Ceremonies marking the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic Revolution were held in Syria and Iraq, at the initiative of the Iranian embassies and consulates in Damascus, Baghdad and Erbil. The speakers used the events to highlight the alliance linking those countries, and to call for deepening ties even further.
The head of the Joint Iranian-Syrian Chamber of Commerce reported that the volume of trade between the two countries in the first nine months of the current Iranian year (March 2021 – January 2022) has risen by 90 percent, compared to the same period in the year prior. In parallel, the spokesman of Iranian Customs updated that the volume of Iranian exports to Iraq in the first ten months of the year has increased by over ten percent.
The Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Esmail Qa’ani, made a third visit to Iraq in the span of one month, against the backdrop of the ongoing government formation negotiations in Iraq. During his visit, Qa’ani met with the head of the Sadrist current, Muqtada al-Sadr.
Iranian pilgrims to Syrian and Iraq: The Syrian ambassador to Tehran met with the representative of the supreme leader of Iran on Hajj and pilgrimage affairs, and congratulated him for increasing the number of Iranian pilgrims visiting Syria. The Syrian official also stressed the commitment of his Syrian authorities to answer all the needs of the Iranian pilgrims. In the meantime, the Iranian ambassador to Iraq announced that the Iraqi prime minister promised Iranian authorities that starting next month, Iranian pilgrims entering Iraq through land crossings will not require a visa.
The Head of Hamas’ Politburo, Ismail Hanniyeh, sent a congratulatory message to the supreme leader of Iran, marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution.
The Iranian president received the letter of credence of the incoming Palestinian ambassador to Tehran, and stressed in their meeting his country’s unyielding commitment to support the Palestinians and “the resistance” against Israel.
Iran is continuing to supply shipments of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan. The Tasnim news agency reported that since the Taliban’s takeover of the country, Iran has provided 13 shipments of humanitarian assistance to Afghanistan’s citizens.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
The pro-opposition Syrian outlet, Ayn al-Furat, reported (February 13) about the arrival of additional supplies to the IRGC to the T-4 Military Airbase in Homs. According to this report, the provisions were comprised of eight trucks, covered in plastic tarps, accompanied by two busses carrying pro-Iranian militiamen, in addition to four military armored vehicles. The trucks entered Syria from Iraq through Deir Ezzor. The report also stated that the military vehicles transferred ammunition and heavy weaponry, in addition to two closed containers whose content is unknown.
On February 12, the Iranian embassy in Syria held a ceremony at the Sheraton Hotel in Damascus marking the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution. The ceremony was attended by the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus, Mehdi Sobhani, representatives of the Syrian regime, and Syrian, Lebanese and Palestinian clerics. During the ceremony, the Syrian Deputy Foreign Minister, Bashar Ja’fri, stated that Iran is Syria’s strategic partner, and that Damascus wishes to bolster cooperation with it in all spheres. He remarked that Syria was one of the first countries to back the Islamic revolution, and that is sees the Revolution as a source of support to the countries of the region, rather than a threat to them (ISNA, February 13).
The ceremony marking the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Damascus.
(Mehr, February 13)
Keyvan Kashefi, the Chairman of the Iranian-Syrian Joint Chamber of Commerce, reported that Iran and Syria intend to increase the volume of trade between them to 500 million dollars in 2022. He remarked that in the first nine months of the current Iranian year (March 2021 – January 2022), the volume of trade between the two countries rose by 90 percent compared to the same period last year, totaling 190 million dollars. He added that the Iranian and Syrian government have taken positive steps in various sectors, including transportation and banking, as well as issuing visas to traders, to encourage trade between the two countries. Kashefi added that about eight percent of the goods Iran exports to Iraq end up in the Syrian market (Tehran Times, February 8).
On February 8, the Syrian Ambassador to Iran, Shafik Ali Dayoub, met with Seyyed Abdul Fattah Nawab, the Representative of the Supreme Leader on Hajj and Pilgrimage Affairs, and discussed relations between the two nations, and the matter of the arrival of Iranian pilgrims to Damascus. Nawab pointed to the importance of the shrine of Zainab (sister of Imam Hussein) and shrine of Ruqaya (daughter of Imam Hussein) in Damascus for Muslims in general and the Shia in particular, and expressed hope that authorities in both countries will act as soon as possible to facilitate the travel of pilgrims to Damascus. The Syrian ambassador to Tehran welcomed the increase in the number of Iranian pilgrims to Syria, and stressed the commitment of his country’s authorities to answer all of their needs. In addition, the ambassador called for bolstering ties between clerics in both countries (IRNA, February 8).
