TEL AVIV: In a significant escalation of tensions in the Middle East, Israel executed a targeted airstrike near the Syrian capital, Damascus, on Monday, resulting in the death of Sayyid Raji Mousavi, a key advisor to Iran’s paramilitary force, the Revolutionary Guard. The incident draws parallels with the 2020 killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani, a prominent Iranian intelligence commander, in a U.S. drone strike in Baghdad.
Rising Regional Tensions
This event unfolds amid heightened confrontations between Hezbollah in Lebanon and Israel, raising concerns about the expanding scope of the Israel-Hamas conflict. The timing of Mousavi’s assassination adds complexity to an already volatile situation in the region.
Mousavi’s Connection With Soleimani
Mousavi, reportedly a close associate of Major General Soleimani, played a pivotal role in Iranian intelligence. Soleimani’s death in 2020 marked a significant loss for Iran, and Mousavi’s demise further deepened the void left by the influential commander.
General Soleimani’s Influence On Iran
General Soleimani held the status of a national hero in Iran, often regarded as one of the most powerful figures in the country, second only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. Soleimani’s influence extended beyond Iran, shaping diplomatic relations and bolstering Iran’s presence in the Middle East.
He led the Quds Force, a branch of the Revolutionary Guard responsible for advancing Iran’s interests abroad, supporting allies, and countering adversaries. The U.S. had designated the Quds Force and Soleimani as terrorist entities.
Soleimani’s Legacy, Involvement In Syria
Soleimani played a crucial role in supporting Syria’s President Bashar al-Assad during the early stages of the Syrian civil war in 2012. His efforts included coordinating campaigns, assisting Iran’s allies, and facilitating Russian military intervention to stabilize and control the situation in Syria.
Assassination Of Soleimani
Soleimani’s demise occurred on January 3, 2020, in a U.S. drone strike at Baghdad International Airport. The strike also claimed the life of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the leader of Kata’ib Hezbollah, an Iraqi paramilitary group designated as a terrorist organization by the U.S.
Iranian Presence In Syria
Iran’s military presence in Syria dates back to the early stages of the civil war. Iranian forces supported President Assad’s government against widespread uprisings, aligning with Iran’s broader regional strategy.
Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps
The IRGC, established in 1979, is a branch of Iran’s armed forces responsible for safeguarding the Islamic Republic’s ideals. It actively intervenes in foreign affairs to prevent foreign interference, thwart coup attempts, and preserve the ideological legacy of the Islamic Revolution.
As of 2011, the IRGC had a force of at least 250,000 personnel. The IRGC Navy controls operations in the Persian Gulf, making it a dominant force in Iran’s military capabilities. The organization also includes the Basij, a volunteer militia with around 90,000 active members, playing a significant role in various aspects of Iranian society and politics.
The IRGC, labeled a terrorist organization by Bahrain, Saudi Arabia, Sweden, and the United States, continues to be a focal point of regional tensions and international scrutiny.