Qasem Soleimani (mizanonline.ir, July 4, 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).
Soleimani (Sepah News, July 10, 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).
- 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.