Full Publication

Iran's Most Dangerous General

Originally published in Middle East Outlook
July 13, 2011
The Shatt al Arab waterway, which was contested during the Iran-Iraq War. (Source: Wikimedia Commons)

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On May 18, President Barack Obama imposed sanctions against Major General Qassem Suleimani, chief of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), who is identified as "the conduit for Iranian material support" to the Syrian General Intelligence Directorate. To counter Suleimani and the Quds Force, US strategists need to understand his history of overconfident behavior and military successes. A survey of the open-source literature pertaining to Suleimani reveals a man who became a successful general without much formal training. Though a shrewd tactical leader, Suleimani is not a strategist.

 

key points:
  • In May, President Barack Obama issued sanctions against Major General Qassem Suleimani, chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Quds Force, for providing Iranian material support to Syria.
  • To counter Suleimani and the Quds Force in Iraq, Afghanistan, and elsewhere, US strategists need to understand his history of overconfident behavior and military successes.
  • Suleimani's military record shows that he is an accomplished tactical leader, but not an adept strategist.
  • Suleimani's strategic deficiencies not only affected military operations, but also earned him powerful enemies in the politics of the IRGC in the past.