The general was also seen by some regime insiders as a possible president or even successor to Mr. Khamenei. Many Iranians and even some non-Iranians saw him as irreplaceable, a larger-than-life myth builder taking selfies on the front lines with his fighters. His role combined the roles of America’s CIA director, secretary of state, chairman of the joint chiefs of staff and head of the Joint Special Operations Command.
But his writ went beyond the traditional to the murderous. Gen. Soleimani was responsible for rescuing the Assad regime as it faced defeat, led the ground forces in the brutal siege of Aleppo, and was complicit in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Syrians and thousands of Iraqis and Iranians. His genius for destruction terrorized Middle Easterners and terrified many Iranians. His death could make the region less bloody.
With his death, the U.S policy of maximum pressure on the regime in Iran has entered a new phase beyond sanctions to the selective use of military power. This could lead the regime to escalate its violence, reach out for renewed negotiations or collapse. The U.S. has much reason to welcome the fall of the Islamic Republic, a state responsible for attacking U.S. interests and thousands of Americans since the 1979 revolution. But we should be ready for a range of unpleasant scenarios. As welcome as the end of the clerical and revolutionary regime would be, it’s difficult to see this happening relatively peacefully given the theocracy’s propensity for violence. We should expect instability in Iran for years to come, especially if the Islamic Republic hangs on.