Kerry complains to Moscow about Suleimani’s visit

The Iranian Revolutionary Guards chief is reported to have visited Russia despite being subjected to international sanctions.

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WASHINGTON // US secretary of state John Kerry called his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to express concern about a visit to Moscow by the commander of Iran’s covert forces, a senior State Department official said.

General Qassem Suleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ foreign operations, reportedly visited Russia late last month despite being subject to UN-backed international sanctions.

A State Department spokesman said on Wednesday the United States had confirmed the trip had taken place and said US officials would raise their concerns with Russia at an upcoming New York meeting on violent extremism.

“Secretary Kerry also raised his concerns about the travel to Moscow by IRGC Commander Qassem Suleimani,” the senior official said on Thursday, outlining a call between the two diplomats.

Mr Suleimani is one of several Iranian officials targeted by a 2007 United Nations travel ban because of their alleged links to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs.

Despite the recent deal struck by Iran and world powers on its nuclear programme the targeted sanctions against Mr Suleimani and many of his colleagues remain in effect.

Mr Suleimani has also been sighted visiting Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, Shiite and Kurdish units fighting ISIL alongside government forces.

Iran also provides military support to Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s regime, which is embroiled in a four-year-old conflict with various rebel groups, and to Hizbollah.

Mr Suleimani is considered a key figure in the provision of that military assistance.

* Agence France-Presse