A top Iranian general violated a United Nations travel ban by flying to Moscow on Tuesday, Fox News reported, citing Western intelligence officials.
Qassem Soleimani, the commander of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps-Qods Force, is banned from traveling outside of Iran by United Nations Security Council Resolution 1747 (which Russia voted for). Nonetheless, he arrived in Russia on Tuesday and is scheduled to stay there for a few days to meet with government officials, Fox reported. He is expected to discuss his concerns over Russia’s increasingly-close ties with Saudi Arabia, a regional rival of Iran.
In his capacity as the head of the Qods Force, which is responsible for the IRGC’s external operations, Soleimani oversees the funding, training, and equipping of the terrorist groups Hezbollah and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Syrian army forces and Shiite militias fighting in Syria, and the Houthi rebels in Yemen. Marine Gen. Joseph Dunford, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, testified to Congress in 2015 that around 500 Americans were killed by Soleimani-commanded forces who fought against U.S. troops in Iraq.
In 2011, Soleimani and other members of the Qods Force were implicated in the failed Iranian plot to assassinate the Saudi Arabian ambassador to the U.S. at a popular restaurant in Washington, D.C. As part of the nuclear deal reached with Iran, the UN 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.
Soleimani has previously violated the travel ban by flying to Russia before; he flew to Moscow in 2015 to negotiate Russia’s entry into the Syrian Civil War. He also appeared in Aleppo, Syria last December after the city was re-captured by Syrian government forces and Iran-led militias.
“After more than five years, Soleimani has succeeded in preventing the fall of Bashar al Assad, protecting Iran’s supply route to Lebanese Hezbollah, and laying siege to Aleppo, Syria’s largest urban area prior to the war,” researcher Amir Toumaj wrote then in the Long War Journal. “He has mobilized thousands of Iranians, Syrians, Lebanese, Iraqis, Afghans, and Pakistanis to fight in Syria, forming an international Shiite expeditionary force.”
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