CSIS‏Verified account @CSIS 11 March 2019 – The Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps – Quds Force is active in building, funding, training, and partnering with numerous actors to expand Iran’s regional influence. Read the new @CSIS_Threats brief to learn about Iran’s proxy forces in the Middle East: 


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Iran: Child Executions, Amputations, Floggings

§  by Majid Rafizadeh – March 8, 2019 Translations of this item: French

§  German –  Swedish

  • Europe ravenously throw sanctions on a country that has been home to Jews for more than three thousand years, yet tries to find ways to keep on doing business with a country such as Iran that is not only trying to establish its hegemony throughout the Middle East, but is also the serial violator of just about every human right imaginable. The only conclusion one can come to is that Europe would evidently still like to kill the Jews and is happy to support those wishing to kill them.

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February 24, 2019 – March 10, 2019 Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
  • In a major development, Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, paid a visit to Tehran, the first of its kind since outbreak of the uprising and civil war in Syria in 2011. During the visit, Assad met with the Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei and President Rouhani. The leaders used the visit to express their commitment to maintain cooperation between the two countries in the post-civil war era in Syria. President Assad’s visit caused a political crisis in Tehran as Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced his resignation after stating that he was not informed of the visit. Zarif later retracted his resignation and was invited by President Assad for a visit in Damascus.
  • The senior adviser to the Iranian minister of foreign affairs acknowledged in a media interview that despite the cooperation and shared interests of Iran and Russia in Syria, the two countries disagree regarding Israel. The senior adviser expressed concern about the possibility that Israel will use its good relationship with Russia to “impose” its plan on Russia to thwart Iranian influence in Syria. The statement of the senior Iranian official reflects the ongoing concern in Tehran about Russia’s preference for a relationship with Israel at Iran’s expense following the conclusion of the civil war in Syria.
  • Meanwhile, Iran continues to expand its economic activity in Syria and Iraq. The deputy head of the Mass Construction Society of Iran announced that Iran will soon begin building 200,000 housing units in Syria. In Iraq, preparations are underway for the visit of Iranian President Rouhani in the country next week. Rouhani, who will visit Iraq for the first time since assuming his current position, will visit Baghdad at the helm of a high-ranking economic and trade delegation.
  • Iran strongly condemned the decision of the United Kingdom to list Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and outlaw it. The spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs declared that the UK’s decision ignores the significant popular support the organization enjoys in Lebanon. He added that the decision will not succeed in harming or weakening the organization of its determination to continue the struggle against “terrorism and Zionism.”
Iranian Involvement in Syria and Lebanon
  • On February 25, Syrian President, Bashar al-Assad, arrived for a visit in Tehran. During the visit, the first of its kind since the outbreak of the uprising and civil war in Syria, Assad met senior Iranian regime officials, chief among them the Supreme Leader, Ali Khamenei, and Iranian President, Hassan Rouhani. In his meeting with Assad, Iranian Supreme Leader Khamenei stated that he sees Syria as Iran’s strategic depth and its proud of the assistance Iran has offered to Syria, a member of the “Resistance Axis.” He called Assad “a hero of the Arab world” and declared that Syria managed to withstand the large coalition of the United State, Europe and their regional allies and secure a victory. He stressed that the victories of the Syrian Army against terrorism are a sharp blow to the plots of the West in the region. Khamenei added that Iran will continue to stand by Syria as it has done in the past and wished the Syrian people success and health to Assad and his family. President Assad thanked the Supreme Leader of Iran for his country’s support to Syria and stated that the two countries should expand their economic ties (Tasnim, February 25).
  • In his meeting with Assad, President Rouhani stated that Iran is prepared to participate in Syria’s reconstruction and will stand by Damascus after the war concludes too. He mentioned that Iran, Turkey and Russia are all opposed to the presence of American troops in Syria (Fars, February 25). The Commander of the Iranian Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, also took part in the meeting between Assad and Khamenei and Rouhani. In a conference held in the city of Qom, Soleimani labeled Assad’s visit to Tehran and his meeting with Khamenei as a “celebration of victory” (Fars, February 28).
  • The Deputy Commander of the Qods Force, Esamail Qa’ani, reported that President Assad was brought to Tehran by the Qods Force, with the full knowledge of President Rouhani, who did not informed the Foreign Minister, Mohammad Javad Zarif (ISNA, March 6). Zarif, who did not attend Assad’s meetings in Tehran, filed his resignation as a result of the snub, but eventually decided to remain in his position. Shortly after retracting his resignation, Zarif spoke with his Syrian counterpart, Walid al-Muallem, and discussed regional developments, Syrian-Iranian relations and Assad’s visit to Tehran. Following the call, Syria’s ambassador to Tehran called Zarif and conveyed President Assad’s invitation to visit Damascus (Fars, February 27).
