Somewhere in Iraq’s Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) territory, Maj. Gen. Qassem Soleimani – the commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force (IRGC-QF) – visited the family of Hussein Mansour yesterday. Mansour was a senior Kurdish Peshmarga commander killed by the Islamic State last year.
The visit marked the first confirmed sighting of Soleimani in Iraq since Iraqi forces – backed by Kurdish, Sunni and Shiite militias, as well as US airpower – launched operations to retake Mosul from the Islamic State last week. It is not known where exactly Soleimani met with Mansour’s family. Iranian media published a photo of Soleimani on Oct. 17 alongside Iraqi Shiite militia commanders purportedly near Mosul last week, though the veracity of that photograph had not been confirmed. In August, a spokesman for the IRGC-backed Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) told the media that Soleimani was expected to play a major role in Mosul.
“Your father was one of my comrades,” Soleimani told the son of the deceased commander. “We shared the trench most of the time in the wars surrounding Mosul. I was very saddened when I heard the news of his death.”
When Mansour was asked about Iranian support of the peshmarga in Sept. 2014, he said, “It makes sense. [The Islamic State] is a threat to the United States and the West, but even more so to Iran. It’s closer. It’s only natural that they would want to prevent it from getting any more powerful than it already is.”
Tehran has cultivated relationships in Iraqi Kurdistan for the past several decades, and today backs the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK), one of the two ruling parties in the KRG. Iran has also been actively providing support and military advisers to Peshmerga forces since the Islamic State expanded into Iraq in 2014.