By Shahram Tavana
Following the death of Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force, Khamenei appointed Esmail Qaani, Suleimani’s deputy as the new commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corp’s unit responsible for the regime’s terrorist operations.
For the past 40 years, Qaani has always played a major role in suppressing protests in Iran and killings of civilians in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and other countries in the region. After the Iran-Iraq War, Qaani became the commander of the Kurdistan Regional Intelligence. He was also the head of the IRGC’s Joint Chief of Staff and deputy commander of the IRGC Air Force.
Qaani, who is on the US list of sanctions, has organized a widespread weapons and money trafficking network for the regime’s proxy terrorist groups in various countries, including in Afghanistan, Lebanon, Syria and Iraq.
The message of Khamenei’s speedy appointment of a new commander is that its business as usual for the Quds Force. According to the text which announced the appointment of Brigadier General Qaani, “The Force’s plans are identical to its plans under Soleimani’s command.”
One may ask if the Quds Force’s capabilities, under its new commander, will be the same as before. The answer is an absolute NO. The most crucial challenge facing the Quds Force is to fill the vacuum of Soleimani. After all, Soleimani represented an essential part of the identity of the Quds Force. Without him, it is tough for the Quds Force to be as influential as before.
On the other hand, even though Qaani has been in contact and working with the leaders of Iranian proxy groups in the region for the past 12 years, his relationship with them will never be like Soleimani’s.
It is highly unlikely that Qaani and the Quds Force will be able to prove that without Soleimani the Force can still be in charge of Iran’s missile capabilities, and still wield a security and diplomatic influence on Iran’s Mideast policies.
On January 7, the Speaker of the Iranian Parliament announced that with Khamenei’s permission 200 million Euros from the “National Development Fund” would be given to the Quds Force. The aim of the extra funding is to fill the void caused by Soleimani’s demise as well as to fund the regime’s terrorist proxies to continue its influence in the region, especially in Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen.
Before this, 200 million euros from the fund was allocated for the regime’s defense budget.
As most political observers say, the killing of Soleimani is a turning point in regional equations and an irreparable blow to the regime even with the immediate appointment of a new commander and funding.