Qassem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force, the elite unit of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) operating outside Iran's borders, is the most senior figure operating on behalf of Iran's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei in Iraq. Soleimani, who is close to Khamenei and is considered his protégé, is a senior representative of Iran's ideological stream, which opposes the trend of détente with the United States and the West.
Previously, Tehran refrained from revealing its military involvement in Iraq and even denied it. Recently, however, the Iranian and other media began to publish numerous photos and footage of Soleimani in Iraqi cities in the company of commanders and fighters of Shi'ite and Kurdish pro-Iranian militias, as well as Shi’ite soldiers of the Iraqi army, that are fighting the Islamic State (ISIS) in that country (see photo appendix below).
The Iranian regime views the Qods Force's anti-ISIS activity in Iraq as a useful tool for expanding its regional influence and improving its public image in the Middle East. On October 30, 2014, the daily Kayhan, which is close to Khamenei and is a mouthpiece of the ideological stream, explained that the Qods Force's activity in Iraq enhances Tehran's regional popularity and influence, and establishes commander Soleimani as a savior in the eyes of the Shi'ite and Iranian public, and in the eyes of the world: "Qassem Soleimani had a prominent role in operations to liberate [the Iraqi cities of] Jurf Al-Sakhar and Amirli. The presence of an Iranian strategist and believer in friendly neighboring countries, and his rescue of people of other faiths – Yazidis, Christians, Shi'ites, Sunnis, etc. – not only enhances his popularity in Iran and among the peoples of the world, but also enhances the Islamic Republic's popularity and influence in the region."
As part of the Iranian media campaign lionizing Soleimani and his role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq, the Iranian online channel Nasr TV posted an English-language video describing significant milestones in his life, and the IRGC-affiliated Fars news agency likewise published an article in his honor. The Fars article praised him as "the liberator of Iraq" who coordinated and supervised the Shi'ite and Kurdish military efforts and produced significant victories, in contrast to the 40-country coalition that failed to produce such results despite all its resources. According to Fars, Soleimani's widely-covered campaign in Iraq has been successful not only in defeating ISIS but in convincing the region and the world of the effectiveness of Iran's long arm.
On September 27, 2014, Defapress.ir, a website affiliated with Iranian security circles, published a speech that Soleimani delivered in 2007 at a conference honoring the "martyrs" of the Iran-Iraq war. In the speech, Soleimani spoke in praise of jihad and steadfastness, and said that Iran, which is guided by God, is undefeatable and unstoppable. He added that the West refrains from attacking it because of its deterrent capability that it acquired through its martyrs and through the activity of the thousands of organizations that serve it, such as Hizbullah in Lebanon. The speech is an ode to the war and the jihad that gave rise to individuals who subsequently became leading figures in Iran.
Soleimani stressed, while praising martyrdom, that he himself yearned to gain the exalted status of a martyr, and added that jihad is a supreme value in war that allows Iranian fighters to compensate for their technological inferiority and lack of operational readiness and to defeat the enemy.  He emphasized that absolute obedience to the regime of the rule of the jurisprudent was also a decisive factor in war.
The following are excerpts from the Fars article in praise of Soleimani and from Soleimani's 2007 speech; the appendix presents a sampling of photos recently published in the Iranian media showing him in Iraqi cities in the company of commanders and fighters of pro-Iranian militias.
Fars News Agency: The Presence Of Qassem Soleimani, 'The Savior Of Iraq', In Every Part Of That Country Yielded The Iraqi Victory Over ISIS
The Fars article stated: "The long arm of the Islamic Republic of Iran, namely the Qods Force, with the help of its advisors and weapons, first managed to prevent the collapse of the Iraqi state, and then, with the help of the Iraqis [themselves], liberated the cities and sites conquered by terror… At first some people believed that no photos of Qassem Soleimani should be published, but gradually, as [these photos] proliferated, and by selecting the time and place they were taken and the people with whom he was photographed, it became clear that they could convey messages to the region and the world, [and] these messages were well-understood by the regional and international parties.
“[Soleimani] was present in every part of Iraq, from the north to the center and in every place where there were battles and fighting and victory was achieved – and the Iraqi forces viewed his presence and the presence of his troops as the factor that had led to their victory. These media campaigns [publicizing him and his activity] … were so effective that today the entire region and the world recognize him as the one who rescued Iraq from the talons of terror, and even the Americans, pressured by this media wave, conceded that Iran had a constructive role in Iraq… Iran entered the struggle against terror in its neighbor [Iraq] out of a sense of duty and a forward looking [approach], and, while supporting its neighbor and the [Shi'ite] holy places, is defending its own national security beyond its borders – and the person responsible for managing this issue is Qassem Soleimani.
