A notorious Iranian commander, who has reportedly been leading the fight to retake the Iraqi city of Tikrit from the Islamic State (ISIS/ISIL), said in a video that Iraq needs expert jihadists.
Maj. Gen. Qasem Soleimani once led the elite Quds Force, the special operations arm of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps (IGRC). He is also credited with leading a deadly campaign against U.S. troops in Iraq.
Kurdish media service Rudaw reports that in a YouTube video, Soleimani “is seen giving religious advice, apparently to the joint forces fighting for Tikrit.”
“Respect your parents and avoid that which is haram (forbidden in Islam),” he says in the video.
“Now in this situation we need experts in jihad,” advises Soleimani, adding, “If you would be able to become experienced jihadists the next Iraqi generation would gain more from your experience.”
Currently, Soleimani is reportedly leading Iraqi forces and Shiite militias to push ISIS out of Tikrit, an operation that has not been backed by U.S.-led airstrikes.
The Iranian commander referred to the fight against ISIS as a “religious duty.”
U.S. Gen. Martin Dempsey, the chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, expressed concerned last week that Shiite Iran may engage in “retribution and ethnic cleansing” in Iraq after the fight against ISIS is over.
However, Dempsey added, “The activity of the Iranians and their support for the Iraqi Security Forces is a positive thing in military terms against ISIL.”
“Soleimani has also reportedly been involved in the fighting in Syria, where Iran has been backing the regime of President Bashar al-Assad, Tehran’s closest Arab ally,” notes Rudaw.
Over the weekend, Secretary of State John Kerry indicated the U.S. is open to negotiations with the Assad regime.