MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Suicide drones launched from inside Iran said to have hit Parchin military site

New York Times reports that Tehran views deadly incident as an attack, noting it fits pattern of alleged past Israeli strikes in Iran and Lebanon

TIMES OF ISRAEL 27 May 2022  Sat image of the military complex at Parchin, Iran.

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MESOP MIDEAST INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER/ISRAEL – Spotlight on Iran

May 12, 2022 – May 26, 2022Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmttwitterlinkedin
Overview
  • Senior Iranian officials implicitly accused Israel and the United States of assassinating the senior Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) office, Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, on May 22 in Tehran, and vowed revenge.
  • The spokesperson of the Israeli Defense Forces (IDF) exposed a route used to smuggle parts of advanced weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah, overseen by Seyyed Reda Safi al-Din, the son of Seyyed Hisham Safi al-Din, the Chairman of Hezbollah’s Executive Council.
  • Iranian responses to the outcome of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon clearly displayed an attempt to downplay the weakening of the pro-Hezbollah camp and bolstering of its Lebanese opponents. The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that Iran does not interfere in domestic Lebanese politics. Media outlets affiliated with the conservative faction in Iran rejected the analysis by Western media outlets that Hezbollah was dealt a major blow in the elections and stressed that the opponents of the organization also do not possess a majority to form a government.
  • The news website al-Araby al-Jadid reported on a new Iranian mediation initiative led by the incoming Iranian ambassador to Baghdad, aimed at facilitating the formation of a new government in Iraq. According to this report, Iranian officials are set to conduct meetings with the major political blocs in Iraq to advance an agreement between the Sadrist Current and the pro-Iranian Shia parties.
  • Economic and cultural Iranian activity in the Middle East: A senior Iranian energy official paid a visit to Syria and met with Syrian officials concerning expanding cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of energy and electricity; the Damascus Chamber of Industry and the Joint Iranian-Syrian Chamber of Commerce signed a memorandum of understanding concerning the expansion of cooperation in the sectors of industry and finance; the deputy minister of Islamic Guidance used the International Book Fair in Tehran to promote cultural and literary cooperation with Syria; and a memorandum of understanding was signed between the communication authorities of Iraq and Iran.
Israel – Iran
  • Iranian officials implicitly accused Israel and the United States of assassinating the senior IRGC officer, Hassan Sayyad Khodaei, on May 22 in Tehran, and vowed to avenge his death. The New York Times reported that Israel had confirmed to the United States that it was responsible for the assassination. According to the report he has been involved in the past two years in terrorist attacks against Israelis, Europeans and Americans around the world (The New York Times, May 25, 2022).
  • Upon his departure to a visit to Oman, the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, declared that the vengeance for the blood of the senior Iranian official is inevitable. He remarked that the hands of “global arrogance” [a term used to describe the West, and particularly the United States] are behind the killing, and that those who were defeated by the defenders of the holy [Shia] shrines in Syria [implying, Israel and the United States] and they are demonstrating their desperation through such actions (Fars, May 23). The Spokesman of the IRGC, Ramazan Sharif, accused the intelligence services of “the global hegemonic Zionist regime” of carrying out the assassination, and declared that his killing will only increase the determination of the IRGC to defend the security and national might of Iran, and to struggle against its enemies, chief among them “the Zionist regime” and “the terrorist American regime” (Tasnim, May 23).
Iranian Involvement in Syria and Lebanon
  • On May 20, the IDF’s Arabic-language spokesperson revealed a smuggling operation of advanced military components from Iran to Hezbollah overseen by Seyyed Reda Said al-Din, the son of Seyyed Hisham Safi al-Din, the Chairman of Hezbollah’s Executive Council. The son of the senior official is married to Zainab Soleimani, the daughter of the former Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, and has been exploiting Lebanese infrastructure to facilitate the smuggling of weaponry from Iran to Hezbollah. The IDF spokesperson added that Safi al-Din’s son is using his frequent visits to Iran to coordinate the transfer of advanced weaponry to Hezbollah, using Hezbollah militants, who bring the military components on board civilian flights from Tehran to a European country, and from there on civilian flights to Damascus or Beirut.
