Who Was Qasem Soleimani—a Terrorist or a Hero?

A lot is happening and will happen in Iran and the Middle East in 2020. The assassination of Qasem Soleimani has started a chain reaction that will change the future of Iran. These changes will probably affect the whole Middle East and even the world. 

The Iranian government has vowed to take revenge. In response, President Trump has warned that he is ready to take action and destroy 52 already identified sites in Iran if there is any attack on American lives or properties. Many predict a full-fledged war will happen soon.

General Qasem Soleimani on 1 October 2019.
Source: khameini.ir. Photo cropped and licensed under the Creative Commons Attribution-Share Alike 4.0 International license.

Who Was Soleimani?

Who was Qasem Soleimani? Outside Iran, he was known as a terrorist, but inside, he was a hero. Hundreds of thousands of Iranians mourned in the streets after his death because many people loved and admired him. This is why:

He was in charge of the Quds Army, the international arm of the Iran Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). He executed Iran’s policy in the region and internationally. In the region, under Soleimani, Iran became a major force determining the future of countries such as Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, and Yemen. We know Iran is the top financier of terrorism around the world. It was Soleimani who was trusted with that budget, and he was effective in using the money to fight wars with proxy armies and produce terrorism through proxy organizations. 

He was the number two man in Iran. He was a close ally and friend of Ayatollah Khamenei for over 40 years. Khamenei has trusted none of the other IRGC leaders, fearing that if they become powerful and united, they may turn against him. So he has frequently changed the senior leadership of IRGC with one exception: Soleimani. Khamenei trusted him very much.

He was a national hero. For years, the media in Iran, controlled by the Islamic government, had depicted and promoted Soleimani as a national hero. Due to that propaganda influence, the people believe the following: 

  • He was the hero who protected Iran from an invasion and attack by ISIS. State-controlled media caused the people to believe that without the general, ISIS would have attacked and even taken over Iran.
  • He single-handedly defeated ISIS. The people believe that Trump undeservedly took the credit for Soleimani’s work of defeating ISIS.
  • He made Iran a significant power in the Middle East and the world. Under him, Iran gained a major role in what was happening in Syria, Lebanon, Iraq, and Yemen. We must not forget the statements made by Khomeini, Soleimani, and other high-rank Iranian officials for the last 40 years, statements that were drilled into the people’s minds through the media: “Iran under the Islamic Republic has flourished to become a major world power, so much so that even the United States is afraid of it.”
  • He took control of Iraq, which at one time was the archenemy of Iran. That means he not only protected Iran but overtook an enemy country and brought it under the control of the Islamic Republic. Because Iran has a majority Shiite population, he was able to infiltrate and then control the power factions inside Iraq and its government.
  • He is the hero who made Iran so strong that America does not dare attack it. When Iran shot down the multimillion-dollar U.S. drone last June and President Trump gave no answer—nor answered immediately to subsequent similar aggressions—the media’s take has been, “Look how strong we are. We can attack Americans, we can attack the oil ships, we can attack the oil production facilities of Saudi Arabia, we can attack the U.S. embassy in Iraq, and America does not dare to respond because we have superior power.”

As a national hero, Soleimani was more popular and loved by people than Khamenei himself. Even though the people’s hatred for their leaders has grown, Soleimani was the only official who had a good name and was loved.

What Was Soleimani’s Future?

Khamenei had plans for Soleimani’s future. The ayatollah worked hard through the media to deceive people and make Soleimani a hero because he had a long-term plan: make him the next president. Currently, no government-approved candidate for the 2021 election is positioned to bring hope—even false hope—to the hearts of the people and get them to vote. With Khamenei and the Islamic government so unpopular, Soleimani was the solution. 

The top religious leaders expected that when Soleimani became president, they could deceive and control the people for another eight years, giving them a false hope that Soleimani would curtail the power of the mullahs and make Iran’s governments more secular. A more secular rule would remove the clergy from the government but not from power. Under the guise of democracy, they would continue to rule the people.  

This deceptive plan was working. Hundreds of thousands of people publicly mourned Soleimani’s death. Few realized that Soleimani was supporting and supported by the corrupt Islamic regime. They did not realize that during the protests in 2009 and 2019, he was the one who brought Syrian soldiers to the streets of Tehran, killing Iranian youth with no mercy, and stifling both movements. Bashar Assad, Syria’s president, sent his soldiers to return a favor to Soleimani’s Quds army, which has been helping Assad for many years by slaughtering the people of Syria who opposed Assad, assuring the survival of his rule. 

By killing Soleimani, Trump not only stopped an international leader in terrorism but derailed the top clergy’s plans for their regime. It was a great personal blow to Khamenei and his future. 

Nevertheless, Khamenei is using Soleimani’s death to his advantage. He pronounced three days of national mourning that hundreds of thousands of people attended. The government organized and spent much money on a huge, prolonged national memorial. They used the love people had for Soleimani and the grief they are feeling for their own purposes:

To distract people from their daily misery. People have been protesting for two years. But in the past two months, their lives have been so miserable that their protests have been national and continual. Government forces reportedly have killed over 1,500 people and arrested over 12,000. But the protests still go on. The people have economic woes and are therefore disgusted with the government because of its corruption. Those in power have embezzled hundreds of millions of dollars for themselves and their families. The government has spent billions of dollars to advance their ambitions outside Iran but has not cared about its own people. 

To once again emphasize that the U.S. is their enemy. For survival, the Iranian government has always needed an outside enemy. For the past 40 years, enmity with the United States has served that purpose. Unlike the government, most of Iran’s people love the U.S. Therefore, the government is using this assassination to convince people that America does not have goodwill towards the people of Iran. So, they say, America must not be trusted but rather hated, and if some love the U.S., they are deceived.

To avoid complaints and protests due to war status. Although they have no actual war as yet, now they can ask people to tolerate their miserable lives because “we are fighting the U.S.” The government can sidestep demands with this war excuse.

The year 2020 will be one of many unexpected happenings—it has already started that way. But no matter what happens, we as Christians must be alert, seek the truth (and not believe everything we hear in the news), seek God’s wisdom and supernatural understanding of the events and what He is doing through them, ask Him to reveal to us His plans and what He is doing and where He is working. Then we must have the courage to step out by faith to do His will, partnering with Him to transform our lives, our families, and our nations.

My next article in this three-part series will address what we may expect next in the chain reaction that follows the assassination.

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