  • In a wide-ranging interview to the Iranian reformist daily E’temad (March 6), Hossein Jaberi Ansari, the Senior Adviser to Iran’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, stated that despite the cooperation and common interests of Iran and Russia in Syria and in other regional arenas, they disagree on other matters, including the approach toward Israel. He commented that Russia never stood by Iran on the question of Israel. As long as the struggle against “terrorists” in Syria who seek to overthrow the regime continues, Iran and Russia have overlapping interests, but if the situation in Syria turns to a conflict between Iran and Israel, the paths of Russia and Iran will diverge.
  • Referring to Iran’s policy toward Israel, Ansari declared that Iran’s policy on the matter is clear and public, and that is a refusal to acknowledge the existence of the “Zionist regime.” According to him, Israel fears the stabilization of Iranian influence in Syria, as had happened in Lebanon, and is therefore working to force its designs for Syria on other actors, Russia included, while exploiting the historical ties between Russia and Israel. Iran needs to adopt a wise policy that prevents Israeli designs from becoming Russia’s policy. According to him, Iran needs to work sensibly to increase its influence and advance its interests, but without paying too heavy a price for these efforts.
  • The Secretary of the Iranian Supreme National Security Council, Ali Shamkhani, declared that Israel’s efforts to thwart Iran’s presence in Syria are useless. In a press conference in Tehran, Shamkhani stated that Iran pays no heed to the statements and travels of Israeli Prime Minister Netanyahu, which are aimed against Iran’s presence in Syria, adding that this presence will remain as long as the Syrian government is interested in it (Fars, March 3).
  • Five bodies of IRGC fighters who were killed in Syria have been discovered and identified. A statement published by the IRGC on February 27 (Sepah News) reported that a search team of the IRGC’s Qods Force managed to locate the bodies of the missing fighters and identify them through DNA tests. The statement did not include information on when the fighters were killed and under what circumstances, but based on examining the names of those killed, it appears that at least three of them were killed in the Khan Tuman battle in 2016.
  • The deputy head of the Mass Construction Society of Iran, Iraj Rahbar, declared that Iran will soon begin constructing 200,000 housing units in Syria, most of them in Damascus. He mentioned that during last month’s visit of Iran’s deputy president to Damascus, the two countries signed agreements on cooperation in the construction, tourism and agricultural sectors, including a memorandum of understanding concerning the construction of the housing units. He added that Saudi Arabia and Qatar also expressed willingness to building housing units in Syria, as part of the country’s reconstruction process, and have decided nine billion dollars for that purpose. Rahbar stated that he offered the Iranian government to establish branches of Iranian banks in Syria to facilitate the provision of the necessary capital for Iranian entrepreneurs to advance their businesses in Syria, as was done in Iraq (ISNA, February 24).
  • Bahram Qasemi, the Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, lambasted the decision of the British government to list Lebanese Hezbollah as a terrorist organization and outlaw it. Qasemi commented that the UK’s decision was taken at a time when Hezbollah enjoys a prominent social and public role and takes part in elections in Lebanon. The organization enjoys widespread popular support, as was evident in the election results, and the British decision ignores large swathes of the Lebanese public and the legal status of the organization in Lebanon, the spokesman argued. Qasemi added that Hezbollah plays a positive and effective role in protecting the territorial integrity of Lebanon and the struggle against terrorist groups, among them ISIS. He insisted that the wrongheaded decision of the United Kingdom will not be able to harm the organization or weaken its resolve to fight terrorism and Zionism in the region (IRNA, March 2).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • Iranian Deputy Foreign Minister, Abbas Araghchi, conducted an official visit to Iraq at the end of the February. During his meeting with Iraq’s Prime Minister, Adel Abdul-Mahdi, the two discussed bilateral relations and developments in the region. Abdul-Mahdi told Araghchi that Iraq is prepared to establish a joint industrial zone with Iran (Fars, February 25).
  • On March 11, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani is set to make his first visit to Iraq since assuming office. The purpose of the visit is to expand cooperation between the two countries, particularly in the financial and trade sectors. On the eve of the visit, Iraq’s President Barham Salih stated that Rouhani’s visit is important and that the relationship between the two countries is essential and serves Iraq’s interests. He commented that Iraq’s relations with Iran do not come at the expense of its relations with other countries and with the Arab world (Fars, March 5). Rouhani’s upcoming visit to Baghdad was also discussed in the meetings of Iraqi Speaker of Parliament, Muhammad al-Halbousi, with senior Iranian officials during his visit to Tehran on March 6 (Fars, March 6).

