Iran condemned the attack carried out against several targets in Syria on the night of January 2, which has been attributed to Israel, and called on the international community to act to prevent the continuation of Israeli strikes.
Political engagement between Iran and Syria: The Iranian minister of foreign affairs spoke to his Syrian counterpart, and discussed with him bilateral ties, developments in Syria and the region. Meanwhile, the Syrian deputy foreign minister arrived for an official visit to Tehran.
In early January, the Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, arrived for a visit in Tehran. During his visit, he met with the Senior Adviser on International Affairs to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Akbar Velayati, and briefed him on the latest developments in Lebanon.
The president of Iraq met with the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad and discussed deepening cooperation between the two countries. Additionally, the Iranian ambassador met with the Iraqi national security adviser and Iraqi minister of transportation.
Iran condemned the visit of the Israeli Minister of National Security, Itamar Ben Gvir, to the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif, and warned that any defilement to holy Islamic sites will trigger a response from the Muslim people. The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on Muslim countries to fight “the aggression of the Zionist regime.”
The commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) stated during a ceremony in the city of Kerman, that for the first time, more than half of the IDF’s personnel is deployed in the West Bank. He claimed that the IDF is weak, and as proof mentioned the challenges Israel faced in apprehending the Palestinian militant who carried out the attacks in the Shuafat Crossing and near Maale Adumim in the West Bank in October 2022.
Iranian Involvement in Syria and Lebanon
The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, condemned the strikes carried out against targets in Syria on the night of January 2, which have been attributed to Israel. The attack included missile strikes against the Damascus International Airport. The official Syrian Arab News Agency reported (January 2) that the strike killed two soldiers and wounded two more and caused damage to the airport’s infrastructure. Kanani condemned “the aggressive policies of the Zionist regime,” adding that Iran expects the international community, the United Nations, and the countries of the region to condemn the Israeli strikes, which constitute a violation of the UN Charter and Syria’s sovereignty. In response to a question about Iran not being invited to a summit of the defense minsters of Turkey, Syria and Russia in Moscow, which dealt with developments in Syria, Kanani stated that Russia, Syria and Turkey are aware of Iran’s crucial role in the war on terror in Syria, and its support for the people and the government in Syria, and for the country’s territorial integrity, and understand/know that Iran can not be excluded from this matter (IRDiplomacy.ir, January 2).
A Syrian opposition-affiliated website that during the visit of the Iranian-Syrian Friendship Association to Damascus in December 2022, a number of economic deals were signed between the two countries, including an agreement concerning the establishment of an Iranian cellphone company in Syria. Additionally, the two countries agreed to establish a joint Syrian-Iranian company to develop factories, sorting and packaging lines, and cooling units in Syria (Ayn al-Furat, January 5).
The Syrian pro-opposition website Ayn al-Furat reported (January 9) that the Iranian Jihad of Construction (Jihad al-Binaa’) organization has built new housing units for Shia residents of the village Hosh Hajo north of Homs City. According to this report, the housing the area was previously destroyed by shelling of the Syrian regime to prevent the rebels from taking over them and advancing toward the village of al-Ashrafiyah. As part of the rehabilitation project, the Iranian company utilized real-estate formerly belonging to rebels who had been displaced to Syria, whose property was confiscated. In total, about 50 apartments were built in the village. Since the number of families originally residing in the village does not exceed 20, the rest of the apartments have been given to families of fighters in pro-Iranian militias.
On January 8, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke with his Syrian counterpart, Faisal Mekdad, and discussed bilateral relations and developments in Syria and the region. In their conversation, the foreign ministers stressed the desire of leaders of both countries to expand ties in various spheres. The Syrian minister of foreign affairs thanked Iran for its role in the war on terror and its assistance in finding a political settlement for the crisis in his country. Additionally, the two ministers stressed their countries’ support for the struggle of the Palestinian people to defend their holy places and historical rights. The two also forcefully condemned “the crimes of the Zionist regime against the Palestinian throughout the occupied territories” (ISNA, January 8). Meanwhile, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, informed journalists during his weekly press conference that the government of Iran is planning the visit of the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, to Syria and Turkey (ISNA, January 9).
On January 8, the Syrian Assistant Minister of Foreign and Expatriates Minister, Ayman Sousan, arrived for an official visit in Tehran. During his visit, the deputy minister met with senior Iranian government officials and discussed bilateral relations and the latest developments in Syria and the region (ISNA, January 8).
