- On December 24, 2016, Hossein Salami, deputy IRGC commander, told Iranian TV that the fall of Aleppo to the forces of the Syrian army had foiled the plans of the West and some regional states to take over the Middle East. The Americans intended, he claimed, to take over Syria, then advance to Lebanon and Iraq and finally reach Iran, after which they would establish a new Middle Eastern order. However, he claimed, the “liberation of Aleppo” had shown that they could not control events. He said that whoever controlled Aleppo could control northern Syria, and whoever controlled Damascus could control southern Syria.
- Salami added that the United States, the Europeans and the Zionists were planning to contain Hezbollah’s activity, but that Hezbollah had become a significant regional force. If Hezbollah could operate in the unlit ditches and winding alleys of Aleppo, without a doubt it could fight even better in the streets of Haifa and Tel Aviv, he claimed (Tasnim and Sepah News, December 25, 2016)
- Hossein Dehqan, Iranian minister of defense, said the reason for an Iranian presence in Syria and Iraq was that Iran regarded their security as its own. At a ceremony launching a new postage stamp bearing a picture of Hossein Hamedani, a senior IRGC commander killed in Syria last year, he said that the takfiri terrorist organizations operating in Syria and Iraq today had been established by a coalition of local reactionary states, the United States, the Zionists and countries such as Turkey, and unless the their activities in Iraq and Yemen stopped, world order would be in danger. He claimed Iraq’s war against extremists, terrorism and instability was a human and Islamic mission (Tabnak, December 25, 2016).
Iranian Intervention in Syria and Lebanon
- On December 24, 2016, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani spoke to Russian President Vladimir Putin by phone. They discussed their regional cooperation and the situation in Syria in the wake of the fall of Aleppo to the Syrian army. It was their third telephone conversation in December (IRNA, December 24, 2016).
- On December 20, 2016, the foreign ministers of Iran, Russia and Turkey met in Moscow to discuss the Syrian crisis. They issued a joint declaration stressing that their countries supported the preservation of Syria’s independence, unity and territorial integrity. They also stressed that the resolution of the Syrian crisis had to be political, not military, that all three countries were committed to a joint struggle against ISIS and the al-Nusra Front, and distinguished between them and the other armed opposition groups (ISNA, December 20, 2016). Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said a political solution was the only possible path for Syria and that the struggle against terrorists had to be continued not only in Syria, but everywhere (Fars, December 20, 2016).
- Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Iranian supreme leader for international affairs, called the meeting in Moscow “a significant development.” He said that in the past Iran and Russia had been on one side and Turkey on the other, but today all three countries were cooperating to liberate Syria from foreign domination. He said he hoped that the meeting would make it possible to stabilize Syria’s territorial integrity and the sovereignty of the legitimate government, expel the terrorists and liberate the whole country (Tasnim News and IRNA, December 21, 2016).
- Ali Shamkhani, the secretary of the Supreme Council for National Security, said the support the three countries gave to Syria’s sovereignty, independence, unity and territorial integrity showed the strategy adopted by Islamic Republic since the outbreak of the Syrian crisis had been correct (Fars, December 21, 2016).
- Ali Shamkhani said Iran and Russia were cooperating to provide the Syrian army and the “resistance” forces with advice. He held a press conference where he said Iran was cooperating with Iraq, Russia and Syria to plan the military struggle against terrorism. He added that Russia was an ally of Iran in the war on terrorism and that the two countries coordinated at the highest levels, despite the efforts of their enemies to prevent them. As to the trilateral meeting of foreign ministers in Moscow, he said he hoped it would be based on the principle of a political solution for the Syrian crisis, not a military solution (Fars, December 20, 2016).
- Ali-Akbar Velayati, advisor to the Iranian supreme leader for international affairs, met in Tehran with Adnan Hassan Mahmoud, Syrian ambassador to Iran. He told Mahmoud that the “victory of the resistance” in Aleppo had proved that great feats could be accomplished in the struggle against terrorism even without the United States and the West. He said Syria was stronger today than in the past and that the countries supporting terrorism and extremists, the “Zionist regime” among them, could no longer threaten the Syrian people and government (Tasnim, December 22, 2016).
- On December 27, 2016, Hossein Dehqan, Iranian minister of defense, told Russian TV that Iran opposed Saudi Arabian participation in talks to resolve the Syrian crisis. He said the liberation of Aleppo headed the priority list of the Syrian government and its supporters because of the city’s strategic, political and economic importance.
- Between December 21 and 23, 2016, Jaberi Ansari, deputy foreign minister for Arab and African affairs, paid a visit to Syria and Lebanon, meeting with senior officials in both countries. Among them were Syrian President Assad, Syrian Prime Minister Mohammad Imad Khamis, Syrian Foreign Minister Walid Muallem; Lebanese President Michel Aoun, Lebanese Prime Minister Saad Hariri, Lebanese Speaker of the Parliament Nabih Beri, and Hezbollah secretary general Hassan Nasrallah. He discussed regional developments with them. He also attended a meeting of the joint Iranian-Syrian political committee (Mehr, December 21, 2016).
- Iran dismissed the claims of John Kirby, the US Department of State spokesman, that the visit of Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, to Aleppo was a violation of UN Security Council Resolution 2231. Javad Karimi-Qoddusi, a member of the Majlis committee for national security and foreign policy, claimed the West had been roundly defeated in Aleppo and was now trying to wage a worthless media campaign against Iran. He said UN Security Council Resolution 2231 did not present obstacles to Soleiman’s trip to Aleppo and that the West could not make such a decision (IRNA, December 21, 2016). Yadollah Javani, senior advisor to the supreme leader’s representative in the IRGC, said Iran did not consider American sanctions imposed on senior Iranian officials as legitimate (Tabnak, December 21, 2016). During the past few days, new pictures were published of Soleimani in Aleppo after it fell to the Syrian army.
Iranian Intervention in Yemen
- Bahram Qasemi, spokesman for the Iranian foreign ministry, said Iran did not have a presence in Yemen and that its influence there was “historical and cultural.” At his weekly press conference he said the Saudi Arabian attacks on Yemen had to stop and that Iran supported negotiations between the various Yemeni groups (Fars, December 19, 2016).
- An anonymous senior Iranian official said Iran had no military presence in Yemen. On December 21, 2016, the ISNA news agency reported that an unnamed senior Iranian official had denied Arab media reports about the death of a high-ranking Iranian officer in an aerial attack carried out in northern Yemen by the Saudi Arabian-led Arab coalition. He claimed there were no Iranian forces in Yemen and that issuing such reports was intended to conceal the treachery of those who had invited foreign forces to Yemen to destroy it and kill its citizens.
- Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis committee for national security and foreign policy, told Radwan al-Haimi, a member of Yemen’s supreme revolutionary council who was visiting Tehran, that Iran would continue to support the Yemeni people, in view of the Saudi Arabian attacks (Fars, December 26, 2016).
Iranian Intervention in the Palestinian Arena
- On December 21, 2016, in an interview with the reformist paper Ghanoon, Heshmatollah Fallahatpisheh, a member of the Majlis committee for national security and foreign policy, said that Hamas had to change its strategy regarding Syria and to end its support for the Syrian opposition, which served the interests of ISIS. He said the Palestinians should not forget Syria’s support of the “resistance” front and that unless Hamas changed its policies, Iran would be forced to establish new relations with other Palestinians groups in a way that would not harm the “resistance.”
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