More on General Qassem Suleimani

BY Herschel Smith
11 years, 6 months ago

David Ignatius gives us another glimpse into the Main Man in Iran’s Fight with the United States.

Let’s try for a moment to put ourselves in the mind of Brigadier General Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Revolutionary Guard. For it is the soft-spoken Soleimani, not Iran’s bombastic President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, who plays a decisive role in his nation’s confrontation with the United States.

Soleimani represents the sharp point of the Iranian spear. He is responsible for Iran’s covert activities in Iraq, Lebanon, Afghanistan and other battlegrounds. He oversees the regime’s relations with its militant proxies, Hizbullah and Hamas. His elite, secretive wing of the Revolutionary Guard is identified as a terrorist organization by the Bush administration, but he is also Iran’s leading strategist on foreign policy. He reports personally to Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, and his budget (mostly in cash) comes directly from the supreme leader’s office.

Soleimani is said to be confident about Iran’s rising power in the region, according to an Arab official who met recently with him. He sees an America that is weakened by the war in Iraq but still potent. He has told visitors that United States’ and Iran’s goals in Iraq are similar, despite the rhetoric of confrontation. But he has expressed no interest in direct, high-level talks. The Quds Force commander prefers to run out the clock on the Bush administration, hoping that the next administration will be more favorable to Iran’s interests.

“The level of confidence of these [Quds Force] guys is that they are it, and everything else is marginal,” says the Arab who meets regularly with Soleimani.

Soleimani has been adept at turning up the heat in Iraq, then lowering the temperature when it suits Iran’s interest. A good example was the Basra campaign in March when Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki attacked the Mehdi Army, the Shiite militia headed by Muqtada al-Sadr. Though the Iranians had been backing Sadr, they made a quick switch to supporting Maliki. It was Soleimani himself who brokered the cease-fire that restored calm in Basra.

The simultaneous support for Maliki and Sadr is characteristic of Soleimani, according to people who know him well. Rather than pick a single ally, as Americans tend to do, he will choose at least two. By riding several horses at once, he maximizes Iran’s opportunities and reduces its risks.

Soleimani’s opportunism was evident during the heavy shelling of the Green Zone in March. The Iranians had supplied their Mehdi Army allies in Sadr City with very powerful 240 mm rockets and mortars, and they had bracketed their targets in the Green Zone so precisely that US casualties were rising sharply.

After a particularly heavy day of shelling, Genral (sic) David Petraeus sent Soleimani a message – “Stop shooting at the Green Zone.” The message was conveyed verbally by Iraqi President Jalal Talabani. The Quds Force commander didn’t react immediately. But the heavy mortar fire on the Green Zone soon tapered off. Iran had flexed its muscles and demonstrated America’s vulnerability, and then opted for a tactical retreat.

The only compromise between full scale conventional war with Iran and abject surrender to Iraninan hegemony is selective targeting and fomenting an insurgency inside of Iran and its security apparatus (Qassem Suleimani himself should be targeted, and he should know that he is is a marked man).  As for the words from General David Petraeus to General Qassem Suleimani, they might have been more effective had they carried threats.

Iran has mastered the art of small scale, covert intelligence warfare.  The U.S. will master the art as well if we are to be successful in Iraq and throughout the larger region.  Time is short.

Prior: Is Iran the Biggest Problem is Iraq?

Trackbacks & Pingbacks


  1. On June 17, 2008 at 2:24 pm, jonesgp1996 said:

    I think that there are number of important things to think about that this article raises.

    To begin with, I would be interested to know how much control the Iranian government exercises over General Suleimani’s activities. It’s a common error when analyzing the enemy to assume that they operate the same way that we do and that they are always perfectly executing the sinister plan that they had in mind, as directed from the top. I don’t discount the control that the Ayatollah Khameini exerts over him, but I wonder how much latitude and discretion the general has in conducting operations. There may not be the same strict control of the civil over the military that there is in Western countries.

    One minor point about President Ahmadinejad: his comments about destroying Israel are caustic and troubling, but I have to believe that at least some of that is for purely domestic consumption to galvanize an ethnically diverse population (who aren’t all necessarily in favor of the current regime and who may entertain separatist desires) against a common enemy. That’s just good politics, and it helps for regime preservation, too.

