Top Iranian commander 'overseeing Mosul Offensive': reports

Top Iranian commander 'overseeing Mosul Offensive': reports
2 min read
20 October, 2016
Iraq's offensive on the IS-held city of Mosul is being led by top Iranian commander, Qassem Soleimani, reports claim.
Soleimani is a formidable Iranian military commanders often overseeing Tehran's foreign operations [Anadolu]
Iraq's offensive on the IS-held city of Mosul is being led by Iranian military commander General Qassem Soleimani, US newsletter Western Journalism has claimed.

Soleimani's shadowy involvements in Iran's proxy wars has made it difficult to verify such claims, but previous authentic images have placed him in Iraq's frontlines in the battle with Islamic State as well as in Syria.

The controversial general, who has been described by former Canadian foreign minister John Baird as an "agent of terror," is notorious for strategising with Syrian president Bashar al-Assad in his war against Syrian rebels. He has been accused of sponsoring Shia militias in the Middle East in order to increase Iranian influence in the region, with previous involvement in the capture of Fallujah, Ramadi and Salah al-Din.

With Iraqi forces now marching on Mosul, Soleimani is thought to be on the ground in Iraq, with pictures purportedly showing the general in Mosul published by Iran's ABNA news outlet earlier this week.

This report is preceded by one in August by the Kremlin-backed news outlet Russia Today, which said Iraqi Shia militias were being prepared by Soleimani for the Mosul advance. 

RT cited Iran's Fars News which said that the general had been seen in in the Mosul area.

Sectarian tensions

The Iraqi Shia fighters that are said to have been trained by Soleimani - the Hashd al-Shaabi [Popular Mobilisation Units] and Badr militia - will be participating in the Mosul assault from the rear lines.

Nonetheless, this will raise concerns  about the inflammation of sectarian violence in Iraq. The militias are accused of having committed atrocities against Iraqis.

Mosul is home to roughly 1 million Sunni Arabs, many of whom are expected to flee as clashes intensify between Islamic State [IS] militants and coalition forces.

In September, Iraqi Sunnis voiced concerns to the White House about Iran-backed Shia militias in Iraq. The United Kingdom and Saudi Arabia have also spoken against the militias participating in the assault.

No US cooperation with Iran

The news that General Soleimani may be in Mosul has not escaped the attention of the United States, who have moved to deny cooperation with Tehran in Iraq.

"We are not coordinating with the Iranians in any way, we are not working with them in any way. … The government of Iraq comes up with the plan, we are supporting [its] plan for the seizure of Mosul," Col. Chris Garver, spokesman for the US-led coalition in Iraq, told reporters earlier.

Garver added that the US was only coordinating with Iraq's central government in the Mosul offensive.