Spotlight on Iran

May 26, 2022 – June 9, 2022 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
The meeting of the Syrian minister of foreign affairs with the Iranian ambassador to Damascus (ILNA, May 26)

The meeting of the Syrian minister of foreign affairs with the Iranian ambassador to Damascus (ILNA, May 26)

The meeting of the Syrian minister of industry with the adviser of the deputy president of Iran (Tasnim, May 28)

The meeting of the Syrian minister of industry with the adviser of the deputy president of Iran (Tasnim, May 28)

The visit of the Iranian ambassador in Damascus to the flour mill being constructed by an Iranian company (ISNA, May 29)

The visit of the Iranian ambassador in Damascus to the flour mill being constructed by an Iranian company (ISNA, May 29)

The meeting between the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad with the Governor of the Iraqi Central Bank (ISNA, June 6)

The meeting between the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad with the Governor of the Iraqi Central Bank (ISNA, June 6)

The representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Tehran (Jamaran, June 2)

The representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Tehran (Jamaran, June 2)

The meeting of the Iranian deputy ambassador to Kabul with the Taliban government’s minister for refugee affairs (Fars, May 30)

The meeting of the Iranian deputy ambassador to Kabul with the Taliban government’s minister for refugee affairs (Fars, May 30)

The visit of the Iranian delegation to Kandahar (Fars, June 5)

The visit of the Iranian delegation to Kandahar (Fars, June 5)