    Which leads me to my final point: does anyone else think it’s time to begin engaging with Iran on a more substantial diplomatic level? We’ve painted ourselves into a corner by calling Iran a state-sponsor of terrorism, and the US doesn’t deal with terrorists. But what made them this way? Since the revolution in 1979, the US has done everything it can to make Iran a pariah state and isolate it from the civilized world. Certainly the US has a legitimate complaint when it comes to how things unfolded with the hostage crisis. However, the conditions became ripe for the revolution to occur in the first place because the US supported the shah and his oppressive police state because they were good allies against the Soviet Union. Well, the USSR doesn’t exist anymore, so maybe it’s time to re-evaluate our position.

    Believe me, I’m not an apologist for Iran, but I think it’s important to consider the factors that led to the 1979 revolution, the history that’s happened since then, and the US’s actions towards Iran pre- and post-revolution. Didn’t the US support Iraq against Iran during their long and bloody war of attrition? Is that a legitimate grievance, i.e. the US enabling of the killing of hundreds of thousands of Iranians? Is it any wonder that a state that considers the United States to be an existential threat is pursuing nuclear weapons, the only means of deterrence that it thinks the US understands?

    I think that there is an important historical parallel to consider here, and that is the US’s relationship with the People’s Republic of China. Following the Communists’ 1949 victory, the US worked for 24 years to bring down that regime, and it even fought two hot wars against the PRC: an overt one in Korea and a covert one in Vietnam, where the PRC had thousands of advisers. In fact, it was with the PRC’s help (to some degree) that the US was ultimately able to extricate itself from Vietnam. With the recognition that both sides had interests in East Asia, the US and China were ultimately able to come to a “modus vivendi” and restore normal relations in 1979. Are the US and China “friends” today? Of course not, but they have figured out a way to live together without trying to destroy each other. I believe that the same opportunity exists for US-Iranian relations. If we talk to them, it doesn’t mean that we have to be their friends. But we both clearly have interests in the Middle East, so it is logically in both sides’ interests to reach an accommodation that allows for the peaceful pursuit of those goals. As we learned with the Soviets and Chinese, the revolutionary fire didn’t really spread as its proponents had envisioned, and the same can be said of the Iranian revolution; there is no threat in that regard now (as there may have seemed in 1979-80).

    After 30 years of shutting Iran out, isn’t it about time to talk to them?

RSS feed for comments on this post. TrackBack URL

Leave a comment

You are currently reading "More on General Qassem Suleimani", entry #1137 on The Captain's Journal.

This article is filed under the category(s) General Suleimani,Iran and was published June 8th, 2008 by Herschel Smith.

If you're interested in what else the The Captain's Journal has to say, you might try thumbing through the archives and visiting the main index, or; perhaps you would like to learn more about TCJ.

