On February 25, Iranian Vice President Eshaq Jahangiri appointed Hassan Danaeifar, former ambassador to Baghdad and an officer of the Islamic Revolution Guards Corps’ Quds Force (IRGC-QF) officer, political adviser. In this capacity, Danaeifar is expected to “expand relations with Iraq and Syria.” The appointment is significant for two reasons: First, it reveals that certain parts of the Islamic Republic government bureaucracy, in reality, are fronts for the Quds Force. Second, it demonstrates the Quds Force’ plans to solidify its long-term presence in Iraq through economic activities. The Quds Force is the IRGC’s elite external operations wing.
Prior to his tenure as ambassador to Baghdad (July 31, 2010 – April 18, 2017), Danaeifar served as the director of the Headquarters for Iran-Iraq Economic Relations (2007-2010), which is also tasked with renovation and reconstruction of Shiite pilgrimage sites in Karbala, Najaf, Samarra and Kadhimiya in Iraq. Formally, this bureau reports to the Office of the President. However, Danaeifar’s Quds Force affiliation taken into consideration, it is much more plausible that the bureau in reality reports to the IRGC QF. In that sense, this bureau resembles the precursor of the Quds Force: In the 1980’s, the IRGC Office of Liberation Movements was formally a part of the Iranian Foreign Ministry, but in reality reported to the Revolutionary Guards.
There is also some indication that Quds Force operatives prefer to use economic activities as a cover for their presence and operations in Iraq. Mahmoud Farhadi, a Quds Force officer who was arrested under the US raid on the Iranian Liaison Office in Arbil on January 11, 2007, for example, posed as a trade representative. Hassan Hormati, executive director of Loutakeh Company, which is involved in construction activities in Iraqi Kurdistan and cooperates closely with the Headquarters for Iran-Iraq Economic Relations, is also a suspected Quds Force officer.
Based on Danaeifar’s recent statements, one must expect further attempts by the Quds Force to solidify its presence in Iraq through economic activities. On July 18, 2017, Danaeifar called the Iraqi market as “a golden and historical opportunity.” It appears he meant a golden and historical opportunity for the Quds Force.