Details about the assassination of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards commander in Lebanon, Gen. Hassan Shateri, remain shrouded in mystery, but judging by the eulogies showered on Shateri at his funeral, his death represents a significant blow to Iran’s tentacle in southern Lebanon.
Meir Javedanfar, an Israeli-Iranian Middle East analyst who teaches Iranian politics at the Interdisciplinary Center (Herzliya), said reports in the Iranian media suggest Shateri was an important figure who had an overt and a covert role.
One of the mourners at Shateri’s funeral, an employee of the Iranian Embassy in Beirut, described him as being “no less [important]” than Hezbollah’s assassinated field commander Imad Mugniyah, Javedanfar said.
Mugniyah was a critical figure in the Hezbollah hierarchy, who was behind the Shi’ite terror organization’s most ambitious attacks over many years.
The comparison to Mugniyah could be a reference to the centrality of Shetari’s role in aiding Hezbollah’s armaments efforts. The organization is estimated to be in possession of some 65,000 rockets at this time.
Officially, Shateri was described as being in charge of Iranian construction efforts in southern Lebanon following the 2006 Hezbollah war.
But Javedanfar said reports in Iran openly acknowledged Shateri’s double role. “They said he did reconstruction and other secret stuff which we don’t know about... those who belong to the Quds Force have a double role.
They don’t introduce themselves as Quds Force Operatives in Lebanon.”
He added, “The Iranian press are portraying him as someone who was a good person, who helped the Shi’ites in Lebanon, but who was killed by what they described as Zionist guns for hire,” he said.
Javedanfar said that description could also be referring to Syrian rebels, adding that it was “a generalized term the Iranians use in this part of this world.”
The Quds Force is a powerful, shadowy Iranian force tasked with managing the Islamic republic’s overseas operations.
When it was established in 1984 to operate in Iraq (during the Iran-Iraq war), the Quds Force adopted the slogan: “On our way to Jerusalem, via Baghdad.” Its flag consists of a clenched fist around a rifle, below a citation from the Koran which reads, “Against them make ready your strength to the utmost of your power.” Set apart from the rest of the Iranian armed forces, the Quds Force has been headed by Gen. Qassem Suleimani since 1998. Suleimani commands, according to estimates, some 15,000 operatives, and answers directly to Iranian Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei.
Enjoying staff branches, regional headquarters and generous resources, the Quds Force maintains operations in Syria, Lebanon, Afghanistan, the Gaza Strip and elsewhere.
It assists, trains and arms Hezbollah in southern Lebanon, supplying it with tens of thousands of rockets.
It has also assisted Hamas and Islamic Jihad in Gaza. It has been spearheading terrorist attacks around the world against Israeli targets for more than two decades.
The Quds Force has a special operations unit called Unit 400, which is tasked with organizing terrorist attacks and training terrorists.
In Syria, the force is working to help Syrian President Bashar Assad survive, and is seen as a bitter enemy by the predominantly Sunni Syrian rebels.