Born: 1945; 1959; 1961;
Known also as: Muhammad Al-Kawtharani; Mohammad Kawtharani; Muhammad Kawtarani; Jafar al-Kawtharani
Mohammed al-Kawtharani is the U.S.-designated Hezbollah representative in Iraq and a member of Hezbollah’s political council. Since the death of Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) commander Qasem Soleimani in January 2020, Kawtharani has overseen the Iran-backed Shiite militias operating in Iraq. In April 2020, the U.S. government offered a reward of up to $10 million for information on Kawtharani’s activities, networks, or associates.
Kawtharani’s primary responsibility is to promote Hezbollah’s interests in the country. In this regard Kawtharani acts as a conduit for training, funding, and other forms of Hezbollah support to Iraqi Shiite militias. According to the U.S. government Kawtharani assisted in the transport of fighters from Iraq to Syria to support the Assad regime. Kawtharani also helped secure the release of senior Hezbollah commander Ali Mussa Daqduq from Iraqi custody in 2012. The U.S.-designated Duqduq planned multiple attacks against coalition forces in Iraq, including a January 20, 2007, attack that killed five U.S. soldiers. The United States opposed Daqduq’s release. An Iraqi Shiite leader told Reuters Soleimani trusted Kawtharani and relied on him in times of crisis.
Kawtharani has been involved in Iranian-sponsored negotiations to sway Iraqi leaders to support Iran’s preferred candidates for prime minister. In 2010, Kawtharani traveled to Qom, Iran, to meet with Soleimani, Iraqi cleric Muqtada al-Sadr, and representatives of Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki. Sadr endorsed the pro-Iran Maliki that October to remain Iraq’s prime minister. Other Shiite political leaders followed soon after. In December 2019, Kawtharani again joined Soleimani in discussions with Iraqi leaders on selecting a new prime minister after the resignation of Adel Abul Mahdi that November. Kawtharani also reportedly persuaded Sadr to support Tawfiq Allawi, who was designated as Iraq’s new prime minister in February 2020.
Previously, the IRGC’s Quds Force was Iran’s primary liaison to its Iraqi proxies. After the death of Quds Force leader Soleimani in a U.S. airstrike on January 3, 2020, Hezbollah has taken responsibility for liaising between Iran and the Iraqi militias. As Hezbollah’s representative in Iraq and a trusted colleague of Soleimani’s, Kawtharani has taken on the role himself. His oversight of the Iranian-sponsored militias is reportedly temporary until Iran determines its strategy in the wake of Soleimani’s death.
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