Episode 18: Qasim Soleimani and the Strategy of Militant Proxies

Qasim Soleimani was arguably Iran’s most important military leader in modern history. He moved Iran’s overall strategy from a direct approach to an indirect one of proxy warfare using non-state actors.

Born in 1957, General Soleimani rose from a humble background to become a key commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps. His experience of the Iran–Iraq War of 1980–88 gave him a desire to avoid another high-casualty conflict. Instead, he developed a proxy war approach that was much less costly to Iran, using Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad and later Hamas to put pressure on Israel and the US. Soleimani was killed in a targeted strike by US forces in January 2020, which of course made him a martyr in Iran.

Dr Afshon Ostovar, Associate Professor of National Security Affairs at the US Naval Postgraduate School, joins Beatrice and Paul for this episode.

A graduate of the Universities of Arizona and Michigan, he was a Fellow at the Combating Terrorism Center at West Point, worked for the US Department of Defense, and taught at Johns Hopkins University. His book on the Revolutionary Guards examines the rise of Iran’s most powerful armed force and its role in regional conflicts and political violence.

The views or statements expressed by guests are their own and their appearance on the podcast does not imply an endorsement of them or any entity they represent. Views and opinions expressed by RUSI employees are those of the employees and do not necessarily reflect the view of RUSI.


Beatrice Heuser

Senior Associate Fellow

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Paul O’Neill

Senior Research Fellow

Military Sciences

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