Iranian media, to mark the anniversary of the death of Qasem Soleimani, have provided unique new details about Iran’s support for Palestinian groups, like reported by jpost.com.
In a recent article from the Tasnim News branch located in Damascus, a report claims to provide new details on the “untold” story of how the Islamic Republic ran guns and technology to Palestinian groups. The report says that Soleimani, the Quds Force commander in the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps, worked for more than two decades to make Iran the “most relevant to different groups in Palestine” that were established.
Iran’s media says that Soleimani’s strategy was to “work closely with all these groups, regardless of their religious or political tastes, and this strategy was able to multiply the power of the resistance against the Zionist regime in Palestine.”
One of the groups was the Popular Front for the Liberation of Palestine – General Command (PFLP-GC). The report claims to have interviewed the son of Ahmed Jabril, who it calls a “former Palestinian militant.” Jabril was born in 1938. Recent reports place him as a supporter of the Assad regime during the civil war in Syria, where reports say he played a role suppressing other Syrians in the Yarmouk Palestinian refugee camp.
Jabril died in July. The report says his son, Khalid, “currently the new deputy secretary-general of the front, spoke to Tasnim News Agency about the role of Soleimani in supporting Palestinian groups in the fight against the Zionist regime.”
The younger Jabril, the report says, helps the regime fight against “armed terrorist groups.” This is ironic in a roundabout way, as the group transitions from being a terrorist group to helping the Assad regime “fight terrorism” and goes from caring about Palestinians to being an enforcer of a regime.
Iran claims to support these “Palestinian” groups, even if they do nothing for Palestinians. What matters is that the report claims to shed light on how Iran funnels weapons and support to them.
According to the report, Tasnim news met with Khalid Jabril, who told them about meetings with Soleimani. He says he went to an office of the Quds Force leader years ago and the office was festooned with maps of Syria and the location of ISIS and Jabhat Nusra fighters there.
“We want to remove the black area from the map where ISIS has taken over parts of Iraq.” This was probably around 2015-2016; the article doesn’t specify. It says that the son of Ahmed Jabril is a graduate of a military academy, apparently a Syrian one.
“This great martyr chose a process in his life that transformed him from a simple builder to an international commander who was able to completely change the geography of the region,” Khalid said in describing Soleimani.
The report says that Soleimani first met these men in 2000, and spoke about the Palestinian struggle. Even though the Iranian regime is a theocratic Shi’ite one which usually works with Shi’ite groups, Soleimani did not speak about religion, but he “spoke with complete clarity about the Palestinian issue as if he were a Palestinian…. he was more of a listened before he made wise decisions.”
Soleimani cared deeply for Jerusalem, the account says. He also apparently talked to Tansim about Jews. “In one of our meetings with Martyr Soleimani, we talked about the story of the Jews in the Holy Quran,” the report says. “Our conversation was very interesting and detailed.”
The assassinated IRGC leader apparently told the men stories and parables from the Quran involving battles that took place during the early formation of Islam. This was a parable for his belief that Jerusalem would one day be liberated from Israel, according to the account.
“Hajj Qasim [Soleimani] made a great effort to support the Palestinian resistance groups. We and you know that the Gaza Strip is a narrow geographical area that has been surrounded by the Zionist regime from land, sea and air, but despite this, the last battle, which was called the ‘Sword of Quds [Jerusalem]’, witnessed a qualitative and significant change,” the report said.
“We were in the rocket arsenals of the Palestinian resistance. We all know that the martyr Qasem Soleimani played a pivotal role in bringing the Palestinian resistance to a state of self-sufficiency at this level of missile arsenal.”
Of interest here, the report claims that Soleimani had worked with Lybian leader Muammar Qadaffi before his death in 2011. The interview says that they were trying to bring RPGs into Gaza a the time. The plan was to bring in weapons by sea. “There was a lot in common between them [Soleimani and Jabril], and to transfer the weapons, the arrival of the first ship was agreed upon, and the second ship was created by the Front [PFLP-GC], but [after] the third ship was seized, then the next ships came.”
Soleimani’s goal was to “strike such a balance between the Palestinian resistance and the occupying regime, which was established in 1948 and is supported by the Great Satan [America] and all European countries.”
