Spotlight on Iran – June 16 -30, 2019

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Editor: Dr. Raz Zimmt
Source: The Meir Amit Intelligence and Terrorism Information CenterAt the Israeli Intelligence Heritage and Commemoration Center
Overview
  • Iranian media highlighted the statements made by the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, during the summit of national security advisers in Jerusalem. According to Patrushev Iran supports the war on terror in Syria and was and remains Russia’s ally. Prior to this, Patrushev declared that Iran is present in Syria at the invitation of its legitimate government, and that Moscow will take into account Iranian interest during the meeting with the Americans and Israelis.
  • Against the backdrop of escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, which ratcheted up significantly following the downing of the American unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in the Persian Gulf by Iran, several attacks were carried out against U.S. interests in Iraq, apparently by Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran. The attacks included the firing of a Katusha rocket toward the Green Zone in Baghdad, the compound where the U.S. embassy in located; three rockets hit Camp Taji north of Baghdad, where American forces are stationed; and a rocket targeted a compound near Basra containing housing complexes and offices of several oil company, including the American Exxon Mobil company.
  • Last week, the Iraqi deputy chief of staff for training and operations visited Tehran and met with senior Iranian military officials. The commander of the Iranian Army’s aerial defense base stated in his meeting with the Iraqi official that Iran is ready to offer Iraq its capabilities in manufacturing aerial defense systems and technical support for such equipment. During the visit of the senior Iraqi military official, the commander of the Ground Forces of the Iranian Army expressed willingness to conduct joint training maneuvers of the two armies.
  • In mid-June a senior delegation of Hamas leaders met the Iranian minister of intelligence at the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The sides discussed cooperation between Hamas and Iran and ways to counter the ‘Deal of the Century’ of President Trump. Meanwhile, the Shin Bet exposed an attempt of Iranian intelligence to establish a spy ring in Israel through a Jordanian businessman, whose family hails from Hebron. The man entered Israel on the instruction of Iranian intelligence, in an effort to establish networks in Israel and the West Bank to be used for covert Iranian activities.
Iranian Involvement in Syria
  • On June 25, during a meeting with his Israeli and American counterparts in Jerusalem, the Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, Nikolai Patrushev, stated that Iran is contributing to the war against terrorism in Syria. He called on all sides to take confidence-building steps to decrease tensions. He added that Iran was and remains Russia’s ally and partner. On the eve of the trilateral summit Patrushev told journalists in Russia that Moscow will take Iranian interests into account and present them to the Americans and Israelis. He remarked that Iran is present in Syria at the invitation of the country’s legitimate government and takes part in the war on terrorism. Iranian media highlighted the statements by Patrushev relating to Russia’s commitment to Iranian interests (Russkaya Gazeta, June 24; Tasnim, June 25).
Iranian Involvement in Iraq
  • On June 18, Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs, Mohammad Javad Zarif, met with an Iraqi parliamentary delegation headed by the Deputy Speaker of the Iraqi Parliament, Bashir al-Haddad. The two sides discussed regional developments, bilateral relations and the agreements recently signed between Tehran and Baghdad, and particularly the deal on economic cooperation and facilitating the movement of citizens between the two countries. During their visit to Tehran, the members of the Iraqi delegation also met with the Chairman of the Majlis, Ali Larijani (Tasnim, June 18).
The meeting of the Iranian Minister of Foreign Affairs with the Iraqi parliamentary delegation (Tasnim, June 18, 2019)
  • Against the backdrop of escalating tensions between Iran and the United States, a number of attacks were carried out against American interests in Iraq, which were apparently carried out by Shi’ite militias loyal to Iran. On June 16, a Katusha rocket was fired toward the Green Zone in Baghdad, the compound housing the offices of Iraqi ministries as well as international embassies, including the American embassy. There were no casualties. On June 17, three rockets exploded in Camp Taji north of Baghdad, where American forces are stationed. In this attack too, there were no casualties. On June 18, a rocket exploded in a compound near the city of Basra containing housing complexes and central offices of several oil firms, including the American Exxon Mobil company. According to local police, two Iraqi civilians working there were injured. In another incident, a rocket was fired toward a military base in Mosul, northern Iraq, where U.S. forces are stationed (Reuters, June 16, 17 and 18).
