Iranian general at the forefront of the Tikrit offensive

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 Qassem Soleimani inspecting the battle of Tikrit with his bodyguards

Qassem Soleimani, the commander of the Qods Force, the external operations wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), is at the forefront of Iraq’s offensive to take back Tikrit. Several Shiite groups are taking part in the offensive, including the Badr Brigade, Asaib al Haq (League of the Righteous), Kata’ib Hezbollah (Hezbollah Brigades), Kata’ib Imam Ali, Saraya Khorasani, and Kata’ib Saeed al Shuhada. All of these groups are supported by Iran and the IRGC. (For more on the Shiite groups at the Tikrit fight, see LWJ report Iranian-backed Shiite militias lead Iraq’s fight to retake Tikrit.)

Many members of the Qods Force and the wider IRGC are thought to be present with Iraqi military forces, as well. According to The Wall Street Journal, the US has refused to support the Tikrit offensive with air assets due to the presence of IRGC elements. However, General Martin Dempsey, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Senate Armed Services Committee that Iran’s involvement could be “a positive thing” if the Shiite militias do not conduct revenge killings in and around Tikrit. General Dempsey also said that the Shiite militias are thought to make up two thirds of the fighting force at Tikrit.

Fars News, which is the semi-official news organization of Iran, has confirmed Soleimani’s presence in Tikrit. The Fars News report specifies that Soleimani, Hadi al Ameri, leader of the Badr Brigade, and Qais al Khazali, the leader of Asaib al Haq, are leading the operations room for the battle of Tikrit. Several leaders within Asaib al Haq are listed by the US as Specially Designated Global Terrorists. The Iranian-proxy group has also been behind several crimes against Iraqi Sunnis and is responsible for killing hundreds of Americans between 2006-2011.  Soleimani and other members of the Qods Force are in Tikrit to support and advise the Iraqi military and the various Shiite militias taking part in the offensive, according to Fars.

Soleimani has been spotted on the Iraqi and Syrian battlefields many times before. Last October, he was seen near Jurf al Sahkar in Iraq’s Babil Province after Iraqi forces took the city back from the Islamic State. In November, Soleimani was seen near Samarra helping Iraqi forces in the defense of that city. Last month, photos emerged online purporting to show him with Syrian regime troops in the southern Syrian province of Daraa. The Assad regime launched an offensive in southern Syria last month and it is likely Soleimani was there to assist Syrian forces in that fight.

In many pictures released by Fars and others circulating on social media, Soleimani has been spotted several times on the battlefield of Tikrit in recent days.

Photos of Soleimani at Tikrit can be seen below:

Soleimani overseeing a military parade of Kata’ib Imam Ali at Camp Speicher near Tikrit:

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Soleimani taking a tea break on the battlefield:

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Soleimani taking a photo with censored militiamen:

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Soleimani being greeted by leaders of Shiite militias taking part in the Tikrit offensive:

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Soleimani being kissed by a leader from Kata’ib Saeed al Shuhada:

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Soleimani sitting with other Shiite leaders near Tikrit:

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Caleb Weiss is an intern at the Foundation for Defense of Democracies and a contributor to The Long War Journal.

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24 Comments

  • m3fd2002 says:

    How about a convenient “friendly fire” incident?

  • mike merlo says:

    another yawner. Soleimani here, Soleimani there, Soleimani everywhere, Soleimani posing with underwear on his head. Soleimani photo ops. Where can I purchase a Soleimani T-Shirt online? What about autographed Soleimani photo’s? Is there a Soleimani Tea Cup set available? What ah joke

  • M3fd2002 says:

    Baghdad Bob, is that you? We missed you so much.

    • JoeO says:

      Nah, Baghdad Bob got a job consulting for Ukraine. Though, he could have written the Iraqi Army’s script for Tikrit!

  • Tim Sumner says:

    The Long War Journal has many times reported on Iran’s support of terror acts inside Iraq. Dempsey knows the intelligence shows Iran’s armed and trained terrorists in the use of IEDs/EFPs contributed greatly to American casualties in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Iran has directly supported the mass murder of Americans — to include 9/11 in America and Beirut 1983 — for over 3 decades.

    Iran will find ways to support ISIS when they plot to kill Americans just as they have supported al Qaeda since 1992. If Ayman al-Zawahiri was photographed with al Qaeda in Syria as they were in a battle with ISIS, would General Martin Dempsey say that could be a positive thing? No, he would not.

    • jack brown says:

      This post is such a breathtaking load of either uninformed bull or deliberate disinformation that I am a little bit breathtaken. Iran had nothing to do with 911. There is zero chance of an Iranian alliance or support of ISIS, who consider Shi’ites heretics. There is zero chance there has ever been or will be an alliance with or support of Al Qaeda, who equally consider Shi’ites heretics.

      ISIS/ The Islamic State is a first order threat to US and international security. The longer it is allowed to hang on in Iraq and Syria the more ‘real’ it this virtual state will become.

      US generaling has been almost universally piss-poor in this entire giant snafu, only a little bit better than the entirely piss-poor civilian quarterbacking of said snafu. If Suleimani and Tehran can win this one for civilization and the rule of law, then all his past sins should be forgiven.

    • Kourosh says:

      Would you rather Soleimani fights Unite States or it’s enemies?

      One of the weakness of Americans is their lack of knowledge about the middle east… To you, all brown skins with beard or turban are the same… To you Al-Qaeda/ISIS is the same as Hezbollah… By the way I know who promotes that thoughts and who feeds to that mentality. But that is completely false. To Al-Qaeda and ISIS (as well as Saudi Arabia) Iranians are as bad or worse than Westerners and Jews. Study that region and you would find many surprises.

  • “Soleimani sitting with other Shiite leaders near Tikrit:”

    Who is the turbaned, white-bearded man in the center? Could it be Ayatollah Mesbah Yazdi?

  • rtloder says:

    At the moment it really is the veritable war of each against all and all against each,
    But that Must change, I see common ground and basis for alliance between the both sections of fundamentalist Islam is achievable if Religious affiliation are considered to be inside National identity after all inwardly we are separate from each other and as such dependant on the law of appearance.

  • Minnor says:

    What they should take Fallujah after Tikrit, Mosul can be looked after later. Once they take a city they should broaden some roads to city center so that it will be easy to govern and will help organized forces to retake a city in urban warfare. Narrow roads are difficult to deal with. First thing they should do once they take Tikrit is to widen few roads to city center by demolishing roadside buildings.

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