Following the leak of Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif’s audiotape in April, no one doubts about the role of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) in Tehran’s foreign policy. “In the Islamic Republic, the military field rules,” Zarif said. “The [military] field’s success was more important than diplomacy’s success… I have sacrificed diplomacy for the field rather than the field serving diplomacy.”
In this respect, Zarif particularly pointed to the role of former IRGC Quds Force commander Qassem Soleimani. He also grumbled over Soleimani sabotaging the nuclear negotiations with the West. “Soleimani had worked to subvert the nuclear deal, by colluding with Russia and by ramping up Iran’s intervention in Syria’s civil war,” Zarif added.
Already in late March 2008, Soleimani had sent a message to then-commander of U.S. forces in Iraq General David Petraeus through then-Iraqi President Jalal Talabani emphasizing the IRGC-QF’s role in the Middle East. “General Petraeus, you should know that I, Qasem Soleimani, control the policy of Iran for Iraq, and also for Syria, Lebanon, Gaza and Afghanistan,” Soleimani’s message read.
Why Iran Has a Greedy Eye on Iraq?
Since the beginning of the Islamic Republic in 1979, regime founder and first Supreme Leader Ruhollah Khomeini had a greedy eye on the western neighboring country Iraq. Given the geopolitical position of this country, particularly a 69-percent Shiite population, Khomeini chose Iraq as a launchpad for his regional ambitions.
However, he was pursuing a scheduled plan aimed at conquering Mideast countries with a Shiite-population density like Iraq, Syria, and Lebanon. Khomeini actually dreamed to form an Islamic State—more than three decades before Abu-Bakr al-Baghdadi and his comrades had thought about such a state—in the countries that form a crescent.
In this respect, he and his top officials mentioned this regional “Shiite Crescent” in their remarks. Later, they called it as the state’s “Strategic Depth.”
At the time, the Islamic Republic founder started his meddling in the then-Iraqi government’s affairs. He frankly called on the people of Iraq to revolt against their rulers, and he secretly ordered the IRGC to begin border conflicts.
Indeed, Khomeini had taken power in Iran as a spiritual leader. He had no political or social method to resolve society’s complicated dilemmas. He tried to monopolize the power and remove all domestic dissidents. However, he could not practice his idea completely due to society’s volatile condition.
Therefore, he resorted to a longstanding trick that has been applied by dictators throughout history. “Victory will be achieved through terrifying the masses” was Khomeini’s rationale to strengthen his sovereignty.
Thus, he ignited a full-scale war with Iraq to attribute all the country’s unresolved difficulties to the war. On the one hand, Khomeini sent hundreds of thousands of youths to the battlefields and left millions of grieving parents, sisters, brothers, widows, and orphans. And he quelled any domestic objection and complaints under the excuse of the war.
“War is a divine blessing,” Khomeini said several times, insisting, “We will continue the war even if it takes 20 years and until the last brick in Tehran.” He practically spread an atmosphere of fear in Iran’s society to achieve “victory.” He also equipped the IRGC with advanced weaponry systems under the banner of “Holy Defense.” He also prolonged the war to eight years keeping the people under the sense of fear and terror.
Iranian Diplomats in Iraq
Following the occupation of Iraq and the establishment of ‘Coalition Provisional Authority,’ Tehran appointed IRGC-QF brigadier generals, including Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, Hassan Danaeifar, and Iraj Masjedi as its ambassadors to this country.
The first ‘ambassador’ Kazemi-Qomi had served as Iran’s counselor in Harat, Afghanistan, before the Iraqi government fell in 2003. At the time, he was organizing terror squads under the banner of a diplomat. He had a firsthand experience of work with the U.S. forces in Afghanistan.
The Iranian government replaced Kazemi-Qomi with Danaeifar in 2010. Danaeifar especially focused on orchestrating terror attacks on the Iranian dissidents Mojahedin-e Khalq (MEK/PMOI). Around 140 dissidents were killed during his tenure, and eventually, when the MEK departed Iraq in September 2016, he was replaced with Masjedi, then-IRGC-QF deputy commander. Masjedi is still Tehran’s ‘ambassador’ in Iraq.
Furthermore, Assadollah Assadi, who was recently convicted to 20 years in prison by a Belgian court for a foiled bomb plot against the Iranian opposition rally in Paris, is another IRGC-QF high-ranking agent.
“The 49-year-old [Assadi] was a diplomat in Iraq from 2003 to 2008, before being appointed third secretary at the Iranian embassy in Vienna in 2014,” wrote Le Monde on October 10, 2020.
In his minutes, taken by the Belgian police, Assadi had plainly threatened Belgian authorities with terror attacks by IRGC-QF-controlled proxies in the Middle East. “Armed groups in Iraq, Lebanon, Yemen and Syria, as well as in Iran, were interested in the outcome of his case and would be ‘watching from the sidelines to see if Belgium would support them or not,’” reported Reuters on October 9, 2020.
Iranian Diplomats in Lebanon, Syria, Yemen
Just like Iraq, Iranian authorities deployed IRGC commanders and IRGC-QF officers to Lebanon as ambassadors and diplomats since the 1980s. Qazanfar Roknabadi was one these ‘diplomats.’
To sabotage the Hajj ceremony and ignite ethnic conflicts in Saudi Arabia, he entered the country with a forged identity and passport. However, he died during the 2015 Mina stampede, and Tehran’s plot was exposed and foiled.
Seyyed Ahmad Mousavi and Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani were Iran’s ambassadors in Lebanon who were coincidently Tehran’s ambassadors in Syria. However, this was not the whole story.
Following the 1979 revolution, Khomeini then Khamenei initially dispatched Ali Akbar Mohtashamipur then Mohammad-Ali Taskhiri as the Supreme Leader’s representative in Tehran’s embassy in Damascus. Aside from their representatives, other ambassadors and diplomats were IRGC-QF officers.
Likewise, Iran’s diplomats and ambassadors in Yemen were all IRGC-QF offices since the 2000s. The latest ambassador is IRGC-QF Brigadier General Hassan Irlu.
Furthermore, since November 2007, the name of the first IRGC-QF commander-in-chief Ahmad Vahidi was added to the Interpol red notice list due to his role in the 1994 AMIA bombing in Buenos Aires, Argentina. According to Argentinian authorities, Vahidi had orchestrated the bomb plot through an IRGC-QF team.