The joint Iranian-Syrian meeting (SANA, November 26, 2019)
- In response to the launch of rockets from Syria toward Israel on November 19, the next day, the IDF struck targets of the Qods Force of the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) and the Syrian Army. Iran maintained ambiguity with regards to the IDF strike on IRGC targets, but Iranian media reported about the death of a fighter with the Basij wing of the IRGC, apparently killed during the IDF strike.
- The American TV network, Fox News, published satellite imagery showing that Iran is rebuilding the Imam Ali base near Albu Kamal, on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Iraqi border, which was hit about two months ago in a strike attributed to Israel. The base is intended to store ammunition and house pro-Iranian militias operating in that region.
- In late November, the joint Iranian-Syrian housing and public works committee gathered in Tehran at the helm of the Syrian construction and public works minister and the Iranian minister of transportation and urban development. During the visit, the Syrian minister of construction offered to establish joint Syrian-Iranian construction company and bank, and declared that Syria is committed to prioritizing Iran during its economic recovery process. As part of the joint discussions in Tehran, the two countries inked a memorandum of understanding concerning the establishment of 30,000 housing units in Syria by Iranian companies. Meanwhile, the Iranian trade attaché in Baghdad reported that the volume of trade of goods other than oil is on the rise, adding that Iran wishes to increase it to USD 20 billion per year.
- As part of the ongoing protests in Iraq, on the night of November 27, protesters torched the Iranian consulate in Najaf, southern Iraq. Iran condemned the attack and stated that Iraq is responsible for maintaining the security of Iranian diplomats within its borders. The attack on the consulate in Najaf came after a similar attack on the Iranian consulate in Karbala in early November.
- During a rally of support to the Iranian regime held in Tehran, the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, warned Israel not to count on assistance from the United States, since it will arrive “only after the Zionists will already be annihilated.”
- The Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spoke with the Secretary General of the Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhleh and the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and congratulated them for “the victory achieved by the Palestinian resistance” against Israel in the last round of escalation in the Gaza Strip.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
- On the night of November 20, the IDF struck targets of the IRGC’s Qods Force and the Syrian Army. In the strike, Israel hit about 20 targets, over half of them bases and Iranian camps of the Qods Force and pro-Iranian militias. The rest were Syrian Army surface-to-air missile batteries, which were hit in retaliation to their attempts to target the aircrafts (Haaretz, November 20). According to the IDF statement, the attack was carried out in retaliation for the firing of four rockets toward Israel around 5 AM on November 19. The rockets were intercepted by the Iron Dome missile defense system and none landed in Israel. According to the assessment of the IDF, the rocket launch was carried out by a pro-Iranian militia and directly overseen by the IRGC’s Qods Force.
- On November 24, Iranian media reported about the funeral of a fighter with the IRGC’s Basij wing, Esmail Gholami Yarahmadi, who was killed in Syria on November 20 (Tasnim, November 24). Following his death, the Commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, Qasem Soleimani, sent a note of condolences to the family of the fallen (Fars, November 24). The circumstances of his death were not publicized, but it cannot ruled out that the man was killed in the IDF strike in Syria on November 20.
- The American TV network, Fox News, published (on November 18) satellite photography by the Israeli company ImageSat, showing that Iran is rebuilding the Imam Ali military base near Albu Kamal, on the Syrian side of the Syrian-Iraqi border, which was targeted two months ago in a strike attributed to Israel. The base is intended to store ammunition and house pro-Iranian militias operating in that region. In the images, eight areas inside the base are seen to be undergoing reconstruction as well as a crossing point between two sides of the base, which is surrounded by a wall.
- During the month of November, a delegation headed by the Chairman of the Majlis National Security and Foreign Policy Committee, Mojtaba Zolnouri, visited Syria and met with senior Syrian officials, chief among them President Assad, as well as representatives of Palestinian organizations in Damascus. The committee chairman emphasized Iran’s support for Syria during their visit, and Iran standing by Syria in the campaign against ISIS, as well as the historical ties between the two countries. He called for bolstering the economic, trade and parliamentary relations between the two countries.
- In a meeting with the representatives of Palestinian organizations in Damascus, the chairman of the foreign relations and national security of the Majlis said that the position of the Islamic Republic of Iran with regards to Palestine has not changed, nor did its support for the Palestinian people waver. He insisted that the question of Palestine is the central cause of the Muslim world and that the Palestinians’ resistance to the “regime occupying Jerusalem” [Israel] is paving the way to the downfall of the “Zionist regime” (icana.ir, November 23).
- The head of the medical Basij organization and former Minister of Health, Ebrahim Motevalian, reported that 11 Iranian doctors and nurses were killed during the campaign against ISIS in Syria and Iraq. In an interview to the Fars News Agency (November 25), Motevalian stated that during the campaign against ISIS, Iranian medical teams ferried about 6,000 injured to receive medical care in Iran and that Iranian doctors established small field hospitals during the fighting, which were used to operate on the injured.