Overview
  • The chairman of the Majlis’ National Security Committee denied the reports concerning the withdrawal of Russian forces from Syria and their substitution by Iranian-backed forces. In an interview, the senior Iranian official stated that Russia and Iran are maintaining their presence in Syria based on an invitation of Syria’s recognized government, and none of the two is taking the place of the other.
  • Iranian media and senior officials in Tehran warned of a possible Turkish military operation in northern Syria. The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that Iran opposes any military action in Syria and Iraq that violates the sovereignty and territorial integrity of those counties.
  • A Syrian pro-opposition outlet reported about the reinforcement of pro-Iranian militias along the Jordan-Syrian border, aiming to secure the drug and weapon smuggling routes from Syria to Jordan. The report was published following clashes between Jordanian security services and smugglers of drugs and weaponry attempting to cross from Syria.
  • The chairman of the Joint Iranian-Syrian Chamber of Commerce reported at the start of a conference concerning economic development and cooperation between the two countries, that the volume of Iranian exports to Syria has doubled over the past year. Meanwhile, the secretary of the Iranian Supreme Committee for Free Trade Zones announced that Iran and Syria intent to establish a joint free trade zone of the two countries.
  • The Iranian president spoke on the phone with the prime minister of Iraq and welcomed the decision of the Iraqi parliament to ban normalization with Israel. He called on the Iraqi prime minister to accelerate the project of laying the railway connecting southwestern Iran to southern Iraq.
  • The Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhleh, stated in an interview on the occasion of the 33rd anniversary of the passing of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, that the Islamic Revolution changed the balance of power in the region, and gave the people of the region, and particularly the Palestinians, greater courage to resist the policies of the United States and Israel.
  • In mid-June, a delegation of the Iranian embassy to Kabul visited Kandahar Province in southern Afghanistan and met with Taliban officials based in the province. The two sides discussed bilateral relations and expanding trade ties. In addition, the delegation paid a visit to eastern Afghanistan, the first such visit since the Taliban’s takeover of Afghanistan.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • The Chairman of the Majlis’ National Security Council, Vahid Jalalzadeh, stated in an interview to the Iranian Arabic-language TV station, al-Alam (June 1), that the reports concerning Iranian forces substituting Russian soldiers who had withdrawn from Syria following the war in Ukraine are baseless. He claimed that Russia and Iran are present in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government, and that none of the two is taking the place of the other. He added that Iran came to the assistance of the “resistance front” and the government of Syria, and as long as Syria is interested in the Iranian presence, Iran welcomes this role. Addressing the visit of Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, to Tehran in May, Jalalzadeh stated that the visit was intended to secure the interests of both countries in all spheres, including the economic one, for example by addressing challenges facing the movement of goods from Iran to Syria through the ground route passing in Iraq.
  • On May 26, the Iranian Ambassador to Damascus, Mehdi Sobhani, met with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad. In the meeting, the two officials discussed developments in the regional and international arenas, and bilateral cooperation (ILNA, May 26).
  • The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, condemned the ongoing Turkish military activity in the border areas of Syria and Iraq. In response to a question concerning Turkish military actions in northern Syria and Iraq, Khatibzadeh stated that Iran opposes all military actions and use of force in Syria and Iraq, and sees them as a violation of those countries’ territorial integrity and national sovereignty. He added that Iran understands Turkey’s security concerns, but insists that the only way to solve them is through negotiations and abiding by agreements reached between Turkey and its neighbors, as well as agreements reached through the Astana negotiations process concerning the war in Syria (Tasnim, May 28). Meanwhile, the website Mashregh News, which is affiliated with the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), warned (May 30) of the consequences of expanding Turkish military action in northern Syria. The commentary argued that Turkey is using the presence of Kurdish militias in northern Syria as an excuse to continue occupying territories in Syria, to later use as a bargaining chip in negotiations with Syria concerning the settlement of the war.
  • A Syrian pro-opposition website specializing in southern Syria reported that hundreds of Lebanese Hezbollah militants, Afghan Fatemiyoun Brigade fighters operating under IRGC control, and soldiers in the 4th Division of the Syrian Army, have deployed in recent days along the Syrian-Jordanian border. According to this report, the reinforcement of pro-Iranian forces is intended to secure the routes used for smuggling drugs and weapons from Syria to Jordan. Meanwhile, Jordan’s official news agency reported about clashes that erupted in recent days between Jordanian security services and smugglers attempting to bring in drugs and weapons into Jordan, during which one smuggler was killed (Tajamu’ Ahrar Horan, June 2).
  • On June 6, Saeed Mohammad, an adviser to the president of Iran, and the Secretary of the Iranian Supreme Council for Trade and Economic Free Zones, met in Tehran with the Executive Director of the Syrian Organization for Free Trade Zones, Iyad Kusa. The two officials discussed expanding economic and trade cooperation between the two countries. The Iranian official remarked that Tehran and Damascus intend to establish a shared free trade zone. The Syrian official declared that there is nothing preventing the establishment of a free trade zone, and that Syria is eager for any cooperation in this sphere (Mehr, June 6).
  •  On May 28, the Syrian Minister of Trade, Ziad Sabbagh, met with the Adviser to the Deputy President of Iran and the Secretary of the Office for Expanding Economic Ties between Syria and Iran, Abbas Akbari. The Syrian minister asserted that coordination between the two countries is crucial for winning the economic war waged against them and for overcoming the sanctions imposed on the “axis of resistance” countries. In the meeting, the two discussed promoting joint economic projects and the participation of Iranian companies in Syria’s reconstruction (Tasnim, May 28).
