Tehran Times’s 1399 Man of the Year is martyr General Qassem Soleimani, the former commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC), who was assassinated by an American drone strike near Baghdad’s International Airport in the early days of 2020.
The 1399 choice is unusual in two ways: First, the selection of General Soleimani marks the first time that the Tehran Times names an Iranian figure as a Man of the Year. Secondly, General Soleimani was martyred last year and therefore he was not alive in 1399. However, his long-lasting effects on Iran and the broader West Asia region have convinced us to name him as Man of the Year, because his martyrdom overshadowed developments throughout 1399.
General Soleimani was assassinated along with his longtime comrade Abu Mahdi al-Mohandes, the former deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF). Top Iranian general was visiting Iraq at the invitation of Iraq’s leader to deliver an Iranian reply to a Saudi message through Iraq. He left Tehran for Baghdad on January 3, 2020, and arrived at midnight at Baghdad airport, where al-Mohandes was waiting to receive him. After a short exchange of greetings, the two men left the airport but as they moved out of the airport in their motorcade, they were targeted with a number of missiles launched by an American drone.
The strike was ordered by then-U.S. President Donald Trump, a dangerous move that brought Iran and the U.S. close to an all-out war. Iran did not let the U.S. go unpunished for its reckless terrorist attack. Five days after the U.S. strike, Iran launched a military operation codenamed “Operation Martyr Soleimani”, which saw Iran showering the U.S. Ein al-Asad airbase in Iraq’s western governorate of al-Anbar with tens of ground-to-ground missiles. Initially, the U.S. sought to downplay the strike on its airbase. But the Pentagon admittedly announced later that more than 100 U.S. service members have been diagnosed with traumatic brain injury (TBI) stemming from Iran’s missile attack on the airbase.
Following the retaliatory response, Iran announced a new strategy to continue what General Soleimani had assiduously started: expulsion of the U.S. forces from the region. A few days after the assassination of General Soleimani, several Iranian officials announced that real revenge for the late general would be the expulsion of all American troops from the region. For instance, Iranian First Vice President Es’haq Jahangiri said in remarks at that time that “the real revenge for the United States’ criminal and illegal actions, at the top of which is the assassination of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani, will be their expulsion from the region.”
Chief of the IRGC Quds Force Brigadier General Esmaeil Ghaani said in January that the Americans must be expelled from the region. Ghaani said the unreal grandeur of the global arrogance must be revealed, adding that the followers of Iran’s anti-terror commander Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani will expel the Americans from the region.
Those who committed the crime must realize that it is not the case to assassinate the counterterrorism hero and then continue to be alive, Ghaani said, underlining that the path of Martyr Soleimani will undoubtedly be continued and strengthened.
Losing one of its most distinguished commanders, Iraq also joined the efforts to expel American forces. Two days after the American drone strike, the Iraqi parliament held an extraordinary session to vote for a bill obligating the Iraqi government to order a complete withdrawal of U.S. troops from Iraq.
“There is no need for the presence of American forces after defeating Daesh,” said Ammar al-Shibli, a lawmaker sitting on the parliamentary legal committee. “We have our own armed forces which are capable of protecting the country.”
The martyrdom of General Soleimani and al-Mohandes generated new momentum in the region among resistance groups in the region to achieve the goal of getting rid of America’s military presence. This elan was partly generated due to the two men’s sacrifices during the fight against Daesh (ISIS). The two commanders enjoyed enormous popularity not just in Iran and Iraq but in entire West Asia and beyond for the major role they played in the successful battles that ultimately put an end to the territorial rule of Daesh, the world’s most notorious terror group.
High-level officials from many countries in the region have appreciated General Soleimani’s contribution to the fight against terrorism. Imad Khamis, who served as Syria’s prime minister at the time of General Soleimani’s assassination, called him a “symbol of the fight for liberation and regional security.”
Hadi al-Amiri, the head of Fatah Alliance in the Iraqi parliament, has praised the role Iran played in support of Iraq during the country’s fight against the Daesh terrorist group.
Speaking at a ceremony held in the holy city of Najaf to mark the first anniversary of the assassination of General Soleimani and his Iraqi trench mate Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, al-Amiri said Iran was the only country that supported Iraq in the difficult times of anti-Daesh fight.
“During the difficult situation in Iraq, it was only the Islamic Republic of Iran that stood by us and supported our nation in the fight against the terrorist Daesh group,” the Iraqi politician said. “We thank Martyr Qassem Soleimani for his role in supporting the Iraqi nation in difficulties and hardships.”
Iraqi Kurdish officials who received tangible support from General Soleimani during the fight against Daesh also were keen to appreciate his role in helping them defeat Daesh.
In a January interview with the Tehran Times, Nazem Dabbagh, the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) representative to Tehran, said that the top Iranian general played an important role in supporting the KRG against Daesh.
“Martyr Qassem Soleimani did not only help in the framework of consultation, but also in the battlefield. He helped Iraqi Kurdistan in its combat against terrorism. We are thankful and appreciative for Iran’s advisory presence and its arms aid to eliminate the Daesh threat from Erbil,” Dabbagh said.