BEIRUT—About two years ago, Qassem Soleimani delivered a speech at a ceremony in Tehran marking a decade since the death of Imad Mughniyeh, the senior Hezbollah commander killed in a car-bomb explosion in the heart of Damascus, an attack carried out by the CIA with support from Israel. Standing in front of a huge portrait of Mughniyeh superimposed against a panorama of Jerusalem, Soleimani addressed an audience of senior Iranian officials, as well as representatives of Iran’s proxy militias in Iraq, Lebanon, the Palestinian territories, Syria, and Yemen.
Soleimani hailed Mughniyeh as “the legend” responsible for practically all the achievements of Iran’s so-called axis of resistance, which according to the Iranian general included building Hezbollah and the Palestinian group Hamas into formidable threats to Israel and killing 241 American service members in the 1983 bombing of a U.S. Marine barracks in Beirut. “The enemy knows that punishment for Imad’s blood is not firing a missile or a tit-for-tat assassination,” he told the crowd. “The punishment for Imad’s blood is the eradication of the Zionist entity.”
Following Soleimani’s killing in an American air strike this month, it is worth remembering the man’s own words. Soleimani, Mughniyeh, and the current Hezbollah leader, Hassan Nasrallah, formed a trio of men who carried out Iran’s strategy across the Middle East under Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. And so it is hard to overstate the magnitude of the blow that Soleimani’s death has delivered. The focus in the days since his killing has been on the perceived impulsiveness of Donald Trump’s decision, Iran’s retaliation—limited thus far to the firing of 22 missiles at two U.S. bases in Iraq, with no reported casualties—the public displays of grief for Soleimani in Iran, and the national- security implications. But as with Mughniyeh’s death, to paraphrase Soleimani himself, the response to the Iranian general’s killing will not be restricted to a lone missile attack or a tit-for-tat move—Iran is not yet done.