March 10 – March 24, 2019 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
  • Last week, the chief of staff of the Iranian Armed Forces arrived for a visit in Syria to take part in a joint anti-terrorism summit attended by Iranian, Syrian and Iraqi officials. During the visit, Bagheri met with his counterparts in Syria and Iraq and discussed increasing security cooperation between the three countries. He also visited the fronts in Albu Kamal, Deir Ezzor. Bagheri reiterated Iran’s official position that all foreign forces present in Syria without the invitation of its legitimate government will have to withdraw, sooner or later.
  • Syrian sources recently reported that following the visit of President Assad to Tehran, Iran and Syria agreed to form a Syrian team, headed by the executive director of the Lattakia Port, which will negotiate handing over management of the Lattakia Port or the container terminal within it to Iran. According to these reports, whose reliability is unclear, Assad’s visit to Iran and the agreements reached between Tehran and Damascus were not coordinated with Russia and caused displeasure in Moscow. Meanwhile, the Syrian charge d’affaires in Iran reported that the two countries are examining the possibility of removing all customs on consumer goods traded between Iran and Syria, as part of the push to expand economic cooperation between the two countries.
  • Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, conducted his first official visit in Baghdad, during which he met Iraqi government officials, public representatives and senior Shi’ite clerics. The central goal of the visit was to further cooperation between the two countries in a host of spheres. The president’s visit can be examined in the context of growing efforts by Tehran to expand its influence in Iraq, particularly in the economic sphere, and as a manifestation of the ongoing Iranian-American struggle for influence in the Iraqi arena. Iranian media presented the visit as a big success for Iran that proves Washington’s failure to block Iran’s influence in Iraq. However, it is unclear whether the agreements reached between the two countries concerning expansion of economic cooperation will actually materialize. In addition, Iraq refused Iran’s request to abrogate the requirement that Iranian citizens visiting Iraq obtain a pre-arrival visa. In addition, during the president’s meeting with Ayatollah Ali Sistani, the eminent Shi’ite cleric emphasized that Iraq needs to expand its relations with all its neighbors (by implication, not solely with Iran) and that foreign actors should not meddle in internal Iraqi affairs (by implication, referring to the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps, IRGC).
Iranian Involvement in Syria and Lebanon
  • In an interview to the Lebanese news website al-‘Ahed, the Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Javad Torkabadi, remarked that he believe that Iranian President Hassan Rouhani will soon arrive for a visit in Syria. He stated that the leaderships of Iran and Syria maintain ongoing contact, and that the recent visit of President Assad to Tehran was highly successful (Tasnim, March 11).
  • On March 17, the Chief of Staff of the Iranian Armed Forces, Mohammad Bagheri, arrived for a visit in Syria at the helm of a high-ranking military delegation to participate in a summit of the joint anti-terrorism committee of Iraq, Iran and Syria. During the visit, the representatives of the three countries discussed military and security cooperation and increasing coordination between the them in the campaign against terrorism. In addition, Bagheri visited the fronts in Deir Ezzor and Albu Kamal specifically and met with fighters stationed there (Fars, March 17-18). Upon his arrival to Damascus, Bagheri declared that the foreign forces that entered Syria without coordination with its government will have to withdraw from it, sooner or later. He remarked that similarly to how Iran was invited by the official government, the presence of all other forces should be coordinated and approved by the Syrian government (Mehr, March 17).
  • On March 18, the military delegations from Iran and Iraq met with the Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. In the meeting, the sides discussed developments in Syria and ways to bolster security and military coordination between the three countries. During the meeting, Bagheri emphasized that the campaign against terrorism and the defense of Syria contribute to ensuring the security of Iran and Iraq (SANA, March 18).Aerial photographs of the Israeli intelligence company ISIS bolster the assessment that Iran is establishing a missile production site in the Syrian town of Safita, east of the Tartous city port. In the satellite photographs, the suspected site appears to have robust perimeter defense, including a fence surrounding the site. Inside, vehicles, three hangers and a new water tower are visible. The report argues that the buildup components and activity patterns in the compound and surrounding it increase the likelihoods that this is a missile production facility. However, at this stage, it is impossible to definitively determine that the site is Iranian.
