Iraq’s New Prime Minister Visits Iran
Iraq’s New Prime Minister Visits Iran
Iraq’s New Prime Minister Visits Iran
This week, Iraq’s new Prime Minister Mohammed Shia al-Sudani traveled to Iran for his first visit since taking office. It was not his first trip abroad as prime minister—he previously traveled to Jordan. This stood in contrast to his predecessor who made Iran his first destination. While in Tehran, al-Sudani met with Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei and President Ebrahim Raisi. The visit occurred amid repeated attacks by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC) on Iraqi Kurdistan as protests continue across Iran, and Iraq’s prime minister presented plans to increase border security to Tehran. Khamenei mentioned to al-Sudani that “Iraq’s security is Iran’s security, in the same way that Iran’s security also has an effect on the security of Iraq.” Al-Sudani reportedly pledged to prohibit any attacks by Iranian opposition groups in Iraq on Iran.
Israel and Palestinian Territories
Israeli Officials Bracing For Rockets From Gaza After Top PIJ Terrorist Killed
Israeli security officials are concerned that terror groups in the Gaza Strip could launch rockets at Israel after two senior terrorists were killed in overnight clashes in the West Bank, including a top Palestinian Islamic Jihad (PIJ) field commander. The two fighters were killed in heavy clashes with Israeli troops that broke out during a predawn arrest raid near the northern West Bank’s Jenin refugee camp. Palestinian media reported that as many as 20 other people were wounded. Both PIJ and the Hamas terror group that rules the Gaza Strip threatened to hit back over the deaths.
Treasury Department Sanctions Hezbollah Accountant And Weapons Facilitator
The U.S. Treasury Department on Thursday announced sanctions against two individuals and two companies based in Lebanon for providing financial services to Hezbollah, along with an additional individual involved in facilitating weapons procurement for the group. According to the Treasury Department, “These designations target individuals and companies that manage and enable Hezbollah’s overarching financial apparatus operating throughout Lebanon, including Al-Qard Al-Hassan (AQAH) and Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit. U.S.-designated AQAH is Hezbollah’s quasi-financial institution, and Hezbollah’s Central Finance Unit oversees the terrorist group’s budget within Hezbollah’s Executive Council at the direction of Hezbollah’s leader, Hassan Nasrallah.”
The sanctions targeted Adel Mohammad Mansour for heading Al-Qardh Al-Hassan, Hezbollah’s primarily financial body, and Hassan Khalil for “actively working to procure weapons for [Hezbollah.]”
Swiss Government Opposes Ban On Hezbollah
The Swiss government says it has no plans to ban Hezbollah as it claimed the group posed no major terrorist threat to the country. Hezbollah is not very active in Switzerland and no fundraising or other financial activities are known, the government said on Wednesday in a report to parliament. The government said the current laws are sufficient, notably extended penal provisions against criminal organizations as well as police measures for combating terrorism.
According to the Swiss government, a ban on Hezbollah and its activities in Switzerland could impair missions within the framework of good offices and also Switzerland's humanitarian engagement. Likewise, according to the government, such a ban could damage Switzerland's credibility as a neutral country. The government also said that a ban would make the work of the security authorities more difficult. This is because prohibited activities would go underground.
Hezbollah-Kataeb Meeting Held In Dahiyeh
A report in pro-Hezbollah Al-Akhbar news revealed that the Kataeb party requested a meeting with Hezbollah officials in the latter’s south Beirut suburbs stronghold, known as “Dahiyeh.” The meeting between the two parties included Hezbollah Politburo member Mohammad al-Khansaa and Kataeb Secretary General Serge Dagher. Al-Akhbar claimed that the meeting came as part of Hezbollah’s “openness policy” which it adopts towards other Lebanese parties – including ostensible political foes like Kataeb – to reduce political tensions inside Lebanon.
Kataeb party officials initially denied the meeting with Hezbollah, but a later report by Al-Akhbar claimed that sources within the Kataeb party confirmed that meetings between Al-Khansaa and Dagher had indeed occurred several times, the last of which happened almost two months ago. It was unclear if that meeting was the subject of the prior Al-Akhbar report. Al-Akhbar noted that Kataeb sources nonetheless tried to minimize the importance of the meetings, saying they had occurred on a “personal level” as part of the friendship between Al-Khansaa and Dagher. The follow-up Al-Akhbar report noted that dialogue between Hezbollah and Kataeb went back almost eight years, but was not held in an organized manner.
Relatedly, Progressive Socialist Party leader Walid Joumblatt attacked former ally Samir Geagea, head of the Lebanese Forces party, for the latter’s refusal to meet with Hezbollah, calling his stance “destructive.”
Saudi Outlet Claims Hezbollah Transporting Chemical Weapons Into Lebanon
Saudi Al-Hadath news issued a report on Sunday claiming that Hezbollah was storing hundreds of missiles carrying chemical weapons at a warehouse in Qusayr, Syria, near the Lebanese-Syrian border. These missiles allegedly include 110 Fajr missiles and over 300 Fateh missiles, and all carry thionyl chloride, a toxic chemical. The weapons and other equipment were transferred from the Syrian Scientific Studies and Research Center (SSRC) in Masyaf to the location in Al Qusayr nearly two weeks ago.
Sources informed Al-Hadath that experts from North Korea injected the toxic chemicals into the missiles under the supervision of an Iranian national and expert specializing in chemical weapons, identified as Qassem Abdullah Massoudyan. The IRGC Unit 2250 was in charge of transporting the missiles to Al Qusayr, with an IRGC operative named 'Abd al-Ilah Bagheri, also known as Hajj Sadiq, supervising the move, according to the report. Al-Hadath added that the missiles are only being temporarily stored in Al Qusayr and will be moved on to the Bint Jbeil area of the Nabatiyeh governorate in Lebanon near a base belonging to UNIFIL.
Assad Vows To Continue Backing Hezbollah
Syrian President Bashar al-Assad has pledged that Damascus will continue to back Lebanon’s Iran-backed Hezbollah. “We have supported Hezbollah, we are still supporting it and we will continue to support it, because it is a strategic ally for us,” Assad reportedly said in an interview with several journalists. Moreover, Assad voiced concern over Lebanon and its future amid the current situation, describing the neighboring country as “Syria’s main flank.” “Stability in it is very important for Syria,” Assad said.
The Syrian leader’s remarks coincide with remarks by Iran’s Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who said Saturday that “Iran’s active policy in Lebanon, Syria and Iraq led to foiling America’s plot in these countries.” “We will continue our support for the resistance forces in the region, Lebanon and Palestine,” Khamenei added
IRGC Officer Killed By Roadside Bomb In Syria; Iran Blames Israel, Vows Revenge
Iran’s IRGC blamed Israel on Wednesday for killing a senior aerospace officer near Damascus and vowed to avenge the death. Davoud Jafari, an adviser from the IRGC’s Aerospace Force, was “martyred by the Zionist agents with a roadside bomb” near the Syrian capital overnight, the Corps said in a statement. The statement warned that Israel will answer for the “crime.” Jafari also was pictured beside Iran’s supreme leader when he received the crew that captured American sailors in January 2016, indicating he had naval experience as well. Jafari’s funeral in Iran was attended by high-level IRGC commanders, including Commander-in-Chief Hossein Salami, Quds Force Commander Esmail Ghaani, Aerospace Force Commander Amir Ali-Hajizadeh, and former Deputy Commander of the IRGC’s Intelligence Organization Hassan Mohaghegh.