Qassem ­soleimani

Why the US assassination of Iran’s top general didn’t spark a war

Iran’s new meddler-in-chief in Iraq is a bespectacled general called Esmail Ghaani. Brought in to replace Qassem Soleimani after his death in a US airstrike in January, he has the same green uniform as his predecessor, the same grey beard, and the same orders to make Iraq’s Shia militias do Tehran’s bidding. That, though, is where the similarities end. Soleimani was a legend among his followers in Iraq — he spent years building contacts with local commanders and joined them on the battlefield against Isis in Mosul. Ghaani, by contrast, is an owlish, uncharismatic figure who looks like he might be happier behind a desk. Unlike Soleimani, he doesn’t speak

The Shia Krays: The whole of Iraq is being held to ransom

It’s been only six weeks since the death of the Iranian general Qassem Soleimani, but already there are a number of local hardmen vying to take his place. Most notable are his sidekicks, the Kray twins of the Shia world: Qais al-Khazali and his brother Laith. Qais and Laith who? Unless you’ve scanned Washington’s latest list of designated global terrorists, these two names won’t be familiar. Yet when I mentioned the brothers in a Baghdad teahouse a few weeks ago, folk lowered their voices and looked surreptitiously around, as if discussing the Krays in a pub in 1960s Bethnal Green. The Khazalis lead an Iran-backed Shia extremist group called the