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Despite Iranian protesters chanting ‘Death to America’, Qassem Soleimani was a polarizing figure in Iran

By on April 19, 2021 0

While American lawmakers have called Qassem Soleimani a terrorist, the importance of the late Iranian general to the Iranian people was on full display on state television and in the streets of Tehran. Many Iranians reacted angrily to the murder of Soleimani, the head of the foreign branch of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), with a US airstrike at Baghdad International Airport on Friday.


“He has remained above factional conflicts in Iran and is respected by a variety of segments of the Iranian elite, and he enjoys popularity in Iran as a nationalist symbol.”


– —Arang Keshavarzian, Professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies, New York University

Immediately after the general’s assassination, which the US Department of Defense confirmed on Friday to have been cleared by President Trump, several media outlets and journalists in the Middle East reported that Iranian state television had shut down all scheduled broadcasts and , in place, islamic prayer cup for the dead: “From God we came, and to God we return. ”

There were tears and anger over the murder in the Iranian state media. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Soleimani “the international face of resistance“in a statement on state television, The Associated Press reported. Iranian military spokesman Ramezan Sharif burst into tears on live television.

Arang Keshavarzian, professor in the Department of Middle Eastern and Islamic Studies at New York University, put in context the reaction of the Iranian media, government and people: “He has no religious authority or social status” , did he declare. “However, he has held a central position in the IRGC for over 20 years and enjoys the trust of Ali Khamenei and other leaders of the Islamic Republic.

“What sets him apart from most IRGCs and military leaders is twofold,” Keshavarzian told MarketWatch. “He has remained above factional conflicts in Iran and is respected by a variety of segments of the Iranian elite, and he enjoys popularity in Iran as a nationalist symbol who helped repel the Iraqi invasion.” in the 1980s and to resist American aggression since then. “

Read also:2020 Democrats accuse Trump of risking major Middle East conflict

Soleimani was born in 1957 and spent most of his adult life in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards, which he joined after the 1979 revolution in Iran, according to the Wall Street Journal. Soleimani has served since 1998 as a major general of the Quds Force, which has been described as “analogous to a combined CIA and special forces”. according to a 2013 New Yorker article.

Catalina Gómez Ángel, an Iran-based journalist, posted a video of protesters in Tehran on social media, writing: “At the end of this Friday prayer in Tehran. I don’t remember hearing the Death Cry to America with such passion for many years. This time it was something that looked like the truth. Qasem Suleimani was more than a general to these people.

Soleimani could have been an elected presidential candidate, said Anoush Ehteshami, professor of international relations at the School of Government and International Affairs at Durham University in the UK. “Three former IRGC commanders tried to win the presidency and they failed Solaimani was the exception and would have made a popular president.


“For the regime’s critics, he was a pillar of oppression. For many who lost loved ones in peaceful protests two months, two years and 10 years ago, he was a brutal instrument of oppression. ‘


– —Abbas Milani, Assistant Professor at the Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at Stanford University

“Soleimani was different for different people,” said Abbas Milani, assistant professor at the Center on Democracy, Development and Rule of Law at Stanford University. “For regime fanatics, he embodied dogmatic dedication to Shiism and the struggle against the United States and Israel. For critics of the regime, he was a mainstay of oppression at home and threats and attacks against dissidents abroad.

“For many of those who lost loved ones in peaceful protests two months, two years and 10 years ago, he was a brutal instrument of oppression,” he said. “For a final group, he was that rare IRGC commander not tainted with financial corruption. His official title was commander of the Quds Brigade, a branch of the IRGC. In fact, he was in charge of the regime’s Middle East policy.

In a commentary, Iranian state television called Trump’s order to kill Soleimani “America’s biggest miscalculation” since World War II, the PA reported. “The people of the region will no longer allow the Americans to stay,” the statement said. For his part, Trump tweeted friday
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: “Iran has never won a war, but has never lost a negotiation!”

Joe Biden, candidate for the Democratic presidential nomination, tweeted that Soleimani “supports terror and sows chaos”. “President Trump just threw a stick of dynamite into a powder keg, and he owes the American people an explanation of the strategy and plan to ensure the safety of our troops and embassy staff, our people and our people. interests, ”he said.

Also see:Why Soleimani’s death is a major development in US-Middle East relations

Friday, Trump tweeted a different take on Soleimani than what was shown on state television. “While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared in the country,” he wrote. “They are not as saddened as the leaders would lead the outside world to believe. It should have been retired many years ago!

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