The Man Helping to Build Iran’s ‘Axis of Resistance’

Mohammad Saeed Izadi. (Still from Iran International TV)

In the aftermath of the unprecedented attack by Hamas on Israel, Western intelligence services will be monitoring the movements of multiple Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) officers, Hamas leadership, and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. While the travel of the commander of the IRGC’s Quds Force, Esmail Ghaani, will be high on the intelligence collection list, there is another IRGC officer who has flown below the radar but whose activity will be pivotal in understanding Iranian strategy: Mohammad Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian Office of the IRGC’s Quds Force in Lebanon.

The Quds Force is a branch of the IRGC charged with external operations in the name of the Islamic revolution. A U.S. official once described it as “a CIA, Pentagon, and State Department all rolled into one.” Izadi is a shadowy figure in the IRGC’s Quds Force, but his fingerprints have been at the center of escalatory actions against Israel over the last decade. In 2015, he planned an attack that was carried out from Syria by Iran proxy Palestinian Islamic Jihad in which rockets were fired on northern Israel. While this operation was seen by Israel as a response to Israeli strikes that killed Hezbollah operatives in Syria, the Israeli security establishment perceived the Quds Force ploy as a clear escalation—morphing from mortar shells regularly straying into Israel into a directed rocket attack. Veteran journalist Ron Ben-Yishai wrote that the 2015 retaliation in Syria, “marked … the first time a senior Revolutionary Guards official was directly involved in the initiating and directing an action against Israel.”

The U.S. Treasury Department later sanctioned Izadi in 2019 under the counterterrorism authority Executive Order 13224. The U.S. government revealed that as of late 2016 Izadi was liaising with Hamas over financing.

In 2018, Israeli U.N. Ambassador Danny Danon singled out Izadi as spearheading the strengthening of ties between Hamas and Hezbollah, which form the core of Iran’s “Axis of Resistance”—a collection of militias it influences to undertake operations against shared enemies. Danon pointed to high-level meetings between Izadi and Saleh al-Arouri, the pro-Iran deputy head of the Hamas politburo. The following year, the ambassador told the U.N. Security Council “with the help of Saleh al-Arouri, Hamas’ deputy political chief, and Saeed Izadi, the head of the Palestinian branch of the Iranian Quds Force, Iran is trying to turn Judea and Samaria into a fourth military front against Israel.” 

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