  • The Commander of the Khatam al-Anbia Air Defense Base of the Iranian Army, Alireza Sabahi Fard, declared that Iran is able to satisfy Iraq’s needs in the realm of aerial defense. In a meeting held in Tehran with the Head of the Joint Iran-Iraqi Committee and Deputy Iraqi Chief of Staff on Training and Operations, Tariq Abbas Ibrahim Abdul Hussein, the senior Iranian commander stated that Iran’s aerial defense arm is willing to assist Iraq in manufacturing and providing technical support for aerial defense systems. He remarked that Iranian technicians have manufactured a slew of aerial defense systems, including radars, missiles, artillery, signal intelligence collection tools, electronic warfare systems and UAVs. He also expressed the desire to establish joint expert committees in all of these spheres to further cooperation between the two countries. The senior Iraqi commander expressed his country’s willingness to cooperate with Iranian aerial defense experts in the spheres of manufacturing equipment, training and technical support in various realms including electronic warfare, radar deployment, visual intelligence, command and control and software systems (IRNA, June 23).
The meeting between the Iranian aerial defense base and the senior Iraqi commander  (IRNA, June 23, 2019)
  • During his visit in Tehran, the senior Iraq commander also met with Kioumars Heydari, the Commander of the Ground Forces of the Iranian Army. Heydari stated during the meeting that Iran is interested in conducting joint training maneuvers with the Iraqi Army. He pointed out that Iran has a great deal of experience in the field of defense, which can assist in bolstering the Iraqi Army (IRNA, June 24).
Iranian Involvement in the Palestinian Arena
  • A high-ranking Hamas delegation met with the Iranian Minister of Intelligence, Seyyed Mahmoud Alavi. The meeting was held in the Iranian embassy in Beirut. The delegation included Salah al-Arouri, the Deputy Head of Hamas’ Political Bureau; Hossam Badran, a member of the organization’s political bureau; Osama Hamdan, another member of the politburo and the head of Hamas’ external relations; and Ahmed Abd al-Hadi, Hamas’ Representative to Lebanon. The sides discussed relations between Hamas and Iran and ways to deal with the “American-Zionist threats” in the region, and particular in the Palestinian arena. The two sides reiterated their opposition to President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ and discussed ways to counter it (Fars, June 16; AFP, June 17).
The meeting between the Iranian minister of intelligence and the high-ranking Hamas delegation (yjc.ir, June 19, 2019)
  • The Shin Bet, Israel’s internal security organ, exposed an attempt by Iranian intelligence to establish a spy ring in Israel. About two months ago, the Shin Bet arrested Thaer Shafut, a 32-year-old Jordanian businessman whose family hails from Hebron. Shafut allegedly entered Israel on Iranian instructions with the aim of establishing networks in Israel and the West Bank to be used for covert activities of Iran. According to the Shin Bet, the contact between Shafut and Iranian intelligence was initiated in Lebanon, where Shafut met with two Arabic-speaking handlers from Iranian intelligence, who presented themselves using the nicknames Abu Sadeq and Abu Jaafar. Shafut met with the agents in 2018-2019 several times in Lebanon and in Syria, and was instructed to establish a business network in Israel, to be used as a cover for future Iranian activities. During his entries to Israel in July and August 2018 and in April 2019, he began forming relations with actors on the ground, with the aim of recruiting them to assist him in his missions. In addition, he offered his handlers to open a factory in Jordan, which would employ Shi’ite laborers, and will be used for future Iranian activities against Israel. The investigation also uncovered that Iranian intelligence intended to use Shafut to transfer funds to terrorists in the West Bank and Israel (Haaretz, June 20).
  • Ramazan Sharif, the Chairman of the Intifada and Jerusalem Department of the Coordinating Council of Islamic Propagation, warned that President Trump’s ‘Deal of the Century’ will lead to a new intifada. At a press conference concluding the events of International al-Quds Day (May 31), Sharif praised the participants in the rallies in Iran and around the world. He asserted that the significant participation in the events is a message to the United States and Israel that al-Quds and Palestine are not alone, and that the occupation will end in the expulsion of the occupiers from the Holy Land. He lambasted the rulers of Saudi Arabia and Bahrain for their support for the implementation of the ‘Deal of the Century,’ and argued that this position reflects those regimes’ dependence on “the criminal Zionists” (Sepah News, June 18).
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