Earlier this month, the Department of Justice announced that two men, Ali Kourani and Samer El Debek, had been arrested and charged with carrying out various missions on behalf of Hizballah’s Islamic Jihad Organization. The IJO serves as Hizballah’s external operations wing, carrying out clandestine missions on behalf of Iran around the world. The complaints allege that Kourani and El Debek were both members of the IJO, which is ultimately controlled by Hizballah leader Hassan Nasrallah, who, in turn, reports “directly” to Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei.
Iraqi Prime Minister Hayder al Abadi arrived in Tehran today to met with senior Iranian government officials, including Iranian Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei. The Popular Mobilization Forces (PMF) is an “important and blessed phenomenon,” Khamenei said. “The reason the Americans oppose the popular forces is because they want Iraq to lose its important factor of strength,” he added.
Iranian press outlets report that the Islamic Revolutionary Guards Corps (IRGC) has fired missiles from Iranian territory at the Syrian governorate of Deir ez-Zor in response to the recent Islamic State terror attacks in Tehran.
Yesterday, photos emerged on social media of Qassem Soleimani, the chief of the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps Qods Force, on a pilgrimage to the shrine of Imam Hussein in Karbala, Iraq, during a holy period in Ramadan. Soleimani was photographed next to his deputy Abu Mahdi al Muhandis, the operations commander of the Iraqi Popular Mobilization Force (PMF), which was enshrined into a legal and separate military corps last year, thus technically making Muhandis a government official.
Today, Tasnim News Agency – a propaganda outlet affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard – posted photos of Qods Force chief Qassem Soleimani, allegedly by the Iraqi border in Syria. The precise location and date of the photo are unconfirmed.
The Islamic Republic has scrambled to explain Wednesday’s Islamic State-claimed, twin terrorist attacks in Tehran, leading to contradictory statements highlighting confusion amongst government agencies. Select Iranian officials however, like Supreme Leader Ayatollah Khamenei, have attempted to downplay the severity of the attack in what appears to be an attempt to dissuade criticism.
One day before Tuesday’s US airstrike in southeastern Syria, Iranian media announced the death of an Afghan militiaman in the vicinity of the Tanf military base, where coalition forces are training Syrian insurgents fighting the Islamic State.
Major powers involved in the Syrian war are racing to maximize gains from the crumbling Islamic State in southern and eastern Syria. The continued advancement of pro-Syrian regime forces and Iranian-backed militias toward the US-held Tanf base – as well as the potential advance of both sides toward the Iraqi border area – raise the risk of further clashes that may draw in the US and Russia, though the latter has been unwilling to challenge US strikes against a pro-regime convoy and Syrian warplanes this year.