Ask any American intelligence analyst or military officer and they’ll tell you that Qassem Soleimani, the head of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ elite Qods Force, is a terrorist. He’s responsible for the deaths of hundreds of Americans and worked assiduously to destabilize Iraq in the wake of its liberation to signal to those across the region that American intervention was more a curse than blessing.

Ask many Iranians about Soleimani and they will describe him as a hero. Many of Iran’s leaders talk, but Soleimani does. And while Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei lectures from a chair behind a flower-decked dais, Soleimani drinks tea with Iranian soldiers and the proxies Iran supports in the field.

Increasingly, however, in Iraq and elsewhere, Soleimani has a different image: that of deal-crafter and master diplomat. Whereas American officials once pulled all-nighters in smoke-filled rooms with Iraqi politicians until the Iraqis reached a hard-fought consensus or compromise, because of the personality of ambassadors sent to Baghdad, fears about security, or design, the United States has largely deferred that role to Iran.

Against the backdrop of the Kirkuk crisis, it was Soleimani who brokered a deal between the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan, Shiite militias, and the Iraqi federal government to avoid bloodshed. For all the talk of Iran’s sectarianism — and make no mistake, Iran is sectarian — even Sunni politicians talk about discussions and negotiations with Soleimani in order to get things done, get their voice heard, and de-escalate crises.

It’s not just in Iraq: In Syria, too, Soleimani has been a presence. He is helping the Bashar Assad regime and Hezbollah consolidate control, in addition to facilitating the import of Iranian weaponry and the dispatch of Iranian forces. At the same time, he is patching together tribal and political coalitions that have helped tip the balance of that conflict back in favor of Assad. And, while American analysts rightly point out that Soleimani’s recent trips to Russia violate U.N. sanctions, at the same time, those trips also underscore Soleimani’s role.

Source » washingtonexaminer