Editor’s note: The following post was published in 2016. It goes a long way in showing the influence of Soleimani in the Middle East. A must-read for those delusional enough to think we killed an innocent man. 

It’s interesting to watch Shia influence in the Middle East unfold. It’s choreographed and efficient. I just saw reports that Qassem Soleimani is in Aleppo advising the regime. This guy is everywhere and represents the solidarity that Iranians provide to other Shia revolutionaries. I imagine it’s a star-struck and exciting feeling when Soleimani shows up to help with the effort. He is everywhere and is extremely prolific.

Syria is becoming increasingly crazed. We might even see Kurds fighting rebels fighting regime fighting ISIL. Yes, it’s that convoluted. I’m not sure what this has done besides defacto fueling a new generation of Jihadi fighters. The borders are becoming more porous and less meaningful, and nothing is left except sectarian and tribal identities.

Qassem Soleimani is famous and extremely relevant. He’s an example of how powerful an individual can be. Unfortunately, if we had such a talented general or leader, it would be difficult to identify him or her, because we have a system that is institutional in nature. But it works better than any other. Iran might be lucky it has a Qassem Soleimani, and it might just be that someone always steps up.

Soleimani’s movements and work expose how intertwined the Shia world has become. The Iranians have transcended cultural barriers and are establishing a regional hegemony in the Middle East. They’ve overcome a Persian identity and have become the Shia Muslim authority and banner. The Catholics once had a kind of dominion over the West. Iran is accomplishing a similar cultural and religious influence in the Arab world. Persians and Arabs, of course, aren’t the same thing. This makes it all the more impressive that Persians wield such massive influence in the Arab world.

Soleimani also serves as a kind of head of external affairs. He’s the head of whatever their industrial-military complex might be. But here’s the soaring difference between Iranian and American policy: Iranians don’t leave their people flapping in the wind. There have been special forces deaths in Afghanistan due to policy generated in Washington. It’s true what is said about the rules of engagement — they make it difficult for warfighters to war fight.

I remember that our first firefight in Afghanistan, my first firefight, was denied because of the ROE and requisite verbiage required over the radio to announce an attack. Our policy hurts us, often, because there is a fundamental disconnect between the reality of war and the distorted future reality that policy wants to create.

I don’t know, but I wonder if there are repercussions for Iranians taking action to save their lives when they’re fighting abroad. As an American warfighter, it is not that simple.