WASHINGTON (Dispatches) -- Six months after the U.S. assassination of Iran’s Quds Force commander General Qassem Soleimani, the Islamic Republic’s sophisticated, international war-fighting machine lives on, venerable U.S. weekly magazine Newsweek says.
Gen. Soleimani’s fiery slaying at Baghdad International Airport in Iraq was the product of a top-secret operation hidden from much of the United States’ own vast espionage network but news of his assassination immediately sparked reactions from across the Middle East and beyond.
According to Newsweek, international experts as well as officials from Iran and the occupying regime of Israel speaking to the magazine all agreed that the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and its esteemed, extraterritorial Quds Force would fight on.
"The strength of the Quds Force is that it does not rely on a single charismatic leader—any more than the Islamic Republic of Iran does,” Barbara Slavin, director of the Atlantic Council’s Future of Iran Initiative, told Newsweek.
"The Quds Force and IRGC are full of veterans of the Iran-Iraq war and other commanders who are now battle-tested in Syria,” she added. "There will be more Soleimanis.”
The fallen general’s successor, Brigadier-General Esmail Qa’ani, has largely maintained a low profile both before and after his sudden promotion in January, the publication said.
He has, however, made some bold moves reportedly visiting Iraq last month and taking a trip last week to Syria, where he released a rare public message to bolster the Iran-affiliated Axis of Resistance against the U.S. and Israel, which has increasingly struck targets linked to Iran in Syria, it added.
"Soleimani has been replaced and his strategy lives on,” Slavin said. "He is a hero and a new martyr for an organization that values such individuals.”
Aniseh Bassiri Tabrizi, a senior research fellow at the International Security Studies department of the Royal United Services Institute, told Newsweek that she didn’t "see any weakening of the Iranian posture” since Gen. Soleimani’s martyrdom.
She said that Qa’ani was presiding over relationships that Iran had built throughout previous decades of hardship, including war and international sanctions, adding Iran and the IRGC showed no signs of switching its strategy or shifting tactics.
"The indication is that Iran is doing the opposite, reinforcing its message after the killing of Soleimani, reinforcing the trends in Iranian foreign policy,” Tabrizi explained.
"The target audience for the Iranian side is the United States,” she said, adding that there was "so far no indication that the U.S. maximum pressure campaign has diminished the Iranian capacity to deliver.”
Newsweek touched on how much "holy shrine defenders” and various aligned fighters are valued in Iran – the people who played an early, critical role in the battle against Daesh terrorists. Leader of the Islamic Revolution Ayatollah Seyyed Ali Khamenei himself famously warned that if Iran did not battle its foes abroad then it would have to fight them at home, the magazine said.
But these wars brought Iran and its allies geographically closer to their archfoe Israel, a close U.S. ally, it added.
According to the publication, Tehran’s growing influence across the Middle East and the defeat of Daesh at the hands of Iran-backed forces has raised concerns among the Islamic Republic’s adversaries.
The U.S. assassination of Gen. Soleimani and Iran’s retaliatory missile strike on Iraqi bases housing U.S. forces in January has so far been the crescendo of an American escalation of tensions, which came after Washington saw its sophisticated schemes in the Middle East go awry.
At the same time, the occupying regime of Israel does not predict an end to Iran’s fighting force, nor its foreign allies, which the official and all three experts interviewed by Newsweek said were now taking on more proactive roles with louder voices—especially Hezbollah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah, a longtime confidant of Gen. Soleimani. Even as Iraqi anti-terror militias appeared to be under pressure from certain quarters, financial crises consumed Lebanon and neighboring Syria and Iran itself dealt with new economic and political challenges, the IRGC has proven to be a resilient and strong force, Newsweek said.
"We don’t see a scenario by which the IRGC ceases to operate just because they lost Soleimani, no not at all,” the Israeli official said.
"As for Iran itself, a country long-accustomed to adversity, the message remains clear. The country will continue to strive to establish a strategic depth across the region and to wage a campaign of maximum resistance against external forces working to defeat the Islamic Republic,” the magazine wrote.
"When the U.S. cowardly assassinated General Soleimani, it didn’t weaken Iran. It was a gift to the terrorists like Daesh who celebrated Soleiman’s demise,” Iranian mission to the United Nations spokesperson Alireza Miryousefi told Newsweek. "By murdering the region’s counter-terrorism lead general, the U.S. worked in favor of terrorists rather than fighting them.”
"The assassination has not changed our strategic calculations and Iran remains committed to fighting terror based on its own and region’s interests,” he added.