A senior Iranian official says Pope Francis would not have been able to visit Iraq safely today if it had not been for the sacrifices of Lieutenant General Qassem Soleimani and his companions in the fight against the Takfiri Daesh terror group.
The Pope’s safe visit to Baghdad would never have happened “had it not been for the significant self-sacrifices of [Iraqi commander] Abu Mahdi Muhandis, Lieutenant General Soleimani and those who were martyred in the fight against terrorism and Daesh in Iraq and the broader region,” wrote Hossein Amir-Abdollahian, the Iranian Parliament speaker’s special advisor, in a tweet on Friday.
General Soleimani, the commander of the Quds Force of Iran’s Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (IRGC) and Muhandis, the deputy head of Iraq’s Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), were assassinated early last year in a US drone strike ordered by then American president Donald Trump.
The two commanders enjoyed enormous popularity not just in Iran and Iraq but in the entire Middle East and beyond for the major parts they played in the successful battles that ultimately put an end to the territorial rule of Daesh, the world’s most notorious terror group, in the Middle East region in late 2017.
Amir-Abdollahian further denounced Washington’s interventionist policies in Iraq and the Middle East, which he blamed as the root cause of instability there.
“America’s meddling and the presence of US forces in Iraq and [elsewhere] in the region continue to be a source of instability,” he added.
Over three years into the fall of Daesh in Iraq and more than a year after the brutal American murder, Pope Francis on Friday arrived at Baghdad airport, as the first head of the Roman Catholic Church to visit the Middle Eastern country.
This is the first visit the pontiff has embarked on since the pandemic hit the world.
He told reporters on his plane that he felt duty-bound to make the “emblematic” trip because the country “has been martyred for so many years.”
In a speech after being welcomed by Iraqi President Barham Salih, the pontiff called for an end to violence and extremism.
“May the clash of arms be silenced…may there be an end to acts of violence and extremism,” he said.
He also criticized foreign meddling that have destabilized Iraq and the region and hit ordinary people the hardest.
Pope Francis is also scheduled to meet top Shia Muslim cleric, Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani in Baghdad.
The US invaded Iraq in 2003 opening a second major front in its so-called war on terror that had seen it attacking Afghanistan two years earlier.
The invasion toppled Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein, but was followed by rampant instability as well as deadly and ruinous ethnic violence.
In 2014, the Arab country was overrun by the terror group Daesh that emerged amid the chaos resulting from the US invasion.
The United States and scores of its allies then reinforced their presence in Iraq, this time under the pretext of seeking to uproot the terrorists.
The US is, however, refusing to leave Iraqi soil, despite Daesh’s fall and in defiance of a resolution adopted by the Iraqi parliament in the aftermath of the American military’s assassination of General Soleimani and his companions calling for the withdrawal of American troops.