Qassem Suleimani with Shiite military commanders, reportedly near Fallujah. Photo: Al-Masdar..
ERBIL, Kurdistan Region – Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran’s elite Quds force who exercises immense influence in Iraq, has reportedly been laying out military plans for the recapture of Fallujah from the Islamic State (ISIS).
The Al-Masdar news website reported that “General Qassem Suleimani has been deployed to spearhead and finalize the Iraqi Army’s campaign to capture Fallujah from the Islamic State.”
Iraqi forces, together with the Iranian-backed Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia and Sunni tribal forces, reported good progress in the offensive on Fallujah on Tuesday, two days after the operation was launched Sunday with air support by the US-led coalition.
Al-Masdar also published a photograph of Suleimani, which it said “shows him earlier today in the Hashd operations room with commanders of several Iraqi paramilitary groups.”
Sulaimani reportedly arrived on the outskirts of Fallujah and was received by Hadi al-Amiri, a top commander of the Hashd al-Shaabi, Abu Mahdi Muhandis, deputy general commander of the militia and a number of other leaders.
Fallujah, 70 kilometers west of Baghdad, is the first city that fell to ISIS when the militants launched their blitzkrieg across Iraq in June 2014.
Suleimani has been seen as Iran’s top military man in both Iraq and Syria, with photos and video footage showing him leading the fight against ISIS in both countries.
He was reportedly dispatched to Iraq in 2014, where he successfully led Shiite militia groups against ISIS in Diyala and Tikrit and reclaimed both provinces for the Iraqi government.