Was Iranian IRGC General ‘Siamand Mashhadani’ killed in US airstrikes?

Iran Revolutionary guard
Iranian armed forces members march during the ceremony of the National Army Day parade in Tehran, Iran September 22, 2019 (photo credit: WANA NEWS AGENCY/REUTERS)

US airstrikes carried out in Iraq just after midnight on Friday may have killed an Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps general supposedly named Siamand Mashhadani. Reports online in Arabic and in other local media have claimed he was killed in the attacks on five locations of pro-Iranian Kataib Hezbollah warehouses that the US carried out in retaliation for a rocket attack that killed three coalition personnel on March 11.

According to Al-Ain media, the Iranian officer was killed in the US airstrikes. Reports of his death circulated at around one in the morning in Iraq. He was an officer in the Quds Force of the IRGC, the same force once headed by Qasem Soleimani, who was killed by the US on January 3 in a drone strike in Baghdad. An Iraqi official told Al-Ain that Mashhadani was killed near the town of Jufr al-Sakhar, one of the sites hit by the airstrikes. The town is north of Karbala in the Babil Governorate. Four other members of the Quds Force were supposedly also killed. They were in a command and control headquarters for Kataib Hezbollah when the airstrike occurred.

The name “Siamand Mashhadani” may be a nickname, code name or a kind of Arabic kunya war name, because it is not common. Siamand is a Kurdish first name, the same as Iranian Kurdish Paralympic powerlifter Siamand Rahman. Mashhadani indicates someone from “Mashhad,” a  city known for Shi’ite pilgrimages. A few people in Fallujah in Iraq have the name Mashhadani, but these are generally Arabic Shi’ite families. That an IRGC officer would be named Siamand Mashhadani, appears strange. His name has never appeared in Arabic or Farsi media before, according to sources consulted for this article.

According to reports, Mashhadani supervised the command and control of the Popular Mobilization Units in Iraq. The PMU is a paramilitary group of militias that are part of the Iraqi security forces. Kataib Hezbollah has several brigades within the PMU. The US airstrikes targeted warehouses of those brigades. The US has struck the units before, in December after the same group fired rockets near Kirkuk that killed a US contractor. On March 11, the group fired more rockets at Camp Taji, where US and coalition forces are based. Mashhadani was influential in advising the PMU, as Soleimani once did. “He was one of the planners of attacks by the Hezbollah militias against the US military in Iraq,” an Iraqi force told Al-Ain.

Iran had vowed revenge for the January 3 airstrikes and said a countdown is taking place in Iraq to remove US forces. Iranian-backed units, using Iranian advice, killed hundreds of Americans between 2005 and 2011 before US forces withdrew from Iraq. The US returned to Iraq to fight ISIS at the request of the Iraqi government in 2014. Iran’s Ali Shamkhani went to Iraq on March 8 to coordinate the removal of US forces.

As mentioned above, Mashhadani has not been previously mentioned in Arabic or Farsi sources. According to current reports, he played a role at a headquarters of the PMU’s 46th and 47th brigades. According to Al-Ain, the US airstrikes hit a factory manufacturing rockets used to target the US and also a center for manufacturing drones. These were located north of Karbala and other areas in southern Iraq.