He suggested developing missiles as a way to strike at Israel. “We coordinated with the Hamas movement on the issue of missiles and how to build missile propulsion and warheads and guided systems. All this was done with the knowledge and supervision of Soleimani, and this was a very important strategic issue for him. We were in an area where northerly winds blew northeast and northwest during the fourth to ninth months of the year,” the report says.
Now the interviewer turns to the use of balloons to terrorize Israel. This appears to reference the use of balloons during the last several years. They supposedly outfitted them with small warheads of one kilogram and gradually increased the warheads in size.
“What Martyr Qassem Soleimani did is over, and we are now in another generation that we must continue his path,” Khalid says. “Soleimani completed all the strategic projects he had built; the ‘Strategic project’ of 2000 [the Second Intifada] and the 2006 defeat of the Zionist regime in Lebanon [the 2006 war]. With the same approach, Hajj Qasim also confirmed his victory over ISIS and the prevention of the disintegration of Syria.” The reference to the intifada in 2000 is interesting and appears to confirm that Iran played a role in supporting it.
The report also mentions the assassination of the late Lebanese prime minister Rafic Hariri and the Syrian withdrawal from Lebanon. “The Lebanese government decided to limit the military activities of Palestinian groups and the People’s Front for the Liberation of Palestine. International forces entered Lebanon at the time, and Syrian nationals were barred from entering. We faced pressures that we could not accept, and there were disputes with the Lebanese brothers.”
This is a reference not only to the murder of the former prime minister of Lebanon at the hands of Hezbollah but also to the aftermath of the 2006 war. “We went to Tehran and had a meeting with Soleimani and explained the issue.” According to this, Khalid had a brother named “Badr.” This could be a code name. Either way, the article says that they asked Soleimani about moving weapons to Palestinian groups.
According to a second Tasnim interview with Talal Naji of the PFLP-GC in Damascus, many Palestinian groups sent representatives to meet with Soleimani. “Some Palestinians had a great and exceptional opportunity to meet with him, and those who could not see him directly heard Hajj Qasim described through his actions and the services he rendered to the Palestinian people and Palestinian groups,” the report says.
The report says that Palestinians had been fighting Israel since the 1960s and they had “proved that Palestine is a single nation.” It says Palestinians in Lebanon, Jordan, Iraq and Egypt looked to Iran and Soleimani for guidance, a claim that is clearly Iranian propaganda.
Iran’s current regime support goes back to the 1979 revolution when Khomeini expressed support for Jerusalem and the Palestinians. Iran “announced that every year, the last Friday of the holy month of Ramadan should be dedicated to supporting Jerusalem and its people and the holy places of this city.” This became the annual “Quds” day event in Iran.
“Imam Khomeini also declared that Israel is a cancer that must be eradicated, and he supported the resistance groups with his instructions,” the report says. He met with Yaser Arafat and “the doors of the Islamic Republic of Iran were opened to all resistance groups. When Imam Khamenei took over the leadership of the Islamic Revolution of Iran, the enthusiasm for supporting the resistance and the Palestinian people increased.” The support for the Palestinian cause thus moved to Tehran from previous patrons such as Nasser or the Soviet Union.
It took a decade or more for Iran to really provide assistance in the 1990s. This coincided with Soleimani’s rise. “Soleimani was a thoughtful, decisive, powerful and determined commander of a large and specialized apparatus that worked day and night to implement its goals.” He formed relations with Palestinian groups and “opened his heart and the heart of the Islamic Republic of Iran to all those who want to fight the Zionist enemy.”
He focused on expanding the capacity of Palestinian terror groups in Gaza to make better weapons. The article says this development was important. “Activists and fighters affiliated with Islamic resistance groups are aware of the influence, credibility and direct role of Sardar [Chief] Soleimani in developing the capacity of the Palestinian resistance in the Gaza Strip.”
Their technological abilities were rudimentary in the 1990s the report says. “The first Palestinian resistance missile in Gaza had a range of only two kilometers. Imagine! That is very limited and even lower than the internationally recognized standards for small rockets,” the interview notes. Indeed, the first Qasam rockets could barely reach Sderot.