  • In recent months, employees using buses and pick-up trucks were identified at the entry to the site and inside of the fenced compound, a pattern characteristic of military sites. The findings of the report bolster the assessment that the site is already operational and it as stages of development. No armored structures were identified inside the site for the production of missile engines or warheads. The report determined that similar patterns of construction could be observed in other sites with a similar purpose, for example the missile manufacturing facility in the city of Khojir in Iran (Ynet, March 13).
  • Syrian sources recently reported that following the visit of President Assad to Tehran, Iran and Syria agreed to form a Syrian team, headed by the executive director of the Lattakia Port, Amjad Suleiman, which will negotiate handing over management of the Lattakia Port or the container terminal within the port to Iran. According to these reports, which were published in the newspaper al-Arab and the website the Syrian Report, the Syrian team started its work, but it remains unclear whether it already held talks with Iranian representatives. The report, which was republished in Iranian media, also stated that Russia was displeased with Assad’s visit to Tehran, which was not coordinated with it (Fararu, March 16).
  • The Deputy Secretary General of the Iranian Chamber of Commerce, Mohammad Ali Zeyqami, called for expanding economic ties between Iran and Syria. In a meeting between members of the chamber of commerce and a delegation of Syrian businessmen held in Tehran, Zeyqami stated that with the conclusion of the civil war in Syria, it is time to bolster the economic ties between the two countries to reconstruct Syria. He called on both governments to facilitate the work of businesspeople and firms to expand economic cooperation and trade between Iran and Syria. The IRNA news agency reported that in the first nine months of the Iranian year, which starts on March 21, Iran exported to Syria goods worth $63.9 million in total, and imported goods worth $3.1 million in total (IRNA, March 11).
  • The Syrian charge d’affaires in Iran, Ali Sayyed Ahmad, who participated in the meeting between the business delegation from Syria and Iran reported that the two countries are currently examining the possibility of removing all customs on consumer goods traded between Iran and Syria. He also proposed to expand trade deals between the two countries by using the Iranian Rial and Syrian Pound. He stated that the economic cooperation between Iran and Syria is important but is insufficient and should be expanded (ISNA, March 11).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • On March 11, Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani, arrived for a three-day visit in Iraq. During the visit, Rouhani met with senior Iraqi government officials, public representatives and senior Shi’ite clerics. In a joint press conference with the Iraqi President, Barham Salih, held upon arrival in Baghdad, Rouhani stated that Iraq can play a significant role in ensuring and promoting ties between the countries of the region. He stated that Iran sees great importance in maintaining Iraq’s security and stability and emphasized the opportunities to promote cooperation between Iran and Iraq in the spheres of trade, investment, industry, tourism, energy, transportation, banking and p environmental protection (Tasnim, March 11).
  • In the meeting between President Rouhani and Iraqi Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the two leaders signed five memoranda of understanding between the two countries. One of them concerned laying down a 35-kilometer long railroad connecting the city of Shalamcheh in western Iran to Basra in southern Iraq. A second memorandum addressed easing the process of issuing visas to businesspeople and traders from both countries. The three other memoranda dealt with expanding cooperation in the spheres of oil, trade and health. In addition, the two countries agreed that Iraq would waive visa fees for Iranian citizens visiting Iraq, although Iraq refused Iran’s request to completely waive the requirement that Iranian citizens receive a visa before arrival (IRNA, March 11).
  • In a meeting with Falih al-Fayyad, the Iraqi National Security Adviser and the head of the committee overseeing the Popular Mobilization Forces (al-Hashd al-Shaabi), Rouhani stressed the crucial role of the militias in the campaign against terrorism and “bolstering national solidarity” in Iraq. In addition, Rouhani met with former Iraqi prime ministers Nouri al-Maliki and Haider al-Abadi, and stressed his commitment to expanding ties and cooperation between the two countries, based on mutual interests (Tasnim, March 12).
  • On the last day of the visit, Rouhani met with senior Shi’ite clerics in the city of Najaf, chief among them the preeminent religious authority, Ayatollah Ali Sistani. Rouhani provided Sistani with an overview of the outcomes of his meetings with senior officials in Baghdad and the accomplishments of the visit. Sistani stated that he welcomes any development in expansion of ties between Iraq and its neighbors, based on mutual interests, respect of sovereignty and avoiding of meddling in internal affairs (Fars, March 13).