On January 4, the Adviser on International Affairs to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Akbar Velayati, met in Tehran with the Deputy Secretary General of Hezbollah, Naim Qassem, and discussed regional and international affairs with him. Velayati praised Hezbollah’s accomplishments in Lebanon, and particularly the agreements concerning the maritime border (with Israel), claiming it was an unprecedented victory of Hassan Nasrallah, which foiled the plot of the “Zionist regime” and the United States. Naim Qassem briefed Velayati on the latest developments in Lebanon and “the victories of the resistance front” (Fars, January 4). Qassem arrived in Tehran to participate in ceremonies marking the 3rd anniversary of the killing of the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qassem Soleimani.
According to Newsweek magazine’s report (11 January), Iran has invested millions of dollars in an effort to ramp up the deployment of an advanced air defense network in Syria. Citing an unnamed intelligence source, Newsweek reported that the promotion of these capabilities is carried out as a project shared with the Syrian army and possibly even with the aim of enabling independent Iranian operation of the aerial defense systems from within parts of Syria. In addition, the Iranians assisted the Syrians in upgrading their radar array, designed to aid in detection and prevention of Israeli attacks mainly against the Iranian establishment in Syria. The source said the deputy commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Aerospace Force, Fereydoun Mohammadi Saghaei, is leading the air defense project.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
On January 4, the President of Iraq, Abdul Latif Jamal Rashid, met with the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, and discussed the need to develop and expand cooperation between the two countries in all spheres. The Iranian ambassador stressed Iran’s desire to continue cooperating with Iraq, and expanding their relations on all levels, for the benefit of both countries (Fars, January 4). On January 9, the Iranian ambassador met with the Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qassim al-Araji, and discussed the security of the countries’ shared border (ISNA, January 9).
On January 3, the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, Mohammed Kazem Al-e Sadegh, met with the Iraqi Minister of Transportation, Razzaq Mohibis al-Saadawi, and discussed cooperation between the two countries in the transportation sector. The two stressed the need to solve the existing problems in transportation to further economic cooperation between the two countries (IRNA, January 3).
On December 28, the Tehran University for Medical Sciences opened a branch in the al-Sabtain Medical University in the city of Karbala in Iraq. The ceremony marking the opening of the Iranian branch was attended by the Iranian Minister of Health, Bahran Etnollahi; the Iraqi Minister of Health, Saleh Mahdi al-Hasnawi; the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh; and the Iranian Cultural Attaché to Baghdad, Gholam Reza Abazari. In July 2019, a memorandum of understanding was signed between the University of Tehran for Medical Sciences and the administration of the compound of the Shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala concerning opening a branch in the city (al-Alam, December 29, 2022). In November 2020, the Iranian cultural attaché to Baghdad discussed with the former Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul Mahdi, the plan to establish the branch of the Iranian university in Karbala. In the meeting, the cultural attaché remarked that Iran is willing to share with Iraqi universities its knowledge in the scientific and medical fields (IRNA, November 22, 2020).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
Iran condemned the visit of the Israeli National Security Minister, Itamar Ben Gvir, to the Temple Mount/ Haram al-Sharif on January 3. The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, declared that Jerusalem is the eternal capital of Palestine and any defiling of the holy places in Palestine, including the al-Aqsa Mosque, is a violation of international law and an encroachment on what Muslims around the world consider holy, and thus will trigger a response from the Muslim peoples. Kanani warned against the continuation of “adventurism and provocative steps” by the new government in Israel and stressed the obligation of free people around the world, and particularly the Muslim peoples and government, to act as one to defend Jerusalem and fight against the aggression of the “Zionist occupier regime.” Additionally, the spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on the international community, including the UN, to take the necessary legal steps to prevent the end of the Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people and Muslim holy sites (al-Alam network, January 3).
The Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ), Ziad al-Nakhleh, stated during an interview to the pro-Hezbollah al-Mayadeen Lebanese TV Channel (December 29) that his organization doesn’t see anyone supporting the Palestinians except Iran, Hezbollah, and Syria. Addressing the relationship between Palestine and the “resistance axis,” al-Nakhleh stated that the Palestinian people are the ones struggling against Israel in the West Bank, but that Iran and Hezbollah support the Palestinian fighters. He claimed that the enemies want to delude the world that the war in Palestine is a war against Iran, and that the Islamic Republic of Iran is exploiting the Palestinian in its war against Israel. According to him, the PIJ is willing to accept assistance from any Arab and Muslim country. He added that all Arab countries must fulfil their duty toward the Palestinian people.
During a ceremony in the city of Kerman, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, claimed that for the first time, over half of the army of the “Zionist regime” is deployed in the West Bank, whose size is about half of Kerman Province. Qa’ani addressed the pursuit of the IDF after a Palestinian militant (likely, Oday al-Tamimi, who carried out the attack against the Shuafat Crossing and later the shooting attack near Maale Edomim in October 2022) and stated that the entire security establishment of “the Zionist regime” was recruited to find the young man who shot at them and failed to apprehend him. Only a week later, when he shot at them again, they killed him (Tasnim, January 5).