Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei on Friday named Esmail Qaani the head of the Revolutionary Guards’ elite foreign operations unit after the group’s commander, Major General Qassem Soleimani, was killed by the United States in an airstrike at the Baghdad international airport earlier in the day, AFP reported.
“Following the martyrdom of the glorious general haj Qasem Soleimani, I name Brigadier General Esmail Qaani as the commander of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps,” Khamenei said in a statement. “The orders for the (Quds) force remain exactly as they were during the leadership of martyr Soleimani.”
Khamenei described Qaani as among the “most decorated commanders” of the Revolutionary Guards in the 1980-’88 war with Iraq. Khamenei also urged members of the group to cooperate with Qaani.
Earlier in the day, Khamenei mourned the loss of Soleimani and said “martyrdom was the reward for his ceaseless efforts in all these years”. He also declared three days of mourning for the military leader, and vowed to take “severe revenge” against those responsible for the assassination.
Friday’s airstrike also killed top Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, who was the deputy commander of Iran-backed Iraqi militias known as the Popular Mobilisation Forces, or PMF. He was reportedly an advisor to Soleimani.
The Pentagon confirmed that US President Donald Trump had ordered the strikes. After Soleimani’s death, Trump tweeted an image of the US flag without any explanation. The death of Iran’s most revered military leader is expected to be potential turning point in West Asia, and may draw severe retaliation from Iran and the forces it backs in the region against Israel and American interests.
Meanwhile, oil prices surged over 4% across the world, triggering concerns of a conflict over fuel. “They [traders] are afraid that Iran will retaliate to the killing of Soleimani,” said Nordea Markets analyst Thina Margrethe Saltvedt, according to AFP. She added that Tehran could target “oil installations or transport infrastructure”.