  1. Mar 2019 – MESOP NEWS – In Ramsar town of Kamyaran city, the Iranian intelligence officers (Ettelaat) arrested a Kurdish environmental activist Jalal Rostami. After two days of investigation, Rostami was transferred to the Ettelaat jail in Sanandaj. On Friday, the security forces arrested a Kurdish man, Zanko Ameri, near Saqqez city for “aiding Kurdish opposition parties.” Ameri was transferred to prison by the Iranian Revolutionary Guards (IRGC). According to the Kurdistan Human Rights Association (KMMK) 84 Kurds have been detained by the Iranian regime since January 1, 2019.

After a trial court sentenced Kurdish activist Farshad Abbasi in Urmia to five years imprisonment two weeks ago, the Appeals Court of Urmia reaffirmed the sentence on Wednesday. Abbasi was charged of “membership of Kurdish opposition parties,” a charge he has denied since his arrest. In Kermanshah, the Appeals Court affirmed the 10-year sentence of another Kurdish man, Massud Kiani. The Iranian Ettelaat office detained Kiani on April 2018 in Tehran airport as he returned to visit his family from studying in the Ukraine. The Iranian regime accused Keyani of “spying for Israel.”

In Sarableh City in Ilam Province, a group composed of employees and workers held a protest in front of the municipality office demanding the long overdue payment of their salaries. In the past year, more than 50 protests have been held in the Kurdish region by employees from different governmental departments after the regime’s failure to pay the salaries of many employees.

On Sunday, near the Sardasht border with Iraqi Kurdistan, a Kolbar (i.e., Kurdish border porter) Shaker Pour Khaled died of hypothermia after snowy and freezing conditions on the mountains. On the same day near Nowsud town, Iranian border guards shot another Kolbar, severely wounding him. Since the beginning of 2019, about 60 Kolbars have been injured and 18 killed, mostly at the hands of Iranian border guards.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : YES OR NO ? – Iran denies report on joint operation with Turkey against PKK

Iran’s military Chief of Staff office has denied a statement by Turkish Interior Minister Süleyman Soylu on Monday that Turkey and Iran carried out a joint operation against militants from the outlawed Kurdistan Workers’ Party (PKK), BBC correspondent Jiyar Gol reported on Twitter.

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How Iran Deceived The U.S. Intelligence Community – Part II: Iran Does Not Allow The IAEA To Monitor The Most Critical Area Of Its Nuclear Project – Developing A Nuclear Explosive Device (Section T In The JCPOA)

MESOPOTAMIA NEWS INTEL : March 18, 2019 – MEMRI Daily Brief – No. 180

By: Yigal Carmon and A. Savyon* – On January 30, 2019, U.S. President Trump criticized the U.S. intelligence community’s Worldwide Threat Assessment, released January 29, 2019,[1] tweeting that it is “naïve”[2] about the danger posed by Iran, after U.S. intelligence chiefs said at a hearing in the Senate intelligence committee that Iran is not aiming to develop nuclear weapons and is not violating the JCPOA nuclear deal.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : ERDOGAN & MULLAHS GEGEN PKK – Drohende Militäraktion Türkei drängt Iran zu Offensive gegen PKK

Die Türkei droht mit neuen Militärschlägen gegen die PKK. Diesmal will Erdogan die kurdische Miliz Seite an Seite mit iranischen Truppen attackieren. Wie entscheidet sich Teheran? DER SPIEGEL  15 März 2019 – Von Maximilian Popp und Christoph Sydow

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Armed Opposition Groups in Iran / Dr. Jonathan Spyer


Armed opposition groups emerging from the Kurdish, Baloch and Ahvazi Arab minorities have stepped-up attacks on regime assets in Iran. Tehran is responding by acting against these opponents, in Pakistan and Iraq and further afield. But these insurgencies are not capable by themselves of calling the regime’s viability into question, because of their relatively narrow bases of support.  12.03.2019

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 Iran’s president wraps up strategic “new chapter” trip to Iraq

by Seth Frantzman

 – 14 March 2019

It was a “new chapter” in the strategic alliance of Iran and Iraq, Iranian news says.

Iraq State Visit, Days 2-3:Met with religious, academic and tribal leaders in Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf; along with President @HassanRouhani.

In Najaf, visited and conferred with four prominant religious authorities, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.

