MESOP STRATEGIC OUTLOOK : Tehran Pushes for Influence in the Region

January 08 – 2017 – By Scott Lucas – eaworldview – Amid maneuvers over Syria’s six-year conflict, Iran made a push on Saturday to bolster its influence throughout the Middle East.

Tehran has moved on three fronts in recent days. Top MP Alaeddin Boroujerdi and a delegation have visited Syria and Lebanon, meeting with Syrian President Bashar al-Assad, Hezbollah leader Hassan Nasrallah, and leading Lebanese politicians. The Foreign Ministry has proclaimed Saudi-organized “chaos” in the Middle East. And on Saturday the Supreme Leader’s top aide, Ali Akbar Velayati, sought to demonstrate both the Iranian role in Iraq and its developing cooperation with Turkey.Velayati, seizing upon a meeting between Turkish Prime Minister Binali Yildirim and Iraqi counterpart Haidar al-Abadi, hailed a Turkey decision to remove troops from Iraq:

This [issue] that the Turkish government has decided to observe good neighborliness with Iraq and respect Iraq’s territorial integrity is a positive step. We welcome any kind of friendship among regional countries….We do not welcome any tension between Turkey and Iraq. Iran has sought to repair relations with Turkey, frayed because of the opposing positions of the two countries on the Syrian conflict. Tehran is seeking increased trade with Ankara to help with an economic recovery, still awaited after the implementation of the July 2015 nuclear deal. The Islamic Republic is also hoping to build on the shift around Syria, fostered by Turkish-Russian cooperation that has brokered an agreement over Aleppo and a nominal ceasefire across the country. However, Iran has also sought to protect its position in Iraq by backing Baghdad’s demand that Turkey limit its military presence in northern Iraq. The Erdoğan Government had hoped that its forces could be involved in the offensive to retake Iraq’s second city Mosul from the Islamic State.

Iraq’s al-Abadi said after his Saturday meeting with Yildirim, “The Prime Minister and the delegation accompanying him confirmed that this issue will be solved in a satisfactory manner soon.” Velayati responded, “The regional nations’ prosperity hinges on regional cooperation and prevention of any tension among neighbors.”

The aide used the opportunity to press Turkey to detach itself further from any thought of removing Syria’s Preisdent Assad from power, saying neither Ankara nor Damascus would benefit from the existing tension between the two countries.Meanwhile, the Foreign Ministry kept up pressure on Riyadh. Spokesman Bahram Qassemi said on Saturday, “Saudi Arabia has created chaos in the region through its organized support for Takfiri and terrorist groups.”

Qassaemi asserted that the Saudis are regarded as the “cause of bloody crimes against Arab nations of Syria, Iraq and Yemen” and that they have “committed treason against Muslims, particularly the Arab world and the cause of the Palestinian people” by siding with the Israeli regime.