The U.S. assassination of General Qassem Soleimani, the leader of Iran’s Qods Force, was commemorated across the Middle East on the second anniversary of his death. Soleimani was widely considered the mastermind behind Iranian interventions in the region and support for militant proxies.
Under his command, the Qods Force reportedly provided arms, training and financial support to militias and political movements in at least six countries: Bahrain, Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian Territories, Syria and Yemen. Several allies commemorated his death in January 2022. The following is a rundown of major events.
On January 3, Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah, praised Soleimani for supporting the resistance network of Iran’s allies opposed to the United States, Israel, and others. In a televised speech, he also encouraged Iraqis to expel U.S. forces. “The blood of martyrs Soleimani and Muhandis is crying out to the minds in the Arab and Islamic worlds,” he said, as pictures of both men loomed behind him.
Another Hezbollah leader, Sheikh Naim Qassem, told Iran newspaper that the “resistance movement” of militias that Soleimani supported “will not come to an end.” He warned that many fighters will “continue the path of the martyr.”
Hassan Nasrallah, Secretary General of Hezbollah
In a speech on Jan. 3, 2022: “Over the last two years, there have been major battles that affirmed that the [axis of resistance] was still following in the footsteps of the two leaders, such as in the battle of Seif al Quds (the conflict between Israel and armed groups in the Gaza Strip in May 2021).”
“The martyr Qassem Soleimani resisted the American occupation and contributed to the establishment of the Iraqi resistance factions and provided them with money, weapons, strength, vigor, hope, confidence and enthusiasm until the great victory and the expulsion of the American forces from Iraq.”
“Is there a sane equation between the United States and the Islamic Republic of Iran, which supported and protected Iraq?”
“Iraq must have a stance on who the killer is and who the martyr is.”
“The United States occupied and tyrannized Iraq and committed massacres there before the assassination of Soleimani.”
“The United States is a historically unmatched hypocritical assassin.”
“The Islamic Republic was the first to stand by the Iraq people in the face of ISIS, which was brought upon by Washington.”
“Tolerating or turning a blind eye to the presence of U.S. forces in Iraq is killing martyrs Soleimani and al Muhandis all over again.”
“The blood of martyrs Soleimani and al Muhandis is crying out to the minds and the consciences in the Arab and Islamic worlds.”
Sheikh Naim Qassem, Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah
In an interview with Iran newspaper published on Jan. 3, 2022: “General Soleimani took the responsibility to set up the IRGC Qods Force with the aim of trying to liberate Palestine. He was successful in turning the Qods Force into the most efficient force in the region.”
“Iran's Qods Force and Iraq's PMF has been fighting three occupation forces (Israel, the United States and Sunni jihadist groups). The resistance forces have also tried to push back the American military forces out of the region. Martyr Soleimani played key role in confronting occupiers and takfiri terrorists in Syria and in the whole region.
“Regional nations consider Martyr Soleimani and al Muhandis as unique commanders whose footprints are visible in every triumph against Daesh (also known as ISIS or the Islamic State). The top resistance figures are seen also as heroes and role models for the nations around the region.
“The end of the American military presence in West Asia would end up halting all of their plots for the region. The Americans cannot implement their conspiracies as long as the resistance movement is standing against their plots.”
“The resistance movement will not come to an end after the martyrdom of a commander, because many pro-resistance fighters will continue the path of the martyr.”
Iran-backed militias held a parade in Soleimani’s honor on December 30. Fighters carried banners that read “We are all Qassem.” Soleimani and the Qods Force had played a key role in establishing local militias as well as bringing Shiite fighters from Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan to support the Assad regime against Syrian rebels and jihadist groups, including ISIS.
On January 3, a memorial ceremony for Soleimani and Muhandis was held at the Sayyidah Zaynab Shrine near Damascus, a hallowed site for Shiites. In the northern city of Aleppo, another ceremony was held on January 4. Iran-backed militias unveiled a monument to Soleimani and Muhandis near Aleppo on January 5.
On January 4, U.S.-led coalition forces launched pre-emptive strikes on several rocket launch sites near the Green Village, a base in eastern Syria that houses U.S. troops. The sites “posed an imminent threat” according to an official from the U.S.-led coalition to defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq.
On January 5, “Iran-supported malign actors” fired eight rockets at the base, according to the coalition, which fired six artillery rounds in response. About 900 U.S. troops are stationed in Syria to help the Kurdish-led Syrian Democratic Forces (SDF) contain ISIS.
On January 1, thousands of people gathered in Baghdad to commemorate the deaths of Soleimani and Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, a senior commander of Kataib Hezbollah, an Iraqi militia supported by Iran. Muhandis was also the deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF), an umbrella of armed groups eventually incorporated into the Iraqi military to fight ISIS in 2014.
Iraqi demonstrators chanted “death to America” and called for the withdrawal of the remaining U.S. forces in the country. Many waved PMF flags and stomped on American and Israeli flags on the ground.
Militia leaders aligned with Tehran pledged to confront the United States. Qais al Khazali, the head of Asaib Ahl al Haq, vowed that the “resistance” would “force the American occupation forces to leave Iraq.” The assassinations were “a crime against the sovereignty of Iraq,” Faleh al Fayyad, the head of the PMF, told the gathering.
On January 2, hundreds of PMF supporters, including families with children, held a candle-lit vigil near Baghdad International Airport, where U.S. missiles landed on the car carrying Soleimani and Muhandis. The burned-out shell of the car has become a monument to the two men.
