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Iran: who was General Qassem Soleimani, killed four years ago by an American drone in Iraq?

As a crowd celebrated the fourth anniversary of the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a double explosion killed 103 and injured 180 in Kerman, southern Iran.

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Iran: who was General Qassem Soleimani, killed four years ago by an American drone in Iraq?

As a crowd celebrated the fourth anniversary of the death of Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, a double explosion killed 103 and injured 180 in Kerman, southern Iran. The incident, the causes of which remain unknown, comes a few days after the assassination of Razi Moussavi, general of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, by an Israeli strike in Syria, and the day after an Israeli attack against a Hamas leader in Hezbollah stronghold in Beirut.

The incident is not insignificant when, since the outbreak of the conflict between the Hebrew State and the terrorist movement Hamas on October 7, tensions have worsened between Israel and the “Axis of Resistance” mainly Shiite, which brings together the Islamic Republic of Iran, Hamas, Lebanese Hezbollah, pro-Iranian militias in Iraq and pro-Bashar al-Assad forces in Syria, and of which General Soleimani was a figure considered by them as heroic and since then made a martyr.

Hassan Nasrallah, leader of Hezbollah, was to pay tribute to him this Wednesday by giving a speech, marking his third speech since October 7. While waiting for his arrival in a packed room in Dahiyeh, south of Beirut, many activists held up photos of the general who died four years ago, while a video about his life was broadcast on the main screen, after the French-speaking Lebanese daily L'Orient-Le Jour. Arriving thirty minutes after the scheduled time, the leader of the Shiite party finally said a few words of condolence to the “martyrs today”, meaning those who died in Gaza and Qassem Soleimani. He then postponed his statements on the conflict with Israel until Friday. “I will address the Lebanese question in depth,” he promised.

A few hours before Soleimani died on January 3, 2020, the two leaders spoke in Beirut, according to an investigation by Le Figaro into the background of this assassination, the consequences of which are still being felt.

Coming from a family of farmers from Kerman, a town in the south of Iran where he was buried, Qassem Soleimani, then a worker, was 21 years old when the Islamic revolution of 1979 broke out, which changed the destiny of Iran. A year later, he joined the ranks of the Bassijs, an Iranian paramilitary force sent to the front against Saddam Hussein's soldiers during the Iran-Iraq war, which lasted until 1988.

Little by little, he rose through the ranks of the Revolutionary Guards, before becoming within them the head of the Al-Quds force (which means Jerusalem in Arabic, Editor's note), an elite unit responsible for external operations, in 1998. Architect of a network of militias allied to the Iranian Islamic regime across the Middle East, he is mobilized in Syria and Iraq where these groups are deployed, as well as in Yemen and Lebanon, where he rubs shoulders with Hassan Nasrallah, leader of the Lebanese Hezbollah. Initially a shadowy figure, Soleimani acquired growing notoriety over the years. “Soleimani went from military commander to ghost puppeteer, relying on discreet intelligence and unfailing courage to strengthen Iran's influence on the international scene,” American general Stanley McChrystal analyzed in 2019 for Foreign Policy , who hesitated to order the attack on a convoy carrying Soleimani in 2007. “Soleimani is undoubtedly the most powerful and freest actor in the Middle East,” the general recalled.

So much so that his assassination, seen as a red line not to be crossed, caused shock waves in the region. American President Donald Trump, who initiated the strike, “threw a stick of dynamite into a powder keg”, insisted Joe Biden, who has since succeeded him as head of the United States.

His death was justified, for the Republican president: faced with the incessant attacks on American military forces by Shiite militias in Iraq and the death of an American on a military base in Kirkuk, Donald Trump had chosen to respond with this targeted assassination of the general , putting an end to the relative calming of relations between the two countries undertaken by his predecessor Barack Obama and recorded by the Iranian nuclear agreement of 2015, from which Trump disengaged in 2018. Declaring a national mourning of three days, the Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, then assured that a terrible “revenge” would befall those responsible for his disappearance.

Images of the general, aged 62 at the time of his death, with graying hair and beard and still dressed in his military uniform, continue to appear across the region, especially during the annual commemorations on January 3 : that of 2022 in Iraq brought together thousands of people. In Beirut, a bronze bust of the Iranian general wearing a keffiyeh installed in the southern suburbs aroused pride among some, while others were frightened to see it as an attempt to dominate public space by Hezbollah.

The “martyr” of the Shiite resistance and the Lebanese “party of God” have never been so close, while the explosion in Iran coincides with a first Israeli strike in Beirut, in a district controlled by Hezbollah.

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