On March 9, 2023, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Hossein Abdollahian arrived in Syria for a visit. While there he met with members of the Syrian leadership, headed by President Bashar al-Assad, and was taken to visit locations struck by the earthquake which occurred on February 6, 2023.
The Iranian media reported that Esmail Ghaani, the commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps’ (IRGC) Qods Force, arrived in Syria for a visit in the middle of March 2023. While there he was taken to visit locations struck by the earthquake; it was his second visit to Syria since February 6.
Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, interviewed by al-Jazeera TV, said Iran provided the Palestinian “resistance” [anti-Israeli terrorist activities] with political, financial and military aid, and had continued its support even after Hamas left Syria in 2013.
On March 19, 2023, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme National Security Council, arrived in Baghdad and signed an agreement for securing the Iranian-Iraqi border. While there he met with the Iraqi prime minister and the advisor for Iraqi national security. A few days earlier the Iraqi minister of finance visited Baghdad and signed an agreement for bilateral financial cooperation.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
On March 9, 2023, Iranian Foreign Minister Amir Hossein Abdollahian arrived in Syria from a visit to Turkey. In Syria he met with members of the leadership, led by President Bashar al-Assad. He was taken to visit regions in Latakia, in northwest Syria, which had been struck by the earthquake. He said the Iranian Red Crescent and IRGC had extended support to the Syrians immediately after the earthquake, adding that Iran would continue supporting Syria until it overcame the crisis (IRNA, March 9, 2023).
Amir Hossein Abdollahian and Bashar al-Assad held a meeting where they discussed regional and international developments. Abdollahian noted the need to lift the economic sanctions imposed by the West on Syria and condemned Israel’s attacks. He said the “Zionist regime” was trying to deflect public opinion from Israel’s problematic internal situation. Assad thanked Iran for its help after the earthquake and noted the need to strengthen bilateral relations (Iranian foreign ministry website, March 9, 2023).
On March 16, 2023, Esmail Ghaani, commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, arrived in Syria for a visit, during which he was taken to visit the areas struck by the earthquake in the Aleppo and Latakia governorates in the northwest part of the country. It was his second visit to Syria since the earthquake (Tasnim, March 17, 2023). In early February he came to oversee Iranian aid activities for the earthquake victims.
On March 19, 2023, Kamal Kharazi, head of Iran’s Strategic Council on Foreign Relations, and Abbas Araghchi, former deputy Iranian foreign minister, who today serves as Council secretary, arrived in Syria to participate in a seminar about Iranian foreign policy, held by the Syrian foreign ministry’s Center for Diplomacy. While in Damascus the two met with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Faisal Mekdad and Syrian Minister of Muslim Endowments Abdul Sattar al-Sayyed (ISNA and Entekhab, March 20, 2023). Meeting with the minister of Muslim endowments, both Iranians warned of the “West’s plot” to create dissention among Muslims for the benefit of the “apartheid Zionist regime” (ILNA, March 20, 2023).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
Khalil al-Haya, a member of Hamas’ political bureau, said Iran stood by the “Palestinian resistance” [anti-Israeli terrorist activities] “with all its capabilities.” Interviewed by al-Jazeera TV on March 19, 2023, he said Iran gave the “resistance” political, financial and military aid even after Hamas left Syria in 2013.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
On March 19, 2023, Ali Shamkhani, secretary of Iran’s Supreme Council for National Security, arrived in Baghdad for a visit. While there he signed an agreement to secure the Iranian-Iraqi border. The agreement was also signed by Qasim al-Araji, the Iraqi national security advisor, in the presence of Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shaya al-Sudani. The Iranian media reported that the agreement would lead to the reduction of bilateral tensions and management of unwanted security crises caused by the hostile activities of “anti-revolutionary organizations in Kurdistan.” Meeting with the Iraqi prime minister, Shamkhani said Iran supported a strong, cohesive, united Iraq, and called for the complete removal of every factor creating tension and internal and external crisis in the border region. He also called for joint economic projects, including a railroad between Shalamcheh in western Iran and Basra. The Iraqi prime minister noted his country’s determination to implement agreements signed by the two countries, especially economic agreements, and said signing the security agreement indicated that the leaderships of both countries did not distinguish between the security of the two countries (ISNA, March 19, 2023).
On March 12, 2023, Iraqi President Abdullatif Jamal Rashid met with Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, who presented him with an invitation from Iranian President Ebrahim Raisi to visit Tehran. The Iraqi president thanked the ambassador and said he would accept the invitation at the earliest possible opportunity. He also praised the renewal of diplomatic relations between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and noted the importance of Iranian-Iraqi cooperation in strengthening regional security. The Iranian ambassador thanked the president for the efforts Iraq made to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia, and noted Tehran’s desire to strengthen cooperation with Baghdad for their mutual benefit (Fars, March 12, 2023).
The Iranian ambassador also met with Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shaya al-Sudani. They discussed bilateral relations and ways to develop them. The ambassador thanked al-Sudani of his efforts to mediate between Iran and Saudi Arabia (al-Ayam, March 13, 2023).
On March 13, 2023, Iranian Finance Minister Ehsan Khandouzi paid a visit to Baghdad to participate in the fifth Iran-Iraqi economic conference. While in Baghdad he met with Iraqi Minister of Trade Atheer al-Ghurairi. They discussed bilateral trade activities and signed an agreement for economic cooperation in the fields of transportation, trade, energy, electricity, gas, water and banking (Mehr, March 13, 2023).
On March 16, Iraqi Prime Minister Mohammed Shaya al-Sudani met with a delegation of the families of 27 Iranians who had been killed in combat against ISIS in Iraq. The delegation, headed by Iranian Shaheed Foundation Chairman Amir-Hossein Ghazizadeh, arrived in Baghdad at the invitation of the Iraq government. They also met with Iraqi Shaheed Institution Chairman Abdulillah al-Naeli and visited Shi’ite shrines in Iraq as well as the site where Qassem Soleimani, IRGC Qods Force’s commander, and Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis a high-ranking commander in the Iraqi Shi’ite militias, were killed (IRNA, March 16, 2023).