Iranian commander Qassem Soleimani has reportedly been caught on camera in the Iraqi city of Amerli, fuelling rumours that the top military mastermind is in the frontline city, working with the United States to push back militants from the Islamic State organisation (IS).
The fight to release Amerli from the chokehold of the Islamic State organisation brought together strange bedfellows — Iraqi and Iranian militias backed by American air support.
Recent footage supports rumours that Qassem Soleimani, a military mastermind at the head of Iran’s elite Quds Force, coordinated the successful campaign to liberate the besieged city.
The video below was published Thursday on Facebook by Iranian Shiite activists. The men in the video (including Soleimani) are said to be celebrating the liberation of Amerli.
A photo claiming to show Soleimani in Amerli circulated on social media Thursday. FRANCE 24 was not able to identify the source, but this further supports the idea that Soleimani is in Iraq. Furthermore, he is wearing the same shirt and scarf in the photo as in the video.
In the photo, he’s seen next to an Iraqi soldier, who wears American-style military gear and carries an American weapon.
Evidence of this partnership is significant, considering Soleimani spent more than a decade training and directing militias in Iraq that killed hundreds of American soldiers. The US Department of the Treasury had sanctioned Soleimani over his support for the Assad regime and his role in "abetting terrorism."
Soleimani is a field commander responsible for Iran’s operations outside its borders. In 2013, he is believed to have travelled frequently to Syria while coordinating Iran’s campaign to help ally Syrian President Bashar al-Assad.
This is not Soleimani's only recent trip to Iraq. Several months ago, Iraqi MP Qasem al-Alarji published a photo of himself and Soleimani on Facebook. “I am no longer scared because Commander Soleimani is here,” al-Alarji captioned his photo.
In July, a video released by the Iraqi defence ministry showed that Iraqi air force appears to be using Sukhoi fighter jets camouflaged to hide the fact that they were sent from Iran.
Post written with FRANCE 24 journalist Brenna Daldorph (@brennad87).