🔻 New photo shows the remnant of the bomb-laden drone that targeted the US forces in Baghdad's Camp Victory today.— Sardar Sattar (@SardarSattar) January 3, 2022
🔻 "Soleimani's Revenge" is written on the drone in Arabic. #Iraq #Baghdad #US #Iran pic.twitter.com/oilPiiS0cc
On January 3, the U.S. forces in Iraq shot down two armed drones approaching a military base near Baghdad International Airport that hosts U.S. military advisors . “Soleimani’s revenge” was written on one wing of the drones. “Revenge operations for our leaders” was written on another wing.
On January 4, Iraqi forces shot down two armed drones approaching Ain al Asad, an air base in western Anbar province that hosts U.S. troops.
No group claimed responsibility for the two attacks, but Iran-backed militias have targeted coalition forces using drones in the past. At least four Iranian allies have demonstrated drone capabilities. Pentagon spokesperson John Kirby said that the two attacks in January were “very much in keeping with the kind of attacks we've seen from Iran-backed militias in Iraq and in Syria, and so obviously our working-level assumption is that such groups were responsible for these.”
On January 5, a Katyusha rocket hit an Iraqi base hosting U.S. forces near Baghdad International Airport. It did not appear to cause any damage or injuries. In a separate attack, five rockets reportedly hit Ain al Asad base. Three rockets fell short. An obscure group called Qassem al Jabarayn claimed responsibility.
In the Gaza Strip, a commemoration ceremony was held for Soleimani and Muhandis on January 3. “We remember Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Qods Force, which was not given an Iranian name, or an Arabic name, or a name in Persian, he named it al Qods, because he knows the importance of Jerusalem and knows it is in the heart of all Muslims," Mahmoud al Zahar, a senior Hamas official, told the gathering. “Those who rejoiced his death will be remembered as the deviants and the Zionist traitors of the Arab world.” The event was organized by the Palestinian Committee for International Qods Day, a holiday created by Iran in 1979 to express support for the Palestinian cause.
Hamas, a political movement and militia supported by Iran, has controlled the coastal territory since 2007. Billboards with portraits of Soleimani were put up on Gaza’s streets in the runup to the anniversary. In video footage shared on social media, some Gazans tore down some of the billboards.
Ziad al Nakhalah, the head of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, another militia supported by Iran, praised Soleimani for his opposition to the United States and Israel. The Americans “shed Martyr Soleimani’s blood because he was the chief barrier in the face of the United States and the Zionist regime’s policies,” Nakhalah said at a commemoration ceremony in Beirut, Lebanon, on January 4. He added that missiles fired at Israel “were first placed in our hands under Qassem Soleimani’s supervision.”
On January 3, Abdul Malik al Houthi, leader of the Houthi political movement and militia, praised Soleimani as a “soldier of Islam” in an open letter to the general’s family. “Martyr Soleimani will remain immortal in the conscience of people in all generations,” he wrote.
The same day, the Houthis, a Yemeni rebel group backed by Iran, seized an Emirati ship off the coast of the port of Hodeida. The United Arab Emirates is part of a Saudi-led coalition that has been fighting the Houthis since 2015. The ship’s cargo included medical equipment from a dismantled field hospital, the coalition claimed. But the Houthis aired pictures of captured military equipment, including trucks, inflatable rafts and rifles. Saudi state television countered that the Houthis placed weapons on the ship after it was captured. The incident coincided with the anniversary of Soleimani’s death, although the Houthis did not connect the seizure to the date.
Houthi leader Abdul Malik al Houthi
In a letter to Soleimani’s family on Jan. 3, 2022: “Hajj Qassem Soleimani was steady and steadfast, the signals of his sincerity with God were his unrelenting determination and perseverance in working with all seriousness, great attention, and dedication for the sake of Allah Almighty.”
Soleimani was “a soldier of Islam, present with his outstanding attention and great contribution in all arenas and fields of confrontation.”
“Martyr Soleimani will remain immortal in the conscience of people in all generations.”
Fadl Abu Talib, Houthi’s political bureau representative
In an interview with Islam Times on Jan 3. 2022: “The martyr Soleimani is the martyr of the entire nation in its battle for independence, confronting arrogance and confronting the American and Israeli enemy. He also had strong and honorable positions on the side of the oppressed Yemeni people against the brutal American-Saudi aggression and the unjust siege on the Yemeni people.”
“Certainly, the blood of Martyr Soleimani, Hajj Abu Mahdi and their companions and their sacrifice in the cause of God and the oppressed will not be in vain. Just as their jihad yielded victory, honor and conquest, so their martyrdom and sacrifice will have a greater impact and victory, God willing, on the level of the Islamic nation in general and on the level of the Yemeni people in particular.”
“Martyr Soleimani was a Mujahid in the cause of God Almighty since the beginning of his youth, honest and sincere with God Almighty, and distinguished by their faith, strength, effectiveness and movement, and he continued on this pace of faith without stopping since his launch under the banner of wilayat with Imam Khomeini…”
“It remains for us to affirm our standing alongside the free people of the nation in the battle of dignity, independence and freedom against American and Israeli arrogance and criminality, which necessitates all Muslims to be united as a solid structure, and to realize that the enemy targets all of them without exception, and seeks to control them, and that this advanced front in confronting the enemy represented by the axis of resistance and the free people of the nation is an impenetrable shield for the nation.”
Garrett Nada, managing editor of The Iran Primer, assembled this report.