Iran Qods Force commander Qasem Soleimani has held meetings with Iraqi Kurdish officials in Erbil this week, Rudaw reports:
The commander of Iran’s Quds Force, Qasem Soleimani, visited Erbil this week and met with top officials from the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG), among them Prime Minister Nechirvan Barzani.
A source from the Erbil International Airport told Rudaw on condition of anonymity that Soleimani’s plane arrived from Sulaimani where the Iranian commander had met with officials from the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK).
Meanwhile, Prime Minister Barzani’s press secretary told the media that the PM has received an official invitation to visit the Islamic Republic of Iran.
“The prime minister received an invitation from the Islamic Republic to visit Tehran and meet with top Iranian officials, but he has not set a date for his visit yet,” Sami Argushi, the PM’s press secretary said.
Political analysts believe this visit by Major General Soleimani, who commands an important wing of the Iranian Revolutionary Guard Corps, alongside other visits between Iranian and Kurdish officials, is a sign of strengthening relations between Iran and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP).
According to Argushi, the prime minister’s visit will be to “strengthen mutual relations between Kurdistan and the Islamic Republic.”
“The prime minister will also discuss the current political situation in Iraq,” Argushi said.
Relations between Iran and the KDP deteriorated after Kurdistan Region President Massoud Barzani attempted to withdraw confidence from Iraqi Prime Minister Nuri al-Maliki, seen as a close ally of Iran.
However, a recent agreement between Erbil and Baghdad over oil and gas issues seems to have eased tensions.
(An Iranian journalist told Al-Monitor that he saw Soleimani at the Non-Aligned Movement summit in Tehran last month, walking out of a room next to Egyptian President Mohamed Morsi.)
(Photo: Commander of Iran’s Quds Force Qassem Soleimani, via Press TV.)