Tag Archives: Iran

Spotlight on Iran

July 16 – 30, 2017 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
Qasem Soleimani speaking at the Imam Hossein University (Mehr, July 19, 2017).

Qasem Soleimani speaking at the Imam Hossein University (Mehr, July 19, 2017).

Ansari (left) meets with the Syrian president (Fars, July 20, 2017).

Ansari (left) meets with the Syrian president (Fars, July 20, 2017).

 The Iranian ambassador to Iraq (left) meets with the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government (IRNA, July 17, 2017).

The Iranian ambassador to Iraq (left) meets with the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government (IRNA, July 17, 2017).

Shamkhani meets with the PUK delegation (ISNA, July 17, 2017).

Shamkhani meets with the PUK delegation (ISNA, July 17, 2017).

The Iraqi (left) and Iranian ministers of defense (Asr-e Iran, July 23, 2017).

The Iraqi (left) and Iranian ministers of defense (Asr-e Iran, July 23, 2017).

Hossein Amir Abdollahian meets with Khaled Qaddoumi, Hamas representative in Tehran (Mehr, July 23, 2017).

Hossein Amir Abdollahian meets with Khaled Qaddoumi, Hamas representative in Tehran (Mehr, July 23, 2017).

Overview
  • Iran continues to react with restraint regarding the ceasefire in southern Syria brokered by the United States and Russia. The Iranian deputy foreign minister, who met with President Putin's special envoy for Syrian affairs, said the Iranian presence was upon the request of the Syrian government, and would not be affected by the Russian-American agreement..
  • Iran has increased pressure on the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to prevent the referendum on regional independence scheduled for the coming September. Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said holding the referendum would be unacceptable to the countries neighboring on Iraq. Similar themes were heard at a meeting of the Iranian ambassador to Iraq and the prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government, as well as at meetings of senior Iranian officials and a delegation of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) visiting Tehran. The pressure was a reflection of the Iranian regime's strong objection to a referendum which might, in Iranian opinion, endanger Iraq's territorial integrity, undermine Iran's efforts to reinforce its influence in Iraq and strengthen separatist trends in Iran's own Kurdish minority.
  • Given the tension on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, the Iranian regime issued an announcement condemning Israel's actions in Jerusalem. The secretary general of the International Committee in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, who is also special advisor to the speaker of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament), called for the international and Islamic communities to respond immediately to "the crimes of the Zionist regime," and said Iran was prepared to send medical help to wounded Palestinians. The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) also issued a condemnation and called for support of the Palestinian "

 

General Information
  • Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, gave a speech at the Imam Hossein University in Tehran where he called the Syrian government the "bridge to the 'resistance front' in Lebanon and Palestine." Every rational person, he said, had to understand that defeat in the war in Syria meant defeat for Iran. He added that the United States and Israel imagined they could bring Iran to its knees by establishing ISIS, but their plan was foiled by Iraq's victory, won by virtue of high ranking Iraqi clerics, the Shi'ite popular militias and the Iraqi army (Mehr, July 18, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Syria
  •  Hossein Jaberi Ansari, deputy foreign minister for Arab-African affairs, said Iran's presence in Syria did not depend on the agreement brokered by the United States and Russia. After meeting with Alexander Lavrentiev, President Putin's special envoy for Syrian affairs, Ansari said Iran maintained a limited presence in Syria upon the request of the Syrian government and bilateral Syrian-Iranian agreements. The Russian-American agreement, he said, would have no effective practical effect on the presence of Iranian forces in Syria (Fars, July 17, 2017).
  •  On July 19 and 20, 2017, Hossein Jaberi Ansari paid a visit to Syria, where he met with senior Syrian officials and leaders of the Palestinian factions in Damascus. Meeting with President Assad, he stressed Iran's ongoing support for restoring stability to Syria based on preserving its unity and territorial integrity. Assad thanked Iran for its support. Ansari also met with Syrian Prime Minister Imad Khamis and with Foreign Minister Walid al-Muallem. They discussed regional developments and bilateral relations (Fars and Mehr, July 19 and 20, 2017). From Syria Ansari went to Iraq, where he met with senior Iraqi officials and participated in deliberations held by the joint Iran-Iraq political committee. Meeting with Iraqi Foreign Minister Ibrahim al-Jaafari, Ansari stressed that Iran would also continue its support for Iraq after the victory over ISIS in Mosul (ISNA, July 23, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
  •  At a conference of IRGC ground force commanders held in the city of Mashhad on July 17, 2017, Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff of the Iranian armed forces, said the planned referendum for the future of Iraqi Kurdistan was unacceptable to Iraq's neighbors and that preserving Iraq's unity and territorial integrity served the interests of all groups in Iraq (Fars, July 17, 2017).
  •  Nechervan Barzani prime minister of the Iraqi Kurdistan regional government, meeting with Iraj Masjedi, the Iran ambassador to Iraq, said Iran played an important role in Iraq and Iraqi Kurdistan. He said Iran could help by reducing the tension between the central government in Baghdad and the authorities of the Kurdish region. Masjedi stressed the importance of promoting relations between Iran and Iraqi Kurdistan, saying Iran was prepared to help Baghdad and Erbil resolve their differences (IRNA, July 17, 2017).
  •  On July 17, 2017, a delegation of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan (PUK) headed by Kosrat Rasoul Ali, the deputy secretary general of the PUK, and Mala Bakhtiar, head of the executive body of its political bureau, met with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, and discussed developments in Iraqi Kurdistan and the region in general in the wake of the liberation of Mosul from ISIS. Shamkhani reiterated Iran's official position, which rejected holding a referendum regarding independence for the Kurdish region. He said it would lead to the isolation of the Kurds in Iraq, increase pressure on them, and weaken both Kurdistan and all of Iraq (Tasnim, July 17, 2017).
  •  On July 22, 2017, Iraqi Defense Minister Irfan al-Hayali arrived in Tehran for a visit at the invitation of Iran's Defense Minister Hossein Dehqan. While he was there a memorandum of understanding was signed for the increase of bilateral security cooperation. At a meeting of the two defense ministers, Dehqan said Iran and Iraq were united in the fight against regional terrorism, and that Iran would continue its support of Iraq after the victory over ISIS in Mosul (IRNA, July 22, 2017). Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, warned al-Hayali against "plots" and efforts for separatism intended to damage Iraq's territorial integrity and security, and to undermine its stability (Fars, July 23, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
  •  Reacting to the tension on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, special international affairs advisor to the speaker of the Majlis, called for an immediate, serious response from the international and Islamic communities to "the crimes of the Zionist regime." He said the demonstrations held by the Palestinians proved the Palestinian people were no longer willing to suffer the crimes carried out by the Zionists, and that limiting the entrance to al-Aqsa mosque would lead to a new intifada. He said Iran condemned the "Zionist crimes" and supported the Palestinian people and their resistance to the Zionists (Mehr, July 23, 2017). In the wake of the deteriorating situation in Jerusalem, Abdollahian, who is also the secretary general of the International Conference in Support of the Palestinian Intifada, met with Khaled Qaddoumi, Hamas representative in Tehran, and Nasser Abu-Sharif, Palestinian Islamic Jihad representative in Tehran. He told them Iran was prepared to send drugs and medical equipment for Palestinians who had been injured in clashes with the IDF in Jerusalem (Mehr, July 23 and 24, 2017).
  • Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, also condemned Israel's actions in Jerusalem, saying the UN had to act with determination to counteract the "Zionist regime's" policies of "racist, religious discrimination" (Fars, July 23, 2017).
  •  On July 24, 2017, the IRGC published a statement regarding the escalating crisis in Jerusalem. It condemned the "Zionist regime's attack on al-Aqsa mosque," the limitations Israel placed on Palestinians wanting to pray in the mosque, and the silence of the international community and leaders of some of the Arab states regarding "Zionist crimes." The IRGC warned that the consequences of Israel's actions would spread to those who have remained silent in Islamic countries and to those who pretend to protect human rights. It called for mobilization of support for "a new intifada" in Palestine and an Islamic resistance to the "Zionists" in order to keep Israel from carrying out its plans to Judaize Jerusalem. The IRGC stressed its support for jihad through the "liberation" of Jerusalem (Tasnim, July 24, 2017).
  • [*]Spotlight on Iran is an Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center bulletin illuminating Iran's activities to establish its influence in the Middle East and beyond. It is based on reports in the Iranian media and written for the ITIC by Dr. Raz Zimmt, an expert on Iran's politics, society, foreign policy and social networks.

Iran’s interests and intent in Iraq and Syria reflected in statements by senior commanders of the Popular Mobilization Committee, the umbrella organization of the Shi’ite militias in Iraq handled by the Iranian Qods Force

Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Committee, the umbrella organization for the Shi'ite militias operating in Iraq, at a conference of the Union of Radio and Television in Mashhad, Iran (Sawt al-Ahwaz, July 2, 2017).

Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Committee, the umbrella organization for the Shi'ite militias operating in Iraq, at a conference of the Union of Radio and Television in Mashhad, Iran (Sawt al-Ahwaz, July 2, 2017).

The Popular Mobilization Committee logo. Its name is at the center, topped with

The Popular Mobilization Committee logo. Its name is at the center, topped with "Allahu akbar." Left and right are Iraqi flags inscribed "Republic of Iraq" (Popular Mobilization Committee website, July 10, 2017).

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (right) and Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force (left) in picture taken in eastern Iraq (Tehran Press, March 8, 2015).

Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis (right) and Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Qods Force (left) in picture taken in eastern Iraq (Tehran Press, March 8, 2015).

Overview

1.   Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis, deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Committee, the umbrella organization of the Shi'ite militias in Iraq, recently gave a speech at a conference in Mashhad, Iran. It deal with the trends the militias would take after the liberation of Mosul. Other Popular Mobilization Committee commanders have also made comments in recent months about the Shi'ite militias in the Middle East in general and Iraq and Syria in particular. In ITIC assessment they reflect the interests and intent of Iran, which handles the Popular Mobilization Committee according to its own local and regional interests (for the main points of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis' speech at the conference, see Appendix A).

Statements made by Abu-Mahdi al-Muhandis and other senior figures in the Popular Mobilization Committee indicate that Iran's interests in Iraq center on increasing Iranian influence, strengthening the Shi'ite sect, expelling American and Western influence, establishing Iranian influence along the Iraqi-Syrian border and opening an overland logistic route from Tehran via Baghdad and Damascus to Beirut. Their statements also indicate the possibility of deploying Shi'ite militias in the Golan Heights, when circumstances become suitable. In all probability, following the liberation of Mosul, the Popular Mobilization Committee in Iraq will serve as an important Iranian proxy to promote its interests in Iraq and Syria, seriously challenging the United States and the pro-Western Arab states.

 

The Popular Mobilization Committee

2.   The Popular Mobilization Committee is an umbrella organization composed of about 40 Shi'ite militias operating in Iraq and sponsored by Iran. It was established in June 2014 when Mosul was occupied by ISIS, which was the high point of its achievements in Iraq, and posed a imminent danger to Baghdad. The Popular Mobilization Committee is based mainly on Shi'ite militias sponsored by Iran that in the past fought the American-led coalition in Iraq. Some of its commanders have extensive combat experience. In recent years the militias (whose strength has grown significantly) participated in the campaign against ISIS, directed by Iran and under the formal jurisdiction of the supreme command of the Iraqi army (for a profile of the Popular Mobilization Committee, see Appendix C).

3.   One of the Popular Mobilization Committee's prominent commanders is Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, second in command to its commander, Falih al-Fayyadh. In 1983 al-Muhandis was involved in a series of terrorist attacks in Kuwait, among them attacks on the American and French embassies, acting as a an Iranian proxy in the service of Hezbollah in Lebanon. During the war in Iraq against the American-led coalition forces he headed a Shi'ite militia called the Hezbollah Battalions, which waged warfare and was handled by the Iranian Qods Force. In ITIC assessment, today Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis is the dominant military personality in the Popular Mobilization Committee, while Falih al-Fayyadh, the commander, is a figurehead (for a profile of Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, see Appendix B).

Insights gained from a speech given by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and statements by other senior Popular Mobilization Committee figures

4.   Various insights can be gained from a speech given by Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis and from statements made by other senior figures in the Popular Mobilization Committee. The insights relate to Iran's efforts to achieve influence in Iran and the Popular Mobilization Committee's role as a favored Iranian proxy organization:

A.   In Iranian perspective, the liberation of Mosul is likely to hasten the struggle with the United States for influence in Iraq. Iran aspires to advance its interests in Iraq and turn it, eventually, into a state sponsored by Iran, part of the so-called "Shi'ite crescent" which would include Iran, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon and Yemen[1]. At the same time, Iran also seeks to reduce American influence in Iraq, which increased during the campaign against ISIS, especially in the fighting in Mosul.

B.   The importance of the Popular Mobilization Committee: The Popular Mobilization Committee is Iran's favored proxy in Iraq(comparable to Hezbollah in Lebanon). The Iranian Qods Force has many years of practical experience in directing the Shi'ite militias fight against the American army. Some of the top commanders of the Shi'ite militias were in the past, and in ITIC assessment, are still being handled directly by the Qods Force(despite the formal link between the Popular Mobilization Committee and the Iraqi regime). Evident in Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis' speech was his determined rejection (supported by Iran) to any attempt the Iraqi government might attempt to dismantle the Popular Mobilization Committee.

C.  The significance of the Popular Mobilization Committee's growing strength: The existence and growth of the Shi'ite militias, well-armed and supported by Iran, may have a negative influence on the stability of Iraq's political and societal systems. The existence of Shi'ite militias with political influence and directed by Iran will pose a challenge to the Iraqi Sunnis and weaken the central Shi'ite government in Baghdad. The strengthening of the Shi'ites in Iraq with Iranian support is liable tocause a groundswell of Sunni unrest and push the Sunnis to support terrorist and guerilla organizations, including ISIS, even during the era after the liberation of Mosul.

5.   As to continuing the fight against ISIS, the following military insights can be gained from Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis' speech:

A.   For Iran, importance of influence and control along the Iraqi-Syrian border: According to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis' speech, Iran regards control of both sides of the Iraqi-Syrian border as important, and views the Popular Mobilization Committee militias as the military force that will clear the border area of ISIS and promote Iranian interests. According to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, about 150 kilometers (almost 95 miles) along the border have been "liberated" from ISIS. Thus it can be assumed that after the liberation of Mosul, Iran will increase its efforts to control the border using Popular Mobilization Committee forces. [2]

Convoy of Popular Mobilization Committee militias which reached the Iraq-Syria border at the end of May 2017 (Twitter account of the military information unit of the Popular Mobilization Committee, May 30, 2017).
Convoy of Popular Mobilization Committee militias which reached the Iraq-Syria border at the end of May 2017 (Twitter account of the military information unit of the Popular Mobilization Committee, May 30, 2017).

B.   Importance for Iran in opening the main road linking Baghdad and Damascus: A key Iranian interest, as reflected in Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis' speech, is opening the road linking Baghdad and Damascus. Iran is probably planning to use it for overland movement from Tehran to Syria and Lebanon through Baghdad[Note: Events on the ground in recent months indicate that the Iranians and the Syrian regime are currently engaged in an intensive drive to open and secure the road from Damascus to Baghdad, and make it passable][3].

Using the Damascus-Baghdad road. Left: Trucks en route from Iraq to Syria. Right: Three trucks on their way from Syria to Iraq at the improvised border crossing opened on the Syrian-Iraqi border northeast of the al-Waleed crossing (called al-Tanf on the Syrian side) (Syria TV Channel 7, June 12, 2017).
Using the Damascus-Baghdad road. Left: Trucks en route from Iraq to Syria. Right: Three trucks on their way from Syria to Iraq at the improvised border crossing opened on the Syrian-Iraqi border northeast of the al-Waleed crossing (called al-Tanf on the Syrian side) (Syria TV Channel 7, June 12, 2017).

6.   The Israeli aspect:

A.   Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis ended his speech by saying that "if Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah asks the Popular Mobilization Committee to turn towards with Israel if a confrontation breaks out, the request will be complied with immediately and [the Popular Mobilization Committee] will be there [to support Hezbollah]" (Shabakat Nahrain, June 3, 2017). He did not specify which Israeli front Popular Mobilization Committee operatives would be deployed to, but he apparently meant the Golan Heights. [Note: On March 8, 2017, Akram al-Kaabi, who heads the Iraq Shi'ite militia called The Movement of the NobleOnes, announced his operatives had established a so-called Brigade for the Liberation of the Golan.[4]]

B.   Deploying pro-Iranian Shi'ite operatives on the Golan Heights front would, in ITIC assessment, serve Iran's interest in turning the Golan Heights into a confrontation front against Israel. Iranian proxies may be deployed there, such as Lebanese Hezbollah and the Shi'ite militias from Iraq, directed Iran.

 

[1]Qais al-Kh'azali, the Iraqi Shi'ite leader of the militia calling itself the "League of Righteous People," gave a speech on May 10, 2017, to his operatives. He talked about the Shi'ite vision of spreading throughout the Middle East. He said, "...if in the past people used to talk about the 'Shi'ite crescent,' with the help of Allah we will have a 'Shi'ite full moon.' We will have all the land, from east to west. With the help of Allah and with the spirit of the last Shi'ite imam, the deployment of our fighting forces will be completed: from the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps in Iran, to Hezbollah in Lebanon, to Ansar al-Allah (the Houthi rebels) in Yemen, to the holy mobilization [i.e., Popular Mobilization Committee] in Iraq and the brothers of al-Zeynab [i.e., the Shi'ite operatives defending the shrine of Set al-Zeynab south of Damascus], your brothers [in Syria]..." (al-Jazeera, Kanat al-Iraq, May 10, 2017).
[2]At the end of May 2017 a Popular Mobilization Committee force arrived at the Syria-Iraq border west of Sinjar and began moving south towards the ISIS-controlled city of al-Qa'im. At the same time, a Popular Mobilization Committee force began moving northeast from the al-Waleed border crossing (according to Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, the force was located about 70 kilometers (about 43 miles) from the al-Waleed crossing.
[3]On June 14, 2017, an improvised border crossing was opened about 20 kilometers (about 12 miles) northeast of the al-Tanf crossing (near the Syrian-Iraqi-Jordanian border triangle). Syrian TV broadcast pictures of trucks reportedly carrying merchandise crossing the Syrian-Iraqi border in both directions. Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis' speech indicated that on the Iraqi side of the improvised crossing there were (an unknown number of) Popular Mobilization Committee operatives, who he claimed had joined the Syrian army forces and Hezbollah operatives on the Syrian side of the border.
[4]On March 8, 2017, Akram al-Ka'abi, who heads the Iraqi Shi'ite "Movement of the Noble Ones" (harakat al-nujaba) issued a recorded announcement in which he said his operatives had established the "Brigade for the Liberation of the Golan." He said its objective was to help the Syria "liberate" the Golan Heights when the campaign against "terrorism" ended (see Appendix C). Furthermore, on June 24, 2017, Hassan Nasrallah, Hezbollah's secretary general, said that tens of thousands of fighters might join a war against Israel, coming from countries such as Iraq, Yemen, Iran and others.

