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Unexpected Death: The Deputy Commander of Iran’s Quds Force and a Leader of the Precision Missile Projects in Lebanon

 
Filed under: Iran

Unexpected Death: The Deputy Commander of Iran’s Quds Force and a Leader of the Precision Missile Projects in Lebanon
IRGC-Quds Force’s Deputy Commander Mohammad Hejazi (L) greets Ayatollah Ali Khamenei as General Qassem Soleimani, the Force’s assassinated commander, looks on.” (Khamenei.ir)

Gen. Mohammad Hejazi was commander of the Lebanese Corps of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Quds Force and held a series of senior positions in the Guards at home and abroad. On April 18, 2021, Hejazi, who was also deputy commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, died. The Guard’s news agency reported that the “deceased” died of “complications from heart disease.”1 A spokesman for the IRGC noted that Hejazi’s exposure to chemicals during the Iraq-Iran war in the 1980s was the source of the complication. He explained, “A medical commission that formed yesterday at Baqiyatallah Hospital identified the cause of the martyrdom as chemical effects,” thus earning Hejazi “martyr” status.2

Brig.-Gen. Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh (Abu Bager), former coordinator of operations for the Quds Force, was appointed by IRGC commander Hossein Salami as the new deputy replacing Hejazi. Iran’s Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei approved the appointment.

During his career, Hejazi held a series of positions in the Revolutionary Guards and was very close to the Iranian leader. According to a statement issued by Khamenei, Hejazi “had many important and very influential responsibilities in the Revolutionary Guards that he successfully and honorably carried out.”

Hizbullah Secretary-General Hassan Nasrallah also sent a letter of condolence to the Iranian leader following “the great Jihadi leader’s” death. “His sudden death has saddened us, as he was at the zenith of his giving and Jihad at a time the Axis of Resistance needed his blessed presence,” Nasrallah wrote. “We have known him due to his presence among us and by our side for long years, as he was a wise, resistance leader who was walking in the path towards Allah. He was an older brother, a strong supporter, a loyal sacrificing person, a model in ethics, and a man of enlightened thought and a pioneering experience. He was also a companion, friend, supporter, and faithful to the great Martyr Hajj Qassem Soleimani, especially during the last years that were difficult and fateful for our peoples, region, and resistance.3

Hizbullah’s Nasrallah and the IRGC’s Hejazi
Hizbullah’s Nasrallah and the IRGC’s Hejazi (al Ahed News)

IRGC Commander Gen. Hossein Salami recommended on April 18 that Israel refrain from rejoicing over Hejazi’s death: “We are infused with hatred for happiness in Israel and tell it this is fleeting. Israel will disappear for what it has done to the Palestinians and for expelling them from their land. Don’t rejoice; we will continue on the path, and no one will desert the frontlines.” Salami added that Hijazi went to Lebanon to fill in missing parts in Hizbullah’s reinforcement efforts so that it could deal with and defeat the Zionists and prepare the ground for their expulsion.4 “He, along with the Hizbullah brothers, provided the conditions for the overthrow of the rotten Zionist regime…. Therefore, he was on their hit list.”

Salami praised Hejazi’s role in organizing the “resistance front” against Israel in the western Mediterranean, in general, and for his activities in Lebanon specifically. He also praised Hejazi’s “critical role” in protecting Iran’s internal stability when he served as commander of the Basij, the Guards’ volunteer paramilitary arm, in its war against the regime’s opponents.

Hejazi was appointed as deputy commander of the Quds Force on January 20, 2020, after the assassination of Qassem Soleimani. His posting testified to the great trust he received from the Supreme Leader, the commanders of the IRGC, and senior Lebanese Hizbullah figures. In recent years and in his capacity as commander of the IRGC’s Lebanese Corps, which is responsible for the relationship between the IRGC and Hizbullah, Hejazi was deeply involved in Hizbullah’s precision-guided missile (PGM) project. Iran’s PGM development and proliferation plan is its flagship project in the Lebanese arena and to a large extent in Yemen, which has emerged as the operational testing grounds for this project. It should be emphasized that after the death of Hizbullah’s Imad Mughniyah in 2008, Hejazi conducted his PGM activities directly with Nasrallah and led the project in Syria and Lebanon. He was involved in the decision to establish a PGM factory in Syria and Lebanon.5

Hejazi “exposed” by the IDF
Hejazi “exposed” by the IDF, August 29, 2019 (Twitter)

The Al-Manar website, affiliated with Hizbullah, cited Israeli media as saying that Hejazi was involved in the explosion of an AMIA building belonging to the Jewish community in Buenos Aires in 1994,6 an involvement that has not yet been clarified.

