Admired and reviled: How Soleimani was seen in the Middle East

The killing of Iranian Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani by a United States air raid in Baghdad on Friday has heightened the tension between Washington and Tehran with increased calls in the Iranian capital demanding revenge.

As head of the elite force for more than 20 years, Soleimani was a powerful figure in Iran’s strategic objective of defending its interests and expanding its influence across the Middle East.

The Quds Force is the external branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) operating in many countries including Iraq, Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Yemen.

The IRGC was founded in the immediate aftermath of the Iranian revolution that toppled the Shah’s regime in 1979.

The Quds Force’s original objective was to “export” the Iranian revolution but has evolved into projecting Iranian power in the region by providing local groups with weapons and training as well as protecting the country’s interests.

“The mission of the Quds Force is similar to that of the CIA. It works on intelligence gathering and is involved in paramilitary operations by training and equipping foreign armed groups,” former CIA intelligence officer Luis Rueda, who was the head of Iraq intelligence group during the US occupation, said.


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