  • In a first official response following the announcement of results of the parliamentary elections in Lebanon, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, claimed in his weekly press conference that Iran has always stood on the side of the Lebanese people and has not interfered in domestic Lebanese politics. He remarked that the Lebanese people are the ones who decide on issues related to their country, and that all countries ought to respect the people’s decision, and Iran too respects this decision (IRNA, May 16).
  • Iranian media outlets affiliated with the conservative camp rejected the analysis dominating Western media following the elections that Hezbollah had suffered a major blow. A commentary published by the newspaper Kayhan (May 18) claimed that Hezbollah’s political opponents failed in their efforts to harm the status of the “resistance” and its supporters. Hezbollah has been able to maintain its social and political power while currents affiliated with the West and Saudi Arabia, which supported the protests launched on October 17, 2019, failed to achieve significant achievements. The Mehr news agency reported about the “failure of the psychological campaign against Hezbollah in the elections.” A commentary published by the agency (May 18) argued that the “resistance” camp did lose the majority it enjoyed in parliament, but this does not mean that its opponents now have the majority required to form a government. Therefore, there is no basis for the claim concerning “Hezbollah’s electoral defeat,” although the elections’ results do complicate the situation in Lebanon, particularly in light of the growing strength of the Lebanese Forces, Samir Geagea’s anti-Hezbollah party.
  • The website Nour News, which is associated with the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, claimed in a commentary published following the announcement of the election results (May 20) that none of the political currents in Lebanon has been able to gain a parliamentary majority and make decision on its own. The commentary assessed that the selection of a prime minister will encounter a great deal of difficulties, and that Lebanese is facing a new political crisis. According to the website “the American-Saudi axis” has been trying to use the election results to create an internal crisis within Hezbollah and sow discord within the “resistance” camp, which has become the most influential current in the Middle East in recent years.
  • The Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, called for expanding economic activity between Tehran and Damascus. He made the statement at the signing ceremony of a memorandum of understanding concerning the expansion of cooperation in the sectors of industry and finances, signed by the Damascus Chamber of Industry and the Iranian-Syrian Joint Chamber of Commerce. The memorandum of understanding concerned the expansion of exports of Syrian products to markets in Iran, planning for establishing permanent fairs displaying Syrian products in Iran, as well as holding conferences for industrialists from both countries. The Iranian ambassador expressed Tehran’s determination to expand its economic and trade ties with the Syrian private sector and remarked that the Iranian embassy in Syria is investing a great deal of effort in overcoming the challenges faced by industrialists from both countries. The Chairman of the Board of Directors of the Damascus Chamber of Industry, Samer al-Debs, called on Iranian traders to establish strategic industrial projects in Syria. The Chairman of the Joint Chamber of Commerce, Fahd Darwish, declared that the signed memorandum of understanding aims to expand cooperation between the two chambers and encourage traders, capitalists, and industrialists from both countries to carry out joint investments in various sectors. He announced that a trade and industrial delegation from Syria will soon visit Iran (ISNA, May 17).
  • In mid-May, the Executive Director of the Iranian Electrical Power Equipment Manufacturing and Provision Company (SATKAB), Mojtaba Akbari, arrived for a visit in Syria, representing the Iranian Ministry of Energy. He discussed with Syrian official the expansion of cooperation between the two countries in the sectors of energy and electricity. In the meeting with the Iranian Ambassador to Syria, Mehdi Sobhani, the two discussed the possibility of advancing Iranian projects in the sectors of energy, and the activity of Iranian companies in Syria in the sectors of water and electricity, and promotion of Iranian investments in Syria. In his meeting with the Syrian Minister of Electricity, Ghasan al-Zamil, Akbari stated that the shortage of energy, and specifically electricity, experienced by Syria, provides opportunities for state and private companies in Iran to provide the needs of Syria in this sphere. He invited the Syrian minister to visit Iranian factories manufacturing electrical equipment (ILNA, May 20).
