In light on the ongoing escalation between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf, the Secretary of the Supreme National Security Council of Iran, Ali Shamkhani, threatened that in the event of a military confrontation between Iran and the United States, Tehran will utilize proxies against the United States and its allies in the region.
Iran condemned the U.S. efforts to establish a joint buffer zone with Turkey in northeastern Syria. The spokesman of the Iranian ministry of foreign affairs labeled the understanding reached between the United States and Turkey concerning the establishment of a joint operations room near the Turkish-Syrian border “provocative and concerning.” He reiterated that there is no need for intervention of foreign powers to maintain security in northern Syria.
The Iraqi Minister of Interior, Yassin al-Yaseri, visited Tehran in mid-August to discuss the coordination between the two countries ahead of the Arabeen ceremony, the pilgrimage to the Shi’ite holy sites in Iraq. In his meeting with his Iranian counterpart, the two ministers agreed on a host of measures intended to facilitate the arrival of Iranian pilgrims set to reach Iraq. During the visit, al-Yaseri also met with the Iranian minister of defense who declared that bolstering Iraq’s defensive capabilities is a central Iranian strategy.
The secretary general of the Iraqi pro-Iranian militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, visited Iran and declared that the Iraqi Shi’ite militias see the leadership of Ali Khamenei, the Supreme Leader of Iran, as a continuation of the rule of the Prophet Muhammad and the first Shi’ite Imam, Ali. The visit of the senior Iraqi militant in Tehran was held at a time when a series of explosions occurred across Iraq in bases of Shi’ite militias affiliated with Iran.
In mid-August, a delegation headed by the speaker of the Ansar Allah Movement (the Houthis) in Yemen visited Tehran and met with senior Iranian officials, top among them the Supreme Leader, Khamenei. The head of the delegation delivered a letter to Khameni from the leader of the Houthis, Abdul Malik Badreddin, and expressed his support for Khamenei’s leadership.
Tehran hosted a conference marking the 50-year anniversary of the arson attack in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The representative of Hamas in Tehran, Khaled al-Qadoumi, called in his speech to block the continuous efforts of “the Zionists” to change the status quo in Jerusalem.
Against the backdrop of the ongoing escalation between Iran and the United States in the Persian Gulf, the Secretary General of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, threatened that in case a war erupts between the United States and Iran, Tehran will use proxies against the United States and its allies in the region. In a rare interview to the American TV channel NBC (August 20), Shamkhani remarked that in case of a military conflagration between Iran and the United States, there are many tools in Tehran’s arsenal, including the “war by proxy.” He added that in the event of a war, the situation of the United States and its allies in the region will be “terrible.” He did not detail who are the proxy organizations that Iran intends to use in a conflict with the United States erupts.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
Iran condemned the efforts of the United States to establish a joint safe zone with Turkey in northeastern Syria. The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Mousavi, condemned the understandings reached between the United States and Turkey with regards to the establishment of a joint operations room, which will operate forces along the Syrian-Turkish border, calling it “provocative and concerning.” He remarked that this step by the United States, similarly to all steps taken by the American leadership, will destabilize the region and harm its security. He also argued that the deal constitutes meddling in Syria’s internal affairs and a clear violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity. Mousavi added that security along Syria’s border should be regularized through bilateral agreements between Syria and its neighbors and that there is no need for involvement of foreign powers (Fars, August 18). In early August, an American military delegation arrived in Ankara to discuss establishing a safe zone in northern Syria. The details of the understandings reached between the two sides remain unclear.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq and Yemen
The former Iraqi Deputy Prime Minister, Baha al-Araji, alleged that the weaponry in the al-Saqr base on the Shi’ite militias in southern Baghdad, in which an explosion occurred on August 12, belongs to Iran. In a tweet on his Twitter account (August 13) al-Araji claimed that Iraqi security forces and even the Shi’ite militias in Iraq do not use the types of weapons kept in the base. He hinted of Israeli involvement in the explosion and claimed that the base was bombed by a “colonialist state” relying on information provided by a “treacherous” Iraq element. At least one person was killed in the explosion in the al-Saqr base and dozens were injured.