“And so, with a minimum of resources, as opposed to the 40-nation coalition that has billions of dollars and weapons at its disposal, we are [now] seeing images of this senior [commander, Soleimani] in various parts of Iraq, from Amirli to Iraqi Kurdistan, Saladin [governorate], Samarra, Jurf Al-Sakhar, Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf. The retired American general John Allen [a commander of the coalition against ISIS], who was one of America's senior commanders in Afghanistan and Iraq in 2006-2013, did not expect that this senior [commander, Soleimani,] would surpass all the weapons and air forces of the region's countries and of the international [partners] in the coalition [against ISIS]. [He did not expect that Soleimani], with some of his comrades, would pass through the Iraqi cities one by one, and, while coordinating [the activity of] the Kurdish Peshmerga, the Iraqi army and the popular volunteer forces in Iraq, would lead them in the struggle against ISIS and would produce a victory over this takfiri terrorist group – victories that the 40-nation coalition can only observe from the skies."
Qassem Soleimani's 2007 Speech
Martyrdom Is A Great Blessing For Which I Pray
"In light of the prestige earned by the martyrs, I pray to God for my own end to be martyrdom as well, and that He will not deny me this mighty blessing granted to outstanding individuals. On the frontlines [of the Iran-Iraq War], on the eves of operations and under the most difficult conditions... I felt the divine backing and guiding me, and I entered the war's most difficult arenas with reliance on God...
"In essence, it can be deduced from Koranic verses, traditions, and hadiths that man is incapable of fully grasping [how lofty] the rank of the martyrs is... Sometimes a man turns to his friend and implores him, 'Pray [for me] that I will be martyred.' Usually we respond politely, 'No! May God keep you [alive], you are necessary to us.' [But praying for martyrdom] is a magnificent prayer... a magnificent prayer..."
Jihad Was Our Guiding Light In The War Against Iraq
"Does the current generation, which has already been integrated into several of our apparatuses, differ from the war generation? In several dimensions, yes. This generation is more devout than the generation of the Iran-Iraq War; it has more knowledge and more spiritual means than that generation. At the same time, however, in the apparatuses today, we do not see the atmosphere that prevailed on the front lines [back then]. Why is that? What happened on our front lines that made children grow up like that [back then]?...
"[Back then,] jihad was the first foundation of all our operations in the war, including military operations. Jihad broke through impasses, because it does not acknowledge them. Military logic says that we could not have carried out operations such as Bayt Al-Muqadas, Al-Fatah Al-Moubin, Tariq Al-Quds, and Al-Fajr VIII, and Karbala V, and so on. We did not have capabilities equal [to those of our enemy]; our means were absolutely primitive compared to theirs… Look at their [i.e. the martyrs'] faces... Many were young and hadn't yet grown facial hair... This is the spirit of jihad that smashed the impasses and showed resistance in the jihad arena until [these martyrs'] final breath.
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"The second foundation for war was morality. [The war] was a massive gathering that lasted 3,000 days, during which people of various ages and from various places came together, took up arms, fought, and showed no signs of internal conflict, insults, curses, or bitterness... None thought about [military] rank. The term most widespread among them was 'brother.' None was above or below the other. There were no uprisings. Courtesy prevailed on the front lines.
"The third foundation of the war was spirituality. I have spoken of this at length, and I have no problem repeating it... Even on the front lines, there was an atmosphere of hajj – it was a real pilgrimage... Much has been said about the spirituality that prevailed during the war, and we should continue talking about it.
"The fourth foundation was worship of God: Absolute obedience to God, working for God, ignoring all that was not God. This was an important factor in the war.
"The fifth foundation was the rule [of the jurisprudent]. Over 90% of fighters never saw the Imam [Khomeini] up close, but still they loved him and sacrificed their lives with absolute loyalty to make him smile, to please him, and to ease his mind. This [approach] was not only towards the Imam [Khomeini]. They knew that their commander was appointed by the Imam, and obeyed him as they would the Imam himself – whether he commanded a brigade, a division, or a corps – and there was no rebellion. I do not remember anyone telling me or other commanders on the battlefield, 'I will not participate in the operation.'
"These are the five foundations of the war that shaped its moves... There were people on the front with diverse views... most of them were martyred. These five foundations gave rise in our war to three unique attributes:
"The first attribute is spiritual transcendence... No one can deny that the Iran-Iraq War was the source of the great spiritual upheavals in our society. Even though it was not welcomed, [the war] became a cultural revolution in [Iranian] society.