26th MEU (10)
Abu Muqawama (12)
ACOG (2)
ACOGs (1)
Afghan National Army (36)
Afghan National Police (17)
Afghanistan (679)
Afghanistan SOFA (4)
Agriculture in COIN (3)
AGW (1)
Air Force (34)
Air Power (9)
al Qaeda (83)
Ali al-Sistani (1)
America (18)
Ammunition (84)
Animals (45)
Ansar al Sunna (15)
Anthropology (3)
Antonin Scalia (1)
AR-15s (197)
Arghandab River Valley (1)
Arlington Cemetery (2)
Army (74)
Assassinations (2)
Assault Weapon Ban (27)
Australian Army (6)
Azerbaijan (4)
Backpacking (2)
Badr Organization (8)
Baitullah Mehsud (21)
Basra (17)
BATFE (84)
Battle of Bari Alai (2)
Battle of Wanat (18)
Battle Space Weight (3)
Bin Laden (7)
Blogroll (2)
Blogs (16)
Body Armor (18)
Books (3)
Border War (11)
Brady Campaign (1)
Britain (38)
British Army (35)
Camping (4)
Canada (2)
Castle Doctrine (1)
Caucasus (6)
Center For a New American Security (8)
Charity (3)
China (10)
Christmas (10)
CIA (27)
Civilian National Security Force (3)
Col. Gian Gentile (9)
Combat Outposts (3)
Combat Video (2)
Concerned Citizens (6)
Constabulary Actions (3)
Coolness Factor (2)
COP Keating (4)
Corruption in COIN (4)
Council on Foreign Relations (1)
Counterinsurgency (216)
DADT (2)
David Rohde (1)
Defense Contractors (2)
Department of Defense (148)
Department of Homeland Security (23)
Disaster Preparedness (3)
Distributed Operations (5)
Dogs (12)
Donald Trump (25)
Drone Campaign (3)
EFV (3)
Egypt (12)
El Salvador (1)
Embassy Security (1)
Enemy Spotters (1)
Expeditionary Warfare (17)
F-22 (2)
F-35 (1)
Fallujah (17)
Far East (3)
Fathers and Sons (2)
Favorite (1)
Fazlullah (3)
FBI (30)
Featured (180)
Federal Firearms Laws (18)
Financing the Taliban (2)
Firearms (1,042)
Football (1)
Force Projection (35)
Force Protection (4)
Force Transformation (1)
Foreign Policy (27)
Fukushima Reactor Accident (6)
Ganjgal (1)
Garmsir (1)
general (15)
General Amos (1)
General James Mattis (1)
General McChrystal (43)
General McKiernan (6)
General Rodriguez (3)
General Suleimani (7)
Georgia (19)
Google (1)
Gulbuddin Hekmatyar (1)
Gun Control (1,112)
Guns (1,544)
Guns In National Parks (3)
Haditha Roundup (10)
Haiti (2)
Haqqani Network (9)
Hate Mail (8)
Hekmatyar (1)
Heroism (4)
Hezbollah (12)
High Capacity Magazines (13)
High Value Targets (9)
Homecoming (1)
Homeland Security (1)
Horses (1)
Humor (22)
ICOS (1)
IEDs (7)
Immigration (85)
India (10)
Infantry (4)
Information Warfare (2)
Infrastructure (2)
Intelligence (23)
Intelligence Bulletin (6)
Iran (169)
Iraq (379)
Iraq SOFA (23)
Islamic Facism (62)
Islamists (92)
Israel (18)
Jaish al Mahdi (21)
Jalalabad (1)
Japan (2)
Jihadists (80)
John Nagl (5)
Joint Intelligence Centers (1)
JRTN (1)
Kabul (1)
Kajaki Dam (1)
Kamdesh (9)
Kandahar (12)
Karachi (7)
Kashmir (2)
Khost Province (1)
Khyber (11)
Knife Blogging (4)
Korea (4)
Korengal Valley (3)
Kunar Province (20)
Kurdistan (3)
Language in COIN (5)
Language in Statecraft (1)
Language Interpreters (2)
Lashkar-e-Taiba (2)
Law Enforcement (3)
Lawfare (7)
Leadership (6)
Lebanon (6)
Leon Panetta (2)
Let Them Fight (2)
Libya (14)
Lines of Effort (3)
Littoral Combat (8)
Logistics (50)
Long Guns (1)
Lt. Col. Allen West (2)
Marine Corps (258)
Marines in Bakwa (1)
Marines in Helmand (67)
Marjah (4)
Media (43)
Memorial Day (5)
Mexican Cartels (35)
Mexico (49)
Michael Yon (5)
Micromanaging the Military (7)
Middle East (1)
Military Blogging (26)
Military Contractors (4)
Military Equipment (24)
Militia (5)
Mitt Romney (3)
Monetary Policy (1)
Moqtada al Sadr (2)
Mosul (4)
Mountains (25)
MRAPs (1)
Mullah Baradar (1)
Mullah Fazlullah (1)
Mullah Omar (3)
Musa Qala (4)
Music (19)
Muslim Brotherhood (6)
Nation Building (2)
National Internet IDs (1)
National Rifle Association (64)
NATO (15)
Navy (22)
Navy Corpsman (1)
NCOs (3)
News (1)
NGOs (2)
Nicholas Schmidle (2)
Now Zad (19)
NSA (3)
NSA James L. Jones (6)
Nuclear (57)
Nuristan (8)
Obama Administration (219)
Offshore Balancing (1)
Operation Alljah (7)
Operation Khanjar (14)
Ossetia (7)
Pakistan (165)
Paktya Province (1)
Palestine (5)
Patriotism (6)
Patrolling (1)
Pech River Valley (11)
Personal (60)
Petraeus (14)
Pictures (1)
Piracy (13)
Pistol (2)
Pizzagate (21)
Police (430)
Police in COIN (3)
Policy (15)
Politics (478)
Poppy (2)
PPEs (1)
Prisons in Counterinsurgency (12)
Project Gunrunner (20)
PRTs (1)
Qatar (1)
Quadrennial Defense Review (2)
Quds Force (13)
Quetta Shura (1)
RAND (3)
Recommended Reading (14)
Refueling Tanker (1)
Religion (167)
Religion and Insurgency (19)
Reuters (1)
Rick Perry (4)
Rifles (1)
Roads (4)
Rolling Stone (1)
Ron Paul (1)
ROTC (1)
Rules of Engagement (75)
Rumsfeld (1)
Russia (29)
Sabbatical (1)
Sangin (1)
Saqlawiyah (1)
Satellite Patrols (2)
Saudi Arabia (4)
Scenes from Iraq (1)
Second Amendment (272)
Second Amendment Quick Hits (2)
Secretary Gates (9)
Sharia Law (3)
Shura Ittehad-ul-Mujahiden (1)
SIIC (2)
Sirajuddin Haqqani (1)
Small Wars (72)
Snipers (9)
Sniveling Lackeys (2)
Soft Power (4)
Somalia (8)
Sons of Afghanistan (1)
Sons of Iraq (2)
Special Forces (28)
Squad Rushes (1)
State Department (20)
Statistics (1)
Sunni Insurgency (10)
Support to Infantry Ratio (1)
Supreme Court (5)
Survival (27)
SWAT Raids (54)
Syria (38)
Tactical Drills (1)
Tactical Gear (4)
Taliban (167)
Taliban Massing of Forces (4)
Tarmiyah (1)
TBI (1)
Technology (17)
Tehrik-i-Taliban (78)
Terrain in Combat (1)
Terrorism (95)
Thanksgiving (9)
The Anbar Narrative (23)
The Art of War (5)
The Fallen (1)
The Long War (20)
The Surge (3)
The Wounded (13)
Thomas Barnett (1)
Transnational Insurgencies (5)
Tribes (5)
TSA (19)
TSA Ineptitude (12)
TTPs (1)
U.S. Border Patrol (5)
U.S. Border Security (14)
U.S. Sovereignty (17)
UAVs (2)
UBL (4)
Ukraine (3)
Uncategorized (56)
Universal Background Check (3)
Unrestricted Warfare (4)
USS Iwo Jima (2)
USS San Antonio (1)
Uzbekistan (1)
V-22 Osprey (4)
Veterans (3)
Vietnam (1)
War & Warfare (220)
War & Warfare (40)
War Movies (3)
War Reporting (19)
Wardak Province (1)
Warriors (6)
Waziristan (1)
Weapons and Tactics (63)
West Point (1)
Winter Operations (1)
Women in Combat (21)
WTF? (1)
Yemen (1)

