Iranian President Rouhani delivers a speech to IRGC commanders
Iranian President at a ceremony marking the 35th anniversary of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war
Hossein Salami, IRGC deputy commander
Larijani (right) and Bogdanov meet in Tehran
The funeral held in Kerman for the two Afghan fighters
Iranian anti-Israel protest rally in the wake of the events on the Temple Mount
Iran's new cultural attaché in Senegal meets Senegalese sheikh
Senior Iranian Officials' Statements on Iran's Regional Involvement
- Iranian President Hassan Rouhani, meeting with Iranian Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) commanders on September 15, 2015, said that Iran "could not remain silent and sleep peacefully" while Muslims in Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Bahrain, Afghanistan, Pakistan and North Africa were being slain without mercy, and while terrorists serving the interests of the Zionists and the West were attacking Islam. He said Iran's support of the Iraqi people and government had rescued the country from terrorists who were planning to take over Baghdad and Karbala. He added that Iran's diplomatic abilities and military wing had shown the world that Iran did not support violence and terrorism, but rather sought regional stability and peace (President's official website, September 15, 2015).
- In a speech delivered during a military parade in Tehran to mark the 35th anniversary of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war, Rouhani said Iran's armed forces were the main regional military force fighting terrorism. He said that if terrorists should invade other countries in the region, those countries' only hope would be the Iranian army, the Basij and the IRGC. To that end, he claimed, Iran supported Iraq and Syria in the fight against terrorism, and they must not think that the Western powers would defend them (Mehr News Agency, Iran, September 22, 2015).
- Yahya Rahim Safavi, special advisor to Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei for military affairs and former commander of the IRGC, gave a speech before the Friday prayer in Tehran on September 18, 2015. He said that Iran, Russia and Hezbollah supported the Syrian regime and people, and were providing military advice for the "resistance axis." He said Iran played the greatest role in the fight against ISIS in Iraq at the Iraqi government's request as opposed to the United States, which not only did not support Iraq in its fight against ISIS, but in certain instances supported ISIS and other terrorists. He quoted Ayatollah Khomeini, who said that "the road to Jerusalem passes through Karbala," adding that the concept had strategic and practical importance for Iran and other Muslim nations, and would be realized in the future, with Allah's help (Defa Press, September 18, 2015).
- In an interview with Iranian TV, Hossein Salami, deputy commander of the IRGC, rejected the claim of a "direct presence" of Iranian military forces in Syria. He repeated the official Iranian position that Iranian military presence in Syria was limited to providing advice, and claimed that it was Iran's policy that the Syrian army had to fight its enemies alone. He added that the IRGC Qods Force provided support by sharing its experience and management skills, but Iran's current strategy was not based on a direct military presence in any country (Sepah News, September 15, 2015).
- The remarks made by Hossein Salami were another example of Iran's officially stated policy of not having a military presence in regional countries. Iran does not actually send Iranian military forces to neighboring countries, but its proxies do receive military support and guidance, primarily from the Qods Force, and it sends Afghan and Pakistani Shi'ites – some of them refugees living in Iran – to battle zones.
- Iranian Chief of Staff Ataollah Salehi held a press conference to mark the anniversary of the outbreak of the Iran-Iraq war. He said the Iranian armed forces were prepared to defend the countries of the "resistance axis." He claimed "global arrogance" (i.e., the Western countries) was exploiting the terrorists and some of the regional countries to destabilize the Middle East, and that the West's ultimate goal was to fight against the Islamic Revolution. He quoted Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei, who recently claimed that in 25 years Israel would no longer exist, and said he hoped Israel would attack Iran sooner rather than later, so that it could be destroyed in less than 25 years (Tasnim News.com, September 22, 2015).
Iranian Intervention in Syria
- Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Supreme Leader for international affairs, said that there had been no change in Iran's position towards Syria and that time had only proven that Iran's position was justified. Meeting with a delegation from Germany, Velayati said that Iran had never justified the intervention of foreign forces in Syria, neither through political intervention nor through sending weapons and manpower to fight the Syrian regime, even if someone had "a problem" with Syrian President Bashar Assad. He rejected predictions that the Assad regime would fall in the near future, and said the solution to the Syrian crisis was political, not military (ISNA, September 15, 2015).
- On September 21, 2015, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, Iranian deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, visited Moscow where he met with his counterpart Michail Bogdanov to discuss the situation in Syria. They held a joint press conference where Abdollahian said that President Assad had to be part of the solution to the Syrian crisis and that Moscow and Tehran were doing their best to end it. He accused Israel of supporting Islamist terrorist groups operating in Syria, saying that Israel's actions threatened the security of the region and the entire world (IRNA, September 22, 2015).
- Ali Larijani, chairman of the Majlis (the Iranian parliament), met with Adnan Mahmoud, the Syrian ambassador to Tehran, on September 16, 2015. Larijani said that Iran's support for Syria was based on religious and moral obligations, and that Iran would continue its support. He added that Iran was of the opinion that the Syrian leadership had to be given the opportunity to resolve Syria's internal problems and overcome the terrorists (ICANA, September 16, 2015).
