Photograph by Anadolu/Getty Images

Major General Qasem Soleimani

To Middle Eastern Shi'ites, he is James Bond, Erwin Rommel and Lady Gaga rolled into one. To the West, he is the commander of the Quds Force of Iran's Revolutionary Guards—responsible for exporting Iran's Islamic revolution, supporting terrorists, subverting pro-Western governments and waging Iran's foreign wars. A veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, Hajj Qasem, as he is known, took command of the Quds Force in the late 1990s. The Force is paymaster of Hizballah, Hamas and other terrorists plaguing Israel.

When the Assad regime faced defeat in 2012, it was Soleimani who brought in Shi'ite militiamen from Lebanon, Iraq and Afghanistan to Syria, and then the Russians in 2015. When ISIS overran northern Iraq, it was Soleimani who armed the Shi'ite militias and organized the defense of Baghdad, where his proxies had often ambushed U.S. troops. Soleimani is also a master of propaganda, posting selfies from battlefields across the region to convince one and all that he is the master of the Middle Eastern chessboard.

Pollack, a former CIA analyst, is an expert on Middle Eastern politics

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