The IRGC member Asghar Pashapour alongside Qasem Soleimani (Mashregh News, February 3, 2020).
The meeting between the senior adviser to the chairman of the Majlis with the Syrian ambassador to Terhan (Tasnim, January 27, 2020).
Hanniyyeh, Qa’ani and Nakhleh (Fars, February 2, 2020).
Qasem Soleimani’s image, a logo of the Iranian Shahid Foundation and the symbol of the Iranian flag, which were placed in the offices of the al-Ansar charitable association in Gaza during the distribution of cash to the families of fallen Palestinians
the payment from the Palestinian National Bank (The Facebook page of the al-Ansar charitable association, January 27, 2020).
- The issuance of President Trump’s “Deal of the Century,” aroused harsh criticism in Iran, expectedly. Senior Iranian official lambasted the plan, expressed confidence that it would fail and emphasized Iran’s willingness to lead the struggle against it in the Muslim world. Following the publication of the plan, senior Iranian official spoke to senior Palestinian officials and discussed with them ways to counter the plan. The Iranian minister of foreign affairs spoke to the president of the Palestinian Authority and with the head of Hamas’ political bureau, while the commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force spoke with the leader of Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad, and the speaker of the Majlis held a call with the head of Hamas’ political bureau. Meanwhile, in late January, Tehran hosted an annual conference in support of Gaza, which was held under the theme of the assassinated Qods Force Commander, Qasem Soleimani.
- During the ongoing battles between Syrian regime forces and its backers against the rebels in Idlib and western and southern Aleppo, an officer with the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) was killed in the area of Aleppo. In photos published after his death, the officer, Asghar Pashapour, was seen alongside Qasem Soleimani, the Commander of the Qods Force who was assassinated in January. The death of the Iranian officer provides further evidence to the involvement of IRGC fighters, Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias operating under Iranian patronage in the ongoing campaign in northwestern Syria.
- Against the backdrop of political developments in Iraq and Lebanon, Iran welcomed the formation of a new government in Lebanon, headed by Hassan Diab, and the appointment of Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi as Iraq’s new prime minister. Senior officials in Iran, which wishes to preserve its influence in Iraq and Lebanon in light of the domestic political developments in those countries, emphasized Iran’s willingness to assist the new government in Beirut and the incoming prime minister in Iraq.
Iranian Involvement in Syria and Lebanon
- On February 3, Iranian media reported that an officer with the IRGC’s Qods Force, Asghar Pashapour was killed a day earlier in battles in the area of Aleppo (Mashregh News, February 3). Pashapour’s death provides further evidence to the involvement of IRGC fighters, Hezbollah and Shi’ite militias operating under Iranian patronage in the battles raging in northwest Syria. On January 26, the British Telegraph paper revealed recordings of Fatemiyoun Brigade fighters, made up of Shi’ite Afghans, which operates under Iranian guidance in Syria, indicating that they have been involved in the campaign in Idlib in recent months. According to the estimate of the paper, the number of militiamen operating in that front (separately from the Aleppo front) is between 400 to 800 fighters.
- On January 27, the Senior Adviser to the Speaker of the Majlis, Hossen Amir Abdollahian, met with the Syrian Ambassador to Tehran, Adnan Mahmoud and discussed with him developments in Syria and in the region and bilateral relations. Abdollahian addressed Qasem Soleimani’s assassination and highlighted the role played by the Qods Force commander in the “campaign against terrorism” in Syria. He stressed Iran’s ongoing support to Syria, its territorial integrity and national sovereignty, expressing hope that the crisis in Idlib will be solved with the central government regaining control of the province. Abdollahian also called for bolstering ties between the parliaments of both countries (Tasnim, January 27).
- The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Mousavi, welcomed the new government in Lebanon headed by Hassan Diab. Mousavi stated that the formation of the government in the current regional and international conditions in a positive step on the way to solving Lebanon’s problems. He expressed hope that the new government will be able to answer the demands of the Lebanon people, and overcome the challenges facing Lebanon while ensuring solidarity and bolstering national unity. He also hoped that Lebanon will be able to actualize the plans for developing the country and maintaining its security. He emphasized Iran’s willingness to expand ties with Lebanon to the greatest extent possible (ISNA, January 26).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
- The Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs welcomed the nomination of Mohammad Tawfiq Allawi and Iraq’s incoming prime minister. The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Mousavi, stated that his country hopes that Allawi will be able to realize the just demands of Iraq’s citizens and senior clergy to establish a stable Iraq that would be a powerful player in the region. He declared that Iran welcomes Allawi’s nomination as prime minister in accordance with Iran’s support for Iraq’s independence, sovereignty and territorial integrity, in line with the legitimate demands of the government and people of Iraq to remove American forces from Iraq. Mousavi added that Iran is willing to provide Iraq will all the necessary means to be able to handle the challenges it faces in this sensitive time (ISNA, February 2).
