Twice designated a terrorist by the United States government, considered responsible for up to 20 percent of American casualties in the Iraq war, Major General Qasem Suleimani, the legendary Iranian spymaster and leader of the Quds Force – the elite special operations wing of the hardline Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – is now stirring alarm in Washington for doing something the Obama administration would ordinarily cheer: taking the fight to ISIS in Iraq.
Photographs circulating on social media show Suleimani operating alongside senior Iraqi officials in the theater in and around Tikrit, the Sunni ancestral home of Saddam Hussein that is located almost equidistant between Mosul, the ISIS-controlled city 120 miles to the north, and Baghdad, the capital of the Iraqi government 100 miles to the south.
The presence of Suleimani at the forefront of Iraqi forces’efforts to reclaim Tikrit from ISIS control underscores both the expanding influence of Iran on the central Iraqi government and the increasingly critical role that Shi’ite militiamen, thought to be operating under Quds command, are playing in the Iraqi fight against ISIS. Neither development brings pleasure to senior U.S. officials or lawmakers in Congress.
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