By SETH J. FRANTZMAN
Iran has a full-court-press in place for the summer of 2020. The goal is to push back the US “maximum pressure” campaign.
Work with Russia and Turkey
On June 16 “Russian FM says Putin, Erdogan and Rouhani to hold videoconference on Syria, followed by a face-to-face meeting in Tehran.” A July 1 meeting was scheduled. This will be the latest Astana process meeting where Iran, Turkey and Russia coordinate policy. US officials such as James Jeffrey have indicated they want to make Syria a quagmire for Russia. Israel has also sought to bog down Iran in Syria, to make it a kind of “Vietnam” for Iran. but evidence points to Iran-Turkey-Russia coordinating to keep the US sidelined and US-backed Syrian Democratic Forces sidelined.
“We are at a critical juncture,” says US envoy Jeffrey. He wants the international community to stand firm to make sure the Assad regime can’t have diplomatic or economic friends abroad. The US Caesar act is part of that. Syria and Lebanon’s economies are now in shambles. The US sanctions have some role in that. The US also wants to prevent Iran from funding Hezbollah or Hamas or operations in Syria.
Remember that Iran’s FM Javad Zarif went to Turkey on June 15 after Russia’s envoy did not come. Then Zarif met the Russians. Russia and Turkey are talking about Libya, while Iran says it supports Turkey in Libya.
The July 1 meeting is important to Iran and shows its close work with Russia and Turkey.
Work with Turkey against PJAK, PKK and SDF and work with Turkey in Libya
Turkey and Iran coordinated the Turkish offensive into northern Iraq, with Tehran cracking down on PJAK and Turkey striking at Sinjar and the PKK in the Kurdistan region. Turkey has long sought Iran’s support for its fight against the Kurdistan WorkersParty. But Iran had different views about groups linked to the PKK in Syria in years past. That has now changed as the US helped support the SDF and Iran feels more in common with Turkey.
The trade off is clear: Turkey helps Iran get around sanctions and Iran supports Turkey against thePKK and Turkey’s claims to far-away Libya. Iran’s IRGC has worked with the Muslim Brotherhood in the past, so a Turkish-Iran alliance can share many interests. They both support Hamas and both work with Qatar. They may also have interests align in the Horn of Africa and Yemen. Iraq is a new file for both to work on. Turkey began the offensive into Iraq in mid-June and continued it through the end of the month.
Work with Qatar, Pakistan and Taliban on Afghanistan
“Iranian Foreign Ministry’s Spokesman Seyyed Abbas Mousavi revealed the consultations made between Iran’s special envoy for Afghanistan Affairs Mohammad Ebrahim Taherian and Taliban delegation as headed by Mullah Baradar, the group’s political deputy in Doha on Monday, aimed at establishment of peace and stability in Afghanistan.” – Mehr News, July 1, 2020.On June 24, Taherian held a phone conversation with Pakistan’s Special envoy for Afghanistan, where they conferred on the latest developments in Afghanistan including the peace talks in the country.
Iran’s goal is to prepare for when the US leaves. IRGC Quds Force head Esmail Ghaani is key to supporting groups in Afghanistan, where he is an expert.
Harassment of the US in Syria
Iran knows the Trump administration wants to end “far away” warsand that US Democrats are critical of “securing the oil” in Syria. Iran now wants to pressure US forces in Syria. US and Russian forces regularly have spats on the roads in eastern Syria. On June 30 Politico said “Russian forces are encroaching on U.S. troop-controlled territory in eastern Syria — part of what officials say is a deliberate campaign.”
Iran and the Assad regime encourage smaller protests. July 1 Fars News notes“dozens of residents of the northeastern Syrian village of Al-Karimah protested against US terrorist militants and demanded their expulsion, according to Fars News Agency’s International Group. The village is located 15 km east of the town of Al-Qahtaniyah in the northern province of Hasakah and is occupied by American terrorists and Kurdish militants known as the ‘Syrian Democratic Force.'”
Iran’s narrative: “employees of the Hasakah Electricity Company and the Syrian Beans Company sat for the third day in a row. The two companies are occupied by Kurdish elements affiliated with the United States….Al-Aqa stressed that the actions of the Kurdish elements against the residents of Hasakah are unacceptable, and that such behavior is a continuation of US policies and sanctions against the Syrian people.”
