The elusive commander of Iran’s powerful hard-line Quds Force visited Russia in July for a series of high level talks with officials in Moscow, despite being subject to an international travel ban and asset freeze by the United Nations since 2007.
According to a report by Fox News, General Qassem Soleimani met with Russian President Vladimir Putin and Defense Minister Sergei Shoigu in Moscow on July 24.
He departed from the country three days later, the report added.
The report, though denied by the Kremlin, was corroborated by two US security sources who spoke with Reuters on Friday, as well as a senior Iranian source, according to Israel Radio.
The US sources did not comment on the nature of the alleged meetings, while the Iranian source said the sides discussed Russia’s planned supply of advanced air-defense missiles to the Islamic Republic.
Russia in 2010 froze plans to supply S-300 missile systems to Iran, linking the decision to UN sanctions on the regime.
But in April, Putin lifted the suspension after a framework agreement was reached that would restrict Iran’s capacity to produce nuclear weapons. Tehran has spoken of the end of 2015 as the expected delivery date.
Israel and the US have lobbied against Iran being supplied the advanced system, which would sharply upgrade Tehran’s air defenses while also imperiling airliners in the region, according to analysts.
Soleimani, a powerful but shadowy figure once rarely seen in public, has become the face of Iran’s support for the Iraqi and Syrian governments against the Islamic State terrorist group.
He has frequently been pictured on social media in Iraq with pro-government forces, including Kurdish fighters and Shiite militia units in battle areas.
In June, Soleimani reportedly landed in Baghdad hours after the Islamic State overran Mosul, and led the anti-jihadist counter-attack at the head of Iran’s military involvement in Iraq.
The Quds Force, which functions as the foreign wing of Iran’s elite Revolutionary Guards, was designated by the US as a supporter of terrorism in 2007, and by the European Union in 2011.
Rumors that the ban on Soleimani would be lifted with the signing of the Iran deal were denied by Washington last week.