London- Iran’s Quds Force chief Qassem Soleimani admitted on Sunday to allies inside Iran and abroad criticism on his division’s participation in Syria.
Soleimani said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei has taken the decision with the country’s best interest in mind, regardless whether the intervention was defending a dictator or not.
The Quds Force is a special forces unit of Iran’s Revolutionary Guards responsible for their extraterritorial operations. The Quds Force reports directly to Khamenei, and its commander is Soleimani.
Speaking in Tehran, Soleimani for the first time made note of an internal opposition on an official level concerning the military intervention the Revolutionary Guard is leading in Syria and Iraq.
“High-end friends on the inside and the outside had asked for us not to interfere in Syria and Iraq, and had defended the revolution in a respectful way,” said Soleimani.
“Do we consider our relations with other countries as to who is a dictator and otherwise, or must we choose interests?” Fars news agency, Revolutionary Guards mouthpiece, cited Soleimani as saying.
Referring to Iranian military forces staging missions in Syria and Iraq, Soleimani claimed that his country takes credit for allegedly “linking Sunni and Shi’ite sects,” stressing that his country “reached unprecedented strength” because of what he saw as Khamenei’s “influential” role.
The Quds Force has been leading a coalition of Iranian, Afghan and Pakistani fighters as well as Lebanese Hezbollah and an Iraqi militia in Syria for six years.
Soleimani denied that his country had advanced its interests over those of Iraq’s or had sought control over oil wells and the Iraqi cities of Mosul and Kirkuk, and also repudiated information on his forces getting paid for their participation abroad.
“The Shi’ite crescent is not political but economic, the most important issue in the world is economic,” Soleimani had said on March 29, 2014, during a speech in which he defended the role of his forces in the region.
Since reports started coming in on Revolutionary Guard fighters being killed abroad, Tehran has denied the presence of troops in Syria, but later said that its military forces are taking up an “advisory” role in Iraq and Syria at the official request of the governments of both countries.
Responding to accusations directed towards Iran for destabilizing the region, Soleimani said “we through sects have prevented sectarian war, not military force.”
However, for six years, the Revolutionary Guards have refused to reveal their losses abroad, whether in fighters or expenses. Last month, Soleimani said defense ministry factories manufactured weapons around the clock to arm Tehran-allied Iraqi forces.
Although Soleimani stressed the “linkage of Shi’ite and Sunni sects” in Syria and Iraq, he warned at the same time of the “danger of sectarian strife” inside Iran. He called for activating the role of mosques in Iran to “rehabilitate” fighters.