KEY POINTS

  • Qaani replaces Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a targeted U.S. drone strike
  • Qaani gained fame during the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s
  • He holds extremist views against Israel

Iran’s Supreme Leader Sayyed Ali Khameini appointed Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani as commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force, succeeding Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who was killed in a targeted drone strike at Baghdad airport.

Khameini characterized Qaani as “one of the most distinguished Revolutionary Guard commanders.”

“The orders for the (Quds) force remain exactly as they were during the leadership of martyr Soleimani,” Khameini said.

“I call on the members of the force to be present and cooperate with General Qaani and wish him divine prosperity, acceptance and guidance.”

Qaani was a major figure in the Iran-Iraq war of the 1980s and served as Soleimani’s trusted aide. He served as an intelligence official in the Islamic Revolution Guard Corps.

Esmail_Qaani_May2019_(cropped) Brig. Gen. Esmail Qaani was appointed commander of the Islamic Revolutional Guards' Quds Force following the targed drone strike that killed his boss, Lt. Gen. Qassem Soleimani Photo: Erfan Kouchari/Wikimedia Commons

Qaani is described as a hardliner known for extremist opposition to Israel. Like Soleimani, he is a key player in the Syrian civil war.

In 2017, Qaani said the U.S. had tried to destroy Iran but failed and accused Washington of creating al Qaeda and the Islamic State group. He also boasted Iran had killed more Americans than the U.S. had killed Iranians.

Unlike Soleimani, Qaani has been vocal on internal politics.

Qaani was born Aug. 8, 1957, and gained fame during the Iran-Iraq war of the early 1980s. He was appointed deputy commander of the Quds Force, which is primarily responsible for extraterritorial military and clandestine operations, in 1997, overseeing financial disbursements to paramilitary groups like Hezbollah.

He is on the U.S. Treasury Department list of specially designated nationals and blocked persons, whose assets have been frozen and prohibited from doing business with U.S. entities.

As was Soleimani, Qaani will be responsible for Iranian operations throughout the Middle East.

Both Khameini and Iranian President Hassan Rouhani condemned the killing of Soleimani as a criminal act and vowed revenge. The Pentagon said the strike was carried out to prevent Soleimani from executing plans to attack U.S. diplomats and civilians, and described the move as defensive.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo tweeted a clip showing Iraqis dancing in the street over news of Soleimani’s death.

President Trump hailed the strike and said Iraq wants to be liberated from Iranian influence.