As reported before, on January 14, 2009 Al-Zaman newspaper reported that the new Iranian ambassador to Iraq, Hassan Danafar, was from the Revolutionary Guards’ Qods Force. Danafar is currently the chairman of Iran’s Headquarters for Renovation of Iraq’s Holy Shrines, but other reports say that he was deputy commander of the Revolutionary Guard’s navy. On January 26, the spokesman for Iran’s Foreign Ministry said that Danafar is indeed a member of the Revolutionary Guards. Tehran’s justification is that Iraq is in a state of war.
This appointment comes at a time of tension between Iraq and Iran. In December 2009, Iranian forces occupied Well Number 4 at the Faqui oil field in Maysan province, and did not leave the area until January 27, claiming that it was in their territory. This month’s banning of candidates from the March 2010 election also has many pointing fingers at Iran as the two leaders of the Accountability and Justice Commission are known to have strong ties with Tehran. The most notable was the U.S. commander of the Central Command General David Petraeus, who told the Times of London on January 25 that the Qods Force may be behind the Commission’s actions.
Iran is intent on maintaining and expanding its influence in post-Saddam Iraq. It is already one of Iraq’s largest trade partners, is the largest source of tourism, and provides support to both political and militant Shiite groups. Right now it is focusing upon the 2010 elections to try to ensure continued Shiite rule, because that would provide the best relations between the two countries. Danafar’s appointment is just another sign that Tehran will use both overt and covert means to achieve these goals.
Agence France Presse, “Iranian troops leave Iraqi oil field: governor,” 1/27/10
AK News, “Controversy over Iran’s new ambassador to Iraq,” 1/23/10
Bruno, Greg, “Avoiding Crisis in Iraq’s Political Minefield,” Council on Foreign Relations, 1/25/10
Haynes, Deborah, “General David Petraeus: full transcript of interview with The Times,” 1/25/10
ILNA, Al-Jarida, “Iranian ForMin: Our Ambassador To Baghdad Is IRGC Official,” MEMRI Blog, 1/26/10
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