  • On May 17, Yaser Ahmadvand, the Deputy Minister of Islamic Guidance who is also serving as the Director of the International Book Fair currently held in Tehran, met with the Director of the Arab Writers Association of Syria, Ibrahim Hourani, and with the Director of Publishers in Syria, Haytham al-Hafez, and called for bolstering Iran’s cultural presence in Syria. He claimed that the Iranian presence in Syria is “a cultural presence and not an economic or a military one” and that media exposure and cultural cooperation should be expanded between the two nations. The Iranian deputy minister added that there are many opportunities for cultural-literary cooperation between the two countries, and that Iran is interested in increasing the number of exchange visits of Syrian and Iranian publishers and authors, and also augment the number of Iranian authors published in Syria, which may serve as a bridge between Iran and the entire Arab world (IBNA, May 17).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • On May 17, the incoming Iranian Ambassador to Iraq, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, presented his letter of credence to the President of Iraq, Barham Salih. In his meeting with the Iraqi president, the ambassador stressed the need to expand political and economic ties between the two countries, and to bolster international and regional cooperation in the war on terror. On May 16, the incoming ambassador met with the Iraqi Minister of Foreign Affairs, Fuad Hussein, and discussed bilateral ties. The ambassador called for the Joint Political Committee of Iran and Iraq to hold a meeting in the near future at the level of deputy foreign ministers. Additionally, the ambassador asked Iraqi authorities to cooperate in organizing the pilgrimage of Iranians to Arbaeen, marking the end of the 40 days of mourning over the death of Shia Imam Hussein Ibn Ali. The ceremonies are set to be held in Karbala, Iraq, in September 2022 (IRNA, May 17).
  • The Qatari news website al-Araby al-Jadid reported (May 20) based on three Iraqi political sources, about a new Iranian mediation initiative led by the incoming Iranian Ambassador to Baghdad, Mohammad Al-e Sadegh, intended to reduce tensions between the various political currents in Iraq and facilitate the formation of a new government in Iraq. According to this report, as part of the new Iranian initiative, Iranian officials are set to meet separately with the leaders of the major political blocs in Iraq in an effort to restart talks between them concerning government formation, which came to a halt a few weeks ago. Through this initiative, Iran is hoping to further understandings between the Sadrist Current led by Muqtada Sadr and the Coordination Framework (the bloc of pro-Iranian Shia parties). According to the report, in recent days, the Iranian ambassador to Baghdad held a series of meetings and phone calls with senior Iraqi politicians (Shia, Sunni and Kurds), utilizing his command of the Arabic language, his diplomatic experience, and his ties with the Sadrist Current, which are better than those his predecessor, the departing Ambassador Iraj Masjedi, possessed with the largest bloc in the Iraqi parliament. A member of the Kurdistan Democratic Party (KDP) assessed in an interview to al-Araby al-Jadeed that the chances of success of the Iranian mediation effort are close to zero, given the position of Muqtada al-Sadr, who rejects the participation of Nouri al-Maliki’s State of Law party in the government, and the waning influence of Iran over Iraq’s political scene following the assassination of Qasem Soleimani.
  • On May 22, Ali Fahim Danesh, the Advisor to the President of Iran and Director for International Affairs at the Iranian Broadcasting Authority, signed a memorandum of understanding with the Executive Director of the Board of Governors of Iraq’s Communications Authority, Nabil Jasim Mohammad. According to the senior Iranian official, the memorandum aims to facilitate expanding the cooperation between the communication authorities in both countries in various media spheres, including production of TV series and movies, and technical cooperation (YJC.Ir, May 22).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • On May 15, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Saeed Khatibzadeh, paid a visit to the Palestinian embassy in Tehran and signed a book of condolences, which was presented at the embassy to commemorate the Palestinian al-Jazeera journalist, Shirin Abou Aqleh, who was killed on May 11 in Jenin. Khatibzadeh condemned the killing, blamed Israel for it, and sent his condolences to her family and the Palestinian people (website of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, May 15).

MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: IRAN EXPANDS ITS DIPLOMATIC OPTIONS

Bottom Line Up Front: THE SOUFAN CENTER –  25.5.22
  • Iranian leaders are exchanging a wide range of visits with regional leaders to break Tehran out of its isolation.
  • Syrian President Bashar Al Assad’s visit to Iran represents his attempt to consolidate outside support amid Russia’s distraction with its war against Ukraine.
  • Gulf state leaders are pressing Tehran to compromise on outstanding issues that are holding up a revival of the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear agreement.
  • Oman is looking to Iran for new investment and gas supplies, as well as its cooperation in ending the war in neighboring Yemen.
The recent flurry of high-level visits between Iran and regional states indicates that Tehran is succeeding in its campaign to break out of its isolation, even though it has not assuaged widespread wariness of its ultimate ambitions. During the month of May, Syrian President Bashar Al Assad and Emir Tamim bin Hamad Al Thani of Qatar visited Tehran, respectively, to meet with Supreme Leader Ali Khamene’i and Iranian President Ibrahim Raisi, and Raisi visited the Sultanate of Oman to meet with Sultan Haythim bin Tariq Al Said. Qatar and Oman are longtime allies of the United States, and their exchanges with Iran reflect, at least in part, an intent to advance not only the interests of the Persian Gulf states but also those of the United States. Syria’s Assad, by contrast, is a U.S. adversary and a pillar of Iran’s “axis of resistance” to what Tehran asserts is an attempt by the United States and its key ally, Israel, to exert regional hegemony.

Assad’s early May visit to Tehran – he last visited in February 2019 – represents an attempt to ensure that, with Russia heavily engaged in Ukraine, he has enough outside support to keep armed rebels at bay. Iranian and Russian military intervention during 2013-2015 were key to Assad’s defeat of the rebellion, which is now largely cornered in Idlib Province. Russia reportedly has been redeploying some of its regular and contract (Wagner Group) forces from Syria and Libya to Ukraine to compensate for huge losses in Ukraine. Assad no doubt fears that the drawdown of Russian forces, and particularly combat aircraft, from Syria will embolden the armed opposition. Assad visited Tehran seeking to shore up Iran’s commitment to continue helping exhausted Syrian regular forces and Syria’s economy. Iran is a major supplier of credits, grants, and oil to Damascus, which is extensively sanctioned by the United States and the European Union (EU) countries; Tehran’s financial help has been a key to Assad’s survival. In the course of the Assad visit, Iranian leaders also discussed Iran’s expanding investments in various segments of Syria’s economy. The investments in Syria provide financial benefit to Iran, helping Iranian leaders assuage domestic opposition to the intervention in Syria.

The high-level visit exchanges between Iran, Qatar, and Oman sought to not only lower Gulf tensions but also advance the U.S. objective of restoring the 2015 Iran nuclear agreement. Tehran’s willingness to exchange visits with Omani and Qatari leaders demonstrates its eagerness to engage with even those regional leaders who are strategically aligned with the United States. And, Oman and Qatar could prove useful to Iran because both Gulf states are proven mediators between Washington and its regional adversaries, including Iran, the Taliban, and the Houthi movement in Yemen. In the course of their meetings with their Iranian counterparts, Emir Tamim of Qatar and Sultan Haythim of Oman urged Iran to resolve the few outstanding issues holding up the full restoration of the 2015 multilateral Iran nuclear deal that the Trump administration abrogated in 2018. Oman and Qatar see the restoration of that agreement, which will include the lifting of sanctions on Iran, as not only lowering Gulf tensions but also facilitating the implementation of long-stalled Iran-Gulf projects and other commerce. The Gulf-Iran leadership visits build on a year-long Baghdad-brokered Iran-Saudi dialogue, the core objective of which is to prevent Iranian and Iran-backed attacks on shipping in the Gulf and on Gulf state installations. In the course of its reporting on the May visits, Iranian media added that President Raisi was planning to visit the United Arab Emirates (UAE), a key Saudi ally, although the visit apparently has been delayed over Iran’s objections to the expanding ties between the UAE and Israel.

