Who is Iran's new deputy IRGC Quds Force commander: Mohammad Hejazi
By SETH J. FRANTZMAN and MECRA STAFF
Iran has appointed a new deputy commander for the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Quds Force in the wake of the killing of Major General Qasem Soleimani. Esmail Ghaani was appointed the successor of Soleimani while his deputy will be Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi. Hejazi, whose full title is sometimes written as Mohammad Hosseinzadeh Hejazi or Seyyed Mohammad Hejazi (سید محمد حسینزاده حجازی).
From well known commander to suppressing dissidents
First, Hejazi is well known for Iran observers. He has been sanctioned by the European Union. He was added to the EU sanctions list in 2012. This was due to his role in suppressing dissent in Iran, including during the 2009 protests. He was the head of the IRGC's Sarollah Corps (Sarallah Base) in Tehran, where he "played a significant role in the bloody post-election crackdown." He was involved in sending a letter to the Ministry of Health in June 2009 that covered up the injuries related to the protests.
He was once vice-commander of the IRGC, so it would seem that being made deputy of the IRGC's Quds Force is a demotion. Radio Farda disagrees "Hejazi's new position is not a demotion as it may seem at first glance. In fact, it can even be perceived as a huge promotion because of Khamenei's now openly expressed strategy of keeping the war with the United States and Israel outside Iranian borders." His name appears in numerous books on Iran such as Farhad Rezaei's Iran’s Foreign Policy After the Nuclear Agreement: Politics of Normalizers and Hasam Forozan'sThe Military in Post-Revolutionary Iran. He had Wikipedia pages in English, Russian and Farsi. In 2009 he appeared prominently on stage with a group of other commanders and Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad. He was with Defense Minister Mostafa Mohammad Najjar, military advisor to the supreme leader, General Yahya Rahim Safavi, chief of the Iranian armed forces, Brigardier General Hassan Firouzabadi, and the president at the Army Day Parade.
Key military professional biographical dates
Basij Commander 1998-2007
Chairman of the Joint Staff of IRGC 2007-2008
Vice-commander IRGC Coordination 2008
Deputy IRGC commander 2008-2009
Commander of the Sarallah Base of IRGC July 2008 to October 2009
Vice-Chief of General Staff for Armed Forces Logistics/Research 2009-2014
IRGC Quds Force in Lebanon - Missile programs 2014-2020
IRGC Deputy of Quds Force 2020
His early biography includes many known details. He was born in 1956 in Isfahan and obtained an MA in public administration at the University of Tehran (see another bio here). He is one of the same generation as Soleimani (born 2957), Ahmadinejad (born 1956) and Ghaani (1957) and Salami (born 1960). Salami and Hejazi are both from Isfahan province, as was former IRGC commander Yahya Safavi (Ghaani was appointed by Safavi).
He continued his academic studies during his military career, obtaining a PhD in Strategic Management from the Faculty of National Defense and also became a member of the faculty of Imam Hussein University. He seems to have eventually ended up as a member of the Society of Seminary Teachers in Qom because he signed a letter with other members condemning the killing of Soleimani.
In the 1980s he served in the IRGC's Quds Force and was involved in suppressing Kurdish dissidents. During the war with Iraq he was active in Khuzestan and other areas. He then transitioned to the Basij militia in the 1990s. He was sanctioned in 2007 by the US Treasury and identified a the time as "Brigadier Gen. Mohammad Hejazi, Most recently former Commander of Bassij resistance force." He served briefly as deputy of the IRGC in 2008 and then was involved suppressing the 2009 protests. After that he was appointed a deputy of Provisions, Support, and Industrial Research for the General Staff of the Armed Forces from 12 October 2009 to 22 June 2014. In this capacity he had access to Iran's innovative and experimental military programs.
"Strategic brain trust"
He seems to have often been a deputy, including of the IRGC and of the armed forces and various bases throughout his career. As such he worked with key figures, such as Ali akbar Ahmadian of the Joint Staff of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and Mohammad Ali Jafari, former IRGC commander. He was seen as particularly conservative or "hardline" supporting Ahmadinejad and opposing "reformers" like Khatami.
Up until this point he was seen as part of Iran's "IRGC strategic brain trust." In recent years he faded into a bit of obscurity but his re-appearance as deputy of the Quds Force brought renewed interest in Farsi media. He was back and forth to Lebanon for the last several years
as a commander of the IRGC's role in that country and a key link to Hezbollah. Iran's Tasnim does not elaborate on this aspect of his life.
Al-Ain media in the UAE however reports that he was involved with "military missions related to supplying arms to the Lebanese Hezbollah militia during the past years, as his work was linked to the missile manufacturing program there." Due to his involvement with Hezbollah his name was released by Israel in relation to Lebanon in August 2019 and he was pinpointed as a key link to Qasem Soleimani. Israel's IDF described him as an "Iranian Quds Force operative, Commander of Iran’s precision guided missile project in Lebanon" and claims he "directly commands Iranian personnel stationed in Lebanon." Israel sought to expose him through tweets about him and two other IRGC commanders on August 29, 2019. Israel's Ynet also suggests he was linked to the 1994 bombing of the Jewish community center (AMIA) in Buenos Aires, according to "international intelligence sources."
His biography lacks some clarity as to why he rose to be such a senior IRGC commander only to be sent to Lebanon. His name had rung out, appointed by decree of Ayatollah Khamenei to the Joint Staff, before seeming to fade. Only the Israeli mention in 2019 briefly brought it back to the limelight. Farsi sources do not explain his quiet disappearance into seeming obscurity, or at least secrecy, either. It does appear that he went to Lebanon after Rouhani was elected President.