Shiite Iran’s Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani flew to Moscow, despite an international travel ban, to discuss Syria and the delivery of Russian missiles, Reuters has learned from various sources.
Citing anonymous sources, Reuters reports that “the main purpose of his visit was to discuss new delivery routes for shipments of Russian S-300 surface-to-air missile systems.”
“General Soleimani traveled to Moscow last night to discuss issues including the delivery of S-300s and further military cooperation,” an unnamed senior Iranian security official told Reuters.
Iran-backed Shiite militias in Syria operate under the oversight of Soleimani, a Revolutionary Guard general charged with most of Iran’s expeditionary missions in Syria and across the Middle East.
Reuters learned from various sources that the general visited Russia to talk about Iran’s role in helping the Bashar al-Assad regime in Syria, which is backed by Moscow, take back the city of Aleppo.
Russia, Iran, Iraq, and Assad have formed an alliance against Syrian rebels, which include opposition forces backed by the United States. The coalition considers all anti-Assad troops to be terrorists.
Citing an anonymous source, Reuters reports that Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu during his visit on Friday.
However, the Kremlin has reportedly claimed that “a meeting with Soleimani was not on Putin’s schedule.”
The Iranian embassy in Moscow has also claimed to have no details about the general’s visit.
John Kirby, a U.S. State Department spokesman, told reporters that Secretary of State John Kerry mentioned Soleimani’s visit to Russia during a phone call Friday with his Russian counterpart, Sergei Lavrov.
However, Kirby noted that the U.S. was unable to confirm the visit.
United Nations sanctions against Soleimani are still in place,”so such travel, if true, would be a violation of U.N. Security Council resolutions, and we believe, then, a serious matter of concern to both the U.N. and the United States,” said the spokesman.
Speaking on condition of anonymity, a U.S. official told Reuters that America would continue to push for Russia and other nations to comply with the U.N. sanctions “and prevent the international travel of Soleimani.”
“We also intend to continue to raise the issue [with the U.N.] in New York,” added the official.
The Iranian general’s visit is likely seen as a testament to the alliance of Russia and Iran over Syria, notes Reuters.
Soleimani flew to Moscow in July 2015 to assist Russia in planning its military intervention on behalf of Assad in Syria.
“Iranian media reported on Monday that Russia had delivered the first part of the S-300 missile system, providing technology that was blocked before Tehran signed a deal with world powers on its nuclear program,” reports Reuters.
It later adds:
A senior regional source told Reuters last year that Russia’s military intervention in Syria was set out in an agreement between Moscow and Tehran that said Russian air strikes would support ground operations by Iranian, Syrian and Lebanese Hezbollah [terrorist] forces.