Appointment Comes After U.S. Missile Airstrike In Baghdad
(New York, N.Y.) – Following the death of former Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Quds Force leader Major General Qasem Soleimani—who was killed in a U.S. airstrike near Baghdad International Airport on January 3, 2020—Iran’s Supreme Leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, quickly appointed Brigadier General Ismail Ghaani as Soleimani’s replacement. Upon Ghaani’s appointment, Khamenei described him as “one of the most distinguished Revolutionary Guard commanders.” Ghaani fought in the 1980-1988 Iran-Iraq war, leading the Nasr-5 and Imam Reza-21 brigades.
A close aide and confidante to Soleimani, Ghaani served as an intelligence official in the IRGC-QF and was the deputy commander of the unit for more than 20 years. On March 27, 2012, the U.S. Department of the Treasury listed Ghaani as a Specially Designated National for his role in overseeing financial disbursements and weapons shipments to Hezbollah and IRGC-QF elements in both the Middle East and Africa, particularly the Gambia.
Soleimani had commanded the Quds Force since 1998, having proven his dedication to the Iranian regime as an IRGC divisional commander during the Iran-Iraq War in the 1980s. As Quds Force commander, Soleimani coordinated Iraqi Shiite militants fighting against U.S. forces between 2005 and 2011. Soleimani also reportedly influenced then-Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki to insist on the 2011 U.S. withdrawal. He led Quds Force operations against ISIS in Iraq, where he oversaw approximately 100,000 Iraqi Shiite fighters and six Iranian training camps, according to an August 2016 U.S. military estimate.
Also killed in the January 3 airstrike was Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi, known widely by his nom de guerre Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes. He was the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah (KH), an Iranian-sponsored Shiite militia operating primarily in Iraq. Ibrahimi was believed to be the most influential commander of the Haashid Shaabi, the umbrella group of anti-ISIS Shiite militias also called Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), and played a key role in smuggling weapons from Iran to these militias in Iraq. In addition to acting as the leader of KH, Ibrahimi served as Iraq’s deputy national security adviser and the deputy commander of the Haashid Shaabi. He was also a former member of the Iraqi parliament.
The IRGC’s Quds Force specializes in foreign missions, providing training, funding, and weapons to extremist groups, including Iraqi insurgents, Hezbollah, and Hamas. The Quds Force allegedly participated in the 1994 suicide bombing of an Argentine Jewish community center, killing more than 80 and wounding about 300. In the years since, the Quds Force has armed anti-government militants in Bahrain, and assisted in a 2011 assassination attempt on Saudi Arabia’s ambassador to the United States. The Quds Force also plays a key role in support of Syrian regime forces in that country’s civil war.
To read the CEP report Ismail Ghaani, please click here.
To read the CEP report Qasem Soleimani, please click here.
To read the CEP report Jamal Jaafar Ibrahimi a.k.a. Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, please click here.
To read the CEP report Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, please click here.
To read the CEP report Kata’ib Hezbollah, please click here.