Iraqi commander of the Fallujah operation, Lt. Gen. Abdul-Wahab al-Saadi, is pictured in the operations centre. Photo: Khalid Mohammed/AP
SAQLAWIYAH, Iraq – Iranian military advisers are playing “a remarkable” role in the fight to liberate the Iraqi city of Fallujah from the Islamic State group (ISIS), a Shiite commander whose militia is involved in the fighting told Rudaw.
“The role of our brothers, the Iranian advisers, is remarkable. They have great military skills to face the enemy,” Abu-Kawsar, a commander of the Saraya al-Jihad militia, said. He added that their number was “not a lot.”
Last Monday the Iraqi Army began an offensive on Fallujah, west of Baghdad and the first city seized by ISIS when it stormed across Iraq in June 2014. Shiite and Sunni militias allied with the Iraqi Army are also involved in the fighting, with air support provided by the US-led coalition.
On Tuesday, the Al-Masdar news website reported that Qassem Suleimani, commander of Iran’s elite Quds force who exercises immense influence in Iraq, was laying out the military plans for the recapture of Fallujah.
It published a photograph of Suleimani, saying it showed him outside Fallujah, sitting and talking with the leaders of several Iraqi paramilitary groups.
Last month, a senior Iranian commander reportedly announced that Tehran would be sending Special Force commandos as “advisors” to Iraq.
Iranian troops and advisors are known to be present both in Iraq and Syria. In Iraq they back the Shiite-led government and in Syria Tehran has military advisors and forces fighting on the side of embattled President Bashar al-Assad.
Iran’s official media have also reported military casualties in Iraq and Syria. In the latest deaths, 13 Iranian soldiers were reported killed and 21 wounded in the Syrian city of Aleppo earlier this month.
Suleimani has defended his country’s interventions in Iraq and Syria, saying Tehran is protecting the lives of fellow Muslims. He has rejected claims his country was pursuing a policy of adventurism in the Middle East.
Suleimani is credited with successfully leading the Shiite Hashd al-Shaabi militia in against ISIS in Diyala and Tikrit, reclaiming both provinces for the Iraqi government in 2015.