Spotlight on Iran

July 2 – 16, 2017 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
 Qasem Soleimani (mizanonline.ir, July 4, 2017).

Qasem Soleimani (mizanonline.ir, July 4, 2017).

Mehdi Joudi, Iranian army officer killed in Syria (Twitter, July 12, 2017).

Mehdi Joudi, Iranian army officer killed in Syria (Twitter, July 12, 2017).

The advisor to the speaker of the Majlis (right) meets with the Syrian ambassador to Tehran (Press TV, July 8, 2017).

The advisor to the speaker of the Majlis (right) meets with the Syrian ambassador to Tehran (Press TV, July 8, 2017).

 Soleimani (Sepah News, July 10, 2017).

Soleimani (Sepah News, July 10, 2017).

 Rouhani meets with al-Hakim (ISNA, July 4, 2017).

Rouhani meets with al-Hakim (ISNA, July 4, 2017).

Talabani meets with Ali Larijani, speaker of the Majlis (Asr-e Iran, July 12, 2017).

Talabani meets with Ali Larijani, speaker of the Majlis (Asr-e Iran, July 12, 2017).

Overview
  • In a first official Iranian response to the ceasefire in southern Syria brokered by the United States and Russia, Iran's foreign ministry's spokesman said the success of the agreement depended on extending it all over Syria. However, he said, such a possibility was doubtful because of the United States' recent actions in Syria.
  • An officer in the regular Iranian army's artillery corps was killed near Aleppo, Syria, on July 11, 2017.
  • The senior advisor to the speaker of the Iranian parliament (Majlis) met with the Syrian ambassador in Tehran to discuss developments in Syria. He said recent American policy in Syria reflected a change in its tactics but not in its objectives, adding that Syria was at the forefront of the "resistance" to the "Zionist regime."
  • Senior Iranian officials welcomed the liberation of the Iraqi city of Mosul from ISIS, emphasizing the role played by the Iraqi Shi'ite militias supported by the IRGC in the victory.
  • Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, related to the campaign against ISIS in two speeches, claiming that Iran's support for Iraq and Syria allowed it to deepen its regional influence. He noted the factors that had made it possible for liberate Mosul from ISIS, among them the fatwa issued by senior Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the actions of the Iraqi Shi'ite militias and the support Iran and Hezbollah gave the Shi'ite militias.
  •  At the beginning of July the IRGC launched an artillery attack on Kurdish targets in northern Iraq. The commander of the IRGC's ground forces said the area attacked had been used by "terrorists" who had infiltrated into Iranian territory last month to carry out terrorist attacks during World Jerusalem Day rallies.

 

General Information
  • Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, gave a speech about regional developments at a conference held in Kerman Province in Iran. He said ISIS had hoped to establish an Islamic government in Syria and Iraq by taking over important areas and bring about capitulation. However, he said, Iran's might had become many times greater since ISIS's advance. He said Iran's support for Iraq and Syria had increased its own regional influence as well as regional and international support for it. Iran, he said, had increased its influence in Syria and today was in direct contact with hundreds of thousands of Syrians throughout the country, and relations between the people of Iran and Iraq had also strengthened. As to Iran's support for the Palestinians, he said it continued despite attempts to wrest the "flag of Palestine" from the hands of Iran (Fars, July 4, 2017).
  • At a conference held in Gilan Province in northern Iran, Ali Larijani, speaker of the Iranian Majlis, related to Iran's military involvement in Syria and Iraq. He said Iran's decision to establish itself as a presence in Iraq and Syria to suppress terrorists was the right thing to do and vital, because without it the streets of Iran would not be safe (Tasnim, July 7, 2017).

Iranian Intervention in Syria and Lebanon

  • In a first official Iranian response to the ceasefire in southern Syria brokered by the United States and Russia, Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said it was doubtful whether the agreement could be extended to the rest of the country because of the recent measures taken by the United States and Syria. He said Iran supported Syria's territorial integrity and the calling of a ceasefire throughout the country, not only in a limited area. No agreement, he said, could succeed without taking the realities on the ground into account.
  • Mehdi Joudi, an officer in the regular Iranian army's artillery corps, was killed near Aleppo, Syria, on July 11, 2017.
  • On July 5, 2017, the website of Ali Khamenei, the Iranian Supreme Leader, published information about his meeting with high-ranking IRGC officers held a few hours after an Iranian missile launch on ISIS targets in eastern Syria on June 18, 2017. A video of Ali Khamenei showed him praising the IRGC for its "excellent" action and encouraging its high-ranking officers to continue exerting themselves to develop Iran's missile program in view of the enemy's "sensitivity" to missile attacks.
  • On July 4, 2017, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, spoke on the phone with Nikolai Patrushev, secretary of Russia's national security council. They discussed the continuing of bilateral cooperation in Syria. Shamkhani noted that promoting coordination between Iran and Russia would prevent America's illegal interference in Syria and keep Syria's territorial integrity and sovereignty from being warped (Tasnim, July 4, 2017).7. On July 8, 2017, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, special international affairs advisor to the speaker of the Majlis, met with Adnan Mahmoud, the Syrian ambassador to Tehran, to discuss developments in Syria. Abdollahian said United States policy in Syria did not reflect a change in its objectives, but rather in its tactics, adding that since the outbreak of the Syrian civil war, Syria's enemies had been trying to oust President Assad. He said Syria was at the forefront of the "resistance" to the "Zionist regime" and of the fight against terrorism. He also stressed the importance of the strategic ties between Iran and Syria and the continuation of their cooperation with Russia. The Syrian ambassador said Iran played a leading and vital regional role and that the United States and its allies were trying to undermine Iran's regional influence. He stressed that Iran, Syria and Russia had to continue consultations in order to support Syria and resolve the ongoing crisis (Fars, July 8, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
  • Senior Iranian officials welcomed the liberation of Mosul from ISIS. Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, sent Iraq his felicitations on the occasion of its victory, saying Iran would continue providing its full support for the Iraqi government and people. In separate messages to Iraqi PM Haydar al-Abadi and top Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani, he wrote that the victory over ISIS had been achieved thanks to the Iraqi government, senior Shi'ite clerics, the Iraqi army and the popular Iraqi militias. He voiced Iran's readiness to help Iraqis displaced by the war, and help reconstruct cities and infrastructure throughout Iraq (ISNA, July 9, 2017).
  • Mohammad Bagheri, chief of staff for the Iranian armed forces, also congratulated the Iraqi armed forces on the liberation of Mosul from ISIS. In separate messages to the Iraqi PM, defense minister and senior Iraqi Shi'ite militia commanders he noted that the victory over ISIS was the manifestation of Iraq's national unity and resistance, and showed how important it was to strengthen the Shi'ite militias and assure them of a role in the country's future (IRNA, July 10, 2017).
  • Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, in a memorial speech for an IRGC officer killed in Mosul at the end of May 2017, laid out the factors that had made it possible to defeat ISIS in Mosul. Among them he included the fatwa issued by senior Shi'ite cleric Ayatollah Ali Sistani calling on the Iraqi people to mobilize in the campaign against ISIS; the roles played by the Iraqi government, parliament and political parties directing the campaign; and the support Hassan Nasrallah's Lebanese Hezbollah gave to the Shi'ite militias in Iraq. Soleimani also mentioned the large quantities of weapons Iran supplied to the Shi'ite militias for the anti-ISIS campaign, and praised the IRGC fighters killed in battle. He said there were problems that could not be solved with diplomacy, only with the blood of fighters (Tasnim, July 10, 2017).
  • At the beginning of July 2017 Ammar al-Hakim, leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, paid a visit to Iran where he met with senior Iranian government officials. He met with Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, to discuss political and security developments in Iraq and bilateral relations. He also met with Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, who said he welcomed the liberation of Mosul, emphasizing the need to maintain Iraq's territorial integrity after the victory over ISIS. Rouhani said Iran wanted stable relations with its neighbors, especially Iraq. While in Tehran al-Hakim said that once ISIS had finally been defeated, not a single foreign soldier or military base would remain on Iraqi soil (IRNA and Fars, July 3 and 4, 2017).
  • On July 5, 2017, Mohammad Pakpour, commander of the IRGC ground forces, confirmed that IRGC forces had launched an artillery attack on Kurdish targets located near the Iranian border in northern Iraq. He claimed Iran had the right to attack "terrorists and counterrevolutionaries" planning to threaten security in Iran, and that the artillery had attacked the area where a team of "terrorists" had infiltrated into Iranian territory to carry out an attack in the city of Sanandaj (northwestern Iran) during World Jerusalem Day rallies. The terrorist team was disbanded by the Iranian security forces (Mashreq News, July 5, 2017). Following the Iranian attack the authorities of the Kurdish region in northern Iraq summoned the Iranian consul-general in the city of Erbil to lodge its formal protest (Fars, July 4, 2017).
  • Jalal Talabani, chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan and former Iraqi president, arrived in Tehran for a visit at the invitation of Iranian officials (Tasnim, July 10, 2017). The visit came amid objections voiced by senior Iranian officials as to the intention of the Kurdish authorities in northern Iraq to hold a referendum in September on the independence of the Kurdish region.