The meeting of the supreme leader’s envoy on pilgrimage affairs with the Syrian ambassador to Tehran. (IRNA, February 8)
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
Iraqi sources reported that on February 8, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, met with the leader of the Sadrist current, Muqtada al-Sadr, in the family home of Sadr in al-Hanana, Najaf Province. The agency Shafaq News reported (February 9) that Qa’ani conveyed a message to al-Sadr from the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, about the importance of preserving the unity of the Shia camp under any circumstances. According to this report, al-Sadr responded to Khamenei stating that he is persisting in his efforts to form a majority government, and is refusing the participation in government of the State of Law Party, headed by the former Prime Minister, Nouri al-Maliki, who is considered close to Iran. This is the third visit of the Qods Force commander to Iraq in the span of one month, part of Iran’s intervention in the negotiations concerning the formation of a new government in Iraq. Meanwhile, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, addressed in his weekly press conference the visit of Esmail Qa’ani to northern Iraq in late January. He remarked that the visit is a manifestation of the Iranian effort to secure agreement and national unity in Iraq, with the participation of all groups in the country (Fars, March 7). During his visit, the Qods Force Commander, Qa’ani, met with senior officials of the Kurdistan region of Iraq and discussed with them the government formation talks.
On February 3, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke on the phone with his Iraqi counterpart, Fuad Hussein, and discussed bilateral relations and regional and global developments, including the crisis in Yemen, the Vienna nuclear talks, and the ongoing Iranian-Saudi talks, which are mediated by Iraq (ISNA, February 3). Two days later, the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, spoke on the phone with the Iraqi Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, and discussed bilateral relations and developments in Iraq. Raisi stated in the call that any act that harms Iraq’s stability and security, or its regional or international standing, must be condemned (Fars, February 5).
The Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, Iraj Masjedi, announced that starting next month, Iranian pilgrims entering Iraq will no longer require visas. In a speech he delivered on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad, Masjedi reported that Iraq’s Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, vowed to abrogate the requirement of obtaining a visa for Iranian pilgrims entering Iraq through land crossings. The ceremony marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution at the Iranian embassy in Baghdad was attended by several senior Iraqi officials, including Seyyed Amar al-Hakim, the head of the Hikma Bloc; the head of the Fath bloc in the Iraqi parliament, Hadi al-Ameri, the former Iraqi Prime Minister Adel Abdul Mahdi, foreign diplomats, Shia and Sunni clerics, tribal chiefs, and representatives of Iranian companies operating in Iraq (IRNA, February 11).
The ceremony marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in the Iranian embassy in Baghdad. (IRNA, February 11)
Ruhollah Latifi, the Spokesman of the Iranian Customs Authority, reported that in the first ten months of the current Iranian year (March 2021 – January 2022), the volume of Iranian exports to Iraq totaled in about 7.3 billion dollars. He remarked that this represents a rise of 12 percent in the weight of the exported goods, and a rise of 14 percent in the value of the goods compared to the same period the year prior. During the same period, Iran imported goods valued in about 920 million dollars, representing a 2,414% jump in the weight of the goods and 793% rise in the value of the goods. He remarked that most of the Iranian exports to Iraq include fish products, poultry, milk and agricultural products, along with machinery, minerals and construction materials. Most Iranian imports from Iraq are basic products or food stuffs, such as wheat, corn, soy, barley, palm oil and sugar (IRNA, February 6).
