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Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 12 December 2018

Suleimani claims Iran has 'upper hand' in region

Major General Qassem Suleimani, who commands forces in both Iraq and Syria in support, denies Iran is the source of crisis

A file photo of the commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Major General Qassem Suleimani. AFP
A file photo of the commander of Iranian Revolutionary Guard's Quds Force, Major General Qassem Suleimani. AFP

Iran's top general has claimed Tehran now has the "upper hand" in the region and denied supporting other groups in the region for its own political ends.

Major General Qassem Suleimani, the commander of Iran's Quds Force, said on Sunday said Tehran was not a source of crisis, but a source of stability — including in Syria, where his forces have propped up Bashar Al Assad during the devastating civil war.

"Iran [now has the] upper hand in the region," he said according to the official IRNA news agency.

Fighters from the Quds Force, the elite branch of the Revolutionary Guard responsible for overseas military operations, are on the ground in both Iraq and Syria, while Tehran is also providing support for the Houthi rebels in Yemen.

In its latest annual report on terrorism worldwide, released last month, the US state department accused the Quds Force of "playing a destabilising role in military conflicts in Iraq, Syria and Yemen".

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The Quds Force has been crucial in preventing the collapse of the Assad regime in Syria, and has close ties with many of the Shiite militias fighting against ISIL in Iraq.

Maj Gen Suleimani himself was injured in fighting against Syrian rebels in Aleppo province in November 2015, according to reports from a security source on the ground and the Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, a Britain-based monitoring group.

In Iraq, Tehran has been using the Shiite militias to pursue its goal of carving out a land corridor stretching from Iran to Assad regime territory on Syria's coast. This corridor will allow Iran to better supply Mr Al Assad with men and material, while also giving Tehran access to the Mediterranean. The latter would establish for Tehran a potential trade route to the west that is significantly shorter than the sea route around the Arabian peninsula.

Iran has also been providing weapons and military advisers to the Houthis fighting the Yemeni government and a Saudi-led military coalition that includes the UAE. In March, the arms tracking NGO Conflict Armament Research said Iran had transferred so-called kamikaze aerial drone technology to the Shiite rebels who had used it to disable coalition missile defences.

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Read more:

Iran uses new route across Gulf to funnel arms to Houthis in Yemen

Risks remain as Iraqi militias press ahead with Iran's bridge to Syria

Baghdad and Tehran sign a deal to boost military co-operation

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