By Maryam Sinaiee
January 21, 2020
On January 20 Commander-in-Chief of the Revolutionary Guard appointed Mohammad Hejazi as Vice-Commander of the Qods (Quds) Force, a development that signals even more impetus to the role of Iran’s extra-territorial military-intelligence unit.
Brigadier General Hejazi is not new to the Qods Force. His footsteps have been seen in Lebanon very recently where according to the Israel Defence Forces (IDF) he commanded the Iranian personnel stationed in Lebanon. In August 2019 (IDF) alleged that Hejazi was involved in the Iranian-led manufacture of precision-guided missiles by the Lebanese Hezbollah and a tweet included him with three other Guard members as “individuals who put the future of Lebanon in danger”.
Hejazi is also a very controversial figure due to his hardline political views, which he has never been shy about, and the alleged role he and the Basij Militia Force played to ensure Mahmoud Ahmadinejad was elected president in 2005.
Dissidents also hold him responsible for the suppression of protesters who questioned the legitimacy of Ahmadinejad’s second-term victory in 2009, when as commander of IRGC’s Sarallah Base in Tehran he played a significant role in the bloody post-election crackdown.
His role in violating human rights and freedom of thought and speech earned him a place on the EU sanctions list in October 2011 in addition to the place he was already holding on the U.S. Department of State sanctions list since 2007.
IDF tweet showing individuals “who can endanger Lebanon’s future”.
The 63-year-old general has a background of anti-insurgency guerrilla warfare in Kurdistan in the 80s where he fought Kurdish dissident groups including the Democratic Party of Iranian Kurdistan and the Revolutionary Organization of Kurdish Workers (Komala) as well as serving during the Iran-Iraq War (1980-88) as deputy commander of Basij Militia Force.
Hejazi’s most important positions in the past include Commander of Basij Militia Force and Vice-Commander of Revolutionary Guard, a position he held until his new appointment today.
In the post-Soleimani era Hejazi’s new position is not a demotion as it may seem at first glance. In fact, it can even be perceived as a huge promotion because of Khamenei’s now openly expressed strategy of keeping the war with the United States and Israel outside Iranian borders.
In his most recent speech, on December 17, Khamenei dubbed the Qods Force as “Fighters without Borders”, a not-so-veiled reference to Reporters without Borders or Doctors Without Borders. In fact, hardliners have been quick to point out the similarity in several articles published in Iran. Like Khamenei they are now even referring to it as a “humanitarian body”.
“Fighters without Borders” is the latest in the series of Khamenei’s favorite “keywords” including “heroic flexibility” which justified his consent to the nuclear agreement in 2015 to his devotees who would have found such a concession on Khamenei’s part very difficult to swallow; or “Resistance Economy” which is used to describe his economic vision for Iran under sanctions.
Since Khamenei used the new “keyword” a few days ago #Fighters-without-borders (#رزمندگان_بدون_مرز) has become one of the “hot” Persian-language hashtags on Twitter and Khamenei’s own website and the hardliner media have already run tens of articles about the new “keyword of the Great Leader of the Revolution”.
Under Soleimani, on a few occasions such as flying Bashar Assad to Tehran last year without Foreign Minister Mohammad-Javad Zarif’s knowledge, the Qods Force drove the country’s diplomatic apparatus out of the field.
With the U.S. killing of the Qassem Soleimani, Khamenei seems to be giving even more freedom to the Qods Force, making it the official player in Iran’s foreign policy and his December 17 speech can even be taken as his wish to elevate the Qods Force to a position even higher than the other Revolutionary Guard units, a “humanitarian entity with lofty and liberating drives” that rushes to help the peoples of the region like “Fighters without borders” whenever required.