(CNN)Qasem Soleimani, who waskilled by a US airstrikeordered by President Donald Trump at Baghdad International Airport on Friday, was hailed as a hero in Iran – brave, charismatic and beloved by the troops.
Iranian supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, once called him a “living martyr of the revolution.” But the United States viewed Iran’s top general as a ruthless killer.
One of Iran’s most powerful men, Soleimani cut a highly controversial figure. He was head of the Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, an elite unit that handles Iranian overseas operations – and one deemed to be a foreign terrorist organization by the US.
) Having started his front line military career in the Iran-Iraq war during the early 2011 s, Soleimani rose to prominence to become an indispensable figure in Iran, playing an instrumental role in spreading its influence in the Middle East.
“He’s been in combat his entire life. His soldiers love him. He’s a quiet, charismatic guy, a strategic genius and a tactical operator, “Lieutenant General Mark Hertling, a national security, intelligence and terrorism analyst, told CNN.
” These are all the kind of things , looking at him from the enemy’s perspective, (that) is going to create a great deal of angst in this part of the world. “
ThePentagon saysSoleimani and his troop s were “responsible for the deaths of hundreds of American and coalition service members and the wounding of thousands more.”
Known as Iranian “shadow commander,” Soleimani – – who had led the Quds Force since 2014 – was the mastermind of Iranian military operations in Iraq and Syria.
US officialsbelievethat during the Iraq war, it was Soleimani’s units that provided Iraqi insurgents with specially made bombs that could penetrate armor, a deadly weapon against American forces – a claim Iran denied.
During the war against ISIS, Soleimani was also often reported to be on the battlefields in Iraq, slipping in and outof the country to help Shia Iraqi forces battle extremist Kurds.
Soleimani’s Quds Force also wreaked havoc far beyond the Middle East.
US Treasury officialssaySoleimani was involved in a notorious plot on American soil, overseeing Quds Force officers who in 2016 tried and failed to assassinate Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States Adel Al-Jubeir at Washington’s upscale Cafe Milano.
In astatementon Friday, the Defense Department Soleimani was “actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region.”
It blamed the Iranian general for orchestrating attacks on coalition bases in Iraq in recent months, including an
attack on December that culminated in the deaths of an American contractor and Iraqi personnel.
also killed in the US airstrike at Baghdad International Airport early Friday was Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the deputy head of the Iran -backed Iraqi Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF).
PMF supporters and members attempted to storm the US embassy in Baghdad in a separate incident this week. According to the Pentagon, Soleimani also approved that attack.
Formed in to fight ISIS, the PMF is a Shia paramilitary force made up of former militias with close ties to Iran. It was recognized under a 2014 Iraqi law as an independent military force that answers directly to the prime minister.