What’s Iranian Azad University’s game plan in opening branches across region?

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The Iran-based university Islamic Azad University is in the process of spreading its footprint by opening branches in cities across Syria, extending Tehran’s influence and raising many eyebrows in the region.

Islamic Azad University was founded in 1982 in Iran and is the second largest university after Tehran University. It is a non-governmental university founded by the late Iranian president Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani.

The university is also launching operations in Lebanon and Iraq.

Talking to the media, Ali Akbar Velayati, Head of Islamic Azad University board of founders, claimed that Bashar al-Assad had requested Iran to open branches of Azad University in Syrian, according to a report by the Cairo-based Middle East News Agency (MNA).

Velayati also said during a ceremony arranged in honor of Azad University officials that “friend and foe acknowledge that Iran is the most powerful, influential and authoritative regional country” and stressed that Iran contributes to the security maintenance of regional countries only because it will ensure greater regional security.

Branches in Iraq, Lebanon

“The Leader of the Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, Humam Hamoudi, announced that Iraq is willing to open branches of Islamic Azad University in all the cities of Iraq, and according to the agreement reached between the two countries, Iran will open branches in Karbala, Najaf, Baghdad, Basra and Erbil,” he added.

Having discussed the establishment of an Azad University branch in Lebanon, Velayati added: “I sent a letter to Bashar al-Assad and announced that Islamic Azad University is prepared to open branches in Syria, following which he ordered for Azad University branches to be established in all the cities of Syria.”

Velayati said that Azad University branches have had successful record in many countries and added that “western countries welcome exchange of professors with Iran in order to run programs on teaching Persian language and literature to their students.”

He said: “Iran supports neighboring and Islamic countries in terms of security issues, and also contributes to the development of Islamic culture, science and technology and aids regional and local achievements.”

The advisor to the Iranian leader described the activities of the university's branches as “successful” in various countries. He said that universities “are currently teaching Persian and Shiite Islamic culture, thanks to Iran’s power and strength.”

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