WASHINGTON — A new Iranian general is stepping out of the shadows to lead the country's elite Quds Force after the U.S. killed its previous head, Qassem Soleimani. Esmail Ghaani is now responsible for Tehran's proxies across the Mideast as the Islamic Republic threatens the U.S. with "harsh revenge" for killing Soleimani. Ghaani was previously Soleimani's deputy commander.
While much still remains unknown about the 62-year-old Ghaani, Western sanctions suggest he's long been in a position of power in the organization. Likely one of the new leader's first duties will be to oversee whatever retaliation Iran intends to seek for the U.S. airstrike early Friday that killed his longtime friend Soleimani.
The Saudi news outlet Al Arabiya quoted Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as saying in a statement that the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force "will be unchanged from the time of his predecessor.”
Karim Abdian of the Ahwaz Human Rights Organization, and Representative of Congress of Nationalities for a Federal Iran told Al Arabiya that Ghaani "is not going to be another Qassem Soleimani." Abdian says "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.”
As the Associated press reported, thousands of militiamen and other supporters chanting “America is the Great Satan” marched in a funeral procession Saturday in Baghdad for Iran’s top general after he was killed in a U.S. airstrike, as the region braced for the Islamic Republic to fulfill its vows of revenge.
Reports point out that Iran's Press TV news agency said Ghaani was appointed Friday, just hours after Soleimani was killed in that U.S. airstrike in Baghdad. Radio Farda reported that Iran's Ayatollah Ali Khamenei called Ghaani "one of the most distinguished Revolutionary Guard commanders."
Newsweek reported on a 2017 statement made by Ghaani where he warned President Trump about a conflict with his country saying "we are not a war-mongering country, but any military action against Iran will be regretted."
Iran's Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei has reacted strongly to the U.S. airstrike that killed General Qassem Soleimani, saying in a sermon Friday "this is the time to clear the region from these insidious beasts,” Radio Farda reports.