PHOTO: General Qassem Soleimani: “Is it adventurous for us to stop destruction of mosques?”
A day after President Rouhani firmly endorsed Iran’s military interventions in Syria and Iraq, another prominent regime official — the head of the Qods Force, General Qassem Soleimani — has defended Tehran’s foreign campaigns.
Soleimani, the long-time head of the elite Revolutionary Guards unit, told a crowd in southeastern Iran that the Islamic Republic must defend all Muslims against the threat of devaint “Takfiri” Sunni Muslims.
The commander also repeated Iran’s declaration that foreign powers are behind the movement, without specifically naming Saudi Arabia, the US, or Israel:
Takfirism is a fire in the homes of our Sunni brothers. And those who created it thought they could…[use it to] bring the Islamic Republic and Shia [Islam] to their knees.
However, he did jab at Riyadh, “It has always been the Saudis who have been adventurous towards Islam.”
Soleimani rejected claims that Tehran is intervening in regional countries to advance its own interests: “Is it an adventurous move for the Islamic Republic to defend Muslims’ properties and lives…[and] to stop the destruction of Muslims’ mosques?”
For many years after he took command of the Qods Force in 1998, Soleimani operated with little publicity. However, as Iran stepped up essential support of Syria’s Assad regime and as it responded to the Islamic State’s 2014 offensive across Iraq, Tehran shifted its PR strategy and featured the general as the military inspiration for the Islamic Republic’s successes.
He was reportedly wounded in an Iranian-led offensive, enabled by Russian bombing, near Aleppo in November but has reappeared in several ceremonies — including the celebration of the Islamic Republic’s anniversary — on February 11.