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Assad in Tehran: Soleimani’s goons snatched him to swear allegiance to Khamenei. Putin retaliates – 8 March 2019 – DEBKA FILES – ISRAEL

Al Qods Brigades, the Iranian Rev Guards’ external wing, “brought” Syrian ruler Bashar Assad to Tehran on Feb. 27, for an audience with supreme leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. This was revealed on Wednesday, March 6, by Al Qods deputy chief Brig.-Gen Esmaeil Qaani in an interview with Iranian media. Assad arrived alone without aides – a sign that he did not come voluntarily. And, indeed, Qaani also admitted that “his men accompanied Assad” all the way to Tehran, another sign that he was virtually snatched for the trip.   DEBKAfile’s intelligence sources, who followed this revelation, discovered that Assad was bundled onto an Iranian plane and flown directly to a Revolutionary Guards air base in western Tehran. The only official on hand to receive the Syrian president was Al Qods chief Gen. Qassem Soleimani, who never left his side throughout the visit.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : Iranian Kurds: Between the Hammer & the Anvil

By Ofra Bengio  – BEGIN / SADAT CENT ER – ISRAEL – March 5, 2019  – BESA Center Perspectives Paper No. 1,103

EXECUTIVE SUMMARY: The new strategy toward Iran taken by Donald Trump, which includes withdrawing from the nuclear deal, imposing sanctions on Tehran, and isolating it internationally, created expectations among the Kurdish national movement in Iran that its common interests with the US would help it gain American support in fighting the regime in Tehran. To the movement’s dismay, this commonality of interests has not been translated into practical terms – unlike US policy toward the Kurds in Iraq and Syria. Compared to the other Kurdish populations, the Iranian Kurds have remained isolated and silenced.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER : Zarif’s stock rises with support from Soleimani

EAST KURDISTAN (IRAN) – MESOPOTAMIA NEWS BACKGROUNDER : Zarif’s stock rises with support from Soleimani

4 March 2019 – AL MONITOR – None other than Qasem Soleimani, commander of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps’ Quds Force, snuffed the hopes of hard-liners that Iranian Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif would follow through on his Feb. 25 resignation letter.

As Sinan Toossi reports, “Soleimani backed Zarif as ‘the main official responsible for foreign policy’ and stressed that he has always had the support of senior officials, ‘especially’ Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei. His comments echoed President Hassan Rouhani’s letter rejecting Zarif’s resignation in which he stated that he agreed with his chief diplomat that the foreign minister is the ‘highest official implementing the country’s foreign policy.’”

