Experts Warn Soleimani Killing Could Prompt Chaos in Middle East

The killing of Qassem Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike Friday is a devastating blow to pro-Iranian militias across the Middle East, some experts said, warning that the militia groups could turn the region into further chaos through retaliation violence.

The powerful Iranian general, along with Iraqi Shiite militia leader Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and several other aides, was struck at the Iraqi Baghdad airport in a U.S. operation directed by President Donald Trump. The killing has been received with rage among the Shiite groups, with the Iranian government vowing “a crushing revenge” against the U.S.

“Iran’s web of patron-client relationships and proxies was largely Soleimani’s creation, and it was he who brilliantly developed and managed these relationships to Tehran’s advantage,” said Jonathan Spyer, a research fellow at Philadelphia-based think tank the Middle East Forum.

Spyer said that Soleimani used informal relations developed over a long period of time with Shiite militia leaders across the Middle East. Such relationships, he added, cannot easily be bequeathed to a successor.

Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei Friday appointed Brigadier-General Esmail Ghaani to replace Soleimani as the new commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Quds Force. Khamenei said in a statement that Ghaani was among “the most prominent” IRGC commanders and will continue Soleimani’s path in directing the Quds Force.
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