General Iran leaves the shadow of Suleimani to lead representatives

TEHRAN: A new Iranian general emerged from the shadows to lead the country's Quds Expeditionary Force and took responsibility for Tehran Representatives from across the Middle East as the Islamic Republic threatens the United States with severe revenge for killing its former boss, Qassim Suleimani.

The Quds Force is part of the Revolutionary Guard of 125,000 members, a paramilitary organization that responds only to I ran Supreme Leader of Ayatollah Ali Khamenei .

The Guard oversees I ran 's ballistic missile program, has its naval forces shadow the US Navy in the Persian Gulf and includes an all-volunteer Basij force.

Like his predecessor, a young Esmail Ghaani faced the carnage of I ran 's eight-year war with Iraq in the 1980s and later joined the newly founded Quds, or Jerusalem , Strength.

While much still remains unknown about Ghaani, 62, Western sanctions suggest he's long been in a position of power in the organisation. And likely one of his first duties will be to oversee whatever revenge I ran intends to seek for the US airstrike early Friday that killed his longtime friend Suleimani.

"We are children of war," Ghaani once said of his relationship with Suleimani, according to I ran 's state-run IRNA news agency. "We are comrades on the battlefield and we have become friends in battle."

The Guard has seen its influence grow ever-stronger both militarily and politically in recent decades. I ran 's conventional military was decimated by the execution of its old officer class during the 1979 Islamic Revolution and later by sanctions.

A key driver of that influence comes from the elite Quds Force, which works throughout the region with allied groups to offer an asymmetric threat to counteract the advanced weapons managed by the US. UU. And its regional allies. Those partners include Iraqi militiamen, Lebanon Hezbollah and the Houthi rebels of Yemen.

In announcing Ghaani as Suleimani's replacement, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called the new leader "one of the most prominent commanders" in service to I ran .

The Quds Force will be unchanged from the time of its predecessor, Jamenei said, according to IRNA.

Suleimani has long been the face of the Quds Force. His fame increased after US officials began blaming him for deadly roadside bombs targeting US troops in Iraq.

Images of him, long a feature of hard-line Instagram accounts and mobile phone lockscreens, now plaster billboards calling for I ran to avenge his death.

But while Suleimani's exploits in Iraq and Syria launched a thousand analyzes, Ghaani has remained much more in the shadows of the organization.

He has only occasionally come up in the Western or even I ran ian media. But his personal story broadly mirrors that of Suleimani.

Born on August 8, 1957 in the northeastern I ran ian city of Mashhad, Ghaani grew up during the last decade of monarchy.

He joined the Guard a year after the 1979 revolution. Like Suleimani, he first deployed to put down the Kurdish uprising in I ran that followed the shah's downfall.

Iraq then invaded I ran , launching an eight-year war that would see 1 million people killed. Many of the dead were lightly armed members of the Guard, some of whom were young boys killed in human-wave assaults on Iraqi positions.

The volunteers were seeing that everyone was being killed, but when we ordered them to leave, they would not hesitate, Ghaani said later.

The commander is looking at his soldiers as his children, and from the soldier's point of view, it seems he received an order from God and must do so.

He survived the war to join the Quds Force shortly after its creation. He worked with Suleimani, as well as led counterintelligence efforts at the Guard. Western analysts believe while Soleimani focused on nations to I ran 's west, Ghaani's remit was those to the east like Afghanistan and Pakistan. However, I ran ian state media has not elaborated on his time in the Guard.

In 2012, the United States Treasury sanctioned Ghaani and described him as having authority over financial disbursements to representatives affiliated with the Quds Force.

Also in 2012, Ghaani received criticism from the US Department of State. UU. After saying that if the Islamic Republic were not present in Syria, the massacre of people would have occurred on a much larger scale.

That comment came just after armed men supporting Syrian President Bashar Assad killed more than 100 people in Houla, in the country's Homs province.

Over the weekend, the Deputy Director of the Quds Force said publicly that they were proud of the role they had played in training and assisting Syrian forces, and look at what this has forged, said the then State Department spokeswoman, Victoria Nuland. at the time.

Now, Ghaani is firmly in control of the Quds Force. While I ran 's leaders say they have a plan to avenge Suleimani's death, no plan has been announced as the country prepares for funerals for the general starting Sunday.

Whatever that plan is, Ghaani will probably be involved.

If there was not an Islamic Republic, the United States would have burned the entire region, Ghaani once said.