Soleimani with the children of IRGC fighters killed in Syria (Iranian Telegram channel, January 6, 2017).
Gholam-Ali Qolizadeh, killed in Syria (qassemsoleimani.ir, January 1, 2017)
Javad Torkabadi, the new Iranian ambassador to Syria (Tasnim, March 29, 2014).
Al-Maliki (left) and Shamkhani (ISNA, January 2, 2017).
Majlis committee members meet with President Assad (ISNA, January 4, 2017).
Iraj Masjedi, future Iranian ambassador to Baghdad (Asr-e Iran, November 11, 2016)
- On January 6, 2017, Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, attended a memorial service for IRGC fighters killed in Syria. He spoke about recent developments in Syria and the region in general, and said that Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei had played a central role in the victories of the "forces of Islam." He said the enemy's main weakness was the lack of similar leadership, and wished Khamenei a long life (Nasim Online, January 6, 2017).
- On January 9, 2017, Soleimani paid a condolence call at the home of the family of Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani, former Iranian president and chairman of the Expediency Discernment Council, who died of a heart attack last week. At the funeral Soleimani said Rafsanjani had always opposed "arrogance" [meaning the West] and Zionism (Fars, January 10, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Syria and Lebanon
- Gholam-Ali Qolizadeh, a brigadier general in the IRGC, was killed in Syria.
- On December 31, 2016, the Mehr news agency reported that Iranian President Rouhani had confirmed the nomination of Javad Torkabadi as Iran's new ambassador to Syria. He had also served as Iranian ambassador to Sudan, Bahrain and Nigeria, and was director-general of North and West African affairs in the foreign ministry. In October 2016, Mohammad Reza Raouf Sheibani's five-year term as ambassador to Damascus ended, and since then the post has been filled by a chargé d'affaires.
- Meeting with the families of Iranian regular army commandos killed in Syria, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said that if Iran had not stopped the progress of "those who wish us evil and plot against us," the agents of the United Statesand Zionism in Syria, Iran would have had to fight them in Tehran, Fars, Khorasan and Isfahan Provinces (Tasnim, January 5, 2017).
- Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Iranian supreme leader for international affairs, said there was no truth to a report about Hezbollah's withdrawal from Syria after the ceasefire, calling it "enemy propaganda." He said Hezbollah had sacrificed many martyrs in Syria and provided considerable support to the Syria government, which considered the organization and its leader, Hassan Nasrallah, as good friends.
- After meeting in Tehran with former Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki, Velayati said Iran had not retreated from its position on the crisis in Syria and gave its full and continuing support to the "resistance front." Asked about Russia's stance after the fall of Aleppo, and the possibility it ignored Iran's interests, he said the ties between Russia and Iran were both friendly and strategic, and that they coordinated to provide Syria with bilateral support (ISNA, January 3, 2017).
- Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, responded strongly to remarks made by Mevlüt Çavuşoğlu, the Turkish foreign minister, who accused the Syrian regime and Shi'ite militias of violating the cease fire brokered by Russia and Turkey and which had gone into effect at the beginning of January. Qasemi said Turkey should take the necessary measures to restrain armed groups instead of blaming others involved in the conflict (IRNA, January 4, 2017).
- On January 8, 2017, Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, arrived in Syria to discuss recent developments and continue Iranian-Syrian-Russian political and security coordination in the wake of the fall of Aleppo to the Syrian regime. Arriving in Damascus, he said the ceasefire had to be preserved and talks had to begin between the Syrian government and the "armed groups." While in Syria he met with President Assad (ISNA, January 8, 2017).
- On January 3, 2017, delegation of Iranian Majlis members, headed by Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis Committee for national security and foreign policy, arrived in Syria for a visit. While there they met with senior Iranian officials, including President Assad. Assad told them the recent victories against the armed terrorist groups in Syria, especially in Aleppo, were also victories for Iran because they had been made possible through Iranian support (Fars, January 4, 2017). Speaking to correspondents, Boroujerdi said Iran supported Syria with advice at the request of the Syrian government, and did not meddle in Syria's internal affairs. Referring to Turkish involvement, he said that every country that had invaded Syria without coordinating with the government had to withdraw (Fars, January 4, 2017).
- After the meetings in Damascus, the members of the delegation went to Lebanon where they met with senior Lebanese officials, including Hassan Nasrallah, the secretary general of Hezbollah. Following the delegation's visit to the grave of Imad Mughnieh, Boroujerdi said Iran was serious about its intentions to arm the Lebanese Army and that whether or not it did depended on the government of Lebanon (Fars, January 6, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
- At the beginning of January Nouri al-Maliki, Iraq's vice president and former prime minister, paid a visit to Tehran where he met with senior Iranian officials, including Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. At a press conference held in Tehran, al-Maliki, who is considered close to Iran, said he had briefed Khamenei about the current situation in Iraq. He said that Iran was the only country supporting Iraq in its fight against terrorism, and that Iran had given Iraq weapons to deal with ISIS (Mehr, January 2, 2017).
- After meeting with Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran's Supreme Council for National Security, al-Maliki said the Shi'ite militias in Iraq were strategically important to preserving Iraq's security and its future. Shamkhani stressed the importance of bilateral political, economic, cultural and security cooperation for the sake of ensuring the security and development of both Iran and Iraq. He accused the United States of interfering with the efforts to liberate Mosul from ISIS and of trying to prolong the military campaign because it did not want the regional security crisis to end (Mehr, January 3; IRNA, January 4, 2017).
- Iraj Masjedi, senior advisor to Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC's Qods Force, is expected to be appointed as Iran's new ambassador to Iraq. He will replace Hassan Danaei-far, who will shortly quit the post after holding it for six years (Asr-e Iran, November 11, 2016).
- Amir-Hossein Zamani-Nia, Iranian deputy minister deputy minister of petroleum for international affairs and commerce, said Iran and Iraq had signed an agreement for the joint development of the Parviz and Khoramshahr oil fields in southern Iran. He also said Iran would be prepared to export natural gas to Iraq as soon as Iraq solved the financial problems still delaying the implementation of the agreement for the transfer of gas from Iran to Iraq, signed in 2013 (Fars, January 10, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
- Hossein Amir Abdollahian, international affairs advisor to the speaker of the Majlis, who is currently also chairman of the international committee for the protection of Palestine, expressed his condolences on the death of Archbishop Hilarion Capucci, the Syrian priest who in the 1970s smuggled weapons to the PLO and died at the beginning of January; he was 94. Abdollahian praised Capucci's activities for the Palestinians, saying that without a doubt the new wave of regional developments was aimed against the "Zionist regime" and that the Palestinian resistance fighters would liberate Jerusalem from the "claws of the Zionists" (Fars, January 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.