Four years ago, the US carried out a drone strike to assassinate Qassem Soleimani, the head of Iran’s covert operations. Soleimani was a highly recognizable military commander in the Middle East and had accumulated a cult-like following due to his charisma and leadership skills. He used the Quds Force he commanded to establish a network of regional militias that expanded Iran’s military influence in the Arab world. His death sparked widespread mourning, with his funeral attracting hundreds of thousands of attendees and resulting in more than 50 fatalities due to overcrowding.
Ismail Kenny now leads the Quds Force, focusing on behind-the-scenes work. Since taking command, Kenny has worked to consolidate Iranian-backed militias from Baghdad to the Red Sea. These armed organizations have been capable of launching regional flare-ups that could lead to wider conflict if they were provoked further by attacks on Israeli or American bases. Kenny is working diligently to ensure that such attacks do not trigger an all-out war.
Soleimani’s killing was an attempt by the US to disrupt Iran’s chain of command, but it ultimately only made things worse by inspiring wilder attacks on American targets. The US government has claimed that there was no evidence linking Iran directly to the attack on American soldiers, despite tensions between the two countries continuing to escalate following Soleimani’s death.
Kenny and other senior Iranian government officials are working hard to keep their allies from drawing fire amid rising tensions in the region. As tensions continue to simmer, it remains unclear whether this effort will be successful or if another major conflict is inevitable in the near future.