The responses of senior Iranian officials to the Israeli strike in Syria on August 24, which aimed to stop the launch of attack drones toward Israel, reflected a media strategy intended to prevent Iran’s implication in the operation. Following Hezbollah’s retaliation to the IDF’s operation, senior Iranian officials praised the firing of the anti-tank guided missile (ATGM) from Lebanon toward Israel and stated that it speaks to the determination of the “resistance front” to respond to Israel’s ongoing aggression. Meanwhile, the IDF revealed new information about Hezbollah’s effort to increase the precision of its missiles, an effort led by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC).
In the economic domain, Iran and Syria continue to expand their cooperation in the spheres of finance and trade. In late August, the first conference of the joint chamber of commerce of the two countries was held in Damascus, with the participation of the Syrian minister of economy and the Iranian minister of transportation and urban development. In parallel, the governors of the Iranian and Syrian central bank met to discuss expanding economic and business ties between the two countries, and the establishment of a joint Iranian-Syrian bank.
The Iranian consul in Erbil met with the leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) in northern Iraq and discussed ways to expand ties between Iran and the Kurdish region. This meeting is another manifestation of Iran’s effort to expand its economic activities in Iraq, including in the Kurdish region in northern Iraq.
The Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, sent a letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, thanking him for the welcoming reception of the Hamas delegation that visited Tehran at the end of July. Haniyeh also thanked Khamenei for his statements concerning Iran’s commitment to increase support for Hamas.
A senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official declared in an interview with a Palestinian news website that his organization does not take orders, but only support, from Iran. His comments were a response to Israel’s claims that the organization was behind the rocket launch from Gaza to Israel on August 25, in retaliation for the Israeli strike in Syria.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
The responses of Iranian officials to the Israeli strike in Syria on August 24, which aimed to stop an operation of the Qods Force and Shi’ite militias against Israel involving the deployment of armed drones toward military and infrastructure targets in northern Israel, reflected a media strategy intended to prevent Iran’s implication in the operation. The IDF spokesperson revealed (August 27) that the Commander of the Iranian forces in Syria, Javad Ghaffari, who in a member of the Qods Force of the IRGC, was the commander of the cell attempting to launch the drones. According to the IDF spokesperson, it was Ghaffari who recruited the militants, provided them with training in Iran, and oversaw the attempt to launch the booby-trapped drones toward Israel.
The Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, lambasted the Israeli strike in Syria. In a tweet on an account linked to him, Soleimani wrote (August 25), that “the actions of the Zionists are insane and will be their last.”
Following the strikes attributed to Israel in Iraq and Syria, the Secretary of the Expediency Discernment Council and formerly the Commander of the IRGC, Mohsen Rezaee, declared that the joint actions of Israel and the United States in Syria and Iraq are in violation of international law and will soon be answered by “the defenders of Syria and Iraq.” He denied the reports about an Israeli strike on Iranian targets near Damascus and claimed that Israel and the United States do not have the ability to strike any Iranian centers (ILNA, August 25).
The Spokesman of the Iranian Government, Ali Rabie, also addressed the Israeli strikes in Syria and Iraq, asserting that “the Zionist regime” will pay a heavy price for its aggressive actions. He stated that Iran is willing to assist Iraq in dealing with the Israeli aggression if it is asked to do so by the Iraqi government. He also affirmed Iran’s support for the right of Lebanon, Syria and Iraq to self-defense in response to the Israeli aggression (Fars, August 26).
The Ambassador of Iran in Lebanon, Mohammad-Jalal Firouznia, threatened Israel with a retaliation from the “resistance axis” for its actions. In an interview to al-Manar TV (August 27) the ambassador asserted that the resistance axis in Lebanon, Syria and Palestine will not remain silent in light of Israel’s ongoing actions, and will retaliate in a decisive and precise way to put an end to “these barbarian actions.”
Following Hezbollah’s retaliation to the IDF operation (September 1), Ali Shamkhani, the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, praised the launch of the ATGM from Lebanon toward Israel, stating that the decisions of Hezbollah aims to defend the interests of the Lebanese people. He remarked that Iran’s downing of an American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in June 2019 and the punishment of Israel by Hezbollah attest to the determination of the resistance front to respond to these threats that wish to undermine stability in the region (ISNA, September 1).
The Spokesman of the Majlis Committee on National Security and Foreign Policy, Hossein Naqdi Hosseini, praised Hezbollah for its response to Israel’s strikes in Syria and Lebanon, proclaiming that Hezbollah’s actions prove that the organization is true to its word, and proves the determination of the “resistance” to respond to the aggression of the Zionists. He added that Hezbollah’s operation is a source of pride for the entire resistance axis. He declared that “the Zionist regime” must know that any military action or military offensive it launches will receive its response from the resistance front (Fars, September 2).
Iranian Minister of Defense, Amir Hatami, also commented on the events in northern Israel, stating that developments in recent months, including in the resistance front in Lebanon against “the Zionist regime,” have proven against that “the arrogance” [meaning, the West] and its agents only understand the language of force (Mehr, September 4).