[*]Spotlight on Iran is an Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center bulletin illuminating Iran's activities to establish its influence in the Middle East and beyond. It is based on reports in the Iranian media and written for the ITIC by Dr. Raz Zimmt, an expert on Iran's politics, society, foreign policy and social networks.

Spotlight on Iran

June 18 – July 2, 2017 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
Missiles launched at eastern Syria from western Iran (@Kermanshah19 Twitter account, June 18, 2017).

Missiles launched at eastern Syria from western Iran (@Kermanshah19 Twitter account, June 18, 2017).

Hamid Qanadian (left), killed in Syria (Mashregh News, June 19, 2017).

Hamid Qanadian (left), killed in Syria (Mashregh News, June 19, 2017).

World Jerusalem Day processions in Tehran (ISNA, June 23, 2017).

World Jerusalem Day processions in Tehran (ISNA, June 23, 2017).

Khamenei and al-Abadi meet in Tehran (website of the supreme leader, June 21, 2017).

Khamenei and al-Abadi meet in Tehran (website of the supreme leader, June 21, 2017).

Overview
  • On June 18, 2017, in response to the June 7ISIS attacks on the Majlis building and the Khomeini shrine, the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) attacked ISIS targets in the Deir al-Zor region in eastern Syria. They attacked with six Zulfaqar surface-to-surface medium-range[1]missiles, launching them from bases in Kermanshah and Kurdistan in western Iran. Iran exploited the event for domestic and foreign purposes to present its military might. Iranian officials emphasized that the missile attack was merely the first warning, and in the future Iran's response would be far stronger.
  • In response to the White House threat to take measures against the Syrian regime if it carried out another chemical attack, senior Iranian officials warned the United States against escalating in Syria.
  • Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi paid a visit to Tehran where he met with Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and President Hassan Rouhani. Khamenei told al-Abadi not to trust the Americans, and to prevent US forces from entering Iraq. He said the arrival of the Iraqi Shi'ite militias on the Iraq-Syria border was strategic and important, and expressed his opposition to holding an referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan.
  • On June 23, 2017, the Iranians marked the annual Global Jerusalem Day. Given the continuing diplomatic crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia, at this year's rallies anti-Saudi Arabian slogans accompanied the traditional condemnation of and incitement against Israel and the United States. The concluding statement issued by the organizers of the rallies restated the need to "liberate" Jerusalem and the efforts to destroy Israel and wipe out the "region's cancerous growth" as the Muslim world's top priority.

 

The Iranian Missile Attack on ISIS Targets in Syria
  • On June 18, 2017, in response to the June 7, 2017 ISIS attacks on the Majlis (Iranian parliament) building and the Khomeini shrine, the IRGC fired six Zulfaqar surface-to-surface missiles. The missiles were launched from two bases in Kermanshah and Kurdistan in western Iran, attacking ISIS targets in the Deir al-Zor region in eastern Syria. According to the statement issued by the IRGC, the missiles hit ISIS command and logistic centers, killing dozens of terrorists (one of whom was senior commander ISIS Sa'ad al-Husseini) and destroying weapons, equipment and systems (Tasnim, June 18-19, 2017). On June 21, 2016, the IRGC issued another statement claiming that the intelligence for the attack had been gathered by the IRGC's Qods Force and provided to the IRGC's Aerospace Force (Fars, June 21, 2017). Iran exploited the event for domestic and foreign purposes to present its military might. Iranian officials emphasized that the missile attack was merely the first warning, and in the future Iran's response would be far stronger.
  •  Amir Ali Hajizadeh, commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, said Iran's enemies should be aware that Tehran was not London or Paris, and that if they made another mistake they would be struck even harder. He said Iran's missiles had passed through Iraqi airspace and hit targets in Syria. He claimed drones that took off from the region of Damascus had sent Iran pictures of the attack in Deir al-Zor in real time, adding that all six missiles had hit their targets (Fars, June 19, 2017). Amir Ali Hajizadeh told a press conference that reports published in Israel claiming most of the missiles had not hit their targets were false. He said all the missiles had hit their targets, and only their engines, which disengaged about 100 kilometers (60 miles) before the strike, had fallen in Iraqi territory (Fars, June 24, 2017).
  •  Ahmad-Reza Pourdastan, deputy commander of the Iranian army, said the world should be aware that Iran's defensive power was not limited to its geographical borders and that it would act at any place under threat (Defa Press, June 19, 2017).
  •  Ramazan Sharif, IRGC spokesman, said the objective of the missile attack was to punish those who had carried out the terrorist attack in Tehran. He said the missiles has been launched in coordination with Syria, Iraq and Russia, adding that the attack was also intended to send the message to the terrorists and their regional and international sponsors not to attempt to undermine Iran's national security (ycr.ir, June 19, 2017).
  •  Yadollah Javani, senior advisor to the supreme leader's representative in the IRGC, said that by attacking Syria Iran had proved it could turn every threat into an opportunity and to destroy the source of any threat. He said it showed the might of Iran's missiles was genuine and not mere propaganda, and that Iran was determined to preserve its national security. The IRGC, he added, had kept their promise to retaliate for the terrorist attack on Tehran, and the missiles were only a small part of the punishment Iran intended to inflict on the terrorists (Asr-e Iran, June 19, 2017).
  •  Yahya Rahim Safavi, senior military advisor to the Supreme Leader, said firing the missiles had sent a message to the United States and certain regional countries which thought they could attack Iran without fear of reprisal for their aggression (Fars, June 21, 2017).
  •  Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called the attack "justified and essential." He said the decision to attack had been made by the Iranian Supreme National Security Council (which he chairs) and not by an individual person or single military body. He said every attempt to harm Iran would be met with an uncompromising response and that if there were another attack, Iran would respond more decisively (website of the Iranian president, June 20, 2017).
  •  Mohammad Baqer Nobakht, spokesman for the Iranian government, praised the attack in Syria, saying the IRGC's response to the attacks on Tehran symbolized Iran's national might and proved that regional security was Iran's number one priority in its fight against terrorism.
  •  Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis committee for national security and foreign policy, said Iran's missile attack had begun a new phase in Iran's strategy of fighting against terrorism, and had sent a message to the sponsors of terror in the region, including the United States and its allies. He praised the IRGC, saying Iran preserved the right to launch more missiles at terrorist positions at any time when circumstances demanded. Terrorists should be aware, he said, that Iran would not tolerate attacks on its security (Tasnim, June 19, 2017).
  •  Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said the missile launch had been a "warning" to the terrorists, adding that Iran would use every means to defend its security and stability, and that as opposed to other states, it relied only on itself when it came to security (ISNA, June 19, 2017).
  •  Hossein Sheikholeslam, advisor to the Iranian foreign minister and former Iran ambassador to Damascus, said the targets of the missile attack were the sites where the terrorist attacks in Tehran had been planned. He added that the attack would improve the balance of power in Syria, tilt the scales in favor of the Syrian army and the forces of the resistance, and send the message to the enemies of the Islamic Revolution, to the United States and to Saudi regime that Iran could destroy any target anywhere (Tasnim, June 19, 2017).
  •  On June 18, 2017, Amir Hossein Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for the Arab states and Africa, tweeted that the missile attack had been a "soft warning" for the terrorists in Syria. Mohsen Rezaei, former IRGC commander, tweeted that it had been "the beginning of revenge against ISIS," and a message to the sponsors of terrorism.
Iranian Intervention in Syria
  •  IRGC fighter Hamid Qanadian was killed in Syria on June 18, 2017. He was in charge of head of field hospitals on the Syrian front.
  •  In view of the growing tension between the United States and the Assad regime, and the White House threats to act against the Syrian regime if it carries out another chemical attack, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, warned that escalation in Syria would help ISIS. He tweeted that support for the terrorist groups in Syria should be stopped, and claimed that the current American approach served the extremists, especially ISIS, at a time when the organization had been expelled from Iraq and Syria. Instead of implementing policies to strengthen extremists, he claimed, the United States should join the "real war" against them (IRNA, June 27, 2017).
  • Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, also warned the United States against escalating the crisis in Syria. In response to American threats against Syria, he said that with its reckless behavior in Syria, America was playing with fire and that its threats were meant to prevent the advance of the Syrian army. He said that if the United States had evidence that the Syrian regime was planning to use chemical weapons, such evidence had to be presented to the Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons, which would examine it in cooperation with the Syrian government (Tasnim, June 28, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
  •  On June 20, 2017, Iraqi Prime Minister Haidar al-Abadi arrived in Tehran for a visit. While there he met with Iranian supreme leader Ali Khamenei, President Hassan Rouhani, and Ali Larijani, speaker of the Majlis. He had arrived in Iran from Saudi Arabia (Mehr, June 20, 2017). Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei advised al-Abadi not to trust the Americans, because, he claimed, they opposed Iraq's independence, identity and unity. He said the Americans should not be given an opportunity to penetrate more deeply into Iraq under the pretext of training. He claimed the Americans had no interest in destroying ISIS, which they had established, or in expelling it from Iraq. Khamenei also said that the arrival of the Iraqi Shi'ite militias along the Iraq-Syria border was strategic and important. He emphasized the need to preserve Iraq's territorial integrity, adding that Iran opposed holding an referendum on independence in Iraqi Kurdistan (website of the supreme leader, June 20, 2017).
  • Meeting with al-Abadi, Iranian President Rouhani also said he opposed a divided Iraq, claiming that geographical changes and division would not serve the interests of any regional country, and that Iran supported a unified Iraq. He said there was nothing to prevent increased cooperation between Iran and Iraq, and stressed the need to implement the financial and commercial agreements they had signed (website of the Iranian president, June 20, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
  •  On June 23, 2017, Iran marked the annual World Jerusalem Day, which has been held since 1979, according to a decision made by Ayatollah Khomeini, the founder and leader of the Islamic Revolution. The objective of World Jerusalem Day is to show the support of Iran and the Muslim world for the Palestinian cause and the "liberation of Jerusalem." Given the continuing diplomatic crisis between Iran and Saudi Arabia, at this year's rallies anti-Saudi Arabian slogans accompanied the traditional condemnation of and incitement against Israel and the United States. According to the concluding statement issued by the organizers of the rallies, the "liberation" of Jerusalem and efforts to destroy Israel and wipe out the "region's cancerous growth" are the Muslim world's top priority. The statement condemned the détente among several regional states, especially Saudi Arabia and Israel, and their sponsorship of terrorism. It also expressed support for the forces of "resistance" in Syria, Iraq, Yemen and Bahrain, and called the United States the "number one enemy" (IRNA, June 23, 2017).  
  •  On the eve of World Jerusalem Day Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said it did not only signify the defense of oppressed people who had been expelled from their houses and homeland. Today the defense of Palestine was tantamount to defending the truth, which was bigger than the Palestinian cause. The fight against the "Zionist regime" was the fight against "arrogance" [i.e., the West] and the hegemonic system, said Khamenei (Fars, June 21, 2017).
  •  A statement published by the IRGC on the anniversary of World Jerusalem Day said that the "liberation of Jerusalem" and the rescue of the Palestinian people could only be accomplished by means of "resistance" and with the overall support of the Islamic nation for the intifada. The statement criticized the willingness of some of the regional countries to compromise and normalize relations with the "Zionist regime" (Tasnim, June 22, 2017).

