Iranian Revolutionary Guard Commander Qassem Soleimani.
(photo credit: REUTERS)
MOSCOW - Iranian Major General Qassem Soleimani has flown to Moscow for talks with Russia's military and political leadership, three sources with knowledge of his trip said on Friday. Soleimani's trip defies the UN Security Council travel ban, which was imposed on Soleimani and other Iranian officials in 2007 due to concerns about their ties to Tehran’s nuclear and ballistic missile programs.
This marks Soleimani's second trip to Moscow following the landmark nuclear agreement between Iran and other world powers. Last July, Soleimani flew to help Russia plan its military intervention in Syria and forge an Iranian-Russian alliance to support Syria's President Bashar al-Assad.
According to the nuclear accord, the ban is to be lifted in eight years time, pending Soleimani and his counterparts comply with the restrictions outlined in the resolution.
One Moscow-based Western diplomat said he understood Soleimani would meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu.
Soleimani was designated as a terrorist and sanctioned by the US in 2005 due to his role in supporting and funding terrorism.
UN member states such as Russia are required to deny entry to blacklisted individuals and senior US officials expressed serious concern last year when it was first reported that Soleimani had visited Moscow.
"General Soleimani traveled to Moscow last night to discuss issues including the delivery of S300s and further military cooperation," one senior Iranian security official told Reuters, referring to an air defense system Russia is supplying Iran.
A Kremlin spokesman said that a meeting with Soleimani was not on Russian President Vladimir Putin's schedule.