Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi, the new Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, met with Iraqi Prime Haider al-Abadi on Monday to discuss ways to further boost bilateral ties between the two countries, the Iranian media reports. The meeting happened after Iraq’s President Fuad Masum accepted Masjedi’s diplomatic credentials. According to Tasnim News Agency, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps (I.R.G.C.), Masjedi praised the Iraqi government's latest achievements in the war against the Islamic State and assured Abadi that Iran will continue its support to the Baghdad government in security, political and economic arenas. Abadi reportedly thanked Iran for supporting his government's counterterrorism efforts. Terrorists wanted to undermine relations between Iran and Iraq, but their actions only further strengthened ties between the two countries, he added. 

Comment: Iraj Masjedi is the third consecutive I.R.G.C. Quds Force commander serving as Iran’s envoy to post-Saddam Iraq – signifying the I.R.G.C.’s increasing influence in the Arab country. Masjedi’s two predecessors, Danaeifar and Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, were also senior Quds Force officials. The Quds Force is the I.R.G.C.’s external operations arm and is designated by the United States as a terrorist entity.

Masjedi served in the I.R.G.C. for 35 years, and his last position was to oversee Iran’s military role in Iraq and Syria as a senior aide to Quds Force Commander Major General Qassem Soleimani. During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Masjedi organized anti-Saddam forces from inside Iraq, and he has played a key role in mobilizing Iraqi Shiite militia organizations in Iraq since the U.S. intervention in 2003.

Masjedi’s close links with Iraqi sectarian groups such as Harakat al-Nujaba and Asaib Ahl al-Haq have raised the concern that his appointment may further inflame sectarian tension in Iraq, particularly after the Islamic State is defeated. In a speech earlier this years, Masjedi claimed credit for organizing and supporting regional sectarian militiamen to fight Iran’s wars in the Middle East. “The front line for our combatants in the past [Iran-Iraq war] was Abadan and Khoramshahr and Mehran and Haj Imran; and now it is Mosul, Lebanon and Aleppo and Syria.”

But Masjedi’s efforts in Iraq will not be confined to security matters. As he pointed out to the Iraqi prime minister yesterday, he wants to improve Iran’s economic and trade ties with Iraq. He will certainly try to leverage his influence with the Iraqi government to secure more projects for I.R.G.C.-affiliated companies.