[*]Spotlight on Iran is an Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center bulletin illuminating Iran's activities to establish its influence in the Middle East and beyond. It is based on reports in the Iranian media and written for the ITIC by Dr. Raz Zimmt, an expert on Iran's politics, society, foreign policy and social networks.

Spotlight on Iran

June 4 – 18, 2017 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt

Overview
  • Senior Iranian officials expressed concern after several Arab states (led by Saudi Arabia) suspended relations with Qatar, calling on them to settle their differences. Iran accused Saudi Arabia and the American administration of responsibility for the crisis with Qatar. In the meantime, Iran allowed Qatar's planes to use its airspace and sent planes with food to Doha.
  •  Senior Iranian officials exploited ISIS's twin terrorist attacks on the Iranian parliament building and the shrine of the Islamic Revolution founder's grave to justify its military involvement in Iraq and Syria, and accused Saudi Arabia of responsibility for the attacks. The deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) threatened to take revenge on those responsible for the attack.
  • The Iranian media reported that fighters of the Fatemiyoun Brigade (Afghans operating under the aegis of the IRGC in Syria) had recently arrived at the Syria-Iraq border. Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, had his picture taken with the fighters near the border. The Iranian media continued their extensive coverage of American attacks against the Syrian forces near the Iraq-Syria border, representing the attacks as "an American-Zionist" effort to prevent the creation of an overland corridor linking Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon.
  • Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad. Assad expressed his sympathy for the terrorist attacks in Tehran. Rouhani said they had only strengthened the Iranian people's determination to fight terrorism.
  • Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, said Iran regarded the relations between Russia and Syria as strategic, adding that the Iran-Russia-Syria-Iraq-Hezbollah coalition had succeeded in changing the balance in the Syrian arena.
  • The Iranian foreign ministry expressed opposition to the Iraqi Kurdish authorities' decision to hold a referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan's independence next September. A spokesman for the foreign ministry said that unilateral decisions were liable to further destabilize Iraq.

 

Iranian Reactions to Qatar-Arab State Tensions
  • After various Arab states, led by Saudi Arabia, suspended diplomatic relations with Qatar, senior Iranian officials expressed concern and called for the parties involved to settle their differences. Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said the growing tension between the Gulf States benefitted no one and threatened regional interests. He said Iran was concerned by recent developments and urged dialogue to resolve the crisis (Fars, June 5, 2017). Following the Arab states' aerial blockade of Qatar, Iran allowed Qatar's planes to land on its territory and sent Qatar five planes carrying 90 tons of food.
  • Hamid Aboutalebi, deputy head of the Iranian president's office of political matters, Tweeted that cutting off diplomatic relations, sealing borders and imposing a siege were not the way to resolve the crisis. He said the crisis was the first result of Donald Trump's sword dance with the Saudi king (Asr-e Iran, June 5, 2017).
  • Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis [Iranian parliament] committee for national security and foreign policy, also accused the United States of responsibility for the crisis, claiming the tensions between the Arab states had resulted from American intervention and Trump's visit to the Middle East. He said Iran had always contended that regional problems had to be resolved by the states themselves and had always opposed foreign intervention (IRNA, June 5, 2017).
  • Amir Abdollahian, special advisor on international affairs to the speaker of the Iranian Parliament, accused Saudi Arabia of responsibility for the crisis, saying that the six countries of the Cooperation Council for the Arab States of the Gulf (the GCC) had never really been united and that Saudi Arabian policies were responsible for exacerbating differences, regional extremism and spreading terrorism throughout the Middle East and the Muslim world. He said the Saudi Arabian rulers mistakenly thought that by relying on foreigners they could lead the Arab-Muslim world by means of suspending diplomatic relations, military aggression against their neighbors and strengthening regional terrorism. However, their policies threatened regional security and worsened differences between regional states (Fars, June 5, 2017).
  • In view of the crisis, Mohammad Javad Zarif, Iranian foreign minister, held a round of telephone conversations with other Muslim-world foreign ministers to discuss regional developments (Mehr, June 5, 2017). On June 5, 2017, he Tweeted that "Our neighbors are permanent, geography cannot be changed, coercion is never a solution and dialogue is essential, especially during Ramadan."
General Information
  • Senior Iranian officials exploited ISIS's twin terrorist attacks on the Iranian Majlis building and the shrine of the grave of the Islamic Revolution's founder, Ayatollah Khomeini, to justify Iran's military involvement in Iraq and Syria, and accused Saudi Arabia of being behind the attacks. Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei gave a speech after the attacks in which he claimed that without Iranian intervention in Syria and Iraq, terrorists would have begun operating in Iranian territory a long time ago (Fars, June 7, 2017). Mohammad Ali Jafari, commander of the IRGC, claimed Iran had precise information that Saudi Arabia had supported the terrorists who had carried out the attacks in Tehran (Fars, June 12, 2017). Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the IRGC, also claimed Saudi Arabia was behind the twin attacks, saying that they were the consequence of a joint political plan formulated by the Saudis, the Americans and the "Zionist regime" during the Riyadh summit meeting as a cover for their regional failures. He said the IRGC would take revenge on those behind the terrorist attacks (Tasnim, June 8, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Syria
  • Three IRGC fighters were killed in battle near Hama, Syria. Javad Mohammadi was killed on June 6, 2017, Mostafa Sadeghi on June 8, 2017, and Heydar Jalilvand on June 11, 2017.
  • On June 12, 2017, the Iranian Tasnim News agency reported that fighters from the Fatemiyoun Brigade (Afghans operating under IRGC aegis in Syria) had recently arrived near the Syria-Iraq border. Tasnim News published a picture of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, praying alongside Fatemiyoun Brigade fighters near the border.
  • In the meantime, the Iranian media gave extensive coverage to the American attacks on the Syrian forces near the Iraq-Syria border, representing the attacks as "an American-Zionist" attempt to prevent the "resistance axis" from advancing in Syria and Iraq and to keep it from establishing an overland corridor linking Iran, Iraq, Syria and Lebanon. Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, criticized America's activities in Syria. At his weekly press conference he said that the United States had often declared it was fighting terrorism, but its actions in Syria proved otherwise. Qasemi advised the United States to concentrate its efforts on ISIS and other terrorist groups, and to avoid any other action in Syria (Fars, June 12, 2017).
  • On June 5, 2017, Hassan Kazemi Qomi, former Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, gave an interview to the Iranian Tasnim News agency in which he said that in his opinion the Americans sought to take control of territory in southern and eastern Syria by supporting the terrorist groups operating there. He said that following ISIS's defeat, the United States had acted according to a plan aimed to establish a "terrorist army", increase its forces in the region and support the Kurds in Syria. The Iraqi and Syrian governments, he said, were faced with the threat of terrorism jointly supported by the United States, Zionism and "reactionary" regional rulers. He said the way to foil the American plan for regional division was through an Iraqi-Syrian coordinated effort to liberate the territories along their common border.
  • On June 8, 2017, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke on the phone with Syrian President Bashar Assad, who expressed his condolences following the twin terrorist attacks in Tehran. Rouhani thanked him, saying the attacks had only served to strengthen the Iranian people's determination to fight terrorism. He said Iran and Syria were engaged in a joint fight against terrorism and the ties between the two countries improved every day. He expressed hope that the ceasefire in Syria would continue and that in the near future Syrian forces would be victorious in the war on terrorism (website of the Iranian president, June 8, 2017)
  • On June 12, 2017, Javad Torkabadi, Iranian ambassador to Syria, met with Imad Khamis, the Syrian prime minister, to discuss ways to expand bilateral ties and regional developments. Torkabadi said Iran was prepared to increase its economic ties with Syria. Khamis noted the importance of economic cooperation between the two countries and the need to promote joint economic investments with private sector participation (Fars, June 12, 2017).
  • Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis committee for national security and foreign policy, said Iran would spare no effort to reconstruct Syria once the civil war had ended. Meeting with Mohammad al-Ammouri, secretary general of the Syrian prime minister's office, he emphasized Iran's support for Syria, saying Iran would provide support to reconstruct Syria and share the experience it had gained in reconstructing Iran following the war with Iraq (Mehr, June 13, 2017).
  • On June 7, 2017 Alexander Lavrentiev, Vladimir Putin's special envoy for Syria, arrived in Iran for a visit at the invitation of Hossein Jaberi Ansari, deputy foreign minister. While there he spoke with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, about developments in Syria (Fars, June 7, 2017). On the eve of Lavrentiev's visit Shamkhani said that Iran regarded its relations with Russia and Syria as strategic. He said the Iran-Russia-Syria-Iraq-Hezbollah coalition had changed the balance of power in Syria and made it possible to liberate Aleppo from the terrorists. He said Iranian-Russian cooperation was aimed at achieving common goals and did not mean that Iran's national interests or independence were compromised (Tasnim, June 6, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
  • Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said Iran opposed the Iraqi Kurdish authorities' decision to hold a referendum on Iraqi Kurdistan's independence next September. He said Iran supported Iraq's territorial integrity and that holding a referendum would cause new problems. He said Iraqi Kurdistan was part of Iraq and that unilateral decisions were liable to complicate the situation and further destabilize the country. He called on the Kurdish authorities to settle their differences with the central government in Baghdad through dialogue and in accordance with the Iraqi constitution (Fars, June 10, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
  • On June 5, 2017, IRNA official news agency posted photos of the Iranian Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation distributing Ramadan fast-breaking meals to "warriors on the Gaza border".

