- The Washington Times - Saturday, September 15, 2007

Will the real Mohammad Ali Jaafari, who now heads Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps, please step forward?

The existence of two prominent Iranians with identical names has created confusion, inside and outside of Iran, over who is in charge of the group accused by the United States of arming Shi’ite militias in Iraq.

Kurdish forces briefly detained a man named Mohammad Ali Jaafari during a raid in the northern Iraqi city of Irbil in January. Press reports at the time identified that Mr. Jaafari as newly appointed leader of the Revolutionary Guards.

The confusion was understandable, since that Mr. Jaafari previously held a high-level post within the Revolutionary Guards, with responsibility for dealing with Iraq.

But he is not the same Mr. Jaafari who now leads the Revolutionary Guards.

The new commander in chief of the Revolutionary Guards is distinguished from his former colleague by the nickname “Aziz.”

A graduate from Tehran University’s prestigious School of Architecture, Aziz Jaafari was politically active in anti-shah demonstrations and was a founding member of Tehran University’s influential Islamic Society.

After the Islamic Revolution, he participated in the storming of the U.S. Embassy in Tehran and the ensuing hostage crisis.

During the Iran-Iraq war in the 1980s, he was injured several times and earned widespread popularity within the Revolutionary Guards because of his efforts to provide poverty-stricken war veterans with loans and housing.

He ultimately became operations officer for the Revolutionary Guards’ General Staff and commander of the land forces, holding the position for 16 years.

“Jaafari is a ground forces man — that’s his specialty,” said Meir Javedanfar, the co-author of the recently published “The Nuclear Sphinx of Tehran: Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and the State of Iran.”

“By appointing him, [Ayatollah] Khamenei is sending a message to the U.S. that Iran is taking threats of military action against it seriously and is focusing on its strengths in case of conflict.”

The other Mohammad Ali Jaafari was part of a delegation of high-ranking Revolutionary Guards officers who visited Iraqi President Jalal Talabani in Iraqi Kurdistan in January.

After the raid on a building that Tehran claims was its consulate in Irbil in northern Iraq, Mr. Jaafari was released instead of being handed over to U.S. troops. Five other Iranians detained in the raid and are still being held.

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