The U.S. believes Qasem Soleimani held meetings in the Russian capital to discuss Middle East strategy
The recent nuclear deal with Iran has come under criticism for including the removal of international sanctions against Soleimani
The Iranian commander of the Quds Force, who is subject to international travel sanctions, traveled to Moscow recently for meetings with the Russian government, a U.S. official told CNN Friday.
The U.S. believes Qasem Soleimani held meetings in the Russian capital to discuss Middle East strategy. The U.S. is still “seeking facts” about the visit, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations said Friday.
“We have seen the same reports that you refer to. Qasem Soleimani is subject to a U.N. travel ban, and this travel ban requires all states to prohibit QS from traveling to their nation. The only exception to that is if the Iran sanctions committee grants an exemption. To our knowledge no such exemption was granted. We would know. So these are very concerning reports but we are still tracking down the facts,” Samantha Power told reporters.
Fox News, which first reported on the trip, said that Soleimani was in Moscow on July 24 to meet with Russian President Vladamir Putin and others.
The Quds Force is an elite unit within Iran’s Revolutionary Guard that has carried out covert operations in other countries and has been tied by the U.S. to terror plots.
The recent nuclear deal with Iran has come under criticism for including the removal of international sanctions against Soleimani. At the Republican debate on Thursday, Texas Sen. Ted Cruz criticized the President.
“Part of this Iranian deal was lifting the international sanctions on General Soleimani. The day General Soleimani flew back from Moscow to Iran was the day we believed that Russia used cyber warfare against the Joint Chiefs. We need a new commander-in-chief that will stand up to our enemies and that will have credibility,” Cruz said.
But while the deal does include, after eight years of compliance, lifting U.N. sanctions against Iran that were put in place to thwart its nuclear program, White House officials say there is no deal to lift the unilateral U.S. sanctions against Soleimani.
The Pentagon refused to comment when asked about the connection that Cruz made of Soleimani’s visit to the recent hacking of the U.S. Joint Chiefs email servers. Pentagon spokesman Capt. Jeff Davis said the Pentagon would not comment on the hacking investigation. CNN reported Thursday that it is believed Russian hackers were behind the breach.