— Javad Zarif (@JZarif) March 13, 2019

Day one: “Met Pres, PM, Speaker+political & business leaders Agreed on: -Inclusive regional security -No-fee visas -Connecting railways -Dredging border river after 43 yrs -Joint industrial zones -Energy cooperation -$20B in trade -PTA 2 more days; 2 more cities…Last night, PM hosted dinner w/unprecedented guest list—a who’s who of Iraqi politics: All Iraqis are our friends; Today leaders issued historic joint declaration: -Commitment to implement 1975 Treaty -Expeditious dredging of border river: Removed another vestige of Saddam war.”

Then Day 2 and 3 “raq State Visit, Days 2-3: Met with religious, academic and tribal leaders in Baghdad, Karbala and Najaf; along with President @HassanRouhani. In Najaf, visited and conferred with four prominant religious authorities, including Grand Ayatollah Ali al-Sistani.”

Zarif paved the way: “n Iraq ahead of President Rouhani’s 3-day State visit, featuring: -Meetings w/ political/religious/business/civil society leaders in Baghdad/Karbala/Najaf -Multiple agreements on further regional, political & economic cooperation Our unshakable bonds benefit Iran, Iraq & region.”

Rouhani also met tribal leaders

Rouhani held serious of meetings with the heads of Iraqi tribes.
#Iran has a good understanding of the nature of the Iraqi society, particularly the important role the tribal leaders have. It’s something that the US has ignored for long time.#Iraq

— Baxtiyar Goran (@BaxtiyarGoran) March 12, 2019

Iran thinks that this is a new chapter that dates back to the 1980s. It concentrates on economic issues, the PMU and also religious connections. The goal is a total Iran-Iraq connection. And it showcases how the US has been outplayed.

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MESOPOTAMIA TODAYS WARNING : Against Backdrop Of Iranian President Rohani’s Visit To Baghdad, ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed Warns Iraq Not To Become An Iranian Proxy

13 March 2019 – MESOP – Against the backdrop of Iranian President Hassan Rohani’s recent visit to Baghdad, senior Saudi journalist ‘Abd Al-Rahman Al-Rashed, the former editor of the London-based Saudi daily  Al-Sharq Al-Awsat and former director of Alarabiya TV, wrote that Iran is exerting intense pressures on Iraq in order to turn it into its proxy. Iran, he said, is trying to use Iraq as a shield against the effects of the U.S. sanctions, and also expects Iraq to bankroll its militias and to give up its own interests in favor of Iran. However, there is no reason for Iraq to pay the price of Iran’s troubles, especially since Iran brought them on with by refusing to give up its nuclear program and its extremist policies of spreading chaos in other countries.  Al-Rashed warned Iraq not to become an Iranian proxy like Lebanon, lest it lose everything it has achieved since regaining its stability


Report: Iran Preparing for Role in Syria’s Reconstruction

March 11, 2019 9:00 PM  – Sirwan Kajjo Mehdi Jedinia  – VOA NEWS – Iranian construction companies are to build thousands of residential units in the suburbs of Syria’s capital, Damascus, an Iranian state-run news agency has reported.Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA) recently quoted a business official with the country’s investment association, who announced that Iran would build 200,000 residential units near Damascus.

Iraj Rahbar, vice president of Iran’s Mass Construction Society, said the massive housing project has come about after the Iranian and Syrian governments signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) in January 2019.

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Iran – 12. March 2019

  • A number of arrests and charges against Kurds took place last week in Sanandaj city. The Islamic Revolutionary Court of Sanandaj sentenced a prominent Kurdish labor activist Khaled Husseini to three years in prison. Husseini was charged with “propaganda to hold General Strikes” and for holding protests against the execution of three Kurdish activists. According to the Kurdistan Association for Human Rights (KMMK), Husseini was banned from representing himself during the court session. On Saturday another Kurdish labor activist Zanyar Dabaghi was sentenced to one year in prison for “propaganda against the Islamic Republic.” On Tuesday, March 5, the intelligence officers (Etelaat) arrested two Kurdish environmental activists, Jamal Assadi and Armin Esparlos. On Saturday, another Kurdish man, Majeed Awar was arrested for unknown charges by the intelligence officers in Sanandaj.  In Urmia, the Islamic Revolutionary Court sentenced a Kurdish man, Farshad Abbasi to five years in prison for “membership of a Kurdish opposition party.”
  • On Friday, a border porter, known as Kolbars, was injured by Iranian guards near Piranshahr. In Pawa two Kolbars were arrested by the Iranian border guards and were taken into custody.  According to Hengaw human rights group, the Kolbars were beaten by the Iranian guard after their arrest.

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