorism and warmongering.

Infanticide and Crimes in Syria

Images of children massacred in Syria by the IRGC and their mercenaries under the command of Soleimani show new dimensions of crimes against humanity. On Khamenei’s orders, Soleimani orchestrated the massacre of Syrians to save the Bashar al-Assad regime that was in his pay, killing hundreds of thousands of innocent people and throwing millions more out of their homes and into forced migration.

Le Monde wrote on April 26, 2011, on the situation in Syria: “repression turns into a ‘massacre.’”

Members of the U.N. Security Council have heard testimony from Syrian doctors, according to the AFP. The doctors showed them shocking photos of children injured by explosive barrel bombs. They said they could not save these children for lack of drugs.

Killer of Young Iraqis

During the popular uprising in Iraq last year against corruption and the interference of mercenaries, Soleimani rushed to Baghdad to train Iraqi oppressors in repression.

In an Oct. 30, 2019 report, the AP news agency wrote that the Soleimani took a night flight to Baghdad to then travel to the “Green Zone.” The Iraqi authorities present at a security meeting normally chaired by Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the Iraqi prime minister, were surprised to see Soleimani chairing this meeting instead.

Two of these senior Iraqi authorities told AP that Soleimani had given them instructions consistent with the methods used in Iran to quell the protests, saying, “We in Iran know how to deal with protests. … This happened in Iran and we got it under control.” In 2009 in Iran, and then in Syria, snipers also took aim at the heads and chests of demonstrators.

It’s not without reason that the people of Baghdad took to the streets jubilant at the news of the death of Soleimani and his Iraqi deputy, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis. The joy was not limited to Iraq. It has spread to Syria and even to Gaza and elsewhere.

In Iran, despite censorship, the people have partied out of sight of the repressive forces. They know full well that the elimination of Soleimani is—well beyond the loss of an executioner—a strong sign of the loss of power of the IRGC as an essential pillar of the survival of the regime. This, therefore, accelerates the end of the regime.

In recent years, the regime has invested heavily in a propaganda campaign to create an Eisenhower-like political image of Soleimani, to propel him towards a presidential term.

Without Soleimani, the Quds Force will no longer be the same, and without the Quds Force, the IRGC will no longer be the same. The impact will be felt on the regime, which will experience more and more difficulties in the face of the ongoing uprising in the country.

Hamid Enayat is an independent Iranian political analyst and writer based in Paris.

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