On June 5, 2017, IRNA official news agency posted photos of the Iranian Imam Khomeini Relief Foundation distributing Ramadan fast-breaking meals to "warriors on the Gaza border".
(IRNA, June 5, 2017). 

[*]Spotlight on Iran is an Intelligence and Terrorism Information Center bulletin illuminating Iran's activities to establish its influence in the Middle East and beyond. It is based on reports in the Iranian media and written for the ITIC by Dr. Raz Zimmt, an expert on Iran's politics, society, foreign policy and social networks.

Spotlight on Global Jihad (June 8-14, 2017)

Spotlight on Global Jihad

Spotlight on Global Jihad

SDF fighter at an ISIS car bomb workshop which has been located in searches at Al-Mashlab neighborhood (YouTube, June 13, 2017).

SDF fighter at an ISIS car bomb workshop which has been located in searches at Al-Mashlab neighborhood (YouTube, June 13, 2017).

Detonation of an ISIS car bomb in the Al-Mashlab neighborhood (Haqq, June 8, 2017).

Detonation of an ISIS car bomb in the Al-Mashlab neighborhood (Haqq, June 8, 2017).

Turki al-Binali delivering one of his sermons in Sirte (Haqq, June 9, 2017)

Turki al-Binali delivering one of his sermons in Sirte (Haqq, June 9, 2017)

A Syrian Army commander reports on the achievements of the Syrian Army on the Syrian-Iraqi border (Syrian TV YouTube account SyrianTVChannels7, June 12, 2017)

A Syrian Army commander reports on the achievements of the Syrian Army on the Syrian-Iraqi border (Syrian TV YouTube account SyrianTVChannels7, June 12, 2017)

Iraqi police force in the Zanjili neighborhood taken over from ISIS (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017)

Iraqi police force in the Zanjili neighborhood taken over from ISIS (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017)

The scene of the attack in the town of Musayyib (Sawt Al-Iraq, June 10, 2017)

The scene of the attack in the town of Musayyib (Sawt Al-Iraq, June 10, 2017)

The scene of the attack on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017)

The scene of the attack on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017)

The five squad members of ISIS who carried out the combined attack in the Majles building and at the Khomeini Mausoleum (Haqq, June 9, 2017)

The five squad members of ISIS who carried out the combined attack in the Majles building and at the Khomeini Mausoleum (Haqq, June 9, 2017)

Weapons, explosives and an ISIS flag found in the possession of four ISIS operatives in Hormozgan Province (Tasnim, June 12, 2017)

Weapons, explosives and an ISIS flag found in the possession of four ISIS operatives in Hormozgan Province (Tasnim, June 12, 2017)

Main events of the week

  • The main event of the week was a combined attack carried out by ISIS in Tehran against the Majles Building (the Iranian Parliament) and the Khomeini Mausoleum compound. Seventeen people were killed and 52 wounded in the attack, most of them apparently in the Parliament building. ISIS claimed responsibility for the attack, and its media threatened to carry out additional attacks against Iran and the Shiites.
  • The combined ISIS terrorist attack in Tehran is the first of its kind. It may indicate that ISIS has developed operational capabilities that allow it to operate in the heart of Iran against symbolic targets of the Iranian regime. The attack in Tehran is a blow to the prestige of the Iranian regime which, for the first time, was also exposed to ISIS showcase attacks. ISIS’s media outlets are threateningto continue attacks against Iran and the Shiites. On the other hand, it is expected that the Iranian security forces will intensify their preventive activities (which have already begun) to expose ISIS-affiliated networks operating in Iran.
  • ISIS is under severe pressure on the ground. In Al-Raqqah, the SDF forces are advancing in several neighborhoods in the west, east and north of the city. According to reports, they have reached the walls of the Old City (the SDF has still left escape routes for ISIS in the south of the city). In Mosul, the Iraqi forces have completed their takeover of another neighborhood, and now ISIS holds two neighborhoods in the Old City, where the “last battle” for the takeover of Mosul is expected to take place.
  • Along the Syria-Iraq border, the competition for control is increasing between the US and the rebel organizations that it supports on the one hand, and the Syrian regime and its allies on the other. On June 9, 2017,it was reported that the Syrian forces had reached the Syrian-Iraqi border about 20 km north of the Al-TanfCrossing and set up an informal border crossing. According to Syrian television, the crossing has already begun to function. On the other hand, the Americans have transferred a portable missile system (HIMARS) from Jordan to Al-Tanf, in light of the increasing threat from the Syrian forces.

 

Russian involvement in Syria

Russia
  • Sergei Rudskoy, a senior officer in the Russian General Staff, and Sergei Surovikin, Commander of the Russian forces in Syria, held a press conference on the situation in Syria. The commander of the Russian forces in Syria reported that during the past month, the Russian Air Force carried out 1,268 sorties in Syria, destroyed 3,200 terrorist installations and mopped up an area of about 3,922 square kilometers from the presence of terrorists. According to him, the terrorist targets that were destroyed included: an ISIS headquarters, weapons depots, training camps, and a transit base.
  • During the press conference, the two criticized the activity of the international coalition countries in the Al-Tanf area (the tri-border area of Syria, Jordan, and Iraq). They noted that the United States’ fear of the Syrian forces reaching the border was unjustified because Russia is supporting the advance of the regime’s forces along the Syrian-Iraqi border, as well as between Syria and Jordan. They also said that the coalition countries had allowed ISIS to move from Al-Raqqah to Palmyra and Deirez-Zor (TASS News Agency, June 9, 2017).
  • In a speech given by Russian President Vladimir Putin at a conference of the Shanghai Cooperation Organization,[1] he said that Russia has information that ISIS is working to destabilize southern Russia and Central Asia. He called on countries participating in the conference to increase their intelligence cooperation (TASS News Agency, June 9, 2017). Russian Defense Minister Sergey Shoygusaid at the conference that Russia’s fighting in Syria against Islamic groups had halted their spread to the member states of the organization (Russia, Central Asia, and China). He also stressed his concern over the expansion of ISIS’s activity in Afghanistan. He called on the organization’s members to create effective tools for cooperation against Islamic terrorism (Sputnik, June 9, 2017).
  • In a UN Security Council briefing on terrorist attacks, Evgeniy Zagaynov, the Russian Deputy Permanent Representative to the United Nations, said that since 2015, ISIS’s revenues from crude oil trading had significantly dropped, as a result of the involvement of the Russian Air Force in Syria.According to him, ISIS’s oil revenues have dropped from $25 million a month to $12 million. According to Zagaynov, since Russia began to operate against ISIS in Syria, about 4,000 gas tankers, 176 oil refineries, 112 pumping stations and about 206 gas and oil production facilities have been destroyed (TASS News Agency, June 9, 2017).

Main developments in Syria

The campaign to take over Al-Raqqah
  • Fighting inside the city of Al-Raqqah, which started on June 6, 2017, continues. SDF forces, supported by the US-led International Coalition, are attacking the city simultaneously from several directions. Several neighborhoods in west, north and east Al-Raqqah were taken over by the SDF fighters, who continue their advance toward the center of the city. In south Al-Raqqah, ISIS operatives still have the option to flee the city. According to TalalSelo, the SDF spokesman, after the forces drive away ISIS from Al-Raqqah, they intend to deliver the city to the management of a civilian and military tribunal, which will be composed of local residents (Lebanon 24, June 8, 2017).

