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Ordinary Brother, Exceptional General

What Major General Soleimani’s Killing Means for the IRGC

A memorial to Soleimani in Tehran, Iran, January 2020 Amir Kharazmi / Middle East Images

At a humble Revolutionary Guard “cultural office” run by Iran-Iraq War veterans in southern Tehran, a poster pinned to the wall displayed portraits of about a hundred men identified as the “martyred commanders” of a single division of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). One of the veterans I was there to interview noticed my interest in the poster and explained, with unmistakable pride: “We have at least 20 times as many fallen commanders in war as any other army.”

Many guards and Basijis, as the volunteers who worked with the IRGC were known, are proud of a signature battle order in the organization: that the commanders fought alongside soldiers on the frontline, instead of “laying back” in the command headquarters. “They were great commanders, but they had to risk and be present on the frontline,” the veteran continued. “It was hard for us to lose them, but the IRGC’s

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