- In late February, the Syrian National Security Adviser, Ali Mamlouk, visited Tehran and met with the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Council, Ali Shamkhani. The two discussed international and regional developments, as well as ongoing bilateral cooperation.
- The Iranian minister of foreign affairs met with his Iraqi colleague on the sidelines of the Munich International Security Conference and discussed political developments in Iraq, as well as the possibility of restarting the dialogue between Iran and Saudi Arabia, mediated by Iraq.
- Representatives of Iraq, Iran, Russia and Syria took part in a meeting of the joint center for counter-terrorism intelligence exchange in Baghdad and discussed security developments along the Iraqi-Syrian border. The center, which was established in 2015, is intended to bolster the intelligence and security cooperation between the four countries.
- The former Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad al-Allawi, opined in an interview to a Turkish news agency that since the outbreak of popular protests in Iraq in October 2019, during which protesters chanted against Iranian meddling in Iraq, Iranian influence in the country has diminished.
- The special envoy of the Iranian president for Afghan affairs met in Kabul with the foreign and energy ministers of the Taliban government. During the meetings, the officials discussed political developments in Afghanistan, the economic situation in the country and the water dispute between Iran and Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the Iranian ambassador to Kabul met with the Taliban’s minister of agriculture and discussed ways to expand cooperation between the two countries.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
- On February 27, the Syrian National Security Adviser, Ali Mamlouk, visited Tehran and met with the Secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani. The two discussed the latest developments in the international arena and their implications for the region, and the ongoing counter-terrorism cooperation between the two countries. The official statement following the meeting also mentioned that the two discussed the supposed American efforts “to revive the terrorist groups in Syria by providing them with training and weapons.” Mamlouk expressed his appreciation for Iran’s role in supporting Syria in the war on terror and stressed the importance of maintaining the cooperation between the two countries. Shamkhani declared that Iran will continue assisting Syria and that the growing support of the United States to the terrorist groups operating in Syria threatens the security of Syria and the region as a whole. He added that the occupation of parts of Syria by the United States is the main factor preventing the restoration of security and stability to Syria (SANA, February 27).
The meeting between the Syrian national security adviser and the secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council. Source: SANA, February 27
- On February 22, the Special UN Envoy for Syrian Affairs, Geir Pedersen, spoke on the phone with the Senior Adviser to the Foreign Minister of Iran, Ali-Asghar Khaji, and thanked him for Iran’s efforts to establish peace in Syria and its support for the negotiations process concerning the settlement of the war. The two discussed the latest developments in Syria and particularly the work of the Constitutional Committee. Pedersen also provided Khaji with an update concerning the outcomes of his last visit to Damascus (IRNA, February 22). On 28 of February, Khaji met in Damascus with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, and discussed with him the latest political and military developments in Syria, the negotiations to settle the war and bilateral relations. Khaji remarked that Syria is now in the reconstruction phase and that the new economic conditions necessitate the expansion of ties between the two countries.
The meeting between the Syrian minister of foreign affairs and the senior adviser to the Iranian foreign minister. Source: Fars, February 28
- The Syrian pro-opposition outlet Euphrates News reported (February 28) about the withdrawal of pro-Iranian militias from the area of Tel a-Sawwan, southwest of Palmyra, and transfer of control over the area to Russian forces. According to this report, the pro-Iranian militias withdrew from three positions in the area during the initial phase of the redeployment, which was agreed upon by representatives of Syria, Russia and Iran. At the end of the withdrawal process, which is expected to be completed in the coming month, the entire area will be handed over to Russian forces.
- The Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister and Head of Organization of Administration and Recruitment, Meysam Latifi, signed an agreement concerning cooperation in the sectors of administration and recruitment with the Syrian Minister on Administrative Development, Salam Safaf. The SANA news agency reported (February 21) that during the signing ceremony, the two senior officials discussed expanding bilateral cooperation in the sectors of development and administrative reforms, training and human resource management. Latifi expressed his country’s willingness to share with Syria the experience Iran has obtained in the sphere of administration. The Syrian Ambassador to Tehran, Shafiq Dayoub, declared that administrative development is a new and incredibly important field for cooperation between Iran and Syria, and that it constitutes one of top priorities of the Syrian government.
The signing of the agreement between Iran and Syria concerning cooperation in the sphere of administration. Source: SANA, February 21
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
- The Iraqi news agency Shafaq News quoted (February 21) a political source reporting that Iran had asked Qatar to intervene in the ongoing political crisis in Iraq. According to this report, Qatar is working to bring the positions of the leader of the Sadrist Current, Muqtada al-Sadr, closer to those of the Coordination Framework, the coalition of pro-Iranian Shia parties. According to the report, Qatar agreed to pressure al-Sadr to alter his position and abandon the idea of a majority government, which would exclude the pro-Iranian parties. The report was published following the visit of the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, to Doha, on February 21. The report implicitly states that Iran’s efforts to persuade Makhtada Tseder to adopt this policy, including in a number of meetings with the Revolutionary Guards Quds Force commander, Kaani, did not succeeded.