Ending the conflict in Yemen, in which Iran supports Houthi rebels who control much of northern Yemen, is a particular concern for Oman’s leaders. Oman shares a long and tense border with Yemen and worries about spillover from that war. Muscat hosts some Houthi leaders as a safe space for them to conduct talks with outside actors and mediators. Omani officials want Iran and Saudi Arabia, at the very least, to pressure their Yemeni allies to extend a two-month ceasefire, if not resolve the conflict entirely. Although the Yemen issue is high on Muscat’s agenda with Iran, Raisi’s visit to Muscat highlighted expanding economic ties between them. The two leaders, both seeking to attract additional foreign investment, signed several memoranda of understanding to expand trade in various fields. Iran is already a large investor in Oman’s efforts to develop a trading hub at Al Duqm port. Iran also agreed to revive a project for a pipeline to carry Iranian gas to Oman; the project has been stalled by U.S.-Iran tensions since it was first agreed between the two governments in 2013. The decision to revive that pipeline project appears to reflect Omani optimism that the Iran nuclear deal will be restored; the technology and financing requirements for the pipeline would be impossible to secure unless U.S. sanctions on Iran are lifted. Although the May exchanges of visits between Iran and two key Gulf states might fuel a sense of optimism for a more peaceful and economically prosperous Gulf, all of the Gulf states still share wariness about Iran’s support for regional armed factions. Iran has utilized its allies to project power against the Gulf states and would not hesitate to do so when its interests are served – exchanges of high level visits notwithstanding.

MESOP MIDEAST WATCH Analysis – Biden’s Decision on Iran’s Guards Signals Nuclear Deal Is Off the Table. But Israel Is Still Worried

President Biden’s decision to keep Iran’s Revolutionary Guards on the terror list will likely collapse the new nuclear deal, to the delight of Naftali Bennett U.S. President Biden decided to keep Iran’s Revolutionary Guard on terror blacklist, marking achievement for Israel’s Bennett

Amos Harel HAARETZ May. 26, 2022

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MESOP MIDEAST INTEL:This Is the Mossad’s Bold New Iran Policy

Israel has expanded its secret war and is also targeting Iranian forces outside of Syria. But it might need to target the nuclear program – covertly and big-time – once again

Yossi Melman HAARETZ – May. 25, 2022 The killing in Tehran this week is further evidence of the penetration into Iran by Israel’s Mossad and Military Intelligence. Experience shows that every assassination victim is quickly replaced.

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MESOP MIDEAST WATCH : Iranian president-Revenge on ‘criminals’ behind death of IRGC colonel ‘inevitable’

Senior Israeli analyst Brig. Gen. Yossi Kuperwasser explains that assassination of Col. Hassan Sayad Khodaei in Tehran struck a “major blow” to the Iranian regime, exposing its vulnerability.

By  Neta Bar ISRAEL HAYOM –

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MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: Demonstrations in Iran in Protest of the Sharp Rise in Prices of Basic Goods

At least three people were killed and dozens were injured and arrested in protests that erupted in southwestern Iran due to a controversial move by the government in Tehran. Until now, the scope of the protest is very limited and does not threaten the regime’s stability, but it is additional evidence of the severe economic crisis, which can be added to the long list of challenges facing President Raisi

 Raz Zimmt INSTITUTE FOR NATIONAL SECURITY STUDIES ISRAEL Insight No. 1600, May 19, 2022

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MESOP MIDEAST WATCH:New CENTCOM chief visits Israel as Iran nuclear talks drag on

Gen. Michael Kurilla’s visit comes as Israel seeks a Plan B in case the Vienna talks fail.

