Tehran names new al-Quds Force commander
Iranian Brigadier-General Esmail Qaani has been announced as the replacement for Major-General Qassem Soleimani to lead the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite al-Quds Force.
The appointment, announced by Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, was made January 3, less than a day after Soleimani, 62, was killed in a US attack near Baghdad International Airport.
Qaani, also 62, was described by Khamenei as one of the “most decorated commanders” of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) during the 1980-88 Iran-Iraq war.
“The orders for (al-Quds) force remain exactly as they were during the leadership of martyr Soleimani,” Khamenei said in a statement. “I call on the members of the force to be present and cooperate with General Qaani and wish him divine prosperity, acceptance and guidance.”
Qaani is seen as uncharismatic and with a less distinguished military record compared with Soleimani but his battlefield experience, network within the IRGC and history of association with Khamenei led to the appointment.
Born in Bojnord in North Khorasan province in 1957, Qaani fought in the Iran-Iraq war and was a close aide to Soleimani. He was involved in suppressing the 1992 protests and riots that rocked Mashhad in north-eastern Iran after authorities tried to demolish homes built without permits in a squatter area on the city’s periphery.
Qaani also served as an intelligence official in the IRGC.
Qaani was one of the key figures in Iran’s involvement in the Syrian civil war.
While Soleimani was known for attending to security concerns in countries such as Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, Qaani has been the IRGC’s figure dealing with al-Quds activities in Afghanistan, Pakistan and central Asia.
In 2012, the US Treasury Department imposed sanctions on Qaani for his involvement in smuggling weapons and money transfers to terrorist organisations, including Hezbollah in Lebanon.