Iran’s government is intensely fractious, and there are many figures around Khamenei who help shape foreign policy, including Revolutionary Guard commanders, senior clerics, and Foreign Ministry officials. But Suleimani has been given a remarkably free hand in implementing Khamenei’s vision. “He has ties to every corner of the system,” Meir Dagan, the former head of Mossad, told me. “He is what I call politically clever. He has a relationship with everyone.” Officials describe him as a believer in Islam and in the revolution; while many senior figures in the Revolutionary Guard have grown wealthy through the Guard’s control over key Iranian industries, Suleimani has been endowed with a personal fortune by the Supreme Leader. “He’s well taken care of,” Maguire said.
Very resourceful…which might explain the “Sleeper Cell” memes swirling about post-dismemberment:
Suleimani has orchestrated attacks in places as far flung as Thailand, New Delhi, Lagos, and Nairobi—at least thirty attempts in the past two years alone. The most notorious was a scheme, in 2011, to hire a Mexican drug cartel to blow up the Saudi Ambassador to the United States as he sat down to eat at a restaurant a few miles from the White House.
The White House is hardly shy about signaling the nature of its relationship with the regime, even if it’s lost on some regional actors. “If sanctions are lifted,” a Saudi diplomat said, “Iran will try even harder to redesign the region. Iran may see this as acceptance from America to play a bigger role.” The point of course is that Obama is counting on Iran to play bigger role in the Middle East, which is why the White House also agreed to drop the U.N. arms embargo.
The administration argues that Tehran will spend most of the money from sanctions relief on rescuing the economy, or fixing street lamps and potholes, and not so much on terrorism and other foreign adventures. But there can be no similar argument about buying and selling and smuggling arms since ending the embargo can only help the hardliners. Combining the two—tens of billions of dollars in immediate sanctions relief and an end to the embargo—is like loading a gun and handing it over to Qassem Suleimani. And that’s precisely what Obama intended: The way he sees it, he’s arming an American ally.
Here’s what is missing from the analysis. Iranian avengers, in the form of Quds Force-supported Hezbollah operatives of the clandestine “Unit 910,” are stationed in cities across America, set to activate pending distant command on target lists they have painstakingly developed over time. Hezbollah operatives also are positioned throughout Latin America, where American officials and economic interests are ubiquitous, at least as close as Nicaragua.