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Explained: Who is Esmail Qaani, the new head of Iran’s Quds Force?

Previously, Qaani was the deputy commander of the Quds Force, which is the overseas arms of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and is responsible for carrying out unconventional warfare and intelligence activities.

By: Explained Desk | New Delhi |
Updated: January 7, 2020 8:56:46 pm
The earliest record of Qaani’s activities in the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps dates back to December 1982, according to the American Enterprise Institute.  (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

After the Iranian military commander Qassem Soleimani was assassinated in a US drone strike last Friday, Esmail Qaani has taken charge of the elite Quds Force. The Quds Force is the overseas arms of Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), and is responsible for carrying out unconventional warfare and intelligence activities.

Previously, Qaani was the deputy commander of the Quds Force. The elite force, about which little is known, was created in 1979 by Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini after the Iranian Revolution ended. Its objective was to protect the Islamic order of the new Iranian government.

In a statement posted on his website, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, the Commander-in-Chief of Iran’s armed forces, said, “Following the ascent of the lofty martyr, the honorable General Hajj Qasem Soleimani (may God be pleased with him), I appoint the honorable Brigadier General Esmaeil Qa’ani—who has been among the most prominent IRGC Commanders during the Sacred Defense and has served alongside Martyr Soleimani in the Quds Force in the region for years — as the new Commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.”

He added that the strategy of the Quds Force would be the same as that under Soleimani.

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Who is Esmail Qaani?

According to the American Enterprise Institute (AEI), Qaani was born in Bojnord in Iran’s North Khorasan province. According to AEI, the earliest record of his activities in the IRGC dates back to December 1982, when Qaani became a part of the IRGC division in Khorasan province, which was later referred to as the Fifth Nasr Division. After this, upon the conclusion of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988, Qaani was appointed as the division deputy of the IRGC Ground Forces’ eighth operational zone, which was headquartered in Mahshad.

Also Read | Explained: Why General Qassem Soleimani mattered

According to The Arab Gulf States Institute in Washington, Qaani had said the following about his relationship with Soleimani in an interview in 2015. “We are all war kids. What connects and relates us and our camaraderie is not based on geography and our hometown. We are war comrades and it was the war that made us friends. Perhaps I’m a year older than him, and we may have the same age, but none of this matters. He is superior to me in certain fields … Those who become friends at times of hardship, have deeper and more lasting relations than those who become friends just because they are neighborhood friends.”

Furthermore, while few details are available about the nature of work that Qaani carried out as Soleimani’s deputy, there is believed to be a division of labour between the two. While Qaani focused on Iran’s eastern borders, Soleimani focused on the western front.

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