- Last week in Saudi Arabia James Mattis, the American secretary of defense, accused Iran of destabilizing the Middle East. In response Hossein Dehqan, the Iranian defense minister, said it was the United States that was supporting the takfiri terrorist groups operating around the globe, especially in Syria and Iraq. He said it would be better for America’s secretary of defense and its leaders to solve their own internal problems instead of fomenting new crises in Korea and the Middle East (Mehr, April 19, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Syria and Lebanon
- Following the April 7, 2017 American attack on the Syrian airbase, Hassan Rouhani, the Iranian president, spoke on the phone with Bashar Assad. Rouhani condemned the attack, saying it was a violation of international law and only served to strengthen the terrorists. He told Assad Iran would continue to stand beside Syria in its struggle against terrorism and would continue to defend Syrian territorial integrity. Assad thanked Rouhani for Iran’s ongoing support of Syria (Fars, April 9, 2017). There were also telephone consultations between the defense ministers of both countries and between Mohammad Hossein Baqeri, the Iranian chief of staff, and Ali Ayoub, the Syrian chief of staff. Baqeri condemned the American attack, saying Iran and its armed forces were proud of the support they gave the Syrian resistance against the Western-backed terrorists (ISNA, April 9, 2017).
- In the meantime, in the wake of the attack Iran, Syria and Russia held consultations to increase their coordination in the campaign against the rebels. On April 14, 2017, the foreign ministers of all three countries met in Moscow. They condemned the attack and called on the United States not to attack Syria again. At a joint press conference held by the three foreign ministers, Mohammad Javad Zarif, the Iranian foreign minister, said Iran would continue cooperating with Russia in the struggle against terrorism (ISNA, April 14, 2017).
- Meeting with high-ranking military commanders in Tehran, Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei said the United States had made a “strategic mistake” in attacking Syria. He said the Trump administration strengthened ISIS and similar groups, and repeated the mistakes of his predecessors, who created ISIS or assisted in its establishment. He claimed Europe was paying the price for strengthening terrorists and that its citizens were not secure in their homes or on the street. The United States, he claimed, was repeating the European mistake. Khamenei rejected the claim that America had attacked Syria to send a deterrent message to regional states. He said Iran had already proved it did not surrender to threats (Fars, April 9 , 2017).
- Ahmad Reza Pourdastan, deputy chief of staff of the Iranian army, said the United States continued recruiting fighters and strengthening the terrorist groups in Syria. He said the White House aspired to strike a blow at Syria’s defense system by increasing the number of terrorist groups operating in the country (Fars, April 17, 2017).
- Alaeddin Boroujerdi, chairman of the Majlis committee for national security and foreign policy, said America’s foreign policy in Syria was doomed to fail. At a meeting of his committee members with senior cleric Ayatollah Nouri Hamedani, Boroujerdi said America and Saudi Arabia’s failures in Syria and Yemen were quite evident. He praised the Iranian fighters killed in Syria, and said that if the “resistance” had fallen in Syria, Lebanon and Iraq would have fallen, threatening the security of the Iranian borders. (IRNA, April 17, 2017).
Iranian Intervention in Iraq
- On April 11, 2017, the London-based Arabic newspaper al-Sharq al-Awsat reported that on April 9, 2017, Qasem Soleimani, commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, had arrived in Sulaymaniyah in northern Iraq. His objective was to meet with senior Kurdish officials to discuss the proposed referendum regarding Iraqi Kurdistan’s political future, and to convince Jalal Talabani’s Patriotic Union of Kurds (PUK) not to support holding it. Hossein Yazdan-Panah, deputy chairman of the Kurdish Freedom Party, told the paper that Soleimani had emphasized the need to avoid a referendum, which Iran felt was liable to endanger Iraq’s territorial integrity.
- Iran recently expressed its objection to flying the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk (northern Iraq), claiming that the Kurdish authorities had taken the step contrary to the position of the central government in Baghdad. In addition, he claimed, it was unconstitutional and caused regional tension. Nazim Dabag, the representative of Iraqi Kurdistan in Iran, said Tehran had appealed to the various parties in northern Iraq to resolve the issue of the Kurdish flag in Kirkuk through dialogue in accordance with the constitution (rudaw.net, April 14, 2017).
- Returning to Iran, on April 19, 2017, Soleimani met with Ali Larijani, speaker of the Majlis along with other several high-ranking IRGC commanders (Alef, April 19, 2017).
- On April 18, 2017, Iraj Masjedi, senior advisor to Qasem Soleimani, the commander of the IRGC’s Qods Force, arrived in Baghdad to take up the post of Iranian ambassador to Iraq (IRNA, April 18, 2017). After receiving Masjedi’s credentials, Ibrahim al-Jaafari, the Iraqi foreign minister, said the Iraqi people would never forget Iran’s support in their struggles against the regime of Saddam Hussein and ISIS. Masjedi said he hoped to expand bilateral cooperation, especially economic cooperation (IRNA, April 19, 2017). Masjedi replaces Hassan Danaei-far, who served as Iranian ambassador to Iraq for six years.