Esmail Ghaani, a deputy to recently assassinated Qasem Soleimani, was named the new head of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ foreign operations branch, the Quds Force, just hours after the incident at Baghdad International Airport, according to Iran’s Press TV news agency.
Here is what we know so far about the new leader of one of Iran’s most powerful military branches:
- While announcing Ghaani's new position, Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei stated that he would continue the policy of now deceased Soleimani.
- The fact that Ghaani had served as Soleimani's deputy ever since the latter took the lead of Iran's elite force in 1997 only adds to the view that the Quds Force’s tactics won't change under its new chief.
- In his previous role, Ghaani was reportedly tasked with overseeing various financial operations related to the Quds Force's operations.
- The new Quds Force leader has also taken a tough stance on the US in the past, cautioning President Donald Trump in 2017 against "any military action against Iran", promising that he would regret it.
- Esmail Ghaani was added to the US Specially Designated Nationals list, used to impose sanctions on those whom Washington regards as terrorists, on 27 March 2012.
- Ghaani served during most of the Iran-Iraq War that lasted between September 1980 and August 1988.
Assassination of Soleimani
Former leader of the IRGC’s Quds Force Qasem Soleimani was killed in a US airstrike early on 3 January. Washington justified the move with the need to protect its diplomatic personnel in Iraq after the American Embassy in Baghdad was besieged for two days in a row by, as the US claimed, Iranian-backed militia members. The protesters opposed the American airstrikes in Syria and Iraq late in December 2019.
The killing of Soleimani was harshly condemned by Iranian leaders, with President Hassan Rouhani and Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei vowing to "avenge" the US' "terrible crime".