As with all organized groups there is a hierarchy of players. With the offing of Soleimani by President Trump, a void was created in the IRGC. That void has now been filled.
Meet Qassam Qaani.
Qaani was born in 1957 in Bojnourd. He joined the IRGC since the early days of the establishment of the mullahs’ regime. And in 1980, he was sent to Iranian Kurdistan region to suppress people there.
In subsequent years, Qaani was one of the IRGC commanders during the Iran-Iraq war. In his role, he dispatched large numbers of youth, teenagers and students to the killing fields. Khomeini continued that war in order to prolong the survival of his disgraceful rule.
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As reported by the General Command of the National Liberation Army of Iran (NLA) on the Eternal Light Operation, Qaani fought the freedom fighters as the Commander of the Nasr 5 Division. According to the same report, Soleimani was also involved in the same operation as the Commander of the Sarollah 31 Division. (See the General Command Report, p. 49). These two were responsible for killing many of the wounded and prisoners of the People’s Mojahedin Organization of Iran (PMOI/MEK) in the battlefield.
In the aftermath of the war, Qaani performed multiple roles.
He spent some time as the Commander of Intelligence in the Kurdistan region. Then he was the Intelligence Office Chief of the IRGC Joint Command, Commander of the IRGC Air Force, and Deputy Intelligence Chief of the IRGC Joint Command.
In 1987, Qaani was appointed as the Ansar Corps Commander, which was responsible for operations in Afghanistan and Pakistan. In this capacity, he organized and commanded special IRGC operations in Afghanistan.
During the uprising of thousands of people in Mashhad in 1992, Qaani played a decisive role in suppressing the protests. Only a few year later in July of 1999, Qaani was one of the signatories of a letter by 24 IRGC commanders to then-regime President Mohammad Khatami, demanding the severe suppression of the students.
Since April 2014, Qaani routinely traveled to Iraq to supervise the training and organization of militias. Following the war on the people of al-Anbar by then-Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Qaani traveled to Iraq in four-member delegation of the Qods Force on May 17, 2014. In subsequent months, as stated in the NCRI Secretariat’s statement on December 26, 2014, the Commander of the Qods Force “set up a joint Tactical Operations Center in Anbar” with Maliki’s army and police forces. Iraj Masjedi and a number of other senior officials of the Qods Force were established in Iraq and Esmail Qaani Akbarnejad, Qasem Soleimani’s Deputy, regularly traveled to Iraq to supervise the situation.”
Anybody who said that Iran doesn’t export trouble is either naive or stupid.
Iran has no business operating in Iraq. However under Obama, the Iranians ran roughshod over the country. But they weren’t limited to Iraq.
Less than a year later on May 2, 2015, the Security and Counterterrorism Committee of the NCRI wrote in a statement:
“On July 12, 2014, speaking to a group of Qods Force commanders, IRGC Brigadier General Esmail Qa’ani, Deputy Qods Force Commander, announced a new phase of operations by Ansarullah in Yemen. He said: With this operation, we will place Saudi Arabia in a vulnerable position. In an interview with state-run TV on May 23, 2014, Qaani admitted the Houthi militias were trained by the regime. He said: “The defenders of Yemen were trained under the flag of the Islamic Republic. The enemies cannot confront the Yemeni fighters.”
The NCRI Secretariat’s May 25, 2015 statement said that the responsibility for the Yemen war in the Qods Force rests with Qaani. And he has set up meetings with Houthi commanders in Tehran. At that time, a large number of Houthi commanders and officials who were wounded in the Yemen war were being treated in the city of Mashhad. The number of the wounded is so large it hindered the Imam Reza Hospital’s abilities. In fact, the hospital is refusing to provide beds to the residents of the city itself. Following treatment, the injured Houthis are sent to the Qasr-e Talai (Golden Palace) Hotel in Imam Reza Street, which is controlled by the IRGC.
In its May 2, 2015 statement, the NCRI had also said: “On March 23 (2015), the Qods Force airlifted 52 of the wounded members of the Ansarollah (Houthis) to the IRGC Baqiyatollah Hospital in Tehran. Qaani personally visited them at the hospital.
Clearly, Qaani played an active part in the clerical regime’s meddling in Syria.
Further, he was involved in the massacre of the people of this country. An NCRI Security and Anti-terrorism Committee statement on November 30, 2015 tracked another pertininet change. Following the killing of IRGC commander Hossein Hamedani on October 8, 2015, Qaani assumed command of the war in Aleppo.
Placed on the list of sanctions by the U.S. government, Qaani has organized a vast network of smuggling in order to supply arms and funds to terrorist proxies in various countries. These include Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq. Trump’s sanctions necessitated the move, as Qaani and other Iranians operated with impunity during the era of Obama.
But the walls close in on Qaani. Trump won’t let up. And now Qaani finds himself in the crosshair of President Trump.