Iraq’s President Fuad Masum has commended Iran’s military support to the Baghdad government and defended the presence of Iran’s controversial Quds Force Commander Qassem Soleimani in the Iraqi battlefields. “The presence of General Qassem Soleimani is within the framework of the presence of foreign military advisors in Iraq. America, France, Britain and other European countries have military advisors in Iraq. It can therefore not be said that Iran does not have the right to be present in Iraq. In our view, it is an ordinary issue,” Masum said in an exclusive interview with Tasnim News Agency, an Iranian outlet affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.).

Comment: The Iraqi president’s remark is yet another indication of Iran’s growing influence over the Iraqi government. Soleimani is the chief commander of the I.R.G.C.’s notorious Quds Force, which has been responsible for the killing of scores of Americans in Iraq and Afghanistan. Despite a United Nations travel ban, the Quds Force commander last year traveled to Moscow to coordinate Syria war plans with Russian officials and regularly tours Syrian and Iraqi battle fronts to direct Iran-supported militia forces.