- On November 25, the joint Iranian-Syrian housing and public works committee met in Tehran. The meeting was led by the Syrian Minister of Housing and Public Works, Suhail Abdullatif, and the Iranian Minister of Transportation and Urban Development, Mohammad Eslami. The Syrian minister of housing emphasized the need to implement the memorandum of understanding signed between the two countries concerning expanding cooperation in the sectors of construction and development. He called for removing barriers that are delaying the implementation of projects in these sectors. In addition, Abdullatif proposed establishing a joint Syrian-Iranian construction company and a bank and declared that Syria will prioritize Iranian companies during its reconstruction process. The Iranian minister of transportation reiterated his ministry’s commitment to cooperation between the two countries during Syria’s reconstruction (SANA, November 25; Fars, November 26). As part of the discussions in Tehran, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to build 30,000 housing units in Syria by Iranian companies. The Iranian minister of transportation and urban development said that as part of the agreement reached by the two countries, three joint Syrian-Iranian state companies will be established to build urban infrastructure, housing units and to provide engineering consulting services (Asr-e Iran, November 27).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
- On the night of November 27, as part of the ongoing protests in Iraq, the Iranian consulate in the city of Najaf, southern Iraq, was torched. The consulate staff was apparently evacuated before the building was attacked, and no casualties were reported. Following the attack, Iraqi authorities announced a curfew in the city (Reuters, November 27). Iran condemned the attack on the consulate and placed the responsibility for protecting the consulate on the Iraqi government. The Spokesman of the Iranian Ministry of Foreign Affairs, Abbas Mousavi, stated that the Iraqi government is responsible for protecting the consular offices and diplomats within its borders. He demanded that the Iraqi government forcefully respond against the consulate attackers (Press TV, November 28). It should be mentioned that on November 3, dozens of protesters also attacked the Iranian consulate in Karbala. They scaled the barricades surrounding the consulate building, removed the Iranian flag and placed the Iraqi flag in its stead.
- The Iranian trade attaché in Baghdad, Naser Behzad, announced during a conversation with journalists that the volume of non-oil trade between Iran and Iraq is rising and amounted to USD six billion in the past seven months. He stated that Iran is willing to assist growing Iraqi exports to Iran and wishes to expand the volume of trade between the two countries to USD 20 billion annually. Behzad reported that the trade between the two countries includes industrial equipment, medicine and medical equipment, food products, steel and metal products, and water supply equipment (Fars, November 26).
- The Spokesman of the Iraqi Shi’ite pro-Iranian militia, Harakat al-Nujabaa’, Nasr al-Shammari, stated an interview to a Russian journalist that the militia will participate in any future war against Israel. He remarked that his movement sees the struggle against “the Zionist regime” as a religious and ideological duty and that if a war erupts between Hezbollah and Syria against Israel, his group will participate in the war, alongside all other “resistance” groups, led by Lebanese Hezbollah, to regain the rights of the Arab and Muslim peoples. Al-Shammari added that Harakat al-Nujabaa’ maintains ties and holds meetings with commanders of “the Palestinian resistance groups” (Tasnim, November 27).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
- On November 17, the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, spoke on the phone with the Secretary General of Palestinian Islamic Jihad, Ziad al-Nakhleh. Zarif condemned the Israeli “aggression” against the Palestinian people and particularly in the Gaza Strip, and congratulated al-Nakleh for “forcing a ceasefire on the Zionist regime” at the end of the last round of escalation in the Gaza Strip (Mehr, November 17).
- In addition, Zarif spoke to the Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau, Ismail Haniyeh, and congratulated him for the “victory achieved by the Palestinian resistance” against Israel in the last round of fighting. He proclaimed that the ferocity of resistance, its unity and moral superiority is what made the victory possible. Zarif emphasized, yet again, that Iran stands by the Palestinian people and the “resistance” in Gaza. Zarif expressed his concern about the position of the United Nations in light of the “crimes against civilians in the Gaza Strip,” alleging that the position of the UN stems from pressures that the United States is bringing to bear on the international organization. Haniyeh thanked Zarif for Iran’s support for the Palestinians and the “resistance,” and asserted that the occupiers will never be able to achieve their goals in the battlefield and the diplomatic arena (Fars, November 18).
- During a rally in support of the Iranian regime, held in Tehran following the suppression of the latest wave of protests in the country, the Commander of the IRGC, Hossein Salami, proclaimed that Iran’s enemies are not safe anywhere in the world, and that the Zionists should not expect assistance form the United States, since it will arrive only after they are annihilated. He boasted that Iran defeated the United States and the “global arrogance” [the West] in Lebanon and established a big army in the country [meaning Hezbollah] that the Zionists fear, day and night (Tasnim, November 25).