Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei appointed the deputy commander of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, as the successor to Qassem Soleimani who was killed in a US airstrike in Baghdad on Friday.
Supreme Leader Khamenei said in a statement that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, the military unit responsible for projecting Iran's influence via proxies across the Middle East, “will be unchanged from the time of his predecessor.”
Little is known about Ghaani, who is rarely quoted by state media outlets. Khamenei described Ghaani as “one of the most prominent IRGC commanders.”
Born in the north-eastern city of Mashhad, 61-year-old Ghaani joined the IRGC in 1980 at the age of 20.
Ghaani received his military training in a military garrison, currently known as the Imam Ali garrison, in the capital Tehran in 1981.
The newly-appointed Ghaani fought in the Iran-Iraq war (1980-1988). According to the official IRNA news agency, he was involved in various key operations and played an important role during that war.
Ghaani became acquainted with Soleimani in the early 1980s and eventually began collaborating with Soleimani in the Quds Force, the overseas arm of the IRGC.
He then became deputy commander of the Quds Force in 1997 when Soleimani became the force's chief commander.
‘Not another Soleimani’
“This guy is not going to be another Qassem Soleimani,” Iran expert Karim Abdian told Al Arabiya English.
“This guy is just another person. They wanted to fill the position as soon as possible, to project an image that they are not deterred, that they have many Qassem Soleimani’s but that’s not true,” Abdian said.
“This is just a hasty appointment of a person that doesn’t have the expertise Soleimani had,” he added.
Abdian continued: “The national security group met early this morning and I got word from people inside the government that there was an argument between President Hassan Rouhani and the other military leaders, that Rouhani said we should back up and use this to open dialogue with the US, and the military leaders said no, that considering the killing of Soleimani, they should respond.”
Sporadic remarks from Ghaani can be found online.
“America and Israel are too small to consider themselves on the same level as Iran’s military power … this power is today apparent in the form of weapons and missiles in the hands of the oppressed people of Palestine and Gaza,” he said in January 2015.
In 2017, Ghaani claimed that the Quds Force is “active all over the world,” saying: “I have had the privilege of working with the Quds force for a few years … we are in touch with many individuals across the world and cooperate with them in many fields … we are everywhere and nowhere, and by the grace of God, we can do anything.”SHOW MORE