Iran’s supreme leader Khamenei has appointed the deputy commander of the Quds Force, Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, as the replacement for Qassem Soleimani, the former head of the elite force who was killed in a U.S. airstrike on Friday.
The national reports the new head of Iran’s Quds Force will face an uphill task projecting the same aura of invincibility as his high-profile predecessor did until the US military killed him in Baghdad on Friday.
Hours after the killing of Qassem Suleimani, who mastered propaganda but may have underestimated America, Iran’s clerical leadership appointed his deputy Esmail Qaani as his replacement.
As a unit of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, the Quds Force oversees an array of militant proxies and organises Iran’s operations abroad.
In announcing Mr Qaani’s new role, Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said he “has been one of the most prominent commanders in the Holy Defence and has served in the Quds Force with the martyr commander [Qassem Suleimani] in the area for many years.”
The Quds Force’s agenda “will be unchanged from the time of his predecessor,” he added.
While Mr Suleimani was focused on the Arab Middle East, Mr Qaani has been involved in activities related to Pakistan and Afghanistan, where Tehran has a different set of priorities in dealing with the US.
Mr Qaani also lacks his predecessor’s penchant for self-promotion.
Mr Suleimani’s touting of his achievements in Iranian media and on the Internet, most recently in an Iranian documentary highlighting his role in backing the Lebanese Shiite group Hezbollah in its 2006 war with Israel, annoyed others in the Iranian security apparatus.
According to Iranian intelligence documents leaked to the New York Times in November, other Iranian operatives saw Mr Suleimani’s overtly sectarian approach in Iraq against the country’s Sunni population as benefiting the US.
But ideologically there may be little to distinguish the sectarian persuasion of the two men, with Liwa Al Fatimioun having participated in the siege warfare and depopulation of Sunnis from rebel areas of Syria.
Ideological purity is as much of a factor as ability in the promotion to a position as crucial as the one Mr Qaani has just assumed.