The Syrian deputy foreign minister met in Tehran with the first deputy of the Iranian president and discussed ways to expand cooperation between the two countries.
The Saudi al-Arabiya TV channel reported that the Commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Hossein Salami, paid a secret visit to Syria in mid-July to discuss the future of the Iranian entrenchment in Syria, and the “mistreatment” of the pro-Iranian militias by the Assad regime. The report was not confirmed by any other sources.
A pro-opposition Syrian website reported about the halt of the activities of Iranian institutions and associations that carried out construction and development projects in the compound of the Seyyeda Zeinab Shrine south of Damascus. The report, whose credibility is uncertain, did not provide an explanation for this cessation of activity.
On July 27, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, arrived for a visit to Baghdad against the backdrop of the ongoing efforts to form a new government in Iraq. His visit co-occurred with protests of members of the Sadrist Current, led by Muqtada al-Sadr, against Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani, the candidate to the prime minister position of the Coordination Framework (the bloc of pro-Iranian parties).
The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs condemned the July 20 shelling carried out by Turkey on northern Iraq, which resulted in the death of eight civilians.
In early August, the Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhleh, visited Tehran and met with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs, and with the chairman of the Strategic Council on Foreign Relations.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
On July 21, the First Deputy of the President of Iran, Mohammad Mokhber, met with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faysal Mekdad, who arrived for a visit in Tehran. Mokhber declared in the meeting that Iran sees great importance in the security, independence and territorial integrity of Syria, and called for expanding ties between the two countries. He remarked that the Iranian strategy is to expand the economic and trade cooperation between Tehran and Damascus and stressed the importance of removing barriers hindering the activities of the private sector in both countries. He added that the economic ties between Iran and Syria are yet to reach the depth of the political ties between them and highlighted the need to expand banking sector cooperation to allow for expanding joint investment and economic cooperation. The Syrian minister of foreign affairs thanked Iran for its unyielding support to Syria and stated that Damascus will never forget Iran’s assistance. He stated that his country is working to remove barriers that are impeding the deepening of cooperation with Iran (ISNA, July 21).
The Saudi al-Arabiya TV channel reported (July 22) that the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, arrived in mid-July for a secret visit to Syria to discuss the ongoing efforts to entrench Iran’s presence in Syria, and the alleged “mistreatment” of pro-Iranian militias by the Assad regime. The channel further reported that Iran is refusing to remove its forces from military bases in Syria and has the backing of elements within the Syrian Army, who approve of its continued presence.
Iran International TV channel, which is affiliated with the Iranian opposition and operates from the United Kingdom, reported (July 27) that the Iranian strike on the Damascus International Airport on June 10 caused severe damage to the operation of two Iranian airlines, Caspian Air and Qeshm Fars Air, which operate at the service of the IRGC. According to the report, which is based on Western intelligence sources, the flights of the two companies were halted following this extraordinarily heavy strike. According to the report, Mahan Air, which also operates at the service of the IRGC, increase the volume of its flights by about 30 percent (mostly to the Aleppo International Airport) to make up for the suspension of the work of the two other companies.
The pro-opposition Syrian news website, Sawt al-Aseema, reported (July 27) that several Iranian associations and institutions recently halted their activity in the compound surrounding the Seyyeda Zainab Shrine south of Damascus. According to this report, most of the Iranian institutions, chief among them Jihad al-Binaa’, stopped their work and all projects in the area, for reasons unknown. The Iranian bodies stopped the construction of all hotels and guesthouses meant for Shia pilgrims, Shia schools, parks and communal and social centers, among other projects. Some of the projects that were halted were only partially completed. The report also claimed that several of the Iranian and Iraqi engineers who were responsible for the implementation of the projects left the area along with their families, while the Syrian laborers employed in constructing the projects, were fired. The reliability of the report is unclear.
On July 26, the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus, Mehdi Sobhani, met with representatives of Iranian oil companies, which participated in SyrPetro 2022, the oil, gas and energy fair in Syria. Over 60 Syrian and international companies working in the field of oil and energy participated in the fair (ISNA, July 26).
