Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force (center, gray hair) at the funeral of Reza Khorrami, an IRGC fighter killed in Syria (Tasnim News, June 7, 2016).
Hossein Dehghan, Iranian minister of defense (Tasnim News, June 10, 2016)
Ali Shamkhani and Sergey Shoygu (ISNA, June 10, 2016).
Clerics from Qom meet with Hassan Nasrallah (third from right) (Mehr, June 8, 2016).
Iraqis in southern Iraq vandalize a picture of Khomeini and Khamenei (Al-Arabiya, June 10, 2016).
- Iran condemned the shooting attack in Orlando, Florida. Hossein Jaberi Ansari, a spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said Iran condemned the attack in line with its principled policy in condemning terrorism (IRNA, June 13, 2016). Ayatollah Sadegh Larijani, head of the Iranian judiciary, also condemned the attack, saying no one could approve the killing of innocents (Mehr, June 14, 2016). He also did not mention it had occurred in a gay nightclub.
- A source in the Iranian foreign ministry denied a report that several senior ministry officials belonged to the IRGC Qods Force. Javad Mansouri, first IRGC commander and a former senior official in the foreign ministry, told the monthly Ramz-e Obur that several senior foreign ministry officials, among them deputy foreign minister Abbas Araqchi, and former and current Iranian ambassadors to Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, had formerly been operatives in the Qods Force. The foreign ministry denied the report as untrue (Mehr, June 15, 2016).
Iranian Intervention in Syria and Lebanon
- The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps suffered heavy losses in Syria. At least 13 of its fighters were killed in the fighting in the past two weeks, at least four of them officers.
- Hossein Dehghan, Iranian minister of defense, meeting with his Syrian and Russian counterparts in Tehran on June 9, 2016, said Iran would support a political solution to the Syrian crisis as long as a cease fire did not strengthen the terrorists. He said Iran regarded the regional and international fight against the takfiris, extremists and Zionists as a humanitarian obligation. He added that for Iran a solution to the crises in Syria, Iraq and Yemen demanded a determined fight against terrorism and the cessation of all political and financial support for the terrorist organizations. He thanked the Syrian defense minister, Fahd Jassem al-Freij and the Russian defense minister, Sergey Shoygu, for participating in the meeting and said he hoped the continuing cooperation between their countries would help restore regional security (Mehr, June 9, 2016).
- Meeting with the Syrian defense minister, Dehghan said Iran regarded the continued support of the Syrian government in its fight against terrorism as its duty. He said Iran would continue supporting Syria in accordance with the request of its legal government, and would provide military advice and humanitarian assistance (Tasnim News, June 10, 2016).
- Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, also met with the Russian and Syrian defense ministers. He expressed his appreciation of the involvement of Russian President Vladimir Putin, and called on the international community to support Iran's efforts and to isolate terrorism-supporting countries. The Iranian media represented Shamkhani as "coordinator of Iran's political, military and security efforts with Russia and Syria" (ISNA, June 10, 2016).
- Ali-Akbar Velayati, international advisor to the supreme leader, claimed the political-military balance in Syria was changing in favor of the Syrian government and its allies. Meeting with Wang Zhengyi, the head of the Chinese Academy of Social Sciences, he said that Iran, Russia and Syria were fighting the common enemy of terrorism, which threatened regional political security (Press TV, June 12, 2016).
- At the beginning of June a delegation of the Society of Seminary Teachers in Qom went to Lebanon where they met with Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. The members of the delegation, which was headed by Ayatollah Morteza Moghtadaei, deputy chairman of the Supreme Council of Seminary Teachers in Qom, expressed their admiration and support for Hezbollah's fight "against the Zionists and takfiri organizations" (Mehr, June 8, 2016).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
- At a press conference held in Amman, the capital of Jordan, Ibrahim al-Jafari, the Iraqi foreign minister, responded to Saudi Arabia's criticism of Iran's military involvement in Iraq. He said Qassem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, was acting as a military advisor in Iraq with the full knowledge of the Iraqi government. He also told the Egyptian newspaper Al-Ahram that Iran was in Iraq on a purely advisory mission, the Iraqi forces were waging the war alone and Iraq did not permit any non-Iraqi army or group to participate in the ground operation (Press TV, June 7, 2016). On another occasion, on June 10, 2016, the office of the Iraqi foreign minister said in a statement that the report of Soleimani's appointment as advisor to the Iraqi government was incorrect and that he was only one of the advisors, including Americans, deployed to Iraq. The Iraqi government allowed the presence of military advisors at the end of July 2014, when the anti-ISIS coalition was formed, according to the statement (Almasalah.com, June 10, 2016).
- The declarations of the Iraqi foreign minister were made in response to the growing criticism from both Saudi Arabia and Sunni and Shi'ite Iraqi politicians to the involvement of the IRGC in general and Qassem Soleimani in particular in the campaign to liberate Fallujah. The criticism manifests the growing concern over Iranian influence on Iraq's internal affairs. Criticism has increased greatly in recent months, claiming that Iran's meddling in Iraq has deepened the Sunni-Shi'ite schism. On June 10, 2016, supporters of Shi'ite politician-cleric Muqtada al-Sadr rioted in southern Iraq, setting fire to the offices of Shi'ite political parties and militias affiliated with Iran and vandalizing pictures of Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini, the founder of the Islamic Revolution, and Ali Khamenei, the supreme leader (Al-Sharq al-Awsat, June 10, 2016).
- The riots were a continuation of the protest of al-Sadr supporters that broke out in April 2016, when rioters temporarily took control of the Iraqi parliament building, shouted anti-Iranian slogans and condemned Iran's meddling in Iraq's internal political affairs.
- Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, strongly rejected the Saudi criticism of Iran's military intervention in Iraq, saying he did not remember Iraq's handing over its sovereignty to Saudi Arabia. He said Iran was collaborating with Iraq and helping it fight terrorism, and that Iran would leave when the Iraqis so requested (Fars, June 10, 2016).
- On June 12, 2016, Nazar Khairallah, the Iraqi foreign minister, paid a visit to Tehran where he met with Hossein Amir Abdollahian, deputy foreign minister for Arab-African affairs. They discussed regional developments, economic cooperation and the fight against terrorism (ISNA, June 12, 2016).
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
- On June 5, 2016, the Basirat website, affiliated with the hardliners in Iran, posted an op-ed article strongly criticizing the Paris conference which met at the beginning of June to restart the Israeli-Palestinian peace process. According to the article, which was entitled "The conference for the destruction of Palestine," the organizers of the conference totally supported the "Zionist regime" while the participating Arab countries were proud of their ties to Israel. Their regional policies, stated the article, were coordinated with the Zionists' objectives, which was obvious from Saudi Arabia's policies in Yemen and Syria. Therefore the Paris conference had not met to find a solution to the problem of Palestine, but rather to destroy Palestine. If the Arab states really wanted to support Palestine, said the article, they had to provide the Palestinian "resistance groups" [i.e., terrorist organizations] with arms and fight alongside the regional resistance "against Western-Zionist terrorism."
Iranian Intervention in Yemen
- Hojjat-ul-Islam Seyyed Ibrahim Raeisi, a member of Iran's Assembly of Experts, met with a delegation of Yemeni clerics. He told them that the war on terrorism was between "the front of the faithful" and the Saudi regime, which was fighting against the citizens of Yemen as an American-Israeli proxy. He said that the friendly relations between the peoples of Iran and Yemen were based on a common religious faith, and that Iran regarded its support of Yemen as its religious and revolutionary duty (Tasnim News, June 15, 2016).
[*] 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.