Several media outlets reacted to the U.S. elimination of Tehran’s top general Qasem Soleimani with glowing eulogies, describing him as an “icon,” a “bodybuilder with snowy white hair and “a dapper beard,” and a “brave, charismatic” hero “beloved” by troops.
The U.S. confirmed that it eliminated Soleimani, the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) Al-Quds Force leader who has “‘orchestrated’ attacks on coalition bases in Iraq over the past few months” and is “thought to have directed rocket attacks last week that killed an American civilian contractor in Iraq,” as Breitbart News detailed.
The commander issued a threat to Trump last summer, warning that “we are a nation of martyrdom and that we await him.” Trump designated the IRGC as a terrorist organization last year.
“General Soleimani was actively developing plans to attack American diplomats and service members in Iraq and throughout the region,” the Pentagon said in a statement.
“This strike was aimed at deterring future Iranian attack plans,” it continued. “The United States will continue to take all necessary action to protect our people and our interests wherever they are around the world.”
Several media outlets opted to eulogize Iran’s top general with kingly obituaries.
The New Yorker, for instance, described Soleimani as “a flamboyant former construction worker and bodybuilder with snowy white hair, a dapper beard, and arching salt-and-pepper eyebrows”:
How is The New Yorker eulogizing Qasem Suleimani?
"Suleimani, a flamboyant former construction worker and bodybuilder with snowy white hair, a dapper beard, and arching salt-and-pepper eyebrows…"
— Steve Guest (@SteveGuest) January 3, 2020
Suleimani, a flamboyant former construction worker and bodybuilder with snowy white hair, a dapper beard, and arching salt-and-pepper eyebrows, gained notice during the eight-year war with Iraq, in the nineteen eighties. He rose through the Revolutionary Guard to become head of the Quds Force—an Iranian unit of commandos comparable to the U.S. seals, Delta Force, and Rangers combined—in 1998. He was the most feared and most admired military leader in the region. He famously rallied followers with flowery jihadi rhetoric about the glories of martyrdom. “The war front is mankind’s lost paradise,” Suleimani was quoted as saying, in 2009. “One type of paradise that is portrayed for mankind is streams, beautiful nymphs and greeneries. But there is another kind of paradise.” The front, he said, was “the lost paradise of the human beings.” Thousands of followers died under his leadership.
In a profile detailing the terrorist, the New York Times described him as a “master of Iran’s intrigue” who was viewed as a “larger-than-life hero”:
But in Iran, many saw him as a larger-than-life hero, particularly within security circles. Anecdotes about his asceticism and quiet charisma joined to create an image of a warrior-philosopher who became the backbone of a nation’s defense against a host of enemies.
Times reporter Farnaz Fassihi also tweeted a video of Soleimani reciting poetry, garnering significant backlash on social media:
— Farnaz Fassihi (@farnazfassihi) January 3, 2020
“Folks attacking me for sharing this video: It’s called reporting,” she said in a defensive follow-up tweet. “It’s not an endorsement or sympathy. I share whatever info I get for all to see. That’s all.”
Meanwhile, Bloomberg provided additional background to Soleimani and his uprising, noting that he grew up in an “impoverished family”:
Soleimani joined the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps after the Iranian revolution in 1979. Born to an impoverished family, he rose to prominence while commanding troops during the Iran-Iraq War from 1980-1988, which began when the forces of Iraqi President Saddam Hussein invaded. It ended with as many as a million people dead. Supreme Leader Ayatolah Ali Khamenei promoted him to major general in 2011, after he took over the Quds Force. Over the course of his career, he developed close ties with Kurdish groups in Iraq and later assisted Hezbollah in Lebanon.
CNN followed suit, describing Soleimani as a “brave, charismatic” hero in Iran who was “beloved by the troops”:
Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by a US airstrike ordered by President Donald Trump at Baghdad International Airport on Friday, was hailed as a hero in Iran — brave, charismatic and beloved by the troops.
Iran’s supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, once called him a “living martyr of the revolution.” But the United States viewed Iran’s top general as a ruthless killer.
The Washington Post described Soleimani as an “icon,” with a headline reading, “Iran’s popular Gen. Soleimani became an icon by targeting US.”
The Post wrote in part:
TEHRAN, Iran — For Iranians whose icons since the Islamic Revolution have been stern-faced clergy, Gen. Qassem Soleimani was a popular figure of national resilience in the face of four decades of U.S. pressure.
For the U.S. and Israel, he was a shadowy figure in command of Iran’s proxy forces, responsible for fighters in Syria backing President Bashar Assad and for the deaths of American troops in Iraq.
Solemani survived the horror of Iran’s long war in the 1980s with Iraq to take control of the Revolutionary Guard’s elite Quds Force, responsible for the Islamic Republic’s campaigns abroad.
“Qasem Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to the Associated Press,” USA Today wrote in a tweet, failing to emphasize Soleimani’s role in the death of hundreds of Americans and his approval of the attack on the U.S. Embassy in Baghdad:
Qasem Soleimani rose to prominence by advising forces fighting the Islamic State group in Iraq and in Syria on behalf of embattled Syrian President Bashar Assad, according to the Associated Press. https://t.co/hAZjEOK2yD
— USA TODAY (@USATODAY) January 3, 2020
The president defended the United State’s actions in a tweet on Friday:
….of PROTESTERS killed in Iran itself. While Iran will never be able to properly admit it, Soleimani was both hated and feared within the country. They are not nearly as saddened as the leaders will let the outside world believe. He should have been taken out many years ago!
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) January 3, 2020