Zeinab Soleimani, daughter of slain Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani, has become increasingly visible on the regional stage on the heels of her father's death in early January.
Zeinab was occasionally seen alongside her father, arguably the most prominent figure in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC), as she accompanied him on his numerous trips to the Arab world, including Iraq, Lebanon and Syria.
Since her father's death by a US raid at Baghdad airport, she has become known as her father's voice, and is vocal about the organisation she heads: Foundation for the Preservation and Publication of Qassem Soleimani's Works, generally referred to as the "Qassem Soleimani Foundation", established after his death.
Zeinab's efforts to gain prominence and continue her father's path became more evident with her marriage in June to the son of Lebanese Hizbullah's second in command.
Many observers saw this as a marriage of convenience; one that demonstrates an even tighter relationship being formed between Hizbullah and Iran.
Whether or not Zeinab Soleimani has any influence on the IRGC is unclear as of yet, but she has made it clear she will focus all her efforts on continuing her father's "goals and his school of thought".
Active on social media, Zeinab posts in both Farsi and Arabic. A review of her social media activity reveals that she has thus far mostly posted statements she attributes to her father, as well as anti-American slogans, most of which she also ascribes to him.
Some of her messaging is in defence of the Islamic Republic's Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, whom she says is not being portrayed appropriately in Iranian textbooks. Unsurprisingly, she takes a clearly hardline stance in politics.
For a hardliner, and as the daughter of a hardline, seemingly traditional figure, Zeinab has broken with tradition. Sources close to the Soleimani family have described her as the child who is most similar to her father.
Although Soleimani's sons would customarily be expected to follow into their father's footsteps, his closeness to Zeinab, the youngest of his four children, evidently groomed her as his replacement.
"Zeinab resembles Haj Qasem more than anyone in the world," Nasrollah Jahanshahi, a fellow IRGC member who has been working as Soleimani's personal driver since the 1980s, recounted in an interview with Sobh-e Sadegh, an IRGC publication. "In both her attitude and behaviour, she is very much like Qassem Soleimani."
Zeinab was the keynote speaker at her father's funeral. She is fluent in several Arabic dialects, and reportedly knows English.
On December 3rd, Iranian media outlets reported that President Hassan Rouhani's administration has allocated around $340,000 to her foundation from the country's 1400 budget. (1400 is the next Iranian year, which begins on March 21st, 2021.)
On December 5th, Zeinab issued a statement saying she would not accept the money, which would be better utilised if diverted to meeting the public's needs. She added that, "We [the Foundation and the Soleimani family] never requested any money from the government."
However, further reporting revealed that her foundation received some $400,000 in funding from the government for 1399 (the current Iranian year), and the money was allocated to the Qassem Soleimani Foundation as a sub-category of this year's IRGC budget.
Iran has been grappling with a crippling economic crisis, which many blame on the squandering of the Iranian people's wealth abroad to enable the IRGC to pursue its regional ambitions.
Marriage of convenience
In her late 20s, and despite being of traditional marriage age, Zeinab was single until late June when she married Reza Safieddine, son of Hassan Nasrallah's cousin Hashem Safieddine.
Hashem, who heads the Lebanese Hizbullah's Executive Council, is considered the No. 2 in the organisation. He is viewed by most as Nasrallah's future replacement.
Salah Mansour, a source close to a Hizbullah defector, told Al-Mashareq that there is little information on Reza Safieddine.
It is known, however, that the 36-year-old grew up in southern Lebanon and attended schools in southern Lebanon and Beirut. He is also said to be close to Hassan Nasrallah's son Jawad.
Reza is believed to be a key member of the network that runs Hizbullah's financial activities in Lebanon, Mansour said. He directly supervises the Karout warehouses, as well as al-Qard al-Hasan Association, which lends money to Hizbullah members and associates at very low interest rates.
"That is the main reason for Reza and his father's popularity among Hizbullah's inner circles," said Mansour.
Iranian affairs researcher Fathi al-Sayed told Al-Mashareq the marriage bears a two-fold message: it is a reaffirmation of the depth of the relationship between Iran and Hizbullah, and of the IRGC's intent to continue to support the group.
This message, he said, comes at a time when Hizbullah is both isolated and under pressure, particularly due to the fact that the IRGC can no longer appropriately provide it with financial support amid the harsh US sanctions against Iran.
Waleed Abu al-Khair contributed to this report from Cairo.