Soleimani's ascent to power began during the 1979 Iranian revolution that led to the establishment of an Islamic Republic. He rose through the ranks of Revolutionary Guards’ Quds Force and his proximity with the supreme leader helped him. In 1998 he became the head of the Guards.
After that, he was instrumental in shaping the foreign policy of Iran, which is surrounded by hostile neighbours and is involved in several political battles across the region.
To tackle Israel in Lebanon — where Israel had occupied some territory — Soleimani supervised a sophisticated campaign of guerrilla warfare, ambushes, suicide bombings, and targeted killings of senior Israeli officers and attacks on Israeli defence posts. Eventually, Israel withdrew from Lebanon in May 2000, in a major victory for Soleimani against an enemy heavily backed by the US.
During the US-Iraq war, which began in 2003, Iran
backed insurgents in the region and helped them launch clandestine attacks on US convoys and posts. The help Soleimani offered Iraqi insurgents can be linked to Shiites’ predominance in Iraq, just like in Iran.
When the Arab Spring galvanised almost every other country in West Asia, Soleimani once again became the points person for Iran.
When the rise of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) began in 2012, Soleimani oversaw a recruiting drive of militia fighters from countries like Iraq, Afghanistan and Pakistan. They were airlifted to Syria to aid Bashar al-Assad’s forces in key battles.