According to Wikipedia, General Qasem Soleimani “was promoted to Major General by Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. Khamenei was described as having a close relationship with him, calling Soleimani a “living martyr” and helping him financially.” [Source]
In my analysis, killing Soleimani gives Iranian President Hassan #Rouhani an opportunity to increase his political and military power, against Supreme Leader Khamenei (who was close to Soleimani), by choosing his successor. Giving Rouhani more power, and Khamenei less, is against U.S. interests as HR desires nuclear weapons and eventually a war with the West, while Khamenei seems to be opposed or at least disinterested in those goals.
Rouhani is an extremist Twelver, who believes that Iran must start an apocalyptic war in order to usher in the reappearance of al-Mahdi, a tenth century cleric, the 12th in a series of successors to Mahammad (PBUH). He and other Twelvers believe that this war will lead to a worldwide Islamic kingdom, such that all human persons will convert to Islam or be put to death. He literally has aspirations to conquer the world.
ISIS leaders have similar beliefs and goals. They also are extremist Twelvers, who seek a worldwide Islamic kingdom, and the destruction of all other religions and belief systems.
So killing Soleimani might harm Iran’s military short-term goals, but it helps Rouhani in the long-term, by giving him an opportunity to replace Soleimani, a supporter of Khamenei, with someone who supports or is controlled by Rouhani.
NY Times: “As the leader of the Quds Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, which leads Iran’s operations abroad, General Suleimani, who was 62, was the country’s top security and intelligence commander. He was behind nearly all military and intelligence operations orchestrated by Iran in the past two decades and directed Iran-backed militias in the fight against the Islamic State.”
Rouhani’s goal of an apocalyptic war requires that he remove Khamenei, who is believed to oppose the possession and use of nuclear weapons by Iran. If Rouhani could remove Khamenei, and take over as Supreme Leader while he is still President of Iran, he would have enough power to begin his intended war. The replacement of Soleimani with a supporter of Rouhani is a big step toward removing or replacing Khamenei.
Rouhani would need Khamenei’s full support, if he wishes to use nuclear weapons or threaten to use them, in order to make political and military gains in the region, and eventually go to war. That support is highly unlikely, so I expect Rouhani to try to replace Khamenei, so as to be both President and Supreme Leader at the same time. Rouhani is not eligible to run for office in the next Iranian presidential election in 2021, so he must make his move to gain more power prior to that election. I also expect that, if he becomes Supreme Leader, he will cancel the presidential elections and continue to hold both offices.
With the death of Suleimani, Rouhani now has a pretext for escalation of his conflict with the West. As I’ve cautioned before, Iran probably already has some number of nuclear bombs. They are simply waiting for the right circumstances to announce they are a nuclear power. Then they will consolidate power among the Arab Muslim nations of the Middle East and northern Africa, and increase their threats against the West.
UPDATED: Suleimani has been replaced by his deputy, Esmail Qaani, on the orders of Khamenei. Look for Rouhani to remove and replace Qaani with someone under his influence, rather than the influence of Khamenei.
Ronald L. Conte Jr.