By Omar al-Jaffal for Al-Monitor. Any opinions expressed are those of the author, and do not necessarily reflect the views of Iran Business News.
Iran has reportedly appointed Brig. Gen. Iraj Masjedi as its new ambassador to Baghdad, replacing Hassan Dana’i Fer, according to Iranian media reports on Jan. 15.
Masjedi is a prominent leader of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) and serves as an adviser to Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the Iranian Quds Force. Masjedi confirmed the news himself in an official statement but did not say when he would officially assume his new position.
Saudi Minister of State for Gulf Affairs Thamer Sabhan, who served as the first Saudi ambassador in Iraq after 2003, attacked Masjedi on Jan.15, calling him “an internationally wanted war criminal.”
Faleh al-Fayyad, the national security adviser and head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU), was quick to reply on Jan. 22, saying, “Our relations with Iraq are not determined by other parties,” a jab at Saudi Arabia. Fayyad welcomed Masjedi as the new ambassador to Iraq and did not miss an opportunity to praise him, calling him “a brother.”
“We have good memories of Masjedi and his long history of supporting Iraq. There is no doubt that he will play an important role in improving relations and defending the interests of both countries,” Fayyad said.
Haidar al-Moul, a parliament member for the Shiite National Alliance, called, albeit reluctantly, the Iraqi Foreign Ministry to vet Masjedi and to investigate whether he is a war criminal.
He classed Masjedi’s presence as part of Iran’s military expansion in Iraq. Many media outlets reported that Masjedi is working on strengthening the military and political presence of the PMU and other armed factions.
There is not much information available on Masjedi, who has been described by the Washington Institute as a “seasoned Quds Force operative.” “What is clear is his reportedly deep involvement in Quds Force activities in Iraq over the past several years, many resulting in the death, injury or kidnapping of US and coalition personnel as well as the assassination of Iraqi provincial officials who did not see eye to eye with Tehran,” the article read.