Iran Quds Force commander,Gen.Qassem Soleimani, says ISIS’ days are numbered
Agencies/Feb. 13, 2015
TEHRAN / BAGHDAD: An influential Iranian general was quoted Thursday as saying that ISIS militants were “nearing the end of their lives,” as the jihadi group seized a town in western Iraq and attacked a nearby air base where U.S. Marines are training Iraqi forces. Gen.Qassem Soleimani, the once rarely seen commander of the powerful Quds Force, has become the public face of Iran’s support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments against jihadis. He has frequently been pictured on social media in Iraq with pro-government forces, including Kurdish fighters and Shiite militia units in battle areas.
“Considering the heavy defeats suffered by ISIS and other terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria, we are certain these groups are nearing the end of their lives,” Soleimani was quoted as saying by the semi-official Fars news agency. His extremely rare published remarks came in a speech made Wednesday in his home province Kerman to mark the 36th anniversary of Iran’s Islamic Revolution.
Soleimani also said Tehran’s regional influence was growing. “Today we see signs of the Islamic Revolution being exported throughout the region, from Bahrain to Iraq and from Syria to Yemen and North Africa,” he said. “The arrogants and the Zionists have admitted, more than before, to their own weakness and to the Islamic Republic’s power, following their successive defeats,” he said.
Iranian officials often use the term “arrogants” to refer to the United States and other Western powers, while Zionists is used in Tehran to refer to Israel without acknowledging its existence as a state. Soleimani reportedly landed in Baghdad hours after ISIS overran Mosul in June and led the anti-jihadi counterattack at the head of Iran’s deep military involvement in Iraq.
The Quds Force – the foreign wing of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guard – conducts sensitive security functions abroad, including intelligence, special operations and political action deemed necessary to protect the Islamic Republic.
Meanwhile, ISIS insurgents took control of most of the western Iraqi town of Al-Baghdadi, and launched a failed attack against the Al-Asad air base. Al-Baghdadi, about 85 km northwest of Ramadi in Anbar province, had been besieged for months by the radical militants who captured vast swaths of Iraq’s north and west last year.
“Ninety percent of Al-Baghdadi district has fallen under the control of the insurgents,” district manager Naji Arak told Reuters by phone. Militants attacked Al-Baghdadi from two directions earlier in the day and then advanced on the town, intelligence sources and officials in the Jazeera and Badiya operations commands said.
The officials added that another group of insurgents then attacked the heavily guarded Ain al-Asad air base 5 km southwest of the town, but were unable to break into it. About 320 U.S. Marines are training members of the Iraqi 7th Division at the base, which has been struck by mortar fire on at least one previous occasion since December.
A Defense Ministry spokesman declined to comment on the situation in Anbar, while Pentagon spokeswoman Navy Comm. Elissa Smith confirmed the fighting in Al-Baghdadi. She said there had been no direct attack on the air base, adding: “There were reports of ineffective indirect fire in the vicinity of the base.”
Most of the surrounding towns in Anbar fell under ISIS control after the group’s rapid advance across the Syrian border last summer. Baghdad has not requested foreign ground forces to battle the militants, Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari reiterated, after U.S. President Barack Obama called for military operations that stop short of a full-scale invasion.
Speaking in Sydney, the Iraqi minister said ground forces were not part of his government’s plan. “We have never asked for a ground forces contribution,” he said through an interpreter after meetings with Australian Foreign Minister Julie Bishop. “We have established a set of guidelines,” for the international coalition, Jafaari told a news conference. This was to provide air support for Iraqi forces, training and intelligence, he stressed.
Also, Jordanian air force jets bombed ISIS hideouts in Syria, state television said, resuming the intensified raids that ended at the weekend. “The air force has bombed and destroyed select targets of the criminal gang ISIS this afternoon,” it said. UAE air force jets that arrived in Amman this week started raids against reinforcements – a squadron of F-16 fighters – carried out a second mission Thursday, an army source said. Jordan’s King Abdullah has vowed to avenge the killing of pilot Moaz al-Kassasbeh, who was burned to death by ISIS militants.