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The U.S. airstrike that killed a top Iranian commander at Baghdad's airport in Iraq has created an earthquake that will have "reverberations around the globe," according to Jason Brodsky, policy director of the advocacy group United Against Nuclear Iran.
"Qassem Soleimani was not just a symbol. He also had substantive power and authority in the Islamic Republic," he said.
Brodsky said in an interview with VOA Persian that Soleimani had achieved rock-star status in the region, developing a "cultlike following."
Soleimani was Iran's top military strategist and head of the elite Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force.
U.S. President Donald Trump said he ordered the strike to prevent imminent attacks against Americans in the region.
Soleimani was "the face of the resistance axis," Brodsky said. "I think it's an interesting move by the supreme leader to appoint his deputy, Esmail Qaani as his successor. Qaani has been with Soleimani since the beginning of his tenure. There is an attempt, at least by the regime, not to lose any institutional knowledge or expertise at this critical moment in the life of the Islamic Republic."
The death of Soleimani is "much more important" than the killings of Osama bin Laden and Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi," Michael Doran, a senior fellow at the Hudson Institute, told VOA Persian.
Their organizations "had been severely degraded by the time they were killed," Doran said. "But the Iranian threat is a much more serious threat, because Iran is on the verge of obtaining a nuclear weapon."
Iran "has these militias all around the region to which it's distributing precision-guided weapons, which can threaten the United States and its allies," Doran said. "That's a real strategic threat. And Qassem Soleimani was the architect of that entire strategy.
"So this is a shift in regional politics," he said, in a way that the other assassinations were not.
Comparisons to bin Laden
Ilan Berman, the senior vice president of the American Foreign Policy Council, disagreed with Doran, telling VOA Persian the killing of Soleimani is "on par" with the Obama administration's killing of bin Laden and the Trump administration targeting of al-Baghdadi.
"Soleimani's involvement in regional instability, his direct orchestration and coordination of an array of terror proxies throughout the region is well known, certainly well known to the U.S. government. And the strike, I think, is a very important signal that the Trump administration is prepared to exact consequences on individuals like Soleimani who engage in this sort of behavior."
"This was a great blow against Iran's interests," political analyst Ayeed al-Manna'l told VOA, "because Qassem Soleimani was the first Iranian extreme commander to spread religious and political ideology in the region and grow the influence of his country at the expense of other countries in the region."
U.S. State Department spokeswoman Morgan Ortagus said Trump "was faced with a difficult decision, which is, is America safer with Qassem Soleimani dead or alive, and the president decided that the world was safer with him dead."
VOA Persian's Katherine Ahn and Shahram Bahraminejad contributed to this report.