Meanwhile the US gives only $600 million in aid to Syria and it is unclear if the US will help get goods and services to the SDF in eastern Syria amid the economic crisis. Al-Hol and other detainee facilities also face rising tensions with ISIS detainees. Kurdish unity talks in eastern Syria between theSDF and ENKS and other groups led to a rare apology by the SDF, but it is unclear how Ankara will seek to scupper these plans. Iran, Russia and Turkey all share interests with the Assad regime of undermining the US and SDF in eastern Syria.
Get Houthis to attack Saudi Arabia
Iran’s media seeks to spotlight Houthi drones and missile attacks on June 23. It also highlights the disarray of the UAE, Socotra island, and Saudi-led conflict in Yemen. Iran’s PressTV seeks to highlight Saudi failure in Yemen. Bahrain, the UAE and Saudi seek to highlight Iran’s involvement in Yemen. “the Bahraini Ministry of Foreign Affairs issued a statement saying, on Tuesday evening, we welcome the report presented by the United Nations Secretary-General, Antonio Guterres, before the Security Council, which held Iran directly responsible for the terrorist acts that targeted Saudi Arabia,” – Al Ain July 1, 2020.
Kataib Hezbollah and Badr work to get the US out of Iraq
On June 26 Iraqi CTS raided a Kataib Hezbollah facility and detained 14. They were alleged to be one of the rogue militias involved in attacks on US forces in Iraq. KH has carried out dozens of attacks. They were released on June 29. They burned US and Israeli flags and burned a picture of Prime Minister Mustafa Kadhimi. KH says it will never surrender its weapons now, becoming more like LebaneseHezbollah, but paid by the Iraqi state.
“Hadi al-Ameri, the head of the Fatah (Conquest) Alliance in Iraq’s parliament, made the remarks on Tuesday and said time has come to bring stability to Iraq and that the goal will not be achieved with the presence of US troops in the country.” – PressTV. Al-Ameri also appears to have condemned Israel flights as well.
KH has bragged that it has defeated US plans in Iraq.
Esmail Ghaani goes to Syria
Iran’s IRGC Quds Force headwent to Syria in June and threatened the US and Israel. He was in Albukamal to show off. Iran has 700-900 IRGC members and thousands of militias in Syria. Recent unrest in Suwayda and Dara’a raise questions about Iran’s role. Airstrikes on June 23 near Suwayda and Deir Ezzor as well as more incidents reported on June 27-28 point to concerns about Iran’s role and Syrian air defense. Sputnik revealedan aftermath of a strike in Hama also.
Humiliate the US at UN meetings
Press TV: “At the UN Security Council (UNSC), the US has faced a sharp reprimand from world powers, including its own allies, over its hostile pressure campaign to secure an extension of the anti-Iran arms embargo, which is slated to expire in October under a UNSC-endorsed nuclear deal that Washington ditched two years ago…ompeo’s appeal, however, fell flat, with other Security Council members hitting back at him and reminding the US that it was no longer a party to the Iran nuclear deal and cannot thus resort to Resolution 2231, which endorsed the accord, to seek an extension of the UN ban.”
Russia and China backed Iran at the UN. “Russia’s Ambassador to the UN Vasily Nebenzya compared imposing sanctions on Iran to the May 25 killing of George Floyd, a handcuffed unarmed African-American man who died after a white Minneapolis police officer knelt on his neck despite cries that he could not breathe.” And: “China opposes the US moves for extending the arms embargo on Iran,” Zhang Jun said. “Having quit the JCPOA, the US is no longer a participant and has no right to trigger snapback at the Security Council.”
This is what Trump might call a “total disaster.” Iran calls the US view, backed by Saudi Arabia, a “bitter joke.” Zarif calls the US an outlaw bully.
Iran’s President Hassan Rouhani also slammed the US.
Exploit Israel annexation plan
Iran says Israel’s annexation plan is in disarray. Iran on June 14 also highlighted attempts to bring Jordan closer to Iran. US Iran envoy Brian Hook was in Israel on June 30 saying the US and Israel share an eye-to-eye view on Iran. But Iran wants to confront any chanceIsrael might have of coordinating with the US and gulf states, such as the UAE.
Silence US ambassador to Lebanon
In Lebanon local media were ordered to stop interviewing the US ambassador because she critiqued Hezbollah. “A number of Lebanese media outlets broadcast interviews with US Ambassador Dorothy Shea on Sunday, ignoring a judge’s ruling that banned local and foreign media from featuring her statements after she criticised Iran-backed Hezbollah in an interview last week.”
Palestinian terror groups fired missiles out to sea on June 30. Iranian Tasnim and other media sought to highlight this threat to Israel.