Spotlight on Iran

April 11–28, 2022 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
The commander of the Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani. Source: Tasnim, April 14

The commander of the Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani. Source: Tasnim, April 14

The meeting of the Iranian ambassador to Damascus with the Syrian deputy

The meeting of the Iranian ambassador to Damascus with the Syrian deputy

The meeting between the Iranian and Iraqi foreign ministers. Source: ISNA, April 13

The meeting between the Iranian and Iraqi foreign ministers. Source: ISNA, April 13

The meeting between the departing Iranian ambassador to Baghdad with the Iraqi prime minister. Source: IRNA, April 20

The meeting between the departing Iranian ambassador to Baghdad with the Iraqi prime minister. Source: IRNA, April 20

The meeting between the Iranian ambassador to Kabul with the head of the Hezb-e Islami. Source: Fars, April 17

The meeting between the Iranian ambassador to Kabul with the head of the Hezb-e Islami. Source: Fars, April 17

Overview
  • Iran condemned the “Zionist aggression in Palestine” in light of the ongoing tensions on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Following the events in Jerusalem, the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Hanniyeh, spoke with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs and with the senior adviser for international affairs of the supreme leader of Iran.
  • In mid-April, the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs arrived for an official visit in Tehran and met with senior Iranian officials, chief among them President Raisi, who demanded that Iraq end any Israeli presence on its soil.
  • The departing Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, provided a wide-ranging interview to an Iraqi TV station on the occasion of the end of his tenure. The ambassador asserted that it is not possible to form a government in Iraq without the participation of the two central Shia currents: the Sadrist current, and the Coordination Framework (the camp of Shia parties supported by Iran). Addressing the effect of the assassination of Qasem Soleimani on Iranian influence in Iraq, Masjedi stated that Soleimani and his successor, Esmail Qa’ani, are different individuals with different capabilities, but Iran’s strategy in Iraq has not changed.
  • The spokesman of Iran’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the attack on the Shia mosque in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The Iranian president called on Afghan authorities to ensure the safety of all citizens of Afghanistan, and placed responsibility on them to locate and punish those responsible for the latest terror attacks in the country.
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • The Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, declared that Iran supports and will continue to support all groups fighting the Zionists. In a ceremony marking the one-year anniversary since the passing of the former Deputy Commander of the Qods Force, Mohammad Hejazi, Qa’ani praised the struggle of the Palestinians against Israel, including the recent terror attacks targeting Israeli civilians. He proclaimed that Palestine’s youth proved in their latest actions that “the resistance” is alive and well in Palestine. Addressing the attack carried out by the IRGC in late March in northern Iraq, Qa’ani asserted that Iran will ferociously fight Israel anywhere it feels the need to do so and identifies a threat to its security. He added that the elimination of the “Zionist regime” is nearing, and that the destruction of this regime is accelerating (Tasnim, April 14).
  • The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, condemned “the Zionist aggression against the holy sites in Palestine” following the clashes that erupted on April 15 between Palestinian protesters and Israeli security forces in the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif. Khatibzadeh declared that “the crimes of the Zionists” against the Palestinian people indicate the growing weakness of “the occupier regime,” which is displaying its brittle capabilities against defenseless worshippers. He claimed that these crimes constitute a grave violation of international law and human rights, and demonstrates that the betrayal of some Muslim leaders in normalizing relations with “the Zionist regime” has only led to an escalation in violence by this regime against the Palestinians. Khatibzadeh called on governments and international organizations to support the Palestinian people and prevent the recurrence of Zionist crimes in Palestine, and for the nations of Islam to join forces to defend the al-Aqsa Mosque (Fars, April 15).
  • On April 15, following the clashes on the Temple Mount/Haram al-Sharif, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke on the phone with the Head of Hamas’ Politburo, Ismail Hanniyeh, and discussed developments in Jerusalem. Abdollahian claimed that “the resistance” is in the peak of its power, while the “terrorist Zionist regime” is at its weakest point. He stated that Iran supports the establishment of a unity government in a Palestinian state, whose capital is Jerusalem. Hanniyeh stated in the conversation that Palestine faces two choices: accepting the Judaization of the al-Aqsa Mosque or resistance, and the Palestinian people and the “resistance groups” have chosen the path of resistance. He thanked Iran for its support for the Palestinian cause (ISNA, April 15).
