Commander Qassem Suleimani, Iran’s worst kept secret?

It wasn’t too long ago that we were all busy Googling Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani

Camelia Entekhabi-Fard

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It wasn’t too long ago that we were all busy Googling Iranian Quds Force Commander Qassem Suleimani to see if there were any photos available of the shadowy man who was purportedly filmed in Iraq.

All we could find were a few undated and unclear photos apparently of him for he is a man who like to keep a low profile. However, he is now in the spotlight!

The rumors of his presence in the region have fueled speculation that Iran may have been engaged in a large-scale operation outside its borders.

Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called him “the living martyr,” a reflection of his relationship with Iran’s supreme leader and of the status he has in the system.

Recently, a photo surfaced on the Internet, seeming to show the commander standing with Iraqi Kurds in Amerli. The authenticity of the photo was speculated upon but the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, of which the Quds Force is an arm, has not denied nor confirmed the authenticity of the photo.

Then, more photos were published purportedly showing Suleimani praying, surrounded by jubilant Kurds. What is going on?

Who is the commander?

We do not know much information about the commander, only that he is thought to be influential with regards to Lebanon’s Hezbollah and helped them build up their capabilities vis a vis Israel. He also seems to have played a role in shaping the post-war political landscape in Iraq. In an article published in New Yorker magazine in September 2013, he has been described as “both hated and admired” by his adversaries. Also, the article stated that he is widely credited with delivering the strategy that helped President Bashar al-Assad turn the tide against rebel forces and recapture key cities and towns.

A deep strategic thinker, why should he expose himself to the media now and was that even him?

In my view, the move is being made to pressure President Hassan Rowhani by advertising the Quds Force as a strong regional presence while the government works hard to reduce the tensions. Or, there could be a collaboration between the government and the IRGC, using the commander’s photos to pressure the Western negotiations. Or perhaps this is a move to raise the profile of the Quds Force.

Also, it might show the fall of a powerful man over others’ fears of his increasing powers and popularity. In Iran, when someone publicly praised and reaches a certain status, they say the fall is unavoidable.

The world of the politics is so fascinated and obsessed with this mysterious character, so much so that on Halloween I saw an American friend dressed up as Qassem Suleimani.


Camelia Entekhabi-Fard is a journalist, news commentator and writer who grew up during the Iranian Revolution and wrote for leading reformist newspapers. She is also the author of Camelia: Save Yourself by Telling the Truth - A Memoir of Iran. She lives in New York City and Dubai. She can be found on Twitter: @CameliaFard

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