- Gholam-Ali Rezaei and Mohammad Khalili, two Afghan fighters recently killed fighting in Syria in the service of the IRGC, were buried in Rafsanjan in Iran's Kerman Province on September 11, 2015. The dates of their death were not given (Khanekheshti.com, September 11, 2015).
- Arab sources recently reported progress had been made in the contacts between Iran and the Syrian Jaysh al-Fatah opposition organization for a long-term agreement (hudna) in Zabadani and the Shi'ite villages of Kefraya and Fuaa in the Idlib Province. According to a report from Dubai's Orient News TV, the pro-Syrian militias operating in the two Shi'ite villages asked Iran for an arrangement that would end Jaysh al-Fatah's protracted attacks. Reportedly, the agreement being put together would include a six-month ceasefire, the withdrawal of armed rebels from Zabadani to Syria or Turkey, and in return, the evacuation of up to 10,000 women, children and men over 50 from the besieged Shi'ite villages. It was also reported that Iran had withdrawn its original demand to evacuate the Sunnis living in Zabadani (Al-Jazeera and Orient News, September 20, 2015).
- Note: The ceasefire announced in Zabadani and the two Shi'ite villages on August 27, 2015, after negotiations held in Turkey between Syrian Ahrar al-Sham organization rebels and Iranian representatives, collapsed after two days. Two weeks previously the Syrian opposition accused Iran of sabotaging the negotiations for a ceasefire in Zabadani after Iran demanded that a solution for the Syrian crisis would include transferring the Sunnis in Zabadani to areas under rebel control in northern Syria, and moving the Shi'ites in Kefraya and Fuaa to areas under Syrian regime control.
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
- Rayan al-Kaldani, commander of the Christian Assyrian Brigades militia fighting in Iraq, praised Iranian intervention in Iraq saying that Iranian support for the Iraqi militias prevented ISIS leader Abu Bakr al-Baghdadi from entering north Iraq. In an interview with Iraqi TV, he said that when ISIS approached the city of Erbil in the Kurdistan region, the Kurdish regional President Masoud Barazani held a telephone conversation with Qasem Soleimani, the IRGC Qods Force's commander (Tabnak, date, 2015).
Iranian Intervention in Yemen
- The Iranian Medical Doctors' Basij announced its willingness to send volunteer doctors belonging to the organization to Yemen to treat civilians injured in the ongoing Saudi Arabian attacks. Interviewed by Tasnim News, Majid Nowrouzi, head of PR for the organization, said members of the organization had already stated their willingness to go to Yemen as volunteer doctors. He called on international organizations to do their best to prevent a humanitarian catastrophe in Yemen and stop the continuous killing of women and children (Tasnim News, September 17, 2015).
- Hossein Amir Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, denied Al-Jazeera reports that the Iranian ambassador to Sana'a, Yemen's capital, had fled the country in the wake of the Saudi Arabian attacks. He claimed that Ambassador Seyyed Hossein Niknam had returned to Iran for a number of days for medical tests. He said recent developments in Yemen had not made Iran decide to close the embassy in Sana'a, and Iran would continue to give "political and humanitarian" aid to the Yemeni people (ISNA, September 14, 2015).
- Last week the ambassador confirmed that the Iranian embassy in Sana'a had been damaged by a Saudi Arabian air strike (BBC in Persian, September 20, 2015). Fighters loyal to the Yemeni government in exile recently occupied important cities in Yemen held by the Iranian-supported Houthi Shi'ites, among them Aden, Yemen's key port city.
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
- In the wake of the ongoing violence on the Temple Mount in Jerusalem, Iran condemned the "illegal steps taken by Israel on the Temple Mount." Ms. Marzieh Afkham, spokesperson for the Iranian foreign ministry, condemned Israel's actions in Jerusalem and called for an emergency meeting of the Organisation of Islamic Cooperation (OIC) to discuss recent developments in Jerusalem (Mehr News Agency, September 16, 2015). Majlis Chairman Ali Larijani also condemned what he called the "ongoing attacks carried out by the forces of the Zionist regime against Al-Aqsa mosque." He called for international organizations to protect the Palestinian people (Fars News Agency, September 20, 2015). On September 18, 2015, after the Friday prayer, Iranian worshippers held anti-Israel rallies to protest the situation on the Temple Mount (Mehr News Agency, September 19, 2015).
Iranian Religious and Propagation Activities around the Globe
- Seyyed Hassan Esmati, Iran's new cultural attaché in Senegal, met with senior Senegalese Islamic sheikh Thierno Madano Tall. The two agreed on Iranian support for the construction of a Qur'an-study school in one of the large mosques in Dakar, Senegal's capital. Esmati also presented the sheikh with 30 copies of the Qur'an printed in Iran (Hawza News, September 21 2015).