Qassem Soleimani Once Mocked Trump As a 'Cabaret Owner' and a 'Gambler,' Warned U.S. Not to Threaten Iran

President Donald Trump ordered the assassination of top Iranian general Qassem Soleimani Thursday, marking a stunning escalation of the simmering U.S.-Iranian conflict.

Soleimani, the commander of Iran's powerful and secretive Quds Force, was killed by a drone strike as he left Baghdad International Airport.

The general was one of the most influential players in the Iranian regime, directing the foreign military and covert operations of the country's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps.

Though a shadowy and mysterious figure, Soleimani's prominent position made him a potent voice in Iran's response to Trump's "maximum pressure" campaign against the country.

Like many of his colleagues, Soleimani often used tough rhetoric to attack Trump and threaten consequences for the president's tough line.

In July 2018, after the president threatened Iran with "consequences the likes of which few throughout history have ever suffered before," Soleimani issued a wide-ranging rebuke of Trump, in which he criticized the president's personality and mocked the past performance of U.S. troops in the Middle East.

"I'm telling you, Mr. Trump, the gambler," Soleimani said in a speech in Iran, as The Guardian and Reuters reported at the time. "We are near you, where you can't even imagine... Come. We are ready."

"We, the Iranian nation, have gone through tough events. You may begin a war, but it is us who will end it. Go ask your predecessors about it. So stop threatening us. We are ready to stand up against you."

"The Quds force and I are your match," he added. "There is not one night we sleep without thinking of you."

Prior to Soleimani's choice words, Trump tweeted an attack on President Hassan Rouhani, who had warned that the U.S. should not "play with the lion's tail" by escalating the standoff with Iran.

Wading into the tit-for-tat, Soleimani said, "It is not in our president's dignity to respond to you, but I, as a soldier, will."

Soleimani suggested that Trump's "language belongs to cabarets. Only a cabaret owner uses such language to communicate with the world."

The general—who directed Iranian-backed Iraqi militias in their insurgency against occupying U.S. troops—also dismissed American military strength, pointing to Washington's recent foreign policy failures.

"What could you do that you haven't already done over the past 20 years?" he asked.

"You came to Afghanistan with tens of tanks and armoured vehicles and hundreds of advanced helicopters and committed crimes there but what the hell have you achieved [in Afghanistan] between 2001 and 2018 with 110,000 troops? Isn't it that now you are begging the Taliban to negotiate?"

Soleimani continued, "Have you forgotten that you were providing your soldiers with adult nappies and today you are threatening us?" Soleimani previously called U.S. soldiers in Iraq "pants-pissing wimps" during a visit to Syria, where he was also instrumental in moulding President Bashar al-Assad's military strategy.

Like Trump, Soleimani also used memes to underscore his point. In November 2018, Trump tweeted a Game of Thrones-inspired image warning Iran, "Sanctions are coming." Soleimani replied with his own Westeros-style picture on Instagram—since removed—declaring, "Come! We are waiting."

The image bore the text, "I will stand against you." The caption alongside the post read, "I am your enemy. Quds Force is your enemy...You start this war, but we will finish it."

Qassem Soleimani, Donald Trump, Iran, assassination, IRGC
Iranian protesters hold a portrait of the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, General Qassem Soleimani, during a demonstration in the capital Tehran on December 11, 2017. ATTA KENARE/AFP via Getty Images/Getty