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Iran announces replacement for top general killed in US airstrike

IRIA sand rails parading in front of highest-ranking officers of Iran during Sacred Defense Week parade. (Reza Dehshiri/Young Photojournalism Agency/Released)
January 03, 2020

Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei announced on Friday the replacement to slain Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in an airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump Thursday night.

Khamenei announced that Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani, who served as Soleimani’s deputy commander since 1997, will assume the role.

“Following the martyrdom of the glorious general Qasem Soleimani, I name Brigadier General Esmail Qaani as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps,” Khamenei said in a statement reported by Iran’s Press TV.

Qaani was “one of the prominent commanders during the eight years of Sacred Defense [the Iran-Iraq War] and has been accompanying martyr General Soleimani in the past several years in the region,” Khamenei added. “The plan of the Force will exactly be the same as the plan during martyr Soleimani’s tenure.”

Late Thursday night, U.S. forces killed Soleimani in an airstrike, along with deputy commander of the Iranian-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) Iraqi militia, Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, and PMF official Mohammed Reda.

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The Pentagon said in a statement that it believes Soleimani, whose formal title was head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC)’s “elite” Quds Force, was developing plans to attack the United States.

“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement. “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.”

“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” the statement added. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”

The hostile nation’s leader called for “severe revenge.

“Martyr Soleimani is an Intl figure of Resistance & all such people will seek revenge,” Khamenei said.

“His efforts & path won’t be stopped by his martyrdom, by God’s Power, rather a awaits the criminals who have stained their hands with his & the other martyrs’ blood last night.”

Qaani previously warned Trump in 2017 that “threats against Iran will damage America,” Iranian state media reported, according to Fox News.

“We are not a war-mongering country. But any military action against Iran will be regretted,” he said according to Newsweek. “We have buried many … like Trump and know how to fight against America.”

Qaani is not viewed as a charismatic figure within the Iranian regime, unlike Soleimani, who was rumored to be pushed for political office by regime officials because he was viewed as a “unifying figure” and “the hero from the war with Iraq,” according to a profile by the American Enterprise Institute.

The author of the AEI study, Ali Alfoneh, described Qaani as “uncharismatic and a less distinguished military commander than Suleimani,” while noting that Qaani was good enough for the job.