On July 31, the IRGC announced that the bodies of five IRGC fighters who were killed during the Syrian civil war in the area of Khan Touman, southwest of Aleppo, were located and identified through DNA testing. The five bodies, two of them belonging to high-ranking officers, were returned for burial in Iran (Fars, July 31). The fighting that took place in Khan Touman in the first half of 2016 between pro-Iranian militias, Lebanese Hezbollah, the IRGC and Syrian soldiers and militiamen, against a coalition of rebel groups led by Jabhat al-Nusra, resulted in the death of dozens of pro-Assad fighters, among them Iranians. In recent years, the IRGC made an effort to locate and identify the remains of the missing fighters. In October 2020, the IRGC was also to locate and identify eight other bodies of Iranian fighters killed in the same area (ILNA, October 11, 2020).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
On July 27, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, arrived for a visit in Iraq against the backdrop of an escalating political crisis in the country and failed efforts to form a new government. According to a number of Iraqi reports, during his visit to Baghdad, Qa’ani met with representatives of the Coordination Framework (the bloc of Shia pro-Iranian parties) to further the nomination of Muhammad Shia’ al-Sudani to position of prime minister of Iraq. al-Sudani was elected by the Coordination Framework as its candidate on July 25 (al-Arabiya, July 27). In parallel to Qa’ani’s visit, supporters of the leader of the Sadrist Current, Muqtada Sadr, stormed the Green Zone in Baghdad, to protest against the nomination of al-Sudani. The Sadrists broke into the parliament twice and currently maintain a sit-in there to prevent any vote from taking place.
The Shafaq News Agency reported (July 27) that the representatives of the Coordination Framework stressed during their meeting with Qa’ani their determination to nominate al-Sudani to the role of prime minister, despite the protests of members of the Sadrist Current in Baghdad and southern Iraq. The news agency reported that during his visit, Qa’ani also met with Bafel Talabani, the Chairman of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan Party (PUK) and discussed with him the matter of the nominee to the role of president of Iraq, which is disputed between the PUK and the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP). During his visit to Iraq, Qa’ani also paid a visit to the holy Shia city of Karbala (Dijlah TV, July 29).
Addressing the situation in Iraq, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, stated that Iran is carefully monitoring the sensitive developments in Iraq, which stem from internal disagreements, adding that the matter is a domestic Iraqi one. He remarked that Iran believes that Iraq’s security affects the entire region. He claimed that Iran respects the choice of the Iraqi people and believes that the Iraqi currents and parties can overcome the current situation, in a peaceful and constitutionally sanctioned manner, and that dialogue is the best path for solving domestic problems (ISNA, August 1).
The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, condemned the Turkish shelling on July 20 toward the area of Zakho in northern Iraq. The shelling resulted in the killing of eight Iraqi vacationers and the injury of 23 more civilians. Kanani expressed his condolences to the Iraqi people, and particularly the families of those killed, and stressed Iran’s support for stability and security in the country. He added that Iran sees Iraq’s security as its own (IRNA, July 21).
On July 25, the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, met with the Head of the United Nations Assistance Mission for Iraq, Jeanine Antoinette Plasschaert. In the meeting, the Iranian ambassador stressed the need to maintain Iraq’s sovereignty and stability, and speed-up the process of forming a new government in Baghdad. Additionally, the two discussed the UN’s involvement in development programs in Iraq (ISNA, July 25).
The Head of the Cinema Organization of Iran, Mohammad Khazaei, and the Head of Department of Cinema and Theater at the Iraqi Ministry of Culture, Ahmed Hassan Musa, signed an agreement concerning bilateral cooperation in the field of cinema. The signing ceremony was attended by the Iraqi Minister of Culture and Tourism, Hassan Nazim, and the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh. According to the agreement, the two countries will cooperate in producing cinematic and documentary movies as well as other cinematic projects, and will hold joint film festivals (Fars, July 25).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
In early August, the Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhleh, arrived for a visit to Tehran. On August 2, al-Nakhle met with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, and with the Chairman of the Iranian Strategic Council for Foreign Relations, Kamal Kharazi. During the meeting, Kharazi proclaimed that the “Zionist regime is an Apartheid regime” that is destined to fall. He stated that the support for the Islamic resistance in Palestine is part of Iran’s grand strategy and that “the Zionist regime” is now encircled by the “resistance.” He added that the most recent visit of Joe Biden, the U.S. President, to the Middle East, ended in failure. During the meeting, al-Nakhle thanked Iran for its ongoing support for the Palestinians and expressed confidence in the final victory of the “resistance forces across the region” against “the Zionist regime” (ISNA, August 2).
The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Nasser Kanani, condemned the destruction of several Palestinian structures near Jericho by the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF). He remarked that the demolition of Palestinian structures east of Jericho by the “Zionist Army” is a testament to the daily actions of the occupation, which include destruction, shooting, killing, violence, repression, arrest – even of children, destruction of agricultural lands, and uprooting of trees. He added that “the continuation of this barbarity,” stemming from unrelenting American support, will not change the inevitable fate of the “Zionist Apartheid regime” (Tasnim, July 28).