(Reuters) – United Nations sanctions monitors have said photographs taken inside Iraq appear to confirm that the head of Iran’s elite military Quds Force, one of Iran’s most powerful people, has been in the country in violation of a U.N. travel ban.
Qassem Soleimani, chief of the force which is an overseas arm of the Revolutionary Guards, has been subject to an international travel ban and asset freeze by the U.N. Security Council since 2007.
An Iranian general said in September that Soleimani was in Iran’s western neighbor and was playing a critical role in the fight against Sunni Islamic State militants.
“One photograph reportedly shows him near the city of Amerli in northern Iraq after Iraqi forces re-took the city from ISIL (an acronym often used for Islamic State),” it said. The report included a photo purporting to be of Soleimani in Iraq.
Iran is supporting Iraqi government forces and Shi’ite militia against the militants, who have seized large swaths of Iraqi and Syrian territory.
Washington designated Soleimani’s Quds Force as a supporter of terrorism in 2007. The European Union did the same in 2011. Western governments and Israel accuse it of arming various militant groups across the Middle East.