By Joanna Paraszczuk, RFE/RL
On October 26, the Iraqi government claimed a significant victory for its troops and Shi'a militias near Baghdad: the recapture of the key Islamic State-held town of Jurf Al-Sakhar.
Iraq's new interior minister, Mohammed Salem Al-Ghabban, insisted that this victory -- which was apparently overseen by the commander of Iran's Qods Force, Major General Qassem Soleimani -- was achieved without the assistance of the U.S.-led coalition against IS.
The Iranian media has been quick to play up Al-Ghabban's remarks. The state-owned Al-Alam news agency, for example, headlined with Al-Ghabban's claim that the United States and its allies "had no role" at Jurf Al-Sakhar.
Coverage of Jurf Al-Sakhar recapture by Al-Alam news agency
The victory at Jurf Al-Sakhar is a major boost for Iran, which in recent weeks has pursued a strategy of insisting that it is playing a key role in combating IS militants, particularly in Iraq. As part of this strategy, the Iranian media has published a number of images of the previously rarely seen Suleimani, the commander of Iran's Qods Force (the overseas wing of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps or IRGC) in Iraq. The most recent photograph of Suleimani shows the Qods Force commander with Hadi Al-Ameri, the leader of the powerful Shi'a faction, the Badr Organization.
There has been some speculation that Abu Mahdi Al-Muhandis, an advisor to Suleimani, was among those photographed with Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar Al-Abadi at Jurf Al-Sakhar on October 24:
Photo of Iraqi PM Abadi features white-bearded man in khaki who may be Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, Suleimani's no. 2: http://t.co/vXcqHaPV4d— Michael Weiss (@michaeldweiss) October 26, 2014
In his most recent comments on October 26, Iran's influential parliament speaker, Ali Larijani, dismissed the United States and its allies as being simply "not efficient enough" to defeat IS, adding that some members of the coalition "lack the determination and honesty necessary to combat terrorism."
Meanwhile, Fars News, linked to the IRGC, used a report about the victory at Jurf Al-Sakhar to attack Iran's rival Saudi Arabia, claiming that IS "has links with Saudi intelligence and is believed to be indirectly supported by the Israeli regime."
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