  • On April 17, Hanniyeh spoke to Ali Akbar Velayati, the Senior Adviser for International Affairs to the Supreme Leader of Iran, who told him that Iran is closely following the victories and achievements of the Palestinians, and that they serve as a model for the entire Muslim world (Tasnim, April 17).
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • On April 21, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke on the phone with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, and discussed bilateral relations, regional and global developments, including events in Jerusalem and the talks concerning Iran’s nuclear program in Vienna. Abdollahian stressed the need to expand cooperation between the two countries and welcomed the upcoming meeting of the Supreme Iranian-Syrian Joint Committee, as part of the effort to deepen the economic ties between the two countries (IRNA, April 21).
  • On April 14, the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus, Mehdi Sobhani, met with the Syrian Deputy Minister of Foreign Affairs, Bashar Jafari, and discussed developments in both countries, consular matters, and upcoming visits of senior officials from both countries (ISNA, April 14).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • On April 13, the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, arrived for an official visit to Tehran at the helm of a delegation made up of diplomats and security officials, which included the Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qasim al-Araji. In the meeting with the Iraqi minister, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, stressed that Iran will not accept any threat to its borders from the United States, Israel, or terrorist elements. The Iraqi minister of foreign affairs declared that his country will not allow any threat to its neighbors to originate from its soil. In the meeting, the foreign ministers discussed bilateral relations, developments in Yemen, Afghanistan, Syria, Ukraine, and the talks concerning Iran’s nuclear program. Abdollahian highlighted the need to bolster trade ties between the two countries, and called for easing the movement of goods through border crossings, to complete the laying of the railway connecting Shalamcheh in southwestern Iran to Basra in southern Iraq, and to facilitate the entry of pilgrims from both countries (Fars, April 14).
  • In his meeting with the Iraqi minister of foreign affairs, the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, stated that Iran is interested in deepening bilateral ties with Iraq. He remarked that the security and national interests of both countries are interlinked, asserting that their enemies will not be able to undermine this relationship. Raisi stressed Iran’s support for Iraq’s territorial integrity and unity and added that Iran expects Iraq to not allow foreign presence on its soil, or in areas under the control of the Kurdistan Regional Government, which may harm Iran’s security. He stated that Iran is closely monitoring the movement of “the Zionist regime” and will not allow it to threaten the security of the region through any country, including Iraq. Raisi called for accelerating the implementation of the project to lay a railway connecting Shalamcheh to Basra and for facilitating the movement of Iranian pilgrims to Shia holy sites in Iraq (Fars, April 14).
  • The departing Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Iraj Masjedi, provided an extensive interview to the Iraqi TV station al-Sharqiya (April 15). In the interview, he asserted that there is no connection between the end of his term, and the support Iran offers to pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, or to the attack of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on northern Iraq in late March. He asserted that Iran’s support for “the resistance front” is part of a consistent policy of the Islamic Republic and is not linked to one ambassador or the other.
  • Addressing the latest developments in Iraq surrounding the efforts to form a new government, Masjedi remarked that since 2003, many political developments have occurred in Iraq. He assessed that the leadership of political blocs in Iraq will eventually be able to end the current political impasse. He insisted that it would not be possible to form a new government without the participation of the two major currents in Shia politics: the Sadrist current, and the Coordination Framework (the coalition of Shia parties backed by Iran). Masjedi remarked that Iran is not worried about an intra-Shia confrontation in Iraq since the leaders of Iraq are well-aware of the existing conditions in Iraq and Iraq’s interests. He also pointed to the role of the senior Shia cleric, Ayatollah Ali Sistani, who is accepted as a source of authority by all Shia factions, as a de-escalatory factor. He stressed Iran’s ongoing support to the government and people of Iraq and claimed that Iran does not meddle in internal Iraqi affairs. According to him, the Islamic Republic maintains good relations with all sides in Iraq, respects both the Sadrist current and the Coordination Framework and is leaving the final decision to them.
