Iranian leadership condemned the latest Israeli operation in Gaza (“Breaking Dawn,”) and stressed the Islamic Republic’s continued support for the Palestinian “resistance” and the Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) organization. Senior Iranian officials also consistently presented the operation as further proof of Israel’s growing weakness in its campaign against the Palestinians. The commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) declared in a meeting held in Tehran with the Secretary General of PIJ, Ziad al-Nakhleh, that the Palestinian response to the operation attests to the new phase of the Palestinian “resistance.” In a letter the Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, sent to al-Nakhleh at the end of the military confrontation, he claimed that the latest round of fire in Gaza added glory to the organization, and improved its position within the Palestinian resistance movement.
The senior Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, claimed in an interview to al-Jazeera channel that Hamas’ departure from Syria following the civil war in country has not affected the relationship of the movement with Iran, and that this relationship was never broken. He clarified, however, that the relationship with Tehran does not affect Hamas’ decisions, which are taken independently.
The pan-Arab daily al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that sheikhs and religious leaders within the Alawite sect in Syria recently rejected an Iranian initiative to restore several Alawi sites, fearing the growing Iranian and Shia influence over the affairs of the Alawite sect.
A member of the Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee declared that Iran is prepared to play a positive role in solving the internal disagreements between the factions and parties in Iraq. Meanwhile, the spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs reported that Iran is maintaining contact with the various political currents in Iraq, and is calling on them to respect the constitution, and solve the disagreements between them through dialogue.
An Iraqi security-focused delegation, headed by the president of the Iraqi University for National Security, paid a visit to Tehran, and met with senior Iranian officials, chief among them the deputy minister of defense and the deputy chief of staff of Iran’s Armed Forces. The two sides discussed ways to expand cooperation between the two countries in the spheres of security and defense.
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, condemned the Israeli strikes on Gaza (Operation Breaking Dawn). He described the operation as a crime, adventurism and a provocation, stating that “the Israeli Apartheid regime” bears full responsibility for the outcome of the conflict. He added that the Palestinian people and Palestinian resistance groups have a right to defend themselves in the face of aggression and terrorism of the “Zionist regime.” Additionally, the spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the international community to fulfil its legal, moral and humane obligation to defend the Palestinian people, and condemn Israel’s actions, which are the main cause of instability and insecurity in the region, he alleged (ISNA, August 5). The President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, also condemned the Israeli operation in Gaza. He claimed that the “Zionist regime” has once again proven its aggressive and oppressive nature to the entire world, and that the resistance of the people of Gaza will accelerate the decline of this “child-murdering regime” (Fars, August 6).
On August 6, the Secretary General of PIJ, Ziad al-Nakhleh, met with the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami. In the meeting, Salami insisted that the decline of the power of the Zionists is an unavoidable process that can not be reversed, and that the liberation of Jerusalem is near. He asserted that Israel, frustrated due to the inability of the United States to protect it, is trying to build closer relations with some Arab countries to strengthen itself, but this strategy can not save it, and the weakness of the Zionist regime prevents it from fulfilling its ambitions. Salami argued that the weakness and helplessness of the Zionists are becoming clearer day by day, while the power of the Palestinians becomes more apparent. He added that the Zionists are crumbling from within, and it is possible that the Palestinian resistance will not need to wage war to bring about Israel’s collapse. He stressed the unyielding support of the Islamic Republic to the Palestinians and the “resistance”, and condemned the Israeli actions in Gaza, asserting that the Zionists will pay a heavy price for their crimes. He averred that the swift response of the Palestinian resistance to the Israeli attack indicates that the resistance is now at an evolved stage of its power. Al-Nakhleh thanked Salami for Iran’s support, led by Ali Khamenei, to the Palestinians, and proclaimed that the Islamic resistance achieved significant advances in its military capabilities, and this trend will persist. He added that Iran’s defiance in the face of the United States and Israel provides strength to the Palestinian people and to the other forces of resistance (Tasnim, August 6).
On August 6, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, sent a letter to the foreign ministers of several Muslim countries and the heads of international organizations, including the United Nations and the Organization of Islamic Cooperation, in which he condemned Israel’s attacks in Gaza, and demanded they condemn Israel and stop the “crimes of the Zionist regime and its aggression.” Additionally, on the same day, Abdollahian spoke on the phone with Ziad al-Nakhleh, whom he met a few days prior in Tehran, and condemned the Israeli operation in Gaza while expressing confidence in the victory of the Palestinian resistance (IRNA, August 6).
The Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, sent a letter in response to a missive he received from the Secretary General of PIJ, Ziad al-Nakhleh, in which the Palestinian commander thanked Iran for supporting the organization. In his response, Khamenei wrote that the latest event in Gaza added to the glory of the PIJ and elevated its position within the Palestinian resistance movement, and that it has been proven that any part of the “resistance” can crush the enemy on its own. He stressed the need to maintain solidarity among the Palestinian groups in Gaza and the West Bank and claimed that the Palestinian resistance is growing strong while the enemy is growing weaker (Fars, August 11).
On August 7, the Iranian Ambassador to Lebanon, Mojtaba Amani, met with the representative of PIJ in Lebanon, Ihsan Ataya, and discussed developments in Gaza and “the need to halt the Zionist aggression in Palestine.” Additionally, the two discussed Iran’s support for the Palestinians (Fars, August 7).