Iran’s Consul General in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq, Mehdi Shushtari, announced that an Iranian trade center will soon open its gates in the city. The center, which will include representative offices of over 100 Iranian firms, will provide various services in the trade, marketing, communication, and transportation sectors. In a meeting with businessmen in the Kermanshah Province in western Iran, Shushtari declared that expanding trade with Iran’s neighbors is one of the top priorities of the current Iranian government. He remarked that the Iraqi government is encouraging local production to support its local industry and is placing limitations on the import of goods from Iran. Therefore, Iranian companies that are able manufacture products inside Iraq should utilize this capacity to preserve their market share in Iraq. He added that Iraq is Iran’s second largest trade partner (after Iran) and that Turkey represents a major competitor to Iran in the Iraqi market (IRNA, February 12). Meanwhile, the Iranian Consul in Erbil, northern Iraq, Nasrollah Rashnoudi, declared that Iran will continue to stand by the Iraqi government and the Kurdish Regional Government, as it has done in the past. In a ceremony marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Iran, Rashnoudi declared that Iran believes that its neighbors can ensure their own security and stability. The Head of the Foreign Relations Department at the Kurdistan Regional Government, Sefin Dezaei, stated in the ceremony that Iran has significant influence in the region, and that its ties with the Kurdistan region in the political, economic, cultural and social spheres are robust, and that the opportunity should be seized to bolster them further (IRNA, February 13).
The ceremony marking the anniversary of the Islamic revolution in Erbil, northern Iraq. (IRNA, February 11)
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
The Head of Hamas’ Politburo, Ismail Hanniyeh, sent a congratulatory message to the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution. Hanniyeh wrote in the message that the victory of the Islamic revolution was a major achievement of the project of Islamic resistance and has brought into being a citadel impenetrable to Zionist-American terrorism. He added that Hamas and the Palestinian people are proud of Iran’s support for the Palestinian people and its just struggle (Fars, February 14).
On February 8, the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, accepted the letter of credence of the incoming Palestinian Ambassador to Tehran, Salam al-Zawawi. Raisi stated in the meeting with her that the support for the Palestinians and liberation of Jerusalem are the most important issue for the Muslim world, and that the Islamic Republic is a true champion of the Palestinian people. He added that the unity of all Palestinian groups and currents is the key to achieving victory against “the Zionist regime,” and that the joint mobilization of all Palestinian will eventually lead to the liberation of Jerusalem. He added that the message that the Palestinian people is sending to “the Zionist regime” and its supporters in the West is the message of resistance and perseverance. Raisi lambasted the decision of several Arab regime to normalize their relations with Israel, stating that they should know that their treacherous act will be met with condemnation by the entire Palestinian nation. He argued that not only will normalization with Israel fail to contribute to those countries’ security, but it will exacerbate their problems and increase the problems of the region and the Arab world. The Palestinian ambassador congratulated President Raisi on the occasion of the 43rd anniversary of the Islamic revolution and thanked him for Iran’s support to the Palestinian people (ILNA, February 8).
The meeting between the Iranian president and the incoming Palestinian ambassador to Tehran. (ILNA, February 8)
Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan
In early February, an additional shipment of Iranian humanitarian assistance was shipped to Afghanistan. The assistance was distributed to needy Afghans in Sarpol Province, in the country’s north. The shipment included 30 tonnes of flour, rice and oil. Every family in Sozma Qala in Sorpal Province received a bag of flour weighing 50 kilograms, a sack of rice weighing ten kilograms, and a bottle of oil containing five litres. The Tasnim news agency reported (February 6) that during the distribution of the assistance, the governor of the province was in attendance. According to Tasnim’s report, Iran has thus far provided 13 shipments of humanitarian assistance to the provinces of Kabul, Heran, Kunduz, Kandahar and Nangahar in Afghanistan. Meanwhile, the New York Times reported (February 2) that since October 2021 and until the end of January 2022, over one million Afghans fled their country to Iran, crossing the border in southwestern Afghanistan. International humanitarian organizations asses that between 4,000 to 5,000 people have been crossing the border daily since the Taliban’s takeover of the country.
Deployment of a shipment of humanitarian goods from Iran to Afghanistan.
(Tasnim, February 6)
The Iranian deputy Ambassador to Kabul, Seyyed Hassan Mortazavi, stated in an interview to the IRNA news agency (February 10) that Iran will continue providing humanitarian and economic assistance to Afghans. He claimed that no other country has helped the Afghan people as much as Iran has in the past six months. He added that Iran is investing a great deal of effort in promoting dialogue between the Taliban authorities and Afghanistan’s former leadership, but that it is not meddling in internal Afghan affairs.