- Iran’s Ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, also welcomed Allawi’s appointment. He wished Masjedi success in fulfilling the demands of his country’s citizens and expressed confidence in the continuous economic and political cooperation between Tehran and Baghdad, which he described as extensive (ISNA, February 4).
- The Chairman of the Joint Iranian-Iraqi Chamber of Commerce, Yahya Al-e Eshaq, stated that despite the drop in Iranian exports to southern Iraq due to the ongoing protests in the region, Iranian exports to Iraqi Kurdistan have risen. He argued that the challenges facing trade between Iraq and Iran due to the destabilization of security in Iraq are temporary and will pass. Al-e Eshaq reported that during the first nine months of the current Iranian year (March – December 2019), Iran exported to Iraq goods totaling in worth of nine billion dollars (Fars, January 28).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
- As expected, senior Iranian officials lambasted the newly published “Deal of the Century” by President Trump. Shortly after the issuance of the plan, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Mousavi, condemned the “shameful and coercive peace plan” and called it “the betrayal of the century that is deemed to fail.” He remarked that despite disagreements with several countries of the region, Iran is willing to cooperate with them to fight the “great plot against the Muslim nation.” He added that “the Zionist regime” is an occupying regime and the only way to solve the crisis in Palestine is holding a referendum among the original inhabitants of Palestine (Fars, January 28).
- The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, also responded to President Trump’s plan in a tweet on his Twitter account (January 29), in which he wrote that the plan is doomed to fail and that all the Muslim peoples of the world will fight it and prevent it from coming to fruition.
- In a speech delivered on February 5, on the occasion of the 41st anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, Khamenei labeled President Trump’s plan “stupid and evil,” and declared that the only way to fight it is through resilience and jihad, with the support of the Muslim world. He added that the plan will die even before Trump does. He insisted that Palestine belongs to the Palestinians and that the Americans don’t have a right to negotiate with the “Zionists” about anything belonging to the Palestinians. Khamenei emphasized that Iran is committed to supporting the Palestinian group and will assist them in any way possible. The only solution, he stressed, is holding a referendum among the original inhabitants of Palestine. He criticized some of the “treacherous Arab leaders” who welcomed the plan. He concluded by expressing hope that one day, Muslim youth will be allowed to pray in Jerusalem (Fars, February 5).
- Prior to the publication of the plan, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, addressed the “Deal of the Century,” labeling it “delusional.” In a tweet on his Twitter account, Zarif suggested that instead of accepting this plan, it is better to adopt the proposal of the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, to hold a referendum in which all of Palestine’s inhabitants: Muslims, Jews and Christians, will decide their future. In another tweet, following the publication of the plan, Zarif called in “a nightmare for the region and the world,” and argued that President Trump’s Vision for Peace is the concocted plan of a bankrupt real-estate mogul. On February 4, Zarif spoke on the phone with the President of the Palestinian Authority, Mahmoud Abbas, and stressed Iran’s position, which rejects the “Deal of the Century” and its support for the rights of the Palestinian people to establish an independent state whose capital is Jerusalem (the Palestinian news agency WAFA, February 4). In addition, Zarif spoke to the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Hanniyyeh, and called for wide popular mobilization and mobilization of governments in the struggle against the “Deal of the Century” (Fars, February 5).
Sleepwalking into Catastrophe.
Tweet by Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs Zarif, January 29, 2020
- The IRGC’s Qods Force published a statement calling on the Palestinian to continue their struggle against the “Zionist enemies.” The statement read that those who have betrayed the values of the Palestinian people and their Arab supporters in the region are incapable of defeating the Palestinian fighters and that “Israel’s death is near.” The statement by the IRGC emphasized Iran’s determination to support the Palestinians in the path of resistance (Fars, January 29).