 

  • During the week, the SDF forces had additional achievements:
  • In east Al-Raqqah, the forces took over the Al-Mashlab neighborhood and several sites in the Al-Jazra neighborhood (Al-Sham Network, June 8, 2017). The forces continue their advance towards the Al-Sina’ah neighborhood (Qasiyoun, June 9-10, 2017) and the center and reached the Old City wall, west of the Al-Sina’ah neighborhood (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights; Reuters, June 12, 2017). After taking over the Al-Jazra neighborhood, the SDF forces exposed a tunnel network which was used by ISIS to escape Coalition airstrikes and transfer weapons and ammunition to the city neighborhoods (EnabBaladi, June 12, 2017). In the Al-Mashlab neighborhood, SDF fighters uncovered a car bomb workshop.
  • In northwest Al-Raqqah, the Al-Sha’abiyya quarter was taken over. On June 11, 2017, it was reported that after two days of fighting, the SDF forces took over the Al-Roumaniyya neighborhood (Al-Sham Network, June 11, 2017). On the outskirts of the west Al-Raqqahneighborhood of Hittin, clashes take place between the parties (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 14, 2017).
  • In north Al-Raqqah, on June 12, 2017, the SDF forces took over parts of the former base of the Syrian Army’s Division 17 and the compound of the sugar factory (Syrian Observatory for Human Rights; Reuters, June 12, 2017). According to Mus’ab al-Hussein, SDF forces fighter, the sugar factory is of “strategic importance” since it allows shooting at Al-Raqqah’s northern neighborhoods (YouTube, June 12, 2017).
  • Similarly to the campaign for Mosul, ISIS operatives also made extensive use of suicide bombers who blew themselves up with car bombs and explosive belts to try and curb the advance of the SDF forces in Al-Raqqah. According to ISIS reports, on June 7, 2017, an ISIS operative detonated a car bomb near a building where the SDF forces were staying, in the Al-Mashlab neighborhood. On June 11, 2017, ISIS operatives detonated a car bomb near a gathering of SDF forces in the Al-Roumaniyya neighborhood (Al-Sham Network, June 11, 2017).
Open corridor for ISIS operatives to retreat from Al-Raqqah southwards
  • This week as well, there were reports of ISIS operatives leaving Al-Raqqah to the south. A delegation of tribes affiliated with ISIS is reportedly negotiating with SDF representatives in an attempt to reach an agreement on the safe departure of ISIS operatives from the city towards Deirez-Zor, in return for surrendering the city to the SDF forces. Ibrahim al-Hassan, member of the civilian council of the Al-Raqqah Province, denied the above (Shafaq News, June 11, 2017).
The US supplies weapons to the SDF
  • According to a report on the Al-Jazeera Channel, after the announcement of the opening of the campaign to take over Al-Raqqah, convoys of US arms including advanced weapons arrived in the region. According to SDF Spokesman TalalSelo, the arms included light, medium and heavy weapons, as well as anti-tank weapons and armored vehicles. According to the SDF forces, not only does the US equip the forces, it also trains them and provides them with logistic support. Senior White House officials noted that the support of the SDF is limited to an ad hoc purpose, i.e., the takeover of Al-Raqqah (Al-Jazeera, June 10, 2017).
Palmyra
  • Fighting continues in the Palmyra region between the Syrian forces and ISIS operatives: This week, the battles focused on the Tell Sawane area and the area of the grain silos northeast of Palmyra (Al-Sham Network, June 10, 2017). According to reports, there were also battles between ISIS and the Syrian forces in the area of the Aarak gas field, about 24 km northeast of Palmyra. The purpose of the Syrian forces is reportedly to take over the town of Al-Sukhnah, on the road leading to Deirez-Zor(Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, June 11, 2017).
Deirez-Zor
  • This week, fighting continued between ISIS and the Syrian forces in the military airfield and the Panorama Square (about 6 km southeast of Deir ez-Zor). According to media affiliated with the Syrian regime, ISIS sustained dozens of killed and wounded (Syrian Army Spokesperson's Office, June 10, 2017).
  • ISIS announced that Turki al-Binali, a senior ISIS operative, was killed in a US airstrike in Deir ez-Zor. Al-Binali was among the leaders of ISIS’s Libyan branch and used to deliver sermons in the city of Sirte when ISIS controlled the city. He was considered a senior religious authority in ISIS and used to move between Libya and Syria (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
The Syrian-Iraqi border
  • On June 9, 2017, the Syrian Chief of Staff announced that the Syrian security forces and their allies had taken over the Al-Tanf Border Crossing between Syria and Iraq and several sites of strategic importance in the heart of the Syrian Desert. The announcement also stated that the forces had taken over a total area of 20,000 square kilometers east and south of the city of Palmyra, and killed hundreds of ISIS operatives. The Syrian Chief of Staff described these achievements as a “strategic turning point in fighting against terrorism” (Syrian TV; Syrian TV YouTube channel SyrianTVChannels7, June 10, 2017). Rebel forces and Syrian opposition elements denied the above (Al-Jazeera, June 10, 2017; Al-Sham Network, June 9, 2017).
  • However, on June 13 and 14, 2017, it was reported that on June 9, 2017, the Syrian forces had reached the Syrian-Iraqi border, at a distance of 20 km northeast of the Al-Tanf Border Crossing (rather than the crossing itself, as claimed by the Syrian Chief of Staff). The Syrian regime claimed that its forces had opened an unofficial border crossing 20 km northeast of the Al-Tanf Crossing, which was already functional. Syrian TV broadcasted photos showing trucks carrying goods passing from Syria to Iraq and from Iraq to Syria (Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 14, 2017).
  • Pentagon officials reported that the US Army had transferred a portable missile system (HIMARS) from Jordan to the Al-Tanf Crossing. A Pentagon officer said that the Americans had reinforced their presence and their foothold in Al-Tanf against any threat by the forces supporting the Assad regime (almasdarnews.com, June 14, 2017).
Southern Syria
  • The Shura Council of the ISIS-affiliated Khaled bin Al-Walid Army appointed Mohammad Rifat al-Rifai, aka Abu Hashem, as the new commander (emir) of the organization. The previous emir Abu Mohammad al-Maqdisi was killed on June 6, 2017, in an airstrike in the town of Al-Shajara, in the Yarmouk Basin. Mohammad al-Rifai is from the town of Tell Shehab, west of Daraa. He served as the military emir of the Shuhada Al-Yarmouk Brigade (EnabBaladi, June 9, 2017; Twitter, June 6, 2017).

Main developments in Iraq

The campaign for the takeover of Mosul
  • During the week, the Iraqi forces continued their campaign to complete the takeover of ISIS’s enclave in west Mosul. A senior Iraqi police official reported that the Iraqi forces had taken full control of the Zanjili neighborhood, one of the last neighborhoods near the Old City. ISIS’s operatives are now concentrated in two neighborhoods of the Old City. ISIS operatives are reportedly barricaded around Al-Nuri Mosque, where the Islamic Caliphate was declared (Al-Mayadeen, June 11, 2017). During the liberation of the Zanjili neighborhood, the Iraqi security forces exposed a large factory equipped with state-of-the-art machinery for manufacturing rockets, mortar shells, and rocket launchers (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017).

 

  • The deputy commander of the Popular Mobilization Units, the pro-Iranian militias supporting the Iraqi government in the fight against ISIS, announced that his forces had finished the missions they were assigned west of Mosul. According to him, so far, the forces have killed about 2,000 ISIS operatives, and they are now waiting for the instruction of the Supreme Commander of the Iraqi Armed Forces (the Iraqi Prime Minister) to start the operation to liberate Tal Afar District (Al-Sumaria, June 9, 2017). Tal Afar District is between Mosul and the Syrian-Iraqi border, and it still includes an ISIS enclave.
ISIS’s terror and guerrilla activities throughout Iraq
  • ISIS continued to carry out terrorist and guerrilla attacks throughout Iraq, mainly in areas with a Shiite population:
  • In the holy city of Karbala, which is sacred for the Shiites,[2]a suicide bomber blew himself up with an explosive vest among a crowd of Shiites. Thirty people were killed and 35 others were wounded (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
  • In the town of Musayyib in Babil Province, about 50 km south of Baghdad, a suicide bomber blew himself up with an explosive vest. A total of 37 people were killed and forty others were wounded (Haqq, June 9, 2017). According to Iraqi sources, twenty people were killed in the attack and 21 others were wounded (Al-Sumaria, June 9, 2017).
  • Kirkuk: A car bomb driven by a suicide bomber exploded about 20 km south of Kirkuk, on the Kirkuk-Baghdad road, near a checkpoint of the Iraqi security forces. The checkpoint personnel sustained two fatalities and three wounded (Al-Sumaria, June 10, 2017). Apparently, ISIS was behind the attack.

Global jihad activity in other countries

ISIS’s combined terrorist attack in Tehran
Overview
  • On the morning of June 7, 2017, five ISIS terrorists carried out a combined terrorist attack in Tehran:
  • In the Majles(Iranian Parliament), a shooting attack was carried out, apparently by three terrorists.
  • In the Mausoleum of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Iranian Revolution, which is a tourist site, two terrorists carried out a shooting attack. They were supposed to blow themselves up with explosive belts.

