MESOP : JUST ANOTHER QASSEM SOLEIMANI STORY – 30,000 Iranian soldiers fighting Islamic State in Iraq, Kurdish MP says

Al Jazeera – 23 Mar 2015 – BAGHDAD,— Kurdish lawmaker in the Iraqi parliament said that 30,000 Iranian soldiers and military experts involved in the fight the Islamic State group (IS) in Iraq, calling it a “threat to Iraq’s sovereignty.”Shakhawan Abdullah, the head of the Iraq’s parliamentary security and defence committee, told Al Jazeera on Sunday that Iranian soldiers were operating in a number of Iraqi cities and fighting on Iraqi soil.

Abdullah said Iran’s presence went beyond military advisers and experts, and that Iranians were fighting under the banner of the Popular Mobilisation Forces. Abdulla said the formidable Iranian presence in the country is a “threat to Iraq’s sovereignty.” He explained that, “Although their presence in Iraq has been known, especially after the Tikrit operation, some of them dress up as Iraqi Shiite militants from the Hashd al-Shaabi militia.”

The Popular Mobilisation Forces is an umbrella organisation of Shia armed groups composed of around 100,000 fighters. Qasem Soleimani, head of the elite Iranian Quds force, is reportedly directing tens of thousands of Shiite militia fighters in battles against ISIS in the predominately-Sunni city of Tikrit.

Abdulla criticized the Iraqi president for allowing Iranian involvement in Iraq’s war against IS, saying that, “according to Iraqi law, the protection of national sovereignty is the president’s constitutional duty.” In a short video posted on YouTube earlier this month Soleimani, who has commanded immense influence in Iraq for many years, is seen giving religious advice, apparently to Iraqi Army forces and militiamen fighting for Tikrit.Iran has repeatedly denied sending soldiers to Iraq despite claims by the US. In August, Iran was accused of sending hundreds of soldiers to retake the town of Jalawla from IS, while in December it was alleged that an Iranian F-4 fighter struck IS targets in the province of Diyala. Shiite fighters have been accused of killing dozens of civilians in retribution against the actions of IS since the group seized large swathes of land and announced the establishment of a “caliphate”