Top Iranian commander Brigadier General Mohammad Hejazi was a key figure for the Iran-backed Houthi militia in Yemen and oversaw projects targeting Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, a former Iranian government official said.

Hejazi, who served as the deputy commander of Iran’s Quds Force – the overseas arm of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) – died of heart disease, the IRGC announced in a statement on Sunday.

Amir Moghadam, a former Iranian government official, said that Hejazi was a senior commander to the Houthi militia in Yemen, frequently traveled to Yemen and Venezuela, and was a key figure to Iran’s ballistic missile program and regional operations.

“He specifically led projects that targeted Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates,” Moghadam wrote on Twitter.

Between 2013-2018 Moghadam was the head of public relations and parliamentary affairs envoy in the office of the vice president of Iran for executive affairs.

There is a “direct link” between Hejazi’s death and recent events, such as the targeting of the Iranian ship named Saviz in the Red Sea, and an explosion at Iran’s key Natanz nuclear facility, he added.

There is also a link between Hejazi’s death, developments in Yemen, and talks between Iran and world powers in Vienna aimed at reviving the 2015 nuclear deal, Moghadam said.

Some users on social media claimed that Hejazi was killed in Yemen’s Marib governorate. Clashes between the internationally-recognized Yemeni government forces and the Houthis have intensified in Marib since early March.

Iran has backed the Houthis in their war against the Yemeni government, supplying the group with weapons, such as drones and missiles which are often used to target civilians.

Who was he?

Hejazi was appointed as the deputy commander of the Quds Force in January 2020 following the US killing of former Quds Force head Qassem Soleimani.

Born in the 1950s in the city of Isfahan, Hejazi joined the IRGC soon after it was established in 1979. Over the years he occupied several key positions within the force, including commander of the IRGC’s Basij militia, and deputy commander-in-chief of the IRGC.

Hejazi also commanded the IRGC’s Tharallah base in Tehran in 2009, which oversaw the suppression of protests in the city following Iran’s controversial presidential elections that year.

The Council of the European Union added Hejazi to its sanctions list in October 2011 for playing a “central role in the post-election crackdown.”

Hejazi also commanded IRGC forces in Lebanon for some time, according to the IRGC.

In recent years, Hejazi assisted Iranian and Iran-backed forces in Syria using his “valuable experience,” the IRGC said.

Iranian parliament speaker Mohammad Bagher Ghalibaf described him on Sunday as the “shining star of the Resistance Axis.” The “Resistance Axis” refers to an Iranian-led alliance of state and non-state actors in the region.

In 2019, the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) said that Hejazi was in charge of an Iranian-led project to manufacture precision-guided missiles for Iran-backed Hezbollah in Lebanon.

Hejazi “directly commands Iranian personnel stationed in Lebanon,” the IDF said at the time.

Doubts over cause of death

Inconsistencies in official statements on Hejazi’s death have raised doubts about the cause of his death.

The IRGC statement on Sunday described Hejazi’s death from heart disease as “martyrdom.”

Speaking to state TV on the same day, IRGC spokesman Ramezan Sharif also referred to Hejazi as a “martyr.”

On Sunday, however, Sharif made no mention of any heart conditions, and said that Hejazi died from health complications caused by his exposure to chemical weapons during the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s.

He has been labeled a “martyr” for this reason, Sharif said.

Those who die due to injuries sustained during war are considered “martyrs” in Iran.

Contrary to the IRGC and several officials, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Defense Minister Amir Hatami used the word “passing,” rather than “martyrdom,” in their statements. Such inconsistencies have raised doubts on social media about Hejazi’s cause of death.

Shortly after Iranian media reported Hejazi’s death, the son of a prominent Iranian commander killed during the Iran-Iraq war tweeted that Hejazi did not die of heart disease as announced by the IRGC.

Hejazi’s “cause of death was not a heart condition,” Mohammad-Mehdi Hemmat, a supporter of the Islamic Republic said in a tweet which included a photo of himself with Hejazi.

Hemmat’s tweet, which also included the hashtag “martyr,” was widely interpreted as insinuating that Hejazi did not die of natural causes. The tweet has since been deleted.

Source » alarabiya