The notorious commander of Iran’s Qods Force special operations unit has been deployed to Fallujah, Iraq, to help coordinate what could be one of the bloodiest battles in the fight against the Islamic State.
Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani was spotted near Fallujah meeting with various other militia leaders from the Popular Mobilization Units (PMUs), some of whom are designated terrorists by the U.S. government. It is believed that Soleimani has been sent to help coordinate the assault on ISIS forces holding the Iraqi city. The Iraqi Security Forces (ISF) began moving on the city Sunday, in cooperation with several tribal groups and Iranian-backed Shia militias which make up the PMUs.
Once referred to as Iran’s “shadow commander” in the Middle East, Soleimani is responsible for all Iranian foreign special operations. His specialty is coordinating terrorist groups and Shia militias and tasking them with Iran’s bidding across the Middle East. The once reclusive Soleimani rose to prominence as an almost mythical Iranian folk hero around the time ISIS began to rise in 2014. His fame has only grown since; so much so, he now has a popular music video dedicated to him.
“Soleimani is the single most powerful operative in the Middle East today,” John Maguire, a former CIA operative, told journalist Dexter Filkins in his profile of Soleimani.
U.S. military and government personnel came to know Soleimani and his Qods Force intimately after the Iranian unit began supplying specially made EFP (explosively formed projectives) explosives to Shia insurgents during the Iraq war. EFPs wreaked havoc on U.S. personnel, killing hundreds.
Soleimani’s operations in Iraq did not end with the U.S. withdrawal, the rise of ISIS gave him and his Qods Force a new opportunity to solidify Iran’s influence in Iraq by filling the void left by the U.S. military and government personnel.
The battle for Fallujah is shaping up to be one of the most deadly in the war against ISIS primarily due to the sectarian nature of the conflict. Soleimani and his Shia allies are considered heretics by ISIS, making the two mortal enemies. Given that Shia militias have a history of war crimes against Sunnis, the death toll from the Fallujah assault could be astronomical.
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