"The second attribute is philosophical transcendence... The war was like a religious seminary. At a religious seminary, students debate with each other so as to fulfill their weighty obligation and to be ready; the battlefield was like that too. The fighters, who sought redemption, imitated the [students at the] religious seminaries. This led to expertise among the children of the war [i.e. the fighters].
"The front lines were a crucible; those who emerged from them were for the most part mature. In war, a cowardly man cannot be brave, but the path is paved for the brave man to show his courage. A devout man's faith is strengthened, while a man whose faith is weak cannot hide his weakness... All qualities emerge in war; nothing remains secret...
"The third attribute, which exists today too, and examples of it are prominent in our time as well, is that the youths who were more deeply involved in the war have in today's society become the more successful administrators – because they administered [affairs] during the most difficult of times.
"We must identify the factors that created this admirable upbringing and these admirable individuals, so that we can propagate this in our society today."
Iran Has Thousands Of Organizations Like Hizbullah
"What makes Iran's current enemies hesitate before attacking is not political hesitation or concern for the world's [possible response]... What stops them is [Iran's] eight years of war against Iraq, and other issues that the enemy has understood very well.
"I will never say that the enemy will not attack us. There may be some inappropriate operation [by the enemy], but we are prepared for any enemy action, and any strike against us will be defeated and is destined to fail. They may do something, but they cannot know its outcome, and cannot assess how successful it will be.
"No incident studied by the enemy is more difficult and harsher than the 2006 Lebanon war. There is no enemy more classic and more highly trained than Israel. They saw how, incredibly, the world's most powerful army was defeated and destroyed by a small organization named Hizbullah.
"Iran has thousands of organizations like Hizbullah, and millions of people who are like Hizbullah activists. In effect, this nation [i.e. Iran] is undefeatable; because of its reliance on God, and because of its belief in the sacred Imams and its confidence in the victory of God, it continues on its path..."
Appendix: Photos Of Qassem Soleimani In Iraq
Photos published recently in the Iranian media show Soleimani with the heads of the main Iranian-backed Shi'ite militias in Iraq and play an important role in the fighting against ISIS there: Hadi Al-Amiri, commander of the Badr Brigades; Qais Khaz’ali, head of Asaib Ahl Al-Haqq; and Shibel Al-Zaidi, head of the Imam 'Ali Brigades. These publications are meant to showcase the success of the forces supervised by Soleimani in repelling ISIS's attempts to capture the Shi'ite holy places in Iraq, especially the sacred city of Karbala. Accordingly, many of the photos show him in Karbala and in other strategic cities, such as Jurf Al-Sakhar, Samarra and Amirli. Soleimani was also shown in the company of Peshmerga forces, to reflect Tehran's rallying to the aid of the Kurdish war effort against ISIS in Iraqi Kurdistan and its influence among the Kurds of this region. The following is a sampling of the photos:
Soleimani in Karbala (image: Jamnews.ir, October 28, 2014)
Soleimani at anti-aircraft post near Samarra (image: Tasnim, Iran, November 1, 2014)
Soleimani in Iraq with Badr Brigade commander Hadi Al-'Amiri and Asaib Al-Haqq deputy commander Muhammad Tabtabai after the liberation of Jurf Al-Sakhar (image: Abna.ir, October 25, 2014)
Soleimani with Hadi Al-'Amiri after the liberation of Al-Amirli (image: Mashreghnews.ir, October 10, 2014)
Soleimani with Asaib Ahl Al-Haqq commander Qais Khaz’ali (Image: twitter.com/mehdilashkari, August 22, 2014)
Soleimani with Asaib Ahl Al-Haqq fighters (image: ammariyon.ir, October 18, 2014)
Soleimani with Imam 'Ali Brigades commander Shibel Al-Zaidi (image: Abna.ir, October 24, 2014)
Soleimani with Shi'ite fighters (image: Defapress.ir, October 14, 2014)
Soleimani with Kurdish Peshmerga fighters (image: Tasnim, Iran, October 29, 2014)
 Soleimani's senior status in Iranian regime circles was evident from the presence of many senior regime officials at his mother's funeral last year. See MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5483, "Senior Iranian Officials, Representatives Of Iran's Proxies Console Qods Force Commander Qassem Suleimani At His Mother's Funeral," October 17, 2013.
 Kayhan (Iran), October 30, 2014.
 For a previous speech by Soleimani in praise of martyrdom, see MEMRI Special Dispatch No. 5716, IRGC Qods Force Commander Soleimani: 'War Is A Grand School For Love, Morals, [And] Loyalty', April 20, 2014.
 Fars (Iran), October 28, 2014.