General Qasem Soleimani was not simply a military commander, but also a skilled diplomat and administrator who spearheaded Iran’s response against US imperialism in the Middle East, former Defence Minister Brig. Gen. Hossein Dehghan has said.
Speaking to Tasnim News in an interview published Monday, Dehghan, who was a close personal friend of Soleimani, and worked with him during the four years he served as Iran’s defence minister from 2013 to 2017, revealed new details about the Quds commander’s exploits.
“His entry into the Quds Force coincided with the onset of insecurity in the region, with the Taliban’s rise in Afghanistan and then the US invasions of Iraq and Afghanistan, the evils of the Zionist regime in Lebanon and Palestine, and the Takfiri terrorist movements like Daesh[ISIS],*” Dehghan said, using the pejorative term often used by Iranian officials to describe the State of Israel.
Commenting on the events leading up to Soleimani’s assassination, the retired general said that the US didn’t appear to believe “that the assassination would have such consequences for them,” and alleged that America’s actions in the region in the months before the assassination were being conducted “at the request of the Zionists and with the money of countries like Saudi Arabia to block the Islamic Republic’s influence.”
Accusing Washington of seeking to create “managed instability” in the Middle East, Dehghan suggested that Washington calculated that such chaos would help justify their continued presence in the region, serving as a weapons market, and enabling them to continue providing security services to allies.
‘Stupid Strategic Mistake’
Stressing that Soleimani had devoted his whole life to “confronting terrorism and its roots in the region,” Dehghan said he believed that Washington and President Trump had “made a big gamble” in killing Soleimani, and lost. “I think Trump committed a stupid strategic mistake by assassinating Soleimani. With this crime, no longer can Americans claim to be a civilized state. Until yesterday the Zionists were a terrorist state, but now so is the US president in the eyes of the public,” he claimed.
According to Dehghan, Iran’s vow to extract revenge for Soleimani’s assassination would be a “lasting policy,” with “the main and hardest revenge” being to drive the US out of the region permanently.
Soldier and Diplomat
Asked to recall his contacts with Soleimani during the four years that Dehghan served as Iran’s defence minister, the general said there were many areas the two cooperated on, “such as when the Russians came to Syria in the fight against Daesh. We had numerous meetings with Soleimani at the time on various issues related to support and communications with the Russians.”
“I was supposed to have a meeting with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Moscow prior to the meeting between Qasem and the Russians which actually led the Russians to enter Syria. Naturally, there were discussions on this topic beforehand,” Dehghan said. According to the general, while Russia initially intended to take complete command of the situation on the battlefield, it was ultimately decided that Soleimani would serve as “the backbone and commander in the field.”
According to Dehghan, in Soleimani’s meetings with the Russian president, “he was accepted as not just the commander of the Quds Force,” but for his political and administrative qualities as well. The same was true in the case of meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan of Turkey, Dehghan suggested.
"The Russians generally dealt with regional issues based on an established mentality. It was Soleimani’s art [as a diplomat] to persuade Putin to look at the future of the region, the world, and Russia itself, and the threat of Daesh, which was a danger to the whole world,” the former minister said.
The January 3 assassination of Soleimani in Baghdad led to a major escalation of tensions between Tehran and Washington, with Iran officially responding by launching airstrikes against two Iraqi military bases hosting US troops. The strikes caused no deaths or serious injuries, but the Pentagon has since reported that at least 109 US servicemembers have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injuries.
* A terrorist group outlawed in Russia and many other countries.