Spotlight on Iran

June 10 - June 24, 2021 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
Ebrahim Raisi visiting southern Lebanon in February 2018 (al-Arabiya, February 8, 2018)

Ebrahim Raisi visiting southern Lebanon in February 2018 (al-Arabiya, February 8, 2018)

The Iranian ambassador presenting his credentials to President Assad (IRNA, June 13)

The Iranian ambassador presenting his credentials to President Assad (IRNA, June 13)

The Iranian minister of transportation and urban development upon his arrival in Damascus. (Mehr, June 16)

The Iranian minister of transportation and urban development upon his arrival in Damascus. (Mehr, June 16)

The press conference of president-elect Raisi. (Fars, June 21)

The press conference of president-elect Raisi. (Fars, June 21)

Overview
  •  Leaders of the “Resistance Front” and Middle Eastern officials congratulated the elected Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, for his victory in the presidential elections, held on June 18, and wished him success in his role. Among those who congratulated Raisi are Syrian President al-Assad; the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Nasrallah; the Prime Minister of Iraq, al-Kazimi; Iraqi President, Salih; the president of the Kurdistan Regional Government; the Shia pro-Iranian militias in Iraq; and the Palestinian factions Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad. In his first press conference after his victory, Raisi stressed Iran’s commitment to continue supporting the Palestinians, and declared that Iran’s regional activities are not up for negotiation.
  • Iran’s incoming Ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, presented his credentials to Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad.
  • An Iranian delegation made up of senior economic officials, headed by Iran’s minister of transportation and urban development, conducted a visit to Syria, lasting several days, and met with senior Syrian officials. During the visit, a conference was held in Damascus focusing on expanding economic cooperation between the two countries and ways to overcome the barriers hindering the deepening of economic relations between the two countries.
  • The Lebanese paper al-Akhbar reported that the head of Hamas’ Politburo, Ismail Haniyeh, intends to visit Iran soon and meet with senior regime officials in Tehran.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • On June 13, Iran’s incoming Ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, presented his credentials to Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad. The ceremony was attended by Syria’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faysal al-Miqdad, and the Minister of Presidential Affairs, Mansour Azzam (IRNA, June 13). Sobhani, who was posted in Syria in May, previously served as the executive director for strategic planning at the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs; a general consul of Iran in Karachi, Pakistan; deputy executive director of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs for west Asian affairs; and the deputy ambassador in Turkmenistan and the Ukraine. He replaced Javad Torkabadi in his position as ambassador to Damascus.
  • On June 15, the Iranian Minister of Transportation and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami, arrived for a visit in Syria at the helm of a delegation made up of senior economic officials. During his visit, the minister met with senior Syrian government officials, including the Prime Minister, Hussein Arnous, and the ministers of economy, trade, housing, and transportation. Upon his arrival in Damascus, the Iranian minister declared that Tehran and Damascus decided to expand the economic cooperation between them, particularly in the sectors of reconstruction and development. He remarked that the two countries discussed all the issues and factors that may facilitate productive cooperation during Syria’s phase of reconstruction. Eslami added that the abilities of the Iranian private sector in the sectors of industry and development should be utilized in furthering joint projects between the two countries (ILNA, June 16).