Jared Szuba AL MONNITOR – May 17, 2022 –

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MESOP MIDEAST WATCH INTEL BY MEIR AMIT CENTER / ISRAEL – Spotlight on Iran

Overview
  • On May 8, the Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, arrived for a visit to Tehran, during which he met with the supreme leader of Iran and the Iranian president. This is Assad’s second visit to Iran since the outbreak of the popular uprising and civil war in Syria in 2011. During the visit, Assad thanked the Iranian leadership for their support for Syria and praised Iran’s positions on regional issues, including the Palestinian cause.
  • The head of the Iranian-Syrian Joint Chamber of Commerce reported that the volume of trade between the two countries over the past year has grown by 60 percent. He mentioned, however, that the transfer of goods between Iran and Syria through Iraq and Turkey is still facing challenges, and that the sanctions imposed on Syria are further impeding the expansion of trade ties between the two nations.
  • The incoming Iranian ambassador to Baghdad met with the Iranian minister of foreign affairs ahead of the start of his tenure. Mohammed Kazem Al-e Sadegh, born in Iraq’s Najaf, will replace Iraj Masjedi, who had served as the ambassador in Baghdad since April 2017.
  • The Iraqi minister of electricity announced that Iran and Iraq reached an agreement concerning the resumption of supply of Iranian gas to Iraq and the settling of the Iraqi debt to Iran for previously supplied electricity and gas. The agreement between the two countries was reached following the visit of a delegation of the Iraqi Ministry of Electricity to Tehran.
  • On April 29, the annual International Qods Day processions were held throughout Iran. In a televised speech delivered on the day, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, declared that the developments in Palestine and the region prove the weakness of Israel and the United States and the commitment of the Palestinian people to continuing the struggle against Israel.
  • The Iranian minister of foreign affairs spoke on the phone with the Taliban’s foreign minister and expressed concern in light of the recent terror attacks in Afghanistan. He demanded that Taliban authorities take the steps necessary to ensure the security of the Iranian embassy and consulates in Afghanistan.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • On May 8, the President of Syria, Bashar al-Assad, arrived for a visit to Tehran, which lasted a few hours, during which he met with the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, and with the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi. The meeting between the supreme leader of Iran and the Syrian president was also attended by the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein-Amir Abdollahian, and the Commander of the Qods Forces of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC), Esmail Qa’ani. This is Assad’s second visit to Tehran since the outbreak of the Syrian uprising in 2011, which turned into a civil war. His prior visit took place in February 2019.
  • During his meeting with President Assad, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Khamenei, called for deepening ties between Iran and Syria and declared that relations between the two are vital for both nations, and that those ties not only must not be weakened, but should be bolstered as much as possible. He remarked that Syria today is not the Syria prior to the war, and that despite the destruction due to the war, Syria now enjoys much greater respect and prestige than before. Khamenei proclaimed that while some leaders of Arab countries meet with the heads of the “Zionist regime” and drink coffee with them, the people of the region are filling the streets in processions marking International Qods Day, chanting anti-Zionist slogans. In his meeting with Assad, President Raisi declared that what is shaping the future of the region are not negotiation tables and agreements, such as the Oslo and Camp David Accords, but it is the resistance of the people of the region that is determining the new regional order. He pointed to the need to bolster cooperation and coordination between Iran and Syria and remarked that Iran is interested in expanding ties with Syria, particularly in the spheres of the economy and trade. Assad thanked Iran for its support to Syria and stated that the strategic relations between the two countries are the main factor that prevented the “Zionist regime” from taking over the entire region. He praised Iran’s position since the Islamic Revolution concerning regional affairs, and particularly when it comes to the Palestinian cause, which according to him, has proved to the people of the region that this path [of resistance] is the correct one (Tasnim, May 8).