Hejazi had a long and varied career in Iran’s Revolutionary Guards. He was born in 1956 in Isfahan and joined the Revolutionary Guards shortly after their founding. After the revolution, he took part of the suppression of Kurdish (Peshmerga) insurgencies in the provinces of Kurdistan and western Azerbaijan. Hejazi fought and was wounded in the Iraq-Iran war (1980-1988). He held an M.A. in Public Administration from Tehran University and a doctorate in Strategic Management from the Supreme National Defense University in Tehran.

The most prominent of the roles that Hejazi held in Iran:

  • Basij Forces Commander (1998) – IRGC paramilitary volunteer force
  • Commander of the Joint Forces of the IRGC (2007)
  • Deputy Commander of the IRGC (May 2008)
  • Commander of ICGC Tharallah base in Tehran (July 2008)
  • Deputy Chief of Staff of the Joint Forces for Logistics and Industrial Research (Oct. 2009-2014)
  • Commander of the Lebanese Corps of the IRGC – Quds Force
  • Deputy Commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force (2020)

Hejazi was “listed” on the U.S. Treasury Department’s Specially Designated National (SDN) list for his role in the IRGC’s efforts to achieve nuclear capabilities, support for terrorism (including ties with the Taliban), and links to the Iranian banks involved in financing these activities.7 Hejazi was under EU sanctions in 2011 for his role in suppressing the “Green Revolution” after the 2009 presidential elections in his capacity as commander of the IRGC’s Tharallah base in Tehran. The EU identified Hejazi as the “author of a letter sent to the Ministry of Health on June 26, 2009, forbidding the disclosure of documents or medical records of anyone injured or hospitalized during post-elections events, implying a cover-up” in order to reduce information on the extent of casualties and methods of action. In addition, financial sanctions were placed on him by the British for playing “a central role in the post-election crackdown of protesters in 2009,”8 and by the United Nations.9

Hejazi had a deep and long-lasting familiarity with the activities of the Quds Force, in general, and the current activity of the Force in the Lebanese arena. After Qassem Soleimani’s death, Hejazi’s departure constitutes another blow to the Force – the exit of another “expert” and “resource center,” intimately familiar with the Lebanese arena and the forces operating there. The IRGC is troubled by a shortage of experts on Lebanon since the Guards’ Commander, Brig. Gen. Esmail Ghaani, and his new deputy, Brig. Gen. Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh, have little experience on the Lebanese and western front.

Ghaani, Soleimani’s replacement, focused previously on Iran’s eastern border region (Afghanistan, Pakistan) and Iran. Fallahzadeh, his new deputy, was commander of the 33rd Division in Mahdi, the 19th Division in Fajr, commander of the IRGC in Yazd, Isfahan, and Fars provinces, and commander of the Karbala construction unit.10 However, Fallahzadeh has some familiarity with the Syrian arena – in 2016, he was injured in the Aleppo area, where he was a military advisor in Syria while defending Shiite holy sites.11 Fallahzadeh also reportedly attended peace talks on Syria’s future held in Astana, Kazakhstan, as a senior military adviser.12

Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi with the wounded Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh
Ayatollah Mohammad Taghi Mesbah-Yazdi visited the wounded Mohammad Reza Fallahzadeh.13

In light of these developments in the leadership of the Quds Force regarding the Syrian-Lebanese arena, it appears that Hizbullah’s Secretary-General Nasrallah will have to increase his personal involvement in the organization’s military-operational activity vis-à-vis the activities of the Quds Force and Iran in Lebanon. This comes when Hizbullah has to focus its attention on dealing with the economic and political crises in the Lebanese troubled domestic affairs.

The Quds Force is changing its image even though it still has its missions, as well as the expectations of it, owing to the deepening confrontations between Iran and Israel over the nuclear issue and on the naval front. As far as Iran’s regime was concerned, which quickly replaced Hejazi, the Quds Force is now more relevant than ever in preserving and strengthening the resistance camp for a possible confrontation with Israel.

At a ceremony marking the first anniversary of the assassination of Qassem Soleimani on January 21, 2021, Hejazi said that the commander of the Al-Quds Force had succeeded in “thwarting all malicious plots spun by the United States in the region.” He warned the United States, “Know that the Islamic Republic of Iran and the Armed Forces are ready and vigilant to deal with your malign measures. Their movements (of the United States) in the region have no justification and are an adventure and incitement. They must be careful not to get themselves and their allies in trouble.”14

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Notes