Revolutionary Guard general takes over as new Iranian ambassador in Iraq

BEIRUT (Reuters) - A general from Iran’s Revolutionary Guards assumed the post of ambassador to Iraq on Wednesday, in a sign of the key role the military force is currently playing in its neighboring country.

Iraj Masjedi previously worked as adviser to Qassem Soleimani in Iraq, according to the Tasnim news site. Soleimani is head of the Quds Force, the branch of the Revolutionary Guards responsible for operations outside of Iran.

Since Islamic State took control of swathes of Iraq in 2014, Soleimani worked with top Iraqi security officials to fight the militant Islamist group, primarily through a Shi’ite volunteer force known as Popular Mobilization Units.

“Iran wants an advanced, powerful, secure and unified Iraq,” Masjedi said on Tuesday in Baghdad, according to the Islamic Republic News Agency (IRNA).

Iran has sent dozens of military advisers and fighters to Iraq and neighboring Syria, where it is supporting Syrian president Bashar al Assad.

Masjedi has more than 35 years’ experience in the Guards and a deep knowledge of Iraq, according to the Iranian Students’ News Agency (ISNA).

During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, Masjedi was a commander at the Revolutionary Guards’ Ramezan base in Western Iran, which was a center for Iraqi opposition groups planning and carrying out military operations against Saddam Hussein’s forces on Iraqi soil, according to the Iranian judiciary’s news site Mizan Online.

The heads of some of those armed groups are now senior officials in Iraq.

Reporting By Babak Dehghanpisheh; Editing by Hugh Lawson