This is the third time that Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani violated the ban, having visited Moscow in July and September of last year as well. He reportedly arrived on a private jet operated by Mahan Air, an Iranian airline that has been sanctioned for delivering weapons to Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Syria and providing transport for Hezbollah. According to U.S. officials, Soleimani successfully lobbied President Vladimir Putin to intervene in Syria to bolster the Assad regime during his visit to Moscow last July.
Soleimani and the Quds Force are designated by the U.S. State Department for their involvement in terrorist activities. The Quds Force is the elite unit responsible for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ external operations, including supporting, training, and providing arms to Hezbollah, Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Assad’s forces, and Shiite militias in Syria, as well as the Houthi rebels in Yemen. The Quds Force also funded, trained, and equipped several Shiite militas that killed hundreds of American troops in Iraq. In 2011, Soleimani and other members of the Qods Force were implicated in the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi ambassador to the U.S. at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. As part of the nuclear deal reached with Iran, the United Nations travel ban on Soleimani will be lifted either in October 2020 or when the International Atomic Energy Agency determines that all nuclear material in Iran is for peaceful purposes.
In addition to Soleimani’s illicit visits to Russia, Tehran has breached international law in several ways since the nuclear deal was reached last July. Four ships originating from Iran and carrying weapons to Houthi rebels in Yemen have been intercepted. These weapons shipments are in violation of both the UN arms embargo on Iran and on Yemen. Iran also contravened the UN arms embargo by sending weapons shipments to Syria. Furthermore, Iran has tested five ballistic missiles since the deal was reached, in October, November, and March, flouting the prohibition on engaging in activities related to ballistic missile development. One of the ballistic missiles was inscribed in Hebrew with the phrase “Israel must be wiped off the map.” Tehran is reportedly planning on purchasing fighter jets from Russia, which, without approval from the UN Security Council, would also constitute a violation of the arms ban.
[Photo: Persians in Syria / YouTube ]