The U.S. Central Command said Wednesday that the rocket attack on Baghdad’s International Zone near the U.S. embassy in Iraq on December 20 was “almost certainly conducted by an Iranian-backed rogue militia group.”
The Wall Street Journal reported on December 23 that an after-action review by the U.S. Central Command indicated that the attack involved 21 rockets, not the eight missiles that the Iraqis initially said. According to CENTCOM spokesman, the 21–rocket attack was the largest rocket attack since 2010 on central Baghdad, also known as the Green Zone.
In the meantime, the U.S. President Donald Trump tweeted pictures of three rockets that failed to launch in that attack against the U.S. Embassy. He wrote, “Guess where they were from: Iran.”
Our embassy in Baghdad got hit Sunday by several rockets. Three rockets failed to launch. Guess where they were from: IRAN. Now we hear chatter of additional attacks against Americans in Iraq… pic.twitter.com/0OCL6IFp5M
— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) December 23, 2020
U.S. media had reported that the U.S. military had been tracking intelligence for the last few weeks about the increased threats from Iranian-backed militias inside Iraq.
Iranian regime‘s militia groups in Iraq and the role of IRGC Quds Force
Export of terrorism and fundamentalism has been a pillar of the clerical regime’s survival since its inception, and Iraq has been the linchpin of this strategy. To that effect, throughout the past four decades, the clerical regime has been extensively engaged in organizing and patronizing militia groups in Iraq. Their campaign got a new momentum after the invasion of Iraq in 2003. Over the years, the clerical regime established, trained groups including and not limited to Kata‘ib Hizballah (K.H.), Harakat al-Nujaba, and Asa’ib Ahl al-Haq as tools to pursue its ominous objectives in Iraq and the region. The Iranian regime used the Iraqi groups in Syria in defense of the Syrian dictator, Bashar-al-Assad, in the massacre of Syrian people. These groups, which vary in size and scope, are dependent on Tehran financially, militarily, and politically.
Over the years, while using these groups as its tools and apparatus in Iraq, on many occasions, Tehran has used them as plausible deniability. Talking with both sides of the mouth, i.e., while carrying out terrorist operations and pursuing its sinister objectives through its proxy groups, Tehran takes a different stance publicly.
Tehran’s central apparatus in controlling and commanding these groups is the IRGC Quds Force. IRGC Major General Qasem Soleimani, the former commander in chief of the Quds Force who was eliminated in January 2020, repeatedly visited Iraq and, on many occasions, dictated the will of the Iranian regime in Iraq. He commanded Iraqi protesters’ crackdown in October 2019 who were demanding the expulsion of the Iranian regime from Iraq by utilizing Tehran’s sponsored terrorist groups and militias in Iraq.
It is very telling that there have been media reports that IRGC Brigadier General Esmail Ghaani, who has been commanding the Quds Force since January, has visited Baghdad at least twice in recent weeks.
IRGC Brigadier Iraj Masjedi: Iran‘s Ambassador, mullahs‘ Keyman in Baghdad
The mullahs’ keyman in Baghdad is IRGC Brigadier General Iraj Masjedi, who was appointed as the Iranian regime’s ambassador in March 2017.
Before he was appointed the Iranian regime’s ambassador in Iraq, state-run media outlets presented Iraj Masjedi as the senior advisor to Qassem Soleimani. Masjedi participated in the memorials of the IRGC members killed in Syria, Iraq, and Lebanon.
Masjedi is a veteran IRGC officer. After the Iran- Iraq war in the 1980s and after creating the Quds Force, Masjedi became the Ramazan Garrison commander in the IRGC. Ramazan Garrison was the base of the Quds Force first corps. Its mission was meddling in Iraq.
The fall of the previous Iraqi government opened a new chapter in the terrorist Quds Force’s activities in Iraq. Masjedi played a decisive role in implementing the regime’s criminal policies in Iraq.
In an exclusive report on November 15, 2019, the National Council of Resistance of Iran (NCRI) revealed that “Masjedi had secretly gone to Iraqi cities such as Baghdad, Nasiriyah, Basra, Najaf, and Karbala. He had met with the Quds Force’s Iraqi agents, including Hadi Al-Ameri, Abu-Mehdi Al-Mohandess, Hashem-al Moussavi, Abu Bilal Adib, Hassan-al Sari, and another leader of Iran-backed Shiite groups. Through them, Masjedi carried out the regime’s interventionist policies and expanded its influence in Iraq.”
Over the years, Masjedi’s primary mission as a senior adviser to Soleimani was to consolidate the expansion of the Iranian regime’s hegemony over Iraq as the most crucial point of terror and fundamentalism in the region. He had very close relations with the regime’s proxy groups in Iraq over the years. Scores of notorious terrorists such as Abu-Mehdi Al-Mohandess, Hadi Al– Ameri, Qias Al–Khazali, Akram Al–Kaabi, and many other militia commanders were under the control of Masjedi.
Eventually, in March 2017, the regime put all the façade away, and “Iran‘s secret Governor of Iraq“ officially was announced the ambassador.
Since October 2019, when the people of Iraq started nationwide protests, with the mullahs’ regime’s expulsion and its paid agents as one of their core demands, the regime‘s proxy groups repeatedly attacked and murdered defenseless protesters under the supervision of the Quds Force in general and Masjedi in specific.
On October 22, 2020, the U.S. designated Masjedi under Executive Order 13224, imposing sanctions on him “for acting for or on behalf of the IRGC-QF.“
The U.S. State Department announced, “Masjedi has helped direct a variety of IRGC-QF activities in Iraq for many years, including training and providing support for Iraqi militia groups and facilitating large-scale financial transactions involving the IRGC-QF. Acting in a nefarious fashion for the IRGC-QF‘s benefit, Masjedi has exploited his diplomatic position to facilitate financial transfers in Iraq for the IRGC-QF, concealing the latter‘s interest in the funds. Moreover, Masjedi has publicly acknowledged the IRGC-QF‘s role in training militia groups in Iraq and Syria.“
Iranian terror apparatus functions in tandem with the Foreign Ministry
The fact that a senior commander of the Quds Force has been appointed as the regime‘s ambassador highlighted another feature of the regime‘s modus operandi, i.e., the close relationship and cooperation of the regime‘s apparatus of terror and repression with the Foreign Ministry.
It is a known fact that in light of the strategic significance of meddling in the affairs of countries of the region, the regime‘s ambassadors in the region, particularly Iraq, are directed by the Supreme National Security Council. Yet, ambassadors function under the Foreign Ministry’s auspices in general and the Foreign Minister in specific.
Mohammad Javad Zarif, the regime‘s Foreign Minister, has acknowledged this synergy and, on some occasions, has boasted about it.
On September 2, 2019, Zarif heaped praise on the eliminated criminal commander of the terrorist Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani, and said: “Commander Soleimani and I have never been at odds with each other. We have been closely working together for over 20 years.“
“During the time I served as the minister, Commander Soleimani and I decided to meet at least weekly whenever we were both in Tehran to examine the latest developments and make the necessary arrangements for coordination,“ Zarif elaborated. During this interview, Zarif also referred to the support he enjoyed from Lebanese Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah and Soleimani to boost his credibility.