Iran Expands Regional 'Empire' Ahead Of Nuclear Deal With Iran moving closer to a deal with world powers to constrain its nuclear program in return for an end to sanctions, Arab analysts and leaders are focused more on how Tehran is working unconstrained to tighten its grip on Arab states, from Iraq to Lebanon, and Syria to Yemen. The man behind what some see as an attempt to create a new Persian and Shi’ite “empire” on Arab land is Major General Qassem Soleimani, commander of the al-Quds brigade of the elite Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC). Since he emerged from the shadows last autumn, Soleimani seems to be omnipresent on the battlefields of the Middle East. Photos of Soleimani, 60, almost an invisible man until the Sunni jihadis of Islamic State overran cities in northern and central Iraq last year, are now everywhere. He is seen directing operations in the battle to recapture from IS the Sunni city of Tikrit, birthplace of Saddam Hussein. He is snapped in Syria offering condolences on the killing of a relative of Bashar al-Assad, the Syrian president he has helped cling to power during four years of war. In Beirut he is photographed praying at the grave of Jihad Mughniyeh, son of the late commander of the IRGC-backed Hezbollah paramilitary group. Jihad was killed in Syria in January. Meanwhile, the heterodox Shi’ite Houthi movement in Yemen has seized power in the capital, Sanaa, to Iranian acclaim and the alarm of Sunni Arab states such as neighbouring Saudi Arabia, Iran’s regional rival. FULL REPORT