In a similar incident, on August 20, explosions occurred in a weapons depot of the Iraqi Shi’ite militias in the Balad base in Salah al-Din province, about 200 kilometers (124 miles) north of Baghdad. Iraqi media reported that a number of people were injured as a result of the explosions (Reuters, August 20). In a statement published on the Facebook page of the Shi’ite militias (August 21), the Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Committees (the Shi’ite militias), Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, blamed the United States for the recent strikes in Iraq, alleging that the U.S. allowed Israeli aircrafts to reach Iraq and strike targets within its territory.
On August 17, the Iraqi Minister of Interior, Yasin al-Yaseri, arrived for a visit in Tehran and met with his Iranian counterpart, Abdolreza Rahmani Fazli. The visit of the Iraqi minister of interior focused on coordination prior to the Arabaeen ceremonies, the pilgrimage to Shi’ite holy sites in Iraq. In a joint press conference with his Iranian counterpart, the Iraqi minister of interior stated that the Iraqi government is making all efforts to facilitate the entry and exit of Iranian pilgrims and to ensure their security. The Iranian minister of interior reported after the meeting that in accordance with an agreement he signed with his Iraqi counterpart, the two countries agreed to waive the requirement to receive visas prior to arrival and also to improve the services provided to Iranian pilgrims, bolster the protection of border crossings and re-open the Khosravi border crossing between Iran and Iraq (ISNA; Tasnim, August 17).
During his visit in Tehran, the Iraqi minister of interior also met the Iranian Minister of Defense, Amir Hatami, who declared that bolstering the defensive capacity and infrastructure of Iraq is a central strategy of Iran, which sees great importance in preserving Iraq’s security. He asserted that the ties between the two countries have never been this friendly and close as they are currently, and that Iran’s support for Iraq in the campaign against ISIS was not a tactical move, but was based on a long-term strategy. The Iraqi minister of interior stated in the meeting that maintaining military cooperation between the two counties is of great importance to Iraqi government (ISNA, August 18).
In mid-August, Hashed al-Heydari, the Secretary General of the Iraqi pro-Iranian militia, Kataeb Hezbollah, and the Deputy Commander of the Popular Mobilization Committees for Cultural Affairs, visited Iran. In a conference in the city of Mashhad on the occasion of the Arbaeen religious holiday, al-Heydari declared that the Shi’ite Iraqi militias see the leadership of Ali Khamenai, the Supreme Leader of Iran, as a continuation of the rule of Prophet Muhammad and the first Shi’ite Imam, Ali Bin Abu Talib. Al-Heydari also stated that after Syria’s victory, the time has come for victory and support in Yemen (Tasnim, August 15).
In mid-August, a delegation led by the Spokesman of the Ansar Allah Movement (the Houthi rebels) in Yemen, Mohammed Abd al-Salam, visited Tehran and met with senior Iranian officials, chief among them the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei. The head of the Yemeni delegation delivered a letter from the Houthi leader, Abdul Malik Baddreddin to Khamenei and expressed support for Khamenei’s leadership and thanked Iran for the support of the “oppressed of the world,” and particularly, the Yemeni people. The Iranian leader condemned Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates for the “crimes” they are committing in Yemen, alleging that they strive to partition Yemen. He called for dialogue between the different groups in Yemen to ensure its territorial integrity. Khamenei also condemned the apathy of the West with regards to the crimes committed in Yemen and Palestine (Tasnim, August 13).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
On August 19, a conference was held in Tehran marking the 50th anniversary of the arson attack in the al-Aqsa Mosque in Jerusalem. The Hamas representative in Tehran, Khaled al-Qadoumi, stated in a speech at the conference that the al-Aqsa Mosque has always served as an inspiration to the revolts of the Palestinian people. Al-Qadoumi also spoke about the ongoing efforts by “the Zionists” to change the status quo in the al-Aqsa Mosque and in Jerusalem, claiming that Israel is trying to prevent Muslims from entering the mosque ahead of efforts to build the Temple there (Tasnim, August 19).
The leader of Hamas outside of the Palestinian territories, Maher Saleh, stated in an interview to the al-Hiwar TV Channel (August 18) that Iran supports Hamas with funds and weapons, which no other country is capable of doing. He stated that Hamas maintain diplomatic relations with Iran since the 1990s and despite a downturn in the relationship in recent years, the relationship between the two sides is hardly secret. Last month, Saleh took part in a visit to Tehran of a Hamas delegation that met with senior Iranian officials.