  • Addressing the visits of the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani to Iraq, Masjedi stated that during his visits, Qa’ani met with the majority of political leaders in Iraq, including the leader of the Sadrist Current, Muqtada Sadr, and offered them to reach an agreement concerning government formation, and expressed Iran’s desire to see them maintain the unity of the Shia house. In response to a question regarding whether Qasem Soleimani had greater influence over the different Iraqi actors compared to his successor, Esmail Qa’ani, the departing ambassador stated that these are two different individuals with different capabilities, but what matters is the policy and strategy of Iran, and their efforts on behalf of Iraq, which have not changed. .
  • In response to a question concerning the attack of the IRGC in northern Iraq, Masjedi claimed that Iran respects the sovereignty of Iraq, but is unwilling to allow harm to its national security to originate from the Kurdistan region, where according to him, Israel has been operating freely. He remarked that Iran offered Iraqi authorities to establish a joint committee of the Iranian regime, the Iraqi government, and the Kurdistan Regional Government, to examine the information Iran has acquired concerning Israeli activities in northern Iraq.
  • On April 20, the departing Iranian ambassador met the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, ahead of his return to Iran. In the meeting, Masjedi stated that Iran is interested in bolstering cooperation between the two countries. On April 18, Masjedi also held a farewell meeting with the Iraqi President, Barham Salih (IRNA, April 20).
  • The Iraqi news website Baghdad al-Youm reported (April 14) that an Iranian delegation is set to travel in the coming days to northern Iraq to meet with the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) to discuss the formation of a government in Iraq.
  • The Spokesman of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, Ahmad Mousa, reported that the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, ordered the Ministry of Electricity to dispatch a delegation to Tehran to deal with the matter of Iranian gas sales to Iraq, which was significantly cut back due to the debt Iraq accrued through non-payment for imports of gas and electricity from Iran. The aim of the delegation would be to solve the disagreements between the two nations concerning the matter (Fars, April 18). In March 2022, the spokesman of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity reported that the Iraqi debt to Iran amounts to more than 1.6 billion dollars, and due to this debt, Iran cut back the supply of gas to Iraq from 45 million square meters to only eight million square meters (ILNA, March 6, 2022).
  • In mid-April, the Head of Iran’s Pilgrimage Organization, Seyyed Sadegh Hoseini, paid a visit to Iraq and met with senior Iraqi officials, including the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, the minister of interior, the minister of culture and tourism, and minister of health. During these meetings, the Iranian official discussed issues related to the entry of Iranian pilgrims to Shia holy sites in Iraq (the website of the Iranian Broadcasting Authority, April 18).
Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan
  • On April 18, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke with the Foreign Minister of the Taliban, Amir Khan Muttaqi. Abdollahian told his counterpart that Iran expects Afghanistan’s rulers to preserve the security of Iranian diplomats and representative offices in Afghanistan. This followed a violent protest held on April 11 against the Iranian consulate in Herat in western Afghanistan. The protest followed reports about Iranian authorities abusing Afghan refugees in eastern Iran. The Taliban’s foreign minister promised his counterpart to ensure the security of Iranian diplomats in his country (Fars, April 18).
  • The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, condemned the attack that took place on April 21 in the Shia mosque in Mazar-e Sharif in northern Afghanistan. The Islamic State in Khorosan Province (ISKP) claimed responsibility for the attack, which killed over 30 people. Khatibzadeh expressed Iran’s concern due to the increasing number of explosions in various cities across Afghanistan and sent his condolences to the families of those slain in the attack (IRNA, April 21). The Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, also condemned the attack on the Shia mosque and called on Afghan authorities to ensure the security of all citizens of Afghanistan, including in schools, mosques and religious sites. Raisi asserted that Afghan rulers are responsible to locating and punishing those responsible for the latest attacks, adding that Iran is willing to assist Afghanistan in the fight against terrorism and providing medical treatment to the victims of the attacks (Fars, April 23).
  • On April 17, the Iranian Ambassador to Kabul, Bahador Aminian, met with the Afghan political leader Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who heads Afghanistan’s Hezb-e Islami (Islamic Party), and discussed the conditions of Afghan refugees in Iran and various political matters (Fars, April 17).