Davud Jafari (left) alongside the Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, in a ceremony honoring the IRGC following the arrest of ten American sailors in the Persian Gulf in January 2016 (Fars, January 24, 2022)
The meeting between the Iranian and Syrian delegations to the Astana Process summit (IRNA, November 23)
The Sayyeda Ruqayya compound in Damascus (Sawt al-Aseema, November 21)
The meeting between the Iraqi prime minister and Iranian ambassador to Baghdad (ISNA, November 26)
The meeting between Qa’ani and the Sunni Mufti of Iraq (Mehr, November 19)
The meeting of the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad with the chairman of the Popular Mobilization Committee (Al-Alam, November 25)
A senior officer in the Aerospace force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Davud Jafari, was assassinated in Syria. The IRGC statement alleged that the officer was assassinated by Israel using an explosive device in the area of Damascus. The IRGC vowed to avenge his death.
A Syrian pro-opposition outlet reported that an Iranian surface to air missile system was recently deployed in the area of Damascus following recent airstrikes against targets of the pro-Iranian militias in Syria. The strikes have been widely attributed to Israel.
In late November, the Iraqi Prime Minister, Muhammad Shaya al-Sudani, arrived for a visit in Iran. His visit took place against a backdrop of growing tensions between Iran and the Kurdistan Regional Government (KRG) in northern Iraq due to ongoing IRGC strikes against targets related to the Iranian Kurdish opposition based in northern Iraq. Addressing the ongoing Iranian strikes on northern Iraq, the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad stated that Tehran demanded the Iraqi authorities to disarm the Iranian Kurdish opposition groups operating in northern Iraq. On the eve of al-Sudani’s visit to Tehran, Iranian officials denied a report claiming that the commander of the Qods Force of the IRGC, who visited Baghdad in mid-November, threatened during the visit that Iran would carry out a ground invasion into northern Iraq.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
A senior officer in the Aerospace force of the IRGC, Davud Jafari, was killed in Syria. A statement issued by the IRGC on November 23, claimed that the officer was assassinated by agents of “the Zionist regime” utilizing an explosive device in the area of Damascus (Mehr, November 23). The funeral of the senior officer, held on November 24, was attended by the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, and the Commander of the IRGC Aerospace Force, Amir Ali Hajizadeh (Tasnim, November 24). In response to the assassination of the senior officer, the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, vowed that his death will not go unanswered, and that revenge will come at the appropriate time and place (Fars, November 24).
A Syrian outlet affiliated with the Syrian opposition reported, based on sources close to the Assad regime, that in recent weeks, the Syrian Ministry of Defense deployed aerial defense systems, electronic warfare systems, and early warning systems in the countryside of Damascus. According to this report, the systems were deployed after the latest airstrikes against targets linked to pro-Iranian militias in Syria, which were attributed to Israel. According to the report, the arrival of these systems, made by North Korea and China, to Syria in recent months, was made possible by a series of deals signed between Iran and Syria concerning bolstering Syria’s air defenses. The systems were allegedly brought into eastern Syria, and from there to Damascus, after passing from Iran to Iraq through the ground corridor used by pro-Iranian forces. The report also stated that in the past two weeks, Iran deployed Baver-373 surface to air missiles batteries close to the Syrian-Lebanese border, and that its deployment led to a drop in the activities of the Israeli Air Force in this area (Sawt al-Aseema, November 26).
On November 28, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke on the phone with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad. The two discussed regional and international developments, as well as bilateral relations of the two countries (Tasnim, November 28).
On November 22, a delegation headed by the Ali Asghar Khaji, the Senior Advisor to the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, met in Kazakhstan with a delegation led by the Deputy Syrian Foreign Minister, Ayman Sousan. This was another meeting as part of the Astana Process, which is focused on settling the war in Syria, and is led by Iran, Turkey and Russia. The two delegations discussed developments in Syria and the region. During the talks, the head of the Iranian delegation stressed Iran’s support for Syria’s unity and territorial integrity (IRNA, November 23). The meeting was held against the backdrop of intensified Turkish strikes across northeastern Syria, and Turkish threats to carry out another ground incursion into the area.