  •  The website Nour News, which is affiliated with the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, claimed in a commentary published following Assad’s visit to Tehran (published on May 9), that the visit of the Syrian president and his meetings with senior Syrian officials proves that no factor can prevent the expansion of strategic ties between the two countries. The commentary also argued that the end of the war in Syria provides new opportunities for expanding cooperation in the spheres of the economy, trade, industry and construction, and that one of the central matters discussed during the visit, was the expansion of economic cooperation between Iran and Syria.
  • On May 1, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke on the phone with the Syrian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Faisal Mekdad, on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr, and discussed bilateral relations and developments in the Palestinian arena. The Syrian minister called for expanding cooperation between the two nations in all spheres, and stressed Tehran’s support for Syria and its willingness to help it overcome the economic sanctions imposed on it (SANA, May 2).
  • In an interview to the IRNA news agency (May 3), the Head of the Iranian-Syrian Joint Chamber of Commerce, Kivan Kashefi, reported that the volume of trade between the two countries has grown over the past year by 60 percent. He explained the rise by pointing to the improvement in the transfer of goods through Iraq, increasing the number of flights from Iran to Syria, and trade agreements signed by the two countries. He remarked, however, that the transfer of goods from Iran to Syria through Iraq and Turkey is still expensive and complicated, and that the economic sanctions placed on Syria are hindering the transfer of money between the two countries.
  • The pro-opposition Syrian outlet, Ayn al-Furat, reported (May 4) that during the past month, Iran removed several officers who worked at the Aleppo Airport, and replaced them with Iranian commanders, in an effort to regain control over the airfield and tighten security there. This followed several recent security incidents, including an event in which an accidental tossing of a hand grenade led to the injury of an IRGC officer, and the killing of an officer with the pro-Iranian Pakistani militia, the Zeynabiyoun, which operates in Syria under IRGC guidance. According to this report, Iran sees great importance in ensuring the security in this airbase, which is used to move Iranian-linked forces in northern Syria.
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • On May 5, the President of Iran, Ebrahim Raisi, spoke on the phone with the Prime Minister of Iraq, Mustafa al-Kazimi, on the occasion of Eid al-Fitr. Raisi stressed Iran’s support f or the unity of Iran and expressed hope that a new government will soon be formed in Iraq (Tasnim, May 5).
  • On May 7, Iran’s incoming ambassador to Iraq, Mohammad Kazem Al-e Sadegh, met with the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, ahead of the start of his term as ambassador (ISNA, May 8). Al-e Sadegh is replacing Iraj Masjedi in this role, who has served as the ambassador to Baghdad since April 2017. The new ambassador, born in Iraq’s city of Najaf, previously served as the deputy ambassador to Baghdad.
  • Adel Karim, Iraq’s Minister of Electricity, announced that Iran and Iraq have reached an agreement concerning the restart of supply of Iranian gas to Iraq, and the settlement of the Iraqi debt to Iran (Fars, April 29). The agreement between the two countries was reached after the visit of an Iraqi delegation to Tehran, which discussed the issue of the Iraqi debt to Iran for the import of electricity and gas from Iran. On April 30, the Chairman of the Iranian-Iraqi Joint Chamber of Commerce, Yahya Al-e Eshaq, reported that the payment of the Iraqi debt will commence in a number of days. He mentioned that billions of dollars will be transferred to Iran’s public sector through the Iranian Central Bank, and assets worth nine billion dollars will be transferred to the Iranian private sector (Mehr, April 29).
  • Seyyed Kamal Hosseini, the Chairman of the Kurdistan Province Chamber of Commerce of western Iran, stated in an interview to the Iranian news agency ILNA (April 28) that the volume of export of the Kurdistan Province of Iran to the Kurdistan region in northern Iraq has dropped by 36 percent over the past year (2021-2022) and stood at 432 million dollars. He mentioned that Turkey is the main competition of Iran in Iraq and the Kurdistan region, and that the volume of Turkish exports to Iraq over the past year reached 18 billion dollars, double the volume of Iranian exports to Iraq.
