Six Months After Soleimani, Iran’s War Machine Tested But Lives On to Fight


Six Months After Soleimani, Iran's War Machine Tested But Lives On to Fight
Six Months After Soleimani, Iran’s War Machine Tested But Lives On to Fight



Six months after the U.S. killing of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard (IRGC) Quds Force commander, the Islamic Republic’s ability to fight on without its most famous military leader has been tested but its sophisticated, international war-fighting machine lives on.


Major General Qassem Soleimani’s fiery slaying at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq was the product of a top-secret operation hidden from much of the United States’ own vast espionage network but news of his death immediately sparked reactions from across the Middle East and beyond. While international experts as well as officials from Iran and Israel speaking to Newsweek were split as to whether or not the military leader’s death had a lasting effect on Iran’s sprawling web of aligned forces in the region half a year later, all agreed the Revolutionary Guard and its esteemed, extraterritorial Quds Force would likely fight on for some time.


“The strength of the Quds Force is that it does not rely on a single charismatic leader—any more than the Islamic Republic of Iran does,” Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative, told Newsweek.


“The Quds Force and IRGC are full of veterans of the Iran-Iraq war and other commanders who are now battle-tested in Syria,” she added. “There will be more Soleimanis.”


The fallen general’s successor, Brigadier-General Esmail Ghaani, has largely maintained a low profile both before and after his sudden promotion in January. He has, however, made some bold moves reportedly visiting Iraq last month and taking a trip last week to Syria, where he released a rare public message to bolster the Iran-affiliated Axis of Resistance against the U.S. and Israel, which has increasingly struck targets linked to Iran in Syria.


“Soleimani has been replaced and his strategy lives on,” Slavin said. “He is a hero and a new martyr for an organization that values such individuals.”


She said it was too early to evaluate the leadership of Ghaani, who himself played a pivotal role in forging Quds Force ties with Shiite Muslim militias hailing from Afghanistan and Pakistan. In the Middle East, she saw Iranian allies such as Lebanon’s Hezbollah, hardline factions of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces, and Yemen’s Ansar Allah, also known as the Houthis, continuing their struggles.


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