An Iranian news agency has reported that despite the coronavirus epidemic, the reconstruction, development and restoration projects carried out by Iran in Iraq's Shiite shrines have continued.
Demolishing the buildings in the vicinity of the shrine of Imam Hossein to extend the grounds has continued with full consideration of health requirements, Rasa News reported on April 11.
Part of the said project was assigned in 2018 to Iran's Astan-e Qods-e Razavi, the administrative organization which manages the Imam Reza shrine in Mashhad, the capital of Iran's Khorasan Province.
An official of the Astan-e Qods in August 2018 said more than 200 of its reconstruction and restoration experts were carrying out various projects in Iraq including the gilding of the domes and verandas of shrines.
Iran's Headquarters for Reconstruction of Holy Shrines in Iraq was formed in 2003 as a charity organization but the appointment of its new head in August 2018 by the Qods Force former commander Qassem Soleimani indicated that it became a branch of the Qods Force of the Revolutionary Guard. Like his predecessor Hassan Palark, the new head of the rebuilding outfit, Mohammad Jalal-Ma'ab, fought during Iran-Iraq war under Qassem Soleimani's command.
Several of high-ranking officials in Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei's are also among the officials of the Headquarters which in the past 15 years has been active in various Iraqi cities. According to some reports as many as 3,000 Iranians were involved in the projects carried out by the Headquarters in Iraq.
Although officially a charity, the Headquarters receives a budget from the government. In early 2017 the Head of the Headquarters said an annual budget of 5 trillion rials ($1.5 billion at 2017 rate) had been forecast for the organization for the next six years.
The Headquarters' activities in Iraq and Syria extend beyond reconstruction and restoration of shrines. These activities includ large sums of money and aid shipments to Iraq and Syria and its lack of transparency are often criticized by Iranian social media users.
Iran has demanded an emergency $5 billion loan from the International Monetary Fund to fight the effects of the coronavirus pandemic.