Shadowy Iran commander gives interview on 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war

Tehran (AFP) –


The shadowy head of Iran's elite Quds Force, Qassem Soleimani, gave an insight on his role in Lebanon during the 2006 Israel-Hezbollah war, in a rare interview broadcast Tuesday on state television.

The 90-minute interview was presented as the first of its kind with Soleimani, top commander of the Revolutionary Guards branch that runs foreign operations.

Soleimani said he spent almost the entire duration of the 34-day conflict in Lebanon, which he entered from Syria alongside Imad Moughnieh, a commander of the Iran-backed Shiite movement Hezbollah who was assassinated in 2008.

The 2006 war killed more than 1,200 Lebanese, mostly civilians, and more than 160 Israelis, mostly soldiers.

Apart from a one-day mission back to Iran "one week" into the war to report to supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and return with a message for Hezbollah chief Hassan Nasrallah, Soleimani said he remained in Lebanon to oversee the fight.

He also recounted how, under massive Israeli bombardment of Hezbollah's stronghold in Beirut's southern suburbs, he and Moughnieh evacuated Nasrallah from his "operations room" where they were based.

According to his account, after ferrying Nasrallah to safety, he and Moughnieh returned to the command centre.

The broadcast of the interview, carried out by Khamenei's office, comes days after it published a photo allegedly showing Nasrallah next to Khamenei and Soleimani, in an apparent recent meeting between the three in Tehran.