Here is what is known about the top Iranian military commander eliminated by US forces.
Soleimani, born in 1957, joined the Revolutionary Guards in 1979 after the Iranian Revolution that ousted the Shah.
Mind-Blowing Military Career
He quickly climbed the career ladder, becoming commander of the 41st Sarallah Division while still under 30 and by the mid-80s he was setting up covert missions inside Iraq to struggle against the regime of Saddam Hussein, joining efforts with Iraqi Kurds.
After the war he was commander of the Revolutionary Guards in his home Iranian province of Kerman, where he battled against opium trafficking from across the Afghani border.
He fulfilled the role up until 2002, when a few months prior to the US invasion of Iraq, Soleimani was tapped to head the Quds Force, Iran’s elite military unit tasked with spreading the Islamic Republic’s policies beyond Iran – one reason why the commander often landed in Washington's crosshairs.
In 2011, General David Petraeus, the former CIA director, said that Soleimani and his Quds had undermined much of Washington's work with Iraq's Shia Muslims and had undone US diplomatic and military efforts in Lebanon.
Targeted by US Sanctions
In Syria, the Quds – accountable directly to Iran’s supreme leader - were believed to be involved in suppressing the uprising against Bashar al-Assad - a move that spawned US sanctions being imposed on Soleimani, as well as the entire IRGC.
In 2011, Soleimani was promoted to Major General of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who at some point dubbed the military serviceman a “living martyr".
Right before his assassination at the Baghdad Airport, the major general issued a warning following Washington repulsing the assault on the American Embassy in the Iraqi capital, noting Iran was not moving towards a war, but is not scared of a potential conflict.
Tensions' Climax and Strike to 'Deter Future Iranian Attack Plans'
As confirmed by the Pentagon, Commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani, was killed by rocket fire near the Baghdad International Airport, as US forces conducted “a decisive defensive action to protect US personnel abroad, at the direction of the president".
Soleimani’s assassination while in his car at the airport closely followed the repulsion of a raid on the US Embassy in Baghdad with the Pentagon saying Soleimani had previously “orchestrated attacks on coalition bases in Iraq - including the attack on December 27th”.
The latter “culminated in the death and wounding of additional American and Iraqi personnel", the Department of Defence stressed, referring to the strike, in which Soleimani was killed, as preventive:
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans. The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world", the statement added.
New Year’s Eve, 31 December, saw an attack on the US diplomatic mission in Baghdad, where protesters tried to storm checkpoints, smashing windows, battering down doors, and setting fire to the outer fence. The attempted intrusion was stopped by US forces, dispatched at the Pentagon’s orders to increase security for US personnel.