An airstrike by the US forces at Baghdad Airport in Iraq at dawn on Friday killed Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, leader of the foreign wing of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.
The Pentagon stated that Soleimani had been "actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region," adding: "General Soleimani and his Quds Force were responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more."
He was considered the powerful commander military commander in Iran and was known for his charisma, intelligence and ability to mastermind Iranian-backed operations regionally in Syria, Yemen, Iraq and other regional areas.
US journalist Dexter Filkins, in a 2013 profile of Soleimani for the New Yorker magazine, quoted former CIA officer John Maquire: “Suleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today” and “no one’s ever heard of him.”
In April 2019, US Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called Iran's Revolutionary Guards and Quds Force foreign terrorist organizations.
The Trump administration has said the Quds Force provided funding, training, weapons and equipment to US-designated terrorist groups in the Middle East - including Hezbollah movement and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad group based in Gaza.
Soleimani was a hero for many in Iran, Syria, Lebanon and Iraq. But for the US, he was an enemy.
Soleimani was born in 1955 in Kerman province in southeastern Iran. He was raised within a poor farmer’s family and worked as a construction worker.
He enlisted in the Iranian military and eventually joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in the early 1980s after the success of the Iranian Revolution against the Shah.
The revolutionary guards were established by the order of the Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khomeini in 1979.
Soleimani led an Iranian elite force known as Thar Allah 41 corps in Kerman city during the eight-year-long war with Iraq.
Following the war, Soleimani was promoted as one of the top ten military leaders commanding Iranian military contingents spread along the border with Iraq.
He was appointed commander of the Quds Force in 1998 and was promoted to general. Soleimani was assigned to protect Iran against coup attempts as well as to execute military and secret operations outside Iranian borders.
He was the long-time commander of the Quds Forces, which was declared a terror group in the US since 2007. The group is estimated to have 20,000 members.
In 2007 Soleimani was among Iranian individuals sanctioned by UN Security Council resolution 1747, intended to stop the proliferation of nuclear weapons in the Middle East.
On May 18, 2011, the US imposed more sanctions on Soleimani, accusing him of providing support and arms to the Syrian regime.
Meanwhile, in June 2011, an official statement by the European Union said that European sanctions had been imposed on three Iranian commanders of the Revolutionary Guards including Soleimani for supporting the Assad regime in his suppression to the Syrian uprising.
His killing has provoked strong reactions from Iranian leaders and military commanders who said it will be followed by a “harsh revenge.”