Qassem Soleimani was relatively obscure before his demise at the hands of a US drone last week. But as commander of the Quds Force, the outward facing arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, he was, more than anyone, the animating spirit behind the Islamic Republic’s hugely successful regional strategy to sow conflict across the Middle East. Soleimani epitomized the most successful aspect of Iran’s foreign policy – the development of proxy forces – and defined extremism long before al-Qaeda became a force to be reckoned with. The question now is whether his demise means the beginning of the end of the Iranian model of extremism he lead, or whether it can live beyond him.
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