The presence of Gen Soleimani on the front lines highlights Tehran’s heavy sway over policy in Iraq
CIA chief Pompeo says he warned Iran's Soleimani over Iraq aggression
US Central Intelligence Agency director Mike Pompeo on Saturday said that he sent a letter to Iranian Maj Gen Qassem Soleimani and Iranian leaders expressing concern regarding Iran's increasingly threatening behaviour in Iraq.
Speaking during a panel at the annual Reagan National Defence Forum in Southern California, Mr Pompeo said he sent the letter after the senior Iranian military commander had indicated that forces under his control might attack US forces in Iraq. He did not specify the date.
"What we were communicating to him in that letter was that we will hold he and Iran accountable for any attacks on American interests in Iraq by forces that are under their control," Mr Pompeo told the panel.
"We wanted to make sure he and the leadership in Iran understood that in a way that was crystal clear."
Gen Soleimani, who is the commander of foreign operations for Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, refused to open the letter, according to Mr Pompeo, who took over the CIA in January.
Reuters reported in October that Gen Soleimani had repeatedly warned Kurdish leaders in northern Iraq to withdraw from the oil city of Kirkuk or face an onslaught by Iraqi forces and allied Iranian-backed fighters, and had travelled to Iraq’s Kurdistan region to meet Kurdish leaders.
The presence of Gen Soleimani on the front lines highlights Tehran’s heavy sway over policy in Iraq, and comes as Iran seeks to win a proxy war in the Middle East with its regional rival and US ally, Saudi Arabia.
A US-led coalition has been fighting ISIL in Iraq and Syria and is often in proximity to Iran-allied militia fighting ISIL there.
"You need to only look to the past few weeks and the efforts of the Iranians to exert influence now in Northern Iraq in addition to other places in Iraq to see that Iranian efforts to be the hegemonic power throughout the Middle East continues to increase," Mr Pompeo said.