- A statement by the IRGC following the publication of the Deal of the Century argued that the reveal of the “unjust plan” by the “president of the terrorist regime of the United States” is one of the crimes and unprecedented acts of treachery in modern history. The plan ignores the rights of the Palestinian people, provides legitimacy to the “fake Zionist government,” ensures Israeli sovereignty in “the occupied territories,” seeks to disarm Hamas and voids the right of return of the Palestinian refugees. The statement argued that the plan exposes the evil face of President Trump and the hostility of the White House toward the Islamic nation, adding that it was intended to create divisions and disagreements among Muslim countries. The plan will not provide stability and security to the “Zionist regime,” and will be tossed in the garbage bin of history, increasing the fury and desire for revenge of the Palestinian resistance fighters more than any other time in the past 70 years of anti-Zionist resistance. In their statement, the IRGC called for unity and solidary among the Muslim peoples against the plan, stressing their willingness to support to struggle of the countries of Islam against it, adding that the only legitimate and practical way to solve the Palestinian question is by establishing a state of Palestine “from the river to the sea,” with the return of Palestinian refugees to their homeland and holding free elections among the residents of Palestine (Tasnim, February 1).
The fate of peace in Palestine.
Caricature by Tasnim, February 2
- On February 1, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, spoke on the phone with the Commander of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad Nakhleh, and with the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Hanniyyeh. In his conversation with al-Nakhleh, Qa’ani stressed that Iran has not altered its policy with regards to the “Palestinian resistance” and that following Qasem Soleimani’s assassination, it is more determined than ever to support the “Resistance” in Palestine and elsewhere until the downfall of the “American-Zionist hegemony” in the region, and particularly in Palestine. In his call with Hanniyyeh, Qa’ani stressed Iran’s rejection of the “Deal of the Century,” mentioning that Iran is willing to work with the Palestinian people and the “Resistance” to foil the plan. Hanniyyeh expressed his appreciation for Iran’s position, stating that he is confident in the ability of the Palestinian to foil the plan (the Palestinian news agency SAFA, February 1).
- On January 29, the Speaker of the Iranian Majlis, Ali Larijani, spoke on the phone with the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Hanniyyeh, and discussed ways to deal with Trump’s Vision for Peace. Larijani stated that Trump’s plan constitutes a “betrayal of the Palestinian people” and an “insult to all the Muslims worldwide.” He stressed to Hanniyyeh that Iran will continue to support the “Palestinian resistance” and the Palestinian people. He remarked that there is no doubt that the “strategic mistake” by President Trump and the “Zionist regime” will drive the Muslim peoples to increase their support for Palestine. Hanniyyeh thanked Larijani for Iran’s support for the Palestinian and insisted that the Palestinian people can foil the “Deal of the Century” (ISNA, January 29).
- On January 27, the Facebook page of the al-Ansar charity committee in Gaza posted a report about the distribution of another round of Iranian assistance to families in Gaza of Palestinians killed during the second intifada. The payments to the families were distributed between January 19-27 2020. In the report, broadcast on the Lebanese al-Mayadeen channel, the reporter mentions that the Iranian assistance was distributed to 4,800 beneficiaries in Gaza. According to the report, the distribution of the money in cash was carried out via the Islamic National Bank (which belongs to Hamas). In the hall of the al-Ansar charitable organization in which the distribution took place, a large placard with Qasem Soleimani’s photo was placed. Alongside his image, there was the logo of the Iranian Shahid Foundation and the logo appears against the backdrop of the flag of Iran. Nasser al-Sheikh Ali, the Deputy of the al-Ansar charitable organization in Gaza stated that the Iranian assistance was distributed despite Iran’s financial hardship due to the sanctions against it (Facebook page of the al-Ansar association, January 27).
- On January 27, Tehran hosted the annual international conference in support of Gaza, under the slogan “Gaza, a symbol of resistance.” The conference in held annually marking the end of the 2008-2009 Gaza war (“Cast Lead Operation”). This year, the event was held under the mark of the assassination of the Qods Force Commander, Qasem Soleimani, and was dedicated to the role played by Soleimani in “bolstering the axis of Islamic resistance in Palestine.” The conference was attended by senior Iranian officials, and representatives of different armed groups, including: Hamas, the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Lebanese Hezbollah, the Lebanese Amal movement, Ansar Allah (the Houthis in Yemen), as well as ambassadors of Muslim-majority countries stationed in Tehran (Tasnim, January 27).
- The Representative of the Supreme Leader to the Iranian Shahid Foundation, Mohammad Hassan Rahimian, proclaimed in his speech in the conference that soon we will witness the final elimination of Israel. He claimed that the Zionist are in their lowest position yet, while the Palestinian people are at the peak of their resistance (ISNA, January 27).
The conference “Gaza, a Symbol of Resistance”
(Tasnim, January 27, 2020)