- On February 19, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, met with the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, on the sidelines of the Munich International Security Conference. The two discussed bilateral relations, as well as international and regional developments. The Iraqi foreign minister provided an update to his Iranian counterpart concerning domestic developments in Iraq following the parliamentary elections and expressed desire to host the next round of talks between Iran and Saudi Arabia that are intended to reduce tensions between the two regional powers. Abdollahian stated that Iran is willing to continue with the talks with Saudi Arabia, but their resumption depends mostly on Saudi desire. The Iranian minister also stressed the need to achieve an agreement between a broad swath of Iraqi groups during the government formation process, alluding to the need to include the pro-Iranian parties in the next government (the website of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 19).
The meeting of the Iranian and Iraqi foreign ministers in Munich. Source: Website of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, February 19
- On February 24, representatives of Iran, Iraq, Russia and Syria participated in another meeting of the joint center for counter-terrorism intelligence exchange, based in Baghdad. The meeting was attended by the Iranian, Russian and Syrian ambassadors to Baghdad and the Iraqi National Security Adviser, Qassim al-Araji, who discussed the security situation along the Iraqi-Syrian border and developments in the region (Fars, February 25). The center for intelligence exchange, which is comprised of representatives of Iraq, Iran, Russia and Syria, began operating in 2015 and is intended to bolster the intelligence and security cooperation between the four countries as part of the campaign against ISIS.
The meeting of the intelligence sharing center in Baghdad. Source: Fars, February 25
- The former Iraqi Prime Minister, Iyad al-Allawi, asserted in an interview to the Turkish news agency Anadolu (February 28) that since the outbreak of popular protests in Iraq’s south and center in 2019, during which protesters chanted against Iranian meddling in Iraq, Tehran’s influence in Iraq has diminished. He remarked that Iran still has influence over domestic Iraqi affairs, mostly due to the ongoing visits of the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Esmail Qa’ani, but compared to the pre-2019, Iran’s influence has grown weaker.
- On February 24, the Governor of Iraq’s Central Bank, Mustafa Ghalib Makhif, arrived for a visit to Iran. Makhif was accompanied by the executive director of Iraq’s Trade Bank and an adviser to the prime minister of Iraq. During his visit to Tehran, the bank governor met with the First Deputy President of Iran, Mohammad Mokhber, and with the Governor of Iran’s Central Bank, Ali Salehabadi, and discussed expanding commercial and banking ties between the two nations (Tabnak, February 24).
- On February 20, the President of Iran’s National Security University, Esmail Ahmadi Moghaddam, met with the Chief of Staff of Iraq’s Security Forces, Abdulamir Rashid Yarallah. During the meeting between the Iranian and Iraqi delegations, which was held in the headquarters of the Iraqi Ministry of Defense in Baghdad, the representatives of both countries discussed deepening cooperation between higher education institutions for military personnel in Iraq and Iraq (Shafaqna, February 20).
The meeting of the chief of staff or Iraq’s Security Forces with the president of the Iranian National Security University. Source: Shafaqna, February 20
- On February 22, the Governor of West Azerbaijan Province in northwestern Iran, Mohammad Sadegh Motamedian, arrived for a three-day visit to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. In the meeting with the Governor of Erbil Province, Omed Khoshnaw, Motamedian stated that Iran maintains good ties with Iraqi Kurdistan and wishes to assist it. He updated that in the coming year, a project to lay a railway track from Naqadeh in western Iran to the Tamarchin Border Crossing on the Iran-Iraq border will be completed, which will facilitate bolstering trade ties between Iran and the Kurdistan region. He added that in addition to the economic sphere, Iran and the Kurdistan region can expand their cooperation in the higher education and cultural spheres. He remarked that current, about 1,500 students from the Kurdistan region are studying in universities in Western Azerbaijan Province. The Erbil governor declared in the meeting that the Kurdistan Region wishes to maintain good neighborly relations with Iran and to expand ties with it further (IRNA, February 22).
The meeting between the governor of Erbil with the governor of West Azerbaijan province. Source: IRNA, February 22
Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan
- On February 23, the Special Envoy of the Iranian President for Afghan Affairs, Hassan Kazemi-Qomi, met in Kabul with the Foreign Minister of the Taliban governor, Amir Khan Muttaqi, and with the Energy Minister of the Taliban Governor, Mulla Abdul Latif Mansur. During the two meetings, the sides discussed political developments in Afghanistan, the economic crisis in Afghanistan and the water dispute between the two nations. Kazemi-Qomi expressed his country’s willingness to participate in joint investment ventures in Afghanistan in the sectors of mining, agriculture, energy and railways (Tasnim, February 23).
The meeting of the Iranian special envoy on Afghan affairs with the Taliban’s minister of foreign affairs. Source: Tasnim, February 23
- On February 18, the Iranian Ambassador to Afghanistan, Bahador Aminian, met with the Taliban’s Minister of Agriculture, Abdul Rahman Rashid, and expressed his country’s desire to cooperate with Afghanistan in the agricultural sector, invest in Afghanistan and purchase agricultural goods from it. He remarked that a robust agricultural sector will reduce emigration from Afghanistan to other countries. He criticized the United States, which according to him, did nothing to advance Afghanistan’s agricultural sector during its years of occupation. The Taliban minister stressed the need to advance Afghan agricultural from traditional work methods to modern ones. He remarked that Afghanistan has enough water, land and manpower, but that Afghanistan’s youth are emigrating to other countries, which is determinately affecting Afghanistan’s development. He asked the Iranian ambassador to cooperate with his country in various agriculture-related spheres, and particularly training of farmers, machination and fertilizer utilization (Tasnim, February 18).