The Iran Threat

Quds Force Leader Shown Meeting Troops in Iraq

Iran's leadership in Shia Iraq is confirmed by photos of Qassem Suleimani touring Iraqi units fighting the Islamic State.

BY CounterJihad · @CounterjihadUS | June 3, 2016

Recent photos have surfaced showing Qassem Suleimani, leader of Iran’s elite Quds Force, touring and liaising with Iraqi forces near Baghdad.  Suleimani, a veteran of decades of Iran’s shadow wars, is thought to have managed 30,000 operatives against US forces during the Iraq war.  He also led the attempt to assassinate the Saudi Ambassador in Washington, D.C., as part of a plan to target Saudi and Israeli diplomats worldwide.  Last summer he traveled to Moscow in violation of international travel bans arising from the assassination plot, where he and the Russian Foreign minister plotted the joint Russian-Iranian offensive in Syria that took place last fall.

The photos are one of our first indications that Suleimani is still alive.  He took a frontline role in leading Iranian-backed proxy forces in Syria last autumn.  During one of his tours of the lines, his convoy was caught in an artillery strike and he was apparently gravely injured.  Several Iranian propaganda attempts to reassure their people of his health and well-being fell through when he proved unable to make promised appearances.

The new photos confirm his return to Iran’s active service.  He is shown inspecting units preparing to attack Islamic State (ISIS) positions in Mosul and Fallujah.  Iranian-backed Shia militias have played a key support role in the Fallujah offensive.

“I can’t emphasize enough how alarmed I am over these photos of Soleimani,” Ali Khedery, the longest continuously serving US official in Iraq, told Business Insider in an interview. “Iran has a formal campaign of cultivating Shiite proxies, and those proxies have now been put on the Iraqi government’s payroll in the form of the PMU.”

The PMU, or Popular Mobilization Units (Hashid Shaabi), is a state-sponsored umbrella organization of predominantly Shiite militias. Critics say that they have contributed to, rather than eased, the kind of sectarian tensions that made Mosul and Fallujah susceptible to an ISIS takeover in the first place.

The leadership of Shia militias in Iraq have proclaimed their willingness to overthrow the Iraqi government at Iran’s signal, but so far Iraq seems content to be dominated without a struggle.  Instead, they are using these units as part of their efforts to surround and control Fallujah.  They have slaughtered civilians in the outskirts of that city, a repeat of the severe war crimes they committed against Sunni families when they overran the city of Tikrit, Saddam Hussein’s home town.

Any final settlement of the war in western Iraq will depend on a just recognition of the interests of its Sunni majority, according to Jim Hanson of the Center for Security Policy.  None such will be forthcoming while Iran dominates the battlefield.  “The US has no leverage in Baghdad,” former DOD adviser Michael Pregent said, “which has long since been ceded to Tehran.”



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