A pro-opposition Syrian news website reported that the Imam Reza Foundation in Mashhad had recently installed a new window in the Sayyeda Ruqayya Mosque compound in Damascus, a shrine holy to Shia Muslims (Social Press Center, November 21). The rehabilitation of the shrine is carried out as part of ongoing Iranian efforts to rehabilitate and renovate Shia holy sites in Syria.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
On November 29, The Iraqi Prime Minister, Muhammad Shaya al-Sudani, arrived for a two-day visit in Iran and met with senior Iranian officials. Prior to the visit, Arab sources told al-Araby al-Jadeed (November 28) that his visit will focus on security matters, due to the tensions between the two countries following incessant Iranian strikes on the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq. The sources claimed that al-Sudani will discuss with senior Iranian officials a joint security plan to secure their common border, and the possibility of extraditing to Iran activists and commanders within the Kurdish-Iranian opposition based in Iraq. Additionally, the visit will focus on economic and trade issues.
As in recent weeks, this week as well, ISIS’s activity throughout the world remained moderate. Prominent attacks took place in the Sinai Peninsula, Afghanistan, and Nigeria. The Somali government recorded achievements in fighting against the Al-Qaeda-affiliated Al-Shabaab Organization. ISIS issued hostile messages against the FIFA World Cup in Qatar, calling on its operatives to drive away the polytheists, Jews, and Christians from the Arabian Peninsula An element affiliated with ISIS disseminated a video on social media calling for attacks on Christmas against the “enemies of Muslims” throughout the world.
On November 26, al-Sudani met with the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, who conveyed the invitation of the Iranian President, Ebrahim Raisi, to visit Tehran. The two discussed bilateral relations, including economic cooperation between the two countries. Both officials stressed the need to continue to hold meetings and consultations concerning security affairs, to ensure the preservation of the interests of both countries, and to ensure security and stability in the region.
On November 18, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Esmail Qa’ani, met with the Sunni Mufti of Iraq, Mahdi al-Samidi. Qa’ani had arrived in Baghdad in mid-November. The meeting with the Mufti was also attended by the Iranian Ambassador to Iran, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh (Mehr, November 19).
The Lebanese paper al-Akhbar reported (November 18) that during his visit to Iraq, Qa’ani conveyed a message to the leadership of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP), calling on them to choose between acting within the new Iraqi government to solve their problems, and between allowing the Israeli Mossad and Kurdish militants operate against Iran out of the Kurdistan region of Iraq. Qa’ani conducted his visit only a day after another strike carried out by the IRGC against targets related to Kurdish-Iranian opposition groups based in northern Iraq. Meanwhile, Iranian sources denied to al-Mayadeen TV, which is affiliated with Hezbollah, a report that claimed that Qa’ani threatened during his visit that Iran would carry out a ground invasion into northern Iraq. The sources claimed that Qa’ani did not discuss the matter with senior Iraqi officials whom he met, and did not threat to carry out any incursion, by ground or otherwise, into northern Iraq (al-Mayadeen, November 28).
On November 20 and 22, the IRGC again struck targets related to the Kurdish opposition in northern Iraq. In an interview with the Iraqi TV channel al-Ahed (November 20), the Iranian Ambassador to Iran, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, stated that Iran asked the Iraqi government to monitor the border shared by the two countries, to disarm the Kurdish opposition groups operating in northern Iraq, and to return their activists to refugee camps in northern Iraq. According to him, the Iraqi government agreed to fulfil the Iranian demand, and asked to be given some time to handle the disarmament of the Iranian-Kurdish opposition groups. In an interview with the Iranian Arabic-language TV channel, al-Alam (November 21), Al-e Sadegh claimed that Iran provided to Iraqi authorities dozens of testimonies and documents proving that “terrorist forces” are operating in northern Iraq and gave the government ten days to disarm them. He remarked, however, that an Iranian ground incursion into the Kurdistan region of Iraq is currently out of the question.
On November 24, the Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, met with Faleh al-Fayyad, the Chairman of the Population Mobilization Committees (the umbrella organization of Shia militias in Iraq) and discussed ways to bolster cooperation between the two countries. On November 21, the ambassador met with Qasim al-Araji, the National Security Adviser of Iraq. In the meeting, the Iranian ambassador stressed his country’s support for the new government of Muhammad Shaya al-Sudani, and Tehran’s desire to cooperate with Iraq in the electricity, gas, and energy sectors (al-Alam, November 25).