A senior Iranian hard-line cleric has said that Iranian Qods Force Commander Major General Qassem Suleimani's ideas are more effective against Islamic State (IS) militants than arms.
Grand Ayatollah Hossein Noori Hamedani said that Suleimani's "intelligence and ideas" had defeated the "terrorists" in Syria and Iraq.
Over the past several weeks, Iran has actively promoted reports of Suleimani's presence in Syria and particularly in Iraq, where he is thought to have overseen an offensive by the Iraqi Army and Shi'a militias against IS militants in the town of Jurf Al-Sakhar.
Hamedani said that while there were a great many "armed people" present in those countries, Suleimani's ideas were "more effective."
He linked the major general's ideas in Iraq and Syria to the concept of "defending the sacred Islamic system," which he said was "holy work."
In his comments, Hamedani seemed to use the term "IS" to mean not just Islamic State militants in Syria and Iraq, but also to imply a wider existential enemy threat to Iran's own brand of Shi'a Islam.
The grand ayatollah made his comments to the leader of Iran's Passive Defense Organization, Brigadier General Gholemreza Jalali. "Passive defense" is a key part of Iran's military strategy and includes efforts to minimize the effects of an enemy attack.
The fight with IS would last for years, Hamedani said, "because the enemy has a plan for this work of theirs, so the Muslims will be busy."
Hamedani is known for his very hard-line stance on Islam, and in the past has called for a crackdown against Sufi and dervish groups in the holy city of Qom. The cleric has also spoken out against Jews, secular and liberal values, and the UN Convention for the Elimination of All Forms of Discrimination Against Women, which he said was "a U.S. ploy against Islam."
-- Joanna Paraszczuk