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Iran’s Soleimani reportedly
met Iraqi Kurdish leaders

KRG President Massoud Barzani denied meeting recently with the IRGC Quds Force commander.

Qassem Soleimani. (image via Press TV)

BEIRUT – Kurdish media outlets have reported that Iranian Revolutionary Guards Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani met recently with Iraqi Kurdish leaders, including President Massoud Barzani, who for his part denied a sit down took place.

 

Alaraby Aljadeed cited a report by a pro-Kurdish Democratic Party website as saying that a secret meeting had been held recently between Movement for Change leader Nashirwan Mustafa and Soleimani in a hotel in the city of Sulaymaniyah.
 
According to the London-based daily, Rozhane News reported that Soleimani brought “messages… on coordination of joint work.”
 
In a separate report cited by the daily, Nashirawan’s KNN TV said that “Soleimani is in the process of carrying out consultations and meetings with officials and leaders in the [Kurdistan] region’s political groups, including Barzani himself.”
 
Yet another website, which Alaraby Aljadeed cited but did not name, allegedly said that a meeting between Soleimani and Barzani was unlikely, as the latter “does not occupy himself with what the Iranian general says, as other politicians do.”
 
In a related story, which was also covered by the daily, a website that proved difficult to track allegedly published a picture of Movement for Change MP Evar Ibrahim and several other people in a meeting with Soleimani.
 
Alaraby Aljadeed cited the parliamentarian as justifying the meeting by saying that she was “not the only person who has met with Soleimani.” 
 
“Many MPs have,” Ibrahim reportedly said.
 
“I don’t know what the problem is with that kind of pictures being taken and published.”
 
“Soleimani isn’t that much of a dangerous person. He is a man who sits in the political offices of parties.”
 
“Why is it a crime for me to have my picture taken with him?

 

Meanwhile, Barzani’s office issued a statement saying that “news of Soleimani secretly visiting Erbil is far from the truth.”

 

“President Barzani and Soleimani have not met since over three months ago,” the statement added.

 

However, the Kurdish president’s office stressed that “any meeting held with Soleimani during the circumstances the country is experiencing in this war against terrorists [would be] a normal matter.”

 

“There have been previous meetings and there will be other meetings if necessary.”

 

Soleimani has acted as Iran’s pointman in Iraq, where he has helped coordinate the Tehran-backed Popular Mobilization militias efforts to roll back ISIS in the beleaguered country.

 

The Kurds share Baghdad’s overall objective of defeating ISIS—and have retaken swathes of territory seized by the extremist group, including around Mosul—however the Kurdish Peshmerga’s role in a potential Iraqi operation to seize Mosul remains in question.

 

Despite strong ties between the Kurdish Regional Government and the US, Iran was the first country to provide arms to the Kurds in their fight against ISIS as the militant group threatened to move on the Kurdish capital of Erbil in August 2014.

 

“We asked for weapons and Iran was the first country to provide us with weapons and ammunition,” KRG President Massoud Barzani said on August 26 during a joint press conference with Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif.

 

Most analysts, however, agree that the potential for Tehran to establish political influence in the autonomous Kurdish region of Iraq remains low.

IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. (image via Press TV)

There have been previous meetings and there will be other meetings if necessary.