“Today we know that the Palestinian resistance has a missile with a range of 250 km.” This refers to an attack Hamas carried out in the May 2021 conflict. “The missile was fired at Ramon Airport toward the port of Aqaba and Eilat. The direct role and personal support of Sardar Soleimani led to the development of these capabilities.”
Soleimani increased meetings with Palestinian groups from 2014 through 2016, the report says. The interview says he “remembers that in one of those meetings that took place in 2015, we were accompanied by a delegation from various Palestinian groups, including our brothers in the Fatah movement in Ramallah, as well as Abbas Zaki, a member of the Central Committee of the Fatah Movement and leaders of other groups were all present.
“Haj Qasim’s words in this meeting were very clear and transparent, and at first, he encouraged all of us to national unity and the need to try to end the divisions, bring the views closer and give priority to confronting the Israeli enemy and putting aside differences.”
Soleimani met again with the Palestinian representatives in Tehran in 2016. Naji claims that the US and Israel both wanted to target the Quds Force chief; the Americans eventually killed him in January 2019.
“Certainly, one of the most important reasons for the assassination of Hajj Qasim was Palestine and his support for the Palestinian people. Hajj Qasim was not a thorn, but a sword in the eyes of the occupying Israeli regime and US hegemonic projects in our region,” Naji says.
The report notes how Soleimani also played a key role in Iraq working with Kataib Hezbollah to fight against ISIS. “The United States left Iraq in the first phase in 2011, “the report says. “The United States had more than 500,000 troops in Iraq who withdrew in 2011. Martyr Haj Qasim Soleimani played a major role in developing the power of the Iraqi national resistance to put pressure on the Americans and to prevent the American occupiers from feeling calm, stable and secure in Iraq.”
Next, Soleimani also focused on the war in Syria. “The second time we went to visit Hajj Qasim, the Iraqi People’s Resistance Forces had liberated most of the country as far as Mosul from ISIS, and thanks to him, Mosul was liberated. After that, we went to Syria and the liberation of Syrian lands began.”
Iran indeed played a key role in creating a nexus of power in Albukamal by 2018 where Kataib Hezbollah had set up a base in Syria and Iran began building the Imam Ali base in the country. Iran would soon be putting drones at T-4 to threaten Israel, with Hezbollah establishing more cells near the Golan to threaten the Jewish state.
“Soleimani did not oversee the plan solely from Tehran; Rather, he personally oversaw the battlefield, and we all know that he was at the forefront of the war on terrorism in Iraq and Syria. Today, photos and video clips of Martyr Qassem Soleimani are being published everywhere in Syria in Idlib province about his fight against terrorist groups that stood just a few meters away in Aleppo, al-Raqqa, Deir ez-Zor, al-Mayadin, and Albukamal.”
Here the reference is clear to Soleimani carving out the Iranian corridor from Iraq to Syria via the border town of Albukamal. Today, Mayadin is used as a base to threaten US forces in easter Syria.
Soleimani frequently met with the groups he had supported across Iraq, Syria and Lebanon, and invited Palestinian groups to meet him. The interview includes details of wonderful dinners and entertainment. “Soleimani spends all his time standing for lunch or dinner, and never eats until he has entertained his guests.” Indeed, he was known not to have gained much weight during this time.
The accounts of Soleimani’s support for Palestinian groups are interesting. Much of the discussion is general but it provides key details about how Iran saw this support of Palestinian groups as important. It was part of its regional agenda.
Tehran not only supported the Second Intifada and played a key role in the 2006 war in Lebanon but also sought to bring weapons to Gaza in the early 2000s. The key was to give the Palestinian groups a strategic weapon with which they could challenge Israel. Iran knew Israel’s capabilities and wanted to develop asymmetric weapons that could get around Israel’s defenses.
Of interest here is also that the reports mention more frequent meetings after the 2014 war. Clearly, Iran was planning for the 2021 war. Once the conflict in Syria and Iraq had been reduced, the Islamic Republic changed focus. It wants to force Israel into a multi-front war.
The interviews are interesting because they do not mention Palestinian Islamic Jihad, which is often thought to be an Iran proxy. What is clear is that Iran wants the world to believe that Soleimani played a key role in expanding Palestinian capabilities.