On August 10, the Speaker of the Iranian Majlis, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, spoke on the phone with the Secretary General of PIJ, Ziad al-Nakhleh. Qalibaf congratulated al-Nakhleh for “the latest victory of the Islamic resistance of the Palestinian people in the struggle against the Jerusalem-occupying regime,” and declared that Iran fully stands by the Palestinians and the “Islamic resistance” in Palestine regardless of the circumstances. He asserted that PIJ is among the most influential factions of the Palestinian resistance in the struggle against Israel. Al-Nakhleh thanked the Islamic Republic for its support, and particularly the Iranian Majlis and the speaker of the Majlis, to the Palestinian people, and claimed that “the Zionist regime” had no choice but to accept the ceasefire under the conditions dictated by PIJ (Fars, August 10).
In an interview with al-Jazeera TV (August 12), the senior Hamas leader, Khaled Mashal, claimed that Hamas’ exit from Syria following the country’s civil war did not affect the relationship between the movement and Iran. He stated that relations with Iran were never severed, and Iranian support continued to flow, despite the difficult circumstances. He clarified, however, that Hamas relationship with Iran does not affect the independence of its decisions and does not come at the expense of the Palestinian national interest.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
On August 7, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke on the phone with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, and discussed developments in Gaza, following the Israeli military operation there. Abdollahian condemned Israel’s actions against the Palestinians and the silence of the international community (ISNA, August 7).
The pan-Arab daily published in London, al-Sharq al-Awsat, reported (August 4) that Alawite chiefs and religious leaders recently rejected an Iranian initiative to restore a number of Alawite religious sites. The initiative was proposed during a visit conducted by Iranian clerics in villages and towns in the coastal area of Syria and western Hama. According to this report, the Iranian initiative was rejected due to fears of expanding Iranian and Shia influence over the management of affairs of the sect. During the visit, the Iranian clerics met with Alawi religious leaders and communal activists and offered to provide humanitarian and monetary support to the needy and the sick in the region, and to restore the houses of worship and prayer in the region. The offer was rejected outright by the residents of the region due to fears of its meddling in the social and religious life of the sect. One of the area’s residents told the paper that this was not the first time Iranian clerics visit Alawi-inhabited areas, and that in recent years, they conducted a number of such visits intended to increase Iran’s political and religious influence over the sect.
During a memorial service for fallen fighters of the Iran-Iraq war and the Iranian campaigns in Syria and Iraq, held in the city of Kashan, the Adviser to the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Iraj Masjedi, stated in that Iran’s enemies saw the holy places for the Shia in Syria and Iraq as the first line of defense, and wanted to destroy them so thy can eventually attack Iran itself. He claimed that the presence of Iran’s fighters, and that of its proxies, in Syria and Iraq, is intended not only to safeguard the holy places, but also create a front in the strategic depth of the enemy, and to hunt them down to the ends of Syrian and Iraqi territories, to prevent them from ever reaching Iran’s borders (Fars, August 15).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
A member of the Majlis’ National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Yaqub Razazadeh, declared that Iran is willing to play a positive role in solving the internal disagreements between the currents and parties in Iraq. In an interview with ISNA news agency (August 9), the Majlis member stated that the situation in Iraq generally does not merit concern, and that Iran has solid political, diplomatic, and economic ties with Iran. He expressed hope that political disagreements in Iraq will be solved, and stated that countries outside of the region, and particularly the United States and Israel, are hoping to exploit these disagreements, and the enemies must be prevented from doing so. The statements of the Iranian lawmaker come at a time of escalating political crisis in Iraq, where the various political blocs have failed to form a government for over 300 days. In recent weeks, Muqtada al-Sadr, the leader of the Sadrist Current, and then his opponents with the Coordination Framework, staged sit-ins and protests of their supporters. Meanwhile, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, remarked in his weekly press conference that Iran is closely following political developments in Iraq, and is maintaining contact with the various currents in Iraq through the Iranian embassy in Baghdad and through other official channels, in an effort to bridge the divides between the two sides. Kanani stated that Iran calls on all political currents in Iraq to respect the constitution and solve disagreements between them through cooperation and dialogue (ISNA, August 15).
The Spokesman of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity, Ahmad al-Abadi, reported that Iraq is negotiating with Iran an increase in the volume of gas imported from Iran. He stated that the volume of imports of Iranian gas has risen to 45 million cubic meters following the agreement reached last June concerning the settlement of the Iraqi debt to Iran. However, Iraq requires between 50 to 55 million cubic meters per day (ILNA, August 13).
On August 13, the President of the Supreme University for National Security of Iran, Esameil Ahmadi-Moghaddam, met in Tehran with a delegation headed by the President of the Iraqi National Security University, Mizher Mohsen al-Alaq, and signed a memorandum of understanding concerning cooperation between the two universities. Ahmadi-Moghaddam declared that the national security of both countries is intertwined, and therefore there is a need for strategic cooperation between the armed forces of both countries (Mehr, August 13). During its visit to Tehran, the Iraqi delegation also met with Aziz Nasirzadeh, the Deputy Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, who declared that Tehran strives to expand military cooperation between the two countries. He remarked that the Chief of Staff of Iran’s Armed Forces, Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, is set to visit Iraq soon (Fars, August 14). On August 15, the delegation met with the Iranian Deputy Minister of Defense, Seyyed Mehdi Farahi, who claimed that the United States and some of its allies seek to destroy the relationship between Iran and Iraq. He added that the countries of the region ought to protect themselves from the harm stemming from foreign intervention and presence in the region, and particularly that of the United States. He argued that the expansion of cooperation between Iran and Iraq will assist in thwarting the plots of their common enemies, and that this cooperation should be bolstered in various defense sectors, and particularly in science and technology (Fars, August 15).