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4 March 2019 – The uncertainty surrounding the Trump administration’s commitment to Iraq’s stability and sovereignty has enabled Iran to expand its already significant influence in that country. Iraq’s leadership believes that the withdrawal of most U.S. forces from Syria portends a similar drawdown for Iraq. Pro-Iranian political figures in Iraq—many of whom already argue that Iraq should be pivoting more toward Tehran than Washington—have stepped up efforts to force the United States to withdraw. Many of these figures have successfully capitalized on resentment over President Trump’s recent actions and comments. He did not meet with Iraqi leaders during his brief December 2018 visit to an Iraqi military base that hosts U.S. forces, and, on February 3, 2019, he stated that some U.S. troops might remain in Iraq to ‘look a little bit at Iran because Iran is the real problem.’ Iraqi officials have consistently resented U.S.-Iran competition in Iraq. The February comment by the president specifically contradicts a provision of the 2008 U.S.-Iraq Security Agreement, which forms the basis for the U.S. presence in Iraq and forbids the United States from using Iraq as a base from which to attack Iran.

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MESOPOTAMIA NEWS : EUROPEAN LEADERS FRIENDS –  Iran: Mounting Persecution of Christians

by Majid Rafizadeh February 24, 2019

  • -“We created a people’s army to defend the country and also help in emergencies, but it turned into a monster.” — Mohsen Sazegara, on the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, which he helped establish.
  • Under international law, the Iranian government has an obligation to respect freedom of religion. Yet, while the rights of Christians are being violated in Iran at an unprecedented level, how long will the international community remain silent?
  • What will it take for these endlessly preening moralists to act against those human rights violations?

The persecution of Christians in Iran in 2018 increased to a new level, according to an in-depth report jointly released by Open Doors, Middle East Concern, Article 18, and Christian Solidarity Worldwide.

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EAST KURDISTAN (IRAN) –  February 28, 2019 MEMRI DAILY BRIEF No. 179

Iran’s Diligent Investment In Empire –

By: Alberto M. Fernandez*

The Iranian revolutionary regime, that just celebrated its 40th anniversary is undergoing a deep, continuing domestic crisis. Demonstrations that began in December 2017 in the city of Mashhad over economic conditions and corruption spread across the country and continued into 2018. In some cities, protests centered on the lack of potable water. Iranian Sufis and members of the country’s restive Arab minority have also staged demonstrations. This unrest has continued even into 2019.

This turmoil preceded the Trump administration’s withdrawal in May 2018 from the Iran nuclear deal (JCPOA) and the imposition of new American sanctions in November 2018 targeting Iranian regional adventurism and development of ballistic missiles.

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  • After his detention in December of 2018, the Islamic Revolutionary Court of Tehran has sentenced the Kurdish activist Behnam Ibrahim Zada to 18 months in prison. Prior to his recent arrest, Zada spent five years in prison for his work on labor rights. Zada was charged for “activities against the national security” by the Iranian regime. In Urmia, the Islamic court sentenced another Kurdish activist Majeed Tibash to five years in prison for “connection with Kurdish opposition parties.” On Thursday, in Sanandaj, the Islamic court sentenced a Kurdish teacher, who is a civil activist, to one year in prison on charges of “posing threats to the national security.”  Additional arrests by the Iranian intelligence office (Etellaa’t) last week include: a Kurdish activist, Poria Ahmadi, in Sanandaj; a Kurdish man, Farzad Husseini, in Kamyaran; and in Marivan city, a Kurdish man, Ayrej Rahimzada after raiding his house. According to the human rights group active in Iranian Kurdistan, the regime has arrested 63 Kurdish activists since the beginning of 2019.
  • On Wednesday a Kurdish border porter, known as Kolbars, was wounded by direct shots from the Iranian border guards near Baneh. On Sunday, the Iranian security forces arrested six people in the Hawraman region near Pawa city, who are believed to be a group of Kolbars. The detainees were transferred to a jail in Nodasha town. On Sunday, the Iranian border guards blew up a bridge inside Iraqi Kurdistan near Pishdar that was used by the Kolbars to cross into the region.  More via

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