 

  • The Iranian Interior Ministry announced that 17 people had been killed and 52 wounded in the terrorist attack in Tehran. Apparently, most of the victims were in the Majles building. Several dozen people were detained on suspicion of helping to carry out the attacks. Revolutionary Guard forces were deployed around regime institutions, and the Intelligence Ministry declared the highest alert (Tasnim, June 7, 2017).
  • The five terrorists who carried out the attacks were killed. The codenames of the five, which appeared on ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba, indicate that they were of Iranian descent (Al-Naba, June 8, 2017). According to several reports, the attacks were carried out by Iranians of Kurdish descent (Al-Hayat, June 12, 2017). ISIS’s news agency posted a video where the five terrorists are seen before leaving for the attack. According to the Iranian intelligence minister, the place where the video was filmed has been located (Fars, June 9, 2017).
  • According to the Iranian Intelligence Ministry, the interrogation of the incident revealed that the perpetrators of the attacks had joined ISIS in 2016 and taken part in the fighting in Mosul and Al-Raqqah. They arrived in Iran about a year ago, along with their commander, codenamed Abu Aisha, seeking to examine the possibility of carrying out terrorist attacks in the Iran’s holy cities. The group was exposed by the Iranian authorities, and their senior figures, including Abu Aisha, were killed. The rest fled Iran (Tasnim, June 8, 2017; Al-Hayat, June 12, 2017).
Another incident in southern Iran
  • The Iranian police announced on June 12, 2017, that it had killed four armed ISIS operatives and detained five others in Hormozgan Province, southern Iran, as part of a series of detentions carried out by the Iranian security forces against ISIS networks in the region. Two of the operatives killed are foreign nationals. The Iranian authorities released photos of weapons and explosives found in the possession of the four operatives and an ISIS flag that they had carried (PUKmedia, June 12, 2017; Al-Sharq Al-Awsat, June 13, 2017).
Iranian reactions
  • The Iranian regime was quick to blame Saudi Arabia of direct responsibility for the terrorist attacks. The United States and the “Zionist regime” were also blamed for the attack. The various statements stressed the high capability of the Iranian security services to foil terrorist attacks and the terrorists’ difficulty operating in Iran. The objective of statements was to belittle the significance of the attacks in the Majles and Khomeini Mausoleum.

 

  • Following are several statements by senior Iranian officials in the wake of the terrorist attacks:
  • Iranian Intelligence Minister Mohammad Alaviannounced that Iran had detained the elements that were behind the attacks. According to him, during the past two years, the Iranian intelligence has foiled over a hundred attempts to carry out terrorist attacks in Iran. Furthermore, he noted that it was not yet possible to determine whether Saudi Arabia was involved in the incidents. However, the impact of the Saudi support on terrorist groups in Iraq and Syria is clearly evident (ISNA, June 8, 2017).
  • HosseinNaqavi-Hosseini, the spokesman for the National Security and Foreign Policy Commission of the Iranian Majles, said that the terrorist attack was a result of the US-Zionist regime-Saudi Arabia triangle. He stressed that the terrorist operatives had not succeeded in operating in Iran, although they had tried to do so time and again. According to him, the Iranian security forces managed to prevent the terrorist operatives from carrying out their plan at Khomeini’s Mausoleum. However, he admitted that they had been less successful in the Majles (Mehr, June 10, 2017).
  • Revolutionary Guard Commander Ali Jaafarideclared that Saudi Arabia, the US, and the Zionist regime had supported the terrorist operatives. According to him, Iran had precise information that Saudi Arabia not only supported the terrorist operatives but even instructed them to carry out the attack in Iran (Fars, June 12, 2017).
ISIS’s claim of responsibility
  • ISIS was quick to claim responsibility for carrying out the attacks in Tehran. According to the announcement released by ISIS, after a long period in which many Shiites sustained losses in various countries around the world, ISIS decided to carry out an attack on Iranian soil. According to the announcement, those who carried out the attacks were armed with automatic weapons and hand grenades and wore explosive belts. ISIS took the unusual step of releasing a video filmed in the Iranian Majles building by one of the squad members while carrying out the attack (Twitter, June 7, 2017).
  • The recent issue of ISIS’s weekly Al-Naba featured an infographic entitled “The Invasion of Tehran.” According to the infographic, the first squad consisted of two suicide bombers who detonated their explosive vests among a crowd of Shiite visitors at the Khomeini Mausoleum compound, killing and wounding dozens of people. Another squad, consisting of three terrorists wearing explosive belts,broke into the Iranian Majles. They took control of it and killed whoever they encountered (Al-Sawarim, June 7, 2017).
ISIS calls for the continuation of the terrorist attacks against Iran and the Shiites
  • nIn the recent issue of ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly, an ISIS “security source” was quoted claiming that the terrorist attack in Iran was only the beginning of larger actions, which would turn Iran into a new site of terrorist attacks for ISIS operatives. According to that source, Tehran streets should become an open battle zone for soldiers of the Islamic State. He called on Muslims to attack the Iranian regime and its interests, and also Shiites in Iran and elsewhere (Al-Naba, June 8, 2017).

 

  • Following the attacks in Tehran, ISIS released a video in Farsi, accompanied by Arabic subtitles, showing five masked operatives, members of the squad that carried out the two attacks. The speaker calls on Sunni Muslims to initiate jihad and spill the blood [of the Shiites] as they spill the blood of [Sunni] Muslims everywhere. Subsequently, the speaker also threatens Saudi Arabia and notes that the Saudis should know that after Iran, their turn will also come and “Allah willing, we will hit you in your homes” (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
The Philippines
  • Abu Abdallah al-Muhajir, the commander of the Soldiers of the Caliphate in East Asia (ISIS’s Province of East Asia), granted an interview to ISIS’s Al-Naba weekly. He said that his people’s pledge of allegiance to ISIS was made immediately after Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi announced the establishment of the Caliphate. However, the announcement of this event was delayed. He also said that the situation of ISIS operatives in the Philippines was getting better, they are increasing in number, as is the amount of weapons in their possession. He noted that during the recent two years, they waged fierce battles against the Philippine Army and caused them tremendous losses. He dismissed the promise made by Philippines President Duterte to eliminate them.

Counterterrorim and preventive activity

Lebanon
  • The Lebanese security forces announced that they had detained seven suspects, four of them Palestinians, who intended to carry out suicide bombing attacks against Lebanese targets. All the suspects are reportedly affiliated with ISIS. Among the targets mentioned: senior army and government figures, the international airport, Beirut’s Southern (Shiite) Suburb, and restaurants. Two additional operatives who belonged to the terrorist squad are currently outside Lebanon (Al-Akhbar; MTV, June 10, 2017).

The battle for hearts and minds

Calling on ISIS operatives to sacrifice themselves in Syria and Iraq and to increase attacks worldwide
  • Recently, ISIS published an English-language message addressed at Muslim residents of Russia and Western countries (the USA, Russia, France, Britain, Canada, Belgium, Australia, and Italy). The message calls on them to stay away from places frequented by Christians (such as shops, gardens, and streets) because they constitute legitimate targets for attacks by ISIS in various forms, such as detonating IEDs, vehicular attacks, and slitting throats. The message tells the Christians that ISIS has prepared thousands of “individual lions” (i.e., lone wolf terrorists) for them, who are prepared to act for the sake of Allah. The message ends with a call on “the soldiers of the Islamic State” to increase their activity in the countries of the “infidels” (Haqq, June 9, 2017).
  • On June 12, 2017, ISIS’s Al-Furqan Media Foundation released a new audiotape by ISIS spokesman Abul-Hasan Al-Muhajir. Two noteworthy topics on the tape:
  • Strengthening the morale of ISIS operatives fighting in Mosul, Al-Raqqah, Tal Afar (west of Mosul) and other battle zones in Iraq and Syria. The spokesman noted that the Islamic State now faces a “divine ordeal” against the “infidel nations” that are fighting it. He compared the steadfastness of ISIS operatives to that of Mohammad and his supporters in the early days of Islam, when they faced trials and tribulations that only strengthened their faith and led to their ultimate victory. The spokesman called on ISIS operatives to intensify their activities during the month of Ramadan, to strike at their enemies with all their might, to adhere to their faith in Allah, and to sacrifice themselves in the fighting.
  • Calling on ISIS operatives to continue jihad and to take action against their opponents.In the various fighting zones around the world: The spokesman called on ISIS operatives in Sinai, Egypt, Khorasan (Afghanistan and Pakistan), West Africa, Somalia, Libya, Tunisia, Algeria and elsewhere around the world to continue the jihad. He praised ISIS operatives in the Philippines (East Asia) for their activities in Marawi. The spokesman also praised ISIS operatives in Iran, noting that “the home of the Iranians is weaker than a spider web.” He called on Muslims in Western countries to take action against their enemies by reminding them that paradise is achieved through jihad (Haqq, June 12, 2017).

[1]The Shanghai Cooperation Organization (SCO) is an international organization established in 2001 to build confidence and enhance political, economic and security cooperation between Russia, China, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, and Uzbekistan.
[2]Karbala is the most sacred city for the Shiites, after Najaf. The Shiites believe that Imam Ali is buried there. The Battle of Karbala took place in 680 C.E. between Ali’s followers and the army of the Omayyad Caliph Yazid. The descendants of Imam Ali were killed in the battle, mainly the imams Hossein bin Ali and Abbas bin Ali, who are buried in Karbala.