United States Secretary of State John Kerry called his Russian counterpart Sergei Lavrov on Thursday to express concern about a visit to Moscow by the commander of Iran’s covert forces, a senior State Department official said, according to AFP.
General Qassem Soleimani, head of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ foreign operations, reportedly visited Russia late last month despite being subject to UN-backed international sanctions.
He had reportedly met Russian Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu and President Vladimir Putin on July 24.
A State Department spokesman said on Wednesday the United States had confirmed the trip had taken place and said American officials would raise their concerns with Russia at an upcoming New York meeting on violent extremism.
“Secretary Kerry also raised his concerns about the travel to Moscow by IRGC Commander Qassem Soleimani,” the senior official said on Thursday, according to AFP, outlining a call between the two diplomats.
Soleimani is one of several Iranian officials targeted by a 2007 United Nations travel ban because of their alleged links to Iran’s nuclear or ballistic missile programs, but the sanctions against him are due to be lifted in the event the Iran nuclear deal is implemented.
Soleimani has also been sighted visiting Iranian-backed forces in Iraq, Shiite and Kurdish units fighting the IslamicState (ISIS) alongside government forces.
Iran is a close ally of Syrian President Bashar Al-Assad and has provided him with military support during his fight against rebels trying to topple his regime.
Former Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad personally sanctioned the dispatch of officers from the Iranian Revolutionary Guards to Syria to fight alongside Assad’s troops.
Soleimani is considered a key figure in the provision of that military assistance.