Next to Iran’s Supreme Leader, Qasem Soleimani was arguably the most powerful figure in the Islamic republic.
As head of its military abroad known as the Quds Force, Soleimani was the mastermind behind the country’s activities across in the Middle East, and its real foreign minister when it came to matters of war and peace.
He was widely considered an architect of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s war against rebels in Syria, the rise of pro-Iranian paramilitaries in Iraq, the fight against the Islamic State group, and many battles beyond.
Charismatic and often elusive, the silver-haired commander was revered by some, loathed by others, and a source of myths and social media memes.
He had emerged in recent years from a lifetime in the shadows directing covert operations to achieve fame and popularity in Iran, becoming the subject of documentaries, news reports and even pop songs.
As far back as 2013, former CIA officer John Maguire told The New Yorker that Soleimani was “the single most powerful operative in the Middle East”.
When his end came, it was violent and sudden. On 3 January the Pentagon announced that it had carried out a successful operation to kill him, at the direction of US President Donald Trump.