Secret Iranian spy cables show how Qassim Suleimani wielded enormous power in Iraq

By | January 6, 2020

Murtaza Hussain writes:

In the four decaes since the 1979 Iranian Revolution, few Iranian leaders have achieved the global profile attained by Maj. Gen. Qassim Suleimani, the military commander killed in an American airstrike on Thursday. After the 2003 invasion of Iraq, Suleimani emerged as the United States’s most capable adversary in that country. His American counterpart at a key point during the occupation, Gen. David Petraeus, described Suleimani as “a truly evil figure” in a letter to Robert Gates, then the U.S. defense secretary. Over the years, Suleimani gained a reputation as a fearsome military leader who controlled a network of ideologically driven militia proxies across the Middle East.

A more nuanced portrait of Suleimani emerges from a leaked archive of secret Iranian spy cables obtained by The Intercept. The documents were generated by officers from the Iranian Ministry of Intelligence and Security, or MOIS, stationed in Iraq between 2013 and 2015, when the Iranian war against the Islamic State was at its height, and Suleimani was running the show.

The reports reveal how Suleimani was perceived in some corners of the Iranian intelligence establishment, and the picture that emerges does not always align with the carefully crafted public image of the general as an indomitable strategist. While the Iranian-led war against ISIS was raging, Iranian spies privately expressed concern that the brutal tactics favored by Suleimani and his Iraqi proxies were laying the groundwork for major blowback against the Iranian presence in Iraq. Suleimani was also criticized for his own alleged self-promotion amid the fighting. Photos of the Iranian commander on battlefields across Iraq had helped build his image as an iconic military leader. But that outsized image was also turning him into a figure of terror for many ordinary Iraqis.

Some of the cables chronicle Suleimani’s battlefield appearances and meetings with senior Iraqi officials, while others describe the activities of his militia proxies in Iraq. As commander of the elite Quds Force, the external operations arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, Suleimani belonged to a more powerful institutional rival of Iran’s intelligence ministry. In some documents, intelligence officers criticize Suleimani for alienating Sunni Arab communities and helping to create the circumstances that justified a renewed American military presence in Iraq. [Continue reading…]

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