  • Speaking at a conference for economic developments and cooperation in Iran and Syria held in Tehran, Kivan Kashefi, the Chairman of the Joint Iranian-Syrian Chamber of Commerce, reported that the volume of Iranian exports to Syria doubled over the past year. The Syrian Ambassador to Iran, Shafiq Dayoub, declared during the conference that the Syrian government is interested in bolstering economic cooperation with Iran, and is willing to remove any obstacles facing the Iranian private sector in their business dealings in Syria. He remarked that although the volume of trade between the two countries doubled in the past year, it has not yet achieved the desired target (IRNA, May 30).
  • On May 29, the Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, visited a flour mill in the town of Salhab, northwest of Hama, which is being constructed by an Iranian company. The statement of the Iranian embassy stated that the mill will be able to produce 300 tonnes of flour daily, and that 90 percent of the construction process has been completed (IRNA, May 29).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • On May 29, the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, spoke on the phone with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kazimi. Raisi called for the speedy formation of a new government in Baghdad and praised the decision of the Iraqi parliament to ban normalization with Israel. In addition, the two officials discussed the unusually frequent sandstorms that have hit Iran and Iraq recently, and the need for bilateral cooperation on this matter. Raisi also stressed the need to accelerate the project of laying the railway connecting Shalamcheh in southwestern Iran with Basra in southern Iraq, and asked the Iraqi prime minister to facilitate the visit of Iranian pilgrims to Karbala on the occasion of Arbaeen, marking the end of the 40 days of mourning over the death of the Shia Imam Hussein Bin Ali (ISNA, May 29).
  • Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, welcomed the decision of the Iraqi parliament banning normalization with Israel or maintaining any ties with is. On his Twitter account, the ambassador wrote (May 26) that he congratulates the members of parliament for passing this law, which according to him, represents a new and dignified link in the chain of proud and brave decisions of the Iraqi people concerning crucial matters facing the Islamic nation.
  • On June 1, the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh met with the Iraqi Minister of Industry, Manhal al-Khabbaz. In the meeting, the two discussed bilateral relations and the possibility of expanding industrial ties between the two nations (ISNA, June 1).
  •  On June 6, the Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh met with the Governor of the Iraqi Central Bank, Mustafa Ghaleb, and discussed cooperation between the two nations in the banking sectors, the matter of the Iraqi debt to Iran for purchased electricity and gas, challenges facing Iranian companies exporting technical and engineering services to Iraq, and the operation of branches of Iranian banks in Iraq (ISNA, June 6).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, addressed the events of Jerusalem Day held on May 29 and condemned the “defiling of the holiness of the al-Aqsa Mosque by the racist Zionists and the attack of the occupiers of Jerusalem on the residents and defenders of Jerusalem.” Khatibzadeh praised the “resilient stance and resistance” of the Palestinians, warned of “provocations by the Zionists,” and called on Muslim countries to unite in defending Jerusalem and the struggle against the “Zionist Apartheid regime.” Additionally, the spokesman of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs called on international organizations to fulfil their legal obligation to prevent the ongoing Israeli aggression against the Palestinian people. He declared that the “resistance front” will not fail in defending the al-Aqsa Mosque and in the struggle against the “terrorist actions of the fake regime of Israel.” (ISNA, May 30)
  • The Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhleh, declared in a speech marking the 33rd anniversary of the death of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, that the Islamic Republic of Iran has always supported the resistance of the Palestinian people. He averred that the Islamic Revolution in Iran upended the regional balance of power and gave the people of the region, and particularly the Palestinians, greater courage to resist the policies of the United States and the “occupier Zionist regime,” which is the central enemy of the Islamic and Arab nation (Mehr, June 3).
  •  In an interview to the Iranian news website Jamaran (June 2), the Representative of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad in Iran, Nasser Abu Sharif, stated that the Islamic Revolution in Iran has had a great and deep impact on the entire region, particularly on the Palestinian cause. In an interview on the occasion of the anniversary of the passing of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Khomeini, Abu Sharif argued that Khomeini’s goal was for all the people of the region and the Islamic nation to understand that the Zionists and Israel are the enemies of the region and the nation who want to steal the resources of the area and prevent it from progressing. Therefore, they are not merely enemies of Palestine, but of Iran, the Arab world and the Islamic one as well. He remarked that the current Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, is continuing in the path of the leader of the Islamic Revolution.
Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan
  • On May 29, the Deputy Iranian Ambassador to Kabul, Seyyed Hassan Mortazavi, met with the Minister on Refugee Affairs of the Taliban government, Khalil al-Rahman Haqqani, and discussed the visit of a Taliban delegation to Tehran to discuss the problems facing Afghan refugees in Iran. The Iranian deputy ambassador remarked that in light of the conditions affecting Afghanistan in recent months, Iran has had to absorb a large number of Afghan refugees, and that this necessitates coordination with the Taliban government to address the problems of those refugees (Fars, May 30).
  • A delegation of the Iranian embassy in Kabul headed by the Deputy Ambassador, Seyyed Hassan Mortazevi, and the Iranian Consul General to Kandahar, Alireza Hajizadeh, visited Kandahar in southern Afghanistan and met with the Governor of the Province, Haji Mohammad Yousif Wafa, and the official in charge of foreign relations in the province, Maulavi Abdul Shukor Haqqani. The members of the delegation stressed Iran’s ongoing support for Afghanistan and discussed with the provincial Taliban officials the expansion of trade and economic ties between the two countries. The Iranian deputy ambassador remarked that Afghanistan’s security serves Iranian national security, and that Tehran supports maintaining peace and stability in the country (Fars, June 5).
  • Additionally, an Iranian diplomatic delegation headed by the deputy ambassador to Kabul paid a visit to Khost Province in eastern Afghanistan. This is the first visit of an Iranian delegation to eastern Afghanistan since the Taliban’s takeover of the country. The Tasnim news agency reported that the visit to Khost was conducted despite the fact that eastern Afghanistan is not of great importance to Iran, thus, this points to Tehran adopting a more serious and comprehensive approach with regards to Afghanistan (Tasnim, June 6).