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • On April 29, the processions marking International Qods Day were held across Iran, for the first time since the outbreak of COVID-19. International Qods Day has been held since 1979 on the last Friday of the month of Ramadan, based on the decision of the leader of the Islamic Revolution, Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini. The event is intended to express the support of Iran and the Muslim world to the Palestinian cause and the “liberation of Palestine,” and to call for the destruction of Israel and show defiance against the United States and its Arab allies in the region. In a televised speech on the occasion of International Qods Day, the Supreme Leader of Iran, Ali Khamenei, that developments in Palestine and west Asia signal that a new balance of power is emerging that will affect the present and future of Palestine, and that “unbeatable will” has replaced the “unbeatable army” of the Zionists. He further claimed that “the criminal Zionist army” has been forced to move from offense to defense, and that the main backer of the “Zionist regime,” the United States, has suffered great defeats in the international and domestic arenas, and that “the Zionist regime” itself is mired in a myriad of problems in the political and military arenas. Khamenei remarked in his speech, which he delivered in Arabic, that polls indicate that almost 70 percent of the Palestinians in historical Palestine support carrying out attacks against “the Zionist regime,” which indicates the complete willingness of the Palestinians to take on this regime. He added that the incidents in Palestine in recent years have annulled all plans of compromise with the “Zionist enemy,” including the Oslo Accords, the two-state solution, the “Deal of the Century,” all through the power of resistance. He stressed Iran’s support for the resistance camp and the Palestinian resistance, condemned the normalization of relations between Israel and a number of Arab states, and praised the Palestinian martyrs, their families, the Palestinian prisoners and fighters (Tasnim, April 29).
  • The Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, declared in a speech delivered on the occasion of the International Qods Day, that the Palestinians have realized that it is impossible to strive for security, independence and return to the homeland through a “piece of paper,” and that there can not be any compromise with the oppressors. He called on the Palestinians to persist in their struggle and declared that Israel is creating the conditions for its destruction and will disappear soon. According to him, the United States can no longer assist Israel, and is like an ambulance that is responding to a call of a patient after he had already died (ISNA, April 29). The Commander of the Qods Force of the IRGC, Esmail Qa’ani, declared in a speech in Mashhad that the life of the “Zionist regime” is coming to an end, and that the “resistance front” is growing stronger day by day. He advised the residents of Palestine to sell their property in the “occupied territories” and return to their homes in Europe before it is too late (Tasnim, April 29).
  • On April 27, a Hamas delegation led by a member of the group’s politburo, Khalil al-Hayya, and a senior Hamas official, Osama Hamdan, arrived for a visit to Tehran to participate in the International Qods Day events. On April 28, the delegation met with the Speaker of the Majlis, Mohammad Baqer Qalibaf, who stressed the importance of the Palestinian cause and Jerusalem to Iran, and its support for the Palestinians. He remarked that the Islamic nation, the resistance groups and the Muslim world must make normalization between the countries of the region and Israel costlier, and that the first priority in addressing the Palestinian question is jihad, resistance and struggle (Tasnim, April 28).
Iranian Involvement in Afghanistan
  • On April 30, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Hossein Amir Abdollahian, spoke with the Foreign Minister of the Taliban, Amir Khan Muttaqi. During the call, Abdollahian expressed concern regarding the security of Iranian consulates and the embassy in Afghanistan, in light of the recent terror attacks in the country, and called on Afghan authorities to adopt the necessary security procedures to protect the embassy in Kabul and the consulates in Herat, Mazar-e Sharif, Kandahar and Jalalabad. The Taliban’s minister of foreign affairs promised that Afghanistan’s security services will protect all Iranian diplomatic offices in the country (Fars, April 30).
  • On May 4, another shipment of Iranian humanitarian assistance arrived in Kabul, to be distributed to Afghan civilians. The shipment included food and medicine. A week prior, Iran sent a shipment to Mazar-e Sharif city, which was comprised of 11 tonnes of food and clothes. According to the Iranian consul in Mazar-e Sharif, Seyyed Hassan Yahyavi, the shipment was targeted at families of those killed and wounded in the terror attacks that rocked the city over the past month. Additionally, the consul provided financial assistance to the families of those harmed in the recent attacks (Tasnim, May 4).

MESOP MIDEAST WATCH: WEICHT RUSSLAND – FÜLLT IRAN DIE LÜCKE!

 Erstmals seit Jahren – Syriens Präsident Assad auf Kurzbesuch in Teheran

Der syrische Präsident Baschar al-Assad ist am Sonntag zu einem Kurzbesuch nach Teheran gereist. Laut Nachrichtenagentur Isna traf er sich in der iranischen Hauptstadt mit dem obersten Führer des Landes, Ajatollah Ali Chamenei, sowie Präsident Ebrahim Raisi.

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