Exclusive: Iran's new ambassador to Iraq

Iran Focus

London, Jul. 26 - Iran's new ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danaifar, a Baghdad native who was expelled from Iraq and rose through the ranks of Iran's Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, reportedly is assuming the post more than six months after being appointed.

It was reported in January that the 48-year-old Danaifar would replace Ambassador Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, who said last week that he would return to Tehran on Friday and that Danaifar would take over the diplomatic reins in the Iraqi capital within a few days. Qomi has been the ambassador since April 2006.

Danaifar, who heads the Center for Reconstruction of Holy Sites and has been Secretary of the Department of Iran-Iraq Economic Development in the office of the Iranian president, was among those expelled by Saddam Hussein during the Iran-Iraq war because of ethnic ties to Iran.

He is a veteran commander of the Qods Force, the extraterritorial arm of the IRGC. During the 1980-88 war, he was an operations commander in the IRGC ground forces and was responsible for the planning and operations division of the Guard Corps' economic powerhouse, Khatam-ol-Anbia. In 1996, Danaifar was deputy of Ali Shamkhani, who then was commander of the IRCG's navy.

Since Saddam's government was overthrown in 2003, his main tasks have focused on Iraq, including as a deputy to Brigadier General Mansour Haqiqatpour, who became president of the Center for Reconstruction of Holy Sites at the Qods Force in Iraq.

Danaifar became head of the Qods Force's largest front organisation for exporting fundamentalism in Iraq, called the Mobayen Center, which monitors activities of cultural centers, mosques, book shops and video clubs across the country and uses them as operations centers for training Iraqis to aid the Qods Force.

Iran changed its methods after the arrests of some of its commanders by American forces in 2006 and 2007. It then began to send Qods officers into Iraq as merchants and businessmen working on "economic activities", according to the opposition National Council of Resistance of Iran.

President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad created the Department of Iran-Iraq Economic Development to further this goal, demonstrating the close ties between the highest levels of the regime and the Qods Force. As secretary of the organisation, Danaifar has made several trips to Iraq in recent years.