January 24, 2011
Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani: A Biography
This is the first in a series of Middle Eastern Outlooks about Qassem Suleimani.
Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani was appointed chief of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) sometime between September 10, 1997, and March 21, 1998, during the rise of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Suleimani’s appointment was no accident. He was chosen in part because he is a native of a mountainous village in Kerman, which is both geographically and culturally closer to Afghanistan than Qom, Suleimani’s commonly believed place of birth. Suleimani also had extensive battlefield experience in the civil war in Kurdish regions of Iran during the immediate aftermath of the revolution, was a seasoned commander in the war against Iraq from 1980 to 1988, and fought against drug cartels near the Iran/Afghanistan border from 1988 until he was appointed Quds Force chief. This Outlook provides biographical background on Suleimani that shows why he was chosen as IRGC Quds Force chief in the first place.
Key points in this Outlook:
- Little information is available in English-language sources on Brigadier General Qassem Suleimani.
- By piecing together Persian-language sources, we can begin to understand Suleimani’s life and why he was appointed Quds Force chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps.
- As the Iran/Iraq war generation is dominating the politics, military, economy, and even spiritual life of the Islamic Republic, US policy analysts should pay greater attention to the Persian-language material from the 1980s and other sources discussing the formative phase of this generation.