BEIRUT – Iranian President Hassan Rouhani declared the end of Islamic State on Tuesday while a senior military commander thanked the thousands of martyrs killed in operations organized by Iran to defeat the militant group in Syria and Iraq.
“Today with God’s guidance and the resistance of people in the region we can say that this evil has either been lifted from the head of the people or has been reduced,” Rouhani said in an address broadcast live on state TV.
“Of course the remnants will continue but the foundation and roots have been destroyed.”
Major General Qassem Soleimani, a senior commander of the elite Revolutionary Guards, also said Islamic State had been defeated, in a message sent on Tuesday to Iran’s supreme leader which was published on the Guards’ news site, Sepah News.
The Syrian conflict has entered a new phase with the capture at the weekend by government forces and their allies of Albu Kamal, the last significant town in Syria held by Islamic State, where Soleimani was pictured by Iranian media last week.
Iraqi forces captured the border town of Rawa, the last remaining town there under Islamic State control, on Friday, signaling the collapse of the so-called caliphate it proclaimed in 2014 across vast swathes of Iraqi and Syrian territory.
Most of the forces battling Islamic State in Syria and Iraq have said they expect it to go underground and turn to a guerrilla insurgency using sleeper cells and bombings.
In his address on Tuesday, Rouhani accused the United States and Israel of supporting Islamic State. He also criticized Arab powers in the region and asked why they had not spoken out about civilian deaths in Yemen’s conflict.
The foreign ministers of Saudi Arabia and other Arab states criticized Iran and its Lebanese ally Hezbollah at an emergency meeting in Cairo on Sunday, calling for a united front to counter Iranian interference.
Rouhani is scheduled to meet Russian President Vladimir Putin and Turkish leader Tayyip Erdogan in Russia on Wednesday to discuss the Syria conflict.