  • During the visit of the Iranian minister of transportation to Syria, the two countries held a conference intended to discuss ways to deepen their economic cooperation and how to overcome obstacles hindering the expansion of trade between them. The conference was held in Damascus in the Joint Iranian-Syria Chamber of Commerce and was attended by industrialists, businessmen, traders and representatives of the Joint Chamber of Commerce, the Syrian Union of Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture, and Iran’s Trade Center. The Syrian Minister of Economy and External Trade, Mohammad Samer al-Khalil, stressed during his speech at the conference the need to elevate the level of trade ties between the two countries and to expand the cooperation in the spheres of investments and joint projects, led by both the private and public sectors. He urged the Chambers of Commerce, Industry and Agriculture and the Joint Chamber of Commerce of the two countries to present a list of possible products that could be traded between the countries (Tasnim, June 19). Meanwhile, the Secretary on Syrian Affairs in the Arab-African Department of the Iranian Organization of Trade Development, Soheila Rasoulinejad, reported that the volume of Iranian exports to Syria in the first three months of the current Iranian year (March 21, 2021 – June 21, 2021) has increased by 73 percent compared to the volume during the same period last year, and has risen to 48 million dollars (IRNA, June 19).
  • Syria’s President, Bashar al-Assad, congratulated the newly elected Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, for his victory in the elections held on June 18. In his congratulatory message sent to Raisi, the Syrian president wished him success and expressed hope for deepening the cooperation between the two countries (Tasnim, June 20). The Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah, also sent a congratulatory message to Raisi, in which he remarked that his victory ignites new hope among the people of the region. He expressed hope that Raisi will support Hezbollah and the “resistance” (IRNA, June 20).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • During his weekly press conference, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, addressed the most recent visit of the Commander of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Esmail Qa’ani, to Iraq. He remarked that a visit, carried out upon the invitation of governments and leaders of countries, is a natural matter, and that the spokesman of the IRGC can provide additional clarifications with regards to Qa’ani’s visit, which lasted five days. Khatibzadeh also addressed in the remarks his own visit to Iraq, during the first half of June, reporting that during the visit, he discussed with senior Iraqi officials expanding economic and diplomatic cooperation between the two countries, and abolishing the need to obtain pre-arrival visas for travelers between the two countries (ISNA, June 14). The commander of the Qods Force of the IRGC arrived for a visit in Iran on June 9 and held meetings with senior Iraqi government officials, politicians, and commanders of the Shia militias. His visit was held against the backdrop of ongoing attacks by pro-Iranian Shia militias against American targets in Iraq. The website al-Araby al-Jadeed reported (June 11) that during his visit, Qa’ani met with the head of the Popular Mobilization Units (PMU, al-Hashd al-Shaabi), Abu Fadak al-Mohammadawi.
  • The Iraqi President, Barham Salih, and the Prime Minister, Mustafa al-Kazimi, congratulated the incoming Iranian President, Ibrahim Raisi, for his election victory. Kazimi, who spoke with Raisi on the phone, discussed with the incoming president the expansion of cooperation between the two countries (ISNA, June 19). The President of the Kurdistan Regional Government, Nechirvan Barzani, also congratulated Raisi and stressed the need to bolster cooperation between the Kurdish region and Iran. The Shia pro-Iranian militias in Iraq, including Kataeb Hezbollah, also sent congratulatory messages to Raisi upon his election victory (Tasnim, June 20).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • The Lebanese newspaper al-Akhbar (June 11) reported that the Head of Hamas’ Politburo, Ismail Hanniyeh, intends to visit Iran soon and meet with senior regime officials, including the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and the outgoing President, Hassan Rouhani, as well as IRGC officials. Hanniyeh is also set to visit Lebanon and meet with senior Lebanese government officials and the Secretary General of Hezbollah, Hassan Nasrallah.
  • During in the first press conference, he held after the announcement of his victory, Iran’s President-Elect, Ebrahim Raisi, stressed Iran’s commitment to continue supporting the Palestinians. In response to a question raised by the reporter of the Lebanese al-Mayadin TV Channel, Raisi stated that the Palestinians are the owners of Palestine and that the “Zionist regime” ought to fear the residents of Palestine more than it fears Iran. He argued that the initiative is now in the hands of the Palestinian fighters and that Iran will continue to support them. The president-elect also reiterated Iran’s official position that its regional activities and missile program are not up for negotiations (Fars, June 21). Following Raisi’s election victory, Hamas and Palestinian Islamic Jihad issued statements of support for the president-elect, wished him success and called on Iran to continue supporting the Palestinian people (al-Alam, June 19).