Qassem Suleimani is no "Rambo" or "Rocky" from Hollywood movies, says a senior media adviser to the commander of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
Hamidreza Moghadamfar made the comments in response to a question by the semiofficial Mehr news agency about the numerous photographs of the commander of the IRGC's Quds Force that have been circulating recently on social-media and news sites. Several of Suleimani's pictures were posted in early November on the Facebook page of former Iranian diplomat Sadegh Kharrazi, including one that appears to be a selfie.
The images have attracted much attention and sarcasm because Suleimani, who is said to be in charge of the overseas operations of the powerful Revolutionary Guards, had been described until recently as a shadowy and mysterious figure.
But the "shadowy" figure has become one of the IRGC's most photographed commanders, with images of him with Iraqi officials and others in the battlefield against the Islamic State (IS) militant group in Iraq popping up frequently on social media.
Some analysts and observers have suggested that the publication of Suleimani photos appears to be a PR attempt by Iran to boast its military presence in Iraq.
"The idea is to get across that Iran is very much present in Iraq and it is there to defend its interests," Dina Esfandiary of the International Institute for Strategic Studies told "The Guardian" in October.
In November a former senior Iranian official was quoted by the "Financial Times" as saying that the photographs were a move to distract from the failure of Iranian intelligence to oversee regional developments after IS managed to take control of swaths of neighboring Iraq.
"Publishing pictures comes more out of weakness than strength and is an effort to show that Iran is in control; it is a reaction to a big failure," the former senior official said.
On December 5, IRGC adviser Moghadamfar offered two reasons for the many images of Suleimani's that have been making the rounds. He claimed that while Suleimani himself does not like to be photographed, his popularity and the desire of the people in the region to know him have prompted media to publish his photo.
He added that "Zionist media" are also to blame because they want to give the "false" impression that Iran has a military presence in the countries in the region.
Moghadamfar said Suleimani was present in Iraq as an adviser to Iraqi forces in the fight against "terrorists groups" including the IS at the request of the Iraqi people and the Iraqi government.
He said Western media were trying to reduce Suleimani, a "heavenly man" and a guardian of the Islamic Revolution, to a "superstar" like those in Western action movies.
"Western media are trying to turn Suleimani into a Rambo or Rocky of American movies," he said, adding that Suleimani and those like him are not "revengeful and spiteful."
Previously some Iranian hard-line websites had quoted Iraqi sources as saying that Suleimani had been playing a key role in defeating IS militants in Amerli and other towns.
-- Golnaz Esfandiari