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Iran website denies Qasem Soleimani sidelined

A conservative Iranian website has denied reports by Arab media that Quds Force Cmdr. Gen. Qasem Soleimani has been replaced.

A conservative Iranian website has denied reports that the Iranian commander in charge of the country’s Iraq file has been replaced.

Citing an unnamed source within the National Alliance, a coalition of Shiite parties that includes politicians with close links to Tehran, Saudi-owned Asharq Al-Awsat reported Aug. 26 that the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force Cmdr. Qasem Soleimani “would be replaced” by his deputy Hossein Hamedani due to Soleimani’s inability to secure a third term for Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki.

Various Iranian websites also cited Kuwaiti newspaper Alrai that claimed it had spoken to a Revolutionary Guard official who confirmed that Soleimani would be replaced by Hamedani. The Iranian websites claimed that Hamedani, a veteran of the Iran-Iraq war, has a positive relationship with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani due to their work together during the war.

Nuclear Iran, a website close to former hard-line nuclear negotiator and former Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council (NSC) Saeed Jalili, has denied these reports in an article titled, “What are the ridiculous lies of the Saudis about Gen. Soleimani?”

“Some sources close to Saudi Arabia and Israel, during the last weeks, have published news that the responsibility of the Iraq file has been taken from Gen. Soleimani and given to someone else,” the article read.

“For instance, Asharq Al-Aswat, which is directly connected to Saudi Arabia, and also the weekly Al-Arab, which too is connected to the Saudi Arabian lobby, claimed that Iraq’s file in Iran has been given to Gen. Hossein Hamedani and [NSC Secretary] Ali Shamkhani.” Asharq Al-Awsat is owned by Faisal bin Salman, a member of the Saudi royal family.

The article continued, “Analysts in Tehran say that these reports are completely ridiculous. The file for the region is completely at the discretion of Gen. Soleimani, and in Iraq … Iran’s official position is stated by Gen. Soleimani.”

According to the Nuclear Iran report, a source said, “America, Israel and Saudi Arabia are stating their wishes in the form of news, and this news should be viewed through their consecutive failures against Gen. Soleimani and the strategy of the Quds Force in the region.”

According to another analyst who spoke to Nuclear Iran, Soleimani has had five recent successes in Iraq: managing the crisis in Iraq, protecting the Shiite coalition in communications with the marjiat and the coming to power of Haider al-Abadi, Iraqi prime minister-designate; forming a new parliamentary faction in Iraq by Ibrahim al-Jaafari; bringing in the Kurds in the fight against the Islamic State (IS); improving relations between Kurds and the Shiite central government; and protecting Maliki as political investment in Iraq.

Nuclear Iran is not a well-known website for news in Iran. Its slant is clearly toward the conservative and hard-line positions. If changes have indeed taken place at the leadership position in the Quds Force, they have not been stated officially by any political figure.

However, Shamkhani, in comparison to former NSC Secretary Jalili, has been much more involved in Iraq, meeting with various Iraqi officials. It’s possible that Shamkhani, former defense minister and a veteran Iranian politician well liked by Arab neighbors, is more involved with the political aspects of their Iraq file while Soleimani is more involved with the security aspect. Regardless, as Quds Force Commander, Soleimani still wields a great deal of authority for Iran’s regional policies and answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. 

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