In late August, the first conference of the joint Iranian-Syria chamber of commerce was held in Damascus. The Syrian Minister of Economy, Mohammad Samer Khalil, and the Iranian Minister of Transportation and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami, emphasized the need to promote the trade relations between the two countries. At the conference, Khalil stated that a long-term strategy needs to be developed to increase the volume of trade between the two nations. He called on Iranian companies to carry out successful projects in Syria as part of its reconstruction process, and establish joined companies with Syria partners. The Iranian minister of transportation remarked that the joint chamber of commerce and the international trade fair in Damascus open new opportunities for Iranian firms to invest in Syria. He added that the Iranian government would like Iranian firms to place Syria’s reconstruction as their top priority.
The Deputy Iranian President and Secretary of the committee to Develop Economic Ties between Iran, Syria and Iraq, Hassan Danaeifar, also called for expanding economic and trade cooperation between the two countries, and to establish joint companies for Syria and Iraq. The Chairman of the Joint Chamber of Commerce of Iran and Syria, Keyvan Kasheri, emphasized the need to expand ties between the countries, and particularly in the sectors of agriculture and industry (IRNA, August 29).
In early September, the Governor of the Iranian Central Bank, Abdolnaser Hemmati, met with the Governor of the Syrian Central Bank, Hazem Karfoul, and discussed with him expanding economic and trade ties between the two countries. The two officials discussed the possibility of establishing a joint Iranian-Syrian bank and agreed to form a joint banking commission. Hemmati underlined the importance of banking cooperation between Tehran and Damascus and the basis for business cooperation between the two countries. He also pointed to the need for the Iranian private sector to participate in Syria’s reconstruction and in implementing civilian projects in the country. He called to accelerate the implementation of the agreement, signed in February 2019 in Damascus, between the two bank governors, as part of the work of the Committee for Economic Cooperation between Iran and Syria. The Syrian central bank governor declared that Syria is interested in Iran’s participation in Syria’s reconstruction and emphasized Syria’s determination to expand economic, trade and business ties between the two nations (Mehr, September 2).
On August 29, the IDF revealed new information on the project to increase the precision of missiles held by Hezbollah, an effort led by Iran. According to the newly released information, after Israel successfully intercepted most of the shipments of precision-guided missiles that Iran tried to transfer to Syria between 2013 and 2016, Iran began working on missiles manufactured in Syria. After this project was foiled too by Israeli strikes, it was decided to move it to Lebanon by setting up fortified factories across the country for production of precision-guided missiles and converting regular missiles into precision-guided ones. Iran used three routes to move the components required for the manufacture of the missiles: a ground line of supply through the Syrian border, a maritime line of supply, and an aerial line of supply through the Beirut International Airport. The IDF exposed the identity of three IRGC officers who are leading the project: Mohammad Hosseinzadeh Hejazi, who serves the Commander of the Qods Force in Lebanon; Ali Asghar Nowroozi, the Head of the Logistical Branch of the IRGC who is tasked with moving the equipment and missile components from Iran to Syria and from there to the factories in Lebanon; and Majid Navad, an engineer specializing in the production of surface-to-surface missiles, who is charged with overseeing the technological aspects of the project, and is operating under the guidance of the Qods Force.
In addition, the IDF exposed (September 3) Iranian involvement in the establishment of a site to manufacture and convert missiles into precision-guided missiles near the town of Nabi Sheeth in the Lebanese Beqaa Valley. According to the IDF press release, the facility was established in recent years as a factory for the manufacture of weaponry, operated under Iranian guidance and Hezbollah. A number of facilities inside the factory were established to manufacture engines and missile payloads capable of hitting targets within a radius of merely dozens of meters. For the purpose of manufacturing the missiles, Iran moved special machinery to Lebanon and provided training to those employed at the factory. Iran also maintains ongoing supervision of the work of the facility.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
In late August, the Iranian Consul General to Erbil, Nasrollah Rashnoudi, met with the leader of the KDP in northern Iraq, Masoud Barzani. The two discussed relations between Iran and the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq and ways to expand them. They also deliberated on developments in the region. In the meeting, Barzani stated that the formation of a new government in the Kurdistan region will bring about the bolstering of political, economic, security and cultural ties between Iran and the Kurdistan region of Iraq. The Iranian consul general congratulated Barzani on the formation of the new government and stressed the need to expand cooperation between the Kurdistan region and Iraq (ISNA, August 31).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
In a letter to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, the Head of the Hamas Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, promised that his organization will continue the struggle against Israel alongside all other “resistance” forces led by Iran, until the final victory. Haniyeh thanked Khamenei for the welcoming reception of the Hamas delegation in Tehran during their visit at the end of July. He also expressed his appreciation to the statement of the Supreme Leader during the meeting about support for the Palestinian “resistance” and his willingness to support it with all that it requires. He added that these words opened “a wide horizon” and will significantly affect strategic aspects and the battlefield of the struggle against “the Zionist enemy” (IRNA, September 1).
Khader Habib, a senior Palestinian Islamic Jihad official, stated in an interview to the Palestinian news website Donia al-Watan (August 27) that his organization does not take orders from Iran, but only support and makes decision independently. Following Israeli claims that the organization is responsible for the rocket fire from Gaza on August 25, against the backdrop of Israeli strikes in Syria, Habib claimed that the cadres of the organization are not clerks at the service of Iran and do not work for anyone: Arab, foreigner or Iranian.