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Iran appoints former Revolutionary Guard general as Iraq ambassador

Masjedi has come straight out of the military and into the diplomatic service

Date of publication: 20 April, 2017

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A former general in Iran's controversial military outfit the Republican Guard has been handed the sensitive position of ambassador to Baghdad, despite growing unease around Tehran's influence in Iraq.
Tehran has appointed a former Revolutionary Guard general as ambassador to Baghdad, sparking anger from some Iraqis over the Iranian military group's overt influence in Iraq.

Iraj Masjedi has served as the right-hand man of Qasem Soleimani, the head of the Revolutionary Guard's overseas Quds Force.

The paramilitary group has played a significant role in helping the Iraqi government fight the Islamic State group but also been behind the proliferation of Tehran-backed Shia militias in the region, critics say.

Iranian officers from the Quds Force have provided logistical and advisory support to the Iraqi military in operations against IS and arming Shia militias in the Popular Mobilisation Forces.

This umbrella of militias has become a sub-state actor and has eclipsed the power of the armed forces and authority of the Iraqi government, opponents say.

Masjedi believes Iranian influence can be a force for good in Iraq.

"Iran wants an advanced, powerful, secure and unified Iraq," Masjedi said on Tuesday, according to Reuters.

Masjedi has deep knowledge of Iraq and spent over 35 years in the Revolutionary Guard, which will help in his new role, Iranian media reported.

He also worked with Iraqi anti-Saddam Hussein opposition groups exiled from the country during the Iran-Iraq war, Reuters reported.

Some Kurdish groups are more optimistic about Masjedi's appointment, and some have described him as a "moderate" who could play a constructive role in rebuilding a divided Iraq.

"The appointment of Masjedi shows the significance of Iraq, the Kurdistan Region and the country's political factions for the Islamic Republic," said Kurdistan Regional Government's (KRG) representative to Tehran, Nazim Dabagh, according to Rudaw.

Yet Dabagh also recognised the politics at play with Iran's selection of this most delicate post.

"It is of course not a secret that Mr Masjedi was appointed to carry out Iran's policies in Iraq in a better fashion."

Iran's Revolutionary Guard was established following the Islamic Revolution in 1979, and has remained a powerful force in the country linked to conservative elements in the political establishment.

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