December 2019
November 2019
October 2019
September 2019
August 2019
July 2019
June 2019
May 2019
April 2019
March 2019
February 2019
January 2019
December 2018
November 2018
October 2018
September 2018
August 2018
July 2018
June 2018
May 2018
April 2018
March 2018
February 2018
January 2018
December 2017
November 2017
October 2017
September 2017
August 2017
July 2017
June 2017
May 2017
April 2017
March 2017
February 2017
January 2017
December 2016
November 2016
October 2016
September 2016
August 2016
July 2016
June 2016
May 2016
April 2016
March 2016
February 2016
January 2016
December 2015
November 2015
October 2015
September 2015
August 2015
July 2015
June 2015
May 2015
April 2015
March 2015
February 2015
January 2015
December 2014
November 2014
October 2014
September 2014
August 2014
July 2014
June 2014
May 2014
April 2014
March 2014
February 2014
January 2014
December 2013
November 2013
October 2013
September 2013
August 2013
July 2013
June 2013
May 2013
April 2013
March 2013
February 2013
January 2013
December 2012
November 2012
October 2012
September 2012
August 2012
July 2012
June 2012
May 2012
April 2012
March 2012
February 2012
January 2012
December 2011
November 2011
October 2011
September 2011
August 2011
July 2011
June 2011
May 2011
April 2011
March 2011
February 2011
January 2011
December 2010
November 2010
October 2010
September 2010
August 2010
July 2010
June 2010
May 2010
April 2010
March 2010
February 2010
January 2010
December 2009
November 2009
October 2009
September 2009
August 2009
July 2009
June 2009
May 2009
April 2009
March 2009
February 2009
January 2009
December 2008
November 2008
October 2008
September 2008
August 2008
July 2008
June 2008
May 2008
April 2008
March 2008
February 2008
January 2008
December 2007
November 2007
October 2007
September 2007
August 2007
July 2007
June 2007
May 2007
April 2007
March 2007
February 2007
January 2007
December 2006
November 2006
October 2006
September 2006
August 2006
July 2006
June 2006
May 2006

about · archives · contact · register

Copyright © 2006-2019 Captain's Journal. All rights reserved.